Complementing Texts: Homer’s The Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno Essay

Complementing Texts: Homer’s The Odyssey and Dante’s Inferno Essay

Ever since human existences started stating narratives for amusement or for sophistication. heroes have made unbelievable journeys against what seem like impossible odds. In the beginning. heroes frequently these journeys to make a end. frequently in rebelliousness of the Gods who. for whatever ground. had imposed bounds upon the chief character of the narrative. In Homer’s narrative. The Odyssey. this restriction is that the Gods will barricade his manner place until he speaks to the sage Tiresias.

By contrast. Dante Alighieri’s character of Dante chiefly seeks to happen replies to his inquiries ; that is. cognition. as a agency to happen redemption. While both heroes interact with the underworld to carry through their purposes. the narratives complement each other. instead than mirror each other. In many ways. Dante’s text “corrects” the narrative found in Homer’s work. doing it suited for Christian audiences. Careful scrutiny of texts reveals how some of these countries differ significantly between them.

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Some of these differences include the nature of the underworld itself and the hero’s interaction with it. the cognition that Odysseus’ female parent has of the life universe. and the shared regulation of the underworld. The Nature of the Underworld and the Heroes’ Interaction with It Like Dante’s Hell. Homer’s underworld is non a pleasant topographic point to pass infinity. It is dark and glooming ; the dwellers have dulled senses. The underworld into which Odysseus looks is Hades. non the Elysian Fields. where heroes were blessed with ageless felicity.

Rather. the “unhappy dead” live at that place. cursed to bleak and deadening beings for the remainder of infinity. The dead who exist in Hades are those who have died unburied. like Odysseus’ friend. Elpenor. who died falling from a ladder taking from Circe’s roof. every bit good as Tiresias and Odysseus’ unhappy female parent. And yet. wretchedness of the dwellers is one of several similarities between the two underworlds. One interesting difference between the Homer’s Hades and Dante’s Hell is that the stories’ heroes find their entrywaies in highly different locations.

Odysseus finds the entryway to Hades in a seaport at the “western border of the universe. ” while Dante finds the entryway to Hell in the thick of a dark wood. While these differences might look undistinguished. they are. in truth. declarative mood of the different intents behind the journeys that the heroes undertake. The seaport at the terminal of the universe represents physical distance traveled ; Odysseus is on a pursuit to return place to Ithaca. a end that the Gods have prevented him from achieving. It is an earthly end. nevertheless. with mensurable distances that must be traversed.

While the ocean that Odysseus travels provides room for a communal journey through which he attempts to convey his crew place. Dante’s dark wood provides a far narrower field. It is restrictive and personal. possibly driven by the lone nature of Dante’s quest for cognition and salvation. The distance that Dante must go. therefore. is non one of finite measuring ; instead. it exists within himself. It is a religious journey with no physical boundaries. Ultimately. this difference is magnified by the many degrees of Hell. with its myriad degrees. patios. and malboges.

In add-on to the differing nature of the underworld as portrayed by each poet. the nature of the interaction that each hero has with the underworld and its dwellers besides varies. In order to interact at all with the dwellers of the underworld. both heroes must do a rite of transition. Odysseus enters the kingdom of Hades by doing a blood forfeit of a random-access memory. roll uping its blood in a cavity. Through this offering and by offering the appropriate invocations to the Gods. Odysseus is able to name away the psyche of the dead.

Bing surrounded by the dead causes him to go afraid ; nevertheless. he regains sufficient bravery to command them and to oppugn them. The character of Dante. nevertheless. must really go through through the Gatess of Hell. ‘abandoning hope’ in order to larn what he desires. Although Odysseus is in the universe of the dead. he is certain plenty of himself to recover control. as opposed to Dante. who relinquishes all of his control to Virgil as so enter the underworld kingdom. While less “heroic” than Odysseus’ actions. this submissive behaviour is really of great importance. which once more is based in the heroes’ intent in come ining the underworld.

It is clear. that although both heroes must come in the kingdom of the underworld. each for his ain intent. Odysseus does non really travel done Hades as Dante does through Hell. Rather. the dead attack Odysseus. coming “up in a crowd from Erebos: immature work forces and brides. old work forces who had suffered much. and stamp maidens to whom sorrow was a new thing ; others killed in conflict. warriors clad in bloodstained armor” ( 124 ) all surround his sacrificial cavity in response to the ram’s blood that he has offered. This difference is besides a important one and related to the point made above it.

Although Odysseus instantly appears to be the prayer. by doing the blood offering that attracts the dead. he is besides in control of it. The dead must make his command in order to feed and give him the information that he requires. By contrast. the character of Dante physically travels into the thick of the psyche of the damned. While he is under his ain will. Dante is a pilgrim. who must do an attempt to derive his cognition. He follows Virgil as Virgil leads. interacting with the psyches on their ain degree in their ain environment. This difference would besides do Dante’s narrative more appealing to Christian audiences.

Although Odysseus’ cunning and strength were admired by the audience that lived at his clip. the lesson of humbleness that the character of Dante both learns and Teachs would be considered more acceptable to Alighieri’s audience. Although he is taking the enterprise to larn on his ain. like a proper pilgrim he is taking direction from a maestro and hearing to the moral lessons set before him. For those in the audience who recognize that he might hold been contemplating self-destruction. Dante is besides in the procedure of atoning. Knowledge of the Living World

Odysseus seeks non simply wisdom from Tiresias. but he besides seeks cognition of his hereafter in the life universe. In truth. both Tiresias and Odysseus’ female parent have clear cognition of the life universe. which they freely portion with him in their bend. What is more. it is accurate cognition. which allows him to fix for his hereafter. should he of all time arrive at his finish. In a sense. both Tiresias and Odysseus’ female parent are as living existences that have simply been transported to a new being on an alternate plane. in that they can take inaugural to see what lies in front and so portion it with him.

Given that in other myths dwellers of Hades are able to go freely between the universes with the gods’ permission. it seems evident that the ancient Greeks saw the underworld as a topographic point from which people could get away to return to the life if they had adequate virtuousness or if they had a hero to help them. This sort of belief is opposed to both Dante’s belief and to the belief of the Christians who formed his audience. Dante’s psyche. perpetually trapped in their province of torture. must continuously expiate for their actions on Earth.

They are surrounded by the reminders of their wickednesss. possibly tormented by the really things that they desired in life. At times. their visual aspect is dramatically altered to fit their offenses. The lone hope for the psyches in Hell is Judgment Day. at which clip they may be redeemed–or they may happen themselves condemned to endure throughout infinity. Even so. redeemed psyches would non interact with the life ; alternatively. they would go through into Heaven. Once once more. the difference between the two kingdoms and their dwellers may be explained by virtuousness of the perceptual experience of the audiences for which the poets were composing.

To the Greeks. life in the underworld was non needfully a penalty. Surely. the dwellers of the underworld could see penalty. even that of a ageless nature. One good illustration of this sort of penalty would be Sisyphus. condemned to turn over a bowlder to the top of a hill for infinity. merely to hold it get away him and axial rotation to the underside once more before it reaches the extremum. However. the underworld is a plane of being to which all worlds will finally go. The underworld itself is divided into subdivisions that provide wages or penalty or which merely continues the suffering being that people had when on Earth.

This difference is. one time once more. rather different from the position of the Christian audience served by Dante. which viewed the underworld for penalty merely. It is this apprehension of the underworld being for penalty that would besides restrict the dead’s interaction with the life. Dante’s dead are unable to entree the life universe and. when meeting the character of Dante. are unable to larn from what he tells them. They have no heads and no penetration. unlike the dead that Odysseus brushs. who know that they are enduring and why and yet are unable to interact with the universe of the life in order to minimise their experiences.

The Shared Rule of the Underworld In The Odyssey. both Hades and his married woman. Despoina. govern the underworld. Although Hades has control over the underworld as a whole. Despoina is the Queen of the Women. with the ability to overturn even her hubby in control of that group. In footings of importance. while this difference might look fiddling to some readers. it is possibly of greatest significance of all of these points. Hades is non almighty. in that Persephone has equal control. if non greater control in some facets of governing the underworld.

She strikes fright in Odysseus’ bosom equal to that of her hubby. in that Odysseus describes Hades as “mighty. ” but Persephone as being “awful. ” which would be synonymous with her being terrorizing. This sort of regulation would be unsurprising to the ancient Greeks. who lived in a universe ruled by many Gods. It besides paralleled the agreement of the Gods on Mount Olympus. to a certain extent: Hades and Persephone. who ruled the universe of the dead. mirrored Zeus and Hera. who ruled the universe of the life. To the Christians that formed Dante’s audience. this agreement would hold been more than merely a small shocking.

Christians worship a individual God who. while He might hold different and while He may use different assistants in the angels and the saints. has rule over the life and the dead. As with the ancient Grecian divinities. God and Satan slightly mirror each other. Despite Satan’s impressive visual aspect in The Inferno. nevertheless. he is every bit much a captive of Hell as its other occupants. In add-on. Satan does non mirror God’s power ; instead. he is merely capable of devastation. non creative activity. Conclusion In many ways. Dante’s Inferno complements and corrects Homer’s The Odyssey.

Both are narratives that conveying a hero into contact with the underworld in order to accomplish a peculiar end. In the instance of Odysseus. this end is worldly and finite. while in the instance of Dante. the end is religious and may take to ageless redemption. Several differences. among others. that indicate the complementary and disciplinary nature of Dante’s work are those of the nature of the several underworlds and the heroes’ interaction with the dwellers. the cognition that the dead rich person of the life universe. and the shared regulation that Hades and Persephone have over the ancient Grecian underworld.

The narrative of heroic travels through the underworld is non a new one. neither was it new when Homer wrote The Odyssey. In the yearss of go throughing history and larning through unwritten agencies. such narratives were necessary instruction tools. However. each civilization imposed its ethical motives and beliefs on this sort of narrative. The different between these two narratives provide an first-class illustration of how this cultural influence casts this sort of epic narrative with differences throughout history.

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