These four characters all have the same role within the Odyssey and the Aeneid as they are all put in place as obstacles to the hero’s quest. Odysseus and Aeneas both have arduous journeys to undertake and these characters are simply temptresses, there to prevent the heroes from fulfilling there quests and in my opinion pose a greater threat to the completion of the journeys then the physical dangers both heroes have to endure. However although within these epics the characters have negative roles to play they themselves are victims of fate.
Without each heroes underlying mission spurring them on it is reasonable to assume each of these women would have a good chance of having a long-term relationship with either Odysseus or Aeneas (indeed each character with the exception of Nausicaa engage in a brief relationship with the hero of there respective epic) and the fact these relationships have to be discontinued or unexplored seems unfair to the so called ‘temptresses’ and therefore causes the reader to evoke sympathy for the characters.
These women, although play identical roles, are in very different circumstance and are very different characters and therefore the level of sympathy we feel for them varies and I believe it is fair to say that it is Dido we feel the most sympathy for:
An important feature of why we feel so much sympathy for Dido is the fact we learn so much of her background. In book 1 of the Aeneid we find out Dido is an exile from her home city of Tyre after her brother Pygmalion killed Dido’s husband Sychaeus ‘In blind lust for his gold’ (Sychaeus was apparently ‘the wealthiest of the Phoenicians’). Dido, by the advice of her dead husband, rounds up the men ‘driven by savage hatred or lively fear’ of Pygmalion and sets sail for a new home. This background is important as it gives the reader a sense of attachment with the character that doesn’t seem to apply to the other characters, the fact that Dido has such a troubled past means we sympathize with her from a very early stage, which makes her ultimate down fall even more tragic i.e. this is a character we know rather then an other faceless characters that is sacrificed for the quest (such as Palinurus and Elpenor).
The female characters of the Odyssey just don’t come with this tragic background; The knowledge the audience would have of Calypso’s and Circe’s background would be through legend, which regardless of how tragic some legends may be, are fantastical, which means the audience wouldn’t relate to them like they would Dido’s background and doesn’t give the goddesses the sense of vulnerability you get with Dido. Nausicaa is a young princess of Phaeacia, so although her background isn’t mention in any great detail in the odyssey, as the princess of a paradise it is unlikely to be negative.
Another impotent sympathy factor is the characters motivation for falling for their respective hero. Calypso and Circe have the least sympathetic motives as they are simply looking for a companion (a modern phrase we would use is trophy husband) and as goddesses have more then likely had many companions before Odysseus. Nausicaa simply has a crush on Odysseus, and therefore her emotional attachment to him is not very high, the fact they never engage in a relationship also means their attachment isn’t as matured as the other characters. Nausicaa and Dido do have one thing in common however as they are both victims of divine intervention. Nausicaa’s intervention by Athene (improving his appearance) however is not as direct as the intervention Dido endures (being forced into love by Cupid); as a result the audience doesn’t get the same sense of the cruelty of fate with Nausicaa that we get for Dido.
Probably the most important aspect of the characters for which evokes our sympathy is the aftermath of being let down by our heroes. Although Dido is the only character whose plot continues after the hero leaves we can still make an educated guess as to what would happen to the other characters. Circe and Calypso are both goddesses and are likely to find other companions after Odysseus, both as goddesses are in control of there emotions when meeting Odysseus which means they should be much more composed upon his departure (the fact Calypso takes Odysseus against his will shows she should foresee possible heartbreak in the future).
Nausicaa as a young girl is much more vulnerable to heartbreak however as a young girl she has her whole life a head of her which means she is much more likely to find another man, and the fact no commitment is made means she is simply loosing a crush apposed to a lover which means her heartbreak will be less then that of the other characters. Dido as the most vulnerable (lost her husband and livelihood) has the furthest to fall, and assuming the educated guesses as to the outcome of the other characters are correct, by committing suicide Dido suffers the worst fate by far. Book 4 of the Aeneid dictates the devotion and downfall of Dido; Dido lets her civic duties slide due to the distraction of Aeneas and the City of Carthage’s construction grinds to a halt. Dido states in her speech to Aeneas that her people have lost all respect for her, and as a result she feels the only way to regain some respect is to kill herself.
Book 4 could almost be a tragic play; Dido’s hubristic act of sleeping with Aeneas before marriage leads to her catastrophic downfall; a downfall which can be said to be entirely down to the cruelty of fate and the gods. Dido is the most vulnerable with the most too loose, and as far as we know comes to the worst end so for me is far more sympathetic a character then the female characters of the Odyssey.
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Circe and Nausicaa in the Odysseys. (2017, Aug 11). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/circe-and-nausicaa-in-the-odysseys-essay