Suggested Essay Topics
Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 823
1. While the first six books of the Aeneid imitate in many ways Homer’s Odyssey, Aeneas is a very different man from Odysseus. What virtues does Aeneas possess? What methods does Virgil use to show Aeneas’ character? If possible, contrast Aeneas to the Homeric hero.
2. The gods play an important role in the Aeneid. How does Virgil use them? Describe the roles played in Book One by Juno, Jupiter, and Venus, both as actors and as vehicles for manipulating the audience.
1. While epithets are poetically necessary to fill out a meter, a good poet will use them to add to his work. What do Aeneas’ epithets reveal about his personality and his destiny?
2. Examine the encounter of Aeneas and Helen. Why does he wish to kill her? How does this episode affect your interpretation of Aeneas’ character? Would you exclude this passage from the Aeneid, and why?
1. As will be seen in Book 4, Aeneas’ story has only made him more attractive to Dido. What elements of Aeneas’ tale could she sympathize with? How has Aeneas been made to look great? What other portions of the tale could have drawn Dido closer to Aeneas? Draw from both Books 2 and 3.
2. Analyzing the prophecies of Aeneas’ future, show how they both predict and influence Aeneas’ actions. Does Aeneas still have free will?
1. There is much debate over Aeneas' "guilt" in the death of Dido. Is he responsible for her death? Toward whom is the reader’s sympathy drawn?
2. Virgil is fond of the language of the hunt. Discuss the role of hunting in the Aeneid. How do the roles of hunter and hunted define the characters of Dido and Aeneas? Be sure to draw from Virgil’s use of similes.
3. Dido comes to life brilliantly in this book, so much that she outshines Aeneas. Analyze the characterization of Dido, pointing out the many literary devices that Virgil uses to give her depth.
1. Carefully examine all of the prizes won during the games. Choose the three best and discuss their symbolism.
2. Examine the events of the boat race. How do the personalities of the captains reveal themselves in their sailing styles? What lesson can be learned from the results of the race? How do Roman values fit into the race’s conclusion?
1. What is the meaning of Aeneas’ exit through the gate of ivory? What would it have meant if he had exited through the gate of horn?
2. How does this book serve as a pivot for the work? What expectations does the Heroscopia give the reader for the rest of the work?
1. The marriage of fire and fury is well developed in this book. Discuss the language Virgil uses to develop this theme as it relates to Juno, Amata, and Turnus.
2. Another unifying theme of the Aeneid is the movement from the old way of life to a more civilized way of life. Discuss how the Italians and their lifestyle are depicted as the older way. What is good about it, and what is bad?
1. The story of Hercules is a metaphor for Aeneas’ trials in Italy. What parallels exist between his tale and Hercules? Without knowing the end of the tale, what does Aeneas’ arrival promise for the Italians?
2. Compare the shield of Aeneas to the Heroscopia. How do the two predictions differ? What does each imply about Aeneas’ role in his new community as well as in Rome?
1. Examine the two episodes involving Nisus and Euryalus. Are the apparent discrepancies mistakes or deliberate literary choices? If mistakes, what do you think was Virgil’s intended version and intended message? If deliberate, what underlying message was Virgil trying to convey?
2. Compare Turnus to Aeneas. How are their characters different? How has Virgil made each of them sympathetic? Examine their words and actions as well as the similes Virgil uses to describe them.
1. While Turnus is the “bad guy” in the Aeneid, Aeneas becomes a force of disorder in this book—or does he? Examine the actions and words of Aeneas as well as his narrative description to determine whether or not Aeneas has become the antagonist in Book 10.
2. Examine the characters of Pallas and Lausus. How are they similar? How are they different? What symbolic role do they fill in the book?
1. Examine the varied references to the gods in this book. How does the inclusion of these supernatural forces affect the book? What messages is Virgil conveying through their use?
2. Analyze the portrait of King Latinus painted by Virgil. How is he made to appear a man whose time to rule has passed?
1. This book has the second most references to the Iliad. If you have read the Iliad, explain these similarities in detail. Does Virgil succeed in his desire to become the Roman Homer, or does he fall short?
2. Could Turnus have been allowed to survive? Discuss why or why not.