Canto 1 Summary

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Last Updated February 28, 2023.

Dante, now middle-aged and halfway through the journey of life, falls into a waking slumber and loses his path. When he awakens on the night of Maundy Thursday—a Holy Day celebrating the Last Supper—he finds himself in a dark forest, with no recollection of how he arrived there. The road he intended to take has vanished, leaving him disoriented. He is agonizingly alone in this unfamiliar valley, yet his spirits are lifted upon seeing the sun's morning beams shining over the nearby mountain.

While climbing the mountain, Dante encounters three different animals. The first is a leopard, which briefly blocks his way but does not inspire much fear. The second creature he encounters is a ferocious and ravenous lion who charges toward him aggressively. Finally, Dante encounters the most terrifying of the three: a savage female wolf whose presence frightens him so much that he feels unable to continue his journey.

As Dante considers how to move forward, he is visited by the spirit of the poet Virgil, who informs him that there is only one way to bypass the terrifying wolf forestalling his progress. He must take a different route; only then will a greyhound arrive and capture the wolf, returning it to Hell. 

Acknowledging Dante’s ignorance of the landscape, Virgil offers to lead him along the path, explaining that they will pass by many lost souls trapped in eternal stasis. Eventually, another guide will lead Dante further, taking him to a city that Virgil himself cannot enter. Dante agrees to Virgil's proposal, and the pair embark on their journey.

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Canto 2 Summary