David Bruce: Christopher Marlowe’s DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE: A Retelling — Act 4, Scenes 1-3

— 4.1 —

Achates, Cupid (still disguised as Ascanius), Iarbas, and Anna stood together after the storm.

“Have men ever seen such a sudden storm, or a day that was so clear become so suddenly overcast?” Achates asked.

“I think some powerful enchantress dwells here,” Iarbus said, “who can call storms forth whenever she pleases and dive into black tempest’s treasury whenever she means to mask the world with clouds.”

“In all my life I never knew the like,” Anna said. “It hailed; it snowed; it lightninged all at once.”

“I think it was the devil’s night to revel,” Achates said. “There was such hurly-burly in the heavens. Doubtless Apollo’s axle-tree cracked, or aged Atlas’ shoulder got out of joint, the commotion was so excessively violent.”

If the axle of Apollo’s sun-chariot were to crack, he would have to repair it and the sun would be out of commission for a while, leading to the darkness of storms on the Earth.

Atlas was the Titan who held up the sky. If his shoulder were to get out of joint, he would have to adjust the sky on his shoulders, causing atmospheric disturbances.

“In all this turmoil, where have you left Queen Dido?” Iarbus asked.

“And where’s my warlike father, can you tell me?” the disguised Cupid asked.

Seeing them, Anna said, “Look where both of them are coming out of the cave.”

“Coming out of the cave!” Iarbus said.

He knew they had been alone together, and knowing that Dido loved Aeneas, he could guess that they had had sex.

He said to himself, “Can heaven endure this sight? Iarbas, curse that unrevenging Jove, whose flinty darts slept in Typhon’s den, while these adulterers surfeited with sin.”

Iarbus was angry because Jupiter, whom he worshipped, had not punished the fornicating Aeneas and Dido with his “flinty darts,” aka thunderbolts. Instead of hurling them at the couple, Jupiter had left the thunderbolts under Mount Etna, where Vulcan the blacksmith god manufactured them, using Mount Etna as his forge. Typhon was a monster that was imprisoned under Mount Etna.

Iarbus continued, “Nature, why didn’t you make me some poisonous beast instead of making me human, so that with my sharp-edged fang I might have staked them both into the earth, while they were fornicating in this dark cave?”

Aeneas and Dido walked over to the others.

“The air is clear, and southern winds are calm and still,” Aeneas said. “Come, Dido, let us hasten to the town, since gloomy Aeolus ceases to frown.”

Aeolus, King of the winds, was no longer in a bad mood and so had stopped the storm.

“Achates and Ascanius, we are well met,” Dido said. “It is good to see you.”

“Fair Anna, how did you escape from the rain shower?” Aeneas asked.

“As others did, by running to the wood,” Anna replied.

“But where were you, Iarbas, all this while?” Dido asked.

“Not with Aeneas in the ugly cave,” he replied.

“I see Aeneas sticks in your mind, and you can’t stop thinking about him,” Dido said. “But I will soon put aside that stumbling block and quell those hopes that thus employ your thoughts.”

— 4.2 —

Iarbas was preparing to sacrifice an animal to Jupiter. Some servants were with him.

“Come servants, come,” Iarbus said. “Bring forth the sacrifice so that I may pacify that gloomy Jove, whose empty altars have enlarged our ills.”

According to Iarbus, Jupiter was gloomy and inclined to punish Iarbus because Iarbus had not been making enough sacrifices to him.

The servants brought in the animal to be sacrificed and then exited.

Iarbus prayed, “Eternal Jove, great master of the clouds, you are the father of gladness and all frolicsome thoughts.”

Jupiter dispenses both good things and bad things, and so he is the father of gladness although at times he can be gloomy.

Iarbus continued to pray: “You with your gloomy hand correct the heaven when airy creatures war amongst themselves.”

“Airy creatures” include such things as the planets and other heavenly bodies. When necessary, Jupiter takes action to make things right when the airy creatures get out of hand. For example, when Phaethon drove the sun-chariot, he could not control the immortal horses that pulled it, and the sun got too close to the earth and nearly burned it (and likely could have burned other airy creatures). Jupiter restored order by killing Phaethon with a thunderbolt, and then Apollo took over driving the sun-chariot.

Iarbus continued to pray: “Hear, hear, oh, hear Iarbas’ complaining prayers, whose hideous echoes make the welkin — the sky — howl and all the woods to resound with ‘Eliza’!”

Queen Dido had other names, including Elissa and Eliza.

Iarbus continued to pray: “Dido is the woman whom you willed us to entertain and to treat well when, straying up and down our borders, she craved a hide of ground to build a town. With her we shared both laws and land and all the fruits that plenty also sends forth.”

When Dido came to the shore of North Africa, she wanted land on which to build a city. She convinced Iarbus to allow her to purchase a hide’s worth of land. He thought that she wanted to buy the amount of land that an animal hide would cover, but she cut the hide into very thin strips that she tied into a circle. The amount of land within the circle of animal hide strips was enough for her to build a city — Carthage — on.

That is according to one story. Possibly, a “hide” of land was a measure of land amounting to 100 or 120 acres.

Iarbus continued to pray: “Scorning our loves and royal marriage rites, Dido yields up her beauty to a foreigner’s bed.”

Many North African Kings had wooed Dido, who rejected them.

Iarbus continued to pray: “This foreigner, having wrought her shame, is straightway fled.”

By agreeing to stay in Carthage with Dido, Aeneas had immediately fled from his destiny, which was to go to Italy, marry Lavinia, and become an important ancestor of the Roman people.

Iarbus continued to pray: “Now, if you are a pitying god of power, on whom pity and compassion forever attend, redress these wrongs and summon him to his ships. Take away from Africa this man who now afflicts me with his deceiving eyes.”

Anna entered and said, “How are you now, Iarbas! At your prayers so hard?”

“Yes, Anna,” Iarbus said. “Is there anything you want from me?”

“No,” Anna said. “I have no such weighty business of importance, just what may be put off until another time. Yet, if you would share with me the cause of this devotion that detains you, I would be thankful to you for such courtesy.”

“Anna, I am praying against this Trojan, Aeneas, who seeks to rob me of your sister’s love and dive into her heart by false, deceiving looks.”

“Alas, poor King, who labors so in vain for Dido, who so delights in your pain,” Anna said. “Take my advice and seek some other love, a love whose yielding heart may yield you more relief.”

“My eye is fixed on a woman whom I cannot make love me,” Iarbus said. “Oh, leave me, leave me to my silent thoughts that count the numbers of my woes, and I will either move the thoughtless flint — make hard-as-flint Dido love me — or drop both of my eyes out in drizzling tears, before the course of my sorrow stops.”

“I will not leave Iarbas, whom I love, in this delight of dying pensiveness,” Anna said. “You are taking delight in swooning sorrow. Away with Dido! Let Anna be your song — Anna, who admires you more than heaven.”

“I may not and will not listen to such a loathsome change — Anna for Dido! — that intercepts the course of my desire,” Iarbus said brutally.

He called, “Servants, come fetch these empty vessels here, for I will flee from these alluring eyes of Anna that pursue my peace wherever it goes.”

The vessels were empty because Anna had interrupted the sacrifice before Iarbas could slaughter the animal; the vessels were used to collect the animal’s blood.

As Iarbas left, Anna called, “Iarbas, stay! Loving Iarbas, stay, for I have honey to present to you. Hard-hearted man, won’t you hear me speak? I’ll follow you with outcries nevertheless and strew your walks with my disheveled hair.”

— 4.3 —

Alone, Aeneas talked to himself:

“Carthage, my friendly host, adieu, since destiny calls me from your shore. Hermes this night, descending in a dream, has summoned me to fruitful Italy. Jove wills it so. My mother wills it so. Let my Phoenissa — the Phoenician Elissa, aka Dido — grant me permission to leave, and then I go.

“Whether she grants me permission or not, Aeneas must go. My golden fortunes, clogged with courtly ease, cannot ascend to Fame’s immortal house and cannot feast in bright Honor’s burnished — polished — hall, until Aeneas has furrowed Neptune’s glassy fields and cut a passage through his topless hills.”

To reach Italy, Aeneas would have to sail the sea, which he likened here to plowing a field and making a journey through mountainous territory. In Italy, he would find his destiny.

Aeneas called, “Achates, come here! Sergestus, Ilioneus, Cloanthus, hasten away! Aeneas calls you.”

Achates, Cloanthus, Ilioneus, and Sergestus came over to Aeneas.

“What does our lord want?” Achates asked. “Why is he calling us?”

Aeneas answered, “The dreams, brave mates, that did beset my bed when sleep but newly had embraced the night, command me to leave these unrenowned realms, where nobility abhors to stay, and none but base Aeneas will abide.”

Carthage was not where Aeneas was fated to find renown, and so for Aeneas to choose to stay here would show that he is a base and not a noble man. Later, Carthage would compete with Rome to dominate the Mediterranean, but now Carthage was just being built, and Rome would not exist for hundreds of years.

Aeneas said to his Trojan companions, “Aboard, aboard, since Fates do bid us go on board and slice the sea with sable-colored ships — ships with black sails on which the nimble winds may all day attend, and follow them, as footmen, through the deep.

“Yet Dido casts her eyes like anchors out, to prevent my fleet from leaving the bay. ‘Come back, come back,’ I hear her cry from afar, ‘and let me link your body to my lips, so that, tied together by the striving tongues, we may, as one, sail to Italy.’”

Achates said, “Banish that enticing dame from your mouth; don’t let her kiss you. Instead, follow your foreseeing stars in everything. Follow the destiny that the stars that reigned at your birth prophesized. This life in Carthage is no life for men-at-arms to live — here romantic dalliance consumes a soldier’s strength, and wanton motions of alluring eyes make our minds, which have been inured to war, effeminate.”

“Why, let us build a city of our own, and not stand lingering here for amorous looks,” Ilioneus said. “Will Dido raise old Priam out of his grave and rebuild the town the Greeks burned? No, no; she doesn’t care whether we sink or swim, as long as she may have Aeneas in her arms.”

“To Italy, sweet friends, to Italy!” Cloanthus said. “We will not stay here a minute longer.”

“Trojans, go on board the ships, and I will follow you,” Aeneas said.

Everyone except Aeneas exited.

He said to himself, “I gladly would go, yet beauty calls me back. To leave Dido so quickly like this and not once say farewell would be to transgress against all the laws of love, but if I use such ceremonious thanks and words that parting lovers are accustomed to say on the shore, her silver arms will embrace me round about my neck and shedding tears of pearl, she will cry, ‘Stay, Aeneas, stay.’ Each word she says will then contain a crown, and every speech will be ended with a kiss. I may not endure this female drudgery. I cannot endure being held in slavery by a woman, and I cannot endure these words, hugs, and kisses that Dido will give me if she finds out that I am leaving. Go to sea, Aeneas! Find Italy!”


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.





FREE eBook: davidbrucehaiku #14 (pdf)




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