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MERCURY appears on the top of the house, with a chaplet on his head, pretending to be drunk.
Who's that at the door? AMPH.
'Tis I. MERCURY
Who's "'tis I?" AMPH.
'Tis I that say so. MERCURY
For sure, Jupiter and all the Deities are angered with you who are banging at the door this way. AMPH.
In what manner? MERCURY
In this manner, that without a doubt you must be spending a wretched life. AMPH.
Well; I'm Sosia, unless you think that I've forgotten myself. What do you want now? AMPH.
What, you rascal, and do you even ask me that, what it is I want? MERCURY
I do so ask you; you blockhead, you've almost broken the hinges from off the door. Did you fancy that doors were supplied us at the public charge? Why are you looking up at me, you stupid? What do you want now for yourself, or what fellow are you? AMPH.
You whip-scoundrel, do you even ask me who I am, you hell of elm-saplings1? I' faith, this day I'll make you burn with smarts of the scourge for these speeches of yours. MERCURY
You surely must have formerly been a spendthrift in your young days. AMPH.
How so? MERCURY
Because in your old age you come begging a hap-ill2 of me for yourself. AMPH.
Slave! for your own torture do you give vent to these expressions this day. MERCURY
Now I'm performing a sacrifice to you. AMPH.
Why, because I devote you to ill-luck3 with this libation. Throws water on him. ... AMPH.
What, you, devote me4, you villain? If the Gods have not this day taken away my usual form, I'll take care that you shall be laden with bull's hide thongs, you victim of Saturn5. So surely will I devote you to the cross and to torture. Come out of doors, you whip-knave. MERCURY
You shadowy ghost--you, frighten me with your threats? If you don't betake yourself off from here this instant, if you knock once more, if the door makes a noise with your little finger even, I'll break your head with this tile, so that with your teeth you may sputter out your tongue. AMPH.
What, rascal, would you be for driving me away from my own house? What, would you hinder me from knocking at my own door? I'll this instant tear it from off all its hinges. MERCURY
Do you persist? AMPH.
I do persist. MERCURY
Take that, then. Throws a tile at him. AMPH.
Scoundrel! at your master? If I lay hands upon you this day, I'll bring you to that pitch of misery, that you shall be miserable for evermore. MERCURY
Surely, you must have been playing the Bacchanal6, old gentleman. AMPH.
Why so? MERCURY
Inasmuch as you take me to be your slave. AMPH.
What? I--take you? MERCURY
Plague upon you! I know no master but Amphitryon. AMPH.
to himself . Have I lost my form? It's strange that Sosia shouldn't know me. I'll make trial. Calling out . How now! Tell me who I appear to be? Am I not really Amphitryon? MERCURY
Amphitryon? Are you in your senses? Has it not been told you before, old fellow, that you have been playing the Bacchanal, to be asking another person who you are? Get away, I recommend you, don't be troublesome while Amphitryon, who has just come back from the enemy, is indulging himself with the company of his wife. AMPH.
What wife? MERCURY
What man? MERCURY
How often do you want it told? Amphitryon, my master;--don't be troublesome. AMPH.
Who's he sleeping with? MERCURY
Take care that you don't meet with some mishap in trifling with me this way. AMPH.
Prithee, do tell me, my dear Sosia. MERCURY
More civilly said--with Alcmena. AMPH.
In the same chamber? MERCURY
Yes, as I fancy, he is sleeping with her side by side. AMPH.
Alas!--wretch that I am! MERCURY
to the AUDIENCE . It really is a gain which he imagines to be a misfortune. For to lend one's wife to another is just as though you were to let out barren land to be ploughed. AMPH.
What, the plague, about Sosia? AMPH.
Don't you know me, you whip-scoundrel? MERCURY
I know that you are a troublesome fellow, who have no need to go buy7 a lawsuit. AMPH.
Still once more--am I not your master Amphitryon? MERCURY
You are Bacchus himself8, and not Amphitryon. How often do you want to be told? Any times more? My master Amphitryon, in the same chamber, is holding Alcmena in his embraces. If you persist, I'll produce him here, and not without your great discomfiture. AMPH.
I wish him to be fetched. Aside. I pray that this day, in return for my services, I may not lose house, wife, and household, together with my figure. MERCURY
Well, I'll fetch him; but, in the meantime, do you mind about the door, please. Aside. I suppose that by this he has brought the sacrifice that he was intending, as far as the banquet9. Aloud. If you are troublesome, you shan't escape without my making a sacrifice of you. He retires into the house. AMPH.
Ye Gods, by my trust in you, what madness is distracting my household? What wondrous things have I seen since I arrived from abroad! Why, it's true, surely, what was once heard tell of, how that men of Attica were transformed in Arcadia10, and remained as savage wild beasts, and were not ever afterwards known unto their parents.
1 Hell of elm-saplings: "Ulmorum Acheruns." According to Taubmann, this means, "whose back devours as many elm-rods as Acheron does souls."
2 A hap-ill: See the Note to l. 723.
3 Devote you to ill-luck: "Macto infortunio." "Macto," which properly signified "to amplify," was especially applied to the act of sacrificing, by way of giving something. Mercury here says in sport, that he makes Amphitryon an offering of--a jug of water, or perhaps a tile, it is not known for certain which; but it is generally supposed that in some part of this Scene, as originally written, he does throw water at him.
4 You, devote me: This line commences the portion that is supposed by many of the Commentators not to have been written by Plautus, it not being found in most of the MSS. By those, however, who deny it to have been his composition, it is generally thought to have been composed by an ancient writer, and not to be at all deficient in humour and genuine Comic spirit. Gueudeville and Echard speak in high terms of it; and the learned Schmieder is unwilling to believe that it is not the composition of Plautus.
5 Victim of Saturn: Taubmann remarks that there is here an allusion to those slaves which the Carthaginians were in the habit of purchasing in order to sacrifice them, in place of their children, to Saturn--a rite borrowed from the same source as the passing of children through fire to Moloch, as practised by the Phœnicians.
6 Playing the Bacchanal: "Bacchanal exercuisse." "To keep the festival of Bacchus," where frantic conduct and acts of outrageous madness were prevalent. See the Notes to the First Act of the Bacchidea.
7 No need to go buy: He seems to mean that a "litigium," or "lawsuit," is already prepared for him, in daring to personate Amphitryon.
8 Bacchus himself: He means that, from his frantic conduct he must surely be, not a Bacchanalian, but Bacchus himself.
9 As the banquet: It is supposed that he here has a double meaning, and implies that he supposes that by this time Jupiter has satisfied his venement desire. It has been previously remarked, that after sacrifices a feast was made of the portions that were left.
10 In Arcadia: He alludes to a story among the ancients, that certain people of Arcadia were transformed for a certain time into wolves: they were called "Lycanthropi," or "Wolf-men." Pliny the Elder mentions them in his Eighth Book.
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