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 of damned souls.
Minos (mee-nohs), the monstrous judge who dooms sinners to their allotted torments.
Paolo (pah-OH-loh) and
Francesca (frahn-CHEH-skah), devoted lovers, murdered by Paolo’s brother, who was Francesca’s husband. Together even in hell, they arouse Dante’s pity with their tale of growing affection.
Ciacco (CHEE-ahk-koh), a Florentine damned for gluttony, who prophesies the civil disputes that engulfed his native city after his death.
Plutus, the bloated, clucking creature who guards the entrance of the fourth circle of Hell.
Phlegyas (FLEHJ-ee-as), the boatman of the wrathful.
Filippo Argenti (fee-LEEP-poh ahr-JEHN-tee), another Florentine noble, damned to welter in mud for his uncontrollable temper.
Alecto (ah-LEHK-toh), and
Tisiphone (tih-SIF-oh-nee), the Furies, tower warders of the City of Dis.
Farinata Degli Uberti
Farinata Degli Uberti (fah-ree-NAH-tah deh-ylee ew-BEHR-tee), the leader of the Ghibelline party of Florence, condemned to rest in an indestructible sepulchre for his heresy. He remains concerned primarily for the fate of his city.
Cavalcante (kah-vahl-KAHN-tay), a Guelph leader, the father of Dante’s friend Guido. He rises from his tomb to ask about his son.
Chiron (KI-ron), and
Pholus (FOH-luhs), the courteous archer centaurs who guard the river of boiling blood that holds the violent against men.
Piero Delle Vigne
Piero Delle Vigne (pee-EH-roh dehl-leh VEEN-nay), the loyal adviser to Emperor Frederick, imprisoned, with others who committed suicide, in a thornbush.
Capaneus (kah-PAH-neh-ews), a proud, blasphemous tyrant, one of the Seven against Thebes.
Brunetto Latini (brew-NEHT-toh lah-TEE-nee), Dante’s old teacher, whom the poet treats with great respect; he laments the sin of sodomy that placed him deep in Hell.
Guido Guerra (GWEE-doh gew-EHR-rah),
Tegghiaio Aldobrandi (teeg-GEE-ah-ee-oh ahl-doh-BRAHN-dee),
Jacopo Rusticucci (YAHK-oh-poh rews-tee-KEW-chee), and
Guglielmo Borsiere (gew-glee-EHL-moh bohr-SEE-ehr-ay), Florentine citizens who gave in to unnatural lust.
Geryon (JEE-ree-on), a beast with a human face and a scorpion’s tail, symbolic of fraud.
Venedico Caccianemico (veh-neh-DEE-koh kah-CHEE-ah-neh-MEE-koh), a Bolognese pander.
Jason, a classical hero, damned as a seducer.
Alessio Interminei (ah-LEHS-syoh een-tehr-mee-neh-ee), a flatterer.
Nicholas III, one of the popes, damned to burn in a rocky cave for using the resources of the church for worldly advancement.
Michael Scot, and
Guido Bonatti (boh-NAHT-tee), astrologers and diviners whose grotesquely twisted shapes reflect their distortion of divine counsel.
Malacoda (mah-lah-KOH-dah), the chief of the devils who torment corrupt political officials.
Ciampolo (chee-ahm-POH-loh), one of his charges, who converses with Dante and Virgil while he plans to outwit the devils.
Catalano (kah-tah-LAH-noh) and
Loderingo (loh-deh-REEN-goh), jovial Bolognese friars who wear the gilded leaden mantles decreed eternally for hypocrites.
Caiphas (KAH-ee-fahs), the high priest who had Christ condemned. He lies naked in the path of the heavily laden hypocrites.
Vanni Fucci (VAHN-nee FEW-chee), a bestial, wrathful thief, the damned spirit most arrogant against God.
Buoso (bew-OH-soh), and
Puccio (pew-CHEE-oh), malicious thieves and oppressors who are metamorphosed from men to serpents, then from serpents to men, before the eyes of the poet.
Ulysses (y-lihs-ees) and
Diomed (DEE-oh-mehd), Greek heroes transformed into tongues of flame as types of the evil counselor. Ulysses retains the splendid passion for knowledge that led him beyond the limits set for men.
Guido de Montefeltro
Guido de Montefeltro, another of the evil counselors, who became involved in the fraud and sacrilege of Pope Boniface.
Piero da Medicina
Piero da Medicina (pee-EH-roh dah meh-dee-CHEE-nah), and
Bertran de Born
Bertran de Born, sowers of schism and discord whose bodies are cleft and mutilated.
Capocchio (kah-POH-chee-oh) and
Griffolino (gree-foh-LEE-noh), alchemists afflicted with leprosy.
Gianni Schicchi (jee-AHN-nee shee-chee) and
Myrrha, sinners who disguised themselves because of lust and greed, fittingly transformed into swine.
Master Adam, a counterfeiter.
Potiphar’s wife, damned for malicious lying and treachery.
Antaeus (AN-taeh-ews), and
Briareus (BRI-ahr-eh-ews), giants who rebelled against God.
Camincion de’ Pazzi
Camincion de’ Pazzi (kah-meen-CHEE-ohn deh PAHZ-zee),
Count Ugolino (ew-goh-LEE-noh),
Fra Alberigo (ahl-behr-EE-goh),
Judas Iscariot (JEW-dahs ees-KAH-ree-oht),
Cassius (KAHS-see-uhs), traitors to family, country, and their masters. They dwell forever in ice, hard and cold as their own hearts.
Cato (KAH-toh), the aged Roman sage who was, for the Middle Ages, a symbol of pagan virtue. He meets Dante and Virgil at the base of Mount Purgatory and sends them on their way upward.
Casella (kah-SEHL-lah), a Florentine composer who charms his hearers with a song as they enter Purgatory.
Manfred, a Ghibelline leader,
La Pia (PEE-ah),
Cassero (kahs-SEH-roh), and
Buonconte da Montefeltro
Buonconte da Montefeltro (BWON-kon-teh dah mohn-teh-FELH-troh), souls who must wait many years at the foot of Mount Purgatory because they delayed their repentance until the time of their death.
Sordello, the Mantuan poet, who reverently greets Virgil and accompanies him and his companion for part of their journey.
Nino Visconti and
Conrad Malaspina (mah-lah-SPEE-nah), men too preoccupied with their political life to repent early.
Omberto Aldobrandesco (ohm-BEHR-toh ahl-doh-brahn-DEHS-koh),
Oderisi (oh-deh-REE-see), and
Provenzan Salvani (sahl-VAH-nee), sinners who walk twisted and bent over in penance for their pride in ancestry, artistry, and power.
Sapia (sah-PEE-ah), one of the envious, a woman who rejoiced at the defeat of her townspeople.
Guido del Duca
Guido del Duca (DEW-kah), another doing penance for envy. He laments the dissensions tearing apart the Italian states.
Marco Lombardo, Dante’s companion through the smoky way trodden by the wrathful.
Pope Adrian, one of those being purged of avarice.
Hugh Capet (ka-PAY), the founder of the French ruling dynasty, which he castigates for its crimes and brutality. He atones for his own ambition and greed.
Statius (STA-tih-uhs), the author of The Thebaid. One of Virgil’s disciples, he has just completed his penance for prodigality. He tells Dante and Virgil of the liberation of the truly repentant soul.
Forese Donati (foh-RAY-seh doh-NAH-tee), Dante’s friend, and
Bonagiunta (boh-nah-gee-EWN-tah), Florentines guilty of gluttony.
Guido Guinicelli (gwee-nee-CHEHL-lee) and
Arnaut (ahr-NOH), love poets who submit to the flames that purify them of lust.
Matilda, a heavenly lady who meets Dante in the earthly paradise at the top of Mount Purgatory and takes him to Beatrice.
Piccarda (peek-KAHR-dah), a Florentine nun, a fragile, almost transparent spirit who dwells in the moon’s sphere, the outermost circle of heaven, since her faith wavered, making her incapable of receiving greater bliss than this.
Justinian, the great Roman emperor and lawgiver, one of the champions of the Christian faith.
Charles Martel, the heir to Charles II, king of Naples, whose early death precipitated strife and injustice.
Cunizza (kew-NEEZ-zah), Sordello’s mistress, the sister of an Italian tyrant.
Falco, a troubadour who was, after his conversion, made a bishop.
Rahab, the harlot who aided Joshua to enter Jerusalem, another of the many whose human passions were transformed into love of God.
Thomas Aquinas (ah-KWI-nahs), the Scholastic philosopher. He tells Dante of Saint Francis when he comes to the sphere of the sun, the home of those who have reached heaven through their knowledge of God.
Saint Bonaventura, his companion, who praises Saint Dominic.
Cacciagiuda (kah-CHEE-ah-jee-EW-dah), Dante’s great-great-grandfather, placed in the sphere of Mars as a warrior for the church.
Peter Damian (DAY-mee-ahn), a hermit, an inhabitant of the sphere of Saturn, the place allotted to spirits blessed for their temperance and contemplative life.
Saint James, and
Saint John, representatives of the virtues of faith, hope, and love. The three great disciples examine the poet to ensure his understanding of these three qualities.
Adam, the prototype of fallen man, who is, through Christ, given the greatest redemption; he is the companion of the three apostles and sits enthroned at the left hand of the Virgin.
Saint Bernard, Dante’s guide during the last stage of his journey, when he comes before the throne of the queen of Heaven.