"How many living now, chancellors of wrath,
shall come to lie here in this pigmire,
leaving a curse to be their aftermath!"

-Inferno Canto VIII II. 46-48


Across the murky darkness of the river Styx is the fifth circle of Hell, destination for those who gave into anger and other wrathful traits. Dante & Virgil float across the marsh of the Styx upon the raft rowed by Phylegas, seen in the above photo. He is kind of angry he is ferrying two people across who aren't souls there for placement, but he gets over it and takes them across the bleak water. On the surface of the river Styx, the wrathful flail and strike each other, with the sullen lying beneath in silent anguish. The next exchange is extremely important in The Divine Comedy, when Dante comes face to face with yet another man he knew, a Black Guelph, one of his rivals named Filipo Argenti. He says to the spirit:

"In weeping and in grieving, accursed spirit, may you long remain..."

His guide then quotes a passage once spoken by Jesus and tells Dante:

"Blessed is the womb that bore thee..."

Now, are we to infer from this exchange that Virgil is encouraging Dante to be cruel towards this anguished soul? He is, but this is absolutely a good thing. We're not viewing Dante becoming cold and callous here, we are seeing the first few fruits emerge from his journey and the lesson he is supposed to learn. Dante here is starting to see the ugliness and vile nature of sin in all its myriad forms. Past the waters of the Styx, our poets see the first few torches of the Iron City of Dis, a gigantic iron construct that separates the first few levels of Hell from the next ring. Anger is the first level of the rings that deal with violence, as opposed to the previous rings that dealt with incontinence of the spirit, I.E loss of control, passions, etc.

Once the poets reach the walled city of Dis, they are halted by a group of Fallen Angels who stood with Lucifer in ages passed. These Angels will not allow Dante to pass, as he is still alive and not a soul. Virgil leaves Dante for a moment to speak with the Angels, and we see Dante slip into a deep sense of fear. He pleads to Virgil to come back with them to the world above, like he can almost sense his journey is about to become significantly darker. Virgil tells him to steel his heart, that he will not abandon him and one for "Whom all gates must spring aside" is on the way to grant them entry against the wishes of the Dark Angels.

The last few stanzas dealing with this interplay are also quite important. Let us remember once again that in The Divine Comedy, Virgil is both an actual guide to Hell and a guide to the Light of human reason. In attempting to remove Virgil from Dante's side, we can draw the notion that the will to commit sin begins with separation of reason. For if Dante had been successfully alienated from Virgil at this point, he would have been utterly lost to the darkness of Hell.

The Messenger Virgil speaks of soon shows up, and we see it to be a good Angel, a Messenger of Heaven. With a touch of a wand, the Gates of Dis spring open and they continue on. Virgil reminds Dante that their journey is sanctioned from above, and they will pass at any costs.