Dido, Queen of Carthage is a work of astonishing invention, and perhaps the first masterpiece of the English stage. Marlowe's play tells of the tragic infatuation of Queen Dido for Aeneas, heroic survivor of the Trojan War and future founder of Rome. As the heartless gods of Mount Olympus look on unmoved, Cupid wreaks havoc in the hearts and minds of his all-too-human victims.
Marlowe wrote Dido, Queen of Carthage in 1585, at the beginning of his meteoric rise through the underworld of Elizabethan London. Writing with all the fierce recklessness of a twenty-one year old, Marlowe proposes a theater whose only rule is beauty, a world whose only law is desire.
Directed by the former Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith in London, Neil Bartlett, and designed by his close collaborator Rae Smith, Dido, Queen of Carthage features live baroque music.
"Make me immortal with a kiss!"—Dido
The ten years of the bloody, anguished Trojan War are over. Troy's King, Priam, has been butchered. Aeneas, having escaped the devastation with his son Ascanius, is wandering on the seas—to escape his memories of death, and to find a new home. He dreams of a country called Italy, where he can build a new city, one that will somehow replace the lost dream of Troy. He is shipwrecked in a storm.
This shipwreck is no accident. Juno, sister of Jupiter, King of the Gods, hated Troy and hates the surviving Trojans, having been deeply insulted when Paris, the Prince of Troy, failed to choose her as the most beautiful of the goddesses in the famous contest involving a mythical golden apple as prize. Paris gave the prize to Venus, mother of Aeneas.
Juno's temper has not been improved by the fact that Jupiter has just got himself a new boyfriend; he has replaced her daughter, Hebe, in the intimate role of cupbearer with a handsome shepherd-boy, Ganymede—a Trojan. It is Juno who has summoned the winds and wrecked the Trojan ships. Venus fears for the life of her son.
Meanwhile, far from the smoking ruins of Troy, there is another city, this one ruled by a woman. In North Africa, Dido reigns over Carthage, a powerful and peaceful place that she has established as a haven of civilization in a barbaric landscape. After the death of her first husband, Sichaeus, she has refused all pressure to remarry, and governs alone.
The beach on which Aeneas has been shipwrecked is . . . near Carthage.
A world whose only rule is beauty, whose only law is desire