The Divine Comedy: Week 17, The Tears of Lucifer

In Canto 34, Virgil and the Pilgrim cross the icy surface of hell to finally come to face Lucifer.

Not face to face, exactly. Lucifer is huge, and is frozen in the icy lake from the chest down. Lucifer has three faces and three sets of bat-like wings, each set flapping and causing chilly winds to blow through hell and freeze the surrounding ice. And from his six eyes, Satan weeps.

More on Satan next week. For today, just a short reflection on the frozen, weeping Satan.

Basically, Dante's Satan is very different Milton's Satan, at least as Satan appears early on in Paradise Lost. Given his heroic demeanor, some readers of Paradise Lost have thought that Satan is the protagonist of the story. Many have been stirred by the defiance of Milton's Satan who declares: "Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven."

Dante, by contrast, presents nothing heroic about Satan. Satan is not reigning in Hell. Satan is, rather, frozen, devoid of personality, and eternally weeping. In the Divine Comedy Satan is a vision of a living death.  

The point is this:

Hell isn't a heroic rebellion against an unjust tyranny.

Hell is, rather, rebellion against the Love that sustains, warms, and gives life to the world.

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