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View Full Version : [NSW-Fic] Vanity: A Play in One Act, Four Scenes


Tysyacha
05-17-2009, 11:13 PM
VANITY
A Play in One Act, Four Scenes

(Author's Note: I'm writing this to critique our societal obsession with not only beauty, but a certain standard that everyone, man or woman, must meet if they're to be considered "beautiful". Who is beautiful? Who is ugly? Most of all, is our pursuit of beauty only vanity--all in vain when the end comes?)

CHARACTERS:

ANDROMEDA, virgin daughter of Cassiopeia and Cepheus

CASSIOPEIA, Andromeda's mother, Queen of Aethiopia

CEPHEUS, Andromeda's father, King of Aethiopia

ORACLE OF ZEUS, mystical messenger of the King of the Gods

PERSEUS, hero and slayer of the Gorgon Medusa

PHINEUS, Andromeda's uncle and betrothed

Scene I

(Queen CASSIOPEIA'S bedchamber. CASSIOPEIA sits at her elegant vanity, in front of a tall, wide mirror. ANDROMEDA, her daughter, sits at a table on the other side of the room, playing with a crystal bauble and noticing how it catches the morning sunlight, refracting it. The Queen sighs and speaks):

CASSIOPEIA: Andromeda? Help your mother and comb her hair.

(ANDROMEDA pulls her chair over to sit behind her mother. She carries an elaborate comb, and she untangles her mother's hair during her monologue.

CASSIOPEIA: Am I beautiful? Are my face and body works of art? Do they still inspire men and gods? I fear not, for I'm fast losing my youth. (Lays down her painting pencil, used for applying cosmetics, disgustedly.) Look at me! These sags and wrinkles on my face do nothing to make bards describe me. They write no more ballads about their Queen. And why is that? Do they have no respect for real beauty? Fie on them! They're fools, Andromeda! They only see the loveliness of nymphs, not mortal maids!

ANDROMEDA: (Smiles.) Be calm, Mother. You're still quite fair.

CASSIOPEIA: Fair I am, but fair's not what I want! Fair is for women who have passed the age of love songs, of courtship and admiration. Fair is for those who are only good for bearing babes! Fair is for those who spend their time cleaning and cooking, or else lying about for want of joyful escapades! Ah, my daughter...Do you remember me when I was young?

ANDROMEDA: Aye. There was none more beautiful than thee.

CASSIOPEIA: (Stands up.) And all knew it! There was once a ball that I attended, the southern stars a-twinkle in the Aethiopian night. I was a star myself, the center of attention. It was there your husband saw me, and there we fell in love.

ANDROMEDA: Was he enchanted?

CASSIOPEIA: Instantly! I swear, the moment that his eyes met mine, he swooned a little, like a woman. He asked, "Are you a goddess, or a girl? Are you some sweet figment of my own imagination? Whate'er you are, what is your name? If I don't hear it, I will die!" (Laughs playfully.) I told him it was Cassiopeia. He said, "There is no lovelier name, or lovelier maiden, throughout the entire world! All of Greece will envy Aethiopia once they see you!" And they did. We were married, and then you came. Such sweet bliss!

ANDROMEDA: And now?

CASSIOPEIA: You know what happens now. Your father chases younger nymphs, and I chase dying dreams. Is it not hopeless?

ANDROMEDA: Nay. The nymphs that Father yearns after are hags!

CASSIOPEIA: I'm the hag. The years have taken their malicious toll, and so has marriage. So has the weight of bearing my great crown!

ANDROMEDA: Sometimes it's a great burden to be Queen.

CASSIOPEIA: (Laughs.) A-ha! You're next! May I speak frankly with thee? (ANDROMEDA nods.) Before your father came and wedded me, I feared I'd be betrothed to some ancient patriarch. Some graying stalwart twice my age, who saw me chiefly as a nursemaid, not a wife. How wrong I was, dear! The passion that we had has lasted this long, but now...I wonder if I should have beseeched the gods for that old man. Who is Cepheus but a lecher?

ANDROMEDA: (Slowly.) Father is who he is, and no more. Speak plainly, Mother. Is that why you had me pledge my troth to Phineus? I love him as an uncle, not a future husband. (Steps closer to CASSIOPEIA.)

CASSIOPEIA: Truly, it was Phineus who wished it. He saw you growing into a young maid, and asked his brother if he could have you to wife. The King said yes.

ANDROMEDA: The King is mad! He may be my father, but marrying my father's brother? It goes against the gods, or at least I believe it should!

CASSIOPEIA: Shhh. Andromeda. I understand what your heart says, but his word's law. I would have spoken out against it, but with the King's displeasure hounding me, life would be miserable for both of us.

ANDROMEDA: He has his mistresses...

CASSIOPEIA: Yes, he has his mistresses, his concubines, but do you know what happens when a Queen falls out of favor with her husband for the last time? He casts her full aside, and the daughter that she has borne might go with her. You would do well to wed Phineus. He is your uncle, true, and he is older than thee, but your father is my master. Yours as well, daughter mine.

ANDROMEDA: I'll wed him not!

CASSIOPEIA: I--I'll see what I can do to change his planning, but his will against mine's a losing fight. Bring me some wine, Andromeda. Relax...

machievelli
05-19-2009, 02:00 PM
read

Tysyacha
05-25-2009, 07:53 PM
Scene I Continues

(ANDROMEDA goes offstage and returns with a full pitcher of red wine and a chalice. She pours her mother a cup, and CASSIOPEIA drinks deeply from it.)

CASSIOPEIA: Ah! What vintage! Have a sip, dear. You're of age.

(ANDROMEDA slowly drinks from her mother's cup, her expression a sweet smile crossed with a sudden grimace. She's not used to drinking wine.)

ANDROMEDA: (Laughs.)This sweet wine is still bitter to my taste!

CASSIOPEIA: Do you like it? (ANDROMEDA nods.) Excellent! Now, tell me: Why is it you don't want to marry Phineus, besides his being kin to you?

ANDROMEDA: "In wine, there comes the truth"? Oh, very well...It seems to me that while Father sometimes acts the drunken oaf, at least he's kind. My uncle Phineus is cold. He never laughs or smiles, and there always lies a threat behind his eyes...It's as if he wants to go to war, not against the Spartans or such like, but with all the people that he meets. Has he always been like this? (She pulls her chair up closer to her mother's.)

CASSIOPEIA: I know not, for he is your father's brother. On the other hand, I understand your heart. Every time I see him, Phineus seems to keep his distance--even from his kinfolk, I daresay. When I speak to him, I cringe inside. He is not a drunkard, or a fool, but I sometimes wish he were.

ANDROMEDA: Do you see Phineus often?

CASSIOPEIA: These days, yes. He usually comes to discuss your nuptial arrangements with your father, and when I try to do more than say hello, Cepheus tells me to keep my place. Then I withdraw. I'm almost glad to.

ANDROMEDA: If we both feel this way--unsure and afraid of Uncle Phineus--then why did you let Father consent to my marrying him?

CASSIOPEIA: We must submit to our husbands and fathers in all things.

ANDROMEDA: Because we're women?

CASSIOPEIA: Aye. We are the weaker, fairer sex.

(ANDROMEDA scoffs, taking another sip of her mother's wine. As if on cue, good King CEPHEUS of Aethiopia laughs boisterously and practically waltzes onstage. His face is red with merriment, flushed from drink and carousing. He stands CASSIOPEIA up and gives her a smacking, wet kiss on the lips.)

CASSIOPEIA: (Dryly.) You're flushed with wine and women, I daresay.

CEPHEUS: Shut your mouth! A King's entitled to his joys.

CASSIOPEIA: Those joys include adultery and drunkenness, do they?

CEPHEUS: I said shut your mouth, you haughty snake! Your serpent's tongue ought to be silenced.

CASSIOPEIA: (A challenge.) How?

(CEPHEUS grabs CASSIOPEIA roughly and presses her close to him, kissing her again, trying to move his hands to private places. CASSIOPEIA struggles, firmly shoving her husband away and slapping him hard across the face.)

CASSIOPEIA: You shame me before Andromeda? You slobbering lout!

CEPHEUS: Andromeda's the one I came to see! (Suddenly solicitous.) My dear! My precious treasure, jewel of all the seven seas! How be thee?

ANDROMEDA: I am set, Father. I tell you true--I will not wed Phineus.

CEPHEUS: (As if indulging a child.) What's this? Surely you jest!

ANDROMEDA: I do not. He is my uncle, and I love him as an uncle. As a future husband, I don't love him, and won't take him to my bed!

CEPHEUS: (His tone turns stern.) You do not have to love your husband in order to be his wife. You only must obey him. If I say you will marry Phineus, you will. He is my brother, and he has asked to wed you. How can I deny the one who's been with me throughout my childhood, my dear?

ANDROMEDA: It pains me to know you would deny your daughter...

CEPHEUS: I deny you nothing! Don't you see? You're a princess, yes, but few would have you! The rolls of flesh upon your still-young skin hang down. You eat too much! Do you care nothing about molding yourself in the image of a goddess? Look to Artemis, the virgin of the woods! She's fit and strong, but you are fat and lazy! Look to Aphrodite, Queen of Love! Her breasts are firm, and yours, though large, sag limply! A father should tell his daughter these things, that she should find a husband! You're lucky Phineus desires you!

ANDROMEDA: He does? His eyes, they pierce me through, and I feel small.

CEPHEUS: Small? Your wits are small, you snake's child! I'll see to it that you shall have a son before year's end! You will marry Phineus. It's done!

ANDROMEDA: Is it? What's worth more, your brother's admiration or the consent of your fat, slovenly daughter? I'd sooner throw myself into the sea!

CEPHEUS: You wouldn't...

ANDROMEDA: Yes, I would.

CEPHEUS: Fie! Do not drink from your mother's cup of arrogance and vanity!

ANDROMEDA: Too late! I already have...!

CEPHEUS: (Sudddenly weeping, drunkenly.) Andromeda, I'm sorry...

CASSIOPEIA: You're nothing but a fool, now, aren't you?

CEPHEUS: Silence now, you ugly hag!

(This is more than CASSIOPEIA can take.)

CASSIOPEIA: Ugly hag?! When I've spent hours dressing in fine silks, painting myself from head to toe, to receive your sober attention? When I've spent days planning to visit you in the bedchamber that used to be our own? Now you share it with dozens of leggy girls, leaving me to recline here upon this hard-backed throne! Ugly hag?! You have no right to call me that! I'm as beautiful as they are, and far more! (Disgustedly.) Go and chase your nymphs, your harlots and your mistresses! Your nymphs are the real hags. I am more beautiful than they! In fact, even the Nereids cannot compare to me. Those sea-goddesses are nothing. I am the Queen of all fair maids!

ANDROMEDA: Mother! Do not commit such blasphemy against the gods!

CASSIOPEIA: What blasphemy have I committed, when they permit my own husband to blaspheme me? I say again: The Nereids are far less fair than I!

CEPHEUS: Your words shall bring disaster.

CASSIOPEIA: Out with you! Leave me alone, to primp and polish all the more!