I came across a video of a stage production of a lyric play entitled Cupid and Psyche during my travels through YouTube and watched it along with my study of Apuleius’s version of the story. The video piqued my interest and I decided search for a copy of it online; I ended up finding a Kindle edition which was difficult to read because it seemed like some parts were missing and other parts were different from what I remembered.
The plot of Cupid and Psyche is difficult to follow. Psyche, the young heroine, offends the goddess, Aphrodite, because she disdains love, despite her legions of admirers. Aphrodite enlists her son, Cupid, in her revenge plot, but Cupid cannot bring himself to kill Psyche because he too has fallen in love with her. This sparks a curse which causes havoc on for both gods and men. The Cupid/Psyche storyline is combined with the Aphrodite-Adonis-Persephone love triangle and a Midsummer Night’s Dream esque romantic mix-up involving Psyche’s two sisters and their husbands.
Psyche’s disdain for love is meant to give some agency to the unfashionably passive character from the original myth. It’s the trope of the pretentious girl who is sniffy about romance but somehow has scores of suitors. That guys go crazy for the bookish antisocial type is pure wish fulfilment. But Psyche’s case is not the most egregious example of the trope. I found the characterization of Cupid particularly interesting. The boyish, mischievous Cupid of the myth was darkened to a sexy, amoral bad boy tamed by marriage. Snyder makes an interesting point that though Aphrodite and Cupid are gods of love, they are pretty ass-holish.
Cupid and Psyche has a lot of great elements. It takes a lot of influence from Shakespeare (specifically A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, which Cupid jokingly quotes during his first meeting with Psyche) as well as Greco-Roman mythology. There is plenty of beautiful and erotic poetry among the dialogue as well fascinating plot points and characterization by the story is as unpredictable and arbitrary as the whims of the gods. It was hard to follow but I am glad that I gave it a read.