Friday, June 16, 2017
[GBM] Beware of beauty contests
Learning that this tree in Cyprus developed from the (in)famous golden apple, Adonis asks the shepherd, Clizio, to tell him the whole story. This long section, basically the whole of canto 2 of Adone, is the first of the many narrative digressions in the poem---which, not by chance, wound up to be thrice as long as the Divine Comedy. G. B. Marino draws on the many romanticized versions of the myth of the Judgment of Paris that had been worked out already by the later Greek authors, all the way up to the Renaissance poets.
The main facts are well-known: Having not been invited to the wedding of Peleus and Tethis (the future parents of Achilles), the goddess of discord, Eris, throws among the guests a golden apple with an inscription: "To the most beautiful one." Three goddesses, Juno, Minerva, and Venus, appl-y for the position, and fiercely so. Jupiter diplomatically gets out of the quarrel passing the buck to a young outcast, Paris, who however happens to be an abandoned son of King Priam. Paris, bribed by Venus, will choose her in exchange for the love of Helen, the fascinating wife of King Menelaus of Sparta, and therefore cause the War of Troy.
This mix of beauty, youth, love, cunning, rage, and doom, is absolutely in line with Marino's philosophy, all the more so in a story like Adonis'. Later in this poem, Adonis himself will become the King of Cyprus by winning a fixed beauty contest!
As it can be easily foreseen, Marino will insist on the erotic side of the myth, the chaste Juno and Minerva included.