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The law of retribution is intriguing in that it does not incorporate a key Christian attribute that makes salvation possible. The attribute is forgiveness. The text contains a lot of judgment for a would-be offender. The author, Dante, was thought to be and still is one of the greatest middle ages poets. The theme does not emphasize anything other than judgment or a sense of justice according to the text. It reflected the system of the time, according to the period of the poem. During that time, those who rejected the invitation the political leaders, whether official or not, would be subjected to a fate similar to the same hell they would subsequently visit. 

Justice for the Sinner

If someone wanted justice in those days, it was a dangerous affair. It was more so if one was on the side of the oppressed because, at any time, the tables could have been turned. However, the same combination with mercy makes the journey of Christianity. The leaders of that period likened their superiority and rule to that of God in that they likened the incidence to an example from the biblical book of exodus. Here, the book states that when the Jews substituted fear from faith and ignored an invitation from God himself there was a definite consequence (Bagnuolo, 2005).

The moment that people try to control their environment, they reject God as their guide and assume the position of God in their life, which is a cardinal sin. This is equivalent to idolatry in this context. One common aspect of the judgment in the law of retribution is the common way that all the sinners are treated. In this context, sin is not recognized; instead, the sinners all put in the same category of those awaiting perdition.

The emphasis is placed on the eternal punishment faced by the sinner. This forms the basis of the law of retribution, which was formulated by the philosopher Aristotle (Zimmerman, 2003). Dante brought the theatric aspect into the law bringing the idea of a sinner burning in hell for all eternity. The punishment went by the name of ‘contrapasso’, which worked to provide insight into every sin committed by the sinner. There is a unique consequence for each one the sinner commits. A telling example is the adulterous couple Paolo, and Francesca was forced to exist in an eternal embrace for eternity.

Another example is Bertran De Born, one of the ‘sowers of schism’, that sets son against father (Zimmerman, 2003). His punishment was that he had to hold his severed head by the hair like a lantern. Most of these consequences seem like a way of making people take responsibility for their sins. The only difference is that it is not a human context and, therefore, not educative. This is purely for the purpose of torture and punishment. The time of the sinner is seen to have expired, and thus mercy is not a priority in this context. The circles of hell in the account given by Dante provide a twisted version of the possibilities.


The human context is used to punishment for learning but when it becomes excessive, it only becomes meaningless and destructive. The ironic part is that the sinner’s evil is used to give him torture. The sinner becomes a shell of the former self and a slave to his past actions, which is of consequence to the higher power. In fact, there is no further contact because punishment of this kind will separate the sinner from God and any source of mercy. Thus, justice condemns the damned soul. 

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