Publication Date

Fall 2008


School of Communication



Primary Subject Area

Literature, Medieval


Dante, Purgatorio, The Divine Comedy, Seven Cardinal Sins, Seven Deadly Sins


Arts and Humanities


The Divina Commedia (1308-1321) has been hailed as one of the greatest and most influential literary works in history, and one of the characteristics that puts it in the annals of time is Dante’s mastery of Catholic theological ideals, especially the Seven Cardinal Sins, his artistry in portraying them, and his mix of unique and traditional depictions. Dante utilizes both traditional and unique artistic aspects of the Seven Cardinal Sins to provide both structure and to put moral messages in his greatest work, but in order to be aware of Dante’s deep understanding of the Sins and how he shapes them to his use, a reader should understand the similarities and differences between the general views of the Sins and the view presented by Dante in Purgatorio. Although some of the Sins are also found in Inferno, not all of them can be found, and they are not used to provide structure as in Purgatorio. The first section of this thesis looks at the evolution of the Sins as can be discerned through academic research by tracing key moments beginning with the origins until the Sins became incorporated into Catholic theology. The second section discusses the influence of the Sins throughout Catholic Europe during the medieval ages. The third section discusses the metaphysical philosophy of the Sins given in Purgatorio, which includes what they are, where they come from, and what to do about them, and compares it to other possible philosophies of the Sins. The last section analyzes a few allegories used to strengthen the portrayal of the Sins in the cornices of Pride, Sloth, and Lust, which are used to represent the three categories of misdirected love. The combination of these four aspects of the Sins and Purgatorio allows the reader to achieve a greater understanding of Dante’s mastery of the concept of the Sins in Purgatorio.