Describe the narrative form of
The narrative of
In a sense, the narrative structure of
Because of the allegorical correspondence between the type of sin and the type of punishment, the type of sin determines a great deal about the physical environment in which each scenario takes place. This cohesion between geography and story, and between type of sin and degree of sin, links the poem thematically to the idea of divine retribution and God’s justice.
Think about the role of character, apart from setting and story, in
Dante is the only character in the poem who can be said to develop. Virgil exhibits new behaviors from time to time, as when he castigates Dante in Canto XXX, but, in these moments, we sense that Virgil himself has not changed as a result of his experiences; rather, it seems that we see new sides of him as he enters new situations. Dante’s development essentially follows a linear progression: he goes from pitying the damned souls to passing cold judgment on them. This change of behavior may correspond to a moral and intellectual realization that sin should be unreservedly abhorred and God’s justice infinitely revered.
However, one may still question whether Dante’s changes in behavior and apparent attitude actually correspond to any true development. First, he periodically seems to regress and regain his old compassion. Second, some of the disgust with which he views sinners in the final cantos can surely be attributed to the increasing vileness of their sins and punishments rather than to a growing moral consciousness.
What is the role of politics in
Throughout the poem, Dante the character repeatedly meets damned Italian souls with whom he then discusses events in Italy. These encounters give Dante the poet a chance to insert many political opinions, some of which relate to the poem’s main moral and religious themes. Dante took politics very seriously, and his incorporation of so much political material into his journey through Hell serves the double purpose of situating his own political ideals in a larger moral scheme and warning his readers about the dangers of his enemies’ political ideals.
By the end of the poem, Dante manages to unite his main political theme with his main religious theme in a figurative manner—by showing Lucifer chewing on Judas (the betrayer of Christ) and also on Cassius and Brutus (the betrayers of Julius Caesar). If Christ is taken to represent the perfect spiritual leader and Caesar the perfect temporal leader, then the inclusion of their betrayers among the worst sinners in Hell underscores Dante’s politicized idea that church and state should be of equal importance in earthly governance. As Dante intended his work to ruminate more centrally on spiritual matters than on political ones, his discussion of human government in his religious allegory may constitute a plea for an earthly justice that might mirror the perfect justice of the afterlife.