Follow TV Tropes


Literature / The Divine Comedy

Go To
“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 world’s first poem written in Italian. Or perhaps more accurately, the poem that invented Italian.

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

Each part ("cantica") of the poem is dedicated to one of the three realms, and is in turn subdivided into 33 chapters ("cantos")note :

  • Inferno: Having lost his way in life, Dante descends through the nine Circles of Hell with Virgil, the most virtuous of the damned. The two poets see the harshest torments imaginable and worse: the people who deserve them.
  • Purgatorio: Having escaped Hell, Dante and Virgil scale the seven terraces of Mount Purgatory to meet Beatrice, the most beautiful of the saints. The two pilgrims see how every sin can be turned to true love by the restless efforts of the remorseful.
  • Paradiso: Having overcome sin, Dante and Beatrice goes through the nine spheres of Heaven with some last-minute help from St. Bernard. Every good of humanity is on display here in service of that great Good at the end of the journey, the Divine Love.

Dante called his masterpiece merely Comedy as a perhaps-ironic nod to its good ending and how it was written in the vernacular; the adjective "Divine" does not refer to the work's religious setting. In fact, it 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 sci-fi novel, a manga, and a video game. Essentially, every portrayal of Hell (from Milton to Lewis) owes something to Dante, who himself drew from the Gospels and the poems of Virgil, Statius, and Ovid. The Comedy's influence has led a few to mistake the Circles of Hell for 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 Princeton Dante Project, and Dante Online, which exists. There's also invaluable illustrations from Danteworlds from the epic's seven centuries worth of Fan Art. An ever-growing archive of "sightings" of Dante in contemporary culture can be found at Dante Today

This poem provides examples of the following:

    open/close all folders 

     Tropes A to F 
  • Abusive Parents: As recounted in Purgatorio, the kings of the Capet family are so chained by greed that they are willing to sell their daughters with all the affection of pirates haggling over slaves.
  • Accomplice by Inaction: Implied to be the case for the people in the vestibule, who let evil things happen because they just didn't care. Dante specifically points out Pontius Pilate, who could have saved Jesus but chickened out.
  • Actually, I Am Him: A Roman poet in Purgatory introduces himself by saying how much he adored Virgil and his masterpiece, The Aeneid. Dante can't stop himself from smiling before revealing that his 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 the "dear leader, / Under whom every wickedness lay dead," ignoring the myth where Saturn ate his own children and waged divine war as soon as they escaped his stomach.
  • Adaptational Species Change: At one point they find Nimrod deep in Hell for the crime of creating the Tower Of Babel. He's described as a 30 foot tall giant. In the original story of the Bible, there's nothing to indicate he's anything other than a normal-size human.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In a deviation from The Odyssey (which, at Dante' s time, was only known via Roman second-hand testimonies; the real ending in particular wasn't known), 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 (and one found in The Achilleid), as well as for the Trojan Horse, Odysseus is burned forever in a tongue of fire.
  • Adaptation Deviation: The vision of Haman's death in Purgatorio doesn't show him being hanged like in the Book of Esther but instead shows the genocidal villain being crucified. This change may be because of 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 that Haman was hanged, this version of Haman's death would be immortalized by Michelangelo Buonarroti on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which is only a few feet away from The Creation of Adam.
  • Afterlife Angst: The souls of the dead who are about to be taken by Charon across the River Acheron into Hell experience this as soon as they find out where they're going—and up until the moment they find out, they're actually glad to be there! In fact, Virgil tells Dante that the shock is an intentional part of their torment!
  • 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. This pre-Heavenly state is represented with a mountain, which is hardest to climb at the bottom and easiest to climb at the top.
  • Afterlife Avenger:
    • Master Adam is still so furious at Guido and Alessandro for getting him damned that he intends to travel an inch every century to find them and attack them.
    • Count Ugolino spends eternity biting the skull of the man who starved him and his kids to death.
  • Afterlife Tour: Probably the most famous example of the trope. Dante, by the prayers of his beloved and deceased Beatrice, is allowed to journey through the various regions of Hell and Purgatory (guided by the shade of Virgil) and Paradise (guided by Beatrice), meeting celebrated sinners and saints as well as some of his real-life friends and relations.
  • 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 14 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 homosexuals 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.
  • All Women Are Lustful: The Second Circle (Lust) has an inordinate amount of female sinners in it, whereas 95+ percent of the inmates of Hell are men.
  • The Almighty Dollar: The Fourth Circle of Hell has an evil wealth demon/deity named Plutus who tortures "the Hoarders and the Wasters".
  • 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 the characters and for the poem's readers.
  • Anaphora: Featured on threee cantos:
    • The third canto where the first three verses function as a self-introduction of the place itself (bonus points for being shown In-Universe as an inscription right above the In-Universe Gates of Hell).
      Through me the way into the suffering city,
      through me the way to eternal pain,
      through me the way that runs among the lost.
    • In the Fifth Canto of Inferno, Francesca begins three of her stanzas in a row with the word "Amor." She does this to blame passion for her crimes and to sway Dante by appealing to his love of poetry and romance.
      Love, that in gentle heart is quickly learnt,
      Entangled him by that fair form, from me
      Ta'en in such cruel sort, as grieves me still:
      Love, that denial takes from none belov'd,
      Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
      That, as thou see'st, he yet deserts me not.
      Love brought us to one death: Caina waits
      The soul, who spilt our life." Such were their words;
    • In the Thirteenth Canto of Paradiso, three of the first four stanzas begins with the command "Let him imagine" as Dante tries to get across how beautiful the dance of the starry saints is.
      Let him imagine, who would rightly seize
      what I saw now; and let him while I speak
      retain that image like a steadfast rock;
      in heaven's different parts, those fifteen stars
      that quicken heaven with such radiance
      as to undo the air's opacities;
      let him imagine, too, that Wain which stays
      within our heaven's bosom night and day,
      so that its turning never leaves our sight;
      let him imagine those two stars that form
      the mouth of that Horn which begins atop
      the axle round which the first wheel revolves
  • Ancestor Veneration: Some of the souls of the damned in Hell ask Dante to take their stories back to the living so that they can be prayed for in this fashion, hoping to escape their fate.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Inferno features this several times, which is a given since it depicts Hell.
      • Suicides are turned into trees. They can scream but only when someone or something breaks off a branch that grows back with time.
      • 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 their 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. The Author Avatar remarks that this punishment is the simplest, and yet quite terrible, and he 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.
  • Arcadia: Purgatorio Canto 27 uses idealized agricultural imagery to describe the peace found at the top of Purgatory. The pilgrim collapses upon escaping the fires of lust, resting with a peace he compares to a sated goat as his two mentors watch over him like kind shepherds.
  • 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.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The narrator asks the audience to imagine his amazement at seeing the divine, the eternal, and the good in the Heavenly Rose after coming from mere humanity, mortality, and Florence. Yeah, Florence is as far away from "a sane and just people" as a human is from the infinity of God.
  • Artistic License – Physics: The stated reason that Cocytus, the lake in the lowest Circle of Hell, is frozen, is that it's cooled by Satan's wings beating as he futilely attempts to free himself. Air movement in itself cannot lower a body's temperature.
  • Artistic License – Space: The poem 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 the author to use darkness to symbolize the deficiencies of the souls of Mercury and Venus.
  • Artistic License – Traditional Christianity: Those who betray hospitality have their soul switched out with a demon in Hell while the body continues to function normally. This doesn't make sense considering Dante is basing his theology off Saint Thomas Aquinas, who went out of his way to say angels and demons could not relate to a body in the same way a soul could. Even if a spirit were to ever control a body, Aquinas says they wouldn't be able to do "vital functions" like eating or drinking, something the narrator remembers seeing one of the traitors doing post-possession.
  • 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 that souls literally ascend.
    • Statius is shown completing his time in Purgatory, a 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.”
  • Astronomic Zoom: Paradiso IX briefly follows the Sun throughout its life-giving orbit to remind the reader of how fundamental and important it is to human life despite being so distant. Then the narrator says "I was there," and the canto moves to the very surface of the Sun and stays there.
  • 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 and thus any reder can see him/herself in the personal journey.
    "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: The 6th cantos of each cantica are known as the "political cantos", where Dante stops the narrative so he can go on a lengthy tirade. The geographical scope of the filibuster increases with each cantica: he rails against Florence's politico-familial scene in Inferno, the current political situation in Italy in Purgatorio, and even the apparent lack of interest of the Emperor among the city-states in Paradiso (in Purgatorio 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, St. Francis, St. Benedict, Pope Peter, Adam, and St. Lucia.
  • Barred from the Afterlife: Those too uncommitted to do good in life technically aren't in Hell (despite being found past its gates), but they still suffer for eternity by running back and forth indecisively between banners.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: A 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.
  • Battle Rapping: Rap didn't exist in 1320, but that didn't stop humanity from engaging in vulgar, rhythmic insult contests. Dante engaged in tenzone, essentially battle-sonneting, in his youth and some of that genre makes its way into Inferno when the liars Master Adam and Sinon trade verses about how the other sucks harder.
  • 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.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness:
    • Matilda is just a beautiful woman wandering through the woods, but she earns the trust of some strangers because they think her looks evidence her pure heart. As a servant of God, Matilda proves them right.
    • As Beatrice ascends closer to God throughout Paradiso, she becomes increasingly beautiful until her smile would crack a human's brain and her face defies all description.
  • 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."
  • Berserk Button: Church corruption and abuse of temporal power. Dante is absolutely incensed by the greed and power-scheming of the papacy of his time and it shows as e.g. in Paradise XXVII. Pope Boniface VIII in particular is a sour spot for him.
  • Big Good: Mary, Queen of Heaven, sets the plot in motion by telling Saint Lucia and Beatrice to set Dante on the path to salvation, organizing his trip through Hell with Virgil, sending Beatrice to guide him from the top of Mount Purgatory, and directly giving Dante the grace he needs to achieve his ultimate goal of perceiving God.
  • Big "WHAT?!": Statius lets out a big "Come!" in response to learning that Virgil is from Hell, which by all rights should be impossible given they're halfway through Purgatory.
  • Bishōnen Line: Souls become less and less human in appearance as the story progresses from canto I to C — 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. This is justified due to the souls in Heaven being all in the Empyrean: while in the various levels of heaven, Dante does not meet souls, instead, they communicate with him through projections, in a way that nowadays can be called telepathy.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: While many of the damned in the 8th circle (fraud) are like this, the hypocrites are probably the best example (they pretended to be good people in life while really being evil and self-serving) and receive an appropriately symbolic punishment: being forced to wear robes which look beautiful but are crushingly heavy and painful to wear.
  • 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 Eighth 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.
  • Blasphemous Praise: Statius admits he would put off meeting God in Paradise another year if it meant getting to meet Virgil while he was alive.
  • Blinded by the Light: The sight of Saint John, whose soul is so bright that it could turn a month of winter into a single day, blinds Dante. He is only so afflicted for about a hundred lines when his faith in Christ's death and resurrection allows Beatrice to restore his sight via Healing Hands.
  • Blipvert: A rapid-fire series of visions (involving a murderous nightingale and a crucified anti-Semite) assail Dante at the start of Purgatorio Canto 17, constantly shattering to show new examples of wrath that rain down into the poet's mind.
  • 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.
  • Bloody Horror: The boiling river in the Seventh Circle of Hell would be bad enough, but what makes it a really horrific torture for murderers and conquerers is the fact that it's a river of blood. They have to wallow in it, some up to their throat, or else be riddled with arrows and forced into the blood again.
  • Blow You Away: The Second Circle (lustful) is basically a giant tornado where the inhabitants are blown around 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.
    • Fortunetellers have their heads turned around backwards.
    • Thieves are turned into snakes and have to regain their 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 he can still carry a conversation.
    • Falsifiers are ravaged by terrible diseases with all that comes associated with it: scabs, open sores, pustules, bloated bodies...
    • 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 "the Love Divine / At first in motion set those beauteous things" 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: The 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 the 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.
      • The narrator 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.
      • The narrator explicitly forgives any reader who doesn't believe his account in Canto Twenty-Five is truthful, since he can't believe it.
      • Breaking the fourth wall only for "those of wit," Dante charges the audience to consider if he wasn't alive or dead in Canto Thirty-Four, what was he?
    • 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.
      • In order to finish the canticle with the lines he has left, Dante tells the readers in Canto 29 to check out the Book of Ezekiel's descriptions of angels to learn what he's getting at.
      • The last lines of Purgatorio make up an apology from Dante to his readership, for not conserving enough space to finish Purgatorio's plot-lines before having to move on to Paradiso.
    • 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.
      • The narration orders the readers to consider how wondrous it must have been to see a griffin who appears to be at once fully an eagle and fully a lion without moving.
      • The last time the author addresses the audience is in Canto Twenty-Two, leaving the reader to direct their attention to the Church and the First Good.
  • 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 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 great author of The Aeneid, Virgil. The idolization mellows into light respect 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.
    • Dante considered the man who taught him poetry, Brunetto Latini, a second father. Once he sees Latini burning in Hell and grieves that great poet, Dante's prepared to find truer fathers throughout his quest.
  • 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 in-laws, but if there's anything to take from the poem dismissively describing them as "the two relations", it's that Hell wouldn't 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 him that he can be guided through the fire-wall protecting Eden.
    • 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 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 Cardinal Virtues:
    • The Sun - Fourth Circle of Heaven - is where those who represent wisdom in the Cardinal Virtues (that which illuminates the world in the same way that the Sun does to the Earth) reside, including Thomas Aquinas, Albertus Magnus and King Solomon.
    • Mars - the Fifth Circle - is where warriors who died for a righteous cause and represent the virtue of fortitude reside. Here Dante meets Joshua, Judas Maccabeus, Charlemagne, Roland, Godfrey of Bouillon and his ancestor Cacciaguida who died in the Second Crusades.
    • Jupiter - the Sixth Sphere - is populated by rulers who used their authority with fairness and dignity, representing the virtue of justice. Here Dante meets such examples as David, Hezekiah, Trajan, Constantine, William II of Sicily, and Ripheus the Trojan.
    • Saturn - the Seventh Sphere - is populated by those who represent the virtue of temperance, Dante meeting Peter Damian.
  • 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:
    • As Dante and Virgil run towards Mount Purgatory, Dante realizes only his own shadow is in front of him and fears he's been abandoned. Virgil admonishes his student by reminding him that his shadow is being cast in Naples where his body is buried and that human reason cannot reach the depths of God's strange designs for the universe.
    • 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 Brunetto Latini, 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. The Author Avatar, who aspires to artistic greatness, is distressed by this and spends the rest of Purgatory identifying his sin with Pride.
  • Celestial Body: The Eagle of Justice who speaks from Jupiter is made from the sentient soul-stars of the just kings, who shine as strongly as the Sun itself.
  • 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.
  • Children Are Innocent: Beatrice says that only children are innocent among humanity and that as soon as they mature they become ravenously evil. She goes so far to say that a child will learn to speak intelligently at the same time they first hope to see their mother dead and buried.
  • 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).
  • 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 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.
  • City of the Damned: The Sixth Circle of Hell is the City of Dis, a massive fortress made of stone coffins where heretical souls are on fire.
  • Climbing the Cliffs of Insanity:
    • One of the few major challenges Dante and Virgil find traversing Hell are steep cliff-faces that they have to find their way down. The first time, they hitch a ride on the flying monster Geryon, and the second, they convince a chained giant to lower them by its hand.
    • Especially early on, the mountain of Purgatory is one of the most physically taxing obstacles on Dante's journey. Canto IV of Purgatorio in particular focusing mostly on the difficulty Dante has climbing the extremely steep base of the mountain.
  • 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.
  • Complete Immortality: Not only God but all souls are subjected to absolute immortality, no matter if they are in Hell, Purgatory, or Paradise. Their mileage varies about this status.
  • 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."
  • Conspicuous Consumption: The Fourth Circle of Hell is shared by hoarders and wasters, with the wasters continuing their life-long habit of discarding whatever comes to them, only for a hoarder to bring more rocks for them to ravenously discard.
  • 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.
    • The six Cantos set in the Garden of Eden at the end of Purgatorio are referenced by Adam as he explains how long its been since his creation.
  • 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.
  • Cooked to Death: Per one simile, the demons of the Malebranche mix, batter, and burn the damned in tar like a cook stirring ingredients in a soup.
  • 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.
    "But inasmuch as full are all the leaves / Made ready for this second canticle, / The curb of art no farther lets me go."
  • Cosmic Motifs: The souls on the Sun are constantly described as miniature suns that organize themselves like constellations. Their dialogue also constantly makes references to the rising Sun.
  • 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 are destined to remain open until the Last Judgement, allowing the rare passerby to hear the "sorry cries" the heretics create for the rest of the eternal life many of them denied.
  • Crossover Cosmology: Although it's a biblical fiction about Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, several creatures and figures from Classical Mythology appear in Inferno.
  • Crucial Cross: The cross goes undepicted in Heaven until the protagonist reaches the realm of the martyrs, where the souls of the martyrs gather in the shape of a cross so brilliant with light that even the great poet Dante can find no simile to describe it. These souls go on to sing in perfect harmony about how their sufferings and deaths make no impediment to participating in the Love of God.
  • Cryo-Prison: 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. Despite their unending resistance, they can never escape.
  • 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.
  • Cultural Translation:
    • In Dorothy L. Sayers's 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 vernacular Italian verse into slangy (and profanity-ridden) vernacular American English prose. Many of the Comedy'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)."
  • Cure Your Gays: The Seventh Terrace of Purgatory features homosexual men sing in harmony with the heterosexual lustful as they all purify their sexualities corrupted by the Fall.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: In an unremarked-upon moment of disrespect, Dante starts a conversation with his guide by referring to him as "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. When the Ninth Circle finally appears, it is described as a freezing in a "l’etterno rezzo," an 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 makes it clear the darkest place he had ever been was one of the 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's Author Avatar.
  • 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 Inferno, and it is shown directly only a couple of times; sinners are tormented by fire, ice, storms, hounds, snakes, etc.
  • Death Before Dishonor: The work makes reference to Cato the Younger's decision to commit suicide rather than compromise one's freedom and rejecting tyranny. It is this virtue and love of just society that makes Cato fit to be Purgatory's guardian, but at the same time, Dante elsewhere condemns suicide as worse than murder, so his praise of Cato is very odd.
  • Death of a Child:
    • Dante first 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, the poem affirms the necessity of baptism while maintaining that children are not tortured for remaining unbaptised by anything other than sadness and boredom.
    • In the penultimate Canto, Bernard points out all the infants who died and went to Heaven by no merit other than their parent's faith, their circumcision, or their baptism.
  • Decapitation Presentation: In the ditch of the Sowers of Discord, one of the damnednote  holds 'his own head' up, "in the manner of a lantern," and speaks to the narrator's horror.
  • Decomposite Character: Cacus is a flame-breathing giant from Greek mythology, which the poet 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:
    • The poem begins with its hero trying to climb out of a dark valley one last time before a terrifying she-wolf causes him to abandon all hope of leaving and turning back into the sun-muted valley. Thank God a certain ghost arrives to give him a much more exciting way back home.
    • Damned souls experience this once they find out they're destined to an eternity in hell.
    • Cavalcante faints and loses speech from despair upon learning that his son died. It's worth noting that this is after he has spent years crushed in a casket full of hellfire.
  • 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 weeping giant, trapped waist-deep in a frozen lake, beating his massive wings trying to fly back towards Heaven, though doing so creates cold gusts of wind which freeze his tears into the ice in a way that just further entraps him. 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.
  • Digging to China: When the Devil got chucked out of Heaven into the center of the Earth, his evil so disturbed nature itself that all the rocks and minerals from Jerusalem to the other side of the world emptied out into the Southern Hemisphere. Conveniently, this created a tunnel from Jerusalem to its antipode, Purgatory, a 24-hour journey that takes up most of Inferno.
  • Dirty Coward: The Opportunists, who aren't allowed into Hell but are still punished for it anyway. Unlike the rest of the damned, Virgil 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 and 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.
  • The Dreaded: No man can pass the she-wolf, a beast with every hunger whose mere sight can strike all hope from the heart. No one has ever gotten past her, and she can corner men on their journey through life so that they will cower until their death. She will remain alive to haunt the world until the Greyhound hunts her into Hell at the end of time.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: The protagonist 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.
  • Dumb and Drummer: Best identified by Amilcare Iannucci. The dull counterfeiter Master Adam may have a disproportioned body that looks like a lute, but when hit, his dropsies make the sound of a drum that expose his lower-class, brutish nature, and idiocy to all fooled by his self-excusing lies.
  • 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 her living lover.
    • 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.
  • The Emperor: The great emperors of the past are objects of great admiration of Dante and often associated with the divine sovereignty of God. The lack of an emperor in contemporary Italy is a major source of Dante's disappointment with his homeland.
    • Julius Caesar is mentioned as one of the virtuous pagans in Limbo. He is repeatedly referenced as an instrument of God's plan of salvation for uniting the world under a single empire that would spread the word of God.
    • The Byzantine emperor Justinian is presented as a just lawgiver too concerned with worldly matters to be perfect. Still, he is blessed in Heaven and is used as the voice of Roman history in Paradiso VI.
  • 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.
    • Cacciaguida decribes how in his time, Florence was a shining beacon of Christian goodness and Italian pride, but in the decades after his death, the greed and corruption of its citizens has left the once great city a rotten reminder of what it could have been.
  • Enslaved Tongue: Minos has the ability to compel any ghost before him to truthfully confess all their sins, no matter how ashamed or deceitful they were in life.
  • Epic Fail: Perhaps the funniest part of The Divine Comedy is the revelation that Adam and Eve were in Eden for about six or seven hours before they were kicked out for breaking God's very simple rules.
  • 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.
  • Everybody Hates Hades:
    • Dis, a Roman name of Hades, is used as a name for Satan, and the city of Lower Hell, with Hell taking imagery from Classical Underworld (though the Elysian Fields section still exists as the First Circle, where the Virtuous Pagans aren't punished).
    • King Minos, the Classical Judge of the Underworld, is shown as a monstrous Judge of the Damned with a serpentine tail he wraps around himself.
    • At the Fourth Circle of Hell, for Avarice, the God of Wealth Plutus appears, chanting out an apparent prayer to Satan. He may represent Pluto, though. In the 1911 film he is referred to as Pluto and shown as a black devil with horns.
  • Evil Chancellor: 'Evil Counselors' (meaning those who advised others to do evil things) are in the Eighth Bolgia of the Eighth Circle. Their punishment is to be trapped within individual tongues of fire.
  • Evil Cripple: The Eagle of Justice singles out the "Cripple of Jerusalem" as a Christian worse off than any ignorant pagan, for his evil deeds outnumber his good ones a thousandfold.
  • Evil Is Bigger: Lucifer, the ultimate representation of evil, is so big that his arms are to giants what giants are to mortal men.
  • 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 in use cold as part of their punishment:
    • The Third 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 Overlord: Despotic kings are so common in the world that Solomon is justly said to be the wisest man alive for managing to maintain monarchy and morality in one man. For a few examples:
    • As part of his sick mockery of the Heavenly Lord, the Devil is known as the Emperor of Hell due to his leadership of the Fallen Angels and his role in causing every suffering. Instead of a castle, he has the darkest pit in the universe; instead of towers, his "castle" is surrounded by chained giants; and instead of moats, his home is guarded by ten ditches filled with the soul of every liar in history.
    • In Purgatorio XX, three kings named Charles (Charles I, Charles II, and Charles of Valois) are prophesied to become richer in evil than any before them for crimes such as the murder of St. Thomas, the exploitation of Florence, the enslavement of Valois' own daughter. Yet all these horrors pale in comparison to what Hugh Capet sees King Phillip IV committing. For corrupting the papacy to meet his own political ends, Philip earns the title of "New Pilate" in accordance with his attack on the Body of Christ.
  • 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.
  • The Exact Center of Everything: Heaven is set beyond the physical world and it surrounds the latter from all directions. One step below, the Sun, the planets and all stars orbit Earth, the hemispheres of which are entirely covered by the known landmasses (Northern Emisphere) und a single ocean (Southern Empisphere) surrounding the mountain of Purgatory. This description sounds like an ode to the physical world, but in reality it would be more correct to say that, according to Dante, Earth is the least clean place in existence because it is the center of the physical world. The farther a soul is from the grace of God (who, again, surrounds the physical world), the more impure it becomes. This is taken to its logical extreme in the case of Satan, who is eternally trapped at the very center of the deepest circle of Hell (and yes, that also means his crotch marks the center of everything). This is also the reason why the repented souls of Purgatory are allowed to climb up the mountain only after completing their penitence in each of the seven circles: the less sins they're carrying, the purer they are and the closer they can get to God, until they eventually enter the Garden of Even and ascend to Heaven, leaving the physical sphere for good.
  • 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.
  • Externally Validated Prophecy: Throughout his journeys in this 1304 poem, Dante is warned about how the people of Florence will betray him; this takes advantage of the fact that the epic takes place in 1300, two years before Dante was exiled from Florence by his political enemies.
  • Extranormal Prison: This Ironic Hell features horrid weather, cliffs, monsters, demons, and a doorway marked "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here."
  • Extremely Short Timespan: Most epic poems take place over entire lifetimes, while the Comedy just focuses on a crazy week where a middle-aged poet becomes a celestial pilgrim. This is most obvious in Inferno, where the characters walk through the center of the Earth to the opposite side of the planet within 24 hours while wasting plenty of travel-time talking to the infernal locals.
  • 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.
  • Faint in Shock: 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 his blasphemy was against Zeus.
  • Fantasy World Map: Diagrams of Hell and Purgatory are featured in many translations; some fine ones can be found here.
  • Fan Disservice: All of the sinners (except the hypocrites, who have to wear crushingly heavy robes as punishment) are nude, although this fact is rarely brought up. That said, given they are all trapped in a variety of eternal torments, it would be pretty hard for any but the most twisted people to find that fact erotic. Of special note is Thais, who is presumably a beautiful woman (being a famous courtesan in life) but is covered from head to toe in shit as her punishment.
  • 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.
  • Fat Bastard: Peter Damian contrasts the lean and scrappy apostles with the contemporary, corrupt cardinals who have grown so plump that they need a beast and three attendants to move anywhere.
  • 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.
    "Hence, if the present world doth go astray,
    In you the cause is, be it sought in you."
  • Fate Worse than Death:
    • Downplayed Trope; in the first canto, Dante is so afraid when he's lost and alone that he thinks death would only be worse by the barest of margins.
    • Most of the characters in Inferno would be better off not existing, considering they will spend eternity being perfectly tortured in Hell.
  • 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 Phlegyas note , 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 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 Eighth Circle with its ten sub-divisions and why the Eighth 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 removed, 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 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.
  • Foil: The two women introduced at the top of Purgatory represent the opposing lifestyles of activity and contemplation. Matilda is feminine as Aphrodite, quietly peaceful, and concerned with tending her earthly garden; Beatrice is masculine as an admiral, loudly judgmental, and concerned with the contemplation of heavenly truths.
  • Forced Transformation:
    • 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.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Virgil lines out the divinely-commanded plot of the poem in the first canto, so at no point in the next 99 cantos should the reader doubt that Dante is going to make it through all the realms of the afterlife, leave Virgil for Beatrice, and come face-to-face with God. Its a testament to Dante's writing that the poem is still suspenseful and shocking in moments despite the fact that it immediately spoils itself.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At 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.
    • Canto 5 starts with one of the lustful, who 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 there 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.
  • For Want of a Nail: Paradiso breaks the fourth wall at one point to remind the reader that if the sun or the planets or even the stars were aligned slightly differently, every living being on Earth could be dead.
  • Friend to All Living Things: In her first appearance, the gardener of Eden is surrounded by friendly nature. She lightly stands on yellow and red flowers, the birds sing a perfect harmony with the leaves, and the trees blow in the breeze lightly enough to keep the peace of Matilda's garden. Matilda's a heavenly Persephone and an uncorrupted Eve, which is why its so strange that the Hero's Muse is the learned and militant Beatrice.
  • 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.

    Tropes G to L 
  • Garden of Eden: Eden is located on the top of Mount Purgatory one the lone island of the Southern Hemisphere. Dante and Virgil enter it in Canto 28 of the Purgatorio and realize that it is one and the same with Parnassus, the mountain Greeks and Romans believed all inspiration came from.
  • Garden of Love:
    • Where else could Dante and Beatrice reunite after overcoming damnation and death to see each other, but the Garden of Eden? After all, Eden is the garden every poet, even the pagans, has dreamed of and called Paradise; only here could Dante reunite with the woman so lovely as to make Heaven jealous of Earth.
    • In his explication of the virtue of love, Dante describes the universe as God's garden, with each blade of grass being a fruit of His love.
  • Generation Xerox: All that we learn about Dante Alighieri's great-grandfather, who gave the family the name Alighieri, is that he has spent 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.
  • Ghost Amnesia: Heretics in Hell "remember" the future, but not the past (except, apparently, their own sins, since they speak of those). This is part of the Ironic Hell punishment, since once time ends they will remember nothing at all.
  • 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.
  • Given Name Reveal: Despite being The Protagonist and the author, Dante's name isn't mentioned until 64 cantos into the poem (out of 100). Fittingly, it is Beatrice, his love, who calls him by name as she shames him for his failings in life.
  • Glory Seeker: Several souls in Hell still cling to the hope that they can live on through worldly fame even as they experience eternal death.
    • Pier della Vigna is the first character that needs to be tempted by worldly fame to tell his life story, an ironic reality considering that Pier represents the souls who threw away their Earthly lives away by suicide. Pier uses his brief time to insist that he never committed treason or embezzlementnote  and that he was only accused of such thing by those consumed by envy.
    • Brunetto Latini goes to the extreme of lecturing Dante on how he should live his life despite having suffered his way into the seventh circle. Turns out Latini is so single-mindedly focused on the need to live through the greatness of one's poetry that he can't notice his own fiery doom.
    • The giant Antaeus is quick to obey the whims of Dante as soon as the latter promises to bring the giant's name back to prominence on Earth, not even offering a comment or request regarding the chains and ice that confine him so tightly.
  • 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 vigour failed the lofty fantasy:
    But now was turning my desire and will,
    Even as a wheel that equally is moved,
    The Love which moves the sun and the other stars."
  • God in Human Form: One thousand two hundred and seventy seven years before the poem began (by a demon's estimate), the Son of the Primal Power took on human nature so that man could be united to its Creator despite the evil of the First Man. This Man and God died as just vengeance against humanity for its sin, yet the injustice of the Divine Love being killed called wrath upon those wicked who did the deed. The evidence of this just and unjust vengeance dwells on Mars, where on a cross of martyrs lies the body of Christ with such splendor that memory and words cannot contain it.
  • 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.
  • Going Cosmic: Dante Alighieri's work was pretty standard love poetry about how beautiful his lady is, only for the Comedy to reveal said lady is now sitting beside the Virgin Mary's throne in Heaven and commanding ghosts to bring Dante up the Devil's back, through the fires of Eden, and past the angels to glimpse eternity before death.
  • 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.
  • Good is Not Nice: The take-away Dante has from going through Hell is that being cruel to the damned is a kindness for them.
  • The Good King:
    • On the authority of Thomas Aquinas, Solomon is the wisest king in all creation. He earned this title when he asked God for wisdom in acting out his kingly duties rather than seeking the vain academic knowledge that would impress his elite peers.
    • 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.
    • Near the end of Paradiso, Dante mentions that Henry VII will end up in the Empyrean (the tenth and highest "level" of Heaven), as Dante regarded him as the Big Good with regards to Italy.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Manfred, one of the first characters introduced outside of Hell, has a scar above his eyebrow that hints at his former life of violence and sin. Despite his scar, Manfred is still noble-looking and beautiful, indicating he is still good despite his failings.
  • 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 choirs 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 bloodiest 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.
    "Between his legs were hanging down his entrails; His heart was visible, and the dismal sack That maketh excrement of what is eaten."
  • 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.
  • Gravity Screw: At the end of Inferno, Dante (the character) and Virgil first have to climb down Satan's back before gravity inverts at the center of the Earth where Satan is buried. It's a bit of a Mind Screw to go with the Gravity Screw.
  • Greater-Scope Paragon: Every good in the Comedy, past, present, and future, comes from God and every action that Dante takes follows his purpose to rest in God. Ultimately, though, God's greatness is too much for Dante to describe and God Himself is not encountered by Dante until the very end of the poem.
  • 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.
  • Green Thumb: The Griffin causes the withering Tree of Life to fully blossom in a second with a touch of His chariot's pole.
  • Guile Hero: Virgil gets by through Hell in one piece by flattering most menaces he comes across, while subtly threatening them with God's wrath. This helps him get the help of undead ferrymen, centaurs, flying scorpions, and giants on the journey, but straight up demons are too evil to keep a deal and the holy people Virgil meets in Purgatory are too good to be swayed by a silver tongue.
  • Hand Wave: In Purgatorio, Virgil admits he can't understand how the gaseous bodies of the dead are both intangible and susceptible to torments, so he hypothesizes God has hidden how this works from man and moves on from the topic.
  • 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.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: When the poem was written "comedy" just meant any story with a Happy Ending. This explains why most of the poem isn't very funny at all, with a few exceptions.
  • Head Turned Backwards: In Hell, fortune-tellers have to walk forwards with their heads on backwards, unable to see what is ahead, because of their forbidden attempts to see the future in life.
  • Healing Hands: Emphasizing her relationship with Christ and the Apostles, Beatrice heals Dante's newfound blindness with a touch of her hand.
  • Healing Shiv: Virgil's speech is compared to the magical lance of Achilles, which could inflict a wound with a strike and heal the wound with a second strike. In applying this healing lance to Virgil, the severity of his criticism is emphasized while making it clear that the father-son relationship between Dante and Virgil suffered no lasting damage.
  • 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 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.
  • Heaven's Devils: Virgil trusts the devils of fraud because his paganism has taught him that demons are agents of the gods' justice. The trope is subverted when the Malebranche try to kill Virgil and his ward after lying to them about how to leave their torture-chamber. It's so foolish to think Fallen Angels would act justly that even a damned hypocrite mocks Virgil for his blunder.
  • 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:
    • Averted with Cerberus. Although he does have three heads, he is never actually referred to as being a dog, despite that depiction of him being well-known at the point The Divine Comedy was written. The video game picks up on this, showing the beast as all the more ugly and unrecognizable for being human-like.
    • The black bitches (as in female dogs) chasing and maiming the damned in the Forest of Suicides.
  • Hell Is War: The fifth circle of Dante's Inferno: the Wrathful are made to fight in a stinking swamp surrounding the walls of Dis (the "capital city" of Hell, as it were, comprising Circles 6-9). Also gives sad people something to cry about.
  • A Hell of a Time: A downplayed example, but Limbo is technically the first circle of Hell, and is for people who weren't sinners in life, but are still unable to go to Heaven though no fault of their own (such as not being baptized, living before Jesus came, never having heard of Christianty and thus having no chance to convert, and so on). While calling it a happy place is a stretch, the people there aren't punished in any way other than missing out on Heaven, and the place is described as quite peaceful and beautiful. Also, the damned who inhabit the place are still mostly allowed to do what they were interested in in life. For instance, there are a fair amount of pagan philosophers there who can keep philosophizing.
  • Helpless Kicking: This is a typical reaction of the damned who have their upper bodies stuck in a narrow cavity. Simoniacs are trapped headfirst in pits and their feet are costantly set on fire by mystical fire. Judas Iscariot, the ultimate traitor, can only flail his legs while Satan himself chomps his upper body and tears the skin off his spine.
  • 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 Dog: Virgil describes Jesus as a fierce greyhound who will chase off the lions and wolves (who represent sin) that stalk Dante and prevent him from finding true happiness.
  • 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. This makes the surrender of freedom back to God (especially in 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.
  • The High Queen: St. Bernard and Dante both refer to Mary as the Queen or Empress of Heaven and her court is made up all of the angels and saints, who sit below her and rejoice in her smile.
  • 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 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.
  • Hope Is Scary: Master Adam, a counterfeiter infected with dropsy for infinite time, is tortured less by his extreme thirst than by his memory of the river Arno and luscious, well-hydrated fields that he knew in life. His ability to remember these great goods and his longing to return to them makes his actual torture all the more unbearable.
  • 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.
    • When dealing with non-humans, Virgil has no experience to go off of, so he ends up trusting demons with pitchforks and monsters called "the Furies" to hold up their end of a bargain.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Hypocrite: According to Inferno, those guilty of hypocrisy are forced to march in monk-robes made of lead in the 8th Circle of Hell, the robes symbolic of the weight of their falsehoods. Special mention goes to Caiaphas, the High Priest of Israel under Pontius Pilate who advised him to crucify Jesus for "societal good", who is crucified to the ground and treaded upon by the other hypocrites like a literal doormat.
  • Icarus Allusion:
    • When flying on a scorpion/dragon/demon monster made of lies down into the largest pit of soul-corpses, Dante was more afraid than Icarus was at the moment of his wings burning off. Sure, Icarus flew too close to the sun and fell, but Dante didn't even get to fly up before descending right into the realm of the dead.
    • The counterfeiter and liar Griffolino oddly references the Icarus myth with him in the role of a wiser Daedalus who admitted he couldn't safely make Icarus fly. Of course, Griffolino is using this reference to aggrandize himself for lying about being able to fly and getting burned at the stake for being unable to back his claims up.
  • 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.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Each of the three parts has a One-Word Title, ends in "o", and are locations:
    • Inferno
    • Purgatorio
    • Paradiso
  • I Don't Like the Sound of That Place: The Eight Circle of Hell is known as the Malebolge, which pretty directly translates to "bad ditch." As to be expected from the name, it's a group of ten holes that hold some of the most deceitful souls ever to plague the Earth.
  • I Have Many Names: The infinity and transcendence of the Lord is evident in the Comedy because Dante refuses to only 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 Trinal Light, 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.
  • 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).
    • After encountering some anorexic ghosts, Statius gives a long exposition on how the immaterial souls of Hell and Purgatory appear to have bodies that can be hurt and starved.
  • Informed Flaw: 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 just 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. Dante sets this with the very first words in the poem: "Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita...", meaning "When half way through the journey of our life...".
  • 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."
  • Insignificant Little Blue Planet: In Paradiso 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."
  • 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.
  • Intangibility: Having left their bodies behind, all the deceased Dante meets on his journey are just shadows of their former selves that don't breathe, 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 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 souls in the Vestibule only cared about themselves and didn't stand for anything, and were too lazy and cowardly to stop evil. As such, they have to follow a banner that represents nothing, and a Scary Stinging Swarm forces them into action by stinging them.
      • 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."
      • The envious have their eyes sown shut, as in live they viewed people who were more fortunate with malice.
  • 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.
  • The Journey Through Death: Dante Alighieri gets lost in a dark forest and, while being guided, undertakes a pilgrimage across the spiritual planes of existence: Inferno (Hell), where he witnesses the sinful souls who are facing perpetual punishment for their wrongdoings in life; Purgatorio (Limbo), where the redeemable souls are cleaning up themselves in order to repulse their committed sins and be admitted to God's realm; and Paradiso (Heaven), where the saintly and redeemed ones rest. The story ends as Dante's soul becomes aligned with God's love. Whether Dante had died, or was travelling through the planes while alive, is left unclear.
  • Kaiju: Satan himself is depicted as one. Dante says that the giants they met earlier (who were around 30 feet tall), were only about as big as one of his arms. Fortunately, he's basically harmless due to being trapped in the ice and nearly mindless, as Dante and Virgil are able to climb across his body without him reacting.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty:
    • Pope Boniface VII is portrayed as thoroughly corrupt and evil, and even caused someone to get sent to Hell by claiming he controls who goes to Heaven. It's made very clear he will eventually go to Hell (specifically, the area in the 8th circle for Simonists.)
    • To a lesser extent, all living sinners are this. While they may escape Earthly punishment, they will still inevitably go to Hell if they don't repent. Even if they do repent, they will have to spend time in Purgatory, possibly for centuries if their sins were bad enough.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: At one point while in Cocytus, 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 Alighieri, who will go on to walk through Hell and see God's face, can't contain his utter glee upon meeting his favorite author, 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."
  • Language Drift: In a strange addition to the Genesis story, Adam claims that the original language was extinct by the time Nimrod brought the Curse of Babel upon humanity.
  • 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.
  • The Law of Conservation of Detail: Conversations between Virgil and Dante that are irrelevant to the Comedy are written out of the narrative, as the narrator admits in the 21st canto.
  • 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 Brother and Sister: The woman Dante is closest to in a platonic sense is Piccarda Donati, sister of Dante's good friend Forese. She calls Dante brother and he in return goes so far as to question his great love, Beatrice, about God's justice in putting Piccarda in the least part of Heavan.
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: The Montefeltros' stories clearly contrast each other. Guido da Montefeltro is in the eighth circle of Hell: even though he died a monk in a monastery (usually viewed as a good death for a Christian), he never repented for his greatest sin, as receiving absolution before committing a sin kind of misses the absolution’s whole point. St. Francis came to meet his soul initially but had to admit Guido was damned, and a demon dragged Guido off to Hell. Meanwhile, Guido’s son Buonconte fell in a battle of a civil war (to put it mildly, not the best Christian way to go) but repented his sins as he lay wounded and died praying to the Mother of God. An angel and a demon argued for his soul too, but this time, as Buonconte’s repentance, though expressed at the last moment, was genuine, the angel was victorious. Dante meets Buonconte among the saved in Ante-Purgatory.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Lost Lenore: The reader is first introduced to Beatrice as a dead woman who was friends with Dante, whose unrequited love for her motivates him to go through Hell to see her again.
  • 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 emphasis 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.
  • Lust:
    • The Second Circle of Hell is made up of those most guilty of the sin of lust, all of them lost in the winds of a great storm.
    • Special mention that the "panderers and seducers" (essentially those who used sex and lust to commit fraud and other atrocities) are instead sent to the first ring of the 8th Circle to be whipped and beaten by demons in a two-laned march.
    • The seventh and last terrace of Purgatory is where souls atone for the sin of lust.

    Tropes M to R 
  • Mal Mariée: In the story of Paolo and Francesca in Inferno Canto 5, Francesca was wedded for political reason to Giovanni Malatesta (also called Gianciotto or "Giovanni the Lame"). While in Rimini, she fell in love with Giovanni's younger and handsome brother, Paolo, who was married as well. They managed to carry on an affair for some ten years, until Giovanni ultimately surprised them in Francesca's bedroom, killing them both.
  • 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.
  • Mass Resurrection: The dogma of the Resurrection of the Deadnote  is referenced throughout the poem by various ghosts suffering from their separation from their bodies. The ghosts in Heaven in particular long for their bodies again so they can enjoy Heaven in body and soul, but the damned in Hell fear the Resurrection because their tortures will only grows worse when they have a body to fully feel pain with.
  • 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.
  • Medusa: Dante and his guide Virgil are initially barred from entering Lower Hell at the Gate of Dis in Circle Six. Those at the gate threaten to bring out Medusa to turn Dante to stone; Virgil, not trusting Dante to keep his own eyes closed, covers Dante's eyes with his own hands while they wait for divine aid to come to let them pass through.
  • 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...
  • "Metaphor" Is My Middle Name: A very early use in the Purgatorio: as the Pilgrim and Virgil ascend the mountain, they come across a group of shades lounging in the shade of a boulder. Dante singles out a particularly exhausted-looking sinner and tells his guide, "See that man? Lazier he could not look, not even if 'Lazy' were his middle name."
  • 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 sing 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.
  • Mirror Routine: Dante initially mistakes the ghosts on the Moon walking towards him as reflections of Beatrice and himself walking. He calls this the reverse of Narcissus' error.
  • Mission from God: Whenever a guard of Hell, Purgatory, or Heaven tells Dante that he shouldn't be there due him still being alive, his guide for each section will explain to the guard that God Himself tasked Dante with being there, after which the guard will let them pass.
  • 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.
  • Money Dumb: One of the constant lessons is that spending money fruitlessly is just as much a sin of Greed as hoarding it for yourself. Those who waste money are given the same punishment as those who keep too much of it in the Fourth Circle of Hell and Statius explains at length why the two are morally equivalent in the Purgatorio.
  • Mundane Afterlife: Limbo, the First Circle of Hell (reserved for goodly folks who still missed out on Heaven for various reasons) isn't really a bad place, in fact, it's rather pretty. It's still kinda lame compared to Heaven, and most of the inhabitants wish they were there instead.
  • 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.
  • Multiple Head Case: In addition to Cerberus (who has three heads like in the original myths), Satan himself has three heads, meant to be the opposite of the Holy Trinity.
  • 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.
  • Mythology Gag: A line from the Vita Nuova gets dropped in Purgatory. Turns out one of the repentant gluttons is a big fan of Dante.
  • 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").
  • 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 Inferno, which otherwise has no thematic connection to Dante whatsoever.
  • 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 Courtly Love poems are sinful.
  • Nightmarish Factory: The fifth bolgia of the fraudulent is compared to a tar-filled Venetian naval arsenal.
  • 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 Doubt the Years Have Changed Me: Quite a few people are totally unrecognizable to Dante upon reuniting with him in the afterlife. The Donati siblings, in particular, are respectively so emaciated by the penances of Purgatory and so beautified by the grace of God that Dante can't recognize them.
  • No Escape but Down: The descent into Hell only allows downward movement, so when demons get grabby in Circle 8, the only haven is to be found by diving further into the Inferno. If you can jump into another circle or ditch of Hell, then the demons will be unable to follow since Divine Judgement confined them to their Circle.
  • 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 just like Tydeus did with an enemy soldier in The Thebaid.
  • No Sympathy: Virgil appeals to the dead lover of Cato to convince the man to let Dante into Purgatory. Problem is, since Cato is in Purgatory while his lover is in Hell, Cato's unconditional love for his wife has turned to unmovable apathy, so Dante is only allowed to enter Purgatory due to the decree of God.
  • Noble Demon: Limbo is mostly populated by virtuous pagans who couldn't be baptized because they were born before the birth of Christ. So it's a pretty big deal that Saladin, a Muslim born several centuries after Christ, made it in. (As did Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, two famous Muslim philosophers better known in the West as Avicenna and Averroes.)
  • 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, this may be explained by 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 Divine Comedy as a whole is structured around the numbers 3 and 100. Each cantica — of which there are three — has 33 cantos, with the exception of Inferno, which has 34; the extra one serves as a general prologue for the entire poem. Each realm is composed of 9 sections (three times three): the nine Circles of Hell, the seven Terraces of Purgatorio plus the Ante-Purgatory and the Earthly Paradise, and the nine Spheres of Heaven. Dante has three main guides throughout his journey: Virgil, Beatrice and St. Bernard. At the end of the journey, God in the Empyrean is surrounded by nine orders of angels (in three groups of three each), and God Himself manifests as three overlapping circles, representing the Holy Trinity. Even the structure itself of the poem, the so-called "terza rima" ("third rhyme"), is made of tercets (three-verse stanzas) with an interlocking three-line rhyme scheme (ABA BCB CDC...). Whew!
  • 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.
  • Obviously Evil: The Malebranche is a group of pitch-black demons with bat's wings and names that all mean "evil." They gnash their teeth, curse, and eagerly prepare their pitchforks to stab people with, a get-up that telegraphs so much malice that even the hypocrites lower in Hell know not to trust them. Unfortunately, pagans like Virgil never got the memo and trust the Malebranche far too much.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Virgil often references the time when Christ broke into Hell, shook 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.
  • The Omnipotent: While implied with God, there may actually be a stealth subversion: deep in Hell, Dante meets several giants who are chained up for rebelling against God. One of the giants (Anteus) didn't participate in the rebellion directly but was still an accessory, so he's in Hell, but not chained up. Virgil implies that if he had participated, the giants would have overthrown God. This could just be Virgil flattering the giant, however.
  • The Omniscient: God knows the thoughts, future, and heart of every man and woman. This is evidenced by the perfect justice wrought upon each soul throughout the Comedy, the testimony of predestination by the souls of Purgatory, and the nigh-telepathy of the saints connected to God's Deep Mind.
  • One-Word Title: Each of the three parts has a one-word title:
    • Inferno
    • Purgatorio
    • Paradiso
  • Only Good People May Pass: While sinners are famously sent to the various circles of Hell depending on their greatest sin in life, the entrance to Hell (Limbo) is populated by "virtuous pagans": philosophers or good people in general but were unfortunately not baptized (being for the most part born before Christ). Among them, Dante put Homer, Orpheus, Plato and Saladin.
  • Ontological Mystery: The story begins with Dante lost in a dark forest with too little memory to explain how he got there beyond being extremely tired when he left the true path. He only escapes the forest thanks to the intercession of Beatrice, who reveals that Dante's deviations came as a result of seeking to replace his dead love with lesser, counterfeit goods.
  • 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 in Hell 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.
    • In the sixth terrace of Purgatory, centaurs serve as examples for how monstrous gluttony can make one. Despite their divine ancestry as ones born of the clouds, the centaurs are made miserable and weak by their drunkenness, which ultimately leads to Theseus slaughtering them at the wedding of Pirithous.
  • 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 Gryphons Are Different: A gold and white griffin appears at the top of Purgatory as an allegory for Christ, who is both God and man like the griffin is both eagle and lion. In order to make this work with the doctrine that Christ is 100% divine and 100% human with no compromise, Dante perceives the griffin as both a complete eagle and a complete lion simultaneously, creating a very bizarre image that he struggles to convey.
  • Our Minotaurs Are Different: The Minotaur is the guardian of the three Violent circles, and is depicted as very wrathful and savage.
  • Our Sirens Are Different: There's a dream sequence centering around the siren just before the trip up 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.
  • 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.
  • Out of Focus:
    • Statius joins the main cast 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.
    • St. Bernard is only introduced as the third Spirit Advisor with three chapters left to go, leaving him with only a few dozen lines compared to Beatrice's hundreds and the thousand-something Virgil gets. Even that reduced page-time is spent focusing on the universal motherhood of the Virgin Mary and the beauty of the Highest Joy rather than Bernard's individual character. The degree to which the narrative and Bernard himself ignores him only tells us one thing about the man: that he has totally given his little life to God.
  • Oxymoronic Being: Saint Bernard opens up the final canto of the Comedy by referring to Mary as the "Virgin Mother, daughter of your Son." The theological strangeness of Mary has never been so concisely put as in this opening prayer by her greatest devotee.
  • Painful Transformation: Inferno XXIV gives a vivid account of thievish shades transforming into snakes and lizards, and vice versa. The transformation is treated like a rape, a topic so horrid Dante only explicitly mentions it in the context of Lucifer's rebellion against Heaven.
  • 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.
  • Pathetically Weak: The diseased fraudsters at the bottom of Circle 8 are largely so weak, emaciated, or obese that they can't even move an inch in a century. Master Adamo is somehow all three, yet he wants to crawl inch by inch across eleven miles just in order to beat an old political rival damned with him.
  • Patriot in Exile Dante portrays himself as a patriot who loves the language, history, and peoples of Italy and especially his hometown of Florence, but as the souls of the dead keep telling him, he is doomed to be exiled from there by his political enemies.
  • 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.
  • The Performer King: A singing picture in Purgatorio shows King David dancing and singing in front of his subjects with no shame whatsoever. Such forward and honest expression is used as an example of humility to the calculating and glory-driven who are in Purgatory for sins of Pride.
  • 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. Notably, they are allowed to spend all eternity tortured but together, and given the basic organizational rule of Hell — the depth of the circle where a soul is punished increases with the gravity of their sin — it's clear that Dante considers their sin the least-severe in the entire realm, being placed just after Limbo.
    • Dante is also very sympathetic towards his mentor Brunetto Latini, found in the seventh circle among the Violent against God and Nature — in his case, the Sodomites. Many interpretations believe that Dante felt more pity for Sodomites than for their their mates, the Blasphemers and Usurers, as they are allowed to run around getting some respite from the scorching sand and the rain of fire, while Blasphemers and Usurers are respectively forced to lie down and sit.
    • 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: 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. A number of other pagan philosophers who were admired also have the nicest spot in the Inferno (as they cannot reach heaven without Christ, but were virtuous) such as Aristotle and Plato. However, others such as Epicurus and his followers are eternally tormented (as their philosophy denied there was an afterlife) in the first circle, for the heretics.
  • 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 is that humans can only understand things from the senses, so even non-physical existence must be described with sensory details.
  • Physical Heaven: The first nine levels of Heaven are the planets out to Saturn plus the Moon and the Sun, the "Fixed Stars", and the Primum Mobile (a spinning thing which makes the other planets move, as well as where the angels live. This is averted with the tenth Heaven (Empyrean), where God himself resides and is beyond time and space.
  • 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 those 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't not see the future so they have no idea what has happened or is happening on Earth. When the Apocalypse comes and all souls enter Heaven or Hell, the heretics (and possibly everyone in Hell) 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 Paradiso and the Comedy as a whole describes God as "the love that moves the Sun and the other stars." This Happy Ending gives reason for this epic to be called a Comedy since nothing could provide greater joy than to know that the essence of existence is an eternal love between Father, Son, and Spirit.
  • Professional Butt-Kisser: These guys end up in the bolgia for flatterers- a huge open sewer.
  • Punished for Sympathy: Downplayed in Inferno; Dante is scolded by Virgil when he weeps at the pitiful appearance of the soothsayers in Malebolge. He learns his lesson and bluntly ignores the damned who plead with him in the Ninth Circle of Hell.
  • Purgatory and Limbo: One of the Trope Codifiers. Purgatorio (the middle work of the trilogy) is set here; the page image is taken from the woodcut illustrations created by Gustave Doré. In the book, Limbo is the outermost circle of Hell; the final destination of "failed" souls who never attained salvation but aren't evil enough to merit any worse punishment than simply being estranged from God forever. In contrast, Purgatory is a sort of tough-love reform camp for saved but flawed souls who need to finish the process of becoming perfected enough to enter Heaven.
  • 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.
  • Pure Is Not Good: Manto's wicked sorcery does nothing to make her less of a virgin. In fact, her virginity shows her rejection of mankind that manifests when she flees into the wilds of Italy and dies alone, leaving her corpse to be the cornerstone of a city as rotten as her.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The Malebranche Devils in the Eighth circle are possibly the Ur-Example of this concept.
  • Rain of Something Unusual: The bottom of the Seventh Circle is plagued by rains of fire that burn it down into a desert.
  • 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.
  • Rash Promise: Early in the Paradiso, Beatrice makes reference to rash vows made in stories like the biblical tale of Jephthah or the myth of Agamemnon to give An Aesop about how bad it is to jokingly or lightly swear an oath.
  • 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.
  • "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!:
  • Red Is Violent: The bright-red planet of Mars is the ground upon which Dante meets all the holy warriors and martyrs who ascended to Heaven either the violence they have justly done or the violence they have had done unto them for justice.
  • Refusal of the Call: The protagonist's cowardice gets the better of him in the second canto at the prospect of ascending into the Underworld without the bravery of Aeneas or the divinity of Christ and he questions why he should go on the journey with Virgil at all. Thanks to Virgil's assurance that he works on behalf of our hero's long-lost love, he dismisses his concerns and steps on the path to Hell.
  • Revenge Before Reason: The infernal Master Adam boasts that if he could drag his dropsied, infected body at least an inch by the end of a century of concerted effort, he would be well on his way to scour the miles and miles of the Malebolge to attack the men who introduced him to a life of forgery and lies.
  • 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).
    • He also rhymed volse with volse, though in the first case it means “turned” and in the second “wanted.”
  • Riddle for the Ages:
    • It is principally impossible for anyone to learn why only Peter Damian was sent to meet Dante on Saturn, except God. Even the highest angel in Heaven cannot pierce the Deep Mind so deeply to fully understand His reasoning in instances of this kind.
    • In Inferno Canto 6, Dante asks one of the damned what became of several people (Tegghiaio, Farinata, Jacopo Rusticucci, Mosca, and Arrigo). The shade says Dante will meet them further down in Hell. While he does indeed meet the first five, "Arrigo" is never mentioned again, and historians have never been able to figure out who Dante was referring to.
    • In Canto 3 Of Inferno (the Vestibule of Hell) Dante recognizes one soul as "the coward who made the great refusal", but says nothing more about him. As such, historians aren't sure who he meant, although the most likely possibilities are thought to be Pontius Pilate or Pope Celestine V.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The murder of 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.
  • Rule of Funny: As Beatrice explains, there were many preachers and homilists around the 1300's who worried more about making the laity laugh at the expense of the truth of the scriptures. Suspending holy reality like this allows the greedy and devilish preachers of the world to gain popularity through their comedy while being as wicked without scriptural criticism.
  • Rule of Three:
    • 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 where Dante is lead through the three realm of the afterlife by three guides espousing the three holy virtues with 33 cantos dedicated per realm (if you exclude the first canto as a prologue).
    • 9, which is 3*3, is an important number that recurs in the number of circles of Hell and in the fact that canto 9 marks a big transition in each canticlenote .

    Tropes S to Z 
  • 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 the First Circle of Hell, where their only punishment is that they live without hope (of Heaven) or fear (of Hell). Even though they sigh and despair for missing Paradise, their fate is infinitely preferable to the eight torture-chambers below them.
  • 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."
  • Savage Wolves:
    • A fearsome, ravenous she-wolf, that represents Dante's sin of Greed, instills enough fear in Dante that he gives up on climbing the mountain.
    • Greed is described as a wolf in Purgatorio, one with endless hunger, more prey than any other beast, and free reign over Earth until Christ's return.
  • Say My Name: Dante repeats the name of Virgil three times in three lines when he turns back and sees his foster-father is gone. The moment calls back to Virgil's own use of the trope in his Georgics when Orpheus' decapitated head calls out for his lover Eurydice three times.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: The vestibule of Hell, which contains people who weren't actively evil but too cowardly or apathetic to stop it, includes being stung by bees and wasps as part of the punishment.
  • 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.
    • In Circle 5 the wrathful are trapped in a swamp where they viciously attack eachother for eternity. If they would just stop fighting, most of their suffering would stop.
    • It is possible to Escape from Hell; but in order to do so, you must go the opposite way and plunge deeper, ready to suffer worse and worse tortures. The core of the Earth, where Satan is imprisoned, is actually the entrance to the tunnel to Purgatory. Instead, most of the prisoners try to escape through Hell's unscalable walls, which only entraps them further.
  • 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 was 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.
  • Series Continuity Error: There's mention of Tiresias' daughter being seen in Limbo, even though she was earlier given a long time in the spotlight of the fourth ditch of Hell's eighth circle. No probable explanation has been offered for why she was bilocated in the First and Eighth Circle besides the former placement being one of Dante's few errors.
  • Seven Deadly Sins:
    • In the first Canto, the protagonist is lost into a forest and tries to climb a mountain to get out of it, during which he meets three beasts that are commonly interpreted as sins: a lion for the sin of pride, a leopard for the sin of lust and a she-wolf for the sin of greed. The protagonist passes through the first two but cannot pass the she-wolf.
    • 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 terrace, forcing them to lower themselves and see the Earth for what it is rather than what their ego imagines.
      • Envy: The second terrace the eyes of the envious sewn shut so they may not look upon others and their possessions. The envious sit leaning against the mountain and each other, thereby learning to practice the mutual support and community which they denied in life, 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 they urge themselves, through good examples of activity and bad examples on inaction, not to waste time.
      • Greed: The fifth terrace has those who committed avarice to lie face down on the ground while they pray. They were focused on earthly possessions rather than God, so now they must feed their hunger fo God by having to look only at the earth and not the heavens.
      • 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. The remaining three (Sloth, Envy, and Pride) don't have their own circles, but seem to be present somewhat in the lower parts of Hell (E.G the Heretics in Circle 6 are implied to have known Christianity was true but been too stubborn (i.e prideful) to acknowledge it; those who chose neither good nor evil, in the vestibule of Hell, may be considered as the infernal equivalent of the Slothful)
  • Seven Heavenly Virtues: They appear as beautiful maidens dancing around Beatrice's chariot in her triumphal procession at the end of Purgatory.
  • Sex Is Evil: Subverted. While there is a place of punishment for the lustful in both Hell and Purgatory, it's made very clear the people aren't there just for following the natural urge to have sex, but for letting their sexual desire control them and overcome their powers of reason.
  • Sherlock Scan: Virgil can read Dante's thoughts just by looking at his face. He once boasts that he receives Dante's inner being faster than a mirror could receive his appearance. 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: In Paradiso 12, 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.
  • Sibling Yin-Yang: The Donati siblings are pretty much opposites. Forese was an ugly, evil man too attached too food and worldly things until he repented late in life, causing him to be one of the souls Dante meets near the very peak of Purgatory. His sister, Piccarda, was a beautiful, good woman who rejected worldly things to become a nun, but broke her vows late in life, causing her to be among the lowest souls in Heaven.
  • 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 (selling church offices for money, a big problem in Dante's time), 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."
    • The then-reigning Pope Boniface VIII is harshly criticized by Saint Peter, the original Pope, for leaving the papal seat a "sewer of blood and stench" 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.
  • Sliding Scale of Free Will vs. Fate: Dante's crusader ancestor explains that God's absolute knowledge of the future (what we'd call "fate") in no way limits man's freedom, in the same way knowing a ship on a river will move downstream in no way causes it to go downstream.
  • Smart People Know Latin: Thomas Aquinas renders a 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 advice 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.
  • Stealth Pun: The punishment in Hell for flatterers is to be trapped in a ditch filled with fecal matter. The ditch is full of shit, just like they are.
  • 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.
  • The Stool Pigeon: The traitors in Cocytus (The lowest circle), try to hide their identities from Dante, but are fine with ratting out the other damned nearby.
  • 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.
  • Stupid Neutral: Early on, the poets meets the Uncommitted, who refused to choose good or evil in life, and as a punishment are forced to eternally chase after a banner while being stung by wasps.
  • Suddenly Shouting: The voices floating through Purgatory's second terrace are at first quiet and soothing, but at a certain point, the voices turn loud as thunder and start following one after another. The difference in volume is the same difference between the peace of love that the first voices talk about and the chaos of envy that the thunderous voices describe.
  • Suicide Is Shameful: Dante portrays the souls of the suicidal as residing in the 7th circle of Hell, reserved for the violent. Their sin is considered two-fold, and so is their punishment; 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 God's love, they will be the only sinners denied the chance to regain their human forms come the Day of Judgement.
  • Summon Binding: Virgil tells Dante of how the witch Erictho summoned his soul from Limbo and forced him to retrieve a damned soul from the Ninth Circle of Hell, only letting Virgil go when he successfully brought it back to the land of the living.
  • Super Empowering:
    • Exaggerated Trope; God provides every power that exists to everything that has every had those powers, most fundamentally in providing the power to exist at all to beings. A more standard version of this trope applies when penitents climb Purgatory and ascend into the Empyrean, where they gain Flight, Super Intelligence, Healing Hands, Super Speed, Brown Note smiles, and much more.
    • Due to her closeness to her son and Father, Mary can intercede in prayer more effectively than any other, making her more suited than any other to grant Dante to ability to see God.
  • 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 (or possibly “did disdain” Virgil; it’s a little ambiguous, but at least two translators think the latter). 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.
  • Symbolic Mutilation: In his curious attempts to see Saint John's body, Dante is blinded by the light of John's immaterial soul. It is only when Dante restates his sole devotion to God and confesses that all other good fruits come from that Everlasting Gardener, prompting Beatrice to restore Dante's sight in order to allow him to see the true humanity in Adam.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Francesca plays the Pay Cheating Unto Arranged Marriage card to make herself and Paolo seem sympathetic. It works on Dante, but it clearly didn't impress God.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.
      Shorter henceforward will my language fall
      Of what I yet remember, than an infant's
      Who still his tongue doth moisten at the breast.
  • 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 (as are the Islamic philosophers Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, also known as Avicenna and Averroes) but it implies that Muslims are really pagans and Dante takes special attention to point out Saladin 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.
  • 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: In the first few cantos of the Purgatorio, a soldier mentioned had been a brutal, bloody bastard his whole life, but when struck down in battle, he cried a Single Tear of repentance, which is enough to send him to Purgatory instead of Hell.
  • 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."
  • Temporary Blindness: Dante loses his sight for some time after his reunion with Beatrice. He was so eager to see her again he didn't avert his eyes from her radiant soul until the virtues made him.
  • 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.
  • Threshold Guardians: Before Dante can ascend above the universe and see God, he has to prove the truth of his virtues to three of Christ's apostles. Faith and hope are easy enough, but Saint John's test of love blinds Dante and puts terror in him until he confesses that the goodness of every leaf in creation gives him reason to love their Eternal Gardener.
  • Til Murder Do Us Part: Dante meets two women who have been murdered by their husbands.
    • One is Francesca da Rimini, killed, along with her lover Paolo, by her husband and condemned, also together with Paolo, to the second circle of Hell for lust. Francesca says that Caina (the first ring of the ninth circle, for traitors of family) awaits her husband when he dies.
    • The other is Pia de' Tolomei, whom Dante meets in Ante-Purgatory among those who died violent deaths. She speaks of her death very gently and even avoids directly saying that she was murdered by her husband. The motive for her murder remains unknown.
  • Title Drop: Twice for the work as a whole, 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.
    • Several other infernonauts are mentioned as predecessors of Dante. He himself makes a point that he has none of the virtues that got Aeneas or St. Paul through the fires and later the Furies employ measures on the Italian that they boast would have stopped Theseus' incursion.
  • 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 three embodied human characters in the story, with every other character either being a disembodied soul, an angel, or an infernal monster. The other incarnate humans, Jesus and his Blessed Mother, only appear in three cantos of the hundred, each time with no dialogue and little physical description outside of the narrator's laments at how indescribable their glory is.
  • Tough Love: The audience is made to expect Lady Beatrice to be graceful and lovely as any pure damsel could be, only for her to express her love to Dante by drilling him on his sins until he bursts into tears. The angels pity the poet, but Beatrice remains stern as an admiral while maintaining only tears can allow Dante to survive the entry into Paradise.
  • Tragic Intangibility: A sad incident in Purgatorio sees Dante trying to hug his recently deceased friend, Casella, three different times only for his hands to pass through his friend's illusory back.
  • 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. Another thief gets fused with a lizard.
  • 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 and lowest 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."
  • Trojan Horse: Three different people are damned to the Eighth Circle for creating the Ur-Example Trojan Horse. Ulysses/Odysseus and Diomedes burn with the false counselors in the Circle's eighth ditch for their fraud to the Trojans while Sinon suffers from excruciating disease at the very last ditch of deceit for his falsification of words.
  • 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 lords and 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 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.
  • 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..."
    • In Hell there are some figures from Greek Mythology, as well as some completely fictional characters, who are down there right alongside real people who actually existed. None of the damned seem to think meeting mythical/fictional characters as if they were real people is the least bit odd (granted, they are in Hell, but it's still pretty weird.)
  • 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.
  • Warrior Heaven: Mars (the fifth "level" of Heaven) is for warriors and other courageous people.
  • Was Once a Man: Virgil introduces himself to Dante not as a man, but as a shadow of one, making it clear that the damned who will be encountered in Inferno are less than people.
  • 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.
  • Weather Manipulation: A devil mentioned in Purgatorio Canto 5 naturally has the power to send vapor flying into the sky and cause a heavy rainfall, a blessing he abuses to wash away the body of a man who repented of evil with his last breath.
  • Weirdness Search and Rescue: The living poet Dante is given through the fires of Hell and Purgatory 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 sweet words and ode to love of a damned adulteress 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.
  • World's Smartest Man: St. Thomas goes through introducing every spirit on the Sun without problem until he identifies Solomon as the wisest man to live on Earth. Thomas reads Dante's mind (through God's) and agrees that the unfallen men, Adam and Jesus, would be wiser by account of having the love of the Trinity more perfectly infused in them. The distinction Thomas makes is that no man was smart as king than Solomon, since only he was smart enough that no knowledge of geometric logic, military formation, or even angelic power could be more of a blessing than knowing how God wanted him to rule the people of Israel.
  • Work Info Title: The Divine Comedy
  • 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 corrupt politicians send secret signals to tell the others that the demons hunting them are elsewhere, a fact we only learn because one of the politicians offers this information to the demons in exchange for safety.
    • 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.
    • Dante can't even talk to the inhabitants of the tenth bolgia, designated for pure falsifiers, because they're too busy running from, fighting with, or screaming at each other. The poem's Mentor Archetype has to order Dante to leave, lest the infernal society take some hold in his mind.
    • 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.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Divine Comedy, Dantes Inferno


Dantes Paradiso angels

Overly Sarcastic Productions brings up the nine types of angels in Paradiso, represented by rings.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (27 votes)

Example of:

Main / OurAngelsAreDifferent

Media sources: