(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Basking on a cloud and spying on Alkmena, Jupiter and Mercury make plans for the seduction of Alkmena as if preparing for a tasty banquet. In order to remove Amphitryon from his bedchamber, Mercury suggests that Jupiter have the Athenians declare war on Thebes. Amphitryon, a stalwart general of the Theban army, will hurry to engage the enemy. Mercury can then take the place of Sosie, a servant, and tell Alkmena that Amphitryon will momentarily desert the battle and return to her bed that night. Jupiter can impersonate Amphitryon and partake of the delectable Alkmena. They begin to carry out their plan.

Jupiter arrives before the palace of Alkmena amid a great clanging noise, for he forgot the laws of gravity in his descent. With the help of Mercury and with some difficulty, Jupiter transforms himself from his state as a god to that of a mortal.

Mercury already prepared the faithful wife for the return of Amphitryon, to whom she promised fidelity or suicide if she knowingly deceives him. Jupiter whets his appetite for love by demanding admission to her bed as a lover, not as a husband. It is not enough to love within the union of marriage—the added fillip is to be the tantalizingly illegal husband-seducer. With guileless logic, Alkmena swears fidelity to her vows and refuses to open her gates and admit the false husband to her chambers as a lover. As her husband, however, he gains easy entry through the gates, which have been unlocked all the while.

Mercury thoughtfully holds back the dawn until Jupiter consummates the union, and he takes the precaution of informing the universe that Jupiter made another mortal conquest so that the proper celestial eruptions...

(The entire section is 694 words.)