Raging Inferno By Dante
Dante Alighieri was born in Florence, Italy in 1265. In his life, he composed
two major books of poetry: Vita Nuova and The Divine Comedy. The Vita Nuova is
composed of love poems, sonnets, and lyrics. The Divine Comedy, is an epic poem
segmented into three books, each of which recounts Dante’s travels through
hell, purgatory, and heaven. The first section of The Divine Comedy, Dante\'s

Inferno, is a narrative with a man named Virgil as his guide. Dante narrates his
descent and observation of hell through the various circles. One part of this
tale is his descriptions of the various punishments that each of the different
sinners has received. The various punishments that Dante envisions the sinners
receiving are broken down into two categories. The first category is borrowed
from various forms of medieval torture and the second type, though less
physically strenuous, are Dante\'s creative and imaginative punishment for sins.

The torturous forms of punishments create physical and bodily pain for the
sinners and are designed to be interpreted literally; whereas, the creative
punishments are used to inflict a mental and psychological pain and are suppose
to be thought of on a more metaphorical plane of thought. However, the creative
punishments can inflict both a mental and physical pain upon the sinner. An
example of this is the penalty the simonists, those who use their power in the
church to acquire money , pay. There are two descriptions of tortures which are
very similar to the punishment of the simonists. The first one included: a man
to be chained down to a bare bed with his feet hanging off of the end, and then
his feet would then be seared by a "charcoal brazier." The second
torture that is similar is the penalty of famed assassins upon conviction: to be
buried head down alive. Dante seems to have fused the two punishments into that
of the simonists. Dante describes their punishment as such:"Out of the
mouth of each hole there emerged a sinner\'s feet....both soles of every sinner
were on fire writhing with violence." Dante\'s penalty for simony inflicts a
severe physical pain, but was also designed this way for an alternative and
ironic reason. When being baptized it is a common practice to dip babies, head
first, under water to symbolically cleanse the soul.In the opposite fashion of
the baptismal practice, the simonists were put head down into dark and narrow
pits, as opposed to the open and refreshing holy water, and fire burns their
feet and soul, rather than there heads and souls being cleansed by the holy
water. Although Dante uses, and occasionally combines, various practices in
order to inflict physical pain, sometimes famous acts of cruelty to punish the
sinners are used . One such punishment Dante borrows from the court of Emperor

Frederick II. Frederick II was well-known for his lead capes with which he
punished various criminals: He had a leaden cover made for the condemned man, to
cover him entirely. The cover was about an inch thick. Then, he had the man
placed in a cauldron, and the leaden cape put over him. Then he had a fire made
under the cauldron. The heat melted the lead which took the skin off piece by
piece. Finally, both the lead and the condemned man boiled. Dante used part of

Frederick\'s punishment to punish the hypocrites in hell. He places all of the
hypocrites in "gilded" cloaks that "dazzled; but inside they were
all of lead, so heavy that Frederick\'s capes were straw compared to them."

Dante uses this analogy to Frederick to demonstrate the extent of cruelty of his
cloaks in "The Inferno" as well as those of Frederick\'s. If Dante describes
one of the most evil punishments ever, as mild compared to those in his Inferno,
he effectively demonstrates how horrible hell truly is. Although this punishment
for the hypocrites is physically painful, this punishment contains a unique
metaphor.In Dante’s eyes, the hypocrites were those people who were seemingly
pure and good, but beneath their facades they were quite sinful. The cloaks are
a metaphor for the hypocritical characters: dazzling on the surface and cloaked
in lead or sin underneath. A sinner whose punishment was given with the
intention of creating mental anguish was flattery. While Dante is walking over a
bridge, he looks down and sees the sinners of flatterery "...plunged in
excrement that seemed as if it had been poured from human privies."

Although this punishment is quite unsanitary and repulsive the punishment is
designed to inflict a physical agony, in this case, of rolling in feces.