Study Guide

Inferno Love

By Dante Alighieri

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Although love isn't frequently mentioned in the text of the Inferno, it is always in the back of the reader’s mind. Love’s single most surprising appearance comes at the threshold of Hell, where Dante learns that this place of punishment has been created from "Primal Love." Wait—what?

As Dante meets sinner after sinner and hears their pitiable stories, readers are encouraged to question—along with Dante—how a loving God could impose such pain on seemingly decent people. With his often sympathetic portrayals of sinners, Dante directly challenges the notion that Hell could have been created out of love. On a more mundane level, love—like language and matter—is considered one of the fundamental bonds that tie individuals together. When this bond is broken, many people can be affected and led into sin.

Questions About Love

  1. How can both Justice and Primal Love be creators of Hell? Why is "their meaning…difficult for [Dante]" to understand?
  2. How is Francesca’s concept of love flawed? Consider the Gallehault scene.
  3. Consider the inhabitants of Limbo and the noble sinners. How does this challenge the idea of Hell being created from Love?
  4. Consider the few images of family we see in the Inferno. How does Dante feel about Virgil, Geri del Bello, and Ugolino’s sons? What does this imply about the relationship between family and love?

Chew on This

The portrayal of the noble sinners contests the idea that Love created Hell by emphasizing their virtue over their sin and eliciting readers’ sympathy for their eternal suffering.

Dante’s treatment of family members and father figures suggests that one’s love for his family should remain strong no matter what happens.

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