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Suggested Essay Topics

Canto I
1. Dante uses several symbols for sin and righteousness in Canto I. What are the representations? Which do you think is the most effective and why?

2. Compare and contrast the sins of youth, adulthood, and age.

Canto II
1. Dante compares himself to others who visited the world of Hades. Who were these persons and why did they make the journey? How would their journeys have affected Dante’s confidence in his completing the upcoming journey?

2. What kinds of love are evident in Canto II? Explain your answer.

Canto III
1. What is the crime of the uncommitted? What is their punishment? Is this penalty related to the crime? Explain your answer.

2. Why does Charon dispute taking Dante on his boat?

Canto IV
1. What are the indications that you have seen that Dante is lost?

2. Research one of those whom Dante sees about him in the First Circle. Write a paper about that person. In conclusion, express why you think that person is in the First Circle and not further down in the pit.

Canto V
1. Explain how the sins themselves are punishment in Hell. Use the First and Second Circles as examples.

2. Compare and contrast Minos with Christ.

Canto VI
1. Compare and contrast Circle Two with Circle Three.

2. What did Ciacco mean when he said that Hell had put three sparks in human breasts?

3. Why did Ciacco want Dante to speak his name on earth? Explain your answer.

Canto VII
1. Compare and contrast the use of mud and mire in the punishment of the gluttons and the use of mud and mire in the punishment of the actively and passively wrathful.

2. Pluto is a god of riches. Explain his presence at the entrance to the Fourth Circle.

3. Compare and contrast the Styx and the Acheron.

Canto VIII
1. What does it mean when Dante says that the boat does not seem to carry a load at all until Dante entered? Explain your answer.

2. Why do you think that Dante shows anger toward the soul in the mud?

Canto IX
1. Virgil says that the witch Erichtho wanted to “call back the shades to their dead clay.” What do you think he meant by that? Please explain fully.

2. Describe the souls in punishment in the Nether Hell, the City of Dis. Why are they there? What is their punishment?

Canto X
1. What is the shade’s response when Dante asks him with whom he lies?

2. When does the shade say that Dante will learn the meaning of life? What do you think he means by that?

Canto XI
1. Dante describes three circles containing souls who have committed sins worse than others. Which sins are more severe? Why?

2. Why is usury a sin? Explain in detail.

Canto XII
1. Dante has crossed three rivers: the Acheron, the Styx, and the Phlegethon. Compare and contrast each of these rivers.

2. Explain the relationship of the sin of violence and the punishment of boiling them in the blood of the Phlegethon.

Canto XIII
1. Compare and contrast the woods in Canto XIII with the woods in Canto I, when Dante realizes he is lost.

2. Describe how the spirits of the suicide victims enter the trees.

Canto XIV
1. Describe how the valley was made.


(The entire section is 1,563 words.)