Inferno

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Inferno Canto 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
It is now evening, as Dante begins his journey. As narrator, Dante invokes the muses and the personification of memory to help him recall his journey. Dante worries that he is not strong enough for the journey before him. He says that Aeneas went to the underworld and Paul went to heaven, but he is not a hero like Aeneas or a holy apostle like Paul. Dante does not think he is fit for the difficult journey.
As a time ambiguously between the light of day and the dark of night, evening suggests that Dante is still poised between the possibilities of sin and piety. Invoking the muses for help is a classical, pagan idea that Dante still uses for his Christian epic. He needs their help if he is to relate, in words, his miraculous journey. Dante worries that he is not a famous hero, but by telling his story he will achieve his own form of heroic fame.
Themes
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Paganism vs. Christianity Theme Icon
Individual Fame Theme Icon
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Virgil chides Dante, telling him his anxieties arise from mere cowardice, which constantly "lays ambushes for men," (2.46). He tells Dante that while he (Virgil) was in Limbo, a lady from heaven came to him and told him to help a friend of hers find his way to heaven. The lady was Beatrice, who has left heaven momentarily on account of her deep love for Dante.
Beatrice's love for Dante is the motivating force behind his entire journey. Dante's love for her leads him to God's love, the force behind not just his life, but the entire universe.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Virgil immediately agreed to help Beatrice, but asked her how she could know the way to Limbo and toward Hell, when she is blessed and in heaven. Beatrice answered that she had no fear of anything outside of heaven, and that God has made her nature such that nothing from below can do her any harm. Beatrice says that the Virgin Mary sent St. Lucy to her, to encourage her to help save Dante.
There is a kind of chain reaction stemming from God's love, through Mary and St. Lucy, through Beatrice, to Dante, showing that Beatrice's love can be seen as deriving from the ultimate love of God.
Themes
Love Theme Icon
Virgil thus immediately sought out Dante after Beatrice visited him, and saved him from the wolf. Virgil chastises Dante for showing such cowardice, when three blessed women (the Virgin Mary, St. Lucy, and Beatrice) are supporting him, and when he is guiding him.
Virgil will continually chastise and scold Dante throughout the poem, as part of Dante's education and development into a pious soul worthy of not only great fame but entrance to Heaven.
Themes
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Individual Fame Theme Icon
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Dante takes this encouragement to heart, and his spirits are raised like a drooping flower that suddenly blossoms in light. Dante says that he is now eager and resolved to begin his journey. He starts on the path, following behind his trusty guide Virgil.
Virgil's words have an almost magical effect on Dante, instantly raising his spirits. The connection of those words to light indicates the way that they are connected to the true path, to clarity, and to God.
Themes
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