The Dark Wood “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray

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Dante’s Inferno

    • Cantos I & II

The Dark Wood

  • “Midway in our life’s journey, I went astray

  • from the straight road and woke to find myself

  • alone in a dark wood” (1-3).

    • Dante’s age- 35 (according to bible)
    • Pretense for the poem
      • He was heading down the wrong path in life

The Dark Wood

  • Characterization

  • “I never saw so drear,so rank, so arduous a wilderness!/ Its very memory gives a shape to fear/ Death could scarce be more bitter than that place! (4-6)

  • “How I came to it I cannot rightly say,/ so drugged and loose with sleep had I become/ when I first wandered there from the True Way.” (10-13)

The Dark Wood

  • Symbol of Divine Illumination

  • “…Its shoulders glowed already with the sweet rays of that planet/ whose virtue leads men straight on every road,/ and the shining strengthened men against the fright “(17-19)

  • Reflects the way to heaven

  • Seeking salvation

  • The True Path

Struggle of Sin and Virtue

  • Struggles to climb

    • “I faced a spotted Leopard, all tremor and flaw” (33)
    • “...I shook with dread/ at the sight of a great Lion” (43-44)
    • “...a She-Wolf drove upon me, a starved horror” (48)
  • Struggles with the animals

    • Leopard- lust
    • Lion- pride
    • She-wolf- envy (avarice)
  • Animals represent the 3 divisions of hell

  • 7 deadly sins: greed, gluttony, lust, envy, sloth, wrath, pride

The Dark Wood

  • Easter season, Good Friday- resurrection of Christ “…with him to light the new creation…the sweet season of commemoration” (39-40).

    • Rebirth/ resurrection
    • 1300 A.D.
  • Symbolization of straight road and dark wood

  • Serves as a means to transition Dante and Virgil to the entrance of hell


Dante’s Guide Virgil

  • Shade

  • Sub Julio

  • Virgil is the symbol of Human Reason- he will lead Dante through hell


  • “…I will be your guide

  • and lead you forth through an eternal place.

  • There you shall see the ancient spirits tried

  • In endless pain, and hear their lamentation

  • as each bemoans the second death of souls” (106-110)


  • “To which , if it is still your wish to climb,/ a worthier spirit shall be sent to guide you./ With her shall I leave you, for the King of Time,/ Who reigns on high, forbids me to come there…”(115-117)

Canto II The Descent

  • Why Dante?

    • “I was a soul
    • among the souls of Limbo, when a lady
    • so blessed and beautiful, I prayed her
    • to order and command my will, called to me.
    • Her eyes were kindled from the lamps of Heaven.
    • Her voice reached through me, tender, sweet, and low.
    • An angels voice, a music of its own” (53-57)
  • Beatrice saw Dante taking the wrong path

Canto II Beatrice

  • “Beatrice who send you to him. I come from the blessed height for which I yearn (heaven). Love called me here”

  • She worried that Dante would be lead astray so wanted to show him the right way

  • Lucia- allegory that represents Divine Light- Patron Saint of Eyesight (saw Dante)

The Descent

  • Beatrice

  • “…my dearest friend, and fortune’s foe, has strayed/ onto a friendless shore and stands beset/ by such distresses, that he turns afraid/ From the True Way, and news of him in Heaven/ rumors my dread he is already lost.” (61-64)

    • Says love led her to help
    • Dante’s love of his life in reality

The Descent

  • How is Beatrice able to come to hell?

    • “But tell me how you dare venture thus
    • so far from the wide heaven of your joy
    • to which your thoughts yearn back from the abyss” (84-86)
  • “I am so made by God’s all-seeing mercy

  • your anguish does not touch me, and the flame

  • of this great burning has no power upon me” (91-93)

        • Power of God allows her

Lucia and Rachel

  • “’Thy faithful one is sorely pressed;/ in his distresses I commend him to thee/ Lucia/…saying to me Beatrice, true praise of God,/ why dost thy sake he left the vulgar crowd’”(98-105)

  • Beatrice = Divine love

  • Lucia = patron St. of eyesight

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