The Divine Comedy Questions and Answers
by Dante Alighieri

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What is Virgil's advice to Dante, as spoken at the Gates of Hell?

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Virgil leads Dante to the Gates of Hell in Canto III of The Divine Comedy. Upon reaching the entrance to the underworld, Dante is initially confused by the words written across the Gates:

Through me you enter the tormented city,

Through me you come to eternal pain,

Through me you join with the desolate souls.

It was justice that moved the high One who made me

I was brought into being by the power divine,

By the sum of all knowledge, the wellspring of love.

Before me was no thing that was not eternal

And I will endure throughout endless time

Abandon all hope, all ye who now enter.

The description acts to not only warn anyone who passes underneath them but also to show that, despite the horrible nature of what lies within, it is all necessary, as it is ordained by God. When Dante asks Virgil about the meaning of the words, Virgil says "with clear-headed wisdom" the following:

It is best now to put aside all of your doubt And put far behind you all faint-hearted fear.

We arrive at that place of which I have spoken, Where you'll see dire souls in deep agony

Bereft of all reason, without understanding.

Here, Virgil lays it all out for Dante. Essentially, he is saying that Dante needs to put all doubt and fear out of his mind, because what they are about to experience will require sureness and bravery. Virgil tells him they have arrived at Hell, and within the gates, there is only suffering and confusion. Similar to the assurance provided by the gates themselves—that even though the realm within is terrible, it is the will of God—Dante then says that Virgil, as if to offer support, "gently rested his hand upon mine/ And knowingly smiled, I found consolation." The two men share a brief moment of connection, steeling themselves for the chaos and sorrow that is to come.

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