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ACT IV, SCENE i
DAMALIS, CHARINDA, PHORUS displaying his wares
PHO. This? An emerald from Cyprus.
DAM. How shiny!
PHO. Nothing brighter. I recall I was on Cyprus with a large bunch of fishermen standing in their waters with ready nets, looking for tunny. The frightened fish abandoned their habitual haunts. The reason was that a marble lion was standing nearby, and the stone imitated its eyes in such a lifelike way. The men were obliged to gouge them out so they wouldn’t go home empty-handed.
CHAR. A wonderful thing!
PHO. But not so unusual for me.
DAM. What’s this stone?
CHAR. Is this ring worthy of this gem?
PHO. Worthy? Once upon a time Cupid was sitting idly in his workshop on Lemnos. He had some golden arrows of his mother, and, imitating his father’s art, he hammered them all into circles. This ring is one of that number. If you put it on your ring-finger, the virtue sends through your veins to your heart will be so great that it will melt it, though it be made of stone.
CHAR. Oh, give it to me. Watch out, Damalis, now I am encouraging your suitors.
DAM. Keep it for your own, lest he become a complete stranger before you finish work on that handkerchief.
DAM. Was it to no good end that you were lately such an artist with your needle? By heavens, Matron will find out about this. I’ll tell her immediately.
PHO. And here’s a mirror.
DAM. By the goddesses, that’s a rare thing!
CHAR. What’s its use?
PHO. Here a girl can see what her face looks like without having to give birth to a child.
DAM. Let me see, I pray you. I disdain you, Charinda. Oh my face! Gods, how pretty! It looks like Venus in her temple. You’ve seen this so often, my friend, and haven’t told me?
CHAR. Let me see mine too.
DAM. Take care?
CHAR. Why should I take care?
DAM. Lest you look at your face and become demented by fear or sorrow.
CHAR. I don’t care about beauty. Good gods, am I two-faced? I see before me and behind me.
DAM. By Venus, let me see if that’s true. See Matron hiding in the corner, praying!
DAM. At her household shrine. You can overhear her.
CHAR. I imagine she’s asking for a husband, her prayers are so fervid.
WARD Oh household gods! If these garlands duly offered to your statues please you, defend our violated hostess.
CHAR. Oh Matron, what hostess are you talking about?
WARD The profane soldier’s hand drew a sword.
DAM. Perhaps to show off its golden hilt.
CHAR. And he put it back.
WARD Into Mistress’ bosom, I fear.
DAM. You should predict good things, the young man is gentle. He’s here with friendly intentions.
CHAR. He gained admission with a token given by Mistress.
DAM. Look what gifts he has.
CHAR. See, we’ve spent the whole night just in looking at his presents, yet there is more left over for you.
DAM. Even if you’re an old woman you’ll love these trinkets.
PHO. This is a hairpin for arranging your curls. And this is a parasol, and if you understand that you should protect your girlish cheeks with it your face won’t become lined with seams, like a field parched by the dog star.
WARD Oh gods! What’s this?
PHO. A peacock fan. Juno’s bird has worn a […] in the place of its tail from the time that Master got vengeance for his stepmother’s quarrels and bore off these feathers as his spoils.
WARD I won’t buy Juno’s wrath.
PHO. Take this earpick and this toothpick.
DAM. [Taking the fan.] Give this to me, Matron, while you have any teeth left to pick.
ACT IV, SCENE ii
CEPH. Now put aside your mask, Cephalus. Procris has abandoned her shadow of chastity. And let a victim be offered to Aurora, the patroness of this deception. By means of a good ruse I have uncovered dishonorable ones. Now I’ll assume my own appearance. Matron, have a happy morning, such as is deserved by a thrifty woman who rises before daybreak.
CHAR. Master has returned from his lengthy hunt. I’ll be the first to bear the news to Mistress.
The matron secretly sends Phorus away so that Cephalus will not see him. She herself exits.
DAM. No, I’ll do it.
CHAR. I will.
DAM. Stay here.
CHAR. Let me go.
DAM. After me.
CHAR. Exit the lioness and the bear. But the old woman was the first to go, like a fox.
DAM. Why did you let her, bear?
CHAR. By god, you’ll pay for your fault!
DAM. I’ll gladly take that risk, I’ll follow. (Exeunt the handmaids.)
ACT IV, SCENE iii
CEPH. What am I seeing? They’re competing to see who can deliver the welcome news first. So is the husband’s return welcome? Or is her false chastity deceiving me? This ruse has scarcely been able to convince me, though it fools them. But could she deceive the matron, her closest intimate? What then? She’s chaste. Good gods, to whom human affairs are a joke, if I can’t call her chaste! She was sick at heart when she met me. What tearful rivers of chaste sorrow she poured forth, complaining about her home and herself being bereft! Unhappy me, I could have loved her tears and broken off my intended scheme. Would that I had! But that ancient rascal, that hoary blemish Eumetis kept on encouraging me. He extols my supposed birth and enhances my imaginary endowments, nor has he spared the reputation of my true self, imagining me to be absent. In the face of such industry, no woman would remain faithful, nor refuse to become what she seems to be, and I have been clever to my own misfortune. I have been attempting to make my fears come true.
ACT IV, SCENE iv
Enter the women, sadly.
CEPH. But here are the women. How is Procris doing, ladies?
DAM. Tell him Matron.
CHAR. Tell him.
WARD You do the talking. Lighter grief has speech, but mine is dumbstruck.
DAM. You told us maidens should speak little.
WARD Unless they’re bidden.
CHAR. Am I to reply that she’s dead?
CEPH. What is it, women?
WARD What Fates threaten our household! Just now Mistress was lacking you, now you lack her.
CEPH. What calamity is taking her away?
DAM. An uncouth soldier.
CHAR. A beast.
CEPH. What about him?
DAM. I never did like black hair.
CHAR. These military cloaks bring no good.
CEPH. He ravaged my wife, she’s hiding out of shame.
WARD May she hide in obscurity!
CEPH. Concealed in the obscurity of infamy.
WARD But I’m afraid it’s the obscurity of death.
CEPH. Would that it were! Let her not survive her honor. The soldier has gained possession of Procris. Full of shame, the disgraceful woman has hidden her head.
DAM. Rather, its you who should hide your yours.
WARD Whoever says that is a slandering liar.
CEPH. My eye accuses you, and in making this accusation it does not care to be a slanderer. Indeed, it was more of a lying slanderer when, sent by me to spy upon her face, it reported back to my soul that the honesty in her face reflected an equal candor living within the modest woman, although it was a blush of deception.
WARD I’ll never be able to believe that.
CEPH. The soldier was myself (or rather some idea of a hero taken out of poetry). Giving generously, and making yet more generous promises, I moved the fickle woman. The traitress kissed me and offered her bed.
WARD To whom?
CEPH. To me.
WARD She’s your wife.
CEPH. Whatever it was, it was given to a false impersonation.
WARD This false impersonation, who was he?
WARD And where did he come from? Where? From what father and nation?
CEPH. He was an invented name.
WARD See — a something that’s a nothing. You say she’s an adulteress? Why? Because you saw her succumbing to someone else’s love? Whose love? A soldier’s. Who was he? Nobody. Nobody is preferred to you. What has she deserved?
CEPH. Just let her be far removed from my body and mind.
WARD Rather, she loved you overmuch. Oh silly men! For blind suspicion to deceive their mind amidst so many eyes! Do you imagine that such great loves could stay hidden and exist between people living in close quarters without displaying any sign? I should think that Procris would have small love of you, unless advised by some instinct that she ought to love you, stranger though you were. Love occurs under compulsion when the name of husband obliges it, whereas true and free love enjoined by a laying-on of hands has less concern for the divinity of Jove, by which its vows were made, than for love itself. Procris is in love with you, she is not mindful of her husband. She loved your kisses, your embraces, she freely loved yourself. She wasn’t thinking of any pledged agreement, you must know that her unwilling love was not incited by her marriage to you, but that Procris loved you wholeheartedly and without any choice. For this she will go into exile? She will earn your hatred because of her excessive love, because she is too devoted to you?
CEPH. Am I to think that she can refrain from other lovers when she hurls herself at me, a man she does not know?
WARD Will another man have your kisses, your cheeks (these are things she loved)? Come, put aside that savage disposition.
CHAR., DAM. Recall our mistress.
CEPH. She has chosen to depart, bound on living in the cruel forest, hating the entire male sex as well as my deceptions, and bent on following the pursuits of the goddess of the hunt.
CHAR. Are we not her handmaids? Let us follow our mistress. I can live in the woods.
DAM. I might suffer living as a virgin.
WARD. See how the old hot blood flows through my withered limbs. I think my legs might suffice for the hunt. Let’s follow Mistress.
CEPH You’re leaving me behind? Rather let your mistress be retrieved. A raging love burns in me, stronger than usual. [He prays to Diana.] If you are not made of flint and hard-hearted, give me back my wife. [To the women.] Consult the goddess, see if incense can appease her. [Exeunt.]
ACT IV, SCENE v
Golden Aurora had scarcely yoked her ruddy horses, stealing into houses by chinks at first light and unwelcomely creating bashfulness in new brides, when my lusty young man, industriously playing the part of a second Hercules (so that he might outdo Jove in fathering children during a single night), applied himself to the task and cursed the morn for coming so quickly. Now he could take pleasure in playing his amatory pranks, as long as the wakeful members were approving, or their eyes were shut by sleep — or by yet more powerful silver. But Cephalus is to be feared, and it will be expedient for me to make a nuisance of myself. How he might threaten our guilty friend as a second Vulcan, and daylight might betray him unawares! It is very much in my interest that this affair turn out well. I myself can be his successor, I congratulate panderers on this bit of good luck. When young men, paying us great prices at a great cost to their honor and their money, possess their darling, we enjoy their pretty little girls with no trouble or expense. Just as a parasite no more dares eat food destined for a royal table than he does hemlock, but after it’s been half eaten and cooled off he gobbles it down with no fear of the king punishing him, so it is not yet allowed me for to hope for Procris, who is very beyond my reach and my master’s darling. But after she has served Polemoceraunus’ uses for a few days, I myself shall be put in charge of the pantry and can dare lay hands on Master’s food. Lust’s leftovers are loathsome. I’m in love, my hateful old age is cast aside and I burn with new youth. Cunning lust burns through my limbs, and my furtive lust is raging. My heart is melting, as if you cast sunlight on frozen water.
ACT IV, SCENE vi
But here’s the soldier. Good gods, how his sad eyes are downcast, how dolefully he walks! That’s how men are wont to creep away from last night’s bout of love. Polemoceraunus, may today go well for you — and likewise tonight.
CEPH. May your wishes include yourself, Eumetis.
EU. How do you like Procris how?
CEPH. She’s very handsome, sweet, and quite friendly.
EU. I told you she would be.
CEPH. Has she ever been put to the test before?
EU. Not by me, but I’ve known that she’s a woman, and endowed with good looks more than a sense of shame. What can’t a pleasant old man achieve? And the thing turned out no less well than I hoped. I industriously stirred the fire of her base love, I praised you to the stars, I cast aspersions on her darling husband, I condemned him him with filthy reproaches. Though you were timid and hesitant, I armed you with a bold hand for this wanton work: if you possessed no superhuman endowments, you would have been unequal to these rewards.
CEPH. You wouldn’t say these things if I had my sword. Do you rejoice in listing your crimes, you blot on old men? By reciting your deeds, do you call down overdue vengeance on yourself? Are you eager to remember the two people you have harmed, the chastest married pair, and friends of yours?
EU. You will do a fine job of acting your part if you fulminate with a hard stare and wear a face like angry Jove. [Cephalus reveals his true self.] Who’s he? Cephalus? Alas, I’m wretchedly ruined.
CEPH. Cephalus he is, and I was he when you cheerfully deceived your friend, under the impression he was absent, mocking him with bitter reproaches and cruel jests. “A pure bumpkin. His beard hurts you when he kisses.” Very sweet stuff! Impious old man, the shame of your generation, worse than any murderer, brutal against reputations, are you inviting outsiders to witness our disgrace? Go way, while you are hidden from my servants. In order to keep on living you must live far away from us, go away. An object of hatred, conceal yourself in some unknown desert. (Exit.)
ACT IV, SCENE vii
What now, Eumetis? Into what unpleasantness am I going? Is this a panderer’s reward? To what end am I now eating this banquet of lust? Now I am thinking more wholesome thoughts: I must get back into my old friend’s good graces, and discharge myself of my well-earned unpopularity. Abandoned, he’s wifeless. If I can somehow find her, and return him to her husband as his friend, I can mend what has been so abundantly broken in the past.
Go to Act V