Canto IV: Circe One


LIMBO: a region on the border of hell or heaven,serving as the abode after deathof unbaptized infants or righteous souls, as those of infants or virtuous individuals who lived before the coming of Christ.

external image 138518371_75e1fd05e1.jpgSUMMARY:

In Dante's Limbo, technically the first circle of Hell, the virtuous pagans reside. By location, Limbo is on the border of Hell, across the Acheron River. Upon their arrival, the poets see a funnel shaped cave, digging deep down into the Earth. The funnel itself is composed of rings, each designated for a specific sin. The virtuous pagans are not actual sinners, but simply deprived of God's enlightenment. Unlike other residents of Hell, the virtuous pagans are not tormented. Instead, they are eternally damned to an existence with no hope of escaping, due to an absense of any transgressions. The greatest poets of all time have been damned here, including Homer, Horace, Ovid, Lucan, and Dante's tourguide, Virgil. At the end of his tour through Limbo, Dante sees the Master Souls of Pagan Antiquity in thew Citadel of Human Reason. These souls have reached the highest attainable state that man is able to reach without being deities themselves. Dante knows that God is greater than anything he had seen thus far, but cannot help being in awe of their glory.

First and foremost comes Dante: Dante plays two important roles in Inferno. Not only is he the writer of the epic, but the principal character as well. However, the two are not necessarily one in the same. As a writer, Dante has the ability to pick and choose the hopeless inhabitants of Hell. This makes the book very subjective. Most notably, Dante has placed certain leaders throughout Hell, without ever mentioning people of the same endeavors from Italy, Dante's home country. As a character, Dante appears to be rather objective on his journey through Hell.
Virgil is Dante's official tourguide of the underworld: He was a Roman poet, most famous for the Aeneid and Eclogues. He was influenced by Homer, who inspired him to write the Aeneid in epic form. He still has a heavy influence today, wexternal image Vergil.jpgith some of his famous quotes such as "Omnia vincit amor", or "Love conquers all" remaining highly recognizable. In Inferno, Virgil serves to show Dante the ropes of Hell.
The virtuous pagans: These people make up Dante's Limbo, not quite Hell, but certainly far from Heaven. The only thing that these poor, unfortunate soulshad done wrong was not accept Christ in their lives, or possibly be unbaptized. Interestingly enough, many characters from the Bible and mostly the Old Testament itself were at one point featured in Limbo, according to Virgil. At some point or another, Noah, Moses, David, and Abraham were all residents of Limbo, until the death of Jesus when they were released to Heaven.

In addition to poets, Dante includes famous and prominent philosophers in his classification of Limbo. This would include Aristotle, Socrates, and Plato. The fact that Dante includes them in his writing may show respect and fellow admiration.

The mathematician Euclid and astronomer Ptolemy are included in this first circle of Hell. They reside with the philosophers inside a large castle with seven walls.

SYMBOLISM:Contrasts of lightand dark are used throughout Dante's Inferno. One example is when Dante and Virgil approach the Citadel of Human Reason. There, referring to the inhabinants, he says ""There with a solemn and majestic poise stood many people gathered in the light," (112-113). This shows that human reason is a good thing, but upon leaving Limbo and venturing into the deeper circles of hell, Dante says, "I pass from light into the kingdom of eternal night" (154-155), showing the deeper they go, the worse the sin that has been committed.

ALLUSION: The first major allusion in Canto IV regards the "Harrowing of Hell", or, the descent of Christ after his death. According to the Roman Catholic church, Christ first descended into Limbo before gracing Heaven with his presence. The word "harrow" implies that Christ's journey from Hell to Heaven was a rather violent one, even accusing him of freeing certain souls from Hell, including Adam and Eve. Catholics believe that Christ's raid of Hell was astounding, which eventually turned the story into a bit of a dogma in the mid-thirteenth century.
A second allusion that is worthy of mentioning would be the large reference to the philosopher, Aristotle. Given Dante's background historically and culturally, this allusion should not come as a surprise. "The master of those who know" (131) is quoted from Dante's writing referring to Aristotle and his works. This shows that Dante views this man with honor and respect. Supporting this idea would be the fact that Dante calls Aristotle "The Philosopher" even though he mentions numerous other philosophers in his novel.