Three Blessed Women: Dark Wood, Inferno 2
Similar to other epic poems, the Divine Comedy begins in medias res ("in the middle of events"). This means something has happened prior to the opening action that provides a catalyst for the journey. In this case, Virgil explains in canto 2 that he was summoned to Dante's aid by Beatrice, who was herself summoned by Lucia at the request of a woman able to alter the judgment of heaven (Inf. 2.94-6). This last woman, who sets in motion the entire rescue operation, can only be Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus according to Dante's faith. "Lucia" is Saint Lucy of Syracuse, a Christian martyr closely associated with sight and vision (her name means "light" and she was said to have gouged out her eyes to protect her chastity). Beatrice, who will reappear as a major figure later in the poem, was the inspiration for Dante's early love poetry (she died in 1290 at age 24) and now plays the role of his spiritual guide as well. Along with Virgil, these "three blessed women"--Mary, Lucia, Beatrice--thus make possible Dante's journey to the realms of the afterlife.