The Eclogues | Study Guide


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The Eclogues | Symbols



Virgil uses animals as symbols throughout "The Eclogues." In Eclogue 1 "the raven's ominous cry" represents ill fortune and death. Eclogue 3 uses lambs as symbols of natural innocence that can be easily "bewitched" by evil forces. The male goat in Eclogue 9 serves as a symbol of masculine physical power when "with his horn he butts." Seasonal changes bring references to different animals like boars, pigs, and goats in addition to the ever-present sheep that the shepherds take care of. Animals in "The Eclogues" serve as both literal parts of the story and figurative symbols of concepts Virgil communicates about humanity.


Virgil uses the seasons to represent the cycles and changes that take place within human life and history. Eclogue 10 compares love to seasonal growth and decline. Winter imagery of snow, frost, and ice is used in connection with the ending of love relationships. Love reemerges as the spring comes after winter, "as the green ... shoots in early Spring." "The Eclogues" take place amidst nature's cycles with a focus on their effects on humanity. Both nature and political upheaval influence the lives of the shepherds who populate Virgil's eclogues.

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