David Bruce: Christopher Marlowe’s DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE: A Retelling — Act 3, Scenes 3-4

— 3.3 —

Dido, Aeneas, Anna, Iarbas, Achates, the disguised Cupid, and some others met, ready to go hunting or to assist in the hunting.

“Aeneas, know that I honor you by thus in person going with you to hunt. My princely robes, as you can see, are laid aside. The glittering pomp of those clothes Diana’s outfit now supplies.”

Diana was the goddess of the hunt, and her clothing was the clothing of hunters.

Dido continued, “All of us are fellow hunters now, and we are all disposed alike to sport. The woods are wide, and we have plenty of game.”

She said, “Aeneas, handsome Trojan, hold my golden bow a while until I tie my quiver to my side.

“Lords, go on ahead of us. We two — Aeneas and I — must talk alone.”

Iarbus said to himself, “Cruel woman, can she wrong Iarbas so? I’ll die before I allow a foreigner to treat me so cruelly. ‘We two will talk alone’ — what words are these?”

“What makes Iarbas stay here away from all the rest?” Dido said. “We can do without your company.”

“Perhaps love and duty led him on,” Aeneas said, “to remain within your sight despite your opposition.”

“Why, man of Troy, do I offend your eyes?” Iarbus asked. “Or are you grieved that your betters come so near to Dido?”

“What is this, Gaetulian!” an angry Dido said. “Have you grown so bold that you challenge us with your comparisons? Do you think that you are better than Aeneas? Peasant, go seek companions like yourself, and don’t meddle with anyone whom I love and respect.

“Aeneas, don’t be angered by what he says, for now and again he will be out of joint.”

Iarbus said to himself, “Women may wrong others by the privilege of love; a man who loves a woman will take much abuse from her. But if Aeneas, that ‘man of men’ — or anyone except Dido — had taunted me with these opprobrious terms, I would have either drunk Aeneas’ dying blood immediately, or else I would have offered a challenge to Aeneas to fight to the death in single combat.”

Dido said, “Huntsmen, why don’t you set up your nets quickly and rouse the light-footed deer from out of their lair?”

Anna said to Dido, “Sister, look. See Ascanius in his pomp, bearing his hunting spear bravely in his hand.”

“Hey, little son, are you so eager now?” Dido asked.

The disguised Cupid replied, “Yes, mother, I shall one day be a man, and better able unto other arms.”

His words were ambiguous. The innocent meaning was that he would be a man and would be able to wield arms — hunting weapons — much better than he could now. The bawdy meaning was that he would be a man and would be able to render good service within other arms — the arms of a woman.

Cupid’s words, however, applied only to Ascanius, who would grow up to be a warrior and have children. Cupid would never grow up. Gods and goddesses were born, and then grew to a certain age, which varied for each of them, and then stopped aging. Jupiter would always be a mature man. Mercury would always be a young man. Cupid would always be a young boy.

He continued, “Meanwhile these wanton weapons serve my war, and I will break my spear between a lion’s jaws.”

Of course, they were hunting deer, not lions, but these were brave words.

“What!” Dido said, laughing. “Do you dare to look a lion in the face?”

“Yes, and I will outface him, too, no matter what he does,” the disguised Cupid said.

“How like his father he speaks in all he says,” Anna said.

Aeneas said, “And if I could live to see him sack rich Thebes and load his spear with the heads of Greek Princes, then I would wish that I were with my late father, Anchises, in his tomb, and dead. That way I could bring news of Ascanius’ actions to honor the father who has brought me up.”

Iarbus said to himself, “And if I could live to see you, Aeneas, shipped away and hoisted aloft on the sea-god Neptune’s hideous hills — the sea’s tall waves — then I would wish that I were in fair Dido’s arms and dead.”

To “die” in a woman’s arms meant to have an orgasm while in her arms.

Iarbus continued, “That way I would scorn that which has pursued me so.”

What was pursuing Iarbus was jealousy of Aeneas.

Aeneas said, “Brave friend, Achates, do you know this wood?”

“I remember that here you shot the deer that saved your famished soldiers’ lives from death, when first you set your foot upon the shore,” Achates replied. “And here we met fair Venus, disguised as a human maiden, bearing her bow and quiver at her back.”

Remembering past troubles that he and his fellow Trojans had overcome, Aeneas said, “Oh, how these irksome labors now delight and overjoy my thoughts because of our escape from them. Who would not undergo all kinds of toil to be well stored with such a winter’s tale?”

Stories of past troubles well overcome are good to tell on a winter’s evening.

Dido said, “Aeneas, leave these reveries and let’s all go. Some go to the mountains, and some go to the wetlands. You people go to the valleys.”

Then to Iarbus, she said, insultingly, “You go to the house.”

Everyone except Iarbas exited.

He said to himself, “Yes, this it is that wounds me to the death: To see a Trojan Phrygian, fetched from far over the sea, preferred before a man of majesty — me!

“Oh, love! Oh, hate! Oh, cruel women’s hearts, that imitate the moon in every change and like the planets always love to range.”

According to Iarbus, women’s hearts are ever changeable like the moon, and they wander from man to man like the planets wander in the night sky.

He continued, “What shall I do, I who am thus wronged with Dido’s disdain? Should I get revenge on Aeneas or on her? On her? Foolish man, getting revenge on her would be the equivalent of going to war against the gods of heaven. My shooting one arrow would provoke the gods into throwing ten thousand spears at me.

“Iarbus, this Trojan’s death will be your malice’s goal. His blood will make you happy again and will make love drunken with your sweet desire.

“But Dido, who now thinks of him so dearly, will ‘die’ with hearing the news of his death.

“But time will discontinue her love for Aeneas and mold her mind unto new fancy’s shapes. She will lose her love for Aeneas and seek a new man to love — women’s hearts are changeable! Oh, God of heaven, turn the hand of Fate to that happy day of my delight!

“And then — what then? Iarbas shall only love. So does he now, though not with equal gain. That rests in your rival, who causes your pain — Aeneas, who will never cease to soar until he is slain.”

— 3.4 —

Juno caused a storm, and first Dido and then Aeneas sought shelter in the same cave.

“Aeneas!” Dido said.

“Dido!” Aeneas said.

“Tell me, dear love, how did you find this cave?” Dido asked.

“By chance, sweet Queen, just like Mars and Venus met.”

He was referring to a story in which Mars and Venus committed adultery. Venus was married to Vulcan, a master blacksmith who found out about the adultery and created a fine net in which he trapped them in the act of love-making and then invited the other gods to come and laugh at them.

Dido said, “Why, that was in a net, whereas we are loose.”

“Loose” can mean “promiscuous.”

She continued, “And yet I am not free. Oh, I wish I were!”

“Why, what is it that Dido may desire and not obtain, as long as it is in human power to obtain?” Aeneas asked.

“The thing that I will die before I ask for, and yet desire to have before I die,” Dido said.

Another meaning of the verb “die” is “have an orgasm.”

“Is it anything Aeneas may get for you?” he asked.

“Aeneas?” Dido said. “No, although his eyes do pierce.”

She wanted another part of his body to pierce her.

“Has Iarbas angered her in anything, and will she be avenged on his life?” Aeneas asked, referring to Dido in the third person.

“He has not angered me, except in angering you,” Dido replied.

“Who, then, of all men so cruel may he be that he should make you notice his defects?” Aeneas asked.

“The man whom I see wherever I am, whose amorous face, like the face of Paean — Apollo, god of the sun — sparkles fire, when he shoots his beams on Flora’s bed.”

Flora is the goddess of gardens and flowers, and so her bed is the earth.

Dido continued, “Prometheus has put on Cupid’s shape, and I must perish in his burning arms.”

Prometheus brought the gift of fire to human beings, and Cupid causes human beings to fall in love. Dido was saying that Aeneas was like a combination of these gods and that he was so magnificent that she would die in his arms.

Again, “the verb “die” means “have an orgasm.”

“Aeneas, oh, Aeneas, quench these flames!” Dido said.

“What ails my Queen?” Aeneas said. “Has she fallen sick recently?”

“Not sick, my love,” Dido said.

She thought, But I am lovesick. I must conceal the torment that it will not profit me to reveal. … And yet I’ll speak. … And yet I’ll hold my peace. … Let Shame do her worst. I will disclose my grief.

She said out loud, “Aeneas, you are the man I mean. What did I say? Something it was that now I have forgotten.”

“What does fair Dido mean by this unclear speech?” Aeneas asked.

“Oh, nothing,” Dido said. “But Aeneas does not love me.”

“Aeneas’ thoughts dare not ascend so high as Dido’s heart, which monarchs might not scale,” Aeneas said.

Aeneas was not a King. As a Queen, Dido would be expected to marry a King.

Dido said, “It was because I saw no King like you, whose golden crown might balance and equal my happiness — you are the man who can make me happy. But now that I have found the man whom I should love, I follow a man who loves Fame more than he loves me, a man who would rather seem fair to the eyes of Sirens than to the Carthage Queen who dies for him.”

The Sirens sang beautifully to lure sailors to crash their ships on rocks.

Dido continued, “I love a man who would rather sail to Italy than stay at Carthage with me.”

“If your majesty can look so low as my despised worths that shun all praise,” Aeneas said, “with this my hand I give to you my heart and I vow by all the gods of hospitality, by heaven and earth, by my fair half-brother’s bow, by Paphos, Capys, and the purple sea from whence my radiant mother descended, and by this sword that saved me from the Greeks, never to leave these newly built walls of Carthage, while Dido lives and rules in Juno’s favorite town. I vow never to like or love any but her.”

Aeneas was swearing a mighty oath. He was swearing by the gods of hospitality, especially Jupiter but also Mercury. He was also swearing by heaven and earth and by the bow of his half-brother, Cupid. He was also swearing by Paphos, where was located a temple to his mother, Venus. He was also swearing by his grandparents. Capys was his father’s father, and his mother was born from the foam of the purple sea by Cythera and then traveled to Cyprus.

“What more than Delian music do I hear, music that calls my soul from forth his living seat — my heart — to dance to the measures of delight!” Dido said.

Delos is the birthplace of Apollo, god of music.

She continued, “Kind clouds that sent forth such a courteous storm as made disdain to flee to love’s lap! Valiant love, in my arms make your Italy, whose crown and kingdom rest at your command. You shall command my body. Sichaeus, not Aeneas, shall you be called — you shall be called by the name of my late husband. You shall be called the King of Carthage, not the son of Anchises.”

To love Dido and stay with her in Carthage would cost Aeneas much of his identity — and his destiny.

Dido continued, “Wait. Take these jewels from the hand of your lover, me. Take these golden bracelets, and this wedding ring with which my husband wooed me, while I was still a maiden, and be King of Libya by my gift.”

They went deeper into the cave.


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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