Inferno Canto 1




Ralph Wood is a former Professor of Theology and Literature at Baylor University. He is the author of The Gospel According to Tolkien: Visions of the Kingdom in Middle-earth, Literature and Theology, and Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-haunted South.

Questions for Reflection

  • The Comedy begins with the line, “Midway through the journey of our ” Why would Dante the Poet use the word “our” here? How does this language immediately incorporate us as readers into the pilgrim’s journey?
  • What is the dark wood in which we first find Dante the pilgrim? What spiritual, moral, or existential state does it depict? What does Dante show us about the character of sin by stating that he does not know how he came to be so lost in the dark wood (1.10-12)?
  • What do the sun, the mountain, and the three beasts mean to the pilgrim? What might they represent to contemporary readers about the Christian life? Is the pilgrim’s aborted journey up the mountain a critique of Plato’s allegory of the cave?
  • Notice that the pilgrim’s first words in the Comedy comes in line 65: “Miserere di me”: a callback to David’s great prayer of penitence in Psalm 50/51. What is the significance of these being the first spoken words in the poem?
  • Why Virgil? Why might Dante select a pagan to guide him through the Christian afterlife?
  • Why must Dante first descend into hell in order to escape the dark wood? What kind of education or therapy for his soul will his infernal journey provide?


  • Dr. Ralph Wood
  • Baylor University
  • Run Time 13:23