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Free Study Guide-The Divine Comedy-The Inferno by Dante Alighieri-Notes
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CANTO SUMMARIES WITH NOTES

CANTO II

Summary

As the two poets advance night descends upon the world. Dante the poet invokes the help of the Muses to assist him in putting down in verse what he holds in his memory.

The pilgrim thinks he is unworthy of the journey he is taking. He will be passing through Hell, Purgatory and Paradise in flesh (a living man). The only other living men who did this before him were Sylviu's father (Aeneas) who founded Rome, and the Apostle Paul. The pilgrim feels he is unworthy, when compared to two such great men and thus fears undertaking such an extraordinary journey.

Virgil says that the pilgrim has become a prey to cowardice. To release him from this fear he explains the reason he came to help the pilgrim. He says a blessed lady summoned him from the links. She asks Virgil to help the pilgrim who is lost. She reveals herself to be Beatrice who has come from Paradise to ask Virgil to help the Pilgrim. She promises Virgil that she will praise him before God, once she returns to Paradise.

Virgil tells her that he is happy to serve her. He asks her how she journeyed to the Limbo from Paradise. She explains that the is not afraid, because by God's Grace, the torments of the Limbo and Hell cannot affect or harm her.

It is the Virgin Mary's compression for the Pilgrim's plight that set in motion the operation of Divine Grace. /she called Lucia and gave her the responsibility of helping he pilgrim. Lucia approached Beatrice with a plea to help the pilgrim. Hearing this promoted Beatrice to come down to Limbo to ask Virgil for his help.

Virgil tells the pilgrim that it is at her behest that he came to the Pilgrim's rescue. Virgil tells him that when he has three gracious ladies in Heaven watching out for him (Pilgrim), how can he (Pilgrim) then have any fear.


Virgil's words hearten the Pilgrim and he losses all fear. He says that Beatrice's compassion and Vigil's help have given him the desire to continue with the journey. Dante tells Virgil that the latter is his guide, lord and teacher. Virgil moues on and Dante follows him on that road.

Notes

The day is setting as the two poets begin their journey. The pilgrim says that the journey would involved "pity". "Pity" is a recurrent theme in Inferno and is a tool used in the education of the pilgrim. Dante the poet now faces the task of remembering all that occurred during the journey. He invokes the "Muses" for help. According to tradition the Muses are invoked by poets to inspire their songs. This invocation is in keeping with the classical epic tradition. Canto I is an introduction the entire "Divine Comedy". Canto II marks the beginning of Inferno. Thus it is lifting that Dante gives his invocation in Canto II. Similar invocations to the Muses are also found at the beginning of Purgatorio and Paradiso.

The Pilgrim is afraid to undertake the journey proposed by Virgil. Aeneas and Saint Paul are the only two mortal men who have undertaken this journey before. Aeneas and Saint Paul are the only two mortal men who have undertaken this journey before. Aeneas was a Trojan prince, the hero of Virgil's "Aeneid". Aeneas, guided by Sibyl, visits Hades (Hell) and also the region where the virtuous spend their afterlife (Paradise). Here he learns that he will be the ancestor of the Roman people, who will then possess the empire of the world. The Apostle Paul also talks of having journey through Hell and Paradise. This vision of Paul's helped to strengthen the Christian faith in afterlife, sin, salvation etc. When Dante the pilgrim compares himself to two such illustrious men he feels infuriated and is afraid to undertake such an extraordinary journey.

He presents his fears before Virgil. Virgil points out that the pilgrim has become a victim of cowardice. To eliminate this fear Virgil tells the pilgrim that he will relate how it came about that he (Virgil) became the Pilgrim's guide. He says that a lady "blessed and beautiful" came to talk to him in Limbo where he resides. She requests him to help the pilgrim who is in trouble. This lady is no other than Beatrice. She come from Paradise to beseech the Roman poet. She is under God's protection and thus she tells that when Virgin Mary ("a gracious lady sits in Heaven") learns about the Pilgrim's plight, she is overcome with pity and sets in motion the operation of Divine Grace. In Christianity the Virgin Mary signifies mercy and compassion. She summons Lucia and tells her that the Pilgrim is in need of Help. Lucia refers to Saint Lucia, the literal meaning of whose name is "light" . She is the "Illuminating Grace" sent to help the Pilgrim by Virgin Mary. Lucia, then goes to Beatrice with the message that the pilgrim needs help. Beatrice's name means salvation or blessedness. She, in turn approaches Virgil to tell him the wit of God. For it is God, after who is the ultimate, bestower of divine grace. These three ladies balance the beasts of Canto I. Just as the beasts represent man's sins. The 3 ladies represent man's salvation from sin through the Grace of God.

Thus the help the pilgrim is now receiving comes form Paradise, through three blessed women. Virgil says it is at Beatrice's behest that he saved the pilgrim from the she-wolf. He tries to encourage the pilgrim by reminding him of the three blessed women who watch out for him. He also assures him (pilgrim) by his own knowledge that the pilgrim will come to no harm.

All this has the desired effect on the pilgrim and he losses his fear. He says that all that he has just learnt has created in him the desire to continue their journey. He is eager to begin and tells Virgil that the latter is his "guide", "lord" and "teacher". Hearing this, the Roman poet moves forward and Dante follows him.

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