Lavinia in the Aeneid in Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Even then, Paris did not have to take Helen from her husband. In contrast, Aeneas apparently falls in love with Dido, and spends several years in Carthage as her companion. However, he places his personal emotions aside to go complete his fate, part of which includes the marriage to Lavinia.

Of course, one of the greatest character conflicts in the play is between Turnus and Aeneas. The general assumption was that Turnus and Lavinia would wed. Not only was Turnus the most eligible of her suitors, but the queen wished for their alliance, as well:

Fir'd with her love, and with ambition led,

The neighb'ring princes court her nuptial bed.

Among the crowd, but far above the rest,

Young Turnus to the beauteous maid address'd.

Turnus, for high descent and graceful mien,

Was first, and favor'd by the Latian queen;

With him she strove to join Lavinia's hand,

But dire portents the purpos'd match withstand (Virgil).

The dire portents are, of course, what fate has decreed for Aeneas and Lavinia.

However, her father Latinus learns that the gods wish her to marry Aeneas, instead. Like Aeneas, Latinus is a pious man, and he seeks to find out what he should do with his daughter. The answer is alarming to him:

Here, for the gods' advice, Latinus flies,

Off'ring a hundred sheep for sacrifice:

Their woolly fleeces, as the rites requir'd,

He laid beneath him, and to rest retir'd.

No sooner were his eyes in slumber bound,

When, from above, a more than mortal sound

Invades his ears; and thus the vision spoke:

"Seek not, my seed, in Latian bands to yoke

Our fair Lavinia, nor the gods provoke.

A foreign son upon thy shore descends,

Whose martial fame from pole to pole extends.

His race, in arms and arts of peace renown'd,

Not Latium shall contain, nor Europe bound:

'T is theirs whate'er the sun surveys around."

These answers, in the silent night receiv'd,

The king himself divulg'd, the land believ'd:

The fame thro' all the neighb'ring nations flew,

When now the Trojan navy was in view (Virgil).

This causes a major conflict for her father. The prophecy not only specifically prohibits him from trying to marry Lavinia to Turnus, it discourages him from trying to find any Latian spouse for her. Furthermore, its lets him know that Latium will be unable to contain Aeneas if he chooses to go to war rather than permit the marriage. However, he understands the role of fate:

But pond'ring future things of wondrous weight;

Succession, empire, and his daughter's fate.

On these he mus'd within his thoughtful mind,

And then revolv'd what Faunus had divin'd.

This was the foreign prince, by fate decreed

To share his scepter, and Lavinia's bed;

This was the race that sure portents foreshew

To sway the world, and land and sea subdue.

At length he rais'd his cheerful head, and spoke:

"The pow'rs," said he, "the pow'rs we both invoke,

To you, and yours, and mine, propitious be (Virgil).

What is the most interesting aspects of Lavinia's role in the story is how her mother reacts to her fate. Like Lavinia, her mother has no ability to directly exercise her power. However, it would be a mistake to then assume that she is powerless. First, the openly opposes her husband's decision to permit Aeneas to marry their daughter, and she is the one who links those events to the events in the Trojan War:

And thus bespoke her husband: "Shall," she said,

"A wand'ring prince enjoy Lavinia's bed?

If nature plead not in a parent's heart,

Pity my tears, and pity her desert.

I know, my dearest lord, the time will come,

You in vain, reverse your cruel doom;

The faithless pirate soon will set to sea,

And bear the royal virgin far away!

A guest like him, a Trojan guest before,

In shew of friendship sought the Spartan shore,

And ravish'd Helen from her husband bore.

Think on a king's inviolable word;

And think on Turnus, her once plighted lord:

To this false foreigner you give your throne,

And wrong a friend, a kinsman, and a son.

Resume your ancient care; and, if the god

Your sire, and you, resolve on foreign blood,

Know all are foreign, in a larger sense,

Not born your subjects, or deriv'd from hence.

Then, if the line of Turnus you retrace,

He springs from Inachus of Argive race" (Virgil).

Obviously, she fears the honor or lack of honor in a Trojan, and she also casts Lavinia in the role of a victim.

However, whether or not Lavinia is actually a victim of anything more than fate is a question that is not answered in the poem. The fates have decreed that Lavinia and Aeneas are to be married, and, in many ways, he is a victim as well. Virgil still does not reveal Lavinia's own feelings about the marriage. Is she relieved that she will not have to marry Turnus, who is clearly a very proud and willful man, or is she heartbroken? Never does Virgil address her feelings about the arrangement. Instead, he focuses on Lavinia as an object, and how Lavinia is treated by others in the poem. It is because of her status as an object to be conveyed that Lavinia, despite being a minor character, plays a major role in the play.

Works Cited

Virgil. "The Aeneid." Internet Classics Archive. Trans. John Dryden. 19 B.C.E. Web. 10…

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