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Justice in Dante’s Poem “Inferno” Essay


People have always longed for justice but it is also noteworthy that humans see justice differently. Of course, there are universal moral values which are shared by the majority of people. These central moral values are revealed in Dante’s Divine Comedy. At the same time, the idea of justice is considered in Dante’s Inferno. It is possible to note that justice can be regarded as achievement of balance in the universe. The matter is balanced by the antimatter in the universe. Likewise, a bad action leads to bad consequences in the world of people. At least, people believe in this and strive for justice which means that rightful actions should be praised while wrongful actions should be punished.

Importantly, the punishment should be corresponding as a more serious punishment for a less serious misdeed will inevitably lead to misbalance, which is against the laws of the universe. In Dante’s Inferno, those who sin or fail to live moral lives are punished accordingly in the circles of hell. It is possible to consider three sins and the way the sinners are punished to see Dante’s idea of justice and the way it is similar to the contemporary concept of justice.

It is possible to start with a smaller sin (the fourth circle) which leads to a milder punishment. According to Dante, greed is a great which corrupts the soul of a human who thinks of his/her gaining rather than moral and intellectual development. The sinners have to “roll’d on weights by main forge of their breasts, / Then smote together, and each one forthwith / Roll’d them back voluble, turning again” (Dante 33). Therefore, those people were absorbed by the desire to gain more fortune and became really wealthy but immoral.

However, gold only corrupts the soul and becomes a heavy burden for a human. Hence, those greedy people physically feel the burden of the gold in their circle of hell. Notably, there are no specific names as there are far too many greedy people in the world. Dante is quite unable to single out a person as all are equal in their corrupted souls.

However, it is clear that the sinners are repentant as they are accusing each other of the heavy loads they have to lift. Notably, the punishment is adequate as those people can finally see what their life really was. They focused on their wealth and did not think of morality so it was time to make them feel the burden of their first life. Dante the Pilgrim is compassionate as he thinks it is typical of a person to want to live in certain conditions.

The next sin to be discussed is theft. Thieves were stealing other people’s property and even part of their life. At the same time, the theft corrupted the thieves’ souls as well and changed their identity. Therefore, Dante the Poet ‘assigned’ a very specific punishment for these people in their eighth circle of hell. Thieves are transformed into different things and substances for the crimes they committed in their first life.

Vanni Fucci is one of the sinners suffering in this circle. He is turned into ashes and then resurrected to be transformed into ashes all over again. The thief is suffering greatly but he understands he had a sinful “bestial life” (Dante 106). Again, it is clear that Dante the Pilgrim feels pity for the thief, but he also sees certain justice after explanations of his master. The punishment is just and adequate as thieves had to feel degradation of their souls.

Finally, it is necessary to consider sin which is placed to the ninth circle of hell, treachery. Dante sees treachery as the most serious crime as it is a crime against people who trust and are betrayed. The sinners are encapsulated into ice and only their faces are free from ice.

One of the sinners is Count Ugolino who has to suffer in the icy capsule with no motion. He has eternity to mourn and think about his sins. Notably, the sinners are quite repentant as they weep but Ugolino also thinks that he was punished too harsh as his sons starved to death (Dante 141). Therefore, the count is punished twice, in his first life and in hell. Again, Dante the Pilgrim is compassionate and empathetic though he understands that the sins committed are very serious.

It is necessary to note that these three sins and chosen punishment as well as the attitude of Dante the Pilgrim towards these sinners reveal a broader message of the idea of justice and the entire Inferno. In the first place, Inferno is the place where justice reigns according to Christian beliefs. However, Dante the Pilgrim is quite doubtful about the justice as it is always manifested too late and people are so miserable in their circles of their own hell. Besides, some sins are often associated with overall corruption of the society or human nature. Thus, lots of people simply cannot resist some sins due to the human nature. At the same time, they are still punished.

For some, for instance, it is rather difficult to admit that eternal suffering of the soul can be a just punishment for a number of sins committed by the person living in the world. This viewpoint leads to the assumption that Inferno is not the place where justice reigns, but a place which shows that there is justice and there is balance in the universe.

Inferno is the place which can make the present world much better and this is the broader message Dante’s circles of hell convey. The poet manages to unveil one of the most important secrets of the universe which can help people think of their moral behavior and their spiritual development.

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that Dante’s Inferno has provided numerous lessons to people. It makes people think of their own lives and their moral values. Clearly, modern people do not often think about the hell and eternal suffering, but Dante’s Inferno makes people see the sins in the allegorical form which is very descriptive. Inhabitants of the hell represent the wrongs of the society and corrupted souls which make the world worse.

Modern college students should look through this part of Dante’s Divine Comedy from time to time to be able to make adequate choices. It is necessary to remember that even if an individual thinks that certain crime is possible to commit, there will be adequate punishment. This may prevent many people from doing something wrong. Moreover, students can see that Dante describes sins which are still regarded as wrongful actions. Hence, it becomes clear that there are universal moral values which should be cherished.

Works Cited

Dante, Alighieri. The Divine Comedy: Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise. Trans. H.F. Cary. New York, NY: Interactive Media, 2013. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020, May 17). Justice in Dante’s Poem "Inferno". Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/justice-in-dantes-poem-inferno/

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"Justice in Dante’s Poem "Inferno"." IvyPanda, 17 May 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/justice-in-dantes-poem-inferno/.

1. IvyPanda. "Justice in Dante’s Poem "Inferno"." May 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/justice-in-dantes-poem-inferno/.


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IvyPanda. "Justice in Dante’s Poem "Inferno"." May 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/justice-in-dantes-poem-inferno/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Justice in Dante’s Poem "Inferno"." May 17, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/justice-in-dantes-poem-inferno/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'Justice in Dante’s Poem "Inferno"'. 17 May.

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