How many levels are in Dante's version of hell? Why are there even levels?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the Inferno by Dante Alighieri, there are nine circles of Hell, each reflecting more serious sins and each having punishments reflecting the nature and severity of a specific type of mortal sin. One of the reasons for there being circles of Hell is that the ways in which the punishments reflect their causes shows the workings of divine justice. Rather than the punishments being random, we can see how the sinners by the nature of their acts brought specific forms of retribution on themselves. In some ways, this is similar to any sense of justice, in which the punishment should fit the crime. Just as we wouldn't want to punish a kid who stole a piece of candy from a store in the same way as we'd punish an armed robber, so too Dante shows that God responds appropriately and fairly to gradations in the severity of sins.

The full eNotes summary describes all the circles individually.

aiyuleos | Student

    Dante's Inferno portrays Hell as having nine main circles, each representing a different type of sin: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud and Treachery. The circles are contained within one another, with Satan trapped in the absolute center of all the circles.

    Dante aimed to create a rendition of Hell where sinners were appropriately punished for their actions. As such, the inhabitants of each circle get different punishments according to their primary sin - sinners in the Greed circle, for example, are forced to joust against one another while pushing giant weights that represented their hoarded possessions. The punishments increase in severity as the weight of the sin increases, ending with the traitors in the ninth circle encased in ice eternally next to Satan - the farthest distance possible from God's warmth.

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Dante's Inferno

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