Human nature is presented in The Divine Comedy as fundamentally sinful. Since man's original ancestors, Adam and Eve, defied God and ate from the Tree of Knowledge, humankind has been mired in sin. In addition to this original sin, there are the sins committed by individuals. Such sins would include adultery, murder, simony—the buying and selling of church offices—and betrayal. All these sins and more are punished in Hell, which is depicted with such imagination by Dante in the Inferno.
And yet Dante's depiction of the sinners in Hell is by no means uniform. Some are shown to be more sympathetic than others. This is a recognition on Dante's part of the fundamental complexity of human nature as well as its innate sinfulness.
One of the most sympathetic characters that Dante the pilgrim encounters in Hell is Francesca da Rimini. She's there with her brother-in-law Paolo, with whom she had an affair. As punishment for their sins, Paolo and Francesca have been consigned to the second circle...
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