David Bruce: Christopher Marlowe’s DIDO, QUEEN OF CARTHAGE: A Retelling — Act 4, Scenes 4-5

— 4.4 —

Dido and Anna talked together in a room of her palace.

“Oh, Anna, run to the shore where Aeneas’ ships are located,” Dido said. “They say Aeneas’ men are going on board. It may be he will steal away with them. Don’t stay to answer me. Run, Anna, run.”

Anna ran from the room.

Dido said to herself, “Oh, foolish Trojans who would steal away from here and not let Dido know ahead of time their intention of leaving. I would have given Achates a store of gold, and I would have given Ilioneus frankincense and Libyan spices. I would have given the common soldiers rich embroidered coats and silver whistles to control the winds, which the goddess Circe sent my late husband, Sichaeus, when he lived. They are unworthy of a Queen’s reward.”

Sailors used whistles to communicate during storms at sea.

Anna returned, bringing with her Aeneas, Achates, Ilioneus, and Sergestus.

Dido said to herself, “See where they come. How might I do to chide? Is criticizing Aeneas a good idea?”

“It was time for me to run,” Anna said. “Aeneas would have been gone; the sails were being hoisted up and he was on board the ship.”

Dido asked Aeneas, “Is this how you show your love to me?”

“Oh, princely Dido, give me permission to speak,” Aeneas said. “I went to take my farewell of Achates.”

Dido asked, “How does it happen that Achates did not tell me farewell?

“Because I feared your grace would keep me here,” Achates answered.

“To rid you of that fear,” Dido said, “I tell you to go on board the ship again. I order you to go out to sea, and not stay here.”

“Then let Aeneas go on board with us,” Achates said.

“Get yourself on board,” Dido said. “Aeneas intends to stay in Carthage.”

“The sea is rough,” Aeneas said. “The winds blow to the shore.”

“Oh, false Aeneas!” Dido said. “Now the sea is rough, but when you were on board, the sea was calm enough. You and Achates meant to sail away.”

“Haven’t you, the Queen of Carthage, my only son?” Aeneas asked. “Do you, Dido, think I will go and leave him here?”

Aeneas made a good point. He had not left his son behind at Troy and was unlikely to do so in Carthage. It is possible, however, that he had recognized the disguised Cupid and realized that his son was somewhere safe and that Venus, his goddess mother, would later safely return his son to him.

Also, Anna may have misinterpreted what she had seen when she thought that Aeneas was ready to sail away from Carthage.

Of course, Aeneas had made up his mind to leave Carthage, but he had also at least seriously considered telling Dido that he was leaving.

“Aeneas, pardon me, for I forgot that young Ascanius slept in my bed last night,” Dido said.

She continued, “Love made me jealous, but to make amends, wear the imperial crown of Libya. Hold the Punic scepter in my stead, and punish me, Aeneas, for this crime.”

“This kiss shall be fair Dido’s punishment,” Aeneas said, kissing her.

She put the crown on his head and put the scepter in his hand.

“Oh, how a crown becomes Aeneas’ head,” Dido said. “Stay here, Aeneas, and command as King of Carthage.”

“How vain would I be to wear this diadem and bear this golden scepter in my hand,” Aeneas said. “A helmet of steel and not a crown, a sword and not a scepter are suitable for Aeneas.”

“Oh, keep them always, and let me gaze my fill,” Dido said. “Now Aeneas looks like immortal Jove. Oh, where are Ganymede to hold his cup and Mercury to fly and get what he calls for? May ten thousand Cupids hover in the air and fan Aeneas’ lovely face.

“Oh, I wish that the clouds were here, wherein you flee, so that you and I unseen might sport ourselves.”

During the Trojan War, Jupiter wrapped clouds around Juno and himself so that no one could see them making love on Mount Ida. Dido wanted this to happen to Aeneas and her. By spending his time having sex with Dido, Aeneas would be fleeing his destiny in Italy.

Treacherous Juno had slept with Jupiter to trick him into not paying attention to the Trojan War so that the Greeks could rally against the Trojans, who were fighting well. In her own more innocent way, Dido was treacherous to Aeneas because she was keeping him from pursuing his destiny.

Dido continued, “Heaven, envious of our joys, has grown pale, and when we whisper, then the stars fall down to be partakers of our honey talk.”

“Oh, Dido, patroness of all our lives, when I leave you, may death be my punishment,” Aeneas said. “Swell, raging seas. Frown, wayward destinies. Blow, winds. Threaten, rocks and sandbars. This is the harbor that Aeneas seeks. Let’s see what harm tempests can bring to me now.”

“Not all the world can take you from my arms,” Dido said. “Aeneas may command as many African moors as in the sea are little waterdrops, and now, to demonstrate my love for Aeneas, fair sister Anna, lead my lover forth and, with him seated on my horse, let him ride as Dido’s husband through the Punic — Carthaginian — streets, and order my guard with Mauritanian spears to wait upon him as their sovereign lord.”

“What if the citizens complain at this?” Anna asked.

“Command my guard to slay for their offense those who dislike what Dido orders,” Dido replied. “Shall vulgar peasants storm at what I do? The ground is mine that gives them sustenance. The air that they breathe, the water, fire, all that they have, their lands, their goods, and their lives are mine. And I, the goddess of all these, command that Aeneas shall ride as the King of Carthage.”

Achates said, “Aeneas, because of his parentage, deserves as large a kingdom as is Libya.”

“Yes, and unless the Destinies — the Fates — are false, I shall be planted in as rich a land,” Aeneas said.

He may have been referring to Italy.

“Speak of no other land,” Dido said. “This land is yours. Dido is yours; henceforth I’ll call you lord.”

In this society, wives called their husbands lord.

Dido ordered Anna, “Do what I order you to do, sister. Lead the way, and from a turret I’ll behold my love.”

“Then here in me shall flourish Priam’s race,” Aeneas said. “And you and I, Achates, for revenge for Troy, for Priam, for his fifty sons, our kinsmen’s lives, and a thousand guiltless souls, will lead an army against the hateful Greeks and set on fire proud Sparta of Lacedaemon over their heads.”

Everyone exited except Dido and a Carthaginian lord.

“Doesn’t Aeneas speak like a conqueror?” she said. “Oh, blessed tempests that drove him to Carthage! Oh, happy sand that made him run aground here! Henceforth you shall be our Carthage gods.

“Yes, but it may be he will leave my love and seek a foreign land called Italy. Oh, I wish that I had a charm to keep the winds enclosed within a golden ball, or that the Mediterranean Sea were in my arms, so that he might suffer shipwreck on my breast as often as he attempts to hoist up sail.

“I must anticipate what he will do and stop him from leaving. Wishing will not serve.”

She commanded, “Go and order my nurse to take young Ascanius and carry him to her house in the country. Aeneas will not leave without his son.

“Yet, lest he should leave without his son, for I am full of fear, bring me his oars, his tackling, and his sails.”

The Carthaginian lord exited.

Dido said to herself, “What if I sink his ships? Oh, he’ll frown. Better he should frown than I should die for grief.

“But I cannot see him frown; it may not be. Armies of foes resolved to conquer this town, or impious traitors vowed to murder me and have my life, do not frighten me; only Aeneas’ frown is that which terrifies poor Dido’s heart.

“Not bloody spears, appearing in the air, that presage the downfall of my sovereignty, nor threatening blazing comets that foretell Dido’s death, but only Aeneas’ frown will end my days.

“If he does not forsake me, I will never die, for in his looks I see eternity, and he’ll make me immortal with a kiss.”

The Carthaginian lord returned, accompanied by some attendants carrying tackling, oars, and sails.

“Your nurse has left with young Ascanius,” the Carthaginian lord said, “and here’s Aeneas’ tackling, oars, and sails.”

“Are these the sails that, in despite of me, maliciously conspired with the winds to bear Aeneas away from Carthage?” Dido said. “I’ll hang you sails in the chamber where I lie. Drive if you can my house to Italy. I’ll set the window open, so that the winds may enter in and once again conspire against the life of me, poor Queen of Carthage. But although you blow my house to Italy, Aeneas will still be in Carthage because he will still be in my house. So let rich Carthage float upon the seas, as long as I may have Aeneas in my arms.”

Looking at the wooden oars, she said, “Is this the wood that grew on Carthaginian plains, and would be toiling in the watery billows to rob their mistress of her Trojan guest? Oh, cursed tree, if you only had the intelligence or sense to measure how much I prize Aeneas’ love, you would have leaped from out of the sailors’ hands and told me that Aeneas meant to go. And yet I don’t blame you; you are only wood.

“The water, which our poets call in poems a nymph, why did it allow you oars to touch her breast and did not shrink back, knowing my love was there in the ship? The water is an element, no nymph.

“Why should I blame Aeneas for his flight? Oh, Dido, don’t blame him, but break his oars. These were the instruments that launched him forth.

“There’s not so much as this base tackling, too, but dares to heap up sorrow to my heart. Wasn’t it you, the tackling, that hoisted up these sails? Why didn’t you ropes break so that the sails fell in the seas? Because you did not break, Dido will tie you ropes full of knots and cut you all asunder with her hands. Then you will be used to chastise shipboys for their faults — you will be used to flog sailors. No more will you offend me, the Carthaginian Queen.

“Now let him hang my favors — my ribbons — on his masts and see if those will serve instead of sails.

“As for tackling, let him take the chains of gold that I bestowed upon his followers.

“Instead of oars, let him use his hands and swim to Italy.

“I’ll keep these sails, oars, and tackling somewhere secure where Aeneas cannot get them.”

She ordered, “Come, carry them in.”

— 4.5 —

The nurse talked to Cupid, who was still disguised as Ascanius.

“My lord Ascanius, you must go with me.”

“Where must I go?” the disguised Cupid said. “I’ll stay with my mother.”

By “mother,” he meant Queen Dido.

“No, you shall go with me to my house,” the nurse said. “I have an orchard that has lots of plums, brown almonds, pears, ripe figs, and dates, blackberries and gooseberries, apples, yellow oranges, a garden where are beehives full of honey, musk roses, and a thousand kinds of flowers, and in the midst runs a silver stream, where you shall see the red-gilled fishes leap, white swans, and many lovely waterfowl. Now speak, Ascanius, will you go or not?”

“Come, come, I’ll go,” the disguised Cupid said. “How far from here is your house?”

“It’s nearby,” the nurse said. “We shall get there quickly.”

“Nurse, I am weary,” the disguised Cupid said. “Will you carry me?”

“Yes, as long as you’ll dwell with me and call me mother.”

“As long as you’ll love me, I don’t care if I do,” the disguised Cupid said.

The nurse picked him up; being so close to and touching the god of love affected her thoughts, turning them toward love.

“I wish that I might live to see this boy become a man!” the nurse said. “How prettily he laughs. Go on, you mischievous boy! You’ll be a ladies’ man when you come of age.”

Because Cupid was mischievous, he kept inflaming the nurse’s sexual desire and then putting it out.

The nurse said, “Let Dido say what she will, I am not old. I’ll be no more a widow. I am young; I’ll have a husband, or else a lover.”

The disguised Cupid said, “A husband, and no teeth?”

The nurse said, “Oh, what do I mean to have such foolish thoughts! Love is foolish, just a foolish toy.

“Oh, sacred love! If there be any heaven in earth, it is love. Especially in women of my years.

“Blush, blush for shame! Why should you think of love? A grave, and not a lover, befits your age.

“A grave? Why? I may live a hundred years; fourscore — eighty — is just a girl’s age. Love is sweet.

“My veins are withered and my sinews dry. Why do I think of love, now I should die?”

“Come, nurse,” the disguised Cupid said.

Thinking of a former suitor, the nurse said, “Well, if he come a wooing, he shall speed and succeed. Oh, how unwise I was to say no to him!”


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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