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A soul embarking on its journey into death, the narrator describes his experience of the afterlife. The narrator appears to be male, according to his diction and attitude. He knows nothing of what to anticipate in his death, although he appears to be privileged to review the entire heavens. Readers do not learn whether he is actually dead or merely accompanying Beatrice on a sort of tour.
She's the narrator's and reader's guide to the afterlife. She appears to have intimate knowledge of the workings of heaven, especially what happens to various kinds of souls in their death. Herself a spirit, Beatrice demonstrates multiple supernatural abilities throughout the text such as flying, glowing, de-materializing, etc. She's a patient guide and knowledgeable about her subject.
He was a holy Roman emperor during his lifetime. Although he has made it to the second heaven, his selfish ambition prohibits him from rising any higher in the afterlife. His works were characterized by a desire for power and acclaim.
He was a Hungarian king. Martel meets the narrator in the third heaven, Venus. He speaks about the preordained fate of the individual. Whatever role a man has been given should be the one he completes. Thus a priest should become just that and not a soldier. Martel speaks condemningly of the Catholic church and its perceived hypocrisy.
Aquinas is in the fourth heaven. He was a renowned theologian and a saint. He commands the attention of everyone in the Sun. He commends Francis of Assisi for his loyal service to Christ. Additionally he celebrates the wisdom of King Solomon of old, a man destined to rule his people with the utmost skill.
Bonaventure is a Franciscan monk who responds to Aquinas' praise of the saints. He adds his own praise to his mentor, Dominic, for instructing so many in the humble ways of Christ.
This man is the narrator's great grandfather. He appears to him like a vision in the fifth heaven. He instructs the narrator in his ancestry and commends him on a life well lived so far; however, he warns of the narrator's impending expulsion from Florence. He encourages his great grandson to take heart because in the end his enemies will be humiliated.
Peter is summoned by Beatrice to speak with the narrator. When prompted, he asks the narrator what is the nature of his faith. He appears impressed by the response. Peter becomes angry when reminded of the corruption of the church on Earth by the Pope, whom he considers his own successor as the leader of the church.
Similarly, the Apostle James asks the narrator his opinion of the nature of hope. He too seems impressed by the response.
Again, the apostle asks the narrator about love. John is primarily concerned about the narrator's loyalty to God in response to love.
After the Ascension in Emporium the narrator turns to find Beatrice missing. In her place he sees Saint Bernard, an elder in the divine church. He prays to the Virgin Mary for assistance and then leads the narrator into the final stage of his journey, the second guide.
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