How does Sinon deceive the Trojans in lines 57-144 of Virgil's Aeneid? An exercise in practical criticism.

Essay by sgalson1High School, 12th gradeA-, January 2005

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The portion of Book II of the Aeneid beginning at line 57 and ending at line 194, in which Sinon convinces the Trojans that the wooden horse should be brought inside their walls, is a masterful display of deceit. We shall see that Sinon's skill consists in constructing a story that is believable in its portrayal of human psychology, appealing to Trojan prejudices, and full of pathos, and telling it in a way that is suspenseful, flattering to his audience, and vivid and forceful in language. His general method is to involve and immerse the Trojans in his tale to such an extent that any natural cynicism is suppressed. The episode can be divided into two halves. In the first half, Sinon leads the Trojans through a series of responses - first mockery, then curiosity, then kindness, then pity - in an effort to attain their trust. In the second half, Sinon uses this trust to convince them that the Trojan horse should be brought inside their walls.

In this essay, I shall focus on the first half of the episode (lines 57-144) and trace the narrative technique of Sinon, elucidating its efficacy, and commenting on notable language as it occurs.

Sinon begins his tale with assumed despair: his first word is "Heu" and using anaphora of "quae" he lends his lamentation rhetorical force. Moreoever, the extended vowel sounds ("quae me aequora"), elision and predominantly spondaic scansion convey a mournful tone. A question implies the inferiority of the asker, and so by phrasing his laments as rhetorical questions, Sinon asserts his helplessness in the face of fate and the Trojans. Significantly, Sinon gives little actual information in his opening words, only mentioning that he was unwelcome among the Greeks ("neque apud Danaos") - i.e. he gives the Greek-hating...