In fact, a reflective analysis of the illustrious themes of the work proves that Dante has been presenting his position on various topics which is dictated by his personal religious, political, social preoccupations and beliefs. In a profound research on the functionality of the first Canto as an introduction to the Inferno as well as to the Divine Comedy as a whole, one comes to realize that Dante had imperative idea about several crucial topics of the time such as love, politics (including the Church/Pope), courtly life, search for knowledge, and betrayal etc. It is mainly due to such an essential treatment of the different issues in the most convincing way that the author of Divine Comedy, along with the epic, lives in the minds of the modern people. "Rarely has a writer left a more indelible mark--and under less favoring circumstances--than Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). His major work is considered one of the crowning achievements of human expression. It lives even today, nearly seven hundred years after its making, as one of the two or three greatest poems ever written." (Hollander, 30) This paper undertakes an investigation of the initial canto of the Divine Comedy as an introduction to the Inferno as well as to the entire epic in order to realize Dante's position on the subjects such as love, politics, courtly life, search for knowledge, and betrayal, which may be seen in his personal religious, political, social preoccupations and beliefs.
At the outset, it is important to comprehend that the Divine Comedy incorporates three canticas, i.e. Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso each consisting of 33 cantos and that first canto serves as a prologue to the entire epic in general and to the Inferno in particular. A careful analysis of this initial canto confirms how effectively Dante has introduced his major subjects of discussion, apart from introducing the first cantica and the Divine Comedy as such. Thus, the initial canto of the book serves as the first of the thirty four cantos in the cantica Inferno as well as an independent canto and introduction to the entire Divine Comedy. "In the midway of this our mortal life, / I found me in a gloomy wood, astray / Gone from the path direct: and e'en to tell / It were no easy task, how savage wild / That forest, how robust and rough its growth, / Which to remember only, my dismay / Renews, in bitterness not far from death." (Dante, 4) The canto introduces the main action or the drama of the poem, i.e. the journey of a man towards God. In fact, the epic is all about the story of how the poet is drawn to salvation by God through the agency of Beatrice. The main moral of the poem is that God will draw every man to salvation just as He has done to the man who undertook his journey towards God. The minimum qualification for human beings for the salvation is that they undertake the journey as the poet has done. It is also significant that a careful reader of the poem notices that the poet wants to distinguish between the two types of uses of the first person singular in the poem. Thus, one of the singular forms in the poem designates Dante, the pilgrim whereas the other refers to Dante, the poet. Significantly, the first is a character in the story which is invented by the second and the first canto introduces the general characteristics of the poem as a whole. "The events in the narrative are represented as