Dante's Inferno Questions and Answers
by Dante Alighieri

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How does Dante feel about Virgil?

In the Inferno, Dante admires Virgil greatly as both a poet and a person. Dante refers to Virgil as "the fountain that freely pours so rich a stream of speech," and Dante's choice in making Virgil be his character's guide through the circles of hell shows the amount of respect he has for the poet. However, the fact that Dante places Virgil in limbo, among other things, also contributes to the revelation that Dante thinks his work superior to Virgil's.

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Dante the character adores Virgil even before the two meet. An admirer of his epic poems and his sense of virtue and reason, Dante regards Virgil as a mentor figure, going so far as to call him "my teacher and my author" once he confirms his identity. The student-teacher bond is what characterizes their relationship as they travel through hell and purgatory, with Virgil even growing occasionally impatient with his swooning, naive pupil when Dante shows too much pity for the damned. Regardless of these outbursts of impatience, Dante continues to admire and rely on Virgil as they journey through the nine circles of hell.

No doubt, Dante the author also admires Virgil as a fellow writer. Virgil's own epic The Aeneid is a major influence on the Divine Comedy as a whole, particularly the episode of Aeneas's descent into the underworld. There, Aeneas encounters the souls of the dead experiencing specific punishments or rewards related to their conduct in life, much like Dante does during his afterlife journey. However, the inclusion of Virgil as a character in hell (even if he's just in limbo) does suggest that even though Dante views Virgil as his mentor, he believes his own Christian work supplants the poetry of his pagan predecessor.

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