This essay will cover the eastern insights and comprehension about Dante’s Inferno and concisely discuss its historical and philosophical significance. My main points will surround the rationality of human’s wants in the term of metaphysical and practical ethics.First of all, there is clear difference between eastern and western images of hell. Here, we get another special inferno scroll from Dante. In Chinese mythology, those who indulge into their emotions and desires would get punishments in hell. That includes seven kinds of emotions and six sorts of desires.
Among universal western beliefs, there are seven sins which will be sentenced to hell. Dante, however, create a new afterlife world. Humans’ sins were classified into three catalogs, lust, pride and avarice, which was represented by three beasts respectively. If we think Chinese definition and judgement about sins were influenced by the communication of Buddhism, then the existence of seven sins might be impacted by Christianity to some extent.
Differing from these two mentioned above, Dante used primitive and wild symbol, beast, to imply human’s pure sins. As one of the pioneers of renaissance, Dante aimed at freeing human’s desire. The shrink of sins should be one plot of it. At that ages, churches constrained and controlled people’s mind to solidify the government on purpose, which caused the entire society’s rot and gloom. Compared to Buddhism’s elimination of humanity and Christianity’s asceticism, there is no doubt that Dante’s work had loosen these shackles.
Additionally, the decrease of sins does not mean people will not pay for the expense of committing sins. Harsher the punishment will they suffer. Though Dante’s effort might still be limited by his worship to Catholicism, his new explanation of human’s real wants is definitely a breakthrough.
Moving on to the angle of ethics, Dante’s attitude towards the right and the wrong, the good and the evil indeed explored a new land. In Chinese ancient proverb, the most valuable virtue is offering to admit and correct our mistakes, which is more significant than benevolence. Dante’s inferno apparently is not the same as what we knew.
There is not Cerberus, the gate guardian, indicating the hell is a piece of free-entering land. Under the guide of Virgil, souls Dante encountered were being tortured for their sins and striving to get salvation. These spirits still had chances to confess heart voices. In contrast, eastern mythology usually state that there is one bridge which spirits must pass through and drink the soup offered by a goddess who guards the bridge. Once drinking the soup, the spirit will become like a blank slate.
They only obey the commands to repent and repay what they committed. In this case, Inferno’s residence appears fortunate. They still own what they experienced, their regrets, felicity, and sorrows. They were suffering from these memory. Meanwhile, they cherished what they owned and waited for the spiritual rebirth. The preservation of humanity gave those ghosts living human’s emotions. For instance, the love between Lancelot and Guinevere was regarded as disloyalty and betrayal. Dante’s conversation with them, however, showed another kind of scenario that their love have not changed slightly even after death.
What Dante genuinely wanted to express, I think, is accepting human’s nature. He gave each character the chance to satisfy their wants, then let them repent and correct their faults. It was not churches’ so-called ideal world which should be free of evil, but the good and the evil’s co-current existing .
This rebellion towards churches suggested the sprout of new ethics. If we see Dante’s Inferno as an exaggerated truth of material world, then those horrible punishment, those disinhibit wants, and the new view of hell must have its prototype. That might be the churches’ brainwash, people’s will to pursue felicity, and the new society which Dante was looking forward to. It sure was not realistic at that time to smash everything and reset it.
However, big progress indeed was made by those scholars and artists, including Dante, during the period of renaissance.