Semele and the Wrath of Juno
Long Story Short
Jealous goddess provokes seductive mortal to suicidal arrogance.
Cadmus is the King of Thebes.
Ino and Semele are his daughters.
Athamas, prince of Bœotia, is to marry Semele.
Jupiter, King of the Gods, is also in love with Semele.
Juno, Queen of the Gods, is his jealous wife.
Iris, the goddess of the rainbow, does Juno’s bidding.
Somnus, the god of sleep, is Juno’s secret weapon.
Apollo, the god of prophecy, knows how everything turns out...
What's Going On?
Semele is engaged to marry Athamas; but secretly she’s in love with Jupiter (and her sister Ino is in love with Athamas). Semele prays to Jupiter, whose thunderbolts make it clear he opposes Semele’s marriage. In the form of an eagle, the god interrupts the wedding and bears Semele away to a realm of “Endless pleasure, endless love.”
The jealous Juno, assisted by Iris, sets out to destroy her rival. Meanwhile, Semele asks Jupiter whether a mortal can really love a god. To distract her attention, Jupiter brings Ino up from earth to keep Semele company.
Juno offers Somnus, the god of sleep, the affection of a lovely nymph—if he lends her his magic, sleep-inducing wand, which she uses to distract Jupiter and the dragons that guard Semele’s palace. Disguised as Ino, Juno appears to Semele. First, she presents her ‘sister’ with a magic mirror which causes Semele instantly to fall in love with her own image. Juno then suggests that Semele will become immortal if Jupiter makes love to her in his divine form, instead of the mortal disguise he customarily uses.
Semele makes Jupiter swear he’ll give her whatever she desires. She asks him to appear to her in all his godly splendour. The god is horrified and warns her of the mortal danger she is in; but Semele will not budge. Jupiter appears in his true form, whereupon Semele burns up. Ino weds Athamas, and Apollo announces that from Semele’s ashes Bacchus, the god of wine, will be born.