Thursday, July 1, 2010

A thought on Limbo

In Dante's poem, after crossing with Charon, he encounters a place where reside souls who, Virgil tells him, "did not sin; / If they have merit, it can't suffice without / Baptism, portal to the faith you maintain." This, in Canto IV, is where Virgil, born before Christ lived, resides in Hell.

In the game, this area provides a pretty tasteless moment, I think. You are attacked by littler demons, with knife-blades for hands. After fighting a bunch off, you meet Virgil who tells you they are babies who died before Baptism. Of course, this would be theologically correct at Dante's time to assume such babies would be in Limbo, I suppose (though not the knife-hand business). But still, even in video game world, it seemed best in the battles to absolve such characters.

Of course, thankfully, the Catholic Church has moved to a more merciful position on the implications of a child dying before Baptism. The statement made there, though, focuses on "God's endless mercy," while there is not mercy in Dante's Inferno, poem (see my comment on Freccero's introduction to Pinsky's translation) or video game.

Actually, that's not true; the mercy--absolution--comes in the video game from the player, though absolving the demons or unbaptized babies you fight seems to inflict pain on them just as punishing them does. Either you obliterate them into blinding light (absolve) or you rip off their heads or sever them in two (punish). There's something theologically interesting about the player here being the potential instrument of mercy.

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