Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Dante (DAHN-tay), the exile Florentine poet, who is halted in his path of error through the grace of the Virgin, Saint Lucy, and Beatrice, and is redeemed by his journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. He learns to submerge his instinctive pity for some sinners in his recognition of the justice of God, and he frees himself of the faults of wrath and misdirected love by participating in the penance for these sins in Purgatory. He is then ready to grow in understanding and love as he moves with Beatrice nearer to the presence of God.
Beatrice (beh-ah-TREE-cheh), his beloved, who is transformed into an angel, one of Mary’s handmaids. Through her intercession, her compassion, and her teaching, Dante’s passion is transmuted into divine love, which brings him to a state of indescribable blessedness.
Virgil, Dante’s master, the great Roman poet who guides him through Hell and Purgatory. The most favored of the noble pagans who dwell in Limbo without hope of heavenly bliss, he represents the highest achievements of human reason and classical learning.
Saint Lucy, Dante’s patron saint. She sends him aid and conveys him through a part of Purgatory.
Charon (KAY-ron), traditionally the ferryman...
(The entire section is 1626 words.)
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Beatrice summons Virgil from Limbo (Inferno 2) to lead Dante the Pilgrim through Hell, up the Mount of Purgatory to the Garden of Eden. She sits with the blessed in the heavenly rose, where she waits to replace Virgil as the Pilgrim's guide (Purgatory 30). Beatrice, "bringer of blessedness," is therefore largely responsible for the Pilgrim's (and the poet's) salvation. The historical Beatrice Portinari (1266-90) was the daughter of Folco Portinari, a wealthy Florentine, and the wife of Simone dei Bardi. In his Vita Nuova (New Life), Dante claims to have met and fallen in love with her when they were about nine years old. The Vita Nuova consists of love poems Dante wrote to Beatrice, which he connected with prose commentaries. The physical love he had for her, which is the subject of the Vita Nuova, was transformed into the spiritual love that enabled his salvation, which is the subject of the Divine Comedy.
The Pilgrim is Dante the poet's alter ego, a kind of "Everyman" (someone whom everyone can relate to) whose travels the reader follows, experiencing the three regions while he does. Ideally, as the Pilgrim learns from his encounters with countless shades, the reader attains, along with him, a degree of enlightenment. Virgil, author...
(The entire section is 871 words.)