Critique Of The Punishments In Dante's Inferno

665 words - 3 pages

Dante Alighieri was born in 13th century Italy, where he was involved in politics. When a different political party came to power, Dante was sent out of Florence, as was the custom at those times. After being exiled from Florence, Dante wrote The Divine Comedy which consisted of three books, one of which was the Inferno. The Inferno tells what Dante thought hell should be like. Dante's Inferno consisted of 34 cantos, in which Virgil led Dante through hell. Dante used the Inferno to show what he thought of some of the people living at his time, as well as to show what he believed to be appropriate punishments for various sins. Many of the punishments Dante created for the people were very appropriate, but some were not. One of the punishments that was appropriate was in Canto XXIII. Canto XXIII describes the level of hell in which hypocrites, people who tried to ...view middle of the document...

Another level of hell was described in Canto 13: those who committed suicide and destroyed their possessions were in this level. In the 1300's, some of the rich people intentionally burnt their houses down, along with all their possessions. Those were the people that Dante was referring to when he wrote about those who destroyed their possessions. The punishment for these people was to be turned into a tree. The trees could not speak unless someone broke off one of their branches, but that caused them to bleed and feel pain. The punishment did not seem so bad as some of those above it, since the people were basically bored for eternity, unless a branch got broken off, in which case they would feel pain, but would be able to communicate. Giving the same punishment to those who destroyed their possessions, and those who committed suicide may have been appropriate in 13th century Italy, but today it does not make sense. Instead, the destroyers of their property and those who committed suicide should have been placed in different levels, with the people who committed suicide being lower. This is because suicide is worse than destroying one's possessions. It is worse for one to try to play God and decide when his life will end, than for someone to destroy a material item that will eventually be destroyed anyway. The punishments in the Inferno were appropriate for their sin in Dante's culture, and at his time, but are no longer appropriate today. The turning of people into trees was an example of a punishment that was probably appropriate in 13th century Italy, but today is not. Being a tree for the rest of eternity may have been an appropriate punishment for those that destroyed their possessions for no reason, but it is not harsh enough for murderers. Instead, those who committed suicide should have been punished with those who killed others, since the crime they committed was essentially the same.

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