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today we’re doing a deep dive into the Divine Comedy, an epic poem written in the early 1300s
by the Italian Dante Alighieri,
who is mostly referred to as just Dante.
We’re going to cover it all fairly superficially
but we’ll cover the events of all three poems in the Divine Comedy
in a way that should be easy to understand.
This won’t include everything,
just the gist of each depth of Hell, terrace of purgatory, and sphere of heaven.
This video will cover Inferno,
followed by Purgatorio next week and then Paradiso last.
Let’s look at the real life Dante to start off.
At this time in history,
Dante was going through a rough patch,
as life in Florence Italy saw
most people torn between the church and the state
and Dante himself was exiled for his allegiances
to an opposing political party.
It’s all very confusing
so we’re not going to spend much time on that.
Dante also suffered a bit of heartbreak,
being married but falling in love with another who
died at a young age, named Beatrice,
who will come into play later.
As we look at the Divine Comedy, just one of Dante’s works,
you’ll see quite a few of these real life characters appear,
as Dante himself appears as the protagonist in his own story.
Dante also believed in making literature approachable,
writing the Divine Comedy in a language understandable to the masses,
as opposed to most literature of the time being written in latin.
As Dante was interested in religion and the consequences of our actions here on Earth,
the Divine Comedy tells the tale of Dante trying to aspire to heaven,
but he must travel through hell and purgatory to get there.
Most of what he writes
is based on imagery found in popular religious texts,
including the Bible
some of it was embellished for the sake of storytelling.
Inferno is likely the most popular of the three sections
and it’s with Inferno that we’ll begin.
With the help of a guide named Virgil,
Dante must navigate the depths of Hell,
in order to make his way through the Earth, to the other side,
then climb a mountain in the story of Purgatorio,
and then make it to Heaven (or Paradiso) with his love Beatrice,
which most scholars agree is based on his real life love
but is presented here as a more general and vague feeling of love that we all yearn for.
Some even argue that Beatrice stands as a substitute for faith or theology as well.
However our story begins with just Virgil the guide and Dante.
They begin at the gates to Hell,
inscribed with “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.”
They go through and enter what’s called “Ante-Inferno”
which is before you really reach what we start calling the layers of Hell.
This area is for people that have had the choice between good and evil
and could not choose,
so have therefore been rejected by both heaven and hell.
They are constantly tormented and chased by hornets and snakes,
forcing them into action.
There are angels here as well,
those that chose neither side in the war of good versus evil.
They are also tormented.
They come to a great river,
which serves as the boundary of hell
and many souls wait for a boat ride from Charon
who appears in Greek mythology on the river into Hades.
You’ll notice a lot of
Greek and Roman mythology seeping into this poem as we go on.
Now, about the pronunciation, “Sharon” isn’t likely the Greek pronunciation
but I’m going off how astronomers pronounce Charon
when talking about the moon of Pluto with the same name.
So Charon crosses with them and we encounter the first real circle of Hell
and this one is called Limbo.
These are quote unquote virtuous pagans.
They’ve done great deeds, lived morally right lives,
but either didn’t accept Christianity
or lived before it existed, or they were never baptized.
God granted passage of a few figures,
such as Noah and Moses, to enter Heaven
but it’s phrased as a rare occurrence.
This is where Virgil and other poets and philosophers exist,
so Virgil will return here after their adventure.
There isn’t a physical punishment here
but rather a general sadness
that they are so close to Heaven but forever kept outside.
The second circle of Hell that they approach is for the Lustful.
These are those that gave in to pleasure
and now are cursed with eternity in the midst of a raging storm,
wind so strong that it whips them about
uncontrollably, ravaging them against rocks.
The third circle of Hell continues to rain
but now it is filth raining from the sky and
those that are gluttonous and consumed in excess lay on the ground unable to move,
forever pelted with debris and sewage.
In this level, Dante also sees the monster Cerberus prowling.
In Greek mythology,
Cerberus is the three-headed dog that keeps souls in Hades.
It’s interesting that Dante continues to mix mythologies and religions here.
Similar to those that are gluttonous, our fourth circle is for the greedy.
Here we see a demon named Plutus,
who in Greek mythology was the god of money and wealth.
The greedy here are forever battling each other,
rolling giant boulders into each other, a constant jousting match.
There is no reprieve from the battle.
Our fifth circle is against a giant river, the river Styx.
The wrathful and angry are kept here, forever fighting each other,
clawing and biting in anger.
The sullen and gloomy are also kept here,
submerged under the water, forced to breathe and choke on the black mud,
他们被浸没水中 被迫呼吸 呛入河中的黑泥
withdrawn from the world.
Virgil and Dante cross the river and they approach lower hell,
the worst of the worst.
There is a city here and it’s guarded by fallen angels
who turn Virgil and Dante away,
no living man may enter, they shout.
Here is the first place where Virgil holds no sway or influence
and may not be able to protect Dante.
Now for some reason, a messenger from Heaven arrives
and tells these angels that they should open the gates to travelers and
they reluctantly obey,
Virgil and Dante walking into a giant graveyard
with tombstones covered in flames.
Here lie the heretics,
those that pronounced other false religions.
Even though they’ve seen a lot already,
Virgil prepares Dante for the next circle,
for those who are violent.
There are many types of violence,
the first being violent to others, like murderers and warlords.
This also might be those who are violent to themselves,
committing acts of suicide.
Lastly, those that are violent against God,
such as blasphemers against God
and violent against nature, God’s creation.
Virgil and Dante meet and ask a creature named Geryon
to take them to the eighth circle of Hell.
This beast is a symbol of fraud,
as he has the face of a man which tricks you,
while he stings you with a scorpion tail.
In this story,
he’s got massive wings and flies our heroes to the next level,
which is for fraud itself.
In this level, it’s a bowl almost with demons torturing people all around,
those that have deceived and manipulated others during their life.
This includes pimps and sexual manipulators,
as well as gamblers and people who created false money.
We’ve got fortune tellers with their heads placed backwards,
so they can only see behind them.
These punishments are terrifying yet apt to their crimes.
In the final circle of Hell we have Satan himself,
a giant three-headed beast that is forever flapping his giant wings,
which makes this level of Hell actually frozen
and most of Satan’s body is encased in ice.
He is forever punishing the three greatest betrayers in history,
Judas who betrayed Jesus Christ,
and Brutus and Cassius, who betrayed Julius Caesar.
There are other men completely frozen in ice,
those that have betrayed their family, their God, or their country.
As an author, Dante makes some sharp criticisms during these last few circles,
including referencing political parties and real people.
They all exist deepest bowels of hell for what they supposedly did.
Virgil takes Dante and they climb down Satan ’ s frozen body
until they end up at his feet,
which has now somehow turned upside down,
as they now begin their ascent back to the surface,
but on the other end of the planet.
Their adventure to the surface is quick
and they now arrive at the base of purgatory.
This is where Dante’s Inferno ends
and the poem Dante’s Purgatorio begins.
You might ask at this point
why Purgatorio and Paradiso aren’t as popular.
I think it’s the same reason why people are obsessed with
serial killers and crime shows on television,
we’re drawn to the dark and terrifying.
It also might have to do with people wanting to compare their own sins against the metric of Inferno,
maybe in an effort to feel better about their mistakes.
We’ll continue the epic poem next week.
So that is it for Dante’s Inferno, the first part of three.
So next Wednesday, the video for Purgatorio will be up.
If it’s up already, you can find it right here.
Or you can find other What Is videos right here
to learn about other interesting topics.
Thanks for watching!
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