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Book Notes Book 4 Notes from The Aeneid

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The Aeneid Book 4

These tales overcome Dido with love for Aeneas. At dawn, Dido turns to her sister Anna and expresses how impressive she thinks Aeneas is. She admits that Aeneas is the only man who has moved her since the death of her husband Sychaeus. She swears that she will not give up her vow of celibacy, but Anna tells her that Sychaeus would not begrudge her the opportunity to take such a new and powerful husband. She explains that with so many hostile tribes around them, a joint city with the Trojans would be desirable. Dido sacrifices sheep and tries to discern answers from their entrails. She is wild with love and she staggers through the city like a doe hit by an arrow. She keeps thinking she sees Aeneas when he is not around. The city ceases to be built. Juno observes this and she offers a kind of treaty to Venus:

"'Let us make, instead of war,
an everlasting peace and plighted wedding.
You have what you were bent upon: she burns
with love; the frenzy now is in her bones.
Then let us rule this people - you and I-
with equal auspices;'"
Book 4, lines 131-136

Venus suspects that Juno just wants to prevent the founding of Rome to subvert the destruction of Carthage. Lying, Venus tells Juno she will submit to her treaty if Jupiter blesses it. Juno tells her that she will get Jupiter to agree, but in the meantime they should plan a hunting party for the next day in which Dido and Aeneas will be joined in a divine wedding. Venus accepts this deal, knowing Jupiter will not agree.

Dawn rises and they prepare to go out for the hunt. Dido is dressed like a huntress and Aeneas comes out looking like Apollo. Ascanius accompanies them on the hunt. A storm hits while they are riding and Aeneas and Dido find shelter in the same cave. Juno flashes lightning and nymphs sing as the two make love in the cave. Dido thinks this is a marriage, but does not tell Aeneas this. Rumor flies to the other towns with one hundred eyes and mouths announcing the deeds. Iarbas, a local chieftain and son of Jupiter, is enraged because he was refused by Dido when he courted her. He sacrifices to his father and Jupiter hears him. Jupiter instructs Mercury to go and tell Aeneas to seek his real destiny. Mercury flies down and finds Aeneas overseeing the construction of some Carthaginian buildings wearing new clothes. Mercury asks, "'Are you/ now laying the foundation of high Carthage,/ as servant to a woman?'" Book 4, lines 353-5. Mercury repeats Jupiter's order for Aeneas to go to Italy where he is fated to go. Aeneas says that he is afraid of leaving Dido and Mercury orders him to prepare the fleet quietly.

Aeneas waits for the right moment to tell her, but Rumor brings her the news and she goes into a frenzy. She approaches Aeneas and asks him how he hoped to hide such a deed. She tries to plead with him by saying that she is in danger with the native chieftains because she snubbed them. She also says that she has upset her people. Her last desperate attempt is saying that it would not be as bad if she at least had a son to remind her of him. Aeneas tells her that he did not mean to hide the departure and that he does not want to leave but he is forced by fate. Then, he tells her that if he had his way, he would never have left Troy. She doesn't believe that Mercury came to him and becomes irate, swearing that he was born of a mountain lion not Venus. She curses him and tells him to go saying she hopes his ships will be smashed on the rocks. She stops and even though he wants to assuage her anger, Aeneas leaves and readies his companions.

Dido weeps and goes to her sister and asks her to go and plead with Aeneas so that he will stay longer:

"'[P]ity your sister- as a final kindness.
When he has granted it, I shall repay
my debt, and with full interest, by my death.'"
Book 4, lines 599-601

Anna obeys her sister, but Aeneas will not hear her because fate had made him like a mountain battered by winds. He cries as he continues to prepare. Dido prepares for her own suicide hiding it from her sister by alleging that she has come up with some sort of magic remedy to either make Aeneas love her or stop her love for him. She is going to burn all his possessions in her house on a pyre as if they were a body. She empowers Anna to prepare this.

Night comes as Dido tosses and turns thinking of joining the Trojan ships or calling the Carthaginians to arms. She decides to do neither of these things. Aeneas is sleeping on one of his ships and Mercury appears again. He tells Aeneas to leave immediately to avoid danger from the Tyrians. Aeneas rouses his men and they row into the sea as the dawn rises. Dido wakes and sees the abandoned shore. She laments to Jupiter and thinks about hunting Aeneas down. In her frenzy, she wishes she had butchered the Trojans. She prays to Juno for her to guard her in death. Then she pleads that a curse be set on the Trojans:

"'Do not let love or treaty tie our peoples.
May an avenger rise up from my bones,
one who will track with firebrand and sword
the Dardan settlers, now and in the future,
at any time that ways present themselves.'"
Book 4, lines 861-5

She calls to her husband's nurse and tells her to prepare the ceremony with Anna. She mounts the pyre and takes out a sword. She prays to the gods and recounts her deeds to them alleging that she dies unavenged as she shoves the sword in her body. The city begins to riot and when Anna hears the sound she finds out that she helped her sister kill herself. She laments and tells her dying sister that she should have joined her. She tells Dido that she killed her city as the queen tries to get up and tries to speak. She looks up to heaven and dies. Juno sends Iris to take her soul to the underworld.

Topic Tracking: Historical Subtext 3
Topic Tracking: Women 4
Topic Tracking: Omens 4
Topic Tracking: Divine Intervention 4

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