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Literature / The Name of the Rose

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Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.Lat. 

The Name of the Rose (Il nome della rosa) is a novel written by Umberto Eco in 1980.

Set in what has been called the disastrous fourteenth century, during the period of the Medieval Inquisition. The story, described by some as Sherlock Holmes IN THE 14th CENTURY, follows Brother William of Baskerville and his young apprentice, novice Adso of Melk, who go to an abbey where a murder was committed and end up investigating it.

It received a movie adaptation in 1986, directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud, and starring Christian Slater, F. Murray Abraham, Ron Perlman, Michael Lonsdale, and Sean Connery. It was also adapted a year later into an unlicensed video game. In 2019 it was adapted by Italian State Broadcaster Rai 1 into a TV miniseries, and broadcast on Sundance TV in the United States. It starred John Turturro, Rupert Everett, Michael Emerson, James Cosmo, Sebastian Koch and Tchéky Karyo.


The book has examples of:

  • And Another Thing...: Realising the Abbot has something on his mind, William waits till the Abbot is leaving before asking him about the freshly dug grave outside. It breaks through his reluctance enough to get him talking.
  • Apophenia Plot: The murders taking place across the abbey are believed to be Signs of the End Times, as each death seemingly corresponds to one of the Seven Trumpets in the Book of Revelation: Adelmo fell from a tower in a hailstorm, Venantius is apparently drowned in a vat of blood, Berengar drowns in his bath, Severinus is brained to death with an armillary sphere, and a dying Malachi even mentions something that had "the power of a thousand scorpions." The more rational William of Baskerville suspects that a Theme Serial Killer is at work. However, in the finale, he realizes that most of the deaths invoked Revelation purely by coincidence, and curses himself for being so easily mislead by nonexistent patterns. In order of appearance: Adelmo committed suicide, Severinus was beaten to death with the sphere by Malachi because it was the first thing within arm's reach, and Venantius, Berengar and Malachi all unwittingly poisoned themselves by reading the MacGuffin, a treasured book that the Big Bad had laced with poison in order to keep its secrets safe. The Big Bad told Malachi that the book has the power of a thousand scorpions because he came to believe that the signs were not incidental but part of a divine plan after hearing about William's theory.
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  • Author Appeal: In-Universe, Adso mentions his love of The Long List (and it shows throughout the book).
  • As the Good Book Says...: Being monks, main the characters in the book quote the Bible frequently. Adso even quotes the Song of Songs while he's having sex.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: William, who's applying the philosophy at one of the earliest stages of its development. He's a student of Roger Bacon and William of Ockham, effectively the Trope Codifiers of the "analysis" part.
  • Be as Unhelpful as Possible: This is the attitude of every monk in the abbey toward William's investigation.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: The Serial Killer Jorge who causes the whole book's manhunt and the sinister Inquisitor Bernando Gui who doesn't really contribute anything to the manhunt other than providing scapegoats and unlike the killer he murders in official and socially acceptable ways, so he doesn't need to hide both in-universe and as far as spoilers are concerned.
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: The Library, to confuse those who shouldn't be there. As well as being a labyrinth, it has a mysterious organising system and some traps, to confuse those who shouldn't be there.
  • Bitter Sweet Ending: While William does manage to figure out that Jorge was the killer, the latter succeeds in destroying the last copy of Aristotle’s second book on comedy and dies before he can face any trial and while some corrupt members of the church do end up dying, most of the knowledge within the abbey except a handful of books William was able to save is lost when the entire building is consumed in a fire. Although it does serve to distract the monks that were going to burn an innocent woman alive for being accused of witchcraft and she is freed by the other peasants.
  • Black-and-White Insanity: A caliph is mentioned as having ordered a library burned because either they said what was in the Quran and therefore redundant, or did not say what was in the Quran and thus heretical. note 
  • The Black Death: At the end of the novel, Adso reveals that William eventually died during the Black Death.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Downplayed. While William can see perfectly well without his spectacles, he is unable to read small text without them. This costs him precious time that results in ever more murders.
  • Bookcase Passage: William and Adso look for one into Finis Africae and eventually find it, albeit hidden behind a mirror rather than a bookcase.
  • Break Them by Talking: Near the ending, Abo delivers a sermon on the the holy authority symbolized by the abbey's hoard of gold and gems, delivered with such skill that Adso is hypnotized and nearly swears to secrecy regarding the murder case.
  • Brick Joke: In what seems to be another example of Shown Their Work, William discusses an Arabic treatise on hydrophobia (rabies) in dogs in passing. It comes up again during the trial of the cellarer when William claims this is what he was discussing with a murdered monk, going into great detail about how the text describes the twenty-five symptoms of hydrophobia, with which Bernardo Gui is surely familiar. This swipe is a pun on Gui's order, the Dominicans- "domine canes", God's dogs.
  • Burn the Witch!: Brother Salvatore, Brother Remigio and a local peasant girl are caught by Father Bernardo Gui, leader of the Inquisition. Gui finds them guilty of witchcraft and has them transported away, and it is implied that they will be burned at the stake as scapegoats.
  • Bystander Syndrome: Another monk is murdered after Bernard Gui tortures a false confession out of Remigio. He declares that it's not his job to keep order in the monastery and he already did what he was there to do.
  • Camp Gay: Brother Berengar. And, according to some dubious sources, the dead monk, Adelmo. He was described as having the "eyes of a maiden seeking commerce with an incubus." Yeah, a monk said that.
  • Celibate Hero:
    • As a Franciscan friar, William is sworn to celibacy.
    • Adso is supposed to be this. He fails, once in his life.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Several, notably the eccentric Ubertino da Casale, and the deformed Salvatore.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture:
    • Bernardo Gui plans to use it on the cellarer, but even the mention of torture is enough for him to admit everything, even things he didn't commit. Mostly things he didn't commit, much to William's disgust.
    • William never used actual torture even in his career as an inquisitor, but has no problem with letting a suspect assume he is familiar with this trope if it will aid his investigation.
  • Corrupt Church:
    • The story takes place during the papacy of John XXII, who was notorious for centralising the power and income of the papacy in himself, and the reason the murders need to be solved quickly is because of the upcoming meeting between those loyal to John, and the poor Franciscans patronised by Louis of Bavaria, who's using them as leverage against the papacy. Some Franciscans even consider John not just greedy, but an actual heretic.
    • William quips that Jesus never laughed because he knew how Christians would behave.
  • Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: When Bernado Gui catches the peasant girl inside the monastery, he rips open her clothes to expose her breasts, causing the monks to avert their gaze in horror or cover their eyes.
  • Cryptic Conversation: Salvatore, Ubertino da Casale, and half the monks in the abbey.
  • Dated History: The final sentence of the book (seen at the top of this page) is a quote from 12th century monk Bernard of Cluny. However, while a few of his manuscripts do say "rosa", based on the relative quality of the various texts the modern consensus is that Bernard actually wrote "Roma", as in the city of Rome, which got lost in transcription. Eco has since admitted he wasn't aware of this.
  • Deadly Book: The novel revolves around a book that apparently contains Things Man Was Not Meant to Know; anybody who reads it dies horribly shortly afterward. It turns out that there's nothing mystical about the book itself, but someone has treated its pages with poison to kill off anyone who reads it and prevent its contents getting about.
  • Deadpan Snarker: William of Baskerville is not without his sarcastic side. Adso attributes this to the fact that he's British, but it's also in large part because he's a Franciscan friar who, having sworn a vow to poverty, has found himself in a Benedictine monastery where the abbot is constantly showing off the place's many luxuries.
  • Definitely Final Dungeon: Once William and Adso head for the library tower knowing the murderer is in the Finis Africae, you know they won't come out again until everything's resolved.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Religious wars declared over whether the clergy should be poor, homosexual acts being a crime punishable by death, treating other religions (and different subsets of the same religion) with unmasked contempt, women and effeminate men being treated as intrinsically evil ... Welcome to medieval Europe.
  • Description Porn: The book devotes page upon page to descriptions of the church's altar, the entrance to the crypt, Adso's vivid psychedelic-herb-induced visions, and the monastery's relics.
  • Destroy the Evidence: William brings all the evidence he's discovered so far to the Abbot, including a note found by one of the victims revealing the location of the forbidden book. The Abbot informs him the Inquisition is already on the way, then burns the note. Fortunately William was Genre Savvy enough to make a copy.
  • Direct Line to the Author: The novel is ostensibly Eco's translation of Adso's account. In a prologue, Eco describes how he "found" Adso's manuscript in Prague in 1968, shortly before fleeing due to certain events (the invasion of Czechoslovakia).
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Seriously, all of this mayhem happens because some guy truly, awfully, and murderously resents the very idea that comedy is good — and thus, that priests should be allowed to make jokes. And partly because the abbot is an idiot whose priority is covering up the fact that almost half the monks in his abbey are either gay or busy sneaking village girls into the castle.
  • Downer Ending: Jorge is never bought to justice (and even though he does poison himself and get trapped in the fiery library, he destroys not only the Aristotle, but everything else, and he thinks he won), and the library burns down and kills what few named characters there are left. William and Adso must part, they never see each other again and William eventually dies during the great plague.
  • Due to the Dead: A killer rather hypocritically gives the last rites to the herbalist in the movie.
  • The Dung Ages: This is how the monastery is portrayed; moreso the hovel outside its walls, where the peasant girl lives.
  • Eat the Evidence: Which in this case also qualifies as suicide.
  • "Eureka!" Moment:
    • William has one too late after the murder of Severinus the herbalist. They search for the book among the ruins of Severinus's shelves, and William crossly mocks Adso for asking if a book clearly written in Arabic was the Greek volume they're looking for. It's only as they reach the church later that William realises that you can bind two languages in the same book, and Severinus couldn't read Arabic! Unfortunately, Benno has the book, because, being obsessed with books, he realised it before them.
    • William has one considering the secret of the library. Adso remembers how Salvatore said "tertius equi", which is Canis Latinicus for "The third of horse" (when he meant "the third horse"). William concludes: "the first and the seventh of the four" really means "the first and the seventh of the word four", and "four" is "quatuor" in Latin, so you have to push the letters Q and R.
    • They had a minor one earlier, when Adso dreamed a story similar to the "Coena Cypriani", a kind of Bible parody, which helps William to remember that there was a book in the library consisting of four texts, one of them a comment for the Coena Cypriani, another one the book they're looking for.
  • Every Man Has His Price: Benno of Uppsala is eager to help William with his investigation ... until Malachi makes him the new assistant librarian. His ambition fulfilled, he refuses to help any further- till he figures out that, with the murderer going after everyone interested in the mysterious book, he is probably on the top of the hit-list.
  • Evil Cripple: The murderer is the blind monk Jorge, and the deformed Salvatore is pretty nasty in his own way, though nowhere close to Jorge.
  • Evil Has a Bad Sense of Humor: This is the whole point of the novel. The murderer is philosophically opposed to laughter, believing that it causes men to stray from the path of God by diminishing and ridiculing the work of the Devil, and commits his murders to conceal the last edition of a work by Aristotle which praises the importance of laughter. Of course, the murderer believes he is doing the work of God, but note that he is the one going around murdering people in horrible ways.
  • Evil Is Petty: Turns out that the reason Jorge murdered the other monks is because he will go to any extremes to prevent anyone or anything from contradicting his personal hatred of comedy.
  • The Exotic Detective: A medieval friar, who used to be an inquisitor. Also, William is English, while the others are mostly Italians and Germans.
  • Expy: William to both Sherlock Holmes and William of Occam. Adso to Dr Watson.
  • Expy Coexistence: Does William of Occam exist in this version of history? Yes, he's a friend of William of Baskerville. The Celebrity Paradox is thus Averted.
  • Finger-Licking Poison: The page corners of the book have been coated in arsenic, so anyone turning the pages (often licking their finger to help them) will be poisoned.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: The narrator is an older Adso.
  • Friend or Idol Decision: William has to choose between burning to death to save as many books as he can, or abandoning the library.
  • From Bad to Worse: The body count grows by the day ... and then the whole setting burns to the ground.
  • The Fundamentalist: Out of all the monks, Jorge of Burgos is the only who seems truly committed to the teachings of Christianity ... to a truly unsettling degree. The others seem more interested in accumulating wealth, accumulating power and influence, or satisfying their own lusts (base or otherwise). Even William of Baskerville tends to approach his faith from a more Gnostic and rationalist perspective.
  • Gnosticism: Many of the heretical movements mentioned have Gnostic inspirations. William, while a Franciscan monk, has some Gnostic ideas on the importance of learning.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: Most of the Latin phrases are given translations in the back of the book, but the gratuitous Middle High German is not.
  • German Humour: Very subtle, but there; Adso, an Austrian, frequently confesses how bewildered he is by William's (British) sense of humour, since William tends to say things he means to be jokes in a very deadpan fashion while saying things he means to be serious as if they were jokes.
  • The Heretic: The events takes place during a period in Church history where heresy was being seen everywhere. The Franciscans even believe the Pope is a heretic at this time!
  • Historical Detective Fiction: Investigating suspicious deaths in a monastery.
  • Historical Domain Character: Bernard(o) Gui(donis), Ubertino da Casale and Michael of Cesena.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: While he might not have been a nice guy, Bernardo Gui was much less melodramatic in Real Life.
  • Hollywood Costuming: The soldiers that accompany Gui are dressed in a bizarre getup, that appears to span multiple eras. Their helmets in particular do not appear to fit properly.
  • Hypocrite: It's a medieval abbey with a veritable Gambit Pileup in action. Of course almost every character fits the bill. One example would be Ubertino who decries the baseness of Berengar and Adelmo and their lusts while caressing the teenaged narrator Adso.
    • Jorge de Burgos murders several monks (murder being expressly against one of the Ten Commandments — Though shalt not kill) for reading a book on comedy, because he believes humor undermines faith in god and the churches power over people.
  • Improvised Weapon: The herbalist is murdered with an astrolabe. And the book is poisoned, killing anyone who reads it without a protective glove.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: Adso recounts explaining to a German noble that Italians go through the forest with pigs looking for "tartufo" (truffles), which they dig up and eat. The German heard the keyword as "der Teufel" (the Devil) and gave Adso a very strange look after crossing himself. They both had a good laugh about it afterwards.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: Every chapter of the novel begins with a flowery summary of the events that will be told. In the intro, the modern day translator comments that they were likely added by an author from the Enlightenment, since the practice is about four hundred years too early for the time the manuscript was written. One chapter heading is even self-referential, noting how summarizing a plot-heavy chapter in a heading would not be very useful.
  • The Killer Was Left-Handed: Although not the killer, Berengar is shown to have written a note because he's the only left-handed monk.
  • Knight Templar: A whole army of them: the killer, the Dulcinians, the Inquisitors ... Although don't actually go calling them Knights Templar, because you'd be calling them heretics.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others
    Adso: (narrating) Who was she? Who was this creature that rose like the dawn, was as bewitching as the moon, radiant as the sun? Terrible as an army poised for battle.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Jorge murders several monks and ends up burning the last surviving copy of Aristotle’s second book on comedy, (as well as unintentionally causing a huge fire that consumes the entire abbey and all it’s books) however his robes end up catching on fire and he is burnt to death.
  • Last of Its Kind: William comments that the copy of Aristotle’s second book on comedy that he and Adso discover in the Abbey’s archives is likely the last surviving copy left, however it contents are lost forever when Jorge burns it.
  • The Late Middle Ages: Set in 1327. The Hundred Years War is about to kick off between England and France, the conflict between Holy Roman Emperor Louis the Bavarian and Pope John XXII is nearly plunging the church into civil war, apocalyptic millenarianist movements are springing up everywhere, Europe is caught intellectually between old certainty and new learning and The Black Death is just around the corner. It is not a nice time to be alive.
  • Locked Room Mystery: The first death involves a defenestration beneath a window that cannot be opened. William easily proves the man jumped from a nearby tower and his body rolled to its final resting place.
  • The Long List: Adso loves narrating overly long lists. For an extreme example, on the first day he names 53 different animals carved into the relief on the church doors. On the third day, he names even more different types of undesirables and criminals as he imagines Salvatore's sordid past. Adso's prophetic dream later in the week also amounts to an entire chapter of him listing every notable character in the bible doing something absurd.
  • Looks Like Orlok: The chief librarian monk.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Adso reads a book where love is described as a disease similar to lycanthropy. The book certainly gives him pause, given that he's convinced he's fallen in love with a local girl.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • William of Baskerville. The name is a two-part Shout-Out to logician and friar William of Ockham and a certain fictional detective.
    • Adso is thus a nod to Watson, which is more clearly indicated by the spelling "Adson" (in a different language) from the fictional document's elaborate backstory. In Latin, the verb adsum means "to be present", fitting for the witness and narrator of the events.
    • The blind monk Jorge of Burgos is a shoutout to the (blind) Jorge Luis Borges, an important literary influence for Eco, who once wrote of a labyrinthine library containing all knowledge.
  • Medieval Morons: The monks (beside William and Adso, who is actively being trained in logic during the story), are mostly either fanatical or stupid. Even the more knowledgeable ones only know facts and avoid really using them. William himself resists using deduction on the natural world because asserting that creation is constrained by rules would imply that God is as well. There is also an overarching preoccupation with authority—why bother thinking if your priest or the pope has already told you what's what? Intellectual arguments, even those delivered by William (although he may just be meeting his opponents at their level) are almost purely half-baked appeals to authority, with monks naming a revered philosopher, summarizing one of his arguments, and leaving it at that. No actual analysis or engaging with the merits—monks simply throw opposing quotes past each other until they need to move on to another topic.
  • Mundane Utility: William using his Sherlock Scan to tell Adso where the toilet is located.
  • Metaphorgotten: Adso asks William about some of the schisms within the faith, and William comes up with a metaphor involving a river that divides into a delta. When Adso still doesn't get it, William admits he's not really good at parables and tells him to forget the river.
  • McGuffin: What would drive monks to commit murder? A book, of course. The book is possibly the only copy in the world of the second book of Aristotle's Poetics, the treatise on comedy.
  • Mind Screw: How to access the secret room in the library. "The hand over the idol?/image?/mirror! should move (how exactly?) the first and the seventh of the four(???)".
  • Monk On Fire: To ensure the book's destruction, the killer holds it over the flames, but his robe catches fire as well.
  • Motive Rant: Jorge gives one at the end.
  • Never Suicide: The very first death is Adelmo, who threw himself out of a window he couldn't have reached, then closed it behind him. It turns out this one really was suicide. He threw himself off the wall, and a landslide moved him under the window.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: If William hadn't deduced that Jorge was the killer, then sure, Aristotle's book on comedy might have stayed hidden, but on the plus side the entire library and every manuscript in it wouldn't have burned down.
  • No Name Given: The girl Adso has sex with. He mentions that he couldn't even "lament and call out the beloved’s name" (as he read in romances of chivalry) when he learned that she's going to die, because he never learned her name.
  • The Nothing After Death: How Adso imagines the afterlife:
    I shall soon enter this broad desert, perfectly level and boundless, where the truly pious heart succumbs in bliss. I shall sink into the divine shadow, in a dumb silence and an ineffable union, and in this sinking all equality and all inequality shall be lost, and in that abyss my spirit will lose itself, and will not know the equal or the unequal, or anything else: and all differences will be forgotten. I shall be in the simple foundation, in the silent desert where diversity is never seen, in the privacy where no one finds himself in his proper place. I shall fall into the silent and uninhabited divinity where there is no work and no image.
  • Nothing but Skulls: Someone with a weird sense of humor decided to order the bones in the crypt: in one place, there are Nothing but Skulls, in another one nothing but small bones, and in yet another one nothing but hands. This is a reference to the surprisingly real-life Capuchin Crypt.
  • Nubile Savage: The peasant girl is a medieval variation on the theme.
  • Occam's Razor: One of William's tricks of the trade, appropriately enough. He learned it from William of Ockham himself.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: As expected in an abbey, it happens four times a day.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: In-genre for the book, but the film pauses the action for a theological debate between the Franciscans and the Vatican emissaries over the question of whether Jesus owned the clothes that he wore.
  • Pride: William's fellow monks regard this as his Fatal Flaw when he persists with his investigation when it would be wiser to keep a low profile.
    • William's careless decision to reveal he outsmarted Jorge and wasn’t poisoned the books pages because he is wearing gloves while it was still within reach of the older monk ends up causing the book to be snatched and destroyed, along with every other manuscript in the abbey.
  • Punny Name: The abbot's name is Abo.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The library burns and the book is destroyed, and Jorge basically gets away with it, convinced he's won. Bernard Gui gets away with the torture and execution of three people, at least one of whom was absolutely innocent. History buffs and bibliophiles familiar with the period will consider the burning of the library to be an outright Downer Ending (Eco himself pointed out in the Apostilles to The Name of the Rose (essentially a director's track book) that having a library in that period and not having it burn down would have been absolutely unrealistic.)
  • Quote-to-Quote Combat: All the debates in the book can be boiled down to this. This may be a symptom of Medieval Morons, as these bald appeals to authority substitute for actually arguing about the validity of the quote or critical thinking in general.
  • Ransacked Room: The herbalist discovers the book and goes to tell William of Baskerville, who tells him to lock himself in his room and let no-one in until he arrives (William is held up by the theological debate). On returning to his apothecary, he shocked to find the place ransacked. He bolts the door and quickly goes to check the book is still there. It is lying on the floor under a table. The herbalist is relieved ... until he sees a hooded figure step out from behind a curtain and walk toward him ...
  • Recycled IN SPACE!: The story is basically a medieval Sherlock Holmes mystery in addition to the literary elements.
  • Red Herring: The connection between the various deaths and the seven trumpets of the book of Revelation turns out to be a coincidence after all. When this theory is discussed openly, the killer decides to run with it, which complicates things further. He notes that even though it was never deliberate, somehow the murders really did follow the pattern, as if by chance. He just takes it as another sign that the End of Time is imminent.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Salvatore, though he quite enjoys them. He catches them in the graveyard, which means they've been feeding on corpsesinvoked.
  • Religion Is Wrong: There are shades of this, especially in Jorge de Burgos’ justification for murdering the other monks and hiding the last copy of Aristotle's Book on Comedy because he believes laughter and knowledge would undermine the churches power over people. The death of the corrupt and sadistic Gui at the hand of the peasants is also seen as a victory.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Adso never learns the girl's name.
  • Sadistic Choice: Gui insists William, a former victim, serve as a judge in the Inquisition - William is a former inquisitor, who wants nothing more to do with it. Note that this is Hollywood History, as the real inquisitors rarely prosecuted any suspected witches, and most actively disbelieved in witchcraft.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Taken to an almost comical extreme with the girl. She has no name, no dialogue, and virtually no characterisation beyond throwing herself at Adso - she is regularly smuggled into the Abbey by various monks, particularly the cellared, who give her food for sex. Salvatore, who has known famine and has no real grasp of doctrine, sees nothing particularly wrong in this.
  • Security Cling: Adso sees his own reflection in a mirror and runs into William's arms.
  • Sex Equals Love: Adso is convinced he's fallen in love with the girl after their Coitus Ensues encounter. Justified as he's a virgin in a religious order that discourages any interaction with women, and the experience is so intense for him.
  • Secret Path: The only unguarded way into the library is various secret passages.
  • Serious Business:
    • The abbey is hosting a council made up of various factions of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders to debate the burning issue: "Did Jesus and his disciples own anything, either individually or in common?" They are really discussing the church's approach to poverty and wealth, and the debate is therefore highly political and momentous, as the Franciscan's assertion of Christ's poverty undermines the Pope's authority to increase his wealth. It was indeed serious business that led to an Antipope and nearly a civil war within the church.
    • Other monks spend a great deal of time arguing over the question of Did Jesus ever laugh? It's actually this question, not the other one, that is the root cause of all the murders.
    • William mentions the story of two rhetoricians, Gabundus and Terentius who argued over fifteen days and fifteen nights on the vocative of "ego", and finally attacked each other with weapons.
  • Sexy Priest: The girl throws herself at Adso muttering a language he only partly understands, but the gist is "You are young, and handsome" (given that she had to sleep with two remarkably old and/or ugly monks for sustenance). Adso also mentions receiving love letters from an older monk.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: If you read carefully and think about it, you'll notice that this is a detective story where the detective isn't very successful - he even admits it near the end - and the Big Bad is never brought to justice.
  • Sherlock Scan: William of Baskerville, such as at the beginning, when he meets people from the monastery and describes to them the horse they're looking for, though he never saw it. As part of his Establishing Character Moment (and also a funny moment to boot) he tells his apprentice the exact location of the monastery's bathroom (even if he's never been there before) because he was able to glimpse one other monk racing towards it in a clear case of Potty Emergency. William also later lampshades and deconstructs this technique as being rather reliant on lucky guesses.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Probably a tenth of the book is either quotations or references to actual antiquary or medieval texts. Whole guidebooks have been devoted to illuminating every single reference Eco makes.
    • Aristotle's thought is central to the plot, just as it was in medieval scholasticism. Not only that, the plot functions much like an Aristotlean tragedy. The hero, William, is so determined to uncover the truth, and the villain, Jorge, is so devoted to piety — both normally worthwhile virtues — that they end up destroying the monastery and all its books, accomplishing nothing. Eco even comments on this in the chapter header where the library burns down, saying it's caused by an "excess of virtue".
    • The movie mentions a book by Umberto of Bologna - a clear allusion to Umberto Eco.
    • The gruesome ossarium is based on the real-life Capuchin Crypt.
    • Further, the name "Baskerville" is an obvious allusion to the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. Adso's name sounds very similar to Watson's, and Adso's description of William of Baskerville in the "Prologue" is taken almost word-for-word from Watson's first description of Holmes in A Study in Scarlet.
    • William's first name and political beliefs are modelled on William of Ockham.
    • Jorge of Burgos, the blind librarian, is a clear reference to Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian author who went blind, served as the director of Argentina's National Library, wrote a story about a labyrinthine library, and is generally credited as a stylistic influence on Eco and probably hundreds of other genre-bending postmodernist authors.
    • At the end of the book William quotes to Adso a phrase from "a mystic from your land", "Er muoz gelîchesame die leiter abewerfen, sô er an ir ufgestigen". That's a medievalized version of a quote from the 20th century Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein.
  • Shown Their Work: The book's writing style closely imitates that of medieval manuscripts (complete with era-appropriate quotations to religious and scientific texts of the period), whereas the plot is noted to be very accurate in its recreation of medieval monastery life, and involves a political and religious conflict that's obscure for most casual readers. Not surprising, as Eco was a scholar of the Middle Ages.
  • Single Mom Stripper: The girl is probably a medieval version.
    William: Certainly she is a girl from the village who, perhaps not for the first time, grants her favors to some lustful monk out of hunger, and receives as recompense something for her and her family to eat.
    Adso: A harlot!
    William: A poor peasant girl, Adso. Probably with smaller brothers to feed.
  • The Speechless: The girl - she technically does speak, but since Adso can't understand the language she's speaking in so he never manages to record what she says.
  • Something About a Rose: Played With - The book looks at multiple meanings of the rose.
    • Love / Marriage: The monks are expected to remain celibate. 'Expected' being the key word.
    • Secrets: The novel is about a secret book and the lengths to which a deranged man will go to keep it hidden.
    • Politics: The rose is a symbol of left-wing thought (in particular Socialism) in Europe. William and the Franciscans are opposed to the church owning property, are concerned with improving the living conditions of their servants, believe that useful knowledge can come from the peasants and the townspeople, and have more progressive attitudes towards people accused of heresy or witchcraft.
    • Tragedy: The library burns down in the end.
    • Ephemerality: Books degrade over time, and need to be protected.
    • Meaning: Probably the most important meaning of the rose motif - William speaks about how all books are references to pre-existing books. And as Eco points out, the rose has so many meanings that it is impossible to associate it with any particular one.
  • Stealth Insult: William tells Bernard he credits him with the most important decision of his life. That decision being to quit being an inquisitor ...
  • Take That!: Jorge Luis Borges. While it's obvious Eco has a lot of respect for him as a writer, the historical Borges's support of right-wing dictators like Augusto Pinochet later in his life makes its way into the character Jorge of Burgos being a fierce authoritarian and reactionary, in keeping with the "Years of Lead" subtext of the novel.
  • Theme Serial Killer: The killings follow symbolism from the Book of Revelation. Then it turns out this is mostly by accident. Some of the killings weren't even murder.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: William gives one to Jorge of Burgos at the end.
    You are the Devil. Yes. They lied to you. The Devil is not the Prince of Matter; the Devil is the arrogance of the spirit, faith without smile, truth that is never seized by doubt. The Devil is grim because he knows where he is going, and in moving, he always returns whence he came. You are the Devil, and like the Devil, you live in darkness. If you wanted to convince me, you have failed. I hate you, Jorge, and if I could, I would lead you downstairs, across the grounds, naked, with feathers stuck in your asshole and your face painted like a juggler and a buffoon, so that the whole monastery would laugh at you and be afraid no longer. I would like to smear honey all over you and roll you in feathers and take you on a leash to fairs, to say to all: He was announcing the truth to you and telling you that the truth has the taste of death, and you believed not in his words but in his grimness. And now I say to you that in the infinite whirl of possible things, God allows you to imagine a world where the presumed interpreter of the truth is nothing more than a clumsy raven who repeats words learned long ago.
  • Title Drop: The postfacium quote, the last line of the book. The movie however doesn't say it outright but implies the girl was the rose with its last line, as Old Adso muses that he never learned her name.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: The book is assumed to be this. It's actually poisoned.
  • To the Pain: Bernardo Gui does the "showing the instruments" version in the movie to Salvatore, who shows clear signs of having been tortured when confessing the next day.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: Discussed by William who used to be an inquisitor, but avoided using torture. He explains that people under torture say not only what the inquisitor wants, but also what they imagine might please him. Later, when Bernardo Gui interrogates the cellarer, the threat of torture is enough for him to admit that he committed all the murders (which he didn't do).

  • The Tower: The hidden and locked library looms over the monastery, tall, dark, labyrinthine and foreboding. Eco helpfully draws a diagram of it for readers.
  • The Unintelligible: Salvatore talks in an idiosyncratic mix of Latin, Italian, English, French and Spanish. Even so far as the words can be understood, his ramblings don't seem to make much sense.
    Salvatore: "Penitenziagite! Watch out for the draco who cometh in futurum to gnaw your anima! La morte è supremos. You contemplatum the apocalypsum. Là-bas, nous avons il diabolo, ugly comme Salvatore" (in this scene).Translation 
  • Vomiting Cop: Adso plays the rookie cop version, fleeing outside from the autopsy of the first murder victim.
  • Villain Teleportation: Jorge's ability to get in and around the library unseen. William muses that Jorge must have flown to reach the library before them, who in turn then says that he took the short route.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The third day. Adso finally learns something about Fra Dolcino! Also he gains "carnal knowledge" of some random young lady! And, by the way, Berengar dies.
    • Invoked by the subtitle to the chapter where the villain explains his plan:
    "In which, if it were to summarize the prodigious revelations of which it speaks, the [sub]title would have to be as long as the chapter itself, contrary to usage."
  • Wimp Fight: Subverted: William and Jorge are both senescent intellectuals. They know absolutely nothing about fighting... but will do absolutely anything to win.
  • With All Due Respect: Adso is respectful as befits a novice, but can't help snarking at his mentor with this trope, when pointing out that William never asks him a question to which he doesn't already know the answer.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Jorge wants to keep hidden the last copy of the "Comedy" volume of Aristotle's Poetics, because he feels that it will teach men to approach all matters with laughter and kill fear of the devil and thus, in his mind at least, render men irreligious.
  • The X of Y
  • Your Mom: During their final argument about laughter, Jorge mentions a story about a Minorite who fell on the ice, and when someone mockingly asked him if he wanted to lie on something better, he answered: "Yes, your wife".