In Dante's Inferno,gluttony is the third circle of Hell. Do you think the punishment fits the crime? Why or why not.

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It may seem a tad unfair to confine gluttons to hell, as Dante does. But one must bear in mind that gluttony was one of the seven deadly sins and as such was a very serious matter indeed during the Middle Ages. Food was considered a gift from God for our sustenance. Gluttony, however, was an abuse of that gift—a gross perversion of his divine love. Hence the appearance of gluttons in the third circle of hell, sloshing about in the muddy mire, beaten down by the rain.

Dante's view of punishment is pretty straightforward, as Virgil explains:

What these shades could not satisfy in life, in death, they shall be denied for eternity.

As gluttons enjoyed such a nice, warm feeling of comfort from their excessive eating in life, so they will be deprived of any warmth or comfort in hell. They will spend the rest of eternity mired in filth, assailed by a constant deluge of snow and freezing rain. No longer will they sample the finest food and drink life has to offer; instead, they are forced to gorge themselves on muck. And if the shades get any ideas about trying to escape, then the vile Cerberus, a gigantic belly (appropriately enough) with three huge worm heads, will maul and ravage them pitilessly. There really is no escape.

But is any of this fair? Even taking into account the religious prohibitions against gluttony that existed in Dante's day, this punishment does seem a trifle harsh. Then again, if you ask people what they would consider to be a just punishment, it would not be surprising to hear a variant of bad karma, or "what goes around, comes around." Whether or not we agree with that definition of justice, there is little doubt that it is what lies in store for anyone greedy or foolish enough to abuse another of God's gifts.

missflusk14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the sixth Canto of Dante's Inferno, we arrive with Dante at the third circle of Hell, in which we encounter the gluttonous.The souls of these sinners are pelted with dirty rain, hail, and snow, which mixes with the dirt underneath to create a slimy mud, which they must eat as their nourishment. They are also watched over and tormented by Cerberus, the three headed dog, who catches them up in his mouths and eats them- constantly hungry for more.

To really get a handle on this Canto, we need to define two important words: gluttony, and contrapasso. So, gluttony is "greedy or excessive indulgence." This is most often seen in eating or drinking, but it can also refer to wealth items, like money or expensive possessions. The word contrapasso is essentially a punishment fitting the crime- something that Dante employs entirely in his construction of Hell.

The punishment that these gluttons endure is to constantly eat the putrid, slimy mud beneath their feet for all of eternity. In addition to that, the souls are devoured again and again by Cerberus- a three headed dog with a huge stomach and an insatiable hunger. Their punishment- as they were constant, indulgent consumers of the finest things in life- is to be trapped in a constant state of consuming and being consumed. In this way, their sin becomes their punishment- and so the contrapasso is created.

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Dante's Inferno

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