Dante’s Inferno

Dante Alighieri

September 27, 2003

I. Setting: Italy


II. Characters:

Dante‑ author and protagonist. He is the focus of all interaction. Throughout his journey, he gradually learns to abandon his sympathy for a more pitiless attitude towards the punishments of sinners.

Virgil‑ Dante’s guide through Hell. He is the spirit sent by his beloved Beatrice to help Dante on his journey.

Beatrice‑ one of the blessed in Heaven. He fell in love with her early and never fell out of love with her though she died so young.

Charon‑ the elderly ferryman who takes souls across the river Acheron to Hell.

Lucifer‑ the Prince of Hell. Resides in the ninth circle of Hell.

III. Plot: On the evening of Good Friday in the year 1300, Dante travels through the dark woods. He has lost his way. He walks fearfully through the forest as the sun shines on the mountains. He attempts to climb the mountain, but his way is blocked by a leopard, a lion, and a she‑wolf. Petrified by the three beasts, Dante returns to the forest. Here he encounters the ghost of Virgil, a great Roman poet, who is there to guide Dante back onto his path. Virgil tells him that this path will take him through Hell and that they eventually will reach Heaven, where Dante’s lovely Beatrice waits for him. He adds in his discussion, that Beatrice and two holy women sent Virgil to guide Dante upon seeing him lost in the woods.

Virgil leads Dante through the gates of Hell. The haunting gates are marked with an inscription that reads: "ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE" Dante and Virgil then enter the outer region of Hell, the Ante‑Inferno. Here all of the souls who could not commit to good or evil must run in a never‑ending chase after a blank banner. All the while, hornets bite them and worms lick up their blood. Dante sees their suffering and pities them. They are then guided across the river Acheron by a ferryman names Charon. Limbo, the first circle of Hell, houses Pagans, including Virgil and many other great poets and writers who died without knowing of Christ. After meeting Horace, Ovid, and Lucan, Dante proceeds to the second circle of Hell, reserved for those guilty of being lustful. At the border of the second circle, the monster Minos skulks assigning condemned souls to their rightful punishments. The number of times he curls his tail indicates which circle the condemned must go to. Inside the second circle, Dante watches lustful souls swirl in a terrible storm. Dante then meets Francesca, who tells him her story of her doomed love affair with her husbands brother. The sinful relationship landed the two of them in Hell.

In the third circle of Hell lies the gluttons. Here they must lie in mud with rain made of feces(among other nasty things) falling on them. In the fourth circle, the greedy and the extravagant must charge at one another with giant boulders. The fifth circle of Hell contains the river Styx. The Styx river is a swampy, stinky area where the acrimonious spend all of eternity fighting each other. The sulky are bound beneath the waters to choke on the mud. Dante sees Filippo Argenti, who happens to be a former political enemy, and is delighted to see other souls tearing him to pieces. Virgil then leads Dante to the walls of the city of Dis, which is contained in the larger region of Hell. The demons guarding the gates refuse to open them for Virgil. Just then an angelic messenger arrives from Heaven to force the gates open.

The sixth circle of Hell houses the religious outcasts, and there, Dante encounters another political leader Farinata. A deep valley leads to the first ring of the seventh circle of Hell. Those who were violent toward others spend eternity in a river of boiling blood reside in the first ring of the seventh circle. Virgil and Dante encounter some Centaurs (half man, half horse). One of them, Nessus, takes them to the second ring of the seventh circle. There they see those who were violent to themselves(suicides). These souls must endure eternity in the form of trees. There, Dante speaks to Pier della Vigna,