From The Menaechmi
Source: Plautus, The Menaechmi, Act IV. Translated by Richard W. Hyde and Edward C. Weist. In Kevin
Guinagh and Alfred P. Dorjahn (eds.). Latin Literature in
Translation. New York: Longmans, Green and
MEN. II: That was a foolish thing I did a while ago when I
handed over my purse and money to Messenio. He has got himself into a
chop-house somewhere, I suppose.
[Enter WIFE, from
WIFE: I’ll watch and see how soon my husband will get home. Ah
ha, there he is. I’m saved! He is bringing back the cloak.
MEN. II [to- himself]: I
wonder where Messenio can be rambling now.
WIFE: I’ll go up to the fellow and welcome him as he deserves.
[to MEN. II] You scoundrel, aren’t you
ashamed to come into my sight with that garment?
MEN. II [surprised]: What’s
this? What is troubling you, madam?
WIFE : You shameless wretch, do you dare say a single word to
me? Do you dare to speak?
MEN. II: Pray, what have I done, that I shouldn’t dare to speak
WIFE: You ask me? Oh, the shameless impudence of the man!
MEN. II [mockingly]: I
suppose you know, madam, why it was that the Greeks used to call Hecuba a
WIFE: No, I do not.
MEN. II: Because Hecuba used to act just the way you do now.
She used to heap abuse on everybody that she saw. That’s how she got to be
called a bitch, and she deserved it, too.
WIFE: It’s impossible to put up with such outrages. I’d rather
be husbandless all my life than stand for such outrages!
MEN. II: Is it any of my business
whether you can put up with the state of marriage or whether you are going to
leave your husband? Or is it the custom here to babble to perfect strangers?
WIFE: Babble, you say? I swear I’ll remain married not an
instant longer—to put up with your ways!
MEN. II: For all of me, by heaven, you can be a widow as long
as Jove sits on his throne.
WIFE: For that, by goodness, I’ll call my father and tell him
about your outrages. [calls within the house to slave, who comes at once] Here, Decio, go find my father, and ask him to come
with you to me. [Slave runs off L.] Tell
him it’s absolutely necessary. [to MEN.
II] I’ll tell him of all your outrages!
MEN. II: Are you mad? What outrages? [mocking her]
WIFE: You steal cloaks and money from your wife and take them
to your mistress. Is that straight enough?
MEN. II [applauding]: Bravo,
woman! You certainly are a bad one, and a bold one, too! Do you dare say that I stole this when I got it from
another woman, who wanted me to have it repaired?
WIFE: A few minutes ago you didn’t deny stealing it; and are
you going to hold it now before my very eyes? Aren’t you ashamed?
MEN. II: I beg of you, woman, tell me, if you can, what potion I
can drink that will make me able to put up with your bad humor. I don’t know
whom you take me for. As for you, I don’t know you any more than I know the man
in the moon.
WIFE: You may make fun of me, but you won’t be able to make fun
of my father. He’s coming now. [pointing off L., where FATHER appears
hobbling towards them] Back there. Do you
MEN II [facetiously]: Yes,
I knew him when I knew Methuselah. I met him the same day I met you.
WIFE : You deny that you know me? that you know my father?
MEN. II : Yes, and your grandfather too, if you want to lug him in. [stalks to extreme R.]
WIFE: By heaven, that’s the way you always are about
I’m getting along just as fast as my age will permit and this
But if some of you say that that’s easy for me—very
briefly I’ll show that you’re liars:
My body’s a burden, my nimbleness gone, and of strength I’ve a
I am quite overgrown with my years—oh, confounded old age
is a curse on the back!
Why, if I were to tell all the terrible evils that age, when it
comes, brings along,
I’m certain as certain can be that past suitable limits I’d
lengthen this song.
However my mind is a little disturbed at this thing, for it
seems a bit queer
That my daughter should suddenly send to my house with
directions for me to come here.
And how the affair is related to me, she has not let me know up
But I’m a good guesser, and feel pretty sure that her husband
and she’ve had a row.
That’s what usually happens when men are enslaved by their
wives and must come when they call;
And then it’s the wives who are mostly to blame, while the
husbands aren’t guilty at all.
And yet there are bounds, which we all must observe, to the
things that a wife can endure,
And a woman won’t call in her father unless the offense of her
husband is sure. .
But I think very soon the suspense will be over, and then I’ll
know what is the matter-
But look, there’s my daughter in front of the door, and her
husband; he’s not looking at her. It’s just as I suspected.
I’ll speak to her.
WIFE: I’ll go meet him. [meeting him C.] I hope you are well, father.
FATHER: I hope you are well. Do I find you well? Are you well,
that you summoned me? Why are you sad? Why does he [pointing with staff] stand apart from you, in anger? You have been
quarreling about something. Tell me which of you is at fault, and be brief
about it; no rigmarole.
WIFE: I am guilty of nothing on my part; I’ll ease you on this
point first, father. But I can’t live here, and I can’t stand it another
minute. Take me away.
FATHER: Why, what’s the matter?
WIFE: I’m made fun of, father.
FATHER: By whom?
WIFE: By him, to whom
you gave me: my husband.
FATHER [to audience]: Look
at that now! A squabble! [to WIFE]
How many times have I told you to see to it that neither of you come to me with
WIFE [tearfully]: But
father, how could I help it? I think you could understand—unless you
don’t want to.
FATHER: How many times have I told you to humor your husband?
Pay. no attention to what he does, or where he goes, or what he is about. .
WIFE: Why, he has been making love to a courtesan who lives
right next door.
FATHER: That’s sensible enough. And I’ll warrant he’ll make
love to her all the more, with you spying on him this way.
WIFE: And he drinks there, too.
FATHER: Well, will he drink any the less on your account, here
or anywhere else that he chooses? Devil take it, why will you be so foolish? You
might as well expect to forbid him to accept dinner invitations or to entertain
guests at his own house. Do you want husbands to be slaves ? You might as well
expect to give him a stint of work, and have him sit among the slave-girls and
WIFE [resentfully]: Apparently
I had you come here to defend my husband’s case, father, not mine! You’re my attorney, but you plead his case.
FATHER: If he has been delinquent in any way, I’ll be even more
severe with him than I was with you. But since he keeps you well supplied with
gold trinkets and clothes and gives you servants and provisions as he should,
it is better for you, girl, to take a sane view of things.
WIFE: But he steals my gold and my cloaks from the cupboard. He
robs me and takes my trinkets to courtesans on the sly.
FATHER: He does wrong if he does; you do wrong if he doesn’t:
that’s accusing an innocent man.
WIFE: But he has the cloak right now, father, and the bracelet
that he took to the woman. He is bringing them back now because I have found
out about it.
FATHER: I’ll find out from him just what has happened. I’ll go
speak to him. [goes over to MEN. II and
taps him with staff] Menaechmus, for my
enlightenment tell me what you are quarreling about. Why are you sad? Why does
she stand apart from you, in anger?
MEN. II: Whoever you are, whatever your name is, old man, I call
as my witnesses great Jupiter and the gods—
FATHER: Why? Wherefore?’ And for what?
MEN. II: That I have neither wronged this woman, who accuses me
of stealing this cloak from her house—
WIFE: Perjury, eh?
MEN. II: If I have ever set my foot inside the house in which
she lives, may I be the most accursedly accursed!
FATHER: Are you in your right mind, to make such a wish? Do you
deny that you have ever set foot in the house you live in, you utter madman?
MEN. II: Old man, do you say I live in that house?
FATHER: Do you deny it?
MEN. II: I’ faith, I do deny it.
FATHER: No; you deny not “in faith” but in joke -unless, of
course, you have moved out overnight. [motions WIFE to C.]—Come
here, please, daughter. What do you say? You haven’t moved from the house, have
WIFE: Why should we, or where should we move to, I ask you?
FATHER: By heaven, I don’t know.
WIFE: It’s clear that he is making fun of you. Don’t you get
FATHER: Menaechmus, you have joked long enough; now attend to
MEN. II: I ask you, what business have I with you? Or who are
you? Are you sane? And this woman, who has been plaguing me this way and
that—is she sane? [tears his hair in exasperation]
WIFE [to FATHER, frightened]: Do you see the color of his eyes? See how a
green color is coming over his temples and forehead! How his eyes shine!
MEN. II [to audience]: Alack,
they say I’m crazy, whereas it is they who are really that way themselves. What
could be better for me, since they say I am mad, than to pretend to be insane,
to scare them off? [begins to jump about madly]
WIFE: How he stretches and gapes! What shall I do, father?
FATHER: Come over here, my child, as far as you can from him. [retreating L.]
MEN. II [pretending madness]: Ho, Bacchus! Ho, Bromius! Where in this forest do you bid me to the
hunt? I hear. but cannot leave this place, so closely am I guarded by that
rabid bitch upon my left. And behind there is that bald goat, who often in his
time has ruined innocent citizens by his false testimony.
FATHER: Curse you!
MEN. II: Lo, Apollo from his oracle bids me to burn out the
eyes of that woman with flaming torches. [charges at WIFE, then immediately retreats]
WIFE: I am lost, father! He threatens to burn out my eyes.
FATHER [to WIFE, aside]: Hist, daughter!
WIFE: What? What shall we do?
FATHER: Suppose I summon the slaves? I’ll go bring some people
to take this .man away and chain him up indoors before he makes any more
MEN. II [aside] I’m
stuck; if I don’t hit upon a scheme, they’ll take me into the house with them. [aloud] Apollo, you forbid me to spare her face with
my fists unless she leaves my sight and goes utterly to the devil? [advances
threateningly] I’ll do your bidding Apollo!
FATHER: Run home as fast as you can, before he thumps you.
WIFE : I am running: Watch him, father; don’t let him get away!
Oh! am I not a miserable woman to have to listen to such things! [Exit into
MEN. II [aside]. I got
rid of her rather well. [aloud, threatening FATHER] No, Apollo, as for this most filthy wretch,
this bearded tremulous Tilthonus, who is called the son of Cygnus, you bid me
break his limbs and bones and joints with that staff which he holds?
FATHER [retreats, shaking his staff]: You’ll get a beating if you touch me or come any
MEN. II I’ll do your. bidding! I’ll take a double-edged axe and
chop the flesh of this old man .to mince meat, down to the very bones!
FATHER [aside]: Well
then, I must beware and take care of myself Really, I am afraid, from the way
he threatens, that he may do me harm. [MEN. retreats C.]
MEN. II: You give me many commands, Apollo! Now you bid me take
my. fierce untamed yoked horses and mount my chariot, to crush this old
stinking toothless lion. Now I’ve mounted! [business] Now I hold the reins! Now the goad is in my hand!
Forward, my steeds, make loud the clatter of your hooves! And in swift flight
make undiminished the fleetness of your feet! [gallops about the
FATHER: Do you threaten me with yoked horses?
MEN. II: Lo, Apollo, again you bid me make a charge at him,
this fellow who stands here, and slay him. [rushes forward, then suddenly
stops] But who is this, who drags me from
my chariot by the hair? He alters your commands, even the commands of Apollo! [pretends
to fall senseless to the ground]
FATHER [advances cautiously]’ Alas, by heaven, it is a severe disease! 0 gods, by your faith, what
sudden changes do ye work! Take this madman—how strong he was a little
while before. This disease has smitten him all of a sudden. I’ll go get a
doctor as quick as I can. [Exit, L.]
MEN. II [getting up]: Lord!
These idiots who compel me, a sane man, to act like a madman! Have they got out
of my sight now, I wonder? Why don’t I go straight back to the ship while the
going is good? [as he starts to go, R., to audience] I beg of all of you, if the old man comes back don’t
tell him what street I’ve taken. [Exit, R.]