In The Medea by Euripides and The Aeneid by Virgil the characters of Medea and Dido respond to desertion by their husbands, the individual they love most, in the form of a quarrel. Both characters go on to attempt to alleviate their pain via revenge. Their judgments and actions are impaired by each woman’s great eros and amor. Euripides and Virgil illustrate their vision of passion and love through the effects of Medea and Dido’s actions under the influence of these emotions. Both women could choose a healthier course for their pain by thinking rationally. Ultimately what matters is Medea is permitted to be distressed because she truly is abandoned by her husband, while Dido, on the other hand, is betrayed and destroyed by a lover she cons herself into believing is her husband.
In response to the abandonment of their lovers, both Medea and Dido quarrel with their “husband” in an effort to sway him into altering his resolution. Medea attempts to make Jason leave his new bride and come back to her while Dido tries to influence Aeneas into staying with her. Each woman vents by launching their monologue with an introduction of insults. Although Medea straight forwardly calls Jason a “coward in every way”, Dido is more controlled and implies that Aeneas attempts to “slip away in silence” (Euripides, 465) (Virgil, IV.419). Throughout the remainder of the speeches, they attempt to get the men to bend to their wishes. The women use logic. Medea reminds Jason of the shame he will face as a result of having children wandering as beggars. Dido informs Aeneas of the bad weather he will encounter if he leaves now.
Both women remind their lover of all they have sacrificed for him and everything they have not asked for in return. Medea’s raging comments continue on about the broken marriage oath. Like Medea, Dido tries to force Aeneas to remain by her side because of the “marriage that [they] entered on” (Virgil, IV.432). Medea and Dido seem to end their side of the argument with final jabs at manhood of their husbands, but in her last breath, Dido asks for pity on her “utterly bereft” self (Virgil, IV.454). In the course of her speech Medea is seen as a very angry, vengeful woman while Dido is seen as desolate and pitiful. Both women, however, only want to be with the man they love.
As a result of the abandonment of their “husbands”, both Medea and Dido hope to quench their furor through revenge. Medea satisfies her thirst by killing four innocent victims–those closest to Jason. Conversely, Dido constructs a funeral pyre that is a reconstruction of her life with Aeneas and throws herself upon it. Medea seeks revenge on others with the intention of “mak[ing Jason] feel pain” (Euripides, 1398). In hopes to extinguish her furor through her own demise, Dido stabs herself twice in the chest with the sword she gave to Aeneas; “this way” she says is “a blessed relief to go into the undergloom” (Virgil, IV.1048). Medea’s rage ends with the satisfaction of innocent lives lost. Dido feels compelled to satisfy herself even further by hoping Aeneas painfully views the funeral pyre from his ship and by cursing Aeneas’ as well as her own people and “all the children of their children” (Virgil, IV.875). Ultimately, both women succeed in dousing the burning fury within.
It is important to follow the paths these women select to satisfy their hurt because these paths are the result of both women allowing their eros and amor to cloud theirr judgment and influence her actions. While Medea’s “heart [is] on fire with passionate love for Jason” and he returns her love, Medea’s power and passion were enlisted for his aid (Euripides, 8). Dido’s love and passion for Aeneas overcome her passion for that of the city she founded. The moment either woman is betrayed, their passionate love for their “husbands” becomes passionate hate against them. Consequently, this is the motivation for Medea’s bad judgment in her quest for revenge. Like Medea, Dido uses very bad judgment and so “projects [are] broken off” in Carthage (Virgil, IV.124). Both women refocus all of their eros and amor intended for the good of others to a single selfish purpose.
Through Medea and Dido, two “maddened lovers,” both Euripides and Virgil illustrate their outlook on the effects of eros and amor (Virgil, IV.92). Both women allow their heart to rule, which brings trouble for many people. As a result of Medea following the wishes of her heart, she destroys or alienates her entire family. Because Dido uses her “violent heart” as a compass, Aeneas is almost derailed from his destiny (Euripides, 38). Aeneas is only back in line with destiny and the gods after he leaves to found Rome and begins to navigate with his head. Both Virgil and Euripides prove that Medea and Dido create chaos as a result of allowing passion, not reason, to rule.
Even in the midst of their turmoil it is feasible that Medea and Dido could choose to begin ruling with their minds and not their passion. Medea could kill Jason as a result of his hurtful act and not destroy four innocent people. If Dido truly loves Aeneas, she could risk going with him even if the consequences could be that she continues to be his mistress or that the Trojans tire of her and throw her overboard, as opposed to senselessly committing suicide. Medea could overcome her barbaric culture and allow Jason to live his life while she cares for her children as a loving mother should. Euripides and Virgil leave many options for both Medea and Dido if they can only get past the desires of their hearts and see past them to what is the superior good.
Each development of Medea and Dido builds their similarities, but the crucial difference between the two “wives” in their justification for their actions and emotions is in the very foundation of their relationship with their “husbands”. Medea is married to Jason. She has gone through a marriage ceremony viewed by many and contested by none. Conversely, as Juno has intended, Dido misinterpreted the events which took place in the cave after the hunt. Virgil says “she called it marriage. Thus, under that name, she hid her fault” (Virgil, IV.237-238). Medea reacts to her betrayal atrociously. Although she kills the innocents, Euripides justifies the horrendous actions of Medea because she is married to Jason.
He has left her for another woman. Because they had no commitment, Dido cannot justify her suicide and curse with the abandonment from a man she has an affair with and chooses to develop this affair into a liaison. Virgil does not specifically condemn Dido, but the tone of her commentary seems to put the blame on her. While Euripides’ Medea and Virgil’s Dido have similar reasons, reactions, and motivations, Medea is understood and Dido is just seen as bitter, vindictive, and pathetic.
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