How much control do women have over their emotions in the Aeneid? In his poem, Virgil frequently shows women in situations where irrational thoughts lead to harmful choices. Specifically, Virgil presents women as being easily influenced by their emotions. Consequently, these characters make decisions that harm both themselves and those around them. Throughout Aeneas’s journey, divinities such as Juno and Venus are seen taking advantage of the emotions of different women, influencing these characters to act in ways that ignore important priorities. Not only does Virgil present women as completely vulnerable to their emotions, but he also shows the problems that arise when these women engage in decisions where they put their own feelings ahead of their people. Virgil explicitly shows women neglecting important responsibilities when he describes passages concerned with Dido’s affair and her death, the Trojan women burning their own ships, Queen Amata’s opposition to Latinus’s proposal and her tragic death.
Once Dido falls in love with Aeneas, Virgil uses a simile to describe the wound that Dido suffers from.
The flame keeps gnawing into her tender marrow hour by hour
and deep in her heart the silent wound lives on.
Dido burns with love—the tragic queen.
She wanders in frenzy through her own city streets
like a wounded doe caught off guard by a hunter
stalking the woods of Crete, who strikes her from afar
and leaves his winging steel in her flesh, and he’s unaware
but she veers in flight through Dicte’s woody glades,
fixed in her side the shaft that takes her life (IV 84-92).
In contrast to other passages where Virgil describes deer being hunted, Virgil presents the wound as something internal. On the one hand, Aeneas is completely unaware of the fact that he has shot Dido. On the other hand, Virgil notes that Dido’s love for Aeneas has caused her to suffer. Dido’s emotions have caused her to act like a wounded animal, not thinking about the consequences of her own actions. By being reduced to an animal, Dido has lost all rational thought. Consequently, Dido’s lack of rational thought causes her to begin to ignore other duties she has to fulfill.
After she falls in love with Aeneas, Dido disregards the vow that she made to her suitors. While Aeneas and Dido go hunting, Juno sends down a storm that forces the two into a cave. In the cave, Dido makes love to Aeneas and calls the affair a marriage. Shortly after this incident, news spreads beyond her kingdom that the Carthaginian leader has abandoned her obligations as a ruler. When the news reaches Iarbas, one of Dido’s suitors, the African king expresses his anger (IV 264-274). Dido’s love for Aeneas has caused her to ignore basic agreements that she has established. Not only did Dido lie to Iarbas, but she has also forgotten to keep the promise that she made to herself to not marry another...