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Dante's Inferno (Contrapasso)

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Matthew Hemenway

on 14 May 2013

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Transcript of Dante's Inferno (Contrapasso)

Contrapasso: refers to the punishment of souls in Dante's Inferno. Specifically, contrapasso refers to punishment as a process, "either resembling or contrasting with the sin itself" (Musa 37-38). Circle one: Limbo The souls residing in Limbo include virtuous non-christian adults and unbaptized infants. Included in Dante's vision of limbo are Homer, Socrates, and Plato. Despite living virtuous lives, these souls never had the opportunity to accept Christ. They are not tormented, but live separated from God. Circle Two: The Lustful. The Gates of Hell Within the gates of hell are those who committed neither good nor evil, and chose to live only for themselves. With them are the outcasts who took no sides in the Rebellion of the Angels. They are punished by being excluded from both heaven and hell. These souls must forever chase after a blank banner while swarms of wasps and hornets sting them, producing a continuous flow of blood and putrid matter, which is feasted upon by worms and maggots. Upon entering circle two, Dante sees Minos, who stands before an endless line of sinners. After confessing their sins, Minos wraps his tale around himself a specific number of times, indicating the number of the circle to which the soul must go. Dante and Virgil arrive at a dark place in which souls are swept about in a neverending storm. Dante writes, "I came to a place stripped bare of every light / and roaring on the naked dark like seas / wracked by a war of winds. Their hellish flight / of storm and counterstorm through time foregone, / sweeps the souls of the damned before its charge" (Dante 28-32). Featured in circle two are famous historical figures, such as Dido, Paolo and Francesca, and Achilles. Dido:

Dido, Queen of Carthage and widow of Sychaeus, killed herself after her lover, Aeneas, abandoned her to continue his mission to establish a new civilization in Italy. She is written of in Virgil's epic poem, The Aeneid. Though she comitted suicide, an act that could have placed her in the 7th circle of hell, Dante places her in the less severe 2nd circle.

Why does Dante chose the 2nd circle, rather than the 7th?

Reading the section titled, "The Love of His Life," on page 656, may help you find the answer.

1. How is contrapasso represented in this punishment? Circle III: The Gluttonous Rain, consisting of filth and excrement, pours down on the souls in this layer of hell. Upon entering the circle, Dante and Virgil are confronted by Cerberus, a three-headed dog. Virgil throw Cerberus a piece of earth, which satisfies him. 5. How does this punishment represent contrapasso? 3. How does this punishment represent contrapasso? 2. Because pre-Christian figures, such as Moses, are not in Limbo, is it contradictory that Plato, Homer, and Socrates are, given the reasons for their punishment?
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