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The Thesmophoriazusae

Following Lysistrata during the reign of terror established by oligarchist conspirators, this play has a proper intrigue, a knot which is not untied till quite the end.
410 BC
THE THESMOPHORIAZUSAE
by Aristophanes
anonymous translator
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY
EURIPIDES
MNESILOCHUS, Father-in-law of Euripides
AGATHON
SERVANT OF AGATHON
HERALD
WOMEN
CLISTHENES
A MAGISTRATE
A SCYTHIAN POLICEMAN
CHORUS OF THESMOPHORIAZUSAE-Women
celebrating the THESMOPHORIA
(SCENE:-Behind the orchestra are two buildings, one the house of
the poet AGATHON, the other the Thesmophorion. EURIPIDES enters
from the right, at a rapid pace, with an air of searching for
something; his father-in-law MNESILOCHUS, who is extremely aged,
follows him as best he can, with an obviously painful expenditure
of effort.)

MNESILOCHUS
Great Zeus! will the swallow never appear to end the winter of
my discontent? Why the fellow has kept me on the run ever since
early this morning; he wants to kill me, that's certain. Before I lose
my spleen antirely, Euripides, can you at least tell me where you
are leading me?
EURIPIDES
What need for you to hear what you are going to see?
MNESILOCHUS
How is that? Repeat it. No need for me to hear....
EURIPIDES
What you are going to see.
MNESILOCHUS
Nor consequently to see....
EURIPIDES
What you have to hear.
MNESILOCHUS
What is this wiseacre stuff you are telling me? I must neither see
nor hear?
EURIPIDES
Ah! but you have two things there that are essentially distinct.
MNESILOCHUS
Seeing and hearing?
EURIPIDES
Undoubtedly.
MNESILOCHUS
In what way distinct?
EURIPIDES
In this way. Formerly, when Aether separated the elements and bore
the animals that were moving in her bosom, she wished to endow them
with sight, and so made the eye round like the sun's disc and bored
ears in the form of a funnel.
MNESILOCHUS
And because of this funnel I neither see nor hear. Ah! great gods!
I am delighted to know it. What a fine thing it is to talk with wise
men!
EURIPIDES
I will teach you many another thing of the sort.
MNESILOCHUS
That's well to know; but first of all I should like to find out
how to grow lame, so that I need not have to follow you all about.
EURIPIDES
Come, hear and give heed!
MNESILOCHUS
I'm here and waiting.
EURIPIDES
Do you see that little door?
MNESILOCHUS
Yes, certainly.
EURIPIDES
Silence!
MNESILOCHUS
Silence about what? About the door?
EURIPIDES
Pay attention!
MNESILOCHUS
Pay attention and be silent about the door? Very well.
EURIPIDES
That is where Agathon, the celebrated tragic poet, dwells.
MNESILOCHUS
Who is this Agathon?
EURIPIDES
He's a certain Agathon....
MNESILOCHUS
Swarthy, robust of build?
EURIPIDES
No, another.
MNESILOCHUS
I have never seen him. He has a big beard?
EURIPIDES
Have you never seen him?
MNESILOCHUS
Never, so far as I know.
EURIPIDES
And yet you have made love to him. Well, it must have been without
knowing who he was. (The door of AGATHON'S house opens.) Ah! let us
step aside; here is one of his slaves bringing a brazier and some
myrtle branches; no doubt he is going to offer a sacrifice and pray
for a happy poetical inspiration for Agathon.
SERVANT OF AGATHON (standing on the threshold; solemnly)
Silence! oh, people! keep your mouths sedately shut! The chorus of
the Muses is moulding songs at my master's hearth. Let the winds
hold their breath in the silent Aether! Let the azure waves cease
murmuring on the shore!....
MNESILOCHUS
Bombax.
EURIPIDES
Be still! I want to hear what he is saying.
SERVANT
....Take your rest, ye winged races, and you, ye savage
inhabitants of the woods, cease from your erratic wandering....
MNESILOCHUS (more loudly)
Bombalobombax.
SERVANT
....for Agathon, our master, the sweet-voiced poet, is going....
MNESILOCHUS
....to be made love to?
SERVANT
Whose voice is that?
MNESILOCHUS
It's the silent Aether.
SERVANT
....is going to construct the framework of a drama. He is rounding
fresh poetical forms, he is polishing them in the lathe and is welding
them; he is hammering out sentences and metaphors; he is working up
his subect like soft wax. First he models it and then he casts it in
bronze....
MNESILOCHUS
....and sways his buttocks amorously.
SERVANT
Who is the rustic that approaches this sacred enclosure?
MNESILOCHUS
Take care of yourself and of your sweet-voiced poet! I have a
strong tool here both well rounded and well polished, which will
pierce your enclosure and penetrate you.
SERVANT
Old man, you must have been a very insolent fellow in your youth!
EURIPIDES (to the SERVANT)
Let him be, friend, and, quick, go and call Agathon to me.
SERVANT
It's not worth the trouble, for he will soon be here himself. He
has started to compose, and in winter it is never possible to round
off strophes without coming to the sun to excite the imagination.
EURIPIDES
And what am I to do?
SERVANT
Wait till he gets here.
(He goes into the house.)
EURIPIDES
Oh, Zeus! what hast thou in store for me to-day?
MNESILOCHUS
Great gods, what is the matter now? What are you grumbling and
groaning for? Tell me; you must not conceal anything from your
father-in-law.
EURIPIDES
Some great misfortune is brewing against me.
MNESILOCHUS
What is it?
EURIPIDES
This day will decide whether it is all over with Euripides or not.
MNESILOCHUS
But how? Neither the tribunals nor the Senate are sitting, for
it is the third day of the Thesmophoria.
EURIPIDES
That is precisely what makes me tremble; the women have plotted my
ruin, and to-day they are to gather in the Temple of Demeter to
execute their decision.
MNESILOCHUS
What have they against you?
EURIPIDES
Because I mishandle them in my tragedies.
MNESILOCHUS
By Posidon, you would seem to have thoroughly deserved your
fate. But how are you going to get out of the mess?
EURIPIDES
I am going to beg Agathon, the tragic poet, to go to the
Thesmophoria.
MNESILOCHUS
And what is he to do there?
EURIPIDES
He would mingle with the women, and stand up for me, if needful.
MNESILOCHUS
Would be present or secretly?
EURIPIDES
Secretly, dressed in woman's clothes.
MNESILOCHUS
That's a clever notion, thoroughly worthy of you. The prize for
trickery is ours.
(The door of AGATHON'S house opens.)
EURIPIDES
Silence!
MNESILOCHUS
What's the matter?
EURIPIDES
Here comes Agathon.
MNESILOCHUS
Where, where?
EURIPIDES
That's the man they are bringing out yonder on the eccyclema.
(AGATHON appears on the eccyclema, softly reposing on a bed,
clothed in a saffron tunic, and surrounded with feminine toilet
articles.)
MNESILOCHUS
I am blind then! I see no man here, I only see Cyrene.
EURIPIDES
Be still! He is getting ready to sing.
MNESILOCHUS
What subtle trill, I wonder, is he going to warble to us?
AGATHON
(He now sings a selection from one of his tragedies, taking first
the part of the leader of the chorus and then that of the whole
chorus.)
(As LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
Damsels, with the sacred torch in hand, unite your dance to shouts
of joy in honour of the nether goddesses; celebrate the freedom of
your country.
(As CHORUS)
To what divinity is your homage addressed? I wish to mingle mine
with it.
(As LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
Oh! Muse! glorify Phoebus with his golden bow, who erected the
walls of the city of the Simois.
(As CHORUS)
To thee, oh Phoebus, I dedicate my most beauteous songs; to
thee, the sacred victor in the poetical contests.
(As LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
And praise Artemis too, the maiden huntress, who wanders on the
mountains and through the woods....
(As CHORUS)
I, in my turn, celebrate the everlasting happiness of the chaste
Artemis, the mighty daughter of Leto!
(As LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
....and Leto and the tones of the Asiatic lyre, which wed so
well with the dances of the Phrygian Graces.
(As CHORUS)
I do honour to the divine Leto and to the lyre, the mother of
songs of male and noble strains. The eyes of the goddess sparkle while
listening to our enthusiastic chants. Honour to the powerful
Phoebus! Hail! thou blessed son of Leto.
MNESILOCHUS
Oh! ye venerable Genetyllides, what tender and voluptuous songs!
They surpass the most lascivious kisses in sweetness; I feel a
thrill of delight pass up me as I listen to them. (To EURIPIDES) Young
man, if you are one, answer my questions, which I am borrowing from
Aeschylus' "Lycurgeia." Whence comes this androgyne? What is his
country? his dress? What contradictions his life shows! A lyre and a
hair-net! A wrestling school oil flask and a girdle! What could be
more contradictory? What relation has a mirror to a sword? (To
AGATHON) And you yourself, who are you? Do you pretend to be a man?
Where is your tool, pray? Where is the cloak, the footgear that belong
to that sex? Are you a woman? Then where are your breasts? Answer
me. But you keep silent. Oh! just as you choose; your songs display
your character quite sufficiently.
AGATHON
Old man, old man, I hear the shafts of jealousy whistling by my
ears, but they do not hit me. My dress is in harmony with my thoughts.
A poet must adopt the nature of his characters. Thus, if he is placing
women on the stage, he must contract all their habits in his own
person.
MNESILOCHUS (aside)
Then you make love horse-fashion when you are composing a Phaedra.
AGATHON
If the heroes are men, everything in him will be manly. What we
don't possess by nature, we must acquire by imitation.
MNESILOCHUS (aside)
When you are staging Satyrs, call me; I will do my best to help
you from behind, if I can get my tool up.
AGATHON
Besides, it is bad taste for a poet to be coarse and hairy. Look
at the famous Ibycus, at Anacreon of Teos, and at Alcaeus, who handled
music so well; they wore head-bands and found pleasure in the
lascivious dances of Ionia. And have you not heard what a dandy
Phrynichus was and how careful in his dress? For this reason his
pieces were also beautiful, for the works of a poet are copied from
himself.
MNESILOCHUS
Ah! so it is for this reason that Philocles, who is so hideous,
writes hideous pieces; Xenocles, who is malicious, malicious ones, and
Theognis, who is cold, such cold ones?
AGATHON
Yes, necessarily and unavoidably; and it is because I knew this
that I have so well cared for my person.
MNESILOCHUS
How, in the gods' name?
EURIPIDES
Come, leave off badgering him; I was just the same at his age,
when I began to write.
MNESILOCHUS
Ah! then, by Zeus! I don't envy you your fine manners.
EURIPIDES (to AGATHON)
But listen to the cause that brings me here.
AGATHON
Say on.
EURIPIDES
Agathon, wise is he who can compress many thoughts into few words.
Struck by a most cruel misfortune, I come to you as a suppliant.
AGATHON
What are you asking?
EURIPIDES
The women purpose killing me to-day during the Thesmophoria,
because I have dared to speak ill of them.
AGATHON
And what can I do for you in the matter?
EURIPIDES
Everything. Mingle secretly with the women by making yourself pass
as one of themselves; then do you plead my cause with your own lips,
and I am saved. You, and you alone, are capable of speaking of me
worthily.
AGATHON
But why not go and defend yourself?
EURIPIDES
Impossible. First of all, I am known; further, I have white hair
and a long beard; whereas you, you are good-looking, charming, and are
close-shaven; you are fair, delicate, and have a woman's voice.
AGATHON
Euripides!
EURIPIDES
Well?
AGATHON
Have you not said in one of your pieces, "You love to see the
light, and don't you believe your father loves it too?"
EURIPIDES
Yes.
AGATHON
Then never you think I am going to expose myself in your stead; it
would be madness. It's up to you to submit to the fate that
overtakes you; one must not try to trick misfortune, but resign
oneself to it with good grace.
MNESILOCHUS
You fairy! That's why your arse is so accessible to lovers.
EURIPIDES
But what prevents your going there?
AGATHON
I should run more risk than you would.
EURIPIDES
Why?
AGATHON
Why? I should look as if I were wanting to trespass on secret
nightly pleasures of the women and to rape their Aphrodite.
MNESILOCHUS (aside)
Wanting to rape indeed! you mean wanting to be raped. Ah! great
gods! a fine excuse truly!
EURIPIDES
Well then, do you agree?
AGATHON
Don't count upon it.
EURIPIDES
Oh! I am unfortunate indeed! I am undone!
MNESILOCHUS
Euripides, my friend, my son-in-law, never despair.
EURIPIDES
What can be done?
MNESILOCHUS
Send him to the devil and do with me as you like.
EURIPIDES
Very well then, since you devote yourself to my safety, take off
your cloak first.
MNESILOCHUS
There, it lies on the ground. But what do you want to do with me?
EURIPIDES
To shave off this beard of yours, and to remove all your other
hair as well.
MNESILOCHUS
Do what you think fit; I yield myself entirely to you.
EURIPIDES
Agathon, you always have razors about you; lend me one.
AGATHON
Take it yourself, there, out of that case.
EURIPIDES
Thanks. (To MNESILOCHUS) Now sit down and puff out your right
cheek.
MNESILOCHUS (as he is being shaved)
Ow! Ow! Ow!
EURIPIDES
What are you houting for? I'll cram a spit down your gullet, if
you're not quiet.
MNESILOCHUS
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! (He jumps up and starts running away.)
EURIPIDES
Where are you running to now?
MNESILOCHUS
To the temple of the Eumenides. No, by Demeter! I won't let myself
be gashed like that.
EURIPIDES
But you will get laughed at, with your face half-shaven like that.
MNESILOCHUS
Little care I.
EURIPIDES
In the gods' names, don't leave me in the lurch. Come here.
MNESILOCHUS
Oh! by the gods! (He turns reluctantly and resumes his seat.)
EURIPIDES
Keep still and hold up your head. Why do you want to fidget
about like this?
MNESILOCHUS
Mm, mm.
EURIPIDES
Well! why mm, mm? There! it's done and well done too!
MNESILOCHUS
Alas, I shall fight without armour.
EURIPIDES
Don't worry; you look charming. Do you want to see yourself?
MNESILOCHUS
Yes, I do; hand the mirror here.
EURIPIDES
Do you see yourself?
MNESILOCHUS
But this is not I, it is Clisthenes!
EURIPIDES
Stand up; I am now going to remove your hair. Bend down.
MNESILOCHUS
Alas! alas! they are going to grill me like a pig.
EURIPIDES
Come now, a torch or a lamp! Bend down and watch out for the
tender end of your tool!
MNESILOCHUS
Aye, aye! but I'm afire! oh! oh! Water, water, neighbour, or my
perineum will be alight!
EURIPIDES
Keep up your courage!
MNESILOCHUS
Keep my courage, when I'm being burnt up?
EURIPIDES
Come, cease your whining, the worst is over.
MNESILOCHUS
Oh! it's quite black, all burnt down there!
EURIPIDES
Don't worry! Satyrus will wash it.
MNESILOCHUS
Woe to him who dares to wash me!
EURIPIDES
Agathon, you refuse to devote yourself to helping me; but at any
rate lend me a tunic and a belt. You cannot say you have not got them.
AGATHON
Take them and use them as you like; I consent.
MNESILOCHUS
What shall I take?
EURIPIDES
First put on this long saffron-coloured robe.
MNESILOCHUS
By Aphrodite! what a sweet odour! how it smells of young male
tools Hand it to me quickly. And the belt?
EURIPIDES
Here it is.
MNESILOCHUS
Now some rings for my legs.
EURIPIDES
You still want a hair-net and a head-dress.
AGATHON
Here is my night cap.
EURIPIDES
Ah! that's fine.
MNESILOCHUS
Does it suit me?
AGATHON
It could not be better.
EURIPIDES
And a short mantle?
AGATHON
There's one on the couch; take it.
EURIPIDES
He needs slippers.
AGATHON
Here are mine.
MNESILOCHUS
Will they fit me? (To AGATHON) You don't like a loose fit.
AGATHON
Try them on. Now that you have all you need, let me be taken
inside.
(The eccyclema turns and AGATHON disappears.)
EURIPIDES
You look for all the world like a woman. But when you talk, take
good care to give your voice a woman's tone.
MNESILOCHUS (falsetto)
I'll try my best.
EURIPIDES
Come, get yourself to the temple.
MNESILOCHUS
No, by Apollo, not unless you swear to me....
EURIPIDES
What?
MNESILOCHUS
....that, if anything untoward happen to me, you will leave
nothing undone to save me.
EURIPIDES
Very well! I swear it by the Aether, the dwelling-place of the
king of the gods.
MNESILOCHUS
Why not rather swear it by the sons of Hippocrates?
EURIPIDES
Come, I swear it by all the gods, both great and small.
MNESILOCHUS
Remember, it's the heart, and not the tongue, that has sworn;
for the oaths of the tongue concern me but little.
EURIPIDES
Hurry up! The signal for the meeting has just been raised on the
Temple of Demeter. Farewell.
(They both depart. The scene changes to the interior of the
Thesmophorion, where the women who form the chorus are
assembled. Mnesilochus enters, in his feminine attire, striving
to act as womanly as possible, and giving his voice as female a
pitch and lilt as he can; he pretends to be addressing his
slave-girl.)
MNESILOCHUS
Here, Thratta, follow me. Look, Thratta, at the cloud of smoke
that arises from all these lighted torches. Ah! beautiful
Thesmophorae! grant me your favours, protect me, both within the
temple and on my way back! Come, Thratta, put down the basket and take
out the cake, which I wish to offer to the two goddesses. Mighty
divinity, oh, Demeter, and thou, Persephone, grant that I may be
able to offer you many sacrifices; above all things, grant that I
may not be recognized. Would that my well-holed daughter might marry a
man as rich as he is foolish and silly, so that she may have nothing
to do but amuse herself. But where can a place be found for hearing
well? Be off, Thratta, be off; slaves have no right to be present at
this gathering.
(He sits down amongst the women.)
WOMAN HERALD
Silence! Silence! Pray to the Thesmophorae, Demeter and Cora; pray
to Plutus, Calligenia, Curotrophus, the Earth, Hermes and the
Graces, that all may happen for the best at this gathering, both for
the greatest advantage of Athens and for our own personal happiness!
May the award be given her who, by both deeds and words, has most
deserved it from the Athenian people and from the women! Address these
prayers to heaven and demand happiness for yourselves. Io Paean! Io
Paean! Let us rejoice!
CHORUS (singing)
May the gods deign to accept our vows and our prayers! Oh!
almighty Zeus, and thou, god with the golden lyre, who reignest on
sacred Delos, and thou, oh, invincible virgin, Pallas, with the eyes
of azure and the spear of gold, who protectest our illustrious city,
and thou, the daughter of the beautiful Leto, queen of the forests,
who art adored under many names, hasten hither at my call. Come,
thou mighty Posidon, king of the Ocean, leave thy stormy whirlpools of
Nereus; come, goddesses of the seas, come, ye nymphs, who wander on
the mountains. Let us unite our voices to the sounds of the golden
lyre, and may wisdom preside at the gathering of the noble matrons
of Athens.
WOMAN HERALD
Address your prayers to the gods and goddesses of Olympus, of
Delphi, Delos and all other places; if there be a man who is
plotting against the womenfolk or who, to injure them, is proposing
peace to Euripides and the Medes, or who aspires to usurping the
tyranny, plots the return of a tyrant, or unmasks a supposititious
child; or if there be a slave who, a confidential party to a wife's
intrigues, reveals them secretly to her husband, or who, entrusted
with a message, does not deliver the same faithfully; if there be a
lover who fulfils naught of what he has promised a woman, whom he
has abused on the strength of his lies; if there be an old woman who
seduces the lover of a maiden by dint of her presents and
treacherously receives him in her house; if there be a host or hostess
who sells false measure, pray the gods that they will overwhelm them
with their wrath, both them and their families, and that they may
reserve all their favours for you.
CHORUS (singing)
Let us ask the fulfilment of these wishes both for the city and
for the people, and may the wisest of us cause her opinion to be
accepted. But woe to those women who break their oaths, who
speculate on the public misfortune, who seek to alter the laws and the
decrees, who reveal our secrets to the foe and admit the Medes into
our territory so that they may devastate it! I declare them both
impious and criminal. Oh! almighty Zeus! see to it that the gods
protect us, albeit we are but women!
WOMAN HERALD
Hearken, all of you! this is the decree passed by the Senate of
the Women under the presidency of Timoclea and at the suggestion of
Sostrate; it is signed by Lysilla, the secretary: "There will be a
gathering of the people on the morning of the third day of the
Thesmophoria, which is a day of rest for us; the principal business
there shall be the punishment that it is meet to inflict upon
Euripides for the insults with which he has loaded us." Now who asks
to speak?
FIRST WOMAN
I do.
WOMAN HERALD
First put on this garland, and then speak.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Silence! let all be quiet! Pay attention! for here she is spitting
as orators generally do before they begin; no doubt she has much to
say.
FIRST WOMAN
If I have asked to speak, may the goddesses bear me witness, it
was not for sake of ostentation. But I have long been pained to see us
women insulted by this Euripides, this son of the green-stuff woman,
who loads us with every kind of indignity. Has he not hit us enough,
calumniated us sufficiently, wherever there are spectators,
tragedians, and a chorus? Does; he not style us adulterous, lecherous,
bibulous, treacherous, and garrulous? Does he not repeat that we are
all vice, that we are the curse of our husbands? So that, directly
they come back from the theatre, they look at us doubtfully and go
searching every nook, fearing there may be some hidden lover. We can
do nothing as we used to, so many are the false ideas which he has
instilled into our husbands. Is a woman weaving a garland for herself?
It's because she is in love. Does she let some vase drop while going
or returning to the house? her husband asks her in whose honour she
has broken it: "It can only be for that Corinthian stranger." Is a
maiden unwell? Straightway her brother says, "That is a colour that
does not please me." And if a childless woman wishes to substitute
one, the deceit can no longer be a secret, for the neighbours will
insist on being present at her delivery. Formerly the old men
married young girls, but they have been so calumniated that none think
of them now, thanks to that line of his: "A woman is the tyrant of the
old man who marries her." Again, it is because of Euripides that we
are incessantly watched, that we are shut up behind bolts and bars,
and that dogs are kept to frighten off the adulterers. Let that
pass; but formerly it was we who had the care of the food, who fetched
the flour from the storeroom, the oil and the wine; we can do it no
more. Our husbands now carry little Spartan keys on their persons,
made with three notches and full of malice and spite. Formerly it
sufficed to purchase a ring marked with the same sign for three obols,
to open the most securely sealed-up door! but now this pestilent
Euripides has taught men to hang seals of worm-eaten wood about
their necks. My opinion, therefore, is that we should rid ourselves of
our enemy by poison or by any other means, provided he dies. That is
what I announce publicly; as to certain points, which I wish to keep
secret, I propose to record them on the secretary's minutes.
CHORUS (singing)
Never have I listened to a cleverer or more eloquent woman.
Everything she says is true; she has examined the matter from all
sides and has weighed up every detail. Her arguments are close,
varied, and happily chosen. I believe that Xenocles himself, the son
of Carcinus, would seem to talk mere nonsense, if placed beside her.
SECOND WOMAN
I have only a very few words to add, for the last speaker has
covered the various points of the indictment; allow me only to tell
you what happened to me. My husband died at Cyprus, leaving me five
children, whom I had great trouble to bring up by weaving chaplets
on the myrtle market. Anyhow, I lived as well as I could until this
wretch had persuaded the spectators by his tragedies that there were
no gods; since then I have not sold as many chaplets by half. I charge
you therefore and exhort you all to punish him, for does he not
deserve it in a thousand respects, he who loads you with troubles, who
is as coarse toward you as the vegetables upon which his mother reared
him? But I must back to the market to weave my chaplets; I have twenty
to deliver yet.
CHORUS (singing)
This is even more animated and more trenchant than the first
speech; all she has just said is full of good sense and to the
point; it is clever, clear and well calculated to convince. Yes! we
must have striking vengeance on the insults of Euripides.
MNESILOCHUS
Oh, women! I am not astonished at these outbursts of fiery rage;
how could your bile not get inflamed against Euripides, who has spoken
so ill of you? As for myself, I hate the man, I swear it by my
children; it would be madness not to hate him! Yet, let us reflect a
little; we are alone and our words will not be repeated outside. Why
be so bent on his ruin? Because he has known and shown up two or three
of our faults, when we have a thousand? As for myself, not to speak of
other women, I have more than one great sin upon my conscience, but
this is the blackest of them. I had been married three days and my
husband was asleep by my side; I had a lover, who had seduced me
when I was seven years old; impelled by his passion, he came
scratching at the door; I understood at once he was there and was
going down noiselessly. "Where are you going?" asked my husband. "I am
suffering terribly with colic," I told him, "and am going to the can."
"Go ahead," he replied, and started pounding together juniper berries,
aniseed, and sage. As for myself, I moistened the door-hinge and
went to find my lover, who laid me, half-reclining upon Apollo's altar
and holding on to the sacred laurel with one hand. Well now! Consider!
that is a thing of which Euripides has never spoken. And when we
bestow our favours on slaves and muleteers for want of better, does he
mention this? And when we eat garlic early in the morning after a
night of wantonness, so that our husband, who has been keeping guard
upon the city wall, may be reassured by the smell and suspect nothing,
has Euripides ever breathed a word of this? Tell me. Neither has he
spoken of the woman who spreads open a large cloak before her
husband's eyes to make him admire it in full daylight to conceal her
lover by so doing and afford him the means of making his escape. I
know another, who for ten whole days pretended to be suffering the
pains of labour until she had secured a child; the husband hurried
in all directions to buy drugs to hasten her deliverance, and
meanwhile an old woman brought the infant in a stew-pot; to prevent
its crying she had stopped up its mouth with honey. With a sign she
told the wife that she was bringing a child for her, who at once began
exclaiming, "Go away, friend, go away, I think I am going to be
delivered; I can feel him kicking his heels in the belly ....of the
stew-pot." The husband goes off full of joy, and the old wretch
quickly takes the honey out of the child's mouth, which starts crying;
then she seizes the baby, runs to the father and tells him with a
smile on her face, "It's a lion, a lion, that is born to you; it's
your very image. Everything about it is like you, even his little
tool, curved like the sky." Are these not our everyday tricks? Why
certainly, by Artemis, and we, are angry with Euripides, who assuredly
treats us no worse than we deserve!
CHORUS (singing)
Great gods! where has she unearthed all that? What country gave
birth to such an audacious woman? Oh! you wretch! I should not have
thought ever a one of us could have spoken in public with such
impudence. 'Tis clear, however, that we must expect everything and, as
the old proverb says, must look beneath every stone, lest it conceal
some orator ready to sting us.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
There is but one thing in the world worse than a shameless
woman, and that's another woman.
FIRST WOMAN
By Aglaurus! you have lost your wits, friends! You must be
bewitched to suffer this plague to belch forth insults against us all.
Is there no one has any spirit at all? If not, we and our
maid-servants will punish her. Run and fetch coals and let's
depilate her in proper style, to teach her not to speak ill of her
sex.
MNESILOCHUS
Oh no no! not that part of me, my friends. Have we not the right
to speak frankly at this gathering? And because I have uttered what
I thought right in favour of Euripides, do you want to depilate me for
my trouble?
FIRST WOMAN
What! we ought not to punish you, who alone have dared to defend
the man who has done so much harm, whom it pleases to put all the vile
women that ever were upon the stage, who only shows us Melanippes
and Phaedras? But of Penelope he has never said a word, because she
was reputed chaste and good.
MNESILOCHUS
I know the reason. It's because not a single Penelope exists among
the women of to-day, but all without exception are Phaedras.
FIRST WOMAN
Women, you hear how this creature still dares to speak of us all.
MNESILOCHUS
And, Heaven knows, I have not said all that I know. Do you want
any more?
FIRST WOMAN
You cannot tell us any more; you have crapped out all you know.
MNESILOCHUS
Why, I have not told the thousandth part of what we women do. Have
I said how we use the hollow bandles of our brooms to draw up wine
unbeknown to our husbands?
FIRST WOMAN
The cursed jade!
MNESILOCHUS
And how we give meats to our pimps at the feast of the Apaturia
and then accuse the cat....
FIRST WOMAN
You're crazy!
MNESILOCHUS
....Have I mentioned the woman who killed her husband with a
hatchet? Of another, who caused hers to lose his reason with her
potions? And of the Acharnian woman....
FIRST WOMAN
Die, you bitch!
MNESILOCHUS
....who buried her father beneath the bath?
FIRST WOMAN
And yet we listen to such things!
MNESILOCHUS
Have I told how you attributed to yourself the male child your
slave had just borne and gave her your little daughter?
FIRST WOMAN
This insult calls for vengeance. Look out for your hair!
MNESILOCHUS
By Zeus! don't touch me.
FIRST WOMAN (slapping him)
There!
MNESILOCHUS (hitting back)
There! tit for tat!
FIRST WOMAN
Hold my cloak, Philista!
MNESILOCHUS
Come on then, and by Demeter....
FIRST WOMAN
Well! what?
MNESILOCHUS
I'll make you crap forth the sesame-cake you have eaten.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Stop wrangling! I see a woman running here in hot haste. Keep
silent, so that we may hear the better what she has to say.
(Enter CLISTHENES, dressed as a woman.)
CLISTHENES
Friends, whom I copy in all things, my hairless chin
sufficiently evidences how dear you are to me; I am women-mad and make
myself their champion wherever I am. Just now on the market-place I
heard mention of a thing that is of the greatest importance to you;
I come to tell it to you, to let you know it, so that you may watch
carefully and be on your guard against the danger which threatens you.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
What is it, my child? I can well call you child, for you have so
smooth a skin.
CLISTHENES
They say that Euripides has sent an old man here to-day, one of
his relations....
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
With what object? What is his idea?
CLISTHENES
....so that he may hear your speeches and inform him of your
deliberations and intentions.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But how would a man fail to be recognized amongst women?
CLISTHENES
Euripides singed and depilated him and disguised him as a woman.
MNESILOCHUS
This is pure invention! What man is fool enough to let himself
be depilated? As for myself, I don't believe a word of it.
CLISTHENES
Nonsense! I should not have come here to tell you, if I did not
know it on indisputable authority.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Great gods! what is it you tell us! Come, women, let us not lose a
moment; let us search and rummage everywhere! Where can this man
have hidden himself to escape our notice? Help us to look, Clisthenes;
we shall thus owe you double thanks, dear friend.
CLISTHENES
Well then! let us see. To begin with you; who are you?
MNESILOCHUS (aside)
Wherever am I to stow myself?
CLISTHENES
Each and every one must pass the scrutiny.
MNESILOCHUS (aside)
Oh! great gods!
FIRST WOMAN
You ask me who I am? I am the wife of Cleonynus.
CLISTHENES (to the LEADER OF THE CHORUS)
Do you know this woman?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Yes, yes, pass on to the rest.
CLISTHENES
And she who carries the child?
FIRST WOMAN
Surely; she's my nurse.
MNESILOCHUS (aside)
This is the end.
(He runs off.)
CLISTHENES
Hi! you there! where are you going? Stop. What are you running
away for?
MNESILOCHUS (dancing on one leg)
I want to take a pee, you brazen thing.
CLISTHENES
Well, be quick about it; I shall wait for you here.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Wait for her and examine her closely; she's the only one we do not
know.
CLISTHENES
That's a long leak you're taking.
MNESILOCHUS
God, yes; I am constricted; I ate some cress yesterday.
CLISTHENES
What are you chattering about cress? Come here! and be quick.
(He starts to pull MNESILOCHUS back.)
MNESILOCHUS
Oh! don't pull a poor sick woman about like that.
CLISTHENES (looking MNESILOCHUS square in the eye)
Tell me, who is your husband?
MNESILOCHUS (embarrassed)
My husband? Do you know a certain individual at Cothocidae...?
CLISTHENES
Whom do you mean? Give his name.
MNESILOCHUS
He's an individual to whom the son of a certain individual one
day...
CLISTHENES
You are drivelling! Let's see, have you ever been here before?
MNESILOCHUS
Why certainly, every year.
CLISTHENES
Who is your tent companion?
MNESILOCHUS
A certain.... Oh! my god!
CLISTHENES
That's not an answer!
FIRST WOMAN
Withdraw, all of you; I am going to examine her thoroughly about
last year's mysteries. But move away, Clisthenes, for no man may
hear what is going to be said. Now answer my questions! What was
done first?
MNESILOCHUS
Let's see now. What was done first? Oh! we drank.
FIRST WOMAN
And then?
MNESILOCHUS
We drank to our healths.
FIRST WOMAN
You will have heard that from someone. And then?
MNESILOCHUS
Xenylla asked for a cup; there wasn't any thunder-mug.
FIRST WOMAN
You're talking nonsense. Here, Clisthenes, here This is the man
you were telling us about.
CLISTHENES
What shall we do with him?
FIRST WOMAN
Take off his clothes, I can get nothing out of him.
MNESILOCHUS
What! are you going to strip a mother of nine children naked?
CLISTHENES
Come, undo your girdle, you shameless thing.
FIRST WOMAN
Ah! what a sturdy frame! but she has no breasts like we have.
MNESILOCHUS
That's because I'm barren. I never had any children.
FIRST WOMAN
Oh! indeed! just now you were the mother of nine.
CLISTHENES
Stand up straight. What do you keep pushing that thing down for?
FIRST WOMAN (peering from behind)
There's no mistaking it.
CLISTHENES (also peering from behind)
Where has it gone to now?
FIRST WOMAN
To the front.
CLISTHENES (from in front)
No.
FIRST WOMAN (from behind)
Ah! it's behind now.
CLISTHENES
Why, friend, it's just like the Isthmus; you keep pulling your
stick backwards and forwards more often than the Corinthians do
their ships
FIRST WOMAN
Ah! the wretch! this is why he insulted us and defended Euripides.
MNESILOCHUS
Aye, wretch indeed, what troubles have I not got into now!
FIRST WOMAN
What shall we do?
CLISTHENES
Watch him closely, so that he does not escape. As for me, I'll
go to report the matter to the magistrates.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Let us kindle our lamps; let us go firmly to work and with
courage, let us take off our cloaks and search whether some other
man has not come here too; let us pass round the whole Pnyx, examine
the tents and the passages. Come, be quick, let us start off on a
light toe and rummage all round in silence. Let us hasten, let us
finish our round as soon as possible.
CHORUS (singing)
Look quickly for the traces that might show you a man hidden here,
let your glance fall on every side; look well to the right and to
the left. If we seize some impious fellow, woe to him! He will know
how we punish the outrage, the crime, the sacrilege. The criminal will
then acknowledge at last that gods exist; his fate will teach all
men that the deities must be revered, that justice must be observed
and that they must submit to the sacred laws. If not, then woe to
them! Heaven itself will punish sacrilege; being aflame with fury
and mad with frenzy, all their deeds will prove to mortals, both men
and women, that the deity punishes injustice and impiety, and that she
is not slow to strike.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
But I think I have now searched everywhere and that no other man
is hidden among us.
FIRST WOMAN
Where are you flying to? Stop! stop! Ah! miserable woman that I
am, he has torn my child from my breast and has disappeared with it.
MNESILOCHUS
Scream as loud as you will, but you'll never feed him again. If
you do not let me go this very instant, I am going to cut open the
veins of his thighs with this cutlass and his blood shall flow over
the altar.
FIRST WOMAN
Oh! great gods! oh! friends, help me! terrify him with your
shrieks, triumph over this monster, permit him not to rob me of my
only child.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Oh! oh! venerable Moirai, what fresh attack is this? It's the
crowning act of audacity and shamelessness! What has he done now,
friends, what has he done?
MNESILOCHUS
Ah! your insolence passes all bounds, but I know how to curb it!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
What a shameful deed! the measure of his iniquities is full!
FIRST WOMAN
Aye, it's shameful that he should have robbed me of my child.
CHORUS (singing)
It's past belief to be so criminal and so impudent!
MNESILOCHUS (singing)
Ah! you're not near the end of it yet.
CHORUS (singing)
Little I care whence you come; you shall not return to boast of
having acted so odiously with impunity, for you shall be punished.
MNESILOCHUS (speaking)
You won't do it, by the gods!
CHORUS (singing)
And what immortal would protect you for your crime?
MNESILOCHUS (speaking)
You talk in vain! I shall not let go the child.
CHORUS (singing)
By the goddesses, you will not laugh presently over your crime and
your impious speech. For with impiety, as 'tis meet, shall we reply to
your impiety. Soon fortune will turn round and overwhelm you.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Come there, bring some firewood. Let's roast the wretch as quickly
as we can.
FIRST WOMAN
Bring faggots, Mania! (To MNESILOCHUS) You will be nothing but
charcoal soon.
MNESILOCHUS
Grill away, roast me, but you, my child, take off this Cretan robe
and blame no one but your mother for your death. But what does this
mean? The little girl is nothing but a skin filled with wine and
shod with Persian slippers. Oh! you wanton, you tippling women, who
think of nothing but wine; you are a fortune to the drinking-shops and
are our ruin; for the sake of drink, you neglect both your household
and your shuttle!
FIRST WOMAN
Faggots, Mania, plenty of them.
MNESILOCHUS
Bring as many as you like. But answer me; are you the mother of
this brat?
FIRST WOMAN
I carried it ten months.
MNESILOCHUS
You carried it?
FIRST WOMAN
I swear it by Artemis.
MNESILOCHUS
How much does it hold? Three cotylae? Tell me.
FIRST WOMAN
Oh! what have you done? You have stripped the poor child quite
naked, and it is so small, so small.
MNESILOCHUS
So small?
FIRST WOMAN
Yes, quite small, to be sure.
MNESILOCHUS
How old is it? Has it seen the feast of cups thrice or four times?
FIRST WOMAN
It was born about the time of the last Dionysia. But give it
back to me.
MNESILOCHUS
No, may Apollo bear me witness.
FIRST WOMAN
Well, then we are going to burn him.
MNESILOCHUS
Burn me, but then I shall rip this open instantly.
FIRST WOMAN
No, no, I adjure you, don't; do anything you like to me rather
than that.
MNESILOCHUS
What a tender mother you are; but nevertheless I shall rip it
open.
(He tears open the wine-skin.)
FIRST WOMAN
Oh, my beloved daughter! Mania, hand me the sacred cup, that I may
at least catch the blood of my child.
MNESILOCHUS
Hold it below; that's the only favour I grant you.
(He pours the wine into the cup.)
FIRST WOMAN
Out upon you, you pitiless monster!
MNESILOCHUS
This robe belongs to the priestess.
SECOND WOMAN
What belongs to the priestess?
MNESILOCHUS
Here, take it.
(He throws her the Cretan robe.)
SECOND WOMAN
Ah! unfortunate Mica! Who has robbed you of your daughter, your
beloved child?
FIRST WOMAN
That wretch. But as you are here, watch him well, while I go
with Clisthenes to the Magistrates and denounce him for his crimes.
MNESILOCHUS
Ah! how can I secure safety? what device can I hit on? what can
I think of? He whose fault it is, he who hurried me into this trouble,
will not come to my rescue. Let me see, whom could I best send to him?
Ha! I know a means taken from Palamedes; like him, I will write my
misfortune on some oars, which I will cast into the sea. Where might I
find some oars? Hah! what if I took these statues instead of oars,
wrote upon them and then threw them towards this side and that. That's
the best thing to do. Besides, like oars they are of wood.
(singing)
Oh! my hands, keep up your courage, for my safety is at stake.
Come, my beautiful tablets, receive the traces of my stylus and be the
messengers of my sorry fate. Oh! oh! this R looks miserable enough!
Where is it running to then? Come, off with you in all directions,
to the right and to the left; and hurry yourselves, for there's much
need indeed!
(He sits down to wait for Euripides. The Chorus turns and faces
the audience.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Let us address ourselves to the spectators to sing our praises,
despite the fact that each one says much ill of women. If the men
are to be believed, we are a plague to them; through us come all their
troubles, quarrels, disputes, sedition, griefs and wars. But if we are
truly such a pest, why marry us? Why forbid us to go out or show
ourselves at the window? You want to keep this pest, and take a
thousand cares to do it. If your wife goes out and you meet her away
from the house, you fly into a fury. Ought you not rather to rejoice
and give thanks to the gods? for if the pest has disappeared, you will
no longer find it at home. If we fall asleep at friends' houses from
the fatigue of playing and sporting, each of you comes prowling
round the bed to contemplate the features of this pest. If we seat
ourselves at the window, each one wants to see the pest, and if we
withdraw through modesty, each wants all the more to see the pest
perch herself there again. It is thus clear that we are better than
you, and the proof of this is easy. Let us find out which is the worse
of the two sexes. We say, "It's you," while you aver, "it's we."'
Come, let us compare them in detail, each individual man with a woman.
Charminus is not equal to Nausimache, that's certain. Cleophon is in
every respect inferior to Salabaccho. It's a long time now since any
of you has dared to contest the prize with Aristomache, the heroine of
Marathon, or with Stratonice.
Among the last year's Senators, who have just yielded their
office to other citizens, is there one who equals Eubule? Not even
Anytus would say that. Therefore we maintain that men are greatly
our inferiors. You see no woman who has robbed the state of fifty
talents rushing about the city in a magnificent chariot; our
greatest peculations are a measure of corn, which we steal from our
husbands, and even then we return it to them the very same day. But we
could name many amongst you who do quite as much, and who are, even
more than ourselves, gluttons, parasites, cheats and kidnappers of
slaves. We know how to keep our property better than you. We still
have our cylinders, our beams, our baskets and our surshades;
whereas many among you have lost the wood of your spears as well as
the iron, and many others have cast away their bucklers on the
battlefield.
There are many reproaches we have the right to bring against
men. The most serious is this, that the woman, who has given birth
to a useful citizen, whether taxiarch or strategus should receive some
distinction; a place of honour should be reserved for her at the
Stenia, the Scirophoria, and the other festivals that we keep. On
the other hand, she of whom a coward was born or a worthless man, a
bad trierarch or an unskilful pilot, should sit with shaven head,
behind her sister who had borne a brave man. Oh! citizens! is it
just that the mother of Hyperbolus should sit dressed in white and
with loosened tresses beside that of Lamachus and lend out money on
usury? He, who may have made a deal of this nature with her, so far
from paying her interest, should not even repay the capital, saying,
"What, pay you interest? after you have given us this delightful son?"
MNESILOCHUS
I have contracted quite a squint by looking round for him, and yet
Euripides does not come. Who is keeping him? No doubt he is ashamed of
his cold Palamedes. What will attract him? Let us see! By which of his
pieces does he set most store? Ah! I'll imitate his Helen, his
last-born. I just happen to have a complete woman's outfit.
SECOND WOMAN
What are you ruminating about now? Why are you rolling up your
eyes? You'll have no reason to be proud of your Helen, if you don't
keep quiet until one of the Magistrates arrives.
MNESILOCHUS (as Helen)
"These shores are those of the Nile with the beautiful nymphs,
these waters take the place of heaven's rain and fertilize the white
earth, that produces the black syrmea."
SECOND WOMAN
By bright Hecate, you're a cunning varlet.
MNESILOCHUS
"Glorious Sparta is my country and Tyndareus is my father."
SECOND WOMAN
He your father, you rascal! Why, it's Phrynondas.
MNESILOCHUS
"I was given the name of Helen."
SECOND WOMAN
What! you are again becoming a woman, before we have punished
you for having pretended it the first time?
MNESILOCHUS
"A thousand warriors have died on my account on the banks of the
Scamander."
SECOND WOMAN
Would that you had done the same!
MNESILOCHUS
"And here I am upon these shores; Menelaus, my unhappy husband,
does not yet come. Ah! Why do I still live?"
SECOND WOMAN
Because of the criminal negligence of the crows!
MNESILOCHUS
"But what sweet hope is this that sets my heart a-throb? Oh, Zeus!
grant it may not prove a lying one!"
(EURIPIDES enters.)
EURIPIDES (as Menelaus)
"To what master does this splendid palace belong? Will he
welcome strangers who have been tried on the billows of the sea by
storm and shipwreck?"
MNESILOCHUS
"This is the palace of Proteus."
SECOND WOMAN
Of what Proteus? you thrice cursed rascal! how he lies! By the
goddesses, it's ten years since Proteas died.
EURIPIDES
"What is this shore whither the wind has driven our boat?"
MNESILOCHUS
"'Tis Egypt."
EURIPIDES
"Alas! how far we are from own country!
SECOND WOMAN
Don't believe that cursed fool. This is Demeter's Temple.
EURIPIDES
"Is Proteus in these parts?"
SECOND WOMAN
Ah, now, stranger, it must be sea-sickness that makes you so
distraught! You have been told that Proteas is dead, and yet you ask
if he is in these parts.
EURIPIDES
"He is no more! Oh! woe! where lie his ashes?"
MNESILOCHUS
"'Tis on his tomb you see me sitting."
SECOND WOMAN
You call an altar a tomb! Beware of the rope!
EURIPIDES
"And why remain sitting on this tomb, wrapped in this long veil,
oh, stranger lady?"
MNESILOCHUS
"They want to force me to marry a son of Proteus."
SECOND WOMAN
Ah! wretch, why tell such shameful lies? Stranger, this is a
rascal who has slipped in amongst us women to rob us of our trinkets.
MNESILOCHUS (to SECOND WOMAN)
"Shout! load me with your insults, for little care I."
EURIPIDES
"Who is the old woman who reviles you, stranger lady?
MNESILOCHUS
"'Tis Theonoe, the daughter of Proteus."
SECOND WOMAN
I! Why, my name's Critylle, the daughter of Antitheus, of the deme
of Gargettus; as for you, you are a rogue.
MNESILOCHUS
"Your entreaties are vain. Never shall I wed your brother; never
shall I betray the faith I owe my husband, Menelaus, who is fighting
before Troy."
EURIPIDES
"What are you saying? Turn your face towards me."
MNESILOCHUS
"I dare not; my cheeks show the marks of the insults I have been
forced to suffer."
EURIPIDES
"Oh! great gods! I cannot speak, for very emotion.... Ah! what
do I see? Who are you?"
MNESILOCHUS
"And you, what is your name? for my surprise is as great as
yours."
EURIPIDES
"Are you Grecian or born in this country?"
MNESILOCHUS
"I am Grecian. But now your name, what is it?"
EURIPIDES
"Oh how you resemble Helen!
MNESILOCHUS
"And you Menelaus, if I can judge by these pot-herbs."
EURIPIDES
"You are not mistaken, 'tis none other than that unfortunate
mortal who stands before you."
MNESILOCHUS
"Ah! how you have delayed coming to your wife's arms! Press me
to your heart, throw your arms about me, for I wish to cover you
with kisses. Carry me away, carry me away, quick, quick, far, very far
from here."
SECOND WOMAN
By the goddesses, woe to him who would carry you away! I should
thrash him with my torch.
EURIPIDES
"Do you propose to prevent me from taking my wife, the daughter of
Tyndareus, to Sparta?"
SECOND WOMAN
You seem to me to be a cunning rascal too; you are in collusion
with this man, and it wasn't for nothing that you kept babbling
about Egypt. But the hour for punishment has come; here is the
Magistrate with his Scythian.
EURIPIDES
This is getting awkward. Let me hide myself.
MNESILOCHUS
And what is to become of me, poor unfortunate man that I am?
EURIPIDES
Don't worry. I shall never abandon you, as long as I draw breath
and one of my numberless artifices remains untried.
MNESILOCHUS
The fish has not bitten this time.
(A MAGISTRATE enters, accompanied by a Scythian policeman.)
MAGISTRATE
Is this the rascal Clisthenes told us about? Why are you trying to
make yourself so small? Officer, arrest him, fasten him to the post,
then take up your position there and keep guard over him. Let none
approach him. A sound lash with your whip for him who attempts to
break the order.
SECOND WOMAN
Excellent, for just now a rogue almost took him from me.
MNESILOCHUS
Magistrate, in the name of that hand which you know so well how to
bend when money is placed in it, grant me a slight favour before I
die.
MAGISTRATE
What favour?
MNESILOCHUS
Order the archer to strip me before lashing me to the post; the
crows, when they make their meal on the poor old man, would laugh
too much at this robe and head-dress,
MAGISTRATE
It is in that gear that you must be exposed by order of the
Senate, so that your crime may be patent to the passers-by.
(He departs.)
MNESILOCHUS (as the SCYTHIAN seizes him)
Oh! cursed robe, the cause of all my misfortune! My last hope is
thus destroyed!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Let us now devote ourselves to the sports which the women are
accustomed to celebrate here, when time has again brought round the
mighty Mysteries of the great goddesses, the sacred days which
Pauson himself honours by fasting and would wish feast to succeed
feast, that he might keep them all holy. Spring forward with a light
step, whirling in mazy circles; let your hands interlace, let the
eager and rapid dancers sway to the music and glance on every side
as they move.
CHORUS (singing)
Let the chorus sing likewise and praise the Olympian gods in their
pious transport. It's wrong to suppose that, because I am a woman
and in this temple, I am going to speak ill of men; but since we
want something fresh, we are going through the rhythmic steps of the
round dance for the first time.
Start off while you sing to the god of the lyre and to the
chaste goddess armed with the bow. Hail I thou god who flingest thy
darts so far, grant us the victory! The homage of our song is also due
to Here, the goddess of marriage, who interests herself in every
chorus and guards the approach to the nuptial couch. I also pray
Hermes, the god of the shepherds, and Pan and the beloved Graces to
bestow a benevolent smile upon our songs.
Let us lead off anew, let us double our zeal during our solemn
days, and especially let us observe a close fast; let us form fresh
measures that keep good time, and may our songs resound to the very
heavens. Do thou, oh divine Bacchus, who art crowned with ivy,
direct our chorus; 'tis to thee that both my hymns and my dances are
dedicated; oh, Evius, oh, Bromius, oh, thou son of Semeld, oh,
Bacchus, who delightest to mingle with the dear choruses of the nymphs
upon the mountains, and who repeatest, while dancing with them, the
sacred hymn, Euios, Euios, Euoi! Echo, the nymph of Cithaeron, returns
thy words, which resound beneath the dark vaults of the thick
foliage and in the midst of the rocks of the forest; the ivy enlaces
thy brow with its tendrils charged with flowers.
SCYTHIAN (he speaks with a heavy foreign accent)
You shall stay here in the open air to wail.
MNESILOCHUS
Archer, I adjure you.
SCYTHIAN
You're wasting your breath.
MNESILOCHUS
Loosen the wedge a little.
SCYTHIAN
Aye, certainly.
MNESILOCHUS
Oh by the gods! why, you are driving it in tighter.
SCYTHIAN
Is that enough?
MNESILOCHUS
Oh! Oh! Ow! Ow! May the plague take you!
SCYTHIAN
Silence! you cursed old wretch! I am going to get a mat to lie
upon, so as to watch you close at hand at my ease.
MNESILOCHUS
Ah! what exquisite pleasures Euripides is securing for me! But,
oh, ye gods! oh, Zeus the Deliverer, all is not yet lost! I don't
believe him the man to break his word; I just caught sight of him
appearing in the form of Perseus, and he told me with a mysterious
sign to turn myself into Andromeda. And in truth am I not really
bound? It's certain, then, that be is coming to my rescue; for
otherwise he would not have steered his flight this way.
(As Andromeda, singing)
Oh Nymphs, ye virgins who are so dear to me, how am I to
approach him? how can I escape the sight of this Scythian? And Echo,
thou who reignest in the inmost recesses of the caves, oh! favour my
cause and permit me to approach my spouse. A pitiless ruffian has
chained up the most unfortunate of mortal maids. Alas! I bad barely
escaped the filthy claws of an old fury, when another mischance
overtook me! This Scythian does not take his eye off me and he has
exposed me as food for the crows. Alas! what is to become of me, alone
here and without friends! I am not seen mingling in the dances nor
in the games of my companions, but heavily loaded with fetters I am
given over to the voracity of a Glaucetes. Sing no bridal hymn for me,
oh women, but rather the hymn of captivity, and in tears. Ah! how I
suffer! great gods! how I suffer! Alas! alas! and through my own
relatives too! My misery would make Tartarus dissolve into tears!
Alas! in my terrible distress, I implore the mortal who first shaved
me and depilated me, then dressed me in this long robe, and then
sent me to this Temple into the midst of the women, to save me. Oh!
thou pitiless Fate! I am then accursed, great gods! Ah! who would
not be moved at the sight of the appalling tortures under which I
succumb? Would that the blazing shaft of the lightning would
wither.... this barbarian for me! The immortal light has no further
charm for my eyes since I have been descending the shortest path to
the dead, tied up, strangled, and maddened with pain.
(In the following scene EURIPIDES, from off stage, impersonates
Echo.)
EURIPIDES
Hail! beloved girl. As for your father, Cepheus, who has exposed
you in this guise, may the gods annihilate him.
MNESILOCHUS
And who are you whom my misfortunes have moved to pity?
EURIPIDES
I am Echo, the nymph who repeats all she hears. It was I, who last
year lent my help to Euripides in this very place. But, my child, give
yourself up to the sad laments that belong to your pitiful condition.
MNESILOCHUS
And you will repeat them?
EURIPIDES
I will not fail you. Begin.
MNESILOCHUS (singing)
"Oh! thou divine Night! how slowly thy chariot threads its way
through the starry vault, across the sacred realms of the Air and
mighty Olympus."
EURIPIDES (singing)
Mighty Olympus.
MNESILOCHUS (singing)
"Why is it necessary that Andromeda should have all the woes for
her share?
EURIPIDES (singing)
For her share.
MNESILOCHUS (speaking)
"Sad death!
EURIPIDES
Sad death!
MNESILOCHUS
You weary me, old babbler.
EURIPIDES
Old babbler.
MNESILOCHUS
Oh! you are too unbearable.
EURIPIDES
Unbearable.
MNESILOCHUS
Friend, let me talk by myself. Do please let me. Come, that's
enough.
EURIPIDES
That's enough.
MNESILOCHUS
Go and hang yourself!
EURIPIDES
Go and hang yourself!
MNESILOCHUS
What a plague!
EURIPIDES
What a plague!
MNESILOCHUS
Cursed brute!
EURIPIDES
Cursed brute!
MNESILOCHUS
Beware of blows!
EURIPIDES
Beware of blows!
SCYTHIAN
Hullo! what are you jabbering about?
EURIPIDES
What are you jabbering about?
SCYTHIAN
I shall go and call the Magistrates.
EURIPIDES
I shall go and call the Magistrates.
SCYTHIAN
This is odd!
EURIPIDES
This is odd!
SCYTHIAN
Whence comes this voice?
EURIPIDES
Whence comes this voice?
SCYTHIAN
You are mad.
EURIPIDES
You are mad.
SCYTHIAN
Ah! beware!
EURIPIDES
Ah! beware!
SCYTHIAN (to MNESILOCHUS)
Are you mocking me?
EURIPIDES
Are you mocking me?
MNESILOCHUS
No, it's this woman, who stands near you.
EURIPIDES
Who stands near you.
SCYTHIAN
Where is the hussy!
MNESILOCHUS
She's running away.
SCYTHIAN
Where are you running to?
EURIPIDES
Where are you running to?
SCYTHIAN
You shall not get away.
EURIPIDES
You shall not get away.
SCYTHIAN
You are chattering still?
EURIPIDES
You are chattering still?
SCYTHIAN
Stop the hussy.
EURIPIDES
Stop the hussy.
SCYTHIAN
What a babbling, cursed woman!
(EURIPIDES now enters, costumed as Perseus.)
EURIPIDES
"Oh! ye gods! to what barbarian land has my swift flight taken me?
I am Perseus; I cleave the plains of the air with my winged feet,
and I am carrying the Gorgon's head to Argos."
SCYTHIAN
What, are you talking about the head of Gorgos, the scribe?
EURIPIDES
No, I am speaking of the head of the Gorgon.
SCYTHIAN
Why, yes! of Gorgos!
EURIPIDES
"But what do I behold? A young maiden, beautiful as the immortals,
chained to this rock like a vessel in port?"
MNESILOCHUS
"Take pity on me, oh stranger! I am so unhappy and distraught!
Free me from these bonds."
SCYTHIAN
You keep still! a curse upon your impudence! you are going to die,
and yet you will be chattering!
EURIPIDES
"Oh! virgin! I take pity on your chains."
SCYTHIAN
But this is no virgin; he's an old rogue, a cheat and a thief.
EURIPIDES
You have lost your wits, Scythian. This is Andromeda, the daughter
of Cepheus.
SCYTHIAN (lifting up MNESILOCHUS' robe)
But look at his tool; it's pretty big.
EURIPIDES
Give me your hand, that I may descend near this young maiden. Each
man has his own particular weakness; as for me I am aflame with love
for this virgin.
SCYTHIAN
Oh! I'm not jealous; and as he has his arse turned this way,
why, I don't care if you make love to him.
EURIPIDES
"Ah! let me release her, and hasten to join her on the bridal
couch."
SCYTHIAN
If you are so eager to make the old man, you can bore through
the plank, and so get at him.
EURIPIDES
No, I will break his bonds.
SCYTHIAN
Beware of my lash!
EURIPIDES
No matter.
SCYTHIAN
This blade shall cut off your head.
EURIPIDES
"Ah! what can be done? what arguments can I use? This savage
will understand nothing! The newest and most cunning fancies are a
dead letter to the ignorant. Let us invent some artifice to fit in
with his coarse nature."
(He departs.)
SCYTHIAN
I can see the rascal is trying to outwit me.
MNESILOCHUS
Ah! Perseus! remember in what condition you are leaving me.
SCYTHIAN
Are you wanting to feel my lash again!
CHORUS (singing)
Oh! Pallas, who art fond of dances, hasten hither at my call.
Oh! thou chaste virgin, the protectress of Athens, I call thee in
accordance with the sacred rites, thee, whose evident protection we
adore and who keepest the keys of our city in thy hands. Do thou
appear, thou whose just hatred has overturned our tyrants. The
womenfolk are calling thee; hasten hither at their bidding along
with Peace, who shall restore the festivals. And ye, august goddesses,
display a smiling and propitious countenance to our gaze; come into
your sacred grove, the entry to which is forbidden to men; 'tis
there in the midst of the sacred orgies that we contemplate your
divine features. Come, appear, we pray it of you, oh, venerable
Thesmophorae! Is you have ever answered our appeal, oh! come into
our midst.
(During this ode the SCYTHIAN falls asleep. At the end of it
EURIPIDES returns, thinly disguised as an old procuress; the
CHORUS recognizes him, the SCYTHIAN does not; he carries a harp,
and is followed by a dancing girl and a young flute-girl.)
EURIPIDES
Women, if you will be reconciled with me, I am willing, and I
undertake never to say anything ill of you in future. Those are my
proposals for peace.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
And what impels you to make these overtures?
EURIPIDES (to the CHORUS)
This unfortunate man, who is chained to the post, is my
father-in-law; if you will restore him to me, you will have no more
cause to complain of me; but if not, I shall reveal your pranks to
your husbands when they return from the war.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
We accept peace, but there is this barbarian whom you must buy
over.
EURIPIDES
I'll take care of that. Come, my little wench, bear in mind what I
told you on the road and do it well. Come, go past him and gird up
your robe. And you, you little dear, play us the air of a Persian
dance.
SCYTHIAN (waking)
What is this music that makes me so blithe?
EURIPIDES
Scythian, this young girl is going to practise some dances,
which she has to perform at a feast presently.
SCYTHIAN
Very well! let her dance and practise; I won't hinder her. How
nimbly she bounds! just like a flea on a fleece.
EURIPIDES
Come, my dear, off with your robe and seat yourself on the
Scythian's knee; stretch forth your feet to me, that I may take off
your slippers.
SCYTHIAN
Ah! yes, seat yourself, my little girl, ah! yes, to be sure.
What a firm little titty! it's just like a turnip.
EURIPIDES (to the flute-girl)
An air on the flute, quick! Are you afraid of the Scythian?
SCYTHIAN
What a nice arse! Hold still, won't you? A nice twat, too.
EURIPIDES
That's so! (To the dancing girl) Resume your dress, it is time
to be going.
SCYTHIAN
Give me a kiss.
EURIPIDES
Come, give him a kiss.
SCYTHIAN
Oh! oh! oh! my god, what soft lips! like Attic honey. But might
she not stay with me?
EURIPIDES
Impossible, officer; good evening.
SCYTHIAN
Oh! oh! old woman, do me this pleasure.
EURIPIDES
Will you give a drachma?
SCYTHIAN
Aye, that I will.
EURIPIDES
Hand over the money.
SCYTHIAN
I have not got it, but take my quiver in pledge. I'll bring her
back. (To the dancing girl) Follow me, my fine young wench. Old woman,
you keep an eye on this man. But what's your name?
EURIPIDES
Artemisia.
SCYTHIAN
I'll remember it, Artemuxia.
(He takes the dancing girl away.)
EURIPIDES (aside)
Hermes, god of cunning, receive my thanks! everything is turning
out for the best. (To the flute-girl) As for you, friend, go along
with them. Now let me loose his bonds. (To MNESILOCHUS) And you,
directly I have released you, take to your legs and run off full
tilt to your home to find your wife and children.
MNESILOCHUS
I shall not fail in that as soon as I am free.
EURIPIDES (releasing MNESILOCHUS)
There! It's done. Come, fly, before the Scythian lays his hand
on you again.
MNESILOCHUS
That's just what I am doing.
(Both depart in haste.)
SCYTHIAN (returning)
Ah! old woman! what a charming little girl! Not at all a prude,
and so obliging! Eh! where is the old woman? Ah! I am undone! And
the old man, where is he? Hi, old woman, old woman Ah! Ah! but this is
a dirty trick! Artemuxia! she has tricked me, that's what the little
old woman has done! Get clean out of my sight, you cursed quiver!
(Picks it up and throws it across the stage.) Ha! you are well named
quiver, for you have made me quiver indeed. Oh! what's to be done?
Where is the old woman then? Artemuxia!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Are you asking for the old woman who carried the lyre?
SCYTHIAN
Yes, yes; have you seen her?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
She has gone that way along with the old man.
SCYTHIAN
Dressed in a long robe?
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Yes; run quick, and you will overtake them.
SCYTHIAN
Ah! rascally old woman! Which way has she fled? Artemuxia!
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Straight on; follow your nose. But, hi! where are you running to
now? Come back, you are going exactly the wrong way.
SCYTHIAN
Ye gods! ye gods! and all this while Artemuxia is escaping.
(He runs off.)
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
Go your way! and a pleasant journey to you! But our sports have
lasted long enough; it is time for each of us to be off home; and
may the two goddesses reward us for our labours!


THE END
.
 

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