Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Thin Line Between Love And Fate

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The Thin Line between Love and Fate

Love is a term which is impossible to thoroughly define, yet it is universally understood. Furthermore, the questions surrounding the indefinable term of love are more perplexing than the word itself. What is true love? Can a person love too much? What is love worth? All of these questions are pertinent to Aeneas and Dido, as they have fallen in love with one another. However, Aeneas is destined by the Gods to lay the foundation for Rome and not to remain in Carthage with Dido. Aeneas eventually destroys Dido by abandoning her to fulfill his destiny in Italy; however, is Aeneas just in doing so?

Aeneas is unfair in his desertion of Dido. Aeneas and Dido are deeply in love and for the short period that Aeneas remains in Carthage, he disregards his decreed fate. Aeneas frequently allows his life to be heavily governed by divine forces and by opting to be with Dido, Aeneas finally acts on his own accord. However, after a short time in Carthage Aeneas is confronted by Mercury (sent by Jupiter) and told to leave Carthage to fulfill his destiny. Aeneas chooses to abandon Dido and he willingly complies with the Gods’ commands. Aeneas cares for Dido, yet he treats her without empathy when he prepares to depart to Italy. Virgil narrates that Aeneas feels grief and regret in his decision to leave Dido, yet he expresses no emotion to her. Aeneas’ cold and detached attitude towards Dido drive her to frenzy and she soon kills herself cursing Aeneas as a betrayer. By abandoning Dido, Aeneas sacrifices a happy love and a life in Carthage filled with opportunity. Furthermore, by not expressing his true feelings upon his parting, he takes the strong, secure and competent Dido and drives her to madness. Perhaps Aeneas is virtuous in his respect for the Gods; however, his lack of compassion towards the one he loves is shameful. On the other hand, there are imperfections in Dido and Aeneas’ relationship.

The initial flaw in the love between Dido and Aeneas is that it is not true. Dido is resolute in her decision never to remarry, but she becomes cursed by Cupid’s arrow of love. Dido does not fall for Aeneas based on his character or attributes; she is simply under divine control. Had Venus and Juno abstained from interfering with mortal affairs, there is no telling whether Dido would have embraced Aeneas to begin with. Furthermore Aeneas does not fall in love with Dido, until Juno produces a storm, which leaves Dido and Aeneas stranded alone together. Their love is not real, but it is rather a product of divine intervention. In addition, the love artificial love that Dido holds for Aeneas is overwhelming and far from beneficial.

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Dido describes her love for Aeneas as being like a flame inside of her (IV 7). This reference to fire implies a great deal about Dido’s feelings for Aeneas. Fire is a beautiful thing; it is valuable and powerful, yet without control, it is dangerous and chaotic. Dido’s love for Aeneas is out of control and before long it consumes her. Dido’s mind is devoured by the flames of love inside of her, just as her body is consumed by the flames in the pyre. Dido is so absorbed by her love with Aeneas she allows her emotions to take precedent over he obligations to Carthage. Dido acknowledges the lack of faith her people have in her when she says to Aeneas, “my/ own Tyrians are hostile; and for you/ and that good name that once/ was mine” (IV 40-4). Dido knows that she has sacrificed her honor for her love of Aeneas and the realization that she has lost them both sends her further into madness. Dido was tragically a puppet Juno’s manipulations and she should not be frowned upon for her actions. Aeneas on the other hand, is directed by the greatest of gods and theoretically his actions are inherently honorable.

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