December brings the longest night and promise for a better year. I’m still here. My eyes have returned to their normal color. Both are hazel, and I see perfectly well. However, my ability to concentrate has lost ground. It started declining when I developed chronic fatigue syndrome/ME. That is a very long time ago.
The word for Magpie, une pie, is not flattering, but Monet had yet to see this landscape. I’m working, but time passes so quickly.
I heard rumors that Canada’s Province of Alberta wants to renegotiate its relationship with Ottawa. Quebec has language laws, but separatism is no longer seen as the best option.
Alberta is a rich province, and the Rocky Mountains begin in Alberta. However, the Rocky Mountains have several ranges.
May the new season bring peace and chase away viruses.
Our next play is Molière‘s Amphitryon. In Amphitryon, we have people who look alike, which leads to cuckoldry. One character is named Sosie. In French, un sosie is a “dead ringer,” a look-alike. Amphitryon is cuckolded.
However, before going further, I should point out, once again, that, in Molière, people seldom change. One could not talk Argan (The Imaginary Invalid) into thinking he is perfectly healthy. In The Miser, Harpagon remains a miser. The young couples marry because Molière brings in a second father, a doubling, who recognizes his children, (an anagnorisis, or recognition scene). He pays for the weddings. In l’École des femmes (The School for Wives), Arnolphe is so afraid his wife will be unfaithful that he adopts Agnès and has her brought up so she will know as little as possible. However, Agnès’ father, Enrique, returns suddenly and unexpectedly, an anagnorisis. He and Oronte, Horace’s father, were planning for Agnès and Horace to marry.
Molière may also use a deus ex machina, which he does in Dom Juan. But Dom Juan is also “hoisted by his own petard,” a happy ending borrowed from the farce’s plot formula. Dom Juan will not be convinced that the freedom he gives himself will cause eternal damnation, which it does. He is a deceiver deceived, le trompeur trompé.
As for Psyché, Jupiter, the king of the gods, is a deus ex machina. Cupid cannot transform Psyché into a goddess because he is a lesser god. Venus could revive Psyché but she would not allow her son to marry a mortal. That would be a mésalliance. Therefore, Jupiter transforms a mortal being into an immortal, or a goddess. In Tartuffe, Orgon’s family would be ruined if a prince did not intervene. The prince, “un princeennemi de la fraude,” knows that Tartuffe is a criminal and, although Orgon has given Tartuffe an incriminating cassette, a forgiving prince does not use it to Orgon’s detriment. Yet, to a large extent, Orgon is Tartuffe and Tartuffe is Orgon. Consequently, Tartuffe is a pharmakós.
Given his theatrical, or formulaic, happy endings, Molière’s Weltanschauung (world view) resembles Jean de La Fontaine’s. A cat may be metamorphosed into a woman, but if the metamorphosed woman hears a mouse, she will jump out of bed and pursue the mouse. Therefore, in the 17th-century debate between nature & nurture, nature wins. (See The Cat and Venus.)
However, in 17th-century France, one could buy an office and become a bourgeois. Molière’s father was quite wealthy. So, in 1631, he bought an office for his son Jean-Baptiste. Poquelin would be “valet de chambre ordinaire et tapissier du Roi” (“valet of the King’s chamber and keeper of carpets and upholstery”). (See Molière, en-wikipedia.org). In 1641, Molière was, briefly, a valet de chambre ordinaire et tapissier du Roi, but he loved the theater, which led to his founding l’Illustre-Théâtre, on 30 June 1643. In August 1645, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin was imprisoned for bankruptcy. His father paid most of his debts, La Troupe de Molière then left for the provinces and did not return to Paris until the late 1650s. As I mentioned in an earlier post, no one knows why Molière chose to call himself Molière. He never told. In 17th-century France, one could also become an honnête homme (a gentleman).
In short, Molière was a bourgeois and an honnête homme, but in his plays, usually comedic, nature is almost as implacable as tragedy’s destiny or fate. Dénouements, the deus ex machina especially, are “theatrical,” or formulaic. For instance, Molière may use a farcical plot formula in comedies moliéristes have called grandes comédies, thereby blurring the difference between his farces and grandes comédies. We are centuries away from existentialism.
My related article is particularly useful and more complete. I am updating my La Fontaine page, because the site officiel has been modified, for the better.
_________________________  My PhD thesis was a study of the pharmakós in Molière. It is entitled: L’Impossible Entreprise : une étude sur le pharmakós dans le théâtre de Molière.  Molière also paid debts, when he returned to Paris.  I believe Château-Thierry has become La Fontaine’s site officiel.
Beauty dines with the Beast in an illustration by Anne Anderson (Photo credit: Wikipedia
My last two posts were an analysis of a fable by Jean de La Fontaine, “L’Ours et l’amateur des jardins,” “The Bear and the Gardener.” The corresponding fable by Æsop is entitled “The Bald Man and the Fly,” but the fable reflects Le Livre des lumières ou La Conduite des roys, fables by Bidpai.
You may remember that I could not find the fable’s Perry Index number. I simply forgot that Aesop’s corresponding fable was entitled “The Bald Man and the Fly.” It is numbered 525 in the Perry Index. For information on fables,Laura Gibbs’Bestiaria Latinais the site one visits. Æsop and his numerous followers are Laura’s area of specialization.
Animals in Literature: a Project
This post is a progress report. Several years ago, I had to prepare a course on animals in literature during a sabbatical leave I was devoting to my book on Molière. I taught the course and have continue researching the subject, but the effort ended my career.
However, I have written so many posts on Animals in Literature that they should be listed on a page. There are gaps to fill. As for the texts, many are on the internet, such as the collections of fables I listed on 2 March 2017. Would that there had been an entry on Beast Literature or Animals in Literature, when I prepared my course.
Fables and Fairy Tales: Anthropomorphism and Metamorphoses
Our starting-point will be a clarification of the concept of anthropomorphism. Animals in literature are human beings in disguise. I have already written a post on this subject, but it has been refurbished. But metamorphoses, many of which were told by Roman poet Ovid, are also central to both fables and fairy tales. Ovid’s Metamorphoses has been the source of a large number of literary works.
In November 2011, I wrote a post on Apuleius‘ Golden Ass, the only novel that has come down to us from Latin Antiquity in its entirety and which happens to be about metamorphoses. I am revisiting the Golden Ass because we have looked at fables in which a cat and a mouse are metamorphosed respectively into a woman and a maid. In the world of fables, a realistic world, nature will out, so our cat and mouse return to their natural selves.
Fairy tales are home to metamorphoses. Beast is turned into a beast and will remain a beast until Beauty accepts to marry him as he is, i.e. as Beast. The moment Beauty tells Beasts that she will marry him, a curse is lifted and beast returns to his former princely self. Such is the stuff of fairy tales. But let us look at sources.
The Golden Ass combines an outer story and inner stories. The outer story is called a frame story. The inner stories are sometimes called in-set stories. In the case of The Golden Ass, the outer story is a rather lewd account of the transformation of Lucius, as in Lucius Apuleius (Apulée), into a donkey.
Lucius wishes to become a sorcerer, or a witch, so he can transform himself into a bird and is told by his friend Milo that Milo’s wife is a witch who can transform herself into a bird. Lucius watches her metamorphosing herself into a bird and accidentally turns his own person into a donkey. At the end of the novel, after all sorts of trials and tribulations, Lucius retrieves his human form, assisted by Isis, a goddess and a magician.
By and large, the inner or in-set stories or tales bear some resemblance to the outer story. The story is different but the tone is that of Lucius, now transformed into a donkey. The exception is Cupid and Psyche. We are transported into a world filled with gods and goddesses, but these gods and goddesses sometimes mingle with mere mortals. We therefore have a taste of magic realism. Professor Matthew Strecher defines magic realism as “what happens when a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe.” (See Magic Realism, Wikipedia.)
In psychology the word “psyche” refers to the mind but to a large extent, it also refers to the soul, which is immortal. The “digression,” or in-set tale, is entitled Cupid and Psyche, but Psyche’s name is Psyches. She is the third daughter of a King, a motif which links her to fairy tale protagonists. Moreover, Psyches has two married but jealous sisters, as does Cinderella. However, the third daughter marries a god. Cinderella has to settle for a mere prince.
Consequently, the tale of Cupid and Psyche is a “digression.” The main link between Cupid and Psyche and The Golden Assis a metamorphosis, except that Psyches does not turn into an animal. On the contrary, her appearance does not change and her story is one of upward mobility. Psyche means soul. She escapes mortality, the human condition, by becoming a goddess. The soul is immortal.
(quotations, including the spelling, are from[EBook #1666]Book 4, Chapter 22)
The Romans borrowed Greek mythology but changed the name of each god. Venus is the Latin name for Aphrodite.
The story has several variants, but basically it is aboutjealousy. Venus (Aphrodite), the goddess of love is jealous of a human being, Psyche or Psyches, the third and only unmarried daughter of a King and Queen. She is considered more beautiful than Venus and people travel long distances to see her. Venus is jealous and sends her son Cupid (Eros) to find “the most miserablest creature living” and make him Psyches’ husband.
Meanwhile, Psyches has been placed at the top of a hill as her parents think a man might take her at last. She is not married. Cupid, who has made himself invisible, does not perform his dastardly deed. Psyches is “blowne by the gentle aire and of shrilling Zephyrus” to a castle. They become man and wife: “after that hee had make a perfect consummation of the marriage.” But he only visits during the night and he has directed her not to look at him during his nightly visits.
Psyches is pregnant and misses her sisters, so Cupid allows them to visit. When they arrive, they praise her: “O dear sister Psyches, know you that you are now no more a child, but a mother: O what great joy beare you unto us in you belly?”
Both older sisters are unhappily married and jealous of Psyche who lives in a castle. To get rid of the husband she is not allowed to see, they fool Psyche into thinking that Cupid is a monstrous serpent and must be killed. As her sisters suggest, Psyches carries a candle so she can see Cupid and kill him: “with your bare feet goe and take the lampe, with the Razor in your right hand and with valiant force cut off the head of the poisonous serpent, wherein we will aid and assist you: and when by the death of him you shall be made safe, we wil marry to some comely man.” Psyches sees Cupid and falls in love, but a drop of hot wax falls from the candle and burns Cupid inadvertently. He wakes up and leaves as he had warned he would: “hee commaunded Zephyrus to carry me away from the bounds of his house.”
After she has been abandoned, Psyches goes looking for Cupid. At one point, she seeks the help of Venus, not knowing that Venus is her enemy. Venus asks Psyches to perform impossible tasks, the last of which is deadly. Venus wants Psyches to fetch beauty from Proserpina, Queen of the Underworld, put some of that beauty into a golden box, and return the box to her. Alas, one does not return from the Underworld, which means that Psyches will die if she goes to the Underworld.
Knowing that she must die, Psyches climbs to the top of a tower and is about to throw herself down when the tower starts to speak. She is told how to appease Cerberus
(Kerberos), the three-headed dog who guards the entrance to the Underworld. Proserpina (Persephone) gives Psyches the box, but instead of beauty, it contains infernal sleep. Psyches is curious, opens the box, and lapses into a coma.
By then, Cupid (Éros), who has wings, the equivalent of a magic carpet, has forgiven Psyches and flies to her rescue. A kiss revives her and they then go to Jupiter (Zeus). Cupid asks Jupiter to transform Psyches into a goddess. Jupiter appeases Venus and he then convenes the gods who, after deliberating, grant Cupid’s request. Cupid’s Psyches is therefore transformed into a goddess by drinking ambrosia(“ambroisie,” or Nectar), the drink of Greek gods, and therefore escapes the human condition: mortality.
“And then he [Jupiter] tooke a pot of immortality, and said, Hold Psyches, and drinke, to the end thou maist be immortall, and that Cupid may be thine everlasting husband. By and by the great banket and marriage feast was sumptuously prepared, Cupid sate downe with his deare spouse between his armes: Juno likewise with Jupiter, and all the other gods in order, Ganimedes filled the port of Jupiter, and Bacchus served the rest. Their drinke was Nectar the wine of the gods, Vulcanus prepared supper, the howers decked up the house with roses and other sweet smells, the Graces threw about blame, the Muses sang with sweet harmony, Apollo tuned pleasantly to the Harpe, Venus danced finely: Satirus and Paniscus plaid on their pipes; and thus Psyches was married to Cupid, and after she was delivered of a child whom we call Pleasure.”
Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1874),
In Apuleius, Psyche is Psyches and has parents. She seems a human being. Moreover, in mythology, gods lose their godliness through sexual contact, generally, with a mortal being. Psyches is a human being and, therefore, a mortal. So it is not possible for her to be transformed into the mortal she already is. Therefore, Apuleius presents us with a complicated “digression.” Psyches is metamorphosed into a goddess, an immortal being, by drinking ambrosia, and then gives birth to a child named Pleasure. It is all very fanciful. Psyche means the soul and the soul is immortal.
“The fairy tales which modern scholars most often discuss in relation to an antecedent myth are those which involve an animal as bride-groom, best known by versions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’.”[iii]
According to the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, the story of Cupid and Psycheis both a myth and a fairy tale, but the theme is not consistent with fairy tales. Unlike Beauty, Psyches does not have to lift a curse by saying she will marry Cupid. She must perform chores, imposed by Venus, to be reunited with Cupid, but there is no disenchantment, i.e. no curse has turned Cupid into an animal-groom, so no curse has to be lifted.
“In fairy tale versions the question normally ends with a disenchantment motif as the heroine regains her partner by ending the spell which has enchanted him.”[iv]
Although Cupid and Psyche has affinities with fairy tales, it may be prudent not to classify it as such, except loosely. Classifications are helpful, but they should not be a Procrustean bed. The bed would always be too short or too long, and limbs therefore stretched or amputated. In Cupid and Psyche a man, albeit a god, comes to the rescue of a damsel in distress who is despised because she is the most beautiful woman in the world. The story moves forward propelled by a feeling inextricably linked with love which, in literature, may be jealousy.
However, in Cupid and Psyche, the wedding that constitutes the proper ending of fairy tales and comedies seems out of place, but is it? Cupid and Psyche became man and wife after he flew her to her castle: “after that hee had made a perfect consummation of the marriage.” She was not allowed to look at him, but when night fell, he “visited” her. This seems consistent with a myth. However, the tale of Cupid and Psyche is that of a pre-existing union. Consequently, the wedding takes on other virtues. It could well be the official celebration of a threatened marriage. “All’s well that ends well.”
[i]The Golden Asse. Translated by William Adlington, first published 1566. This version is as reprinted from the edition of 1639. The original spelling, capitalisation and punctuation have been retained. [EBook #1666][ii] A werewolf, also known as a lycanthrope is amythological or folklorichuman with the ability to shapeshift into a wolf or antherianthropichybrid wolf-like creature, either purposely or after being placed under a curse or affliction (e.g. via a bite or scratch from another werewolf). Early sources for belief in lycanthropy arePetronius (c. 27 – 66 BCE)and Gervase of Tilbury (c. 1150 – c. 1228 CE).
[iii] John Stephens, “Myth/Mythology and Fairy Tales,” ed. Jack Zipes, The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (Oxford University Press, 2000), pp. 330-334.
César Franck (10 December 1822 – 8 November 1890)
Psyché et ÉrosWilliam Revelli (12 February 1902 – 16 July 1994)
4 August 2013
WordPressPsyche Revived by Cupid’s KissAntonio Canova (1757 – 1822)
Musée du Louvre
(Please click on the image to enlarge it.)
You will find below, among related articles, a post that tells about the origin of Saint Valentine’s Day. It’s the final and rather amusing post in a short series of posts on St Valentine’s Day. We’ve discussed the Lupercalia, pastorals, préciosité, pancakes, etc., and all these posts are related to Valentine’s Day.
For Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1343 – 25 October 1400), the 14th of February was the day when birds mated. It’s a lovely legend. Othon III de Grandson devoted a third of his poems on stories surrounding St Valentine’s Day.
The six tapestries of The Lady and the Unicorn are also associated with Valentine’s day and Chaucer. They were commissioned by Jean le Viste, described as a “powerful nobleman at the court of Charles VII” (22 February 1403 – 22 July 1461). (See The Lady and the Unicorn, Wikipedia.) The tapestries belong, in part, to the courtly love tradition. Only a virgin could capture a unicorn, which suggests platonic love. However, the horn of the unicorn is a phallic symbol.
As for cards, the first was written by a saint and martyr. According to Britannica, “[f]ormal messages, or valentines, appeared in the 1500s, and by the late 1700s commercially printed cards were being used.”[i] They became popular in the 19th century.
Concerning Charles d’Orléans, he was taken prisoner at the Battle of Agincourt, on 25 October 1415, and spent twenty-five years in England. After he returned to France, he helped disseminate Othon III de Grandson’s Valentine stories in courtly circles.
We have several incunables (books printed between 1450 and 1501) combining the printed text and illuminations. They cannot be shown in this blog if it is to posted on or near 14 February 2013. Chaucer’s Tales of Canterbury is an incunable printed by William Caxton, a fascinating gentleman. But the Ellesmere Chaucer is a famous illuminated manuscript, housed in the Huntington Library, in San Marino, California. (See Ellesmere Chaucer, Wikipedia.)
Beauty and the Beast is my favourite fairy tale because beast is transformed into a prince by a beautiful woman who sees beauty beneath a beastly form. Being recognized as handsome and being loved by a woman despite his monstrous appearance is the only way Beast can escape the curse that has turned him into a truly ugly animal.
As the story goes, during a snowy night, Beauty’s father, an impoverished trader, gets lost in a forest where, to his astonishment, he finds a castle. It is a beautiful castle. On the table, there is a meal and logs are burning in a fireplace. Moreover, a bed awaits him in a lovely room and, upon waking, Beauty’s father finds clean clothes and a good breakfast. Obviously, the trader’s host is a generous person.
However, after meeting Beast, matters change. The former trader’s horse is saddled and awaits the lost father, but he picks up a rose for his daughter, as she has asked. Beast is furious and tells Beauty’s father to return three months later, when he will kill him. The father is also told that if he does not come back, one of his three daughters will die in his place. Yet, Beast gives him a trunk filled with gold, which is surprising.
This is a fairy tale, so the number three is used again. The trader lives on a little farm and has three daughters and three sons. Beauty is the youngest and the most beautiful of the three daughters. Unlike her jealous sisters, she is also kind and compassionate.
When three months have elapsed, the trader is ready to return to the castle and die, but Beauty manages to convince her father to let her go in his place.
Beast does not kill Beauty upon her arrival at the castle. In fact, she finds that he has given her an apartment: “Beauty’s apartment.” This is also surprising. The apartment contains many books and a grand piano. At night, she and Beast have supper together and, after a while, he starts asking her to marry him. But she keeps refusing.
One day, her mirror tells her that her father is ill. She asks Beast to let her visit with her ailing father. She promises to return. Beast, who was supposed to kill her, is devastated, but he lets her go and provides her with a ring that will allow her to find herself in the castle the morning after she puts it on. There is magic in this fairy tale, as is usually the case.
Beauty is away from the castle for more than a week, so when she returns, Beast is dying. She asks him to live and tells him she loves him and will marry him. She unknowingly lifts the curse that has transformed a prince into Beast. Beast is again a beautiful prince.
According to the Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales (pp. 45-49), this tale is related, in plot, to Apuleius’s c. 125 – c. 180) “Cupid and Psyche,” an inner fable within Apuleius Golden Ass, the outer fable. In motif, it is also related to the ancient Pañchatantra tale “The Girl who Married a Snake.” So now you know why I blogged on “Cupid and Psyche.” Versions of this fairy tale were also written by Straparola (c. 1480 – c. 1557) and Basile (c. 1575 – 23 February 1632), whom you know.
In 1946, Jean Cocteau (5 July 1889 – 11 October 1963), a poet, novelist, playwright, etc. made a film based on Beautyand the Beast. Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bête is still considered one of the finest films in its genre, fantasy. Beauty and the Beast is a film produced in 2017.