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Dido Woodcut

Dido

Dido, Queen of Carthage

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Quote: Dido, Queen of Carthage, IV.4.120-3

Dido:
It is Aeneas' frown that ends my days.
If he forsake me not, I never die,
For in his looks I see eternity,
And he'll make me immortal with a kiss.
Dido, Queen of Carthage, IV.4.120-3

Dido, Queen of Carthage

Dido, Queen of Carthage

Act IV Scene 4

Location: Dido's Court

Dido Summons Aeneas to Explain His Planned Departure

But word has reached Dido that the Trojans are preparing to set sail, and she fears Aeneas "will steal away with them" (IV.4.3). She quickly dispatches her sister to the water side to summon the Trojans back to explain themselves.

Aeneas Dissembles

Anna intercepts them just in the nick of time ("the sails were hoising up" - IV.4.15), and she brings them before Dido, confirming that Aeneas was indeed aboard. He now discredits himself further with a succession of shifty lies. First Aeneas claims he was only there "to take [his] farewell of Achates" (IV.4.18) in direct contradiction to what Anna has just said and indeed the course of action he seemingly decided upon at the end of the last scene. An angered Dido demands the Trojans do set sail but without Aeneas, who desperately blurts out that the "sea is rough, the winds blow to shore". Dido gives this short shrift: "when you were aboard 'twas calm enough!" (IV.4.27).

Aeneas' last throw of the dice is to point out that the Queen still has his son Ascanius. Dido relents as she cannot believe that Aeneas would forsake his son in fleeing. We are left thinking yet worse of Aeneas for that is exactly what Marlowe has shown us he was going to do, even if such an act seems a little implausible.

Dido and Aeneas, Jean Raoux (1730)
Dido and Aeneas
Jean Raoux (1730)

Aeneas Again Vows to Stay in Carthage

Dido offers him the crown of Libya "to make amends", as indeed Aeneas predicted she would in the previous scene. After a brief doubt ("A sword and not a sceptre fits Aeneas" - IV.4.43), he is quickly overcome by Dido's flattery in which she ironically likens his crowned image to the very King of the Gods that he would defy by remaining in Carthage ("Now looks Aeneas like immortal Jove" - IV.4.45). Soon he is vowing to stay, ironically declaring "When I leave thee, death be my punishment!" (IV.4.56), and proclaiming Dido as "the harbour that Aeneas seeks" (IV.4.58).

In a Marlovian addition to Virgil's source, Dido instructs Anna to lead Aeneas to her horse so that he can ride through the city to show himself as her husband and her citizens' "sovereign lord". The queen violently dismisses Anna's suggestion that some may not take kindly to this, suggesting her guards be commanded to slay any such offenders. She refers to her people as "vulgar peasants" who have her to thank for "all that they have, their lands, their goods, their lives" (IV.4.76). There is no source for this very Marlovian tirade. Such sentiments might initially seem incongruent with the play's heroine, but we should remember how cruelly she has treated Iarbus since first being struck by Cupid's dart. Is this disdain for her people another side-effect of her passionate obsession?

Aeneas now determines to stay in Carthage, where "here in me shall flourish Priam's race" (IV.4.87), and from where he can lead revenge missions against the Greeks. The reaction of the other Trojans to this dramatic about-turn is not clear at this point from the dialogue, with only Achates somewhat ambiguously commenting that Aeneas deserves "as large a kingdom as is Libya" (IV.4.80). However, the subsequent collective discussion of the plans for the city's rebuilding at the start of scene V.1 imply a sudden about-turn, with the Trojans now happy to stay put.

Dido Doubts Aeneas' Promise

After everyone has headed off to organise Aeneas' pageant through the city streets, Dido is left alone with her thoughts. Initially ecstatic, she is soon thinking paranoid thoughts that he will attempt to leave her once again. Dido gives orders for her Nurse to take Ascanius to her house in the country. But she obviously has had doubts about Aeneas' sincerity on this point earlier, and further instructs her attendants to "bring me his oars, his tackling, and his sails" (IV.4.109) as guaranteed security that he cannot depart. He will undoubtedly be angered by her actions, but "better he frown than I should die for grief" (IV.4.111), even if "only Aeneas' frown / Is that which terrifies poor Dido's heart" (IV.4.116).

Once these tasks are reportedly done, and the ships' tackle, oars and sails brought to her, Dido launches into an increasingly maudlin soliloquy betraying her worst fears that, having done so once, Aeneas may well attempt to leave her again.

 
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