Character Analysis Dido


Dido is the queen of Carthage. Virgil portrays her as Aeneas's equal and feminine counterpart. She is an antagonist, a strong, determined, and independent woman who possesses heroic dimensions. Like Aeneas, Dido fled her homeland because of circumstances beyond her control. She leads her people out of Tyre and founds Carthage. She embodies the qualities of a leader that Aeneas respects and hopes to employ when he founds Rome. She rules the Carthaginians fairly and justly, thereby maintaining order. Like Aeneas's character, Dido's character represents the best of her race.

Because Juno and Venus manipulate Dido and Aeneas, Dido becomes infatuated with Aeneas. She neglects the building projects that are underway in Carthage and the city's defense is not maintained. Virgil warns that love out of control can cause disorder, both physically and emotionally. He notes, "What good are shrines and vows to maddened lovers? / The inward fire eats the soft marrow away, / And the internal wound bleeds on in silence." Dido proves Virgil's comment when she lashes out at the gods. She lacks faith in the gods and in destiny — portraying symptoms of psychological madness. Unfortunately for Dido, her relationship with Aeneas is fated to end tragically, partly because Juno and Venus interfere and partly because Aeneas must continue on his journey to fulfill his destiny.

In Book IV, Dido knows that her relationship with Aeneas is fated to fail. She realizes that her love/lust for Aeneas is her downfall; however, she is unable to change the course of events. She asks herself, "What am I saying? Where am I? What madness / Takes me out of myself? Dido poor soul, / Your evil doing has come home to you."

Virgil compares Dido's uncontrolled passion to a consuming fire that can not be extinguished: "The queen, for her part, all that evening ached / With longing that her heart's blood fed, a wound / Or inward fire eating her away." Later, when she discovers that Aeneas plans to leave Carthage, she becomes "all aflame / With rage." Fittingly, Dido dies on a pyre used for burning corpses in funeral rites by committing suicide with Aeneas's sword. Her suicide, an act of courage, proves she is a tragic, as well as a romantic heroine.