Brave Prince of Troy, thou only art our god,
That by thy virtues free'st us from annoy,
And makes our hopes survive to cunning joys.
Dido, Queen of Carthage, I.1.152-4
Dido, Queen of Carthage
Location: The Heavens; The Carthage Shore
This opening scene comprises two parts. The first establishes the conflicting interests of the Gods, before seamlessly shifting to the seashore in Carthage where Aeneas and his Trojan fleet have been safely washed up after the storm has abated.
The opening of the play finds a besotted Jupiter "dandling" Ganymede on his knee. The king of the Gods has just made Ganymede cup-bearer to the Gods at the expense of Hebe, daughter of Juno (although this is not mentioned explicitly until Act III). Ganymede is bemoaning his treatment by Juno, whilst Jupiter is trying to assuage Ganymede, "the darling of my thoughts," with talk of retribution against Juno, offering Ganymede whatever he wishes ("are not all the Gods at thy command, / And heaven and earth the bounds of thy delight?" - I.1.31-2) as well as Juno's wedding jewels.
This opening action has no source in Virgil, and Marlowe is immediately challenging the orthodox. For all the tales of unrequited and unhappy love amongst the mortals that follow, here at the outset is no less than the King of the Gods himself in love to the extent that he is prepared to hand over control of the heavens if the youngster will return his love: "Sit on my knee, and call for thy content, / Control proud fate, and cut the thread of time" (I.1.28-9).
Venus enters to bewail the fate of her (mortal) son, Aeneas, who is caught in a storm whipped up at the behest of Juno. Aeneas and the Trojan fleet, having escaped the fall of Troy, were heading for Italy where Jupiter intends them to found a new Troy (Rome). Jupiter assures Venus that Aeneas will still fulfil his fate, and dispatches Mercury to order the wind-God to quell the storm.
Aeneas Washed Up on the Carthage Shore
Venus now watches on as the Trojan ship with Aeneas, his son Ascanius, and Achates on board, is washed up safely on the Carthage shore. They make plans to find food, unsure of where they are, nor whether the rest of the fleet has survived. In disguise, Venus appears from her hiding place, and informs Aeneas that he is in Carthage, where "Dido rules as queen". "Fortune hath favour'd thee", she explains, in "sending thee unto this courteous coast", so "haste thee to the Court, where Dido will receive ye with her smiles" (I.1.231-4).