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Enter the SHARPER.
To this day I give the name of "The Festival of the Three Pieces" (Trinummus); for, on this day, have I let out my services in a cheating scheme for three pieces of money. I am just arrived from Seleucia, Macedonia, Asia, and Arabia,--places which I never visited either with my eye or with my foot. See now, what business poverty brings upon the man that is wretchedly destitute; inasmuch as I am now obliged, for the sake of three pieces of money, to say that I received these letters from a certain person, about whom I don't know, nor have I ever known, who the man is, nor do I know this for certain, whether he was ever born or not. CHARMIDES
behind . Faith, this fellow's surely of the mushroom genus; he covers himself entirely with his top.1 The countenance of the fellow appears to be Illyrian; he comes, too, in that garb. A SHARPER.
He who hired me, when he had hired me, took me to his house; he told me what he wanted to be done; he taught and showed me beforehand how I was to do everything. If, then, I should add anything more, my employer will on that account the better forward his plan through me. As he dressed me out, so am I now equipped; his money did that. He himself borrowed my costume, at his own risk, from the theatrical wardrobe2; if I shall be able, now, to impose on this man through my garb, I will give him occasion clearly to find that I am a very trickster. CHARMIDES
behind . The more I look at him, the less does the appearance of the fellow please me. 'Tis a wonder if that fellow there is not either a night-robber3 or a cutpurse. He is viewing the locality; he is looking around him and surveying the houses; troth, I think he is reconnoitring the spot for him to come and rob bye and bye. I have a still greater desire to watch what he is about: I'll give attention to this matter. A SHARPER.
This employer of mine pointed out these localities to me; at this house are my devices to be put in practice. I'll knock at the door. CHARMIDES
behind . Surely this fellow is making in a straight line for my house; i' faith, I think I shall have to keep watch this night of my arrival. A SHARPER.
knocks at the door of the house of CHARMIDES . Open this door!--open it! Hallo, there! who now has the care of this door4? CHARMIDES
coming up to him . Young man, what do you want? hat is it you wish? Why are you knocking at this door? A SHARPER.
Eh! old gentleman; I am inquiring here for a young man named Lesbonicus, where in this quarter he lives --and likewise for another person, with such white hairs on his head as yours; he that gave me these letters said his name was Callicles. CHARMIDES
aside . In fact, this fellow is looking for my own son Lesbonicus and my friend Callicles, to whom I entrusted both my children and my property. A SHARPER.
Let me know, respected sir5, if you are acquainted with it, where these persons live. CHARMIDES
Why are you inquiring for them? Or who are you?--Or whence are you?--Or whence do you cone? A SHARPER.
I gave the return correctly to the Censor6, when I was questioned by him---- CHARMIDES
* * * * A SHARPER.
You ask a number of things in the same breath; I know not which in especial to inform you upon. If you will ask each thing singly, and in a quiet manner, I'll both let you know my name, and my business, and my travels. CHARMIDES
I'll do as you desire. Come then; in the first place, tell me your name. A SHARPER.
You begin by demanding an arduous task. CHARMIDES
How so? A SHARPER.
Because, respected sir, if you were to begin before daylight, i' faith, to commence at the first part of my name7, 'twould be the dead of the night before you could get to the end of it. CHARMIDES
According to your story, a person should have a long journey's provision crammed tightly in for your name. A SHARPER.
I have another name somewhat less,--about the size of a wine-casks8. CHARMIDES
What is this name of yours, young man? A SHARPER.
"Hush," that's my name9; that's my every-day one. CHARMIDES
I' faith, 'tis a scampish name; just as though10 you were to say, "Hush," if I were confiding anything to you, and then it is at an end forthwith. Aside. This fellow is evidently a sharper. What say you, young man----? A SHARPER.
What is it now? CHARMIDES
Speak out; what do these persons owe you whom you are seeking? A SHARPER.
The father of this young man, Lesbonicus, delivered to me these two letters; he is a friend of mine. CHARMIDES
aside . I have now caught him in the fact; he says that I gave him the letters. I will have some fine sport with the fellow. A SHARPER.
As I have begun, if you will give attention, I will say on. CHARMIDES
I'll give you my attention. A SHARPER.
He bade me give this letter to his son, Lesbonicus, and this other one, as well, he bade me give to his friend Callicles. CHARMIDES
aside . Troth, but since he is acting the impostor, I, on the other hand, have an inclination to act the cheat as well. Where was he himself? A SHARPER.
He was carrying on his business prosperously. CHARMIDES
But where? A SHARPER.
At Seleucia. CHARMIDES
* * * * * And did you receive these from himself? A SHARPER.
With his own hands he himself delivered them into my hands. CHARMIDES
Of what appearance is this person? A SHARPER.
He is a person somewhere about half a foot taller than you. CHARMIDES
aside . This is an odd matter, if in fact I am taller when absent than when present. Do you know this person? A SHARPER.
You are asking me a ridiculous question; together with him I was in the habit of taking my meals. CHARMIDES
What is his name? A SHARPER.
One, i' faith, that belongs to an honorable man. CHARMIDES
I would like to hear it. A SHARPER.
Troth, his name hesitating --his--his-- Aside. Woe to unfortunate me. CHARMIDES
What's the matter? A SHARPER.
Unguardedly, I this moment swallowed the name. CHARMIDES
I like not the man that has his friends shut up within his teeth. A SHARPER.
And yet this moment 'twas dwelling on the very edge of my lips. CHARMIDES
aside . I've come to-day in good time before this fellow. A SHARPER.
aside . To my sorrow I'm caught in the fact. CHARMIDES
Have you now recollected the name? A SHARPER.
'Fore Gods and men, i' faith, I'm ashamed of myself CHARMIDES
See, now, how well you know this man. A SHARPER.
As well as my own self. This is in the habit of happening: the thing you are holding in your hand, and seeing with your eyes, that same you are looking for as lost. I'll recollect it letter by letter. C is the beginning of the name. CHARMIDES
Is it Callias? A SHARPER.
No: it isn't that. CHARMIDES
Callippus? A SHARPER.
It isn't that. CHARMIDES
Callidemides? A SHARPER.
It isn't that. CHARMIDES
Callinicus? A SHARPER.
No: it isn't that. CHARMIDES
Or is it Callimachus? A SHARPER.
'Tis in vain you suggest; and, i' faith, I really don't care one fillip about it, since I recollect enough myself for my own purpose. CHARMIDES
But there are many people here of the name of Lesbonicus; unless you tell me the name of his father, I cannot show you these persons whom you are looking for. What is it like? Perhaps we can find it out by guessing. A SHARPER.
It is something like this: Char---- CHARMIDES
Chares? Or Charicles? Or is it Charmides? A SHARPER.
Ah! that's he; may the Deities confound him. CHARMIDES
I have said to you once before already * * * * that it is proper for you rather to speak well of a man that is your friend, than to curse him. A SHARPER.
Isn't it the fact11 that this most worthless fellow has lain perdu between my lips and my teeth? CHARMIDES
Don't you be cursing an absent friend. A SHARPER.
Why, then, did this most rascally fellow hide himself away from me? CHARMIDES
If you had only called him, he would have answered to his name. But where is he himself now? A SHARPER.
Troth, I left him at Rhadama12, in the isle of Apeland. CHARMIDES
* * * * * aside . What person is there a greater simpleton than I, who myself am making inquiries where I am? But it is by no means unimportant to this present purpose. What do you say as----? A SHARPER.
What now? CHARMIDES
I ask you this. What places have you visited? A SHARPER.
Places exceedingly wonderful in astonishing ways. CHARMIDES
I should like to hear about them, unless it is inconvenient. A SHARPER.
Really I quite long to tell you. First of all we were conveyed to Pontus, to the land of Arabia13. CHARMIDES
How now; is Arabia then in Pontus? A SHARPER.
It is. Not that Arabia where frankincense is produced, but where the wormwood grows14, and the wild marjoram which the poultry love. CHARMIDES
aside . An extremely ingenious knave this. But the greater simpleton I, to be asking of this fellow from what place I have come back, a thing which I know, and he does not know; except that I have a mind to try how he will get out of it at last. But what say you further? Whither did you go next from thence? A SHARPER.
If you give me your attention, I will tell you. To the source of the river which arises out of the heavens, from beneath the throne of Jupiter. CHARMIDES
Beneath the throne of Jupiter? A SHARPER.
Yes: I say so. CHARMIDES
Out of the heavens? A SHARPER.
Aye, out of the very middle. CHARMIDES
How now; and did you ascend even to the heavens? A SHARPER.
Yes: we were carried in a little skiff15 right on, up the river, against the tide. CHARMIDES
And did you see Jupiter as well? A SHARPER.
The other Gods said that he had gone to his country-house, to dole out the victuals for his slaves. Then, after that---- CHARMIDES
Then after that--I don't want you to relate anything more. A SHARPER.
Troth, I'm silent, if it's troublesome. CHARMIDES
Why, no decent person16 ought to tell it, who has gone from the earth to heaven. A SHARPER.
I'll leave you, as I see you wish it. But point me out these persons whom I am looking for, and to whom I must deliver these letters. CHARMIDES
What say you? If now perchance you were to see Charmides himself, him, I mean, who you say gave you these letters, would you know the man? A SHARPER.
By my troth now, do you take me to be a brute beast, who really am not able to recognise the person with whom I have been spending my life? And would he have been such a fool as to entrust to me a thousand Philippean pieces, which gold he bade me carry to his son, and to his friend Callicles, to whom he said that he had entrusted his affairs? Would he have entrusted them to me if he had not known me, and I him, very intimately? CHARMIDES
aside . I really have a longing now to swindle this swindler, if I can cozen him out of these thousand Philippean pieces which he has said that I have given to him. A person, that I know not who he is, and have never beheld him with my eyes before this day, should I be entrusting gold to him? A man, to whom, if his life were at stake, I would not entrust a dump of lead. This fellow must be adroitly dealt with by me. Hallo! Mister Hush, I want three words with you. A SHARPER.
Even three hundred, if you like. CHARMIDES
Have you that gold which you received from Charmides? A SHARPER.
Yes, and Philippeans, too, counted out on the table with his own hand, a thousand pieces. CHARMIDES
You received it, you mean, from Charmides himself? A SHARPER.
'Twere a wonder if I had received it of his father, or of his grandfather, who are dead. CHARMIDES
Then, young man, hand me over this gold. A SHARPER.
staring at him . What gold am I to give you? CHARMIDES
That which you have owned you received from me. A SHARPER.
Received from you? CHARMIDES
Yes, I say so. A SHARPER.
Who are you? CHARMIDES
I am Charmides, who gave you the thousand pieces of money. A SHARPER.
I' faith, you are not he; and this day, you never shall be he, for this gold, at any rate. Away with you, if you please, you impostor! Aside. You are trying to cheat the cheater. CHARMIDES
I am Charmides. A SHARPER.
I' faith, you are so to no purpose, for I carry17 no gold. Right cleverly were you down upon me, at the very nick of time. After I said that I was bringing the gold, that instant you became Charmides. Before I made mention of the gold, you were not he. It won't do. Just, therefore, in such manner as you Charmidised yourself, do you again un-Charmidise yourself. CHARMIDES
Who am I, then, if in fact I am not he who I really am? A SHARPER.
What matters that to me? So long as you are not he whom I do not choose you to be, you may be who you like, for what I care. Just now, you were not he who you were, now you are become he who then you were not. CHARMIDES
Come, despatch, if you are going to do it. A SHARPER.
What am I to do? CHARMIDES
Give me back the gold. A SHARPER.
You are dreaming, old gentleman. CHARMIDES
Did you own that Charmides delivered the gold to you? A SHARPER.
Yes--in writing18. CHARMIDES
Are you making haste or not, you night-robber, to be off with all speed this very instant from this neighbourhood, before I order you to be soundly cudgelled on the spot? A SHARPER.
For what reason? CHARMIDES
Because I am that self-same Charmides about whom you have been thus lying, and who you said gave the letters to you. A SHARPER.
How now; prithee, are you really he? CHARMIDES
I really am he. A SHARPER.
Say you so, pray? Are you really he himself? CHARMIDES
I do say so. A SHARPER.
Are you his own self? CHARMIDES
His own self, I say. I am Charmides. A SHARPER.
And are you then his own self? CHARMIDES
His own very self. Begone hence out of my sight. A SHARPER.
Since you really have made your appearance here thus late, you shall be beaten both at my own award19 and that of the new Ædiles. CHARMIDES
And are you abusing me as well? A SHARPER.
Yes; seeing that you have arrived in safety20, may the Gods confound me, if I care a straw for you, had you perished first. I have received the money for this job; you, I devote to bad luck. But who you are, or who you are not, I care not one jot. I'll go and carry word21 to him who gave me the three pieces, that he may know that he has thrown them away. I'm off. Live with a curse, and fare you ill; may all the Gods confound you, Charmides, for coming from abroad22. (Exit.) CHARMIDES
Since this fellow has gone, at last a time and opportunity seem to have arrived for speaking out without restraint. Already does this sting pierce my breast--what business he could have before my house? For these letters summon apprehensions into my heart; those thousand pieces, too--what purpose they were to serve. I' faith, a bell23 is never rung for no purpose; unless some one handles it or moves it, 'tis mute, 'tis dumb. But who is this, that is beginning to run this way along the street? I should like to observe what he is about. I'll step aside this way. He retires aside.
1 With his top: The Sharper, as personating a foreigner, has on a "petasus," or hat with very wide brims, extending straight out on each side. For this reason Charmides wittily compares him to a mushroom--all head. The "causia" was a similar hat worn by the Macedonians, with the brims turned up at the sides.
2 The theatrical wardrobe: "Chorego"--literally, "from the Choregus." It was the duty of this person at Athens to provide the Choruses for tragedies and comedies, the Lyric Choruses of men and boys, the dancers for the Pyrrhic dance, the Cyclic Choruses, and the Choruses of flute-players for the religious festivals of Athens. He also had to provide the Chorus with the requisite dresses, wreaths, and masks--whence the application to him on the present occasion.
3 A night-robber: "Dormitator" seems to mean a thief, who slept during the day and pursued his avocations by night. "Sector zonarius" is a "cutter of girdles," similar to our "cutpurse." It was the custom of persons of the middle and lower classes to wear their purses suspended from the "zona," or "girdle," round the waist; and sometimes they used the folds of the girdle itself for the purpose of depositing their money therein.
4 Care of this door: It was not the usage to enter a house without giving notice to those within. This was done among the Spartans by shouting, while the Athenians, and other nations, either used the knocker of the door or rapped with the knuckles or a stick. In the houses of the rich a porter was always in attendance to open the door. He was commonly a slave or eunuch, and was, among the Romans, chained to his post. A dog was also in general chained near the entrance, and the warning, "Cave canem," "Beware of the dog," was sometimes written near the door.
5 Respected sir: "Pater," literally. "father."
6 To the Censor: "Juratori." It was the duty of the Censor, among the Romans, to make these inquiries of every person when taking the Census. As the Censors were bound by an oath to the faithful discharge of their duties they were, in common with all persons so bound, called "juratores," "oathsmen." The Sharper gives Charmides an impudent answer, saying that he has answered the Censor on these points, and that is enough.
7 Beginning of my name: He probably alludes to his varied calling, commensurate with everything in the line of roguery. See the Note to line 815.
8 Size of a wine cask: He alludes, probably, to the "amphora," or large earthen jar, in which wine was kept. This was, perhaps, a cant saying, just as if we should say, "As little as a hogshead."
9 "Hush," that is my name: "Pax." This word was used to enjoin silence, like our word "Hush," or "Whist." He seems to allude to his own thieving avocation, which often required him to be as mute as a mouse. Some of the editions nave "tax," as though from "tango," "to prig," or "steal." This, Thornton renders "Touchit."
10 Just as though: This passage is of obscure signification. A note of exclamation ought to be inserted after "pax," and then the meaning of the old man seems to be, that, as in conversation a stop is instantly put to the discourse on saying "hush!" so, if anything is entrusted to him, it is as easily done for (periisse), and that it vanishes the instant you call him by his name. Thin is the explanation given by Lindemann. Ritschel reads "pax," but most of the old Commentators have "tax," which seems the more probable reading. The passage is thus rendered in Thornton's translation:
'Tis Touchit;--that, sir, is my name.
A common one.
A very knavish name:
As though you meant to say if anything
Was trusted to you, touch it, and 'tis gone.
11 Isn't it the fact: He alludes to his having forgotten the confounded name, which was on the very tip of his tongue.
12 At Rhadama: Rhadama is a fictitious name--pure gibberish.Cercopia" is a preferable reading to "Cecropia," which was an epithet of Athens, itself supposed to be the scene of the Comedy. The other word would imply some unknown region, called "Apeland," as the Sharper's only aim is to impose upon the credulity of Charmides, and to hinder him from asking unseasonable questions. He coins the word upon the spur of the moment, though there really were the "Ape Islands," or the isles of Pithecusæ, off the coast of Campania. They are mentioned by Ovid, in the 14th book of the Metamorphoses, l. 291: "For the father of the Gods, once abhorring the frauds and perjuries of the Cercropians, and the crimes of the fraudulent race, changed these men into ugly animals; that these same beings might be able to appear unlike men and yet like them. He both contracted their limbs and flattened their noses, bent back from their foreheads; and he furrowed their faces with the wrinkles of old age; and he sent them into this spot with the whole of their bodies covered with long yellow hair. Moreover, he first took away from them the use of language and of their tongues, made for dreadful perjury; he only allowed them to be able to complain with a harsh jabbering."
13 Land of Arabia: He gets out of depth directly he leaves imaginary places and touches on real countries. He makes Arabia to be in Pontus, while they were realy about two thousand miles asunder
14 Wormwood grows: If he really refers here to Pontus. he accidentally hits upon the truth. Ovid, when in banishment there, says, in the Tristia, B. v. El. 13, l. 21, "Let the white wormwood first be wanting in the freezing Pontus." The Sharper tries to correct himself by saying he means another Arabia, and not the one generally known, where the frankincense grows.
15 In a little skiff: "Horiola," or "horia," was a small skiff or smack used by fishermen.
16 No decent person: He is supposed covertly to allude to the disgraceful story at Ganymede being carried off by the eagle to minister to the lust of Jupiter.
17 For I carry: He takes the other to be as great a rogue as himself and means, that his being Charmides only depended on whether he himself admitted that he was in possession of the gold of Charmides.
18 Yes, in writing: This, of course, was the fact, as Megaronides and Callicles would know better than entrust the fellow with any money. It probably means that he was entrusted with a letter to Callicles, enclosing a counterfeit bill at sight, or order on the Athenian bankers for payment of a thousand Philippeans to Callicles. This, Callicles was to show to Lesbonicus, to put him off the scent as to the treasure whence the money really was taken. The Sharper has told Charmides that he has the money with him, merely by way of boasting of his trustworthy character.
19 At my own award: He means to tell Charmides, that by delaying his return thus late, he has spoilt his prospect of a lucrative job; and he then adds, that he deserves a thrashing, equally with the actor who came on the stage too late. The actors in early times, being often slaves, were liable to punishment if they offended the audience. The Ædiles were the officers under whose superintendence the plays were performed; and probably with them lay the decision whether the actor should be punished for coining late on the stage, after he had been pronounced deserving of it in the opinion (arbitratus) of the spectators. See the Note to l. 707.
20 Have arrived in safety: "Advenis." After this word, Callicles might suppose that the Sharper is going to congratulate him in the uenal terms on his safe arrival; but, instead of that, the fellow pauses, and then finishes with a malediction.
21 Go and carry word: To tell him that he has given the three pieces to no purpose, for the real Charmides has made his appearance, and has completely spoiled the plot.
22 From abroad: This scene is replete with true comic spirst It has been supposed by some that the disgrace of the pedant in Shakspeare's Taming of the Shrew, and his assuming the name and character of Vincentio, were suggested by this scene. A similar incident is met with in the old play of Albumazar act iv., sc. 3. and most probably it was borrowed from the present passage.
23 I' faith, a bell: He aptly compares the worthless fellow to a bell, and then shrewdly judges that a bell cannot ring unless it is put in motion by somebody.
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