Dante’s Inferno opens in the setting on Good Friday in the year 1300. The voyager-narrator, Dante Alghieri, is lost in a dark forest in the middle of the night. Dante doesn’t recall how he came into the woods and blames it on how he was so full of sleep at the point where he abandoned the right path. Right as he is about to lose hope, he sees the sun rising over the mountainside and as he attempts to reach it, Dante is stopped by three beasts; a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf. Dante becomes afraid and retreats to lower ground when he is met by a faint figure. This ghostly character turns out to be Virgil, a Roman poet, sent to lead Dante back to his path, the top of the mountain. Virgil warns Dante that to reach their destination, they must go through Hell. As Virgil and Dante begin their journey to Hell, Dante begins to question his worthiness to visit the deathless world. When Dante asked Virgil about his worthiness, his guide comforts him by saying that his beloved Beatrice, Dante’s infatuation and one of the three Ladies of Heaven, sent Virgil to bring Dante to Heaven. Dante is heartened in this reply and prays upon the Muses for safe voyage so he can see his beloved Beatrice in Heaven. Gate of Hell
Virgil leads Dante to the Gate of Hell, which is marked with the inscription, “ALL HOPE ABANDON, YE WHO ENTER IN.” Virgil and Dante go through the gate to the outlying region of Hell, The Ante-Inferno, where cowardly angels the souls who in life did not commit to either good nor evil, are forces to chase a blank banner while being stung by hornets and worms lap their blood. As Dante witnesses this punishment, he feels pity and repugnance for their suffering. As they go through the crowd, Dante notices a big crowd of people gathering on the banks of a river and asks Virgil why they seem so eager to cross over. Virgil responds by telling him to quiet down; he will soon find out why when they get to the banks of the river Acheron, one of the five rivers of the Greek Underworld. When they arrive at the banks, Charon, the ferryman, confronts them and refuses to let them cross because Dante is not dead. Virgil tell Charon that his passage is approved by God and Charon is forced to ferry them across the river. As they are crossing the river, a violent earthquake scares Dante “and like a man whom sleep has seized, I fell.” Circle One
Dante awakens in the first circle, or Limbo, where the virtuous pagans, unbaptized babies, and worthy people who lived before Christ. The setting in Limbo is silent, with the only sounds being the sighing of the residents and the crying of the infants. The first circle is surrounded by green fields and a castle that has seven gates, representing the seven virtues. Virgil, who resides in Limbo, leads Dante through the castle where they meet four poets; Aristotle, Lucan, Hoarace, and Ovid. They are in Hell because they lived before Christ and were never baptized into Christianity. After passing through the solemn circle, Dante and Virgil also meet others such as Plato, Socrates, Democritus, and Ptolemy. Virgil leads Dante to the border of the second circle, which Dante observes as “to a place where nothing shines.” Circle Two
As the two protagonists head from the first to second circle, they hear an increasing number of wails and screams of the souls. Here at the border they meet the monster Minos,
Who standeth horribly and snarls,
Examines the transgressions at the entrance;
Judges, and sends according as he grids him.
This mostly says that Minos is the one who assigns condemned souls to their punishments. He curls his tail around himself a certain number of times, indicating which number circle the sinner must go to. After Virgil convinces Minos to let them enter, Dante describes the second circle as a “place mute of all light, which bellows as the sea does in a tempest, if by opposing winds ‘t is combated.” This circle is dedicated to those overcome by lust. Dante condemns...
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