David Bruce: Christopher Marlowe’s DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE: A Retelling — Act 3, Scene 2

— 3.2 —

Juno looked at Ascanius, who was asleep in the midst of thick bushes, and she said, “Here lies my hate, Aeneas’ cursed brat, the boy wherein treacherous destiny delights, the heir of Fame, the favorite of Fate, that ugly imp that shall outlast my wrath and wrong my deity with high disgrace.”

Ascanius’ destiny was to go to Italy with his father, and along with his father, become an important ancestor of the Roman people.

Juno continued, “But I will take another order now and raze and erase the eternal register of time.”

She wanted to change what was fated to occur.

She continued, “Troy shall no more call Ascanius her second hope, nor shall Venus triumph in his tender youth, for here, in spite of heaven, I’ll murder him and feed infection with his left-out life.”

She wanted to murder him and to allow his stinking corpse — his body with his life left out — to infect the air.

Juno continued, “Say, Paris, now shall Venus have the ball? Say, Vengeance, shall her Ascanius die now?”

One reason why Juno hated the Trojans was the Judgment of Paris. Three goddesses — Juno, Minerva, and Venus — held a beauty contest with Paris, Prince of Troy, as the judge. The prize for the winner was a golden ball, often referred to as a golden apple. Each goddess attempted to bribe Paris to choose her, and Paris accepted Venus’ bribe: Helen, the most beautiful woman in the world. Helen was already married to Menelaus, King of Sparta, and Paris went to Sparta and ran away with Helen. Ancient authorities disagree about whether Helen went with Paris willingly.

Juno, however, had second thoughts about murdering a sleeping, innocent young boy:

“Oh, no! God knows, I cannot take advantage of this opportunity, nor requite with a double payment the ‘good turns’ — the insults — done to me. Bah, I am foolish, without a mind able to hurt this child, and I have no gall at all to use to aggrieve my foe, but lustful Jove and his adulterous child — Venus, who had an affair with Mars, the god of war — shall find it written on Confusion’s forehead that only Juno rules in the town of Rhamnus.”

Rhamnus, a town in Attica, was the site of a major shrine to Nemesis, goddess of vengeance and punishment. Juno meant that even though she could not kill Ascanius, she would still find a way to get major vengeance for what she considered major wrongs done to her.

Venus arrived, saying to herself, “What does this mean? My doves returned to me, and they warn me of such danger close at hand — danger that would harm my sweet Ascanius’ lovely life.”

Seeing Juno, Venus said, “Juno, my mortal foe, what are you doing here? Leave, old witch, and don’t trouble my mind.”

“For shame, Venus, that such words of wrath should without a reason ever defile so fair a mouth as yours,” Juno said. “Aren’t we both sprung of a celestial race, aren’t we both goddesses, and don’t we both banquet as two sisters with the gods? Why then should displeasure disjoin us two whom kinship and acquaintance do unite?”

“Out, hateful hag!” Venus said. “You would have slain my grandson, except that my sacred doves discovered your intention and came to me. But I will tear your eyes from out of your head and feast the birds with the bloodshot eyeballs, if you but lay your fingers on my boy Ascanius.”

“Is this then all the thanks that I shall have for saving him from snakes’ and serpents’ fangs that would have killed him, sleeping as he lay?” Juno said. “So what if I was offended with your son, and wrought him much woe on sea and land, when, because of my hatred for Trojan Ganymede, who was advanced by my Hebe’s shame — Jupiter made Ganymede his cupbearer, taking that honor from my daughter Hebe — and because of my hatred for Paris’ judgment of the heavenly ball, I mustered all the winds to wreck Aeneas’ fleet and urged each element — earth, air, fire, and water — to do him harm.

“Yet now I repent of causing his sorrow and I wish that I had never wronged him so. It is useless, I see now, to war with fate, which has so many irresistible friends, and therefore I changed my counsel with the time and have planted love where malice formerly had sprung.”

“Sister of Jove, if it is true that your love is such now as you protest it is, we two as friends will divide one fortune,” Venus said.

Juno was both Jupiter’s sister and his wife.

Venus continued, “Cupid shall lay his arrows in your lap and exchange his golden shafts for a scepter — that will show that he is a follower of yours. Fancy love and modesty — the fanciful amour of young lovers and the modesty of wives — shall live as mates, and fair peacocks, which are sacred to you, shall perch by doves, which are sacred to me. Love my Aeneas, and desire, which I control since I am the goddess of sexual passion, is yours. The day, the night, my swans, my sweets, are yours.”

“More than melodious are these words to me, these words that overfill my soul with their content,” Juno replied. “Venus, sweet Venus, how may I deserve such amorous favors from your beauteous hand?”

As the goddess of sexual passion, Venus could either help or hurt Juno. She could hurt Juno, a jealous wife, by making Jupiter fall in love with goddesses and mortal women. Or she could help Juno by making Jupiter fall and stay in love only with Juno.

Juno continued, “But so that you may more easily perceive how highly I prize this amity and friendship, listen to a motion of eternal league, which I will make as a reward for your love and friendship.

“Your son Aeneas, you know, now remains with Dido and feeds his eyes with favors of her court and courtship. She likewise spends her time in admiring him and can neither talk nor think of anything but him.

“Why shouldn’t they then join in marriage and bring forth mighty Kings to rule Carthage, these two whom a chance occurrence of the sea has made such friends?”

It wasn’t really a chance occurrence that made Aeneas come to the shore of Carthage; Juno had arranged for the storm that damaged the ships of Aeneas’ fleet.

Juno continued, “And, Venus, let there be a match confirmed between these two whose loves are so alike, and we two goddesses, working together as one, shall chain felicity to their throne.”

Venus replied, “I could well like this means of reconcilement, but I much fear that my son will never consent because metaphorically his armed soul, already on the sea, darts forth her light to Lavinia’s shore.”

She meant that Aeneas was still thinking about Italy. His soul is armed in case he needs to fight to establish himself there. Lavinia is the Italian woman whom he is fated to marry.

Juno said, “Fair Queen of love, I will divorce these doubts and find the way to weary such foolish thoughts. You need not worry: I will make Aeneas stop thinking about Italy.

“Today Aeneas and Dido will go forth to hunt and will ride into these woods next to these walls. When they are in the midst of all their entertaining sports, I’ll make the clouds discharge their water and drench Silvanus’ dwellings with their showers.”

Silvanus is the god of woodlands and fields.

Juno continued, “Then in one cave Queen Dido and Aeneas shall meet and mutually disclose their thoughts to each other, and quickly their hearts will be sealed with vows of love. Marriage will follow, I am sure, just as we propose.”

Venus said, “Sister, I see you savor of my wiles.”

Venus and Cupid were usually the ones whose wiles led to people falling in love. Juno, however, was doing a fine job of that right now.

Venus continued, “Be it as you will have it for this once. In the meantime Ascanius shall be my responsibility. I will bear him to the Idalian groves in Cyprus in my arms, and bed him in Adonis’ purple down.”

Adonis’ “purple down” was the purple flowers known as anemones. While he was hunting, a boar gored and killed him. From his blood grew purple anemones.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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