Dante’s Inferno: What the Hell is all About!

We can thank Dante’s Inferno for those horrific dreams of burning in purgatory.

Yes, this was first published over 400 years ago, yet, it remains relevant today in all of our media. If Hell appears in a movie, book, TV show, or cartoon, it’s going to drawn from Dante. If you haven’t read THE DIVINE COMEDY yet, then you must. Whether or not you are Christian, you will find some of the most indelible images in the history of literature, as well as a book of redemptive philosophy the likes of which are rarely matched. Also, it’s just great poetry. Seek it out.

Also, Horror fans seem to be less prejudiced when it comes to old or ancient literature. Sure, we all like to stay abreast of Stephen King, Clive Barker, or any number of great living horror authors, but I know of no horror fan who hasn’t read Bram Stoker’s DRACULA, Mary Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN, Milton’s PARADISE LOST, Henry James’ THE TURN OF THE SCREW, or Robert Louis Stevenson’s THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE. And, yes, no horror fan alive isn’t intimately familiar with the various mythic works of H.P. Lovecraft, or the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe.

If you are enjoying this article, we have more great literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

There are a few notable details, however, that we would do well to remember when thinking about Hell. First of all, you don’t necessarily have to be dead to go to Hell. In Dante’s visions, he sees people he knows to be alive already languishing in certain Hell circles. Their bad habits on Earth are already torturing their souls. This means that, even though they are in Hell, they are still perhaps poised for redemption.

dante's inferno
Dante’s Inferno still influences our perceptions of hell, to this day!

And OH, the tortures Dante cooked up for these people in the eighth circle of Dante’s Inferno! Some of the liars are eternally forced to fight among themselves, punching and kicking and biting for as long as they are lost in their own interests. People have their heads forced down into rock tubes where they are blind and eternally bent. Others are blinded, and also forced to walk backwards eternally.

Evil clawed demons called Malabranche tear apart corrupt politicians. Hypocrites wear lead robes and are forced to march. Thieves are eaten alive by serpents. Most notably, some lost souls are in a state of eternal immolation, invisible because of the flames. The notion of Hell being a fiery place likely comes from this very punishment. Yes, demons rend people with swords, and people are forced to live with the symptoms of all the worst diseases. Hey, it’s Hell. Things aren’t supposed to be rosy.

If you are enjoying this article, we have more great literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

Unlike the epic poems of Homer and Virgil, which told the great stories of their people’s history, Dante’s The Divine Comedy is a somewhat autobiographical work, set at the time in which he lived and peopled with contemporary figures. Dante’s Divine Comedy, a landmark in Italian literature and among the greatest works of all medieval European literature, is a profound Christian vision of humankind’s temporal and eternal destiny. It follow’s Dante’s own allegorical journey through Hell (Inferno), Purgatory (Purgatorio), and Paradise (Paradiso). Guided at first by the character of Virgil, and later by his beloved Beatrice, Dante wrote of his own path to salvation, offering philosophical and moral judgments along the way.

The author of La Commedia (The Divine Comedy), considered a masterwork of world literature, Dante Alighieri was born Durante Alighieri in Florence, Italy, in 1265, to a notable family of modest means. His mother died when he was seven years old, and his father remarried, having two more children.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Monster Monday or Monday Motivation?

The week has just begun – it’s Monday, get out there and terrorize that village… err, attack that work project with the tenacity of a laboratory engineered superhuman.

Henry James – “Of Course I Was Under the Spell”

Henry James was an American novelist and, as a naturalized English citizen from 1915, a great figure in the transatlantic culture. His fundamental theme was the innocence and exuberance of the New World in clash with the corruption and wisdom of the Old, as illustrated in such works as Daisy Miller (1879), The Portrait of a Lady (1881), The Bostonians (1886), and The Ambassadors (1903).

“Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was. But I gave myself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains than one.”

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, born on this day, April 15, 1843.
Henry James
Henry James Horror writer. Used for mind on fire books.

Although his work did not gain much recognition during his lifetime, Henry James now has a standing amongst the most significant writers of the nineteenth century realism. The Portrait of a Lady and Daisy Miller are his most widely read and best known works. Henry’s critique, short stories and novels are heavily influenced by European history and culture. His interest in Europe’s upper class and their formal traditions is evident in his writing. Henry’s engaging stories of Americans exploring the prim and proper lifestyle of the Europeans have gained him immense popularity. James has to his credit 22 novels, more than a hundred short stories, autobiographical works, several plays and critical essays.

Henry James, OM, son of theologian Henry James Sr., brother of the philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James, was an American-born author, one of the founders and leaders of a school of realism in fiction. He spent much of his life in England and became a British subject shortly before his death.

If you are enjoying this Horror writer feature, we have more great Literary content on The Ritual Blog here.

He is primarily known for a series of major novels in which he portrayed the encounter of America with Europe. His plots centered on personal relationships, the proper exercise of power in such relationships, and other moral questions. His method of writing from the point of view of a character within a tale allowed him to explore the phenomena of consciousness and perception, and his style in later works has been compared to impressionist painting.

Here are 6 Novels Written by Henry James that he is most known for:

1. “The Turn of the Screw” (1898)

2. The Portrait of a Lady(1881) 

3. The Golden Bowl (1904)

4. The Tragic Muse(1890)

5. “The Aspern Papers” (1888)

6. The Bostonians (1886)

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

On Emily Bronte

Emily Brontë’s work on Wuthering Heights cannot be dated, and she may well have spent a long time on this intense, solidly imagined novel. It is distinguished from other novels of the period by its dramatic and poetic presentation, its abstention from all comment by the author, and its unusual structure. It recounts in the retrospective narrative of an onlooker, which in turn includes shorter narratives.
Emily Bronte, author of “Wuthering Heights” was born in 1818. When I first read her work, I was moved; when I re-read her work, I was inspired. Today, I continue to admire in awe.

Glorifying Satan in Literature

Satan: Epic Hero or Villain? John Milton wrote one of the greatest epic poems of all time when he wrote Paradise Lost in 1667. The book tells about man’s creation and fall while detailing characters and the plot beyond what the Bible taught. One of these characters is Satan, which is one of the most argumented, controversial, and popular characters in the history of literature. The reason for controversary is the unclarity of whether or not Satan is a hero or a villain. He contains many qualities that distinguish him as a hero. On the other hand he also has qualities which say he is a villain.

In book 1 of Paradise Lost, Satan is painted as a much more complex figure than just being evil or on the opposite side of goodness. Milton renders Satan as a revolutionary leader with beauty and authority who charges his enslavement against the tyrannical God. Satan motivates and organizes the fallen legions just as any other revolutionary in our history, whom rebuttals against the crown or an unjust government.

If you are enjoying this list on article, check out some of our love of literature content at the Ritual, here.

Milton builds Satan to be a beautiful angel and “above the rest in shape and gesture proudly eminent stood like a tow’r; his form had yet not lost all her original brightness, nor appeared less than archangel” (line 589). If Satan remains bright and the angels lust for the light then Satan must hold the answer. Milton uses Satan’s beauty to inspire and make the angels feel as if they have found a “glimpse of joy, to have found their chief not in despair, to have found themselves not lost in loss itself” (line 526). Milton also describes Satan’s armaments in colossal measurements.

His “ponderous shield … massy, large and round, behind them cast; the bred circumference hung on his shoulders like the moon” and “his spear, to equal which the tallest pine hewn on Norwegian hills” that he used to walk around with in Hell.

Such grandeur is to be admired and respected. These physical qualities are what make Milton’s Satan, a devil to be in love with; he is the warrior who faces opposition in spite of knowing the outcome to be a loss.

 
 

After the fall, Satan is the first to rise with an infinite resounding speech although the fallen angel’s usurpation has failed. Satan comments “all is not lost; the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never submit or yield… that glory never shall his wrath or might extort from me” (line 106). These are the kinds of words and speeches that boil men’s blood and give them reason to erupt. Satan has not yet given up; this failure has only fueled the assault for another attack against the “tyranny of Heav’n” (124).

If you are enjoying this list on article, check out some of our love of literature content at the Ritual, here.

Paramount to a good leader, Satan motivates his fallen equals on multiple accounts. When a comrade informs Satan about his distress of being in hell, Satan responds “Fall’n Cherub, to be weak is miserable doing or suffering” (159). To affirm more power in Satan’s words, he then charges the rest of the fallen angels to “awake, arise, or be forever fall’n” and when they heard they “were abashed, and up they sprang” (330). Clearly Satan is their opulent protagonist to whom they pledge their loyalty to. These fallen gods look to Satan similar to the central Americas looking to Che Guevara to liberate them from the tyrannical government.

 
 
 

Once Satan has called his “legions, angel forms, who lay entranced thick as autumnal leaves that strow the brooks,” they arise to the voice of their general to transform Hell into their new Heaven because “the mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n” (302) (250). When Mammon dives underground to retrieve gold, he arises to build a temple that “not Babylon nor great Alcairo such magnificence equaled in all their glories, to enshrine Belus or Serapis” (720). This is evidence that Milton suggests the new kingdom of freedom, with more wealth and luxury than any human could construct. A revolution is once again being debated as the Angels swarm to the palace of pandemonium, “as bees in spring time, when the sun with Taurus rides, pour forth their populous youth about the hive in clusters” (770).

 

If you are enjoying this list on article, check out some of our love of literature content at the Ritual, here.

It is the Miltonic verse which sketches the ethereal beauty in Satan and the eternal revolution. Milton depicts Lucifer as a strong leader with grandeur, beauty and the intelligence to confront God in guise. It is this dynamic protagonist who drives the human emotion of this epic.

 
 
 

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

All rights reserved by Mind on Fire Books: Merchant of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.