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1. How negatively does Aeneas’s abandonment of Dido reflect on his character? Though Aeneas cannot resist the will of the gods or fate, which demands that he leave Carthage, the manner in which he leaves Dido is not beyond contempt. We know from other passages that Aeneas is not a character without compassion, yet if Aeneas feels genuine sympathy for the lover he is about to abandon, he fails to express it well. He speaks formally and tersely to Dido, offers her little comfort, and denies that an official marriage bound them to each other. He refers to Troy and the new home he plans to found in Italy and talks of his son’s future. We can find fault in Aeneas because, while Virgil allows us a view of Aeneas’s emotions of sadness, regret, and reluctance as he leaves Carthage, Aeneas expresses little of these emotions to Dido. If we consider one’s self to reside in one’s will and emotions, Aeneas betrays himself by leaving Dido, and he admits as much, claiming that her words set them “both afire” (IV.498). Both Aeneas and Dido face a conflict between civic responsibility and individual desire. Aeneas sides with his obligations, while Dido submits to her desires, and so their love is tragically impossible. In terms of his patriotic duty, Aeneas acts impeccably, though he may be faulted for staying with Dido in Carthage as long as he does. His abandonment of Dido is necessary his service to Troy, his allies, his son, his father, and fate. From this point of view, Aeneas acts correctly in subjecting his desires to the benefit of the Trojan people. Dido fails her city by ignoring her civic duty from the point when she falls in love with Aeneas to her suicide. Virgil suggests that Dido’s suicide mythically anticipates Rome’s defeat of Carthage, hundreds of years later. How negatively we judge Aeneas for his abandonment of Dido depends not on whether we sympathize with or blame Dido, but on whether we believe that...
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