|Discussion Topics and Questions for Vergil’s Aeneid Books 4-6
Death and dying are staples of epic poetry, but usually in the context of battle. There are numerous deaths in the first books of the Aeneid, but not all of them are a result of warriors fighting one another. How do the different deaths add meaning to the Aeneid? In many cases, individual characters symbolize something which must be lost, discarded, or sacrificed in order for the epic to move forward (not only as a narrative, but also in terms of theme). What do these dying figures represent?
Are Dido’s emotions upon Aeneas’ departure from Carthage justified? Why or why not?
Is Aeneas justified in leaving Dido and in his harsh rejection of her?
What influence do Juno and Venus have on the relationship between Dido and Aeneas?
How does the personification of Rumor (4.198-222) affect the readers’ perception of Dido and Aeneas’ relationship?
Discuss the effect of Dido’s speech to Aeneas in 4.344-374 and his response. What is the role of speech in general and the role of silence (think also of Aeneas’ later underworld encounter with Dido’s shade in Book VI).
Themes: discuss the significance of fire in Book 4 and water in Book 6.
If Book 6 isn’t blatant praise of Augustus’ reign, Jupiter knows what is. Does Anchises’ prophetic speech regarding the future of Aeneas’ race seem contrived, or does it serve as a further justification of Aeneas’ journey and sacrifices?
We’ve talked about ecphrasis some before (e.g. Chaerea’s “explanation” of the myth of Jupiter and Danae in Terence’s Eunuch). What are the examples of ecphrasis thus far in the work (i.e. through Book 6—another famous version appears in Book 8, the description of the shield of Aeneas)? What purpose does ecphrasis serve in the Aeneid?