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.
(The entire section is 2,497 words.)