Dante’s Inferno, written in the 14th century as one of the three parts of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, is a journey through the various layers of Hell, led by Dante himself and Virgil, the Roman poet. Dante himself, wrote this set of poems to illustrate the consequences of specific sins one can make on Earth, writing the Inferno as a warning to those who do not follow Christianity and its values. As a way to encompass the moral behavior the Bible envisions, Dante travels through the circles of hell and at first struggles to not feel pity for the sinners; however, as he progresses deeper into hell, Dante gains wisdom, and consequently, loses all feelings of pity. By examining Dante’s meetings with the souls of Francesca da Rimini and Count Ugolino, we will see that the reason the author portrays Dante’s loss of pity as a sign of deepening wisdom is to show that when one concentrates on their religious devotion rather than falling to human instincts as a result of all the provocations in life, they will find themselves and their moral values through religion and in that way avoid going to Hell.
Dante’s journey begins by entering the dark woods, where he not only got lost, but symbolically lost himself; and therefore, his moral values. Dante’s moral values got covered by ignorance, and therefore, ignorance toward religion itself. As a result of losing himself, and therefore, his religious devotion, when he came across Francesca, the famous lover, her story of death due to lust caused him to have painful tears of pity to my eyes (51). Dante’s tears symbolize his inability to control his emotions, and therefore, his disconnect from his moral values, due to Francesca’s story of love, a subject usually looked upon with positivity in the real world. However, his encounter with Francesca shows that the lack of self-pity of the sinners is the reason for Dante’s pity in the Inferno. Dante was unable to form a barrier between himself and the sinner, as each sinner tries to create pity for themselves as a result of their torture. Dante falling for Francesca’s story represents him falling to human instincts rather than his moral values, which shows his lack of wisdom at the beginning levels of the Inferno.
As Dante progresses through the circles of Hell, Virgil keeps reminding him that no compassion should be felt for the damned souls, and as Dante comes to the realization, his religious devotion strengthens, and consequently, his human instincts weaken. During his interaction with Count Ugolino, Count Ugolino explains how him and his children were imprisoned and starved by the Archbishop Ruggieri, causing even Dante to feel pity saying shame upon the people of that fair land (321), however, this pity was of a different kind, not for the sinner but rather the children. Consequently, Dante’s loss of pity towards the sinner can be seen by Count Ugolino saying to Dante that If the thought of what my heart was telling me does not fill you with grief, how cruel you are! If you’re not weeping now, do you ever weep? (319), expressing his anger for the lack of pity in Dante. This lack of pity represents just how disconnected Dante became from human instincts, as a human instinct would be to feel pity for a man who lost his children, but being a sinner himself, it was not right to pity a man who betrayed his country and then supposedly ate his children. Therefore, this interaction with Count Ugolino shows Dante’s loss of human instincts as he became closer to his religious devotion, which led to the deepening of his wisdom.
The lesson Dante wants the reader to learn is that no one should feel pity for those in Hell, as they are there for a reason. The reason Dante felt pity at the beginning was because as he entered the dark woods, he meanwhile not only lost himself, but also lost his moral values, and therefore, religion devotion. As his moral values were lost, he could now feel pity for the damned souls, such as Francesa, even though his moral self would not do so. However, as the Canto’s progress and Dante’s religious devotion strengthens, as a result of Virgil’s teachings, he gains more wisdom and no longer feels pity for Count Ugolino.
Therefore, Dante’s lesson is that a person who is surrounded by sinners their whole life should concentrate on their religious devotion, and by doing so, limiting their pity for those who have committed sins. Overall, I agree that it was right for Dante to lose pity for the souls. The reason being, is that Dante’s vision for his poems was to teach moral lessons from the Bible. The Bible, in this case, explains that no compassion should be felt for those who have sinned, as the time to have mercy for these people and try to help them is on the Earth, and that once they have passed on, it is their time for justice. Which is why I would have to agree that it was right for Dante to lose his pity, as at the end of the day, Dante wanted to teach people about lessons from the Bible; and therefore, it is only fair that he himself does not maintain sympathy or pity for the souls in Hell, as he himself should exemplify a true Christian.
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