Monday, 22 July 2013

Dido, Queen of Carthage: My First Marlowe's Play

Around a month ago I read the play, and found it to be very good indeed, even though I am by no means well-acquainted with any Elizabethan play except Shakespeare's. I chose the play Dido for no other reason than my fondness of Greek and Roman myths and also Shakespeare's Hamlet. In Hamlet there's a player who recites “Aeneas' tale to Dido” about Priam's slaughter, and such story I find in this play as well. So, now to the review.

The play begins with Jupiter and Ganymede together on the stage. Jupiter flirts with the young boy (yes, he's a boy) and promises him everything he desires if he could only get his love. Then Venus enters, complaining about the sufferings Aeneas must face. Jupiter assures her that Aeneas will be fine. Venus then meets with her son and leads him to Dido's place, who receives him with all honour and affection. But that's when the problem begins.

Venus has Cupid disguised as Ascanius. He then pricks Dido's heart with his arrow, which makes her suddenly and madly in love with Aeneas. She persuades Aeneas to cancel his plan to go to Italy and become the King of Carthage instead. Nevertheless, the gods have decided that Aeneas must go, leaving Dido in despair. The queen kills herself in fire, followed by her lover, Iarbas, and his lover, Anna.

For those who have read Aeneid, none of these are new. The story had been a legend by the time the play was written anyway. People expected these things to happen on stage. However, Marlowe, being a great poet and playwright, was able to rephrase the story into beautiful lines. There are times when his words remind me so much of Shakespeare. They lived in the same period and I think Shakespeare took a lot of lesson from Marlowe's plays.

The part I love best from the play, maybe, is as Hamlet told the player, "Aeneas tale to Dido" about the fall of Troy. It's so...Greek, or I might say, Roman. I don't know. But it reminds me of my experience reading the same sort of thing in Odyssey, when the main character must tell his story to his listeners. 

Aeneas tells Dido about the fall of Troy by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin
Having said that I like the play, I want to quote what my friend said when I told him that I was reading it. He said, “I still prefer Shakespeare anyway.” I think I still love the Old Bill better than any playwright anyway.  

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read anything from Marlowe, but anything related to ancient Roman is always interesting for me, so...I might read this one day. I haven't read anything else about Aeneas after Iliad.