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Devil & Inferno Concept's Evaluation From Divine Comedy's Literature to Modernity of 21st Century

The name of the Devil has always been part of people's lives. Some can find him in religious books; some can find him in books, TV series or even movies nowadays. One thing that must be sure is that he has a role in our lives maybe as a saint or as a sinner. As humans, many people love to criticize him for being the reason for people's sins for centuries. Even mentioning his name was forbidden in many communities, however nowadays the Devil might be seen as a supernatural hero who is helping the people of Los Angeles in TV series. Within the contribution of literature for hundreds of years, many views have changed from the first he was heard of by people. The goal of this research will be to describe the evolution of the concept of the Devil and his homeland of sinners called Hell.

To be able to accomplish this, this article is being ordered into three segments. In the first segment, how the Devil’s physical look has changed in literature will be provided. The second will be about how his personality reformed in centuries of literature. Lastly, the focus will be on what was his main goal/achievement stands in the change of centuries of literature within the conclusion of the sociological side of the Devil’s place in communities and its evolvement by litterateurs.

The first question that digs people's mind is how the Devil’s physical look has changed in literature during centuries. The first literate work that contains the Devil was Dante Alighieri’s book called Divine Comedy: Inferno (1320). In CANTO XXIV, Dante sees the Devil for the first time, and he is frightened by the look of him as he looks like a monster bigger than a giant could ever be. The Devil has three heads, weak wings, a hairy body, and sharp teeth. This was the first picture that one can imagine in his or her mind as the form of the Devil in literature: Acknowledged as a fearful monster who frightens the main character in a freezing, icy cave. However, this idea has changed within the epic poem of John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667). In Milton's poem, the Devil was in the form of a human with wings who is living at his palace called The Pandemonium, under fire of lavas and burning soils. In almost 300 hundreds of years, the Devil many people know from Dante has turned into a more angelic one, yet still living in a cave, which possibly can be described as hell; who is now not frozen but within the great fires. It was not too long after, but in another around 300 hundred years, in the novel of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust (1987), that the Devil walks around as in earth, without any ugly looking or angelic wings but rather looking as a gentleman. It can be easily seen that, in every 300 years of an evolutionary process, the Devil came out of an idea that humans fear to look at it, but they can make interiorization on the society.

Figure 1. Lucifer, King of Hell by Gustave Doré.

Furthermore, the point that will be covered in this article is the personality of the Devil’s reformation in centuries of literature. The Devil was the punisher of the most sinful humans in Inferno (1320), looking like some kind of monstrous creature (see Fig.1). In Paradise Lost (1667) he was the Democratic leader of his follower angels who were seeking to achieve what he has lost in the riot. It is easy to recognize the change that the writer has put on their masterpieces so sharply. In Giuseppe Tartini’s Violin Sonata In G Minor (1824), he communicated with Tartini in his dreams and talked with him, instructed him on his plays, and played such a mesmerizing sonnet that Tartini fell in love with it and got inspired from his play which resulted in creating his sonnet. In another 200 years after Paradise Lost, the Devil has an even more helpful and friendlier role. Furthermore, in the 2016 TV series called Lucifer, the Devil gets into Los Angeles to help people and protect the justice on Earth. Everyone knows him either as a monster, angel, or a friendly ghost; and now with his flesh and blood, he is on Earth helping people with a kind behavior. In every century that gets closer to the 21st century, improvements in his personality can be seen tremendously.

Figure 2. Le Songe de Tartini.

Conversely, the third segment which this article focuses on is, what was the Devil's main goal/achievement stance in the change of centuries of literature. Many people had learnt that when most of them were kids, the Devil was the ancestor of all sins. He deceives people, he lies to them. In literature, he kept these biblical personalities within him. He is a fallen angel who seeks to get back to heaven but within the riot to his Father in order to take his revenge to fall into Hell. If one looks at other merits of this view, it can be also seen that he likes to punish the sinners who break the holy law. In Inferno, he tortures the sinners in Hell. 476 years after Inferno, in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell, the Devil gives good pieces of advice to show the true way of living without being tricked or getting into a bad position in mundane life. He follows the same path in Lucifer (2016), however, he is not only bringing justice. He is always on his path to bring justice to the unfairness he has lived through. He always tries to do the right thing to please God, but he gets no response. This led to his riot to God in Heaven. In Devil’s Advocate, he judges the God by saying, "God likes to watch, he’s a prankster, think about him. He gives man instincts; he gives you these extraordinary gifts and what is he doing. He sets the rule in opposition. It’s the goof of all time. Look; but don’t touch. Touch; but don’t taste. Taste; but don’t swallow. When you are jumping from one foot to the next what he is doing. He is laughing his sick tight ass. He is a sadist absentee landlord. Worship that never. I am here on the ground with my nose in it since the whole thing began. I have nurtured every sensation man has been inspired to have I care about what he wanted and I never judged him why I never rejected him in spite of all his imperfections I am a fan of the man. I am a humanist. Maybe the last humanist." (Devil's Advocate).

Figure 3. Simon Gribelin's engraving.

In summation, the Devil's influence on society was bloody and mixed with different points of view. In 451 BCE, the Twelve Tables of Roman law had carried necessities against Devil’s incantations and enchantments within the purpose of damaging cereal harvests. In 331 BCE, 170 women were executed with the accusation of being witches who worked with the Devil. Within the influence of Saint Cyril of Alexandria in 415 AD through the early medieval period, distinguished monarchs prohibited both witchcraft and Pagan religions, with the reasoning of worshipping the Devil. Criticisms of witchcraft were found in the works of Saint Augustine and early theologians. During that time many believed witchcraft was based on illusions and powers of the Devil. Augustine and his adherents nonetheless propagated elaborate demonologies, including the belief that humans could enter treaties with demons, which became the root of the future witch hunts. Under Charlemagne, Christians who adopted witchcraft were imprisoned by the Church, while those who deified the Devil were killed. In 1484, Pope Innocent VII issued the bull, Summis Desderantes, which laid the dogmatic and acknowledged foundation for the consequent witch hunts all over Europe. In 1486, Heinrich Initiators published his Malleus Maleficarum, which provided the theological basis for massive waves of witch-hunting that had raged for centuries to come.

Figure 4. Malleus Maleficarum.

Unvaryingly, the fear of the Devil dominated the ideological upbringing, though the witches were viewed as Devil’s legislatures, or followers and as a specific mark of the Inquisition. However, people in the High Middle Ages still more or less have confidently trusted the power of the Church and believed in the strength that would protect them from the seductive attempts of the Devil and his countless demons. The condition reformed significantly in the Late Middle Ages and thereafter. At the same time, one could witness an increasing interest in the presence of the Devil and his many followers on stages in medieval cities. The Devil and his cohorts characterized the range of common human depravities Protestant defiance to "material life." Oldridge writes, "Fairies are claimed to be a belief in fairies was demonized, but sightings of fairies themselves were only infrequently credited to evil spirits. For early modern English Protestants, the possibility was fluid. It was likely that fairies were sometimes figments of the imagination and sometimes demons in masquerade. Besides, the Devil could be involved in both singularities. This was for the reason that Protestant Devil sought to tempt and play away people both directly through implanting wicked judgments and from a distance through encouraging unethical behaviours of thinking. The literature of Stuart England and also Tudor defend an idea of lively interest in the fairies of the Devil. Ronald Hutton has proposed that 'fairy – Devil mythology was perhaps more protuberant in British culture between 1560 and 1640 than at any time before or meanwhile.' When Devil appeared in religious texts in the period, the foolishness and hazards of Catholicism were often adjoining. As late as 1712, Martin Luther’s Table Talk reformed arrogances towards fairies and the Devil mark on the wider culture of early Stuart England and Elizabethan. Fairies were occasionally depicted as demons in ballads." (Fairies and the Devil in early modern England, part 4). During all the historical timeline that events had taken place within bloody appearance or religious submission of the Devil, actions that created its mark on history generated a new phrase within. The words "Sabbath To Devil" which were created by the social effect of the Devil's depicted images and attributes carried his specialty all over Europe within literature writers. In disparity to English and German matching part, French poets seldomly did use the term and due to that reason, it would seem to be rooted in the interrogational oppression of the Waldensians. McManners writes "In 1124, the term of inzabbatos is being used to define the Waldensians in the Northern Kingdom of Spain. In 1438 and also in 1460, outwardly related terms; synagogue and synagogue of Sathan are being used to describe Waldensians by inquisitors in France." (McManners 285).

Figure 5. Witches' Sabbath.

Sabbath was used one time (1581) as Synagogas quas Satanica sabbath. Nicholas Remi also used the term irregularly as well as a synagogue (1588). Jean Bodin had used the term three times (1580) and, Englishman Reginald Scot (1585) writing a book in hatred to witch-phobia, used the term but only once in quoting Bodin. In 1611, Jacques Fontaine used sabat five times writing in French and in a way that would seem to resemble the modern tradition. French author Lamothe-Langon used the term in interpreting into French a trickle of documents from the Inquisition in Southern France.

Taking everything into account, in every century the Devil which people knew evolved more than one can possibly imagine on many virtues. Within this research with no trouble, the importance and the evolution of the Devil can be seen in literature. This research was also conducted on the sociological side of the Devil’s place in communities and its evolvement, in order to see what were the reasons that affected writers to evolve the idea of the Devil in the first place which will enable to be the greater vision for future writers and readers.


  • McManners, John. Church and Society in Eighteenth-Century France. Clarendon, Clarendon Press, 1998.

  • Van der Laan, J. M., and Andrew Weeks, editors. The Faustian Century: German Literature and Culture in the Age of Luther and Faustus. Boydell & Brewer, 2013.

  • Montesano, Marina. Witchcraft, Demonology and Magic. Nottinghill, Routledge, 2020.

  • Oldridge, Darren. “Fairies and the Devil in Early Modern England.” The Seventeenth Century, 2016, pp. 1–15.

  • Devil’s Advocate. Directed by Taylor Hackford. Kopelson Entertainment, 1997. Film.

  • Lucifer. Created by Tom Kapinos, Fox Broadcasting Company, 2016. TV Series.

  • Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy: Volume 1: Inferno. USA, Penguin Classics, 1984.

  • Milton, John. Paradise Lost. Scotland, Loeb Classical Library, 1911.

  • Blake, William. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Boston, John W. Luce and Company, 1906. Project Gutenberg,

  • Tartini, Giuseppe. "‘Violin Sonata In G Minor." Four Seasons and The Devil's Trill Sonata. 1824.

  • Crowley, Aleister. "Hymn To Lucifer."

  • Twain, Mark. The Mysterious Stranger. USA, Harper and Brothers, 1916.

  • Cabell, James Branch. Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice. USA, Robert M. McBride, 1919.

  • Lewis, Clive Staples. The Screwtape Letters. United Kingdom, Geoffrey Bles, 1942.

  • Brust, Steven. To Reign in Hell. USA, Steeldragon Press, 1984.

  • von Goethe, Johann Wolfgang. Faust. Translated by John R. Williams, Wordsworth Editions, 1999.

  • Pratchett, Terry, and Neil Gaiman. Good Omens. United Kingdom, Gollancz, 1990.

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Doğukan Ejder

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