Study Questions for the Inferno, Cantos
I, II, III, and IV
from The Divine Comedy
- How old was Dante when he wrote The Divine Comedy, and in what year
was it written?
- Where does Dante find himself at the beginning of
the poem, what time of day is it, and how did he end up there?
- What does Dante mean by the following metaphors
and figures of speech?
forest” and “savage forest” (lines 2 and 4)
of sleep” (line 11)
the true path” (line 12)
same planet which serves to lead men straight along all roads” (line 18)
of sorrow” (line 20
within my heart” (line 21)
spirit, still a fugitive” (line 25)
Love first moved those things of beauty” (line 9)
gentle season” (line 10)
spirits in their pain as each of them laments his second death” (line 117)
souls who are content within the fire” (line 119)
blessed people” (line 120)
Emperor who reigns above” (line 124)
city, his high capital” (128)
gateway of Saint Peter” (line 134)
- What three beasts did Dante encounter when
attempting to climb the hill? What
do some scholars believe these three animals symbolize? (See footnote.)
- What does Virgil say that reveals his identity to
Dante without saying his name?
- What does Dante say about his admiration for
- What does Virgil say about the she-wolf, and what
animal does he say will hunt her down and thrust her back down to Hell?
- What will Dante see and hear as Virgil guides him
- At what time of day does Canto II begin?
2. For whose help does Dante ask in recording
what he sees on his journey?
- Who are
the only two human beings known to have visited the afterlife while they
were still alive?
- Who asked Virgil to guide Dante “in his path
along that lonely hillside,” and why was she so worried about Dante? Where did she come from, and what
prompted her to ask for Virgil’s help?
What did she promise to do for Virgil in return for serving as
- Why was Beatrice not afraid to leave Heaven?
- Which saint told Beatrice to go to Virgil and ask
him to be Dante’s guide?
- Who is the “gentle lady” in heaven who sent the
saint to Beatrice
- What does Virgil ask Dante at the end of Canto
II, and what is Dante’s response to this question?
- What is the last line of the inscription above
the gates of Hell?
- What is the Ante-Inferno, which souls are
condemned to live there, and what is their punishment?
- What is the name of the first of the four rivers
- Who is the ferryman that takes the souls across
this river, and why does he object to taking Dante in his boat?
- What is the first circle of hell called, and what
two type of souls live there?
- What is the only punishment of those souls who
live in this circle?
- What souls did Virgil see the “Great Lord”
deliver from this circle and take up to heaven with him?
- In addition to Virgil, what four famous poets
live in this circle?
- Describe the “exalted castle” Dante sees in this
circle and its surroundings.
- What famous real people and characters from epic
literature does Dante see in the meadow filled with light? What two great Greek philosophers are