By Charles Matthews

Monday, May 10, 2010

2. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 5-26

Dido, Queen of Carthage, Acts I and II
The play, written to be performed by the boy actors of the Children of the Chapel, begins rather startlingly with a love scene between Jupiter and Ganymede, which is interrupted by Venus, who scolds Jupiter for "playing with that female wanton boy." She tells Jupiter that Juno has tried to drown Aeneas by having Aeolus blow up a storm and wreck his ships. Jupiter dispatches Mercury (whom he also addresses as Hermes) to have Neptune calm down the seas.

Aeneas arrives on shore in Carthage with Ascanius and Achates. Venus disguises herself and tells them where they are. Aeneas recognizes her as she leaves: "Achates, 'tis my mother that is fled, / I know her by the movings of her feet."

Ilioneus, Cloanthus and Sergestus, separated from Aeneas and the others, are welcomed to Carthage by Iarbas.

The sight of Carthage's walls reminds Aeneas of Troy, and he has a fit of madness in which he's pursuing Greeks again but snaps out of it when they are reunited with Ileoneus and the others.

Dido enters with her retinue, including Anna and Iarbas. She orders a change of clothing for Aeneas, who is dressed in "base robes," but he continues to address her formally ("you" and "your") while she uses the more familiar "thou" and "thy." He tells her the story of the fall of Troy, and Dido suggests that they "think upon some pleasing sport, / To rid me from these melancholy thoughts." They all exit except Ascanius, who is held back when Venus enters with Cupid. They tempt him with "sugar-almonds, sweet conserves" and a bow and arrow like Cupid's. Venus lulls Ascanius to sleep, and orders
Now, Cupid, turn thee to Ascanius' shape, 
And go to Dido, who, instead of him, 
Will set thee on her lap and play with thee; 
Then touch her white breast with this arrow head, 
That she may dote upon Aeneas' love.

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