Divide Comedy By Dante A significant idea contained within Dante’s The Divine Comedy is the Augustinian concept of ordered and disordered love. Each realm of the afterlife symbolizes the type of love the inhabitants exercised while they were living on earth. For example, the Inferno represents disordered love, since the souls in Hell exhibited little love for mankind and little acknowledgement of God. Because the kind of love Hell symbolizes is the worst type that anyone could possess, it is located nearest to the center of the earth, farthest away from God. On the other hand, Paradise, which is situated closest to God, represents ordered love.
This area is reserved for those who treated their neighbors well and felt connected to God. Although they sinned during their lifetimes, they fully repented long before death. However, Purgatory is unlike Paradise or the Inferno. Since the inhabitants of Purgatory were those who started to repent later in their lifetimes, but still often only thought of their own individual needs and corporeal pleasures, it only makes sense that this world be in between Heaven and Hell. Purgatory, being a “gray area” (that is, neither all good or all bad), represents a type of love that lies somewhere in between complete order and complete disorder.
Based on the Seven Deadly Sins, each cornice in Purgatory contains a varying amount of ordered love and disordered love. However, the nearer the cornice is to Hell, the more disordered love it represents. According to Dante, three main types of love are depicted in Purgatory. These include “bad love”, “too little love”, and “immoderate love”. Bad love, the worst of the three, coincides to the first three Cornices that represent the sins of pride, envy, and wrath respectively. Therefore, since the First Cornice contains those who were too proud during their time on earth, they also exhibited the most disordered love in comparison with the other six sins.
They spent more time exalting themselves than they did caring for others and developing a relationship with God. As their punishment, they, “crawling by under such burdens as we at times may dream of”, (Canto XI, lines 26-27) are forced to carry enormous boulders on their backs. Since they held their heads high during their time on earth, they are now being debased to the ground, a physical punishment to a psychological behavior. In fact, all of the penalties created by Dante in The Purgatorio are directly related to the sin committed. The Proud cared more about their own gains than anyone else’s, a sin that, in Dante’s eyes, is the worst of the Seven Deadly Sins. Continuing with the idea of “bad love”, Dante then explains envy, represented in the Second Cornice.
Like pride, this sin is also extremely egocentric, as the envious person wishes he could take the good fortunes of others for his own personal gain. Once again, the sinner is spending more time on himself, hindering his ability to develop good relations with God and mankind. Envy, which in modern times is described as the “green-eyed monster”, is generally a sin one commits with his eyes. For, if a person were blind, he would not be able to comprehend what is supposedly “missing” from his life. Therefore, Dante depicts the sinners as having their eyes sewn shut, forced to support one another in a way they never did while living.
Finally, wrath, the least of the “bad loves”, is exemplified in the Third Cornice. Since wrath is often carried out as a form of anger because of vengeance, it lacks all humility, polluting the true spirit of God. Meekness, the inverse of wrath, is depicted by the souls’ chanting “The Litany of The Lamb of God”, a constant reminder of an important ideal. Also, the entire realm is filled with darkness and smoke, which Dante describes as having a “sting [that] was more than the eyes could stand.” (Canto XVI, line 7) Because these sinners tainted God’s spirit while living and blocked the light of the Lord, their penalty is to reside in a defiled environment lacking all sunlight. Like the other two types of “bad love”, wrath also involves a form of self-love.
However, since it is located in the Third Cornice, it involves less disordered love than either pride or envy. The second type of love explored in The Purgatorio is termed “too little love”, which lends itself exclusively to the sin of sloth. In general, these slothful people just did not have enough love. They chose to live life slowly with indifference and laziness. In contrast, this form of love is not nearly as severe as “bad love” because they did not try to debase their neighbors.
Rather, they just did not possess any strong opinions (positively or negatively) for mankind or God. They recognized the ideals that all humans should strive for, but they decided simply not to pursue them. As their punishment in the Fourth Cornice, they have to hurry up the mountain with all the zeal that they lacked while living. Finally, the last type of love depicted by Dante is “immoderate love”, the kind that is too excessive and satisfies corporeal needs rather than spiritual. However, since Dante knows that the flesh is weak, a mere entrapment of the soul, he forgives these bodily sins to some extent. This is the main reason why these last three cornices, containing the most ordered love, are closest to Paradise. The first type of “immoderate love” described is avarice, in the forms of hoarding and wasting. The avarice souls, dwelling in the Fifth Cornice, are stripped of all possessions and are forced to lie in the dirt.
This sin is considered the worst of its kind because the hoarders and wasters are not even gaining any sense of satisfaction from their practices, even if it were to be temporal. They seem to have no motive for being so obsessive about money. In contrast, in the sin of gluttony, at least the guilty individuals did gain some sense of satisfaction while on earth. However, they too were blameworthy of surrendering to material things. Since they ate and drank in excess while living, their reprimand in the Sixth Cornice is complete emaciation, a horrific physical punishment.
Since they abused food and drink, now they must starve as a purification mechanism to ascend into Heaven. The last sin involving “immoderate love” is lust, depicted in the Seventh Cornice. The lustful people were those who abandoned the spirit for the flesh, surrendering to the body instead of God’s love. Like gluttony, out of selfishness, they decided give in to pleasures rather than to worship the Lord sincerely. In order to gain entrance to Paradise, they must chant examples of chastity to purge themselves. However, Dante probably views this sin as the most ordered because he realizes that some human behaviors, especially an aspect of nature, are extremely hard to control.
Therefore, in Dante’s The Purgatorio, love is depicted temporally rather than spiritually. It is an in between kind of love because these sinners did find God, but too late in life to cleanse themselves of all their corporeal sins. In fact, the Seven Deadly Sins of pride, envy, wrath, avarice, gluttony, sloth and lust all share one significant aspect in common. They involve man loving self-pleasures more than God. In each case this sort of love lies in between order and disorder.
Whether these indulgences are physical or psychological, they are hindrances to achieving the ultimate end of man, which is happiness. Since (according to Aquinas) happiness comes from God, only by truly loving and honoring Him can one ascend into Paradise. These temporal pleasures prevent man from developing a good relationship with God. As punishment, God makes these sinners wait in Purgatory in the same way they made Him wait. In many cases self-love has been the main reason why spirits are forced to repent in Purgatory.
However, although the sinners did not know how to love in the proper manner while on earth, they are given another chance to ascend into Heaven via Purgatory. They realized their mistakes later in life, but this self-recognition proves that they have the potential to become better people, if not in the flesh, then in the spirit.