"The Drams Within or the Drama of the Soul," as depicted by the "Inferno" of the "Divine Comedy," was the subject of Bishop William Boyd-Carpenter's third lecture under the William Belden Noble foundation Friday evening. "Dante's Verdict on Life: its Significance and Value" is the general subject of the whole series of six lectures which Bishop Boyd-Carpenter is delivering this year.
"The Inferno," said the Bishop, "teacher us the lesson of self-discovery; its purpose is to impress upon us the necessity of knowing ourselves."
Common Misconceptions of "Inferno."
The Bishop then proceeded to refute two common misconceptions of the "Inferno." The horrors of an inferno are not, as is often supposed, the invention of Dante. "Dante took the current notions of his day and poured over them the irresistible charm of his genius." It is also a misconception to consider the horrors of the "Inferno" unimportant. The notion of a place of retribution hereafter has always been in the mind of man; and, such a widespread conception should be taken into account accordingly. It stands for the human sense of justice, and is indicative of the extraordinary human faculty, capable of rising above itself and standing in its own judgment.
Dante dared to people Hell with many of his own contemporaries. He did this with startling vividness. His purpose, from the artistic point of view, was to impress the nearness and reality of Hell.
The "Inferno" an Inverted Funnel.
"Dante was a man of philosophic accu- men and elastic thought." From a thoughtful point of view, he constructed his "Inferno" so as to classify the various sins according to their relative baseness and to adjust the penalties with suitability to the sins. Dante's "Inferno" is like an inverted funnel, consisting of concentric circles. The first four circles are occupied by sinners through impulse--lust, gluttony, greed. The fifth circle--the "circle of transition" is occupied by malcontents. The rest of the way to the city of Dis is people by heretics, then by those who have been false both to principle and to communities, and, at the final depth by those who have been false to their friends.
Dante was a strong moralist, and he shows it in his "inexorable sense of righteousness in the apportionment of penalties." Those who sinned through the impulse of their passions are punished by the forces of nature; the sinners through craftiness are punished by the worst tortures ingenuity can devise; and, finally, those who betrayed their friends are punished by burial in a plain of ceaseless ice. They--Brutus, Cassius, Judas--are the basest sinners.
Accusations of Harshness.
Dante has been accused of unnecessary harshness in the execution of certain of the punishments. But he is merely trying to express his opinion that some sinners are so base that they should suffer the fullness of their punishments. In the instance of the punishment of the lovers, Francesca di Rimini and Paolo, however, Dante pronounces his verdict on love in the somewhat later form. "I could not love thee half so much, loved I not honor more." And, yet, Dante adds to this his belief that hearts that are once joined in true love can never be rent asunder.
"The Inferno," said Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, "is a revelation of the ugliness of sin; it means self-discovery." We must endure Hell in order to understand Heaven. The "Inferno' 'is the only way to Heaven and Love