The Aeneid

Mortal Women and Furor in the Aeneid

“Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” This popular saying, paraphrased from William Congreve's The Mourning Bride, was written nearly 1600 years after Vergil's Aeneid. Even so, the quote speaks to the Aeneid's exploration of the relationship between female characters and the emotion of furor. In his epic, Vergil often chooses to portray his female characters as being possessed by furor. Be they prophetic, love-struck, insane, or filled with martial rage, the mortal females portrayed in the Aeneid embody various emotions all, surprisingly, expressed with the same Latin word. An exploration of selected mortal women from Vergil's epic displays the myriad meanings of the term "furor," as well as the almost complete power that this emotion is shown to have over mortal women.

The Sibyl, a prophetess who narrates and guides Aeneas' destined trip through the underworld, is possessed by a prophetic fury that serves as the source of her knowledge and power. The frenzy that ultimately captures “awful Sibyl” is in stark contrast to the calm and collected nature of “pious Aeneas,” thereby increasing the impact (6.11,14). The prescient furor which makes the Sibyl terrifying and powerful is not initially...

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