Dante and The Allegorical Plane

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“When I had journeyed half of our life’s way, I found myself within a shadowed forest, for I had lost the path that does not stray. Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was, that savage forest, dense and difficult, which even in recall renews my fear: so bitter — death is hardly more severe!” (Alighieri, Canto I, 1-7). Dante immediately establishes the allegorical plane on which his story is set. Taking place around 1300, his journey through the dark, twisted forest is vaguely described, most likely due to the protagonist's sleepy disorientation. This spooky woodland proves to be a product of his of imagination and incorporates ideas from various traditions — including the forest as an entrance to Hades as described by Virgil in his Aeneid and its association of sin with “a region of unlikeness” in Augustine’s Confessions (Confessions, 7.10). Stories of the time also had wandering knights of medieval courts becoming stranded in dangerous underbrush, which they must try to heroically escape from. Yet, Dante likens the “shadowed forest” to all he thought was wrong during his lifetime. It embodies the sins society had committed, as well as its lack of religious faith. His use of “life’s way” and “the path that does not stray” in comparison to the dark wood creates a clear dichotomy between the ignorance that comes with disbelief in God and the spiritual clarity one is provided by His love. By referring to his journey in a plural manner, Dante suggests this to be a trip shared by all individuals who wish to understand and come to terms with their sins, and eventually find peace with God. As he ventures into the forest, Dante stumbles upon three beasts. Prior to the adoption of Christian idea... ... middle of paper ... ...r “light,” for Dante during his journey through Hell. She provides him with hope and warmth — things God is capable of providing if an individual accepts and puts his or her belief in Him. Dante’s trip is representative of humanity’s shared moments of weakness and descent into sin. From the start, sins are presented as dark woods that accompany a righteous path, which Dante has wandered off of. Ascending from the darkness and into light brings hope and acceptance of God and His way. Yet, the obstruction of Dante’s acceptance by the three beasts shows he is still unworthy for Heaven, so he must travel through Hell with the hope of gaining knowledge and understanding of sin. By climbing into the light — or emerging unscathed and learning about, as well as coming to terms with, the wrongdoings of society — Dante will be able to prove his faith and some sort of worth.

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