Journey through the Dante Urbinate: Canto V, Paolo and Francesca

There are many characters, either based on real people or taken from literary tradition, that have gained fame thanks to being in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Among all of them, the story of Paolo and Francesca has become a standard one in the popular sentimental imagination. Today we enter the second circle of the Inferno, where the lustful are sent.

Dante dedicates a large part of Canto V to the story of the two lovers. They are portrayed with bare feet and with sad expressions. While Francesca looks toward the poet, telling her story, Paolo looks down, crying. On the right side, moved to pity for the two unfortunate lovers, Dante feels that he is about to faint. But Virgil, always by his side, is there and ready to hold him up.

In the surrounding landscape, there are winding trails and rocky cliffs, which are engulfed in dark red flames. Who is the next character that we will meet on our journey?

Source: Federica Toniolo, Descrizione delle miniature, Inferno, La Divina Commedia di Federico da Montefeltro. Il Dante Urbinate. Commentario.

Illumination from Dante Alighieri’s Divina Commedia, Ms. Urb. lat. 365, f. 14v, 1478-1482, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.

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