| Quote #1
[Virgil quoting Beatrice]: "‘In Heaven there’s a gentle lady – one
Virgil’s story of how he has come to guide Dante directly discusses Dante’s status as a chosen one in having the opportunity to experience Hell while still alive. His special status comes purely from the compassion of three divine ladies: the Virgin Mary herself, Saint Lucia, and Beatrice (the mortal love of Dante’s life). Indeed, this reinforces the stereotype of women as gentle emotional creatures, contrasted with the male stereotype of being too rational. These women show the physical manifestation of compassion: tears. Unlike gentle Mary, Lucia chastises Beatrice for ignoring Dante’s straying from God’s path. And, in an interesting paradox, Beatrice, by linking the "persuasive word" to Virgil, herself uses it to convince the Roman poet to help Dante.
| Quote #2
As little flowers, which the chill of night
Dante’s response to Beatrice’s pity spurs him to bloom "as little flowers…grow straight and open fully on their stems" when "the white sun strikes." Thus, Beatrice’s compassion is related to the light of God. And because he can ‘see’ again with her illumination, Dante feels "warm daring rush into [his] heart" to offset the "exhausted force" of doubts that were plaguing him before. Thus, compassion seems to have a life-giving force that Dante will later use to enliven sinners to recount their stories to him.
| Quote #3
But I, who’d seen the change in his [Virgil’s] complexion,
Unbeknownst to Dante, he and Virgil are about to meet a group of Classical poets and Virgil’s dear companions. This foreknowledge causes Virgil to pale dramatically with sympathy for their plight. Interestingly, Dante mistakes his physical reaction for one stemming from fear. Indeed, this concept will later be played on as Dante cries and faints – some typical reactions to intense fear or pain – when moved to pity for the sinners. This reinforces the very root of the word "compassion," which means literally "to feel with." So, one could read Virgil’s and later Dante’s sympathy for the sinners as literally feeling and participating in the pain that the sinners experience.