Seven Deadly Sins
Seven Deadly Sins: The seven capital or cardinal sins that the medieval Christian church believed were spiritually fatal, absent complete penitence on the part of the sinner. The seven sins were divided into three categories: the sins of the Devil, which included pride, wrath (anger), and envy; the sin[s] of the world, namely, avarice (greed); and the sins of the flesh, which included lust, gluttony, and sloth (often defined as laziness, but in fact more similar to what we would today call depression). Of the deadly sins, pride was considered the worst, since it was seen as the cause of Satan’s original fall from grace. The Seven Deadly Sins were common subject matter for medieval (including Middle English) and Renaissance literature, especially allegories.
Countering each of the deadly sins was a corresponding virtue (together, the Seven Contrary Virtues): humility (against pride), patience (wrath), kindness (envy), liberality (avarice), chastity (lust), abstinence (gluttony), and diligence (sloth).
EXAMPLES: In very different ways, Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Parson’s Tale,” one of the Canterbury Tales (c. 1387), and the fourth canto of the first book of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (1590, 1596) present and characterize each of the Seven Deadly Sins. David Fincher’s film Seven (1997) features a serial killer who targets his victims based on the Seven Deadly Sins.