David Bruce: Christopher Marlowe’s DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE: A Retelling — Act 3, Scene 1

— 3.1 —

Cupid alone, disguised as Ascanius, said to himself, “Now, Cupid, cause the Carthaginian Queen to be enamored of your half-brother’s looks.”

Venus was the mother of both Aeneas and Cupid by different fathers, and so they were half-brothers.

Cupid continued, “Carry this golden arrow in your sleeve, lest she realize you are Venus’ son, and when she strokes you softly on the head, then I shall touch her breast with this arrow and conquer her.”

He would conquer her by making her fall in love with Aeneas.

Iarbas, Anna, and Dido entered the room.

Iarbas asked, “How long, fair Dido, shall I pine for you? It is not enough that you grant me love, for I need to enjoy what I desire. That love is childish that consists only of words.”

Dido replied, “Iarbas, know that you of all my wooers (and yet I have had many mightier Kings wooing me) have had the greatest favors I could give you. I fear that I, Dido, have been thought to be promiscuous because I have been too familiar with Iarbas, although the gods know no wanton thought has ever had residence in Dido’s breast.”

“But Dido is the favor I request,” Iarbas said.

Dido replied, “Don’t fear, Iarbas. Dido may be yours.”

“Look, sister,” Anna said. “Look at how Aeneas’ little son plays with your garments and embraces you.”

Tugging at Dido’s skirt, the disguised Cupid said, “No, Dido will not take me in her arms; I shall not be her son, for she does not love me.”

“Don’t cry, sweet boy,” Dido said. “You shall be Dido’s son. Sit in my lap, and let me hear you sing.”

The disguised Cupid sang a childish song.

“No more, my child,” Dido said. “Now talk for a little while, and tell me where you learned this pretty song.”

“My cousin Helen taught it to me in Troy,” the disguised Cupid said.

“How lovely Ascanius is when he smiles,” Dido said.

The disguised Cupid asked, “Will Dido let me hang about her neck?”

“Yes, waggish boy, and she gives you permission to kiss her, too.”

 “What will you give me now?” the disguised Cupid asked. “I’ll have this fan.”

The disguised Cupid took the fan, and as he did so, he lightly touched Dido with his golden arrow. Immediately, she fell in love with Aeneas. Her thoughts toward Iarbas wavered between completely rejecting him and treating him well.

“Take it, Ascanius, for your father’s sake,” Dido said.

“Come, Dido, leave Ascanius,” Iarbas said. “Let us walk together.”

“You, go away,” Dido said. “Ascanius shall stay.”

“Unkind, cruel Queen, is this how you show your love for me?” Iarbas said.

He started to leave.

“Oh, stay, Iarbas, and I’ll go with you,” Dido said.

Iarbas stayed.

“And if my mother goes, I’ll follow her,” the disguised Cupid said. By “mother,” he meant Dido. Ascanius had earlier told her that she would be his mother.

Dido asked Iarbas, “Why do you stay here? You are no love of mine.”

“Iarbas, die, seeing that Dido abandons you,” Iarbas said.

“No, Iarbas, live,” Dido said. “What have you done that you deserve that I should say you are no love of mine? Nothing.”

She immediately changed her mind: “Yes, you have done something that made you deserve it. Go away, I say! Depart from Carthage. Don’t come within my sight.”

“Am I not King of rich Gaetulia?” Iarbas asked.

Dido replied, “Iarbas, pardon me and stay a while.”

“Mother, look here,” the disguised Cupid said.

Dido again changed her mind: “Why are you telling me about rich Gaetulia? Am I not Queen of Libya? So then depart.”

“I am leaving to satisfy this weird mood of yours, my love,” Iarbas said. “Yet I will not go from Carthage for a thousand worlds.”

Iarbas started to leave.

Dido changed her mind and called his name: “Iarbas!”

Iarbas turned around and asked, “Did Dido call me back?”

Dido again changed her mind and said, “No, but I order you never again to look at me.”

“Then pull out both of my eyes, or let me die,” Iarbas said.

He exited.

Anna asked Dido, her sister, “For what reason did Dido tell Iarbas to leave?”

“Because his loathsome sight offends my eye,” Dido said, “and because in my thoughts is enshrined another love. Oh, Anna, if you knew how sweet love is, very soon you would abjure this single life.”

Anna replied, “Poor soul, I know too well the sour of love. Oh, I wish that Iarbas could fancy me!”

“Isn’t Aeneas fair and beautiful?” Dido asked.

“Yes, and Iarbas is foul and favorless,” Anna said.

“Favorless” means “unattractive.”

Anna may have been merely indulging the mood of her sister, or she may have been actively trying to make Dido no longer love Iarbas, whom Anna herself loved.

“Isn’t Aeneas eloquent in all his speech?” Dido asked.

“Yes, and Iarbas is rude and rustic in his speech,” Anna replied.

“Don’t say the name ‘Iarbas.’ But sweet Anna, tell me, isn’t Aeneas worthy of Dido’s love?”

“Oh, sister, even if you were Empress of the world, Aeneas would well deserve to be your love. So lovely is he that wherever he goes, the people swarm to gaze at his face.”

“But tell them that none but I shall gaze on him, lest their gross eyebeams taint my lover’s cheeks,” Dido said.

This society’s theory of vision was that eyes shot out beams that allowed the eyes to see objects. Being stared at by a lower-class person could therefore taint an upper-class person.

Dido continued, “Anna, good sister Anna, go to him and bring him here, lest I melt clean away with these sweet thoughts.”

“Then, sister, you’ll abjure Iarbas’ love?” Anna asked.

“Must I hear that loathsome name yet again?” Dido asked. 
“Run for Aeneas, or I’ll fly to him.”

The disguised Cupid said, “You shall not hurt my father when he comes.”

“No, I won’t,” Dido replied. “For your sake I’ll love your father well.”

She then said to herself, “Oh, dull-brained Dido, who until now did never think Aeneas to be beautiful! But now, for quittance of this oversight, I’ll make myself bracelets of his golden hair. His glistening eyes shall be my looking glass. His lips shall be an altar where I’ll offer up as many kisses as the sea has grains of sands. Instead of music I will hear him speak. His looks shall be my only library, and you, Aeneas, shall be Dido’s treasury, in whose fair bosom I will lock more wealth than twenty thousand Indias can afford.

“Oh, here he comes! Love, love, give Dido the ability to be more modest than her thoughts admit, lest I be made a wonder to the world.”

Dido was worried about being the object of gossip.

Aeneas, accompanied by his fellow Trojans Achates, Cloanthus, Ilioneus, and Sergestus entered.

Pretending that she had not seen Aeneas, Dido asked, “Achates, how does Carthage please your lord?”

Achates motioned toward Aeneas and replied, “That is something Aeneas can tell your majesty.”

“Aeneas, are you there?” Dido asked.

“I understand that your highness sent for me,” Aeneas replied.

“No,” Dido lied, “but now that you are here, tell me truly what Dido might do to highly please you.”

“So much have I received from Dido’s hands that I can ask for no more without blushing,” Aeneas replied, “yet still, Queen of Africa, my ships are unrigged, my sails all torn apart by the wind, my oars broken, and my tackling lost. Yes, all the ships of my navy are split because of rocks and sandbars. Our maimed fleet has neither rudders nor anchors. Our masts the furious winds struck overboard. If Dido will supply us with these things we so piteously lack, we will account her the author of our lives.”

God is often considered the author of all life. Aeneas was saying that if Dido would outfit his ships, he and the other Trojans would regard her as a goddess.

Dido replied, “Aeneas, I’ll repair your Trojan ships, on the condition that you will stay with me and let Achates sail to Italy.

“I’ll give you tackling made of twisted gold thread wound on the barks of odoriferous, sweet-smelling trees.

“I’ll give you oars of massy ivory, full of holes through which the water shall delight to play.”

Dido seems to have not known a thing about rowing. Or she may have meant that the oars she would give to Aeneas himself in particular would have holes so that they would be ineffective in taking him away from her.

She continued, “Your anchors shall be hewed from crystal rocks so that, if you loose or lose them, they shall shine above the waves.”

When anchors are loosed, they are brought up from the ocean’s floor to be stored on ship. Once above the waves, Aeneas’ anchor would shine brightly. In addition, as Achates sailed away and Aeneas “lost” his ships, Aeneas could long see the shining anchors.

Dido continued:

“The masts whereon your swelling sails shall hang will be hollow obelisks of silver plate.

“The sails will be made of fine cloth folded over for thickness, and embroidered on the sails shall be scenes of the wars of Troy, but not of Troy’s overthrow.”

She may have been thinking that thicker sails would blow the ships faster away from Carthage and Dido — and Aeneas.

Dido continued, “As for ballast, empty Dido’s treasury.”

She then said to Achates:

“Take what you will, but leave Aeneas here. Achates, you shall be so manly clad that sea-born nymphs shall swarm about your ships and wanton mermaids shall court you with sweet songs, flinging into your ship gifts of more sovereign worth than Thetis hangs about Apollo’s neck, provided that Aeneas may stay with me.”

Thetis is a sea-goddess who is the mother of the Greek Achilles, the strongest and best warrior of the Trojan War.

Apollo is the sun-god.

Aeneas asked, “Why would Dido have Aeneas stay here in Carthage?”

“To war against my bordering enemies,” Dido said. “Aeneas, don’t think that Dido is in love, for if any man could conquer me, I would have been wedded before Aeneas came to Carthage.”

She pointed to a wall and said, “Look where the pictures of my suitors hang. Aren’t these suitors as fair as fair may be?”

“I saw this man at Troy, before Troy was sacked,” Achates said.

“I saw this man in Greece when Paris stole fair Helen,” Aeneas said.

“This man and I were at Olympus’ games,” Illioneus said.

“I know this face,” Sergestus said. “He is a Persian born. I traveled with him to Aetolia.”

“And I, unless I am deceived, disputed with this gentleman once in Athens about a philosophical matter,” Cloanthus said.

Dido pointed to another group of pictures and said, “But speak, Aeneas. Do you know any of these men?”

“No, madam, but it seems that these men are Kings,” Aeneas replied.

Dido said, “All these and others whom I never saw have been most urgent suitors for my love. Some suitors came in person, and others sent their legates, yet none obtained me. I am free from all.”

She thought, And yet, God knows, I am entangled to one: you, Aeneas.

As she spoke, she pointed to various pictures:

“This man was an orator and thought by words to win me, but yet he was deceived.

“And this man is a Spartan courtier, vain and wild, but his fantastic moods did not please me.

“This man was Alcion, a musician, but despite how sweetly he played, I let him go.

“This man was the wealthy King of Thessaly, but I had gold enough and cast him off.

“This man was Meleager’s son, a warlike Prince, but weapons don’t agree with my tender years.

“The rest are such as all the world well knows, yet now I swear, by heaven and by him I love, I was as far from loving as they were from hating.”

Aeneas said, “Oh, happy shall he be whom Dido loves.”

“Then never say that you are miserable, because it may be you shall be my love,” Dido said. “Yet don’t boast about it, for I do not love you. And yet I do not hate you.”

She thought, Oh, if I speak, I shall betray myself. Aeneas, you speak.

Dido continued, “We two will go hunting in the woods, but not so much for you — you are only one person — as for Achates and his followers.”


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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