Dantes Monsters

October 31, 2018 General Studies

Dante’s MonstersThe monsters in Dante’s Inferno are drawn almost directly from classical mythology. He creates some small demons and other beings, but the major monsters are taken from Greek and Roman lore. Dante uses monsters in his poem for many purposes. They all have specific jobs and are not just there purely to freighted the reader. Most of the jobs, that the monsters serve are in a modified municipal fashion. They are ferrymen, and guards to the prisons of hell. The monsters are not truly feared by the other characters of the story, for the people just seem to expect the monsters to do the jobs that they are doing. On the other hand, the demons that Dante creates are objects that strike fear into the hearts of those who see them. There are certain exceptions to the rule but for the most part the monsters fit this general mold. The first monster, that Dante encounters, is the ferryman Charon. Charon is not a true monster, for he is an old may with circles of flames around his eyes. The main reason that Dante fears Charon is not because he is physically imposing. It is because he is a little uneasy about his passage into the underworld and he does not know what to expect. Keep in mind that he has just passed thru the gates of hell, that are inscribed with some imposing sentences. These words cause Dante to think about whether he is going to be able to return from hell or if he is going to join the dammed. Then he approaches Charon who begins to shout at Dante and his guide Virgil. Dante is so overwhelmed by the scene that he passes out. Charon may not be a horrifying physical monster, but the mental devices that he uses on Dante and their effects, surely make him deserving of the title, monster. Charon comes directly from mythology, however he has a somewhat different job in this poem. In classical mythology, Charon is the ferryman across the river Styx. In the inferno, Dante makes him the ferryman for the river Acheron and uses another monster for the Styx which is deeper into hell. Charon is a very angry and objects to Dante’s crossing the river because Dante is still alive and he still has the hope of going to heaven. Charon shouts at all the evil spirits that wish to cross the river into hell, for he is trying to speed up their decision to cross. Unfortunately, they have made this decision in their lives and consequently Divine Justice pushes them along. However, the action is still portrayed as a decision and this is why Charon encourages Dante not to make such a mistake. Virgil explains it to Dante thus: And they are eager to go across the river because Divine Justice goads them with its spur so that their fear is turned into desire. No good spirits ever pass this way and therefore, if Charon objects to youunderstand well what his words imply. (Canto 3 L124-130) What Charon’s words imply are that he does not want Dante to cross into hell while he still has a chance to be saved. Dante then passes out, seemingly overwhelmed by not only the situation, and his fear of Charon but also because of the fear of his own mortality. The next monster, that Dante encounters, is the Cerberus, a three-headed dog. The Cerberus guards the gluttons at the entrance to the third circle of hell. The scene is that the gluttons are in a ditch of foul-smelling mud and are subject to eternal rain and hail. The Cerberus howls and claws them constantly and he clearly represents the sins that he is guarding. Cerberus’ three heads and his insatiable appetite(he turns to Dante and Virgil and starts moving towards them until Virgil throws dirt into the three mouths and the monster’s appetite is quenched) reflect the sins of the gluttons. Their situation in hell also represents their sins in life, for they are like pigs rooting around in mud. The Classical role of the Cerberus is almost the same as the way that Dante uses the monster. In classical mythology, the


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