Virgil, Dante, and the Bible Term Paper

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Indeed, similarities between Virgil and Dante's depiction of the underworld were evident in Canto IX, wherein Dante witnessed suffering in the City of Dis:

To the high tower with the flame-tipped top

Where at one spot there straightaway stood up

Three infernal Furies stained with blood,

Their bodies and behavior that of women.

Their waists were cinctured with green hydras;

For hair they had horned snakes and poison adders

With which their savage temples were enwreathed.

This passage reflects Dante's subjective interpretation of what Limbo, or the City of Dis, is like: similar to Virgil, he believed that the underworld is a place where suffering thrives and moral decline the cause of humanity's hardships. Furthermore, the underworld is a state where restlessness and dissatisfaction in life is the norm rather than the exception. Fury, as reflected in the passage, reigns in the underworld, an emotional state that was the result of a life "rife with distress and wretched punishment." Thus, Dante considered suffering and fury that thrived in the underworld as a result of humanity's moral decline, and hell is the place where people experience the consequences of their evil acts and thoughts during their mortal life. Retributive justice and the realization that evil acts lead to suffering are the main themes depicted in "Aeneid" and "Inferno."

In the book of Jonah in the Bible, suffering is also portrayed but in a different manner.
While Dante and Virgil created a place called the underworld to describe the consequence of suffering from one's conduct of evil, the Bible depicted Jonah's journey as suffering in the form of repentance and humility. Suffering was described through Jonah's ordeal, wherein he was swallowed by a big fish in the sea for days: "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights." Jonah's survival after his ordeal developed in him the realization that he must remain humble and faithful to the Lord, an occurrence not unlike Aeneas' and Dante's realizations as they journeyed into the hell or underworld.

Despite the differences in the cultural contexts in which the three journeys were created, each had extended similar themes wherein suffering in hell or the underworld was considered the result of humanity's moral decline and subsistence to evil acts and thoughts. Thus, through the picture of hell and suffering, Virgil, Dante, and the Bible showed how retributive justice based on morality remains the ultimate determinant in ascertaining the person's 'soul state' after his/her mortal life -- that is, whether they will live in a state of happiness and contentment (heaven) or suffering (hell)......

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