Pyrrha: A Play, Scene 7

Published August 11, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the previous scenes, see this page.


 

Scene: Megaron of Lycomedes (Dusk)

The court has been set up for the banquet. There are large tables, set with food. Reclined on couches beside the tables are Lycomedes, Theaspe, Polyphonos, Diphilos and other members of the Scyran court, along with Aias and Patroclos.

Lycomedes: I hope my island fare is suitable to your palate?

Aias: (irked) Salamis is also an island.

Patroclos coughs uncomfortably.

Patroclos: Everything is excellent, sire.

Theaspe: My husband tells me your father’s name is Menoitios?

Patroclos: Yes, your majesty. I doubt you will have heard of him.

Theaspe: Is he not the one from Locris?

Patroclos: Formerly of Locris, yes. I’m surprised you would know of him.

The queen laughs.

Theaspe: I should I hope I would! He married my sister, after all.

Patroclos: Wh-what?!

Theaspe: I don’t find it too surprising, looking at you. You resemble my poor, late brother.

Patroclos: Y-yes, that’s what my mother says, too.

Theaspe: I don’t know why he joined those fools in their struggle against Thebes.

Patroclos: My father tells me my late uncle was very fond of Tydeus, and that was why he joined their mad quest.

Aias: At least Diomedes avenged them.

Patroclos: That’s true. I probably ought to thank him on my mother’s behalf.

Aias laughs.

Aias: Better not to. He might get a swelled head.

Patroclos chuckles.

Lycomedes: Ah, here they come! My friends, as I keep no bards or other entertainers, the only diversion I can offer you is a simple song, performed by a few of my own daughters. But I do hope their meager talents will still please you.

Pyrrha, Deidameia and other daughters of Lycomedes enter. They assemble in a group, with Pyrrha and Deidameia at the center front, and begin to sing.

Girls: (singing) Once on a time Hera bare him because she was angry with father Zeus, when the Son of Cronos bare all-glorious Athena in his head. Thereupon queenly Hera was angry and spoke thus among the assembled gods: ‘Hear from me, all gods and goddesses, how cloud-gathering Zeus begins to dishonour me wantonly, when he has made me his true-hearted wife. See now, apart from me he has given birth to bright-eyed Athena who is foremost among all the blessed gods. But my son Hephaestus whom I bare was weakly among all the blessed gods and shrivelled of foot, a shame and disgrace to me in heaven, whom I myself took in my hands and cast out so that he fell in the great sea. But silver-shod Thetis the daughter of Nereus took and cared for him with her sisters: would that she had done other service to the blessed gods! O wicked one and crafty! What else will you now devise? How dared you by yourself give birth to bright-eyed Athena? Would not I have borne you a child—I, who was at least called your wife among the undying gods who hold wide heaven. Beware now lest I devise some evil thing for you hereafter: yes, now I will contrive that a son be born me to be foremost among the undying gods—and that without casting shame on the holy bond of wedlock between you and me. And I will not come to your bed, but will consort with the blessed gods far off from you.’ [Homeric Hymn to Pythian Apollo, translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White, as far as I can tell; this Kindle thing is really kind of hard to navigate through; temporary song, just to give an idea of what the content would be]

The room is silent for too long after the song ends.

Theaspe: What are you hanging about for? Go back inside!

The girls dutifully leave, though Pyrrha lingers at the door, staring expressionlessly in the direction of the table. Because Aias, Patroclos and Lycomedes are all sitting near each other, it’s impossible to see which of them she’s looking at.

Polyphonos: Strange choice of song.

Lycomedes glances at his wife suspiciously.

Lycomedes: Yes, it was.

Aias: Who was the maiden with the red hair? I feel as though I have seen her before.

Lycomedes: Ah, that was Pyrrha. I had not intended for her to take part in this diversion. She was entrusted to me by her mother many years ago, and has been raised with my daughters ever since.

Patroclos: She’s beautiful…but she also looked sad. Is something troubling her?

Lycomedes: She has been a bit melancholy of late.

Theaspe laughs bitterly.

Lycomedes: I’m sure it’s nothing serious. You know how young girls are.

Aias: That last look from her was haunting.

Patroclos: It felt like she was looking into my soul.

Aias: (a bit jealous) Why should she have been looking at you?

Patroclos: I didn’t mean that she—

Lycomedes: She was merely curious about our guests, I’m sure.

Theaspe: I don’t see why our guests should concern Pyrrha, my husband.

Lycomedes: Young girls are naturally curious, my dear.

Theaspe: Perhaps she simply wanted another look at them because they’re such handsome young men.

Lycomedes scowls. Aias and Patroclos both look embarrassed.

Lycomedes: I’m sure Pyrrha is not so shallow as that.

Theaspe: No, I’m sure not. She’ll have been more interested in their fortunes than their faces.

Lycomedes slams his fist into the table.

Lycomedes: That is no way to speak of our guest!

Polyphonos: Sire, perhaps this is not the time to discuss the young lady…

Lycomedes clears his throat uncomfortably.

Lycomedes: Perhaps not. But I don’t want my guests thinking that they will be gossiped of so crudely as—

Theaspe: Crudely? You ignorant dolt!

She rises from the table and storms out of the room. Lycomedes sighs.

Lycomedes: I apologize that you had to witness such a display. She’s normally better behaved than that.

Aias nods silently.

Patroclos: I’m used to that sort of thing. My mother’s the same way.

Polyphonos: I must say, I find the sudden claim of shared blood between yourself and the queen somewhat…hard to believe.

Patroclos: As did I, until just now. But I’ve never seen any other woman act that way before. Must be something in the blood.

Aias starts laughing.

Polyphonos: Your mother never mentioned her sister being a queen?

Patroclos: She never really talks about her family, other than her late brother. But she did say once that she had five sisters, and only the one brother.

Aias: That must be the reason Odysseus asked you to come. He knew about the queen being your aunt.

Patroclos: I guess. Wish he’d mentioned it to me, though.

Aias laughs.

Lycomedes: (suspicious) I thought you were here on behalf of the King of Mycenae. Why should the king of such a remote place as Ithaca have been giving you orders?

Patroclos: Odysseus is one of Agamemnon’s most trusted advisors.

Aias: (chuckling) The most trusted, if you ask Odysseus.

Lycomedes: One hears bad rumors about the man.

Patroclos: I think most of them are unfounded.

Lycomedes: Only most?

Patroclos laughs uncomfortably.

Aias: Will you be sending ships to help recover the Queen of Lacedaemon?

Lycomedes: I can’t come to such a momentous decision so quickly!

He shakes his head.

Lycomedes: That being said, of course, I’m sure that there must be many young men here who would wish to go and make their fortunes in war. I cannot spare many of my own soldiers, and I am certainly not young enough to go myself, but I will provide ships to carry any volunteers from the island.

Aias: You should at least send one of your sons to lead them.

Lycomedes: Alas, I have no sons. My stubborn wife refuses to deliver any. Keeps insisting that it must be my fault that she’s had ten daughters and not a single son.

Patroclos: I think it’s safe to say that she’s wrong about that, sire. It seems to run in the family.

Polyphonos: Oh? Are you secretly a woman?

Patroclos: Of course not! But I do have four sisters.

Polyphonos: My sympathies to your father.

Patroclos: I’m sure he’d appreciate them. He and the king are always moaning about their bad luck in producing offspring.

Lycomedes: Which king would that be? Surely not Telamon!

Patroclos laughs.

Patroclos: Certainly not! No, my father and I reside at the court of—

A servant runs into the room, interrupting Patroclos, and whispers something to Polyphonos, then runs out again.

Lycomedes: What was that?

Polyphonos: As you requested, housing has been arranged for the men aboard the Salaminian ship. They’ve been safely moved ashore, and are being fed.

Lycomedes: Ah, excellent.

Aias frowns, and gets to his feet.

Aias: I want to see to their provisions myself.

Polyphonos: I’ll show you the way, my lord.

Polyphonos rises, and leads Aias out of the room.

Lycomedes: Ah, that reminds me, Diphilos, did you see to the matter I requested of you?

Diphilos: I have been unable to so far, my lord, but I should be able to complete your task instantly.

He rises, and scurries out. Lycomedes frowns.

Lycomedes: I shan’t be able to rest until I have my answer…

He rises, and walks out of the room.

Patroclos: What…?

He looks around. The other courtiers can only look back at him uncertainly.

Patroclos: I suppose the banquet’s over, then.

He, too, rises, and leaves the stage.


Just as the ancient sources say sod-all about Lycomedes’ wife, they also tend to be silent about Patroclos’ mother.  (Uh, in those sources that don’t make him first cousin to Achilles, that is.  In some of those cases, we probably know more about his maternity.  Probably.)  Anyway, given that, I figured it was okay to play fast and loose like this.  Because, you see, Patroclos was not in the play I’m basing this on.  He’s taking the place of a character who was not in the original myth, a character who was the queen’s nephew.  So I decided that, since we know so little of Patroclos’ mother, we could make her the queen’s sister, so he’s still the queen’s nephew.  Stupid?  Yes, probably.  As for the whole bit about the Seven against Thebes, well, that just seemed like an easy talking point, something that everyone would know about, so that they could discuss a lost relation that Patroclos resembled, someone who had died in a manner that everyone present–relative or not–would know about.  It was just a cheap-and-dirty “neither of them is making it up” thing.  I hope it worked acceptably, and didn’t make it sound more fake instead of less.  (It’s hard to judge these things from the inside, y’know?)

 

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