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THE JUDGMENT OF PARIS HERMES: Well, theres a wife and shes nice enough but

from Dialogues of the Gods she really doesnt deserve him.


by Lucian of Samosata
APHRODITE: Why not?
adapted by Baudelaire Jones
HERMES: Well shes a country beauty. In other words,
The following one-act play is reprinted here with the author's shes downright ugly and he only took her because there was
permission. Inquiries concerning all rights, including amateur nothing else available, and a young man must have
and professional performing rights, should be directed to the somewhere to sow his seed. Why do you ask?
author at: sandmaster@aol.com.
APHRODITE: Just curious.
CHARACTERS
ATHENA: Whats all this whispering about? That isnt fair,
Hermes. Whatever youre telling Aphrodite, you can tell the
ZEUS rest of us.
HERMES
HERA HERMES: Its nothing important. She only asked if Paris was a
ATHENA bachelor.
APHRODITE
PARIS HERA: None of her businessthats what you should have
said.
[Mount Olympus. HERA, ATHENA, APHRODITE, and HERMES
gather around the throne of ZEUS.] HERMES: Its an innocent enough question.

ZEUS: Hermes, I have an important task for you. Take this ATHENA: Wellis he?
apple to Phrygia. On the Gargaran peak of Ida, you will find a
young herdsmanParis, the son of Priam. Tell him that hes HERMES: A bachelor? No.
been chosen by Zeus to judge the beauty of the Goddesses
and to decide once and for all which one is the most beautiful. ATHENA: What are his ambitions? Does he care for military
glory? Or just for his goats?
HERMES: Whats the apple for?
HERMES: Well, I dont really know, but hes a young man, so I
ZEUS: Oh, thats the prizefor the winner. would assume hes dreamed of distinction on the battlefield.

HERMES: Thats the best you could do? APHRODITE: There, you seeI don't complain when you
whisper to her.
ZEUS: Its an apple from the table of Zeus! Besides, its not
the prize thats important, but the honor of being chosen most HERMES: Listen, ladies, dont be cross with me; Im just the
beautiful of all the Goddesses. As for myself, Ill have nothing messenger. And besides, Athena asked almost the same
to do with it. I love you all equally, and if I had my way, all question you did. It cant do any harm, can itmy answering
three would win. But of course one of you has to be honored a simple question?
above the others or youll never be satisfied, and if I choose
one of you, the other two will make my life miserable. This HERA: How much further?
young Phrygian, on the other hand, has an objective eye.
Although there is royal blood in his veins, he is a simple HERMES: Were almost over Phrygia now. Theres IdaI can
countryman, so he knows whats what, and he wont play any just make out the peak of Gargarum, and if Im not mistaken,
games. theres Paris right there.

APHRODITE: It doesnt matter who the judge is. Momus HERA: Where? I cant see.
himself can be the judge, as far as Im concerned. I have
nothing to hide. I mean, what fault could he possibly find with HERMES: Over there, to the left. No, not on topdown to the
me? Of course, the others must agree too. side, by that cave where you see the herd.

HERA: Oh, were not afraid to measure ourselves against you, HERA: I dont see the herd either.
even if your lover Ares should be appointed. Paris will do
whoever he is. APHRODITE: Its a good thing this isnt a seeing contest.

ZEUS: And my little Athenadoes she approve? No, no, dont HERMES: Right there, between the rocks. Where Im pointing,
blush or hide your pretty face. I know its a delicate subject, lookand the man running around with the staff, keeping
butthere, she nods her consent. Very well, thenits them together
decided. And remember, the losers in this contest mustnt be
angry with the judge. I wont have the poor boy punished for HERA: Ah, I see now.
his decision. Only one can wear the crown of beauty.
HERMES: Yes, thats him, all right. We should descend here
HERMES: All right, thenwere off to Phrygia. Just follow me, he might be frightened if we swoop down too suddenly.
ladies, and dont be nervous. I know Parishes a good boy,
quite the charmer, and a clever judge of beauty. Hell make HERA: Now that were on the earth, Aphrodite, why dont you
the right choice, you can count on it. lead the way? I understand youve been here often enough to
visit Anchises; or at least thats what Ive heard.
APHRODITE: Im glad you approve of Paris; I ask for nothing
but a fair judge. Do you know if he has a wife, Hermes? Or is APHRODITE: Your sneers are wasted on me, Hera.
he a bachelor?
HERMES: Come on, Ill lead the way myself. I spent enough
HERMES: Hes not a bachelor in the strictest sense. time in the area while Zeus was courting Ganymede. Many
times, I stood watch over the boy; and when the great eagle
APHRODITE: What does that mean? came and swooped him up, I flew at his side and helped with
his lovely burden. I believe this is the very rock where he
stood piping to his sheep as Zeus tenderly caught him up in
those talons and carried the frightened boy off. I picked up his ATHENA: Oh, Parismake sure she takes off that girdle;
pipes, he had dropped them trying to escape, and theres magic in it! Shell bewitch you! And she ought to wipe
off all that makeup as well! She has no right to come so
HERA: Enough about my husbands philanderings. tricked out and painted!

HERMES: Oh, yes sorry. Anyway, here is our appointed APHRODITE: This is my natural hue.
referee. Good morning, Paris!
HERA: Oh, pleaseyou look like a prostitute.
PARIS: Hey, kid. Arent you a little young to be climbing these
dangerous peaks? And with a band of women, no less! APHRODITE: Excuse me?!
Beautiful womentoo beautiful for this mountain-side.
ATHENA: She really should show herself unadorned.
HERMES: These women, good Paris, are the Goddesses Hera,
Athena, and Aphrodite. And I am Hermes, messenger PARIS: The makeup can stay, but theyre right about the
extraordinaire for mighty Zeus. He has chosen you to judge girdle, madamit must be removed.
the beauty of these three, and the prize is this apple.
APHRODITE: Oh, fine. But Athena has to take off her helmet
PARIS: An apple? thenno intimidating the judge with that waving plume. Or
are you afraid your colorless eyes might be exposed without
HERMES: I know, I know, but its a very nice apple. And theres their formidable surroundings?
an inscription. Here, have a look.
ATHENA: Im afraid of no such thing. Here is my helmet.
PARIS: For the Fair. So, I
APHRODITE: And here is my girdle.
HERMES: Just give the apple to the fairest of the three. Thats
it. Couldnt be simpler. HERA: Good. Lets get on with it.

PARIS: But lord Hermes, how do you expect a mere goatherd PARIS: God of wonders! What beauty is here! Oh, rapture!
to judge between three such unparalleled beauties? How exquisite these ladies charms! How dazzling the majesty
of Heaven's true queen! And oh, how sweet, how captivating
HERA: He speaks well, at least. is Aphrodite's smile! And Athenas taut muscles! Its too
much! Im overwhelmed by your combined beauty! I know not
PARIS: Surely, there must be some fine city folk better suited where to look! My eyes are drawn all ways at oncetheyre
to judge this contest. I can tell you which of two goats is the splitting apart!
finer beast, or adjudicate the merits of two heifers, but in the
present company there is beauty all around. I dont know how APHRODITE: Perhaps he should view us one at a time.
any man could tear his eyes away from one to look on the
other. Wherever my eyes fallthere is beauty. I move them, HERA: Yes, we dont want the poor boys eyes to explode.
and what do I findmore loveliness! And yet I cant focus
because I sense equal beauty lurking just this way or that! I HERMES: All right, thenAphrodite, you and Athena withdraw
am distracted by neighboring charms! If only I were all eyes, with me. Let Hera remain.
like Argusthen perhaps I could judge the matter!
APHRODITE: So be it.
APHRODITE: Youre right, Herahis speech is pretty.
[APHRODITE, ATHENA, and HERMES withdraw.]
HERMES: So it is. Im sorry, Paris, but these are Zeus's orders
theres no way out of it. You are to decide the matter. HERA: Well, do you like what you see?

PARIS: All right, but the losers mustnt be angry with me. The PARIS: Words cannot express my satisfaction, madam.
fault will be with my eyes onlythey are instruments far too
crude for deciding such a fine matter. HERA: When you have finished your scrutiny, you must decide
how you would like your present.
HERMES: Zeus has already made this clear. There will be no
retribution from the losing parties. Now get to work! PARIS: My present?

PARIS: All right, but am I just to examine them as they are, HERA: Thats right. Give me the prize of beauty, Paris, and I
or should I go into the matter more thoroughly? will make you lord of all Asia!

HERMES: Well, thats for you to decide, I guess. Do whatever PARIS: I will take no presents, madam. Withdraw, and I shall
you think best. judge as I see fit.

PARIS: What I think best? Then I will be thorough. [HERA withdraws.]

HERMES: When you say thorough Approach, Athena.

PARIS: I mean, if Im to judge the entire package, perhaps ATHENA: Behold.


they should disrobe.
PARIS: You are very beautiful.
HERMES: Disrobe?! You naughty boy! Do you really think
ATHENA: If you will crown me the fairest, Paris, I will make you
HERA: Calm down, Hermesthe boys quite right. I approve of a great warriora conquering hero! I will cast a divine spell so
your decision, Paris, and will be the first to submit myself to that you will never lose a battle!
your inspection. You will find that I have more to boast of than
white arms and large eyesevery part of me is beautiful. PARIS: I appreciate the offer, Athenabut Im a lover, not a
fighter. Theres peace throughout the land, and my fathers
PARIS: Aphrodite, will you also submit?
rule is uncontested. What use do I have for fighting? You can APHRODITE: Shall I swear?
put your robe back on, and your helmet; Ive seen enough.
PARIS: No; your word is enough.
[ATHENA exits.]
APHRODITE: You shall have Helen for your wife; she shall
And now for Aphrodite. follow you and make Troy her homethis I promise.

APHRODITE: Here I am. Take your time, and examine every PARIS: Take the apple. Its yours.
inch as carefully as you like; let nothing escape your vigilance.
Dont be shy. Put your hand here. There, now thats better END of PLAY
isnt it? Youre a handsome boy, ParisIve had my eye on
you for a long time. You must be the fairest youth in all of
Phrygia. Its such a pity that youre hidden away in these
rocks and crags. Your beauty is wasted on these goats. Id like
to whisk you away and marry you to some Greek girlan
Argive, or Corinthian, or maybe a Spartan, if you like a girl
with a little spunk. Helen is a Spartan. Such a pretty girl
quite as pretty as I am.

PARIS: As pretty as you?

APHRODITE: Oh, yes. And such a lover of beauty. Im quite


certain, if she once caught sight of you, she would give up
everything to be with you. She would make a most devoted
wife.

PARIS: But Im already married.

APHRODITE: So is she. But thats of no importance. When


marriage exists without love, such bonds are easily broken.

PARIS: Tell me about herthis Helen.

APHRODITE: Well, shes the daughter of Ledayou know, the


beauty Zeus ravaged in the guise of a swan.

PARIS: And what is she like?

APHRODITE: Helen is the fairest of the fair, and as one might


expect from the offspring of the swan, she is soft as down
(she was hatched from an egg, you know), and so lithe and
graceful; her figure is the picture of perfection. Shes already
had one war fought over her after she was abducted by
Theseusand she was just a child then. Now shes all grown
up and married to Menelaus, but if youd like, I will make her
your wife.

PARIS: Wont Menelaus be angry?

APHRODITE: Dont worry about the details, child; Ill protect


you.

PARIS: I dont want to cause any problems.

APHRODITE: No problem at all. I will arrange to have you set


out for Greece on a little vacation. When you get to Sparta,
Helen wont be able to resist your charms.

PARIS: But will she really leave her husband and cross the
seas with a complete stranger? A goatherd?

APHRODITE: Trust me. I have two beautiful children, Love and


Desirethey shall be your guides.

PARIS: I dont know how this will end, but I feel like Im in love
with Helen already. I can see her in my mind, on our
homeward journey from Sparta, her hand wrapped in mine as
we stare across the sea.

APHRODITE: Wait! Dont fall in love yet. Theres still the little
matter of crowning me the most beautiful of the Goddesses.
Eternal happiness is yoursall you have to do is hand me that
apple.

PARIS: Are you sure you wont forget me after I give you the
prize?