WhyDante chose Virgil
Dante’sjourney to the purgatory and heaven is an allegorical representationof the soul’s journey to God. Indeed, Dante, at a deeper level,primarily draws on medieval Christian philosophy and theology. Giventhe fact that this poem has all elements of Christianity, questionshave been raised pertaining to Dante’s reason for selecting Virgil,who is a known pagan and classical poet as his guide via theChristian hell. The reasons for choosing Virgil may be determined byexamining the specific characteristics of Dante and Virgil.
First,it is worth noting that Virgil is an embodiment of human reasoning.TheDevine Comedy primarilyoutlines Dante’s character as he undertakes his soul-searchingpilgrimage. In this journey, Virgil comes off as Dante’s bodyguardoften warning him about the damned sinners of the underworld,monsters, as well as mythological creatures (Cary 56). In essence, itwould be fair to acknowledge that Dante selected Virgil as a resultof his knowledge of the underworld.
Inaddition, it is evident that Dante sees Virgil as a mentor to bothhis character in the poem and as a fellow poet from whom he coulddraw crucial lessons. As much as Dante’s work has been influencedby a number of individuals, it is evident that Virgil’s Aeneid isthe most influential to Dante’s work (Alighieri 33). In essence, itwould be conceivable that Dante selected Virgil since he was hissource of inspiration, mentor and guide. Indeed, he may have feltthat his own works could match up to the standards of Virgil unlikethe case of others such as Aristotle and Homer. Right from thebeginning, it is evident that Dante drew his inspiration from Virgilespecially considering that the poet makes use of metaphoricalstructure that shows the poet moving from hell and stating that hewas “pleas’d to leave so cruel sea behind” and moves “O’erbetter waves” (Parker and Dan 221). This navigator technique bearssimilarities to the method that Virgil uses in his works particularlyin the case of Aeneid.
Onthe same note, Virgil primarily plays the role of being Dante’sguide, thereby escorting him via the complicated circles of hell andpurgatory before showing him the right path to redemption. Not onlydoes the roman poet provide spiritual guidance but also physicalguidance through the complicated surroundings, while imparting in himlessons pertaining to morality along the way (Alighieri 23). Thecharacter of Virgil comes out clearly during “The Inferno Canto asit is evident that Dante would not have successfully passed Cerberus,the beast that guarded the gates of underworld and restrict thedamned from leaving, were it not for Virgil’s attempt to throw dirtat it (Parker and Dan 45). In essence, Virgil is perfectlyknowledgeable about the most appropriate way for dealing with damnedsinners and mythological creatures, as well as what it takes to getpast them as he had spent his afterlife in limbo since he had comebefore Christ. This means that he had the intellectual capacity toassist Dante in his journey. It is because of this adoration thatVirgil is seen as a father figure to Dante. Indeed, Virgil doesencourage, inspire, educate and motivate Dante (which makes him seemlike the epitome of a perfect father and man), which is what makesDante refer to him as “my sweet father”.
Alighieri,Dante. TheDivine Comedy: Cary’s Complete Translation. Troubador Publishing Ltd: 2004
Cary,Henry Francis. TheVision of Dante Alighieri or Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. KessingerPublishing: 2006
Parker,Deborah and Dan Brown.Inferno Revealed: From Dante to Dan Brown.New York: St. Martin`s Press, Oct 8, 2013, Print.