The way Dante characterizes the dark woods has a lot of ideas taken from various traditions. This ranges from the medieval Platonic image of chaos, this is shown as a type of primordial wood. There is the enterance to the classic underworld (Hades), which is in the forest, this is descrided by Virgil( Dante’s guide through Hell)(Aeneid 6.179
One of the first symbolism in the poem is the three beast a leopard, a lion and a she-wolf. After one reads the whole poem one can look back and see them as the three major divisions of Dante’s hell, concupiscence( desires), violence, and fraud. It could also be three of the seven deadly sins envy, pride(the worst of all sins), and avarice(greed). The she-wolf could have some political meaning since it was a she-wolf who took care of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. Though those are all possibilities the most likely case is Dante drew from the biblical passage "Wherefore a lion out of the wood hath slain them, a wolf in the evening hath spoiled them, a leopard watcheth for their cities: every one that shall go out thence shall be taken, because their transgressions are multiplied, their rebellions strengthened" (Jeremiah 5:6).
Vergil the Roman poet works as a guide for Dante as he descends into the und...
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... once the most beautiful angel then he rebelled against God and become the source of all evil in the world. Satan is now as ugly as he was once beautiful, it is parodic the way Dante portrays Satan. Lucifer is the wretched emperor of hell, whose tremendous size (he dwarfs even the Giants) stands in contrast with his limited powers: his flapping wings generate the wind that keeps the lake frozen and his three mouths chew on the shade-bodies of three arch-traitors, the gore mixing with tears gushing from Lucifer's three sets of eyes (Inf. 34.53-7). Lucifer's three faces--each a different color (red, whitish-yellow, black)--parody the doctrine of the Trinity: three complete persons (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) in one divine nature--the Divine Power, Highest Wisdom, and Primal Love that created the Gate of Hell and, by extension, the entire realm of eternal damnation.
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