Who are the souls tortured in Dante's "Inferno"?

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pholland14's profile pic

pholland14 | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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In the Inferno, Dante provides commentary on his times by putting some of the popes and Florentine leadership in Hell for their sins, mainly greed and pride. Dante puts those who committed the seven deadly sins in Hell as well. Dante's Hell is not necessarily the Hell found in the Bible, but rather it is designed so that the punishment fits the crime. For example, gluttons must wallow in waste and filth for all eternity. Lustful people are tossed for all eternity in strong winds, as these people were tossed by their desires while they were alive. The greatest sin of all to Dante is treason--he has Brutus, Cassius, and Judas being chewed by a three-headed Satan who is encased in ice.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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"Inferno" is the Italian word for Hell. Dante is a Roman Catholic and is thus portraying the souls in Hell in the "Inferno." According to Catholic theology, after death people who have committed mortal sins go to Hell, while those with unforgiven venial sins go to Purgatory. Thus the souls being tortured in "The Inferno" are the souls of people who have committed mortal sins. Some examples are:

  • Circle One - Limbo (unbaptized infants, pagans)
  • Circle Two - the lustful
  • Circle Three - gluttons
  • Circle Four - hoarders
  • Circle Five - people who have indulged in anger or wrath
  • Circle Six - heretics
  • Circle Seven - violent crimes, including usurers, murderers, and suicides
  • Circle Eight - those who commit fraud or falsehoods including thieves, liars, hypocrites, pimps, adulterers, and flatters
  • Circle Nine - Traitors