Divine Comedy: Purgatorio Literary Elements

Divine Comedy: Purgatorio Literary Elements


Narrative poem, allegory

Setting and Context

Mount Purgatory (on an island in the Southern Hemisphere), 1300 AD

Narrator and Point of View

The narrator is Dante, who is both the author and the main character. His knowledge is sometimes limited and sometimes omniscient.

Tone and Mood

Detailed, reverent, anticipatory

Protagonist and Antagonist

Dante is the protagonist, representing common man. There isn't a particular antagonist in this volume, except perhaps sin.

Major Conflict

Dante progresses up the mountain, looking upon and bypassing all sorts of images that help him toward his final goal: the acquisition of divine knowledge.


Dante reaches the Earthly Paradise and beholds a highly symbolic vision, reminiscent of Biblical visions from prophetic books such as Daniel and Revelation, before ascending to Paradise.


Throughout the journey, Dante sees visions of things that are almost perfect but are still hampered by imperfection (being in Purgatory, not Paradise). All things seem to point to Paradise, especially the ascension of the soul of the poet Statius, which foreshadows Dante's own ascent.


When Dante arrives in the Third Circle, an angel tells him, "Here enter in to stairway less steep than are the others." It is significantly easier.


In the vision on top of the mountain, Dante sees images that are symbolic of real people and events, such as an allusion to the Roman Empire's persecution of early Christians (depicted by an eagle harassing a chariot).


Throughout the course of Purgatorio, Dante and his narrative journey are often described using the imagery of a voyage in a ship. This has particular import as being metaphorical of Dante's progression to heaven in relation to the journey of the Christian; as Dante completes his voyage, so will the Christian arrive safely in Heaven.


The sinners in Purgatory are there because their hearts desired God, but they are not in Paradise because their hearts do not desire God enough, being still hampered by worldly desires.


There is a dramatic parallel between Dante's journey and that of the human soul in its conversion to Christianity. It begins in a state of death and depravity (Inferno), then, by way of sanctification (Purgatorio), ascends to Heaven (Paradiso).

Metonymy and Synecdoche

Synecdoche: "...rays smote the middle of our faces" (Canto XV.7)


"The heavens are calling you" (Canto XIV.148)

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