David Bruce: John Ford’s THE LOVER’S MELANCHOLY: A Retelling — Cast of Characters, Prologue, and Act 1, Scene 1


Male Characters

PALADOR, prince of Cyprus. His late father was named Agenor.

AMETHUS, cousin to Prince Palador.

MELEANDER, an old lord. Formerly a statesman to Prince Palador’s father.

SOPHRONOS, brother to Meleander, and counselor to Prince Palador.

MENAPHON, son of Sophronos.

PARTHENOPHILL, companion to Menaphon; young, good-looking, and talented.

ARETUS, tutor to Prince Palador.

CORAX, a physician.

RHETIAS, a reduced-in-status courtier.

PELIAS, a foolish courtier.

CUCULUS, a foolish courtier.

TROLLIO, servant to Meleander.

Female Characters

THAMASTA, sister of Amethus, and cousin to the Prince.

EROCLEA, daughter of Meleander. Has been missing from Cyprus for two years.

CLEOPHILA, daughter of Meleander.

KALA, waiting-maid to Thamasta.

GRILLA, a page of Cuculus. A boy, but wearing women’s clothing. This book will refer to Grilla as a “she,” rather than a “he.”

Other Characters

Officers, Attendants, etc.



The city of Famagosta on the island of Cyprus.



In the Prologue, John Ford says that he is not plagiarizing. He does this because his play shows that Richard Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholyinfluenced him. Such influence is allowed to scholars, he states, and such influence can delight audiences.

The word “parthenophillia” did not appear in the online Oxford English Dictionary as of 9 June 2019, but Wiktionary defines it in this way:

“Noun. Parthenophillia (uncountable)

“Sexual attraction towards girls in late adolescence.”



These are some elements of the backstory of this play:

  • Meleander has two daughters: Eroclea and Cleophila.
  • The ruler of Cyprus (Prince Palador’s father) wanted Prince Palador to marry Eroclea.
  • The ruler of Cyprus (Prince Palador’s father) fell in lust with Eroclea when she appeared at his court.
  • To protect her virtue, Eroclea disappeared.
  • Prince Palador, who loves Eroclea, became and still is melancholic.
  • The ruler of Cyprus (Prince Palador’s father) accused Meleander of treason and disgraced him.
  • As a result of his disgrace, Meleander became mentally ill, and his daughter Cleophila takes care of him.
  • The ruler of Cyprus (Prince Palador’s father) died, and Prince Palador became the ruler of Cyprus.
  • As the play opens, Eroclea has been missing for two years.
  • As the play opens, Menaphon (son of Sophronos, who is the brother of Meleander) and Amethus (a cousin of Prince Palador) are also disappointed in love.
  • As the play opens, Menaphon loves Thamasta — Amethus’ sister — but she does not return his love.
  • As the play opens, Amethus loves Cleophila, but she devotes herself to taking care of her father, Meleander.
  • As the play opens, Prince Palador loves Eroclea, but she has been missing for two years.


To tell you, gentlemen, in what true sense

The writer, actors, or the audience

Should mold their judgments for a play, might draw

Truth into rules; but we have no such law.

Our writer, for himself, would have you know

That in his following scenes he does not owe

To others’ fancies, nor has lain in wait

For any stolen invention, from whose height

He might commend his own, more than the right

A scholar claims, may warrant for delight.

It is art’s scorn, that some of late [recently] have made

The noble use of poetry a trade.

For your parts, gentlemen, to quit his pains [reward the playwright’s efforts],

Yet you will please, that as you meet with strains

Of lighter mixture, but to cast your eye

Rather upon the main [main route] than on the bye [byway],

His hopes stand firm, and we shall find it true,


Note: Two meanings of the verb “cured” are “healed” and “protected.” The audience can protect John Ford’s play by applauding it and making it a success.

— 1.1 —

Menaphon and Pelias talked together in a room in the palace. Pelias was a foolish courtier. Menaphon, the son of Sophronos, had just returned from his yearlong travels.

“Dangers!” Menaphon said. “What do you mean by dangers — you who in so courtly fashion congratulate my safe return from dangers?”

“I congratulate your safe return from your travels, noble sir,” Pelias said.

“My travels are delights,” Menaphon said, “as long as my experience of travel has not, like a truant, misspent the time — time that I have striven to use for bettering my mind with observation.”

“As I am modest, I protest it is strange,” Pelias said. “But is it possible?”

“Is what possible?” Menaphon asked.

“To bestride the frothy foams of the sea-god Neptune’s surging waves, when Boreas the blustering North Wind tosses up the deep and thumps a thunder-bounce?”

“Sweet sir, it is nothing,” Menaphon said. “Immediately comes a dolphin, playing near your ship, heaving his crooked back up, and presents you with a metaphorical feather-bed so it can waft you to the shore as easily as if you slept in the court.”

According to Pliny’s Natural History (Book 9, Chapter 8), friendly dolphins allow humans to ride on their backs.

“Indeed!” Pelias said. “Is it true, I ask you?”

“I will not stretch your faith upon the tenters,” Menaphon replied.

Tenters are wooden frameworks on which cloth could be stretched for drying.

Menaphon continued, “Please tell me, Pelias, where did you learn this language?”

Pelias had been using inflated, pretentious language.

“I this language!” Pelias said. “Alas, sir, we who study words and forms of compliment must fashion all discourse according to the nature of the subject.”

Seeing some people coming, Pelias said, “But I am silent. Now appears a sun, whose shadow I adore.”

It’s an unusual sun that has a shadow.

Amethus, Sophronos, and some attendants entered the room. Amethus was a cousin of Prince Palador of Cyprus. Sophronos was Menaphon’s father and an advisor to Prince Palador.

“My honored father!” Menaphon said.

“From my eyes, son, son of my care, my love, the joys that bid you welcome do too much proclaim that I am a child,” Sophronos said.

He was weeping like a child.

“Oh, princely sir,” Menaphon said to Amethus. “Give me your hand.”

Amethus was a close friend who ranked high in Prince Palador’s court.

“Perform your duties where you owe them first,” Amethus replied.

In other words, respect your father and show attention to him before you show attention to me.

Amethus added, “I dare not interrupt the pleasures your presence has brought home.”

Speaking about Amethus, Sophronos said to Menaphon, “Here you find a friend still as noble, Menaphon, as he was when you left at your departure.”

“Yes, I know it,” Menaphon said. “To him I owe more service —”

Amethus interrupted, “Please excuse me.”

He said to Sophronos, “Menaphon shall attend your entertainments soon, the next day, and the next day after that. For an hour or two, I want to monopolize him and be alone with him.”

“Noble lord!” Sophronos said, surprised.

Amethus must have something important to talk about with Menaphon. Otherwise, he would not be so abrupt despite his desire not to be abrupt, and he would not monopolize Menaphon despite his desire to let Menaphon greet and respect his father.

Amethus said to Sophronos and Pelias, “You’re both dismissed.”

“I am your creature and your servant,” Pelias said. “I am wholly yours.”

Everyone except Amethus and Menaphon exited.

“Give me your hand,” Amethus said. “I will not say, ‘You are welcome.’ That is the common way of common friends. I’m glad I have you here. Oh, I lack the words I need to let you know what is my heart!”

“Your heart is joined to my heart,” Menaphon said.

“Yes, it is,” Amethus said. “They are joined as firmly as that holy thing called friendship can unite our hearts.

“Menaphon, my Menaphon, may now all the goodly blessings that can create a heaven on earth dwell with you!

“For twelve months we have been separated, but from henceforth we never more will part, until that sad hour in which death leaves one of us behind, to see the other’s funeral rites performed.

“Let’s now for a while be free and frank and unrestrained.

“How have your travels abroad relieved you of your discontent?”

“Such cure as sick men find in changing beds, I found in change of airs,” Menaphon said. “The fancy flattered my hopes with ease, as theirs do, but the grief is still the same.”

Menaphon had traveled for a year to escape his melancholy, but despite the promise of relief, he was still melancholic.

“Such is my case at home,” Amethus said. “Cleophila, your kinswoman, that maiden of sweetness and humility, pities more her father’s poor afflictions than the tide of my lover’s complaints.”

Cleophila was the daughter of Meleander, who was the brother of Sophronos, who was Menaphon’s father. Therefore, Cleophila and Menaphon were first cousins.

Menaphon said, “Thamasta, my great mistress, your princely sister, has, I hope, before this time conferred and confirmed affection on some worthy choice.”

Both Amethus and Menaphon were unlucky in love.

Amethus loved Cleophila, but she preferred to look after her ill father.

Menaphon loved Thamasta — the word “mistress” meant “loved one” — but she did not return his love. Menaphon had traveled abroad for a year to recover from his grief at not being loved, but his attempt to cure his grief was unsuccessful.

Amethus replied, “She has not given her affection to anyone, Menaphon. Her bosom still is walled around with ice, although, by the truth of love, no day has ever passed during which I have not mentioned your deserts, your constancy, your — truly, I dare not tell you what, lest you might think I fawned on and flattered you. That is a sin that friendship was never guilty of, for flattery is monstrous in a true friend.”

“Does the court wear the old looks, too?” Menaphon asked.

Amethus replied, “If you are referring to Prince Palador, it does. He’s the same melancholy man he was at his father’s death. Sometimes he speaks sense, but seldom mirth. He will smile, but seldom laugh. He will lend an ear to business, but deal in none. He will gaze upon revels, antic fopperies, and grotesque entertainments, but not be entertained by them. He will sparingly discourse and hear music, but what he takes most delight in are handsome pictures.

“Stories have seldom mentioned one so young and goodly, so sweet in his own nature.”

Menaphon said, “It’s no wonder that such as I am groan under the light burdens of small sorrows, when a prince so potent as he cannot shun the agitations of passion. To be a man, my lord, is to be but the exercise of cares in several different shapes. As miseries grow, they alter as do men’s forms, but how no one knows.”

“This little isle of Cyprus surely abounds in greater wonders both for change and fortune than any wonders you have seen abroad,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “Surely more than any wonders I have observed abroad. All countries on any other supposition than change and fortune yield something rare to a free eye and mind, and I, for my part, have brought home one jewel of admirable value.”

“A jewel, Menaphon?” Amethus asked.

“A jewel, my Amethus,” Menaphon said. “This jewel is a fair youth — a youth, whom, if I were superstitious, I should consider to have an excellence higher than mere creations are.”

To Menaphon, this fair youth seemed to be more an immortal god than a mortal creature — that is, if Menaphon were superstitious and believed in supernatural beings.

Menaphon continued, “To add delight, I’ll tell you how I found him.”

“Please, do,” Amethus said.

“Passing from Italy to Greece, the tales that poets of an elder time have created to glorify their Tempe, a valley between Mount Olympus and Mount Ossa in Thessaly, bred in me the desire of visiting that paradise,” Menaphon said. “To Thessaly I came, and living privately, without the acquaintance of sweeter companions than the old inmates to my love — I refer to my thoughts — I day by day frequented silent groves and solitary walks.

“One early morning I encountered this incident: I heard the sweetest and most ravishing contention that art and nature ever were at strife in.”

“I cannot yet conceive what you mean by art and nature,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “I shall soon explain that.

“A sound of music touched my ears, or rather indeed entranced my soul. As I stole nearer, invited by the melody, I saw this youth, this fair-faced youth, upon his lute, with strains of strange variety and harmony, proclaiming, as it seemed, so bold a challenge to the clear choristers of the woods, the birds, that, as they flocked about him, all stood silent, marveling at what they heard. I marveled, too.”

“And so do I, good man!” Amethus said. “Go on!”

Menaphon said, “A nightingale, nature’s best-skilled musician, undertook the challenge, and for all the different strains of melody the well-shaped youth could touch, she sang her chorus.

“The youth could not play rapid melodic passages with more art upon his quaking instrument than she, the nightingale, replied to with her various notes.

“For a voice and for a sound, Amethus, it is much easier to believe that such they were than hope to hear again.”

“How did the rivals part?” Amethus asked.

Menaphon said, “You term them rightly, for they were rivals, and their mistress, harmony.

“Some time thus spent, the young man grew at last into a pretty anger because a bird, whom art had never taught musical clefts, moods, or notes, would vie for mastery with him, who had busily spent many hours devoted to study and perfect practice.

“To end the controversy, in a rapture upon his instrument the young man played so swiftly, with so many spontaneous passages, and so lively, that there were ingenuity and skill, concord in discord, and lines of differing method meeting in one full concentration of delight.”

“Now for the bird,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “The bird, ordained to be music’s first martyr, strove to imitate these several different sounds, which when her warbling throat failed in, out of grief the nightingale dropped down on his lute, and broke her heart.

“It was the quaintest sadness to see the conqueror weep a funeral elegy of tears upon the nightingale’s resting place.

“Trust me, my Amethus, I could chide my own unmanly weakness that made me a fellow-mourner with him.”

Menaphon had also wept.

“I believe you,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “He looked upon the trophies of his art, then sighed, then wiped his eyes, then sighed and cried, ‘Alas, poor creature! I will soon revenge this cruelty upon the author of it. Henceforth this lute, guilty of innocent blood, shall never more betray a harmless peace to a premature end,’ and in that sorrow, as he was bashing his lute against a tree, I suddenly stepped in.”

“You have discoursed a true tale of entertainment and pity,” Amethus said.

Menaphon said, “I reprieved the intended execution with entreaties and interruption.

“But, my princely friend, it was not strange that the music of his hand overmatched the birds, when his voice and beauty, youth, carriage, and discretion must, from men endowed with reason, ravish admiration.

“From me they did.”

“But is this miracle not to be seen?” Amethus asked.

Menaphon said, “I persuaded him by degrees to choose me to be his companion. From where he comes, or who he is, as I dared to modestly inquire, so gently he would plead not to make known only for reasons to himself reserved.

“He told me that some remnant of his life was to be spent in travel. As for his fortunes, they were neither mean nor riotous, neither poor nor wealthy enough to engage in riotous living. His friends were not famous in the world, although they were not obscure.

“His country is Athens, and his name is Parthenophill.”

“Did he come with you to Cyprus?” Amethus asked.

“Willingly,” Menaphon said. “The fame of our young melancholy prince, Meleander’s strange mental disturbances, the obedience of young Cleophila, Thamasta’s glory, your matchless friendship, and my desperate love, prevailed with him; and I have lodged him privately in the city of Famagosta.”

“Now you are doubly welcome,” Amethus said. “You and your guest are both welcome. I will not lose the sight of such a rarity for one part of my hopes — I will be able to enjoy the companionship of both yourself and this splendid youth.

“When do you intend to visit my great-spirited sister?”

“May I visit her without causing offence?” Menaphon asked.

“Yes, without offence,” Amethus said. “Parthenophill shall also find worthy entertainment during the visit.

“You are not still a coward? You will visit her?”

“She’s too excellent, and I’m too low in merit,” Menaphon said.

“I’ll prepare a noble welcome,” Amethus said, “and, friend, before we part, I will unload to you an overcharged heart.”

They exited.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Buy the Paperback






Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide





John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce





William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce





Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist:  A Retelling




PS: I like online reviews.










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




Dante’s DIVINE COMEDY: A Retelling in Prose




This entry was posted in Retelling and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s