Dante’s Hell

Dante’s Hell is a poem which is a drama based on a journey through hell. Dante tells about how he has died and upon reaching the after life, he is approached by three beasts. When seeing these beasts Dante flees from them. Virgil appears, he states that he was sent to take Dante to heaven but it will be a long trip through hell, but in order to make it to heaven Dante must follow him. He agrees and follows Virgil. Throughout the process of the journey Dante encounters people he had known or read about in life. These were people who had sinned in life, and now even in death were being punished eternally.

Within five and half weeks in World Literature class, I have read and learned about many different characters through stories and poems. Some characters in the stories and poems, I read could have been shown to be sinners, like the ones Dante encountered throughout his journey. That is why I have picked three characters throughout my reading to place in Dante’s Hell and explain how they fit into his nine circles of hell. The first character I chose is Okonkwo from Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart. Next, will be the narrator in “A Modest Proposal” by Swift. Finally, will be the character King Claudius from the play “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare.

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Okonkwo would fit into circle seven, the violent circle. Okonkwo was a wealthy and respected warrior of the Umuofia clan. He lives his life haunted by the actions of his father Unoka, who was a cowardly and spendthrift father to Okonkwo. Okonkwo is afaird to look weak in front of others that in the story he beats his wife and he helps murder a young boy that he took in as a son. He goes on in the story and ends up hanging himself which suicide is a grave sin.

The narrator in “A Modest Proposal” which was Swift himself would have fit into circle four, the hoarders circle. At the time Swift wrote this story he stayed hidden and kept his identity private. Swift’s proposal is for preventing children of the poor from being a burden to their parents, or the country. He also states to fatten up children and feed them to Ireland’s rich land owners, and to sell them to meat markets. His conclusion is that the implementation of this project will do more to solve Ireland’s complex social, political, and economic problems than any other measure that has been proposed.

Lastly, King Claudius in the play “Hamlet” written by William Shakespeare fits into circle nine. The worst and last stage of the circle to be in, he fits this circle because he murdered the King by poisoning him in order to obtain the throne and to marry his wife.

Dante’s Hell is a closed system, with no escape for those who are sinners. One can clearly see that Dante has a close relationship with God. During the time he wrote this piece, in the Middle Ages, religion was widely accepted and encouraged. Dante believed that those insist on denying God’s will and then die unrepentant are eternally damned, which makes Dante’s Hell a religious and morally challenging experience.

M, Mack, “The Norton Anthology Worldpieces (1997) Page 1017

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