Aeneid: Book 4 Summary: Dido

Aeneid: Book 4 Summary: Dido

Dido loves Aeneas. Juno arranges marriage to keep him with Dido- so can’t found Rome. Jupiter reminds Aeneas of his destiny, orders him to leave. She builds pyre, to cure herself of love by burning relics of Aeneas’ stay. Curses Aeneas, calls upon Carthaginians to wage eternal war against his people. Dies in the flames.

Literary Context


  • Dido as wounded doe…Aeneas unaware sheperd…an arrow that will bring her death pg 71

Virgil “intervenes” to ask Dido a question “what were your feelings, Dido” pg 81

Oral Tradition

themes within the epics including: 


  • Aeneas debased as effeminate by Iarbas pg 75
  • Aeneas immediately takes dutiful position after Mercury’s rallying pg 77
  • Aeneas suppresses his true feelings to Dido, in order to carry out Jupiters will pg 78
  • Aeneas a tree buffeted by many winds (Dido’s appeals), yet he stands firm pg 82

honour and reputation

  • Aeneas reputation will help protect and nurture great kingdom pg 70
  • Aeneas had been compared to Apollo pg 73


  • Aeneas talks of Anchises’ dreams: his father warning him: but Aeneas has been ignoring such warnings (uses this as excuse to Dido)
  • Uses Ascanius as an excuse to leave: he is depriving his son of a kingdom if he does not go and found Rome pg 79
  • Anna complains that her sister deceived her, abandoned her as well as her people, leaders and city pg 88


Anna advises Dido to enjoy children and love rather than grieving for dead husband

Also gives political advice: marry Aeneas to protect Carthage


“We have seen her in Book 1 as a proud queen, a woman of outstanding abilities and achievements, so that her agony, uncertainty and final despair is far more tragic”

At first, remains loyal to husband

  • “this is the only man who has stirred my feelings” devotion of Dido clear

Previous self-control and majesty shattered

“she would hang on his lips as he told the story”

Fatal flaw

No longer builds Carthage’s walls or train troops pg 71

Sister, Anna

  • Her words convince Dido to fall in love: succumb to true love and good match pg 70

The gods

Is it a comedy of manners between Juno and Venus that engineer her destruction?

Or do these two gods represent Dido’s torn loyalties: to either her dead husband or to marry Aeneas

The plot discovered

  • Dido very wise to scheme of Aeneas’ departure: because of her great love, devotion and anxiety of losing him
  • Compared to a Bacchant, I.e high on drugs and drunk: shows complete loss of ratio, I.e rational thnking


Dido claims that Aeneas will get the punishment he deserves in due time pg 80

Dido will stalk Aeneas and haunt him even after death pg 80


Dido gets Anna to plead with Aeneas to stay a while so her grief and anguish can soften pg 81


Dido understand that she can’t force her Tyrian bands back out to sea.

Struggling with her duty to the state…should she marry etc pg 84/5

Piety: gives offerings all day long pg 71

Nonsensical babbling

  • Dido suddenly starts referring to Aeneas in third person, as she becomes detached and distant…no longer acting like a normal human being


  • Dido thinks she can endure suffering


Pg 88…Anna comes back in, aghast at being deceived

Tragic: Dido gives up everything for her personal love

A tragic heroine

Compared to Pentheus (Euripides Bacchae, driven mad)

Compared to Orestes (kills mother after she killed his father)

Then compared to Medea in relation to Dido’s magic arts that she claims to use to revenge upon Aeneas pg 83

Compared to Medea: wants to tear Aeneas limb from limb, scatter in sea 86

Compared to Atreus, who served up sons to Thyestes 86


“Women are unstable creatures” Mercury comments on Dido’s impending rage 85


the role of the gods

  • Juno tries to delay fate: by trying to arrange permanent marriage between Dido and Aeneas…negiotiating with Venus pg 72
  • Rumour in giving gossip to King Iarbas: to make him angry pg 74
  • Iarbas raging at Jupiter and how his prayers and devotion is useless pg 75
    • f to Iliad: Hector to Apollo
  • Mercury in rallying Aeneas to leave pg 77 reminds him of his fate and his family
  • Blocking of Aeneas ears to Dido’s appeals top of page 82
  • Mercury reminds Aeneas to leave before Dido goes mad and sets fire to his ships pg 85
  • Juno sends Iris to finally take Dido’s soul and end her suffering that is apparently pitiable and before her time pg 89

the power of fate

  • Omens when Dido is sacrificing, milk turning black, hearing the voice of her husband (it was an owl)

the portrayal of war

 moral values

  • Dido decides to abandon oath of Chastity sworn after death of husband pg 69
  • Real marriage between Dido and Aeneas? Pg 74
    • No: Dido is deluded and interprets natural events, like fires, the heavens as witnesses and nymphs as wedding song, as marriage events.
    • Therefore Aeneas has NOT broken any marriage laws
  • Aeneas immediately takes dutiful position after Mercury’s rallying pg 77 REALISES that his behaviour was wrong?
  • Is Aeneas too cold hearted in his reasoning to Dido? Declares that he would not marry her even if the fates allowed pg 79
  • Dido gives very Epicurean view that gods are distant and detached- that they exist but don’t get involved pg 80
  • Dido gives list of things she hasn’t done to Aeneas, flabbergasted at her punishment pg 81 why does he hate me
  • Dido berates self for breaking oath of Chastity to dead husband, decides she must die as punishment pg 85

role of Aeneas in Rome’s imperial destiny.

  • “subduing the whole world under his laws” Iarbas talks of fate…i.e the fact that Rome will take over the world and civilise it with its laws pg 76

Historical Context

Virgil’s relationship to the regime of Augustus;

the political and historical background in which the Aeneid/Iliad  was written.

  • Venus “who would be so insane as to reject such an offer and choose instead to contend with you in war”. Reflects Punic wars…ROme vs Carthage.
  • Romulus and Remus myth reflected in fact that Aeneas had been compared to Apollo pg 73. Dido compared to Diana in book 1. Diana and Apollo were twins.
  • Reference to Hannibal “unknown avenger” 217/216BC Dido makes prayer condemning Aeneas and Rome








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