ivine Comedy Inferno EssaysThe Guardians of Dante’s Inferno
Dante’s Inferno is one of the best written works of all time because it
was written as an allegory inside an excellent story. A key part of this
allegory was how Dante used different guardians in the various circles of
hell. These guardians were used to symbolize the punishments of the
Minos is the guardian of Circle II, the circle of the Lustful. He
symbolizes an accusing personality because his job is to give punishments
to the sinners. The bodies of the sinners confess the sins automatically,
and that shows the sinners know everything about themselves when it is too
late to repent. Minos is important because he is used to stress that none
of the sinners can doubt which sins they have committed, and that the crime
will receive a matching punishment. The lustful were carried away by their
passions in their previous lives, and therefore they are thrown about by a
black wind. Dante considers lust to be the highest sin because it is
mutually committed to the pleasure of both parties.
Cerberus is the guardian of Circle III, the circle of the Gluttons.
Cerberus is meant to portray the image of uncontrolled appetite. In
mythology, he was known to devour people who approached hell, and therefore
is a glutton himself. However, being a glutton, he must surrender himself
to his appetite. His appetite just overtakes him when Dante throws dirt in
Cerberus’ mouth, and the poets are allowed to enter the circle. Cerberus
is an example of how everything must submit to the glutton’s appetite,
including his soul. This is a dark sin because they now worship food
instead of God, and this is reciprocated by the rain, which belies the
jolly nature of gluttons and gives them dark temperaments. Gluttony is a
sin which involves one person, and it is more of a selfish sin, but the
gluttonous are alone because they always ate alone.
Pluto is the guardian of Circle IV, the circle of Misers and Spendthrift.
Pluto is meant to symbolize riches, as he is the god of wealth that
springs from soil in ancient mythology. This is appropriate because he
guards those who hoarded money and those who spent it foolishly. This is
a different type of appetite, as these people hate each other because
everybody wants to have all the money or spend all of it. These people
conflict with each other, and their mutual hatred for each other is
symbolized by their rolling rocks against each other. They actually give
the punishments to each other. This is also a selfish sin, but it is also
hating others who are also selfish. This is why the Misers and
Spendthrifts are always battling, with Pluto watching them.
Phlegyas is the guardian of Circle V, the circle of the Wrathful. The
circle is really the Styx river, and Phlegyas is the ferryman. Phlegyas is
the symbol of supreme rage, as he burned Apollo’s temple after his daughter
Coronis fell in love with him. There are two types of wrath, active rage
and silent sulleness. The raging ones fight on top of the marsh and the
sullen ones just sigh deep in the mud. They symbolize the worse sin yet,
the hatred for all of man. The raging ones want to harm people, and
therefore they hit each other. The sullen ones are stuck in the bottom
because they bottled up their wrath for others inside themselves, and they
withdrew into a black sulkiness. Dante is attacked by Filippo Argenti, and
he begins to feel wrathful towards his old enemy. For the first time there
is no sympathy for these people, as they hated others. Phlegyas is a good
example of how the guardian can portray the people he guards.
The Furies are the guardians of Circle VI, the Heretics. They are the
avenging goddesses who went after great sinners. They symbolize remorse
that does not lead to repentance. This is how the Heretics are. They
deeply feel remorse for the fact they interpreted things outside the
judgment of the Church, preferring their own judgment against the Church’s.
However, they still do not change their ways. The fitting punishment is
that they would be buried in iron tombs and surrounded by fire. However,
none of the fire is inside the tomb. This shows how the outside appearance
of holiness is different from the inside one of hereticism. The iron
symbolizes the unwillingness to bend towards the church’s decisions. They
are sinners who will never repent, so the Furies will always be after them.
The Centaurs and the Minotaur are the guardians of the first ring of
Circle VII, the ring of the violent against neighbors. They are the symbol
of man with animal behavior, since they are part men, part beasts. This
describes the violent against the neighbors, as they experience passions
for shedding blood, and therefore their punishment is to wallow in the
river of blood, the Phlegethon river. The blood symbolizes all the blood
that they have caused to fall, and now they must be surrounded continuously
to remind them of how they got here. The Centaurs and Minotaur killed many
people and they are the bloodthirsty guardians of this ring.
The Harpies of the guardians of the second ring of Circle of VII, the
ring of the violent against themselves. Harpies are another breed of
animal-humans. They are symbol of the will to destroy things, which the
suicides had to have in order to kill themselves. Suicide is to get rid of
one’s body, and it insults it. Therefore, they are not even allowed to
have their own bodies in Hell. They hated themselves and had no life
energy, so the trees are dead and withered. These people took away the
gift of life that God gave them, and they will not get it back. This
connects back to the Harpies because the Harpies also wanting to destroy
Geryon is the guardian of Circle VIII, the Malbowges. He has a just
man’s face, beautiful color, the paws of a beast, and the sting in his
serpent’s tail. This mixture misguides in the front and attacks in the
back. He is the symbol of Fraud. From here on, the sins are darker and
darker. First sex, then religious offices, civil offices, language,
ownership, counsel, authority, psychic influence are all perverted.
The Giants are the guardians of Circle IX, home of Cocytus and the
traitors. The Giants symbolize the tainting of the heart that have not yet
been uncovered. They are only blocks of blood and flesh that can commit
only treachery because they don’t have hearts. Nimrod is a stupid
braggart; Ephialtes is senseless rage; and Antaeus is brainless vanity.
These symbolize how the whole rational thinking of man and nature is
overturned in hell.
Lucifer is the symbol of ultimate treachery because he eats the
treacherous Cassius, Brutus, and Judas. Lucifer is crying and he is not
active, but rather extremely passive. He is the symbol of anything that is
Anti-Christianity. His wings are symbol of a distorted angelic properties
– he is an extremely distorted version of an angel with 2 arms and 4 wings.
He is not powerful, but is subject to God’s punishment, and he is the
punisher of the sinners.
As can be seen, the guardians of Hell symbolize the characteristic oand
punishments of the sinners. It must be kept in mind that this story was
used to bring about repentance of the soul because of it was only a vision.
Once the soul sees the real Hell, it is too late to repent.