David Bruce: George Peele’s THE ARRAIGNMENT OF PARIS: A Retelling — Act 5, Scene 1 and Epilogue

— 5.1 —

Diana, Juno, Pallas, and Venus talked together.

Diana said, “Ladies, far beyond what I hoped for and wanted, you see, this thankless task is imposed on me; if you will rest as well content as Diana will be an impartial judge, my fair decision shall none of you offend, and we will of this quarrel make a final end.

“Therefore, whether you are eager or reluctant, confirm your promise with some sacred oath.”

Pallas said, “Phoebe, chief mistress of this game-filled woods, you whom the gods have chosen to conclude the case that in balance yet lies undecided, concerning the bestowing of this golden prize, I give my promise and my oath:

“By the Styx, by heaven’s imperial power, by all that belongs to Pallas’ deity — her shield, her lance, her battle ensigns, her sacred wreath of olive and of laurel, her crested helmet, and whatever else Pallas may possess — I swear that wherever this ball of purest gold, that chaste Diana here in her hand does hold, impartially her wisdom shall bestow, Pallas shall rest content and satisfied without any more dislike or quarrel and say that the one who best deserves the golden ball is the one who wins it.”

An oath that is sworn by the Styx, a river in the Land of the Dead, is an inviolable oath.

Juno said, “And here I promise and profess this:

“That by the Styx, by heaven’s imperial power, by all that belongs to Juno’s deity — her crown, her mace, her ensigns of majesty, her spotless and chaste marriage-rites, her divine league, and by that holy name of Proserpine — I swear that wherever this ball of purest gold, that chaste Diana here in her hand does hold, impartially her wisdom shall bestow, Juno shall rest content and satisfied without any more dislike or quarrel and say that the one who best deserves the golden ball is the one who wins it.”

Venus said, “And, lovely Phoebe, because I know your judgment will be no other than shall become thee, behold, I take thy dainty hand to kiss, and with my solemn oath confirm my promise:

“That by the Styx, by Jove’s immortal power and domain, by Cupid’s bow, by Venus’ myrtle-tree, by Vulcan’s gifts of my marriage belt and my fan, by this red rose, whose red color first began when formerly my wanton boy Cupid (the more his blame) did draw his bow awry and hurt his dame — me — and made her bleed on a white rose, by all the honor and the sacrifice that from the island of Cithaeron and from the coastal city of Paphos rise, I swear that wherever this ball of purest gold, that chaste Diana here in her hand does hold, impartially her wisdom shall bestow, Venus shall rest content and satisfied without any more dislike or quarrel and say that the one who best deserves the golden ball is the one who wins it.”

Diana now described a nymph named Eliza. Remarkably, much that she and others would say about Eliza could be said about Queen Elizabeth I of England, who would rule many hundreds of years later.

Diana said, “Your vows are what were needed, and so, goddesses, listen carefully.

“Within these pleasant shady woods, where neither storm nor sun’s distemperature have the power to hurt by cruel heat or cold, under the climate of the mild heaven …

“Where seldom Jove’s angry thunderbolt lights and lands, because he favors that sovereign earthly peer who lives there …

“Where whistling winds make music among the trees — far from disturbance of our country gods, amid the cypress-springs …

“There lives a gracious nymph who honors Diana for her chastity, and likes well the labors of Phoebe’s groves.

“The place is called Elysium, and the name of the woman who governs there is Eliza.”

Elysium is the name of the pleasant place in the Land of the Dead where virtuous souls go.

Diana continued, “It is a kingdom that may well compare with mine. It is an ancient seat of kings, a second Troy, encompassed round with a beneficial, commodious sea.”

A sea surrounds and protects England just as high walls for a long time protected Troy. In addition, a man named Brute of Troy who was a descendant of the Trojan Aeneas was believed to have settled in Britain.

Diana continued, “Her people are called Angeli. Or, if I am mistaken, I am at most mistaken by only a letter.”

Angeliis Latin for “angels,” but Diana had meant — unless she had made the flattering mistake on purpose — to refer to the Angles who settled in England with the Saxons and Jutes. Many English citizens are Anglo-Saxons.

Diana continued, “Eliza gives laws of justice and of peace, and on her head, as befits her fortune best, she wears a wreath of laurel, gold, and palm. Her robes are dyed purple and scarlet. Her veil is white, as best befits a maiden.”

Queen Elizabeth I was known as the Virgin Queen; she never married. Both Diana and Pallas Athena were virgin goddesses.

Diana continued, “Her ancestors live in the House of Fame.”

Some of Queen Elizabeth I’s ancestors were buried in Westminster Abbey.

Diana continued, “She gives arms of happy victory, and flowers to deck her lions crowned with gold.”

The lion is a symbol of England.

Diana continued, “This peerless nymph, whom both heaven and earth love, this sole paragon, is she in whom so many gifts in one do meet and on whom our country gods so often gaze, and in honor of whose name the Muses sing.

“In state she is Queen Juno’s peer, for power in arms and virtues of the mind she is Minerva’s — Pallas Athena’s — mate, she is as fair and lovely as the Queen of Love, and she is as chaste as Diana in her chaste desires.

“The same is she, if Phoebe — I, Diana — does no wrong, to whom this ball by merit does belong.”

Pallas said, “If this be she whom some Zabeta call, to whom thy wisdom well bequeaths the ball, I can remember how Flora with her flowers strewed the earth at Zabeta’s day of birth and how every power with heavenly majesty in person honored that occasion of celebration.”

“Zabeta” is a variation of the end of “Elizabeth.” “Eliza Zabeta” is much like “Elizabeth.”

Juno said, “The lovely Graces were not far away. They threw their balm for joy on that day.”

Venus said, “The Fates against their nature began a cheerful song, and with favor vowed to prolong her life.”

The three Fates are Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. Clotho spins the thread of life. Lachesis measures the thread of life, determining how long a person lived. Atropos cuts the thread of life; when the thread is cut, the person dies.

The three Fates are more concerned with ending life than prolonging it, but the three Fates decided to gift Eliza with a long life.

Venus continued, “Then Cupid’s eyesight first began to grow dim. Probably Eliza’s beauty blinded him. To this fair nymph, who is not earthly but divine, I am happy to give the golden ball.”

Pallas said, “To this fair queen, so beautiful and wise, Pallas bequeaths her title in the prize.”

Juno said, “To her whom Juno’s looks so well become, the Queen of Heaven yields to Phoebe’s — Diana’s — decision. And I am glad Diana found the skill to please desert and merit so well without offence.”

Diana said, “Then listen carefully to my tale. The usual time is nigh when the Dames of Life and Destiny — the three Fates — dressed in robes of cheerful colors, are accustomed to come to this renowned queen who is so wise and fair and to greet with pleasant songs this peerless nymph.

“Clotho lays down her distaff — the rod on which thread is spun — at her feet.

“And Lachesis pulls the thread and makes it long.

“The third — Atropos— with favor gives the thread size and strength, and contrary to her cutting the thread gives Eliza permission to weave her web of life as she likes best.

“This time of greeting we will attend, and in the meanwhile charm away the tediousness of waiting with some sweet song.”

Music sounded, and the Nymphs sang and played musical instruments.

The goddesses did not have to wait long, for the three Fates — Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos — soon appeared and began singing near a chair of state on which Eliza was sitting. The three Fates regarded Eliza as a Queen.

Clotho sang:

Humanae vitae filum sic volvere Parcae.”

[“So the Fates spin the thread of human life.”]

Lachesis sang:

Humanae vitae filum sic tendere Parcae.”

[“So the Fates draw the thread of human life.”]

Atropos sang:

Humanae vitae filum sic scindere Parcae.”

[“So the Fates cut the thread of human life.”]

Clotho sang:

Clotho colum bajulat.”

[“Clotho bears the distaff.”]

Lachesis sang:

Lachesis trahit.”

[“Lachesis measures.”]

Atropos sang:

Atropos occat.”

[“Atropos cuts.”]

The three Fates sang together:

Vive diu foelix votis hominúmque deúmque,

Corpore, mente, libro, doctissima, candida, casta.”

[“Live long blest with the gifts of men and gods,

[“In body and mind free, wisest, pure and chaste.”]

As they sang the next few lines, the three Fates then lay down at the Queen’s feet the items that they were holding.

Clotho sang:

Clotho colum pedibus.”

[“Clotho her distaff (lays) at your feet.”]

Lachesis sang:

Lachesis tibi pendula fila.”

[“Lachesis (gives) to you her hanging thread.”]

She was referring to a spindle and reel.

Atropos sang:

Et fatale tuis manibus ferrum Atropos offert.”

[“Atropos offers to your hands her far fate-enclosing steel.”]

Her far fate-enclosing steel is a knife for cutting the thread of life.

The three Fates sang together:

Vive diu foelix votis hominúmque deúmque,

Corpore, mente, libro, doctissima, candida, casta.”

[“Live long blest with the gifts of men and gods,

[“In body and mind free, wisest, pure and chaste.”]

Once the three Fates finished singing the song, Clotho said to the Queen, “Gracious and wise, fair Queen of rare renown and fame, whom heaven and earth love, amid thy retinue, noble and lovely peers, to honor thee,and do thee favor more than may belong by nature’s law to any earthly mortal, witness the continuance of our yearly tribute to you. We impartial Dames of Destiny meet, as the gods and we have agreed in one, in reverence of Eliza’s noble name.

“And, look, Clotho humbly yields her distaff!”

Lachesis said, “Her spindle and her fate-dealing reel, Lachesis lays down in reverence at Eliza’s feet.

Te tamen in terris unam tria numina

Divam Invita statuunt natura lege sorores,

Et tibi non aliis didicerunt parcere Parcoe.”

[“The three sisters, despite the law of nature,

[“Appoint thee a goddess unique, though on earth;

[“And thee and no other have the Fates learned to spare.”]

Atropos said, “Dame Atropos, just as her partners have done, to thee, fair Queen, resigns her fate-dealing knife.

“Live long the noble phoenix of our age, our fair Eliza, our fair Zabeta!”

Diana said, “And, look, in addition to this rare and splendid celebration and this sacrifice these dames are accustomed to do, which is a favor much indeed against the three Fates’ natures, this prize from heaven and heavenly goddesses is bequeathed unto thy worthiness!”

She put the golden ball into Eliza’s — or Queen Elizabeth I’s — own hands.

(George Peele’s play was performed beforeQueen Elizabeth I.)

Diana continued, “Accept it, then. It is thy due by Diana’s judgment, which is praise of the wisdom, the beauty, and the majestic stateliness that best become thy peerless excellency.”

Venus said, “So, fair Eliza, Venus does resign the honor of this honor because this honor is thine.”

Juno said, “So also is the Queen of Heaven content likewise to yield to thee her title in the prize.”

Pallas said, “So Pallas yields the praise hereof to thee because of thy wisdom, princely state, and peerless beauty.”

EPILOGUE

Everybody sang this song:

Vive diu felix votis hominumque deumque,

Corpore, mente, libro, doctissima, candida, casta.

[“Live long and happy with the gifts of men and gods,

[“In body and mind free, wisest and most learned, pure, and chaste.”]

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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