Dantes Ranking of Sins Essay

Dantes Ranking of Sins
In The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, Dante takes us on a rollercoaster ride through Hell and each its different circles. Each circle of Hell contains sinners with a different form of moral failure. Throughout the text, Dante gruesomely explains the punishments that each circle enforces onto its sinners. The punishments that Dante describes seem to be a severe and dramatic version of whatever the sin was, rather than examples of contropasso. As Dante progresses through each circle of Hell, he implies that each circle contains sinners who committed worse moral failures than those of the previous circle. Ultimately, Dante introduces a ranking of these moral failures. The structure of Dantes Hell is in some ways based on Ethics and Physics by Aristotle. Dante uses Aristotles three main categories of sin throughout the text. These three dispositions of the soul are incontinence, malice, and bestiality. Although these categories do play a major role in Dantes ranking of moral failures, he tends to stress one specific idea the mostthe worst sins are those that affect others.
As Dantes journey through Hell begins, he steps foot into the very first circle, Limbo. Although the souls of this circle are in fact dwelling in Hell, they are not exactly considered sinners. Virgil explains to Dante:
You do not question what souls these are that suffer here before you? I wish you to know before you travel on that these were sinless. And still in their merits fail, for they lacked Baptisms grace, which is the door of the true faith you were born to. Their birth fell before the age of the Christian mysteries, and so they did not worship Gods trinity in fullest duty. I am one of these. (The Divine Comedy pg. 39)
Virgil stresses this point to Dante because he himself is one of the souls that reside in Limbo. He explains that he and the rest of the trapped souls are not in Hell for committing sins, but either because they were never baptized, or they never had the opportunity to receive Gods word simply due to the fact that they were born before the Christian religion was introduced. The actions of these souls did not affect or harm others in any way. Consequently they reside in the first circle of Hell, Limbo, which Dante describes as the least extreme level in his ranking of moral failures.
As the journey through Hell progresses, Dante and Virgil pass through Circle Two, Circle Three, Circle Four, and Circle Five. These circles contain the carnal, the gluttons, the hoarders and wasters, and the wrathful and sullen. Throughout these circles Dante illustrates a recurring theme. All of these sins do in fact affect others, but that is not allthese circles contain sinners who have betrayed reason to their appetite. As Dante proceeds from one circle to the next, the sins become more and more severe, and we continue to climb the latter of Dantes ranking of sins.

In Dante and Virgils pursuit to reach Circle Six, they reach the Walls of Dis, which separate the Upper and Lower Hell. When Dante gets his first glimpse of the walls, he utters, Master, I already see the glow of its red mosques, as if they came hot from the forge to smolder in this valley. (The Divine Comedy pg. 70) In Dantes time, mosques were considered the churches of Satan, which implies that there is going to be much more evil trapped behind those walls. Dante emphasizes in the text that everything is about to change at the Walls of Dis. His ranking of sins becomes much more dramatic behind these walls.
Eventually, Dante and Virgil reach Circle Sixthe circle of the heretics. This circle takes a dramatic turn from the previous circles. The souls residing in Circle Six did not only affect others with their sins. In fact, they did much worse. They deliberately did violence to God by blatantly denying their immortality. Dante considers sinning against God to be a much worse moral failure than those of the previous circles.
The journey continues, as does Dantes ranking of sins. Dante implies that the upcoming circles are filled with souls guilty of malice. As he and Virgil venture through Circle Seven, the circle of the violent and bestial, Dante presents a ranking within a ranking. Although this circle contains souls that are considered the violent and bestial, there are even smaller categories that these souls are placed into. Their sins consist of being violent against their neighbors, against themselves, or against God. All three of these types of violence affect others, causing them to be considered a serious moral failure in Dantes ranking.
In time, Dante and Virgil pass through Circle Eight and Circle Nine, both holding the souls of the fraudulent and malicious. Circle Eights trapped souls are guilty of simple fraud, such as seducers and panderers, flatters, simoniacs, fortune tells and diviners, grafters, hypocrites, thieves, evil counselors, sowers of discord, and counterfeiters and alchemists. (The Divine Comedy pg. 94) Circle Nine contains souls guilty of a much more serious form of fraudulence, such as treachery against kin, country, guests and hosts, and lord and benefactors. (The Divine Comedy pg. 94) All of these sinners deliberately rebelled against God, putting their sins very high up in Dantes ranking.
The nine circles described by Dante seem to go in order from the least offensive to the most offensive sins. Dantes Hell began with sinners who had never heard the word of God, continued to sinners who betrayed reason to their appetite, and finished with sinners who deliberately rebelled against God. All of the sins described throughout the text fell into the categories presented by Aristotleincontinence, malice, and bestiality. Dantes ranking of moral failures clearly displayed his belief that sins that affect others are the worst sins of all.

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