Dante’s Inferno - The Evolving Relationship between Dante the Pilgrim and Virgil the Guide

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Dante’s Inferno - The Evolving Relationship between Dante the Pilgrim and Virgil the Guide

In Dante’s Inferno, the relationship between Dante the Pilgrim and Virgil the Guide is an ever-evolving one. By analyzing the transformation of this relationship as the two sojourn through the circles of hell, one is able to learn more about the mindset of Dante the Poet. At the outset, Dante is clearly subservient to Virgil, whom he holds in high esteem for his literary genius. However, as the work progresses, Virgil facilitates Dante’s spiritual enlightenment, so that by the end, Dante has ascended to Virgil’s spiritual level and has in many respects surpassed him. In Dante’s journey with respect to Virgil, one can see
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We see Dante’s first step is to acknowledge his inferiority to Virgil; it is to him he owes his modest authorial prowess. This sentiment is understandable indeed. It is only natural for Dante to have nothing but the utmost respect for the great poet who, having preceded him by thirteen hundred years, merits such treatment.

However, when we couple Dante’s intense reverence for Virgil with his plea for his help, our understanding of the strength of his faith is enhanced. The Pilgrim invokes Virgil thusly: “O famous sage, [help me] to stand against [that beast], / for she has made my blood and pulses shudder” (I.89-90). Perhaps one can account for this behavior by noting that Dante, being heavily disoriented, upon seeing Virgil, whom he initially perceives as being a mere apparition, feels in the Guide something supernatural which compels him to seek his aid in defeating the she-wolf. However, Dante’s remarks and behavior fall perilously close to blasphemy. Instead of unduly flattering Virgil (who by his own admission, “was a man”, and a pagan at that) and asking his assistance, the ideal Christian monotheist would seek refuge in God. The concept of placing one’s complete trust in God, manifest in such exemplars of faith as Sir Gawain of Camelot and Boccaccio’s Griselda, is an essential component of Christianity. Indeed, Gawain’s fall
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