The Structure and Content of Dante's Inferno Essay

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In his first article of The Inferno, Dante Alighieri starts to present a vivid view of Hell by taking a journey through many levels of it with his master Virgil. This voyage constitutes the main plot of the poem. The opening Canto mainly shows that, on halfway through his life, the poet Dante finds himself lost in a dark forest by wandering into a tangled valley. Being totally scared and disoriented, Dante sees the sunshine coming down from a hilltop, so he attempts to climb toward the light. However, he encounters three wild beasts on the way up to the mountain—a leopard, a lion, and a she-wolf—which force him to turn back. Then Dante sees a human figure, which is soon revealed to be the great Roman poet Virgil. He shows a different path…show more content…
When alluding to the leopard in line two, Dante refers to it as "she" and uses "lithe" to describe its movement, indicating a strong sense of the feminine. Also, the usage of "quick of foot" and "blocking the path," shows a feeling of rapidity which creates a serious situation like a sudden attack. From the allegorical level, it is not hard to find out the moral of a female leopard: the dangerous but attractive desire of lust. In the next line, Dante expresses his fear of this leopard by saying "more than once she made me turn about to go back down". Here the leopard cuts Dante's way towards light, which is a signal of God’s love and the way to peace, and makes him return by the way he came, so he becomes frustrated. Another emergency starting with "But not so much that the next sight wasn't fearful" follows immediately. The second beast appears as a fierce lion. His “roaring with hunger” is so severe that “the air appears to tremble,” revealing a slaughterous animal nature and symbolizing great power in an allegorical plane. Apparently, the lion has a huge appetite for human, so Dante almost feels like dying at this point. What is worse, a grim she-wolf comes into sight. The reference to her “leanness seemed to compress all the world’s cravings” and she “had made miserable such multitudes” contributes to an intense longing for everything, which is concluded as another human
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