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Francesca da Rimini Character Analysis

Dante encounters Francesca in the second circle of hell, where the lustful are punished. Francesca had an affair with her husband's brother, Paolo Malatesta. The two of them were innocently reading romantic stories and became swept up with romantic passion. As a result, the two are punished together in hell.

Francesca da Rimini Quotes in Inferno

The Inferno quotes below are all either spoken by Francesca da Rimini or refer to Francesca da Rimini. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Classics edition of Inferno published in 1950.
Canto 5 Quotes

Love, that so soon takes hold in the gentle breast,
Took this lad with the lovely body they tore
From me; the way of it leaves me still distrest.

Love, that to no loved heart remits love's score,
Took me with such great joy of him, that see!
It holds me yet and never shall leave me more.

Love to a single death brought him and me.

Related Characters: Francesca da Rimini (speaker), Paolo Malatesta
Page Number: 5.100-106
Explanation and Analysis:

Now in the second circle of hell, Dante listens to the tale of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta. Francesca explains that love bound the couple together, but also caused them to sin.

This passage develops and complicates the theme of love seen in Dante’s relationships with Beatrice and with God. Whereas up to this point “love” has been identified as the motivating factor for Dante’s quest for salvation—and even the main foundation for all divine action—here it becomes a negative force. Francesca shows how this transition may occur subtly, for it first "takes hold in the gentle breast,” employing a calming tone and appealing image. The “gentle breast” becomes the “lovely body,” yet instead of offering a nurturing environment for love, it is instead taken hold of and crippled by the same force. The following lines play with the images of taking and holding to corroborate this dual nature of love: Though love may take away from others, it is also bound intensely to Francesca. It is something that severs people precisely in the act of keeping them close.

When Francesca adds, “Love to a single death brought him and me,” she portrays simultaneously the benefits and detriments of this emotion. For while it may have brought them the “death” confined to Hell, the emphasis of the sentence falls on the modifier “single”—thus stressing less their fate and more the way that they were bound together in it. Thus Dante is careful to avoid any stark judgement—positive or negative—on the behavior of these lovers. Though the poem may place them in contrast with the more spiritual love of Beatrice or God, it also generates a certain pathos for these sinning characters. Their actions, the text affirms, are reasonable and even have a certain poetic beauty (hence their lasting fame among Dante's many characters).


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Francesca da Rimini Character Timeline in Inferno

The timeline below shows where the character Francesca da Rimini appears in Inferno. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Canto 5
Individual Fame Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
...her and the man she loved; both of them were murdered. Dante recognizes her as Francesca da Rimini, who fell in love with her husband's younger brother, Paolo (the other soul... (full context)
Sin, Justice, Pity and Piety Theme Icon
Language Theme Icon
Love Theme Icon
Francesca and Paolo passed the time innocently reading stories about Lancelot and his love for Queen... (full context)