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Breadcrumb Reads

This is the companion blog to my main book blog, Breadcrumb Reads. My reading tastes veer towards the classics, literary fiction, creative non-fiction and historical fiction.

The Tragedy of Dido Queene of Carthage - Christopher Marlowe Let me begin by saying I like Marlowe.

Until Dido, Queen of Carthage, I had read The Tragic History of Doctor Faustus (some 3 or 4 times -- a favourite) and The Jew of Malta. Both plays moved me with their raw passion.

This particular play (Dido) is supposed to be Marlowe's debut play. I enjoyed it.

For one, I can see how he is the predecessor (I do not say contemporary of Shakespeare since Shakespeare began publishing his works only after Marlowe's 'death') of Shakespeare and the use of the blank verse. I quite liked the rhythm of the play. Also, for me, it read easily and smoothly, and didn't leave me guessing at what was being said.

The story itself is a Greek myth, and it was interesting to explore the tragedy of Troy through the eyes of an escaped Trojan. (I am currently reading The Odyssey and one sees only the Greek perspective). Aeneas, after many trials at sea, ends up in Carthage, Queen Dido's domain. Dido is a gracious and generous hostess, and provides Aeneas with all that he needs to repair his ships and set sail for Italy which is his destination and ultimate destiny as ordered by the gods. However, during the process of repairs, Dido falls in love with Aeneas and is loath to let him go. They marry, but Aeneas is told that the gods are angry he has forgotten his destiny, and he must set sail for Italy at once. Dido is unhappy, and not being able to stand being without Aeneas, makes an end to her life.

I liked how Dido was portrayed. A queen proud of her heritage, yet gracious. She was sought after by kings...one of them being Iarbas, King of Gaetulia, who is madly in love with her. It looks like Dido favours Iarbas' suit, until struck by cupid's arrow and falling for Aeneas. The gods interfere a great deal as they do in The Illiad and The Odyssey! Dido is passionate about the Trojan prince and when it is time for him to leave cannot stand it. She uses all sorts of wiles, including keeping Aeneas' son from him, to keep him with her. But at the end he out-smarts her and leaves with his fleet. Aeneas himself is not really an interesting character. I found I liked Iarbas more in terms of characterisation though his parts are few and far between.

Somewhere in the beginning, when the Trojans are welcomed into Dido's halls they are asked to give their hosts an account of the events that ended Troy. I found the tale of the Trojans' defeat from the mouth of Aeneas to be very tragic. I was sitting at the edge of my seat...really! There was so much feeling in those passages...it was not a mere narration of the events.

In one of the reviews I saw for this play, someone says that this is no Shakespeare. Of course, this is no Shakespeare! This is Marlowe. Raw and passionate, and he hasn't failed to move me a third time.

[I have nothing against Shakespeare. I just find it hard to form my own opinion about the Bard without being greatly influenced by all the love lavished on this dramatist. I sometimes find it hard to understand why Shakespeare is made such a great deal of. And then one comes across Macbeth and Hamlet and their like, and one can see the greatness of the man. I'll be reading Othello soon to remember why again. But this is completely off topic.]

I would recommend Marlowe. I would always recommend Marlowe. :)