Reflective statement on oral presentation of ‘The Inferno’ by Dante

Question: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral?

The interactive orals helped expand my knowledge of The Inferno by Dante by quite a vast amount. I realized that when I read The Inferno I was barely scratching the surface level of it.

What I found interesting was the recurring theme of numerology in Dante especially the number 3. When he first arrives in the dark woods he was stopped by 3 animals from entering Purgatory, this was perhaps the beginning of an introduction to the theme of numerology within the Inferno. I realized that the number 3 represented the Holy Trinity (The father, Son, and the Holy Spirit). The number 3 is used multiple times such as there being 3 parts of the afterlife (Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory), what most people would argue as the 3 main parts of hell (appetite, will, reason), or even in the number of circles in hell [9 circles (3×3=9)].

When I was researching Christian theology I came across an interesting argument about Alchemists and how they should be in the ninth circle of hell instead of the eight. This was due to the fact that one of the main goals of alchemy was to produce the elixir of life which would extend their life indefinitely. Theologists argue that this was a betrayal against God as we are made to live on the earth before dying and judged of our worthiness to join God, by extending our lives we are defying God and thus betraying him by turning our backs to him. After the interactive oral I wondered if turning our backs to God counted as betrayal wouldn’t Hell just be one large pit as everyone in it has turned their backs to god in one way or another.

When I first read ‘The Inferno’ I realized that Dante included multiple modifications to the classic view of Hell including several Greek/Roman mythological creatures and figures such as the Cerberus, the Minotaur, and King Minos. Dante also modified the first circle of hell ‘Limbo’ to include virtuous pagans instead of just babies who died after only committing the original sin. This made me wonder what other modifications Dante added to his view of hell. From the oral presentation I realized that Dante being involved in literary group “Dolce Stil Novo”, and having strong political ties with the White Guelphs could have influenced his writing style and his views on the ‘perfect’ hell. I realized that Dante’s reasoning for his view on the people who should be in hell is affected mostly by the political situation of Italy from when he was in exile.

After the interactive oral on Dante I realized that many of Dante’s views on hell and sin, were biased towards the political and religious thinking of his time. This helped me to increase my understanding of the cultural times when Dante wrote ‘The Inferno’.