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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Identifying and Evaluating Relationships in Vergil: An Analysis based on Book 5

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Introduction (Meshach Cummings)Edit

Joseph Farrell’s approach to analyzing Book five of The Aeneid diligently resembles the techniques used by William Anderson, Bernard Knox and Denis Feeney. Each of these analysts’ techniques consists of focusing on either the repetition or excessive use of specific words and phrases.

In his analysis of Book 10, when Feeney is discussing “epic norms”, his strategy is to pinpoint the excessive appearances of these norms. For example, he defines Virgil’s use of epic savagery as “the excessive descriptions of violence and gore in various scenes. Hence just like Farrell does in this interpretation of Book five, Feeney focuses on the repetition of certain actions. Bernard Knox also follows the same technique in his analysis of Book two. He claims that the excessive use and appearances of words meaning fire and snakes represents the destruction and deceit that Book two of the Aeneid is compiled of.

Farrell follows the same approach of the aforementioned analysts but he actually takes it a step further. He uses the number of times that the word pater appears in the book to infer that the theme of book two is the relationship between fathers and son; more specifically, that sons will eventually take on the role as fathers. Whereas the other analysts typically concluded their analysis based on the repetition of words at this point, Farrell continues his analysis by then focusing on the reasoning for the repetition of the word and if the word is used in the same context in every instance.

Farrell does a great job of defining the father son relationship within book five of The Aeneid because he not only focuses on the repetition of certain words, but also connects the repeated use of the word to the plot and storyline of the characters, in which the word is modifying.

I. 'Passing on the Torch: Aeneas’ struggleEdit

Joseph Farell discusses many ideas in his article, “Aeneid 5: Poetry and Parenthood” and tries to relate these ideas not only to The Aeneid as a whole, but to Vergil as well. In the article, Farell suggests that both of Aeneas’ parents play a different role in Aeneas’ journey however, the main motif in Book 5 is simple, “the son succeeding to the role of the father”(104).

First, Farell notes that the word “father” appears the most in Book 5 than any other book and therefore, quickly identifies a motif in this part of the poem. Farell notes the transition from using the word “father” for Anchises to using it for Aeneas. In this way, Farell makes the connection that Aeneas is trying to assume the role of “father” now that his father is dead. Farell uses various examples such as the existence of the games and Anchises in the dream of Aeneas among other things to support his idea. Farell also extends his idea of what it means to be a “father” to other characters such as Palinurus and uses the occurrences in Book 5 to show that this motif extends to a theme in the whole poem.

Farell also applies to the motif to the poem as a whole by going outside the boundaries of The Aeneid itself. He discusses a possible “father-son” relationship between Vergil and Homer because Vergil essentially imitates Homer by implementing the games into the poem. Using all of these details, Farell is able to suggest possible ideas and themes in Book 5.

II. The Idiot’s Guide to Identifying Unique Relationships Between Characters and their Significance in The AeneidEdit

Joseph Farell’s “Aeneid 5: Poetry and Parenthood” mainly discusses the existence of a significant motif in Book 5 of The Aeneid : “the son succeeding to the role of the father”(105). However, Farell does not only discuss how the motif appears in the poem but also manages to explain how it pertains to many things outside of Book 5 itself. Identifying specific motifs such as this one is very challenging and can be a very daunting task. Therefore, this guide will teach you, step by step, how to identify relationships between characters in The Aeneid and help you determine whether these relationships are significant to the poem as a whole.

1) Look for nouns, adjectives, and phrases that are repeated constantly to describe characters.Edit

Before you do anything, you should try to identify phrases that you come across regularly over a period of reading. Farell clearly establishes this in the beginning of his article and uses it as a base to further his argument. In book 5, there are at least 10 cases where the word “pater” in some shape or form is used to describe someone. For example, “uinaque fundebat pateris animamque uocabat/ Anchisae magni manisque Acheronte remissos” (98-99) or “Tum pater Aeneas procedere longius iras / et saeuire animis Entellum haud passus acerbis,” (461-62). Again, we recognize “pater” and this continues on throughout all of Book 5. The bottom line is that if you feel like you read the same word multiple times, keep your eyes peeled because something may be astray.

2) Look for nouns, adjectives, and phrases that are used similarly to describe more than one character.Edit

If you believe there may be an underlying theme, or clearly recognize a recurrence of words, the next step is to trying to look for multiple characters being describes by those words. Using the lines from step 1, we see that “pater” is describing Anchises and Aeneas. We have pateris Anchisae (98-99) and pater Aeneas (461-62). However, don’t be afraid to think abstractly. In line 425 we see, um satus Anchisa caestus pater extulit aequos /et paribus palmas amborum innexuit armis. Here, we not only identify the word “pater” but the word “satus” which means begotten from. Therefore, we can draw a connection between “pater” and “satus”.

3) Define those nouns, adjectives, and phrases you found not only in your own words, but using definitions as well.Edit

The key here is to make sure you understand what the recurring words and phrases you found mean. If you can clearly define what constitutes a “pater” you will be able to draw connections more easily later on. Don’t neglect this step because it can be crucial to your final analysis. Farell takes the meaning of father to not only mean someone who gave birth to your or raised you but he attributes the term “father” to being a leader, someone who you respect and expect to lead.

4) Acknowledging a relationship and understanding how each interact with each otherEdit

If you see that both characters share very similar attributes, it may be fair to look for a deeper connection between the two. This is the step where you begin to draw your own conclusions about the text. Be sure to examine how these characters interact with each other, and with other people. Using Book 5, we see that both Anchises and Aeneas are described as fathers. Both are real fathers, however we must ask how are they both fathers? Are they both really fathers? Farell discusses whether or not Aeneas is truly a “father”, as someone who leads his people. He examines the fact that this role is cast upon Aeneas now this is own father is dead and whether Aeneas has embraced this role or not. Farell also examines how Aeneas reacts positively to his father’s advice in a dream as opposed to a depressing reaction toward Nautes’ advice (both gave him the same advice).

5) Are there other characters with the same attributes?Edit

It is worth noting that this step is optional, but at the same time can be very important. The purpose of this step to find any characters that may have the same attributes as the characters you are examining but aren’t specifically described as your characters were. For example, lets take Palinurus. Palinurus is not described with the word “pater” in the original text. Yet, Palinurus is a leader in his own way because he navigates the fleet and guides his companions accordingly. This is important because it can draw out truly outlying themes in the story as opposed to a simple connection between two people. Farell makes the connection between Palinurus and Aeneas, although it isn’t directly stated in the poem, because both have similar characteristics.

6) Understand what is going on in the story and Making your conclusionEdit

This may be the hardest part of your analysis, however it will be the most rewarding. The purpose of this step is to understand the conflicts of the story and the story itself. By attaining an understanding of what is going on, you will be able to completely make a distinction by connecting your understanding of the characters and their conflicts. For example, Aeneas believes that he has accepted his father’s death and therefore holds contests in tribute of him. Farell, using the connection between both people, believes that Aeneas is trying to assume his father’s role now that he can no longer perform it. In this way, Farell concludes that this relationship involves the passing of leadership from father to son, using the idea that they are both “pater” and their attributes.

7) Taking it Outside of the boxEdit

If possible, you should certainly try to take your idea outside of the passage you have examined. Farell certainly took the meaning of “pater” to a new level by introducing Palinurus as a father figure. Palinurus, a father, ends up dying, and therefore, Aeneas must navigate the sea with his own knowledge and leadership. Farell also effectively brought the motif out to Vergil himself. These kinds of conclusions allow you to discover and think about possible motifs.

III. Father-Son Relationships- A Broader SpectrumEdit

Farell thoroughly discusses Aeneas and his duty to assume his father’s role in Book 5. He provides many great insights about Aeneas’ respect for his father and acknowledges that there is a great father-son relationship. Farell even discredits Anchises to some extent by commenting that he never gave Aeneas any useful assistance and that it was Venus who truly made sure Aeneas completed his journey. This is definitely debatable, however, Farell’s intention was truly to point out that a father-son relationship actually existed between Aeneas and Anchises. Farell uses this relationship to point out that sons usually had a lot of respect for their fathers and looked up to them. There are many different father-son relationships that exist in the poem that do not involve Aeneas and they all contain the idea that son’s eventually will assume their father’s role, just like Farell pointed out.

One father-son relationship that was unique was between Pallas and King Evander in the second half of the poem. Although there were not many instances, that indicated a clear-cut relationship between them, King Evander said something very meaningful that may have shown how he felt toward his son. Before he entrusts Pallas to Aeneas, he says, “dum te, care puer, mea sola et sera uoluptas, / complexu teneo, grauior neu nuntius auris / uulneret.” (8.581-83). Evander clearly states that he would rather die before he has to hear that Pallas is fatally injured or even dead. This ties into the overall theme of how intimate the father-son relationship is. Evander wants Pallas to survive, so he could rule and be wise just like Evander is. This is very similar to how Aeneas must be a leader like his father.

In order to see this relationship between Pallas and Evander, we can examine it like Farell does. We must acknowledge that a relationship actually exists and afterward, we must see how they interact with each other. Evander entrusts Pallas to Aeneas and hopes that Pallas will be able to become a warrior like Aeneas. His feelings are clearly stated to Pallas and his reaction afterward, “haec genitor digressu dicta supremo /'' ''fundebat; famuli conlapsum in tecta ferebant” only show that the thought of such things is unbearable (having fallen, his servants carried him away 8.583-4). Farell also points out that we can learn more about this relationship by examining how events involving the characters react to certain events. After his ships were burned in Book 5, Aeneas reacted positively only to Anchises’ advice. When news of Pallas’ death reaches Evander, he says, “non haec, o Palla, dederas promissa parenti,”(11.152-153). He says, “this was not the promise you had given to your father Pallas.” He feels truly sad that his son his gone and eventually he urges Aeneas to get his revenge. This father-son relationship is very universal in Vergil’s poem and Farell does a great job in defining what each role could symbolize.

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