Essay, Research Paper: Divide Comedy By Dante


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A significant idea contained within Dante's The Divine Comedy is the Augustinian
concept of ordered and disordered love. Each realm of the afterlife symbolizes
the type of love the inhabitants exercised while they were living on earth. For
example, the Inferno represents disordered love, since the souls in Hell
exhibited little love for mankind and little acknowledgement of God. Because the
kind of love Hell symbolizes is the worst type that anyone could possess, it is
located nearest to the center of the earth, farthest away from God. On the other
hand, Paradise, which is situated closest to God, represents ordered love. This
area is reserved for those who treated their neighbors well and felt connected
to God. Although they sinned during their lifetimes, they fully repented long
before death. However, Purgatory is unlike Paradise or the Inferno. Since the
inhabitants of Purgatory were those who started to repent later in their
lifetimes, but still often only thought of their own individual needs and
corporeal pleasures, it only makes sense that this world be in between Heaven
and Hell. Purgatory, being a "gray area" (that is, neither all good or
all bad), represents a type of love that lies somewhere in between complete
order and complete disorder. Based on the Seven Deadly Sins, each cornice in
Purgatory contains a varying amount of ordered love and disordered love.
However, the nearer the cornice is to Hell, the more disordered love it
represents. According to Dante, three main types of love are depicted in
Purgatory. These include "bad love", "too little love", and
"immoderate love". Bad love, the worst of the three, coincides to the
first three Cornices that represent the sins of pride, envy, and wrath
respectively. Therefore, since the First Cornice contains those who were too
proud during their time on earth, they also exhibited the most disordered love
in comparison with the other six sins. They spent more time exalting themselves
than they did caring for others and developing a relationship with God. As their
punishment, they, "crawling by under such burdens as we at times may dream
of", (Canto XI, lines 26-27) are forced to carry enormous boulders on their
backs. Since they held their heads high during their time on earth, they are now
being debased to the ground, a physical punishment to a psychological behavior.
In fact, all of the penalties created by Dante in The Purgatorio are directly
related to the sin committed. The Proud cared more about their own gains than
anyone else's, a sin that, in Dante's eyes, is the worst of the Seven Deadly
Sins. Continuing with the idea of "bad love", Dante then explains
envy, represented in the Second Cornice. Like pride, this sin is also extremely
egocentric, as the envious person wishes he could take the good fortunes of
others for his own personal gain. Once again, the sinner is spending more time
on himself, hindering his ability to develop good relations with God and
mankind. Envy, which in modern times is described as the "green-eyed
monster", is generally a sin one commits with his eyes. For, if a person
were blind, he would not be able to comprehend what is supposedly
"missing" from his life. Therefore, Dante depicts the sinners as
having their eyes sewn shut, forced to support one another in a way they never
did while living. Finally, wrath, the least of the "bad loves", is
exemplified in the Third Cornice. Since wrath is often carried out as a form of
anger because of vengeance, it lacks all humility, polluting the true spirit of
God. Meekness, the inverse of wrath, is depicted by the souls' chanting
"The Litany of The Lamb of God", a constant reminder of an important
ideal. Also, the entire realm is filled with darkness and smoke, which Dante
describes as having a "sting [that] was more than the eyes could
stand." (Canto XVI, line 7) Because these sinners tainted God's spirit
while living and blocked the light of the Lord, their penalty is to reside in a
defiled environment lacking all sunlight. Like the other two types of "bad
love", wrath also involves a form of self-love. However, since it is
located in the Third Cornice, it involves less disordered love than either pride
or envy. The second type of love explored in The Purgatorio is termed "too
little love", which lends itself exclusively to the sin of sloth. In
general, these slothful people just did not have enough love. They chose to live
life slowly with indifference and laziness. In contrast, this form of love is
not nearly as severe as "bad love" because they did not try to debase
their neighbors. Rather, they just did not possess any strong opinions
(positively or negatively) for mankind or God. They recognized the ideals that
all humans should strive for, but they decided simply not to pursue them. As
their punishment in the Fourth Cornice, they have to hurry up the mountain with
all the zeal that they lacked while living. Finally, the last type of love
depicted by Dante is "immoderate love", the kind that is too excessive
and satisfies corporeal needs rather than spiritual. However, since Dante knows
that the flesh is weak, a mere entrapment of the soul, he forgives these bodily
sins to some extent. This is the main reason why these last three cornices,
containing the most ordered love, are closest to Paradise. The first type of
"immoderate love" described is avarice, in the forms of hoarding and
wasting. The avarice souls, dwelling in the Fifth Cornice, are stripped of all
possessions and are forced to lie in the dirt. This sin is considered the worst
of its kind because the hoarders and wasters are not even gaining any sense of
satisfaction from their practices, even if it were to be temporal. They seem to
have no motive for being so obsessive about money. In contrast, in the sin of
gluttony, at least the guilty individuals did gain some sense of satisfaction
while on earth. However, they too were blameworthy of surrendering to material
things. Since they ate and drank in excess while living, their reprimand in the
Sixth Cornice is complete emaciation, a horrific physical punishment. Since they
abused food and drink, now they must starve as a purification mechanism to
ascend into Heaven. The last sin involving "immoderate love" is lust,
depicted in the Seventh Cornice. The lustful people were those who abandoned the
spirit for the flesh, surrendering to the body instead of God's love. Like
gluttony, out of selfishness, they decided give in to pleasures rather than to
worship the Lord sincerely. In order to gain entrance to Paradise, they must
chant examples of chastity to purge themselves. However, Dante probably views
this sin as the most ordered because he realizes that some human behaviors,
especially an aspect of nature, are extremely hard to control. Therefore, in
Dante's The Purgatorio, love is depicted temporally rather than spiritually. It
is an in between kind of love because these sinners did find God, but too late
in life to cleanse themselves of all their corporeal sins. In fact, the Seven
Deadly Sins of pride, envy, wrath, avarice, gluttony, sloth and lust all share
one significant aspect in common. They involve man loving self-pleasures more
than God. In each case this sort of love lies in between order and disorder.
Whether these indulgences are physical or psychological, they are hindrances to
achieving the ultimate end of man, which is happiness. Since (according to
Aquinas) happiness comes from God, only by truly loving and honoring Him can one
ascend into Paradise. These temporal pleasures prevent man from developing a
good relationship with God. As punishment, God makes these sinners wait in
Purgatory in the same way they made Him wait. In many cases self-love has been
the main reason why spirits are forced to repent in Purgatory. However, although
the sinners did not know how to love in the proper manner while on earth, they
are given another chance to ascend into Heaven via Purgatory. They realized
their mistakes later in life, but this self-recognition proves that they have
the potential to become better people, if not in the flesh, then in the spirit.
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