Macbeth and Inferno

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The poem Inferno is about a man who has “lost the path that does not stray” (Inferno, Canto I, line 3) where “the path” represents the path to Heaven. Dante, having strayed from the path, is in danger of being sent to Hell. When Beatrice, whom Dante loved before her early death, finds out that Dante has strayed she becomes worried that he will not be able to join her in Heaven. Beatrice wants to help Dante find God again, but because she is an angel, she cannot walk through Hell or Purgatory and in her stead she asks the Roman poet Virgil to guide Dante on a cautionary trip. Much the way Dante travels through Hell in the Divine Comedy, Macbeth must endure the consequences of his actions. The intervention of Beatrice draws parallels to the actions of Lady Macbeth. The influence of women in both poems is very important to the story and is very prevalent. While the role of the two women differ greatly in each poem, their centrality to the progression of the story remains the same.

...Middle of the Macbeth and Inferno ...

Dante’s character has to overcome his immorality by accepting God’s retribution and no longer pitying the damned. The character Dante at first pities the dead; the poem shows this as a misunderstanding as Hell was created as a means of balance. Sinners are punished in direct proportion to their sins and thus while some of the punishments may seem incredibly harsh the souls of the damned should never be given pity. Dante eventually overcomes this pity and these sentiments are encouraged by Virgil. This development is perfectly shown when Dante is talking to Fra Alberigo who asks Dante to open his eyes so he may weep and Dante does not because “I did not open them—for to be rude/ To such a one as him was courtesy.” This is part of Dante’s necessary first step in overcoming sin and embracing God. It isn’t just women who influence the characters though, it’s also the supernatural. In Macbeth the three witches open the poem with the famous quote “Fair is foul and foul is fair” (Act I, Scene I Line 11) which means that everything will be reversed. Things that are good will become evil and evil things become good. This witches can be connected to Inferno in two ways, in both poems the main character in manipulated by supernatural forces.

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While in Inferno Dante progressively becomes less evil and closer to God by traveling through Hell and eventually stops pitying the souls of the damned and actually begins condemning them. His departed love, Beatrice, asks Virgil the Roman poet in the first circle of Hell to guide Dante back to God. Inferno is a story of becoming close to God once again for an Italian poet in the 1300s. Macbeth is the story of a good man becoming corrupted by power and greed. One is a story of a man once again finding faith in God and becoming closer to him, while the other is of a man losing his faith and becoming farther from God. In both the main character is influenced by a woman in, or who had been, in his life and both were influenced by the spiritual world in the form of witches and an angel. Inferno is the anti-Macbeth, Dante is manipulated by the supernatural for good, he goes from bad to good, and is influenced by a woman for the betterment of his soul. Macbeth experiences manipulation at the hands of women and supernatural forces but they all make him a worse person, and he starts out with the right morality and ends up a traitor to his benefactor – Duncan – which is the most severe sin according to Inferno.

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