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DIDO, DYDO. Dido was the legendary founder of Carthage and daughter of the king of Tyre, whom Virgil calls Belus. In Phoenicia she was known as Elissa, but she was called Dido (the Wanderer) in Carthage. Her brother Pygmalion murdered her husband Sychaeus, a priest of Hercules. Sychaeus's ghost appeared to Dido in a dream and warned her against Pygmalion. Escaping with a group to Libya, she founded Carthage. Here Aeneas met her when he landed at Carthage, his ships driven off course during a storm as he escaped from Troy. She entertained him lavishly and fell in love with him. But he felt his destiny was to found a new city, and he left her stealthily at night. When Dido discovered this, she killed herself on her funeral pyre with his sword (Aeneid I-IV; Heroides VII).

Ovid's account aroused sympathy for Dido during the Middle Ages. Beryl Smalley points out that John Ridewall, in his Commentary on Augustine's De civitate Dei (The City of God) I.2 (before 1333), says that Aeneas could not have met Dido since he lived three hundred years earlier. Ranulph Higden says that Dido built Carthage three score years and twelve (72 years) before the founding of Rome (Polychronicon II.xxvi, c. 1348-1352), adding that wise men deny that Aeneas saw Carthage. Higden's version says that Dido died on the pyre so as not to remarry. Dante, influenced by the Virgilian version, places Dido among the lustful (Inf V.61-62). Boccaccio's view is more complicated. He presents a chaste Dido who mounts the pyre rather than remarry as her councillors advise, De claris mulieribus XL, influenced by the chaste queen in Petrarch's Trionfi I.9-12; 154-159. But he also presents a Virgilian Dido, guilty of passion, in Amorosa visione, XXVIII.4-XXIX.30, and Il Filocolo II.18.12. Ovidian Dido, subjected to Amor, appears in Il Filocolo III, IV, V; in RR 13173-13210; in Machaut, Jugement dou roy de Navarre, 2095-2132.

Chaucer seems to have been touched with pity for Dido as Ovid presents her in Heroides VII. He mentions her story several times, and his presentation of Eneas emphasizes his falseness in love. The Man of Law says that Chaucer has told "the swerd of Dido for the false Enee," MLI 64. Dydo slew herself for the false Eneas, "which a fool she was," BD 731-734. The story is painted on a tablet of brass, HF I.241-444. Dido is one of love's martyrs, PF 289, and appears in the catalogue of faithful women, LGW F 264, LGW G 217. The full story appears LGW 924-1367. [Anne1: Ascanius: Eneas: Iulo: Yarbas]

Dido occurs once initially, HF I.312; twenty-two times in medial positions, MLI 64; PF 289; HF I.241, 254, 287, 318, 432, 444; LGW F 263; LGW G 217; LGW 927, 993, 995, 1017, 1124, 1157, 1201, 1237, 1290, 1330, 1333, 1336; twice in final rhyming position, LGW 1004, 1309. Dydo, the OF variant, occurs once in medial position, BD 732, and once in final rhyming position, LGW 956.

E.B. Atwood, "Two Alterations of Virgil in Chaucer's Dido." Speculum 13 (1938): 454-457; Boccaccio, L'Amorosa visione, ed. V. Branca, 203-206; ibid., CFW, trans. G. Guarino, 86-92; De claris mulieribus, ed. V. Zaccaria, 168-182; ibid., Il Filocolo, ed. S. Battaglia, 83, 267, 302, 349, 378, 466; D.R. Bradley, "Fals Eneas and Sely Dido." PQ 39 (1960): 122-125; Dante, Divine Comedy, ed. and trans. C.S. Singleton, I.1: 50-53; Alan T. Gaylord, "Dido at Hunt, Chaucer at Work." ChauR 17 (1982-1983): 300-315; Guillaume de Machaut, Oeuvres, ed. E. Hoepffner, I: 209-210; Ranulf Higden, Polychronicon, ed. J.R. Lumby and C. Babington, II: 432-435; R. Hollander, Boccaccio's Two Venuses, 171-173; Ovid, Her, ed. and trans. G. Showerman, 82-99; Petrarch, I Trionfo della Pudicizia, ed. Ezio Chiorboli, 325-329; ibid., The Triumphs of Petrarch, trans. E.H. Wilkins, 39, 45; RR, ed. E. Langlois, IV: 9-10; RR, trans. C. Dahlberg, 228; B. Smalley, English Friars and Antiquity, 130-320; Virgil, Aeneid, ed. and trans. H.R. Fairclough, I: 264-275; 294-445.
Copyright © 1988, 1996 Jacqueline de Weever
Published by Garland Publishing, Inc., New York and London.

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