Introduction to Dante’s Inferno. “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here”. Dante Alighieri was born in Florence in 1265. Italy was divided between the partisans of the Emperor, the Ghibellines, and the partisans of the Pope, the Guelfs. This caused chaos.
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Introduction to Dante’s Inferno
“Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here”
1. Dante- the author and the main character
2. Virgil- Dante's guide through the Inferno and the Purgatorio. The real historical Virgil was long-dead even in Dante's time. Dante, himself a poet, had admired Virgil's poetry greatly and so "reincarnates" him to be his guide on the journey. Virgil represents reason.
3. Beatrice- while not actually a character in the Inferno ( she does not appear until the Paradisio) her influence is felt throughout the whole of the Divine Comedy. She represents divine love or faith.
Location: The Dark Wood Dante, in mid-life, finds himself lost in a dark and treacherous wood. It is Easter time -- Good Friday. In the distance he glimpses what he thinks is a way out, but immediately he is confronted with three wild beasts -- a leopard, a lion and a she-wolf. These creatures symbolize three types of error or sin: the leopard symbolizes mean-spiritedness and fraud, the lion represents violence, and the she-wolf represents unrestrained passions. Dante stands frozen in fear when suddenly the figure of Virgil appears. Virgil explains that he has been "hired" to guide Dante through the terrors of both the Inferno and the Purgatorio.
Dante is terrified and reluctant to make the journey. Virgil explains that he has been sent by Beatrice to aid Dante.
The poets make their way to the vestibule of hell. They must pass through a gateway with the following message carved into the stone: Abandon all hope ye who enter here. This place is like an anteroom or a foyer -- it is not part of Hell-proper so to speak. Here Dante -- and we, the readers -- see the plan of symbolic retribution that will make up the rest of the story. Dante is horrified at the sight before him. He is viewing the punishment of the uncommitted. Dante sees the souls of those who, in life, took no stand, kept no promises, honored no loyalties. Their punishment is to forever chase after an ever-moving flag, all the while surrounded by horrible fetid air full of stinging bees and wasps. As the insects bite the sinners, maggots emerge to suck the pus that oozes from their sores. Dante now crosses the river Acheron to visit the First Circle of the Inferno.
Circle Eight is divided into ten pockets: