Contrapasso in Dante’s Inferno

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The term contrapasso describes the relationship between a person’s sins and the punishment they receive in Hell. It determines a specific punishment for each sinner based off of their sins, rather than them just burning in Hell. The contrapasso is an important factor in Inferno from The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.

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Throughout Inferno, Virgil and Dante are exploring the Nine Circles of Hell, where they see the contrapasso at work. Every circle they visit, there are sinners being punished for the sins they committed. The punishment they receive is directly proportional to their sins. Dante and Virgil begin their journey through Hell by entering through the Gates. Once they enter, they visit the Second Circle of Hell, the Second Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell, the Ninth Bolgia of the Eighth Circle, the First Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell, and the Fourth Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell. During this expedition, they see the contrapasso in full force, while watching the sinners suffer in their sins.

Dante and Virgil start their trip by entering the Gates of Hell, where Minos is determining which Circle the sinners belong to. As soon as they enter, they begin to hear the cries and screams of the sinners who did not commit to good or evil. These sinners lived their lives without making sensible and honorable choices, which means they cannot be accepted into Heaven nor Hell. These sinners will forever be stuck outside the Gates of Hell, where they must run after a banner forever while being tormented by flies and hornets. This is an example of contrapasso because the sinners that did not take a side during the war in Heaven have to forever suffer by never going to Heaven or Hell.

Once Dante and Virgil make it into the Gates of Hell, they go to the Second CIrcle where the lustful are being punished. These sinners are being whirled around in wind and rain helplessly. They ask Francesca if she would tell them her story of how she ended up in the Second Circle, and she does. She tells then how she was married to a deformed old man, then fell in love with Paolo da Rimini, who was her husband’s younger brother. One day,

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