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The Aeneid Duty Quotes

How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Book.Line). We used Robert Fitzgerald's translation.

Quote #4

'Each night thoughts come of young Ascanius,
My dear boy wronged, defrauded of his kingdom,
Hesperian lands of destiny. And now
The gods' interpreter, sent by Jove himself—
I swear it by your head and mine—has brought
Commands down through the racing winds! I say
With my own eyes in full daylight I saw him
Entering the building! With my very ears
I drank his message in! So please, no more
Of these appeals that set us both afire.
I sail for Italy not of my own will.' (4.489-499)

These words, spoken by Aeneas to Dido when she confronts him about leaving, are his version of the "It's not you, it's me" speech. Well, make that the "It's not you, but it's not me either: it's the implacable powers of destiny that we all must obey." Here, as elsewhere, the Aeneid portrays duty as conflicting with personal desires and connections.

Quote #5

Aeneas, though he struggled with desire
To calm and comfort her in all her pain,
To speak to her and turn her mind from grief,
And though he sighed his heart out, shaken still
With love of her, yet took the course heaven gave him
And went back to the fleet. (4.545-551)

This passage continues the same theme as the previous one. What is different here is that now we see more clearly how Aeneas himself "struggles with desire" for a different life. Why do you think Virgil chose to give us this glimpse into his hero's heart? Do you think knowing how Aeneas acted against his own feelings makes him a greater or a lesser hero?

Quote #6

This was the company of those who suffered
Wounds in battle for their country; those
Who in their lives were holy men and chaste
Or worthy of Phoebus in prophetic song;
Or those two bettered life, by finding out
New truths and skills; or those who to some folk
By benefactions made themselves remembered. (6.883-889)

These lines come from the description of Elysium, the pleasant part of the underworld where good people get to chill out until they're reborn. One thing many (though not all) of these people have in common is that they acted for the benefit of others; some have made the ultimate sacrifice for their community. How does this scene from the underworld contribute to the Aeneid's overall perspective on duty?

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