Christian Themes (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
Dante’s work, while largely in keeping with fourteenth century Catholic teachings, reveals the vision of an individual. For example, Dante’s tripartite division of the afterlife into Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven follows standard dogma, but his depiction of Purgatory as a soaring mountain in the southern hemisphere was his own invention. Dante is never antireligion, although he is at times anticlergy. He sometimes criticized religious leaders because he had a clear personal concept of the spiritual role of the church and the worldly role of the empire, each of which he saw as divinely ordained in its specific role.
Dante also had a clear concept of Christian ethics. In his work, he shows the tradition of courtly love as transcended by divine love. He also portrays love as the root cause of all human vices and virtues. Dante uses the idea of contrapasso (retribution) to provide the rationale for dealing with good and evil actions during life and finding everybody’s proper place in the afterlife. Every human deed receives a punishment or reward that is not only in proportion but also symbolically in kind. For example, the repentant sinners in Purgatory walk through fire to burn away the earthly fire of lust. Dante uses the image of fire sparingly to keep it symbolically appropriate and to avoid glamorizing sin; he prefers to show the bone-chilling coldness of evil.
Salvation, according to Dante, can be achieved only through divine...
(The entire section is 435 words.)
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