| Quote #4
The kindly master said: "Do you not ask
Here, Dante’s soul is too naïve to recognize the crime of these sinners. That he sees "some estimable men" in limbo – poets like himself – biases him in their favor and incites his sympathy. Indeed, the crime of being born before the coming of Christ and being punished for it – something over which the "sinners" have no control – seems cruel and unfair. The implication of seeing fellow poets in Hell is that Dante, too, may end up there. By commiserating with these souls in limbo, Dante questions the validity of God’s judgment and His supposedly infinite love.
| Quote #5
"Tell me, my master, tell me, lord," I then
Virgil’s story of the Harrowing of Hell, in which Christ carries off the good men of the Old Testament (born before Christ) to Heaven, shows that God does indeed love the virtuous, making exceptions for the honorable unbaptized, and that the sinners in limbo – like the poets Dante worships – still have an opportunity to enter Heaven. This serves to mitigate, or soften, Dante’s judgment of God’s mercy.
| Quote #6
And while one spirit [Francesca] said these words to me,
Dante’s reaction to Francesca’s and Paolo’s pitiable story brings such sympathy to his heart that he has an overwhelming physical reaction: he faints from compassion. Indeed, readers might suspect that his sympathy kills him since Dante is described as a "dead body fall[ing]." Dante has not yet learned to condemn sinners for their crimes, to define exactly what their sin is, or to weigh their seemingly noble qualities against their sins.