Essay on Dante's Inferno and Classical Mythology

1803 Words Jul 7th, 2010 8 Pages
Dante’s descent into Hell in Inferno, the first part of his Divine Comedy, tells of the author’s experiences in Hades as he is guided through the abyss by the Roman author, Virgil. The text is broken into cantos that coincide with the different circles and sub-circles of Hell that Dante and Virgil witness and experience. Inferno is heavily influenced by classic Greek and Roman texts and Dante makes references to a myriad of characters, myths, and legends that take place in Virgil’s Aeneid, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Some of the most important references, however, are the most obvious ones that are easily overlooked simply because of the fact that they are so blatant. Dante is being escorted through Hell by the …show more content…
Dante is doing this to give credit to the historical author and the character that Virgil plays in the Inferno. This reference to the Furies is one of the places that Dante and Virgil come very close in their individual descriptions of mythological creatures. In the Aeneid, Virgil describes Juno calling on the Furies when he says, “From the dark underworld / Home of the Furies, she aroused Allecto / Grief’s drear mistress, with her lust for war, / For angers, ambushes, and crippling crimes. / Even her father Pluto hates this figure, / […] for her myriad / Faces, for her savage looks, her head / Alive and black with snakes” (Virgil 7.443-50). This description is mirrored by Dante when he describes the three Furies saying, “Suddenly, in an instant, stood up three / Furies of Hell, stained with blood, who had the limbs / and gestures of women / and were girt with bright green water snakes; / little asps and horned serpents they had for hair, / which wound about their fierce temples” (Dante 9.37-42). Dante even uses the same type of action verbs, invoking the suddenness of the Furies’ emergence. Virgil and Dante both place emphasis on the snakes that issue from the Furies’ head, though Dante changes the color from black to green. This is another case in which Dante draws on mythological characters that would not exist if it were not for the classical texts. The descriptions in Inferno would be

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