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Free MonkeyNotes Book Notes-The Aeneid by Virgil-Free Online Summary
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CHARACTER ANALYSIS

The Immortals

Major Characters

Venus

As the mother of the hero she can be almost identifies as the divine protagonist. Aware of the destiny that awaits her son and grandson, she is their chief protector and the advocate of their cause before Jove. In order to minimize Aeneas’ suffering she interferes in the action wherever she can and Neptune is her supporter, so is her husband Vulcan who prepares Aeneas’ divine armor. Cupid is also enlisted to see that Dido does no harm to Aeneas. In the Dido affair her role is reprehensible. She sees Dido, the devotee of Juno as her antagonist and spares no thought for her sufferings. So if Aeneas appears cold towards Dido due to Jove’s commands, Venus is positively malignant. A consummate politician is revealed when she plays up to Juno’s idea of getting Dido and Aeneas married. Her last appearance in the Council of the gods in Book Tenth reveal her at her best as the successful complainant, claiming no compensation for the sufferings of the Trojans, but fairness and justice. Subtly she is defying Jove and forcing him to fulfill his decree of a Roman homeland by making him admit that Aeneas’ suffering is not meaningless. She plays her matronly card, as grandmother of Iülus she wants to save him and let Aeneas alone suffer and pay for his sins.

Juno

Juno is Venus’ antagonist and though held in honor by the Romans, she emerges as a despicable vindictive goddess, the counterpart of the nagging Amata. All Aeneas’ attempts to soften her by propitiation fail. She has a larger view in which Aeneas’ reaching Troy is the most fatal impediment. She wishes to frustrate fate and will stoop at nothing to risk destroying Aeneas and the Roman project. She sets Iris to mischief and then even the Fury Allecto. She seems to be a primitive goddess with one ruling passion: hate. To this passion she sacrifices Dido instead of saving her from her passion and then Turnus. She has a politician’s abilities too when in the Council she side tracks the main issue and blames Aeneas for the war in Italy. After this in Book Twelfth she makes Jove promise that the ethnic character of the Italians would not be lost and above all she be the foremost goddess in Rome. Here at last is revealed Juno’s deep fear, it is that of being superceded as the most important deity. From what is known of Jove’s character as a philanderer, her general feeling of insecurity is justified but she does not realize that by creating trouble for Jove’s favored persons she is merely driving Jove away from herself.


Minor

Jupiter, Apollo, Neptune, Diana

Are the four divine beings who move the action forward by foretelling what will happen and what should be done, or as with Neptune, undoing the mischief of others. Jove’s role as the King of the gods is restricted to declaring the divine course of events and sending forth thunderbolts to affirm his words and actions. He is not very effective in restraining his wife from mischief. As a figurehead he calls a council in Book Tenth, but he is quite autocratic in his speeches. His morality too is hinted at as questionable considering the case of Jaturna who achieved divinity in exchange for her virginity yielded to him. Diana like Juno has her favorite Camilla, the female warrior dedicated to her whose death she commands Opis, her nymphs to avenge. Neptune similarly shields Aeneas, but he is a demanding god who must be appeased with a human life. Apollo seems to be the only one who prophesizes for all impartially. It is hinted that he will take charge of Ascanius, because he gives him an experience of killing but restrains him from a lust for it, which Turnus acquires.

Mercury, Iris, Allecto, Jaturna

They can all be considered mere messengers of higher authorities. Of these only Jaturna who appears only in the last book is really characterized. She is the representative of fraternal sisterly love, a relationship strangely absent throughout the first eleven books. Her tears, her willingness to risk Jove’s anger to continue aiding Turnus have some parallels in other types of relationship as the Lausus- Mezentius and the Dido-Anna ones. But her final self-reproach and anger against Jove has an obviously didactic purpose. Virgil is inveighing against women who are tempted to yield their virtue and honor for great-expected rewards. But ironically the rewards themselves become burdensome and meaningless. Jaturna is condemned to eternal life without the company of the brother she loves and hoped to see victorious. In a way, it seems that through Jaturna both Jove and Juno are rendered suspect as bestower of favors. This implied distrust of the two highest gods is indeed quite revolutionary for a pagan poet.

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