This is the third of our series The Summa in Verse.
Dante’s Purgatorio graphically illustrates the principles of St. Thomas’ treatise on the moral life (the enormous Secunda Pars of his Summa Theologiae): in living the life of the theological virtues by God’s grace, human beings become ever more free. Purgatory is not a grim torture chamber, but rather a place marked by hopeful suffering and ever-greater freedom. Classically, those who are in Purgatory died with God as their final end (i.e., with sanctifying grace in their souls); they simply need some additional preparation and refinement before they can live well the life of Heaven.
The chief mark of those Dante meets in hell is their stasis: These poor souls stagnate in their sins. Those in hell are inevitably terrible bores. Much like Queen Orual’s “complaint against the gods” in C. S. Lewis’s novel Till We Have Faces, the manifesto of the damned is a nasty, brief scribbling written out and recited over and over again. And they died proclaiming it to God and to their fellow men.