Who do you feel is more of a hero, Dante or Virgil (from the first 33 cantos) of the Divine Comedy of Dante?

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One would argue that Virgil is more of a hero in the earlier cantos, because he takes Dante by the hand, so to speak, and leads him on the first, faltering steps on his long, dangerous journey. As we're still in the earliest stages of that journey in the first...

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One would argue that Virgil is more of a hero in the earlier cantos, because he takes Dante by the hand, so to speak, and leads him on the first, faltering steps on his long, dangerous journey. As we're still in the earliest stages of that journey in the first 33 cantos, Dante hasn't had much of a chance to show any of the characteristics one normally associates with a hero. There's still much that Dante has to learn as he proceeds on his epic journey, and so he lacks the requisite wisdom that Virgil possesses (and which Virgil does not hesitate to impart).

Virgil symbolizes the rediscovered wisdom of antiquity that so animated the spirit of Renaissance humanism. In addition, he was highly esteemed throughout Christendom as a virtuous pagan. He was widely believed to have prefigured the birth of Christ in his fourth Eclogue, so he enjoyed a privileged position in the pantheon of the pagan learned. It is this exalted status which makes Virgil a hero before the action of The Divine Comedy even begins—a status burnished by his wise, patient guidance of Dante throughout the Inferno and the Purgatorio.

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In a work as long as and complex as Dante's Divine Comedy, there will be differences of opinion. However, it does appear Virgil is the greater hero for several reasons.

First, we need to realize that Dante's world is a Christian world. For this reason it is very odd that Virgil is Dante's guide. In other words, the pagan Virgil is a guide to the Christian Dante. This alone shows that there is a heroic quality that Virgil possess.

Second, Virgil symbolizes and quality that was becoming more and more prized, reason. In fact, Virgil is characterized as the pinnacle of human rationality. This is why he is Dante's guide through hell and purgatory. For example, Virgil seems to know everything. He knows to throw dirt in Cerberus' face to bypass him; he also knows to call Geryon to get a ride. In short, he is the guide par excellence.

Third, Dante says these words to Virgil, when he first meets him:

"O light and honor of all other poets, may my long study and the intense love that made me search your volume serve me now.  You are my master and my author"(Inf. I 82-85). 

From these words alone, we can see that who the hero really is, at least according to Dante's opinion.

 

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