Canto III in The Divine Comedy by Dante | Free Essay Example

Canto III in The Divine Comedy by Dante

Words: 868
Topic: Literature


Canto III describes Dante’s first acquaintance with Hell and the interpersonal changes that occur in the pilgrim’s inner world as a result. This part demonstrates to the pilgrim the sufferings of those people who did not strive hard during their earthly life to make the right choice between the good and bad. Therefore, these people are punished by the eternal wondering between Hell and Paradise and the torments caused by the flies, wasps, and worms destroying their flesh. The following paper aims at making an analysis of Canto III in Dante’s pilgrimage and juxtaposing it with other Cantos.

Significance of Canto III in Dante’s Pilgrimage

Addressing the theme of the significance of Canto III in Dante’s pilgrimage, this part of The Divine Comedy is the very first part addressing the pilgrim’s shift in his way of thinking as he enters Hell and begins to learn about the torments that the sinners experience because they have chosen their selfish desires rather than God’s will. This Canto demonstrates how the transformation in Dante’s vision of the world occurs.

Dante becomes aware that the people and angels who did not resolve to strive hard to demonstrate their firm stand for God are also treated as God’s enemies. Their fate is eternal ordeals and pangs in the area that is compared to Hell and is its actual suburb but is still geographically the closest to God’s city or the Paradise. These people are punished just like the rest of the sinners according to the law of the retribution which states ‘harm set, harm get’. The outcome is their eternal subjection to the painful triggers of their right choice; however, they have lost their only chance to make this timely choice. Seeing their situation, Dante becomes resolute not to repeat their mistake.

The Nature of Cognitive and Emotional Movement That Has Taken Place

The nature of the cognitive and emotional movement that has taken place within the pilgrim’s inner world, first of all, relates to the necessity to choose between the good and bad and demonstrate the choices done by the consciously made moral decisions and corresponding acts. Another change in the pilgrim’s mind occurs as Dante is passing by the souls of the newly dead awaiting in the long queue at Hell entrance.

The pilgrim is emotionally stricken by the abundance of those who choose to refuse God’s ways and are going to be severely punished during all the eternity for this choice. When Dante reads the inscription on the gate to Hell stating “through me you enter into the city of woes”, he begins to realize in his mind that the sinners rejected the city of God, which is an important medieval concept of the Catholic Christianity, and had to enter the city of man or the city of sin or as it is commonly known, Hell (3.1).

The Pilgrim’s Discoveries

In Canto III, the pilgrim Dante has had to learn that sinners do not escape their due punishment. Moreover, those who did not find enough decisiveness and courage in themselves to make the right moral choices and demonstrate their choice of God’s ways are also punished because they are God’s offenders. In 3.35, the sin of these indecisive souls is described with the following words, “this miserable fate suffers the wretched souls of those, who lived without or praise or blame”.

Another important lesson the pilgrim learns is the importance of acting timely because when it is too late, there is nothing that can be done to resolve the issue. The pilgrim also discovers that every person gets what one deserves according to the law of retribution: the righteous one gets a reward and the evildoer is punished accordingly.

Juxtaposing Canto III with Other Cantos

Juxtaposing this Canto with other Cantos, one may notice that this song is the first song of fear and horror of men who did not choose the ways of Gods. Comparing this Canto with Cantos 31 to 34, where Dante has described the sufferings of the most hopeless and inveterate God’s offenders, the reader may notice that this part of Inferno is just the first and quite blurred impression of the whole picture of horror that the sinners have deserved. In contrast, Cantos 1 and 2 of Inferno are focused on the themes of encouragement and spiritual strengthening. In these first Cantos, Dante meets his mentor, Virgil, and becomes aware of the three virtuous women who believe in his grace and inspire him to do his best to become God’s faithful one.


In conclusion, Canto III depicts Dante’s first experience with Hell as he enters its gates and begins to see all those souls who have not chosen the righteous ways of God and decided to please themselves rather than doing God’s will. This song demonstrates the beginning of Dante’s inner world transformation to take the firm stand for righteousness and unite with his loved Beatrice in God’s Paradise. This Canto is also the beginning of the pilgrim’s journey through all 9 circles of Hell. Entering Hell, the character is utterly shocked by the seen sufferings but he understands that this is just the first immersion into the depth of the devil’s world.

Works Cited

Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy, New York: P.F. Collier & Son, 2001. Print.