|Blake Dante Hell XIV Capaneus|
From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
From U Texas
A huge and powerful warrior-king who virtually embodies defiance against his highest god, Capaneus is an exemplary blasphemer--with blasphemy understood as direct violence against God. Still, it is striking that Dante selects a pagan character to represent one of the few specifically religious sins punished in hell.
Dante's portrayal of Capaneus in Inferno 14.43-72--his large size and scornful account of Jove striking him down with thunderbolts--is based on the Thebaid, a late Roman epic (by Statius) treating a war waged by seven Greek heroes against the city of Thebes. Capaneus' arrogant defiance of the gods is a running theme in the Thebaid, though Statius' description of the warrior's courage in the scenes leading up to his death reveals elements of Capaneus' nobility as well as his contempt for the gods. For instance, Capaneus refuses to follow his comrades in a deceitful military operation against the Theban forces under the cover of darkness, insisting instead on fighting fair and square out in the open. Nevertheless, Capaneus' boundless contempt ultimately leads to his demise when he climbs atop the walls protecting the city and directly challenges the gods: "come now, Jupiter, and strive with all your flames against me! Or are you braver at frightening timid maidens with your
"According to the legend, Capaneus had immense strength and body size and was an outstanding warrior. He was also notorious for his arrogance. He stood just at the wall of Thebes at the siege of Thebes and shouted that Zeus himself could not stop him from invading it. In Aeschylus, he bears a shield with a man without armour withstanding fire, a torch in hand, which reads 'I will burn the city,' in token of this. While he was mounting the ladder, Zeus struck and killed Capaneus with a thunderbolt, and Evadne threw herself on her husband's funeral pyre and died. His story was told by Aeschylusin his Seven against Thebes, by Euripides and by the Roman poet Statius.
- In the fourteenth canto of his Inferno, Dante sees Capaneus in the seventh circle (third round) of Hell. Along with the other blasphemers, or those "violent against God", Capaneus is condemned to lie supine on a plain of burning sand while fire rains down on him. He continues to curse the deity (whom, being a pagan, he addresses as "Jove" a.k.a. Jupiter) despite the ever harsher pains he thus inflicts upon himself, so that God "thereby should not have glad vengeance."
From Blake's Milton Plate 9:
|He created Seven deadly Sins drawing out his infernal scroll,|
|Of Moral laws and cruel punishments upon the clouds of Jehovah|
|To pervert the Divine voice in its entrance to the earth|
|With thunder of war & trumpets sound, with armies of disease|
|Punisbments & deaths musterd & number'd; Saying I am God alone|
|There is no other! let all obey my principles of moral individuality|
|I have brought them from the uppermost innermost recesses|
|Of my Eternal Mind, transgressors I will rend off for ever,|