This is a BBC Radio 4 dramatisation of Virgil's sweeping epic, starring Ralph Fiennes as Aeneas and Derek Jacobi as the Narrator. One of the classics of all time, The Aeneid was Virgil's last and greatest work. In it, he recounts in vivid imagery the legendary origin of the Roman Empire.
The story begins after the Greeks have destroyed the city of Troy. The Trojan Prince Aeneas, defeated and depressed, leads his remaining citizens to a new land and a new destiny foretold by the Gods. The journey to the west coast of Italy is full of adventure, love, betrayal and suffering.
On the island of Carthage, Aeneas meets Queen Dido who shelters his people. The two fall in love, but their happiness comes to a tragic end. Once in Italy, all seems hopeful, but soon rivalries develop between Aeneas and local powers and war breaks out...
Using a version of The Aeneid translated by C. Day Lewis, this memorable performance is put on by a star cast including Anna Massey, Gina McKee, Diana Quick and Eleanor Bron.
Public Domain (P)2012 AudioGO Ltd
This is an intelligently (but severely) abridged performance of the translation by the poet Cecil Day Lewis (father, as it happens, of the actor Daniel). The production features a top-notch cast: Ralph Fiennes, Derek Jacoby, Eleanor Bron, Bill Wallis, Anna Massey, Andrew Sachs, Christian Rodska, Philip Madoc among them. This is audio theater done right, in the best BBC manner, with music and sound effects throughout. Some of the recurring musical themes are a capella and have a wonderfully archaic sound.
What remains is roughly - judging by the length of other audio versions - one-sixth of the total. Dido is here, but not her sister; the war with Latinus and Turnus is here, but not the sad story of Nisus and Euryalus. It left me yearning for an unabridged treatment of the same translation (which, by the way, is somewhat hard to come by in print). The full translation is a careful line by line version that was, according to its introduction, originally prepared for a BBC broadcast. (Among the missing elements are Virgil's sometimes horrifyingly graphic descriptions of carnage.)
I'm very familiar with the story, in both printed and audio format, and it's hard to recapture the experience of hearing it for the first time. But to the extent that I can do this, I think this would be an excellent introduction to the story of Aeneas.
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