|Cupid and Psyche by Jean-Baptiste Regnault|
In both the Greek tale “Cupid and Psyche” and de Beaumont’s “Beauty and the Beast”, the female protagonists, Psyche and Beauty, incur the wrath of another by no fault of their own. The goddess Venus is jealous of the mortal Psyche’s beauty, and so, essentially dooms her to marry a beast. In the other version, Beauty is condemned to live in the beast’s castle forever because her father “stole” one of his roses. In these two versions the woman’s fate is determined by others, not by herself. In both versions Psyche’s and Beauty’s sisters also cause conflict in their relationships with the beasts. Psyche’s sisters convince her to sneak a peak at her husband by candlelight and determine if he is in fact a beast, although he has instructed his wife never to do so. As punishment, Psyche is banished from the heavenly palace and forced to prove her worth to Venus by completing nearly impossible tasks. In de Beaumont’s version, Beauty’s sisters convince her to visit for longer than her allotted week, despite her promise to Beast that she would return in a week. This leads to Beast nearly dying from self-starvation, brought on by his broken heart. The sisters’ actions lead to negative consequences for Psyche and Beauty in both of these stories.
Although “Cupid and Psyche” deals explicitly with the divine while “Beauty and the Beast” does not, both versions incorporate the idea of a higher power. In the former, the goddess Venus and her son Cupid determine Psyche’s fate, and Psyche spends a good part of the tale trying to please Venus and win her forgiveness. Ultimately, she is transformed into a goddess. In the latter, it is a fairy who breaks Beast’s curse and rewards Beauty with a handsome and intelligent prince. In this way, both stories convey the idea that a supernatural power controls one’s fate.
Along the lines of transformation, in “Beauty and the Beast” it is the beast who is transformed, while in “Cupid and Psyche” it is the beauty, Psyche, who is transformed. This brings up another point: by transforming into a prince, Beast is now the equivalent of Beauty—he is beautiful on the outside, and intelligent on the inside. Psyche also gains equal footing to her husband Cupid, a god, by drinking a potion and transforming into a goddess. I found this fascinating that in the end, both spouses transform into a type of equal to the other.