Concepts of destiny in Vergil's Aeneid.
thesisposted on 19.11.2015, 09:01 by David. Lightfoot
A study of the history of scholarly opinion upon the concepts of destiny in the Aeneid reveals a dichotomy : the view that Jupiter is the supreme power, with Fate as something he controls or by which he expresses his will ; and the opposite view that Jupiter is subordinate to Fate. The problem is not so much which of these viewpoints is correct as why there should be two at all. The critics tend to assume that they can arrive at the opinion of Vergil himself from a study of the comments about destiny made by his characters. This assumption is bound to lead to contradiction and confusion. A more trustworthy critical procedure, however, is provided by applying the vitally important principle of literary criticism expounded by C.S. Lewis in The Personal Heresy : viz. it is false to assume that what one finds in a poem is the poet himself. The poet must never be confused with his creations, for what they say (and often even what he says himself in the "persona" of poet) is largely the result of the demands of his story. This is not to say that Vergil was not influenced in what he made his characters say by any of the religious and philosophical ideas current in his day. These ideas are reviewed and examined for likely sources of influence. All the words that Vergil uses to refer to the concept of destiny are then systematically analysed to try to extract the essence of their meaning, distinguish one from the other, and find the important ones. The same words are then re-examined, according to "Impersonal Orthodoxy", and their significance shown to be a function of context and dramatic necessity. Vergil's personal comments upon destiny are thus isolated and evaluated as being an inadequate basis for any obvious doctrine.