Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Summaries of Two Other Lyly Plays

Lyly: Love’s Metamorphosis

Erisichthon, a wealthy farmer, jealous of honors paid to Ceres by her nymphs, destroys a tree sacred to the goddess; and in so doing, kills another nymph of Ceres, Tidelia, who has found protection in that shape from the pursuit of a satyr. Ceres in revenge commissions Famine to prey on the offender, who is speedily reduced by his insatiable hunger to poverty, and sells his daughter, Protea, to the merchant. Her appeal to Neptune enables her to elude her purchaser in the form of a fisherman, and, by a second transformation to the likeness of Ulysses, rescues her lover and father's benefactor, Petulius, from the dangerous fascinations of a siren.

Meantime, Ceres’ three nymphs, Nisa, Celia and Celia, to whose information the farmer owed his punishment, have themselves incurred the displeasure of Cupid "by disdainful treatment" of three admiring foresters, and at the latters’ request the god transforms them respectfully into a rock, a rose, and a bird. Ceres’ petition for their release is used by Cupid to extort from her the pardon of Erisichthon, whose daughter’s faithful love has given her a claim on his protection. The nymphs recover their shape on condition of their acceptance of the amorous foresters, and the wedding feast is held at Erisichthon’s house.

Lyly: Sapho and Phao (l582-4?)

I. Venus and Cupid take Phao by ferry toward Syracuse where she is going to shoot Sapho. Trachinus (pro-courtly life) and Pandion (anti-courtly life) discuss as the latter prepares return to the university. Criticus (a courtier) and Molus (a scholar) compare the two worlds. Court ladies talk.

II. Phao rests in Sybilla’s cave and (in some lovely language) hears her warnings about being too hung up on one’s own beauty and not willing to commit oneself to love. Sapho and Phao see one another and are stricken. She hires him to as a page. Various pages kid one another about it. Sybilla tells Phao (lovesick) to be artful in his wooing Sapho.

III. Discussion of Sapho's melancholy sickness. Molus and Oryticus again argue with one another. Sapho lies writhing in agony in bed . . . much clever talk. She wants Phao to come and help cure (comfort) her. Phao visits Sapho and they talk in double-meaning terms. Venus comes and says she will instruct Phao.

IV. Venus tells Sapho she will help her, although the latter despairs because Phao (disguised) seems so low as far as class in concerned. Problems: Venus herself is in love with Phao. Cupid advises her to get new arrows for him from Vulcan. He will shoot Phao with inconstancy, and Sapho with disdain, and then Venus can have Phao. Sapho and her maidens talk about dreams. Venus gets the arrows she wants from Vulcan.

V. Venus commands Cupid to shoot Sapho and Phao. Sapho persuades Cupid to counter his mother’s wishes and to shoot Phao in such a way that the latter starts to rave against Venus. This is all after he has shot Sapho and made her indifferent. Sapho will put Cupid to better things. Talking to Sybilla, Phao resolves to be positive and make the best of his fate.

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