Books and Movies Reviews

The Inferno

On Good Friday 1300 AD, in Dante’s thirty-fifth year, he goes astray from the straight road into the Dark Wood of Error. Seeing the Sun (Divine Illumination) lighting the Mount of Joy in the Distance, he attempts to climb up the mountainside but is blocked by three beasts of worldliness: the Leopard of Malice and Fraud, the Lion of Violence and Ambition, and the She-Wolf of Incontinence. When his hope is nearly lost, the shade of the Roman poet Virgil (a symbol of Human Reason) appears to him. Virgil has been sent by Beatrice in Heaven to lead Dante from error; he explains that to defeat the beasts it is necessary to take the harder route through Hell (where sin is recognized), Purgatory (where sin is renounced), then to Heaven to revel in the light of God. Dante accepts and sets off with him.
The Poets pass through the Gate of Hell (inscribed with the famous line, Abandon all hope ye who enter here) and step into the Vestibule, where they see the torments inflicted on the opportunists and those who took neither side in the Rebellion of the Angels. They are not officially in Hell nor Heaven because their actions in life were not good enough or bad enough to warrant a place in either. They must forever pursue a banner just out of their reach while being stung by wasps; the blood and pus flowing from their wounds is feasted upon by worms and maggots. (The punishments in Inferno always fit the crime. The wasps signify the sinners guilty consciences and the worms and maggots, their moral filth.) The Poets wish to be ferried across the river Acheron by the boatman Charon, but Charon realizes that Dante is still living and refuses them passage until Virgil makes a good argument for Dante’s case. Charon reluctantly agrees, but Dante faints out of pure terror and only awakes when he is on the opposite bank.
Upper Hell, for those who committed the least serious sins, is made of five circles, each containing fewer sinners and smaller tha…


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