From The Thesmophoriazus.

(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 Poseidon, 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.

The Thesmophoriazus - Part 2

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