Thursday, June 25, 2009

Belli Signum

I recently gave my year 12 class an assessment task on Aeneid VIII; over the next couple of days I'll post some of the questions, and my own responses. Feel free to criticise my answers, or to add anything to them. Here's the first one:

ut belli signum Laurenti Turnus ab arce
extulit et rauco strepuerunt cornua cantu,
utque acris concussit equos utque impulit arma,
extemplo turbati animi, simul omne tumultu
coniurat trepido Latium saevitque iuventus
effera. Ductores primi Messapus et Ufens
contemptorque deum Mezentius undique cogunt
auxilia et latos vastant cultoribus agros.

How has Virgil used language to convey the dramatic preparations for war in this passage? (4 marks)
Virgil has used a range of language techniques to effectively convey the chaotic preparations for war amongst the Latin peoples. This is obvious from the opening line. Virgil has used a long sentence (from ut belli to iuventus effera), containing multiple subordinate clauses to create the impression of frenzied action. The tricolon in lines 1-3, emphasised by the repetition of ut… utque… utque, give the passage a dramatic build up, before we reach the focus of the sentence in lines 4-5. These lines also contain an abundance of verbs (extulit, strepueunt, concussit, impulit, coniurat, saevit, cogunt, vastant), many of them in the present tense, which convey the dramatic action of the scene, and create a vivid picture in the reader’s mind.

Virgil’s choice of words has also contributed to the drama of these opening lines. He has used many words with violent connotations, including turbati, tumultu, trepido, saevit, effera. These words give the passage an underlying sense of chaos, and assist Virgil in effectively conveying this dramatic scene. Virgil’s placement of these words is also significant, with tumultu emphasised at the end of line 4, and effera also stressed through its enjambement.

The scale of the Latins’ preparations for war is also conveyed by Virgil’s choice of words. In lines 7 and 8 words such as undique and latos stress the totality of their actions, giving the impression that the whole countryside is effected, and thus further increasing the dramatic nature of the passage.


sarah shipley said...

i remember that! surprisingly enough. but i thought it was "enjambment", although actually that looks weird so maybe i'm wrong.

Mike Salter said...

Many thanks for this JM, might share with my 12s as well. I'd further suggest that there's some nice alliteration going on in lines 2-3, particularly the c's and r's: "Rauco stRepueRunt CoRnua Cantu", which carries on a little bit in "(utque) aCRis ConCussit eQUos" (-qu- being virtually equivalent to -c- in Latin in any case, sound-wise). The r's seem to give a sense of anger and warlike demeanour, while the c's are often used in passages describing violent action.

Natalie W said...

Hey Mr. M,

Did your email change? I tried to send you one but it bounced!

jm said...

good point mike- i left that out as it was (sort of) covered in a previous question which asked about the rhythm and/or sound of the lines, but it does warrant inclusion.

Natalie, good to hear from you. my email address has changed- from to that should work.