Divine Comedy: Purgatorio Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

Divine Comedy: Purgatorio Symbols, Allegory and Motifs


One of the earliest uses of the fox as a symbol of cunning can be found in the Divine Comedy. More than just cunning, however, the fox a symbol of the deceit that drives the engine of the sin of heresy.

The Color Green

Unlike the inferno where all who enter abandon hope, purgatory is a place where hope thrives. As such, green is the predominant symbolic color used by Dante to convey this essence in the Purgatorio. Women dressed in green that appear throughout the epic as well as the metaphor of green flower as representing hope are just some of the manifestations of this symbol.


At the center of the butterfly as symbol is metamorphosis. The beautifully colored that develops the power to take flight begins by crawling like worms on the ground and this transformation becomes in the Purgatorio a metaphor as a place of hope by through symbolizing resurrection.

The Sun

The sun is representative of the supreme power of God which cannot be looked at and provide the sustenance for life as well as lighting the way toward salvation. Within that context is also the state of grace; since God, like the sun, is everyone, salvation is impossible without His grace.

Pungent Smoke

The smoke that blinds and chokes is a powerfully drawn metaphor that symbolizes the effect that an anger rising to the level of rage can have on a person. The inability to see represents the blindness to reason and the stifling effects of effective communication is conveyed through the acrid properties that affects the respiratory system and limits the ability to speak.


The mythological beast combining the virtuous features of a lion and eagle is Purgatorio is utilized to symbolize another strange conjoining of unlikely and paradoxical features: the divinity and humanity that co-exist within Jesus Christ.

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