Dante’s Inferno “Beatrice Portinari, Virgil, And The Pope Boniface Viii And Their Significance”

1049 words - 4 pages

Rivers 2Many historical figures, and characters that represent others, appear throughout Dante Alighieri's Inferno, an epic that guides us through the nine Circles of Hell, as Dante himself makes his journey through. Of the numerous people mentioned during the Inferno, I would only like to discuss a few, namely those of Beatrice Portinari, the poet Virgil, and the Pope Boniface VIII. I picked these characters because of their significance, either in history or for their relation to Dante's writing and depiction of a journey through Hell in his eyes. Thus, in what follows, I will discuss each character as they are described in Inferno and each's relevance to Dante and history.Beatrice Portinari was Dante Alighieri's childhood and lifelong love, so it's only fitting that she be seen as "the Divine Love and Grace" (Turner, 3) throughout the Inferno. Dante first encountered Beatrice at age nine. They only actually saw each other in person twice, when they first met as children and much later when Dante was twenty-six years old, but they kept in contact via postal mail. Though they both loved each other, they married different people, yet Dante still wrote poetry to her for many more years. Beatrice then died in 1290, which is significant with Inferno being set in 1300, ten years after her death. She appears as Divine Love or Grace, which "inspires the Pilgrim [Dante] after Human Reason, represented by the poet Virgil, can go no further" (Turner). It is safe to assume the significance her death must have held for Dante in writing the Inferno, and as a strong motivator for the androgynous, Godly position she played in Dante's perception during his journey through the afterlife. Of course he would like to see his one true love guide him to Paradise, thus giving her such a role after having been guided by his teacher, mentor, and idol, Virgil. In this epic, Dante is guided by the "legendary Roman poet, Virgil, through Hell, Purgatory, and finally Paradise to gain understanding and knowledge of the soul's journey beyond Earth" (Spraker). The spirit of Virgil that appears in Inferno has been condemned to an eternity in Hell because he lived prior to Christ's appearance on Earth, which means he lived prior to the opportunity to be saved by Christ. This thought has been known to confuse many readers because the spirit of Virgil is primarily based on how Dante believed Virgil was in life, thus making Dante more sympathetic towards his character throughout the epic. Nevertheless, Virgil had received orders to lead Dante through Hell on his spiritual journey. In the unseen world, "Virgil is competent to act as a guide, a mirror of the moral philosophy which Virgil is supposed to represent" (Reade, 370), however, Virgil seems to remain helpless in protecting Dante from any real harm in Hell, which is why Beatrice swoops in to take Dante through the last horrible levels of Hell into the great Paradise, but not before we learn of Pope Boniface VIII.Dante...

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