What are 1 or 2 of the damned "contrapasso" in the epic Dantes Inferno?Describe how the torments are made to suffer reflect the nature of their worldly sins, provided quotes.

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MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The concept of "contrapasso" or counter-penalty is a principle used by Dante by which the soul is punished in Hell or Purgatory. The punishment reflects the sins committed by the individual on earth. In The Divine Comedy, the actual word "contrapasso" is used by Bertrand de Born, who is punished in Hell among the Sowers of Scandal and Schism. Bertrand says:

"Because I divided those so joined / I carry, alas, my brains severd / from its source which is within my trunk. / It is thus observed in me the law of counter-penalty".

In life de Born caused enmity and division between Henry III and his father Henry II of England through poor (some say evil) counsel. Thus he created division in the "body" of a family. Now, in Hell, Betrand's headless body moves around "carrying its severed head by the hairs as if it were a lantern".

Another of the many examples of contrapasso occurs when the sorcerers, astrologers, and false prophets have their heads twisted around on their bodies backward, so that they "found it necessary to walk backward, / because they could not see ahead of them," referring to attempts to see into the future by forbidden means.

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Dante's Inferno

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