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Enter CHAEREA from the house of Thais, in the EUNUCH'S dress.
looking around, then aloud to himself. Is there any body here? There's no one. Is there any one following me from there? There's not a person. Now am I not at liberty to give vent to these raptures? O supreme Jupiter! now assuredly is the time for me to meet my death,1 when I can so well endure it; lest my life should sully this ecstasy with some disaster. But is there now no inquisitive person to be intruding upon me, to be following me wherever I do, to be deafening me, worrying me to death, with asking questions; why thus transported, or why so overjoyed, whither I'm going, whence I'm come, where I got this garb, what is my object, whether I'm in my senses or whether downright mad? ANTIPHO
apart. I'll accost him, and I'll do him the favor which I see he's wishing for. Accosting him. Chaerea, why are you thus transported? What's the object of this garb? Why is it that you're so overjoyed? What is the meaning of this? Are you quite right in your senses? Why do you stare at me? What have you to say? CHAEREA
O joyous day! O welcome, my friend! There's not one in all the world whom I would rather wish to see at this moment that yourself. ANTIPHO
Pray, do tell me what all this means. CHAEREA
Nay rather, i'faith, I beg of you to listen to me. Do you know the mistress whom my brother is so fond of? ANTIPHO
I know her; I suppose you mean Thais? CHAEREA
The very same. ANTIPHO
So far I recollect. CHAEREA
To-day a certain damsel was presented to her. Why now should I extol or commend her beauty to you, Antipho, since you yourself know how nice a judge of beauty I am? I have been smitten by her. ANTIPHO
Do you say so? CHAEREA
If you saw her, I am sure you would say she's exquisite. What need of many words? I fell in love with her. By good luck there was at our house a certain Eunuch, whom my brother had purchased for Thais, and he had not as yet been sent to her. On this occasion, Parmeno, our servant, made a suggestion to me, which I adopted. ANTIPHO
What was it? CHAEREA
Be quiet, and you shall hear the sooner; to change clothes with him, and order myself to be taken there in his stead. ANTIPHO
What, instead of the Eunuch? CHAEREA
The fact. ANTIPHO
To receive what advantage, pray, from this plan? CHAEREA
Do you ask? That I might see, hear, and be in company with her whom I loved, Antipho. Is that a slight motive, or a poor reason? I was presented to the woman. She, as soon as she received me, joyfully took me home to her house and intrusted the damsel---- ANTIPHO
To whom? To you? CHAEREA
To me. ANTIPHO
ironically. In perfect safety, at all events. CHAEREA
She gave orders that no male was to come near her, and commanded me not to stir away from her; that I was to remain alone with her in the inner apartments.2 Looking bashfully on the ground, I nodded assent. ANTIPHO
ironically. Poor fellow! CHAEREA
continuing. "I am going out," said she, "to dinner." She took her maids with her; a few novices of girls3 remained, to be about her. These immediately made preparations for her to bathe. I urged them to make haste. While preparations were being made, the damsel sat in a room looking up at a certain painting,4 in which was represented how Jove5 is said once to have sent a golden shower into the bosom of Danaë. I myself began to look at it as well, and as he had in former times played the like game, I felt extremely delighted that a God should change himself into money, and slily come through the tiles of another person's house, to deceive the fair one by means of a shower. But what God was this? He who shakes the most lofty temples of heaven with his thunders. Was I, a poor creature of a mortal,6 not to do the same? Certainly, I was to do it, and without hesitation. While I was thinking over these matters with myself, the damsel meantime was fetched away to bathe; she went, bathed, and came back; after which they laid her on a couch. I stood waiting to see if they gave me any orders. One came up, "Here, Dorus," said she, "take this fan,7 and let her have a little air in this fashion, while we are bathing; when we have bathed, if you like, you may bathe too." With a demure air I took it. ANTIPHO
Really, I should very much have liked to see that impudent face of yours just then, and what figure a great donkey like you made, holding a fan! CHAEREA
continuing. Hardly had she said this, when all, in a moment, betook themselves off: away they went to bathe, and chattered aloud;8 just as the way is when masters are absent. Meanwhile, sleep overtook the damsel; I slily looked askance9 through the fan;10 this way showing how : at the same time I looked round in all directions, to see whether all was quite safe. I saw that it was. I bolted the door. ANTIPHO
What then? CHAEREA
Eh? What then, you simpleton? ANTIPHO
I own I am. CHAEREA
Was I to let slip the opportunity offered me, so excellent, so short-lived,11 so longed for, so unexpected. In that case, i'faith, I really should have been the person I was pretending to be. ANTIPHO
Troth, you certainly are in the right; but, meantime, what has been arranged about the club-entertainment? CHAEREA
All's ready. ANTIPHO
You are a clever hand; but where? At your house? CHAEREA
No, at Discus's, our freedman. ANTIPHO
That's a long way off. CHAEREA
Then let's make so much the greater haste. ANTIPHO
Change your dress. CHAEREA
Where am I to change it? I'm at a loss; for at present I'm an exile from home; I'm afraid of my brother, lest he should be in-doors: and then again of my father, lest he should have returned from the country by this. ANTIPHO
Let's go to my house; there is the nearest place for you to change. CHAEREA
You say right. Let's be off; besides, I want to take counsel with you about this girl, by what means I may be able to secure the future possession of her. ANTIPHO
Very well. (Exeunt.)
1 To meet my death: There is a passage in the Othello of Shakspeare extremely similar to this:
“ ----"If I were now to die,
I were now to be most happy; for, I fear,
My soul hath her content so absolute,
That not another comfort, like to this,
Succeeds in unknown fate."
2 In the inner apartments: The "Gynecaea," or women's apartments, among the Greeks, always occupied the interior part of the house, which was most distant from the street, and there they were kept in great seclusion.
3 A few novices of girls: These "noviciae" were young slaves recently bought, and intended to be trained to the calling of a Courtesan.
4 At a certain painting: See the story of Jupiter and Danaë, the daughter of Acrisius, king of Argos, in the Metamorphoses of Ovid, B. iv., l. 610. Pictures of Venus and Adonis, and of Jupiter and Ganymede, are mentioned in the Menaechmi of Plautus; l. 144, and paintings on the walls are also mentioned in the Mostellaria of Plautus, l. 821, where Tranio tries to impose upon Theuropides by pretending to point out a picture of a crow between two vultures.
5 How Jove: Donatus remarks here that this was "a very proper piece of furniture for the house of a Courtesan, giving an example of loose and mercenary Love, calculated to excite wanton thoughts, and at the same time hinting to the young lover that he must make his way to the bosom of his mistress, like Jupiter to Danaë, in a shower of gold. Oh the avarice of harlots!"
6 A poor creature of a mortal: "Homuncio." He uses this word the better to contrast his abject nature as a poor mortal with the majesty of Jupiter. St. Augustin refers to this passage. The preceding line is said by Donatus to be a parody on a passage by Ennius.
7 Take this fan: As to the fans of the ancients, see the Trinummus of Plautus, l. 252, and the Note to the passage in Bohn's Translation. See also the Amours of Ovid, B. iii., El. 2, l. 38.
8 Chattered aloud: This line bears a
strong resemblance to two lines found in Anstey's new Bath Guide:
"And how the young ladies all set up their clacks,
All the while an old woman was rubbing their backs."
9 I slily looked askance: This way of looking aside, "limis," is mentioned in the Miles Gloriosus of Plautus, where Milphidippa tells Acroteleutium to look at the Captain sideways, "Aspicito limis," l. 1217; also in the Bacchides, l. 1131. Those familiar with the works of Hogarth will readily call to mind the picture of Bedlam in the Rake's Progress, where the young woman is looking askance through her fan at the madman in his cell.
10 Through the fan: This shows that the fan was probably one made of thin boards, and not of feathers.
11 So short-lived: Colman has the following Note here: "Short indeed, considering the number of incidents, which, according to Chaerea's relation, are crowded into it. All the time allowed for this adventure is the short space between the departure of Thais and Thraso and the entrance of Chaerea; so that all this variety of business of sleeping, bathing, ravishing, &c., is dispatched during the two soliloquies of Antipho and Chaerea, and the short Scene between Chremes and Pythias. The truth is, that a very close adherence to the unities often drives the Poet into as great absurdities as the perfect violation of them."
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