Destiny, Love, and Suffering: The Relationship between Aeneas and Dido

Essay by khouckUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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The wretched love affair of Aeneas and Dido is one of the most prominent events in The Aeneid by Virgil. In The Aeneid, love is represented in the same manner as the gods. Love is shown as an outside force acting upon mortals, not a function of the individual's free will or inherent identity. It is Aeneas' fate and civic responsibility to get to Italy in order to establish the Roman line and eventual Empire and because of these duties, love is something Aeneas can never fully succumb to. To Virgil, love is a force at odds with law and fate, and it distracts its victims from their responsibilities. The thesis of this paper is that because of the interference of gods and fate in Aeneas' life, the romance between he and Dido is damned before it ever really commences. By examining Aeneas' heroic character and his willingness to subordinate his desire for Dido to his fated duty and civic responsibility we can better understand Aeneas' behavior and the outcome of his relationship with Dido.

In The Aeneid, the power of fate stands above the power of the gods in the hierarchy supernatural forces. Fate, to Virgil's Roman audience is divine. This, along with Aeneas' devotion of his life to his gods, fate, and his people plays a significant role in the destruction of his relationship with Dido. Aeneas behaves very honorably towards the gods and earnestly seeks to find out their wishes and conform to them as fully as possible.

Aeneas, more than Dido, is ruled by fate -- his duty to fulfill his destiny is ultimately more important than his social life. Aeneas' words to Dido in book IV and VI express his commitment to obey fate rather than indulge his feelings of genuine romantic...