"Fall" into the other world
"Abandon every hope, ye who enter here."
Dante has a rather special case of midlife crisis. He’s lost in the woods. Which is, of course, allegorical. He has lost the true path to God and now wanders in a dark wood. The phantom Virgil pops out of nowhere with the answer. A trek through the afterlife will help Dante find his righteous path again.
We’ll start with Hell. When Dante balks at the word "Hell," Virgil lures him on by mentioning that Dante’s long-lost girlfriend Beatrice sent him. They head into Hell.
The fascinating lives of sinners...
Virgil has a great deal of tolerance for witnessing others’ pain. Dante, while more affected by the sinners’ agony, is most interested in their stories. Especially when they pertain to Florence. He sympathizes with a number of sinners before finally beginning to see their evil in the fifth circle.
Delay at Dis
The pilgrims’ progress comes to a screeching halt when the grumpy citizens of Dis shut their city gates in Virgil’s face. They threaten to strike a bargain with him, allowing him through their walls if he will send Dante back alone. Dante quakes in his boots. Virgil stutters in surprise at his failure. To top it all off, the fearsome Furies await Medusa’s coming so they can turn Dante into stone. Fortunately for him, the heavenly messenger gets there first. But the seed of fear has been planted.
Demons want to kill Virgil and Dante
The nightmare stage begins with Geryon, the living incarnation of fraud. As the pilgrims travel through the eighth circle, Dante finds no end to human deception. Language, too, starts to break down, rendering meaning-making difficult. Dante’s fear peaks in the fifth bolgia when he and Virgil (rather stupidly) entrust themselves to the care of the Malebranche demons. They end up in a horror movie chase, barely escaping with their lives. To make matters worse, our pilgrims have to be lowered down into the last circle of Hell within an evil giant’s hand.
Thrilling Escape and Return
Climbing down (or up?) Lucifer’s body
"Thrilling" is a relative term. In truth, there’s nothing exciting about Lucifer, the highly-hyped prince of darkness. After all the sinister stories and graphic punishments we’ve seen, Lucifer is an anticlimax… basically he’s the giant air-conditioner of Hell. He doesn’t even say anything, probably because he’s too busy chewing on the three most odious traitors in Hell.
Dante and Virgil look at him for a second, then grasp the hairs of his enormous legs, and rappel down. A quick gravity shift, a short trek up, and our heroes emerge unscathed back on the surface of the Earth. Because it’s morning here and also was morning when Dante started, it seems as though no time has passed; the whole experience is dream-like.