Every once is a while, an artist improves upon a classic. Think of the Red Hot Chili Peppers doing Search and Destroy by Iggy and the Stooges. They played it faster, added a kick-ass bass line, and rocked it up a few notches when one wouldn't have thought that possible.
On the other hand, there's Virgil's Aeneid. This pale rip-off of Homer mostly suffers in the comparison. Except for Dido. She kicks Calypso's skinny little ass.
It helps that Calypso was pretty much the lamest thing in the Odyssey. Sure, she loved Odysseus. But it was in the way that I love Ruffles BBQ potato chips. It lacked conviction and depth. And then there's Odysseus. Stuck in paradise with a beautiful goddess who anticipates his every need and wants to fuck all the time.
I've always had a tough time feeling his pain.
But Dido. Now there's real, gut-wrenching, rip your heart out, drink battery acid, over the top love. Personality-disordered love. Humiliating love. The kind of love that turns into unquenchable hate when it's wronged. A love that won't see reason.
And I love how Aeneas, who really is screwed, tries to explain himself, winds up sounding like an insincere jerk even when he's not, and finally does the only thing possible. He just goes out for a quart of milk and never comes back.
This, to me, is the true, eternal stuff of tragic love. After Chapter 4, everything else in the Aeneid is fairly forgettable. But without Dido, there wouldn't be anything to remember at all.