Who is Dante’s traveling companion, and what is significant about this person serving as Dante’s guide in Dante's Inferno?  

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Erin DuBuque eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In the Inferno, which is the first part of the Divine Comedy, Italian writer Dante Alighieri describes his journey through the nine concentric circles of Hell. His companion and guide is Publius Virgilius Maro (or Virgil for short), a Roman poet who lived from 70 to 19 BC. Virgil is considered one of the greatest of Roman poets, and his epic masterpiece Aeneid is regarded as one of the greatest works of literature in the Latin language.

Dante considers Virgil to be a master poet and an inspiration. For this reason he is willing to accept Virgil as his guide. As he writes,

Thou art my master, and my author thou,

Thou art alone the one from whom I took

The beautiful style that has done honor to me.

Virgil replies to Dante:

Therefore I think and judge it for thy best

Thou follow me, and I will be thy guide . . .

In the Inferno, Virgil represents human wisdom and reason. He is able to instruct Dante on the functions and structures of Hell and admonish him when he is too sympathetic to the damned sinners. However, it is significant that Virgil's virtues cannot provide him with salvation. Because Virgil died before the birth of Christ, he is unable to escape the confines of Hell. Once Dante climbs out of Hell and into Purgatory, at a certain point in the journey, Virgil is replaced as a guide by a woman named Beatrice.

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Christopher Jerde eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Virgil is Dante's guide through both the Inferno and Purgatory. Virgil was a real historical figure, an Ancient Roman poet who wrote the epic The Aeneid. By having Virgil serve as his guide, Dante is indirectly sharing his intention to create a Catholic epic poem, the equivalent of Virgil's tale of the Trojan people and the founding of Rome.

This guiding can also be seen as representative of how artistic inspiration...

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