Essay On Gender Roles In Aeneid

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The gender roles in Vergil’s Aeneid are a complex composition that can be read differently from varying contextual views. Particularly nuanced is his representation of female characters, both goddess and mortal. The intricacy of this representation stems from the dichotomy of a modern reading compared to the contemporary values of the time. Current values and norms have socialized the modern viewer to view Vergil’s female representations through culturally constructed roles, or tropes. Juno and Venus both exemplify traits that a modern viewer may identify as that of a woman scorned. Similarly, Dido and Amata reflect the typical characterization of the hysterical woman. It is these culturally constructed concepts that are subliminally framing the work for the modern reader that can cause a discrepancy in representation. Therefore, readers can interpret that Vergil is depicting the female characters as irrational, and are a stark contrast to the males of the epic, particularly Aeneas. However, contemporary values revealed that the motivations of the female characters were in fact normal. Pietas, the Roman value that called for devotion to the state, gods, and family, can be seen as the catalyst of action for all of the female characters. Consequently, the female characters actually embody many of the same values of Aeneas. For this reason, modern viewers can be faced with difficulty determining the representation of women in the Aeneid. Throughout the epic, Vergil seems to portray women as irrational and meddlesome from a modern point of view. However, their motivations are driven by virtues of devotion that were typically accepted by contemporary standards and associated with men as represented in the epic, such as Aeneas. A readi... ... middle of paper ... ...which she knows will ultimately reign supreme. Further, she, Dido, and Amata all show great devotion to their respective states, as they seek to keep Aeneas from taking over the people they rule. In addition, Dido, Venus, and Amata also provide examples of commitment towards their family, as their respective spousal and maternal love is an unbridled force that governs their actions throughout the epic. While Vergil does not include female characters in the climax of the plot of the epic, without them there would be no upward movement towards that scene, and thus they serve as instrumental figures. The representation of female characters in the work may initially come across as acting irrationally, but closer examination shows that in fact their motivations were guided by contemporary values and therefore are more reflective of more positively portrayed characters.

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