Dante Alighieri's Inferno: A Polysemous Literary Work

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“Inferno”: A Polysemous Literary Work In the Divine Comedy written by Dante Alighieri, the title of this epic poem may imply that this timeless piece of literary work contains the writings of wit and humor. However, the beginning of the poem begins with Dante waking up “Midway upon the journey of our life” in a dark forest before embarking on a journey through nine circles of hell (Longfellow 7). The Divine Comedy is composed of three segments: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. While the poem is arranged into three different divisions Inferno is the “part that has been met with most fervent critical response” (Lummus 63). One reason for such critical response may be because Dante is not only the author of Inferno; he is also the poem’s protagonist. …show more content…
Dante displays allegory in the first few lines of the poem with the symbolization of being lost in an unfamiliar place as a representation of not being on the proper path “For the straightforward pathway had been lost” (I.3). The straightforward path that Dante is referring to is the path to God, mentioned in Psalms 23 in the Bible (Ps. 4). While traveling through the woods Dante sees light and attempts to ascend to it, but the appearance of a leopard, lion, and a she-wolf stop him. The three beasts have been said to represent the sins of greed, envy, and pride. The arrival of the three beasts when Dante is trying to reach the light represents how sin is preventing Dante from reaching the light, the symbolization of God (Marchesi). Dante returns back to the dark valley after encountering the three beasts and soon after finds Virgil, his most admired poet. Virgil tells Dante that because the three beasts are blocking the pathway that ascends the hill that they must proceed to a different pathway. Unfortunately for Dante, Virgil tells him that they before they can ascend the hill that they must pass through hell and purgatory. Dante is unsure if he is worthy enough to complete the journey, and Virgil explains to Dante how he knew to meet Dante to stand as his guide. Virgil tells Dante about how three women in heaven were looking out for him and wanted to help him. An unnamed woman informed St. Lucia about Dante’s demise and in turn told Beatrice, Dante’s beloved. Beatrice is a blessed figure in heaven and asked Virgil to serve as Dante’s guide through hell. Dante seems to feel relief knowing that Beatrice is in heaven and feels comforted that the three women in heaven are looking over him, which gives Dante courage to move forward towards the mouth of hell. The introduction of Inferno sets an intense background of the scary position Dante is in. The opening of the

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