Divine Comedy Test | Mid-Book Test - Hard

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This test consists of 1 (of 3) essay topics.

Essay Topics

Write an essay for ONE of the following topics:

Essay Topic 1

The souls of The Inferno are compellingly human in that, since they have no hope of salvation, they are obsessed with the state of the living world. Write an essay discussing the dead's attitude toward the living. Why are souls constantly begging Dante to listen to their stories? What power does he have as an emissary from the living? How is the perception of the dead stilted regarding the present? Why must they rely on Dante to learn of the present state of things?

Essay Topic 2

Dante Alighieri is clearly a Catholic poet, and so his epic poem does not necessarily reflect a worldview in which there are many paths to Heaven. Write an essay on the distinctly Catholic roots of The Inferno, focusing on three aspects of the poem:

Part 1) Who is punished in the first circle of Hell, Limbo? How does this reflect the notion that even a virtuous life is not sufficient to ensure salvation? What has kept the souls in this circle from entering Heaven or even Purgatory? Did they ever, in fact, have the chance of achieving salvation in Dante's divinity?

Part 2) Discuss the circle in which those guilty of committing violence against God are punished. How does the population of this circle reflect a moral code informed exclusively by the Christian religious texts? Who is punished there that today would be considered wholly innocent in a secular humanist view?

Part 3) Discuss parts of The Inferno in which Dante is distinctly critical of the Catholic Church. What is his attitude toward the hierarchy of Rome? What specific grievances does the pilgrim Dante cite in his journey through Hell?

Essay Topic 3

The Inferno is, in large part, a journey for the protagonist from confused pity for the damned souls around him to righteous indignation. Write an essay, charting this transition and its drivers. Chart this in three parts:

Part 1) When Dante first descends with Virgil into the pit of Hell, how does he respond to what he sees there? Discuss various physical reactions he has to the degradation around him and what this means in terms of his attitude toward the sinners.

Part 2) For a time, Virgil tolerates Dante's histrionics in the face of such horrors in Hell. Discuss how this begins to shift. What behavior on Dante's part becomes unacceptable to Virgil, and when does it become unacceptable? What does Virgil admonish him to do in amending his responses?

Part 3) By the time Dante and Virgil enter the ninth circle of Hell, Dante's feeling towards the sinners before him has changed. Citing examples from his last interactions, discuss what he feels about the souls around him. How has his feeling toward sin and the sinner changed over the course of the poem?

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