Dutiful Men and Their Emotional Women in the Odyssey and Aeneid Essay

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Pages: 7

“Dutiful Men and their Emotional Women”

In reading the Aeneid I took a particular interest in the relationship that develops between Aeneas and Dido and how this relationship highlights the desires and roles that each gender may have had in this time period. For example it seems the male desire is to seek his kingdom while the female role seems to secure a partner. Dido and Aeneas in Book Four resemble the relationship that we see between Odysseus and Calypso in Book Five of the Odyssey. The departure of the two men in both books highlights the women’s perceptions of what their relationships were. Looking at this comparison it is interesting to see what drives each woman and man in these situations.
The departures of Aeneas from Dido
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For the women, Dido and Calypso, the main focus is gaining a husband, whether with lavish hospitality or with entrapment. Dido is a great hostess and welcomes Aeneas and his men in the most lavish way, and in return expects Aeneas to repay her by being a dutiful guest. Aeneas, of course, obliges out of piety. Although Dido’s initial desire for Aeneas occurred through divine intervention, Dido exaggerates what is purely a physical relationship and “called it marriage” (Aen.IV.217) when it is not. She changes sex into marriage in order to hide “her sense of guilt” (Aen. IV.218) of sex before marriage with a foreigner. This quick leap of judgment shows Dido’s desperation to secure a husband. Here we see the main contrast between the desires of men and women. Dido’s sister Anna initially persuades Dido to ‘marry’ Aeneas because it will benefit her kingdom (“what a kingdom rising high if you marry such a man” –Aen IV. 63). However, while Dido is experiencing this lustful relationship she neglects her city and “the towers of Carthage, half built, rise no more, and the young men quit their combat drills… all work’s suspended now” (Aen. IV .108) which shows that her responsibilities for her city are overshadowed by her desire for a husband. She is delusional in the seriousness of her relationship with Aeneas and lets it hinder her performance as a leader. We further see her oblivion to the reality of their relationship when she thinks that their ‘love’ could