No matter how disconnected we are from it, literature somehow finds its way into our daily lives. It is the one form of art not many people truly appreciate enough like they do paintings or music, yet it remains one of the most influential forms we have. Right from the time of The Epic of Gilgamesh to John Milton’s Paradise Lost, we have had some very influential epic poems through the course of history. One such poem that finds its way into the lives of an ordinary man is Inferno by Dante, reaching us through the means of Netflix’s latest show Archive 81.
Who was Dante?
Italy has had more than its fair share of geniuses. Be it literature, arts, or politics, the country boasts at least one person so influential they changed the face of the field they were in. It was Machiavelli for politics and diplomacy, DaVinci for painting, Raphael for architecture, and Dante for poetry.
Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri (born Dante Alighieri) was an Italian poet who is considered somewhat of a landmark in Italian literature. His work was very significant during the Renaissance and helped the people find a balance between Christianity and art. People resonated with his work especially because this was an era known for its alluring yet very anti-Christian portrayal of nudity, leaving them on either extreme with nothing they could truly resonate to.
Dante’s most important work is called La Divina Commedia (The Divine Comedy). The epic poem draws from his own exile from the city of Florence but serves as an allegory. The story takes the form of an extensive journey through hell, purgatory, and paradise, divided into three parts- Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. It traces his journey from utter darkness to him finding his way to the divine light.
Inferno stays relevant even after 700 years of it being written. The only reason for this is that it is rooted in themes and questions humanity has been looking for answers to. Dante in the poem represents all of us and our endless quest to look for a supernatural being, in his case- God, that could justify our sufferings and guarantee some form of healing or restitution.
Archive 81 and Inferno
After having read what seemed like a profound explanation/ PR of an Italian poet from the Renaissance, the one question that I’m sure is bothering our readers is:
How in the world is a 21st century Netflix Original related so deeply to a poem written 700 years ago?
Allow us to break it down for you.
Dan and Dante
Most of you might’ve drawn the lines between Dan and Dante. The very name of the protagonist of the series Archive 81 draws from the name of this poet. Both Dan and Dante go through a journey in hell. Dan’s guide into Hell is named Virgil. Dante’s guide was also called Virgil, another Italian poet who Dante idolized.
Even those unfamiliar with Christian mythology will have heard the names, Adam and Eve. The couple committed a mistake that lost them their place in heaven. They were lured to do so, just like Melody was lured into the apartment in exchange for knowledge about her past in the Netflix series.
“Depart from me, ye cursed, into EVERLASTING FIRE, prepared for the devil and his angels.”
-Jesus Christ, Matthew 25:41
Another recurring theme throughout is that of fire. We constantly see a fire here and there- in Vos mansion, the Visser apartments, and Dan’s house. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this comes from the fire being the symbol of Hell. Another interpretation of this could be fire representing sins and repentance.
If the symbolism already wasn’t impressive enough, the creators also sneaked mold into the frames of the Netflix Original. Needless to say, it is symbolic of sin- persistent, uncontrollable, and abrasive.
Rose and Jess
Now, this one was quite obvious. Rose renounces God and is sacrificed. Jess, on the other hand, becomes a nun. While this is an over-simplified view of Inferno and Christianity, it isn’t far-fetched.
As we begin reaching the end of the show Archive 81, we see that the suffering the characters go through is actually for the better. The people of the cult ardently believe in salvation, which is precisely the concept of Purgatory.
The numbers do add up in Archive 81
The burning of the Visser happened 25 years ago when Dan was 8. This means that he is now 33, an age very significant in Christianity. Jesus Christ was 33 when he died and rose from death.
Another number reference in Archive 81 is the forbidden 6th floor of the Visser. In Dante’s poem, the 6th level of Hell is where the Heretics are damned for eternity. We later learn that the Vos family and the cult are, yep- you guessed it, Heretics.
Phew, that was one long list. Is there anything you think we missed out on? Let us know in the comments!