In the beginning of The Inferno of Dante, by Robert Pinsky, Dante builds a great deal of tension between the objective of God’s justice, and Dante’s human sympathy for the souls that he sees around him. As the story progresses, however, the character becomes less and less inclined toward pity, and repeated comments by Virgil encourage this transition. The text asserts the infinite wisdom of divine justice: sinners receive punishment in perfect proportion to their sin; to pity their suffering is to demonstrate a lack of understanding.
While traveling through the dark wood, Dante has lost his path and wanders onward through the forest. He comes across a mountain where the sun beats down, while attempting to climb three beasts block his path. A leopard, a lion, and a female wolf. Frightened, Dante returns to the forest.
Back in the forest Dante encounters a ghost by the name of Virgil. Virgil was a great Roman poet and is Dante’s guide through the depths of Hell. Virgils spirit has been condemned to an eternity in Hell due to birth before Christ’s appearance on Earth. Virgil has received orders to lead Dante through the scary circles of Hell. Virgil explains that their journey will be a long one, but in the end they will reach Heaven. Virgil claims it was Beatrice and two other holy women sent him to maneuver Dante’s travels. Beatrice being Dante’s love.
Virgil begins Dante’s quest through the gates of Hell. The gates marked with an unforgettable inscription “ABANDON ALL HOPE, YOU WHO ENTER HERE” (Canto 3. 7) This is the beginning of their journey. Dante and Virgil begin in Vestibule, where the souls who could not commit to a side of good or bad must run toward a blank banner, with the aid of hornets and worms making their lives even more torturous. This is where they meet the ferryman Charon. Charon is an old man that ferries souls across the river of Acheron to Hell.
Charon takes the pair across Acheron to The First Circle of Hell, also known as Limbo.