By Charles Matthews

Thursday, May 13, 2010

5. "The Complete Plays," by Christopher Marlowe, pp. 56-67

Dido, Queen of Carthage, Act V
Aeneas has decided to stay in Carthage: "Here will Aeneas build a statelier Troy." But then Hermes enters with a rebuke: "Why, cousin, stand you building cities here / And beautifying the empire of this queen / While Italy is clean out of thy mind?" He also brings the real Ascanius. Aeneas comes to his senses, but also realizes he has a problem: Dido has "ta'en away my oars and masts / And left me neither sail nor stern aboard."

Iarbas seizes at the chance to get rid of his rival and offers to outfit Aeneas's ships. But Dido shows up to proclaim, "I die if my Aeneas say farewell," to which Aeneas has a rather snappy reply: "Then let me go and never say farewell." Dido fears the damage to her reputation if he leaves:
Hast thou forgot how many neighbour kings
Were up in arms for making thee my love?
How Carthage did rebel, Iarbas storm,
And all the world calls me a second Helen,
For being entangled by a stranger's looks?
So thou wouldst prove as true as Paris did,
Would, as fair Troy was, Carthage might be sacked
And I be called a second Helena! 
Aeneas tells her to save her breath and leaves. She vows to pursue him: "I'll frame me wings of wax like Icarus, / And o'er his ships will soar unto the sun, / That they may melt and I fall in his arms." Anna tells her to "leave these idle fantasies," and Dido sends her to have the servants bring the makings of a fire, "For I intend a private sacrifice / To cure my mind that melts for unkind love."

Iarbas asks, "But afterwards will Dido grant me love?" And she says, sure, "after this is done." But she sends him away and throws herself in the fire. Iarbas kills himself when he sees what she has done, and Anna follows suit.

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