The Marlowe Society

Marlowe's Works

Marlowe's Works
Dido Woodcut

Dido

Dido, Queen of Carthage

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Dido, Queen of Carthage

Dido, Queen of Carthage

Possible Remembrances in Hamlet

Hamlet's famous Player's Speech in Act II Scene 2 of that play has the eponymous hero recalling a speech he remembers from a previous performance by the players. "One speech in't I chiefly loved - 'twas Aeneas' tale to Dido - and thereabout of it especially when he speaks of Priam's slaughter," by Pyrrhus (bent on revenge for the death of his father, Achilles). Hamlet begins by reciting some 13 lines, before inviting a player to complete the lengthy speech.

Priam's violent death is recounted of course in both Virgil's Aeneid and Marlowe's Dido. The recounted speech in Hamlet, by and large, bears little correspondence to either of these possible sources. There are, however, a couple of details in the Hamlet speech that bear some resemblance to Marlowe's text, as remarked upon in the Arden edition1 of the former:

Aeneas: At last came Pyrrhus, fell and full of ire,
His harness dropping blood, and on his spear
The mangled head of Priam's youngest son, ...

Dido, Queen of Carthage, II.1.213-5

Hamlet: Now is he total gules, horridly trick'd
With blood of fathers, mothers, daughters, sons,
Bak'd and impasted with the parching streets, ...

Hamlet, II.2.454-5

and:

Aeneas: Which he disdaining whisk'd his sword about,
And with the wound thereof the King fell down.

Dido, Queen of Carthage, II.1.253-4

Hamlet: Pyrrhus at Priam drives, in rage strikes wide;
But with the whiff and wind of his fell sword,
Th'unnerved father falls.

Hamlet, II.2.468-470

There is no correspondence elsewhere in the recollected speech, and so the author of Hamlet is perhaps occasionally selecting from various sources within a speech of his own invention.

 
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