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In Dante's Inferno, what is "the power of wisdom"?

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brandih | eNotes Employee

Posted March 28, 2012 at 4:37 AM via web

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In Dante's Inferno, what is "the power of wisdom"?

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belarafon | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 28, 2012 at 2:39 PM (Answer #1)

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Inferno is part of The Divine Comedy, a poetic work by Dante Alighieri in the 14th century. In it, Dante descends to Hell and passes through all nine circles in search of meaning.

Before entering Hell, Dante reads the inscription above the door:

"Through me you go to the grief wracked city;
Through me you go to everlasting pain;
Through me you go a pass among lost souls.

Justice inspired my exalted Creator:
I am a creature of the Holiest Power,
of Wisdom in the Highest and of Primal Love.

Nothing till I was made was made,
only eternal beings. And I endure eternally.
Abandon all hope — Ye Who Enter Here."
(Dante, Inferno, en.wikiquote.org)

These words are a warning to all who would enter Hell of their own free will. The creature, if it exists, who monitors and moderates Hell is not one of logic and reason but of "Wisdom in the Highest and of Primal Love," meaning that it itself was created to mediate justice. The "power of wisdom" refers to God, the creator of all things including Hell, which exists to punish the wicked and teach the humble of their own purpose in the world. Wisdom here does not refer to the study of reason and factual knowledge, but to moral clarity, moral virtue, and worthiness to pass through the gates unharmed; only those who understand the "power of wisdom" as a moral code may experience Hell without fear.

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