Virgil’s “Aeneid” is the story of the Trojans who had to flee their hometown after the Greeks destroyed it. This story explains both the details of the Trojan war, the Aeneas’s journey to Carthage, their arrival to Sicily, and Aeneid’s destiny as the founder of Rome. This paper will analyze a passage from Book III of “Aeneid,” focusing on the summary of events and the form that Virgil uses to express his ideas and events. In the passage in question, Virgil uses the form, choice of words, and figures of speech to express Dido’s suffering and Aeneas’s regret regarding her death.
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The passage in question begins with the following words:
“Among them, with her fatal wound still fresh,
Phoenician Dido wandered the deep wood” (Virgil 606).
This passage’s main character is Dido, who is the princess of Carthage. She accommodated the Trojans with hospitality upon their arrival to the island and developed a deep affection for Aeneas. Despite the addiction being mutual, “Aeneid’s” main theme is that Aeneas’s destiny was to found a new city, which later would become Rome. Hence, despite Dido being welcoming and happy to accommodate the Trojans, Aeneas had to fulfill the prophecy and leave. Later in this passage, he expresses his regret when he realizes that the rumors he has heard are true and that she indeed killed herself. For example, he says:
“The story then that came to me was true,
That you were out of life, have met your end” (Virgil 614).
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Aeneas meets Dido in a scene that resembles a vision since he has already left her. With the way Virgil describes this encounter, it is evident that Aeneas still has feelings for Dido because he recognizes her in the dark. Virgil writes that “her dim form in the dark, as one who sees” (609). Later Virgil compares Aeneas recognizing Dido in the dark as someone who sees the moon, which can be interpreted as the character recognizing his love among the dark and her being the only light around. This metaphor and comparison of Dido to a moon are symbolic when viewed from the viewpoint of her life ending in such as dramatic way.
Mainly, Dido could not deal with Aeneas leaving her to continue his journey, which is why she decided to kill herself. Still, for Aeneas, she was shining as bright as a moon in the dark, the only source of light in this setting. Moreover, he recognized her easily in this setting, which is something that Virgil’s choice of words makes clear to the reader. Hence, one can interpret this part of the passage as a confirmation of Aeneas’s feelings for Dido, and he still loves her and regrets that his departure has caused her suffering.
Dido, on the other hand, is no longer occupied by emotions as her recent wound is causing her death. This passage, which is the final meeting between Dido and Aeneas, shows the two saying their final goodbyes before the former’s death and departure to the other world. Here, Virgil describes Dido’s behavior saying that she was as a “Marsepian stone” or an “immobile granite” (633). Here, the author shows that Dido expressed no emotion when listening to Aeneas’s explanations about why he had to leave.
She stood there listening, expressing no emotions, and after Aeneas’s last words, she turned and left. Perhaps, one reason explaining why she is emotionless is because her death disconnected her from the suffering she felt while being alive, and she is no longer concerned with the issues that bothered her during her death. Hence, this part of the passage and Dido’s departure shows that her suffering has ended, and she moved on to the world of the dead to be reunited with her husband and continue her afterlife in peace.
Interestingly, Virgil refers to the “deep wood” in this passage, where Dido kills herself after Aeneid’s departure. Virgin describes the setting of this scene as a dark place surrounded by wood, where Aeneas and Dido meet for the last time. This place is something that is between the world of the dead and the living. At the end of the scene, Aeneas sees Dido leave and join her deceased husband, which means that she has passed away.
In this passage of “Aeneid,” the author aims to further emphasize the main theme of his work, which is the primacy of fate. Aeneas, despite his affection for Dido and their mutual love, departs from her island because he knows that his destiny is to be the founder of a new city. Moreover, he explains this to Dido when he realizes that she has killed herself. Yet, she does not reply and simply walks away to reunite with her deceased husband. Hence, Virgil shows the regret that Aeneas has because he understands that his departure from Carthage has caused Dido’s suffering and led to her killing herself. Still, Aeneas’s words show that he has accepted the fact that he had to leave and move forward to fulfill the prophecy.
Virgil shows that fate is more powerful than emotions, affection, or people’s desires. Moreover, in this passage, Dido does not speak a word, which is perhaps an indication that she accepts that fate is indeed more powerful than their feelings. Her emotionless expression also shows that there is nothing she feels or wants to express. Aeneas says: “I left your land against my will, my queen” (Virgil 620). This line further emphasizes the power of faith, which is stronger than the emotions or desires of people.
This scene has a lot of meaning in the context of the relationship between Dido and Aeneas. Mainly, the latter could not resist his fate as, since his departure from Troya, he knew that he was destined to become a founder of Rome. Dido, on the other hand, could not resist her feelings and suffering. Hence, this passage and Virgil’s choice of words and metaphors showcase that Aeneas still has deep feelings for Dido while she is able to find her peace in the afterlife. Hence, this passage serves as a closure for a relationship between the two since they could no longer be together.
In summary, this paper is a discussion of a passage from Virgil’s “Aeneid.” In this passage, Virgil describes the final meeting of Dido and Aeneas. The two were in love; however, Aeneas was destined to leave Dido’s land to become a founder of a new city. The former could not deal with grief, which is why she ended her life. In this passage, Virgil uses metaphors to show Dido’s calmness as she departs to the other world while emphasizing Aeneas’s feelings for her.
Virgil. Aeneid. Vintage Classics, 1990.