Saturday, July 15, 2017

Aeneas and the Women (Reflections Continued)

Johann Heinrich Tischbein
It's humorous to me that Aeneas, that heroic fighter and ultimate founder of Rome itself, is left seemingly quaking in fear of Queen Dido.  The excerpt below is one particularly illustrative example.

The pious prince was seiz'd with sudden fear; Mute was his tongue, and upright stood his hair. Revolving in his mind the stern command, He longs to fly, and loathes the charming land. What should he say? or how should he begin? What course, alas! remains to steer between Th' offended lover and the pow'rful queen? This way and that he turns his anxious mind, And all expedients tries, and none can find. Fix'd on the deed, but doubtful of the means, After long thought, to this advice he leans: Three chiefs he calls, commands them to repair The fleet, and ship their men with silent care; Some plausible pretense he bids them find, To color what in secret he design'd. Himself, meantime, the softest hours would choose, Before the love-sick lady heard the news; And move her tender mind, by slow degrees, To suffer what the sov'reign pow'r decrees: Jove will inspire him, when, and what to say. They hear with pleasure, and with haste obey. But soon the queen perceives the thin disguise: (What arts can blind a jealous woman's eyes!)

Virgil. The Aeneid English (Kindle Locations 1477-1487). Kindle Edition. 

     As William Congreve's poem "The Mourning Bride" describes the woman scorned, "heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned/Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."  Even this heroic warrior is deeply troubled at the prospect of Queen Dido's anger unleashed upon him.  So much troubled, in fact, that he makes haste to quietly escape to sea.  I love the image of this...but it is no wonder that a man would want to avoid the woman's anger.

A woman moved is like a fountain troubled, Muddy, ill-seeming, thick, bereft of beauty; And while it is so, none so dry or thirsty Will deign to sip or touch one drop of it. Thy husband is thy lord, thy life, thy keeper, Thy head, thy sovereign; one that cares for thee, And for thy maintenance commits his body To painful labour both by sea and land, To watch the night in storms, the day in cold, Whilst thou liest warm at home, secure and safe; And craves no other tribute at thy hands But love, fair looks and true obedience; Too little payment for so great a debt. Such duty as the subject owes the prince Even such a woman oweth to her husband; And when she is froward, peevish, sullen, sour, And not obedient to his honest will, What is she but a foul contending rebel And graceless traitor to her loving lord?

Shakespeare, William. The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Kindle Locations 30349-30365). Latus ePublishing. Kindle Edition. 

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