in Barchester Towers

Chapter 27 – A Love Scene

two strings to Cupid’s bow

Cupid is the God who makes mortals fall in and out of love.  In this case Cupid’s arrows have sparked two attractions rather than just one.  [TH 2005]


second book of Euclid

Euclid was a Greek mathematician.  Euclid’s second book is a book of geometry that was likely used in education during the 19th century.  [TH 2005]


Venus and her Adonis

Adonis was a god of fertility and vegetation.  He was also famous as one of Venus’ lovers.  According to Ovid, Venus fell in love with Adonis when he was a young man.  Adonis was an avid hunter, and Venus warned him against hunting boars–but he didn’t listen.  In the end he was killed by a boar while hunting.  Madeline enjoys having men at her feet.  She is trying to control Mr. Slope as though it were all a game.  Trollope describes her behavior around Mr. Slope as being “graceful as a couchant goddess, and, moreover, as self-possessed as Venus must have been when courting Adonis.”  Madeline enjoys having power over men.  Venus is the goddess of love and, much like Madeline; she is often depicted manipulating men’s passions.  The comparison with Venus courting Adonis adds to Madeline’s exotic and over-the-top persona.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Ovid, Metamorphoses, 10.519-739.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


Dido and Cleopatra

Madeline has an interesting conversation with Mr. Slope when she compares Dido and Cleopatra.  In Vergil’s Aeneid, Dido was the founder of Carthage who was a lover of Aeneas.  Dido’s sister built a pyre for her to burn all reminders of Aeneas after he abandoned her, but instead Dido kills herself using Aeneas’ sword and hurls herself onto the pyre.  Cleopatra was the lover of Julius Caesar and later Marc Antony.  She sailed her fleet with Marc Antony into battle against Octavian.  In this reference, Mr. Slope introduces the name of Dido presumably because he wants it to convey some romantic notions, but Madeline counters by naming another North African woman, Cleopatra.  Madeline favors Cleopatra on the grounds that she, unlike Dido, insisted on bringing out her ships and going with her man.  (Although Madeline faults Dido for mixing “love and business,” Cleopatra could be as guilty as Dido of that charge.)  Mr. Slope’s mention of Dido may merit a bit more consideration.  He claims that he does not throw away Madeline’s letters, but rather has them “burnt on a pyre, as Dido was of old.”  Madeline’s letters may be analogous to the reminders of Aeneas out of which Dido’s pyre was built–Mr. Slope’s allusion thus casts Madeline in the role of Aeneas and himself in the role of Dido.  [TH & RR 2005]

Sources:  Vergil, Aeneid 4.630-705.



Madeline says:  “Never mind love.  After all, what is it?  The dream of a few weeks.  That is all its joy.  The disappointment of a life is its Nemesis.”  Nemesis was a force of divine vengeance.  She punished mortals for pride and law-breaking and also presided over good and bad fortune.  Perhaps Madeline is saying that love is a sort of pride so outrageous that Nemesis is right to destroy such happiness.  [TH 2005]

Sources:  Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.


Troilus and Cressida

This reference is tied in with that of Nemesis (above).  Troilus was the son of Priam who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War.  He is described in the Iliad as a warrior charioteer.  In a later medieval rendition, Achilles killed Troilus over the love Troilus felt for Cressida (Chryseis).  This is used as an example demonstrating that love meets retribution.  The reference to Cressida a few lines down (saying all women are not Cressidas) is related to post-antique versions of the story (such as the play by Shakespeare).  In Shakespeare’s play, Cressida betrays Troilus.  [TH & RR 2005]

Sources:  Homer, Iliad 24.257.
Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida.
Cassell’s Dictionary of Classical Mythology.