The Name of the Rose | Study Guide

Umberto Eco

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The Name of the Rose | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Naturally, a Manuscript & Prologue

In "Naturally, a Manuscript" an unnamed narrator describes how he found a book containing the text of Adso of Melk's manuscript about the events at the abbey. When that book is stolen, the narrator seeks another copy. He finds other books that have the same title but the wrong content and then a book that has the wrong title but contains Adso's text. This first section sets up the idea of books as signs pointing to other books, which may or may not contain the anticipated information or meaning.

The prologue is an introductory section written by Adso when he is an old monk at his Benedictine monastery in Melk, Austria. He explains how he came to be with William of Baskerville and describes William as erudite, or scholarly, and a committed seeker of knowledge. Together, Adso and William travel to the unnamed abbey in Italy.

First Day

William of Baskerville and Adso of Melk arrive at the beautiful abbey where Abo, the abbot, asks them to investigate the supposed murder of a monk named Adelmo of Otranto. The pair meets several other monks who become important characters in the novel. William is also at the abbey to argue for the Franciscans at an upcoming meeting with delegates representing the interests of the pope and the Catholic Church.

William speaks with Ubertino of Casale, a Franciscan Spiritual, about his religious convictions and argues about laughter with Jorge of Burgos, an elderly blind monk.

Second Day

Early on the second day a monk named Venantius of Salvemec is found murdered, his body upended into a barrel of pig's blood. William examines the body and determines that Venantius didn't die from drowning. William notices that Venantius's fingertips and tongue are darkened by some substance—perhaps ink, perhaps poison. Benno of Uppsala, a young Scandinavian monk, tells William and Adso about Venantius's desire to read a forbidden book kept in the library's hidden room, called the "finis Africae." Later, he alludes to a sexual relationship between Adelmo and Berengar of Arundel, the assistant librarian, hinting that Berengar promised Adelmo access to the secret book in exchange for sex.

William and Adso reach the scriptorium, where they find cryptic notes on Venantius's desk. William feels certain the notes relate to the secret book, which William would very much like to find and read. When William is momentarily distracted, someone steals his eyeglasses, so he cannot read. Adso reads the strange notes aloud to William. They have great difficulty finding their way out of the library, which is designed as an impenetrable labyrinth.

Third Day

Berengar has disappeared, and no one can find him. While others look for the assistant librarian, Adso speaks with an ugly, deformed man named Salvatore and manages to understand he was a follower of the heretic Fra Dolcino. Adso questions William and Ubertino about Dolcino's heresy and about why the Church is persecuting Franciscans.

William tells Adso that he's managed to translate Venantius's note. The cryptic message reads, "The hand over the idol works on the first and the seventh of the four." William is unclear as to what this means. He has also been trying to understand the layout of the labyrinth, which he must visit again.

That night, Adso encounters a village girl and has sex with her. Later, he feels guilty for having broken his vow of celibacy, and he confesses his sin to William.

Berengar's dead body is found in a bathtub in the abbey's balneary, a room for bathing.

Fourth Day

While examining Berengar's body, Severinus of Sankt Wendel, the abbey's herbalist, notices Berengar also has blackened fingers and tongue. During his examination, Severinus finds William's eyeglasses in Berengar's pocket, and he returns them to William. William is now able to read the Greek text in Venantius's message, but the words, which seem to relate to the Book of Revelation, make no sense.

The inquisitor Bernard Gui and the papal delegation arrive at the abbey for the upcoming meeting with the Franciscans.

William and Adso go up to the library again and realize the inscription above the doorway to each room can be analyzed to indicate a place on the globe. Each room in the labyrinth seems to be named after a different location. As they try to figure out the labyrinth they locate the finis Africae, the hidden room, but can't figure out how to get into it.

Archers working for Bernard Gui find the village girl and Salvatore, who is carrying a sack containing objects associated with witchcraft. The two are taken into custody. The girl is immediately accused of being a witch, even though no one bothers to question her.

Fifth Day

The papal delegation and the Franciscans hold their meeting and try to find common ground. The Franciscans explain why they believe Christ wanted people to live in poverty and without possessions. The pope's supporters offer strong counterarguments. The meeting seems not to end well for the Franciscans.

Severinus approaches William outside the meeting hall and tells him to come quickly to the infirmary to see a strange book he's found. William delays for only a short time, but when he gets to the infirmary he finds Severinus murdered and the book gone.

Bernard Gui has arrested Remigio of Varagine, the abbey's cellarer—person in charge of supplies—for heresy, and that day Remigio's trial is held. Remigio is confused by Gui's reasoning and the way he twists everything Remigio says to make him seem guilty. Finally, Remigio is so confused and terrified by Gui he confesses to a host of heretical beliefs and activities, including the murders at the abbey he did not commit. He is taken away to be burned at the stake.

Later, Jorge gives a fire and brimstone sermon to all the monks. He says that the final days are upon them and all who seek more knowledge than is contained in the Bible will suffer eternal damnation.

Sixth Day

On the sixth day, Malachi of Hildesheim, the abbey's librarian, is found dead, also with blackened fingers and tongue.

Adso falls asleep and has a fantastical dream based on a book called the Coena Cypriani, a parody of the Scriptures. William is intrigued by Adso's dream and checks the library catalog to see if the parody is listed. He finds the listing and determines it is part of the secret book. Careful observation shows that an unknown librarian made this entry in the catalog. William asks Abo if he can look at the secret book, but the abbot becomes agitated and asks William to cease his investigations. Undaunted, William and Adso return to the library that night and, through reinterpretation of Venantius's notes, find the key to opening the door to the hidden room.

Seventh Day

William and Adso enter the finis Africae and find Jorge inside clutching the secret book. William engages Jorge in a debate about knowledge and sin. Jorge insists that any knowledge aside from that contained in the Bible is the work of the Devil and will call down the Antichrist. Jorge especially hates works praising laughter and comedy, which he says undermine, and will ultimately destroy, the Church. Aristotle's lost second book of the Poetics is the part of the secret book Jorge refuses to let anyone read because it discusses laughter.

Jorge admits to murdering all the monks except Severinus, using poisonous glue he's brushed onto the pages of the secret book. (Severinus was murdered by Malachi in order to regain control of the secret book, and the abbot, Abo, is walled up in a secret stairwell dying of suffocation). William learns there was no pattern to the murders and no relationship to the Book of Revelation as he'd thought.

To prevent William from getting the secret book, Jorge begins tearing it into shreds and eating it, even though he knows the poison will kill him. Then he flails his arms and sends Adso's lamp flying. The flame sets fire to the books in the room and then spreads throughout the entire library. The wind spreads the flames from the library to all the other buildings. The entire abbey burns to the ground.

Last Page

Adso, an old monk, is writing his memoirs. As an adult he visited the ruins of the abbey and picked up every fragment remaining from the library's burned books. He has spent years trying to find some meaning in the scraps and fragments of the books, but he can find none. His dying wish is that after death he enter a place of silence, devoid of signs and beyond meaning.

The Name of the Rose Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 William and Adso arrive at the abbey to solve a murder.

Rising Action

2 Venantius reads the secret book and is murdered.

3 William uses Venantius's notes to help solve the mystery.

4 Berengar is found dead in a bathtub.

5 Bernard Gui interrogates Remigio, who is found guilty.

6 A meeting between Gui and the Minorites ends in a fight.

7 Severinus the herbalist is murdered.

8 Malachi collapses during morning prayers and dies.

9 Jorge traps Abo in the library staircase.

10 William and Adso discover the entrance to the hidden room.


11 William confronts Jorge as being a mad, murderous zealot.

Falling Action

12 Jorge destroys the secret book and sets fire to the library.

13 The library and the abbey burn to the ground.

14 William and Adso leave the abbey and part ways.


15 The elderly Adso finds no meaning in book fragments.

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