Virgil’s Importance In Dante’s Inferno

The Divine Comedy is an epic narrative poem by a great Italian poet and scholar, Dante Alighieri. In the poem, Dante’s character has to travel through Hell (Inferno) and Purgatory (Purgatorio) before being brought into Heaven (Paradiso). During Dante’s exploration of hell, he is accompanied by Virgil, a mentor figure who acts as the source of wisdom and teaches the main character about good and evil. The importance of Virgil’s presence in the poem is due to the fact that his guidance is essential for Dante to move forward in his journey, in both the literal and metaphorical sense.

Firstly, Virgil’s character plays the role of a physical guide for the main character. Without additional guidance, it is likely that Dante would have gone astray or turned back early in his journey. Virgil is established as a guide immediately as he appears and orders Dante to simply follow (Carroll 9). In addition to that, Virgil is the representation of human reason and wisdom. According to Re, Virgil is chosen by Beatrice to guide Dante due to his ‘high council’ (5). It was essential for the figure accompanying the main character to be a metaphorical source of light from whom he could learn along the way.

Furthermore, Virgil’s character represents the pagans’ commitment to their beliefs and values. Despite being damned, Virgil refuses to reconsider his views and remains in Limbo to protect his reasoning (Davis 3). As per Cui, Vigil’s objectivity brings additional perspective to Dante’s journey and allows him to teach Dante to get past his pity for the damned (4). Thus, Virgil’s presence was necessary to expand on the importance of being true to one’s beliefs and provide the foundation for Dante’s moral development.

In conclusion, Virgil’s presence plays a crucial role for Dante’s character in Inferno. He serves as a physical guide, represents human reason and wisdom, and teaches Dante to overcome his biases and look at the essence of things. Virgil helps the main character grow and develop and becomes the figure without which his journey would not have been as fulfilling and eye-opening as it was.

Works Cited

Carroll, William E. “Lust, Literature, and Damnation: Reading Dante’s Divine Comedy.” Sapientia, vol. 76, no. 247, 2021, pp. 7-26.

Cui, Aomeng. “On the Act of Falling: The Role of Physical Movement within Dante’s Inferno.” Agora, vol. 27, 2018, pp. 1-7.

Davis, Kathryn E. “[S]tupor non meno”: What Virgil Saw.” Renascence, vol. 74, no. 1, 2022, pp. 3-21.

Re, Massimo. “A Look into Dante’s Inferno: Praise through Proactivity.”Italian 347: Out of Florence: Dante in Exile, 2022, pp. 1-11.