The Divine Comedy: Week 15, Dante's Dark Triad

In Canto XXXI Virgil and the Pilgrim finally make it to the lowest level of hell at the center of the earth. There in the lowest pit of hell the very worst sins are punished.

According to Dante, what are the very worst sins? We've already discussed the scheme that Dante uses to rank sins, how the sins of malice are worse than the sins of incontinence. Actions that involve the intent to hurt and harm others are worse than failures of self-control.

In Canto XXX Dante goes further and goes on to rank the sins of malice:
for when the faculty of intellect
is joined with brute force and with evil will,
no man can win against such an alliance.
Malice is here described as an "evil will," a will that wants to hurt or take advantage of others. Two other things are mentioned along with the evil will, "the faculty of intellect" and "brute force." Some malice is produced when an evil will is combined with intelligence, these are malicious sins but don't involve violence. By contrast, the very worst sins, punished in the deepest pit of hell, are the sins of violence which mix all three things: an evil will, intellect, and brute force. This toxic brew produces the sins of violence, the very worst sins according to Dante.

An evil will, intellect, and brute force are Dante's "dark triad." It puts me in mind of the Dark Triad in psychology. In psychology the Dark Triad are three personality traits that combine to create a morally "dark" personality. Those traits are:
1. Psychopathy: The inability to feel empathy, sympathy or remorse.

2. Narcissism: An inflated self-concept, grandiosity, pride, and egotism.

3. Machiavellianism: A manipulative person who uses and exploits others, a focus on self-interest and deception.
Psychologically speaking, these three personality traits combine to create the "evil will"--sins of malice--described by Dante.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply