The Inferno: Character Profiles

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Beatrice:  Beatrice does not appear in the Inferno, but Virgil does tell the story of her descent to the First Circle of Hell to call him to Dante's aid. She is the woman Dante fell in love with when they were both eight, and she is the image of the wisdom and grace that can only come, from Dante's point of view, through the revelation of God's love in Christ.
Dante the narrator:  The story is told in the first person, with Dante the narrator telling everything as something that actually happened to him. He speaks as a poet, asking the aid of the Muses, and as one in whom the memory of the fear and pity and terror he felt is still vivid-as also is the pride he felt in being treated as an equal by the great poets he met in the First Circle.
Dante the pilgrim:  Dante the pilgrim is us, Everyman, experiencing "the journey of our life." And he is the thirty-five-year-old Florentine, filled with more and more apprehension as he hears various inhabitants of Hell foretell disaster for his party and himself, yet heartened by every word that promises him that he will soon see again Beatrice, the woman he has loved all his life.
Farinata:  Farinata is a proud Florentine whom Dante meets in the first circle within the walls of the City of Dis, where the heretics lie in burning tombs. Dante respects him; it was he alone who persuaded the other men of his party (the Ghibellines) not to destroy Florence when they had the city at their mercy. Farinata professes to feel more pain at the ill success of his party in later days than at the pain of his burning tomb.
Paolo and Francesca:  Paolo and Francesca are the two lovers in the Second Circle who come at Dante's call. Paolo only weeps bitterly. Francesca tells Dante the story of their giving in to love-he already knows that Francesca's husband was Paolo's brother, and that it was he who killed them, just a few years before the supposed date of Dante's descent into Hell. Francesca reveals herself as still convinced that Love forced her to commit adultery, or that the blame rests on the book she and Paolo read together.
Satan:  Satan is Lucifer, the fairest of the angels once, who rebelled against God and was thrown down from Heaven. When he hit the earth, he created the pit of Hell and at the same time the mountain of Purgatory. He is now at the center of the earth, stuck fast in the ice created by the flapping of his own wings. His only other action is to gnaw the sinners who are condemned to suffer forever in his three mouths.
Ulysses:  Ulysses (another name for Odysseus) is the ancient Greek hero who advised the Greeks to use the Trojan Horse to get inside the walls of Troy, and he is therefore in the Eighth Bolgia of the Eighth Circle, where the counselors of fraud are imprisoned in tongues of flame. The story Dante has him tell about his ultimate fate is very different from anything in Homer, and it reveals a man with a quenchless thirst for new experience that makes him forget his love of his wife and son.
Ugolino:  Dante encounters Ugolino in the second part of the Ninth Circle, where those who betrayed their country are frozen in ice. He shares his torment with Ruggiero, the man who betrayed him and his children to a cruel and lingering death from hunger, and his only desire is to increase Ruggiero's pain, both by deepening his disgrace by telling the story of the deaths he caused, and by gnawing his scalp.
Virgil:  In the poem, Virgil is himself-the Roman poet who lived shortly before the birth of Christ (70-19 BC) and wrote the great epic poem of the origins of Rome, the Aeneid, from which Dante learned to write great poetry. He is also the embodiment of the highest wisdom human beings can reach without divine revelation, and more personally, he is an image of Dante's conscience.

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