(CHORUS enters singing)
CHORUS: (singing) Sing of the stout-hearted hero,
son of brave Danae of Argos,
Sing of the mighty adventures,
of Perseus, bold and courageous.
CHORUS: (speaking) Far in the lands to the east,
on the blessed islands of Hellas,
Dwelled two brave brothers in strife,
sons of King Abas the mighty,
Each strove the other to master;
each sought the other to slay,
But Acrisius prevailed in the battle,
and banished his brother forever.
Scene 1 The Temple of Apollo in Delphi
ACRISIUS: Though ruler of this realm I be
My crown stands much in jeopardy,
For I must keep my wealth and lands
Safe from my exiled brother’s hands.
So to Apollo’s shrine I’ve come
To ask the priestess of the sun
What fate betides my future years,
O oracle—allay my fears!
PRIEST: Hail, O hail, Acrisius!
What question brings thee here to us?
What problem has thee hither brought
That thou the oracle has sought?
ACRISIUS: Here I plead on bended knee,
Asking him who reigns on high,
What will befall my house and me?
Who will reign Argos when I die?
PRIEST: Thy fate will be revealed by her
Who doth receive the god’s own word
Inspired by Apollo’s well,
The future will she now reveal.
(The PRIESTESS comes forward.)
PRIESTESS: Long may Acrisius of Argos
pray for an heir to his kingdom,
Long may he wait for a son,
leaving his daughter untended.
But let him watch over his daughter,
and let him beware of her son,
For he shall one day slay Acrisius,
the Fates have determined it so.
ACRISIUS: What fate is this the gods have sworn?
That I be slain by one unborn?
(to the SOLDIER)
Return at once to Argos fair;
Without delay imprison there
My daughter Danae in a cell;
Alone she must forever dwell.
SOLDIER: Indeed, O sire, what thou has willed
Shall by thy servant be fulfilled.
ACRISIUS: The gods have planned this wicked deed
And warned me to take careful heed,
But like a bull I shall resist
The gods’ attempt my life to twist.
In prison shall my daughter lie
Where no man can her e’er come nigh.
There’s no way she a son can bear
Locked up in a dark dungeon lair.
CHORUS: Angry and fearful Acrisius
imprisoned his daughter, brave Danae
But Zeus, the Almighty, espied her,
and to that sad maiden was drawn.
Raining in bright golden showers,
the god came to visit brave Danae,
And there in the dark gloomy dungeon,
her son, bold Perseus, was born.
Scene 2 – On the shores of rocky Seriphos
WIFE: Dictys, husband, can you hear?
What sounds are those approaching near?
Across the ocean’s waters deep
I think I hear a woman weep.
DICTYS: My dearest wife, whate’er it be,
By moonlight clear we soon shall see.
WIFE: Look there, husband—a chest of wood.
Go fetch it safely from the flood.
Let us see who within it lies
Who called us with her piteous cries.
(DICTYS fetches DANAE, who cradles the baby in her arms.)
DICTYS: Welcome maiden; now you are safe;
Come to our home to warm yourself.
DANAE: My humble thanks I give to thee,
Who rescued us from the raging sea.
(DICTYS and his WIFE lead DANAE into their house.)
DICTYS: I pray you tell what brought you thus
To the shores of rocky Seriphos?
WIFE: Here is some wine, and here some cake
Your hunger and your thirst to slake.
There’s time enough to hear your tale
When you have supped and drunk your fill.
DANAE: From far-off Argos come I here
To flee my father’s greatest fear
That made him try his fate to shun
By locking me in a deep dungeon.
Yet prison bars could not restrain
The shower of Zeus’s golden rain.
And thus I bore the son of Zeus
Whom I did name bold Perseus.
When father saw young Perseus,
He wanted to slay both of us;
But fearful of the Furies’ rage
He cast us out upon the waves,
Confident we’d both be slain
His hands kept clean from murder’s stain.
Yet Zeus protected my son and me
And brought us safely here to thee.
WIFE: Dearest one, how ill you’ve fared
Because the Fates your father scared;
But here with us we hope you’ll live
And share in all we have to give.
CHORUS: So Danae and her son were rescued
by Dictys and by his kind wife,
Who opened their hearts and their home
and loved them as they would their own.
Polydectes, the king of the island,
soon noticed the beautiful maiden;
Bragging and blustering he promised
he’d win her and make her his wife.
Scene 3 – Polydectes’s court
POLYDECTES: I am the ruler of this land
Polydectes is my name,
Both life and death do I command
My pleasure to obtain.
My subjects live in mortal fear,
None dares stand in my path,
And when I speak, heed what you hear
Lest you incur my wrath.
When my opponents try to flee
I always track them down;
Why should I spare an enemy
Who has defied the crown?
For I’m the lord of Seriphos
Of bright, undying fame;
I bid, I beat, I loose, I bind,
Forever shall I reign!
(POLYDECTES realizes that he is alone and that his slaves are missing.)
Slave girls, come! You’d best come here!
Do the wretches hide in fear?
Slave girls—come! Come when I call!
Must a king shout to be served at all?
(the SERVANT and DANAE enter)
SLAVE GIRL: We beg thy pardon, majesty;
We came as soon as we were free.
POLYDECTES: As you were free? You are not free!
Not free enough to scorn my call.
When will you learn that slaves must be
Prompt to report whenever I call?
My lash will teach you, then you’ll see
That you must listen hard to me.
SLAVE GIRL: We meant no harm, your majesty—
(after a moment)
And bring my wine to me!
(SLAVE GIRL leaves, DANAE remains at the king’s side)
POLYDECTES: Well, well, my dear—how does it please
You now to bow your lovely head?
You could enjoy a life of ease
If you would be my wife instead.
(to the audience)
As if she could refuse the king!
And I—the king of Seriphos!
Scorned? Rejected? No such thing!
I will not stop short of success.
DANAE: My life is thine, for thou hast claimed
Me as thy slave to do thy will,
But all my love will true remain
To Zeus, whose arm protects me still.
POLYDECTES: Out, out, out! No more from you!
Enough, enough! But when I’m through
You’ll drop from work, you’ll weep in pain
And beg to be set free again.
SLAVE GIRL: Here come thy lords to feast tonight…
POLYDECTES: Begone…begone…BEGONE from my sight!
(three LORDS enter bearing gifts)
POLYDECTES: Welcome, welcome, welcome lords!
1ST LORD: O noble king, long may’st thou reign!
We come thy birthday to acclaim.
To show our love and constancy
These precious gifts we bring to thee.
POLYDECTES: Excellent, excellent! Let us see!
A silver goblet? My thanks to thee!
What’s here? A scabbard for my sword?
Well chosen—thanks, my gracious lord.
Last but not least—a band of gold?
How well it will my arm enfold!
But who’s that standing at the door?
Come in, come in, there’s room for more. . . .
O Perseus? I never thought
That youwould come,
What have youbrought?
PERSEUS: To find my mother came I, lord,
For from her I’ve heard not a word.
POLYDECTES: No present have you for the king?
You have not brought a single thing?
PERSEUS: My gracious lord, pray do me tell
If Danae fares here ill or well.
2ND LORD: Come boy, come show us what on earth
You’ve brought today to prove your worth.
3RD LORD: (with mock indignation)
O let him be—for Perseus
Need only heed his Father Zeus,
1ST LORD: The son of Zeus—now that’s a laugh
Is that this poor boy’s epitaph?
Why does his father not provide
Him with the wealth to suit his pride?
3RD LORD: Yes, Zeus could give him wealth and more,
And make him rich instead of poor!
POLYDECTES: Well—son of Zeus—could you not bring
Some gift to honor me, your king?
The sandals of Hermes, the lyre of Apollo
These would please me—dost my gist follow?
(thinks for a moment)
But such gifts are not hard to get,
So prove yourself much braver yet
By bringing me the Gorgon’s head
And hon’ ring me with that instead!
PERSEUS: So full art thou of pride and hate,
Thy very mouth has sealed thy fate;
The Gorgon’s head that thou hast named
I will bring thee what thou hast claimed.
(PERSEUS turns to go)
1st LORD: Oh me!
2nd LORD: Oh my!
3rd LORD: Should we be scared?
1st LORD: (pointing in mockery) The Gorgon’s head!
2nd LORD: I’m so afraid!
3rd LORD: Me too!
(the LORDS cover their eyes and laugh)
1st LORD: Me too!
POLYDECTES: And so am I!
(to PERSEUS) Oh I am struck speechless in my fright;
You’d better go . . . (PERSEUS does not move)
Begone, begone, BEGONE from my sight!
(the LORDS laugh and continue to act scared of the Gorgon; PERSEUS exits)
CHORUS: Far from the island he wandered
over the landways and seaways
Seeking the home of the Gorgon
but knowing not whither to go.
Perseus, bravest of mortals
thy quest will bring honor and glory
And the gods will give thee sure guidance
for they honor thee, bold son of Zeus.
Scene 4 – On the road to Athens
HERMES: Hail O noble Perseus—
Thou bold young son of Father Zeus,
To thee we’ve come to offer aid
To keep the promise thou hast made
PERSEUS: Who is this that addresses me?
For sure no mortal man is he.
Can I believe this precious sight?
A god all bathed in sweetest light?
ATHENA: Perseus, our brother fair,
Son of Zeus, lord of the air;
We have both seen thy suffering
At the hands of that cruel king
Thy promise made at his insistence;
Thou shalt fulfill, with our assistance.
PERSEUS: And who here now addresses me?
No mortal woman can this be!
Her radiant features shine so bright.
Filled with goodness, truth, and light
(PERSEUS kneels and bows his head.)
ATHENA: Arise now, brother Perseus,
No need to bend thy knee to us.
Sons and daughter are we three
Of Zeus, who reigns in sovereignty.
Thy sister Athena, the wise, am I
And here stands Hermes at my side.
PERSEUS: Blessed am I upon this day
Who met thee here upon my way.
Thou hast my thanks, my love, my trust,
But can’st thou help me on this quest?
HERMES: We will do all that thou dost ask,
Though this is not a simple task.
Far to the west there lies an isle
That thou must seek past many a mile—
But of the path that you must go
We cannot say, nor do we know.
PERSEUS: But how can I the Gorgon slay
If thou can’st not show me the way?
ATHENA: No one knows where the Gorgon lives
Except the three grey sisters old
Directions they to thee will give
Though they will try them to withhold.
HERMES: This sword thou mayest from me borrow
To keep thee safe from harm or sorrow.
And these, my sandals for thy feet,
Will make thy travels sure and fleet.
ATHENA: And here, my shield, O son of Zeus
To aid thee in the battle fierce;
But at Medusa, do not look;
Not even one glance can’st thou take,
For unto stone she will thee turn
If thou this counsel wise dost spurn.
PERSEUS: But how can I Medusa slay?
Athena, tell me more, I pray.
ATHENA: Perseus, to do this deed,
Look into my bright shield and heed
Where thou with Hermes’ sword must thrust;
Thus to my shield thy fate entrust.
PERSEUS: O Hermes and Athena wise
Thy help will speed my enterprise!
I promise thee to do my best
To bring thee honor on my quest.
CHORUS: Far he went to the northlands
traveling alone on his journey
Seeking the three old grey sisters
they know where the way to the west.
One eye and one tooth among them,
are shared by the three old grey sisters,
Whoever would learn all their secrets,
must tooth and eye from them steal.
Scene 5 – The Land of the Grey Sisters
2ND SISTER: Sister, sister, can you hear
The sound of someone coming near?
1ST SISTER: ‘Tis but the wind, the wind I say,
For no one ever comes this way.
3RD SISTER: No no, she’s right, I heard it too;
Give me the eye, to get a view!
2ND SISTER: Give me the eye, I get it next
Don’t try to use a false pretext.
1ST SISTER: Sisters, sisters, stop your squabbling;
It makes my very head start wobbling!
PERSEUS: Hail gray sisters gray, far have I come
To visit you in your lonely home.
3RD SISTER: What’s there? Who’s that? Let me now see
Give me the eye—give it to me!
2ND SISTER: Wait, just you wait, what rush is there?
I want to see who’s coming here.
1ST SISTER: I heard a voice, of that I’m sure
Who can have come, whatever for?
PERSEUS: I am the son of father Zeus,
And men call me bold Perseus.
2ND SISTER: Look at the stranger, lo, forsooth!
Give here, right now, hand me the tooth!
3RD SISTER: The tooth is mine, I know its use
To keep us from his ill abuse.
1ST SISTER: Sisters, sisters, won’t you cease?
Can’t we have a little peace?
Let’s hear all that he has to say,
Then we can send him on his way.
2ND SISTER: Well said, well said; now I can see
A youth of true nobility.
3RD SISTER: If you’ll just give the eye to me,
The tooth I will then give to thee.
2ND SISTER: Take it; careful; take it here;
Now give the tooth—not in my ear!
1ST SISTER: Now sir—we’ve kept you waiting thus
You say your name is Perseus?
PERSEUS: Yea, that it is, and I would know
Where I must travel, where to go
To find Medusa, the Gorgon’s, lair
For I have vowed to slay her there.
2ND SISTER: You will not slay her with our aid!
We have not ever her betrayed!
1ST SISTER: Give me the tooth and I shall show
This man the way that he must go
But not to the Gorgon’s hidden isle,
Away I’ll chase him for many a mile!
(As the 2nd SISTER gives the 1st SISTER the tooth, PERSEUS takes it from her.)
2ND SISTER: And give her the eye, that she defend
The life of our poor Gorgon friend.
(As the 3rd SISTER gives the 1st SISTER the eye, PERSEUS takes it from her.)
1ST SISTER: Where is the tooth? Where is the eye?
How can I bite? How can I spy?
PERSEUS: I have thy tooth, thy eye as well
If thou dost want them, thou must tell
Me how to find Medusa’s home
Then will I tooth and eye return.
2ND SISTER: We have no choice, tell him the way.
THREE SISTERS: O woe, O woe, O woeful day!
Scene 6: The Island of the Gorgons
MEDUSA: Of all those whom the gods have cursed
I am the one they’ve hurt the worst.
For I was young and fair of face,
But they robbed all my charm and grace,
And made me hideous instead—
Ah would that they had struck me dead!
Will no one come to rescue me?
Will no one ever set me free?
Must I forever dwell alone
On this forsaken island home?
Enough O gods! Enough I cry!
Forgive my sins—or let me die!.
PERSEUS: Medusa, I have heard thy plea,
And I have come to set thee free.
(PERSEUS and MEDUSA have a ritualized battle in which PERSEUS slays MEDUSA offstage and returns with her head wrapped up in his cloak.)
CHORUS: Guided by Pallas Athena,
Perseus slew the Medusa,
Death put an end to her torment,
Brought the relief she had sought.
Over the landways and seaways
Perseus returned to the island,
And went to see king Polydectes
Bringing the gift he had sought.
Scene 7: The Court of King Polydectes
POLYDECTES: Well, well, my lords—is it a year
Since Perseus went forth from here?
Yet from him have we not a word
Though of his death we have not heard.
3RD LORD: What can there be for us to learn?
For he will nevermore return.
2ND LORD: Ye need not fret, nor need ye fear
He will not be arriving here
To grace thy house and share thy feast;
Thy pompous guest is long deceased.
1ST LORD: So let us drink a hearty toast
To Perseus, who for a boast,
Went searching for the Gorgon’s head
And ne’er returned, for he was dead!
POLYDECTES: Now Danae, have you thou naught to say?
Your brave young son went far away
And left you here alone to slave;
So when do you expect the knave?
DANAE: Polydectes, make no jest
About my son, whom I love best.
He will return, of that I’m sure,
For he is loyal, brave, and pure.
(Three loud knocks are heard.)
3RD LORD: Is that him knocking at the door?
POLYDECTES: Joke not, joke not, don’t be a boor.
How could it be that young upstart
When he lies dead far from these parts?
(PERSEUS enters, carrying the wrapped up Gorgon’s head.
DANAE runs to greet him )
DANAE: Perseus, you’ve come at last!
O now my grief is fully past,
Each night of this long year I yearned
To know that thou wert safe returned.
PERSEUS: Dear mother, now to thee I’ve come
To rescue thee and take thee home.
Long did I seek, far to the west,
Medusa for whom I did quest.
And now, O king, to thee I’ve brought
The gift that from me thou hast sought.
POLYDECTES: With lies you’ve sought me to betray,
For no man could the Gorgon slay!
IST LORD: Indeed, indeed, we know your kind
Who treasures does pretend to find
And with vain boasts would seek to cheat;
Come lad and show your little treat.
3RD LORD: Say no more, it’s but a joke
Whereby he seeks us to provoke.
We have no time for the devious dog—
For telling lies you should be flogged!
2ND LORD: What did you bring, come let us see!
Perhaps it is a gift for thee.
PERSEUS: A gift for thee and thine indeed,
Who live in falsehood, pride, and greed,
Thou seest that I have come home—
(PERSEUS uncovers the Gorgon’s head)
And with this look, now art thou stone!
(The KING and his LORDS remain frozen in place.)
CHORUS: Thus perished king Polydectes,
whom Perseus mocked and mistreated,
The king who was cold and stone-hearted,
by Perseus was turned into stone.
To Argos bold Perseus then traveled
to find his grandfather Acrisius;
The king fled in fear when he found
that his daughter’s son still was alive.
Scene 8: In Argos
ACRISIUS: For eighteen years have I been hiding
every day filled with foreboding,
And dreading the time has come
for my grandsonwill come home.
Of this life I am so weary;
all my days are dark and dreary!
Never can I truly rest,
because today may be my last.
This life can I no more abide,
so let me cast my fears aside
And go enjoy an hour’s leisure
at the stadium for my pleasure.
CHORUS: In his royal seat sat King Acrisius
saluting the proud discus throwers,
Knowing not that the champion before him
was his grandson, Perseus the bold.
From Perseus’ hand flew the discus
soaring as high as the heavens
Heading straight down towards Acrisius
killing the king where he sat.
Let no one attempt to evade
the fate that the gods have proclaimed;
For the gods will always find ways
to see that their will is fulfilled.
Sing of the stout-hearted hero,
son of brave Danae of Argos;
Let no man forget the adventures,
of Perseus, bold and courageous!
Scenes: 1. The temple of Apollo in Delphi
2. On the shores of rocky Seriphos
3. In the court of King Polydectes
4. On the road to Athens
5. On the island of the grey sisters
6. On the island of the Gorgons
7. In the court of King Polydectes
Cast of Characters:
Acrisius, King of Argos
Danae, his daughter
Perseus, son of Danae and Zeus
A priest of Apollo
A priestess of Apollo
Dictys, a fisherman of Seriphos
Polydectes, King of Seriphos
Grey sister 1
Grey sister 2
Grey sister 3
Medusa, the Gorgon