|In Canto 5 of the Inferno, Paolo and Francesca
personify the ethical dilemmas of courtly love, and they are punished in hell for their
love. Who or what, exactly, was to blame for their going to hell? Explain this in detail,
using the text to support your comments.
|All the women in the Inferno seem to be there
for misconduct connected to sexuality. Identify some of the women in the Inferno and
specify exactly what their sins were and how their punishments are suited to their crimes.
Now, can you identify any men who are in hell for sexual crimes? Are these cases similar
to the women's, or different? Explain and support your responses with examples from the
|The Inferno presents a thoroughly medieval
Christian vision of hell, although it draws heavily on the classical past, especially
Virgil's Aeneid. Identify some elements in the Inferno that you think are specifically
Christian, and some that you suspect are leftovers from pagan antiquity. Explain how both
work together in the text to create Dante's special medieval vision of hell.
|A subtitle for the Inferno could be "the
punishment fits the crime." Give some examples of this from the text and discuss
whether or not you agree with Dante that these are appropriate punishments for the crimes
committed. Explain why you think this concept of the punishment fitting the crime was
important to Dante. Support your comments with specific examples from the text.
|Canto 26 tells about Ulysses (the Latin name
for Odysseus), who is in one of the lower circles of hell, because he was an evil
counselor. How do you think the Greek hero Odysseus degenerated into the Christian villain
Ulysses? Support your ideas with examples from the materials you have read during this
course as well as a close reading of Canto 26.
|Compare Tennyson's poem Ulysses with
Dante's representation of him in Canto 26. Why does Dante disapprove of Ulysses? Why does
Tennyson approve of him? Can you think of any interesting ideas about the changed times
which could account for at least some of this change?
|Popul Vuh, part 3, has its own underworld,
Xibalba, ruled by the terrible Lords of Death. Compare/contrast this vision of the
underworld with Dante's Inferno; especially note interesting similarities/differences
between Satan and the Lords of Death. If you want to do this for double
credit, here are links to extended sections of
The Popul Vuh,
so that you can read more of this amazing Mayan epic of creation and
compare/contrast it in depth to Dante's Inferno.
Read The Popul Vuh
online, so you get a fuller sense of the story than in the textbook
selection. Then review the creation story in Genesis in the Hebrew Bible
and think about any interesting/relevant parallels and significant
differences between the two.
|In part 3 of Popul Vuh, two heroes enter
Xibalba and conquer the Lords of Death, killing them. Is there anything at all in Dante's
Inferno that remind you of this conquest? If so, explain, supporting your ideas with
specific examples from both texts.
|In Canto 28, Dante represents Mahomet as a
demonic monster. This is not unlike the representation of the Muslim Saracens in the Song
of Roland. Compare the representations of Muslim beliefs in the two poems and see if you
have any ideas why there was such intense hatred of Muslims in the Catholic Middle ages as
you can see in these poems. Do you think it was a response to the Crusades? To the
developing competition that Europe was beginning to offer the Muslim world? To what? You
might want to look in a good history book or encyclopedia to get some more concrete
information on this disturbing issue. Support your ideas with specific examples from
Dante's Inferno and Roland. This is potentially worth double credit (up
to 100 points) if you do a wonderful job with it. Be sure to document
If you were Dante (or more appropriately, Minos, who
assigns sinners their punishment in Hell) where would you place some of
today's infamous newsmakers in the Divine Comedy's structure of hell and
|On the other hand, this
The Divine Comedy And Islamic
examines elements in Dante that derive from
Islamic philosophers, especially "AverroŽs, or Abu al-Walid Muhammad Ibn
Ahmad Ibn Rushd, to give him his full Arabic name." After reading the
essay carefully, look for elements in Dante that are NOT anti-Islamic,
but actually stem from Islamic culture or an awareness of its
This is potentially worth double credit (up to 100 points) if you do a
wonderful job with it. Be sure to document your sources.
|Dante was the medieval master of political
correctness in his Divine Comedy, even though he got into plenty of trouble for siding
with the wrong (e.g. losing) side politically in the real world. Look through a few
of the cantos and see who you can find in hell because Dante did not like his principles
and/or politics. Are there many? Do you agree with Dante that they belong in hell? Use
specific examples from the Inferno to support your ideas.
|Examine the role of Virgil in the Inferno. Why
do you think Dante chose him as his guide? What kind of help could Virgil offer to Dante?
What could Virgil not do for Dante? What does this have to do with Virgil being a
pre-Christian poet? Support your ideas with examples from the text.
|Do a survey of your favorite monsters in the
Inferno. What traits do they share? Are they like other monsters you've read about, or do
they have special qualities unique to the Inferno? Support your main points with specific
examples of monsters from the Inferno and elsewhere.
|Why is Satan locked in ice at the bottom of
hell? Do you think this is an appropriate place for him? Explain in some detail just what
this Satan is and what his role is in the Inferno.
|First, list the sins of the nine circles in
descending order. Then, make a list of what you consider to be modern sins in descending
order, from least to most awful. Compare/contrast your list to Dante's in some detail. How
are the two lists similar; how are they different? And so what?
|A fairly recent film, What
Dreams May Come (starring Robin Williams), presents a view of the
afterlife that uses some ideas and images from Dante's Inferno.
It also is a thoughtful, visually wonderful, representation of less
punitive concepts of life after death.
Watch the film, paying close attention to the explanations given about
why suicides go to hell. Then, compare this to Dante's vision of
suicides and others in hell. What interesting similarities and/or
differences do you find? So what? Be sure to use specific examples
from both the film and the poem to support your ideas.
|Make up an interesting question of your own
that relates to Dante's Inferno and answer it in full detail. Check with
me first to get approval for the topic.