by Dante Alighieri
Inferno Justice Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Canto.Line). We used Allen Mandelbaum's translation.
THROUGH ME THE WAY INTO THE SUFFERING CITY,
THROUGH ME THE WAY TO THE ETERNAL PAIN,
THROUGH ME THE WAY THAT RUNS AMONG THE LOST.
JUSTICE URGED ON MY HIGH ARTIFICER;
MY MAKER WAS DIVINE AUTHORITY,
THE HIGHEST WISDOM, AND THE PRIMAL LOVE.
BEFORE ME NOTHING BUT ETERNAL THINGS
ABANDON EVERY HOPE, WHO ENTER HERE.
These words – their aspect was obscure – I read
inscribed above a gateway… (Inf. III, 1-11)
Here, Hell’s makers are listed as Justice, Divine Authority, Wisdom, and Love. This means that despite the cruel and unusual nature of the sinners’ punishments, they are just and even spring from love.
I reached a place where every light is muted,
which bellows like the sea beneath a tempest,
when it is battered by opposing winds.
The hellish hurricane, which never rests,
drives on the spirits with its violence:
wheeling and pounding, it harasses them.
When they come up against the ruined slope,
then there are cries and wailing and lament,
and there they curse the force of the divine.
I learned that those who undergo this torment
are damned because they sinned within the flesh,
subjecting reason to the rule of lust. (Inf. V, 28-39)
In life, the lustful lacked the willpower to restrain their sexual desires, and "subject[ed their human] reason to the rule of lust," Like animals. Thus, in the afterlife, they are similarly subjected to a powerful force, the winds of a "hellish hurricane." And again, they cannot focus their human will and reason enough to gain control of their movements.
At which I said: "And after the great sentence –
o master – will these torments grow, or else
be less, or will they be just as intense?"
And he to me: "Remember now your science,
which says that when a thing has more perfection,
so much the greater is its pain or pleasure.
Though these accursed sinners never shall
attain the true perfection, yet they can
expect to be more perfect then than now." (Inf. VI, 103-111)
This is a strange case of Christian logic. The more perfect (or godly) a being is, "so much the greater is its pain of pleasure." According to medieval beliefs, when the Judgment Day comes, sinners’ souls will be reunited with their bodies, rendering them more whole or perfect. Thus, as more perfect beings subjected to Hell’s torment, their pain will only intensify. In Dante’s eyes, this is because the sinners ignored their souls (or minds) and fulfilled their physical desires, just as animals instinctively do, at the price of corrupting their spirits.