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The Tragedy of Dido, Queen of Carthage

de Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Nashe (Autor)

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The book has no illustrations or index. Purchasers are entitled to a free trial membership in the General Books Club where they can select from more than a million books without charge. Subjects: Tragedies; Dido (Legendary character); Jews; Saint Bartholomew's Day, Massacre of, France, 1572; Historical drama, English; Drama / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh; Drama / General;… (més)
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[Dido Queen of Carthage] by Christopher Marlowe
Probably first performed in 1586 it was the first play written by Marlowe and was performed by the Children of her Majesty’s chapel. When it was published in 1594 it was titled The Tragedie of Dido Queene of Carthage written by Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Nash. Critics have since concluded that Marlowe wrote the vast majority of the play and he would have done so when he was twenty one or twenty two years old and fresh from a classical education. The source material was Virgil’s Aeneid, but this is not merely a dramatised translation, but a re-write with additions by Marlowe. My first impression when reading this was that it is the most modern sounding play so far: whereas George Peele’s Arraignment of Paris performed a couple of years earlier before Queen Elizabeth seemed to cast aside the accoutrements of medieval drama and the all pervading influence of John Lyly, Marlowe’s first play is an important step up. There are few difficulties in the text and these can be explained by adequate foot notes and the largely blank verse form in relative strict iambic pentameters will present no problems for readers of Shakespeare. Marlowe’s writing flows delightfully and I could imagine it being performed on stage, although a performance by children could be a bit of a stretch. It is also a good story adapted well enough to have sense and meaning for the reader and playgoer

It’s all in the lap of the gods might be a summary of one of the main themes of the drama. it is the gods in this play that create the drama and a fickle lot they are. The play starts with the stage direction of Jupiter (king of the gods) dandling Ganymede upon his knee:

‘Come, gentle Ganymede, and play with me:
I love thee well, say Juno what she will……..

What is’t sweet wag, I should deny thy youth
Whose face reflects such pleasure to mine eyes
As I, exhal’d with thy fire darting beams,
Have oft driven back the horses of the night,
When as they would have hal’d thee from my sight?
Sit on my knee, and call for thy content,
Control proud fate, and cut the thread of time.’

Jupiter and Ganymede are jolted from their lovemaking by Venus who demands that Jupiter takes action against Juno who is bent on destroying a fleet of ships led by Aeneas who is fleeing from the defeat at Troy. Aeneas is Venus son by a mortal man and thanks to prompt action by the gods he arrives battered but safe on the shores of Carthage. Venus disguises herself so as to assist the disorientated Aeneas in getting his fleet together and directs him to the local ruler Dido Queen of Carthage. Dido is impressed with Aeneas who tells her of the last days of the fall of Troy and his escape from the Greeks with the help of Venus. Dido is being courted by Larbas a neighbouring king, but Venus kidnaps Aeneas’ son Ascanius and orders Cupid to take his place so that he can get near enough to Dido and make her fall in love with Aeneas. Anne: Dido’s sister is in love with Larbas and encourages her sister in wooing Aeneas. The gods Juno and Venus combine together to ensure that Aeneas and Dido get separated from a hunting party and need to shelter in a cave and it is obvious that when they emerge they are lovers. The gods however have other plans for Aeneas and he is reminded that he was headed for Italy when the storm disbursed his fleet. He makes preparations to leave Carthage but Dido now with Cupid’s help is madly in love with him, she promises to make him king and then has the rigging from his ship dismantled, he appears to wish to stay and dreams of building a new city at Carthage. The gods will not be denied and Mercury is sent to warn Aeneas that Jupiter has commanded him to go to Italy. He agrees to go and after a brief interview with Dido steals way to his ship leaving behind a series of tragic events that lead to Dido, Larbas and Anne all taking their own lives.

The Roman gods in this play are presented as immoral, lovers of sensation and delight, however they have a strategic view of what must happen on earth, hence their insistence that Aeneas should eventually fulfil his destiny in Italy. It is their disregard for mortals that are the catalyst for the tragedy of Dido. The plot centres on the love story between Dido and Aeneas and as to whether he will leave her to fulfil his destiny as indicated by the gods. The two strongest characters are both manipulated in such a way that it is not clear who is responsible for the tragic events and Marlowe’s text gives clues for both sides of the equation. Aeneas could be seen as a weak character who selfishly leaves Dido to her fate or a man who really has no choice. Dido could be interpreted as a domineering person who will do almost anything to get what she wants or as an unwitting victim of supernatural forces. Its all there in the text waiting for actors or directors to make their own interpretation and this is why for me this drama is a milestone for modern theatre.

Spectacular display is a theme that separates the Gods from the mortals. The play starts in the world of the Gods where imposing display is a matter that is handled comfortably by them. In the world below ceremonies possessions, costumes and display are liable to be misinterpreted, devious or self delusional. The play is full of these and Marlowe’s use of hyperbole makes this a sumptuous play to read. It is a play that never sinks into turgidity, there is always something of interest and there are some purple passages. Aeneas has the longest speech when he is telling the story of the fall of Troy and what a story it is. Marlowe conveys the horrific violent death of King Priam without losing sight of the poetry. Dido’s lament at Aeneas’ hasty departure with the fleet is full of fantastical nautical imagery.
The central character that gives her name to the title of the play is Dido and as a female character this was most unusual in the sixteenth century. It is of course vital to the play that her character is well developed. Marlowe was writing the play to be performed in front of Queen Elizabeth, but he also had to be careful not to make Dido incomprehensible to the mores of Elizabethan England. Certainly Dido is portrayed as a noble autocratic ruler, there are instances where her thoughts about her lesser subjects would make us wince today, but would be expected in Elizabethan times for example when Aeneas thanks Dido ‘in all humility’ she immediately retorts: “Humility belongs to common grooms” There is no doubt who is in charge. Yet Dido is completely undone by love, a foolish passion, but remember it is the very real and active figure of the god Cupid who is responsible. Aeneas like Dido cannot gainsay the gods, but in his case the reader is a little less sure.

The play does appear to be subversive; right from the start there is the homoerotic scene between Jupiter and Ganymede and although this is not repeated it sets the tone for the rest of the play. It is of course difficult to judge how much irony was in play when Marlowe presented this drama to the Children of her Majesty’e chapel. The rule of the virgin queen Elizabeth I would have been in the audiences minds when they viewed the play, but Marlowe could always hide behind the politics of the gods. There is no real evidence that the play was performed by an adult troupe of actors although there are references to a Dido or a Dido and Aeneas play. What is clear is that the play remained largely forgotten, it was briefly revived in 1964; the four hundredth anniversary of Marlowe’s birth with a boys read through, but had to wait until the 21st century to receive a fully spectacular production by the RSC. There have been other productions and so now it could be firmly in the repertoire of other companies. I think it full deserves to be so as it has much to offer including some brilliant writing from Christopher Marlowe who specialised in laying on the hyperbole; this is Dido explaining to Aeneas what she would give him to repair his wrecked ships:

I’ll give thee tackling made of rivell’d gold
Wound on the barks of oderiferous trees;
Oars of massy ivory, full of holes,
Through which the water will delight in play;
Thy anchors will be hewed from crystal rocks,
Which if thou lose shall shine above the waves;
The masts whereon thy swelling sails shall hang
Hollow pyramids of silver plate;
The sails of folded lawn, where shall be wrought,
The wars of Troy, but not Troys overthrow;
For ballace, empty Dido’s treasury,
Take what you will but leave Aeneas here…….

4.5 stars. ( )
2 vota baswood | Mar 30, 2019 |

This is the first play printed in the Complete Works although it's not clear if it was the first historically performed or written, published only the year after the authors death. Mostly it's a dramatisation of the Dido story from the Æneid, which would have been been well known to the audience (quite a different situation from the other plays where the stories are more original).

But Marlowe (with input from Nashe) bulks up two elements in particular. First, he gives Dido herself lots more to do and say than Virgil did. She is his only strong female protagonist, and although she is hopelessly and irrationally in love with Æneas (who is not such an attractive character here) this is not because she is a weak woman, it is because she is being toyed with by the gods; having been set up in a difficult situation by divine caprice, she otherwise retains agency to the end.

To the core love story, Marlowe adds a number of other romances (again, unlike his other plays and unlike the original story). Most obviously, the play opens by showing us the man/boy relationship between Jupiter and Ganymede. But there are other non-standard relationships too, and I'm struck that Marlowe was not playing them for laughs but as real situations in the terms of the story.

I wasn't able to find any audio or video of Dido online. That seems a shame to me; it's not too complex and I think would be particularly good on audio. It was apparently first written (or at least first performed) by child (=teenage) actors. ( )
1 vota nwhyte | Dec 11, 2016 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Marlowe, ChristopherAutorautor primaritotes les edicionsconfirmat
Nashe, ThomasAutorautor principaltotes les edicionsconfirmat
Farmer, John StephenEditorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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The book has no illustrations or index. Purchasers are entitled to a free trial membership in the General Books Club where they can select from more than a million books without charge. Subjects: Tragedies; Dido (Legendary character); Jews; Saint Bartholomew's Day, Massacre of, France, 1572; Historical drama, English; Drama / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh; Drama / General;

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