Dante Alighieri is the Florentine poet best known for his Divine Comedy, of which Paradise is the final installment. He is also the protagonist of his own poem, which he casts as an allegorical tour of the Christian afterlife. In Paradise Dante travels into a vision of Heaven drawn partly from the scriptures and early Church writings but largely from his own fertile imagination. Paradise, like the Comedy as a whole, is full of Dante's observations about his own time in history. His view of contemporary Italy is generally negative, emphasizing political corruption and spiritual error. The tension between autobiographical concerns and timeless philosophical problems is a major recurring feature of the Divine Comedy.
Beatrice is Dante's reimagining of Beatrice Portinari, the Florentine lady whom he loved from afar but who died in 1290 at age 24. Now among the saints in Heaven, she guides Dante on the final leg of his tour of the Christian afterlife. In the first 30 cantos of Paradise, she is almost constantly by Dante's side. A warm and benevolent figure, Beatrice answers Dante's questions about the nature of Heaven—often before he has had a chance to ask aloud. Whatever their relationship on Earth may have been, Beatrice now reciprocates Dante's love, but in a pure and platonic way. Her attitude toward him is that of an elder sister to a younger brother, or of a mother toward her child.