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“within a dark wood, for the right way had been missed,” and cannot remember how he got there. Dante says that he has lost the “true path,” that is, the path of virtuous life that leads to God. In The Divine Comedy, Dante tells the story of his journey through the realms of the afterlife (Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven), during which he witnesses both God’s harsh punishments on the sinful and his loving grace for the virtuous. In that dark forest, Dante sees a light above a hill and, in his attempt to reach it for safety, he meets a panther, a lion, and a she-wolf; all these creatures represent human flaws (specifically luxury, excessive pride and ambition, and greed, respectively). Virgil appears and, after Dante praises him and begs for help and guidance, Virgil explains his purpose there. He explains that Beatrice, Dante’s love in real life, saw that Dante had lost his way and, feeling pity for him, sent Virgil to take him through Hell, so that Dante may begin his journey back to God’s love with his guidance. In Canto II, before his descent into Hell, Dante has a moment of reluctance; he alludes to Aeneas and Paul because both of them traversed through the afterlife (through Hell and through the Third Circle of Heaven, respectively). He claims himself unworthy of such a task and says this differentiate himself from Aeneas and Paul, and expresses fear that he might not be as lucky as them; that is, he is afraid he might not survive his visit to Hell. In addition to highlighting this difference to tell us what he is not, he tries to convey himself as a proud, universal character, at times sympathetic but nonetheless capable of repudiating others; courageous in venturing through Hell and loving when speaking of Beatrice and very emotional when scared. In this paper, I will first discuss the differences between Dante the character and Dante the poet, then examine the difference between Dante and the two other men, and lastly analyze the characterization of Dante. To thoroughly understand Dante as the main character from the story, we must first discuss the difference between Dante the character and Dante the poet, and then also recognize that the poet’s purpose in putting himself in the story is to make the story universal and for a general audience. Dante the poet was born around May 1265, shortly after the Guelphs returned to Florence from exile. Having
Dante the poet is the one who placed his own patron in a deep circle of Hell. He was sent to Rome as a delegate to speak with the Pope. supported the authority of the Pope. An example of this is his encounter with Bruno Latini. his patron. there was a tradition of putting a standard character type in Christian allegories. and while he was there he was notified that he could not return to Florence. the Black Guelphs and the White Guelphs. but nonetheless partook in activities and exercises all other young men of his age got involved in. as noted in his interactions with people from real life that he meets in hell. Dante sided with the Whites. so that everyman represented all mankind. so it is no surprise that he places many of his political enemies and even religious authorities in the deepest circles of Hell. Dante’s family was always very involved in Florentine Politics. However. it is somewhat hypocritical because he sets harsh punishments for those Dante the poet disliked. Of these two. This character was the everyman. and the purpose of having him was to generalize an allegory to a universal audience. He met Beatrice Portinari at the age of nine. it is important to note this because she had an enormous influence on his work. there are differences between Dante the poet and Dante the character. while the Whites sought more independence and freedom from Rome. notably fighting for the Guelphs on horseback at the battle of Campaldino. When he wrote The Divine Comedy. and were against the appointment of Charles de Valois. particularly with the sodomites (this is specially notorious because homosexuality was looked upon terribly at the time). particularly the Guelph. while the Ghibellines revered to the Holy Roman Emperor. After being victorious at the battle of Campaldino. the Blacks held loyalty to the Pope and supported his appointment of Charles de Valois as a representative in Florence. This story was written during Dante’s exile. it is the case that Dante put himself in the story as the everyman so that readers will follow his . The Guelphs. which Dante sided with. Although Dante the character sympathizes with him in this episode. We must also discuss the reason why Dante decides to put himself in his own story. the Guelphs divided into two factions.had a privileged education in Tuscan poetry.Ghibelline conflict. and reportedly fell in love with her right then and there. and at the same time Dante the character is generally sympathetic towards those people. he proved his intellectual genius at an early age. Thus.
Dante is profoundly moved by the thought of his beloved Beatrice pitying him and having sent Virgil. His goal in making the main character himself is to invite his readers to put himself in Dante’s (the character) shoes. so as to give himself certain authority to talk about the afterlife. and courageous character. Most importantly. For this. Dante alludes to Paul and Aeneas to set himself apart from them. The Divine Comedy is meant to be an allegorical text. Dante tries to convey himself as a universal.example and think of themselves going through Dante’s journey to find a path back to God’s grace. His universal side is perhaps the most important in his characterization because. he wishes to establish that he thinks himself less worthy than them. since it was someone in Heaven who sent him. and like other authors writing allegorical texts. Virgil placates Dante’s fears by assuring him that. Dante not only gives insight to his characterization by humbling himself. His emotional . Lost and loosing his connection to God. which is why he makes his character a universal one. Virgil scorns him and explains that it was Beatrice who sent him there to rescue Dante and put him back on track. emotional. but also takes the opportunity to expose his acquaintance with both religious texts and epic poems. Dante needs to visit the afterlife so that he may see the horrors of sin and the wonderful love of God and from there find his way back to the path towards God’s grace. agrees to follow Virgil. I fear lest the going may be mad. as we discussed before. As aforementioned. Aeneas visited the afterlife to meet several people. In addition to highlighting the difference between him and Paul and Aeneas. He hopes that people reading his story will be moved the extent that they too will seek to find God and avoid the corruption of sin and evil. By far the most prominent aspect of Dante’s characterization is his emotional side. to solidify his Christian faith. Dante is afraid to go through Hell.” he might not survive. and thus can pass through Hell without any problems. Dante wishes to have an everyman character. reinforced by this and the thought of finding God. and says. particularly the Third Circle of Heaven. they have divine protection. Beatrice pitied Dante after seeing him in such condition. “if I give myself up to go. In declaring himself less worthy than either of the two. to his rescue and. While Paul traversed the afterlife. including his father. a poet deeply admired by Dante.
Another example comes not too far after. but nonetheless general and universal at the same time. and the others out of fear.side proves particularly notable when he is either sympathizing with other characters or expressing fear. Dante is deeply moved by this because he is a slave to love himself. when crossing the river Acheron. His courage is another facet of is characterization that allows us to get a more complete picture of what Dante wishes to portray himself as. He highlights a difference. fear overpowers Dante and he faints. piloted by Charon. Dante alludes to Paul and Aeneas because they are both men who traversed the afterlife in different stories. and is evinced throughout his journey through hell. however. but also in their journey to find God. courageous and emotional. While this happens. One particular time that Dante shows a lot of bravery is when he continues on the journey even though a group of demons have just chased after him in the Fifth Bolgia of the Eight Circle of Hell. two lovers who are killed by Francisca’s husband (who is also Pablo’s brother) after he catches them reading together. It is supremely important to emphasize that Dante seeks to set himself as a normal person so that any of his readers will feel free to step in his shoes. The first occasion takes place early in the story. and has gone through suffering out of his love for Beatrice. Dante tries throughout the story to portray himself as a virtuous man. Dante’s emotional side is evinced almost every time he talks about Beatrice and the fact that he draws his courage from the thought of her taking pity on him. once after being deeply moved. when Dante faints after hearing the story of Francisca de Rimini and Pablo. by claiming himself unworthy of doing what they did before him. it is this sort of courage that prompts readers to put effort to continue not only in the face of danger in general. he does not think himself of the same level as either of them. Virgil and Charon have an argument because Dante (a mortal) is not supposed to be allowed through. That is. so he sympathizes gravely and looses consciousness. Dante even goes as far as fainting several times. Dante hopes to affect his readers enough to make them think about their life. In addition to pointing out this difference. and what they can do to avoid sin. Through making himself a complex character and putting himself in all sorts of situations. where they stand in their relationship to God. but at the same .
and has him show emotion and sympathy so that he may also keep the fundamental human side of Dante the character. .time develops his character enough to show courage in the face of sin and evil.
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