Study Guide

The Aeneid Book 4

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Book 4

  • If she had a bit of a crush on him before, now that Aeneas has finished his story, Dido totally has the hots for him.
  • The next morning, she confides in her sister, Anna. She says that even though she swore she would never love anyone after her dead husband, Sychaeus, she seriously wants to get with Aeneas. But she decides she can't do that.
  • Anna says, "What do the dead care if you're faithful or not? Anyway, Carthage is surrounded by enemies. We could use a strong alliance. At least get the Trojans to stay for the winter."
  • The days pass, and Dido becomes more and more in love. The city's building projects stall with no one to oversee them.
  • The goddess Juno, seeing what is going on, recognizes Venus's fingerprints all over it.
  • She takes the matter up with Venus, and suggests they get Dido and Aeneas to marry.
  • Venus – who knows that Juno wants to keep the Trojans down – says that they should maybe check with Jupiter first.
  • Juno says, "Leave it to me. But first, let's do some matchmaking. Soon, Dido and Aeneas are going to go out hunting. While they're out there, I'll whip up some rain, so they will have to take shelter together in a cave. Then we'll put on some Barry White – or the equivalent – and wait for the magic to happen."
  • Things go according to plan, the magic happens, and Dido begins to see herself and Aeneas as married. (Notice a certain lack of symmetry?)
  • But Rumor – described as a weird winged goddess with as many eyes and tongues as feathers – can't pass up a juicy story like that.
  • Eventually, word makes its way to the North African king Iarbas, whose father is Jupiter, and who was once rejected by Dido.
  • Iarbas doesn't like this one bit, and complains to his daddy about it.
  • Hearing his son's complaint, Jupiter takes a good look at what is going on down in Carthage. Then he sends the god Mercury to go and ask Aeneas, "What's the deal?" and remind him that he's supposed to be founding a city in Italy.
  • Mercury heads down and finds Aeneas supervising the construction of Carthage's walls, all the while sporting some fancy-pants Carthaginian duds.
  • Mercury passes along Jupiter's message, and tells Aeneas to think about his son Ascanius, and what sort of legacy he is going to leave him.
  • Then Mercury flies off, leaving Aeneas to say, "Dang." He tells the other Trojans to get the fleet ready for departure.
  • He tries to keep the preparations secret, but Dido gets wind of it and becomes royally angry.
  • When she confronts Aeneas about it, Aeneas is like, "OK. It's true, I am leaving. But we're not married, and I've got to go found a city in Italy. My dad keeps appearing to me in my dreams and pestering me about it; I've got to leave a legacy for Ascanius; and now the messenger of the gods has told me to get a move on. It's not my fault."
  • As you might expect, Dido doesn't take this too well. In fact, she tells him to get lost – and that she hopes his ship sinks.
  • Then Dido runs off and faints; her maids carry her back to her bedroom.
  • The Trojans keep getting ready to set sail.
  • When Dido comes to, she sees them, and tells her sister Anna to go and tell them to wait for better winds at least.
  • Anna goes and tells him, but Aeneas won't listen.
  • Dido then gets troubled by a bunch of weird happenings. For example, water blackens on her altars, and wine turns to blood. Voices seem to arise from the shrine of her dead husband.
  • It seems that everything is going to Hades in a hand basket. Dido decides to commit suicide.
  • Dido tells Anna to prepare a pyre, claiming she only wants it to burn some things that Aeneas has left behind.
  • That night, Dido ponders again what she should do. She considers following the Trojans, but decides against it. She reaffirms to herself her intention to commit suicide. Now she is also motivated by guilt at having been unfaithful to the memory of Sychaeus.
  • Meanwhile, Aeneas is sleeping on the stern of his beached ship. Mercury comes down and tells him, in a dream, to get a move on.
  • Aeneas wakes up, tells the other Trojans to sail out. They do.
  • Then Dido wakes up and sees the Trojans leaving. She wishes she had killed Aeneas when she had the chance.
  • She prays that his mission will fail, and this her people and his will become enemies. (We know from subsequent Roman history – i.e., the Punic Wars – that her wish will come true.)
  • Then Dido sends her sister's old nurse to tell Anna to get a pyre ready; she claims that she wants to burn some stuff that Aeneas left behind.
  • After Anna builds the pyre, Dido climbs on top of it and stabs herself with a sword once given to her by Aeneas.
  • Anna climbs onto the pyre herself and tries to save the dying Dido, but it is too late.
  • Juno sends down Iris, the messenger of the gods, to take a lock of Dido's hair and prepare her for death. Iris does this, and Dido dies.

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