The Odyssey, a poem written by Homer, is a story about Odysseus’ journey home after the Trojan War. While he is away, his wife, Penelope is surrounded by these horrible suitors who eat all the food and destroy Odysseus’ home. While in the Inferno, written by Dante Alighieri, the poet and pilgrim Dante goes on a spiritual journey. Dante is guided by the spirit of a Roman poet called Virgil, and travels through the nine circles of Hell, witnessing the eternal suffering of deceased. As different as these two stories are, there is one thing that they have in common, which is love. In each of these stories it was Odysseus and Dante’s love for their partners, Penelope and Beatrice, that helped them learn lessons and grow as the story advanced. In the Inferno an example of this is Beatrice asking for Virgil to guide Dante on his journey because she was worried proving she wanted him to reach heaven so that they could be reunited. As for the Odyssey, Odysseus admits that he longs for his wife every night and day, which is why he goes on this journey, but it is the prayers to the gods for his safety from his loved ones that help him along the way. In these two stories both characters are given support from their partners and have hope that they will see them again, and because of this they are able to learn the lessons required of them to complete the journey.
One such similarity would be that both Dante and Odysseus went on an epic journey of self-discovery. We know from reading the Inferno, that Dante enters hell and endures the punishments that would accompany his sins if he did not change his ways. One of the reasons that he enters the inferno is because of the love valued by Beatrice, “For I am Beatrice who send you on; I come from where I most long return; Love prompted me, that Love which makes me speak” (Canto 2, lines 70-72). She has no way of guiding him into the inferno herself, so she calls on him to enter it on his own. Beatrice has an immense love for Dante and does not want him to continue living his as he previously has been.
In order to reconnect with her in Heaven, he first has to gain otherworldly knowledge and experience damnation. When Dante enters damnation to hold his lost love, he receives redemption for his sins. When you compare this to the Odyssey, it is Penelope’s feelings for Odysseus that inspire him to make the journey back to his homeland to be reunited with her. “But one man alone… his heart set on his wife and his return” (Book 1, lines 15-16). We first see Odysseus on Calypso’s island, were he stayed as her lover for a while before growing tired of it and longing for his wife and home. It was because of his wife, Penelope’s, love and support that he was able to conquer many obstacles before attaining Ithaca.
In fact, in the Odyssey, we see Odysseus cry many times about how he longs to be with his wife again, which is why he fought off all of her rude suitors the moment he arrived home. Sure, Penelope doesn’t trust him or know his intentions at first, but once he tells her something only, he would know about their home in a way only he could they are reunited. The praises and affection that the heroes receive from their loved ones are enough to give them the strength to overcome any obstacles that come their way.
Contrapasso, a revenge of transgression by giving back a sin, makes an appearance in both stories. Take a look at book 11 of the Odyssey, in it we see Sisyphus briefly mention when Odysseus’ journey to the other world. Odysseus fixates on Sisyphus “bound to his own torture” (Book 11, line 681). As punishment for playing a prank on Hades, Sisyphus is forced to move a stone uphill and then downhill once he reached the top for all eternity. When Hades went to cuff Sisyphus to bring him to the underworld, he was trapped by Sisyphus by asking him to imagine how thing works and ends up binding himself. Once this happened people could never really die, this worried people. This is why he received the punishment he did when he was caught and cast into hell. In the Odyssey, Sisyphus uses this story to try to teach Odysseus a lesson about putting up with the divine beings so that he will not be disciplined. It also teaches him that he should respect the Gods or his presence in the afterlife will not be a pleasant one.
In Ancient Greece there was an idea of condemnation, which is explained in the Inferno by Dante and demonstrated in the Odyssey. In the Inferno, as Dante goes through damnation, he can see people suffering for their wrongdoings. Dante and Virgil talking about the entrance of damnation is just one of many examples that are shown in Canto III. Virgil, is Dante’s guide through the underworld, he is the one who tells Dante that, “Those who are here can place no hope in death, and their blind life is so abject that they are envious of every other fate” (Canto 3, lines 46-8). People who do not chose a side are the ones who suffer this fate, they are the ones who wait for things to happen, and once they die, they are spurned existence. When they chase a pennant, while being chased by hornets and are stung they leak a fluid that is eaten by worms and larvae. These stories are similar because individuals suffer for the wrongs they have committed in their life, not to mention both stories helped the heroes learn a lesson.
In addition to this, in the stories of Paolo and Francesca and Aegisthus and Clytemnestra, they are also similarities. The wrongdoers, in Canto V, Paolo and Francesca are guilty of infidelity. Long story short, Gianciotto, who was married to Francesca, was disfigured. His wife avoids him because she is attracted to his younger sibling, Paolo. One day after they read a story, Francesca and Paolo kiss. She repeatedly tells Dante, “We were alone, and we suspected nothing” (Canto 5, line 129). In the end, they were both killed by her husband and their punishment in death was that they experience damnation together and hopelessness in hellfire, not to mention that they had to remember their relationship on earth. If I were to put is simply, she and Paola were forced to love each other. Of course, Gianciotto was also sentence to damnation.
Ironically, Telemachus hears a similar story that makes him question his loyalty to his family. This is the story of Agamemnon and his wife, Clytmnestra. When Agamemnon leaves his home to fight in the Trojan War, his cousin, Aegisthus, seduces his wife and they fall in love. Agamemnon’s cousin hires men to kill him when he returns home form the war, and Clytmnestra and Aegisthus live in bliss. At least until Aegisthus is killed by his nephew, Orestes, as payback for his dad’s passing. They don’t mention what happens to the wife after, but it is funny how both stories involve the wife cheating with a relative and the death of the cheaters.
The Inferno and the Odyssey do have a lot of things in common, that you wouldn’t connect if you hadn’t read both stories. Dante and Odysseus both invoke on soul searching journeys in order to return to their loved one and on the way they both happen to learn very valuable lesson. Which brings me to the Paolo and Francesca, Agamemnon and Clytmnestra stories which are also lesson that were told to help the heroes learn something. Oh, and let’s not forget that in both stories people are punished for their wrongdoings. This sums up everything in the paper without including all the details.