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Enter ALCMENA, from the house, attended by THESSALA.
Is not the proportion of pleasures in life and in passing our existence short in comparison with what is disagreable? So it is allotted to each man in life; so has it pleased the Gods that Sorrow should attend on Pleasure as her companion; but if aught of good befalls us, more of trouble and of ill forthwith attends us. For this do I now feel by experience at home and in relation to myself, to whom delight has been imparted for a very short time, while I had the opportunity of seeing my husband for but one night; and now has he suddenly gone away hence from me before the dawn. Deserted do I now seem to myself, because he is absent from here, he whom before all I love. More of grief have I felt from the departure of my husband, than of pleasure from his arrival. But this, at least, makes me happy, that he has conquered the foe, and has returned home loaded with glory. Let him be absent, if only with fame acquired he betakes himself home. I shall bear and ever endure his absence with mind resolved and steadfast; if only this reward is granted me, that my husband shall be hailed the conqueror in the warfare, sufficient for myself will I deem it. Valour is the best reward; valour assuredly surpasses all things: liberty, safety, life, property and parents, country too, and children, by it are defended and preserved. Valour comprises everything in itself: all blessings attend him in whose possession is valour. AMPH.
apart . By my troth, I do believe that I shall come much wished for by my wife, who loves me, and whom, in return, I love: especially, our enterprise crowned with success, the enemy vanquished, whom no one had supposed to be able to be conquered: these, under my conduct and command, at the first meeting, have we vanquished; but I know for sure that I shall come to her much wished for. SOSIA
aside . Well, and don't you think that I shall come much wished for to my mistress? SOSIA. ALCMENA
to herself . Surely, this is my husband. AMPH.
to SOSIA . Do you follow me this way. ALCMENA
to herself . But why has he returned, when just now he said that he was in haste? Is he purposely trying me, and is he desirous to make proof of this, how much I regret his departure? By my faith, against no inclination of mine has he betaken himself home. SOSIA
Amphitryon, it were better for us to return to the ship. AMPH.
For what reason? SOSIA
Because there's no person at home to give us a breakfast on our arrival. AMPH.
How comes that now into your mind? SOSIA
Why, because we have come too late. AMPH.
How so? SOSIA
Because I see Alcmena standing before the house, with her stomach-full1 already. AMPH.
I left her pregnant here when I went away. SOSIA
Alas, to my sorrow, I'm undone! AMPH.
What's the matter with you? SOSIA
I have come home just in good time to fetch the water2 in the tenth month after that, according as I understand you to compute the reckoning. AMPH.
Be of good heart. SOSIA
Do you know of how good heart I am? By my troth, do you never after this day entrust to me aught that is sacred, if I don't draw up all the life of that well, if I do but make a beginning. AMPH.
Do you only follow me this way. I'll appoint another person for that business; don't you fear. ALCMENA
advancing . I think that I shall now be doing my duty more, if I go to meet him. (They meet.) AMPH.
With joy, Amphitryon greets his longed for wife--her, whom of all women in Thebes her husband deems by far the most excellent, and whom so much the Theban citizens truthfully extol as virtuous. Have you fared well all along? Do I arrive much wished for by you? SOSIA
aside . I never saw one more so; for she greets her own husband not a bit more than a dog. AMPH.
When I see you pregnant, and so gracefully burdened, I am delighted. ALCMENA
Prithee, in the name of all that's good, why, for the sake of mockery, do you thus salute and address me, as though you hadn't lately seen me--as though now, for the first time, you were betaking yourself homeward here from the enemy? For now you are addressing me just as though you were seeing me after a long time. AMPH.
Why, really for my part, I have not seen you at all this day until now. ALCMENA
Why do you deny it? AMPH.
Because I have learned to speak the truth. ALCMENA
He does not do right, who unlearns the same that he has learned. Are you making trial what feelings I possess? But why are you returning hither so soon? Has an ill omen delayed you, or does the weather keep you back, you who have not gone away to your troops, as you were lately speaking of? AMPH.
Lately? How long since was this "lately?" ALCMENA
You are trying me; but very lately, just now. AMPH.
Prithee, how can that possibly be as you say?--"but very lately, just now." ALCMENA
Why, what do you imagine? That I, on the other hand, shall trifle with you who are playing with me, in saying that you are now come for the first time, you who but just now went away from here? AMPH.
Surely she is talking deliriously. SOSIA
Stop a little while, until she has slept out this one sleep. AMPH.
Is she not dreaming with her eyes open? ALCMENA
Upon my faith, for my part I really am awake, and awake I am relating that which has happened; for, but lately, before daybreak, I saw both him pointing at SOSIA and yourself. AMPH.
In what place? ALCMENA
Here, in the house where you yourself dwell. AMPH.
It never was the fact. SOSIA
Will you not hold your peace? What if the vessel brought us here from the harbour in our sleep? AMPH.
Are you, too, going to back her as well? SOSIA
aside to AMPHITRYON . What do you wish to be done? Don't you know, if you wish to oppose a raving Bacchanal, from a mad woman you'll render her more mad--she'll strike the oftener3; if you humour her, after one blow you may overcome her? AMPH.
But, by my troth, this thing is resolved upon, somehow to rate her who this day has been unwilling to greet me on my arrival home. SOSIA
You'll only be irritating hornets. AMPH.
You hold your tongue. Alcmena, I wish to ask you one thing. ALCMENA
Ask me anything you please. AMPH.
Is it frenzy that has come upon you, or does pride overcome you? ALCMENA
How comes it into your mind, my husband, to ask me that? AMPH.
Because formerly you used to greet me on my arrival, and to address me in such manner as those women who are virtuous are wont their husbands. On my arrival home I've found that you have got rid of that custom. ALCMENA
By my faith, indeed, I assuredly did both greet you yesterday, upon your arrival, at that very instant, and at the same time I enquired if you had continued in health all along, my husband, and I took your hand and gave you a kiss. SOSIA
What, did you welcome him yesterday? ALCMENA
And you too, as well, Sosia. SOSIA
Amphitryon, I did hope that she was about to bring you forth a son; but she isn't gone with child. AMPH.
What then? SOSIA
With madness. ALCMENA
Really I am in my senses, and I pray the Gods that in safety I may bring forth a son; but to SOSIA hap-ill shall you be having, if he does his duty: for those ominous words, omen-maker, you shall catch what befits you. SOSIA
Why really an apple4 ought to be given to the lady thus pregnant, that there may be something for her to gnaw if she should begin to faint. AMPH.
Did you see me here yesterday? ALCMENA
I did, I say, if you wish it to be ten times repeated. AMPH.
In your sleep, perhaps? ALCMENA
No--I, awake, saw you awake. AMPH.
Woe to me! SOSIA
What's the matter with you? AMPH.
My wife is mad. SOSIA
She's attacked with black bile; nothing so soon turns people mad. AMPH.
When, madam, did you first find yourself affected? ALCMENA
Why really, upon my faith, I'm well, and in my senses. AMPH.
Why, then, do you say that you saw me yesterday, whereas we were brought into harbour but last night? There did I dine, and there did I rest the livelong night on board ship, nor have I set my foot even here into the house, since, with the army, I set out hence against the Teleboan foe, and since we conquered them. ALCMENA
On the contrary, you dined with me, and you slept with me. AMPH.
How so? ALCMENA
I'm telling the truth. AMPH.
On my honor, not in this matter, really; about other MATTERS
I don't know. ALCMENA
At the very break of dawn you went away to your troops. AMPH.
By what means could I? SOSIA
She says right, according as she remembers; she's telling you her dream. But, madam, after you arose, you ought to have sacrificed to Jove, the disposer of prodigies5, either with a salt cake or with frankincense. ALCMENA
A mischief on your head! SOSIA
That's your own business, if you take due care. ALCMENA
Now again this fellow is talking rudely to me, and that without punishment. AMPH.
to SOSIA . You hold your tongue. To ALCMENA. Do you tell me now--did I go away hence from you at daybreak? ALCMENA
Who then but your own self recounted to me how the battle went there? AMPH.
And do you know that as well? ALCMENA
Why, I heard it from your own self, how you had taken a very large city, and how you yourself had slain king Pterelas. AMPH.
What, did I tell you this? ALCMENA
You yourself, this Sosia standing by as well. AMPH.
to SOSIA . Have you heard me telling about this to-day? SOSIA
Where should I have heard you? AMPH.
Ask her. SOSIA
In my presence, indeed, it never took place, that I know of. ALCMENA
It would be a wonder6 if he didn't contradict you. AMPH.
Sosia, come here and look at me. SOSIA
looks at him . I am looking at you. AMPH.
I wish you to tell the truth, and I don't want you to humour me. Have you heard me this day sav to her these things which she affirms? SOSIA
Prithee now, by my troth, are you, too, mad as well, when you ask me this, me, who, for my part, my own self now behold her in company with you for the first time? AMPH.
How now, madam? Do you hear him? ALCMENA
I do, indeed, and telling an untruth. AMPH.
Do you believe neither him nor my own self, your husband? ALCMENA
No; for this reason it is, because I most readily believe myself, and I am sure that these things took place just as I relate them. AMPH.
Do you say that I came yesterday? ALCMENA
Do you deny that you went away from here to-day? AMPH.
I really do deny it, and I declare that I have now come home to you for the first time. ALCMENA
Prithee, will you deny this too, that you to-day made me a present of a golden goblet, with which you said that you had been presented? AMPH.
By heavens, I neither gave it nor told you so: but I had so intended, and do so now, to present you with that goblet. But who told you this? ALCMENA
Why, I heard it from yourself, and I received the goblet from your own hand. She moves as if going. AMPH.
Stay, stay, I entreat you. Sosia, I marvel much how she knows that I was presented there with this golden goblet, unless you have lately met her and told her all this. SOSIA
Upon my faith, I have never told her, nor have I ever beheld her except with yourself. AMPH.
What is the matter7 with this person? ALCMENA
Should you like the goblet to be produced? AMPH.
I should like it; to be produced ALCMENA
Be it so. Do you go, Thessala, and bring from indoors the goblet, with which my husband presented me today. THESSALA goes into the house, and AMPHITRYON and SOSIA walk on one side. AMPH.
Sosia, do you step this way. Really, I do wonder extremely at this beyond the other wondrous matters, if she has got this goblet. SOSIA
And do you believe it, when it's carried in this casket, sealed with your own seal. He shows the casket. AMPH.
Is the seal whole? SOSIA
Examine it. AMPH.
examining it . All right, it's just as I sealed it up. SOSIA
Prithee, why don't you order her to be purified8 as a frantic person? AMPH.
By my troth, somehow there's need for it, for, i' faith, she's certainly filled with sprites. ALCMENA. ALCMENA
What need is there of talking? See, here's the goblet; here it is. AMPH.
Give it me. ALCMENA
Come, now then, look here, if you please, you who deny what is fact, and whom I shall now clearly convict in this case. Isn't this the goblet with which you were presented there? AMPH.
Supreme Jupiter! what do I behold? Surely this is that goblet. Sosia, I'm utterly confounded. SOSIA
Upon my faith, either this woman is a most consummate juggler, or the goblet must be in here pointing to the casket . AMPH. Come, then, open this casket. SOSIA
Why should I open it? It is securely sealed. The thing is cleverly contrived; you have brought forth another Amphitryon, I have brought forth another Sosia; now if the goblet has brought forth a goblet, we have all produced our doubles. AMPH.
I'm determined to open and examine it. SOSIA
Look, please, how the seal is, that you may not hereafter throw the blame on me. AMPH.
Now do open it. For she certainly is desirous to drive us mad with her talking. ALCMENA
Whence then came this which was made a present to me, but from yourself? AMPH.
It's necessary for me to enquire into this. SOSIA
opening the casket . Jupiter, O Jupiter! AMPH.
What is the matter with you? SOSIA
There's no goblet here in the casket. AMPH.
What do I hear. SOSIA
That which is the truth. AMPH.
But at your peril now, if it does not make its appearance. ALCMENA
showing it . Why, it does make its appearance. AMPH.
Who then gave it you? ALCMENA
The person that's asking me the question. SOSIA
to AMPHITRYON . You are on the catch for me, inasmuch as you yourself have secretly run before me hither from the ship by another road, and have taken the goblet away from here and given it to her, and afterwards you have secretly sealed it up again. AMPH.
Ah me! and are you too helping her frenzy as well? To ALCMENA Do you say that we arrived here yesterday? ALCMENA
I do say so, and on your arrival you instantly greeted me, and I you, and I gave you a kiss. SOSIA
aside . That beginning now about the kiss doesn't please me. AMPH.
Go on telling it. ALCMENA
Then you bathed. AMPH.
What, after I bathed? ALCMENA
You took your place at table. SOSIA
Bravo, capital! Now make further enquiry. AMPH.
to SOSIA . Don't you interrupt. To ALCMENA . Go on telling me. ALCMENA
The dinner was served; you dined with me; I reclined together with you at the repast. AMPH.
What, on the same couch? ALCMENA
On the same. SOSIA
Oh dear, I don't like this banquet. AMPH.
Now do let her give her proofs. To ALCMENA. What, after we had dined? ALCMENA
You said that you were inclined to go to sleep; the table was removed; thence we went to bed. AMPH.
Where did you lie? ALCMENA
In the chamber, in the same bed together with your. self. AMPH.
You have proved my undoing. SOSIA
What's the matter with you? AMPH.
This very moment has she sent me to my grave. ALCMENA
How so, pray? AMPH.
Don't address me. SOSIA
What's the matter with you? AMPH.
To my sorrow I'm undone, since, in my absence from here, dishonor has befallen her chastity. ALCMENA
In heaven's name, my lord, why, I beseech you, do I hear this from you? AMPH.
I, your lord? False one, don't call me by a false name. SOSIA
aside . 'Tis an odd matter9 this, if indeed he has been made into my lady from my lord. ALCMENA
What have I done, by reason of which these expressions are uttered to me? AMPH.
You yourself proclaim your own doings; do you enquire of me in what you have offended? ALCMENA
In what have I offended you, if I have been with you to whom I am married? AMPH.
You, been with me? What is there of greater effrontery than this impudent woman? At least, if you were wanting in modesty of your own, you might have borrowed it. ALCMENA
That criminality which you lay to my charge befits not my family. If you try to catch me in incontinence, you cannot convict me. AMPH.
Immortal Gods! do you at least know me, Sosia? SOSIA
Pretty well. AMPH.
Did I not dine yesterday on board ship in the Persian Port? ALCMENA
I have witnesses as well, who can confirm that which I say. SOSIA
I don't know what to say to this matter, unless, perchance, there is another Amphitryon, who, perhaps, though you yourself are absent, takes care of your business, and who, in your absence, performs your duties here. For about that counterfeit Sosia it is very surprising. Certainly, about this Amphitryon, now, it is another matter still more surprising. AMPH.
Some magician, I know not who, is bewildering this woman. ALCMENA
By the realms of the supreme Sovereign I swear, and by Juno, the matron Goddess, whom for me to fear and venerate it is most especially fitting, that no mortal being10 except yourself alone has ever touched my person in contact with his so as to render me unchaste. AMPH.
I could wish that that was true. ALCMENA
I speak the truth, but in vain, since you will not believe me. AMPH.
You are a woman; you swear at random. ALCMENA
She who has not done wrong, her it befits to be bold and to speak confidently and positively in her own behalf. AMPH.
That's very boldly said. ALCMENA
Just as befits a virtuous woman. AMPH.
Say you so? By your own words you prove it. ALCMENA
That which is called a dowry, I do not deem the same my dowry; but chastity, and modesty, and subdued desires, fear of the Gods, and love of my parents, and concord with my kindred; to be obedient to yourself and bounteous to the good, ready to aid the upright. SOSIA
Surely, by my troth, if she tells the truth in this, she's perfect to the very ideal11. AMPH.
Really I am so bewildered, that I don't know myself who I am. SOSIA
Surely you are Amphitryon; take you care, please, that you don't peradventure lose yourself; people are changing in such a fashion since we came from abroad. AMPH.
Madam, I'm resolved not to omit having this matter enquired into. ALCMENA
I' faith, you'll do so quite to my satisfaction. AMPH.
How say you? Answer me; what if I bring your own kinsman, Naucrates, hither from the ship, who, together with me, has been brought on board the same ship; and if he denies that that has happened which you say has happened, what is proper to be done to you? Do you allege any reason. why I should not at your cost dissolve12 this our marriage? ALCMENA
If I have done wrong, there is no reason. AMPH.
Agreed. Do you, Sosia, take these13 people in-doors. I'll bring Naucrates hither with me from the ship. (Exit.) SOSIA
going close to ALCMENA . Now then, there's no one here except ourselves; tell me the truth seriously, is there any Sosia in-doors who is like myself? ALCMENA
Won't you hence away from me, fit servant for your master? SOSIA
If you command me, I'm off14, Goes into the house. ALCMENA
to herself . By heavens, it is a very wondrous proceeding, how it has pleased this husband of mine thus to accuse me falsely of a crime so foul. Whatever it is, I shall now learn it from my kinsman Naucrates. Goes into the house.
1 Stomach-full: He is guilty of a vulgar pun on the word "saturam," which may either mean "having a full stomach" or "being pregnant."
2 To fetch the water: He alludes to the practice among the ancients of bathing immediately after childbirth, and says that he himself, as the servant, will have to fetch the buckets of water
3 Strike the oftener: This is said in allusion to the blows with the thyrsus, which the frantic female votaries of Bacchus inflicted upon all persons that they met.
4 An apple: There is a pun here upon the similarity of the two words "malum," "evil," and "malum," an "apple," in which latter sense Sosia chooses to take the expression of Alcmena. The version of the pun used in the text is borrowed from Thornton's Translation. In a Note, he wonders "why an apple (or any fruit) should be given to a pregnant woman." Sosia seems to explain the reason, in saying that if she feels faint, she will have something to gnaw. It is not improbable that tension of the muscles may in some degree counteract a tendency to faint. This wretched pun is repeated in l. 1032
5 Disposer of prodigies: See the Miles Gloriosus, l. 394, and the Note to the passage.
6 It would be a wonder: She says this ironically.
7 What is the matter: It is disputed among the Commentators to which character these words belong, Amphitryon or Alcmena
8 To be purified: "Circumferri." Literally, "to be carried round her." Those who were "cerriti," "tormented with the wrath of Ceres," or, in other words, "possessed by evil spirits," were exorcised by persons walking round them with sulphur and burning torches; whence the present expression.
9 'Tis an odd matter: Thornton says, on this passage, "The ambiguity of Sosia's pun in this place depends on the double signification of vir, which means 'a man' and 'a husband,' "Poor as it is, it answers very well in the English word "lord."
10 No mortal being: Unknowingly, Alcmena has a salvo here for the untruth, which, unconsciously, she would be otherwise telling; Jupiter not being a mortal.
11 To the very ideal: "Examussim." Literally, "by the rule;" a term applied to carpenter's work.
12 At your cost dissolve: "Mulctem matrimonio." He alludes to the custom among the Romans of the husband retaining the marriage-portion of the wife, when she was divorced for adultery. If they separated for any other reason, her portion was returned to her.
13 Take these: "Hos." It is not known to what this word is intended to apply; but it may possibly refer to some captives which he has brought with him, the fruits of his conquest.
14 I'm off: We may suppose him to say so with peculiar alacrity, as "abeo," the word used by Alcmena, was the formal word used on the manumission of a slave.
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