Monday, September 23, 2013

The Aeneid: The Dido Problem

Aeneas finishes his story about how he escaped Troy with his son and father and a ton of other people (remind me again, did anyone actually DIE in the Trojan War?  Because it seems like the whole population escaped with Aeneas).  His rapt audience, Queen Dido, is like, “So your wife died…that means you’re single, right?”  And they immediately begin a romantic affair where she thinks they’re married and Aeneas is just like “Of course she’s in love with me.  Everybody loves Aeneas.”*

Then Venus, who made Dido fall in love with Aeneas in the first place so Dido wouldn’t kill the Trojans for trespassing on her borders of Carthage, comes and gives Aeneas a guilt trip for not abandoning Dido and going to Italy to Fulfill his Destiny.

So Aeneas like a good momma’s boy dumps Dido and builds a bunch of ships and starts cruising across the Mediterranean. 
Ahh the good old days when Dido and Aeneas would go around horseback riding half-naked and apparently with wings, without a care in the world.  These are the kind of memories Dido was no doubt thinking of as she burned and bled to death.

Dido has given everything up for her love for Aeneas.  She used to be a pretty cool Queen, but now her subjects have lost their confidence in her after seeing her go all gaga over a strange foreigner.  She used to be a devoted servant of Juno, the goddess of homemaking and matrimony, before she entered into an extramarital affair which sullied her reputation as a spotless widow.  So, realizing Virgil has completely ruined her character, Dido decides to commit suicide by burning all Aeneas’ stuff while she stands on the burning pyre and stabs herself with his sword.

All of this kind of explains how Carthage and Rome later became bitter enemies, doesn’t it?

Later on when Aeneas goes to the Land of the Dead and sees Dido, he’s all “Hey girl what’s happening?” and she basically sings “Go on now go, walk out the door, just turn around now, ‘cause you’re not welcome anymore!”** and then goes off to be with her ghost husband and be dead happily ever after.

*Which would make a terrible sitcom premise.
**This is of course a paraphrase.  I don’t know what she would say when she got to the “I will survive” chorus, though, on account of her being dead….

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