Get help from the best in academic writing.

The Beasts and Monsters in Dante’s Inferno

The Inferno is the first section of Dante’s three-part poem, The Divine Comedy. Throughout Dante’s epic journey into the depths of Inferno he encounters thirty monsters and five hybrid creatures. The most significant of these monsters are of central importance to his journey and to the narrative, as they not only challenge Dante’s presence in Inferno, but are custodians of Hell, keeping in order or guarding the “perduta gente”. In this essay I am concentrating on these prominent beasts, namely Minos, Cerberus, Plutus and Geryon, establishing why they feature in Dante’s eschatological vision and discussing the sources which influenced his inclusion of these particular creatures. These four monsters all fulfil important functions as well as representing important themes in Inferno, establishing them as symbols which reinforce Dante’s allegory.

Minos, as the infernal judge and agent of God’s justice, represents our own conscience and morality. When the sinners come before him “tutta si confessa”, which causes the reader to reflect on their own sins.His terrifying treatment of the souls is significant as after Charon, he is one of the first figures who they encounter on their passage into Hell, and his unique method of demonstrating which area of Hell that the souls should be sent to increases the horror and adds to the alarming atmosphere.

His warning to Dante, is similar to several of the infernal custodians, who continually remind him that he should not be in the Otherworld,

tu che vieni al doloroso ospizio,

guarda com’entri e di cui tu ti fide non t’inganni l’ampiezza de

l’intrare (1)

However, Cerberus’s reaction to Dante is one of obvious malice and vice, and rather than comment on his presence he…

… middle of paper …

…s Minos’s warning to Dante and his unusual illustration of how the sinners are judged. The monsters also form strategic narrative devices, as their confrontations with Dante and Virgil continue the pattern of incident and movement in the text, adding variety and tension.

The beasts form an inherent and essential part of the narrative because of the excitement and terror that they add to Dante and Virgil’s journey, as well as reinforcing Dante’s classification of sin. They also illustrate the traditional motifs of Otherworld visions, whilst simultaneously expanding and developing previous representations of the afterlife in order to form original and exciting creations. This shows the importance Dante placed on the inclusion of these beasts as they not only express the influence of other works on Inferno, but also his own spectacular creativity and fantasy.

Divine Comedy – Mastery of Language in Dante’s Inferno

Mastery of Language

In The Inferno – Dante’s Immortal Drama of a Journey Through Hell, Dante allows the reader to experience his every move. His mastery of language, his sensitivity to the sights and sounds of nature, and his infinite store of knowledge allow him to capture and draw the reader into the realm of the terrestrial hell. In Canto 6, the Gluttons; Canto 13, the Violent Against Themselves; and Canto 23, the Hypocrites; Dante excels in his detailed portrayal of the supernatural world of hell. In each canto, Dante combines his mastery of language with his sensitivity to the sights and sounds of nature to set the stage. He then reinforces the image with examples that call upon his infinite store of knowledge, and thus draw a parallel that describes the experience in a further, although more subliminal, detail to the reader.

Through his mastery of language, Dante allows the reader to see what he sees, to hear what he hears, and to feel what he feels, and thus experience his sensitivity to the sights and sounds of nature. In Canto 6, Dante introduces the vicious monster, Cerberus and details his grotesque features to the reader. He states, “His eyes are red, his beard is greased with phlegm, / his belly is swollen, and his hands are claws / to rip the wretches and flay and mangle them” (66). This quote vividly depicts the man-beast Cerberus that Dante encountered, and allows the reader to feel present in the scene with Dante. He further emphasizes the sights and sounds to portray the hellish environment when he states “Huge hailstones, dirty water, and black snow/ pour from the dismal air to putrefy/ the putrid slush that waits for them below” (66). This example is one of many that illustrate Dante’s ability to exhibit the sights that he encounters. Dante adds another dimension by providing the ability for the reader to hear the sounds present in Circle III of Hell. An example of this is when he states “and they (the victims), too, howl like dogs in the freezing storm” (66). Furthermore Dante greatly describes how the victims are feeling about their whole situation with the statement “I lie here rotting like a swollen log” (67). This quote helps the reader to not only understand how the victims of gluttony are feeling, but also to picture them laying in the sodden mush of garbage.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.