Dantes Inferno Canto 11 Analysis Essay


Dante is still in the sixth circle, walking along the edge of another deep, stinking abyss. Virgil advises that they stop and get used to the smell before continuing, so they stop near the tomb of Pope Anastasius. Virgil explains in greater detail the structure of the remaining circles of Hell. In the seventh circle, which they are about to enter, are those whose sin is violence. The violent are further divided into three smaller rings within the seventh circle. The first of these is for those who were violent against others, the second for those violent against themselves, and the third for those who were violent against God. Because fraud is even more offensive to God than violence, the fraudulent are punished in the final two circles of Hell. The eighth circle is for hypocrites, flatterers, liars, and others who betrayed the trust that comes naturally to people. The ninth circle is where those who betrayed their family, country, guests, and benefactors are punished.

Prompted by Dante's questioning, Virgil explains that worst punishments (lower circles) in Hell are reserved for the sins that offend God. He also explains that usury—making money by charging high interest on loans—is a sin because humans were meant to make their living from art, or from the work of their own hands. Because usurers make money from money, they scorn God's ways. After their discussion, the poets make their way down the cliff into the seventh circle.


Dante and his guide have to take a rest because the smell is so terrible that they have to get used to it before moving on. In this little break Dante asks Virgil to teach him, so as not to waste the time. Their teacher-student relationship is firmly established and Virgil obliges. He lays out a verbal map of Hell so Dante has some sense of what is going to happen. He gives Dante some structural details as well as a general principle that the lower you descend into Hell, the worse it is going to get. In keeping with the symbolism of ascent and descent, the farther they descend, the farther they are from God.

Virgil's explanation describes the lower two levels of Hell as reserved for those who commit one of two types of fraud. Scholars divide these two types of fraud into "simple fraud" (scams and deceptions) and "complex fraud" (betrayal of a special trusting relationship), and believe Dante based these on Aristotle's groupings of sins. Because all fraud is a betrayal of trust, and trust comes from love, and love comes from God, these sins are the worst.

Literary Analysis: Dante's Inferno Essay

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Dante’s work Inferno is a vivid walkthrough the depths of hell and invokes much imagery, contemplation and feeling. Dante’s work beautifully constructs a full sensory depiction of hell and the souls he encounters along the journey. In many instances within the work the reader arrives at a crossroads for interpretation and discussion. Canto XI offers one such crux in which Dante asks the question of why there is a separation between the upper levels of hell and the lower levels of hell. By discussing the text, examining its implications and interpretations, conclusions can be drawn about why there is delineation between the upper and lower levels and the rationale behind the separation. Canto XI serves the purpose in a twofold way;…show more content…

These questions rouse the idea of a divine and perfect punishment by the ultimate judge God, and implications of possible imperfections of God’s judgment. Also the way in which the question is answered poses another question, why is Aristotle, a human, and a Pre-Christian is thinker is used to explain God’s divine and perfect judgment? The text answers the question in a direct way using the works of Aristotle, “How his Ethics describes, and deals with at length, the three dispositions rejected by Heaven, Incontinence, malice, and bestial rage and how one of these offends God less and so incurs less blame?” (Canto XI 80-83). At this explanation a reader could draw the conclusion that God’s judgment is merciful and perfect. The question though still remains, if those of previous levels offend God less why do they still incur such a horrible punishment? This question leaves implications that God’s punishment might not be perfect and just. In previous cantos Dante seems to have developed some pity for those shades he has met in previous circles, such as Ciacco, and Francesca. He sympathizes with those damned almost as if he is realizing his own sins of his world. The implications of an imperfect and unjust God can ripple right to the very core of our own existence. If god is not perfect then

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