This text is part of:
Enter SOSIA, with a Lantern.
to himself . What other person is there more bold than I, or who more stout of heart, who know the humours of young men1, and who am walking at this hour of night alone? What shall I do, if now the officers of the watch2 should thrust me into prison. To-morrow shall I be dealt out from there3, just as though from a store-closet, for a whipping; nor will it be allowed me to plead my cause, nor will there be a bit of aid from my master; nor will there be a person but that they will imagine, all of them, that I am deserving. And so will eight sturdy fellows be thumping on wretched me just like an anvil; in this way, just come from foreign parts, I shall be received with hospitality by the public. The inconsiderateness of my master compels me to this, who has packed me off from the harbour at this time of night whether I would or no. Couldn't he as well have sent me here by daylight? For this reason, is servitude to a man of high station a greater hardship; for this reason is the servant of a wealthy man the more wretched: both night and day, without ceasing, there is enough, and more than enough of work for him; for doing or for saying occasion is ever arising, so that you can't be at rest. The master, abounding in servants4, and free from labour himself; thinks that whatever he happens to choose, can be done; he thinks that just, and reckons not what the labour is; nor will he ever consider whether he commands a thing that's reasonable or unreasonable. Wherefore, in servitude many hardships do befall us; in pain this burden must be borne and endured. MERCURY
(to the AUDIENCE ). 'Twere with better reason for me to complain of servitude after this fashion; I, who to-day was free, and whom my father is now employing as a slave: this fellow is complaining, who was born a slave. SOSIA
to himself . Really I am a rascal beyond a doubt; for only this moment it has suggested itself to me, that on my arrival I should give thanks, and address the Gods for their kindnesses vouchsafed. For surely, by my troth, if they were only desirous to give me a return according to my deserts, they would commission some person on my arrival soundly to box my ears, since those kindnesses which they have done me I have held as worthless and of no value. MERCURY
apart . He does what people are not generally in the habit of doing, in knowing what his deserts are. SOSIA
to himself . What I never expected, nor any one else of my townsmen, to befall him, that same has come to pass, for us to come home safe and sound. Victorious, the enemy conquered, the troops are returning home, this very mighty war brought to an end, and the enemy slain. A city that has caused many a bitter death for the Theban people, that same has been conquered by the strength and valour of our soldiers, and taken by storm, under the command and conduct of my master Amphitryon in especial. With booty, territory, and glory5, too, has he loaded his fellow-citizens, and for Creon, King of Thebes, has he firmly fixed his sway. From the harbour he has sent me before him to his house that I may bear these tidings to his wife, how he has promoted the public good by his guidance, conduct, and command. This now will I consider, in what manner I shall address her, when I've arrived there. If I tell a falsehood. I shall be doing as I am accustomed after my usual wont; for when they were fighting with all their might, then with all my might I ran away. But still I shall pretend as though I was present, and I'll tell her what I heard. But in what manner and with what expressions it is right for me to tell my story, I still wish first to consider here with myself. He assumes an attitude of thought. In these terms will I give this narrative. "In the first place, when we arrived there, when first we made land, Amphitryon immediately made choice of the powerful men among the chieftains. Those he despatched on the embassy, and bade them tell his mind to the Teleboans; that if without constraint and without warfare they should be ready to deliver up what was plundered and the plunderers, and if they should be ready to restore what they had carried off, he would immediately conduct the army homewards, that the Greeks would depart from their territory, and that he would grant peace and quietness to them : but if they should be otherwise disposed, and not concede the things which he demanded, he, in consequence, would attack their city with extreme violence and with his men. When the embassadors had repeated these things, which Amphitryon had enjoined, in order to the Teleboans, being men stout of heart, relying on their valour, and confident in their prowess, they rebuked our embassadors very rudely. They answered that they were able in warfare to protect themselves and theirs, and that at once they must lead the army with all haste out of their territories. When the embassadors brought back this message, straightway Amphitryon drew out all his army from the encampment; on the other side, the Teleboans led forth their legions from the town, furnished with most gorgeous arms. After they had gone forth on either side in full array, the soldiers were marshalled, the ranks were formed. We, after our manner and usage, drew up our legions; the enemy, too, drew up their legions facing us. Then either general went forth into the mid-space beyond the throng of the ranks, and they parleyed together. It was agreed between them, that, which ever side should be conquered in that battle, they should surrender up their city, lands, altars, hearths. and theraselves. After that was done, the trumpets on either side gave the signal; the earth re-echoed, they raised a shout on either side. Each general, both upon this side and on that, offered vows to Jupiter, and then encouraged his troops. Each man according to his ability does that which each one can and has the strength to do; he smites with his falchion; the weapons crash; the welkin bellows with the uproar of the men; of breaths and pantings a cloud is formed; men fall by wounds inflicted by men. At length, as we desired, our troops conquered; the foe fell in numbers; ours, on the other hand, pressed on; firm in our strength, we were victorious. But still not one betook himself to flight, nor yet gave way at his post, but standing there6 he waged the combat. Sooner than quit the spot, they parted with their lives; each, as he stood, lay there and kept his rank in death. When my master Amphitryon saw this, at once he ordered the cavalry on the right to charge. The cavalry obeyed directly; from the right wing, with a tremendous shout, with brisk onset they rushed on; and rightfully did they slaughter and trample down the impious forces of the foe." MERCURY
apart . Not even one word of these has he yet uttered correctly; for I was there in the battle personally, and my father too, when it was fought. SOSIA
continuing . "The enemy betook themselves to flight. Then was new spirit added to our men, the Teleboans flying, with darts were their bodies filled, and Amphitryon himself, with his own hand, struck off the head of Pterelas their king. This battle was being fought there even from the morning till the evening. This do I the better remember for this reason; because on that day I went without my breakfast. But night at last, by its interposing, cut short this combat. The next day, the chiefs came weeping from the city to us at the camp. With covered hands7, they entreated us to pardon their offences; and they all surrendered rendered up themselves. and all things divine and human, their city and their children, into the possession and unto the disposal of the Theban people. Lastly, by reason of his valour, a golden goblet was presented to my master Amphitryon, from which king Pterelas8 had been used to drink." These things I'll thus tell my mistress. I'll now proceed to obey my master's order and to betake me home. He moves. MERCURY
apart . Heyday! he's about to come this way; I'll go meet him; and I'll not permit this fellow at any time to-day to approach this house. Since I have his form upon myself, I'm resolved to play the fellow off. And indeed, since I have taken upon me his figure and his station, it is right for me likewise to have actions and manners like to his. Therefore it befits me to be artful, crafty, very cunning, and by his own weapon, artfulness, to drive him from the door. But what means this? He is looking up at the sky. I'll watch what scheme he's about. SOSIA
looking up at the sky . Upon my faith, for sure, if there is aught besides that I believe, or know for certain, I do believe that this night the God of Night9 has gone to sleep drunk; for neither does the Wain move itself in any direction in the sky, nor does the Moon bestir herself anywhere from where she first arose; nor does Orion10, or the Evening Star11, or the Pleiades, set. In such a fashion are the stars standing stock-still, and the night is yielding not a jot to the day. MERCURY
apart . Go on, Night, as you've begun, and pay obedience to my father. In best style12, the best of services are you performing for the best of beings; in giving this, you reap a fair return. SOSIA
to himself . I do not think that I have ever seen a longer night than this, except one of like fashion, which livelong night I was hanging up, having been first whipped. Even that as well, by my troth, does this one by far exceed in its length. I' faith, I really do believe that the Sun's asleep, and is thoroughly drenched. It's a wonder to me if he hasn't indulged himself a little too much at dinner. MERCURY
apart . Do you really say so, you scoundrel? Do you think that the Gods are like yourself? I' faith, you hang-dog, I'll entertain you for these speeches and misdeeds of yours; only come this way, will you, and you'll find your ruin. SOSIA
to himself . Where are those wenchers, who unwillingly lie a-bed alone? A rare night this for making the best of what was a bad bargain at first13. MERCURY
apart . My father then, according to this fellow's words, is doing rightly and wisely, who in his amorousness, indulging his passion, is lying in the embraces of Alcmena. SOSIA
to himself . I'll go tell Alcmena, as my master ordered me. (Advancing, he discovers MERCURY.) But who is this fellow that I see before the house at this time of night? I don't like it. MERCURY
aside . There is not in existence another such cowardly fellow as this. SOSIA
aside . Now, when I think of it, this fellow wishes to take my mantle off once more14. MERCURY
aside . The fellow's afraid; I'll have some sport with him. SOSIA
aside . I'm quite undone, my teeth are chattering. For sure, on my arrival, he is about to receive me with the hospitality of his fist. He's a merciful person, I suppose; now, because my master has obliged me to keep awake, with his fists just now he'll be making me go to sleep. I'm most confoundedly undone. Troth now, prithee, look, how big and how strong he is. MERCURY
aside . I'll talk at him aloud, he shall hear what I say. Therefore indeed, in a still greater degree, shall he conceive fears within himself. In a loud voice, holding up his fists. Come, fists, it's a long time now since you found provision for my stomach; it seems to have taken place quite a long time ago, when yesterday you laid four men asleep, stript naked. SOSIA
aside . I'm dreadfully afraid lest I should be changing my name here, and become a Quintus15 instead of a Sosia. He declares that he has laid four men asleep; I fear lest I should be adding to that number. MERCURY
throwing about his arms . Well, now then for it. This is the way I intend. SOSIA
aside . He is girded tight; for sure, he's getting himself ready. MERCURY
He shan't get off without getting a thrashing. SOSIA
aside . What person, I wonder? MERC. Beyond a doubt, whatever person comes this way, he shall eat my fists. SOSIA
aside . Get out with you, I don't wish to eat at this time of night; I've lately dined. Therefore do you, if you are wise, bestow your dinner on those who are hungry. MERCURY
The weight of this fist is no poor one. SOSIA
aside . I'm done for; he is poising his fists. MERCURY
What if I were to touch him, stroking him down16, so that he may go to sleep? SOSIA
aside . You would be proving my salvation; for I've been watching most confoundedly these three nights running17. MERCURY
My hand refuses to learn to strike his cheek; it cannot do a disgraceful action. Hand of mine, of a changed form must he become whom you smite with this fist. SOSIA
aside . This fellow will be furbishing me up, and be moulding my face anew. MERCURY
to his fist . The man that you hit full, his face must surely be boned. SOSIA
aside . It's a wonder if this fellow isn't thinking of boning me just like a lamprey. Away with a fellow that bones people! If he sees me, I'm a dead man. MERCURY
Some fellow is stinking to his destruction. SOSIA
aside . Woe to me! Is it I that stink? MERCURY
And he cannot be very far off; but he has been a long way off from here. SOSIA
aside . This person's a wizard18. MERCURY
My fists are longing. SOSIA
aside . If you are going to exercise them upon me, I beg that you'll first cool them down against the wall. MERCURY
A voice has come flying to my ears. SOSIA
aside . Unlucky fellow, for sure, was I, who didn't clip its wings. I've got a voice with wings, it seems. MERCURY
This fellow is demanding of me for himself a heavy punishment for his beast's back19. SOSIA
aside . As for me, I've got no beast's back. MERCURY
He must be well loaded with my fists. SOSIA
aside . I' faith, I'm fatigued, coming from board ship, when I was brought hither; even now I'm sea-sick. Without a burden, I can hardly creep along, so don't think that with a load I can go. MERCURY
Why, surely, somebody20 is speaking here. SOSIA
aside . I'm all right, he doesn't see me; he thinks it's "Somebody" speaking: Sosia is certainly my name. MERCURY
But here, from the right-hand side, the voice, as it seems, strikes upon my ear. SOSIA
aside . I'm afraid that I shall be getting a thrashing here this day, in place of my voice, that's striking him. Moves. MERCURY
Here he is--he's coming towards me, most opportunely. SOSIA
aside . I'm terrified--I'm numbed all over. Upon my faith, I don't know where in the world I now am, if any one should ask me; and to my misfortune, I cannot move myself for fright. It's all up with me; the orders of his master and Sosia are lost together. But I'm determined boldly to address this fellow to his face, so that I may be able to appear valiant to him; that he may keep his hands off me Advances towards the door. MERCURY
accosting him . Where are you going, you that are carrying Vulcan enclosed in your horn21? SOSIA
Why do you make that enquiry, you who are boning men's heads with your fists? MERCURY
Are you slave or free man? SOSIA
Just as it suits my inclination. MERCURY
Do you really say so? SOSIA
I really do say so. MERCURY
Now you are telling a lie. MERCURY
But I'll soon make you own that I'm telling the truth. SOSIA
What necessity is there for it? MERCURY
Can I know whence you have set out, whose you are, or why you are come? SOSIA
pointing . This way I'm going, and I'm the servant of my master. Are you any the wiser now? MERCURY
I'll this day make you be holding that foul tongue of yours. SOSIA
You can't; it is kept pure23 and becomingly. MERCURY
Do you persist in chattering? What business now have you at this house? Points to the house. SOSIA
Aye, and what business have you? MERCURY
King Creon always sets a watch every night. SOSIA
He does right; because we were abroad, he has been protecting our house. But however, do go in now, and say that some of the family servants have arrived. MERCURY
How far you are one of the family servants I don't know. But unless you are off from here this instant, family servant as you are, I'll make you to be received in no familiar style. SOSIA
Here, I say, I live, and of these people I am the servant. MERCURY
But do you understand how it is? Unless you are off, I'll make you to be exalted24 this day. SOSIA
In what way, pray? MERCURY
You shall be carried off, you shan't walk away, if I take up a stick. SOSIA
But I declare that I am one of the domestics of this family. MERCURY
Consider, will you, how soon you want a drubbing, unless you are off from here this instant. SOSIA
Do you want, as I arrive from foreign parts, to drive me from my home? MERCURY
Is this your home? SOSIA
It is so, I say. MERCURY
Who is your master, then? SOSIA
Amphitryon, who is now the general of the Theban forces, to whom Alcmena is married. MERCURY
How say you? What's your name? SOSIA
The Thebans call me Sosia, the son of my father Davus. MERCURY
Assuredly, at your peril have you come here this day, with your trumped-up lies, your patched-up knaveries, you essence of effrontery. SOSIA
Why no, it's rather with garments patched-up that I'm arrived here, not with knaveries. MERCURY
Why, you are lying again; you come with your feet, surely, and not with your garments. SOSIA
Yes, certainly. MERCURY
Then certainly take that for your lie. He strikes him. SOSIA
By my troth, I certainly don't wish for it of course. MERCURY
But by my faith, you certainly shall have it of course, whether you wish or not: for, in fact, this is certainly my determination, and it is not at your own option. He strikes him. SOSIA
Mercy, I entreat of you. MERCURY
Do you dare to say that you are Sosia, when I myself am he? Strikes him. SOSIA
crying at the top of his voice . I'm being murdered. MERCURY
Why, you are crying out for a trifle as yet, compared with what it will be. Whose are you now? SOSIA
Your own; for with your fists you have laid hands on me25. Help, help, citizens of Thebes. MERCURY striking him. MERCURY
What, still bawling, you scoundrel? Speak--what have you come for? SOSIA
For there to be somebody for you to belabour with your fists. MERCURY
Whose are you? SOSIA
Amphitryon's Sosia, I tell you. MERCURY
For this reason then you shall be beaten the more, because you prate thus idly; I am Sosia, not you. SOSIA
aside . I wish the Gods would have it so, that you were he in preference, and that I were thrashing you. MERCURY
What, muttering still? Strikes him . SOSIA
I'll hold my tongue then. MERCURY
Who is your master? SOSIA
Whoever you like. MERCURY
How then? What's your name now? SOSIA
Nothing but what you shall command. MERCURY
You said that you were Amphitryon's Sosia. SOSIA
I made a mistake; but this I meant to say, that I was Amphitryon's associate26. MERCURY
Why, I was sure that we had no servant called Sosia except myself. Your senses are forsaking you. SOSIA
I wish that those fists of yours had done so. MERCURY
I am that Sosia, whom you were just now telling me that you are. SOSIA
I pray that I may be allowed to discourse with you in quietness, so as not to be beaten. MERCURY
Well then, let there be a truce for a short time, if you want to say anything. SOSIA
I'll not speak unless peace is concluded, since you are the stronger with your fists. MERCURY
If you wish to say anything, speak; I'll not hurt you. SOSIA
Am I to trust in your word? MERCURY
Yes, in my word. SOSIA
What, if you deceive me? MERCURY
Why, then may Mercury be angry with Sosia27. SOSIA
Then give attention: now I'm at liberty to say in freedom anything I please. I am Sosia, servant of Amphitryon. MERCURY
What, again? Offering to strike him. SOSIA
I have concluded the peace, ratified the treaty--I speak the truth. MERCURY
Take that, then. Hie strikes him. SOSIA
As you please, and what you please, pray do, since you are the stronger with your fists. But whatever you shall do, still, upon my faith, I really shall not be silent about that. MERCURY
So long as you live, you shall never make me to be any other than Sosia at this moment. SOSIA
I' faith, you certainly shall never make me to be any other person than my own self; and besides myself we have no other servant of the name of Sosia--myself, who went hence on the expedition together with Amphitryon. MERCURY
This fellow is not in his senses. SOSIA
The malady that you impute to me, you have that same yourself. How, the plague, am I not Sosia, the servant of Amphitryon? Has not our ship, which brought me, arrived here this night from the Persian port28? Has not my master sent me here? Am I not now standing before our house? Have I not a lantern in my hand? Am I not talking? Am I not wide awake? Has not this fellow been thumping me with his fists? By my troth29, he has been doing so; for even now, to my pain, my cheeks are tingling. Why, then, do I hesitate? Or why don't I go in-doors into our house? He makes towards the door. MERCURY
stepping between . How--your house? SOSIA
Indeed it really is so. MERCURY
Why, all that you have been saying just now, you have trumped up; I surely am Amphitryon's Sosia. For in the night this ship of ours weighed anchor from the Persian port, and where king Pterelas reigned, the city we took by storm, and the legions of the Teleboans in fighting we took by arms, and Amphitryon himself cut off the head of king Pterelas in battle. SOSIA
aside . I do not trust my own self, when I hear him affirm these things; certainly, he really does relate exactly the things that were done there. Aloud. But how say you? What spoil from the Teleboans was made a present to Amphitryon? MERCURY
A golden goblet, from which king Pterelas used to drink. SOSIA
aside . He has said the truth. Where now is this goblet? MERCURY
'Tis in a casket, sealed with the seal of Amphitryon. SOSIA
Tell me, what is the seal? MERCURY
The Sun rising with his chariot. Why are you on the catch for me, you villain? SOSIA
aside . He has overpowered me with his proofs. I must look out for another name. I don't know from whence he witnessed these things. I'll now entrap him finely; for what I did alone by myself, and when not another person was present in the tent, that, he certainly will never be able this day to tell me. Aloud. If you are Sosia, when the armies were fighting most vigorously, what were you doing in the tent? If you tell me that, I'm vanquished. MERCURY
There was a cask of wine; from it I filled an earthen pot30. SOSIA
aside . He has got upon the track. MERC.
That I drew full of pure wine, just as it was born from the mother grape. SOSIA
aside . It's a wonder if this fellow wasn't lying hid inside of that earthen pot. It is the fact, that there I did drink an earthen pot full of wine. MERCURY
Well--do I now convince you by my proofs that you are not Sosia? SOSIA
Do you deny that I am? MERCURY
Why should I not deny it, who am he myself? SOSIA
By Jupiter I swear that I am he, and that I do not say false. MERCURY
But by Mercury, I swear that Jupiter does not believe you; for I am sure that he will rather credit me without an oath than you with an oath. SOSIA
Who am I, at all events, if I am not Sosia? I ask you that. MERCURY
When I choose not to be Sosia, then do you be Sosia; now, since I am he, you'll get a thrashing, if you are not off hence, you fellow without a name. SOSIA
aside . Upon my faith, for sure, when I examine him and recollect my own figure, just in such manner as I am (I've often looked in a glass31): , he is exactly like me. He has the broad-brimmed hat and clothing just the same; he is as like me as I am myself. His leg, foot, stature, shorn head, eyes, nose, even his lips, cheeks, chin, beard, neck--the whole of him. What need is there of words? If his back is marked with scars, than this likeness there is nothing more like. But when I reflect, really, I surely am the same person that I always was. My master I know, I know our I house; I am quite in my wits and senses. I'm not going to I obey this fellow in what he says; I'll knock at the door. Goes towards the door. MERCURY
Whither are you betaking yourself? SOSIA
If now you were to ascend the chariot of Jove and fly away from here, then you could hardly be able to escape destruction. SOSIA
Mayn't I be allowed to deliver the message to my mistress that my master ordered me to give? MERCURY
If you want to deliver any message to your own mistress; this mistress of mine I shall not allow you to approach. But if you provoke me, you'll be just now taking hence your loins broken. SOSIA
In preference, I'll be off. Aside. Immortal Gods, I do beseech your mercy. Where did I lose myself? Where have I been transformed? Where have I parted with my figure? Or have I left myself behind there, if perchance I have forgotten it? For really this person has possession of all my figure, such as it formerly was. While living, that is done for me, which no one will ever do for me when dead32. I'll go to the harbour, and I'll tell my master these things as they have happened--unless even he as well shall not know me, which may Jupiter grant, so that this day, bald, with shaven crown, I may assume the cap of freedom33. (Exit.)
1 Of young men: He alludes to the broils of the night, occasioned by the vagaries of wild and dissolute young men--perhaps not much unlike the Mohawks, whose outrageous pranks are mentioned in the Spectator and Swift's Journal to Stella.
2 Officers of the watch: Literally, the "Tresviri." As usual, though the Scene is laid in Greece, Roman usages are introduced by Plautus. The officers here mentioned were called "nocturni Tresviri." It was their province to take up all suspicious characters found abroad during the night. They were attended, probably, by lictors, or subordinate officers, who are here referred to as 'homines octo validi," "eight sturdy fellows."
3 Dealt out from there: He compares the gaol, or place of confinement, to a store-closet, and means to say, that as food is brought thence to be dressed, so shall he be brought from the gaol to be dressed, in the way of having his back lashed.
4 Abounding in servants: "Dives operis." Literally, "rich in labour," abounding in slaves to labour for him.
5 And glory: "Adoreâ." This was literally the allowance or largest of corn which was distributed to troops after a victory; hence it figuratively signifies "honor" or "glory."
6 Standing there: This seems to be the true meaning of "statim" in this passage.
7 With covered hands: He alludes here to the carrying of the "velamenta," which were branches of olive, surrounded with bandages of wool, and held in the hands of those who sued for mercy or pardon. The wool covered the hand, and was emblematical of peace, the hand being thereby rendered powerless to effect mischief.
8 King Pterelas: Pterela, or Pterelas, was the son of Hippothoë, the cousin of Amphitryon and Alcmena. He had a daughter named Cymetho, or Cometho, and his fate was said to depend upon the preservation of a certain lock of his hair. Cymetho, smitten with love for Amphitryon, or, according to some accounts, for Cephalus, his associate in the enterprise, cut off the fatal lock, and, like Scylla, betrayed her father, who was afterwards slain by Amphitryon.
9 God of Night: "Nocturnus" is generally supposed here to mean the "God of Night," though some Commentators have fancied that by it the Evening Star is signified.
10 Nor does Orion: "Jugula" means either the three stars composing the girdle of Orion or the Constellation Orion itself. It also was the name of two stars in the Constellation Cancer, or the Crab, which were also called "Aselli," or "the Little Asses." The plural, "Jugulæ," is more generally used. "Septentriones" was a name of the "Ursa Major," or "Greater Bear," also called by us "Charles's Wain." It received its name from "septem," "seven," and "terriones," "oxen that ploughed the earth," from its fancied resemblance to a string of oxen.
11 The Evening Star: "Vesperugo" is a name of Hesperus, or the Evening Star; while the Constellation of the Pleiades was sometimes known by the name of "Vergiliæ."
12 In best style: "Optumo optume optumam operam." There is a clumsy attempt at wit in this alliteration.
13 Bad bargain at first: This line has been a little modified in the translation.
14 Take my mantle off once more: "Detexere." This term was properly applied to the act of taking cloth, when woven, from off the loom. Sosia here uses it in the sense of stripping himself of It.
15 A Quintus: This is a poor attempt at wit. Mercury tells his fists that they thrashed four men into a lethargy yesterday; on which Sosia, in his apprehension, says that in that case he shall have to change his own name to "Quintus;" which signified "the fifth," and was also in use as a name among the Romans; implying thereby that he shall be the fifth to be so mauled.
16 Stroking him down: He probably alludes to the soporific power of his."caduceus," or "wand."
17 Three nights running: He alludes to the length of the night, which was prolonged by Jupiter for the purpose of his intrigue. According to other writers, it was on the occasion when Hercules was begotten, seven months before this period, that three nights were made into one.
18 This person's a wizard: We must remember that this is supposed to take place in the dark; and Sosia says that the man must surely be a wizard to guess that another person is so near him, and that he has been abroad till just now.
19 His beast's back: "Jumento suo." Literally, "on his beast of burden."
20 Somebody: "Nescio quis." Literally, "I know not who." For the sake of the joke, he pretends to think that this is the name of some one mentioned by Mercury; and says that as he is not that person, he is all right.
22 Whip-scoundrel: "Verbero." This word, as a substantive, properly means a bad slave, who had been whipped--"a rascal" or "scoundrel." As a verb, it means "I beat." Sosia chooses, for the sake of the quibble, to take it in the latter sense, and tells Mercury that he lies; meaning to say that he (Mercury) is not beating him (Sosia).
23 It is kept pure: , It is generally supposed that in these words indelicate allusion is intended; but it is not so universally agreed on what nature is.
24 To be exalted: He probably means by this, that he will beat him to such a degree that he will be obliged to be carried off, either dead or unable to move a limb--"elevated" on the shoulders of other men.
25 Laid hands on me: "Usufecisti." "Usufacere" was a term used in law, to signify the taking possession of a thing by the laying of hands thereon. this, Sosia means to say, Mercury has most effectually done.
26 Associate: This poor pun is founded on the similarity of sound between Sosia and "socius," a "companion" or "associate."
27 Angry with Sosia: There is something comical in the absurdity of this oath. Mercury, personating Sosia, says that if he breaks it, the result must be that Mercury (i. e., himself): will be angry with Sosia, the person in whose favour he is pretending to take the oath.
28 The Persian port: Plautus is here guilty of an anachronism; for the "Portus Persicus," which was on the coast of Eubœa, was so called from the Persian fleet lying there on the occasion of the expedition to Greece, many ages after the time of Amphitryon.
29 By my troth: "Hercle." Literally, "by Hercules." Hypercritical Commentators have observed, that Plautus is guilty in this Play of a grammatical anachronism, in putting the expletive, "Hercle," in the mouths of persous at a time when Hercules is supposed to be yet unborn. They might with as much justice accuse him of anachronism in putting the Roman language into the mouths of persons at a time when that language did not as yet exist. He merely professes to embody the sentiments of persons in bygone days in such language as may render them the most easily intelligible to a Roman audience.
31 Looked in a glass: He seems to speak of looking in a mirror as something uncommon for a slave to do. Probably the expense of them did not allow of their being used by slaves. The "specula," or "looking-glasses," of the ancients, were usually made of metal, either a composition of tin and copper or of silver; but in later times, alloy was mixed with the silver. Pliny mentions the obsidian stone, or, as it is now called, Icelandic agate, as being used for this purpose. He also says that mirrors were made in the glass-houses of Sidon, which consisted of glass plates with leaves of metal at the back. These were probably of an inferior character. Those of copper and tin were made chiefly at Brundisium. The white metal formed from this mixture soon becoming dim, a sponge, with powdered pumice-stone, was usually fastened to the mirrors made of that composition. They were generally small, of round or oval shape, and having a handle. The female slaves usually held them while their mistresses were performing the duties of the toilet. Sometimes they were fastened to the walls, and they were occasionally of the length of a person's body, like the cheval glasses of our day
32 When dead: It is generally thought that he is punning here upon the word "imago," and alludes to the practice of carrying the "imagines," or "waxen images" of their ancestors, in the funeral processions of the Patricians--an honor, he says, that will never befall him when he is dead. Douza, however, thinks that he is playing upon the expression "ludos facere," which has the double meaning of "to impose upon" a person, or "to give a spectacle" of gladiators after the death of a person of Patrician rank; and that he means to say that the act "ludos faciendi" is being applied to him (in the first sense): while alive, a thing that (in the second sense) will never befall him when dead.
33 Cap of freedom: When a slave was made free, after his manumission his head was shaved, and a cap put upon it in the Temple of Feronia, the Goddess of Freedmen.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.