Francesca da Polenta, or Francesca da Rimini (1255-1285) was the daughter of an Italian nobleman, Guido I da Polenta, lord of the city of Ravenna. da Polenta had been at war with the Malatesta family and Guido Ricco over control of the city. To finally establish peace and preserve his power in Ravenna, the lord arranged for his beautiful daughter Francesca to marry the powerful but ugly and crippled Giovanni Malatesta.
According to legend, Francesca was to marry Giovanni by proxy (someone would stand in for Giovanni at the wedding, but the marriage would be legally binding). In this instance, Giovanni's handsome younger brother, Paolo Malatesta, was chosen to stand in for him as groom. Paolo was himself married to a countess, and later became the leader of Florence by the blessing of the Pope. Unaware that this was to be a proxy marriage, upon seeing the handsome young nobleman, Francesca fell in love instantly and was delighted at the thought of "marrying" him. Paolo himself also fell in love at first sight, but out of duty went through with the proxy marriage. It was not until the day after the wedding, when Francesca met her real husband, that she realized what had happened, and was bitterly disappointed.
Still, due to their mutual attraction, Francesca and Paolo began an affair behind the backs of their spouses. This liaison lasted for 10 years, until 1285, when Giovanni came home one day and caught the two lovers together in bed. Enraged at their betrayal, Giovanni slew both Paolo and Francesca where they lay.
Dante's Inferno Edit
Francesca acts as the host of the Circle of Lust, and is the first of the Damned Dante encounters here. She speaks of her infidelity with Paolo, and her justification for doing so. Like all the damned souls, Dante has the option of absolving or punishing her, though absolving her will go towards earning an Achievement. To actually earn it, however, Dante must then find Paolo, who is separated from her, located on a ledge of the Carnal Tower, stuck inside the Lust Storm. He too speaks of their relationship and attempts to defend their actions.
- In The Inferno, Dante beholds the shades of both Francesca de Polenta and her lover, Paolo, together in the second circle of Hell. When Dante wishes to question them, they are temporarily permitted to leave the storm of lust driving them around the circle. Francesca goes on to tell Dante her tragic tale of lust, and reveals her murderous husband is in a lower circle for killing them. She and Paolo are some of the few souls in Hell Dante feels compassion for; Dante is so saddened by their fate that he faints, bringing an end to the canto.
- If the player does not absolve her, the "Forbidden Love" Achievement will be locked out. If the player finds and absolves both her and Paolo, the "Forbidden Love" Achievement will be earned.
- It is possible that Paolo and Francesca are deliberately separated in the game as an additional punishment for the sin of Lust.
- According to Dante's composition, initially true to their respective spouses, Paolo and Francesca were inspired to consummate their lust after reading about the adulterous affair between Queen Guinevere (wife of King Arthur of Camelot) and the knight Sir Lancelot. Lancelot himself is mentioned in the game as a warrior Lucifer had once employed to try to free him from Hell.
| Pontius Pilate · Orpheus · Electra · Francesca da Polenta · Paolo Malatesta · Semiramis · Ciacco · Clodia|
Tarpeia · Gessius Florus · Fulvia · Boudica · Hecuba · Filippo Argenti · Emperor Frederick II
Cavalcante de Cavalcanti · Farinata degli Uberti · Attila the Hun · Pietro della Vigna · Brunetto Latini
Guido Guerra · Thaïs · Tiresias · Myrrha · Fra Alberigo · Mordred · Count Ugolino