What advice does Virgil give Dante at the gate of Hell in Dante's Inferno?

Quick answer:

In Canto III of the Inferno, Virgil leads Dante to the gate of Hell, where they read the infamous inscription sometimes translated as “Abandon all hope, you who enter here.” Dante comments that the inscription, which also warns them that they are about to pass into a place where God punishes lost souls with eternal torment, is a bit intimidating. Virgil then advises Dante to leave behind any doubts or fears he has about what he is about to see. If he is to learn from this journey, he must have faith and accept the suffering he observes as divine justice. Virgil offers Dante his hand, which Dante finds reassuring, and the two pass through the gate and into Hell.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In canto III of the Inferno, Dante and Virgil reach the gate of hell. Dante is absolutely terrified. This is for good reason, too. He can hardly see a thing, but he can hear a lot; he hears a hideous cacophony of groans, screams, and cries emanating from the swarm of sinners within. No wonder he starts crying.

The fabled inscription above the gate ends with the infamous words:

ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE.

It is fair to say that Dante needs a bit of moral support at this moment—and what better person to provide it than noble Virgil, wisest of all the pagans. However, Virgil is not there to hold Dante's hand; he will guide him, but ultimately, it must be Dante who digs deep to find the courage within himself to continue on his perilous journey:

 Here you must give up all irresolution;

All cowardice must here be put to death.

This is not so much advice as a stern, fatherly imperative. Dante must be big, brave and confront his demons, both internal and external. However, Virgil's softer side soon comes to the fore. He puts his hand on Dante's hand and smiles as they press ahead.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Dante's classic, The Divine Comedy, there are three parts to the entire work: Inferno, Purgatory and Paradise.

The question at hand is answered in Inferno, Canto 3. As Dante and Virgil, his guide on this fearfully wonderful quest, arrive at Hell they discover a gate on which is written -

"To enter through the lost city, go through me. Through me you go to meet a suffering unceasing and eternal. You will be with people who, through me, lost everything. My maker, moved by justice, lives above. Through Him, The Holy Power, I was made - made by the height of wisdom and of first love, whose laws all those in here once disobeyed. From now on every day feels like your last forever, let that be your greatest fear. Your future now is to forget the past. Forget your hopes, they were what brought you here."

These lines introduce several ideas, such as the fact that this place was not created by the Devil but by God, not for the purposes of evil but because He was "moved by justice" and "the height of wisdom." Regrets and sorrows, which are perhaps our greatest fears in life, are revealed to be what haunts us after death.

As they prepare to enter through the gate so that their quest may continue, Virgil does indeed have advice for his companion:

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

In pursuing the journey on which Dante finds himself, he must believe. He must be willing to put first and foremost a trust in God that what he is about to see is right, and he must overcome the natural tendency to put yourself first: a task that few are able to accomplish.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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

In canto 3, Dante and Virgil read the inscription written on the gates of hell: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here." These words unnerve Dante, who says to Virgil that the words are "hard" for him. Virgil then tells him,

Here you must give up all irresolution.

Virgil warns him he must be very brave and put all cowardice to "death," because he is about to see very unpleasant things. The people in hell will be "sorrow laden," because they gave up goodness.

Dante goes forward toward hell in order to see "things hidden from the world."

When Charon does not want to take Dante across the river, not seeing him as one of the damned, Virgil tells him that this is a good sign that he will not end up in hell after death.

All in all, the entry into hell is a frightening prospect that Dante recoils from in dread. Virgil advises him that it is not for the faint of heart. By warning Dante to be courageous because he will see terrible things, Virgil also warns the reader of what is to come. However, for Dante, knowledge is more important than fear.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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

In canto 3, as Dante and Virgil approach the gates of Hell, Dante asks Virgil what the inscription above the gates means. It says, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." Dante is understandably frightened at this; that is why he wants to know its meaning. It might be a terrible message for him personally. Virgil, however, smiles and reassures him:

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

As a virtuous pagan, Virgil can afford to be brave. But Dante does not have that luxury. Although not yet dead, he does still fear for the fate of his mortal soul. It is the complete absence of hope in Hell that scares Dante more than anything else. But this is all part of the learning process for him. As the journey progresses, he will grow in wisdom and become less frightened at what the next step may involve. He will also gain a better understanding of sin and how it must not be pitied.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What is Virgil's advice to Dante at the Gate of Hell?

Virgil tells Dante that he has to stop being scared and put aside any lack of belief. He has to accept that what he sees inside Hell is what is meant to happen by the will of God.

Dante is frightened when he sees the sign on the gates of Hell that ends with, "Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here." The sign indicates that Hell was created by God; the people suffering inside are getting their earned reward for their behavior. Dante tells Virgil that he has difficulty understanding it.

Virgil says:

Here all suspicion needs must be abandoned,
All cowardice must needs be here extinct.

We to the place have come, where I have told thee
Thou shalt behold the people dolorous
Who have foregone the good of intellect.

He is explaining to Dante that he must be brave and accept what he sees within. The people will be miserable and suffering, but that is what is supposed to happen. Virgil then takes Dante's hand and comforts him as they go in. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on