by Dante Alighieri
Inferno Justice Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
Here, more than elsewhere, I saw multitudes
to every side of me; their howls were loud
while, wheeling weights, they used their chests to push.
They struck against each other; at that point,
each turned around and, wheeling back those weights,
cried out, ‘Why do you hoard?" "Why do you squander?"
So did they move around the sorry circle
from left and right to the opposing point;
again, again they cried their chant of scorn;
and so, when each of them had changed positions,
he circled halfway back to his next joust. (Inf. VII, 25-36)
Because avarice (or greed) and prodigality (or stinginess) are simply extremes on the same spectrum, both types of sinners are punished in the same circle. Since they had faulty relations with the material world, either hoarding or squandering their money, they are abused in Hell by the weights which they must physically haul around. Apparently, they have not learned their lesson, either because the avaricious cannot understand the prodigal or vice versa.
[Virgil]: "Wedged in the slime, they say: ‘We had been sullen
in the sweet air that’s gladdened by the sun;
we bore the mist of sluggishness in us:
now we are bitter in the blackened mud.’
This hymn they have to gurgle in their gullets,
because they cannot speak it in full words." (Inf. VII, 121-126)
In life, the sullen refused to engage in life’s joys, appreciating neither the "sweet air" nor the light of the sun. Dante also plays on the idea of the sullen resentfully refusing to speak. As punishment, then, they are immersed in "blackened mud" – away from the "sweet air that’s gladdened by the sun" – which inhibits their ability to speak and forces them to gurgle out their words.
…the sepulchers make all the plain uneven,
so they did here on every side, except
that here the sepulchers were much more harsh;
for flames were scattered through the tombs, and these
had kindled all of them to glowing heat;
no artisan could ask for hotter iron.
The lid of every tomb was lifted up,
and from each tomb such sorry cries arose
as could come only from the sad and hurt.
And I: "Master, who can these people be
who, buried in great chests of stone like these,
must speak by way of sighs in agony?"
And he to me: "Here are arch-heretics
and those who followed them, from every sect;
those tombs are much more crowded than you think." (Inf. IX, 115-129)
Heresy, which Dante defines as the simple denial of man’s immortal soul, is ironically punished with the obvious presupposition that, yes, the soul is immortal because it writhes in pain for all of eternity. Those who deny that Hell even exists are appropriately punished with burning, the most familiar image in Hell. As a metaphor for life and warmth, fire ironically torments those who reject the idea of life after death. Locked into their tombs, the burning heretics are an ironic reminder that the dead do indeed lead an afterlife.