In Dante’s Inferno, Dante takes a journey with Virgil through the many levels of Hell in order to experience and see the different punishments that sinners must endure for all eternity. As Dante and Virgil descend into the bowels of Hell, it becomes clear that the suffering increases as they continue to move lower into Hell, the conical recess in the earth created when Lucifer fell from Heaven. Dante values the health of society over self. This becomes evident as the sinners against society experience suffering greater than those suffer which were only responsible for sinning against themselves. Dante uses contrapasso, the Aristotelian theory that states a soul’s form of suffering in Hell contrasts or extends their sins in their life on earth, to ensure that the sinners never forget their crimes against God. Even though some of the punishments the sinners in Hell seem arbitrary, they are fitting because contrapasso forces each sinner to re-live the most horrible aspect of their sin to ensure they never forget their crimes against God.
As Dante and Virgil, Dante’s guide through Hell, approach the Gate of Hell, Dante reads the inscription above the gates:
“Through me the way to the suffering city, through me the way to the eternal pain, through me the way that runs among the lost. Justice urged on my high artificer; my maker was divine authority, the highest wisdom and the primal love. Before me nothing but eternal things were made, and I endure eternally. Abandon every hope, who enter here.” (III, 48)
This message accurately describes how those souls will experience contrapasso in Hell. They will never be released and will experience suffering for eternity. The first line speaks of a…
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…ouls to exist. It is a fitting punishment because he wanted to rule like God. Now he does, but he rules over the souls who could not achieve the presence of God after death.
Dante efficiently uses contrapasso to punish the souls that sinned in their lifetimes. All the sinners experience ultimate suffering as they act to extend or continue their sin for eternity. The suffering in Hell is ultimately unbearable, regardless of the nature of sin. The sinners have no hope of their condition becoming any better because the only change will be at the Final Judgment. Then their punishments will be perfected because they will then have bodies and a new way to experience suffering. Contrapasso ensures that these souls will exist in an eternity of complete despair.
Alighieri, Dante. Inferno. Trans. Mark Musa. NY: Penguin Books, 1984.
A Comparison of My Last Duchess and Ulysses
Comparing My Last Duchess and Ulysses
Both of the poems, ‘My Last Duchess’ by Robert Browning and ‘Ulysses’ by Alfred Lord Tennyson, are examples of dramatic monologues, in that they solely consist of the speech of the protagonist. As a result, they have few or, in the case of ‘My Last Duchess’, only one stanza. Many enjambed lines and many irregularities in the basic form of iambic pentameter also hide the rhyming couplets in this poem. ‘My Last Duchess’ is set in Renaissance Italy and is the Duke of Ferrara talking to a servant of his prospective father-in-law, about a painting of his former wife. The narrator of ‘Ulysses’ is the man in the title, an Ancient Greek hero, talking about his loathing of his regal position and his wish to travel again before his impending death. Although they are both powerful men talking about their pasts, there are noticeable differences between the two poems, both in the protagonists themselves and the poetic devices used to present them. One of the clearest differences between Ferrara and Ulysses is the source of their power, and the kind of power that they wield. Ferrara’s power comes from his ‘nine-hundred-years-old-name’, that is, his position as the ruler of one of the many city states that make up the present-day nation of Italy. This was a position he was born into-not one which he earned. He obviously puts great value on his inherited status, as he refers to it as a ‘gift’ and objected when his wife did not consider it more precious than the gifts that other people gave to her. He considers himself to have been very generous by making her his Duchess, and he thinks that his wife should have ranked this generosity than that of others. He gives examples of other gifts which she thought of as equal in worth, such as:
‘The white mule
She rode with round the terrace’
‘The dropping of daylight in the west.’
The Duke does not think that such things, which are trivial to him, should bring her the same amount of joy as the presents he bestows on her. He is also mildly jealous of the way that other things can make his wife happy. He thinks that she should love him and him alone. This is particularly shown when he refers to someone else.
‘The bough of cherries some officious fool