Let's dig a little deeper into Canto IV to understand what's going on in the 4th episode of Red Notice! First, check out the original text along with a brief summary.
Dante and Virgil enter the First Circle of Hell, Limbo, where all the souls are virtuous, but unbaptized, and therefore denied the chance to get into Heaven and be saved. Soon our duo is greeted by a series of great poets and philosophers; among them are Homer, Ovid, Plato, Xeno, and others. Virgil is part of this group too, and Dante immediately joins the circle. Virgil introduces the poets to Dante one by one, and the reader discovers the great things these men have accomplished. At the end, Dante and Virgil leave this quiet place and continue into darkness.
We'll take a look at what this canto might signify by referring to an excerpt from an essay called “Canto 4: How Low Can Ya Go?” by Pier Kooistra, an English Master at The Lawrenceville School, previously published on the Daily Dante Blog.
"As he enters the first circle of Hell and discovers the presence there of so many heroic contributors to human civilization, Dante is deeply troubled, especially when his guide, Virgil, acknowledges that the inmates of Limbo “did not sin” (Canto IV, l. 25). Their status is not a result of their having done anything wrong. The issue, Virgil continues, is that their “merit…can’t suffice without / Baptism” (ll. 25-6) to secure their entry into Heaven. “Knowing how many souls endured / Suspension in that Limbo” (ll. 34-5), Dante asks Virgil whether any have been released, and Virgil explains that, yes, Christ, “A Mighty One who descended here, arrayed / With a crown of victory…re-called / Back from this place the shade of our first parent [Adam], / And his son Abel, and other shades who dwelled / In Limbo” (ll. 42-6). These Christian forebears—including also Noah, Moses, Abraham, King David, Israel/Jacob, Rachel—have been saved. Virgil says of Christ’s intervention in Hell, “His / Coming here made them blessed, and rescued them” (ll. 50-1)."
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