Virgil and Protagonist in Dante’s The Divine Comedy

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The Divine Comedy is one of the most brilliant works of the great Italian poet and thinker Dante Alighieri. This is his last work, which reflects the poet’s worldview. The poem consists of three parts: Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise – and describes the state of the soul that has fallen into the afterlife after death. Everyone who has entered the kingdom of this world must repent and admit their sins, go through all the circles of Hell in order to enter the kingdom of heaven, and appear before the Creator. The main character of the Divine Comedy is Dante himself, who has passed through all the circles of Hell and ascended to enlightenment. The main character’s shadow is Virgil, who explains to Dante how best to go through the darkness and fear and which path to choose. He breaks up with Dante, entrusting him to Beatrice. Although the entire narrative focuses on the main character Dante, Virgil accompanies him throughout the poem.

Virgil in The Divine Comedy

In the work of Dante, the Roman poet Virgil leads Dante through Hell. Virgil first meets Dante at the beginning of journey to the kingdom of the dead, when Dante deviates from the True Path, a term Beatrice uses to refer to a righteous and religious life. Beatrice, Dante’s true love who lives in heaven, begins to worry about Dante and urges Virgil to restore his morality and virtue. Virgil rescues Dante, and the two characters develop a unique relationship while traveling to the center of the Earth. Virgil shows Dante the consequences of sin and instructs him to talk to the many suffering sinners they encounter. Biased relationships develop between two characters when one person becomes more dependent on the relationship than the other. In particular, a father-son relationship develops between Virgil and Dante. This connection between the two main characters allows Virgil to show Dante how to find the True Path and implies a universal relationship between God and humanity.

At the beginning of Hell, it is evident that Dante needs someone to help him since he is trapped in a dark forest, and he cannot find a way out without help. Dante is trapped in a dark forest, which he describes as “the valley of evil” (Alighieri, 2020, p. 28). Beatrice chooses Virgil to help Dante, as Dante respects Virgil. Dante trusts Virgil and will listen to any advice he can offer. Virgil probably decides to help the fallen poet because Beatrice descends from heaven to ask Virgil for this favor. Virgil’s response is so immediate and impatient that it seems suspicious. The help of Beatrice or Dante does not help Virgil, given that he is destined to spend eternity in Limbo. Instead, Virgil only wants to help himself by obeying Beatrice and putting Dante back on the Right Path. Virgil wants the freedom to temporarily leave Limbo and forget about his eternal sentence to stay in this depressing environment. As a result, he fulfills Beatrice’s request to get to Earth and help Dante regain his morale.

Virgil does not depend on Dante, and since his fate is sealed, he accompanies Dante for a while to escape the dreariness of Limbo. As for Dante – his fate depends entirely on Virgil’s leadership. For example, when Dante and Virgil reach the fourth circle of hell, they encounter a dangerous demon named Plutus. The devil threatens the poet in a rage, but Virgil calms the monster when he shouts: “Peace, wolf of hell. Stifle your bile and let the poison your own throat” (Alighieri, 2020, p.72). In addition, Virgil proclaims that Dante’s passage through hell was accomplished by God, which causes Plutus to retreat and allows the poets to pass. This event shows that Virgil has helped Dante in danger many times throughout Inferno. Thus, an essentially one-way relationship develops between the two characters. Virgil is constantly helping Dante, but Dante can do little for Virgil other than simply allowing him to enjoy the presence of a living soul.

As Hell develops, the relationship between Dante and Virgil becomes more personal and evokes more emotions. Instead of helping Dante, Virgil starts protecting and protecting him. He takes an interest in Dante and begins to really care about him, not just help him because of his promise to Beatrice. In addition, Virgil informs Dante how he feels about Dante’s actions, whether he approves or disapproves. For example, Virgil reprimands Dante when he listens to a quarrel between two forgers. Virgil plays a much more active role in taking Dante away from a life of sin. This type of behavior can be seen repeatedly throughout the journey.

In another case, in the eighth circle of Hell, Dante and Virgil encounter demons whose job is to keep the vaccinators at a deep boil. While Dante and Virgil are talking to the demons, one of the gatekeepers escapes from their torture. The demons are embarrassed by their mistake; they get angry and decide to make the poets pay for this humiliation. As a result, the demons cannot leave their designated bag in the eighth circle. Dante feels that Virgil cares about him so much that he will sacrifice himself for his safety unless, of course, he has not died yet.

In addition to protecting Dante from the dangers of hell, Virgil allows Dante to return to the True Path. Whenever Dante regrets dead souls, Virgil shows his disapproval. However, when Dante admits that sinners deserve their punishments, Virgil takes pride in Dante’s actions and encourages him to go further. This is comparable to a proud father who taught his son a necessary skill or lesson. An example of this behavior can be seen when Virgil and Dante cross the River Styx. One of the angry souls from the water is talking to Dante and he reacts powerfully and curses the deceased person.

Virgil is delighted with Dante’s intense and angry response to the sinner because Virgil is trying to teach Dante that sin is unacceptable; sinners deserve all the punishments they receive. Up to this point in the novel, Dante was either passive or sympathetic to the suffering of sinners in hell. However, from that moment on, he becomes strict and begins to mock or curse souls. By traveling through hell, Dante can see that sinners deserve their tortures, and that sin is unbearable; Only with Virgil, a leader and parent whom Dante trusts, respects, and cares deeply about, can Dante make this journey.


In conclusion, Virgil defends Dante by showing him that sins are unacceptable actions. As the characters become emotionally closer, they acquire a greater sense of mutual care, which leads to a father-son relationship. Virgil can be seen as a wise mentor and protector of Dante, and Dante is a lost child, hungry for guidance. By creating this type of relationship, the author may have wanted to demonstrate the relationship that, in his opinion, people should have with God. All people are sinful and lose the True Path at some point in their lives. However, Dante implies that if they rely on God’s guidance, he will lead them back to the True Path, as Virgil led Dante. This double meaning of the text corresponds to the figurative style of Dante’s writing.


Alighieri, Dante. (2020). The divine comedy. Gutenberg.