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R.O.A.M. Lyne's "Lavinia's Blush"

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Introduction (by MaryGrace Wajda)Edit

In his article “Lavinia’s Blush”, R.O.A.M. Lyne asserts that the episode of Lavinia’s blush in Aeneid 12 is indicative of her feelings toward Turnus. He does this through analyzing word choices and examining their significance in context; that is, he uses Vergil’s words to reveal some underlying emotion or thought that leads to a conclusion. Thao outlines this method clearly in her critical report and provides reason for her arguments using episodes from the book, such as Amata’s speech. Her report recognizes three methods used by Lyne to analyze Aeneid 12: utilizing relationships and interpersonal interactions to shed light on why a character behaves the way he does, noting word association in context with Vergil’s word choices throughout the poem, and reading into similes. Through these three methods Lyne concludes that Lavinia loves Turnus.

Lyne’s methods of interpretation as outlined in Thao’s report are similar; that is, Lyne relies almost exclusively on Vergil’s word choice, association, and imagery. This is a stark contrast to the whole-bodied approach Susan Ford Wiltshire used in her analysis of Aeneid 9. Wiltshire relied not only on words and their imagery to reach her conclusions but also on Vergil’s biography, other critics’ work, and ancient poems such as the Iliad. The “alluding to other texts that the Romans would have been familiar with” approach is also seen in Charles Rowan Beye’s “Vergil and Apollonius”, and seems to be common among other critics as well. However, these elements are lacking in Lyne’s analysis. I wonder whether this is simply because Lyne felt these methods wouldn’t provide any significant insight into the episode of Lavinia’s blush. However, Lyne’s commitment to the potential significance of words allows him to focus in on them in a way that the other critics were not able to do, and this dedication leads to fewer generalizations and more specific conclusions.

In Part III of Thao’s report, she successfully applies Lyne’s method to different passages in the Aeneid. I thought it was excellent that she found three passages in which to do this. That she was able to apply Lyne’s method to vastly different situations in the Aeneid (Aeneas’ journey into the Underworld, Dido’s lamenting character after she discovers Aeneas’ plans to depart from her palace, and Turnus’ power complex and his desire for victory over Aeneas) shows that Lyne’s technique is effective. His method is not one that works for one passage of the Aeneid and no other but like all convincing approaches can be applied in various situations to the same effect.

Part I: Behind Lavinia's BlushEdit

In “Lavinia’s Blush”, R. O. A. M. Lyne explores the similes and reasons behind why Lavinia, who is considered to be one of the more passive characters of Aeneas, is seen weeping and blushing when she hears that Turnus is going off to battle. Lyne states that Lavinia’s tearful response can be taken for its “natural interpretation” in that she is crying because “a person who arouses passionate emotion in her is meditating leaving on a dangerous enterprise” (56). However, the fact that she also blushes indicates how Lavinia comes alive in her response of displaying her emotions towards Turnus, a man who is slated to be her future husband at this point in the story. Moreover, Lavinia’s blush, which Lyne states “ill suits a proto-Roman virgo to have such emotions at all”, is the only physical indication of her love. The three-way interaction between Amata, Turnus, and Lavinia is what Lyne considers to be Virgil’s implicit indication of this love. Lyne also delves into the various aspects of love behind her blush, such as the eroticism behind the blush, as well as the wound imagery, implied through word association.

Part II: Exploring Love Through Words, Eroticism, and SufferingEdit

In understanding the realization of Lavinia’s love for Turnus, shown through the three-way interaction between Amata, Turnus, and Lavinia, Lyne utilized the passionate diction evident in Amata’s speech to Turnus to reveal two parallel relationships. One relationship directly involves Amata and Turnus as she pleads for his victory. The other relationship, however, is not as obvious as Lavinia’s actions imply her personal sentiments towards Turnus, all of which is revealed through Amata’s words. Lyne states that Amata’s words “suggest a motherly love, and accord with a mother’s circumstances” as she states that he is her only hope (Aeneid 12.57). Lyne notes, however, that Amata’s words become more personal as she states that she would stay with him through whatever causes. All of this passionate verbal exchange from Amata is related to Lavinia’s love for Turnus in that Lavinia actions corresponds to Amata’s indirect verbalization of Lavinia’s longing for Turnus to return safely. Thus, Lyne reveals the emotional longing behind Lavinia’s blush through the two parallel relationships between Amata with Turnus and Lavinia with Turnus, by means of Amata’s words.

Aside from the indirect verbalization of Lavinia’s emotions, Lyne emphasizes the eroticism behind Lavinia’s intense blush through word association. Lyne states that Virgil seems to underscore the intense eroticism associated with the blush when Virgil writes cui plurimus ignem/ subiecit rubor, ‘in whom a great blush kindled fire’ (57). In recognizing how much heat is attributed to a blush, Lyne draws attention to how Virgil emphasizes this intensity, both in meaning and in the specific placements of the words. Lyne cites Virgil’s uses of phrases like flagrantis genas and calefacta ora as emphatic attributes of the heat from Lavinia’s passionate and kindled fired. Their close approximation to each other further illustrates the concentration of heat, both of the erotic and physical sense, on Lavinia’s face. Therefore, Lyne concludes that the blush’s strong association to fire is indicative of an erotic connection between Lavinia and Turnus, signifying her love for him.

Lyne’s conclusive analysis on Lavinia’s love for Turnus is further supported by his emphasis on the wound imagery produced by Virgil’s selective words. The staining of a crimson color is explicitly implied in Virgil’s allusion to colored flowers among white lilies (Aeneid, 12.68-69). However, the occurrence of sanguineo and violaverit both suggest the appearance of blood and an injury. Lyne claims that this “simile, in the first place illustrating Lavinia’s blush, suggests by allusion… that Lavinia is wounded” (59). This is supported by the image of stained rosa color on Lavinia’s alba, ‘white’, skin, which is reflective of an allusion to Menelaus’ wound in the Iliad. In Menelaus’ case, a similar staining occurs when crimson blood covers the white skin around his thigh injury. The connection between a wounded injury and love is made when Lyne states how wound and fire are often images reflective of Dido’s own love for Aeneas. Like Dido, Lavinia experiences suffering in her love for Turnus, as evident in her weeping tears in response to his departure for battle.

Part III: Beyond Lavinia's Blush: Assessing Charon, Dido, and TurnusEdit

In applying Lyne’s attention to diction and syntax to Aeneas’ journey into the Underworld, we can claim that Virgil’s dense description of the Acheron River and the river’s ferryman, Charon, emphasizes the grimness of the Underworld, as well as smothering presence of death. Lines 296-297 of Book VI depict the dark brooding Underworld where “a whirilpool [is] thick with sludge, its giant eddy seething, [and] vomits all of its swirling sand into Cocytus” (Mandelbaum, 140). Virgil’s use of words that elicit feelings of suffocation, due to weightiness (thick, sludge, sand), reveals an oppressive emptiness and apprehensive void that are present in the Underworld, since there is nothing but eternal death that awaits the dead. Furthermore, the overwhelming presence of Death can be seen in Virgil’s lengthy description of Charon. Although Charon has “white hairs [that lay] thick”, he still possesses “eyes [like] fire that stare”, two attributes that signify his eternal presence and intimidating authority.

Lyne’s emphasis on word association can be used in assessing Dido’s lamenting character after she discovers Aeneas’ plans to depart from her palace in Book IV. Dido is described as being “maddened by the fates”, “[hearing] the voice and words of her dead husband”, and “[driven] to insanity” after Aeneas had finally left Carthage (Mandelbaum, 94-95). These words used to depict Dido’s state of sorrow reveals her inner distress towards her failed romance with Aeneas. We can then say that descriptions of Dido’s distress are associated with the suffering that is caused by unfulfilled love. All of this is also seen in Dido’s lonesome actions as she “[wandered] without companions”, further suggesting the resulting solitude from Aeneas’ departure.

The emphasis on Turnus’ armor imagery in Book XII illustrates Turnus’ power complex and his desire for victory over Aeneas. Turnus is described as dressed in his “corselet, made stiff with gold and gleaming orichalcum, about his shoulders”, bearing his “sword and shield… the Lord of Fire himself had forged”, and clutching a “hefty lance, … [a] spoil taken from the Auruncan Actor” (Mandelbaum, 303). Each of Turnus’ armor suggests a sense of strength and power behind it, as if each were physical manifestation of Turnus’ inner strength. His sword and shield themselves hold a significant relation as they seem to be unique in kind, as if it were a reflection of Turnus himself. Furthermore, Turnus’ authority over others is implied in his lance, as it was a “spoil” that he took away from a victorious conquest. These images are all indicative of Turnus’ strong confidence in his strength and power against Aeneas as they prepare to fight.

-Thao Nguyen 04:06, February 12, 2011 (UTC)

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