Literature / The Name of the Rose
Cavete Fratres Franciscanos. Lat.
The Name of the Rose
Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.Lat.
(Il nome della rosa
) is a novel written by Umberto Eco
in 1980, which also received a movie adaptation
in 1986, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, and starring Christian Slater
, F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman
, Michael Lonsdale
, and Sean Connery
. It was also adapted a year later into an unlicensed videogame
It is set in what has been called the disastrous fourteenth century
, during the period of the Medieval Inquisition. The story, described by some as Sherlock Holmes IN THE 14th CENTURY
, follows Brother William of Baskerville and his young friar apprentice, Adso of Melk
, who go to an abbey where a murder was committed in order to investigate
Tropes used include:
- Adaptation Distillation: The book is a detective mystery interwoven with 500 pages of incredible detail of the religious and political schism in the church that is nearly inscrutable to anyone without a post-graduate degree in Theology and 14th Century Political History. (Or, reasonably arguably, anyone but Umberto Eco.) The movie drops most of the Theology, History and Politics in favor of the detective story.
- Adapted Out: The Swedish monk Benno of Uppsala was cut from the film.
- And Another Thing...: Realising the Abbot has something on his mind, William waits till the Abbot is leaving before asking him about the freshly dug grave outside. It breaks through his reluctance enough to get him talking.
- Be as Unhelpful as Possible: This is the attitude of every monk in the abbey toward William's investigation.
- Big Bad Ensemble: The Serial Killer Jorges who causes the whole book's manhunt and the sinister Inquisitor Bernando Gui who doesn't really contribute anything to the manhunt other than providing scapegoats and unlike the killer he murders in official and socially acceptable ways, so he doesn't need to hide both in-universe and as far as spoilers are concerned.
- The Black Death: At the end of the novel, Adso reveals that William eventually died during the Black Death.
- Brick Joke: (Novel only.) In what seems to be another example of Did Do The Research, William discusses an Arabic treatise on hydrophobia (rabies) in dogs in passing. It comes up again during the trial of the cellarer when William claims this is what he was discussing with a murdered monk, going into great detail about how the text describes the twenty-five symptoms of hydrophobia, with which Bernardo Gui is surely familiar. This swipe is a pun on Gui's order, the Dominicans- "domine canes", God's dogs.
- Burn the Witch!: In the film, Brother Salvatore and Brother Remigio are burned at the stake as scapegoats by Father Bernardo Gui, leader of the Inquisition. Gui also tries to burn a local peasant girl, but in the film she is rescued by rebellious peasants who manage to kill Gui in the resulting chaos. In the book, Gui has the three transported away, and all three of them are executed elsewhere.
- Camp Gay: Brother Berengar.
- Celibate Hero: As a Franciscan friar, William is sworn to celibacy.
- Celebrity Paradox: Averted. Does William of Occam exist in this version? Yes, he's a friend of William of Baskerville.
- Character Exaggeration: In the film, the transmogrification of the saintly Ubertino da Casale (a minor character) from a well-educated, decent, pious (if slightly fanatical) old man to a creepy, obtuse Butt Monkey who hits on Adso and is ridiculed by William. Note that the poor guy actually existed.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Several, notably the eccentric Ubertino da Casale (film only), and the deformed Salvatore.
- Cold-Blooded Torture: Bernardo Gui plans to use it on the cellarer, but even the mention of torture is enough for him to admit everything, even things he didn't commit.
- Cool Old Guy: William, played by Sean Connery.
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: When Bernado Gui catches the peasant girl inside the monastery, he rips open her clothes to expose her breasts, causing the monks to avert their gaze in horror or cover their eyes. One monk does both, covering an eye and closing the other, which he quickly opens again for a peek.
- Cryptic Conversation: Salvatore, Ubertino da Casale, and half the monks.
- Dated History: The final sentence of the book (seen at the top of this page) is a quote from 12th century monk Bernard of Cluny. However, while a few of his manuscripts do say "rosa", based on the relative quality of the various texts the modern consensus is that Bernard actually wrote "Roma", as in the city of Rome, which got lost in transcription. Eco has since admitted he wasn't aware of this.
- Description Porn: The book devotes page upon page to descriptions of the church's altar, the entrance to the crypt, Adso's vivid psychedelic-herb-induced visions, and the monastery's relics.
- Destroy the Evidence: William brings all the evidence he's discovered so far to the Abbot, including a note found by one of the victims revealing the location of the forbidden book. The Abbot informs him the Inquisition is already on the way, then burns the note. Fortunately William was Genre Savvy enough to make a copy.
- Due to the Dead: A killer rather hypocritically gives the late rites to the herbalist in the movie.
- The Dung Ages: This is how the monastery is portrayed in the movie; moreso the hovel outside its walls, where the peasant girl lives.
- Eat the Evidence: Which in this case also qualifies as suicide.
- Eek, a Mouse!!: The monks laugh when Berenger does the 'jump on on the chair' version.
- Eureka Moment:
- William has one considering the secret of the library. Adso remembers how Salvatore said "tertius equi", which is Canis Latinicus for "The third of horse" (when he meant "the third horse"). William concludes: "the first and the seventh of the four" really means "the first and the seventh of the word four", and "four" is "quatuor" in Latin, so you have to push the letters Q and R!
- They had a minor one earlier, when Adso dreamed a story similar to the "Coena Cypriani", a kind of Bible parody, which helps William to remember that there was a book in the library consisting of four texts, one of them a comment for the Coena Cypriani, another one the book they're looking for.
- The Exotic Detective: A medieval monk.
- Finger-Licking Poison: The page corners of the book have been coated in arsenic, so anyone turning the pages (often licking their finger to help them) will be poisoned.
- First-Person Peripheral Narrator: The narrator is an older Adso.
- Friend or Idol Decision:
- Adso, at the end of the film, chooses to follow his master rather than stay with the girl.
- William has to choose between burning to death to save as many books as he can, or abandoning the library.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: At one point, Adso describes how William angrily spits out a one-syllable word in his native language (which is English), and comments that he luckily didn't understand the word, because it sounded very much like it means something naughty...
- Gonk: The abbot, the Greek translator, and Adelmo are pretty much the only three of the Benedictine monks who are not frightfully ugly. The worst is undoubtedly Ron Perlman's Salvatore, who doesn't even look human.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Most of the Latin phrases are given translations in the back of the book, but the Gratuitous Middle High German is not.
- The Grotesque: In the movie, Adso is peering fearfully at some hideous gargoyles when the equally hideous Salvatore lurches at him out of the darkness, babbling nonsense.
- Historical Detective Fiction: Investigating suspicious deaths in a monastery.
- Historical-Domain Character: Bernard(o) Gui(donis), Ubertino da Casale, Michael of Cesena.
- Historical Villain Upgrade: While he might not have been a nice guy, Bernardo Gui was much less melodramatic in Real Life.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Bernardo Gui in the film. This didn't happen in the book or in Real Life, in which he died quietly of natural causes (he was also older at the time, about 69 or 70) a couple of years after the time in which the movie takes place.
- Improvised Weapon: The herbalist is murdered with an astrolabe. And the book is poisoned, killing anyone who reads it without a protective glove.
- In Which a Trope Is Described: Every chapter of the novel begins with a flowery summary of the events that will be told. In the intro, the modern day translator comments that they were likely added by an author from the Enlightenment, since the practice is about four hundred years too early for the time the manuscript was written. One chapter heading is even self-referential, noting how summarizing a plot-heavy chapter in a heading would not be very useful.
- The Killer Was Left-Handed: Although not the killer, Berenger is shown to have written a note because he's the only left-handed monk.
- Locked Room Mystery: The first death involves a defenestration beneath a window that cannot be unopened. William easily proves the man jumped from a nearby tower and his body rolled to its final resting place.
- Looks Like Orlok: The chief librarian monk.
- Meaningful Name:
- Medieval Morons: William himself and the sensible Adso make everyone else look fanatical or dumb, at least in the movie. In the novel, many people show a great deal of scholarly knowledge and expertise, but William is about the only one who can escape beyond the stagnated and fundamentalist nature of medieval learning.
- Mundane Utility: William using his Sherlock Scan to tell Adso where the toilet is located.
- Metaphorgotten: Adso asks William about some of the schisms within the faith, and William comes up with a metaphor involving a river that divides into a delta. When Adso still doesn't get it, William admits he's not really good at parables and tells him to forget the river.
- Mind Screw: How to access the secret room in the library. "The hand over the idol?/image?/mirror! should move (how exactly?) the first and the seventh of the four(???)".
- Monk On Fire: To ensure the book's destruction, the killer holds it over the flames, but his robe catches on fire as well.
- Motive Rant: Jorge gives one at the end. This is less obvious in the movie, where the Big Bad is more reactive and less prone to discussion; most of it is held while the villain is eluding the heroes throughout the library.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If William hadn't deduced that Jorge was the killer, then sure, Aristotle's book on comedy might have stayed hidden, but on the plus side the entire library and every manuscript in it wouldn't have burned down.
- No Name Given: The girl Adso has sex with. He mentions that he couldn't even "lament and call out the beloved’s name" (as he read in romances of chivalry) when he learned that she's going to die, because he never learned her name.
- The Nothing After Death: How Adso imagines the afterlife:
I shall soon enter this broad desert, perfectly level and boundless, where the truly pious heart succumbs in bliss. I shall sink into the divine shadow, in a dumb silence and an ineffable union, and in this sinking all equality and all inequality shall be lost, and in that abyss my spirit will lose itself, and will not know the equal or the unequal, or anything else: and all differences will be forgotten. I shall be in the simple foundation, in the silent desert where diversity is never seen, in the privacy where no one finds himself in his proper place. I shall fall into the silent and uninhabited divinity where there is no work and no image.
- Nothing but Skulls: Someone with a weird sense of humor decided to order the bones in the crypt: in one place, there are Nothing but Skulls, in another one nothing but small bones, and in yet another one nothing but hands. This is a reference to the surprisingly real-life Capuchin Crypt.
- Nubile Savage: The peasant girl is a medieval variation on the theme.
- Obfuscating Disability: Ron Perlman's version of the deformed, mentally disabled hunchback Salvatore is smarter than he seems. Unfortunately it doesn't work on Bernado, who simply tortures him until he gets the answers he wants.
- Occam's Razor: One of William's tricks of the trade, appropriately enough.
- Out-of-Genre Experience: In-genre for the book, but the film pauses the action for a theological debate between the progressive, liberal Franciscans and the Vatican emissaries over the question of whether Jesus owned the clothes that he wore.
- Pride: William's fellow monks regard this as his Fatal Flaw when he persists with his investigation when it would be wiser to keep a low profile.
- Punny Name: The abbot's name is Abbo.
- Pyrrhic Victory:
- In the book the library burns, the book is destroyed and Bernardo gets away with the torture and unjust execution of three people. This was lightened up a little for the movie.
- History buffs and bibliophiles familiar with the period will consider the burning of the library to be an outright Downer Ending (Eco himself pointed out in the Apostilles to The Name of the Rose (essentially a director's track book) that having a library in that period and not having it burn down would have been absolutely unrealistic.)
- Quote-to-Quote Combat: In their debates about whether it's appropriate to laugh, William and Jorge both quote the Bible and various classical authors extensively.
- Ransacked Room: The herbalist discovers the book and goes to tell William of Baskerville, who tells him to lock himself in his room and let no-one in until he arrives (Baskerville is held up by the theological debate). On returning to his apothecary, he shocked to find the place ransacked. He bolts the door and quickly goes to check the book is still there. It is — lying on the floor under a table. The herbalist is revealed...until he sees a hooded figure step out from behind a curtain and walk toward him...
- Recycled In Space: The story is basically a medieval Sherlock Holmes mystery in addition to the literary elements.
- Red Herring: The connection between the various deaths and the seven trumpets of Revelation turns out to be a coincidence after all. When this theory is discussed openly, the killer decides to run with it, which complicates things further.
- Reduced to Ratburgers: Salvatore, though he quite enjoys them. He catches them in the graveyard, which means they've been feeding on corpses.
- Sadistic Choice: Gui insists William, a former victim, serve as a judge in the Inquisition: in the book, William is a former inquisitor, who wants nothing more to do with it; the movie shows that William refused to convict a witch and got marched out and judged by Guis-this is Hollywood History, as the real inquisitors rarely prosecuted any suspected witches, while most actively disbelieved in witchcraft.
- In the movie William says he defended a man who translated a book that conflicted with church doctrine. Gui accused him of heresy for doing so, and he was tortured until he recanted his decision, leading to the man's death by burning.
- Satellite Love Interest: Taken to an almost comical extreme with the girl, at least in the film. She has no name, no dialogue except for moans during sex, and virtually no characterisation beyond throwing herself at Adso, which she immediately does upon the very first time they meet, without having interacted with him in any way beyond the act of intercourse.
- Security Cling: In the movie Adso clasps William's robe as they're creeping through the crypt. William is decent enough not to snark at him.
- Sex Equals Love: Adso is convinced he's fallen in love with the girl after their Coitus Ensues encounter. Justified as he's a virgin in a religious order that discourages any interaction with women, and the experience is so intense for him.
William of Baskerville:
Are you not confusing love, with lust? Adso of Melk:
Am I? I don't know. I want only her own good. I want her to be happy. I want to save her from her poverty. William:
Oh, dear. Adso:
Why "oh dear"? William:
You *are* in love. Adso:
Is that bad? William: For a monk, it does present certain problems.
- Secret Path: The only unguarded way into the library is various secret passages.
- Serious Business: The abbey is hosting a council made up of various factions of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders to debate the burning issue: Did Jesus own his own clothes? In the film, this is used for comedy; in the book it is always clear that they are really discussing the church's approach to poverty and wealth, and that the debate is therefore highly political and momentous. Other monks spend a great deal of time arguing over the question of Did Jesus ever laugh?
- Shaggy Dog Story: If you read carefully and think about it, you'll notice that this is a detective story where the detective isn't very successful-he even admits it near the end-and the Big Bad is never brought to justice.
- Sherlock Scan: William of Baskerville, such as at the beginning, when he meets people from the monastery and describes to them the horse they're looking for, though he never saw it.
- William also later lampshades and deconstructs this technique as being rather reliant on lucky guesses.
- Probably a tenth of the book is either quotations or references to actual antiquary or medieval texts. Whole guidebooks have been devoted to illuminating every single reference Eco makes.
- Aristotle's thought is central to the plot, just as it was in medieval scholasticism. Not only that, the plot functions much like an Aristotlean tragedy. The hero, William, is so determined to uncover the truth, and the villain, Jorge, is so devoted to piety — both normally worthwhile virtues — that they end up destroying the monastery and all its books, accomplishing nothing. Eco even comments on this in the chapter header where the library burns down, saying it's caused by an "excess of virtue".
- The movie mentions a book by Umberto of Bologna-a clear allusion to Umberto Eco.
- The gruesome ossarium is based on the real-life Capuchin Crypt.
- Further, the name "Baskerville" is an obvious allusion to the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. Adso's name sounds very similar to Watson's, and Adso's description of William of Baskerville in the "Prologue" is taken almost word-for-word from Watson's first description of Holmes in A Study in Scarlet. In the movie, William has a line that could be rearranged as "Elementary, my dear Adso" (like the famous Beam Me Up, Scotty! relating to Sherlock Holmes).
- And William's first name and political beliefs are modeled on William of Ockham.
- Jorge, the blind librarian, is a clear reference to Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian author who went blind, served as the director of Argentina's National Library, wrote a story about a labyrinthine library, and is generally credited as a stylistic influence on Eco and probably hundreds of other genre-bending postmodernist authors.
- Single Mom Stripper: The girl is probably a medieval version.
William: Certainly she is a girl from the village who, perhaps not for the first time, grants her favors to some lustful monk out of hunger, and receives as recompense something for her and her family to eat.
Adso: A harlot!
William: A poor peasant girl, Adso. Probably with smaller brothers to feed.
- Spared by the Adaptation: The girl, of course. Also the Abbot.
- The Speechless: The girl in the movie.
- Stealth Insult: William tells Bernard he credits him with the most important decision of his life. That decision being to quit being an inquisitor...
- Take That: Jorge Luis Borges. While it's obvious Eco has a lot of respect for him as a writer, the historical Borges's support of right-wing dictators like Augusto Pinochet later in his life makes its way into the character Jorge of Burgos being a fierce authoritarian and reactionary, in keeping with the "Years of Lead" subtext of the novel.
- Theme Serial Killer: The killings follow symbolism from the Book of Revelation. Subverted; it turns out this is mostly by accident.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: William gives one to Jorge at the end.
You are the Devil. Yes. They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and in moving, he always returns whence he came. You are the Devil, and like the Devil, you live in darkness. If you wanted to convince me, you have failed. I hate you, Jorge, and if I could, I would lead you downstairs, across the grounds, naked, with feathers stuck in your asshole and your face painted like a juggler and a buffoon, so that the whole monastery would laugh at you and be afraid no longer. I would like to smear honey all over you and roll you in feathers and take you on a leash to fairs, to say to all: He was announcing the truth to you and telling you that the truth has the taste of death, and you believed not in his words but in his grimness. And now I say to you that in the infinite whirl of possible things, God allows you to imagine a world where the presumed interpreter of the truth is nothing more than a clumsy raven who repeats words learned long ago.
- Title Drop: The postfacium quote, the last line of the book. The movie however doesn't say it outright but implies the girl was the rose with its last line, as Old Adso muses that he never learned her name.
- Tome of Eldritch Lore: The lost dialogue of Aristotle is assumed to be this. It's actually poisoned.
- To the Pain: Bernardo Gui does the "showing the instruments" version in the movie to Salvatore, who shows clear signs of having been tortured when confessing the next day.
- Torture Is Ineffective: Discussed by William who used to be an inquisitor, but avoided using torture. He explains that people under torture say not only what the inquisitor wants, but also what they imagine might please him. Later, when Bernardo Gui interrogates the cellarer, the threat of torture is enough for him to admit that he committed all the murders (which he didn't do).
- The Tower: The hidden and locked library looms over the monastery, tall, dark, labyrinthine and foreboding. Eco helpfully draws a diagram of it for readers.
- The Unintelligible: Salvatore, played by Ron Perlman, talks in an idiosyncratic mix of Latin, Italian, English, French and Spanish. Even so far as the words can be understood, his ramblings don't seem to make much sense.
: "Penitenziagite! Watch out for the draco who cometh in futurum to gnaw your anima! La morte è supremos. You contemplatum the apocalypsum. Là-bas, nous avons il diabolo, ugly comme Salvatore" (in this scene
- Vomiting Cop: Adso plays the rookie cop version, fleeing outside from the autopsy of the first murder victim.
- Villain Teleportation: Jorge's ability to get in and around the library unseen. Handwaved in the film, as William muses that Jorge must have flown to reach the library before them. Jorge then says that he took the short route.
- Wham Episode:
- The third day. Adso finally learns something about Fra Dolcino! Also he gains "carnal knowledge" of some random young lady! And, by the way, Berengar dies.
- Invoked by the subtitle to the chapter where the villain explains his plan:
"In which, if it were to summarize the prodigious revelations of which it speaks, the [sub]title would have to be as long as the chapter itself, contrary to usage."
- Wimp Fight: Subverted: William and Jorge are both senescent intellectuals. They know absolutely nothing about fighting... but will do absolutely anything to win.
- With All Due Respect: Adso is respectful as befits a novice, but can't help snarking at his mentor with this trope, when pointing out that William never asks him a question to which he doesn't already know the answer.
- Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jorge wants to destroy the last edition of the Poetics of Aristotle in the film, because he feels that it will teach men to approach all matters with laughter and kill fear of the devil and thus, in his mind at least, render men irreligious.
- The X of Y
- Your Mom: During their final argument about laughter, Jorge mentions a story about a Minorite who fell on the ice, and when someone mockingly asked him if he wanted to lie on something better, he answered: "Yes, your wife".