Paolo and Francesca are historical figures who appear as characters in the fifth canto of Dante's epic poem, The Divine Comedy.
Francesca da Rimini was a contemporary of Dante Alighieri. Born the daughter of a Lord of Ravenna, she became the wife of Giovanni Malatesta. This was a marriage of convenience, negotiated as a means of strengthening a newly established peace between Francesca's father's kingdom and that of her husband to be.
Giovanni, though brave, suffered from a deformity that everyone feared would cause Francesca to refuse the match. So the marriage was negotiated and completed in private with Giovanni's brother, Paolo, as an intermediary. During this charade Francesca and Paolo fell in love. Their subsequent adultery earned them a place in Dante's Inferno.