1967 年 43 巻 2 号 p. 163-179
The famous love story of Dido and Aeneas recounted in Books I, II and IV of Virgil's Aeneid has inspired a number of fine creations in later ages, but the theme has also undergone various changes according to the writer's own temperament and, perhaps more, to the spirit of the time. In Virgil's epic the emphasis is on Aeneas' mission and his pietas. Dido, wounded as she was, did not deserve much sympathy, because Aeneas' course as decreed by the gods was thought to take priority over private love however passionate or sincere. When we consider Aeneas' agony in parting with Dido, we feel that he is the tragic character not she. Only a few decades later the emphasis shifted, when Ovid in Heroides VII reveals his sympathy with the queen, while censuring the hero for his infidelity. This tendency remained dominant through the Middle Ages, and Chaucer is no exception in his The House of Fame and The Legend of Dido. Nevertheless it was in the Renaissance that Dido's misfortune was most markedly taken up as a touchingly sad story. Thus in Marlowe's The Tragedie of Dido, Queene of Carthage, Dido's human passion and subsequent death are portrayed far more attractively than Aeneas' otherworldly piety which shocks the humanistic mind. In order to intensify Dido's tragic feature, Marlowe stresses her nobleness, and the furor (frenzy) which characterizes the original Dido almost disappears; whereas Aeneas, in complete contrast to Virgil's hero, is turned into an irresolute and tricky figure. A century after Marlowe, Henry Purcell composed an opera titled Dido and Aeneas, of which the libretto was written by Nahum Tate, public poet and laureate. Though Purcell's music is splendid enough to be counted not only among his masterpieces but as representative of English baroque music, the drama as such is incredibly absurd and hardly related to the original. Dido appears as a prettier, gentler and purer woman than even in Marlowe; Aeneas more foolish and nasty. Probably the most drastic difference is the fact that in Tate's libretto Aeneas is called away by a witch masquerading as a god. A plausible motivation of Aeneas' action is thus utterly removed. The traditional conflict between duty and love is lost since Dido is deprived of life, reputation and love by nothing but the witches' malicious scheme. The last traces of sublimity have vanished and there remains only larmoyant sentimentalism. Nahum Tate was, in fact, the author of the version of King Lear with a happy ending. It is then not surprising that he was capable of distorting the Dido episode. Nevertheless when we bear in mind that the adaptation of King Lear remained current for more than a century and a half, we may conclude that rather than the personal whim of the librettist of Dido and Aeneas it was the vagaries of the Zeitgeist that mattered most.