During the Third Crusade, the story follows Dante, a crusader who, despite his faith, has committed numerous atrocities during the war. At the city of Acre, Dante is entrusted to keep a group of Saracen prisoners safe so King Richard I could obtain a holy relic from Saladin. But when the prisoners are brutally slaughtered, Dante is given orders to take the holy relic. During the attack, Dante is stabbed in the back by an assassin, whereupon Death appears before him. Despite being led by a Bishop to believe his sins were absolved “en post facto”, Dante is ruled by Death to be condemned to "everlasting damnation for sins.“ Dante refuses to accept his fate, vows to redeem himself, and destroys Death, taking his scythe. Dante leaves the Crusade, stitching a red holy cross-shaped tapestry onto his torso, which depicts every sin he has committed in the past. He returns to Florence, only to find his lover Beatrice Portinari and father Alighiero brutally murdered. Beatrice's soul appears before Dante, telling him that she knew he would come after her before a shadowy manifestation of Lucifer drags her into darkness. After making it to a chapel, Dante blesses the holy cross that Beatrice gave to him upon making their vows to be true to each other, to protect him against the evils that await. Upon doing so, a crack in the earth opens up, allowing Dante to descend to the Gates of Hell.
At the Gates, he encounters Virgil, who knows of Dante's past sins, yet agrees to guide him through the Nine Circles of Hell in exchange for Beatrice putting in a word for him in Heaven. Dante begins his descent at the shores of Hell where the newly damned souls are forced aboard the great ferry of Charon. Dante forces Charon to sail him across. After this, Charon is destroyed when Dante tears his head off using a beast-mount. After arriving at Limbo, Dante confronts the serpentine Judge of the Damned, King Minos. After Minos denies Dante passage deeper into Hell, Dante fights the Judge and kills him. Dante then enters the second circle, Lust, where he enters the Carnal Tower to find Beatrice, whose soul is slowly being corrupted into a succubus by Lucifer, who also reveals to her that Dante broke his vows to Beatrice with a captive woman back in Acre, in exchange for sparing the life of her ”brother“. Reaching the top of the tower, Dante confronts and slays the gigantic Queen Cleopatra and her lover Mark Antony. Entering the third circle Gluttony, Dante slays its guardian the ”Great Worm“ Cerberus. It is here where Lucifer shows Dante how Beatrice and his father Alighiero met their demise, both being slain by the assassin from Acre, revealed to be the ”brother“ of the woman Dante slept with, yet is actually her husband.
In the fourth circle; Greed, Dante encounters the greatly deformed soul of his father Alighiero promised by Lucifer a millennium free of torment and a hoard of gold if he kills his own son. After overcoming the puzzles of the fallen God of Wealth Plutus, Dante defeats Alighiero and absolves him. In the fifth circle, Anger, Dante begins to float across the vile River Styx on what appears to be a floating platform. Upon reaching the other side, however, the platform is in fact the top of the head of the gigantic fiery demon Phlegyas who then proceeds to attack Dante. Overcoming this, Lucifer appears before Dante with Beatrice who, broken-hearted by Dante's betrayals in Acre, willingly gives herself to Lucifer by eating the forbidden fruit. Dante rides atop Phlegyas who he controls to smash down the walls of the City of Dis and into the sixth circle, Heresy. Beyond lies the seventh circle, Violence, where Dante traverses its harsh landscape, including Phlegethon and the Wood of Suicides. Within the woods Dante encounters his own mother Bella who now hangs from the trees, where he becomes deeply saddened and enraged having been told as a child that she died of an illness but in fact hanged herself because of the cruelty of his father. Absolving her of her sin, he continues beyond the woods to the Abominable Sands for those violent against God, where Dante also encounters his former comrade Crusader and future brother-in-law Francesco, who is now a horribly disfigured version of his former self with various swords protruding from his back, who now desires revenge against Dante for his state of being. Upon defeating Francesco, Dante absolves him and descends into the eighth circle, Fraud.
Before Dante can reach Lucifer, Beatrice puts him through the challenges of ten stages of the Malebolge where each depicts the fraudsters throughout history from simple thieves to the false Popes. At the entrance of the ninth and last circle, Treachery, where Dante insists to Beatrice that he has faced all of his sins. Beatrice reminds him that he slaughtered the Saracen prisoners out of anger and that Francesco died taking the blame for it. Realizing (and accepting) that he has sinned beyond redemption, Dante admits that ”his place is in Hell and Beatrice's is in Heaven" and asks for Beatrice to forgive him. This act of supreme sacrifice undoes the evil transformation of Beatrice and restores her to her former self. As Dante watches, the Archangel Gabriel descends from Heaven and carries Beatrice's soul away, promising Dante that he will see Beatrice again and that his redemption is close at hand. Journeying through the icy realm of Treachery and fighting his way to Lake Cocytus, Dante finally confronts Lucifer himself, an enormous three-faced demon chained within the frozen lake. After defeating the giant demon, Lucifer reveals that by reaching the final circle, Dante has proved himself worthy of freeing him from his prison. On his journey through the Circles of Hell, Dante had destroyed several enormous chains to proceed, which Lucifer revealed to be the Chains of Judecca, which kept him imprisoned in Lake Cocytus and inside the body of the giant three headed demon. Lucifer emerges from the giant monster in his true form, a horned, satyr-like monster, and battles Dante after revealing that he merely used Beatrice as bait to get Dante to break the chains and free him. Through great struggle, Dante is able to defeat Lucifer and impales him on Death's Scythe. Lucifer then summons the vision of the assassin stabbing Dante in Acre; Dante is horrified to realize he died in Acre and thus cannot leave Hell, which is forbidden by God. Lucifer gleefully reveals that, now free, he will rise from Hell, overthrow God and seize Heaven, eliminating all that is good from the universe forever. But Dante, with the many souls he gained through his trials, absolves himself and re-imprisons Lucifer deeper in the ice once again before being taken to Purgatory by an archangel. Here, Dante sees the freed soul of Beatrice awaiting him in Paradise. The final scene shows Dante at the step of Mount Purgatory ripping the tapestry off of his chest before it disintegrates revealing a snake that slithers away as Lucifer's laugh rings out, implying that Lucifer will make his way to Heaven and take his revenge.
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