Inferno Inferno question


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Was Dante mentally insane?
Amber Amber Nov 18, 2013 05:24PM
I am currently a senior in high school. In my literature class, we are reading Inferno. I was just wondering...
Was Dante in anyway mentally insane. I find it difficult to believe that someone in his or her right mind could create such a complex, detailed envisioning of hell, especially because hell is entirely sensitive. I am not doubting the excellence of Dante's work, I am just curious. I mean imagine the thoughts running though Dante's head while writing this poem.
Any thoughts, anyone?



Martin (last edited Nov 18, 2013 07:27PM ) Nov 18, 2013 07:26PM   2 votes
No, he was not thought to have been mentally deficient in any way. He was and is considered brilliant.

Most of the imagery he wrote comes from ancient concepts of sin and theology. Many were from ancient Greek mythology. While he is credited with putting them together in a most unique way, he did not create may of the icons of the comedy, but rather incorporated them from other works.

It's also important to understand the cultural mindset of his audience, which was 14th century Italians. The theological theme of the comedy is true to their aesthetic and societal norms. It may seem strange in the context of our modern culture, but it was in keeping with his.


Saying that Dante was insane is like saying that Mozart was insane. Because Mozart wasn't insane, he was just a little crazy. Dante was probably a little crazy too. I mean, he got married when he was 12; his true love died; he got exiled from his hometown which he loved so much... of course you had to be a little crazy after all that. But he was a genius, like Mozart. And (this isn't true, they were actually acquaintances...) if Dante was Mozart, then the Ghibellines and White Guelphs were all his Salieris.


No, Dante was not insane. He was a product of his time, just as Martin said. He was just imaginative. I'm not a BIG fan of Stephen King. But I do like some of his books. If you were to read any of his books in a future time you might ask the same of him. See what I'm saying?
Felix did make an error. Dante did not have the backing of his peers and Florence. In fact he had been in exile from Florence (under a death sentence, since 1302) when he wrote The Divine Comedy.


Feliks (last edited Nov 18, 2013 07:31PM ) Nov 18, 2013 07:29PM   0 votes
Hell is entirely 'sensitive'? You mean its entirely 'subjective' I think.

Anyway no. Evidence of insanity on the part of Dante is not extant as far as I know. If he had exhibited signs of mental deficiency, it surely would have been remarked upon by his peers, his family, his patron, the court of Florence, his friends. The man was simply an extraordinary genius in just about every aspect of his chosen vocation. His craftsmanship has stood the test of time. It still astonishes today; not just his content but his technique and how he elevated language.

I think what you're missing is that you just aren't familiar with his timeperiod. Dude the entire western world believed ardently in these kinds of visions. It wasn't just Dante who was filled with religious rapture, it was most everyone!

Your inquiry makes me somewhat sad.

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Vanessa Eden Patton She's in high school. Explain things to her, don't be condescending. By the way, don't you mean Nonexistent? ...more
Mar 06, 2014 11:48AM · flag

I will admit that I found it a little disturbing how many of his "enemies" that he populated Hell with.

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Emma Iadanza I love how the Pazzi are in there - Canto XXXII, traitors to their kin! Either he was a prophet or it's a really awesome coincidence! ...more
Apr 17, 2014 04:53PM · flag

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