By Charles Matthews

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

4. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 43-55

Dido, Queen of Carthage, Act IV
Achates, Cupid disguised as Ascanius, Iarbas and Anna enter, surprised at the sudden storm:
I think it was the devils' revelling night, 
There was such hurly-burly in the heavens; 
Doubtless Apollo's axle-tree is cracked, 
Or aged Atlas' shoulder out of joint, 
The motion was so over-violent. 
And there's a bit of a stir when Dido and Aeneas come out of the cave together, especially from Iarbas, who in the next scene sacrifices to the gods to persuade them to get rid of his rival. As he tells Anna, "against this Trojan do I pray, / Who seeks to rob me of thy sister's love / And dive into her heart by coloured looks." (The note glosses "coloured" as "specious.") Anna makes a pitch for Iarbas, but he spurns her.

Meanwhile, Aeneas is getting ready to leave: "Hermes this night, descending in a dream, / Hath summoned me to fruitful Italy." He tells Achates that Dido is trying to get him to stay, but Achates urges him to "Banish that ticing dame from forth your mouth / And follow your foreseeing stars in all." Aeneas wavers a bit, but finally urges himself, "To sea, Aeneas, find out Italy!"

Dido and Anna enter in pursuit of Aeneas, who claims he's not leaving: "Hath not the Carthage Queen mine only son? / Thinks Dido I will go and leave him here?" She gives him a crown and sceptre to persuade him to stay and rule Carthage with her, and it seems to do the trick: He'll stay in Carthage and carry on the legacy of Troy there. Still, after he exits, she worries that she should do more to keep him there. She orders her attendants to have Ascanius taken to the country to her nurse's house and then wonders, "What if I sink his ships? O he'll frown!" (A lovely understatement.) "If he forsake me not, I never die, / For in his looks I see eternity, / And he'll make me immortal with a kiss." (Anticipating Faustus's plea to Helen.) The attendants return with "Aeneas' tackling, oars, and sails." The act ends with the Nurse enticing Cupid/Ascanius to her house.

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