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Barron's Booknotes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Book Summary
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14. There are two possible reasons why Aeneas kills Turnus. First, when he sees the belt that Turnus stole after he killed young Pallas, Aeneas goes wild with rage and can't stop himself from killing, even though Turnus has admitted he was wrong and has asked for an end to hatred. If you think that is why Aeneas kills Turnus, then you'll probably conclude that all the anger and hatred, which started with Juno and has caused so much trouble throughout the Aeneid, has finally infected Aeneas. You'll wonder what that means for the future. Is Aeneas now out of control himself? Or is this an isolated act that finally puts an end to the anger? Whatever you decide, you'll probably be left with the uneasy feeling that Virgil is telling us that once violence starts, it's hard, if not impossible, to stop it.

On the other hand, you may decide that Aeneas' decision to kill Turnus is not made in a burst of rage but is a rational one. You'll point out that Aeneas considers sparing Turnus' life, at first, but when he sees Pallas' belt he remembers how much trouble Turnus has caused and how many people have died needlessly because of him. He kills Turnus to punish him and to prevent him from causing any more trouble. This is a tragic decision for Aeneas, but it shows what a firm leader he will be. On a personal level, he feels sympathy for Turnus and would spare him, but as leader of his people he knows that the surest way to set a good example and restore order is to kill Turnus.


15. Dido and Turnus are similar because they are both infected with uncontrolled passion by the gods (Books I and VII). Both are great and noble people. She is a good and kind queen; he is a brave and handsome warrior. But their passions make them both irrational. Dido disregards her reputation and kingdom. Turnus disregards the welfare of his people in his desire to fight at all costs. He makes mistakes because he is so impulsive. (For example, in Book XII, he leaves his ambush spot and rushes off to another battle minutes before Aeneas will arrive.) Both Dido and Turnus are victims of Aeneas' fate. Aeneas must leave Dido; he must settle in Turnus' land. Finally, both characters present the same philosophical question. Did their passions really originate with the gods or are the gods simply symbols for forces that were already inside both of them?

Dido and Turnus are different because their passions are different. Hers is love, which hurts no one but herself. But Turnus' is war, and his recklessness costs many lives. Dido kills herself but Turnus forces Aeneas to kill him. Dido seems to represent the personal and emotional side of life that Aeneas must leave behind in order to build his new kingdom. But Turnus seems to represent the forces of disorder that must be conquered if that kingdom is to survive. That difference makes Dido's fate seem more tragic than Turnus'.


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