What impact, if any, has Dante's Inferno had on how the Western world views or portrays characters like Ulysses or Virgil?

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Dante's Divine Comedy, particularly the Inferno, definitely has impacted the way people view and portray characters from the ancient world like Ulysses or Virgil. Dante gives these characters a particular twist of his own, and that twist tends to stand out in our minds even today. Let's look more closely at how this works.

We'll start with Ulysses. Dante puts the famous warrior and explorer in hell. He especially focuses on Ulysses as a trickster (think of the Trojan horse) and a wanderer who refuses to go home to his wife and son. While Homer's original Odyssey takes a much more positive view of Ulysses and emphasizes that his long delay wasn't entirely (or even mostly) his fault, Dante thinks otherwise, and Dante's version of Ulysses has stuck. We tend to think of him as a clever trickster and dissatisfied wanderer who persuades his hapless men into following him on adventures whether they want to or not. Think about Tennyson's poem "Ulysses," which shows the title character as restless, even when he gets home, and ready to set out on adventure again.

As for Virgil, Dante presents him as poet extraordinaire and wise guide. Anyone who has read the Inferno cannot help recalling Virgil as the one who leads Dante through hell and purgatory, explaining the nature of the places and their inhabitants as they travel. Indeed, Virgil becomes a representative of human reason. Many other works of literature have a Virgil-like character who guides the protagonist on his journey and offers plenty of advice. Think, for instance, of Dumbledore in the Harry Potter series.

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