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Enter an OLD MAN, hobbling with a stick.
According as my age permits, and as there is occasion to do so, I'll push on my steps and make haste to get along. But how far from easy 'tis for me, I'm not mistaken as to that. For my agility forsakes me, and I am beset with age; I carry my body weighed down; my strength has deserted me. How grievous a pack upon one's back is age. For when it comes, it brings very many and very grievous particulars, were I now to recount all of which, my speech would be too long. But this matter is a trouble to my mind and heart, what this business can possibly be on account of which my daughter suddenly requires me to come to her, and doesn't first let me know what's the matter, what she wants, or why she sends for me. But pretty nearly do I know now what's the matter; I suspect that some quarrel has arisen with her husband. So are these women wont to do, who, presuming on their portions, and haughty, require their husbands to be obedient to them; and they as well full oft are not without fault. But still there are bounds, within which a wife ought to be put up with. By my troth, my daughter never sends for her father to come to her except when either something has been done wrong, or there is a cause for quarrelling. But whatever it is, I shall now know. And see, I perceive her herself before the house, and her husband in a pensive mood. 'Tis the same as I suspected. I'll accost her. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
I'll go and meet him. May every happiness attend you, my father. OLD MAN
Happiness attend you. Do I find you in good spirits? Do you bid me be fetched in happy mood? Why are you sorrowful? And why does he pointing at MENAECHMUS in anger stand apart from you? Something, I know not what, are you two wrangling about1 between you. Say, in few words, which of the two is in fault: no long speeches, though. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
For my part, I've done nothing wrong; as to that point do I at once make you easy, father. But I cannot live or remain here on any account; you must take me away hence immediately. OLD MAN
Why, what's the matter? THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
I am made a laughing-stock of, father. OLD MAN
By whom? THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
By him to whom you gave me, my husband. OLD MAN
Look at that -- a quarrel now. How often, I wonder, have I told you to be cautious, that neither should be coming to me with your complaints. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
How, my father, can I possibly guard against that? OLD MAN
Do you ask me? ... unless you don't wish. How often have I told you to be compliant to your husband. Don't be watching what he does, where he goes, or what matter he's about. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
Why, but he's in love with a courtesan here close by. OLD MAN
. He is exceedingly wise: and for this painstaking of yours, I would even have him love her the more. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
He drinks there, too. OLD MAN
And will he really drink the less for you, whether it shall please him to do so there or anywhere else? Plague on it, what assurance is this? On the same principle, you would wish to hinder him from engaging to dine out, or from receiving any other person at his own house. Do you want husbands to be your servants? You might as well expect, on the same principle, to be giving him out his task, and bidding him sit among the female servants and card wool. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
Why, surely, father, I've sent for you not to be my advocate, but my husband's: on this side you stand2, on the other you plead the cause. OLD MAN
If he has done wrong in anything, so much the more shall I censure him than I've censured you. Since he keeps you provided for and well clothed, and finds you amply in female servants and provisions, 'tis better, madam, to entertain kindly feelings. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
But he purloins from me gold trinkets and mantles from out of the chests at home; he plunders me, and secretly carries off my ornaments to harlots. OLD MAN
He does wrong, if he does that; if he does not do it, you do wrong in accusing him when innocent. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
Why at this moment, even, he has got a mantle, father, and a bracelet, which he had carried off to her; now, because I came to know of it, he brings them back. OLD MAN
I'll know from himself, then, how it happened. I'll go up to this man and accost him. Goes up to MENAECHMUS. Tell me this, Menaechmus, what you two are disputing about, that I may know. Why are you pensive? And why does she in anger stand apart from you? MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
Whoever you are, whatever is your name, old gentleman, I call to witness supreme Jove and the Deities---- OLD MAN
For what reason, or what matter of all matters? MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
That I have neither done wrong to that woman, who is accusing me of having purloined this pointing to the mantle away from her at home ... and which she solemnly swears that I did take away. If ever I set foot inside of her house where she lives, I wish that I may become the most wretched of all wretched men. OLD MAN
Are you in your senses to wish this, or to deny that you ever set foot in that house where you live, you downright madman? MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
Do you say, old gentleman, that I live in this house? Pointing at the house. OLD MAN
Do you deny it? MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
By my faith, certainly do deny it. OLD MAN
In your fun you are going too far in denying it; unless you flitted elsewhere this last night. Step this way, please, daughter. To the WIFE. What do you say? Have you removed from this house? THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
To what place, or for what reason, prithee? OLD MAN
I' faith, I don't know. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
He's surely making fun of you. OLD MAN
Can't you keep yourself quiet? Now, Menaechmus, you really have joked long enough; now do seriously attend to this matter. MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
Prithee, what have I to do with you? Whence or what person are you? Is your mind right, or hers, in fact, who is an annoyance to me in every way? THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
Don't you see how his eyes sparkle? How a green colour3 is arising on his temples and his forehead; look how his eyes do glisten ... MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
O me! They say I'm mad, whereas they of themselves are mad. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
How he yawns, as he stretches himself. What am I to do now, my father? OLD MAN
Step this way, my daughter, as far as ever you can from him. MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
aside . What is there better for me than, since they say I'm mad, to pretend that I am mad, that I may frighten them away from me? He dances about. Evoë, Bacchus, ho! Bromius4, in what forest dost thou invite me to the chase? I hear thee, but I cannot get away from this spot, so much does this raving mad female cur watch me on the left side. And behind there is that other old he-goat, who many a time in his life has proved the destruction of an innocent fellow-citizen by his false testimony. OLD MAN
shaking his stick at him . Woe to your head. MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
Lo! by his oracle, Apollo bids me burn out her eyes with blazing torches. He points with his fingers at her. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
I'm undone, my father; he's threatening to burn my eyes out. OLD MAN
Hark you, daughter. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
What's the matter? What are we to do? OLD MAN
What if I call the servants out here? I'll go bring some to take him away hence, and bind him at home, before he makes any further disturbance. MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
aside . So now; I think now if I don't adopt some plan for myself, these people will be carrying me off home to their house. Aloud. Dost thou forbid me to spare my fists at all upon her face, unless she does at once get out of my sight to utter and extreme perdition? I will do what thou dost bid me, Apollo. Runs after her. OLD MAN
to the WIFE . Away with you home as soon as possible, lest he should knock you down. THE WIFE OF MENAECHMUS of Epidamnus.
I'm off. Watch him, my father, I entreat you, that he mayn't go anywhere hence. Am I not a wretched woman to hear these things? She goes into her house. MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
aside . I've got rid of her not so badly. Aloud . Now as for this most filthy, long-bearded, palsied Tithonus, who is said to have had Cygnus for his father5, you bid me break in pieces his limbs, and bones, and members with that walking-stick which he himself is holding. OLD MAN
Punishment shall be inflicted if you touch me indeed, or if you come nearer to me. MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
shouting aloud . I will do what thou dost bid me; I will take a two-edged axe, and I will hew this old fellow to his very bones, and I will chop his entrails into mincemeat. OLD MAN
retreating as far as he can . Why really against that must I take care and precaution. As he threatens, I'm quite in dread of him, lest he should do me some mischief. MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
jumping and raising his arms . Many things dost thou bid me do, Apollo. Now thou dost order me to take the yoked horses, unbroke and fierce, and to mount the chariot, that I may crush to pieces this aged, stinking, toothless lion. Now have I mounted the chariot; now do I hold the reins; now is the whip in my hand. Speed onward, ye steeds, let the sound of your hoofs be heard; in your swift course let the rapid pace of your feet6 be redoubled. Points at the OLD MAN as he pretends to gallop. OLD MAN
Are you threatening me with your yoked steeds? MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
Lo! again, Apollo, thou dost bid me to make an onset against him who is standing here, and to murder him. But what person is this that is tearing me hence by the hair down from the chariot? He revokes thy commands and the decree of Apollo. OLD MAN
Alas! a severe and obstinate malady, i' faith. By our trust in you, ye Gods ... even this person who is now mad, how well he was a little time since. All on a sudden has so great a distemper attacked him. I'll go now and fetch a physician as fast as I can. (Exit.) MENAECHMUS SOSICLES
Prithee, are these persons gone now out of my sight, who are compelling me by force, while in my wits, to be mad? Why do I delay to be off to the ship, while I can in safety? ... And all of you to the SPECTATORS , if the old gentleman should return, I beg not to tell him, now, by what street I fled away hence. (Exit.)
1 Wrangling about: "Velitati estis," literally, "have been skirmishing." The figure is derived from the "velites," the light-armed soldiers of the Roman army, who were not drawn up in rank and file, but commonly skirmished in front of the main body, attacking the enemy here and there, and when hard pressed, retiring into the vacant spaces of the legion.
2 On this side you stand: It was the custom for the patron, when acting as the counsel, to have his client standing by him while pleading. The wife complains that her father has been sent for by her to act as her own advocate, but that, instead of so doing, he is encouraging her supposed husband in his perverseness.
3 A green colour: It was supposed that in madness, or extreme anger, the countenance assumed a greenish hue. Ben Jonson has probably imitated this passage in the Silent Woman, Act IV., sc. 4.: “"Lord! how idly he talks, and how his eyes sparkle! he looks green about the temples! Do you see what blue spots he has?"”
5 Cygnus for his father: Plautus designedly makes Menaechmus Sosicles be guilty of the mistake of styling Tithonus the son of Cygnus, as helping to promote the belief of his madness. Tithonus was the son of Laomedon, and the brother of Priam. He was beloved by Aurora, and the poets feigned that he was her husband. Having received the gift of immortality, he forgot to have perpetual youthfulness united with the gift; and at length, in his extreme old age, he was changed into a grasshopper. There were several persons of the name of Cygnus, or Cycnus; one was the son of Apollo and Hyrie, another of Mars and Pelopea, or Pyrene, another of Neptune and Cayx, and a fourth of Ocitus and Amophile.
6 The rapia pace of your feet: "Cursu celeri facite inflexa sit pedum pernicitas." Literally, "in the swift course, make the swiftness of your feet to be bent inwards." The legs of good horses, when trotting fast, bend inwards before they throw them out.
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