Dante's Inferno Questions and Answers
by Dante Alighieri

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What is Virgil's advice to Dante as spoken at the gate of hell?

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As Dante and Virgil approach the gates of Hell, Dante starts getting more than a little scared, not least because the inscription above the gates says "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." Thankfully, the wise pagan is on hand to guide Dante through this difficult phase of his journey. He smiles at Dante and offers him this sage advice:

Here you must renounce your slightest doubt and kill your every weakness. Leave behind all thoughts of safety first or be shut out. (canto 3)

That's easy for Virgil to say, we might think. He is, after all, a virtuous pagan, so Hell holds no fears for him. But Dante, as a Christian, can't afford to be complacent; he may not be dead, but he's still understandably worried about the ultimate fate of his soul. However, we shouldn't forget that Dante is in the early stages of his epic journey, so he still has much to learn about the meaning of sin.

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nylawman1 | Student

Virgil responds to the obvious trepidation of Dante with these words:

"Here it behooves to leave all fears behind; all cowardice behooveth here to die. For now the place I told thee of we find, where thou the miserable folk shouldst see who the true good of reason have resigned."

Virgil instructs Dante that for him this is not a place where his natural terror of the punishments and torturous environs of Hell are (for him) to experience first hand, but the gateway where he must without fear, observe the lessons contained in the Inferno: the lessons that those who have abandoned the true path, the path of rectitude, now dwell at the shadow levels of a place where the very entrance warns in the original Italian, "lasciate ogni speranza, voi ch'entrate."

Abandon all hope ye who enter.

For the inhabitants of the Inferno, an eternal place of destruction, for Dante at the gates, it is to serve as a portal to his instruction, that he might not vary from the true path ordained by God.

It is worthy of note that the opening lines of the Inferno, (again in Italian) are "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita, mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
ché la diritta via era smarrita."

In the middle of the road of life, Dante found himself in a dark wood, having lost the "straight path."

Now, while living, Dante will learn that the righteous path while living, can save him from the tortures reserved for the damned dead, who "from the true good of reason, have resigned."

To appreciate the beauty of the original Italian, accompanied by an English translation, visit https://www.thoughtco.com/inferno-canto-i-4092995