Dutiful Men and Their Emotional Women in the Odyssey and Aeneid

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“Dutiful Men and their Emotional Women”

In reading the Aeneid I took a particular interest in the relationship that develops between Aeneas and Dido and how this relationship highlights the desires and roles that each gender may have had in this time period. For example it seems the male desire is to seek his kingdom while the female role seems to secure a partner. Dido and Aeneas in Book Four resemble the relationship that we see between Odysseus and Calypso in Book Five of the Odyssey. The departure of the two men in both books highlights the women’s perceptions of what their relationships were. Looking at this comparison it is interesting to see what drives each woman and man in these situations. The departures of Aeneas from Dido and of Odysseus from Calypso are influenced by the gods but not forced by them. Aeneas and Odysseus both have a strong desire and sense of duty to seek their home and kingdom. In Aeneas’ case, he is unaware of the precise placing of his kingdom but is still determined to find it. Mercury encourages Aeneas to continue his journey and to seek his own fame and stop “building her gorgeous city” (Aen. IV. 332). Aeneas had previously been a dutiful guest and had returned the favour of xenia by pleasing Dido sexually, when “he was truly overwhelmed by the vision” (Aen.IV.346), Aeneas does not argue with his encouragement but instead “now yearns to be gone” (Aen.IV. 347). His decision to “fit out the fleet, but not a word [to Dido}” (Aen.IV.358) shows his disregard for Dido’s feelings and the sneaky means of departure that he decided to take. He did not take long to accept the gods’ request for him to leave and did not hesitate in leaving without an explanation for Dido; his departure was more important than any explanation to a sexual partner. This shows that his actions were more dependent on seeking his own kingdom than pleasing and retaining a woman. Aeneas implies that he did not mean to be deceitful which would mean his actions...
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