Troy as Romance


Love Redeems Eneas

Diane Thompson, NVCC, ELI

(Adapted from: "Human Responsibility and the Fall of Troy," Diane P. Thompson, DISS., 1981.) 

The 12th c. Anglo-Norman Eneas is a translation/revision of Virgil's Aeneid. Eneas (Virgil's Aeneas) had a debased reputation in the Middle Ages; in various stories he was presented as effeminate, oriental, decadent, greedy, a coward and a traitor. But in the Eneas, the love of Lavine (Virgil's Lavinia), acting under the influence of Amors, redeems him. Amors transforms the most timid girl into a courageous woman and the most suspect knight into a paragon of bravery and excellence.

The section opens with Lavine's ignorance of love. She neither knows what it is, nor does she want to experience it. Her mother, the Queen, talks of love and points out why Turnus, a local noble who wants to marry Lavine, is worthy of being loved, while Eneas is not. According to the Queen, Turnus loves Lavine, while Eneas will never love her, but merely wants her land.

The Queen instructs Lavine to direct her heart away from Eneas and toward Turnus. Because Turnus has behaved well toward Lavine, she has a duty to love him. This, of course, shows the Queen's total ignorance of Amors, who strikes in the most unlikely places, and is absolutely victorious when he does so.

Amors can only be communicated by experience. Thus, when Lavine asks what it is, the Queen can only describe it indirectly, saying that her heart will teach her to love. The Queen goes on to describe the pains of love, which she remembers as something like a fever. But Amors is more than this, as his representation in the temple shows:

    "Love is painted there alone, holding two darts in his right hand and a box in his left; one of the darts is tipped with gold, which causes love, and the other with lead, which makes love alter. Love wounds and pierces often, and is thus painted figuratively to show clearly his nature. The dart shows that he can wound, and the box that he knows how to heal." (Yunck, 213)

This describes the role of Amors in the Eneas, where the destruction and pain caused by lawless love (Paris and Helen) are finally cured by lawful love (Eneas and Lavine).

Lavine's mother has not only told her to love Turnus, but threatened to kill her if she loves Eneas. So far, Lavine has heard only of the pains of Amors and assures her mother that she does not wish to love at all. Then her mother leaves her alone and Lavine looks out the window at the Trojans below. They look better than previously, and the Latins agree that they are the handsomest people in the world. Lavine sees Eneas, the handsomest and most noble of all the Trojans, and she hears everyone praise his bravery and beauty.

This is a remarkable improvement over the old  Eneas. Here he is decked in moral qualities of beauty, nobility and bravery, not the gold and purple of his old days in Troy or Carthage. Where did  Eneas get his new good looks? Partially from Pallas, whose bravery  Eneas incorporated when Pallas died. Some of his improved looks come from the new armor given him by his mother, Venus, who has returned to married love. Better mother, better son, by the moral logic of the poem. This  Eneas exists in a moral universe where outer phenomena mirror interior events. When he becomes morally better, he will naturally look better.

Amors now shoots his arrow, hitting Lavine, forcing her to love Eneas: "Now she has fallen into the snare of love: whether she wishes it or not, she must love" (Yunck, 215). Having been struck, love she must: "When she saw that she could not escape it, she turned all her desire and her thought toward  Eneas" (Yunck, 215).

Amors can force Lavine to love; he cannot force her to act. Her heart is hopelessly conquered by Amors. Lavine observes the painful behavior of her heart as one yet uncommitted to any action, and worries that she is the only one shot by Amors. Although she has been hopelessly infected by the disease of love,  Eneas will not experience love until she chooses to act and send him a message of love on an arrow.

Amors has given Lavine an instant education which could only come from loving: "'Now I know enough about love; my mother spoke the truth indeed; I could not learn about love from anyone else as well as I could from myself'" (Yunck, 217). No one in the  Eneas, until now, has known anything about love, except for the degraded and merely physical lust which Dido indulged in, with some help from Venus and Eneas. Lavine now knows about the force that controls both her heart and body.

Lavine realizes that it would be smart to wait until after the battle between Turnus and  Eneas and then love the winner. But she now knows the laws of Amors: "'He who would love more than one does not satisfy Love's precepts or laws: Love does not wish to be thus divided'" (Yunck, 220). Lavine affirms the blow of Amors by choosing freely to die if Turnus wins the battle.

Lavine, radically changed in both body and mind by love, now prepares a message announcing her love to send to  Eneas. This message, sent wrapped around an arrow, is her equivalent of Amors' arrow. Lavine understands that if  Eneas realizes she loves him, he will be braver and stronger in battle.

Of course, she does not directly shoot  Eneas with a real arrow. The arrow is shot towards the Trojans and brought to  Eneas, who reads the letter. Once he realizes that Lavine loves him,  Eneas turns to look at her and is then struck visually by love as Lavine sends him a kiss.  Eneas is now under the power of his brother Cupido or Amors, and he complains bitterly: "'Love is doing me a very great wrong, treating me in such a manner'" (Yunck, 233). Eneas suffers the physiological pangs of love as thoroughly as did Lavine.

 Eneas asks his tormented self just what good is this love going to do him in battle, and he responds that it will make him hardier in battle. Certainly Eneas, as a Trojan, always needed more courage and strength in battle. However, never having truly loved before,  Eneas distrusts women and suspects a trick. But then he decides that the letter was telling the truth, because of the way that Lavine told him about her love pains in it. He quiets further doubts by remembering Lavine's behavior at the tower, and he comments that he should have recognized her love sooner, but he did not yet know about love itself.

The effects of Amors on  Eneas are all to the good, although his immediate experience, like Lavine's, is painful. Love improves  Eneas. First he perceives a new beauty in the land, which he had not seen before; then he perceives his greatly enhanced courage and strength:

    "This land is now much more beautiful to me, and this country pleases me greatly; yesterday became an extremely beautiful day when I stopped beneath the tower where I gained that love. Because of it I am much stronger and more high-spirited, and will very gladly fight for it." (Yunck, 236).

Amors helps Eneas because  Eneas has already helped himself, accepting guilt and responsibility for his ally, Pallas' death and actively seeking revenge, which he failed to do at Troy.  Eneas has become worthy of love, so he can be loved, and then as a consequence, become even more loveable. He gets some help from Venus, her gift of the armor, and some help from Amors, the shot at Lavine. But finally it is all up the feelings and reason of Lavine, her judgment of  Eneas' worth, and her willingness to take a risk for his sake.

Conversely, although Turnus had legal rights to marry Lavine, he never won her love, despite a seven-year courtship. He lacks the beauty and nobility that stimulate love. He also lacks the help of Amors. Turnus does not express affection toward Lavine; he merely claims her as wife and property. Because Turnus does not love, he becomes weaker and more cowardly, while  Eneas, loving Lavine, becomes stronger and braver. When the truce breaks, Turnus fears  Eneas, blames fortune, and flees, not understanding that he has failed to deserve Lavine.

Love has strengthened  Eneas; lack of love has weakened Turnus. As in the Aeneid, it is the burning of Latium that finally convinces Turnus to stand and fight  Eneas. Belatedly recognizing that he is at fault for many deaths, Turnus offers to combat  Eneas at last:

    "Enough of you have died for me here. I believe that the gods do not wish that any of you do more, but that all of you should stand far back. I will do battle with  Eneas, and will put my life in hazard." (Yunck, 248)

This will be the final test of Turnus and  Eneas.  Eneas is dressed in the armor brought him by the reformed Venus; he carries the vow to avenge Pallas; he is made braver and stronger by Lavine's free gift of love. Turnus has only cared for the Amazon Camile, now dead; he has shirked his responsibility to his men; no one, except perhaps Lavine's mother, loves him. He has lost the battle of love before he ever comes to the battlefield. Because this is a moral world, the ability to win must come from the moral, internal value of a person, not from the decree of a god.  Eneas will win because he is the braver, stronger, more beloved, better man.

After Turnus' sword breaks, he flees, calling for help, but no one will help him.  Eneas, who had once fled Troy, chides him: "'You will never conquer by fleeing, but by giving combat and striking blows'" (Yunck, 249). After Turnus is wounded, he begs for his life, telling Eneas: "'Everyone sees well that you have defeated me and conquered all with great strength'" (Yunck, 250).  Eneas still has to pay his debt to Pallas, and does so by killing Turnus.

After the battle, the story returns to the private agonies of the lovers, who must wait an entire week before being married. The battle of love is not quite finished, and Lavine worries at first that  Eneas may now have the upper hand and control her. But then she realizes that the woman too has her ways of maintaining mastery, or at least equality;  Eneas can win during the day, while Lavine wins at night. This is how the battle of love, ruled by a conjugally peaceful Venus and her lawful son Amors should end, with a balance of male and female, married and in love.

Finally, they are married and crowned and their conjugally correct happiness is contrasted to the relationship of Paris and Helen, followers of the bad Venus: "Never did Paris have greater joy when he had Helen in Troy than  Eneas had when he had his love in Laurente" (Yunck, 256). The poem has come full circle, from the destructive love of Paris for Helen, which destroyed a civilization, to the legitimate, constructive love of  Eneas and Lavine. Together they unite the conjugal aspect of Venus and the lawful aspect of Amors, which represent the potentials for love within the human spirit.

( All English translations are taken from  Eneas: A Twelfth-Century French Romance, translated with an Introduction and Notes by John A. Yunck, Number XCIII Records of Civilization Sources and Studies (New York: Columbia UP, 1974.)

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© Diane Thompson: 11/10/1998; updated: 01/28/2011