Fraudulent Hero-The Aeneid Essay, Research Paper
Fraudulent Hero/Deceitful Love
The Relationship of Aeneas and Dido in The Aeneid
What constitutes a hero? Is he someone who wears blue tights a red cape and has a big S on his chest? Is he faster than a speeding bullet, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, more powerful than a locomotive? No its not a bird, and its not a plane, and guess what, its not superman either. A hero is someone who demonstrates faith, loyalty, courage, valor, strength, and above all truth; not in a comic book but in human events based upon reality. Virgil would have us believe that Aeneas in The Aeneid possess all of these heroic traits. Yet, we find out that our so-called hero’s relationship with Dido lacks some very important characteristics of heroism, most importantly truth. First, here is the story of Dido and Aeneas.
After traveling for seven years, the Trojans sail towards Italy. At the request of Juno, Aeolus raises a storm that sinks one of the fleet and scatters the rest.
Neptune calms the sea while Aeneas and six other ships arrive somewhere in North Africa. Venus complains to Jupiter about her son’s treatment and sends
Mercury to ensure that they are welcomed by the Carthaginians. Aeneas encounters his mother who is disguised as a huntress and who conveys him to Carthage in a cloud. She arranges for Dido to fall in love with him. We see at the very beginning of Book 4 that Venus’ schemes are coming to fruition and Dido is rapidly becoming enamored of Aeneas. On the human level, this is her response to the stories of Books 2-3: his history and his sufferings fascinate her. Egged on by her sister Anna, Dido cultivates her passion; at the same time, she must give up the attachment to her former husband that she has cherished since his death. Yet more immortal manipulations occur: Juno and Venus, after a meeting of the minds, decide that everyone’s problems could be solved if they could join Aeneas and Dido in some semblance of a marriage. Aeneas would have his city, Venus would not have to worry about his future wanderings, and Juno’s beloved Carthage would not be at risk of future conflicts with Rome. The downside, of course, is that Aeneas will still not be settled in the land for which he is destined. Thanks to Venus and Juno, Dido and Aeneas are caught in a storm while out hunting. With the accompaniment of divinely supplied torches and hymns, conventional elements of a wedding, they have a fateful (but discreetly downplayed) moment of passion in a sheltering cave. This does not, however, constitute a real wedding; while Dido considers them married, we learn that Aeneas does not. Iarbas, a neighbor and frustrated suitor of Dido’s, hears of the new romance and is outraged. He prays to Jupiter, who intervenes in the relationship, sending Mercury, the messenger god, to set Aeneas back on track. Aeneas tries to leave without Dido’s knowing; Dido finds out anyway and is distraught. The two have a confrontation, in which Aeneas argues that he had been under no obligation to Dido. He leaves, and she commits suicide.
Dido is a victim; Aeneas used her as a means to and end. Aeneas needed shelter and supplies to help him on his journey and he saw this opportunity in Dido. Dido’s true love was her first husband and she had made an oath to never remarry. It was the manipulating of the Gods that caused her to fall in love with Aeneas. Eventually Dido did truly love Aeneas, as proved by her grief and pain at his leaving. Dido was so overcome by sorrow and sadness that her only way to end the pain was death. She wanted nothing more to continue living with her husband. Aeneas was truthfully her husband because the Gods married them. Marriage is a sacred endeavor and if it was the Gods who married them, then their marriage is that much more hallowed. Aeneas is not a hero because he lacks courage when he needs to tell Dido of his departure but more so because he is not truthful with Dido. He is not honest in his love for Dido; Aeneas is using Dido to accomplish his destiny of founding Rome. To truly love someone is to make sacrifices so that love is accomplished and not the selfish desires of one person. Aeneas does not hesitate to leave when Mercury comes to tell him that he has stayed in Carthage to long. This is evidence that Dido means nothing to him and in fact is negligible in his eyes. Aeneas does not think about how Dido will be hurt by his leaving, he can only think about how to get away without her knowing. Aeneas demonstrates the qualities of a deceitful, hurtful, cold man who is only concerned with his own well being. If Aeneas were a true hero he would have been totally honest with Dido from the very beginning and told her that his destiny lay elsewhere.
In conclusion, Aeneas is not a hero because he is not honest with Queen Dido. The important concept to understand is that it is dishonesty in love that causes his major flaw. Love is connected with truth and to separate truth from love leaves you with something other than love. We may think it is love but it is not, we may call it love but it is not. Therefore we can not call Aeneas a hero, in truth he is a fraudulent hero because of his deceitful love.