Dante Aligherie’s, name itself endorses the uniqueness of the spirituality that as said by Vico, “Seems to rise suddenly, towering over the land of Italy”. (Croce, pp. 256) Dante was a divine poet but away from his divinity, there is a flow of words that immerses into our soul, the vastness of images of our demeaning life on this earth.
Through the Inferno in Divine Comedy, he showed to us the reality of our lives, by putting the live characters in the different circles of hell which means Inferno; he gave the political commentary on which he himself passed through. The structure of the Hell is based on the number scheme 3, 7, 9, 10, and is divided into 24 Cantos. In the first circle that is Limbo, Dante found un-baptised souls and virtuous pagans, who, have not committed any sin, but did not accept Christ either.
Those who had lustful designes on the earth are punished in the second circle of Hell, gluttons are forced in the third circle to be guided by Cerberus, people of materialistic designs got a place in fourth circle, In the fifth circle, Dante found Black Guelph, Filippo Argenti, sixth circle is a punishment circle for Heretics, severity of the torture and punishment can be seen in the seventh circle where the harsh and violent sinners have to go through, it is composed of three rings, the last two cirlces of hell punishes the sins of fraudulence and treachery.
But before, we move on to the political implications and influence that Dante exerted on the profiles of the erstwhile civilizations, it is utmost important to dwell on his own political life through which Dante himself passed through and which led him to the state of exile. Dante Alighieri was born in a noble family of Florentine. His mother, Bella degli Abati died when Dante was only seven years old, and soon afterwards in 1280,s his father also died so Brunetto Latini, a man of letters and a politician looked after him. In the beginning of 1300, Florence political condition was in a state of catastrophe.
The Guelph party which was in power, split into two groups-Bianchi and Neri: Bianchi led by Vieri de Cerchi and Corso Donati respectively. Bianchi was a democratic party whereas Neri was an aristocratic party and favor Pope. On 1st May there was bloody clash between the two parties and which led situation out of control. On 7th May, Dante was send on a mission to San Gemignano and immediately after-words, he was elected as one of the six priors and along-with his colleagues banished the leaders of both the factions and opposed the legacy of papal legate, Cardinal Matteo d'Acquasparta.
It was on 1st November the Charles of Valois entered Florence with his troops, and bestowed the Neri to power. Corso Donati and his friends attained victory and fully revenged their opponents; in whole drama, Dante became the first victim. He was charged for being hostile to the Church and for corrupt practices, and thus was exiled on 27th January, 1302. During this period of exile, he withdraw from politics and what he gave to the world was an exclusive piece of literary art that became a mirror of an immense panorama of vainness and chaos that became a hall mark of the political circle, of which he himself was a victim.
Thus, Dante with his poetic deftness, created an imaginative structure of Hell, whereby the souls sins are revealed and are punished. This simple theme brings forth the basic concept of God’s justice, yet from beneath all the punishments that the souls are undergoing emerges the political commentary of fourteenth century Florentine. Virgil takes Dante into the journey of these nine circles of Hell, and in each circle, the sinners are assigned their respective places, according to the nature of their crimes.
All through the Journey of Hell, Virgil was Dante’s guide who was send by Beatrice to save Dante and gives him self realization and hope. In Canto V regarding Francesca and Paulo, the Hollanders exclaimed that “Sympathy for the damned, in the Inferno, is nearly always and nearly certainly the sign of a wavering moral disposition” (112). Seeing the condition of Francesca and Paulo, there aroused pity but it was Virgil who all the time explains the significance of their plight.
Virgil is Dante’s element and is imbibed by the vast knowledge of the Journey. Virgil knows the way to skip the watchdog by throwing dirt in Cerberus' face and besides other aspects and nature of souls Virgil has enough courage to call Geryon for taking them through the journey, in the canticles he did not leave Dante and fruitfully accomplishes his task assigned to him. For Dante Virgil is a true representative of the world of politics, as he knew his duties not only towards himself but towards others, and through Virgil only Dante is enlightened.
In the eyes of Dante, Virgil was a Roman poet, truly dignified and legitimate for remaining in power for centuries ahead. He was both a mentor and a poet and feels inferior to the poetic genius of Virgil, to the extent that when Dante first meets Virgil, he exclaims, "O light and honor of all other poets, may my long study and the intense love that made me search your volume serve me now. You are my master and my author"(Dante and Virgil, para. 2, 3) He strives to give his assertions in number of ways.
In the first place he condemned the politicians with whom he do not agree by putting them in the different circles of Hell, and Secondly, in the Canto IV, through the mouth of Ciacco, who is facing the punishment for gluttony, had already prophesied the political turmoil in Florence. “This prophecy relates to the dissensions and violence of the parties of the Whites and the Blacks by which Florence was rent. The "savage party" was that of the Whites, who were known as Ghibellines. The "one who even now is tacking" was the Pope, Boniface VIII. , who was playing fast and loose with both.
Who the "two just men" were is unknown”. (Dante, Canto VI) Dante always virtually believes in the separation of Church and State, with both functioning differently but enjoying equal powers. With many references of Rome, Dante conveys his both spiritual and political ambitions. His emphasis on giving equal treatment to both Church and State is aptly emphasized in the final stage when “Lucifer chews both on Judas, the betrayer of Christ, the ultimate spiritual leader and on Cassius and Brutus, the betrayers of Caesar, the ultimate political leader”.
Any sort of treachery whether against religion or government have to spend life in the Inferno final circle and Dante asserts equal importance to giving harsh punishment to corrupt priests or paupers. Some of the ideas are similar to those of fellow Tuscan, St. Francis, and the best Pope Boniface VIII. (Wessels, Boniface VIII: The Antithesis of Franciscan Values, para, 2). As a Political voice, Dante presented Nicholas, who was lying upside down in a third pit several years before his time (Inf. 19. 52-7).
Nicholas predicting the future told Dante that he clearly visualizes the damnation for simony of not only Boniface VIII but also Pope Clement V, and further about his life he told that his name was Giovanni Gaetoni before he was elected Pope in 1277. Nicholas extended the political control of Papal by adding parts of Romagna, as far towards Bologna and Ferrara, and he entered into a forged compromise in the Franciscan movement between the moderates and the radical spiritualists. Though he was popular for his high moral standards but on the other hand he was involved in nepotism favoring his cubs (relatives) in the topmost positions.
He gave the position of cardinals to some of his relatives and to others he gave high posts in the papal state. He expired in 1280 and was buried in St. Peter's in Rome. Dante gave the name Evil Claws to the devils of the fifth ditch, who have responsibility of bringing corrupt political officials and employees, and Dante vociferously gave these devils the names like “Bad Dog”, Sneering Dragon and Curly beard, corresponding to the actual names of civic leaders in Florence and surrounding towns, as in the words of Dante, “with saints in church, with guzzlers in the tavern! " (Inf. 22. 14-15).
Caiaphas, a high priest of Jerusalem is placed in the sixth pit. , with an added contrapasso because it was he only who provoked the council of Chief priests for crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and now they themselves are being crucified in the floor of the pit. (Inf. 23. 109-20). There is yet another Simon Magnus, famous for magical powers offered bribery to apostles Peter and John to confer the Holy spirit on him, but Peter denounced this and in the magical contests that followed, when Simon with the help of demon took a flight, Peter put a sign of cross and Simon fell onto the ground.
The public’s biggest enemy according to Dante was Bonifice VIII. It was due to the Bonifice VIII, that Dante was sentenced to exile. Bonifice VIII was elected a pope soon after the abdication of Pope Celestine V in 1294. All through, Boniface's intention was to consolidate and expand the powers of church, quite contrasting to the views of Dante, who wanted to have equal powers of pope's spiritual and the emperor's secular authority.
Boniface's political designs became a nightmare for Dante when the pope under the false pretense for peaceful settlement sent Charles of Valois, a French prince, to Florence, but due to the Charles intervention black guelphs were able to overthrow the ruling white guelphs, whose leaders including Dante, were sentenced to exile. And here in the journey of Hell in 1300, Dante took his revenge by cursing Pope, who was still alive then.
Pope died in 1303. Inferno conveys us that our actions whether good or bad does not effect only us but whole society. Hereby the people he put in his words were all of elite class-of position and power, and this anarchy of Hell is a result of their failure to work on the ideals of Bible. And its politically it shows us the path for a new world where in the end there is an enlightenment.