In 1265, Dante Alighieri was born in Florence, Italy, to a family heavily involved in politics. From an early age, Dante was educated in philosophy and languages, which would give him a solid basis for his future works. When Dante was just nine years old, he fell in love with a young girl named Beatrice Portinari. Beatrice would become a large influence in Dante’s writing in later years. Although Dante would stay in love with her for the rest of his life, Dante’s family arranged a marriage for him when he was just twelve years old, and Dante would go on to marry this woman at the age of twenty and start a family with her (Wetherbee).

Your 20% discount here!

Use your promo and get a custom paper on
Dante Alighieri and My Circle of Hell

Order Now
Promocode: SAMPLES20

It was in his twenties that Dante began to write poetry seriously. During this time he wrote two of his most well known collections of poetry, Convivio and Monarchia. Both of these collections of poetry dealt heavily with the politics of the time, but also included many love poems. The Convivio specifically relays Dante’s love of philosophy and wisdom and tries to link love and philosophy as being two inseparable parts of life. The Monarchia, was much more political in nature and dealt largely with the political issues confronting Italian society at the time- the proper balance and distribution of power between the church, the pope, the state, and its elected officials. While Dante was writing them, he was heavily involved in politics himself (Wetherbee).

Dante was fortunate in his twenties and thirties to be immersed in a group of highly intellectual and literary poets and writers. During this time, Dante began to study theology, religion, and philosophy more seriously, especially the works of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. One contemporary writer that Dante studied with long-term was Guido Cavalcanti. Cavalcanti would go on to instruct Dante in both philosophy and poetry (Wetherbee).

The Guelfs and Ghibellines- two opposing political factions- were battling for power over Florence for much of Dante’s middle life. Dante supported the Guelfs, and this would prove fortunate in the short term- the Guelfs eventually came to power over the Ghibellines in Florence around 1300. While the Guelfs remained in control, Dante was employed as a soldier and even held political office. His popularity in Florence though, would not last for very long (Wetherbee).

In 1301, the Guelf party struggled with inner divisions and eventually splintered into two smaller factions- the Black Guelfs and the White Guelfs. Dante belonged to the White Guelfs who were soon exiled from Florence by the Blacks. This ended Dante’s formal political career in Florence but his works would continue to exert considerable political and philosophical influence (Wetherbee).

Over the next twenty years, Dante moved around Italy while writing his Divine Comedy. The Divine Comedy is broken down into three distinct parts- Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. In this work, Dante is led through Hell by Virgil and then later is led through Heaven by his very first childhood love, Beatrice. Dante eventually settled in Ravenna and completed the Divine Comedy in 1319. Unlike his earlier collections of poetry, Dante’s Divine Comedy deals less with matters such as earthly political disputes or romantic love. Instead, the Divine Comedy is concerned more generally with what Dante sees as humans’ attempt at virtue, our spiritual pursuit of happiness, and our quest to seek truth through God. Shortly after completing the Divine Comedy, Dante died just two years later in 1321 (Wetherbee).

My circle of hell, as described in Dante’s Inferno, would be Limbo. Limbo is the first circle of hell and it is reserved for two kinds of people- infants who have died before they parents got a chance to baptize them, and adults who were virtuous but not actually Christians. Both of these categories of people have fortunately not committed any of the sins (lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud, treachery) which is why they are not given any kind of specific punishment to fit their “crime”, as the rest of the sinners are (Thompson 151).

The construction of Dante’s Limbo, however, is still “appropriate” to the people who are stuck there. Non-Christian adults, in Dante’s view, have not reached out for God or dreamt of a higher power than what already exists on Earth. For this reason, they cannot be accepted into Heaven. And yet, these adults, and certainly the infants too, do not deserve the terrible agonizing punishments that the liars and cheats do because they have led virtuous lives, seeking truth and wisdom- but just not through God. This is why these people are given a place on the outskirts of hell that is not so torturous at all, but yet still not with God. As punishment for not reaching out to God, these people are denied Paradise. (Thompson 155, 156).

Residing in Dante’s Limbo are some of the greatest, well known statesmen, thinkers, and philosophers, who happened to not be Christian. This includes, Cicero, Homer, Horace, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Julius Caesar, to name just a few. These figures are believed to embody not only great philosophical values, but also the heroic virtues of the famous Romans that were so valued by Dante (Thompson 145).

As a kind of conciliation, the people in Dante’s Limbo are not necessarily blocked from Paradise for all of eternity, the way that all of the sinners are in the other eight circles. People in Limbo have a chance of going to Heaven if in their soul they finally accept or believe in God. This makes Dante’s Limbo even more appropriate to the “sin” of not being a Christian. The people in Limbo haven’t done anything malicious to harm anyone or cause pain, so they do not receive any harm or pain in return, and they are left a possible option of one day rising up to Heaven (Thompson 158).

  • Thompson, David. “Dante’s Virtuous Romans”. Dante Studies, with the Annual Report of the Dante Society 1978. No. 96. Pages 145-162. .