Alpha: Final Draft
The Cretan Sisters or "Love is a Labyrinth"
Characters in Order of Appearance
Chorus of the women of Naxos
Theseus, king of Athens
Ariadne, daughter of King Minos
Phaedra, daughter of King Minos
(Dionysus enters on the mechane above the Temple of Hera skene)
I am Dionysus, son of Zeus and Semele.
God of wine that inspires man with creativity.
Men hold festivals in my honor
They act, dance, and sing for me.
There is no gayer occasion on this island of Naxos.
But alas, I need to punish Theseus
Who has taken my prize away from me!
O Ariadne! The Aphrodite of my passion
Virtuous woman and worthy of my attention!
Your cheeks are round and oh how they glow
Brighter than any divine goddess
O how you taunt me!
I was waiting for the right momement
To take you as my wife.
Don’t you know that I was born of god,
I can honor you as was Hercales' mother
Who was honored by producing a god offspring.
To sire a child of a god such as me!
But no woman, you had to save a worthless Athenian;
Theseus of all the mortals!
Theseus will never be as powerful a mortal as Heracles!
For Heracles was able to overcome Hades
Daughter of Minos you are a fool!
You helped Theseus kill your Father and your Brother
He is not a man that you deserve,
Theseus needed your help in the Labyrinth against the Minotaur!
He was not clever or strong enough to do it himself!
For he is as weak as a woman!
A true man would not have been so blind
As Theseus was in that maze.
You thought that there was a web of love.
But instead it was the web of misfortune
That you destined upon yourself.
O Ariadne, My possession!
You choose a mortal man over your own immortality?
How I would honor you as a woman,
People would look up to you,
Praise and honor you
They would pray for you, Aradine.
Instead of your name lost in the heavens above.
You think stopping on your voyage at Naxos
To pray in the temple of Hera
The goddess of marriage,
Will prevent me from breaking
Your bond of marriage?
You will see Ariadne; You will pay.
For my hands shall destroy your nest
I know just the way to make this happen!
I will disguise myself as a seer and
Fill Thesues's mind with doubts.
For you are a foreign bride to the country
Your father tried to take over.
These doubts will rip the seams of your marriage,
Causing hatred in your bridal bed.
The woven love shall be no more.
Ariadne you will come faithfully to me!
I hear voices approaching the temple!
I must flee!
(The chorus is made up of Older matrons of Naxos - they enter)
All over Naxos's fishing port,
There has been talk!
About a young Athenian prince
Taking a foreign bride.
They have arrived on this island last night.
The King has decreed a large feast
To welcome such prestigious guests.
For he said the Athenian prince
Over came such feat, he killed a Minotaur!
He must be courageous and strong
to kill such a beast.
We must welcome the couple to this island.
See maidens, love is pure and joyful
Like two doves weaving
In and out of the clouds.
One embraces the other
To form the eternal nest
Entertwind with each other.
Ah! Remember what it use to be like to be
Young again at the beginning of love!
For we old maidens, it has been quite some time!
True love though withstands the test of time,
Time that does not fade
After the first blush is over.
O Heralds! Sing of love!
Like the sun setting over a gurgling brook,
The trees rustling in the wind
with the baby fawns
Resting in their mother’s bed.
The joys of love are so pure of heart
Just like the happy couple
Theseus and Ariadne
Their bonds of love are steadfast,
Tightly wound to each other
With attention and purity
That seems so naturally flowing
out of their bodies.
Bringing a golden glow to whatever they touch.
Ah! What a sight it is to see
Two young lovers such as they are indeed
Favored among the gods.
Look here Adriane and Theseus coming!
Laughing and frolicking gaily
Each giving joyous looks into each other’s eyes!
Look how they smile at each other; they are truly in love!
Careful! Young lovers that these bonds do not break!
They need the pearls of our wisdom
Their love needs to withstand
The power of the country, Athens
Where they are returning to.
A balance along a fine line
In binging home your enemy, as your bride!
(Theseus and Ariadne enter, with hands clasped)
Ariadne, my wife carried from Crete,
a land so far from my home,
I bring you back as a gift to my people.
It was you who led me with
your thread, spun straight from the
heart out of the Minotaur’s winding
maze. If I closed my eyes but
for a second I could have been
moving through love’s own labyrinth.
Who knows what lies around the
next corner? I leave with a foreign
bride and I could never be more
fortunate or proud. Ariadne,
I saw your shape so many times
in that dark maze. I thought you
were a sister to the shadows,
but I followed you nonetheless
and now your love burns faithfully
like a beacon. I fear not
the lofty waves of the sea, nor any
maze that harbors beast or man.
I fear now only a life without
It was you who came to my
father’s land, dripping with
the brine of the ocean, the storm
still in your eyes, and your voice
like an echo from lands so distant
and strange. How could I not
love you then? I felt as though
my heart had been struck
by Zeus’ thunderbolt itself. Your presence
was so sudden and welcome to me.
When I watched you vanish into
the maze I felt as though part of
my heart had gone with you into
that winding labyrinth. My dreams
brought me there beside you,
into the dark tunnels and the damp
air, the panting of the beast so close,
But you followed my thread
faithfully, and you follow it now.
I did what a woman truly in love will,
betrayed home and hearth, and had a hand
in my brother's own death for your loyalty.
Good Theseus, kind and noble,
promise to be my protector in this
distant city that you take me to,
promise this thread between us will
I promise nothing more
and nothing less than my heart.
I cannot speak for the people
of Athens, but I do know they
will come to love you as faithfully
as I do now. What is there not to adore?
My love will be as constant as the sun.
and you will never find reason to
return to your cold life, now that I
have promised warmth and welcome in Athens.
(Theseus and Ariadne embrace, Phaedra enters)
Here is noble Phaedra,
a sister who comes with the purest
intent, a sister who will surrender
all she has known to follow the one she
is most faithful to. Phaedra will find joy
in her new home as well. She does not follow
for the love of a man, but for the love of
family. Phaedra, you are a brave woman,
few could see the purest of joy these two lovers
share and take part so fully in their union.
Young lovers, how fortunate
you are to have found each
other. Too often in the life of a man
does fate refuse him love.
Truly your passion is a gift from the
immortals, and Aphrodite showers her
blessing down on you in drops of sweet nectar.
Taste the honey of passion and
forget not that desire waxes and
wanes like the moon. Forget not
that true love must be constant and true.
I can give you no more
than my blessing. And promise my
service and friendship. For a sister
can share in a love not her own,
I feel the warmth of your union
deep in my heart as well.
Truly Ariadne, your sister
is wise and humble. Let us stay
in Naxos a while longer and
savor the fruits of our love.
Before state and responsibility
cut the first shoots of desire. This is
a blessed time indeed.
I will stay as long as you desire
for what more can a woman
do than bring comfort and joy
to the man she loves? Your
joy is mine and I will follow you
now as a mare does her stallion.
Lead me, noble Theseus,
for I am near blind with love.
Come sister, let us prepare for
the evening. Every man needs
his time alone, to converse with
the gods and the voice of his soul.
Action and destiny are his.
(Phaedra and Ariadne Exit)
How softly and sweetly they leave,
so humble and kind. They will lay
down life and family bond for those
they are wise enough to honor and follow.
Theseus, you have two women who will
obey you faithfully, you are blessed with what
many men will spend a lifetime without.
Yes, Zeus has been good to me.
First, I escape from my prison,
the beast hot on my back, and now
I return to my home with the rarest of
jewels, a prize for myself, and a gift
for my people. But come, enough of this
idle chat, this island demands exploration
and my legs yearn for a swift walk.
Why is it that the gods shower blessings
down upon us when we have almost given up
our grip on life? Theseus, the brave hero
who offered himself like a lamb to the minotaur,
who entered the maze with a heart filled with
dread and duty, leaves with a treasure, with riches
only the truly blessed will acquire. He is like
Pigmylion, granted the lovely ivory maiden
as a present from the gods. A woman who
abandons everything for the man she loves is hard to
find, love is fickle and slippery. Like a fish
it will dance sweetly on your line and then disappear
into the deep ocean, into that darkness no man can
fathom. Like a siren it can lure you to destruction.
Aphrodite, is this your doing? Why is
this man allowed such love? Why is he spared
the death so many met in the minatour's maze, that
horrible end, alone and frightened in the
dark? Men became boys again in that maze, crying for
their mothers or some salvation, but their cries
are ignored by the gods.
I have walked long and far.
This island has nothing to offer,
but it is a place to rest before
we return to my father's land.
What strange thoughts crept into my
mind while I listened to the lap of
the waves on the shore. My thoughts
returned to my sweet love. So pure, so
faithful. How will my city treat her?
will she be welcomed, or will they see
only a foreign woman, strange and barbaric,
an unfit wife for their golden son?
But I have no cause to worry, what I
decide is to be final, their sharp words
are merely that, insults weaker than the
wind, and I have no reason to believe they
will not see the strength and imperial air
my treasure possesses. But a woman who
betrays her own brother? Is that too rash
an act for my people to understand? Is love
an excuse for the foolhardy? Bah! This is foolishness,
I am blessed by the gods, they will
not forsake me now.
Look, an old man comes wandering
from over the hill, back bent with age.
His stick is like the eye, it wanders
the ground, and marks his path.
Those denied vision often see more
than we can, perhaps he can foresee
how your love will fare beyond Naxos.
Yes. I will question this man,
perhaps he is a dottering old fool,
but there's no harm in a false prophecy
and no reason to turn from the truth.
Old father, I see that
your back is bowed with years
and the burdens of life. Is there
nothing I can do to ease some of
your pain? You are blind and
I’ve heard that those in your condition
are often blessed with the gift of another
sight. Can you see the Gods intent? Can
you tell me what they have to say
of my fate, old man?
My son, I have labored many
years through shore-lands, and across
the ocean I came when I was but a
boy, before my eyes were covered
with this black cloth given to me
as a gift from Zeus. I wander this
island alone, and when the occasional
stranger is washed ashore they ask
for my prophecy. I give it and
they stumble towards their fate.
Do you truly want to hear of my visions?
I offer only the truth and no avarice.
Never again will I see the glory of the spring,
or the rosy-hued lips of a young woman,
but I can see your fate as clearly
as the darkness that shades my eyes.
Aphrodite will cause you much suffering
in the guise of true love.
A false love will be your undoing.
Theseus, he is blind and old,
but he may not have the sight of
the gods. Do not let these words
plant doubt in your heart. Listen
to your wisdom and believe that you
will make the wisest choice.
How can you dare to
speak ill of something so pure?
I have found love that will never falter,
I have been saved by a truly noble woman
and I will hear nothing of our fate,
for my own heart speaks of the
most joyful of years, fleeting but full
I wish not to dash your happy thoughts
like wreckage carried to rocks on the
water’s shore. But the wife you bring
back with you is lacking in virtue.
She desires nothing more than an escape
from her barbarian lands, and she has
been known to give her heart freely.
She will use any form of manipulation to
convince you of her love but her heart
is black and riddled with disease.
Beware, Theseus, beware of your
own passions. They will destroy you.
Silence, old man! I will hear
none of this!
What good woman would
betray her own father for a
man she hardly knew? A man
from a land not kin to her own?
She would betray you with as little
thought for a more desirous position.
She is moved by love, by a love
she knew few women find.
Turn away from this man, Theseus,
you have triumphed and now is not the
time to fall. Any old loon could disguise
himself as a prophet, but the real fool is
the man who believes him.
You are cutting me
with your words grandfather, I cannot ignore
the seed of doubt that now grows
like a weed in my mind.
I speak only for your own well-being,
my boy. Do not act rashly, reason
is always stronger than emotion.
Your reason will be your godsend in the end.
The people of Athens will never
accept this foreign bride, leave her
and save yourself.
My heart cries out against
this but I cannot disregard you
completely. Have I been such a
fool? Am I betrayed?
You have been drunk with
desire. Now see her for the snake
she truly is, and free yourself. I come with
the gods' wisdom, and only truth.
You hide like a scorpion under a rock,
biding your time until you can
effectively strike and poison
what is better and more honest than
You have my trust old man,
you know too much to be considered
a fool. And now I know I have been
the truly foolish one. Ignorant and
greedy as a young boy. Now is
the time for action, I must save
myself from the woman who
O love! Love as brief
and swift as the evening on
the back of the day. Love
that lowers cities to dust
and flies from the heart of man
like a bird from a trap, fearful
of its life.
Theseus leaves with his love
nothing but a memory and
rests his choice on the wisdom
of a blind old man.
Theseus, why do you act with so
little caution? Is love your
greatest desire, or your
I may be a tottery old man,
worthy of your scorn, but you
will see what will come of my prohpecy
and the destruction born of
this doomed union.
O cruelty of love!
The fickle hand of doubt
has strangled any chance this
new marriage has had. There is nothing
now but deceit and cunning. Ariadne
and Theseus will find no joy,
the thirsty eye of suspicion
is fixed on Ariadne, like the cyclops
it burns with a hungry rage, and must
be gorged for her freedom. But there
is no hero to disarm this beast.
Love is as tenuous as the first
flowers of spring, the first grass
that dares to poke its head up from
the earth, only to be uprooted and
destroyed by slander.
Mischief has been here,
and now there is nothing that
will quell these doubts. Hounded
by the madness of his distrust Theseus
will find no peace. The two lovers
now stumble blindly towards their fates
and all the while doubt follows close
behind in his lust and rage.
There is nothing to fight, love will
wither like the spring buds in the fall,
and only a memory will remain.
(Ariadne and Phaedra enter)
Look! Ariadne and Phaedra approach!
Not knowing the transformations taking place in Theseus' mind!
Such blissful happiness emanates from their young faces,
And to interrupt their peace with such news is lamentable.
And yet, they must be told of the changing tides,
When a man is fickle in his love; the constant flux
Which moves love from a great delight
To a most horrible force of destruction!
O Phaedra, my sister! What joy fills my heart!
A thing so wondrous that any woman
Would be most proud to bear!
I must tell you, dear sister,
my excitement can hardly be contained!
How can I ever express
Such happy feeling?
Surely there are no words in existence
That can truly describe it.
What is it, Ariadne?
You babble so excitedly, and yet,
I know nothing of which you speak.
Well then, I’ll tell you now:
I am bearing the son of Theseus!
Can there be anything greater than this?
Do not be so quick to boast of fortune!
What else can be said of such an occasion?
O sister! What a happy day this is for you!
Do not pay heed to aged women
Jaded to the world;
They are too old to remember
The vibrance of youth and love,
And the desire to produce children!
Indeed! For to have married Theseus,
The great man that he is,
Is nothing without the honor
Of bearing him a son;
A son who will grow into his father’s likeness;
Powerful, handsome, and brave.
Slow your speech,
You excited young women!
We warn you that you head towards calamity!
Superstitious, silly women!
Why do you try to ruin this,
The most magnificent day in my sister’s life?
It is not superstition which presses us!
Though our age far exceeds your own
Our senses are still well with us.
Ariadne, you must beware the ruin about to befall you!
Away with you and your envious spite!
Is it that you are dried up
And are past your time to have more sons,
Or that you have never had children at all?
A woman who goes through life
Barren and childless
Can never achieve true happiness.
For what pleases a woman more
Than to please the husband she loves?
And what pleases a husband more
Than having his own sons to bear his legacy?
That I will be able to bring
Theseus such delight!
The jewel that I carry within
Brings a blessed exhilaration
Unlike any I have ever known.
Most happy moment in the world of women!
Nothing disturbs my mind
As I am abounding with all that
A woman could desire.
I have followed my course
On the path of modesty and virtue,
Doing my duty as newlywed wife;
Now rewarded by the gods
With such a prize!
In what way shall I tell Theseus?
How shall I impart this news?
My mind is a-flutter
And my nerves tingle with anticipation!
O foolish youth,
How it blinds them in their enthusiastic frenzy.
They pay us no heed.
There is no time to think on it, dear Ariadne.
For look, here comes our proud Theseus!
Although he looks as if a dark cloud
Has passed over his thoughts,
And I begin to feel a tinge of apprehension.
You! Vile woman!
Ariadne, thinking to play me the fool!
What has come over you?
I do not know what you mean!
It ends here, treacherous snake!
I will not make myself
A weak king in the eyes of Athens.
I will not be made subservient to a woman!
O Theseus! I am afraid!
What is the matter? What have I done?
Beg and cower. It will do no good.
I know that your only desire is to reach Athens,
A land far more civilized than
Barbarous Crete from which you were spawned.
You wish to be queen while I am laughed at by the people;
A pitiful excuse for a king.
I will not lower myself to marrying a foreign woman
Of such uncultured and vulgar roots.
Especially not to you.
Traitress in your own land,
Conspirator against your own father,
Blood-kin to the odious Minotaur
(A relation too atrocious to be
Accepted for a true queen of Athens),
Whose death you yourself aided.
These were the despicable foundations
In which your conniving mind had its roots.
But just as the hemlock, when plucked,
Still retains its toxic nature,
So too, do barbarian women.
You want to manipulate me with your wiles!
Well, I tell you, your plans have been foiled!
I am not longer blinded by your ploys.
Your wickedness is exposed!
Theseus, my husband, my love!
How can you say such cruel things to me?
Yes, it was I who gave you the sword
With which you killed the Minotaur,
But although he was my brother,
How can you find fault with me for my actions?
Was it not a crime for young lives to be destroyed
as sacrifice to him and die so brutally?
Was I not forced to choose the lesser of two evils?
And was it not I who gave you the thread,
That you, my love, might safely return
From the depths of the Labyrinth
With the frightful deed having been done?
I aided you in rescuing the Athenian youths
And yet you would abandon me,
Believing that I would bring you shame
Among the Athenian people?
How can this be? How can your love for me
Have been cast aside so suddenly
When I have done nothing
But that which might please you?
Theseus! Try to listen! She speaks the truth,
Though you seem to have been blinded to it!
She did those things, that is true.
But not for the reason she gives.
I can see clearly that it
was all performed in selfishness.
You, Ariadne, looked for your own glory,
Not caring for the soiling of my reputation
When I would be returning to civilized Athens
With a contemptible barbarian wife.
I will not do it, so you might as well
Put an end to your fruitless schemes.
Alas! How wrong you are!
This frenzy, so sudden in its formation,
must surely be the work of some vindictive god!
Silence! You wretched hags!
Women and their insolent ways!
Well, perhaps on this island of Naxos
You have the ability to sympathize
With the likes of this repugnant woman of Crete,
But the refined gentlewomen of Athens
Would be mortified to accept such a beast
In their midst; certainly not as the queen
Of their king! I would not bring shame
Upon my own people for this woman.
She and her so-called love are nothing to me.
Please! You cannot mean this!
Only moments ago we were united in our love,
Joined together in utter happiness!
How can you humiliate me now and ridicule my love
With such hateful words?
A tender love, so easily bruised,
Bleeds with every beat of my heart
As I long for the affection
You showed me before.
Wait! You turn away from me with such aversion,
But there is something which you do not know!
I am bearing your child; your son.
And if you cannot bear to
Allow any warmth to your own heart,
Now cold and brittle towards me
(For what reason I do not know),
Let the knowledge of the son I carry
Soften your hard feelings.
Surely, you cannot be so frigid in your soul
That you would desert not only me, a lowly woman,
But also the son of your own blood!
Say what you wish.
I shall not listen to your deceitful words,
Dripping with your faithless venom.
You disgust me with your groveling,
With your perpetual lies.
It seems that you would stoop to any level
In order to manipulate my mind!
Well, I am a man, a king,
And stronger and more clever than you!
I am no imbecile for you to play your games with,
You detestable, repulsive wretch!
Theseus! Oh what agony fills my heart!
What has overcome my Theseus?
How can this be? Where does he run off to?
I feel a pain in my soul so terrible
That it is impossible to bear.
The wings of love on which I flew only moments ago
Are shot through, and I have fallen
Broken, shattered; I am torn to pieces.
Ariadne, my sister, take comfort in my arms.
Who can know the workings of such a man’s mind?
I do not know what spurred his misguided anger,
But do not despair! For chance may have it
That he might still see how he has wronged you!
What terrible woes can befall a woman!
Delicate in body, more delicate in love!
Those of our sex,
So easily crushed in emotion:
To whom can we turn
When those to which we have
Entrusted our hearts
Annihilate our affections?
Like poor Procne, discovering too late
How Tereus would turn against the laws of justice
And betray her trust and their marriage
With one of her own blood!
We are helpless against
The actions of men, and of love;
Love which draws us along,
As we, ignorant of the dangerous maze
Into which we are led,
Fall deeper and deeper,
With no hope of escape.
A Labyrinth of love!
A cause of unavoidable pain!
Just as the love between Orpheus and Eurydice:
Such a great love bound them together.
Orpheus, how you loved that woman,
Journeying to Hades, willing to remain there
Should that god of the dead refuse
To let your Eurydice return
To the land of the living, safe by your side.
Eurydice was lead by her love
Out of the depths of the underworld;
But only to be pulled back,
Back into the land of the dead.
There she would remain lost to her lover
For as long as he lived;
And all because of Orpheus' own blunder.
If only a simple thread
Could bring us to safety
From the toiling workings
Of the mind and of the heart!
It is a perilous journey
For a woman to bear;
We who must bear the greatest burdens:
Those of life’s greatest joys
And of life’s deepest pains!
Please, can you tell me where Ariadne,
Now piteous wife of renowned Thesus, can be found?
That woman there, weeping so terribly
Is the one that you look for. I hope that the news
You bring will not weigh on her as heavily
As her recent treatment by one she loved.
O Ariadne, I am one from the village
Where mighty Theseus let drop his anchor
To come ashore this small isle of Naxos.
What tidings do you bring?
Why do you seek me among the rocks
And brambles of this desolate place?
I fear that I bear news that will make you want
To grow used to these surroundings.
But I hesitate, not sure that I should be
The one who tells you such a grievous tale.
I am weary of surprises, man,
Just tell me and be done with it.
Let me be the one to judge your story
Since apparently I am the one whom it concerns.
It is your command.
I am a fisherman by trade and
Just now, I was down at the docks
Mending my nets with my crew, when
Who should come storming down the path
That leads from the rocky hills.
It was Theseus, his face burning with rage,
But shining with something else, too,
Something that I could not quite fathom.
At first I thought nothing of it,
But then he arrived at the center of our village,
Houses clustered along the sea,
And called out his men. Every one of them!
They came running and soon all stood around him,
Waiting for his command.
Then, eyes crazed with some madness
He barks out orders for them to man the ship
And make ready to depart from our island.
They stood, unsure of themselves
In the face of such rage. But with another
Exhortation from their captain, they ran
And did his bidding, preparing the ship.
I did hear one sailor ask about you, lady,
But Theseus brushed him off and ordered him
Onto the ship anyway with words I do not wish
To repeat here, in this company.
Finishing my tale, though, as soon
As his men had all boarded, they hauled up the anchor
And were soon well underway, heading into the sea.
I had heard that you were here,
And came, taking upon myself the duty
Of informing you of this sad event.
I am stunned. I can hardly speak.
Thank you, sir. You have done us
A good service, but please,
There is nothing more you can do
Go back to your own home.
I know that this was a hard blow
And I hope that things begin
To straighten out for you.
Sister, are you alright?
How can he have done this, Phaedra?
He has left me here on this island to die,
After I saved him from Minos’ trap and he said
He loved me. Why would he have done this to me?
He was so angry before, but is that just cause
To leave me marooned on this island with my sister?
Men have had spats with their wives before,
But I doubt that many of them ended up
Like me. There must be some reason behind this
Crazed mood that has taken my beloved.
I don’t know what to say, sister.
Theseus always seemed loyal and happy
To you and only you.
(Enter Dionysus dressed in a fawn skin and carrying a thysus)
Hello, daughters of Minos. If you cannot tell
By my dress, I am the god Dionysus,
Born of Semele and divine Zeus, master
Of intoxicating wine and my Maenads, those women
To whom I have given my divine ecstasy.
For you, though, Ariadne, I offer something else.
You are a beautiful woman and I have decided
To make you my wife. In return, you will have the glory
Of being the consort of one of Olympus’ highest.
You yourself will become an immortal
And will live forever besides me.
The price you must pay is small for an eternity
Of wine and revels among the trees in our sacred groves.
I know now that you carry within you
The son of Theseus and that is something
I cannot allow. When he is born, surrender him to me
And I can do things for you that
You cannot imagine.
What? How could any mother accept
A bargain like that, trading the life of a child
Even an unborn one, for a life of pleasure?
I would be damned in the eyes
Of the gods themselves.
Living forever, I would have an eternity
With you, yes, but also without my son
Knowing every moment of every day
That I am alive but he is not, because of my selfishness.
What can you give me that could possibly
Compensate me for an entire lifetime with my son?
She has a good point, but to be
The consort of a god! Without the child
What woman would refuse that?
If only in our prime, we had been as stunningly
Beautiful as Ariadne is now maybe then,
We would have been chosen by some
Divinity to escort us through life on their arm.
But also having had children, we know the joy
That can come from them to any mother.
We do not envy Ariadne’s choice.
Come now, Ariadne, what is your answer?
Please, Dionysus, give me some time to think.
This is a difficult choice for me.
What is there to think about?
Theseus has left you and you are alone.
Theseus! What do you know about him?
Did you have anything to do his leaving?
Why would you think that?
I am a god and I know what
goes on underneath me.
I have heard of the gods scheming
to get the woman that they lust after.
This is not some random bout of lust!
If I had just wanted to take you, I would have.
This is something else, I want you for eternity.
Alright, Dionysus. I need some time, though.
Just a little while, to sort myself out and ready
Myself to be married to a god.
I will return here before the end of the day
So that our marriage rites may be completed.
That is acceptable, Ariadne. I have watched you
For long enough, I can give you a little longer.
Be back here this evening so that we can
Finish this and make you mine.
(Ariadne and Dionysus Exit on opposite sides)
Why do the gods need to meddle
In what should be our affairs?
Poor Ariadne, she did not
Deserve something so terrible to happen
To her without any provocation
But that of divine lust.
Theseus and my sister were happy together,
But to hear such an offer
Would break any woman’s heart.
But where has she gone?
I do not hear the weeping or cries,
That I would expect from someone
So badly used. She did not want this
And she was not as happy as she looked.
And now there is nothing
On the wind but the cold mist from the sea.
O, I am afraid, my heart frozen in my breast.
We, too, hope that she has brought no harm to herself,
As she may be likely to do,
Being put in such a painful position.
But having lived our entire life here on Naxos,
We have never seen anything like this.
A god just visited our small island and
Made an offer to that woman that we would
Have been unimaginably flattered to have received.
But she already has a love.
When she saw Theseus for the first time,
He had been sent to die in the labyrinth
At the hands of the vicious minotaur.
But she decided then that this could not happen.
She would rescue the man whom she loved
And with this thought in mind, she slipped
Him the spindle of thread that would lead him
Back from the center of the maze and keep him
Alive against the odds. She was so in love
And it only grew after they left their island home.
With Theseus so enraged, we fear to think
What she may do with the offer
Of losing her beloved and getting taken
By a god, having to sacrifice her own son.
Who are you? Why do you come so quickly?
From your face, I do not think
That your news will bode well.
I am sorry, lady. I do bring awful tidings.
I am a simple shepherd and I was tending
My sheep along the cliffs when I saw a woman,
Your sister, racing out across the fields.
She led me on a chase to the place
Where the high gray cliffs plunge into the sea,
When she stopped, so did I and I called out,
But she stood there on the edge and
I could see her mouth moving, but
With the howling wind, I could not hear
Her words, so I moved closer to try and listen.
I made it only in time to hear the end
Of what she had to say to the sea and the sky,
But I did hear her curse Dionysus’ name,
Vowing never to dishonor her marriage to Theseus,
And she swore that no one but her
Would ever touch her unborn child
Before doing the unthinkable. As soon as I saw
What she intended to do, I ran forward
But it was too late. She took that last step
And let herself fall forward, out into the air.
She plummeted down and vanished,
Swallowed by the spray of the angry waves
Dashing themselves on the rocks below.
I waited and looked, to see if she
May have survived, but I saw nothing,
Not even a floating scrap of cloth.
I am sorry, lady, to have all these things
Come down on you at once. It seems that gods
Have chosen an undeserving victim.
Thank you, now please return to your flocks,
You have done the right thing, but now
Leave me to my mourning.
What disaster is this? It looks like our family
Can suffer unlimited amounts of despair.
First abandoned by Theseus on this island
After he had sworn to take us to glorious Athens
And then to find out about Dionysus’ plots
Against my sister, and to have them only
Drive her to suicide. What else to the vicious gods
Have in store for us?
The motivations of the gods are a mystery
To us mortals who crawl out our lives down here
On the lowly earth. We wonder at the things
They do to us for no reason that we can discern.
We are insects beneath the feet of such as they,
But as Ariadne has shown us, there are actions that
Confound even the gods. Dionysus now has no claim
To the woman he is said to have loved. She is gone.
The gods are said to control everything, from the
Change of the seasons to the fates of empires,
Since the beginning of time, they have ruled
The world and everything that lives on it.
But over time, it seems that they have grown
Uncaring of the world of men. Dionysus’
Obvious hatred for Theseus,
Once such a happy couple, looks unfair.
None of them deserved their fate,
Least of all the unborn son who knew
Nothing of the sins that a god perceived
He committed. All doomed by an unseen hand.
Women of Naxos, I have returned
From my ill-advised voyage back to Athens.
But I announce this without pride, without
The foolish haughtiness that misled me,
Enticed me to leave my love Ariadne.
No, I come in all humility,
Returned to my better senses, although
I can hardly remember the causes
That compelled me to set sail, the reasons
I so hastily decided to retreat
Back to Athens. My mind reels and spins
When I think of the words of that seer
Who deceived me, led me in my blindness
To twist and turn, languishing long-lost
Had I not been saved by the grace of Love.
Asleep, fallen into a stupor,
I was shaken by a sudden vision.
Who was it that should appear to me
But Aphrodite, the fair Goddess Cypris,
The vision of love her very self?
I was stunned, shocked into speechlessness,
Her beauty was so magnificent.
But the moment she spoke my head came clear,
All pathways that once diverged, united
Just at the clarity of her fine voice.
“You must return, Theseus,” she said,
You must speed back to your love.
She remains on Naxos, left behind,
Waiting to sail with you to Athens.
The words of Dionysus have misled you,
Compelled you to take the wrong course. It was him
That deceived you, and now you must atone.”
Well, I needed to hear no other words.
I woke as clear-headed as the sunlight
That shines through the clouds and breaks a storm.
After all, how can a love be false if
Aphrodite herself proclaim it true?
I have no longer any reason to doubt
Ariadne, nor had I ever.
And if Athens have faith in its son,
Then it can certainly accept the bride
That he has chosen, foreign or native.
Our love itself will bring honor
To the city, renown will come along with
Saving such a divine beauty as she.
Ariadne saved me once, and once more
She has been a lantern to light the way.
I shudder at a life without her.
Had I sailed on, back to Athens
Against the winds of my senses,
I would be lost amidst the waves.
So I ordered my men to turn around,
Sail back with all haste here to Naxos.
And now where has she gone? Does she suffer
So much that she cannot bear to see the
Light of day? Where may I find her, that I may
Prostrate myself at her feet in earnest?
I do not think you shall see her again.
Will she no longer speak to me?
Surely her heart has not gone cold yet?
Angry as she may be, perhaps she will
Listen to the words of one who has found
His senses again. I will supplicate,
Beg her forgiveness in sincerity.
After all, I was not in my right senses
When I had committed such betrayal,
Such insult as it pains me to conceive.
For someone who claims to have recovered
His senses, you’re not yet adept at sight.
Look closely at the pallor on the faces
Of these downcast women. Have you not seen
The redness of my eyes, the tears that slip
And roll like waves down my cheek? Horrible
Misery has befallen all of us!
I shudder at the sound of your voice.
What has happened to Ariadne?
She has flown from the mortal world,
And from this island just as you yourself.
In agony she threw herself off of
The cliffs, pitched headlong into the ocean.
O gods, am I the cause of my love’s death?
How could my weakness overcome the strength
Of that love which has been my foundation
As well as my firmament? Night for day,
Sea for sound land, what has not been
Overcome by its lesser counterpart?
It was not a mere seer that misled you,
Theseus, but one of the divine gods.
Dionysus had fallen for your love,
Ariadne, and planned to marry her.
You were deluded by such a spell as
No mortal could possibly overcome.
And Ariadne, our light, remained strong
Even in her final breaths; her death
Was to protect herself from the whims
Of that lustful god, Dionysus.
Cruel god, his madness has overtaken
Us all! O that his vile presence
Had never alighted upon our lives!
Drunken god, may his revelers find peace
Outside of the fervor he inspires!
Half-breed god of uncertain birth, no more
Divine than the minotaur that fell
Underneath the sharp edge of my sword!
Many a man has fallen for his
Refusal to recognize the gods’ will.
I beg you to hold your tongue. You have suffered
So dearly on the account of that god
Who you now so recklessly provoke.
Would you have your miseries multiplied?
To Tartarus with it and with myself!
O Ariadne, you are lost, and I
Along with you! O, have I not even
The chance to hold her in her last moments?
Faithful Ariadne, for just one final
Moment at your side to relieve us of
The oppressive weight of these regrets!
O sister! What a pitiful day for you!
Ariadne, what has befallen you?
And Theseus, I am shamed to tell you
That now I must increase your sufferings.
Ariadne’s death was not just to protect
Herself, but also to prove true to you.
She was bearing your child, and did not want
Its death to be at the hands of vengeful
Dionysus; she loved it so and loved you.
How can I bear this news, which grieves me and
Reassures me so? Strange comfort it is,
That I should take heart in Ariadne’s death,
But in her last actions she became
Virtue itself! Faithful Ariadne,
Even in death you are a shining light!
But o, child, how I can I describe a loss
That occurs before there is something to lose?
Theseus, I doubt you have need of an
Introduction on my part. You know my name,
And you know what you have stolen from me.
You have slain my minotaur, bastard of
Broken birth like me. And you know full well that
Ariadne by rights should be the lover
Of Dionysus. Misery would have been
Averted had she seen me for myself.
But you, you deluded her and used her
To increase your own renown. You needed
Her to lead you through the labyrinth, a hero
Saved by the wit of a woman. And it was
Your betrayal that led that wondrous woman
To kill herself, your love that threw her
From the peaks into the waves. And despite all,
Careless of the pain you have created,
You dare to curse my name? This can not stand;
I, Dionysus, shall be avenged.
You have brought pain unto your false love,
So shall your city and your family
Suffer. See if the renown that you care
So deeply about will save everyone.
Will your fame hold Athens together
Once its people realize the blame
That rests on your head for the trials
That they are forced to endure? I doubt it;
A being without substance fades into
Obscurity in the midst of light,
And so shall your legend and your good name.
O Gods, I have been stricken with yet
Another loss, as if I haven't yet
Suffered the fill of the greatest men.
What an unhappy homecoming will this be,
To know I bring my family’s ruin with me,
And my nation's, if he is to be believed.
But to stay here would be the second death
Of my spirit, to surround myself with
The memory of dearest Ariadne.
O can it be that I am condemned
To wander alone? Must this be how
I find my way, led forth by prophecies
That condemn me and speak only evil?
You need not be alone, Theseus.
I am here by your side, having been left
Nothing in the wake of my sister’s death.
Please, if you would bear it, take me to Athens
With you, for we have equal share in this loss.
I can do no less for you, the sister
Of my love Ariadne. We suffer
Together, for alone our pains are doubled.
I will honor you and cherish you
Just as I would her. Let us leave this land.
(Theseus and Phaedra exit.)
The desires of the gods encompass
Even this mortal world. We make our choices,
And then they are made for us, until the line
Between action and fate is uncertain.
Even all-consuming love falls to this.
And yet Ariadne’s virtue shines bright,
A beacon in the sky for all to see.