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
love her, but merely wants her land.
The Queen instructs Lavine to direct her heart away from
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
"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
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
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
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
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.)