Andromeda by Pierre Corneille, Translated by Laura Christensen, Draft 1, Scene 1 (2008)
Cast of Characters
|The Sun (Apollo)|
|Melpomene - the Muse of Tragedy|
|Cymodoce - Nereid/Sea Nymph|
|Ephyre - Nereid/Sea Nymph|
|Cydippe - Nereid/Sea Nymph|
|The Eight Winds|
|Cepheus - King of Ethiopia & Andromeda's father|
|Cassiopeia - Wife of Cepheus|
|Andromeda - daughter of Cepheus & Cassiopeia|
|Phineas - Prince of Ethiopia|
|Perseus - son of Jupiter & Danae|
|Timante - Captain of the King's Guard|
|Ammon - friend of Phineas, Neptune's Oracle|
|Aglante - Andromeda's Nymph|
|Cephalie - Andromeda's Nymph|
|Liriope - Andromeda's Nymph|
|Page - Phineas' page|
|Choir of the people|
CASSIOPEIA: Generous stranger. I know that you have traveled to many courts of Kings, and I have read in your face marked virtues enough to convince me that you spring from the blood of either kings or gods. I know we wait for the king to join us, but in the meantime--since you have seen the cause of this crime that sacrifices such a victim every month, be an impartial judge between the gods and me. Judge my felony, judge their anger. Tell me if they had the right to punish a mother for it, if the gods had the right to act in their anger that very instant.
PERSEUS: My Queen, I have already made my judgment by adhering to you. If the cause of your grievances is only the fact that you paid justice to Andromeda's beauty, if that is the only felony you have committed worthy of such wrath, then let me be forever guilty of it with you. But as I have only heard of the evil that afflicts you through confusing, bustling rumors, may I ask, madame, that I learn of this glorious crime again from you, yourself, now that I see its reasons for myself?
CASSIOPEIA: Listen to my words: The pain eases as we speak of it, and, with your generous heart that sympathizes with mine, it seems as if you have taken half of the evils that we suffer or fear upon yourself.
It happened the very day that my dear Andromeda and the happy Phineas were to be married. Our peoples, excited for the illustrious wedding, were standing along the edge of the sea--that sea that set the cost. Forgive my sadness for not painting for you here the public joy; one describes rejoicing badly when one is in the throes of grief, and the sweet thought of happiness is a subject for tears. --Oh that day! The memory of it is still cruel to me! Andromeda never looked so beautiful. And to see her gaze upon the sea in order to rejoice in and to judge a combat between ships, "just as Venus," I said, "stepped from the wave's breast and promised with a glance to conquer the world when she consulted the new, shining, vagabond mirrors of her floating cradle". Amidst the spectacle I saw the Nereids lift their glistening faces from their liquid palace, magnificent beings come to attend these noble pastimes, bestowing the gathering with their many charms. They looked upon my daughter, and their gazes had barely met her own on this wet plane when--feeling blotted out by stronger traits , stunned and confused--I saw them sink back into the sea, exchanging looks amongst themselves as if to choose one brave enough to dare our shores. I saw them choose up to five or six times but then blush the moment they compared their choice to us.
Then this vanity that one sees in every family--a mother's pride for her daughters--cried out from my lips, "O nymphs! Who among you cannot but cede to such a sweet face? Can you deny, you other immortals, that nature has made one fairer than you?"
Without a doubt I overstepped myself and said too much. I saw them hide themselves from embarrassment and spite. I saw the light in their eyes and how the receding wave churned around them at their behest. I saw it swell and the sea roll with vehemence, how the clear waters turned murky with bubbling foam to their crests. The sudden storm that troubled our joy and dispersed the celebrations gave birth to a monster that struck a thousand deaths against us. We fled, but in vain: it followed, it broke, it killed. Each victim it chose was dead the moment it struck. We only saw horror, blood everywhere. Its breath and gaze were poison. The monster ravaged, it destroyed our fields and villages, and against its fury there is no asylum.
After many superfluous efforts and oaths to heaven, suffering much and fearing more, we ran to the Oracle with such alarms, and this is how Ammon responded to our tears, "To appease Neptune, expose every month to the monster that avenges him a girl of its choice until the storm out at sea calms. A casting of lots will show you which maiden it will agree to. Nevertheless, you must delay the marriage of Andromeda."
Just as after a great pain a small one feels sweet, we took the remaining vengeance against us as if it were a favor instead. The monster, gone, rendered us a little joy: we only see it on the day we deliver it its prey. But this remedy is nothing but the monster's own amusement. If we suffer a little less, we fear still the same. Every young woman trembles before the thought of the menacing misfortune that will strike one of their number. The terror renews itself with the beginning of every month. Five times I had believed myself to have died of fright. Already we have seen five beauties devoured, and every beauty--alas! worthy of being adored, whose features shine with a celestial light--gives way only before my daughter, and not by much: as if, by choosing from beautiful to still more beautiful, the casting of lots draws closer to her by degrees each time, and that by lifting each chosen woman's features to us, it tests his strength and measures its hits. Nothing we have tried has been able to touch this barbarian of a god, and the sixth young woman chosen will prepare herself today. We will draw her lot at the temple. Despite myself I feel secret stirrings double my fear. Yesterday I offered to Venus a sacrifice which has never in my eyes seemed so selfless . However, my heart, by its trembling, seems to warn of the blow that must soon crush it.
You, then, who know both my crime and its punishment, tell me if it has merited so much hatred and if Heaven owed so much severity to the first proofs of a little vanity.
PERSEUS: Yes, madame, it is just. And I'll admit, myself, that in blaming Heaven so much I have committed blasphemy. But in your blindness you do not see what crime Heaven punishes with such a chastisement. The nymphs of the sea are not so dear to Heaven that it condescends to be led about by their tantrums, and when the Heaven you disdain so much makes the comparison, it sees better than you that you were right. Heaven avenges the injustice rendered to the beauty of Andromeda, and that is your hardship's origins. Your choice of husband has subjected her to the laws of a mortal. The gods whom she delights, the gods whom she captivates are sensitive to this offense . And those celestial rivals oppose themselves to these wedding vows--which in her glory would mean her funeral--by saving the charms that had entranced them and by punishing your subjects who were enjoying these deathly marriage rites.
Jupiter, resolved to oust her from Phineas, commanded through his oracle the wedding's end. Perhaps he desires to reserve her for himself, or it might be he has resolved to abstain from her, himself, and without a doubt has destined her to one of his sons. This is the secret origin of your sufferings. Cease the offense, and in that very moment Heaven's just chastisement will cease.
CASSIOPEIA: You have too high of an esteem for my daughter, when to compliment her you do me a disservice . The civility with which you speak these things forces me to judge that you only accuse me in order to obligate me. If sometimes the gods have been known to condescend from their shining and eternal abodes for mortal beauty's sake, due to their grand jealousies it is not every day that they gift us with this miracle. I would be quite a fool to hope for it, and the King, on whom everything depends, is a man of his word. He promised his daughter to Phineas, and he would see everyone perished before retracting his promise. The King considers this alliance to be both glorious and dear to him. Phineas is of his own blood. He is the son of his brother.
PERSEUS: Queen, the blood of gods is worth that of kings.... But we will speak of this again another time. I see the King approaches.