Literature / The Divine Comedy

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"Thou follow me, and I will be thy guide, and lead thee hence through the eternal place."

"It's not just Dante's story; it's everybody's story."

The Divine Comedy is a three-part epic written by Dante between 1308 and 1320. It describes the author's pilgrimage through the three realms of the afterlife as he learns how we can find true joy in God.

  • Inferno: Having lost his way in life, Dante descends through the nine Circles of Hell with the poet Virgil, one of the most virtuous of the damned. With the Heavens protecting them, the two poets see the worst punishments imaginable, and worse, the people who deserve them.
  • Purgatorio: Having escaped Hell through the Earth's core, Dante and Virgil scale Mount Purgatorio, where the remorseful work to move away from their sins. The mountain is divided into terraces corresponding with the Seven Deadly Sins, with the worst sins represented steep bottom and the least sinful closer to the mountain's peak.
  • Paradiso: Dante leaves Virgil and goes through the nine spheres of Heaven while guided by Beatrice, his saintly lover who is blessed with more wisdom and joy than he can describe in words. Every good of humanity is on display here and in service of that great Good that Dante travels to meet, God.

The work is called the Comedy because it's written in a vernacular style and has a happy ending, which is the original meaning of the word. The adjective "Divine" does not refer to the work's religious setting, but was added later by people — specifically Giovanni Boccaccionote  and Gustave Doré, who famously illustrated the story in the 19th century.

The first part, the Inferno, is the best-known and most often retold and alluded to in modern media, with adaptations including a novel, a manga, and a video game. Essentially, every portrayal of Hell owes something to Dante, along with The Four Gospels, Paradise Lost, and sometimes even C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. The Comedy's influence has led a few to mistake the Circles of Hell as Biblical doctrine, lending the name to Word of Dante.

Translations of the Comedy from Italian can be found all over the place online: there's the plain-and-annotated World of Dante, the poetic Digital Dante, the scholarly Dartmouth Dante Lab, the navigable the Princeton Dante Project, and Dante Online, which exists. There's also invaluable illustrations from Danteworlds and lots of reflection on Rod Dreher's blog, like "How Dante Saved My Life."

This poem provides examples of the following:

  • Absentee Actor: Statius joins Dante's journey from the 22nd canto of Purgatorio to the 33rd, but despite his assumed presence, there is not a single indication in the texts of the 29th, 30th, and 31st cantos that Statius exists. Apparently, Statius remained completely silent as Dante lost his mentor to Hell and reunited with his angry, dead ex-girlfriend.
  • Actually, I Am Him: A Roman poet in Purgatory introduces himself to Dante by telling him how much he adored Virgil and his masterpiece, The Aeneid. Dante can't stop himself from smiling before revealing to the poet that Dante's guide is the shade of Virgil himself, prompting the poet to try to kiss Virgil's transparent feet.
  • Adaptational Heroism: The Titan Saturn is described as "that dear king whose rule undid all evil," ignoring the myth where Saturn ate his own children and waged divine war as soon as they escaped his stomach.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In a deviation from The Odyssey, Odysseus/Ulysses testifies that his voyages ended when he arrogantly tricked his men into going on a suicide mission. For that crime not found in his poem of origin, Odysseus is burned forever in a tongue of fire.
  • Adaptation Deviation: The vision of Haman's death in Purgatory doesn't show him being hanged like in the Book of Esther, but instead shows the genocidal villain being crucified. This change may be the result of because the Latin Bible, which Dante would be familiar with, describing the noose as a "crux." While other parts of the text would make it clear to Latin readers Haman was hanged, this version of Haman's death would be immortalized by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, only a few feet away from The Creation of Adam.
  • Afterlife Antechamber: The second part of the poem details Dante's journey through Purgatory. As in the Catholic tradition, Purgatory is the state of purification souls must go through to become their greatest selves in Paradise. Dante represents this state before Heaven with a mountain, which is hardest to climb at the bottom and easiest to climb at the top.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Despite being a traitor while he was alive, Ugolino's death is rendered as a tragedy. Hearing Ugolino describe his sons' dying in front of him is one of the saddest parts of the whole fourteen thousand line poem.
  • Alien Geometries: While Hell and Purgatory have clearly defined geography, that of Paradise is more complicated. The spheres of Heaven correspond to the celestial spheres of a geocentric universe, but can equally well be seen as orbiting around God in the Empyrean, or as all existing in the same space. To enter Paradise or cross between the spheres, one must Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence, rather than doing any physical climbing. The structure of Heaven has been interpreted as an early description of the fourth-dimensional hypersphere.
  • Allegorical Character: The Garden of Eden atop Purgatory is littered with people who represent moral and religious concepts, some falling under Anthropomorphic Personification and some being too weird to fall under a specific sub-trope:
    • The twenty-four elders with wreaths on their head represent the books of the Old Testament of The Bible.
    • The four green animals with six wings each and many eyes represent The Four Gospels.
    • Two elders appear in together, one being a doctor to represent Luke's Acts of the Apostles and the other a swordbearer to represent Saint Paul's letters.
    • Four humble men who follow without comment represent the writers of the lesser epistles.
    • At the end of the parade, an old man who looked as if he was asleep advances, representing the Book of Revelation.
  • Allegory: Dante's trip through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven is also a trip through a Christian life of sin, repentance, and joy.
  • All Gays Are Promiscuous: Unlike the lustful men and women of the second circle, the homosexual in Hell are not grouped in pairs, but travel in large bands, implying that sodomy does not involve the same love that unites man and woman in sexual union.
  • All Just a Dream: Well, obviously. Unless it wasn't. Or perhaps it was. Dante scholars still argue about whether readers are supposed to consider the poem one big, complicated dream; or if Dante wanted us to "believe" that he went to Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven and then came back (suspending our disbelief, of course — we're obviously not supposed to believe that he actually did those things, just to approach the text like he physically went rather than went there in a dream); or if he intended us to interpret the whole thing as a prophetic dream (i.e. a dream, but one that is in some way true or a representation of the truth, like a lot of dreams in The Bible — and indeed, there are a number of dreams like this in-story, particularly in the Purgatorio); or any number of variations on this.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: As he leaves the Solar System and enters the sphere of the stars, Dante prepares himself to finally meet God by looking back and recalling his journeys through the seven spheres that lay behind him. He goes through each one individually and references specific conversations he had earlier in Paradiso while on them.
  • Almighty Idiot:
    • Nimrod was a giant hunter who led a global society to build a tower to break into Heaven. Although he retains all his size and strength in Hell's ninth circle, he is the only person who still speaks the language of that global society, leaving him to only speak and hear babble.
    • Satan's arm is larger than the giants and reigns as emperor of Hell, but he is too consumed by his hatred for God to notice that he is the one creating the bitter cold trapping him in the bottom of the Ninth Circle. Even worse, he seems to have lost all ability to communicate and reduced his mouths to killing machines used to rip apart fellow traitors in a vain attempt to express his misery.
  • Ambition Is Evil:
    • Many of the heretics are obsessed with their unfulfilled worldly ambitions and tortured by how ignorant they are of their Earthly legacy.
    • While some driven by ambition end up in Heaven, they are relegated to the second-lowest sphere because their ambition hindered their relationship with God. Among others, Dante meets Emperor Justinian I here.
  • An Aesop: The souls purging their sins in Purgatory make it clear the prayers of living people can make their journey to Heaven shorter by centuries of time. This serves as a lesson of the importance of prayer for Dante and for the poem's readers.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Inferno features this several times, which is a given since it depicts Hell.
      • In the Inferno, suicides are turned into trees. They can scream, but only when someone (or something, as Dante sees later) breaks off a branch.
      • Also in the Inferno, the souls of traitors are frozen in the icy lake of Cocytus, at depths corresponding to the depth of their betrayal. Those at the very bottom, those who swore loyalty to masters and still betrayed them, are completely encased in grotesque positions. This is one of the only punishments so unrelenting that those suffering under it can't even speak.
    • In the Purgatorio, the penance for the sin of Pride is to carry boulders, the weight of which is proportional to the sin's weight. Dante, via the Pilgrim, remarks that this punishment is the simplest, and yet quite terrible, and also admits that the Pride circle is where he expects to spend the largest part of his own penance.
  • The Annotated Edition: Most good editions of The Divine Comedy are heavily annotated: at the remove of 700 years or so, and given that Dante went on Author Tracts and Author Filibusters in long stretches of the work about now-forgotten Florentine politicians or outdated scientific analogies, it can be very difficult to tell who's who or what Dante is on about now without extensive footnotes. Mind, not all of this is the passage of time; several writers in Dante's time or shortly thereafter, including Boccaccio, wrote annotations of the Comedy, all or most of which occasionally pled ignorance as to Dante's meaning.
  • Annoying Arrows: The centaurs shoot arrows at those damned for violence not to kill them, but only to inflict enough pain to encourage them to stay submerged in boiling blood. Justified Trope, since no weapon could kill an immortal soul, whether damned or blessed.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: At the parade at the top of Purgatory, Christ's chariot is surrounded by seven dancing virgins, each representing one of the virtues.
    • The first woman representing Faith is as white as snow, a sign of Incorruptible Pure Pureness.
    • After faith comes the woman representing Lovenote , who is dressed in red so bright that she could be camouflaged in fire. The comparison of love to fire will return often in Paradiso.
    • With faith leading to love, love then is followed by the woman representing Hope, who looks like she is entirely made of emerald. Emerald green being associated with the renewal of the Earth, which humanity must hope for in the winter.
    • After the women representing the theological virtue pass, the four of them representing the cardinal virtues (from The Republic) are dressed in purple, indicating their duty to rule over human behavior.
  • Arch-Enemy: In both the poem and Real Life, Pope Boniface VIII was Dante Alighieri's most hated enemy, as he was directly responsible for Dante's exile from Florence. In the poem, it is outright stated he'll end up in Hell (specifically, the bolgia for simoniacs), and every time he's brought up in any conversation, none of the souls have anything nice to say about him.
  • Arc Words: "Stars." Every canticle of the poem ends with that word as a sign of the protagonist's ever-increasing proximity to the Eternal Light, who is represented by the stars in keeping with the Light Is Good and Heaven Above tropes.
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: Dante violates a principle of medieval astronomy, that the Sun, Mercury, and Venus were always close as they orbited Earth, in order to have Mercury and Venus appear in the shadow of the Earth. Doing so allows Dante to use darkness to symbolize the deficiencies of the souls of Mercury and Venus.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence:
    • The whole purpose of Purgatory is to prepare penitents for the over-powering perfection of Paradise, which us puny post-fallen peons could not pretend to perceive pre-purgation. The process is visualized in the Comedy by a mountain souls literally ascend.
    • Statius is shown completing his time in Purgatory, an shift so momentous that the whole mountain shakes to let everyone know Statius will now leave the physical universe to live in God.
  • As the Good Book Says...: To soothe the tears of those upset by the corruption of Christ's Church, Beatrice reminds them to have hope with Jesus's words before his death. She recites them in Latin instead of Italian, but the English translation of John 16:16 is as follows:
    “A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me.”
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The last and deepest pit of Hell is guarded by a series of Giants embedded in the cliff. One of them provides a passage to the lake of ice.
  • Audience Surrogate: The poem indicates that Dante's Author Avatar stands in for the audience in the very first line.
    "Midway through the journey of our life..."
  • Author Avatar: The Pilgrim, the protagonist of the story, is a fictionalized version of Dante Alighieri. Purgatory has seven levels corresponding to the Seven Deadly Sins. The Pilgrim experiences the penances for only three: Pride, Anger, and Lust. Translator Dorothy L. Sayers commented that these were the three faults people tend to accuse Dante of, so subjecting the Pilgrim to their penances was probably a deliberate confession on the poet's part.
  • Author Filibuster: Purgatorio's 6th canto, in which the poet, simply for Vergil greeting a fellow poet, stops the narration and goes in a lengthy tirade against the current political situation in Italy, the apparent lack of interest of the Emperor in Italian affairs, and even Florence's political scene (he even admits he is digressing a little bit).
  • Back for the Finale: In the penultimate canto of the whole poem, all the saints Dante encountered throughout Paradiso return to the dwelling-place of God to praise him all together. Returning characters who get specifically named include Rachel, Francis, Benedict, Pope Peter, Adam, and Saint Lucia.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
    • In the seventh circle of Hell, those who commit suicide are transformed into trees, unable to speak or scream unless their branches are broken, making them bleed.
    • In the seventh Bolgia in the eighth circle of Hell, thieves are transformed into snakes. To regain their human form, they have to attack and bite their fellow damned (thus stealing their human forms), only to be transformed again when they themselves are bitten again by the snakes.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Those too uncommitted to do good in life technically aren't in Hell (despite being found past it's gates), but still suffer for eternity running back and forth indecisively between banners.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Since Heaven covers all the planets and stars known to Dante, this middle-aged Italian manages to fly from the Moon to outside the Universe without so much as running out of breath. Of course, he only does this by the grace of God and although we know there's no air in space, Dante was writing three centuries before Galileo, so he had no such luxury.
  • Beard of Evil: Of all the human attributes to apply to a dog, The Divine Comedy describes the monstrous Hellhound Cerberus with a beard as he eats those damned for gluttony, cementing its infernal nature.
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Three prominent Genoans are portrayed in the Inferno as traitors of such magnitude that their souls were immediately damned to Hell, while their historical lives after that point were carried out by demons who had taken their bodies.
  • Being Evil Sucks: The tortures in Hell represent how each of the damned exists internally, implying their evil itself is a torture. So the lustful are tortured by a hurricane because their lust throws them around without rhyme or reason and traitors are tortured with ice because they had already turned frozen their heart to those it should be warm for. Lampshaded by Virgil when a blasphemer blames God for his torment.
    "O Capaneus, for your arrogance
    that is not quenched, you're punished all the more
    no torture other than your own madness
    could offer pain enough to match your wrath."
  • Bishonen Line: Souls become less and less human in appearance as Dante makes his tour of the afterlife, going from Hell to Heaven — from physically human in appearance in Hell and Purgatory (though the damned often have their human forms disfigured and transformed in horrific ways) to ethereal faces in the first sphere of Heaven, shining balls of light with discernible eyes in the second sphere, and beautiful but indescribable balls of light in the third through ninth spheres — but when he reaches the Heavenly realm entirely beyond physical existence, the Empyrean, everyone is entirely human again.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Showing that this sort of thing is Older Than They Think, many sinners depicted in Hell were still living folks with more authority than he'd have liked over him. The Eight Circle of Hell contained three Popes who were alive during Dante's time, including the current one, and numerous other government officials and noblesnote .
  • Black Speech: Plutus, a demon with the name of a Roman god, speaks ugly nonsense that parodies Hebrew and Greek. There is some implication that other denizens of Hell can understand what he says, as an inhabitant of Limbo identifies an outburst from him as a threat and tries to reason with the demon.
  • Blood Bath: Those who were violent against others spend eternity in the Seventh Circle, where they are bathed in a river of blood. The depth they are submerged at is determined by how much blood they spilled in life.
  • Bloody Bowels of Hell: While Inferno is mostly the more traditional Ironic Hell, murderers and tyrants are punished by immersion in Phlegethon, a river of boiling blood. In the Circle of Gluttony the three-headed dog Cerberus chews on the gluttons. And Judas, Brutus, and Cassius were given the special privilege of being Satan's personal chew toys. And we're not speaking figuratively. He has all three of them in his mouths (yes, plural) and is chewing on them for eternity.
  • Body Horror: Several levels of Hell involve grisly torments and Purgatory involves a few equally brutal penances:
    • People who committed suicide are turned into trees that are broken by harpies and demon hounds and can only speak when bleeding.
    • Fortune tellers have their heads turned around backwards.
    • Thieves are turned into snakes and have to regain human form by attacking others.
    • The schismatics are cut apart by a demon with a sword, then all their body parts assemble back together in time for the demon to cut them up again, Specifically, Muhammad is split in half down the middle with all his organs hanging out. And Dante still has a conversation with him.
    • The penance for Envy in Purgatory; people who committed the sin have their eyes sewn shut with wires. The idea is that they committed envy through their sight and so, to purge them of their sin, they see nothing.
  • Book Ends: Inferno Canto 1 begins with Dante admitting that his hope in "Divine Love [that] first moved those things of beauty" is weaker than his fear of evil things. 99 cantos later, Paradiso ends with Dante realizing he doesn't care about his weakness or inability because his "desire and will were moved already—like a wheel revolving uniformly—by the Love that moves the sun and the other stars."
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Dante, in his role as narrator, addresses the reader directly nineteen times throughout the course of the Comedy, if Vittorio Russo's math can be trusted.
    • Inferno:
      • In Canto Eight, the narrator asks the reader to consider how horrified Dante was as Virgil began to leave him alone in Hell.
      • In Canto Nine, the narrator challenges "ye who have undistempered intellects" to uncover the allegorical meaning of Dante's encounter with Medusa.
      • In Canto Sixteen, the narrator engages in Lampshade Hanging by swearing to his "dear reader" that no matter how unbelievable Geryon seems, he really did go on this adventure.
      • Dante breaks the fourth wall to justify why he wept upon seeing the damned of Canto Twenty, since their "bodies" were such mutilations of the human image.
      • "Thou who readest" art briefly told to expect action before the demon-damned chase in Canto Twenty-Two.
    • Purgatorio:
      • In Canto Eight, Dante pleads with his audience to see the thinly veiled symbolic significance of the souls in Purgatory turning away from the dusk in the west to face the eastern sky and praise Christ.
      • In Canto Nine, Dante asks that no one be surprised if the poem's ever-growing subject matter causes the poem itself to use more "art" than may be expected.
      • In perhaps the most direct and honest address to the readers in the Comedy, the end of Canto Ten includes a disclaimer that one should not dwell on how severe on the punishments of Purgatory, for they are temporary and insignificant in the face of man's debt to God.
      • Canto 17 bluntly begins with the poet asking, "Ever been in a misty mountain?" Loose translation aside, it sets the scene uniquely.
    • Paradiso:
      • Canto Two includes the Trope Maker for the Snicket Warning Label by directly telling the audience not to continue if they aren't prepared enough to follow.
      • The narration in Canto Five asks the reader to consider how they would feel if the Comedy was Left Hanging just as the saints of Mercury were to speak, in order to convey Dante's heated anticipation.
      • The reader is told twice in Canto Ten to pay attention to the narrator's reflection on how different life would be were the planets and stars aligned slightly differently.
      • Dante's masterfully-crafted comparison between the crossings of the constellations and wheelings of Heaven's spirit-flames is undermined by when he admits to the audience even that image is only a shadow of Paradise.
  • Break the Haughty:
    • Hell has a tendency to humiliate people who were self-important and powerful in life.
      Virgil: How many now hold themselves mighty kings, who here like swine shall wallow in the mire.
    • The the first terrace of Purgatory exists to purge the sin of Pride from souls, which it does by forcing them to carry giant boulders up the mountain. They learn humility from this by being forced to stay down to Earth and away from their wild, self-aggrandizing fantasies. To help them in this process, the grounds are illustrated with the most famous downfalls of the Proud with examples ranging from Lucifer's failed take-over of Heaven to Arachne's curse received for declaring her art godly.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • As a poet, the protagonist worshipped the guide of Hell and the great author of The Aeneid, Virgil. The idolization stops come Canto 9, where Virgil walks straight into a dead end, implies their situation is hopeless, and "reassures" the protagonist by explaining how he once helped an evil sorceress raise a ghost from the darkest pit of the Inferno. Virgil is still treated with respect past this, but he takes a back seat to the Heavenly powers who get the journey back on track
    • Dante considers the man who taught him poetry, Brunetto Latini, a second father, which made meeting him in Hell all the worse. Dante doesn't much inquire into why Latini is damned, seemingly too scared of what he may find out, and acts more affectionately to him than any other character in the Inferno. Still, having learned that poetry does not save one from death eternal, Dante is prepared to honor real heroes once he arrives in Heaven.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: She may try to downplay it, but by having an affair with her husband's brother, Francesca not only damned herself for adultery, but also for incest. Sure, they're Not Blood Siblings, but if we can take anything from Dante dismissively remembering them as "the two in-laws," it's that he didn't think Hell would see the distinction.
  • Brown Note: By the seventh sphere of Heaven, Beatrice claims that the sight of her smile would be so brilliant that Dante would be set ablaze as if hit by lightning. This isn't meant simply to aggrandize Beatrice, but to show how incomprehensibly joyful it is to be united with God. In using this trope, the Comedy is borrowing from Greek Mythology and is adding a core part of Christian mythology continued in the painfully joyful Heaven of The Great Divorce.
  • Call-Back:
    • In Purgatorio Canto 27, Virgil mentions the time he and Dante flew the beast Geryon in Inferno to convince Dante that Virgil can guide through terrifying circumstances.
    • In Paradiso Canto 17, Dante references the many, many times he's heard people in Hell and Purgatory vaguely predict doom in his future when he asks his the soul of his great-great grandfather what that doom is.
  • Can't Catch Up: While Dante purges himself of weakness throughout Purgatory and gains supernatural abilities in Paradise, his master Virgil lacks any capability to grow, making him wholly useless as a teacher by the time they reach the top of Purgatory. Virgil happily confesses his inferiority and leaves Dante to finish the journey with his well-forged will.
  • The Casanova: The first bolgia in the eighth Circle of Hell is reserved for those panderers and pimps who used deceit to sexually exploit women. Their ranks include Jason of the Argonauts, who abandoned his lovers, Hypsipyle and Medea, once they had sacrificed everything to make his quest achievable.
  • Casts No Shadow: Inverted when the souls being rehabilitated on Mount Purgatory recognize the Pilgrim as a living man because he casts a shadow, and marvel at his presence.
  • Celebrity Is Overrated: In direct contrast with Dante's damned master, Oderisi da Gubbio rants that worldly fame changes with the breeze and that every person who has had fame has lost it and every person who gets it must lose it to another. Dante, who aspires to artistic greatness, is distressed by this and spends the rest of Purgatory identifying his sin with Pride.
  • Character Filibuster: Paradiso Canto 6 is the only canto of the Comedy's hundred to consist of one speech by one character. Specifically, the canto consists of the Blessed Emperor Justinian provide a divine account of the Roman Empire, explain how people can be different in Paradise, and extol the virtue of a man named Romeo in a 142-line monologue.
  • The Chosen One: Dante says that he was chosen for its spiritual journey in order to help to REDEEM MANKIND with the book that he is going to write based on this experience (i.e. the Divine Comedy: intended as a sort of fifth gospel, so to speak).
  • Church Militant: There's an entire planet of soldiers who died for the faith. Mars is inhabited with a giant squadron of dead martyrs and crusaders who eternally sing God's praise in a perfect formation shaped like the cross.
  • Circles of Hell:
    • The Trope Namer, if not the Trope Codifiers, are the nine circles Dante traverses in Inferno, which start from the top with the offenses that least distance man from the Greatest Joy, and gradually get graver and graver until the very bottom of all, which is reserved for direct traitors to God like Lucifer and Judas.
    • The Seven Terraces of Purgatory each serve to reconcile people that committed one of the Seven Deadly Sins. Since Purgatory is a mountain with the entrance to Paradise at the top, the worst of the Sins (pride) has its terrace at the bottom, and sinners must then climb through the other terraces until they reach the least offensive sin (lust) and do penance for that.
    • The Spheres of Paradise appear to follow the same formula as Hell and Purgatory, where Dante first encounters the least exemplary of the place's inhabitants and rises to the most perfect example of those that dwell in this domain. Dante is disturbed by this, since it seems unjust that God would segregate different Saints after they had already reached Paradise, but his guide, Beatrice, handily answers his worries. She explains that Heaven isn't actually divided into different sections, it's just that God wanted to show Dante the different aspects of Heaven in a way he could understand. It's made very clear that everyone is equally and perfectly happy in Paradise, with the nun Dante meets in the lowest sphere shrugging off Dante's worries before going back to sing God's praises.
  • Clown-Car Grave: The heretics in Hell lie in flaming tombs, each of which can hold some thousands of sinners.
  • Colossus Climb: The Inferno ends with a middle-aged Italian and the shadow of a Roman poet climbing the Devil's hairy back from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern. In terms of scale, Satan is as big to a giant the size of a castle as said giant would be to our nervous, middle-aged protagonist.
  • Confirmation Bias: In-Universe, Saint-Doctor Thomas Aquinas warns The Hero not to fool himself into thinking he can see the world perfectly as God does, for his perception passes on truth "like an artist who knows his craft but has a hand that trembles." If he fails to recognize the faults of his opinions, even the greatest genius will fall into the ranks of idiot philosophers and heretics, since "affection for one’s own opinion binds, confines the mind."
  • Conlang:
    • In the seventh canto of Inferno, the demon Plutus clucks about Satan in a dark mixture of Hebrew and Greek that a damned Roman is able to understand while our Italian protagonist is lost to its meaning. Plutus says more after the initial sentence about Satan, but that first sentence is all that's made available to the audience.
      "Pape Satàn, pape Satàn aleppe!"
    • In the seventh canto of Paradiso, the saint Justinian sings of God in a divine mixture of Hebrew and Latin that said blessed Greek is able to understand while our Italian protagonist is lost to its meaning. Justinian sings more after the first verse, but the rest of the chorus is only made available to the audience through the joy and dance described elsewhere in the Canto.
      "Osanna, sanctus Deus sabaòth,
      superillustrans claritate tua
      felices ignes horum malacòth."
  • Continuity Nod: At the end of Paradiso Canto 22, Dante looks back at the seven spheres he passed and notes that back in the second canto, he incorrectly argued that the sphere of the Moon must be made of rare and dense matter.
  • Conveniently Close Planet: The different planets in Heaven are so close the narrator doesn't realize he's off the Sun until he sees the blood red signature to Mars. Medieval astronomy and Artistic License are a strange mix.
  • Corrupt Church: The second-to-last canto of Purgatorio is focused on a chariot representing the Church being symbolically attacked and metamorphosed into a group of beasts led by a whore bound to a giant. Point is that the Church had been corrupted from its holy purpose.
  • Cosmic Deadline: Lampshaded: the narrator has only nine lines left in Purgatorio to describe how he bathed in the river of good memories, so he admits that he doesn't have enough space to do the account justice and assures that the river is important for the next part of his journey, which will be covered in Paradiso.
    "[S]ince all of the pages pre-disposed for this, the second canticle, are full, the curb of art will not let me continue."
  • Creator Provincialism: The poem gives the impression that the entire universe is structured with respect to Medieval Italy and the Roman Empire. Notably, the lowest level of hell is shared by Judas, Brutus, and Cassius, because Dante saw the fall of Rome as a sin near the depravity of the betrayal of Christ.
  • Creepy Cemetery: The first urban Circle Of Hell is a cemetery filled with fiery tombs that hold arch-heretics and their followers. The tombs remain open until the Last Judgement, so those passing through can hear the "sorry cries" the heretics create for eternity.
  • Cue the Sun: Hey, Dante, what's a good time to emerge from Hell? Oh, alright, I'll meet you when "Daybreak defeats darkness's last hour" and we'll start heading over to God's place. It'll be more symbolic than last time, I promise.
  • Cure Your Gays: The seventh terrace of Purgatory features homosexual men who burn alongside the heterosexual lustful to purify their sexualities.
  • Cultural Translation:
    • In Dorothy L. Sayers' translation, Arnaut Daniel, who, in the Purgatorio, spoke Provençal rather than the narrative's Italian, now speaks in the Scots language. (However, most, if not all translations choose to explain Dante's historical and cultural references in footnotes or endnotes.)
    • This is taken to its logical extreme by Sandow Birk's translation, which translates Dante's vernacular Italian verse into slangy (and profanity-ridden) vernacular American English prose. Many of Dante's allusions to medieval life, history, and culture are replaced or augmented with references to modern life and pop culture, and the lists of sinners in Hell now include such figures as Bill Clinton, "Reagan, and Bush (both of them)."
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In an unremarked upon moment of disrespect, Dante starts a conversation with his guide by referring to him as "My master, you who can defeat all things except for those tenacious demons who tried to block us at the entryway," reminding his master of a damning failure in a conversation that has nothing to do with that.
  • Dark Is Evil:
    • The final circle of Hell, the most fundamental representation of evil, is first referenced as the "più oscuro" (darkest) circle just before Dante has to have his eyes closed to survive Medusa's glare. When he actually reaches the Ninth Circle, he describes himself shivering in that "l’etterno rezzo," a term meaning "eternal shadow."
    • Downplayed Trope; in Paradiso, the planets covered by the Earth's shadow have saints defined not by their virtues, but by their deficiencies in life. These saints are those who broke oaths, those too focused on worldly glory, and those too distracted by romance to fully focus on God.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Long after going through the deepest parts of Hell, Dante states that the darkest place he had ever been was one of the redemptive terraces of Purgatory. In that penitentiary for the wrathful, darkness reflects judgement blinded by passion and emotion which the sinner must recognize and move away from before moving closer to the Lord.
  • Dead Person Conversation: All over the place. The only living person in the whole poem is Dante himself.
  • Dead Unicorn Trope: A typical description of the Inferno would probably mention "demons with pointy sticks torturing sinners chained to the wall,". This is a fairly uncommon punishment in Dante's Hell, and is shown directly only a couple of times; sinners are tormented by fire, ice, storms, hounds, snakes, etc.
  • Death of a Child: The only time Dante encounters a child in the afterlife is in the First Circle of Hell, where the poet briefly mentions seeing unbaptised infants among the virtuous pagans. By placing them in this First Circle, Dante affirms the necessity of baptism while maintaining that children are not tortured for remaining unbaptised by anything other than sadness and boredom.
  • Decomposite Character: Cacus is a flame-breathing giant from Greek mythology, which Dante seems to have found just too ludicrous to implement as such in his Comedy. To provide a more sensible character, Cacus is now a damned centaur who doesn't breath fire, because the little dragon who sits on his shoulder takes the role of fire-breather for him.
  • Deliberately Painful Clothing: The punishment for Hypocrites in Inferno is to wear gilded lead cloaks.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Cavalcante faints and loses speech from despair upon learning that his son died. It's worth noting that this is after Cavalcante has spent years in Hell for denying that the soul lives after bodily death.
  • Deus ex Machina: When Dante and Virgil find demons keeping them from descending deeper into Hell, Virgil calls upon the help of an angel. That angel busts into Hell, blasts open the demons' gate, and leaves. The angel was not referred to before and he failed to be referenced after, only serving to get Dante out of a bind and to demonstrate Virgil's inferiority to the divine.
  • The Devil Is a Loser: Lucifer is a whiny giant, trapped waist-deep in a frozen lake, beating his massive wings trying to fly away from heaven, and while doing so creating cold gusts of wind which freeze the ice back up, and push him up into the broken shards of ice. Loser Indeed.
  • Did We Just Have Tea with Cthulhu?: Two of the central themes of Paradiso are that God is both endlessly unknowable and infinitely loving. Dante learns the even most powerful of the seraphim physically cannot understand all of the Divine Mind, but Dante grows to know that everyone in Heaven, from the oath-breakers to the Virgin Mother, all find happiness beyond expression in accepting the selfless love presented by God.
  • Did You Just Flip Off Cthulhu?: Only eight circles into Hell does Dante find a sinner so stupid and sinister as to insult the God in control of his eternal torment. This is one of two times one of the damned directly mentions God, and this is the only time a damned dares to blaspheme. Yes, even those damned for blasphemy are sensible enough not to flip off the architect of their eternal grave.
  • Dirty Coward: The Opportunists, who aren't allowed into Hell, but are still punished for it anyway. Unlike the rest of the damned, Dante's guide refuses to acknowledge them and insists they get to the First Circle to talk to some sinners with backbone.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Even as low as the second planet of Paradise, Beatrice's smile is so brilliant that the narration says a man would feel serenity looking at it even if he were in a fire.
  • Don't Look Back: The angel who guards the gate to Purgatory warns that anyone who looks backwards towards the entrance to Purgatory will be banished from it. When Dante hears the gate shutting behind him, he finds he has no interest in looking behind him and so begins his climb to Paradise.
    "[I]f I’d turned toward it, how could my fault have found a fit excuse?"
  • Downer Beginning: Dante starts off as a middle-aged man lost in the woods with no place in life, unable to get anywhere due to the heinous beasts who block his way. Metaphorically, the beasts represents the sins that plague our hero and the dark forest he's in is suspiciously similar to the forest where suicides spend eternity. It's a good thing Virgil comes in to bring Dante to a better place: Hell.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Dante has three dreams to mark his progression through different parts of Purgatory.
    • Before entering the first terrace, Dante falls asleep and dreams a terrifying eagle grabbed him and flew him into the burning sun. Dante awakens having felt real pain from the sun's heat, now right in front of the gate to Purgatory. It turns out Dante was dreaming of what he was doing while asleep and what he will do in the future: undergoing pain to ascend to the Eternal Light.
    • Dante's second dream shows him in images the struggle of those who were greedy, gluttonous, or lustful. Dante dreams a meeting with the Siren. She seems beautiful and promises to satisfy all of Dante's desires, but that goes to Hell when a saintly lady appears. She alerts Dante's mentor to the siren and he tears her clothing off while keeping his eyes trained on the saintly lady. Without her clothing, the Siren can no longer hide her hideous stench, which immediately awakens Dante from his nightmare.
    • After climbing through all seven of the terraces, the poet has a vision of Leah and Rachel, the wives of Jacob from the Book of Genesis. Leah is working to collect garlands while Rachel contemplates herself in the mirror, an action which earns not scorn but praise from Leah. Generally, this dream is taken as a sign of the peace between thought and action that comes upon the purgation of sins and unity with God.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Exceptionally for an epic, the Comedy ends happily with the protagonist having risen above the darkness of Earth, the torments of Hell, and the fires of Purgatory to fully encounter God. The last canto is taken up with Dante apologizing for his inability to describe how perfect the Love of God is and using every device he can to praise that One who is Three.
  • Empathic Environment: The light of Paradise's planets changes in regard to the collective joy of its inhabitants.
    • Beatrice enters the kingdom of Mercury and is so happy that the entire planet grows brighter and "smiles," which pales in comparison to the change Beatrice's happiness brings to Dante.
    • When the Sinister Minister Boniface VIII is discussed in Heaven, the sky turns dark and reddish, as if the whole cosmos is ashamed of how the true religion has been perverted.
  • End of an Age: The decline of humanity is visualized in Inferno by a giant statue of crying old man. The tears are not water, but blood, and they don't come from the statue's eyes, but from its many cracks. Looking at the statue's golden head, you would hardly notice any tears, but as you look down, you would notice it getting more and more unstable as the statue went from silver, to bronze, to iron, and finally to baked clay. From the tears of this crumbling monument comes the four rivers of Hell which lead straight into the frozen lake which traps the traitors of God in the Earth's core.
  • Enthralling Siren: Dante has a dream about a siren just before he ascends to the top layers of Purgatory. She represents desire for things that are not ultimately satisfying. Like money, food, and sex, she presents herself as something beautiful, but the siren is covering her deathly stench. It is only when a saint and a wise poet reveal her true nature is Dante released from her spell.
  • Eternal English: Outside of two demonic exceptions, every character in the Comedy speaks medieval Italian, the native language of the author and his Author Avatar. Sure, there are a lot of Italians in the Comedy, but there are also conversations with Roman contemporaries of Jesus who wrote poetry in Latin who predated Dante's dialect by a thousand years and most notably, a conversation with Adam about the fact that language changes over time!
  • Eternal Love: The relationship between Christ and his Bride, the Church, is described like an extended Romance Arc thats been plagued by 2000 years of adultery on the Bride's part.
  • Even Evil Has Standards:
    • The Uncommitted souls and fallen uncommitted angels aren't even considered worthy of entering hell, although they're still punished.
    • In the fiery desert of the seventh circle, blasphemers and sodomites keep themselves away from the usurers.
  • Evil Chancellor: 'Evil Counselors' (meaning those who advised others to do evil things) are in the 8th bolgia of the 8th circle. Their punishment is to be trapped within individual tongues of fire.
  • Evil Is Burning Hot: A large portion of hell is torturously hot, like the fiery sands and the river of blood, and fire is used as aspects of punishments in other areas. It notably averts associating Satan with fire, as he's trapped in the coldest part of hell.
  • Evil Is Deathly Cold: Two circles use cold as part of their punishment:
    • The second circle (for gluttons) is constantly bombarded by freezing rain, hail, and snow
    • The final circle (for traitors) is a lake frozen by the bitter winds made by Lucifer's wings. Just as betrayal is a calculating and cold evil, the damned here are submerged more and more into the ice depending on how calculated and unfeeling they were in carrying out their crime.
  • Evil Will Fail: Once someone is in Purgatory, they are destined to reach Heaven, no matter how many serpents and demons try to stop them.
  • Exact Words: In order to learn the backstory of a damned traitor, Dante swears that he'll clear the frozen tears from the traitor's eyes or go down to the very bottom of Hell. Of course, since he isn't actually damned himself, Dante does go down to the bottom of Hell and can then leave without suffering either damnation or alliance with the worst of humanity.
  • Exit, Pursued by a Bear: A thief in Hell curses God and give the finger to the sky, only to be attacked by snakes so severely that he has to shut up and leave Dante alone.
  • Extranormal Prison: This Ironic Hell features horrid weather, cliffs, monsters, demons, and a doorway marked "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
  • Eye Scream:
    • Traitors to their guests are encased in the frozen lake Cocytus, with only their faces coming out. The intense cold freezes their tears, encrusting their eyes in ice. Any further tears cannot get out and increase pressure on the eyes.
    • In Purgatory, those who committed Envy have their eyes sewn shut. Because in life they envied what they saw, so to purge their sins they see nothing.
  • Facial Dialogue: In Purgatorio Canto 21, Virgil manages to say "Be still" to Dante with only his face, not wanting to reveal to the ghost they're who they are just yet.
  • Fainting: Dante faints twice near the beginning of Inferno because he's so shocked by how horrible the first tortures are. He faints again towards the end of Paradiso as he approaches the end of all desires.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Even if they seem impossible in a monotheistic context, all the Roman myths and epics are treated as if they really happened, only with the polytheistic gods generally having their places taken by God. So, it turns out the giants who rose up against Olympus are real and have a place in Hell a little above where Satan suffers and the polytheistic blasphemer is punished even though is blasphemy was against Zeus.
  • Fantasy World Map: Diagrams of Hell and Purgatory are featured in many translations; some fine ones can be found here.
  • Fartillery: One of the devils in the later part of Hell lets out a huge fart as a sort of military trumpet, a similarity not lost on our noble poet.
  • The Fatalist: One of the wrathful penitents characterizes the sinful people of Dante's times as ascribing every single action to the will of Heaven. The penitent points out that this eliminates free will and ignores the fact that good and evil are clear to these same people who claim Heaven has forced them into sin.
    "Thus, if the present world has gone astray, in you is the cause, in you it’s to be sought."
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Everywhere in Inferno (which is a given, since it depicts Hell), but the ones who really have it bad are the ones trapped in Hell's Vestibule — The Opportunists. As they never took sides between good and evil in life, so is their fate in death. They're not actually a part of Hell, and they have no chance at redemption. They just have one small place to be tormented for eternity alone by themselves.
  • Faux Flame: The saints in Heaven are so intensely happy and full of light that they look like they are on fire. They aren't really aflame, and from Dante's reactions they aren't giving off heat, but rather they project pure joy which only gets more focused the closer they ascend to God.
  • Feathered Fiend: The harpies from the Forest of Suicides, who torture the souls of those who committed violence against themselves by tearing off the tree branches that are now their limbs and using them as nest materials.
  • The Ferryman: There's a couple of them:
    • The first one is Charon, the classic archetype. He ferries the souls of the recently deceased sinners across the river Acheron to Hell.
    • The second one is Phlegyasnote , who ferries Dante and Virgil across the Styx in the fifth circle of Hell.
    • The third one is an angel who guides ferries the souls of the repentant dead to the foot of Mount Purgatorio. This angelic figure, with its great speed and holy guise, contrasts with the gruesome beings that travel throughout the Inferno Dante had just climbed out of.
  • Finger Poke of Doom: An angel opens the well-fortified Hellgate to the City of Dis with a push from his tiny wand. The mighty gate falls open with no resistance.
  • Fire and Brimstone Hell:
    • The fifth circle is a river of fire where the angry endlessly battle and the sullen sink into the fires.
    • The sixth circle punishes heretics by trapping them in giant flaming tombs.
    • The third segment of the seventh circle punishes those violent against God by raining fire down upon them. Blasphemers lie on their back as the fires descend upon them, the sodomites run endlessly for fear of burning for centuries, and the usurers, weighed down by gold and crests, desperately try to shake off flames as they sit on the edge of that circle.
    • The eighth circle, Malebolge:
      • The corrupt priests are immersed headfirst into baptismal cauldrons filled with fire.
      • The false counselors are engulfed in tongues of fire as lethal as theirs.
  • Fire Purifies: Just before the summit of Mount Purgatorio is a massive wall of fire all humanity must pass through to purify their lust. Unlike every other penance of Purgatory, Dante actually must go through the wall of fire in order to enter Heaven. Not eager to burn away parts of his soul, Dante hesitates until Virgil reminds him Beatrice is on the other side of the fire. Dante jumps in.
  • First Law of Metafictional Thermodynamics: The more sub-divisions there are in a circle of Hell or sphere of Heaven, the longer it takes to go through. This is why half of Inferno is spent in the Eight Circle with its ten sub-divisions and why Eight Sphere of Heaven takes a similar amount of time with its line-up of those who represent the theological virtues.
  • First-Name Basis: In 14,233 lines, there is only one character who ever uses the first name of the poem's protagonist and she only does so on one occasion. When the Author Avatar turns away from Paradise to look for his departed, damned mentor, his deceased lover calls him "Dante" to focus him on the journey ahead.
  • Flaming Sword: In the tradition of Genesis, angels that guard the entrance to Purgatory bear flaming swords meant to scare off any serpents or demons that wish the corrupt the repentant souls. The swords strangely enough have had their points remove, which according to Robert Hollander signifies that their fighting days are over after Jesus defeated Hell with his Crucifixion.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Downplayed Example; The heretic Farinata degli Uberti spends his time in Hell glaring contemptuously at every aspect of the afterlife he denied the existence of. He fails to acknowledge his mistake when the Author Avatar talks to him and seems single-mindedly fixated on his family's reputation in the physical world, which he still treats as if it was the only world that exists.
  • Flipping the Bird: ...or the equivalent of that time: One damned soul curses God and gives Him "the figs"note  with both hands.
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: Paradise is often depicted as a bright land filled with clouds in illustrations; the actual "landscape" of Paradise is a bit vaguely described and is largely breaks from this cliche in other areas. Sure, Dante's Heaven is above the Earth, but he doesn't describe it as with bunch of farts playing harps in the cloud, but as a realm where spirits use their Mind Meld powers to form into giant sentient eagles and crosses everywhere from the Moon to the farthest stars of the universe all while having joy more intense than the heat of a lightning bolt.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the beginning of Inferno, Virgil tells the protagonist about how Jesus came to Limbo and took many of the Jews up into Heaven, including Adam. Two thirds of the way through Paradiso, our protagonist meets Adam as he describes how long he had to wait in Hell before being saved.
    • In the fifth canto, one of the lustful mentions her husband-murderer will be punished in a part of Hell called "Caïna." It takes until the 32nd canto for the pilgirms to arrive their and see that it's a region of the final circle where the traitors of family are punished.
    • Halfway through Inferno, Virgil explains that all the rivers of all deposit at the bottom to form Lake Cocytus, but stops describing it since they'll get there later. Needless to say, the last circle damns traitors to suffer in the bitterly frozen Lake of Cocytus.
    • One of the gluttons in Purgatory mentions his sister has ascended ahead of him into Heaven. Surely enough, the first person Dante talks to in Paradise is Piccarda, sister of the glutton.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: A rare audio example; the speech of Dante's great-great-grandfather in the Heaven of Mars expresses thoughts so deep a mere mortal could not comprehend. In his deep sympathy for his great-great-grandson, he allowed "his speech to descend to meet the limit of our intellect" and refrained from speaking truths beyond our comprehension.
  • From Bad to Worse: As Virgil says, as awful as the punishments of the sinners in hell already are, they will worsen after the Last Judgement.
  • Generation Xerox: All that we learn about Dante Alighieri's great-grandfather, who gave the family the name Alighieri, is that he has spetn a century in Purgatory to rid himself of Pride. Vices appear to be genetic, because Dante had earlier admitted that he would almost certainly end up in that part of Purgatory for a long, long time.
  • Genre Refugee: The first damned soul Dante meetsnote  is a woman who casts herself as the protagonist of a tragic, romantic ballad where her only flaw was loving too much in an unloving world. A poet himself, Dante is moved with sympathy, but context makes it clear our romantic protagonist is just making excuses for cheating on her husband with his brother.
  • Giant Flyer: Geryon, demon of fraud and keeper of the "Malebolge," has two giant wings and a body large enough to hold two grown men mid-flight.
  • God: In the thirty-third canto of the third part of the poem, the last 100 lines is dedicated to describing Him, a task the narrator admits is like accurately recalling something you saw 25 centuries ago or speaking wisely with an infant's intellect. Still, the Comedy tries and ultimately illustrates a figure that is made up of three circles which somehow look as if they are a single circle. One of the circles looks like it's coming from the first circle and the third looks like fire being produced by both. That begotten circle strangely has the same color as the rest of the circles while also bearing the hue of humanity, a fact which encapsulates the poem's protagonist. Although he tries to take the whole of that great light into his mind, Dante admits he is too weak for that, but the light granted him what his mind had asked for.
    "Here force failed my high fantasy; but
    my desire and will were moved already—like
    a wheel revolving uniformly—by
    the Love that moves the sun and the other stars."
  • God Is Good: Inferno is such a terrible place because it is the furthest place in the universe from the Love, and when Dante jumps off the Devil's back to the surface, he begins an ascent through more beautiful and joyous areas of Purgatory and Paradise until he reaches what he calls "the Love that moves the Sun and the other stars", what we call God. Dante blissfully laments that his memory could not capture more than a distant shadow of the pure goodness he knew in the Love's presence, presenting a God always better than what we can conceive or convey.
  • Gold and White Are Divine: A griffin that represents Jesus is gold and white. The eagle's wings and bird parts are gold to represent Christ's kingship as God, while the white represents his Incorruptible Pure Pureness as a sinless man.
  • The Good King:
    • Solomon is said by Thomas Aquinas to be the wisest king in all creation, by virtue of asking God for wisdom in acting out his kingly duties rather than more frivolous academic knowledge.
    • Those who truly ruled justly are rewarded on Jupiter, the sixth sphere of Heaven, where the rulers are so in tune to the other's needs that they move their souls to spell out praises of justice and form a giant eagle that speaks for all of them in one voice. Dante only individually talks to the kings who form one of the Eagle's eye, including King David, Emperor Constantine, and two pagans who were loyal to God despite that being lost to history and to Dante.
  • Good Shepherd: Saint Francis of Assisi is compared to a prince, a seraphim, and a husband faithful even in the face of death in his dedication to his vow of poverty. By founding the Franciscan Order and agreeing to be laid low, Francis avoided the arrogance of his wealthy compatriots and earned the praise of the choir's of Heaven.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: Satan's wings are directly compared to a bat's because they have no feathers, showing his corruption. In contrast, the holy and perfect angels of Purgatory are described as having pure white, green, or goldnote  "eternal pinions, that do not moult themselves like mortal hair."
  • Gorn: Frequent in Inferno. Probably the most bloody is the punishment for the Sowers of Discord in the 9th Bolgia. Sinners there constantly walk in a circle, being hacked up by a demon and healing just in time to be mutilated again.
    "[H]is bowels hung between his legs, one saw his vitals and the sad sack that makes of what we swallow excrement."
  • Grand Theft Me: Demons can kick a person's soul out of their body into Hell and then take the body as their own. Fortunately, they can only pull this on the worst of the traitors, namely those who betray those under their hospitality.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: The second-lowest part of Purgatory is reserved for the envious like Sapia, who prayed for her enemies to be attacked and rejoiced when they lost everything and were chased from their homes. As penance, her eyes are blinded as she hears the cautionary tales of Cain and Aglauros, both of whom were jealous of their siblings for their closeness to the divine.
  • Harping on About Harpies: Harpies appear in the Forest of Suicides, wherein they tear off the branches of the tree people (which, as already mentioned, has the same effect as dismemberment) and use them to build nests in said tree people.
  • Heaven: The third part of the poem details Dante's journey through Heaven. Every soul in Heaven dwells outside the material universe in the presence of the Lord. However, Dante meets the souls of Heaven as he ascends through the nine spheres before the dwelling place of God. His Hero's Muse explains that this is only so so Dante can better understand the internal difference between those who receive lesser graces in Heaven and those who receive greater graces. This inequality strikes Dante as unjust and he questions it frequently during the journey.
  • Heaven Above: The poem plays with the association of the sky and the realm of God by assigning each type of good person a planet, which would also be divine places under the trope's logic. The closer they are to Earth, the farther they are from God, who is portrayed as the ultimate sphere surrounding all the heavens and all the planets. So, yes, Dante says the sky is the divine.
  • Hell: The first part of the poem details Dante's journey through Hell. Each of the nine Circles of Hell are entirely different with two exceptions: every Circle will be more painful after the Last Judgement and every Circle keeps the Damned exactly as they were in life. From that last part, Dante learns what it looks like to separate yourself from God and how that creates your own torture.
  • Hellgate: Since Dante represents Hell with a physical Underworld, the entrance to the kingdom of the damned is a literal gate that includes an inscription written by the Author of Life which includes a description of the depravity of Hell, a recitation of the virtues of the Author that are rejected by entry, and a famous command: "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
  • Hellhound:
    • Cerberus, who has the traits of a human-like beard and hands, punishes those in the Third Circle of Hell by ripping them apart in its three horrible mouths. Fittingly, Cereberus's infernal meals have been damned for gluttony.
    • The black bitches (as in female dogs) chasing and maiming the damned in the Forest of Suicides.
  • The Heretic: These guys can be found in the sixth circle of Hell. Their punishment is to lie in flaming tombs. The ones we see are there because they were "Epicureans", however this does not mean they were all followers of Epicurus, it simply refers to those who did not believe in the immortality of the soul.
  • The Hermit: The seventh sphere of Heaven (Saturn) houses those who left their worldly possessions to live a monastic life.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: All the brave who died in war or the good who martyred for the First Good live in the fifth sphere of Heaven, Mars. Instead of worshipping the god of war, these fallen soldiers take joy not in battle or blood, but in the beauty of the Cross, which they sing the praise of while assembling themselves in the shape of that holy weapon upon which God died.
  • Heroic Vow: On the Moon, Beatrice explains that freedom is the greatest treasure God gave to humanity so, making the surrender of freedom back to God in the forms of vows and oaths a matter of incredible heroism and seriousness. The importance of vows is one of many indications that Piccarda is virtuous and pure, which adds more reason to question her low position in Heaven.
    "When the matter of a vow has so
    much weight and worth that it tips every scale,
    no other weight can serve as substitute."
  • Hero's Muse: Dante is sent on his quest for redemption through the afterlife by Beatrice, who enlists the help of the poet Virgil to guide him through Hell and Purgatory, and guides Dante through Heaven herself.
  • Hijacked by Jesus: Despite the generally Christian nature of this work, Dante borrows aspects of Hell (including the four rivers and various creatures) from the Greek underworld, and multiple sinners are prominent characters from Greek mythology.
  • Historical-Domain Character: Most of the characters with dialogue were contemporaries or relatives of Dante's, although there are a few significant characters from his history:
    • The Roman poet Virgil serves as the guide through the afterlife in the first two parts of the Comedy. Fittingly, the Comedy is in the same genre as Virgil's The Aeneid. As a pagan, he's condemned to Hell, but Dante acknowledges his virtue by putting him in the relatively benign first circle.
    • Those arriving in Purgatory are greeted by Cato the Younger, who so faithfully followed the cardinal virtues that it is almost as if he was graced by God. It's unclear if Cato is an occupant of Limbo or if he is destined to be saved.
    • The Byzantine Emperor Justinian appears in the Heaven of Mercury to make it clear to Dante that even if the saints are given different graces, they are all as happy as they could possibly be in God's love.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The poet Statius historically loved The Aeneid, but Dante invents a story where Statius finds the message of The Aeneid and the message of the first generation of Christians so compatible that he converts to Christianity. From there, Statius repents of his ill-spending and begins his journey to join the Ultimate Good in Heaven.
  • Holy Burns Evil: While going through Purgatory, the mere presence of an angel causes Dante to cringe and cover himself from the intensity of their light. Virgil makes it clear that this is only due to Dante's current imperfection and true to that, Dante's joy upon meeting the angels leads him to bathe in the light of their joyful fires. So, while Holy Burns Evil, it also Empowers Good.
  • Horrible Judge of Character:
    • Knowing without a doubt that a Perfectly Good and All-Knowing God had damned them, Dante still falls for the excuses of several characters being punished in Hell.
      • First, he faints with despair after an adulterous couple explain why they had no choice but to fall into sin. Their excuse? They heard a love poem about Lancelot's affair and thought it sounded pretty cool.
      • Second, Dante can't help but feel pity when he meets his former master, Brunetto Latini, punished for some type of violence. Dante thanks him for teaching him everything about writing and poetry and remembers how Latini taught him that the secret to immortality was to write brilliantly. Lattini reaffirms everything Dante says of him, even when Dante says he wouldn't have put Lattini in Hell, apparently not realizing that in life and now in death he lead Dante away from the true secret to immortality: giving one's self entirely in the Love that is God. So in perpetuating Dante's error and leading him away from the Paradise, Lattini continues in death to do Violence against God.
    • Thomas Aquinas concludes a dialogue about human wisdom by observing that men are foolish when they casually judge whether another is damned or blessed, because to do so would be to "count ears before the corn is ripe." Since that's foolish, Aquinas reminds the ordinary man that he should not assume to be the Mind of the Lord, for even one who appears to be a robber can be saved while the charitable giver may suffer in Inferno.
  • Humans Are Bastards: One of the wrathful penitents in Purgatory says that Heaven is not to blame for evil in the world, but rather the free will man has abused. Unless a shepherd applies laws and guides humanity towards greater goods, the species is doomed to only greedily horde the most superfluous of goods and deny themselves true joy while tearing apart the world around them.
  • Human Popsicle: The traitors in Judecca, the last ring in the last circle of Hell, are completely entombed under the ice of Lake Cocytus, unable to move or speak.
  • Humble Hero: Purgatory's Terrace to purge pride is illustrated with three episodes depicting important people demonstrating humility.
    • The mighty Emperor Trojan comes to the aid of an irrelevant widow, even though he had thousands of officers he could delegate this task to.
    • King David dances shamelessly in front of the Ark of the Covenant in praise of God, to the distaste of his vain wife.
    • The Virgin Mary is announced to be the Mother of Christ, which leads the immortal Archangel Gabriel to hail the young girl.
  • An Ice Person: The Devil is the originator of the unnatural coldness of the ninth and final circle of Hell. Thanks to the winds from his six wings, thousands upon thousands of traitors are frozen with him in Lake Cocytus, forever to hate each other for eternity.
  • I Have Many Names: The infinity and transcendence of the Lord is evident in the Comedy because Dante refuses just to call him God. To show how that phrase fails to capture Him, Dante will call him by unique titles like the Love that Moves the Sun and the Outer Stars, the First Equality, the Deep Mind, the Highest Joy, and more.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    • Count Ugolino may have only eaten the corpses of his children out of desperation, but once he reaches the bottom of Hell for treason, he has no reason to eat the head off his fellow damned other than pure hatred. This sickening "relationship" shows what humanity becomes the farther they are from God and foreshadows the monstrosity of Lucifer.
    • A canto after Dante talks to Ugolino, he finds Lucifer reduced to a monster who's only solace is in shredding Judas, Brutus, and Cassius apart with his three mouths. Unlike Ugolino, the Devil can't even talk and consumes the entirety of his victims instead of just their heads, showing that he is the "perfection" of the evil that was seen in the cannibal count.
  • Infant Immortality: Downplayed Trope; there's an offhand mention of unbaptized infants in the First Circle of Hell, but no other children are seen throughout the three afterlives of the Comedy, as if it's impossible to die in-between baptism and adulthood.
  • Infodump:
    • Dante and Virgil stop their descent through Hell in Canto 11 to get used to a new stench and, from the Doylist perspective, so that Virgil has time to explain the structure of Hell. Here, it's made clear that the reason lust, greed, gluttony, and anger are higher up in Hell is because the sinners who commit them are incontinent, or lack self-restraint. All the circles below the City of Dis punishes sins of malice because they involve a more deliberate and voluntary turn from the Highest Love. These crimes of malice include heresy, violence, fraud, and betrayal.
    • Nighttime falls just before Dante can enter the fourth terrace of Purgatory, forcing him and Virgil to pass the time by discussing the structure of Purgatory. In this dialogue between the seventeenth and eighteenth cantos, the Seven Deadly Sins are described as corrupt form of loves. The bottom terraces purge love for evil things (which happens in pride, envy, and wrath), the fourth terrace purges a lack of love (sloth), and the final three purge love that is too extreme or exclusive (greed, gluttony, and lust).
    • Virgil and Statius explain why the immaterial souls of Hell and Purgatory appear to have bodies that can be hurt and starved.
  • Informed Attribute: Marco Lombardi is placed in Puragatory's terrace for wrath and he mentions that he was flawed in his life, but from his conversation with Dante, Marco seems to have an incredibly strong sense of virtue and an awareness of the evils his country is falling into. Since we know nothing about Marco outside of the Comedy, there is no indication as to why he needs his penance.
  • In Medias Res: The poem begins not in the middle of the story, but in the middle of life as a whole. Dante is 30 as the poem begins, and the readers will learn much about his past and future from the ghosts of the afterlife and their visions of things yet to be.
  • In Mysterious Ways:
    • The Eagle of Justice happily explains the presence of two pagans in Heaven by revealing that both of the kings came to know Christ and reject paganism by incredible circumstances lost to history. With this in mind, the Eagle praise God's predestination and implores mankind not to act as if they know who and how He will save.
    • A soul from Saturn explains that even the Angels due not fully grasp all of God's reason. He pleads with Dante to take this wisdom to Earth, since if those in Heaven do not fully understand God, how disastrous must it be for those on Earth who assume they know everything about the Lord?
      "Even Heaven’s most enlightened soul,
      that Seraph with his eye most set on God,
      could not provide the why, not satisfy
      what you have asked; for deep in the abyss
      of the Eternal Ordinance, it is
      cut off from all created beings’ vision."
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: Everyone in the afterlife is either a well-known historical figure or someone who would be familiar to Dante's readers. It gets a justification as Dante's guides point out these exemplary figures, or Dante himself recognizes them. They also usually have more important places in Heaven or more picturesque punishments in Hell. There are some exceptions, though — the hoarders and spenders, for instance, are so featureless that they can barely be distinguished from each other, and Dante does pause to talk with a nameless Florentine suicide.
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: In Paradisio Canto 22, Dante realizes how small and unimpressive the Earth is after entering the Eighth Sphere of Heaven.
    "And turning there with the eternal Twins,
    I saw the dusty little threshing ground
    that makes us ravenous for our mad sins,
    saw it from mountain crest to lowest shore.
    Then I turned my eyes to Beauty's eyes once more."
  • Intangibility: Having left their bodies behind, all the deceased Dante meets on his journey are just shadows of their former selves that don't breath, block light, or affect physical matter. This leads to a sad incident when Dante tries to hug his recently deceased friend, Casella, three different times only for his hands to pass through his friend's illusory back.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Notably averted in the punishments of the lustful, the sodomites, and the pimps. All of these punished for sexual sins do not suffer sexually charged tortures universally used in depictions of Hell from the time of medieval tapestries to video games by Electronic Arts.
  • Invincible Hero: By the grace of God, nothing in Hell can kill or even injure Dante and Virgil so long as they remain faithful. This spiritual invincibility applies to all loyal to God, which allows a saint like Beatrice to stroll into Hell without fear.
  • Ironic Hell:
    • The damned in Inferno are all punished by tortures that have the same effect their sins have on their souls. A partial list:
      • The lustful, who were unable to control their sexual urges, are now unable to control anything as they are whirled about in a violent wind.
      • The gluttonous, who degraded themselves for their appetites, are trapped in putrid mud representing the garbage they produced in life.
      • Murderers, who spilled their neighbors' blood while alive, are forever submerged in the (boiling) blood of the Phlegethon.
      • Suicides are transformed into trees. Having voluntarily rejected the body and life that God gave them, they no longer have humanoid form and never will, even when all other souls are resurrected (instead, their bodies will just hang on their tree forms).
      • Flatterers are immersed in excrement, representing all the degraded and base flatteries they told on Earth.
      • Simoniacs, who perverted the meaning of the church by selling holy things for mortal money (the sin is named after Simon the Magus, who offered the apostles money if they would teach him the 'magic' that they did), are punished in an inversion of baptism — stuck upside-down in holes resembling baptismal fonts with flames burning at their feet (instead of water being poured over one's head in baptism).
      • Sorcerers and fortunetellers, who attempted to use fraudulent means to see the future, have their heads turned backwards so they cannot see what's in front of them.
      • Corrupt politicians are immersed in boiling pitch, representing the 'sticky fingers' and dark secrets of their corruption.
      • Hypocrites wear gilded lead robes (that look like a monk's habit, for extra irony points). These look nice and shiny on the outside but are in reality dull and heavy, like the hypocrites' own falsity.
      • Those who caused strife and division around them are themselves divided — by being hacked up by a demon.
      • Falsifiers, who gained from alterations of various sorts, are afflicted by diseases that make them unrecognizable.
    • Some of the penitent in Purgatorio suffer through trials that parallel their sins:
      • The wrathful are plunged into perfect darkness, making them as blind as their anger had made them.
      • The avaricious lie flat on their faces and stare at the Earth all day as punishment for being obsessed with the earthly treasure of wealth.
        "Just as we did not lift our eyes on high but set our sight on earthly things instead, so justice here impels our eyes toward earth."
  • Ironic Name:
    • There's an idiot in Purgatory punishing for reveling the suffering of her neighbors, and she points out that, "Although my name is Sapia, I was anything but Sapient."
    • The lowest sphere of Heaven is relegated to the inconstant who failed their vows in some way, so it is quite the coincidence that a woman named "Constanza" is one of the two saints the protagonist meets here.
  • Iron Lady: Beatrice is compared to a stern admiral when she reunites with her lover, Dante, since she scolds him to tears to get him to fully confess his many, many infidelities. This forceful first appearance is not without compassion, since Beatrice has been charged with leading Dante's quest into Heaven, where no evil man can go.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: At one point while in the Cocito, Dante pulls a traitor's hair in order to force him to tell his story, going so far as to actually tear out handfuls of hair when the shade stubbornly refuses to say anything.
  • Kid from the Future: Dante speaks to his great-great-grandfather in the Mars sphere of Heaven. Contrary to most uses of the trope, it is Dante's ancestor who "predicts" Dante's future, namely, his exile from Florence.
  • The Knights Who Say "Squee!":
    • Dante's reaction upon meeting his hero, Virgil. (Figuratively speaking.)
    • And in Purgatorio, Statius' reaction to meeting Virgil.
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • Dante advises the reader not to tell others what they will mistake for a lie, before admitting he has to betray that to further his Comedy. Reluctantly, he describes how he saw a beast swimming through the darkness of Hell and rising up like an anchor drawn up from the sea.
    • Before describing how a snake bit a sinner and stole his humanity from him, Dante assures his audience that it is very normal to hesitate to believe such a thing, since Dante failed to do so when it happened in front of his eyes.
      "If, reader, you are slow now to believe what I shall tell, that is no cause for wonder for I who saw it hardly can accept it."
    • Dante hangs a lampshade towards the end of the Inferno, over the fact that he seems to be running across so many Florentines in Hell that he knows or has heard of.
    • Canto XVII of Paradiso basically ends with Dante saying "I know it's weird that I've only come across famous people in the afterlife, but if I included a bunch of nobodies no one would care enough to read it."
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: The river Lethe flows across the top of Mount Purgatory so that penitent sinners can wash away their guilty memories in its waters. Dante agrees to bathe in it after Beatrice harshly reminds him of his sins, an incident that Lethe washes from his memories alongside his other memories of sin.
  • Left Hanging: invoked Discussed Trope; the narration asks the reader to imagine if the story stopped just as a thousand Heavenly spirits from Mercury surround our heroes and begin to sing of a love unknown on Earth. The narrator hopes that making the readers think "They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot" will help them understand how strongly the characters longed to talk to the ghosts of Mercury.
  • Light Is Good: As Dante explains, "On high, joy is made manifest by brightness, as, here on earth, by smile." What he means is that the saints living in Paradise are encased in light that gets progressively brighter the closer they are to God. By the time Dante has ascended the first three spheres of Heaven, the light of the blessed is too bright for Dante to recognize people he knew back on Earth.
  • Light 'em Up: Everyone who lives in Paradise can generate light relative to their proximity to God. It doesn't take long before the saints are so bright they resemble dancing fires and wheeling flames.
  • Like a Son to Me: After he leaves the fourth circle, Virgil begins to address Dante as "my son" as he guides Dante through the harsh reality of Hell like a protective father. By Purgatorio, Dante returns the sentiment begins to address Virgil as "father," right up until their good-bye.
  • List of Transgressions: Hell is divided into subsections by crime made life.
  • A Load of Bull: The Minotaur is the guardian of the three Violent circles, and is depicted as very wrathful and savage.
  • Lonely at the Top: A greedy pope in Purgatory describes how he only sought the position for the power of it, only to find no rest. The Pope then converted and began to love the next life, the one he hopes to reach by ascending Mount Purgatorio.
  • Love Makes You Evil:
    • Francesca of the Circle of Lust blames her adultery on love, a force so strong that it left her and her brother-in-law with no agency in their sin. Her romantic language is so beautiful that Dante faints from distress, but every discussion of love outside of this sinner's excuses makes it clear that love is an intelligent will to do good for others, as opposed Francesca's view that love is really wanting to have sex.
    • Virgil explains in Purgatory that love can lead to evil only because love is the cause of every single human behavior. Lust, gluttony, and greed are caused by excessive love for physical pleasures, sloth is caused by love that is not acted upon, while wrath, envy, and pride are love for the suffering of others.
  • Love Transcends Spacetime: The Comedy puts great emphasize on the Trinitarian belief that "God is love," meaning that time has been created by the perfect love between an inseparable Father and Son that themselves live outside of time and space.
  • Lunarians: The inhabitants of the Moon are ghosts so pale that Dante mistakes them for shadows and reflections, relegated to this lowest place in Paradise for the vows they've violated. In truth, they live with Mary, the angels, and the rest of the saved in God's Empyrean, but to allow Dante to understand the difference between them and other Paradisians, the oath-breakers have taken the pale Moon as their living place.
  • Mama Bear: When demons begin to chase Dante, the narration compares his guide, Virgil, to a mother who is woken up by a fire and grabs her kid without pausing, putting his safety above her own. In that way, Virgil "snatched [Dante] up" and escaped the Circle with him.
  • The Man in the Moon: There are two brief references to an old folk tale where Cain's face became imprinted on the Moon as a curse for creating killing.
  • Man on Fire: The fate of evil counsellors in the eighth circle of Hell is to be engulfed in tongues of fire. Dante sees, among others, Odysseus/Ulysses suffering this punishment.
  • Meaningful Echo: In Inferno Canto 5, Dante's mentor, Virgil, asks our hero "What are you thinking?" when Dante starts to listen to an adulterer damned to the Circle of Lust. After Virgil leaves Dante forever, Beatrice demands Dante repent of his sins until our hero is reduced to tears, prompting her to ask "What are you thinking," making it clear she is his new, and much more direct, mentor.
  • Mentor Archetype: Virgil guides Dante through Hell and Purgatory through his worldly wisdom. As a Roman poet, Virgil allegorically stands for wisdom obtainable by human reason, and he fittingly leaves the poem once Dante has to ascend to Heaven and face the world of theology.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Played With; Dante's mentor is the Hell-shadow of a pagan poet, so he can't die in the ordinary sense. Instead, the poet Virgil disappears without a word when Dante has scaled Purgatory and strengthened his will enough to be independent of his ghostly father figure. It is assumed Virgil returns to his eternal death in Hell, a fate which nearly moves Dante to tears.
  • Messianic Archetype: Christ is represented at the end of Purgatorio by a mighty griffin. The griffin has two natures (lion and eagle) that mirror the two natures of Jesus (human and divine), it mightily denies to eat from the corrupting Tree of Knowledge, and the griffin guides a Sun-bright chariot that represents the Church. The griffin also is a mixture of three colors: gold and white to highlight its divinity and blood-red to make light of Christ's suffering in his death.
  • Metaphorically True: One sinner asks Dante if he will clear the ice from his eyes after he tells his story. Dante responds that if he doesn't, may he "go to the bottom of the ice". As it turns out, the entrance to Purgatory is reached by traveling below the ice...
  • Moral Event Horizon: Betraying one's guests is this In-Universe — such sinners are immediately sent to Ptolomea even though they're still alive, with a demon inhabiting their body until their death.
  • Mind Hive:
    • On Mars, the souls of the martyrs are in such harmony that they organize into what appears to be one gigantic cross and single with what sounds like one, heavenly voice,
    • On Jupiter, the souls of The Good Kings work together to take the shape of a gigantic eagle, the symbol of the Roman Empire. Amazingly, not only can they perfectly move parts of the Eagle's bodies without speaking to each other, but the Eagle can talk separately from any of them. Spiritually, this shows the perfection of Heavenly communion, but it also makes a political point that kings are not supposed to manipulate others on whims, but are supposed to be one, subordinate part of a just society that works for the good of all.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: Geryon is described as a devil with the face of a honest man, the body of a multicolored serpent, hairy wings, and a scorpion's stinger.
  • The Muse: Not only does Beatrice inspire Dante, but he invokes all 9 of them (plus Apollo!) to help write the epic the way it deserves.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: Italians, especially those from Florence, populate Hell so completely that Dante manages to find five florentines immediately in the circle for Thieves. This prompts him to tell Florence to be joyous in its greatness, since her name extends everywhere in Hell.
  • My Skull Runneth Over:
    • When listening to the ghost of a crusader sing on Mars, our 14th century poet is so overwhelmed by the divine truths the ghost sings of that his intelligence can't contain them. Thankfully, the soldier-spirit simplifies his speech so the poet's mind doesn't crack like a twig.
    • Even with Heaven's light and the Virgin Mary's intercession empowering him, Dante can't keep even a flawed memory of what God is like in his head, losing more memory of that event than memory had been lost of events from two thousand years before.
  • Mystical Plague: Falsifiers (which include alchemists, perjurers and counterfeiters) are punished in the last bolgia in the 8th circle of hell by being afflicted by horrible diseases.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: There's a group of devils in the fifth ditch of the Eighth Circle named the Malebranche, which means "Evil Claws" according to the The Dante Encyclopedia. Each of them has a name to reflect their sadistic nature, like Malacoda ("evil tail") or Draghignazzo ("big nasty dragon").
  • New Media Are Evil: An Older Than Print example; Francesca puts the blame for her damnation on a romantic poem about Sir Lancelot's affair that manipulated her and her brother-in-law to commit adultery. In context, Francesca is clearly just refusing to take responsibility for her own sins, but it remains unclear whether the author agrees that those new-fangled romance poems are sinful.
  • Neutrality Backlash: Those who refused to commit to a life of goodness without actively doing evil are left to run back and forth just beyond the gate to Hell, unable to rest in a single place. This is hardly better than the Hell that rejects them, since the souls here are constantly attacked by wasps that cause their faces to stream with blood and Dante goes to note that these countless souls who chose to do nothing with life can hardly be said to have lived at all. This particular element failed to stick in the popular consciousness, although it did inspire the Central Theme of Dan Brown's Inferno, which otherwise has no thematic connection to Dante whatsoever.
  • No Bisexuals: Dante sees heterosexuals and homosexuals running in opposite directions in the Purgatory of Lust, with no indication that people exist who lust after both sexes. Not that Dante's audience in 14th-century Italy would really be desperate to see that.
  • No Party Like a Donner Party: Ugolino, according to some interpretations, is implied to have eaten his children when imprisoned in the "Hunger Tower". In Hell, he continually eats the head of the man who imprisoned him there like he's a vengeful dog.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be: In the fifth sphere of Heaven, Dante's great-great grandfather paints Dante a picture of a heroic, chaste, and Christian Florence from the time of the Second Crusade. This beautiful society Dante never got to know contrasts with the corrupt and sinful Florence that banished Dante in favor of a corrupt Pope, leaving Dante to imagine what his home could be if it only followed the example of its dead heroes.
  • Not Afraid to Die: The sight of the fiery wheels of souls rejoicing and dancing across the Sun proves more beautiful than anything found in life on Earth. Death, all the unpleasantries of it aside, is nothing to fear for a man like Dante who has seen such wonders on the other side.
    "Whoever weeps because on earth we die
    that we may live on high, has never seen
    eternal showers that bring refreshment there."
  • Not Drawn to Scale: Dante provides some scattered measurements for places and things in Hell (such as the distance around one circle and the height of a giant); from these, one can attempt to infer the overall dimensions of Hell, but the results are wildly inconsistent. But considering that it's Hell, see Alien Geometries.
  • The Nothing After Death: Limbo, the first and outermost circle of Hell, is inhabited by virtuous heathens (it's not an oxymoron) and unbaptized children who died without knowledge of Christ. They do not suffer torments, but live forever without hope or the light of God. And while this might be a horrible fate, for people who exist there, like Socrates and other eminent pre-Christians, it's not necessarily painful. They essentially do there what they did in life: wax philosophic about everything without the distractions of sleep or sustenance.
  • Nothing but Skin and Bones: The gluttons in Purgatory are left so emaciated that Dante stares one right in the face and fails to recognize him until he hears his voice. It is only then that Dante realizes he is talking to the thinly-veiled skeleton of Forese Donati, his best friend since childhood.
  • Numerological Motif:
    • The number 3 appears a lot, corresponding with the belief that God is the Love created by three relationships within a single being. The poem is divided into three sections dealing with the three realm of the afterlives with 33 cantos per realm.
    • 9, which is 3*3, is an important number that recurs in the number of circles of Hell.
    • The Divine Comedy as a whole is structured around the number 100. Each section has 33 cantos, with the exception of The Inferno, which has 34; the extra one serves as a general prologue for the entire poem.
  • The Oath-Breaker: Saints who broke vows are relegated to the lowest sphere in Heaven, leaving the atomically charitable Sister Piccarda to live on the outskirts of Heaven only because she was forced into a marriage that lasted a day before she died of sickness. Dante's heavenly guide senses his discomfort with Piccarda's lesser place, so the guide explains the logic of the oath-breakers placement. The guide makes it clear that in some way, however small, Piccarda did will to be a part of that marriage, and that there are many things she could have done to avoid breaking her vow that she did not take. Despite that, the Guide makes it clear that this is a Downplayed Trope, since the Oath-Breakers are still living in happiness for eternity in the same Perfect Love that Moses, the Virgin Mary, and the angels are receiving.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Virgil often references when Christ broke into Hell, shaked it to its foundations, and broke out the Jewish dead to take them to Paradise. It was so intense that even into the Eight Circle there's loads of structural damage, but Dante never describes it outside of proxies like Virgil and the rest of the damned.
  • Our Angels Are Different: In Dante's imaginations, angels take the shape of Winged Humanoids that carry wands, shine burning light, fly faster than any bird, guard Purgatory with Flaming Swords, and live in the "Primum Mobile," the last sphere of the universe beyond which there is only the Deep Mind.
  • Our Centaurs Are Different: Keeping with the classical myths, centaurs here represent violence and wildness, which makes them perfect to further torment those damned for Violence against Others. They watch the boiling blood the damned lie and fire arrows at any who try to emerge from the blood.
  • Our Demons Are Different: The word "demon" is mainly used to describe beasts and monsters who punished the damned in Hell rather than angels who are themselves punished there. So while Lucifer is never called a demon, Greek monsters like Charon and Cerberus alongside original creations like the winged Malebranche get the designation.
  • Our Dragons Are Different:
    • The fire-breathing monster Cacus is rendered in Dante's imagination as a centaur with a small dragon on his shoulder who defends his host. Notably, Cacus and his dragon are both subject to the same punishment as human thieves, implying they have souls equivalent to that of a human's.
    • A dragon appears briefly near the end of Purgatorio to rise up from the ground and sting a chariot (representing the Church) with its venomous tail, which apparently is like the stinger of a wasp.
  • Our Giants Are Bigger: Between the circle of deception and betrayal, Hell is littered with giants who were so arrogant in their strength that they rose against the Heavens. This includes the Greek giants who fought to overthrow Zeus and Nimrod, the mighty warrior from Genesis who organized the Tower of Babel. Dante at first mistakes them for statues, which only tells you how huge the Devil is when Dante observes that he "matches better with a giant's breadth than giants match the measure of his arms."
  • Our Spirits Are Different: The souls of the dead here are referred to as "shades" because while they may appear to have bodies, they cannot touch physical people or project shadows. They really are entirely immaterial, but their souls are connected enough with their bodies to impress the air around the soul to take the appearance of a body, one which expresses the spiritual suffering the spirit undergoes.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: One of the last people Dante talks to in Hell goes into detail about how he and his sons were trapped in a tower until they starved to death. For his treason, his sons died over the course of days and he could do nothing but silently watch.
  • The Paragon: The Virgin Mary saves the souls on Earth not by forcing them to be good, but by showing them her paradisiacal happiness and her mastery of the Seven Heavenly Virtues. In this work, Mary is presented by art throughout Purgatory as the cure for the Seven Deadly Sins and Mary herself allows Dante to travel through Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise so he understand the importance of accepting the Father's love.
  • Pass the Popcorn: Dante gets so caught up listening to two sinners insulting each other that Virgil has to snap him out of it.
  • Patchwork Map: Hell juxtaposes regions with wildly different climates, with everything from a desert pelted with fire-rain to an eternally frozen lake; justified in that it's a supernatural world shaped by divine will.
  • Patron Saint: Dante is put on his journey through the afterlife by two female saints, the historical Lucia and Dante's idealized version of Beatrice, a frequent subject of his love poetry. Beatrice is more directly involved in Dante's journey when she sends Virgil to get Dante and then guides the poet by herself through Heaven, but she only intervenes at all because Saint Lucia informed her of how far Dante had strayed. Plus, Lucia at one point carries Dante through Purgatory to speed up his lengthy trek.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Jesus entered Hell once in the backstory, but that one visit caused that entire dimension to nearly collapse in a massive earthquake. Even a thousand years later, parts of Hell are still destroyed from the visit and travel between circles is significantly harder because of all the bridges that were destroyed.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • The Limbo is this when compared to the whole Hell. The souls that belong to this circle didn't commit sin but neither were baptized, thus aren't free from the original sin and are still condemned to eternal punishment... which consists of staying in a somber, foggy place where they can move and talk freely and don't suffer any pain except from being unable to participate in the Eternal Love.
    • Dante feels quite sad about Paolo and Francesca (a couple in the circle of the Lustful) as well.
    • Count Ugolino, a traitor in the depth of Hell, actually becomes pitiable when he tells his tale about his sons. Even more poignant if you consider that Dante's personal tragedy relates closely to Ugolino's because he was exiled from Florence with his (innocent) sons, as Ugolino was imprisoned with his. The fact that his family was condemned for his political choices weighted heavily on Dante's shoulders for all his later life.
  • The Philosopher: As one would expect, everyone has an deeply-held opinion on God in Heaven and Hell. Besides those newly-navel gazing dead, a sphere in Heaven is dedicated to those who in life embodied wisdom and knowledge of that Deep Mind, including the likes of Thomas Aquinas, Saint Francis, Saint Dominic, and the many scholars and writers from the history of Christianity up to 1300.
  • Phony Psychic: All supposedly psychic people are condemned to the fourth bolgia in Malebolge, the circle of fraud, which suggests Dante thought all psychics are phony.
  • Physical God: Discussed Trope; Beatrice explains that the reason The Bible describes God as if he had hands and the angels as if they had eyes since humans can only understand things from the senses, so even non-physical existence must be described with sensory details.
  • Planet of Hats: The seven planets medievals thought orbited the Earth, which include the Moon and the Sun, are fully inhabited by saints of similar natures. The trope is justified, as Beatrice goes out of her way to make it clear that the saints are on the same planet because they are similar, and not vice versa.
    • The Moon is the planet of The Oathbreakers who didn't absolutely will to break their oaths.
    • Mercury is the planet of were too driven by fame and honor on Earth.
    • Venus is the planet of those too focused on romantic pursuits.
    • The Sun is the planet of wise men.
    • Mars is the planet of the holy warriors.
    • Jupiter is the planet of The Good Kings.
    • Saturn is the planet of the contemplatives.
  • Plant Person: Those who commit suicide are reduced to bleeding trees, since it would be unjust for those who threw away their bodies to be given them back in the afterlife.
  • Platonic Cave: Inverted Trope; the souls of the Moon are so pearly and faint that Dante mistakes these real people for shadow. Beatrice has to show the child-like Dante that he faces no illusions, but true reality.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Virgil is constantly praised in the poem and he is the one who directly leads Dante on the path to Heaven, but he also is a Pagan from Hell who never accepted Christ as all decent people were expected to in medieval Italian society. It can be easy to forget Virgil's paganism, but Dante notices it and is embarrassed when the mentor he loves talks about how he helped a pagan necromancer bring some souls out of Hell.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Most of the souls in Hell at least have enough decency not to curse God or anything well-respected in medieval society, but a particularly vile thief that Dante encounters explicitly curses God and gives him a rude gesture equivalent to a middle finger. This demonstrates the defining trait of the lowest parts of Hell, the use of a unique human gift like communication for evil.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis:
    • The concept of circles of Hell and the quote "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" (or a close variant) are well-known and alluded to/copied in innumerable places, but their origin isn't as widely known. (However, in pop culture, they are usually seen with a Fire and Brimstone Hell, instead of the more varied and complex Ironic Hell of the Inferno.)
    • In Italy, many quotes from Hell have become proverbial. It's also worth nothing that about 15% of the most-used words in the modern Italian language were first used in literature by Dante in the Comedy. This is because the Comedy is one of the first works to be written in Italian, rather than Latin.
  • Post-Victory Collapse: After pushing through the firewall at the end of Purgatory, the protagonist is so exhausted that he walks a few steps and falls asleep on a stair.
  • Power Incontinence: Those damned for heresy are gifted with vision of Earth's future. The catch is that they can only see the future and not the present or the past, meaning that when the Apocalypse comes and all souls enter Heaven or Hell, they will have knowledge of nothing but their torment.
  • The Power of Love:
    • Despite every assurance of Virgil, Dante is wholly unwilling to go through the final firewall between Purgatory and Heaven until he hears Beatrice's name. By virtue of that romantic love, Dante summons the courage to go through a fire more intense than anything on Earth to find Beatrice on the other side.
    • The last verse of Paradise describes God as "the love that moves the Sun and the other stars".
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: These guys end up in the bolgia for flatterers- a huge open sewer.
  • Put on a Bus: Virgil leaves Dante just before the end of Purgatorio because as one of the Damned, he cannot enter Heaven. He spends the rest of the Poem back in the first circle of Hell, although Dante thinks of him during later discussions of God's justice.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Dante only dares to use the word for rape (strupo) once in the entire Comedy, in the seventh Canto of Inferno, the use of the perfect number in Hell suggesting that this Canto describes the perfection of evil. The "rape" Dante is describing is the unforgivable violation of the body of Heaven by Lucifer's creation of pain, death, and evil. So while rapists are never given a circle of punishment in Dante's Hell, Tobias Foster Gittes uses the Poet's word choice to argue that the bottom-most and most torturous punishment is saved for the original rapist, the Devil, making rape the evil.
  • Rays from Heaven: The virtuous pagan who introduces souls to Purgatory is shined on by four stars. These stars represent the cardinal virtues (as opposed to the theological) and Dante says they shined with light rivaling the Sun, a common symbol of God.
  • Real Event, Fictional Cause: One saint attributes the creation of Florence to the Devil.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The souls of just rulers are in the Jupiter sphere in Heaven, where they unite to form the shape of a gigantic eagle.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Since corrupt priests especially disgust Dante, he has his Author Avatar preach to a damned Pope by asking how much treasure Jesus asked of Saint Peter before giving him the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Since the answer is "no treasure," Dante happily requests the deceased Pope stay in the fires of Hell to make sure his ill-gotten money is well-protected, as befitting one who is the ideal evangelist for the red dragon of Hell and the worshipper of hundreds of gods of silver and treasure. Whether out of anger and despair, the speech causes the damned Pope to struggle more violently from within his pit, but Dante claims that he would condemn his greed even further if not for Dante's respect for the office the damned held in life. The speech is the centerpiece of the Canto and encapsulates Dante's thoughts on simony by putting it in the context of The Four Gospels, the Book of Revelation, Italian politics, and his respect for the Papacy.
  • Recycled In Space:
  • Rhyming with Itself: Done intentionally. To prevent any sense of blasphemy, Dante only rhymed the word "Cristo" with "Cristo." Notable in that he had to do it only three times (in Paradiso Cantos XII, XIV, and XIX) due to the rhyming system of the Comedy (ABA BCB CDC ... YZY Z).
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The murder of adulterers Francesca and Paolo was a popular topic of gossip in Italy around the time Dante was writing The Divine Comedy. It was so well known that Dante felt comfortable including them in the Circle of Lust with the expectation that the audience would know their story going in.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Ptolomea, the second to last round of the ninth circle of Hell, is reserved for those who betrayed their guests. Souls there are buried in ice with just their faces exposed, but their eyes frozen so they cannot weep. And they are sent to Hell before they're dead, their bodies becoming vessels for Demonic Possession.
  • Safety in Indifference: The virtuous pagans live in a very mild upper circle of Hell, where their only punishment is that they live without hope (of Heaven) or fear (of Hell). None of them seem to mind this much.
  • Satan: The final character Dante meets in Inferno is the emperor of Hell himself, the Devil. Although he's rather weak and pitiful, despite being the largest creature Dante's ever seen. He's stuck in a torturously cold put of ice that's being sustained from a cold wind created by his own wings, which he flaps desperately in his attempts at escape. He doesn't even put up a fight when Dante and Virgil climb down his body, since he's too preoccupied crying in pain and chewing apart the bodies of Judas, Brutus, and Cassius with the three heads he has to mock the Trinity. Even his wings are ugly and molten, looking more like bat wings than the majestic span one would expect from the greatest of angels.
    "Were he as fair, as he now is foul, and lifted up his brow against the Maker, well may proceed from him all tribulation."
  • Science Fantasy: The Divine Comedy places the afterlife in the physical universe as Medieval astronomers and scientists knew it. For example, as Dante enters the first sphere of Heaven with the beatified soul of his deceased lover, Dante realizes the sphere is on the Moon and he theorizes why the Moon has black spots (that we now know to be craters) on it. Beatrice criticizes his points on "rarity and density" of matter and proves his theory to be invalid. Scenes like that make it something of a Ur-Example for Science Fantasy, but it should be noted that scientific pedantry like the discussion of the Moon's crater have a spiritual purpose. In the prior example, Beatrice uses the dispute to reveal to Dante how the Moon, the stars, and anything made of matter relies on the will of the Deep Mind to continue to exist at all.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: The narrator begins Paradiso Canto 4 with four hypothetical situations where two equal desires force inaction. The relevance is that Dante isn't sure whether to ask his Heavenly guide about how Piccarda could justly be put lower in Heaven for actions done against her will or to ask the guide about if the souls he met on the Moon really reside their after death. Thankfully, his guide is astute enough to read his face and satisfies both desires with her answer.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • Several times in Purgatorio, Dante meets someone and tries to show off some of his poetry, but Virgil rushes them along, saying his poetry doesn't matter.
    • While Dante expects a tender and loving reunion with Beatrice, she angrily lambasts him and tears him apart, calling all of heaven to bear witness to the fact that Dante doesn't love her like he thinks he does.
  • Self-Inflicted Hell:
    • The damned are implied to have chosen their own fate, as they clamber madly to cross the river Acheron.
    • Lucifer's massive wings create the cold wind that keeps the lake Cocytus frozen, sustaining the ice trapping him in Hell and creating the very cold that tortures him.
  • Self-Insert Fic: The main protagonist of the poem, Dante, is a fictionalized version of the author who interacts with many characters from Classical Mythology and The Bible. Dante depicts himself as a prideful, ignorant, and cowardly person unworthy to interact with such famous figures.
  • Selfless Wish: Thomas Aquinas tells the story of King Solomon with particular emphasis on how selfless it wad for him to wish for wisdom to better rule with, when he could have asked God for wisdom in theology or mathematics or some other art that kings use to distract from their duties.
  • Sequel Hook: In Paradiso Canto 5, Dante asks the identity of a supernaturally glad soul from Mercury, only for the narration to tell us that this soul will only sing in the next canto.
  • Seven Deadly Sins:
    • Purgatory is a mountain divided into seven terraces where people atone for each of the Deadly Sins. The one at the bottom is the one Dante considered the worst of them, and the sins become less grave as one ascends the mountain.
      • Pride: The first terrace has the prideful carry rocks up the mountain, forcing them to lower themselves and see the Earth for what it is rather than what their ego imagines.
      • Envy: The second terrace has angels who sew shut the eyes of the envious so they may not look upon others and their possessions. The envious then walk through the terrace listening to tales of generosity while wearing humble, penitential cloaks.
      • Wrath: The third terrace is covered with smoke, reflecting the blinding effect of anger, as the wrathful ascend.
      • Sloth: The fourth terrace forces the slothful to run with all their energy while the angels shout at them and encourage them not to waste time.
      • Greed: The fifth terrace has those who committed avarice to lie face down on the ground while they pray.
      • Gluttony: The sixth terrace's inhabitants must fast throughout their climb to the top, to the point their spiritual forms begin to look thin and gaunt.
      • Lust: The seventh terrace forces the lustful to burn their passions away by running through a fire. Unlike the other terraces, it seems everyone must go through this one to reach Paradise.
    • Hell includes punishments for lust, gluttony, greed, and wrath, although it is built around Aristotle's theories of human evil rather than the Seven Deadly Sins.
  • Seven Heavenly Virtues: They appear as beautiful maidens dancing around Beatrice's chariot in her triumphal procession at the end of Purgatory.
  • Sherlock Scan: Virgil can read Dante's thoughts just by looking at his face, once boasting that he receives Dante's inner being faster than a mirror could receive his outer being. These powers aren't supernatural like Beatrice's Telepathy (as Mark Musa argues), but rather show a mastery of wisdom available to pagan philosophy.
  • Shout-Out: Hundreds of historical, religious, and mythological figures appear throughout the poem to help the audience have a better idea of what sin, penance, and glory look like in a person. There's generally one or two of these references per Canto/Chapter, but in the twelfth canto of Paradiso, Dante goes to the extreme of having a saint list off all the great monks and scholars that dwell within his sphere of Heaven, ranging from a commentator of Dante's favorite poet to the great theologian Thomas Aquinas.
  • Single Tear: A soldier Dante meets in Purgatory was put there instead of Hell because he shed a single tear before dying.
  • Sinister Minister:
    • There are many clergy members and a few Popes in Hell. Most of them are seen in the circle for greed and the bolgias for simony, where corrupt priests are put upside-down into holes in the rock, with flames burning at their feet.
    • And then there's the Sphere of the Sun, which in part can be summed up as "St. Francis was a great man, unlike those corrupt Franciscan friars." "St. Dominic was also a great man, unlike those corrupt Dominican friars."
    • Saint Peter, the original Pope, harshly criticizes the then-reigning Pope Boniface VIII by saying he has left the papal seat a "sewer of blood and stench" which is practically vacant of a Successor to Peter.
  • Sin Invites Possession: When Dante is confused at meeting people in Ptolomea who he knows were still alive on Earth, the explanation is that breaking Sacred Hospitality is such a terrible crime that it invokes this- people who commit it have their bodies possessed by demons (who then act out the rest of that person's life) and their souls sent straight to hell.
  • Smart People Know Latin: Thomas Aquinas renders an complex theological doctrine in Latin while making a point about how that abstract knowledge relates to practical wisdom.
  • Snicket Warning Label: Some early verses in the Paradiso warn readers not to follow the journey further unless they have already turned their minds to the "bread of the angels." Anyone who hasn't done that should turn back and not get lost in the vast ocean of Paradise.
  • Spirit Advisor:
    • Dante is guided through Hell by the spirit of Virgil, the famous Roman poet, who is more than familiar enough with the worldly sins of all those they encounter. It is only once they see the entirety of evil and reach Purgatory that Virgil begins to falter. He still guides Dante up the mountain and teaches him, but since Virgil himself is a denizen of Hell, the continuing importance of the Angels and the growing proximity of God forces him to leave Dante once he is about to enter into Paradise.
    • Beatrice, the deceased love of Dante's life, takes the Poet through the spheres of Heaven, becoming increasingly more beautiful and jovial as they further approach God. As a Saint leading a fallen mortal, Beatrice guides and teaches Dante like a mother deals with a particularly distressed child. She often knows what Dante wants to ask before he does and she always has an answer that leaves him stunned and better for it.
    • Saint Bernard takes over as Dante's guides for the last two cantos so that Bernard, on the advise of the Blessed Mother, can help Dante better perceive and experience the true presence of God.
  • Stars Are Souls: Subverted Trope; upon ascending into Heaven, it seems as if every human soul ascends to a different Heavenly body, whether it be a star or one of the planets. Our hero finds it odd that somehow the pagan philosophers were right about this, but God's messenger, Beatrice, explains that the souls only appear on different stars and planets to help our hero understand the distinctions between types of saints.
  • The Stoic:
    • The heretic Farinata stands upright and composed in the middle of his flaming tomb, expressing more disdain than horrific suffering. The closest he gets to emotion is when he hears that his descendants have all been defeated and exiled from the city he died for, a fate he previously admitted would be more torturous for him than Hell itself. In response to this great misfortune, he sighs and shakes his head.
    • Dante sees the Greek hero Jason being punished in the eighth circle of Hell. Unlike all other souls, Jason is described as enduring his punishment without any sign of pain.
  • Strong as They Need to Be: The shadow-bodies that form around deceased souls have Intangibility and can't interact with physical objects, unless the plot requires it.
    • Virgil clasps his hands around Dante's eyes in Inferno Canto Nine, keeping the mortal from dying at Medusa's gaze, when his hands really should have phased through his head.
    • When a horde of demons threaten to end the protagonist's journey in Hell, Virgil is able to use his illusion of a body to pick up our hero and leap into a ditch with him.
    • When the recently deceased Casella hugs his mortal friend, they pass through each other to make their respective states clear to the reader, even if it contradicts Virgil actions earlier.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: Dante portrays the souls of the suicidal as residing in the 7th circle of Hell, reserved for the violent. For committing violence against themselves, they have their bodies entombed in oak trees or strewn across thorny bushes and are feasted upon by demonic harpies, and for rejecting the Love, they will be denied the chance to regain their human forms come the Day of Judgement.
  • Super Intelligence: In Paradiso, blessed souls are infused with God's understanding. When Dante meets his great-grandfather in Canto XV, the ancestor gets so excited he forgets to talk down to human level and Dante doesn't understand a word he says.
    Then, pleasant to the hearing and the sight,
    The spirit joined to its beginning things
    I understood not, so profound it spake;

    Nor did it hide itself from me by choice,
    But by necessity; for its conception
    Above the mark of mortals set itself.
  • Super Senses: Humans can look straight into the Sun without fear of blindness upon entering Heaven. Dante realizes this almost immediately and reasons that these new powers are granted because humanity were made to live in Heaven, physically and spiritually.
  • Super Speed: Men ascending from Purgatory to Paradise (if Dante's experience is to be generalized) move faster than lightning out of anticipation to finally return home.
  • Suspiciously Specific Tense: The protagonist recognizes a damned heretic and in his excitement, he mentions that perhaps the son of the heretic "did disdain" God. The heretic catches on to the "did" and asks if his son is alive. The protagonist hesitates, giving the heretic enough information to fall on his back and never speak again. The protagonist later makes it clear the son's still alive and the heretic just read too much into a moment's silence.
  • Swamps Are Evil: In the fifth circle of Hell, Dante describes the Styx as a foul swamp where the wrathful constantly tear each other apart and the sullen lay gurgling under the surface.
  • Symbolic Baptism:
    • At the foot of Mount Purgatory, Dante bathes himself in the water of Lethe, the Greek river believed to erase memories, to wash away the grime of Hell. Without that stain, Dante can start to ascend towards the heavens.
    • At the peak of Mount Purgatory, Dante is again bathed in the water of Lethe, apparently not having fully let go of his memory of evil. After this, Dante is bathed in the waters of Eunoe to prepare himself to enter Heaven, but Purgatorio has to skip over this event to fit into the poem's rigid structure.
  • Sympathy for the Devil: Although Dante has nothing but contempt for Satan and his minions, he often shows feelings of empathy, pity, and even respect for several sinners he meets in Hell. Virgil sometimes tells Dante off for this. After all, if an omniscient and all-loving God has decided they're unworthy of pity, why should anyone go against divine will and feel sorry for them?
  • Take Our Word for It:
    • At the end of Inferno, Dante pleads with his reader not to ask him to describe how he felt in the cold of the bottom of Hell. The most he can say is that he wasn't alive and he wasn't dead.
    • At the end of Paradiso, Dante prefaces his description of God by comparing his memory to the passion one feels after a dream they can't quite remember and admits he is so inadequate at describing the glory of "the Eternal Light" into words that he might as well have the tongue of an infant.
  • Take That!:
    • Dante's personal and political enemies, as well as historical villains — even some of his friends — often end up in Hell. One of the most notable examples is none other than the then-current Pope, Boniface VIII, of whom Dante was not a big fan. This was a big "screw you" to Boniface and the town of Florence for exiling him (in an order that wasn't repealed until 2008). That pope's not in Hell yet, but it's stated that he will be.
    • Muslims only appear in Hell. Sure, Saladin is in the circle for the Virtuous, but it implies that Muslims are really pagans and Dante takes special attention to point out Dante is alone. The greatest insult to Muslims comes in Circle 8, where The Prophet Muhammad and one of the Muslim Caliphs, Ali, are seen in the Circle of Hell reserved for schismatics, cut in half, a reference to how they supposedly divided Christendom.
  • Taken for Granite: The Furies on the walls of Dis threaten to call forth Medusa to turn Dante to stone, but Virgil shields him with his cloak.
  • A Taste of the Lash: The punishment for the seducers and pamperers (pimps) damned in the first ring of the eighth Circle of Hell is to be forced to march around said ring while being constantly whipped by demons.
  • Team Mom: Among Dante's three guides, Beatrice is the one who Dante is most dependent on emotionally and intellectually. He occasionally compares this dependence to a child who looks back at his mother either for affirmation or for a sense of security.
  • Tears from a Stone: The statue of the old man of Crete cries blood, which runs down his ever decaying body into Hell to form its many rivers.
  • Tears of Remorse: Shedding these can mean the difference between Hell and Purgatory.
  • Telepathy: Since they live within God's omniscient mind, Beatrice and other saints can respond to the complex theological questions Dante has before he asks them aloud. In Dante's own (heavily translated and context-extracted) words, Beatrice "read me as I read myself."
  • Thicker Than Water: Those who betray their family are put in Caina, in the lowest circle of Hell, where they are frozen in the lake up to their necks.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Dante, upon seeing the penance of those guilty of pride in Purgatory, says he can already feel the weight of the boulders on his back, since he expects to spend time there once he dies.
  • This Loser Is You: The first line of the poem identifies that the poem begins "midway through the journey of our lives" as the protagonist himself becomes exactly middle-aged, making it clear he stands in for the audience. To further show his humanity in the face of his fantastic travels, Dante faints, weeps, kicks the heads of incapacitated shades, and lambastes in the narration things his character self almost immediately does.
  • Title Drop: Twice, both in Inferno:
    • Canto 16 ends with the narrator swearing by "my Comedy" that he tells the truth when he says that he saw the monster Geryon emerge from a waterfall.
    • Canto 21 opens with the narrator mentioning that Dante and Virgil were discussing "things my Comedy is not concerned to sing," oddly dropping the title when talking about something explicitly irrelevant to the work.
  • To Hell and Back: Unable to move past the beasts of the world and climb closer to Love itself, Dante has the spirit of Virgil sent to him to guide him through Hell, so he may witness and understand the fullness of sin. Upon reaching the narrowest, coldest pit of Inferno, Dante and his guide climb atop the back of Satan and jump down into the core of the Earth, only to find themselves rising up onto the other side and reaching the first step of Mount Purgatory, beginning Dante's ascent to God.
  • Toilet Humour:
    • One of the Malebranche "makes a trumpet of his ass" as a salute to his fellow demons.
    • The flatterers in the second Bolgia are immersed in shit.
    • Mohammed's torso is split in half and his stomach drops out. Its lovely description translates to "the foul sack that makes shit of what is eaten".
  • Token Human: Dante is one of two human characters in the story, with every other character either being a disembodied soul, an angel, or an infernal monster. The second human, Jesus, only appears in the last hundred lines of the poem and Dante finds it hard to distinguish him from the rest of the Trinity.
  • Transformation Horror: Damned thieves are turned into snakes and have to regain human form by attacking others and eating their essences. The poet gives a vivid description of how each part of the human body devolves into the form of a serpent while the serpent painfully splits apart into a man.
  • Transformation Ray: If you add eagle wings to a griffin's chariot, the chariot will grow seven heads, ten horns, a giant, and a whore. Well, that's what we learn about Purgatorio 32, which is more concerned with visualizing the corruption power brought into the one true Church.
  • Treachery Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Ninth Circle of Hell is a vast frozen lake in which traitors are entombed. In the center of it all is Lucifer himself, trapped up to his waist, his wings beating in a futile attempt to free himself that only creates winds freezing him. Within his mouths, the three ultimate traitors (Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot) are ground to scraps.
  • The Treachery of Images: The narrator spends much of Paradiso lamenting that even his most extensive and beautiful descriptions of Heaven are mere shadows of his memories, which themselves are shadows of the real experience. The inequality between reality, memory, and expression become a topic of discussion between Dante and his blessed great-great-grandfather, who experiences all these equally.
    "In mortals, word and sentiment [...] are wings whose featherings are disparate."
  • The Un-Hug: The problem with reuniting with a dead friend while you tour the afterlife is that while you still have a body to hug, he doesn't. Both Dante and Casella fail to realize this until the third time they pass through each other, one of many blows to Dante's pride.
  • Undead Barefooter: The illustrators (including Gustave Dore) usually depict all the deceased characters (including Virgil) barefoot; Dante wearing shoes literally symbolizes that he's the only living person there.
  • Understatement: Dante's friend, Forese, agrees to name his neighbors in Purgatory by saying "It isn't forbidden," a sardonic response in light of the fact that they are all so emaciated and hollow that names are necessary to distinguish them.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Those who betray their benefactors are in the lowest circle of hell, completely encased in the frozen lake and contorted horribly. The only ones beyond them are Satan, and Judas, Brutus, and Cassius, who Satan is grinding apart.
  • The Unintelligible:
    • In the fourth circle of Hell (where those who hoarded and wasted their wealth are punished), Dante and Virgil meet Plutus, the Roman god of wealth, who is heard muttering random gibberish to himself.
    • Like in the Book of Genesis, those who built the Tower of Babel are punished for their prideful attempt to unite to surpass God by having new languages imposed on them to divide them. The only exception is Nimrod, who retains his original language, leaving him unable to communicate and relate with others due to betraying his most essential relationship with God. His fate foreshadows the madness and isolation of the leader of Hell, Satan.
    • The Devil, despite having three mouths, has lost all reason to communicate with others. Now, his mouths are only used to rip his fellow damned apart like meat grinders, corrupting his ability to love and connect with others as a tool to destroy and shred.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Every one of the damned in Inferno tries to avoid admitting their faults in life and try to convince Dante (and through him, the reader) to see them as unwilling victims of love, glory, God, or whatever scapegoat that's most plausible.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Farinata, a heretic who believed the soul died with the body, seems to find everything uninteresting, even the eternal pain he suffers. At most he expresses mildly annoyance by the flaming tomb of spikes he rests in and when his conversation is interrupted by a father who realizes his son is dead, he doesn't move his face an inch until the father shuts up and then Farinata continues as if nothing had happened.
    "[T]hat great-hearted one, the other shade
    at whose request I'd stayed, did not change aspect
    or turn aside his head or lean or bend;
    and taking up his words where-he'd left off..."
  • Vagueness Is Coming: The souls of the dead often warn Dante that his native city is only going to get worse and worse and that his own fate will be shaped by the sins of Florence. These prophecies refer to Dante's real life exile from Florence four years after the Comedy is set.
  • Vice City: In contrast to the peaceful castle of Limbo, the last four circles of Hell are contained beyond the city of Dis. Guarded by harpies, within the walls of the cities are graves of fire, literal blood baths, the forest of suicides, and a desert where fire rains. Past that, there's a deep drop into the Malebolge (Evil Ditch) that leads even further down into Cocytus, a frozen lake made from all the evil rivers of Hell.
  • Villainous Glutton: None of those damned for gluttony are fat or seen grossly overeating; instead, the image of a man with a man with food overflowing from his mouth continuing to fill his sack with food is used to describe the ever-growing corruption and envy of the author's hometown of Florence.
  • Villainous Harlequin: One of the ten named demons from the fifth bolgia is known as Alichino, a name derived from the Italian for "harlequin." He is the only one whose blood-lust so overcomes his sense that he trusts a damned politician who promises to deliver more souls to kill; naturally, the politician betrays Alichino and leaves him looking like quite the fool.
  • Villains Never Lie: It's understandable wanting directions on your trek through the burning tar pits of the Malebolge, but Virgil would have been wiser to buy a map rather than seeking guidance from the local devils who run said burning tar pits of etc. etc. Naturally, those devils deliberately send Virgil down a dead end, try to attack him, and send him tumbling into the next Circle of Hell.
  • Walk on Water: In a show of divinely-gifted power, the first angel to appear walks across a river of fire to help Dante on his odyssey through Hell.
  • The Watson: Dante writes himself into the story as an observer unfamiliar with the reality of the afterlives, putting him in the position to ask theological and moral questions that Virgil or Beatrice can answer. He also fits the trope by being the narrator of the story who is largely secondary to the plot, since Dante can only get through Hell due to the holy protection of Beatrice.
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: In Inferno, the living poet Dante is given a free pass into and out of Hell to report on what he sees there, and is given the soul of Roman poet Virgil (a man who was in hell because he had the misfortune to live and die before the mission of Christ) as his tour guide.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • After literally going through Hell with Dante, Virgil vanishes without saying good-bye at the top of Purgatory. We already knew he wouldn't be taking Dante through Heaven, but it remains unclear how he's going to get back to the First Circle of Hell from the opposite side of the world.
    • Statius is released from Purgatory as Dante passes through, so he joins Dante on his ascent to Heaven. Problem is, the last place Statius appears is at the top of Purgatory, so the reader is left to assume that Statius makes it to Paradise and to speculate where in Paradise he eternally resides.
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • In Inferno Canto 5, the protagonist lets the sweat words and ode to love of a damned adulteress to stir his sympathy not even two circles into Hell. Virgil is shocked and asks the hero what he's thinking shortly before he faints from disproportionate sympathy.
    • After going through Hell and climbing up a mountain of trials to meet his long-dead lover, our great hero is met with a stern, distant woman who reminds Dante that he forgot her after his death, chased women who lacked any of her goodness, and set himself on a self-destructive path in life despite all the good she did for him. She refuses to show him any kindness and reminds him of his failures until the mighty hero of the Comedy bursts into tears.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Saint Dominic is described as loving Christ even in his infancy, shocking his nurse with his deep expressions of contemplation.
  • Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Geryon, the creature who flies Dante into the Eighth Circle, is the biologically manifestation of fraud. It may have the face of a beautiful man, but behind that face is the body of a massive winged serpent with a tail ripe with venom.
  • Women Are Wiser: The three most venerated and holy characters (outside of God himself) are the Virgin Mary, Saint Lucia, and Beatrice. These three women orchestrate and allow Dante's descent through the afterlives even though him and Virgil frequently fail and need to divine intervention to get through. Not only does Saint Lucia at one point need to carry Dante up Purgatory, but Beatrice spends nearly every canto of Paradiso admonishing Dante's flawed conceptions of God and correcting him with the help of the other saints.
  • The Worf Effect: Ghost-kicking, Hell-strutting Virgil fails horribly to protect Dante from the demons of Dis, creating real suspense that they'll make Dante stay in Hell forever. When all seems lost, the thousand demons scramble way in fear at the sight of an angel who knocks down all their defenses with a light push, strictly establishing that the powers of Heaven are unrivaled by anything.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • Saladin, the Muslim opponent of Richard the Lionhearted during The Crusades, is in the circle with virtuous pagans rather than further down among heretics, probably because of this trope.
    • Farinata degli Uberti (Inferno Canto X) counts too. He was a Florentine past political leader, and one of the most prominent members of the Ghibellini (the faction which sided with the Emperor as opposed to the Guelfi, which sided with the pope) and he and Dante's ancestors were enemies. From their meeting in hell, it is clear that Dante admires the man, even as he acknowledges their rivalry and differing viewpoints.
  • Wounded Gazelle Warcry: Helen of Troy is in Hell because she got herself kidnapped by the Trojan prince on purpose in order to give her own nation an excuse to invade Troy.
  • Wreathed in Flames: The saints from Mars on are wreathed in holy spirit-flame that makes them resemble shooting stars as they burn with Christ's Love.
  • Wretched Hive: The lower circles of Hell gradually become less individual and more of a connected society of back-stabbing, lying, and eternally self-destructive shadows of what were men.
    • The thieves know each other names, form in groups, and refer to each other as comrades, until one of gets turned into a snake. At that point, the still-sentient thief will seek out their friends and attack them, returning to their normal form while reducing their supposed comrade to a snake. The cycle repeats forever.
    • The core of Hell is occupied by Satan, whose giant mouths make him most qualified to communicate. But by his sin, his faculty to communicate has been turned only to destroy others, and so Satan's mouths serve as meatgrinders reducing Judas and two other traitors to blood.
  • You Are Worth Hell: Deconstructed Trope in Inferno, in which souls damned for lust are bound forever to their Star-Crossed Lovers, yet this only adds to their torment by serving as a perpetual reminder of their sins.
  • You Cannot Grasp the True Form: Insofar as God is depicted at all, His depiction is in an extremely abstract fashion due to how far he is beyond human understanding. Dante has to literally go through Hell, climb up the opposite side of the world, fly outside the universe, bathe his eyes in a river of heavenly light, and pray for the intercession of the Mother of God and even then, he admits his memory provides an infinitely inadequate account of what He actually is.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: The corruption of Dante's hometown, Florence, and his impending exile from it haunts the Comedy through the uncountable damned Florentines and the reminders by the saints of how great Florence used to be. Dante's pain over the loss of his city's greatness and his future loss of it entirely stings the poet until he realizes Paradise, not Florence, is his true home.

Alternative Title(s): Divine Comedy, Dantes Inferno, Commedia

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheDivineComedy