Bridgerton: How The Greek Myth of Cupid and Psyche Explains Season 3

Bridgerton season 3 is filled with homages and Easter eggs to the revealing Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche.

Bridgerton. Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 301 of Bridgerton.
Photo: Liam Daniel | Netflix

This article contains spoilers for Bridgerton season 3 part 1.

In the new season of Bridgerton, Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin (Luke Newton) twirl among tacky fake columns. They argue while gazing not-so-subtly into each other’s eyes. Penelope’s skirts swish over a Roman mosaic of two winged gods. The resident mean girl Cressida quips, “Eros and Psyche, battling it out.”

What on earth is Cressida on about? How do Eros and Psyche mirror Colin and Penelope? Most crucially, how does this myth predict the rest of season 3? Dearest gentle reader, this author shall explain all.

Who Are Cupid and Psyche?

Eros is the Greek name and Cupid is the Roman name for the same god of love. His dramatic romance with Psyche appears on ancient Greek vases and statues from the 4th century BCE onwards. The longest written-out version is from a smutty Latin novel called The Golden Ass, by the North African writer Apuleius. (“Ass” refers to a donkey, we promise…) Their relationship became a popular theme in Regency art.

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Psyche is a young girl from a noble family. Her two nasty older sisters find rich but boring husbands. Psyche is too beautiful and kind for her own good. People see her as more of a myth than a person. They fangirl over her, but can’t wrap their heads around marrying her. Psyche is miserable stuck at home. Her parents are angry she’s single. Venus, the mega-powerful goddess of love, gets jealous of Psyche’s popularity and hunts her down.

Cupid travels throughout the world making people fall in love with him. He is tasked with finding Psyche a husband, but asks to marry her instead. Cupid hides from Psyche the minor detail that he’s the personification of love and desire. In one famous scene, Psyche spies on Cupid, and accidentally injures him with a candle. Sounds familiar?

How Does This Relate to Bridgerton?

The plot of Cupid and Psyche is literally the story of Colin and Penelope. Our heroine is also the youngest of three girls from an aristocratic family. Her annoying older sisters find husbands, but Penelope struggles. The Ton loves Penelope’s secret alter ego, the gossip writer Lady Whistledown, but doesn’t see the real Penelope as serious marriage material. Penelope mopes about her drawing room to melodramatic piano music, desperate to find a husband so she can escape her underappreciative mother.

Colin’s only personality trait is that he travels around the Mediterranean. A mob of ladies fancy him. He feels bad for Penelope and promises to find her a match. Spoilers! He falls in love with her instead. In season 3 episode 2, Penelope sneaks a peak of Colin’s R-rated journal. They knock over a candle which injures Colin.

Queen Charlotte makes perfect sense as Bridgerton’s version of Venus. She literally shouts “I am Venus” in episode 3 of the prequel Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Charlotte also meddles with marriages to distract herself from her own love life. Charlotte is stressed that Lady Whistledown is becoming more influential than her, and gets obsessed with finding her.

The scene in season 3 episode 2 when Penelope meets Colin in a garden is nearly identical to this famous painting. There have been plenty of Cupid and Psyche Easter eggs in previous seasons. In season 1 episode 7, Colin admires a sculpture of Cupid in his bedroom. A Venus statue is the center of the Featherington drawing room.

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Psyche has butterfly wings in the ballroom mosaic, as she does in real ancient art. This symbolizes her transformation from an underappreciated underdog to being beautiful and admired. In the first ever episode of Bridgerton, Penelope wears a butterfly clasp and dress. Metal butterflies decorate the staircase in the Featherington house. Penelope wears butterfly earrings at court in season 3 episode 1. Bridgerton showrunner Jess Brownell told Shondaland that Penelope “is a butterfly emerging from her chrysalis this season.”

Queen Charlotte practically orders the audience to make these connections. In season 3 episode 4, scantily-clad dancers act out the myth on top of the Cupid and Psyche mosaic. Charlotte muses that “this little love play will inspire my lovers tonight.” 

What Does This Mean For The Rest of The Show?

In the myth, jealous sisters convince Psyche to unveil Cupid’s identity. Psyche’s mind is blown that she married an ultra-dangerous god. Cupid is disgusted by Psyche’s nosiness. He flies off in a strop. By the time he’s grown up a bit and realized he loves Psyche anyway, Venus plots to separate them. Venus forces Psyche to do four nasty timed trials. Psyche powers through them with the help of talking animal friends and Cupid’s godly relatives. She passes out due to stress, exhaustion and a cursed make-up jar (seriously, it’s in the Latin). Cupid soars out of his bedroom to rescue her in the nick of time. Psyche joins the gods, and reaches a mutual understanding with Venus.

In season 3, Colin develops a grudge against Whistledown. Eloise awkwardly asks if he has any clue who Whistledown is. Colin threatens, “if I ever find out, I will make sure it is her life that is ruined.” Chills. The teaser for the rest of season 3 shows Eloise pressuring Penelope to reveal she’s Whistledown. Charlotte challenges the Ton to find the writer. Penelope swishes and sobs down a corridor, as a clock ticks. She faints in front of cakes decorated with Cupids and Psyches. This video has a close-up of the same cakes.

This hints season 3 will continue the myth. If so, the jealous sister (Eloise) will force Penelope to tell Colin she’s Whistledown. Colin will be thrown off, and maybe even break their engagement. Penelope will still love Colin even if nobody recognizes their relationship as legally binding. Charlotte will toy with them as she tracks Whistledown. Penelope will melodramatically faint, but Colin will come to her rescue. The Bridgertons will band together to help. 

After four episodes, Penelope will join their family and come to some deal with Charlotte where she still writes Lady Whistledown’s Society Papers, but throws in the odd line about how the Queen is the most kind-hearted best-dressed monarch ever. This author is no fortune teller, but she would certainly wager all her pin money on it.

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“Psyche” literally means “soul” in Greek. Scholars have interpreted her story as a metaphor for the human existence, and how pain can eventually lead to happiness. Shondaland couldn’t have chosen a better mythological counterpart for one of Bridgerton’s most relatable and beloved characters.

Bridgerton season 3 part 1 is available to stream on Netflix now.