Student Question

Who is most responsible for Dido's death in the Aeneid: Aeneas, Anna, Venus, Juno, or Dido?

Quick answer:

Although there's plenty of blame to go around, it is the gods who are ultimately responsible for the death of Dido. Dido and Aeneas: Star-crossed Lovers The love story of Dido and Aeneas is one of the most memorable in all of literature. The word "star-crossed" is a perfect description for their doomed relationship. Venus, Juno, and Jupiter conspire to bring these two brilliant individuals together only to tear them apart again in a whirlwind of tragedy and heartbreak.

Expert Answers

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It's difficult to apportion responsibility for anything that happens in the Aeneid. This is because the action of the story represents the unfolding of fate decided in advance by the gods. Dido has been manipulated by Juno and Venus to fall head over heels in love with Aeneas, and there's absolutely nothing she can do about it. She has been assigned a specific role in the legend of Rome's founding and she must act it out right up until her tragic demise.

At the same time, by Book IV Dido is certainly aware that her all-consuming love for Aeneas is damaging her reputation as queen of Carthage and causing her kingdom to go to wrack and ruin. But she cannot take responsibility for her actions; this is no ordinary love, no high school crush. The love that she has for Aeneas comes from the gods. It is the kind of love of which no mere mortal could ever begin to conceive. Under these circumstances it seems more than a little unfair to blame Dido for her own downfall.

Then what about Aeneas? Does he really have much choice in abandoning Dido and continuing with his epic journey? Not really. Because again, Aeneas, like Dido, has been assigned a role in this epic drama by the gods and he too must carry it out. But he's still a mortal. And beneath his heroic exterior beats the heart of a human being. Aeneas loves Dido, and like any man in his situation he's torn between his love for her and his duty to complete his divine mission. Above all else he is a warrior, steeped in a warrior's code of honor since he was knee-high. So he must do his duty; he must do right by the gods and his people.

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