Thomas Heywood


This work is a masque, written for Queen Henrietta Maria. The plot centers on a detailed dramatization of the story of Cupid and Psyche from Apuleius' Golden Ass, with interpolated rustic clowning and a recurrent debate between learning and ignorance as personified by Apuleius and Midas.


a synoptic, alphabetical character list


King of Thessaly, he comes on pilgrimage to Delphi with his three daughters in order to learn from Apollo who shall wed the youngest, Psiche. Apollo tells him that he must leave the girl unattended on a hillside to be claimed by a lover "not of humane race" with a serpent's face. When the other two return from their visit and tell him of the richness and beauty of Psiche's home he longs to see it. He declines to judge the singing contest between representatives of Pan and Apollo. When Psiche returns, ragged and downcast,he disowns and banishes her. Present when the gods assemble for Ceres' celebration, he assures Venus that he would happily turn Psiche over to her if he knew where she was. Invited to judge the conduct of Astioche and Petrea, he sentences them to prison, but withdraws the sentence at Psiche's urging.


The Clown's ugly mistress.


The god of learning and music receives Admetus at Delphi, and tells the king in the customarily ambiguous way that his daughter Psiche must be placed on a hillside to encounter her mysterious non-human lover. He appeals to Venus to relent in her persecution of Psiche.


Having been transformed into an ass, and then restored, he seeks the way to Helicon, so as to sacrifice to the Muses, and asks Midas for directions. Rebuked by the churlish king, he offers to show the story of Cupid and Psiche by way demonstrating that the Muses deserve to be honored. When Midas belligerently interrupts the story, Apuleius restores him to good humor by means of a comic dance, and explains how the allegorical meanings of the story of Cupid and Psiche make it valuable. When Midas interrupts a second time he agrees to watch a rustic dance and then explains more of the allegory. Two more interludes, the contest between Apollo and Pan and the dance of Love's Contrarieties, introduce two more explorations of the allegory. His efforts fail, and Midas remains unmoved by art, but Cupid honors him with a laurel crown.


Daughter of Admetus, she accompanies him to Delphi. Along with Petreia she is carried by Zephirus to Cupid's bower to meet Psiche, where they are entertained by echoes and music. Psiche refuses to tell them her lover's identity, but gives them money to prove that he is rich. Astioche is jealous, however, and resolves to make her sister miserable by treachery. She and Petreia make a return visit, and tell Psiche that her unseen husband's sweetness only masks the fact that he is a ravenous serpent. Astioche persuades her that she should use a hidden lamp to reveal her husband's shape, then kill him with a razor. Along with Admetus and Petrea she exults over her sister's consequent desolation. When Psiche is restored, Admetus condemns Astioche to prison, but Psiche forgives her and wins her release.


A dancer, one of Love's Contrarieties.


At Cupid's request, the god of the north wind raises a storm to destroy Cupid's bower and disperse the audience of the singing contest.


Pluto's three-headed watchdog, Cerberus is instructed to accompany Psiche during her visit to Hades.


The rough-tongued boatman of the Styx, he escorts Psiche through Hades.


Vulcan's workmen, they dance to amuse themselves and the onlookers.


In an interlude, this rustic interrogates the swains about their neighbor Cupid, observes all the pains and follies of love, ascribes its continuing power to poets, and briefly rehearses the story of the Trojan War as a sample of the idiocies of love. Cupid appears, and takes his vengeance by shooting the Clown with a leaden arrow; he exits to look for some Amarillis to woo. In a second interlude, he is asked to sing as Pan's champion in a contest against a Page who similarly represents Apollo. His song runs through a series of puns on Pan's name-Roasting Pan, etc. He returns in a further interlude to celebrate the hideous charms of his new love, Amarillis. When Psiche returns from Hades with the box of beauty, he is an onlooker, and resolves to obtain this treasure for himself and his beloved. Cupid, however, substitutes a box of face paint. The swains laugh at the self-infatuation that deludes him into thinking that the makeup can alter his natural ugliness, or that of Amarillis, but he persists.


The love-god's mother Venus asks him to help her get revenge on Psiche by shooting her with a leaden arrow. He agrees, but secretly resolves to make Psiche his own wife instead. He asks Zephirus to transport her from the hilltop where she is waiting to his own bower. He orders her to avoid contact with her sisters (but relents at her request) and under no circumstances to try to discover his appearance on pain of losing him forever. When she does discover his identity by shining a lamp on him as he sleeps, he curses her, mars her beauty, sends her away, and wrecks the bower of their love. But he himself at that moment is put into the shackles of love. He and Mercury send the ants to help Psiche sort the grain, while he goes to his father Vulcan to have the shackles struck off. He also shows her how to fill the vial with the water of Cocytus and to gain access to Hades. When Psiche cannot resist the temptation to open the box of beauty from Proserpine, he forgives her, restores her beauty, and presents her to his mother and the assembled gods, explaining that Jupiter and the other Olympians have all approved their union. He rewards Apuleius' art with a laurel crown, and condemns Midas to asinine ignorance forever.


A comic dancer.


One of Pluto's courtiers, in attendance during Psiche's visit.


Given speech-headings, although apparently does not appear on stage.


A servant of Admetus.


A dancer, one of Love's Contrarieties.


These dire figures attend on Prosperpine and Pluto.


A comic dancer.


A dancer, one of Love's Contrarieties.


A dancer, one of Love's Contrarieties.


Petrea's husband, he accompanies Admetus and his daughters to Delphi.


Commissioned by Venus to find Psiche and bring her to the goddess, the swift god comes upon the girl in her misery and places her before her vengeful mother-in-law. He takes pity on the wretched Psiche, however, and with Cupid helps her sort the grain. At Jove's behest, he summons the other Olympians, including Proserpine, to join Ceres in celebrating the coming of spring.


Made churlish by his experience with the golden touch, when Apuleius asks him for directions to Helicon he scorns the Muses, and is invited to watch the story of Cupid and Psiche as an instance of the Muses' power to delight and instruct. Partway through the story, he dismisses it as rubbish. Restored to humor by the comic antimasque, he listens patiently enough to Apuleius' explanation of the allegory. He interrupts a second time, presents a rustic dance, then hears more of the allegory. In a third interlude, he agrees to judge the singing contest between the representatives of Pan and Apollo; when he casts his vote for the Clown, Apollo curses him and all like him to live in ignorance and disgrace. He enjoys the dance of Love's Contrarieties, the Clown's comical praise of Amarillis, and the dance of Vulcan and the Ciclops. Apuleius' instruction making no impression on him, he persists in his dismissal of the arts, and is condemned by Cupid to wear ass's ears forever.


As judge in Hades, Minos looks on Psiche to make sure that she observes the laws of the underworld.


A dancer, one of Love's Contrarieties


The goatish god agrees to help Venus take revenge on Psiche for stealing the goddess's votaries. Unable to perform for himself to settle a dispute as to the relative musical power of his own pipes and Apollo's lyre because he has caught a cold, he recruits the Clown as his representative. He goes to Vulcan with various commissions, and there joins in an unsuccessful effort to calm Venus's rage against Psiche.


Daughter of Admetus, less assertive and manipulative than Astioche, she goes with the rest of the family to Delphi. Carried by Zephirus to Cupid's bower to meet Psiche, she is impressed by the beauty and wealth of the place, and proud that her sister should be its mistress. She and Astioche make a second visit, and tell Psiche that her husband is a serpent who only beguiles her with music and sweetness for now, but means to devour her soon. Petreia seconds Astioche's plan for revealing and then murdering the mysterious spouse. When the desolate Psiche tries to rejoin the family, Petrea reviles her. At Psiche's restoration, Admetus condemns the jealous sister to prison, but Psiche forgives her and the sentence is withdrawn.


The ruler of the underworld receives Psiche in Hades, is disappointed when she cannot be tempted into eating and can thus return to the upper world, and resentfully allows Proserpine to join in her mother's celebration.


A comic dancer.


A comic dancer.


Psiche comes to Pluto's queen in Hades, and receives the gift of a box of her beauty. She leaves the underworld for five days to join her mother Ceres in celebrating the coming of spring and witnessing the union of Cupid and Psiche.


Daughter of Admetus, she accompanies him to Delphi to learn from Apollo who should be her spouse. Obedient to the god, she climbs mournfully onto the appointed rock, whence Zephirus transports her to Cupid's bower, where she can hear his voice and feel his touch but not see him. When her sisters first visit her, she gets them to leave by giving them gold, but on their second visit she is persuaded to uncover her husband's secret identity. She discovers his beautiful divinity by lamplight, but a drop of the lamp's hot oil awakens him. He curses her and all her sex, and asks Zephirus and Boreas to despoil the bower and return Psiche to her father in rags, her beauty disfigured by leprosy. Admetus and her sisters refuse to take her in. Venus beats her, and tells her that before the sun sets she must sort a heap of mixed grain into piles according to the type of seed or die. Cupid and Mercury send the ants to help her with the task, but Venus is not appeased, and this time gives her a vial to be filled with waters from the spring of the Hadean river Cocytus. Cupid tells her where to find Jove's eagle, who aids her in accomplishing the task. Unassuaged, Venus then commands her to bring a box of beauty from Proserpina. Cupid tells her how to do this, with the admonition not to eat anything or to open the box under any circumstances. She makes her way to Hades and resists the invitation to eat, but is unable to withstand the desire to be beautiful again, and opens the box. But Cupid rescues her from her folly; a drink from Jove's cup of immortality restores her beauty, and Cupid presents her to the assembled gods as his rightful wife.


He attends Pluto and Proserpine in Hades during Psiche's visit.


Cupid's rustic neighbors, the swains are the audience to whom the Clown addresses his diatribe against love, his grotesque apostrophe to Amarillis, and his deluded belief in the efficacy of cosmetics.


A comic dancer.


The goddess of love summons the other gods to hear her complain that she is no longer worshiped as widely and eagerly as before, because her former votaries now worship Psiche instead. She asks Apollo and Pan to help her get revenge; in particular, she asks Cupid to shoot Psiche with a leaden arrow that will make her love something ugly. Having just been afflicted by the death of Adonis she confronts the fallen Psiche, beats her, and sets her a series of three seemingly impossible tasks. Cupid's charm and determination, Psiche's success, and the girl's support by the other gods finally cause her to relent.


Delighted by the news of his wife Venus's loss of her paramour Adonis, the lame god sets his Ciclops to work in an episode that likens Vulcan's forge to a Caroline workshop. When Cupid appears, in the shackles of love, he is moved by his son's appeal and strikes them off. He joins Apollo and Pan in urging Venus to allay her wrath at Psiche.


A comic dancer.


A dancer, one of Love's Contrarieties.


Astioche's husband, he accompanies Admetus and his daughters to Delphi.


At Cupid's request, and to earn from the latter a beautiful new robe, the god of the west wind agrees to transport Psiche from the hilltop to Cupid's bower.