David Bruce: George Peele’s THE ARRAIGNMENT OF PARIS: A Retelling — Act 4, Scenes 1-4

— 4.1 —

Vulcan, the husband of Venus, was chasing oneof Diana’s nymphs in Diana’s grove. Vulcan walked and ran with a limp.

“Why, nymph, for what reason do you need to run so fast? So what if I am dark and swarthy? I have more pretty knacks to please than every eye does see, and although I go not so upright, and although I am a blacksmith, to make me gracious you may have some other thing to make up for those things.”

The “some other thing” may have been hanging in front below his waist.

“Knacks” are 1) tricks, or 2) trifles such as toys.

— 4.2 —

Bacchus, the god of wine, entered the scene and said, “Vulcan, will you act so indeed?”

He then said to the nymph, “Nay, turn, and tell him, girl, that he has a mistress — a wife — of his own to take his bellyful.”

Vulcan had a thing below his waist that he used to fill female bellies.

Vulcan said, “Why, sir, if Phoebe’s dainty nymphs please lusty Vulcan’s tooth, why mayn’t Vulcan tread awry as well as Venus does?”

Venus had affairs, and therefore, Vulcan was asking, why shouldn’t he?

“You shall not taint your troth — break your marriage oath — for me,” the nymph said. “You knowvery well that all who are Diana’s maidens are vowed to halter apes into hell.”

Diana, aka Phoebe, was a virgin goddess, and all the nymphs who served her were virgin maidens. In this culture, the lot of deceased old maids was to lead apes by the halter to hell.

The nymph meant that she intended to stay a virgin and serve Diana.

“Truly, truly, my gentle lass,” Bacchus said, “but I do know a cast, lead apes who wishes, that we would help to unhalter them as fast.”

A cast is a throw in wrestling. Bacchus knew a cast that would cast a nymph down on the ground where he could perform an act that would unhalter an ape and make it so that a nymph need not lead it.

As should be obvious, the male Olympian gods did not believe that the consent of the female was a necessary preliminary before having sex with her.

“For shame! For shame!” the nymph said to Bacchus.

She then said sarcastically, “Your skill is ‘wondrously great’! I would have thought that the God of Wine would have just tended his tubs and grapes, and not been half so ‘perfectly virtuous.’”

“Thank you for that quip, my girl,” Vulcan said, appreciating the nymph’s insulting Bacchus.

“That’s one of a dainty nymph’s sneers,” Bacchus said.

The nymph said, “Please, sir, take it with all amiss — take it as the insult it was intended to be. We nymphsgive out insults only after we have been given lumps — that is, been insulted or mistreated.”

Vulcan said, “She has capped his answer in the Q.”

The nymph was minding her Ps and Qs — she was on her best behavior. She had vowed to remain a virgin, and she was doing quite well in defending her virginity. In this case, being on her best behavior included arguing with and even insulting any god who wished to take her virginity.

The nymph asked, “What did Vulcan say? That the nymph has capped his answer in the Q?”

She then said to Vulcan, “She has done so as well as she who capped your head to keep you warm below.”

According to the nymph, she had done as well at preventing Vulcan from sleeping with her as Venus had done. According to the nymph, Venus had put a nightcap on Vulcan’s head to keep him warm below, rather than keeping warm what was below his waist by putting it in a warm, wet hole. Venus had also capped him with a cuckold’s horns by being unfaithful to him, although this, of course, did not apply to the nymph.

Vulcan said, “Yes, then you will be shrewish, I see.”

“It’s best to leave her completely alone,” Bacchus said.

“Yes, gentle gods, and find some other string to harp upon,” the nymph said.

She meant this: Go find some other female to have sex with.

“Some other string!” Bacchus said. “Agreed, truly, some other pretty thing. It would be a shame for pretty maidens to be idle when they could be busy in bed.

“What do you say, nymph? Will you sing for us?”

“Yes, as long as the songs are some rounds or merry roundelays,” the nymph said. “We sing no other songs: Your melancholic notes are not suitable for our country mirth.”

Seeing Mercury and the Cyclopes coming, Vulcan said, “Here comes a crew who will help us sing.”

— 4.3 —

Mercury and the Cyclopes entered the scene.

“Now our task is done,” Mercury said.

Bacchus said, “Then, merry Mercury, it is more than time that this round were well begun.”

They sang a song that began, “Hey down, down, down.”

When the song was finished, the nymph blew a horn loudly in Vulcan’s ear and then ran away, giggling.

“She is a harlot, I promise,” Vulcan said.

Bacchus said, “She is a peevish, elvish, spiteful, mischievous shrew.”

Mercury said to Vulcan and Bacchus, “You could have seen as much of the nymph from far away as you have seen of her up close. Neither of you was successful at seeing her naked, for her kind of wandering was not the kind of wandering — philandering — you wanted.

“But, Bacchus, time spent with a nymph is well-spent time, I know.”

He did not say that to Vulcan, perhaps because Vulcan was married to Venus, with whom Mercury had had an affair.

Mercury added, “Our sacred father — Jove — along with Phoebus Apollo and the God of War are meeting in Diana’s grove.”

Vulcan said, “Then we are here before the other gods yet: but wait, the earth is swelling. God Neptune, fortuitously, meets the prince of hell.”

Pluto, the god of hell, sitting in his throne, ascended from below. Neptune also entered the scene.

Pluto asked, “What quarrels are these that call the gods of heaven and hell below?”

Neptune said, “It is a work of intelligence and toil to control a lusty shrew.”

Jupiter’s wife, Juno, was a shrewish wife.

— 4.4 —

Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo, Mars, Juno, Pallas, and Diana entered the scene.

In this trial, Juno and Pallas were the appellants, and nine male gods (including Jupiter) were the jury. Diana was attending because the trial was taking place in her grove — the woods around Mount Ida.

Jupiter was the chief judge, and Mercury carried out his orders.

Jupiter ordered, “Bring forth Paris, the man of Troy, so that he may hear for what reason he is to be arraigned before our court here.”

Neptune said, “Look, he is coming, prepared to plead his case, escorted by lovely Venus, who shows him grace!”

Venus and Paris entered the scene.

Looking at Paris, Mercury said, “I have not seen a more alluring boy.”

“So beauty is named the destruction of Priam’s Troy,” Apollo said.

The gods and the goddess Diana took their seats; Juno, Pallas, Venus, and Paris stood before them.

Venus said, “Sacred Jove, at Juno’s arrogant, haughty complaint, as previously I gave my pledge to Mercury, I now bring the man whom he did recently summon, to answer his indictment orderly, and I crave this grace from this immortal senate: that you allow the mortal man to have an advocate to speak on his behalf.”

Pallas said, “That may not be; the laws of heaven deny a man the grace to plead or answer by attorney.”

“Pallas, thy judgment is all too peremptory,” Venus said.

Apollo said, “Venus, that favor is flatly denied him. He is a mortal man, and therefore by our laws, he himself, without an advocate, must plead his own case.”

Venus said to Paris, “Don’t be dismayed, shepherd, in so good a case. Thou have friends, as well as foes, in this place.”

Growing impatient, Juno asked, “Why, Mercury, why do you not indict him?”

“Speak softly, gentle Juno, please, do not bite him,” Venus said.

“Gods, I trust that you are likely to have great silence, unless this parrot be commanded to leave hence,” Juno said. “You gods won’t be able to speak unless you order overly talkative Venus to go away from here.”

Jupiter said, “Venus, forbear, be still.”

He then ordered, “Speak, Mercury.”

Venus said, “If Juno should jangle, prate, or babble, Venus will reply.”

Mercury said, “Paris, King Priam’s son, thou are accusedof being partial and biased. You made a judgment that was partial and biased, and therefore unjust.

“Your accusers say that because you lacked impartiality, and because you completely ignored desert and merit, thou gave the prize to Lady Venus here and not to them.

“What is thine answer?”

Paris now made his oration to the Council of the Gods, defending himself and his decision.

He began by flattering the gods:

“Sacred and just, thou great and dread-inspiring Jove, and you thrice-revered powers, whom neither love nor hate of a person may wrest your judgments into being unjust, I address you.

“If my fate and fortune are that I, a mortal man, must plead for safe excusal of my guiltless thought, the great honor of pleading my case to a Council of the Gods makes my mishap the less.”

Next, he pointed out that he was pleading for Venus — and her beauty — as well as for himself:

“I, a mortal man, must plead before the gods, who graciously tolerate the world’s misdeeds, for Venus, but this heavenly council may with me affirm how enticing is her beauty.

“But since neither that nor this — neither my fate nor my fortune — may do me any good in providing an advocate for me, and therefore for myself I myself must be the speaker, a mortal man in the midst of this heavenly presence, then let me not create a long defense to them who are the beholders of my guiltless thoughts.”

Actually, Paris would speak at length in his own defense.

Paris continued by saying that he did not deny the facts of the case — that he awarded the prize for beauty to Venus — but he pointed out that he is a mortal and that mortals sometimes err:

“I may not deny the deed that is all of my offence, but I do say that I did it upon command; if then I erred, I did no more than to a man belongs: To err is human.

“And if, in making a verdict on the three goddesses’ divine forms, my dazzled eye did swerve or indulge more on Venus’ face than on either face of the other two goddesses, it was no fault of bias or partiality, but instead, perhaps, the fault of a man whose eyesight was not so perfect as might discern the brightness of the rest.”

In other words, his eyes could see the physical beauty of Venus but not the majesty of Juno or the wisdom of Athena.

Paris continued by saying that the male gods would also praise Venus’ physical beauty:

“And, you gods, if it were permitted to men to know your secret thoughts, there are those who sit upon that sacred court who would with Paris err in Venus’ praise.

“But let me cease to speak of error here, since what my hand, the organ of my heart, gave with the good agreement of my eye, my tongue is void with the task to maintain and defend in this court.”

Paris was saying that his tongue was incapable of pleading in his defense. This is clearly wrong, just as Paris was wrong in saying earlier that he would not make a long defense. In both cases, he was engaging in false modesty and lowering expectations about the quality of defense he would make.

Pluto said, “He is a jolly shepherd, wise and eloquent.”

Paris then pleaded innocent:

“First, then, accused of partiality, Paris replies, ‘Not guilty of the fact.’ His reason is that he knew no more fair Venus’ marriage belt than Dame Juno’s mace, and he never saw wise Pallas’ crystal shield.”

He had not seen the goddesses’ special powers. Venus’ marriage belt caused males to lust after females; since he had not seen and been affected by the marriage belt, he had not been biased by any effect it would have had on him. Juno’s mace was a symbol of her majesty and power. Wise Pallas’ shield was a symbol of her prowess in battle. Because he had not seen the goddesses’ special powers, he had judged the three goddesses simply on their beauty, just as they had asked him to:

“Then as I looked, I loved and liked at once, and as making the judgment was referred from them to me, to give the prize to her whose beauty my fancy did best commend, so did I praise and judge as might my dazzled eyes discern.”

Neptune said, “This is a piece of art, that cunningly, truly, refers the blame to the weakness of his eyes. Instead of Paris saying that he is to blame for any error, he is blaming the weakness of his eyes.”

Paris continued with his defense:

“Now, because I must add justification for my deed and explain why Venus pleased me the most of the three, let me say first, in the twists and turns of my mortal ears, the question standing upon beauty’s blaze, the goddess who is called the Queen of Love, I thought, should not be excelled in beauty.

“Had the prize been destined to be awarded to majesty — yet I will not rob Venus of her grace and prize — then stately Juno might have carried away the golden ball.

“Had the prize been dedicated to wisdom, my human wit would have given it to Pallas then.

“But since that power who threw the golden ball for my future ill did dedicate this ball to the fairest of the three goddesses, I thought the safest course of action was to judge on the basis of form and beauty rather than on the basis of Juno’s stateliness or Pallas’ worthiness.

“I used my shepherd’s skill that learned to judge the fairest of the flock, and praised beauty only by nature’s aim, and behold, Paris gave this fruit to Venus.”

Paris then made the point that the three goddesses ought to accept his judgment, whether or not they agreed with it, because they themselves had chosen him to be their judge:

“I was a judge chosen there by the full consent of the three goddesses, and heavenly powers ought not to repent their deeds.”

Paris then pointed out that each of the goddesses had offered him bribes to award her the golden ball and that therefore the goddesses themselves were not letting the contest be judged solely on which goddess was the fairest:

“Where it is said that beyond her deserving it, I honored Venus with this golden prize, you gods, alas, how can a mortal man discern among the sacred gifts of heaven?

“Or, if I may — with respect to you — let me reason thus: Suppose I gave, and judged corruptly then, out of hope of gaining that which did please my thought best, then this apple was not awarded for beauty’s praise alone.

“I might offend in that way, since I was pardoned in advance with assurances that the three goddesses would accept my judgment, whatever it was.

“And I might offend in that way because I was tempted more than ever any creature was. I was tempted with wealth, with beauty, and with prowess in battle.

“I preferred beauty before them all; beauty is the thing that has enchanted heaven itself.

“As far as wealth is concerned, contentment is my wealth. A shell of salt will serve a shepherd swain, as will a small meal in a humble bag, and water running from the silver spring.”

Possibly, shepherds near a coast scraped salt from a salt-encrusted seashell.

Paris continued, “As for weapons, they who sit so low dread no foes. A thorn bush can keep the wind from off my back. A thatched sheepcote is a shepherd’s palace. The Muses tell epics of tragic war events; shepherds don’t know the skill of telling epic tales. It is enough for shepherds, if Cupid has been displeased, to sing his praise by playing on a slender oaten pipe.

“And thus, thrice-revered gods and goddesses, I have told my tale, and I ask that any punishment of my guiltless soul be measured by my mind that did not intend any insult. If warlike Pallas or the Queen of Heaven sue to reverse my sentence by appeal, then let it be as pleases your divine majesties.

“The wrong and the hurt, if there will be any, will not be mine, but they will be hers whose beauty claimed the prize from me. If my decision to award the golden ball to Venus is reversed, it is Venus who will suffer the hurt.”

Paris having ended his defense, Jupiter said, “Venus, take your shepherd away until he is called back to this place.”

Venus and Parisexited.

Jupiter then said, “Juno, what can you do after hearing this defense but act justly and impartially? And if you will act justly in the case, you must recognize that the man must be acquitted by heaven’s laws.”

Juno disagreed: “Yes, gentle Jove, when Juno’s suits are moved, then heaven may see how well she is beloved.”

In other words, if the case goes against Juno and if Paris is acquitted, then all the gods and goddesses will know that Jupiter does not love her.

Apollo said to Juno, “But, madam, is it fitting for divine majesty to deviate in any way from justice?”

Pallas said, “Whether the man is guilty, yes or no, that does not hinder our appeal, I expect.”

Whether Paris will be found guilty or not guilty of bias, Pallas still wanted his awarding of the golden ball to Venus to be overturned.

Juno said, “Phoebus Apollo, I know, amid this heavenly crew, there are those who have things to say as good as you.”

She expected Apollo to support her — and then for other gods to agree with Apollo’s support.

But Apollo did not support Juno.

He said, “And, Juno, I with them, and they with me, in law and right must necessarily agree.”

Pallas said, “I grant that you may agree, but think carefully about that upon which you will agree.”

Pluto said, “If you listened carefully, the man in his defense said what he said with reverence. He showed respect to all of us gods and goddesses.”

“He showed respect to you goddesses very well, I promise you,” Vulcan said.

“No doubt, sir, you say that cunningly,” Juno, still angry, said.

“Well, Juno, if you will appeal, you may,” Saturn, the god of agriculture, said. “But first let’s finish the shepherd’s case and send him away.”

Mars said, “Upon appeal, Paris’ judgment is likely to be overturned. Then Vulcan’s wife is likely to have the wrong.”

“And that in passion does to Mars belong,” Juno said, referring to Mars’ affair with Venus.

Jupiter ordered, “Call Venus and the shepherd in again.”

Mercury exited to carry out the order.

“And set free the man so that he may know his pain,” Bacchus said.

Apollo said, “His pain, his pain, his never-dying pain, a cause to make many more mortals complain.”

The gods knew the fates of mortal men. They knew that Paris was fated to die during the Trojan War.

Mercury brought in Venus and Paris.

Jupiter said, “Shepherd, thou have been heard with equity and law, and because thy stars and fate draw thee to another situation, we here dismiss thee from here, by order of our senate. Go make thy way to Troy, and there await thy fate.”

Jupiter did not say what Paris’ fate was; he said only that Paris had a different fate than being judged by the Council of Gods.

“Sweet shepherd, you go with such luck in love, while thou do live, as may the Queen of Love to any lover give,” Venus said.

Venus would keep her promise to give Helen to Paris.

“My luck is loss, however my love does succeed,” Paris said. “I am afraid that I, Paris, shall only rue my deed.”

Jupiter had not said that Paris’ fate was bad, but Paris could guess that the consequences of taking Helen away from her husband would be bad.

Paris exited.

“From the woods of Ida now wends the shepherd’s boy who in his bosom carries fire to Troy,” Apollo said.

As a god, Apollo knew that the Trojan War would end with Troy in flames.

Paris had been disposed of, but there was still the question of whether to allow his awarding of the golden ball to Venus to stand. Juno and Pallas were appealing Paris’ verdict.

“Venus, these ladies do appeal, you see,” Jupiter said. “And the gods agree that they may appeal. It rests, then, that you be well content to stand in this appeal until our final judgment; if King Priam’s son did well in this, then the law of heaven will not lead amiss. If Paris rightly awarded you the golden ball, then no injustice will occur in the gods’ decision.”

Venus replied, “But, sacred Jupiter, if I, thy daughter, might choose, she — that is, I — might with reason refuse this appeal: Yet, if Juno and Pallas are unmoved when they should feel shame, let it be a stain and blemish to their names. Let it be a deed, too, far unworthy of the place, unworthy Pallas’ lance, or Juno’s mace. But if to beauty the golden ball shall be bequeathed, I don’t doubt but it will return to me.”

She lay down the ball.

“Venus, there is no more ado than so: The golden ball rests where the gods do it bestow,” Pallas said.

Neptune said, “But, ladies, because of your rage, however our decision comes out, you have the advantage.”

No matter which goddess is awarded the golden ball, the other two goddesses will be angry. In addition, even the winning goddess may be angry at a god who argued unsuccessfully for another goddess to win the golden ball. Because of the goddesses’ anger, the gods are unlikely to speak what they feel is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in their presence.

Jupiter said, “Then, dames, so that we gods more freely may debate, and hear the fair and impartial sentence of this senate, you goddesses withdraw yourselves from this presence for a space, until we have thoroughly discussed the case. Diana shall be your guide; nor shall you yourselves need to inquire how things turn out here. We will, when we resolve the situation, let you know how everything turns out in accordance with our general judgment.”

Diana said to Jupiter, “Thy will is my wish. What you want me to do is what I want to do.”

She then said to the three goddesses, “Fair ladies, will you leave now?”

“Curse her whom this sentence does offend,” Juno said.

She would be offended if she were not awarded the golden ball, and she would not curse herself, and so Juno was saying that she expected to be awarded the golden ball.

Venus said, “Now, Jove, be just; and, gods, you who are Venus’ friends, if you have ever done her wrong, then now may you make amends.”

Venus, of course, wanted to be awarded the golden apple.

Pallas, of course, also wanted to be awarded the golden apple, but as the goddess of wisdom, she did not now say something in order to influence the judges.

Diana, Juno, Pallas, and Venusexited.

“Venus is fair, and Pallas and Juno are fair, too,” Jupiter said. “All of them are beautiful.”

“But tell me now without some more trouble and ado,” Vulcan said, “who is the fairest woman, and do not flatter that she.”

Because Venus was his wife and because Venus was objectively the most physically beautiful of the three goddesses, Vulcan wanted Venus to be awarded the golden ball.

Pluto said, “Vulcan, all the matter hangs upon comparison. That done, the quarrel and the strife will be ended.”

Wrong. The quarrel and the strife will not be ended. No matter which goddess they choose to award the golden ball, two goddesses will be insulted and angry.

“Because it is known which goddess is physically the most beautiful, the quarrel is pretended,” Mars said. “The comparison has already been made in our minds.”

Vulcan said, “Mars, you have reason for your speech, certainly. My dame, I know, is fairest in your eye.”

No doubt; after all, Mars and Venus had had an affair.

“If I did not think that she is the fairest,” Mars replied, “I would be doing her a double wrong.”

He would be doing her wrong as her judge and as her lover.

Saturn said, “We tarry here so long about what is only a trifle. Let’s vote: Give it by voices, and let voices give the odds. This is such a trifle that troubles all the gods!”

Neptune said, “Believe me, Saturn. I agree with you.”

Bacchus said, “Let’s take a vote.”

Pluto said, “Let’s take a vote.”

Bacchus said, “Let’s take a vote, if Jove agrees.”

“Gentle gods, I am neutral,” Mercury said. “But then I know who’s likely to be criticized.”

Jupiter was the god who is likely to be criticized. Venus is objectively the most physically beautiful, but if Juno — who is a shrewish wife to Jupiter — loses, she will greatly criticize her husband, who is one of the judges.

Apollo said, “Thrice-revered gods, and thou, immortal Jove, if Phoebus Apollo may, as is very much his due according to our laws, be licensed to speak uprightly in this uncertain and fearsome case (since women’s wits work to create unceasing woes for men), then let me say this:

“To make the three goddesses friends — the goddesses who now are friendless foes because each has claimed the golden ball — and to keep peace with them, with us, and all, let us refer this sentence — this judgment — to where it does belong.

“Please don’t think, you gods, that my speech takes away from the sacred power of this immortal senate because I recommend a change in this case’s judges.

“In this case, I say, fair Phoebe — Diana — has been wronged.

“I don’t mean that her beauty should bear away the prize, but instead I mean that the holy law of heaven does not allow for one god to meddle in another’s power.

“Because the Judgment of Paris befell so near Diana’s bower, she is the fittest judge in my opinion for appeasing this unpleasant grudge. Let us allow her to award the golden ball.”

Apollo was pointing out that the gods and goddesses had their own domains, and it was forbidden for the gods and goddesses to interfere in others’ domains. Since the Judgment of Paris took place in Diana’s domain, she ought to be the judge: She had jurisdiction in this case.

Apollo gave some examples of non-inference in others’ domains:

“If Jove does not exercise power in Pluto’s hell with charms, if Mars has the sovereign power to manage arms, if Bacchus bears no rule in Neptune’s sea, if Vulcan’s fire does not obey Saturn’s scythe because Vulcan and not Saturn is fire’s master, then let us not suppress, against law and equity, Diana’s power in her own territory. Diana’s rule, amid her sacred bowers on Mount Ida, is as properly recognized as any rule of yours.

“By turning over the judgment to Diana, we may wipe all the court’s speech away so well that Pallas, Juno, and Venus have to say and recognize that by the justice of our laws we were not allowed to judge and conclude the case. And this appears to me the most egalitarian judgment: Awoman will be the judge among her peers.”

Mercury said, “Apollo has discovered the only way to completely rid us of the blame and trouble of making the judgment.”

“We are beholden to his sacred wit,” Vulcan said.

“I can praise and well allow Apollo’s recommendation,” Jupiter said. “By letting Diana have the giving of the ball, we will divert the matter from us all.”

Vulcan said, “If we do this, Jove may clearly excuse himself from the case, where Juno otherwise would chide him and brawl with him quickly apace.”

The gods stood up.

Mercury said, “And now it would take some cunning to divine to whom Diana will this prize resign. It will take a wise god to guess to whom Diana will award the golden ball.”

“It is enough for me that I won’t have to participate in making that decision,” Vulcan said.

Bacchus joked, “Vulcan, although thou are black with soot from blacksmithing and are ugly, thou are not at all refined.”

Vulcan joked back, “Go bathe thyself, Bacchus, in a tub of wine. The ball’s as likely to be mine as thine. Neither of us is good-looking.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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