For over 2000 years, Dido’s lament upon Aeneas’ departure has inspired compelling verse, drama, art, and opera. Ovid composed a poignant letter in Dido’s voice, and Augustine complained that Vergil led him astray by weeping for “dead Dido” (rather than his own sins!). Hamlet instructed the players to recite “Aeneas’ tale to Dido,” about which Shakespeare’s peer, Christopher Marlowe, wrote an entire play. Dante, Chaucer, de Pizan, Dryden, and contemporary poets have all crafted their own versions of this enthralling story. Retellings of the Dido narrative involve suffering and empathy; literary form and style; adaptation across media; translation and appropriation; exoticism and empire; and gender and ventriloquism.

Offered by Scott Newstok as a 2015 seminar and a Meeman Center course, to coincide with a lecture on suffering by philosopher Scott Samuelson (January 15); a visit from Aeneid translator Sarah Ruden (February 25); the production of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas and Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage (April 18); and a talk by scholar John Guillory (April 23).

March 2016 update: Seamus Heaney’s translation of Book VI was published posthumously; reading by Ian McKellen.


School of Raphael, Lucretia-Dido (Pen and brown ink over black chalk) c. 1508–10

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