Dante: Punishment for Not Renouncing One's Will
Within that framework, each cantica presents a different but related model for human society. Paradise is the ideal society in all its essential elements working harmoniously; Purgatory is a society in transition, moving from self-centeredness to concern for and commitment to others, but not yet organized within an effective structure. Hell reveals what society is when all its members act for themselves and against the common good. The souls here are condemned not just for their selfish motivations but also for the effects of their actions on others.
Despite his commitment to Christianity as the only true faith, however, Dante consigns a high number of church officials to hell. With few exceptions, every sinner Dante meets after leaving limbo had believed in Christ while alive, or at least been baptized. And yet, as Dante stresses throughout the Inferno, not even extreme faith or a clergy position can protect a true sinner from damnation. As Dante descends deeper into hell, Virgil repeatedly points out high-ranking church officials, including the traitorous Pope Anastasius in the seventh circle and the Archbishop Ruggieri in the second ring of the ninth circle. In the fourth circle, where the prodigal and avaricious must spend eternity pulling stone weights, Virgil and Dante encounter a throng of corrupt priests, cardinals, and popes too numerous to count or even recognize. By placing church officials in hell, Dante draws a distinction between the Christian faith and the institution of the Christian church, asserting that participation in the latter does not necessarily imply possession of the former.
It is not until after Jason and the others have refreshed themselves that King AEtes asks who they are and the nature of their visit. It is only then, when he discovers the reason for their visit, to return the Golden Fleece to Greece, that King AEtes becomes angry. He expresses his dissatisfaction to Jason and concocts a "trial of courage" (Hamilton p.124) for Jason to attempt. If Jason is successful, the Fleece is his. Failure is death. Although to Jason, the challenge may appear insurmountable (which is the king's intent), it is, however, the command of the lord of the land and meant to be obeyed. King AEtes is initially courteous and welcoming to Jason. He provides him with physical comfort and allows his ship a place to dock. Yet, Jason scorns the king and chooses to circumvent the king's challenge and ensure his own success. He enlists the help of the king's own daughter, Medea. She provides him with magic herbs that allow him eventually to destroy the army he faces and to subdue the dragon that guards the Golden Fleece. Jason is free to carry it away. Although he satisfies the king's premise, he disobeys his instructions and in essence betrays his host. This deed alone throws Jason into Dante's third round of circle nine: Ptolomea.
Dante. The Inferno. Trans. John Ciardi. New York: Penguin, 1954.
Euripides. Medea. Trans. Rex Warner. New York: Dover, 1993.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. New York: Penguin, 1969.
Ovid. Metamorphoses. Trans. A.D. Melville. New York: Oxford UP, 1986.