Intro: (This essay is about the punishment of those with "unnatural tendencies" in the third ring of the seventh circle of Hell in Dante's "Inferno." The Professor's assignment relied heavily on looking closely at the meanings of specific words in only a small part of one canto so, in short, I had to expound or go deeper on few words.)
In lines 36-42, 48, 53-60 of Canto XV of Dante's Inferno, Dante is walking through the third ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell. This circle contains the violent against nature, God and art in a landscape characterized by burning red sand, falling fire, a brook of blood and a dead forest on the outskirts. In this particular part of Hell Dante meets Messer Brunetto Latini, who was influential in Dante's early life. Throughout their exchange, Dante, through the art of his prose and particular word choice, portrays the sin(s) of his old friend and teacher that led him to Hell.
In doing so, he also contrasts true leadership (Virgil) with the perverted leadership Brunetto offered him on Earth and now in Hell. Through the noted similarity of Brunetto's intellectual position in life and his in Hell, Dante is also able to show that people choose their reward or punishment in the afterlife and hold onto them without remorse. Although he was a friend with Brunetto in life, he cannot ignore the objective reality of sin; therefore he gives his old friend his due and nothing more. The contra passo of Brunetto that Dante portrays is not only relevant in his day but also modern times when the reality of sin is so hazy and misconstrued.
In the third ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, dedicated to the violent against God, art and nature, Dante shows, through his...