Canto V : Dante's Inferno

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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Canto V showed Dante and Virgil descending into the second circle. Here Minos, a type of guard, assigns souls to particular regions of hell according to the severity of their sins. Then Minos attempts to designate Dante and Virgil to a specific circle, but becomes silent when Virgil states his divine order.

Moreover, in Canto V we also see the first circle that has souls whirling about endlessly. Here there are people who basically died because of love. Of them were Cleopatra and Dido. The majority of these souls are women. I disagree with the insinuation that men are simply tempted and women are responsible for the seduction. Yet, this though can be traced to the Creation story when Eve tempted Adam with the apple. But this does not mask the fact that this is still a form of sexism.

Also one of the inhabitants, Francesca also died for love.

I was curious so I did some further reading, and it is when I looked it up that I found out that Dante was referring to Francesca da Rimini who married her husband for political reasons. She then began having an affair with her husband's brother. Her husband discovered the affair and murdered them both. Yet, Inferno depicts the soul of Francesca telling Dante that she fell in love with her lover while reading Lancelot. Though such souls are treated with a kind of compassion and not put into the characteristic fiery pits of hell, they are still punished for love by having to whirl about endlessly. Apparently, Francesca is not punished for adultery but for love. I see this because Dante actually feels an extreme amount of pity for her and her lover's souls.

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