David Bruce: George Peele’s THE ARRAIGNMENT OF PARIS: A Retelling — Act 3, Scenes 5-6

— 3.5 —

Venus, Paris, and the shepherds Hobbinol, Diggon, and Thenot talked together. The shepherds had told Venus about Colin’s death, which had been caused by Thestylis not returninghis love. Venus was carrying the golden ball that Paris had awarded to her.

As the Queen of Love, Venus usually wanted male lovers to be successful in their pursuit of females, and so she was upset by Thestylis’ rejection of Colin and by his death.

“Shepherds,” Venus said, “I am happy for this sweet shepherd’s sake to take a strange revenge upon the maiden named Thestylisand her disdain. Let Colin’s corpse be brought here now and buried in the plain. And let this be the inscription on his tomb:

“‘The love whom Thestylis has slain.’

“And, trust me, I will chide my son for partiality, who gave the swain so deep a wound, and let her not be won by him.”

“Alas, that ever Love was blind, to shoot so far amiss!” one of the shepherds said.

Cupid, god of love, had shot badly, causing Colin to fall in love with the wrong woman: a woman who did not return his love.

“Cupid my son was more to blame,” Venus said. “The fault is not mine, but his.”


Paris said to Venus, “Oh, madam, if you yourself would condescend to perform the task of the handling of the bow, you yourself would have more skill and more justice than your son Cupid.”

“Sweet shepherd, did thou ever love?” Venus asked.

“Lady, I loved a little once,” Paris replied.

“And are thou changed?” Venus asked.

“Fair Queen of Love, I loved not all at once,” Paris said.

He was able to love one female, and then love another. He was able to spread his love around.

“Well, wanton, if thou were wounded as deeply as some have been” — Venus may have been thinking of Colin the shepherd — “then it would take a cunning cure to heal your wound, and your wound would be rueful to be seen.”

Paris asked, “But tell me, gracious goddess, for a start and false offence, does Venus or her son have the power at pleasure to give dispensation for it?”

Paris had started Oenone — made her come out of a place that ought to be safe — her innocence — and had made a false vow to her. Now he was wondering whether Venus and/or Cupid could forgive such an offence.

Venus replied:

“My boy, I will instruct thee with a piece of poetry

“That perhaps thou have not previously heard: In hell there is a tree,

“Where once a day do sleep the souls of false forsworn lovers,

“With open hearts; and there about in swarms the number hovers

“Of poor forsaken ghosts, whose wings from off this tree do beat

“Round drops of fiery Phlegethon [river of fire in hell] to scorch false hearts with heat.

“This pain did Venus and her son entreat the prince of hell

“To impose on such as were faithless to such as loved them well.

“And, therefore, this, my lovely boy, fair Venus does advise thee:

“Be true and steadfast in thy love, beware thou do disguise thee;”

In other words, don’t lie (disguise your true self) when you say you love someone.

Venus continued:

“For he who makes love only a jest, when it pleases him to start [pursue a female],

“Shall feel those fiery water-drops consume his faithless heart.”

In other words, be faithful in love, for if you are not, punishment in hell awaits you.

“Are Venus and her son so full of justice and severity?” Paris asked.

Venus said, “It would be a pity if love could not be linked with indifference. However lovers can cry out for hard success in love, trust me, some more than common cause that painful fortune does move.”

According to Venus, although lovers cry for success in love — for the loved one to return their love — rejection affects the lover more strongly than would common cause, aka mutual love. Rejection can cause the lover to feel much more strongly than would acceptance.

We may wish that love not be linked with indifference — that is, we may wish that love should always be returned. For Venus, however, that would be a pity. She went on to explain that love linked with indifference is a very effective punishment.

Venus continued, “Cupid’s bow is not alone his triumph, but his rod to punish people. Nor is he only just a boy, for he is called a mighty god. They who do him reverence have reason for the same: His shafts keep heaven and earth in awe, and shape ‘rewards’ for shame.”

Cupid’s arrows make people fall in love, but that love is not always returned. This shows Cupid’s power: Not only can he make people very happy, but also he can make people very unhappy. As we have seen, Colin was so unhappy that he died. Cupid’s arrows are so potent that they affect the immortals just as they do the mortals. When Cupid uses his arrows to punish people, the “rewards” he gives them are actually punishments.

Paris asked, “And has Cupid a reason to explain why Colin died for love?”

“Yes, he has a good reason, I promise thee, to explain why Colin’s death might be necessary,” Venus said.

“Then let the name of Love be adored,” Paris said. “Cupid’s bow is full of might.”

Paris added, “Cupid’s wounds are all but for desert and merit. Cupid’s laws are all but right.”

These sentences are ambiguous. The word “but” can mean 1) just, or 2) except. And so we have:

1) Paris added, “Cupid’s wounds are all just for desert and merit. Cupid’s laws are all just right.”

2) Paris added, “Cupid’s wounds are all except for desert and merit. Cupid’s laws are all except right.”

Venus said, “Well, for this once I wish to apply my speeches to thy sense, and Thestylis shall feel the pain for Love’s supposed offence.”

Venus believed that Paris wanted Thestylis to be punished for failing to return Colin’s love, thus causing him to die of a broken heart.

The shepherds Hobbinol, Diggon, and Thenot brought in Colin’s coffin on a bier, and then they sang a song titled “Welladay, Welladay,” or “Alas, Alas”:

Poor Colin, thou art [are] going to [into] the ground,

The love whom Thestylis has slain,

Hard heart, fair face, fraught [filled] with disdain,

Disdain in love a deadly wound.

Wound her, sweet Love, so deep again,

[So] That she may feel the dying pain

Of this unhappy shepherd’s swain [Colin the unhappy lover and shepherd].

And die for love as Colin died, as Colin died.”

Venus ordered, “Shepherds, pause. Let Colin’s corpse be witness of the pain that Thestylis endures in love, a plague for her disdain. Behold the organ — the agent — of our wrath: This rusty churl is he. Thestylis dotes on his ill-favored — ugly — face, so much accursed is she.”

A wretched and deformed churl entered the scene. Thestylis, a pretty young woman, followed him and wooed him and sang to him a song titled “The Wooing of Colman,” but the churl rejected her and exited. Thestylis stayed behind.

Paris said, “Ah, poor unhappy Thestylis, unpitied is thy pain!”

Venus said, “Her fortune is not unlike hers whom thou cruelly has slain.”

Both Thestylis and Oenone suffered from the rejection of their love.

Thestylis sang and the shepherds sang and repeated some of the lyrics.

Thestylis sang:

The strange affects [passions] of my tormented heart,

Whom cruel love has woeful prisoner caught,

Whom cruel hate has into bondage brought,

Whom wit [intelligence] no way of safe escape has taught,

Enforce [Force] me [to] say, in witness of my smart [pain],

There is no pain [comparable] to foul disdain in hardy suits of love.”

The shepherds sang:

There is no pain [comparable] to foul disdain in hardy suits of love.”

Thestylis sang:

Cruel, farewell.

The shepherds sang:

Cruel, farewell.

Thestylis sang:

Most cruel thou, of all that [whom] nature framed.

The shepherds sang, “Most cruel thou, of all that [whom] nature framed.

Thestylis sang:

To kill thy love with thy disdain.”

The shepherds sang:

To kill thy love with thy disdain.”

Thestylis sang:

Cruel, Disdain, so live thou named.”

The shepherds sang:

Cruel, Disdain, so live thou named.”

Thestylis sang:

And let me die of Iphis’ pain.”

The shepherds sang:

A life too good for thy disdain.”

Thestylis sang:

Sith [Since] this my [astrological] stars to me allot,

And thou thy love have all forgot.”

The shepherds sang:

And thou thy love have all forgot.”

In her song, Thestylis referredto Iphis, who loved the Cyprian maiden Anaxarete, who rejected his love. Iphis hanged himself after being rejected. Because Anaxarete showed no pity even when Iphis’ funeral cortège passed by her, Venus turned her into stone.

After finishing her song, Thestylis exited.

Venus ordered, “Now, shepherds, bury Colin’s corpse, perfume his coffin and bier with flowers, and record what justice Venus did amid these woods of yours.”

The shepherds carried away Colin’s coffin and bier.

Venus then said to Paris, “How are you now? How does my lovely boy feel after this mournful song about love?”

“Such mournful songs, sweet lady, as these, are deadly songs to experience,” Paris said.

Seeing Mercury coming toward them, Venus said, “Cease, shepherd. There is other news coming, after this melancholy. My mind predicts some tempest coming with the speech of Mercury.”

— 3.6 —

Mercury entered the scene, accompanied by some of Vulcan’s Cyclopes.

Mercury said, “Fair Lady Venus, let me, who have long been well-beloved by thee, be pardoned, if, in accordance with my orders, I myself first bring to my sweet madam these unwelcome tidings.”

“What news, what tidings, gentle Mercury, do you bring to trouble me in the midst of my delights?”

“At Juno’s suit, Pallas assisting her, since both did join in appeal to Jupiter, a legal action has been entered in the court of heaven. And me, the swiftest of the seven planets, with a warrant they have thence dispatched away, to apprehend and find the man, they say, who gave away from them that self-same ball of gold that I presume I in this place behold.”

We moderns know that the planet Mercury is the swiftest planet in the sense that its orbit around the Sun takes 88 Earth days.

Venus was holding the golden ball in her hands. Both Juno and Pallas believed that the golden ball did not belong to Venus.

Mercury continued, “That man, unless I am wide of the mark, is he who sits so near thy gracious side. This being so, it remains to be done that he leave here and appear before the gods to answer his offence.”

“What tale is this?” Venus said. “Does Juno and her companion Pallas pursue this shepherd with such deadly hate as to say that they will not now be content with what was then our general agreement about how to award the golden ball?

“Let Juno strut, and let Pallas play her part. I won by merit what I have here. Both heaven and earth shall be brought to destruction, before wrong in this is done to Paris or me.”

“This little fruit — this little golden apple — if Mercury can foretell the future, will send, I fear, a world of souls to hell,” Mercury replied.

The Judgment of Paris led to the Trojan War. Many warriors on both sides died, and Troy — a center of civilization — fell.

“What mean these Cyclopes, Mercury?” Venus asked. “Has Vulcan grown so refined that he sends forth his chimney-sweepers to fetter any friend of mine?”

She then said to Paris, “Don’t be downhearted by this, shepherd. I myself will be your bail.”

Paris won’t need to be arrested because Venus will guarantee his presence at the trial.

She then said to Mercury, “He shall be present at the court of Jove, I promise thee.”

“Venus, give me your pledge,” Mercury said.

The pledge would be a physical object that she would forfeit if Paris failed to show up for the trial.

Venus asked, “Do you want my cestus, or my fan, or both?”

A cestus is a marriage belt. Venus’ marriage belt could make any male fall in lust with any female who wore it. During the Trojan War, Juno will borrow it in order to seduce her husband, Jupiter.

Mercury took her fan and said, “This shall serve. Your word to me is as sure as is your oath at Diana’s bower. And, lady, if my intelligence or cunning may profit this man, for Venus’ sake let him be bold enough to ask Mercury for help.”

Mercury and the Cyclopes exited.

“Sweet Paris, what are you thinking about?”

Paris replied, “The angry heavens, because of this fatal jar — quarrel — name me as the cause of dire and deadly war.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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THE TROJAN WAR: 4 Epic Poems (Iliad, Posthomerica, Odyssey, Aeneid)




Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY: A Retelling in Prose



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