Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Psyche, daughter of a Greek king, is as beautiful as Venus and sought after by many princes. Her father, seeking to know what fate the gods might have in store for her, sends some of his men to Apollo’s oracle to learn the answer. To the king’s horror, the oracle replies that Psyche is to become the mate of a hideous monster, and the king is ordered to leave his daughter to her fate upon a mountaintop, to prevent the destruction of his people. Clad in bridal dress, Psyche is led to a rocky summit and left there alone. The sad and weary young woman soon falls into a swoon.
Venus, jealous of Psyche’s beauty, calls her son Cupid and orders him to use his arrows (whoever is struck with one of his arrows falls in love with whomever he or she is looking at) to turn Psyche’s heart toward a creature so hideous that mortals will be filled with loathing at the sight of Psyche’s mate. Preparing to shoot his arrow, Cupid, seeing his victim, is transfixed by her beauty. He drops his arrow and it strikes him in the leg. He falls in love with Psyche and decides that she should be his forever. While Psyche sleeps, Zephyrus comes at Cupid’s bidding and carries her to the valley in which Love’s house stands. There she awakens in a grove of trees in which stands a magnificent golden palace. She enters the building and wanders through the sumptuously furnished rooms.
At noon, Psyche finds a table lavishly spread. A voice invites her to eat, assures her that the house is hers, and tells her that the being who is to be her lover will come that night.
As she lies in bed that night, a voice close beside her tells her not to be afraid. The voice speaks so tenderly that Psyche welcomes her unseen suitor and holds out her arms to him. When Psyche awakens the next morning, her lover is gone, but he left behind a gold ring and placed a circlet on her head.
For a time Psyche lives happily in the golden palace, visited each night by the lover whose face she does not see. At last, however, she becomes homesick for her two sisters and her father. One night, she asks her lover to permit her sisters to visit her the next day. He gives his consent, but he warns that she is not to tell them about him.
Zephyrus carries the sisters to the valley. Overjoyed to see them, Psyche shows them the beauties of the palace and gives them many gifts. Jealous of her good fortune, they try to make her suspicious of her unseen lover. They suggest that her lover is a serpent who changes into the form of a youth at night, a monster who will at last devour her. To save herself, they advise her to hide a lamp and a knife by her bed so that she might see him and slay him as he sleeps.
Psyche does as they suggest. That night, as her love lies asleep, she lights the lamp and brings it close so that she might look at him. When she sees the perfectly handsome young man by...
(The entire section is 1184 words.)
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