Michael Bryson; Arpi Movsesian

Published On


Page Range

pp. 37-96

Print Length

59 pages

2. Channeled, Reformulated, and Controlled: Love Poetry from the Song of Songs to Aeneas and Dido

This chapter covers ancient ideas of love, beginning with the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), a love poem sublimated by a two-millennia-long tradition of allegory (beginning with the interpretations of Rabbi Akiba and the early Church theologian Origen, each of whom insisted that the love in the poem was divine, not human. It then moves to a consideration of Ovid's Amores and Ars Amatoria as eros, a seduction/resistance manual, poems which celebrate passion and love without the need for disguise or allegory, befrore proceeding to an analysis of Virgil's portrayal, in the Aeneid, of love as a dangerous passion to be overcome/denied by the “pious” Aeneas in the episode with Dido. Love is pictured here as a passion to be indulged (at best), but then either denied or sublimated in moving on to higher pursuits (like Aeneas’ obedience to the gods). The chapter then considers Ovid’s response to Virgil’s treatment of Dido, in his Heroides VII, in which he gives Dido the last word, and clearly sympathizes with her over Aeneas; and Marlowe’s Early Modern rewriting of the episode, in which he goes even further than did Ovid in valorizing Dido, while giving the back of his dramatic hand to Aeneas. This chapter also devotes a good deal of its focus to discussions of the kind of criticism discussed in the introduction—criticism that tries to allegorize away, or otherwise argue away the significance of love in the Song of Songs (insisting that the love is between God and humanity), setting such arguments up as a template for the meta-analysis of similar trends in criticism in the later chapters.


Arpi Movsesian