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The Inferno is an account of Dante’s own journey, guided by the ancient Roman poet Virgil, through the nine levels of hell. During this journey Dante encounters and holds conversations with the souls of the damned. At the end of the journey, at the bottom of hell, Dante must face Satan and confront the problem of how to escape from the underworld.CharactersDante is the author and the leading character of Inferno, the focus of all action and interaction with other characters (Dante, 2001). Dante chose to present his fictional poem as a record of events that actually happened to him, because of this, a wide gulf between Dante the poet and Dante the character encompass the poem. For instance, Dante the poet often portrays Dante the character as compassionate and sympathetic at the sight of suffering sinners, but Dante the poet chose to place them in Hell and devised their suffering. As a result, if Dante the character is at all representative of Dante the poet, he is a very simplified version: compassionate, fearful of danger, and perplexed morally and intellectually by his experience in Hell. Dante’s character gradually learns to abandon his sympathy and adopt a merciless attitude toward the castigation of sinners, which he views as merely a likeness of godly justice.Virgil is Dante’s escort through the depths of Hell (Dante, 2001). The spirit of Virgil that appears in Inferno has been condemned to an eternity in Hell because he lived prior to Christ’s appearance on Earth – thus eliminating the possibility of redemption in Him. Nonetheless, Virgil has received orders to lead Dante through Hell on his spiritual quest. Virgil proves a clever, quick-witted, and resourceful character, but he often seems powerless in protecting Dante from the true dangers of Hell. Virgil is a symbolic depiction of human reason—both in its immense power and in its inferiority to faith in God.Beatrice is one of the blessed in Heaven, Beatrice aids Dante’s journey by asking an angel to find Virgil and ask him to lead Dante through Hell. Dante fell passionately in love with her as a young man and never fell out of it (Dante 2001). She has a limited role in Inferno but Dante’s entire imaginary journey throughout the afterlife aims, in part, to find Beatrice, whom he has lost on Earth because of her early death. Beatrice is the allegorical representation of spiritual love.Charon is a figure that Dante appropriates from Greek mythology, Charon is an old man who ferries souls across the river Acheron to Hell.Paolo and Francesca da Rimini is a pair of lovers condemned to the Second Circle of Hell for an adulterous love affair that they began after reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere.Lucifer is the prince of Hell, also referred to as Satan (The Divine Comedy, 2006). Lucifer resides at the bottom of the Ninth and last Circle of Hell, beneath the Earth’s surface, his body jutting through the planet’s center (Carson, 2002). He is an enormous giant with three heads. He does not speak for his three mouths are busy chewing three of history’s greatest traitors: Judas, the betrayer of Christ, and Cassius and Brutus, the betrayers of Julius Caesar.Minos is the king of Crete in Greek mythology (Minos, 2006). Dante portrays Minos as a giant beast who stands at the Second Circle of Hell, deciding where the souls of sinners shall be sent for torment (Dante, 2001). Upon hearing a given sinner’s confession, Minos curls his tail around himself a specific number of times to represent the circle of Hell to which the soul should be consigned.Pope Boniface VIII is a notoriously corrupt pope who reigned from 1294 to 1303  (Pope Boniface VIII, 1907).  Boniface made a concerted attempt to increase the political might of the Catholic Church and was thus a political enemy of Dante, who advocated a separation of church and state.Farinata is a Ghibelline political leader from Dante’s era who resides among the Heretics in the Sixth Circle of Hell. Farinata is doomed to continue his intense obsession with Florentine politics, which he is now helpless to affect.Phlegyas is the boatman who rows Dante and Virgil across the river Styx.Filippo Argenti is a Black Guelph, a political enemy of Dante who is now in the Fifth Circle of Hell (Dante, 2001). Argenti resides among the Wrathful in the river Styx.Nessus is a Centaur who carries Dante through the First Ring of the Seventh Circle of Hell.Pier della Vigna is a former advisor to Emperor Frederick II. He commits suicide and spends eternity in the form of a tree.Geryon is the massive serpentine monster that transports Dante and Virgil from the Seventh to the Eighth Circle of Hell.Malacoda is the leader of the Malabranche, the demons who guard the Fifth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell (Dante, 2001). Malacoda, meaning “evil tail”) intentionally furnishes Virgil and Dante with erroneous directions.Vanni Fucci is a thief punished in the Seventh Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell who prophesies the defeat of the White Guelphs (Dante, 2001). A defiant soul, Fucci curses God and aims an obscene gesture at Him before Dante journeys on.Ulysses is the great hero of the Homeric epics The Iliad and The Odyssey. Ulysses is a bold and cunning man who is imprisoned in the Eighth Pouch of the Eighth Circle of Hell among those guilty of Spiritual Theft.Guido da Montefeltro is an advisor to Pope Boniface VIII. He was promised anticipatory forgiveness for a sin prior to the perpetration of the sin itself. Da Montefeltro was not forgiven, since he cannot repent for a sin that he has not committed yet.Antaeus is the giant who transports Dante and Virgil from the Eighth to the Ninth Circle of Hell (Dante 2001).Count Ugolino is a traitor destined to the Second Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell (Dante, 2001). Ugolino chews on the head of another damned traitor, Archbishop Ruggieri. When Ruggieri imprisoned Ugolino and his sons, denying them food, Ugolino was driven to eat the corpses of his starved sons.Fra Alberigo and Branca d’Oria are sinners damned to the Third Ring of the Ninth Circle of Hell (Dante 2001). Fra Alberigo and Branca d’Oria, differ in such a way that their crimes were considered so great that devils snatched their souls from their bodies while still alive.Dante’s journey presented as similar to that of Christ: redeeming and rescuing some of the souls in hell, veiled suggestions of many surprising changes that are to occur in the future to the structure of hell and its inhabitants. The ultimate challenge of the text is that of embracing love, forgiving, and rejecting anger and evil; reunion with Beatrice as symbol of that accomplishmentReferencesAlighieri, Dante. (2001). The Inferno. New York: Signet Classic.Ciaran Carson. (2002). The Inferno of Dante Alighieri. London: Granta Books.The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume II. (1907 )  Pope Boniface VIII. New York: Robert Appleton Company.Wikipedia: The free Encylcopedia. (2006). Minos. Retrieved November 8, 2006 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minos.Wikipedia: The free Encylcopedia. (2006). The Divine Comedy. Retrieved November 8, 2006 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Divine_Comedy.;;

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