“The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.” — incorrectly attributed to Dante, author of The Divine Comedy, which describes Dante the Pilgrim’s visit to the three parts of the Afterlife: the Inferno, the Mountain of Purgatory, and Paradise.
The above quotation is not accurate. Actually, these people are not allowed in Hell Proper — ProperHell doesn’t want them.
Following is 630 words explaining this. If you are interested in the subject, search online for Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide by David Bruce. It is a free download. You can also download it here:
Which souls can be found in the Vestibule of Hell? What is a Vestibule, and why is the punishment of the souls found there appropriate?
A Vestibule is a passage between the doorway and the interior of a building. Even before we reach the first Circle of Hell, we see souls being punished.
The punishments of the Inferno begin just after the doorway — which says, “Abandon All Hope, All Ye Who Enter” — of the Inferno is passed. Just inside the doorway are the souls of those who never took a stand in life. While living, they were neither for good nor for evil, and now that they are dead, neither Heaven nor Hell Proper wants them. In life, they did not follow a banner; in death, they follow a blank banner endlessly, running after it as it travels here and here, never remaining in one place. Similarly, in life, these never-committed souls never staked out a firm position. In life, these souls never felt deeply, either for good or for evil. Now, these souls do feel deeply, as wasps and hornets bite them. They bleed from the bites, and maggots eat the pus that flows to the ground.
The fitting punishments found in Dante’s “Inferno” are known as contrapasso. What these souls avoided doing in life, they now do in death. In addition, these souls did no lasting good or harm on Earth, and they will be not be remembered on Earth. In the “Inferno,” Dante mentions none of them by name.
The uncommitted who are punished here include angels who fought neither for God nor for Lucifer when Lucifer rebelled against God.
Sometimes people say that Dante put the morally neutral in the deepest pit of Hell. That is not true. Not even Hell wanted them, so they are not even in a Circle of Hell.
One thing to learn here is that Dante is letting us know that choosing not to make a choice is in itself a choice. These people chose not to choose to be committed to good.
John Ciardi sees the human beings here as Opportunists. They did not act either for good or for evil; they acted only for themselves (Ciardi, The Divine Comedy, 30).
In addition, some commentators believe that these souls are the Slothful. Because the sin of Sloth is purged on the Mountain of Purgatory, the sin of Sloth ought to be punished in (or near) Hell. The Slothful may be punished here in the Vestibule of Hell, or the Slothful may be punished in Circle 5. Many commentators believe that the Sullen are punished in Circle 5, but Mark Musa believes that the sinners punished there are the Slothful. The Angry or Wrathful are also punished in Circle 5, and since Sullenness is a form of bottled-up anger, perhaps the Sullen are punished in Circle 5. Sloth means not loving the right things enough, and the souls in the Vestibule of Hell did not love what is good and right enough to pursue those things, so perhaps these are the Slothful.
Hell Proper does not want these uncommitted souls because “the damned might glory over them” (Musa Inferno 3.42). The verb “to glory” means “to exult.” The sinners in Hell Proper would feel superior to the uncommitted. The uncommitted never took a stand, either for good or for evil, but the damned at least took a stand, even though it was for evil.
Who keeps the uncommitted souls out of Hell Proper? Although Hell Proper does not want these uncommitted souls, the correct answer is not Lucifer because we will see that Lucifer has no power in the Inferno. The correct answer is that God keeps these souls out of Hell Proper. After all, we know that God created the Inferno, and therefore God created the Vestibule of the Inferno.
Copyrighted by Bruce D. Bruce
Download free eBooks, including Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide, by David Bruce here:
You can buy Dante’s Inferno: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce here:
Romance Books by Brenda Kennedy (Some Free)
Free PDF book: William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: A Retelling in Prose by David Bruce
Free PDF book: Honey Badger Goes to Hell — and Heaven by David Bruce
Check out the rest of