Cassander is a playwright whose play has no meaning. The Graces visit him as he writes, so show him that until he realizes a truth about himself, he shall never save his work.
By Phoebe "DragonWolf" Roberts
"What do you think of when you think of nothing?"
-Thalia, the First Grace
CASSANDER, the Writer
ANDROMEDA, the Constant Memory
THALIA, the First Grace
EUPHROSYNE, the Second Grace
AGLAEA, the Third Grace
DAEMON, the Hero Creation
SELENE, the Heroine Creation
PALAMON, the Honest Memory
(Open to a desk and chair set in the center of the stage. Sitting at the desk is CASSANDER, a playwright, trying to work, but growing increasingly frustrated.)
CASSANDER: Nothing. All of it comes to nothing. Hour upon wasted hour I have labored for a work that would become a play, and yet I stumble on meaning; all hope of feeling falls away. It is not a play but an abyss, limitless before me, and here stand I on the edge, casting thoughts like stones that disappear in the dark. Once I was able to tell great tales and weave tapestries of words, but no more. Now I only hide here inside my head and sit in the emptiness of my thoughts. No, there is no glory left in Cassander.
ANDROMEDA: Surely you do not believe that.
CASSANDER: Ah, Andromeda. I would not have you see me like this.
ANDROMEDA: Oh, Cassander. Even in the secrecy of your own thoughts you would impress.
CASSANDER: An artist would always put forth his best and nothing less.
ANDROMEDA: Artists! Always the fiercest judges of art, and their own more fiercely than any! But no matter; come, to the turn of your labor. What shall you say to me when you tell me of your new work?
CASSANDER: Of this one you would not wish to hear.
ANDROMEDA: I always wish to hear! Tell me your story.
CASSANDER: No story is this- a pretension instead, a ghost ignorant of its own death. Grand gestures and fulsome speeches that play at some great importance and grow into the ground rather than up from it.
ANDROMEDA: Even fledgling eagles must fall before they soar.
CASSANDER: Young eagles have wings, and can dream of a future in the heavens. This is forever bound to earth. I strive to create and come up short. Thoughts race to words but stumble on their way; I cannot track it back, nor onward will it go. I am mired in a chaos of ideas that die from birth, lacking some vital element that would let them grow. And not for the life of me can I tell what I miss. My grace has flown, Andromeda. I say nothing, I mean nothing, I have nothing.
(Enter the Graces THALIA, EUPHROSYNE, and AGLAEA.)
THALIA: Nothing? What do you think of when you think of nothing?
CASSANDER: Deus! What vision is this?
ANDROMEDA: I think you do not dream this up yourself.
CASSANDER: My head is lost in the clouds rather than think of the void on the desk before me. Do I better to think of my audience! What is there for them in this blank and unaffecting wreck, when they must thrill with horror and melt with pity?
EUPHROSYNE: Hear him, sisters! He throws about the words of Aristotle. Would you lecture us on the Poetics, sir?
AGLAEA: To quote is a fine way to sound wise without an original thought. Do you better than that, Cassander. We, of any, know that you are better.
THALIA: Indeed, sir! Who, think you, taught those words to Aristotle?
CASSANDER: Who are you, that you are in my imagination but not of it?
EUPHROSYNE: Do you not know us, Cassander? For how well we know you!
THALIA: When you laid out your dreams in words upon the page, Thalia guided your hand.
EUPHROSYNE: When your work in its passion set souls afire with joy, standing at your shoulder was Euphrosyne.
AGLAEA: And when every heart filled with awe at the splendor of your craft, you bore the favor of Aglaea.
THALIA: We are the Graces, and all that is beautiful falls within our sphere, be it the delicate blushing color of the blushing rose in bloom or the brushstrokes on a canvas, and at their nativity as midwives we attended.
EUPHROSYNE: So were we with you, Cassander. Never more than a whisper in your ear, a whisper calling forth that great power of yours. For we are everywhere there is power to take the hazy drifts of inspiration and spin them wings of words, so that they may fly from the mind and soar to touch the heart.
THALIA: If you have given beauty unto the world, you have stayed a while with us.
CASSANDER: The very Graces, here before me. Why appear you now, if you have ever only whispered?
AGLAEA: You have never needed more. Now, though, a whisper will not do.
EUPHROSYNE: So we reveal ourselves to you, in all our splendor, to show you, dear playwright, that your grace has not flown, for here are we.
CASSANDER: I am lost. What was once my greatest gift and power, to shape words into glory, is lost to me. I know not what to do. It carves my heart hollow.
AGLAEA: Then open it to us, and we pledge to you that we will make it full.
EUPHROSYNE: Know that you have lost nothing. It but sleeps, Cassander, and waits.
ANDROMEDA: Heed them, Cassander. Perhaps they can help you wake it.
CASSANDER: My desperation is plain; it is not for me in this moment to turn aid away. I will hear you. But I do not know what you ask.
AGLAEA: You mean, what you think of when you think of nothing?
CASSANDER: Yes. What is there to think of in nothing? Of blankness, of blackness, of gray or of white?
EUPHROSYNE: You take our words at their face- is anything so simple as that?
THALIA: But all in good time, dear penholder. In the moment, we would attend to your art. Play for us what you have written of your play.
CASSANDER: Play it? I have no actors, and no stage on which for them to act.
ANDROMEDA: Oh, but you have all you need right here. What grander stage is there than the great theater of your imagination?
AGLAEA: We would meet your characters and know their story. From your imagination call them up, as from memory you have called Andromeda.
EUPHROSYNE: Call them so that we might see them come alive. Let us see with what we are dealing.
CASSANDER: It is unfinished besides! My concentration does not bear well to be observed.
THALIA: Nonsense! Ahead with your work, as if it were opening night.
EUPHROSYNE: I shall announce. The honorable words of the beloved playwright Cassander, in a work yet untitled. Enter the players!
(Enter DAEMON and SELENE.)
AGLAEA: Ah, here we are! Come and deliver, friends, so that we may know you better.
DAEMON: Just as you say, esteemed ladies. At our story's center stand I, the young protagonist whose journey you shall follow. I am a question to the world, traveling the epic path in hopes of coming to a truth that I may keep. I am full of wonderings, curious-minded, and dreams draw me up to while away the nights. I walk where ideals do carry me, and they shape my every breath and step. Call when you have need of me, ask what you will of me, for I will be your champion and as a dear a friend as any man ever had. There is no good for which I will not strive, and never was there a hand extended open that I will not clasp. Master Cassander, your servant, sir- Daemon, your hero.
THALIA: Welcome, Daemon, and well met. Now you, fair one.
SELENE: Even so, good mistresses. I too stand at the center of these happenings. I am she into whom all young girls would one day grow. All virtues live in me and shine in such brilliance that some say the sunlight is made of my smile. I do not walk but I seem to dance, as if the very pulse of life were melody, and so carry that song that I shall have music wherever I go. In all things I search for the glimmers of good, however faint and pale, and it is my power to draw out the light from even the most limitless dark. Master Cassander, your servant, sir- Selene, your heroine.
EUPHROSYNE: Welcome, Selene, and well met.
ANDROMEDA: Daemon and Selene, most excellent. May we now begin?
CASSANDER: I am ill at ease with such an audience. I am accustomed better to those I know shall not steer me false.
PALAMON: For that, you may ever count on me.
CASSANDER: Palamon! You too join me in my low moment?
PALAMON: I must, old friend, if you would have the frankness you need. You cannot think of me but think that I have ever given you my honest thoughts, and therefore I am the audience you imagine. If your work calls for a critic, then even in your head, I am as ever your man.
CASSANDER: Is there no one but him?
THALIA: He comes from your thoughts, only by your will could you have called him.
PALAMON: Gracious ladies, you shall have to pardon my dear Cassander; he is a little mad, but of course all geniuses are. My friend, you call me now because you know that speaking well or ill, I always spoke the truth.
(PALAMON notices SELENE.)
PALAMON: And I must say, Cassander, your words have never so come to life! How now, apple-cheeks. Any man would fill his thoughts with you!
CASSANDER: Have off, Palamon.
PALAMON: Have off, Cassander. Can you not see I am admiring your work?
CASSANDER: Oh, this whole enterprise is witless!
ANDROMEDA: Spare him only this once, Palamon.
PALAMON: For your sake, my dear. There, Cassander. I shall sit beside our sweet Andromeda, and hold my peace, and when all is said and done my opinion I shall render.
EUPHROSYNE: Very good, sir. We are in most proper company, then!
AGLAEA: All our conditions are met.
THALIA: Splendid! Play the play!
CASSANDER: Very well.
(CASSANDER gestures to them to begin. SELENE moves center to announce the scene and setting.)
SELENE: Scene three from the second act, beneath the branches of an oak tree.
(While the others look on, SELENE and DAEMON come to the forefront and take their places to begin. They look up as if at a raven.)
SELENE: Why, Daemon, would you look! A bold raven o'er perches us, fluttering in graceless arrogance on yonder hanging bough, making the merriest row! How I smile to see his tricks!
DAEMON: My lady has room in her heart for even these rough ungainly creatures.
SELENE: Oh, but they are not so hard to love. There is an honesty to a plain black bird, a straightforwardness to them so coarse and brash, to be aware and unashamed. They are souls without pretension, and in themselves content.
DAEMON: Would that we all could be so. And would that no power on earth could take it from him. That he could love his song enough to cry it out, though on the ears of all mankind his voice falls hard and harshly.
SELENE: He sings for joy, then, if not for the worthiness of his song.
DAEMON: But what of those who hear him? I fear they would have naught but cruel barbs and harsh critique, fit to strike him silent. When met with scorn is all he brings, what defenses does he have? To tuck his crest 'neath his dark wings, with only the gloss of his feathers to ward off their disparagement. Could he bear then to continue on?
SELENE: I think Master Raven good to share his joy with us. Has a raven any less right to sing, when God gave him a voice like any other bird?
DAEMON: But God has not given all birds voices alike. Some like the nightingales and doves he made sweet and pleasing to the ear, but the raven, though clever and quick, was never meant to be a singer. In all who hear him he sees his ruin ahead, and is helpless to stop it.
SELENE: How joyless and small-souled must be they who would deride a humble raven. Rather would I hear his rough and rosy tune than no music at all! The world is happier for his happiness, and that they would seek and destroy with the venom of their envy.
DAEMON: It is, after all, a grand presumption for a coarse black bird to sing as if he were a nightingale. And even if he sings for joy alone, of what joy has he left to sing, when all who hear him tear him down?
SELENE: Is song only for nightingales, then?
DAEMON: The nightingales may see it so.
SELENE: We would find the skies a dull place, if only borne were wings of downy white. Even if not all are meant to soar.
DAEMON: Still, is a weighty task for a simple raven.
SELENE: He cannot help what he is. He is only a raven, after all.
DAEMON: He has your pity, then.
SELENE: Yes, I suppose he does.
DAEMON: Of course. It only follows. It is as much as any mere raven can hope. He does not so much as have it in him to be bold.
SELENE: Not a raven, then. A man or a woman- what of their boldness?
DAEMON: There the weight is greater still, for mankind cares more in their cruelty to fellow man than to bird, and their calumny is deeper. Master Raven must hurt only in the here and the now, while man's aches may be carried with him forever.
SELENE: It reflects sadly on our race that man so readily sets upon the weakness of his fellow, if only so that he shall not be next attacked. When such cruelty of feeling would drive us to our knees, it is only by our own strength that we may stand. Do we not carry better things as well? Things to save and see us through our pains?
DAEMON: What stays with us, that we may take from it such strength?
SELENE: That which means something, I suppose, something higher than what you may hold in your hands. (She thinks a moment.) Purpose.
DAEMON: There is a high thing indeed. It has wrought heroes of many an ordinary man.
SELENE: When it matters so deeply that before it no fear can stand.
DAEMON: It must be purpose dear indeed, that it should overcome and conquer so much. Ideals shored up by the bones of the heroic dead, sacrifices made in courage all for service to the right.
SELENE: There is great valor in that.
DAEMON: But we are not all so good that it alone may carry us.
SELENE: What of the passion of it, then? Passion stays with us.
DAEMON: Ah, passion. Fire that ignites from our joys and burns to consume the soul. All that we are is warmed by its light.
SELENE: Can purpose live without passion? The one sets us to the other, imparting to us the strength to follow it, and driving us on to uphold it.
DAEMON: Think you that it must? What if passion lives in the dark and the silence, where nothing may come of it because it is not for others to see?
SELENE: Then it is a most cowardly passion, and unworthy of the name. It may only spark for a moment and then burn out. That fire we must light from the best of us, and in the end make us better.
DAEMON: Oh, but there is a wonder about you, that you believe so deeply in that right.
SELENE: The right should not be a wonder but the all and everyday. Would that all the world would at every moment seek it out, and do all the best there is to do.
DAEMON: It is not for me to say.
SELENE: Could you ever be so bold?
DAEMON: Not even were I bold as brass. Perhaps better to know one's place and be contented there. I suppose I must extend my compassion to our friend the coarse black bird. He is, as you said, only a raven, and he may be nothing more.
SELENE: There can be no wrong in compassion.
DAEMON: I would try to be kind when I know no better.
SELENE: The stoutest heart and the thickest head.
(CASSANDER stops the play.)
CASSANDER: Enough, enough. They have heard all they need to hear.
(There is some scattered applause, but CASSANDER waves it off.)
ANDROMEDA: There is much thought lurking beneath the matter of the raven. A most ponderous and charming conceit. Who do you mean by it?
CASSANDER: Your kindness measures to legend. But there is the trouble! I know not what I mean.
PALAMON: In all your fine words, in all those poetic wonderings, you mean that you had intent to say nothing?
CASSANDER: All of it, glorious means to an inglorious end. To no end at all. They talk while they flounder in the irony of their speech. Your purpose is passionless and your passion without purpose!
DAEMON: We too feel it, master. We miss something, and we know not what.
SELENE: As if we walk and walk, yet we have no destination.
PALAMON: Why is your story so aimless?
CASSANDER: It is the strangest thing, like nothing I have ever encountered in my work before. No destiny will meet them.
AGLAEA: Is this uncommon to you?
CASSANDER: Unknown to me. It has always been that my tales would speak their own paths. Destiny lay itself out before me, not so much a matter of creation as discovery, like I had found some secret vein of beauty, of truth. I had only to tap it, and no words than mine could faster flow. Inspiration near to the divine sprang fully formed and perfect into the world, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. I needed only the pen to write it, and the feeling was beyond compare. Why has it abandoned me?
ANDROMEDA: It cannot have simply withered and died away. I know you have it somewhere in you.
CASSANDER: Ah, Andromeda, always my most heartening friend. But I fear that I have lost it, if ever it was there.
THALIA: Come now, you know better than to think that you never could write.
EUPHROSYNE: After all, have you not done it before? We were there all the while at your last work, and oh, what true art you had wrought in that play.
AGLAEA: How you poured your heart and soul into it.
THALIA: Finished as no written word is ever finished.
CASSANDER: So that even I could hardly believe I had written it.
PALAMON: Recall the night it was first played. All of us your friends had come; myself, Delta, Marina, Zephyrus, and the rest.
THALIA: And of course Andromeda.
ANDROMEDA: My eyes were bright that night. Do you remember, Cassander?
CASSANDER: I remember.
AGLAEA: And when the curtain rose, your heart rose with it.
EUPHROSYNE: Every heart rose with it.
ANDROMEDA: There was a wonder about it, a wonder the likes of which we had never seen.
CASSANDER: A depth of beauty and truth that no other could touch, but my words could hold.
PALAMON: It was a triumph, Cassander.
EUPHROSYNE: And there it was on the stage for all the world to see.
ANDROMEDA: There was your triumph and there was I looking on, eyes wide and bright with that wonder.
AGLAEA: Everything you ever dreamed it would be.
THALIA: And for one matchless moment in time, all the world was perfect.
CASSANDER: Perfect, and reflected in Andromeda's eyes.
ANDROMEDA: How vividly you recall it.
CASSANDER: It becomes you. Whenever I think of you, the Andromeda of that night is the Andromeda that I see.
ANDROMEDA: Is that why I am never so beautiful in the world as I am here in your thoughts?
(CASSANDER doesn't know how to respond; he'd never thought of that before.)
AGLAEA: Here, now we find the joy in you. Is there not some hope in that, in the triumphs you know you have had?
CASSANDER: Yes, that is my triumph and my joy. I come often to that memory.
EUPHROSYNE: We suspect part of you has never left.
CASSANDER: Can you blame me? To have brought such a wondrous thing to life, and to find it grander and more beautiful than I could believe. It was heaven-sent. A miracle.
SELENE: Oh, Cassander, how glorious. Is that what all your plays have become?
CASSANDER: All but one.
SELENE: Why is that miracle not for us? Can you not unbury it? Think of that feeling, sir. That we are more than mere thoughts in your head, mere words on the page, but something so rich and full that it is as if we have souls and spirits of our own, whose journeys are revealed to you as if written in destiny.
CASSANDER: Like all truth had settled in my hands, and I could no more change it than the color of the sky.
SELENE: The feeling that that your creation is very nearly real.
CASSANDER: Like it ran deeper than mere invention, and meant more.
(SELENE takes CASSANDER's hands.)
SELENE: The feeling that we have all but come alive. Why do you deny us that, and yourself?
THALIA: Ah, to the belly of this beast. Why, Cassander?
EUPHROSYNE: What matters so deeply to you that for its sake you would artist vision betray?
AGLAEA: What truth do you find here?
CASSANDER: I find nothing.
EUPHROSYNE: And so we must ask again... what do you think of when you think of nothing?
CASSANDER: Again with your riddles! I have things enough to puzzle out. I do not mean to betray anything... I do not believe I have found it!
ANDROMEDA: You, then. What truth do you feel? I listen to your words and I hear sadness there, and I must wonder why.
THALIA: A most excellent idea. Tell us, hero.
DAEMON: I feel... I know not how I feel, lady, and that is what troubles me. I feel full, full to bursting, and yet unfulfilled and empty, all at once. All that I am it overbears, like there is something within me that cries out for release. I stand on the verge, but I cannot take forward the steps so that whatever it is I might meet, and so it can find no way to express. It pervades me, has pervaded me from the very moment of my creation... and I still cannot give it a name.
SELENE: It confounds me, this secret struggle inside him. We speak, and yet I am never sure just what is said. There is some deep asymmetry at work here, so that when we approach one another our meanings do not line up.
DAEMON: I feel it, master, and I feel it within me. I cannot express myself to her, no matter how I try. I think that I am somehow incomplete.
CASSANDER: Incomplete. Is that so? You think? Will wonders never cease! Behold, verily, the lame shall walk, the blind shall see, and the idiotic shall think!
DAEMON: Scorn me all you like, but I am only as you made me! When you who conceived of me cannot see what I am, what hope do I have?
EUPHROSYNE: After all, they can say only what you have made them to say.
CASSANDER: I swear I shall go mad for this. And it all comes back to the three of you! Is this like to all the Graces have wrought? Is it your mischief that drives so many writers to spiral into alcohol and suicide?
THALIA: Why? Do you feel yourself heading in that direction?
PALAMON: Ha! Hark, Cassander- what is the surest sign that a writer is soon to die?
CASSANDER: The world has taken interest in his work. You are all my memory here, Palamon, you can tell no joke that I do not know. So do you be silent!
PALAMON: Oh, ever the dour one, wrapped in his own gravity and insensate to any levity around him. Even snow will melt in warm sun, but not you. It does you no good to be so bitter! Better thoughts come from a better frame of mind. We need a moment of cheer!
(He takes SELENE in his arms.)
PALAMON: Now our Selene looks made for merry capers! Come, lady, call up your raven and have him sing us a rough and rosy dancing tune!
(PALAMON and SELENE dance.)
PALAMON: Now you, Cassander! Take our Andromeda by the hand and whirl her around!
CASSANDER: No, no, not I. I do not dance.
PALAMON: Then you, sir knight! You would not be so churlish and leave a fair maiden with no swain at a dance!
DAEMON: Anything for a lady!
(DAEMON and ANDROMEDA join the dance.)
PALAMON: Now here is vigor better spent!
(THALIA, EUPHROSYNE, and AGLAEA remain back with CASSANDER while he jealously looks on. At some point through the following dialogue the partners switch, so that DAEMON ends up dancing with SELENE and PALAMON with ANDROMEDA.)
CASSANDER: Still you three are here?
THALIA: We should hate to have left you alone with your thoughts.
CASSANDER: Any more of this aloneness and I shall have had my fill of company forever, with their chatter and their opinions.
AGLAEA: How plainly speaks Palamon, how straightforward and with such sincere intent.
CASSANDER: So he always has. I often call on him in reality, when I must have the simple truth of a matter. He has a talent for blunt expression. I could never so pare things down to that, their most clean and honest form.
EUPHROSYNE: You mean that for all your talent to spin words in their complexities, their mere simplicities elude you?
CASSANDER: Words in their very nature confound me at this, all the more because I am their student. How can I speak just what I mean, when one assembly of letters can express ideas in such wide array? As only the writer may know the depth of their power, only the writer may know their crudity and limitation. I take downy thoughts, too dainty and soft to live without the mind, and spin them into threads of rough words that when sewn up make but pale emblems of the truth of my feeling. They are approximations only, rough and inexact, that no two minds may mark the letters and take quite the same truth.
THALIA: It is easier, then, to leave your meaning obscure than to lay it out plain.
EUPHROSYNE: Left shrouded in language, with intent twisted up.
AGLAEA: You would do well to remember what you have told us when we ask again what you think of when you think of nothing.
CASSANDER: So we return to that. Still I cannot answer. Perhaps better I would understand it if phrased in Palamon's terms. Would that the three of you and I could express ourselves so plain.
THALIA: You envy, then, his song as well as his dance.
(CASSANDER reacts to this, but cannot pursue it as the dance has ended. Each gentleman bows to each lady, who curtsies in return. THE GRACES applaud, CASSANDER remains unhappy.)
PALAMON: Ah, great sport! Your thoughts are a merry place indeed today, old friend.
AGLAEA: For all but the thinker.
CASSANDER: To romp is all well and good, but it brings me no closer to saving my play, or even to answering your riddle! It is all beyond hope! I am beyond all hope!
THALIA: Then you are just cursed as the House of Cadmus, are you?
PALAMON: So he would believe rather than work to solve this. It is the poet in him. There is no poetry in sensibility like there is in exquisite desperate agony.
CASSANDER: Oh, no more from you!
PALAMON: You make a mistake, you know.
CASSANDER: Just one? I am improving.
PALAMON: Come now, Cassander, credit me this- I have uttered no lie to you, and well you know it. You cannot even imagine your Palamon to as a liar speak.
CASSANDER: That is so.
PALAMON: Therefore your consideration I have earned. (mocking CASSANDER) If I may speak freely?
THALIA: We're all of us friends here.
PALAMON: It is my most sincere belief that the man who will suffer in bitter anger, turning bullheaded from any hope for solution, only buries himself deeper in the troubles he would escape, and only then all hope for him turns to ashes. He deserves his fate, and I have no opinion of him.
CASSANDER: Ah, but I think you have a very strong opinion. As always.
PALAMON: Ah, it is a wonder I may ever reach you. He thinks me as shallow as a lazy man's well. But why should he not? After all, who I am? I am only he that Cassander has called up here to deal with him honestly. Blunt, simple Palamon, speaking his mind like a fool, without the wit to lie and placate as clever men do. Let us not heed him, he knows no better than to tell the truth.
CASSANDER: To that, whatever can I say?
PALAMON: Words are your province, friend, not mine.
ANDROMEDA: You do him injustice, Cassander. Do not refuse to talk with him because he has done only what you asked.
EUPHROSYNE: Though I daresay Palamon finds lively conversation with only himself.
CASSANDER: Of course. He finds such talk interesting and hardly ever disagrees with what is said. Would that I could find the same in my own head! Ah, I see no end in sight to this and I never will. I despair of this work in its entirety. It is a hopeless wreck plagued by such wrong as can be solved only with lamp oil and a match!
(SELENE and DAEMON react with a start.)
DAEMON: Come, master, good judgment can't keep up with haste!
SELENE: But wait a little, sir. Do not abandon us so soon.
THALIA: Let us find the cause of your dilemma.
EUPHROSYNE: Focus, Cassander. Why can they go no further?
AGLAEA: Why can you go no further?
ANDROMEDA: To my eyes you have become stranger to your own work. What it is and what you had intended have parted long ago. But perhaps this is part of your discovery as its author; perhaps it is not lost to you. Daemon has evolved beyond your intention, but do you understand Selene?
DAEMON: To look on her, what was I meant to see?
AGLAEA: You made her. What do you see?
CASSANDER: I wrote her as a heroine, wise and good, deserving of all the admiration in the world. In truth, an ideal.
ANDROMEDA: Is she perfect, then?
CASSANDER: She is not perfect... but she is meant to be. In all my life, I have only ever known one better.
DAEMON: I cannot imagine better than her. That is why I am so sorry that I cannot reach her.
CASSANDER: What of you, her unworthy servant? Have you lost sight of what purpose you have? You are meant to save her, to protect her, as a hero should, and yet she finds you a tangle she cannot understand. How can you fail her, when all her hopes rest on you?
PALAMON: Are they not close enough to understand one another?
CASSANDER: Not so close. Kindly as she speaks, she never thinks of him but when she lays eyes on him.
DAEMON: That I know all too well.
SELENE: I know not what to make of you is the truth of it. Whoever you are you fear to be because you would not dare the presumption.
DAEMON: Presumption- this word you force often through my throat, master, but it hangs ill-fitting and unnatural on my frame. I think of what I said of the raven, that he is wisest not to sing, and I am not content with what I have pronounced. Is this notion worthy? Is it right that I should believe in such... silence?
SELENE: What is it that he so fears to presume?
ANDROMEDA: To live in such fear is not to live. How it must bind you. How many dreams must slip through your hands. Look, Cassander, what this fear has made of Daemon.
DAEMON: In being how I am I have disappointed Selene, and that tears at me. All she wanted, I would be. She fills my thoughts, springs to my mind unbidden, carried always and a burden never. Nay, rather... the thought carries me. To know that I have given what she needs of me, that I have been that hero- this would mean joy till the end of the world, a smile to shape my very last breath. What can I call that?
ANDROMEDA: Daemon, like what does it feel?
DAEMON: It feels as if... it feels...
PALAMON: Why, Daemon, what do you find?
DAEMON: It feels as if I love her.
SELENE: Can this be?
ANDROMEDA: Cassander, why have you hidden this?
DAEMON: At last it is clear. Here is the key, the answer to the mystery of myself. All of it, I feel for love of her. Master, why did this I not know?
CASSANDER: I did not mean it so!
EUPHROSYNE: They are as you wrote them.
AGLAEA: As any character must be.
CASSANDER: This blindsides me!
THALIA: Tell me, Cassander, will destiny not meet them... or is it that they will not meet destiny?
CASSANDER: This is no matter of destiny as I spoke of it.
ANDROMEDA: Then however can this be?
CASSANDER: I... I cannot say. I never meant this, and from where it comes I cannot guess.
THALIA: From where love comes, does anyone ever know?
DAEMON: Master, why are you distressed? Is this not the answer? Does this not save everything?
CASSANDER: Save it? This only twists it further!
DAEMON: But does this not reveal what was missing all along?
CASSANDER: I will write this out of you. You are not meant to be in love.
DAEMON: Surely you cannot mean that!
ANDROMEDA: You would not consign him to such a fate!
CASSANDER: There is nothing else to be done. I do not so much as know from whence all this came. I can make neither head nor tale of my own creation! Ah, what a dog am I.
PALAMON: Not so. I never had even a dog that ran away so much as you.
CASSANDER: Run away? How do I run away?
PALAMON: From the moment the Graces came and set you to this task, you fought it and tried to force it down. Even now you will not seek it out and look it in the eye! Meet it, Cassander! Stand and deliver! You must do this work!
CASSANDER: I cannot bear this!
ANDROMEDA: I see a heart at war with itself. It tears you so that you can make sense of nothing.
PALAMON: What tears you? Is it pain that moves your thoughts so ill? What pain could it be?
THALIA: They say for the truth of the meaning of written work, look into the heart of the penholder.
CASSANDER: There is nothing hidden in my heart.
PALAMON: Here is your tragic flaw, that even in the safety and sanctity of your own thoughts you will not say it. Go on and lie away the pain. How can you deal honestly with the fate of your work when you cannot even deal honestly with yourself?
DAEMON: It is beyond me to believe you could do this. Ah, Cassander, how I could despise you.
CASSANDER: I created you and all your troubles. You are entitled.
SELENE: But that is not enough. You think that by denying him you are saving me, but with this stubborn refusal you do wrong me as well. Cassander, you who have crafted my essence and dreamed my every thought should know me as no one ever could. So tell me, master. Am I no good soul? Is there some great wrong in me?
CASSANDER: No, lady, never.
SELENE: I can make no sense of your reasons. That I am to be his ruin you cannot believe otherwise, yet you call me near to perfect!
CASSANDER: No more and no less than you are.
SELENE: Then why is wrong that he should love me?
EUPHROSYNE: Oh, but there is spirit indomitable in this one! Good that you have given her such fire! Answer her, Cassander.
CASSANDER: It is only that I know this will end in sorrow. Better men than he do not deserve so high and matchless a woman, and in his presumption blinds himself with lies.
SELENE: That is praise from Caesar! What of the lies you've told yourself? You bury our feeling because you have only ever buried your own. You build us to love and to be loved, and then tear it away. You have built him to love and will not allow him. Is all this agon in that I am not built to be loved? Am I its original?
CASSANDER: Never! His follies can be no fault of yours!
DAEMON: Follies? Is it folly that I love her? Is she not worthy of all adoration?
CASSANDER: I find fault not in her but in you, but you will not hear me! What can I say to show you your mistake? Now that you've heard your drums and seen your dancers, how can I tell you the madness of your hope?
DAEMON: We are no more than creatures of your invention, so you may command and we cannot but obey. But you spoke once of the glory of discovering that the likes of her and I, your creations, could tell you where we will go and what we will become, that we could demand of you our destinies. But you have come only half so far as I would go- you have put this in my heart and you will not let me live it. Master, I tell you now. I demand it now. From the truth you have written in me, I know this is for what I am meant.
CASSANDER: Your wish is not meant to be, and it cannot. You presume too much.
DAEMON: Again that hateful word presume! I know that I presume! It is only the truth. Look inside me, master. Can you tell me it is not true?
CASSANDER: It is not to be.
DAEMON: Then tell me it is not true. Then I will leave it.
CASSANDER: Enough of this!
DAEMON: Tell me it is not true! You cannot!
CASSANDER: Enough! I can bear no more. This finishes now.
THALIA: What do you mean to do?
CASSANDER: I shall burn it to smoke and ashes and bad memories, as I should have from the first!
THALIA: Have you learned nothing?
CASSANDER: I would never think of it again!
(CASSANDER moves to burn his manuscript. No one expected this, not even THE GRACES, and all are frozen in shock, except only ANDROMEDA.)
ANDROMEDA: No! This is not how this ends!
(She stops him.)
ANDROMEDA: To feel or not to feel? This you would even ask? Remember we your audience that must thrill with horror and melt with pity. What shall move us to that? It is feeling. Think of the wasted hours you have struggled against the beauty in the story you have built. Think of the feeling you may inspire at the telling of such a tale. Here is epic love, Cassander, a love at which the very sky held its breath. Can you tell me you do not dream of it? Before you lies a chance to make something of words. So many words end where they begin; they are ships that pass in the night, making their course and disappearing as if they never were. Only words on the page may endure, and even then only when there is some significance they carry. Nothing common do you say or mean, Cassander. You are blessed that you may fill them with power that in the hearts and souls of those who hear them they shall be forever carried on. From what comes that power, that they may leave their indelible mark? It is profoundness of feeling, love most deeply of all. Here is truth deeper than the sea. What does it take so that the world may live happily ever after? There is only love.
CASSANDER: How can it be that I, with all my skill and all my power to weave words into miracles, can think of nothing to say? I feel I'm diving into driving rain. To that, with what can I rejoin? There is nothing to dispute. But it is not so simple. Ah, you make a mess of me. What is there for Daemon to do, when his soul is filled with she who is all glory, and all pain?
PALAMON: Would so rare a woman hold his heart so roughly?
CASSANDER: Perhaps not. Perhaps she will gentle, in her infinite compassion, and speak in soft words to break his heart slowly rather than all at a violent shot. And she will be sorry for him her pathetic beast, sorry to her soul, so that he may never look at her but see the pity in her eyes. (To DAEMON) Poor wretch, she will deem you unworthy, and she will shatter you.
DAEMON: And what if she does not?
CASSANDER: She will!
DAEMON: Have you written it so?
CASSANDER: No, but I see not how it could be written any other way. Women like them do not love men like us.
DAEMON: I cannot be content with that! To live and know that for the woman I love I have never dared to try? To echo words older than I am, faint heart never won fair maiden. Must we not be willing to suffer all hurts for those we love? For her I would suffer this hurt. I fear to speak may break me, but this is a greater thing than fear, more right than any rightness I have known. Her goodness has so long stayed with me, held close to my heart, that I feel that I am stronger for having carried her. So that I could not only love her, but I could beg her to love me.
CASSANDER: Do you dare?
DAEMON: I do not dare not to dare.
CASSANDER: You presume much, to offer yourself to a perfect woman. Such presumption I can hardly comprehend.
SELENE: If he does not offer, how will he know?
CASSANDER: Could ever you love him?
SELENE: That remains to be seen. I have not grown yet so that I so may know; our story has not gone on far enough. But I do know this. I shall search for the answer to the very depths of my heart, if only you give me leave to discover it. However I answer his song, whether I find him a raven or a dove, I promise you his singing I will not scorn.
DAEMON: Hear her, master. I cannot look on her and believe it could be otherwise.
CASSANDER: Of course. How could you, of one such as her? But therein lies the heartache. She is too good. That is the truth of women like her. As near to perfect as this mortal plane will see, created but a little lower than the angels. And what are we, Daemon, mere men the likes of you and I, to be deserving of that? It is too high, too far above. You may only gaze up at such brilliance, as do we on earth at the sun. And the sun drives you downcast ere long, too bright for unworthy eyes. To approach is not for me, I would not presume, too heavy with fear of what may come of it. For what boldness it demands, boldness so distant and unnatural to me! To climb, and stand out on that precipice which I have never dared ascended, only dreamed of base and safe from my hidden self below, and stand closer to the sun than ever one such as I belongs. To stand there, laid bare to the bone, all that I have buried brought into the bright glare of the light of which it dreams, from which it hides, on which it was never meant to look. And what will come of it I may only wonder, wonder as I have for so torturous long- if I were to stand before the glorious sun, if it shall warm me to my soul or leave me in ashes. But I cannot know to save myself; not until it is too late to be saved. Not until uncertainty's ache may stand before the fear of the pain if I am turned away. Blinded in the light, I may only speak, as if I am worthy to speak, and offer up myself, such as I am. And I call up the words, great words, mere words, that have lived so long without voice, words I have dreamed to say but never said. But then I see that, for this truth, there are no words. Not for me. No matter what I say, but just what I hear. For in that ultimate moment, all the power of all the words that ever I have written shall mean nothing, nothing to compare with that power held in one small word over me. With the fear of that word that has held me in silence all this time. On this all of me depends, that I am warmed or burned, that I am built up or broken- all that I am, to be made with a word, and with another, unmade.
CASSANDER: And you, fool, would brave the risk and hear it?
DAEMON: If I have the courage, master, I would be that fool.
CASSANDER: For all that I have wished, words as brave I have never said.
ANDROMEDA: So you are the same as he, but on your knees.
THALIA: It is because Daemon has found it.
CASSANDER: Found what?
EUPHROSYNE: Why, the answer to our question.
AGLAEA: The source of all one's strength and inspiration, the well of one's courage.
THALIA: What you hold so deeply in your heart that you are never without it.
EUPHROSYNE: That which is so precious it remains still in the depths of your thoughts.
AGLAEA: Even when you think of nothing.
CASSANDER: That is the meaning of what you asked?
THALIA: Very astute. Late, but astute. Yes, Cassander, there it is. The question you yourself have tried to explore, though under a different name, in the words of your confounding play. You have known it all along.
CASSANDER: I feel as though I have learned more than I have ever known. For that I am grateful to all of you, who hear me... and hear me all too well. (To THE GRACES) And most of all to you, who knew all I meant and more.
EUPHROSYNE: One thing remains... what do you think of when you think of nothing?
CASSANDER: I am ready now, mistresses. I would know the answer to your question.
THALIA: So think, Cassander.
EUPHROSYNE: And do not think.
AGLAEA: Find what you think of when you think of nothing.
SELENE: What you carry.
DAEMON: What carries you.
PALAMON: What always remains.
AGLAEA: What lives even in nothing.
EUPHROSYNE: What cannot be hidden in nothing.
AGLAEA: Your purpose.
EUPHROSYNE: Your passion.
THALIA: What do you think of when you think of nothing?
(Exit THALIA, EUPHROSYNE, and AGLAEA.)
(CASSANDER is not looking at her, cannot see her, but he realizes that only ANDROMEDA is still there. He turns to look at her.)
CASSANDER: It is you.
ANDROMEDA: Always, even when you thought of nothing. For that is what I mean to you.
CASSANDER: The answer to it all. Tell me, Andromeda... you have ever gazed into souls and seen more deeply than any other. Tell me... is there the courage in one such as Daemon to be a fool?
ANDROMEDA: You have been a fool for lesser things.
CASSANDER: That is so. And... is there the mercy in one such as Selene to love a fool?
ANDROMEDA: There is mercy in me to hear. Let me hear you, and only then know if I may love you.
CASSANDER: Is there no hope in you for me? Have I any hope?
ANDROMEDA: What do any of us have but hope?
CASSANDER: Ah, here is your wonder... I find that so much in me is clear, when I have something of your goodness with me.
ANDROMEDA: And there is your hope- that there is something of me in everything in you.
(CASSANDER returns to his desk and continues writing, this time sure and with purpose. ANDROMEDA sits in front of the desk, hidden from his view, but still there with him.)