Dido and Aeneas or Love vs. Destiny

I.     Transition from Lysistrata: Make Love not War to Make War not Love

A.  I sing of warfare and a man at war…Rome  Book I lines 1-11

B.  Romans are ultimate polypragamatica, except in off hours—Catullus and Ovid

II.   Context

A.  Chronology

1.    1150—Troy falls

2.    ~700—Homer

3.    600—Sappho

4.    479—Victory over Persians—Athens takes dominance; Athenian empire

5.    426—Sophocles: Oedipus

6.    431-04—Peloponnesian War—Athens vs. Sparta; Athens defeated

7.    411—Lysistrata

8.    399—Trial and execution of Socrates

9.    385—Plato founds Academy

10.338—Greece conquered by Macedonia (Greek speaking)

11.335—Aristotle lectures at the Lyceum

12.334-307—Alexander “the Great” of Macedon, tutored by Aristotle, conquers Persian Empire; establishes Library at Alexandria.

13.Hellenistic period—Greek culture and language is dominant from Babylon to Spain

14.148—Roman Republic conquers Macedonians

15.Republic—civil wars, ended by conqueror Julius Caesar who becomes dictator, then is assassinated 44 B.C.E.—; his protégé, Octavian, becomes emperor Augustus 27 B.C.E.

a)   http://www.getty.edu/art/collections/objects/oz9335.html

16.~6 C.E. (A.D)—birth of Christ

17.~33 C.E. –Crucifixion of Christ

B.  Elements of Roman culture

1.    Pax Romana—mediterranean lake—Imperialism; Manifest Destiny

a)   World state—roman empire…Holy Roman Empire…Catholic Church--Universal

2.    Law, organization, administration

a)   Roads and laws

b)    Invented concrete—engineers—practical—not theoretical or poetic

3.    Gravitas, Frugalitas, Industria, Constantia, Severitas

4.    Patria potestas--patriarchy

a)   Mos maiorum—the customs of the older ones—senatus—old ones—senex

b)   Contrast to Pericles description of the Athenians as flexible and innovative—Greek emphasis on youth

C.  Virgil—70-19 B.C.

1.    appointed the imperial poet

2.    Eclogues or Bucolics—pastorals—vita amoris, vita voluptuosa: Love is the concern

3.    Georgics—agricultural poetry

D.  Aeneid—epic—universal genre

1.    conscious imitation of Homer; written not oral

2.    combines Odyssey and Iliad—imitation and adaptation; literary tradition

3.    Relation to Greeks—beware of those bearing gifts—treacherous antagonists of Trojans

4.    Roman vs. Greek hero

a)   Duty vs. self-expression

b)   Stoicism: Duty vs. Passion—not anger of Achilles, or personal homecoming of Odysseus, or the wiles of and brilliance of an individual

c)    Piety, pius Aeneas; patriarchy—father Aeneas

d)   Destiny of leadership—family, state, religion—pietas not arete

e)    Pietas vs. Furor…usually gendered male and female

f)    Destiny vs. Fame

g)   Fortitude in face of loss

h)   Tears in the nature of things

III. Roman Ideals expressed in nequia of Book VI—center of work; destiny framed for Aeneas, that which counters his individuality—father, state, religion

A.  road forks—punishments of hell

1.    be warned and study justice, not to scorn the immortal gods—crimes and punishments

B.  The Sybil—Wisdom, Diotima, the female guide

C.  ritual performed

D.  places of delight-blessed groves, stars, compete and train in games, dancers, heros, joy in cars and weapons

E.   those who suffered wounds  in battle for their country, holy men, those who bettered life by findingt out new truths and skills

F.   no specific home, shady groves, riverbanks, meadows, lush green of valley

G.  happy meeting with father, not mother like Odysseus; father is wise

H.  Some souls are purified from body’s stain and remain; others are reincarnated and resent to earth

I.     souls drinking Lethe…roster of my children’s children here/So you may feel with me more happiness at finding Italy

J.   Anchises watching those who are about to return, his descendants, the future

K.  Teach Aeneas his destiny

1.    future generations

2.    romulus fathered by Mars

3.    under his auspices Illustrious Rome will bound her power with earth

4.    Caesar Augustus, bring an age of gold…extend his power

5.    civil war predicted

L.   Roman values expounded

1.    Others will cast more tenderly in bronze  746

2.    their breathing figures…argue more eloquently

3.    roman remember by your strength to rule

4.    earth’s peoples—for your arts are to be these

5.    To pacify, to impose the rule of law

6.    to spare the conquered battle down the proud

M. Dido in Hell

1.    suicides and then victims of love 211-230

2.    Dido

a)   Aeneas weeps and speaks tenderly

b)   I swear I left your land against my will my queen

c)    Wait a little, his last word to her

d)   Savage glaring back

e)    she’s not affected, his enemy still

f)    joined by Sychaeus who shares her sorrows and returns her love

3.    Aeneas’ suffering and guilt and helplessness

4.    Unresolved because it represents undying enmity of Carthage and Rome, which is what inspires Juno’s rage

5.    Also Cleopatra, the Egyptian ally of Mark Antony, who Augustus had defeated to end the Civil Wars—Book VIII  87-96, 101-107, 116-123, 140-143, 151-4, 162-168

N.  Puzzling end of this section

1.    Aeneas leaves underworld through gate of ivory—the false gate—why?

a)   ending of furor taking over Aeneas 

b)   why?

IV.         Against the Imperial glory story is set the tragic love story

A.  Most memorable and revered stories of Aeneid are about loss not winning--tragedies

1.    Destruction of Troy; loss of spouse—widower and widow

2.    He has this experience in common with Dido

B.  Their love is based on doomed efforts to find new beginning

C.  Vergil shows them both to be victims of fate and the gods—a negative destiny

V.  Love as trap and tragedy—a danger, an irresistible plague coming from outside the person, but manifesting in them; an illness

A.  End of Book I—edited out of Norton

But Venus, anxious for her son's affairs,

New counsels tries, and new designs prepares:

That Cupid should assume the shape and face

Of sweet Ascanius, and the sprightly grace;

Should bring the presents, in her nephew's stead,

And in Eliza's veins the gentle poison shed:


But, far above the rest, the royal dame,

(Already doom'd to love's disastrous flame,)

With eyes insatiate, and tumultuous joy,

Beholds the presents, and admires the boy.

The guileful god about the hero long,

With children's play, and false embraces, hung;

Then sought the queen: she took him to her arms

With greedy pleasure, and devour'd his charms.

Unhappy Dido little thought what guest,

How dire a god, she drew so near her breast;

But he, not mindless of his mother's pray'r,

Works in the pliant bosom of the fair,

And molds her heart anew, and blots her former care.

The dead is to the living love resign'd;

And all Aeneas enters in her mind.

VI.         Book IV

A.  Overall pattern

1.    where are our sympathies—compared to Medea—is this Jerry Springer?

2.    pain of love—both sides

3.    building sense of chaos—passion, the storm, rumor, political instability, private becomes public, growing sympathy for her deepening, inexorable doom—the walls closing in with every incident—like Oedipus

4.    powerful dramatization; rather than Stoic it’s an operatic exploration and celebration of feeling—furor rather than pietas is foregrounded—make us weep and love it; evoke emotion

B.  Stages of love’s tragic progression

1.    Loss of control; vacillation; emotional stress—the threat of the irrational

a)   wound, illness, inward fire  1-8

b)   vacillation 20-38

2.    sister’s counsel fans the flames—love as flame; both desire/pleasure and prudence dissolve her scruples

3.    89-120  roams through the city like a doe hit by an arrow—shaft clings

a)   her behaviors—have him retell the story, like on his couch, hold his son

b)   projects broken off…menacing hung walls/with cranes unmoving stood against the sky—passion vs. duty

4.    156-168 hunt, storm, cave, ambiguous, non-legal, passion-driven marriage

a)   Venus and Juno—talk and pretense; Juno wants to arrange a marriage; Venus doesn’t trust her, but feigns agreement

b)   215-226 *Earth and Juno officiate at marriage, considered such by Dido, though improper to others

(1)  dido had no further qualms/as to impressions given…she thought no longer of a secret love/but called it marriage.  Thus under that name/she hid her fault

5.    226-251 *rumor is agency by which we hear of their love affair. prisoners of lust [public danger of love]; leads to the love horror of jealousy

a)   earth her mother (who attended the wedding)

b)   wings, tongues, eyes, ears

c)    tells story; judges their relation lust

d)   harping on lies evenhandedly with truth

e)    King Iarbas rudely invokes Jove in jealousy

6.    290-310; Jove responds, calling Mercury to address lovers

a)   “careless of their good name.” in narrator’s view

b)   ignoring destiny and duty in Jove’s paternal view

c)    contrast to Hermes telling calypso Odysseus must go and her protest and their amiable parting in Odyssey 5. 48 ff. p. 279

7.    344-357 Mercury repeats reproach

a)   tame husband…oblivious of your own world

b)   what have you in mind? wasting your days in Libya

c)    think of the expectations of your heir, Iuilus, to whom the Italian realm, the land/of rome are due

d)   story of Aeneas and Moses—exile founder of a people, conqueror of a new land—pilgrims—Moses reluctance, remaining in Midian with Jethro’s daughter

8.    363 Aeneas is “shocked and shamed, BURNED only to be gone, to leave the land of the sweet life behind.  What can he do?

9.    370—the rational approach:

a)   How tell her…testing alternatives/running through every one.  And as he pondered this seemed the better tactic

b)   ***Fifty ways to leave your lover (45 to 1:40)

(1)  You just slip out the back, Jack
(2)  Make a new plan, Stan
(3)  You don't need to be coy, Roy
(4)  Just get yourself free
(5)  Hop on the bus, Gus
(6)  You don't need to discuss much
(7)  Just drop off the key, Lee
(8)  And get yourself free

10.390-431 Dido’s response—anger to self-abasement—intensity of narrative rising here as dialogue begins

a)   Furious, like a Bacchante—the Dionysian furor of women—Euripides—Vergil’s sexism

b)   Do you go to get away from me?

c)    I beg you, have pity

d)   Because of you I lost my integrity/And that admired name by which alone

e)    I made my way once toward the stars—kleos

f)    Guest to husband

g)   begs for a child by him

h)   utterly defeated, utterly bereft—sympathy; the image of the little child; major pathos

11.435-476—Aeneas response, qualified by “at Jove’s command”; read and discuss;  compare to Jason

a)   self possession—held fast his eyes, fought down emotion in his heart—duty vs. emotion

b)   wont deny what she can say

c)    never will memory stale

d)   don’t think I meant to steal away

e)    I never entered the pact of marriage

f)    If fate permitted me…my own wishes…first of all I should look after Troy

g)   but now…Apollo tells me I must make for Italy

h)   There is my love.  There is my country

i)     father and son call him

j)    I sail for Italy not of my own free will

12.479-514 --Her rage again

a)   talks to him third person; he didn’t sigh while I wept or look at me

b)   I did everything for him

c)    I am swept away burning by furies

d)   she mocks his claim about Apollo—why does he say Apollo when it was mercury?

e)    she calls down curse and threatens to haunt him after she dies

f)    she storms out

13.520-541 Aeneas move from frustration to activity

a)   Duty bound Aeneas struggled with desire to calm and comfort her—at a loss, alarmed, mute

b)   went back to fleet

c)    eager to leave; loading ships like ants

14.542 “At that sight what were your emotions, Dido” puts us in sympathy with her—“Unconscionable Love, to what extremes will you not drive OUR hearts…”

a)   watches the bustle from her tower; humbled; felt driven to weep and try to move him

b)   begs sister to ask him just for a little more time

c)    one last gift, she never did anything to hurt him

d)   a respite and breathing space

e)    fates opposed it; God’s will blocked the man’s once kindly ears

15.582-595 intensifies our sympathy with, or at least admiration for him

a)   he will not be moved, like an oak in a storm—long image 

b)   buffeting furor of storm of her pleas; felt their moving power in his great heart; yet his WILL stood fast

16.597-695—denoument 1. madness and death --getting control through ritualistic preparation

a)   terror grew at her fate; prayed for death

b)   her vow of suicide

c)    sacrifices to gods go bad

d)   she tells no one, not even sister, isolated

e)    husband calls to her like owl from shrine

f)    prophecies make her shiver

g)   nightmare: hunted down by Aeneas, alone, looking for her Tyrians

(1)  like Eumenides chasing Pentheus and Orestes in madness

h)   mind broken by suffering—

i)     deceives her sister with scheme for solution

j)    story of Ethiopian priestess providing drugs for a solution [cf. Sappho and Medea]

k)   funeral pyre to burn bed and his arms

l)     Dido decorates palace with funereal boughs—death wishes

m) love and death

n)   sword, clothing, effigy on couch

o)   elaborate female ritual of witchcraft—cf. Macbeth—calls on Hecate

p)   mixture of purity and perversion—prays to whatever power may care for lovers bound unequally by love.

17.696-740 alone at night, world asleep; she agonizes—no way out—arrives at profound self-awareness of her relation to fate—tragic wisdom

a)   no options—cant follow Aeneas

b)   woman abandoned is without choice—all thought leading to steel blade

c)    blames herself for not keeping vow

d)   passion is affliction, not innocence of wild creatures

e)    736-739: “It was not given to me to lead my life/without new passion, innocenctly, the way wild creatures live, and not to touch these depths.”

18.740-780  Transition to complete opposite: Aeneas sleeps peacefully on the ship—everything ready for departure—and then awakens and breaks free, together with his crew

a)   dream also with shame, reproach

b)   tells him to leave at night

c)    women are dangerous and unpredictable

d)   wakes up suddenly and insists on instant departure

e)    takes out sword and cuts rope; men excited to leave

19.780-844  Her final vacillations and curse

a)   first plans on following them

b)   then imagines what she might have done, including serving up Ascanius for dinner to father

c)    then utters lengthy curse predicting three wars between Carthage and rome and Aeneas’ death without seeing glory of descendants

20.860-886 baring sword and kissing the bed

a)   nurse send for anna and they sanctify themselves

b)   sick pallor, quivering cheeks; passion’s height

c)    weeping a little, mindful, last words:

d)   reflects on her life, triumphs and defeats—this way, this way—sword thrusts

e)    blade aflush with blood drenched her hand

f)    Rubens: death of dido-- http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=535

g)   she says, “ a blessed relief to go”—but not that at all

21.915-943  Agony and pity and release

a)   rumor and scream pierce the city

b)   Anna’s reaction—reproaches sister for not taking her in death

c)    anna holds her, she cant die, painful ending

d)   Juno feels pity and sends Iris to set free wrestling spirit

e)    Rainbow comes, beautiful moment, to cut the lock to free her from her body; out into the winds her life withdrew.

C.  Conclusion: the Love Tragedy

1.    Marlowe’s Dido Queen of Carthage

2.    Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Antony and Cleopatra and almost any opera from 17th through 19th century

3.    Dido and Aeneas  1685—Tate and Purcell


When I am laid in earth,

May my wrongs create

No trouble in thy breast;

Remember me, but ah! forget my fate.


Cupids appear in the clouds o'er her tomb



With drooping wings you Cupids come,

And scatter roses on her tomb.

Soft and gentle as her heart

Keep here your watch, and never part.


Cupids Dance