Essential Quotes

Essential Quotes by Character: Dante

Essential Passage 1: Canto I

Half way along the road we have to go,
I found myself obscured in a great forest,
Bewildered, and I knew I had lost the way.

It is hard to say what the forest was like,
How wild and rough it was, how overpowering;
Even to remember it makes me afraid.

So bitter it is, death itself is hardly more so;
Yet there was good there, and to make it clear
I will speak of other things that I perceived.
I cannot tell exactly how I got there,
I was so full of sleep at that point of my journey
When, somehow, I left the proper way.

Dante presents himself as the narrator as well as the protagonist in The Divine Comedy. He begins the tale by announcing himself as a wanderer, having reached the halfway point of his life (Dante was thirty-five when he wrote The Divine Comedy), in the year 1300, on the Thursday before Good Friday (Maundy Thursday). Using the allegory of a road through a dark forest, he states that he lost his way along the correct road. He confesses a fear at the darkness of his location, a fear that lingers even at the time of writing. Yet the forest is not totally devoid of goodness; it is not a place of utter evil (as the depths of Hell where he will soon find himself). He cannot remember how he became lost, only that he had been sleepy and thus lost the proper way.

Essential Passage 2: Canto II

But, so that you may rid yourself from fears,
I will tell you why I came, and what I heard
At the point when first I became concerned for you.

I was among those who are in suspense;
And a lady called me, so blessed and beautiful
That I at once begged her to tell me what I should do.

The shining of her eyes was more than starlight;
And she began to speak, gently and quietly,
With the voice of an angle, but in her own language:

“O courteous spirit of that Mantuan
Whose fame endures still in the world, and will
Endure as long as the world itself shall last,

My friend, who is not also the friend of fortune,
On the desert hillside, is in such difficulty
Making his way, that he turns back for fear;

And I fear that already, he may be so far lost
That I have risen too late to be of help,
From all that I have heard of him in heaven.
Now leave this place, and with your apt speech,
And whatever may be necessary for his escape,
Help him, and so bring consolation to me.”

The Roman poet Virgil has come to Dante as a mentor along his journey through the three stages of the afterlife (Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven). He explains to Dante why he has come to escort his fellow poet. Virgil explains that he is counted among those in the first level of Hell, those who are denied heaven because they had never heard the message or ignored the revelations in nature of God. He is waiting for his possible rescue and to be allowed to enter Heaven on the basis of what he did know outside of his exposure to Christianity. He explains that a lady called to him (Beatrice, the love of Dante’s life). Overcome by her beauty and her obvious blessedness, Virgil begs to know what she desires of him. She explains that she has a friend (Dante) who unfortunately is not a “friend of fortune” (luck) and is lost on the road of his life...

(The entire section is 1491 words.)

Essential Passage by Theme: Sin

Essential Passage 1: Canto I

I cannot tell exactly how I got there,
I was so full of sleep at that point of my journey
When, somehow, I left the proper way.

But when I had arrived at the foot of a hill
Which formed the far end of that menacing valley
Where fear had already entered into my heart,

I looked up, and saw the edges of its outline
Already glowing with the rays of the planet
Which shows us the right way on any road.
Then my fear was a little put at rest,
Although it had lain in the pool of my heart throughout
The night which I had passed in that pitiful state.
And, as a man who, practically winded,
Staggers out of the sea and up the beach,
Turns back to the dangerous water, and looks at it,
So my mind, which still felt as if it was in flight,
Turned back to take another look at the defile
No living person had ever passed before.

Dante, at the age of thirty-five, is travelling along the road of his life when he comes into a dark forest on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday preceding Good Friday, commemorating the memorial of the Last Supper, in which Christ shared a final meal with his apostles). Bewildered, he quickly loses his way and deviates from the path. Oblivious to his surroundings, his focus is solely on his fear. He cannot remember exactly at what point he strayed from the road, stating that he was sleepy and inattentive to his walk and thus departed from his prescribed course unintentionally. He comes to the foot of a hill at the end of the valley where the dark forest lies and sees the guiding star lighting the way. His fear lessens somewhat and he turns and looks back the way he had come. He sees the darkness from which he has emerged in the hopes of finding his way back to the correct road.

Essential Passage 2: Canto IV

The master said: "Are you not going to ask
What spirits these are which you see in this place?
I think you should know, before you go on;

They have committed no sin, and if they have merits,
That is not enough, because they are not baptised,
Which all must be, to enter the faith which is yours.
And, if they lived before the Christian era,
They did not adore God as he should be adored:
And I am one of those in that position.

For these deficiencies, and no other fault,
We are lost; there is no other penalty
Than to live here without hope, but with desire."

Virgil, the Latin poet who is serving as Dante’s mentor and guide, has brought Dante through the gates of Hell into the First Circle, which is Limbo. Dante dreads having to encounter the people who are in anguish. Although Virgil accuses him of being in fear, Dante states that it is pity, not fear, that fills him with dread. Observing the inhabitants, Dante sees individuals who appear to be sad, yet without inner or outer torment. There are no cries of remorse, only sighs of lost opportunities. Virgil explains that these are the innocent who died outside of the Church, unbaptized and unredeemed. He readily admits that they had their good qualities, but it was not enough. The rite of baptism is required for all who are accepted into the realm of Heaven. For those who died before Christ, these residents in Limbo failed to honor God as God and instead worshipped other gods or idols. They are thus condemned to remain without hope.

Essential Passage 3: Canto VIII


(The entire section is 1532 words.)