Dante: The Divine Comedy, Hell ( Canto 11, lines 46 -54)
Tell me what is troubling you
In the midst of where we are now staying
Without any hope of going anywhere
And you said to me, your city is full
Of envy that disturbs the mind
Instead of leaving me serene
You citizens call me Chaicco
For the deadly sin of gluttony
Analysis of nine lines from Dante’s Divine Comedy after translation
Dante’s Divine Comedy is amongst the greatest works ever written and this is demonstrated by its incredible staying power in all forms and languages. The nine lines which form the basis of this analysis come from the part describing Hell which is perhaps one of the most imaginative certainly when compared to Purgatory and Heaven.
The first three lines describe the intolerable ugliness of Hell with all its regression and lack of redemption. Perhaps the one factor which makes Hell such an undesirable place is the way there is no capability to atone for what has been done in this world and the incessant torture of remorse haunts one for eternity. Dante makes a reference to envy which is one of the seven sins and it is here where he puts this particular person who is made to suffer the eternal sin of envy for eternity. It is indeed a powerful statement in many ways depicting the horror of Hell in all its glory.
Dante then turns to Ciacco who was a glutton and here one has to empathise with the glutton’s lot who is covered by rain and without hope of eating anything forever. It is a terrible punishment but one which is completely attuned to what happened in Ciacco’s life where he gorged himself continually and constantly over all sorts of food with the resultant consequences.
Dante’s description of the states of being of those who committed the seven deadly sins is harrowing to say the least. He manages to convey a deathly glory to all proceedings which makes one’s hairs stand up on end without much hope for anything which is to come. The way Dante divides Hell into circles is also instructive although there is a certain amount of bais in the way he does things as his enemies are more often than not thrown into the innermost and deepest recesses of Hell.
In fact gluttony is described as a ‘pernicious’ sin making one understand that the punishment for that is something even more terrible without any form for atonement. The comparison with envy is also instructive in that both are sins of relative lightness when compared to killing and stealing but Dante perhaps has other things in mind when describing these sins. Naturally enough all boils down to how we interpret the statements but what is really brought across at this stage is the power to convince mortals of the horrors and terrors of Hell.
These nine lines deal with the sins of gluttony and envy and are not to be taken in isolation. They are forceful and meaningful with very powerful hidden meanings on the terrifying horrors and punishments of Hell. Some may argue that Italian is more rhythmical in the way the poem is portrayed but English can also be effective as a language of communication.