Throughout the Inferno Dante demonstrates the violence of the punishment sinners shall endure as befits the gravity of their sins. Initially Dante displays some sympathy for the tormented souls and the fate which has befallen them. This sympathy is soon diminished, however, as Dante comes to view the tortured souls as less deserving of compassion. They have become different to how Dante imagines himself and those he associates with. By imagining the departed as being ‘others’ the imposition of violence upon them is justified, and sympathy or empathy becomes unnecessary as they are no longer of a class to which Dante belongs. In light of this progression of thought, and in comparison to the ‘othering’ of the residents of Heaven and their inhabiting paradise, what does the manner in which Dante’s sympathies develop suggest as to his understanding of his own place in history and his society?
There are moments in the Commedia where Dante perfectly expresses both a modern and medieval understanding of our noun and his verb Trasumanar, ‘transhuman’. Two of the major transportation scenes are especially noticeable in this light: when Santa Lucia swoops Dante to Purgatory proper (Purg. 9) and when Beatrice beams Dante to Paradise level one (Par. 1). In both instants, these once-human (according to Dante’s storyline) and female characters illustrate a blend of distinctive othering attributes: humane and inhumane, human and animal, and human and supernatural, thereby eternally existing in liminal space past the self, post human, as other and beyond.