Scene I. The Palace
The Trojan war is over. Aeneas and his people have found themselves in Carthage after a treacherous sea voyage. His destiny, as decreed by the Gods, is to found Rome, but he has become obsessed with Dido, Queen of Carthage. Her sister and confidante, Belinda, and other optimistic courtiers urge her to enjoy her good fortune, but the young widow Dido is anxious. Aeneas arrives to ask the Queen, again, to give herself to him. Belinda notices, with relief that Dido seems to be capitulating. Dido and Aeneas leave together. Love triumphs.
Scene 2. The Cave
The evil Sorceress summons her colleagues to make big trouble in Carthage. Dido must be destroyed before sunset. Knowing of Aeneas’ destiny to sail to Italy, the Sorceress decides to send a Spirit disguised as Mercury to tell him he must depart immediately. Since Dido and Aeneas and the rest are out on a hunt, the witches plan to make a storm to spoil the lovers’ fun and send everyone back home. The witches cast their spell.
Scene 3. The Grove
Dido and Aeneas make love. Another triumph for the hero. The royal party enters and tells as story for Aeneas’ benefit. Dido senses the approaching storm. Belinda, ever practical, organizes the trip back to the palace. Aeneas is accosted by the false Mercury with this command: “Leave Carthage Now.” He accepts his orders, then wonders how to break the news to Dido. He is worried.
Scene 4. The Ships
Aeneas and the Trojans prepare for the journey. The Sorceress and her witches are quite pleased to see that their plot is working. Once Aeneas has sailed they will conjure an ocean storm. They are proud of themselves.
Scene 5. The Palace
Dido sees the Trojans preparing their ships. Aeneas tries to explain his predicament and offers to break his vow in order to stay with her. Dido is appalled by his hypocrisy. She sends him away and contemplates the inevitability of death. “Remember me but forget my fate.” Dido dies.