| Quote #7
Here sighs and lamentations and loud cries
With this passage, Dante demonstrates that Hell is a realm in which language breaks down. All the human sounds that greet Dante on entering Hell are unintelligible expressions of pain and anger. This depicts Hell as a place of irrationality, where reason cannot be adequately expressed and where articulate words are hard to come by.
| Quote #8
[Virgil]: …"Forget your fear, no one can hinder
Both our heroes engage in linguistic struggles here. Dante is conflicted about whether to trust Virgil or not, symbolized by the contention between "yes and no" in his head. Meanwhile, Virgil approaches the citizens of Dis, hoping to use his renowned "persuasive word" to wheedle them into opening the city gates for him. But, whatever he says, he fails in his mission. This is the first time readers have reason to doubt Virgil’s linguistic skills and suspect that perhaps the "persuasive word" isn’t the best kind of language, at least in God’s eyes. Unaccustomed to defeat, the shamed Virgil must turn and walk back to Dante "with slow steps" to explain his failure.
| Quote #9
[Virgil]: "We have to win this battle," he began,
As Virgil, stuttering, tries to reassure Dante that things will work themselves out, his protégé notices the uncharacteristic hesitation in his speech. His "broken phrase" – shown in the text with an ellipsis – inspires fear in Dante, who "drew out…a meaning worse…than he’d intended." Because Dante is so unaccustomed to see Virgil daunted, he assumes that it spells the end of their journey together.