David Bruce: Christopher Marlowe’s DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE: A Retelling — Cast of Characters and Act 1, Scenes 1-2



Jupiter, King of the Gods.

Mercury (Hermes), the Messenger God. Mercury is the god’s Roman name, and Hermes is the god’s Greek name. Christopher Marlowe uses both names in this play.

Ganymede, Cupbearer to the Gods.

Cupid, God of Love.


Venus, Goddess of Love and Beauty and Sexual Passion.

Juno, Queen of the Gods.


Aeneas, Leader of the exiled Trojans after the Fall of Troy.

Ascanius, his son.





Aeneas’ Rival:

Iarbas, King of Gaetulia.


Dido, Queen of Carthage.

Anna, her sister.


Minor Characters:

Trojan Soldiers, Carthaginian Lords, Attendants.


Thomas Nashe may be a co-author of this play.

— 1.1 —

On Mount Olympus, Jupiter dandled Ganymede upon his knee and Mercury lay asleep.

“Come, gentle Ganymede, and play with me,” Jupiter said. “I love you well, and I don’t care what Juno says.”

Ganymede was a beautiful young boy, and Jupiter loved him. Jupiter was unfaithful to his wife, Juno, and had many affairs with goddesses and mortal women.

“I am ‘much better off’ because of your worthless love,” Ganymede said sarcastically, “that will not shield me from her shrewish blows. Today, when I poured nectar in your cups and held the fine napkin while you drank, she reached over and hit me so hard that I spilled the nectar, and she made the blood run down from my ears.”

The gods drank nectar and ate ambrosia.

“What!” Jupiter said. “Does she dare strike the darling of my thoughts? By Saturn’s soul, and this earth-threatening hair, that, shaken thrice, makes nature’s buildings quake, I vow that if she just once frowns on you again, to hang her, like a meteor, between heaven and earth, and bind her, hand and foot, with golden cords, as once I did after she harmed Hercules.”

Jupiter was a powerful god. To become the King of the gods, he had to overpower his father, Saturn, and just by shaking his hair three times he could cause earthquakes that would shake mountains.

Juno hated the children that Jupiter fathered with other goddesses and women. One of these children was the super-strong Hercules, whom Juno once caused to be shipwrecked. To punish Juno, Jupiter tied her with golden ropes, hung anvils from her feet, and let her hang suspended by her hands.

“If I might just see that pretty entertainment afoot,” Ganymede said, “oh, how I would laugh with Helen’s brother, and bring the gods to see and wonder at Juno’s punishment.”

Helen is Helen of Troy, and her brother would be either Castor or Pollux. They were her twin brothers, but Castor was mortal and Pollux was immortal. After Castor died, Pollux shared his immortality with him. The brothers took turns being alive: While one twin was happy and alive on Mount Olympus with the other gods, the other twin was in Hades, the Land of the Dead.

Ganymede continued, “Sweet Jupiter, if I have ever pleased your eye or seemed fair, walled in with eagle’s wings, grace my immortal beauty with this favor, and I will spend my time in your bright arms.”

Earlier, Jupiter had turned himself into an eagle, swooped down and seized the extremely good-looking Ganymede, and carried him to Mount Olympus to be his cupbearer. Although Ganymede had been born mortal, Jupiter gave him eternal youth.

“What would I deny your youth, you sweet boy,” Jupiter said, “whose face reflects such pleasure to my eyes, as I, burning with passion on account of the fire-darting beams from your eyes, have often driven back the horses of the night, when they would have haled you from my sight?”

Jupiter was saying that he had often kept back the horses of the night, but did he keep them from rising or from setting? If he kept them from rising and beginning the night, he did so because he wanted to spend more time with Ganymede before Ganymede got sleepy and went to bed. If he kept them from setting and ending the night, he did so because he wanted to spend more time with Ganymede in bed.

Jupiter continued, “Sit on my knee and call for whatever you want. Control proud Fate and cut the thread of Time.”

The three Fates determined the length of mortal lives. Clotho spun the thread of life, Lachesis measured it, and Atropos cut it. When a mortal’s thread of life was cut, the mortal died.

Jupiter continued, “Why, aren’t all the gods at your command and aren’t heaven and earth the territory of your delight? The lame blacksmith god Vulcan shall dance to make laughing entertainment for you, and my nine daughters — the Graces — shall sing for you when you are sad. From Juno’s bird the peacock I’ll pluck her spotted pride — her feathers — to make you fans with which to cool your face, and Venus’ swans shall shed their silver down to make sweet the slumbers of your soft bed. Hermes no more shall show the world his wings, if your fancy should dwell in his feathers, for, as I do this one, I’ll tear them all from him.”

Jupiter plucked a feather from one of the winged sandals or the winged cap that Hermes wore.

Jupiter continued, “Do just say, ‘Their color pleases me,’ and I will pluck them.”

He then gave Ganymede a necklace of jewels and said, “Hold this here, my little love. These linked gems my Juno wore on her marriage day. My own sweetheart, put this around your neck and decorate your arms and shoulders with my theft.”

“I also want a jewel for my ear and a fine brooch to put in my hat,” Ganymede said, “and then I’ll hug with you a hundred times.”

“And you shall have those things, Ganymede, if you will be my love.”

Venus entered and complained, “Yes, this is it! You can sit toying there and playing with that effeminate wanton boy, while my son Aeneas — a mortal — wanders on the seas and remains a prey to every ocean wave’s pride. He is in danger of being shipwrecked.”

Aeneas had become the leader of the surviving free Trojans after the fall of Troy. They had built 24 ships and were sailing in search of a new homeland.

Venus continued, “Juno, false and treacherous Juno, in her chariot’s pomp, drawn through the heavens by steeds of the brood of Boreas, the North Wind, ordered the goddess Hebe to direct the airy wheels of Juno’s chariot to the windy country of the clouds, where, finding Aeolus, guardian of the winds, entrenched with storms and guarded by a thousand grisly ghosts, she humbly begged him to be our bane, and told him to drown my son with all his fellow Trojans.”

Aeolus kept the winds locked up, releasing only the winds he wanted to be released for a while. If Aeolus kept the storm winds locked up, then ships could sail safely, but if he released the storm winds, then ships could sink.

Venus continued, “Then began the winds to break open their brazen doors and all Aeolia — Aeolus’ islands — to be up in arms.

“Poor Troy must now be sacked upon the sea, and Neptune’s waves be malicious men of war. Epeus’ horse, transformed to Mount Etna’s volcanic hill, stands prepared to wrack their wooden walls, and Aeolus, like Agamemnon, sounds the surges, his fierce soldiers, to the spoil.”

Venus was comparing the danger of the storm to the fall of Troy. Aeneas’ ships were Troy, and they were in danger of sinking. Epeus had built the Trojan Horse, which the Trojans had brought into their city, widening the entrance into the city to do so. The rocks around the island of Mount Etna would similarly poke holes in Aeneas’ ships. Agamemnon had led the Greek warriors in the war against Troy.

Venus continued, “See how the night, Ulysses-like, comes forth and intercepts the day, as Ulysses formerly intercepted Dolon.”

The storm clouds were making everything dark, and so night was surprising day. In Book 10 of Homer’s Iliad, Odysseus (his Roman name is Ulysses) and Diomedes make a night raid and surprise and capture Dolon, a Trojan spy.

Venus said, “Ay me! The stars surprised, like Rhesus’ steeds, are drawn by darkness from the tents of Astraeus, a Titan and the father of the stars.”

Because the storm clouds were making everything dark, the stars came out early, although they could not seen because of the storm clouds. They were surprised, just like the steeds of King Rhesus were surprised. After capturing Dolon, Ulysses and Diomedes extracted information from him, learning that a King named Rhesus had recently arrived. Ulysses and Diomedes killed King Rhesus and stole his horses. No one saw Ulysses and Diomedes killing the King and stealing his horses.

Venus continued, “What shall I do to save you, Aeneas, my sweet boy, when the waves are so high that they threaten our divine crystalline world above the clouds, and the sea-god Proteus, raising hills of floods on high, intends before long to entertain himself in the sky?

“False, treacherous Jupiter, is this how you reward virtue? What! Isn’t piety exempt from woe? My son Aeneas is a pious man. But if you, Jupiter, reward his piety in this way, then die, Aeneas, in your innocence, since your religion and piety receive no recompense.”

She believed that her son deserved much better treatment than this because of his good personal character.

Jupiter said, “Be calm, Cytherea, despite your concern for your son.”

One of Venus’ names was Cytherea because she was born in the sea near the island of Cythera.

Jupiter continued, “Your Aeneas’ wandering fate is firm and fixed; we know what is fated to happen to him, both as he wanders and afterward.”

He now described Aeneas’ fate:

“His weary limbs shall shortly find repose in those fair walls I previously promised him. But his good fortune must first bud in blood before he becomes the lord of the town of Turnus, or force Juno to smile although she has hitherto frowned. Three winters shall he with the Rutulians war, and in the end subdue them with his sword, and three full summers likewise shall he waste in taming those fierce barbarian minds. Once that is performed, then poor Troy, so long suppressed, from out of her ashes shall advance her strength and power, and the Trojans shall flourish once again, although they were ‘dead’ just after the fall of Troy.”

As a god, Jupiter knew Aeneas’ fate. Eventually, he would lead the free surviving Trojans to Italy, where they would fight a war for three years. Eventually, the Trojans would win the war, with Aeneas killing Turnus, the leader of the enemy forces. Then the Trojans would become important ancestors of the Roman people. Although Juno hated the Trojans, she would be forced to accept their success.

Jupiter continued to tell Aeneas’ fate:

“But bright Ascanius, beauty’s better work, who with the sun divides one radiant shape, shall build his throne in the midst of those starry towers that earth-born Atlas, groaning, underprops and supports.”

Ascanius is Aeneas’ son, beautiful and as radiant as the sun. Atlas is a Titan who was punished by being forced to hold up the sky.

Jupiter continued to tell Aeneas’ fate, including the fate of his descendants:

“No boundaries but heaven shall bound his empire, whose azured — blue-as-the-sky — gates engraved with his name, shall make the morning hasten her gray uprise to feed her eyes with his engraved fame.”

The Roman Empire would have no boundary except that of heaven, and Aeneas’ name and the names of his important descendants would be remembered.

Jupiter continued to tell Aeneas’ fate, including the fate of his descendants:

“Thus in brave Hector’s race the Roman royal scepter shall remain for three hundred years, until a priestess of royal birth impregnated by Mars, shall yield to dignity a double birth, who will make Troy eternal with their undertakings.”

Hector was the greatest Trojan warrior, but the greatest warrior of the Trojan War, the Greek Achilles, killed him.

Aeneas and his descendants were fated to build and rule cities in Italy. Three hundred years after Aeneas, the vestal virgin Rhea Silvia, also known as Ilia, would give birth to the twins Romulus and Remus, who would found the city of Rome.

Venus said, “How may I believe these flattering words of yours, when both sea and sands still beset the Trojan ships, and Phoebus Apollo refrains from tainting his tresses in the Tyrrhenian main just as he refrains from tainting them in Stygian pools?”

She was saying in a complex way what could be said simply. Phoebus Apollo is the sun-god, and in this case he is metaphorically the sun itself. “Tainting his tresses” meant “dipping his hair” or “shining on.” The Tyrrhenian main is the Mediterranean Sea. The Styx is a river in Hades, the Land of the Dead. All that Venus was saying was that the sun was refraining from shining on the Mediterranean Sea just like it refrained from shining on the Styx River in the underground Land of the Dead.

“I will take care of that immediately,” Jupiter said to Venus.

He shook Hermes and said, “Hermes, wake up, and hasten to the realm of Neptune, King of the sea, where the wind god, Aeolus, warring now with Fate, is besieging the offspring of our kingly loins.

“Order him from me to turn his stormy powers back to his realm and fetter them in Vulcan’s sturdy brass restraints because these stormy winds dare to thus proudly wrong our kinsman’s peace.”

Aeneas was a kinsman because he could trace his ancestry back to Jupiter, who with Electra parented Dardanus, from whom Aeneas was descended.

Hermes exited to carry out his orders.

“Venus, farewell,” Jupiter said. “I will take care of your son Aeneas.”

He then said, “Come, Ganymede, we must set about this business.”

Jupiter and Ganymede exited.

Gods and goddesses can move quickly. Venus quickly flew through the air and landed on the shore of Carthage, where she knew that Aeneas would soon appear.

She said, “Restless seas, lay down your swelling looks, and court Aeneas with your calm cheer, whose beauteous burden well might make you proud, had not the heavens, made pregnant with hell-born clouds, veiled his resplendent glory from your view.

“For my sake pity him, Oceanus, you river that encircles the world. Pity Aeneas for the sake of me, who formerly issued from watery loins and had my being from your bubbling froth. I was born from the foam around the island of Cythera.

“The sea-god Triton, I know, has blown his trumpet on behalf of Troy, and therefore will take pity on Aeneas’ toil, and call both Thetis and Cymothoe, two Nereids who are minor sea-goddesses, to succor him in this extremity.”

When Triton blows his trumpet, waves calm. Venus must have thought — or known — that Jupiter had ordered him to calm the waves.

Aeneas arrived, accompanied by Ascanius and one or two other Trojans. Ascanius was Aeneas’ young son, and Aeneas was Venus’ adult son.

Venus said, “Do I see my son now come on shore? Venus, how you are enveloped with happiness while your eyes bring to you the joys your eyes have long sought!

“Great Jupiter, may you be always honored for this so friendly aid in time of need.

“Here in these bushes I will stand disguised as a mortal, while my Aeneas wearies himself in complaints and lets heaven and earth know about his disquiet.”

Aeneas said, “You sons of care, companions of my course, Priam’s misfortune follows us by sea, and Helen’s abduction haunts you at the heels.”

King Priam died when Troy fell. The cause of the war was his son Paris’ visit to Sparta, where he seized and ran away with Helen, the legitimate wife of Menelaus, King of Sparta.

“How many dangers have we passed through and endured!” Aeneas said. “Both barking Scylla and the sounding rocks, the Cyclopes’ sandbanks, and grim Ceraunia’s seat have you passed and yet remain alive!”

Scylla was a monster that lived in a rocky cliffside; she would snatch sailors from ships and devour them. The sounding rocks were rocks that crashed together, smashing to bits any ships that sailed in between them. The Cyclopes were one-eyed giants that ate humans. Ceraunia was a dangerous promontory.

“Pluck up your hearts,” Aeneas continued, “since fate still remains our friend, and changing heavens may return to us those good days, which Pergama did boast in all her pride.”

Pergama is another name for the citadel, aka fortress, of Troy.

Achates, one of Aeneas’ companions, said, “Brave Prince of Troy, you are our only god. By your virtues you free us from troubles and make our hopes survive to coming joys. If you just smile, the cloudy heaven will clear; the sky’s night and day descend from your brows. Although we are now in extreme misery and remain the picture of weather-beaten woe, yet the aged sun shall shed forth his hair — his blazing tresses — to make us live with our former heat, and every beast the forest shall send forth shall bequeath her young ones to augment our scanty food.”

Ascanius, hungry, said, “Father, I am faint. Good father, give me food.”

“Alas, sweet boy,” Aeneas said, “you must be hungry a while longer, until we have fire to cook the meat we killed.

“Gentle Achates, get the tinderbox, so that we may make a fire to warm us and roast our newfound food on this shore.”

Still unnoticed, Venus said to herself, “See what strange arts necessity finds out: Necessity is the mother of invention. To what troubles, my sweet Aeneas, have you been driven!”

“Wait, take this candle and go light a fire,” Aeneas said. “You shall have leaves and wind-fallen boughs enough, near to these woods, to roast your meat with.

“Ascanius, go and dry your drenched limbs, while I with my Achates rove abroad, to learn what coast the wind has driven us on, and whether men or beasts inhabit it.”

Ascanius and the Trojan men exited, leaving behind Aeneas, Achates, and Venus.

“The air is pleasant,” Achates said, “and the soil is most fit for the support of cities and society. Yet I much marvel that I cannot find any steps of men imprinted in the earth.”

Venus said to herself, “Now is the time for me to play my part.”

Disguised as a young woman, she called, “Ho, young men! Did you see as you came any of my sisters wandering here? Each sister would be wearing a quiver tied around her side and would be clothed in a spotted leopard’s skin.”

“I neither saw nor heard of any such,” Aeneas said. “But what may I, fair virgin, call your name, you whose looks set forth no mortal form to view, and whose speech does not betray anything human in your birth?

“You are a goddess who is deluding our eyes and you are shrouding your beauty in this borrowed shape, but whether you are the sun’s bright sister — Diana, twin sister of Apollo — or you are one of chaste Diana’s attendant nymphs, live happy in the height of all content, and lighten our extremes with this one boon. Please tell us under what good heaven we breathe now, and what this world is called on which we are cast by the fury of the tempest.

“Tell us, oh, tell us, tell us who are ignorant, and this right hand shall make your altars crack with mountain heaps of milk-white sacrifice.”

Although Venus had disguised herself as a mortal, she was unable to hide all her beauty and so Aeneas knew that she was a goddess. He was asking her for information with the promise that he would reward her by sacrificing many milk-white — the most prized color — animals on her altars.

Still pretending to be mortal, the disguised Venus said, “Such honor, stranger, I do not care for. It is the custom for Tyrian maidens to wear their bow and quiver in this modest way and clothe themselves in these purple garments so that they may travel more lightly over the meadows, and overtake the tusked boar in chase.”

Venus was pretending to be a Carthaginian. The Carthaginians had come from Phoenicia, two of whose main cities were Tyre and Sidon. The Phoenicians were famous, among other things, for dyeing cloth purple.

The disguised Venus continued, “But as for the land about which you inquire, it is the Punic kingdom, rich and strong, adjoining on Agenor’s stately town, the kingly seat of southern Libya, where Sidonian — Phoenician — Dido rules as Queen.”

In other words, Aeneas had landed on the shore of the Punic — Carthaginian — kingdom, which was ruled by Queen Dido.

“But who are you who ask me these things?” the disguised Venus asked. “Whence may you come, or whither will you go? Where have you come from, and to where are you going?”

“I am Trojan. Aeneas is my name, who driven by war from my native world, put sails to sea to seek out Italy; I am divinely descended from sceptered Jove.”

Jove is another name for Jupiter. As King of the gods, he had a scepter.

Aeneas continued, “With twice twelve ships from Asia Minor, I plowed the deep sea and headed in the direction my mother, Venus, led, but of them all scarcely seven ships anchor safely here, and they are so ravaged and rolled by the waves that every tide makes them tilt on one or other of their oaken sides.

“And all of them, unburdened of their load, are ballasted with billows’ watery weight — they are filled with unwanted water.

“But hapless I, God knows, poor and unknown, do walk these Libyan deserts all despised, exiled from both Europe and wide Asia, and I haven’t any roof over me except heaven.”

“Fortune has favored you, whoever you are,” the disguised Venus said, “in sending you to this courteous coast. In God’s name, continue on, and hasten to the court, where Queen Dido will receive you with her smiles.

“And as for your other ships, which you suppose to be lost, not one of them has perished in the storm, for they have arrived safely not far from here.

“And so I leave you to your fortune’s lot, wishing good luck to your wandering steps.”

Venus, Aeneas’ mother, quickly exited. Mortals and immortals are quite different, and it is unusual for mortal children to communicate in any depth with immortal parents.

Aeneas said, “Achates, it is my mother who has just fled; I know her by the gait of her feet.

“Wait, gentle Venus! Don’t flee from your son! Too cruel, why will you forsake me thus, or in these disguises deceive my eyes so often?

“Why can’t we talk together, hand in hand, and tell our griefs in more familiar terms? But you have gone and left me here alone to dull the air with my disgruntled moans.”

— 1.2 —

The Trojans Cloanthus, Ilioneus, and Sergestus had just entered Carthage, where they saw Iarbas, King of Gaetulia. These Trojans were some of those who had been separated from Aeneas.

Ilioneus said, “Follow, you Trojans, follow this brave lord, and complain and explain to him the sum of your distress.”

“Why, who are you, and for what do you plead?” Iarbas asked.

“We are wretches of Troy, hated by all the winds,” Ilioneus replied. “We crave such favor at your honor’s feet, as poor distressed misery may plead.”

The Trojans knelt before Iarbas.

Ilioneus pleaded, “Save, save, oh, save our ships from cruel fire, ships that complain about the wounds of a thousand waves, and spare the lives of us whom every vexation pursues. We come not, we, to wrong your Libyan gods or steal your household Lares from their shrines.”

The Lares were household gods that protected the welfare of families.

Ilioneus continued, “Our hands are not prepared to lawlessly spoil and plunder, nor are our hands armed to offend in any way. Such force is far from our unweaponed — unarmed — thoughts, whose fading well-being, lacking victory, forbids all hope to harbor near our hearts.”

“But tell me, Trojans, if you are Trojans,” Iarbas said, “to what fruitful quarters were you bound before Boreas — the North Wind — battled with your sails?”

“There is a place, called Hesperia by us,” Cloanthus said. “It is an ancient empire, famous for arms, and fertile in fair Ceres’ furrowed wealth. That place now we call Italia, of his name who in such peace for a long time and long ago did rule the same.”

Hesperia — the Western Land — is an ancient name for Italy, which according to legend was ruled at one time by a King named Italia.

Cloanthus continued, “Thither made we, when suddenly gloomy Orion rose and led our ships into the shallow sands, where the southern wind with brackish breath dispersed them all amongst the wreck-causing rocks.”

The constellation Orion is associated with storms.

He continued, “From thence a few of us escaped to land. The rest, we fear, are enfolded in the floods and drowned.”

“Brave men-at-arms,” Iarbas said, “abandon fruitless fears because Carthage knows how to courteously treat distressed men.”

“Yes,” Sergestus said, “but the barbarous sort of people threaten our ships and will not let us lodge upon the sands. In multitudes they swarm to the shore and they keep our feet from land.”

“I myself will see to it that they shall not trouble you,” Iarbas said. “Your men and you shall banquet in our court, and every Trojan will be as welcome here as Jupiter to good Baucis’ house.”

The gods Jupiter and Mercury once traveled in disguise as poor peasants in order to test the hospitality of people. Most people did not give them hospitality, but married couple Baucis and Philemon did, sharing what food they had although they were an unsophisticated country couple.

Iarbas continued, “Come in with me. I’ll bring you to my Queen, Dido, who shall confirm my words with further deeds.”

The Trojans stood up.

“Thanks, gentle lord, for such unlooked-for grace,” Sergestus replied. “If we could but once more see Aeneas’ face, then we would hope to reward such friendly turns as shall surpass the wonder of our speech. We aren’t able to describe well enough the good you do for us.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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This is an easy-to-read retelling of Christopher’s Marlowe’s DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE. People who read this version first will find the original much easier to read and understand.




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