Apropos Dante’s Inferno, AKA The Divine Comedy: Satan

Throughout the Inferno, it is implied that at the end of Dante’s journey through Hell he will meet Satan. However, the meeting with Satan is rather anticlimactic. Instead of the clever, chillingly charming, “tempting” Satan the modern reader is used to, the Satan shown here is nothing more than a dumb beast. While in appearance he is certainly terrifying (he is described as being unbelievably tall, having three faces and six wings), there is nothing threatening about his character or personality, as he is not shown as having one.

Dante’s Satan separates even farther from the modern idea of the Devil when his situation is realized; the Ninth Circle of Hell is all ice, the water having been frozen by the icy wind created by the flapping of Satan’s wings. He constantly beats them, as if trying to escape Hell; but he cannot because he is trapped in ice. If he stopped beating his wings, it can be assumed that the ice would melt and he would be able to move, but to escape he would have to fly, and so flap his wings, which would just freeze the water, trapping him there once more. What’s more is that the lake of ice is made up of his tears. The paradox of his means of escape (his wings and tears) being the cause of his “chains” (ice and tears) seems almost pathetic when it becomes clear that Satan does not have the will, intelligence or creativity to come up with another way of escape. Therefore, he will be stuck at the bottom of Hell forever, eternally trapping himself by ignorantly attempting to escape from his own tears and actions.