An Act of Passion: Dido in Hell

638 Words2 Pages
In Dante’s Inferno, Queen Dido of Carthage, a character from Virgil’s Aeneid, was placed where souls are “damned because they sinned within the flesh…” (5.38). Those moved to sin by their passions were subjected to the torment of eternal winds. This punishment conflicts with the worldly actions of Dido as her actions in life were punishable by entrance into the seventh circle; the region of hell where those who commit suicide are reduced to thorny trees with no hope of resurrection in the second coming of Christ. Queen Dido was not placed in the realm of the suicides because her suicide did not define her character and was not a product of her soul’s corruption. Through this juxtaposition of her sin and punishment, Dante effectively established that the state of the soul determines the punishment merited, not the severity of the physical crime.
Initially, Dido’s regression into sin was instigated by god willing her to fall in love with Aeneas in an attempt to delay his quest. As a refugee in her new land, she was able to create a new way of life for her people, becoming one of the most successful military powers on the coast of Africa. Her passion and dedication allowed for her to succeed in her enterprises as a leader. When this passion was directed towards Aeneas contrary to her independent nature, an internal conflict of unrequited love arose and she was driven to madness. Once he left, she was unable to externalize the internal conflict, one warrior queen against one
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