David Bruce: George Peele’s THE ARRAIGNMENT OF PARIS: A Retelling — Act 2, Scenes 1-2

— 2.1 —

Juno, Pallas, and Venus talked together.

Venus said, “But please, tell me, Juno, was what Pallas told me here about the tale of Echo true?”

Echo was a nymph who kept Juno distracted while her husband, Jupiter, conducted affairs with other nymphs. When Juno discovered what Echo was doing, Juno punished her by making her unable to form words on her own; instead, Echo could only repeat the last words that others had said.

Juno replied, “Echo was a nymph indeed, as Pallas told you. She was a walker, such as in these thickets dwells.”

The word “walker” meant 1) walker in the forest, and 2) prostitute, as in “streetwalker.”

Juno continued, “And as Pallas told what cunning and deceitful tricks Echo played with Juno, so she told the ‘thanks’ Echo got: She was a tattling trull — prostitute — to come at every call, and now, truly, she has neither tongue nor life at all.”

According to Juno, Echo was a talkative whore who came at every call, but now she has neither voice nor life. Now Echo can only repeat the last words that others say. Because of that, she was unable to tell Narcissus effectively that she loved him, and so she had been forced to watch him as he died while staring at his reflection, unable to move away from it and eat and drink. After he died, she wasted away with mourning until all that was left was her voice.

Juno continued, “And though perhaps she was a help to Jove, and held me back with chat while he might court his love of the time, believe me, dames, I am of this opinion: He took but little pleasure in the minion. And whatsoever his escapades have been besides, I dare say for him that he never strayed so wide: A lovely nut-brown lass or lusty whore has the power perhaps to make a god a bull.”

Jupiter enthusiastically engaged in affairs, but Juno, his wife, blamed the females he slept with for enticing him into having affairs. In one of his affairs, Jupiter fell in lust with the Phoenician woman Europa; he then assumed the form of a bull and carried her away to Crete. He had sex with her, and she gave birth to a boy who became King Minos of Crete.

“Much thanks, gentle Juno, for that jest,” Venus said. “In faith, that item was worth all the rest.”

The jest was that Jupiter did not enjoy his affairs. No one who knew Jupiter — other than Juno — would believe that.

“No matter, Venus, howsoever you scorn, my father Jove at that time wore the horn,” Pallas said.

When he transformed into a bull, Jupiter wore horns on his head. Pallas was also alluding to the joke that cuckolds — men with unfaithful wives — wore invisible horns on their heads, and so she was suggesting that Juno had been unfaithful to Jupiter.

Juno tended to get revenge on the women her husband slept with instead of getting revenge on her husband by being unfaithful. But there is one story in which she gave birth to a child without Jupiter being the father. She did that to get revenge for Jupiter’s giving birth to a goddess.

Pallas had been born — fully armed — when Jupiter suffered a tremendous headache that was so bad that he had another god split his head open. (According to myths, which often vary, either Pallas had no mother or Zeus had swallowed a pregnant goddess.) Pallas sprang out from the wound.

To get back at Zeus for giving birth to a goddess, Juno gave birth to Vulcan, the blacksmith god. Zeus was not the father. Supposedly, Juno impregnated herself, although Venus and Pallas are likely to believe that as much as they believe that Jupiter does not enjoy having affairs.

Juno said, “Had every wanton god above not had better luck, Venus, then heaven would be a pleasant park, and Mars a lusty buck.”

In other words, the gods can easily enough find humans to seduce; if they could not, they would regard the abode of the gods as a happy hunting ground for lovers, and many goddesses would be having affairs with Mars, god of war.

Juno was alluding to the affair that Venus had had with Mars:The two had fallen in lust although Venus, the goddess of sexual passion, was married to Vulcan, the gifted blacksmith god. Vulcan learned of the affair, so he set a trap for the illicit lovers. He created fine chains that bound tightly, he placed the chains above his bed, and then he pretended to leave his mansion to journey abroad. Mars ran to Aphrodite and invited her to join him in Vulcan’s bed, and together they ran to bed. Mars and Venus lay down in bed together, and then the chain snared them, locked together in lust.

Venus said, “Tut, Mars has horns to butt with, although no bull he shows; he never needs to mask in nets, and he fears no jealous woman’s frowns.”

Mars may have affairs, but the females he sleeps with, such as Venus, also have affairs, and so in a way he has the horns of a cuckold, although he never married. But Mars need not turn himself into a bull or wear masks or disguises that can be as easily seen through as nets — Jupiter’s disguises seem to work only for a while, as Juno quickly becomes aware of them.

Juno replied, “Truly, the better it would be for Mars if he did turn himself into a bull as a disguise, for if he speaks too loudly, he must find some means to shadow and hide him: a net or else a cloud.”

Of course, hiding under a net is a bad way for Mars to hide himself, but Juno was again alluding to Venus’ being trapped in a net with Mars while engaged in the act of sex.

After Vulcan had captured the pair, he invited the gods and goddesses to come and laugh at them. The gods came and laughed, but the goddesses were embarrassed and stayed away.

“No more of this, fair goddesses,” Pallas said. “Don’t put on display your shames, as if you were standing all naked on display to the world, you who are such heavenly dames.”

“Nay, Pallas, that’s a common trick with Venus, well we know, and all the gods in heaven have seen her naked long ago.”

The gods had seen Venus naked when she was trapped with Mars in Vulcan’s net.

Venus replied, “And then she — me, Venus — was so fair and bright, and lovely and so fine, as Mars is to Venus’ liking, and she will take her pleasure with him. And — but I don’t wish here to make a comparison of Mars with Jove — Mars is no ranger, Juno, but Jupiter can be found in every open grove.”

A ranger is a 1) gamekeeper, or 2) chaser after females.

“We have had too much of this wrangling,” Pallas said. “We wander far, and the skies begin to scowl. Let’s retire to Diana’s bower, for the weather will be foul.”

A storm of thunder and lightning passed overhead. Até arrived and rolled the golden ball toward the three goddesses, crying “Fatum Trojae— the Fate of Troy!”

Juno picked up the golden ball and said, “Pallas, the storm is past and gone, and Phoebus Apolloclears the skies, and — look! — behold a ball of gold, a fair and worthy prize!”

Venus examined the ball closely. It had writing on it: a posey, or short inscription.

She said, “This posey says that the apple is to be given to the fairest. So then it is mine, for Venus is called the fairest of we three goddesses.”

The fairest goddess is the most beautiful goddess. Beauty, however, can appear in many forms. It need not only be physical beauty.

“The fairest here, since fair is meant, am I,” Pallas said. “You do me wrong. And if the fairest must have it, to me it does belong.”

“Then Juno may not enjoy it, so every one says,” Juno said. “But I will prove myself the fairest, before I lose it.”

They read the posey.

Juno said, “The brief is this — ‘Detur pulcherrimae, let this to the fairest given be, to the fairest of the three’ — and I am she.”

Detur pulcherrimae” is Latin for “Let it be given to the most beautiful.”

Pallas said, “‘Detur pulcherrimae, let this to the fairest given be, to the fairest of the three’ — and I am she.”

Venus said, “‘Detur pulcherrimae, let this to the fairest given be, to the fairest of the three’ — and I am she.”

“My face is fair,” Juno said, “but yet the majesty that all the gods in heaven have seen in me has made them choose me of the seven planets to be the wife of Jove and queen of heaven.

“If, then, this prize is to be only bequeathed to beauty, I am the only she who wins this prize.”

The seven planets known to the Elizabethans include five that were named after gods: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; the Elizabethans also considered the Moon and Sun to be planets.

Juno considered the fairest to be the goddess with the most majesty. None of the seven planets was named after her, but she considered herself to be a luminary worthy of being wed to the king of the gods. Juno, however, was associated with the Moon.

Venus said, “This proves that Venus is the fairest: Venus is the lovely Queen of Love: The name of Venus is indeed but beauty, and men call me the fairest above all — the fairest par excellence.

“If, then, this prize is to be only bequeathed to beauty, I am the only she who wins this prize.”

Venus considered the fairest to be the goddess with the greatest physical beauty.

Pallas, the goddess of wisdom, said, “To insist on the definition of beauty as you define it, believe me, ladies, is but to mistake it. The beauty that this ingenious prize must win is not outward beauty, but beauty that dwells within. Examine it as and however you please, and you shall find, this beauty is the beauty of the mind.

“This fairness is in general called virtue, which has many distinct parts. This beauty is called wisdom, the goddess of which I am worthily appointed by heaven. And look how much the mind, the better part, does surpass the body in merit — by so much the mistress of those divine gifts excels thy beauty and that state of thine.

“If, then, this prize is to be only bequeathed to beauty, I am the only she who wins this prize.”

Pallas considered the fairest to be the goddess with the most wisdom.

Venus said, “No, Pallas, with your permission let me say that you are completely on the wrong track. We must not define ‘beauty’ as you have, but instead take the sense as it is plainly meant. I am content to let the fairest have it.”

“Our arguments will be infinite, I trust, unless we agree on some other way of awarding the golden ball,” Pallas said. “Here’s none, I think, disposed to yield, and none but will with words maintain the field and defend our ground.”

“So then, if you agree, to avoid a tedious grudge, let us refer the question of who gets the golden ball to the sentence of a judge,” Juno said. “Whoever comes next to this place, let him bestow the ball and end the case.”

“If we do that, it cannot go wrong with me at all,” Venus said.

“I am agreed, however it befall,” Pallas said. “And yet by common opinion, so may it be, I may be said to be the fairest of the three.”

Seeing Paris coming toward them, Juno said, “Look yonder — that shepherd swain is he who must be umpire in this controversy!”

Each goddess was confident that an impartial judge would choose her as the fairest and award her the golden ball.

— 2.2 —

Paris entered the scene. Although he was a prince of Troy, he was raised as a shepherd. Because a prophecy had stated that he would be the downfall of Troy, he was exposed as an infant on the slopes of Mount Ida. A she-bear suckled him, and then a herdsman sheltered him and raised him as a shepherd. Perhaps he knew now that he was a prince of Troy, but he spent much time on Mount Ida courting Oenoneand working as a shepherd.

Venus said, “Juno, in this happy time, I accept the man as our judge. It seems by his looks that he knows some skill of love.”

Paris said to himself, “The nymph Oenone has gone, and I, all solitary and oppressed with melancholy, must make my way to tend my sheep. This day (or else my shepherd’s skill fails me) will bring me surpassing good or surpassing ill. My shepherd’s intuition says that either something very good or something very bad will happen to me today.”

Juno said to Paris, “Shepherd, don’t be astonished, although suddenly thus thou have arrived accidentally among us three, who are not earthly but are divine goddesses. Our names are Juno, Pallas, and Venus.

“Nor should you fear to speak because of reverence of the place. You have been chosen to judge and end a hard and unsettled case. This golden apple, look — don’t ask from where it came — is to be given to the fairest dame!

“And the fairest is, neither she, nor she” — Juno surreptitiously indicated Venus and Pallas — “but she whom, shepherd, thou shall name to be the fairest. This is thy charge; fulfill it without offence, and she who wins shall give thee recompense.”

“Fulfill it without offence” is ambiguous. It can mean 1) “fulfill it without causing offense,” or 2) “fulfill it and your judgment will not cause offense.”

Because all three goddesses wanted to be awarded the prize, it is hard to see how Paris could award the golden ball to one goddess without offending the other two goddesses.

Pallas said, “Don’t be afraid to speak, for we have chosen thee, since in this case we cannot be the judges.”

Venus said, “And, shepherd, say that I am the fairest, and thou shall win a good reward for doing so.”

Juno said, “Nay, shepherd, look upon my stately grace, because the pomp that belongs to Juno’s mace — symbol of authority — thou may not see; and think Queen Juno’s name, to whom old shepherds give the credit for works of fame, is mighty, and may easily suffice to gain a golden prize at Phoebus’ hand.”

Juno wanted to be awarded the golden ball because of her majestic bearing. The gods, however, cannot reveal their full majesty to human beings, as shown in this story: Jupiter had an affair with the mortal woman Semele, to whom he had made an inviolable oath to grant her what she wished. After he had sex with her, Semele said that she wanted to see him in his full glory. Because his oath was inviolable, he granted her wish, but the sight of Jupiter in his full glory incinerated her.

Phoebus Apollo was the god who drove the Sun-chariot across the sky. Because the goddesses found the golden ball only after a storm passed and the Sun came out, they may have thought that the golden ball metaphorically came from Phoebus Apollo’s hand.

Juno continued, “And for thy reward, since I am queen of riches, shepherd, I will reward thee with great monarchies, empires, and kingdoms, heaps of solid gold, elaborately made scepters and diadems, rich robes of sumptuous workmanship and cost, and a thousand things whereof I make no boast. The earth upon which thou tread shall be of the Tagus River’s sands that are mixed with gold, and the Xanthus River shall run liquid gold for thee to wash thy hands. And if thou prefer to tend thy flock, and not from them to flee, their fleeces shall be curled gold to please their master’s eye. And last, to set thy heart on fire, give this one fruit to me, and, shepherd, look, this tree of gold will I bestow on thee!”

Using divine magic, Juno created a show for Paris: A tree of gold, laden with diadems and crowns of gold, rose from out of the earth.

Juno said, “The ground whereupon it grows, the grass, the root are of gold, the body and the bark are of gold, all glistening to behold, the leaves are of burnished gold, the fruits that thereon grow are diadems set with pearl in gold, in gorgeous glistening show. And if this tree of gold in compensation may not suffice, then demand a grove of golden trees, as long as Juno carries away the prize.”

The golden tree sank into the earth.

Juno was offering Paris the rule of cities and great wealth.

Pallas said to Paris, “I choose not to tempt thee with decaying wealth, which is debased by lack of vigorous health.”

Excess wealth can cause dissipation, which leads to ill health.

Pallas continued, “But if thou have a mind to fly above and achieve loftier ambitions, crowned with fame, near the seat of Jove, if thou aspire to wisdom’s worthiness, of which thou may not see the brightness” — this was true; Paris was not a wise man — “if thou desire honor of chivalry, to be renowned for happy victory, to fight it out, and in the open battlefield to shroud thee under Pallas’ warlike shield, to prance on armored steeds, this honor I myself as a reward shall bestow on thee! And as encouragement for you to award the golden ball to me, thou may see what famous knights Dame Pallas’ warriors are — look! In Pallas’ honor here they come, marching along with the sound of thundering drums.”

Using divine magic, Pallas created a show for Paris:Nine armored knights treaded a warlike march to the music of drum and fife, and then they marched away again.

The Nine Knights were probably the Nine Worthies. All of them were warriors. Three were pagans: Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar. Three were Jews: Joshua, King David, and Judas Maccabeus. Three were Christians: King Arthur, Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Boullion, who was famous for being a leader in the First Crusade.

Some of them were from the future, but Paris would have recognized Hector of Troy: Hector was his brother.

Pallas was offering Paris mightiness as a warrior.

Venus said, “Come, shepherd, come, sweet shepherd, look at me. These alarums — calls to arms — are too hot and dangerous for thee: But if thou will give me the golden ball, Cupid my boy shall have it to play with, with the result that, whenever this apple he shall see, the god of love himself shall think on thee. And he will tell thee to look and choose, and he will wound wherever thy fancy’s object shall be found. And merrily when he shoots, he does not miss.”

If Paris awards the golden ball to Venus, then her son Cupid, the god of love, will make any woman Paris desires fall in love with him.

Venus continued, “And I will give thee many a lovely and loving kiss and come and play with thee on Ida here, and if thou will love a face that has no peer, a gallant girl, a lusty paramour, who can give thee thy bellyful of sexual entertainment and will make all thy veins beat with joy, here is a lass of Venus’ court, my boy. Here, gentle shepherd, here’s for thee a piece, the fairest face, the flower of gallant Greece.”

Using divine magic, Venus created a show for Paris:

Helen, splendidly dressed, entered the scene with four cupids — cherubs — attending on her, each having his fan in his hand to fan fresh air in her face.

She then sang this song:

Se Diana nel cielo è una stella

Chiara e lucente, piena di splendore,

Che porge luc’ all’ affanato cuore;

Se Diana nel ferno è una dea

Che da conforto all’ anime dannate,

Che per amor son morte desperate;

Se Dian, ch’ in terra è delle ninfe

Reina imperativa di dolei fiori,

Tra bosch’ e selve da morte a pastori;

Io son un Diana dolce e rara,

Che con li guardi io posso far guerra

A Dian’ infern’ in cielo, e in terra.”

Helen sang in Italian. Henry Morley (1822-1894) translated her song into English:

If Diana in Heaven is a star,

Clear and shining, full of splendor,

Who gives light to the troubled heart;

If Diana in Hell is a goddess

Who gives comfort to the condemned souls,

That [Who] have died in despair through love;

If Diana who is on earth is of the nymphs

The empress queen of the sweet flowers,

Among thickets and woods giving death to the shepherds;

I am a Diana sweet and pure,

Who with my glamour can give battle

To Dian of Hell, in Heaven or on earth.

Diana was considered a triple deity. In Heaven, she was Luna, goddess of the Moon. (Other goddesses, such as Juno, were also associated with the Moon.) In Hell, she was Hecate, goddess of witchcraft. On earth she was Diana, goddess of the hunt.

Helen, having sung her song that acknowledged that love can cause distress and death, exited.

Venus was offering Paris success in love — or at least success in lust.

Paris said, “Most heavenly dames, there was never a man like I, a poor shepherd swain, so fortunate and unfortunate. Even the least of these delights that you devise are able to enrapt and dazzle human eyes.

“But since my silence may not be pardoned and I must appoint which is the fairest she, then pardon me, most sacred dames, since only one, and not all, by Paris’ judgment must have this golden ball.

“Thy beauty, stately Juno dame divine, that similar to Phoebus Apollo’s golden beams does shine, approves itself to be most excellent.”

Paris praised Juno’s beauty despite not awarding the golden ball to her. He neglected to praise Pallas’ beauty despite not awarding the golden ball to her.

Paris continued, “But that fair face that most delights me, since fair, fair dames, is neither she nor she” — he pointed to Juno and Pallas — “but she whom I shall judge to be fairest — that face is hers who is called the Queen of Love, whose sweetness does both gods and creatures move. And if the fairest face deserves the ball, fair Venus, ladies, bears it away from you all.”

He gavethe golden ball to Venus.

Venus said, “And in this ball does Venus more delight than in seeing her lovely boy fair Cupid. Come, shepherd, come. Sweet Venus is thy friend, no matter how thou offend other gods.”

Venus and Paris exited.

Juno said, “But he shall rue and curse the dismal day in which his Venus carried the ball away, and heaven and earth shall be just witnesses that I will revenge it on his family.”

Pallas said, “Well, Juno, whether we are willing or unwilling, Venus has taken the apple from us both.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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