(LIGHTS UP on the temple of Aphrodite. The members of the Chorus stand off to the sides. Aphrodite is admiring the offerings littering the floor. She picks up something shiny and sighs contentedly.)
APHRODITE: Ah, it’s good to me be.
(She sighs again. The Chorus members sigh.)
BOREAS: It was good to be her.
NOTUS: The goddess of beauty.
EURUS: The very mother of love himself.
EURUS: (to audience) You’ll meet him later.
(Aphrodite squeals with delight as she discovers a new, shiny offering.)
APHRODITE: They love me! They really love me!
BOREAS: Who wouldn’t love a god?
NOTUS: Only those that don’t value their heads. Only those that desperately want a taste of Zeus’ lightning.
BOREAS: We know exactly what the wrath of the gods is like.
NOTUS: Of course we know!
BOREAS: We’ve seen it all.
NOTUS: From the beginning of time, there have been two constants in this world; the gods and the wind.
EURUS: We’re the winds.
BOREAS: And we’ve seen it all.
EURUS: Arachne was the first to boast. When she claimed to be a better weaver than Athena, the goddess of weaving, she was turned into a spider.
BOREAS: Niobe once declared she was a better mother than the goddess Leto because Leto only had two children while Niobe herself had fourteen. The gods took those children away from her.
NOTUS: When Tantalus tried to prove himself far more clever than the gods, Hades cooked up a wicked surprise for him! Forever surrounded by water and unable to take a drink!
EURUS: Even Aphrodite herself was not above the pettiness of the gods.
APHRODITE: I am worshiped! I’m adored!
(Aphrodite rolls around in her offerings.)
NOTUS: Does that come as a surprise to you?
EURUS: Well, no. But I’m saying it for their sake.
(Eurus gestures to the audience.)
BOREAS: They don’t know the story yet.
NOTUS: Well, that’s why they’re here, isn’t it?
EURUS: I should hope so.
NOTUS: Then we’d better get on with it.
BOREAS: For once you’re right, let’s get on with it.
BOREAS: The story began here in the temple of Aphrodite. And on this not particularly special day, in a not particularly special village, something particularly special began.
EURUS: What happened was –
NOTUS: Hush! You don’t want to give it away all at once.
BOREAS: It’s true.
EURUS: Oh, very well. On this not particularly special day, in a not particularly special village, something particularly special began. And then…?
BOREAS: It began when two suitors arrived at the temple. They had no way of knowing that the goddess of beauty herself was there that day. And they had no way of knowing the consequences.
(The Chorus members become frozen temple statues. Mydon and Neleus enter. They do not see Aphrodite, but she sees them and stands up, pulling back to watch. Mydon is a commanding figure who shouts when he speaks. Neleus is, by contrast, quite reserved in everything he does.)
MYDON: At last! The temple of Aphrodite!
NELEUS: Mydon, keep your voice down. We must be respectful.
MYDON: Those who whisper are never heard!
NELEUS: But it’s a temple…
MYDON: All the more reason to shout to the gods up on Mount Olympus!
NELEUS: Can’t you please shout a little more softly?
MYDON: Neleus, Neleus, Neleus, when will you learn? Greatness cannot be silenced!
NELEUS: How about muted?
(Aphrodite clears her throat loudly.)
MYDON: Come, Neleus. Let’s pray to the goddess!
APHRODITE: (to herself) That’s better.
NELEUS: Of course, of course, that’s why we came.
(Neleus kneels down respectfully. Mydon stands. Aphrodite moves closer.)
MYDON: Pretty Aphrodite!
NELEUS: Beautiful Aphrodite…
MYDON: Gorgeous Aphrodite!
APHRODITE: (to herself) Keep it coming, boys.
NELEUS: Hygienic Aphrodite…
APHRODITE: (to herself) And you lost me.
(She starts to turn away from them.)
MYDON: Please accept our offerings!
APHRODITE: (to herself) And I’m back!
(Aphrodite returns to them. Mydon and Neleus take out shiny gifts, placing them with the other offerings.)
NELEUS: And hear our prayers.
MYDON: Yes! Accept our offerings and hear our prayers. The prayers of two desperate men, or rather, two men desperately in love!
NELEUS: Mydon, we’ve never even met the girl.
MYDON: Who cares? Everyone says she’s beautiful. And as the sons of the king, must we not have beautiful wives? Hear me, Aphrodite! Grant that one of the two of us can win the heart of the beautiful Psyche!
(Neleus sighs. The Chorus sighs in response. Neleus seems to be the only one to hear them and starts.)
NELEUS: Did you hear that –
MYDON: Yes! Psyche! The most enchanting woman in the world! By Zeus, my heart races just to think of her!
NELEUS: Everyone says she is pretty.
MYDON: Pretty, beautiful, and hygienic!
(Aphrodite makes an indignant scoff.)
EURUS: Uh oh.
MYDON: A paragon of perfection.
APHRODITE: (to herself) He did not just compare a mortal woman to me!
MYDON: The most fascinating creature the world has ever known.
NOTUS: Now he’s in trouble.
APHRODITE: (to herself, indignant) Most fascinating!
MYDON: I must have her for a wife.
MYDON: Er…one of us must have her for a wife! She is a creature fit only to be the bride of a prince!
NELEUS: Oh, Psyche…
MYDON: The most beautiful woman in the town!
NOTUS: Don’t do it…
MYDON: The most beautiful woman in the country!
NOTUS: Don’t do it.
MYDON: The most beautiful woman in the world!
NOTUS: He’s going to do it.
MYDON: Why, she’s even more beautiful than Aphrodite herself!
APHRODITE: How dare he!
APHRODITE: I’ll get you for that!
(Aphrodite advances on the suitors. The Chorus moves forward quickly to stop her.)
NELEUS: You really need to learn to be more respectful, Mydon.
APHRODITE: Let me at him! Both of them!
MYDON: I would worship Psyche as the goddess of beauty herself, if I could somehow win her for a wife.
BOREAS: Calm down.
APHRODITE: I’ll turn them into slugs!
MYDON: You know it’s true, brother.
NELEUS: I have heard that people come from far away to look upon the beauty of Psyche. But so far, no one’s managed to win her over.
NELEUS: No man has been deemed worthy.
MYDON: That’s because she hasn’t met me yet! (beat) Us. She hasn’t met us yet.
BOREAS: Calm down!
APHRODITE: Insolent mortals!
MYDON: I’m certain one of us will suit her.
NELEUS: We’ll see.
MYDON: Come, brother! Off to our destiny.
MYDON: It shall be the destiny of one of us to wed Psyche. Think of how history shall remember that lucky man with a wife so beautiful! More beautiful than Aphrodite!
(Aphrodite surges forward to try and get to them. The Chorus hold her off long enough for Neleus and Mydon to exit. Once they are gone, she gets away from the Chorus.)
APHRODITE: How dare they!
CHORUS: Calm down!
(Aphrodite now addresses the Chorus.)
APHRODITE: A mortal woman? More beautiful than me!?
EURUS: I’m sure they were just exaggerating.
NOTUS: It’s what mortals do, especially mortal men.
BOREAS: They were braggarts, that’s all.
APHRODITE: But –
CHORUS: Calm down!
BOREAS: Really, punishing them won’t make you feel better.
APHRODITE: You’re right.
EURUS: We are?
NOTUS: There’s something you don’t hear very often from a god.
APHRODITE: Punishing them won’t make me feel better.
BOREAS: Good, I’m glad you’ve seen reason.
APHRODITE: I have to punish the girl!
APHRODITE: A girl more beautiful than me? How dare she! She must pay. This crime cannot go unpunished.
EURUS: What are you going to do?
APHRODITE: Find Eros!
APHRODITE: Yes, that’s what I’ll do.
(Aphrodite stalks off.)
NOTUS: Uh oh…
BOREAS: Yes. Uh oh indeed.
EURUS: (to audience) You see, when Aphrodite went off to find Eros to punish a mortal, what it meant was that she was going to ask him to –
NOTUS: Stop! You’re spoiling it for them. Don’t give it all away at once.
EURUS: Fine! Uh oh indeed.
NOTUS: That’s better.