From The Thesmophoriazus.

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.
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."

The Thesmophoriazus - Part 3

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