Book 4 - Dido

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Dido now loves Aeneas and Juno arranges a kind of marriage on order to keep him with Dido and prevent him from founding the city which was fated to destory her beloved Carthage. Jupiter reminds Aeneas of his destiny and orders him to leave Dido. She senses that he is going to abandon her and builds a great pyre, ostensibly to cure herself of love by burning the relics of Aeneas' stay. She curses Aeneas, calls upon her Carthaginians to wage eternal war against his people and dies in the flames.

Dido's Guilt?

This book has gripped the imagination of readers for two millennia as a love story and as such it needs little comment. Part of its power may come from the eternal questions it raises and does not answer: the suffering of the eternal and the deceived, the conflict between love and duty, and the relationship between free will and irrestible fate.

The case against Dido could not be put more harshly than she putsit herself in her first speech and at line 552. When her husband died, she swore an oath that she ould never love anoher man, and she broke it to love Aeneas. Against that self-condemnation a substantial defence could be erected. Would it be inhuman to hold a wife to such an oath taken in the moment of bereavement? It would certainly be harsh to condemn her to death for breaking it. Would any widow be condemned for marrying again? Certainly not in Virgil's Rome. This case can be supported by the personal and political arguments in favour of marriage put so persuasively by Dido's own sister.

But the clinching consideration is probably the unscrupulous cynicism of the two goddesses who engineer Dido's destruction for their own ends, To protect her son Aeneas, Venus has already driven Dido into madness. Now, to block his destiny to found a city, Juno proposes that Aeneas should settle in Carthage as Dido's husband. Venus, the daughter of Jupiter, has already been told by Jupiter himself that all this is totally contrary to his will, but she dissembles and urges Juno, the wife of Jupiter, to go and put this proposal to her husband. The two shrews play out their charade, each pursuing her own ends. Juno sets up a false marriage with herself as matron of honour, nymphs howling the wedding hymn and fires of heaven's lightning instead of marriage torches. The powerless human being is crushed between two goddesses.

This is to…

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