Pyrrha: A Play, Scenes 20 and 21

Published August 22, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For the earlier scenes, see this page.


Scene: Cliff overlooking the sea (Day)

Pyrrha is marching along past the cliff when Patroclos catches up to her.

Patroclos: Please, listen!

Pyrrha sighs, and turns to face him.

Pyrrha: To what?

Patroclos: I just wanted to explain that it wasn’t my fault. Aias seemed to think that I had tricked the queen into—

Pyrrha: Look, I don’t care what he thought, said or did.

Patroclos: But…you…

Pyrrha grimaces, then looks around.

Pyrrha: This seems like a quiet enough spot. Maybe I can finally tell you.

Patroclos: Tell me what?

Pyrrha: Why Aias was so sure he’d seen me before.

Patroclos: I don’t understand…

Pyrrha: The truth is, I’m—

One of the servants runs in.

Servant: Sir, King Lycomedes has sent me to fetch you.

Patroclos sighs.

Patroclos: Tell him I’ll be there shortly.

Servant: I’m not to return without you.

Pyrrha sighs.

Pyrrha: Even absent, he still manages to meddle. I’ll tell you some other time, then.

She leaves.

Patroclos: Pyrrha…

Servant: Sir?

Patroclos sighs again.

Patroclos: Yes, yes, I’m coming.

Glumly, he heads inside. The servant follows him.

Scene: Megaron of Lycomedes (Day)

Lycomedes is sitting on his throne, glaring at Aias and Patroclos. A number of courtiers stand to one side of the room.

Lycomedes: I don’t like hearing of armed conflict within my palace walls.

Patroclos: I’m sorry, sire. It was a simple misunderstanding. I promise you, it won’t happen again.

Lycomedes: I’ve a notion that I ought to eject the pair of you from my kingdom to ensure that.

Patroclos: But—

A servant runs into the megaron.

Servant: Sire, the traders are here.

Lycomedes: This isn’t really a good time for it.

Servant: They seem most insistent, your majesty.

Aias: You can continue after they leave, surely.

Lycomedes sighs, and gestures towards the door.

Lycomedes: All right, show them in.

The servant nods, and leaves again. Lycomedes looks at Aias and Patroclos coldly.

Lycomedes: You will not be leaving this room until my business with the trader is finished.

They both nod, and move off to one side of the megaron, waiting patiently as the traders roll a large cart into the megaron, though they both wince slightly at the sight of the main trader. The cart is loaded with fine cloth. One of the other traders pulls a small chest out from under the cloth and sets it in front of the throne, opening it to reveal jewels.

Trader: The finest jewelry to be found outside Egypt, sire. I’m sure your queen will be delighted to see such treasures.

Lycomedes: Hmph.

The trader gestures towards the cloth, which is brightly colored.

Trader: No finer cloth than this exists in all the world. Think what fair dresses it could make for your lovely daughters!

Lycomedes glares at the man for a moment, then looks at the cloth.

Lycomedes: (to himself) That blue cloth would look elegant on Pyrrha… (to courtiers) Fetch my daughters here, all of them!

One of the courtiers hurries out of the room. The trader starts displaying different pieces of cloth as he speaks.

Trader: Observe the richness of this purple; the finest to be had in all Phoenicia. Look at the way this cloth shimmers, the richness of the light it exudes. Observe the fine golden strands woven into the—

The trader stops as the daughters of Lycomedes—all ten of them—hurry into the megaron, followed by a gloomy-looking Pyrrha. Aias and Patroclos both pretend not to react to Pyrrha’s presence.

The trader steps aside to let the girls paw through his wares, as he watches them carefully.

Lycomedes: Don’t get greedy, girls. I haven’t decided to deal with this man yet. And don’t rip the cloth!

The girls begin babbling excitedly—and incoherently—as they dig through the chest, and start pulling cloth from the wagon.

Deidameia: Pyrrha, come look at this one! Wouldn’t it make a lovely dress for a wedding feast?

Pyrrha: Is that your idea of a joke?

She crosses over to stand next to Deidameia, looking down into the cart with disgust. But her expression soon changes.

Pyrrha: A shield…? And a spear…what are these doing here?

Deidameia holds up a piece of blue cloth in front of Pyrrha.

Deidameia: Look, it’s just the color of your eyes! It would look so pretty on you.

Pyrrha: It’s fine workmanship…

Deidameia: I’m glad you agree with me, for once!

Pyrrha: This was a master smith’s handicraft. The decorations on the shield are so carefully wrought…

Deidameia: Oh, Pyrrha, please! Pay attention to me for a change!

Pyrrha: The spear looks weighty, like it could crush a man’s throat with ease…

Deidameia: Horrible!

Pyrrha reaches into the cart, then pulls her hands back, glancing over at the trader. He is watching her with considerable wariness. Scowling, Pyrrha sets her hand on her hip, and feigns interest in the cloth Deidameia is holding.

The trader nods to one of his underlings, who scurries out of the room. Moments later, trumpets sound from offstage. Pyrrha jumps at the sound.

Pyrrha: That’s a call to arms!

She grabs the spear and the shield, pointing the spear at the trader.

Pyrrha: Who are you?! Who’s attacking us?!

The trader whistles loudly, and the trumpets stop abruptly.

Trader: No one is attacking you. And, to answer your first question, I am Odysseus of Ithaca.

Pyrrha just stares at him warily.

Pyrrha: Why the ruse?

Odysseus: I knew you wouldn’t reveal yourself any other way.

Pyrrha: I’ve revealed nothing.

Odysseus: Come now, do you see any of these maidens grabbing up arms against the sound of possible invaders? Even these warriors didn’t shift a muscle at the sound.

He gestures towards Aias and Patroclos.

Pyrrha: What does that prove? They know you! They must be in on whatever your scheme is!

Patroclos: No, I’m not—

Aias elbows him into silence.

Pyrrha: Whatever it is you want here, you’re not going to find it. Go away.

Odysseus: Let us dispense with the act. It doesn’t befit your fine birth, and it shames your noble father.

Pyrrha: What would you know of my birth or my father?

Odysseus: What man has never heard of Peleus, grandson of Zeus?

Patroclos’ jaw drops in disbelief.

Odysseus: The tale of your birth to the divine Thetis is already quite legendary, young Achilles.

Lycomedes rises from his throne as Pyrrha takes a step back, jaw wavering uneasily.

Lycomedes: Are you saying that she’s a man?!

Odysseus: Surely a man of your discerning quality was not fooled by such an amateur disguise? Every movement signals him out as a boy.

Odysseus turns back to Pyrrha about the same time that Lycomedes starts turning purple.

Odysseus: Do you not long for the fields of battle? To find your fame in feats of arms, as is your birthright?

Pyrrha: I…

Odysseus: Cast off this disguise that has been shaming you for so many years. Come with us to throw down the walls of Troy, and become a hero to all of Hellas!

Pyrrha hesitates a moment, then rips the dress off, revealing ‘herself’ to be a boy, as Odysseus has stated: ‘she’ is Achilles.

Achilles: If I go with you, you must swear a binding oath!

He points the spear at Odysseus.

Achilles: You’ll tell no one what you saw here! Not one person! If you do, I’ll kill you!

Odysseus bows to the boy.

Odysseus: You have my word. I’ll not mention this shameful disguise to any, not even the gods themselves.

Achilles retracts the spear, with a nod, but he still looks uncomfortable.

Achilles: All right, then. I’m more than ready to leave this place.

Deidameia: Wait, what about me?!

Achilles: You always knew this day would come. Even if these men hadn’t come for me, a few years from now there’d be no hope of keeping up the deception.

Deidameia: But…

She starts weeping, and crumples to the ground.

Odysseus: Ah…that doesn’t seem like an honorable way to treat such a noble young lady.

Achilles: I didn’t ask your opinion.

Odysseus: The other kings will think poorly of you if you don’t take responsibility for your actions with a princess such as this one.

Achilles: Hmm.

Odysseus: If you have had your way with her, then you ought to do the honorable thing and make her your wife.

Lycomedes: (bellowing) Do you really think I’d allow this filth to marry my daughter?! Guards! Kill that man!

Deidameia hurries back to her feet and throws herself between Achilles and her father.

Deidameia: No, Father, you can’t hurt him!

Lycomedes: I can do whatever I want! And I want to see that deceitful man torn to shreds!

Deidameia: But he’s the father of my child!

Lycomedes: (screaming) What?!

He opens his mouth to say more, but all that comes out is a gurgle, and he falls to his knees, clutching his chest.

Deidameia: Father?

The other daughters rush to their father’s side, as do his courtiers.

Polyphonos: Your majesty?! Quick, someone fetch the healers! You lot, get him to his chambers at once!

Several of his daughters run out by one door, while the courtiers pick up the gasping Lycomedes and carry him out of the room. The rest of his daughters—including Deidameia—run out after him.

Odysseus: Hmm. Perhaps it would be best if we took our leave now.

The other “traders” nod, and they leave with Odysseus.

Aias: So this explains how we met.

Achilles: Er…yes.

Aias nods.

Aias: I felt the call of common blood and mistook its meaning. That explains everything. Come, cousin, we’ll be late to sail if we tarry here.

Aias runs out, leaving Achilles and Patroclos alone together. Patroclos walks up close to Achilles, who looks at him with a guilty expression.

Patroclos: I guess a man in my position is supposed to be angry about now.

Achilles: I tried to tell you earlier…

Patroclos nods.

Patroclos: I know.

He looks at Achilles’ face, then looks away uncomfortably.

Patroclos: I think…you might actually be more beautiful as a boy than as a girl…

Achilles: I…I’m not sure what to say to that…

Patroclos: Sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything…

He looks back at Achilles, a determined look on his face.

Patroclos: Was that the only reason you wanted to talk to me so much, just because you wanted to hear about your father and your home?

Achilles: I did want to hear about my father and Phthia, but that wasn’t the only reason…

Patroclos: And everything that seemed to communicate your desire…was it just my imagination…?

Achilles: I…

There is an awkward silence. Patroclos sighs.

Patroclos: Ultimately…did you mean anything you said or did…?

Achilles: Of course I did! (pause) I’ve always tried to find ways not to lie, even in that disguise. I don’t like lying. I meant everything I said.

Patroclos: Did you mean the things that…that were done, not said…?

Achilles: What?

Patroclos hesitates a moment, then lifts Achilles’ face towards his by means of two fingers under the chin. He starts leaning down to kiss him.

Deidameia: (screaming offstage) Father?!

Both men look in the direction of her voice.

Patroclos: Maybe we’d better leave while we still can…

Achilles: Agreed.

They run out of the palace together.


 

And as they sail away to Aulis–or wherever–Odysseus probably hurts himself laughing so hard when he finds out just how very fooled certain parties were by Achilles’ disguise…

Anyway, I hope the prophecy from the beginning was sufficient to explain/foreshadow what happened at the end there?  (I.E. the “grandson of a goddess, born of two mothers” was the unborn Neoptolemos, and Lycomedes has a heart attack, his just desserts for all the wretched things he’s done, like murdering Theseus.  (And, in the world of the play, his attempted ravishment of “Pyrrha,” which was, of course, foredoomed to failure, but it’s not like he knew that when he tried it.)  I know in the myth he’s always alive and well when Neoptolemos is called off to join the war, but…it’s not like this is in any way accurate anyhow, so why not muck around and kill off a jerk like Lycomedes while I’m being inaccurate?  Besides, maybe he’s merely incapacitated by the heart attack, and left a gibbering idiot…though he kind of was one anyway…)

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