Paolo Malatesta (1246-1285) was the third son of an Italian nobleman, Malatesta da Verucchio, lord of the city of Rimini. Young, brave and handsome, he was married to the Countess Orabile Beatrice of Ghiaggiolo, with whom he had two sons. He was also made lord of the city of Florence by Pope Martin IV; in this capacity he may have actually met the historic Dante Alighieri.
Guido I da Polenta, lord of the city of Ravenna, 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, Paolo's elder brother.
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 Paolo was chosen to stand in for him as groom. 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
The object of Francesca's affection, Paolo Malatesta also resides in the circle of Lust, forever separated from his love. Once Dante breaches the Lust Storm summoned by Cleopatra, and enters the Carnal Tower, he can find Paolo cowering on an outside ledge, talking of Francesca and justifying their affair. Like all the damned souls, Dante has the option of absolving or punishing him, though if Dante has already found and absolved Francesca, absolving Paolo will earn the player an Achievement.
- In The Inferno, Dante and Virgil behold the shade of Paolo Malatesta in the second circle of Hell, alongside his lover, Francesca, both damned for their lust. 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. 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.
- Although Malatesta was his real surname, the word Malatesta means "Evil Head" in Italian, which could also be reflective of the sinful thoughts that spurred Paolo into the affair.
- If the player absolves both Paolo and Francesca, the "Forbidden Love" achievement/trophy is earned. If the player has punished either of the lovers, the "Forbidden Love" achievement will be locked out.
- 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.
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