To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square. To see a corresponding scene in Charles Johnson’s Fortune in her Wits, click on a grey square


Stop! Where are you going, rash page, made over-proud by your gilt cover? A throng of subjects may read you to their rod-bearing monarch; ah, but it will be more worthwhile to play with nuts. Go, seek out those who are bored with the learned tedium of the Schools, and who read poetry during the wranglings of Logic. After Ca. or Hop. Qualis? Ne. Vel. Af. Un. Quanta? Par. In. Sin. has demolished the proposition, and demolished it in full, then your presence will be welcome, then with your mouth you will speak more sweetly. “Seton,” they will say, “what does this man mean?” Go, seek out the lawyers: thus you will be able to appear cultured, and pour forth words in the Roman style. No, I’m wrong— after Ignoramus, that tribe is more on its guard, and has learned to dread your Muses, Granta. Go, seek out no reader at all: thus you’ll lie hidden in security, and safely scorn critical hands. Be sure to avoid this threshold: go far, oh far away, profane page, for here it is unseemly for anything not to resemble its master. He reserves for his pen the mysteries of the sacred Word, his lamps see nothing else. Thus the altar candle (something you almost have to fear) lifts up its golden head, a reverend thing. But I know what you’ll say: “The University has attended my play, then my fooleries gave it pleasure.” Oh very foolish page! Here a single man is a second Granta, or, if not the very head of Granta, at least its brain. But if, bolder than your author, you hasten to go (in his frankness he makes any man bold), approach him as if you were approaching a divinity, sheepish, with a pleasing trepidation, and speak these few verses to him:
“Be so good as to accept a poem written under your auspices, you whom the poet would wish to be equally auspicious for his living. I do not ask for you approval, you may say this matter is merely boyish. It is, I admit, but it is fitting enough for a boy. For he who produced this stuff as a student of our College, will produce better, if he gets to be a Fellow.”

Most devoted to your favor,


AM not unaware with what risk I have allowed this play to be published. It makes such a difference whether you are my comedy’s spectator or its reader, no matter how friendly, that it is necessary that this poor work (which is sufficiently uncouth in itself) should lose that beauty which the candle-lights, the costumes, the actor, and the most distinguished audience imparted to it. But while this is common to all plays, this is peculiar to mine, that in a number of places, and in those which (by some fate I do not understand) gave the greatest pleasure, cannot be understood save by some individuals (as in the parts of Morion and Gelasimus, and particularly when their school is opened), with the result that the same thing befalls this book as does humble citizens who are unknown save in their own cities, and so are born like almanacs useful only for individual regions. But I am obliged to satisfy the wish of my friends, not my own fear, and the kindness with which you have received my former fooleries, and, as it were, my poetic prattle (for — oh the shame of it — I have played the fool almost from infancy), that I should be guilty of ingratitude if I were to refuse you my play, and of heedlessness if I were to be afraid. Let some most grave gentleman say (and perhaps he has already said this), “has it come to such a height of impudence that a this-year’s man should produce a comedy? A thing which hitherto nobody of that age has never attempted, an insolent boy should take upon himself?” Have I incurred such a criticism? Indeed, if this be a crime, its invidiousness will never count for so much in my eyes that I shall prepare any defense, at least against this accusation. For, dear Reader, if my boldness has pleased you, for your sake I would be insolent yet again. Farewell.


GNOMICUS Tutor to Gelasimus and Morion
GELASIMUS A wealthy heir, friend to Morion
MORION spurious son of Polyporus
DINON Their servant
EUCOMISSA Daughter of Bombardomachides
AEGLE Bombardomachides’ captive, Aemylio’s sister.
PSECAS Eucomissa’s maid
AEMYLIO Bombardomachides’ captive, son of Polyporus
CALLIPHANES JUNIOR Young man, Aegle’s lover
POLYPORUS An English merchant

Mute Parts


The scene is Dunkirk


ET out there, you fool. Will they have no comedy here? I say get out their, you fool, or I’ll begin with the Epilogue. You’re already a second-year undergraduate, and still shy? I can’t do anything except what the other Prologues do, “Greetings, citizens of Athens and most distinguished assembly.” But grant me the cap of manumission, if I have to do this. Would that you could see our playwright! I believe you’d laugh more at that spectacle than during the whole comedy. He’s peeking at you all through a chink. Unless you watch the play favorably, it’s all over for this lad. This play will become a tragedy, and a genuine shipwreck. About to speak the Prologue, “I acknowledge my fault,” he says. He does not dare come before this crowd save in disguise, and is blushing deeper than his purple. So allow me to be his advocate, that nobody find fault in the poet because of his youth, or, because this is unaccustomed to occur, deem it insolence. Nobody will be eloquent, unless he has begun to talk. He who shakes the pulpit or the stage once babbled and dreaded to speak. Don’t ask for a nine-year delay: putting on a play, excellent spectators; is not an adult affair, but a boyish one. An old poet falls in disrepute as a comic one. Who begrudges a man the dawning of his day? Who ruins the purple of the violet which springs up nearby? Be favorable to this flower too, lest this poet, who has sprung up of a sudden like a little summer plant, suddenly wilt.

DINON (Maritime shouting within)

If your burdens are fitted to your shoulders, follow me this way immediately, I’ll do the looking for you. These sailors get a lot of pitch on their hands. It’s wonderful how they guard against a mishap, being so close to ropes which daily, as it were, coil up their doom. How they’re yelling now! Compared to them, you’d say storms whisper. I’m thankful that the sea has released us from itself and from these its people. Both are equally turbulent, at the sight of both you’d equally puke. Therefore I’m sincerely glad to see you here safe and sound, Dinon. Master Polyporus sent me here with his son and his son’s companion, that I be their servant as they travel abroad. Of these the one’s a dullard and seeks nothing more, but the other adds energy, so he’s energetically mad. These are guided by Gnomicus, as it were their tutor, such a fellow that, were they in their right minds, would drive them crazy for a year: the villain utters nothing but poetry and adages. You can’t keep his company without him quoting something out of Vergil, he abuses the poet so. Hey, Dinon, are you willing to listen to this silly man for me? Now industriously store up tricks in your heart. For if this great profit is snatched from your jaws, never again will the opportunity be granted you to become rich. This place is unknown, my masters are stupid and wealthy, and then I, Dinon, am a servant full of deceit, and empty of money. Yes indeed, the fellow who entrusted these men to me abandoned sheep to a wolf. And see, here they are themselves, coming from the ship. But look at Gnomicus himself, how grandly he carries himself! You would imagine him to be Iambus marching along. Hey porters, are you sleeping on your baggage? [He withdraws into hiding.]


GNO. That the which may be happy and fortunate (a formula in which the ancients took delight), Disembarking, the Trojans took possession of the longed-for sand, Let us not (as is prettily said in the proverb) depart a finger’s widith or a fingernail’s breath from our Vergil, easily the prince of poets, whom I mention by name honoris causa.
MOR. I congratulate you, Tutor, on my arrival here.
GNO. You should better have said “upon your arrival,” for this is the mode of the Court.
MOR. Indeed on both, my tutor Gnomicus, whom I mention by name honoris causa. But what is this region? For it is no more known to me by its appearance than if it were Terra Incognita. (Enter Dinon, porters.)
DIN. The porters are here with the the luggage.
PORTER Where should we carry this, master?
DIN. To the nearest inn, I’ll show you the place.
GNO. Indeed, porters, I say to you what old man Simo said in the comedy, carry these things inside, depart. Follow, Dinon. No, don’t — I want a few words with you.
MOR. Psst, Dinon! I want a few words with you. Remember about the good wine.
DIN. Consider it done, Master, for there is nothing I want more than to indulge your mind in this matter.
MOR. Psst! Porters! I tell you, wait up for me, porters.
. What do you want of us?
MOR. Watch out for the pieces of luggage, lest they be violently shaken up or set down hard on the ground.
PORT. There’s glass in them?
MOR. No, no, no, but I don’t want our gold to receive a beating, lest perhaps the King’s image receive any injury and I become guilty of treason. I’m clever at looking out for myself, gods be praised. (Exit Dinon, porters.)
GNO. Pish, a word to the wise is sufficient. Off with you. Do you hear the sailors’ happiness? The shouting strikes the golden stars. (Nautical shouting offstage.)
MOR. Oh the musical gentlemen! Would that I were a sailor, I can scarcely refrain from shouting. (He shouts.) Gelasimus, why are you sad?
GNO. Why do you furl (if I may speak metaphorically) your brow, Gelasimus?
GEL. Me sad? No, I was pondering the nature of the sea. Being a man whom all the gods and goddesses curse, I’ll never sail it again. For nothing is more detrimental to a good wit than navigation. So much so that I was unable to produce a single joke I might tell to the porters. But before I embarked on the ship they were wont to pour forth even against my will, until everybody said, “Enough, enough, it’s enough.”
GNO. And how did your navigation please you, Gelasimus? What think you of the ocean now?
GEL. It’s a bad notion. Oh! It’s a good thing I’m collecting myself, this is the first joke I’ve spoken in these parts, and it’s only a small joke, I’m accustomed to making better ones. Stay with me and be patient, henceforth you’ll hear better.
MOR. Heigh ho! O my.
GNO. What is it, Morion? Why do you bring forth a groan from deep within your breast (as the poet says)?
MOR. I quiver all over when I think about my rebellious stomach. Oh the breakfast, which I wholly puked from the deck! Oh the eggs! Oh the wine! Oh the sow’s udder! I lost all this, to my unhappiness. I gave the fish a lavish dinner.
GNO. In speaking such things, what one of the Myrmidons or Dolopians, or soldier of harsh Ulysses — this is said for the euphony — could restrain himself from tears? I perceive that it is most rightly said by the ancients, “Fire, water, woman — three evils,” or, as in my youth I translated it in a Latin pentameter, For men there are three evils: fire, water, and woman.
MOR. What’s more, Tutor, something else was much troubling me. For when we were on the high sea and caught sight of the land from a distance, as soon as we drew closer, it receded far away. And I myself observed this.
GNO. And so you see “Phoebus comes after a cloud,” “he has not deserved the sweet who has not tasted of the bitter.” I have suffered much, for a long time: “things which are fair are difficult.” After many hardships, after so many perilous affairs, we are Latium-bound. And a number of similar things to this effect have been usefully said by the ancients.
GEL. You fail to remember the storm, Morion.
MOR. You are right to remind me: I was never so badly afraid I’d go to heaven against my will.
GNO. Now you imagine you are going to touch the highest stars. But look here, are you really so afraid of an apotheosis?
MOR. Why shouldn’t I be afraid? I don’t want any such hard word to be said against me. Apotheosis?
GEL. By Hercules, at that time I didn’t have a drop of blood, for fear lest our tomb would be beneath the sea’s marble surface. Do you get it, Tutor? This word’s ambiguous, I made a pun on “marble.” Do you hear this? I’ll stand by my promises, if you pay attention.
MOR. May the gods damn you, you’re humorous in all your conversation.
GEL. Really? You curse my wit?
MOR. Why not? Are we not, pray, born to an inheritance? And are you, the elder son by birth, applying your mind to learned sayings? It’s a fault, Gelasimus, it’s a fault.
GNO. What is it, young gentlemen? Recall your spirits, and dismiss your sad fear, for now “we’re in safe waters,” as the proverb has it.
MOR. I ask and even beg of you that we not return home. For the look of this place pleases me greatly.
GNO. Can you keep your spirits up if you’ll never see your father again?
MOR. But, by Hercules, can my father ever slip from my memory sufficiently? A father is a great nuisance, but (unless I’m mistaken) old men don’t live forever.
GEL. I perceive I’m in vain: I must recall my fugitive wit.
MOR. By Hercules, it’s a long time since I’ve been drunk. And, seemingly, it’ll be a year before I get good and soused in this place.
GEL. Speak up, Tutor, what are we to do now? Are we seeking an inn? And there will we banish all this lassitude from our mind?
MOR. Yes, we’ll drink there, deeply.
GEL. Right, and after that I’ll make up poems.
MOR. And I’ll sleep.
GNO. You’ll make up poems, young man? But after you’ve drunken deep, your feet won’t support you. Gelasimus, do you understand what I mean by feet?
GEL. Ha, ha, he. Wonderful. I love you much for that mot. But, had you not snatched it out of my mouth, I would have said it first. And certainly it’s a great joke, I’ll consign it to my notebook. (He writes.) Poems — your feet — after you’ve drunken — ha, ha, ha, he.
MOR. Indeed, may the gods damn all those jokes, for I would have been good and soused before now, if we hadn’t squandered the day.
GNO. So let’s go. For we find it written in the poet, Father Ennius himself never burst forth to speak of arms, save when in his cups, where he is called “father” because he was the first, and “arms” is meant metaphorically. And in another place, Whom have bounteous beakers not made a poet?
GEL. Most pretty! Whom have they not made a poet!
MOR. If they could do that to me for certain, in future I’d not even take a sip. A poet! Bah! Am I not Polyporus’ eldest son by birth?
GNO. That’s well, now I’ll instruct you in the best precepts suitable for this place and your age. I’ll teach you the art of traveling abroad, and set forth formulae for persuasion, derision, and denunciation, until all mortals admire you as much as they do myself. But first leave us go inside, for we shall perform this business better having had our fill of ancient Bacchus and rich game.
MOR. Very much better, by Hercules. (Exeunt.)


Verily, now I stride a long as a most elegant man, and as I contemplate myself, straightway there comes to mind the image of men hung for a long time in chains along the King’s Highway. Yes, they are usually of this very appearance in regard to their dress. This omen by no means pleases me, yet if it should come to pass, I take pleasure that I cannot outfit the hangman with these clothes. I don’t want that gentleman to enrich himself at my expense. But meanwhile, good gods, what is to done for my poor self? Am I to be remade into a philosopher (a rare bird in these parts)? How could I be, unless perhaps I were to become a Cynic, since my belly barks so much? Or should I devote myself to the courtroom and to the twisting of laws? But by Hercules it’s a bad omen to undertake that study while in forma pauperis. Somebody will tell me “you’re gifted with a good wit, devote your mind to poetry.” But why? Am I insufficiently needy, so that I should become more so? For this is the straight road to poverty. And furthermore, my mind hopes for this in vain, for I know full well I’ll never turn out a lettered man, unless I make myself into a single long vowel. So what should I undertake. For this belly of mine advises me that something is to be undertaken, and it’s better to be undertaken by my hand than to suffer from hunger in this manner. Yet when I ponder more, what is it that my effort might accomplish? Unless I set myself up as a garden scarecrow, which I could do most excellently in this frightful costume? But it’s impossible for me to hasten hastily to that job. For I’m well aware that I am bound, willy-nilly, to go to the crows. By Hercules, I want to resume my old profession. In some manner a swindle is to be worked on somebody, let this be my fixed determination.


But who’s this who’s eavesdropping on my speech from the other side of the street? As far as I can tell from his expression he’s suffering from the same disease which afflicts myself and many great men.
DIN. My master Morion is doing a good job of drinking inside with his tutor Gnomicus, a man of the same stripe, and his coeval Gelasimus, where the three of them are excellently assembled. Unless I can somehow cheat them of their money, am I not myself the greatest of these fools? For my master’s father Polyporus is thoroughly rich, he doesn’t know what to do with his gold. But I know what I should do with it.
AEM. A masterful servant, by heaven! He has enunciated my sentiment exactly. I should make his acquaintance, for we think alike, which is a near thing to friendship.
DIN. Come, Dinon —
AEM. Oh, is that your name?
DIN. — unless an example of your cleverness is produced for examination, Dinon, unless you fabricate some fabrication, I say there’s no reason why all men with a single voice shouldn’t pronounce you a worthless servant.
AEM. By Hercules, I can’t restrain myself from keeping away any longer, I desperately adore the man. [Crosses over.] Greetings, Dinon, I rejoice that you have come here safely. Are you still in good health?
DIN. What’s this apparition? As far as I can guess from his costume he’s begging a penny. Oh, I know what you’re going to say: “I’m a soldier, I’ve mastered our enemies, I’ve been twice killed in action, a thousand times stabbed, and so forth.” Spare your effort: I’m giving nothing, fare you well.
AEM. As if we don’t recognize each other. Dismiss these fooleries, Dinon. Where is your master? We’ll do a good job of bamboozling the gentleman.
DIN. What do you mean, you evil thing? Do you know my master?
AEM. As well as you do.
DIN. Thus I perceive.
AEM. Me not know that mushroom? That dullard, that simpleton, that asinine blockhead, that sheep whom today we’re going to shear of his gold right down to the bare skin?
DIN. [Aside.] Whatever this is, this man calls my master by his right name. You’d swear he had made his acquaintance, he has done such an excellent job of sketching him. [Aloud.] But since you’re now my intimate, let me know what’s the name of my friend and boon companion.
AEM. As if you could forget it. You’re witty, Dinon. (Embraces him.)
DIN. No, no, pray move farther away from me, for though I love you, I recall that I have always hated those little servants of yours, those worthless creatures.
AEM. What servants are you talking about? I left mine at home.
DIN. They’re behind your back, doing their duty. For, like a second Bias, you carry all servants with you.
AEM. Ah you good-for-nothing! I see you’re the same as you were before. I’ve known you since boyhood, you are always biting someone.
DIN. Me bite? That’s what your servants are doing.
AEM. You need have no fear of them, Dinon. Let me confess that today I did not put on my festive garments. I planned on staying at home. But what does it matter? Everybody recognizes me, there’s no need for me to be concerned about my costume.
DIN. False: I do not recognize you, the gods be thanked. But, my ancient friend, you are correct to ignore your costume. For by virtue of your handsomeness it comes about that whatever you have suits you. But if you get out of bed in the dark, you must care not to put on your underpants instead of your cloak, for on you it’s difficult to tell the two apart.
AEM. I’m dressed for summer on purpose, for sweating destroys me.
DIN. My friend, I’ll give you excellent advice, if you’ll heed me. I think it to be to your advantage that you die as soon as possible. For then, perhaps, the city magistrates may give you burial, and (as you haven’t done this year) you’ll lie wrapped in a sheet.
AEM. I don’t wish to feed worms.
DIN. How much better to feed lice. Friend, pray where have your collar and shirt flown off to? This man doesn’t carry even a shred of linen with him with which to bandage his finger, should he hurt it.
AEM. The laundress has them, what business is it of your?
DIN. That hat of yours is now a sieve. You’re bound to show me reverence, you can’t cover your head.
AEM. I want to let in the sun. Do you envy it?
DIN. Hitherto I’ve never seen a dunghill walking about before my eyes.
AEM. To you think it worthy to make jokes about a boon companion? If you did this seriously —
DIN. What then?
AEM. — I’d take it as a joke.
DIN. By heavens, a rare man among men! His wit greatly pleases me. But I should busy myself in some businesses. Farewell, good sir. When I’ve recalled to mind who you are, I’ll return to you.
AEM. Pray, are you deserting your friend? What am I to do?
DIN. Hang yourself.
AEM. So give me a drachma, I don’t want to be a spendthrift with my own money. But wait, I’ll explain in a word what it is I want from you. You’ve announced your attention to throw a spear into your master Morion, don’t deny it. I know you’ve made this announcement. If you delegate this task to me, by my shrewd schemes I’ll cheat him so of his money that henceforth you’ll genuinely call me your close friend. Bombardomachides the soldier has entrusted this house to my care, to be kept up until his return. This place is most opportune, and then (I pass over half of my praiseworthy points out of modesty), I’ll thus undo all mortals, each man I catch, that they will think themselves quite touched even if I glance their way.
DIN. [Aside.] The way he speaks, I must take great care lest my wallet have a hole drilled in it. He has been too familiar.
AEM.[Aside.] I likewise guard against you, Dinon, for you were standing near to me. The thing’s safe, you’ve taken nothing.
DIN. [Aside.] The gods adore me, since they’ve put this man in my way, for now I can undertake this crime with fair auspices. For with him as my confederate I could outwit Mercury himself, thus he is shrewd in all the points of trickery. [Aloud.] What name should I call you by?
AEM. Aemylio.
DIN. Then give me your hand, good Aemylio, I accept your offer. Do you truly give me your oath to be faithful?
AEM. I give you the gods as my witnesses: to what mortal, pray, can faith be given, if we break it between ourselves? But you’re causing a delay with your words, tell me who these gentlemen are, where they’re are from, why they’ve come. For I’ll approach them as if I’ve known them all my life. The day’s passing, and I haven’t yet got my claws into their money.
DIN. I’ll tell you everything on the way. But in that costume, my Aemylio?
AEM. Pish, can’t you be quiet. Don’t I seem right royal in this costume?
DIN. Let it be as you wish. Is our great friendship satisfactorily struck up, so unexpectedly?
AEM. My good genius!
DIN My second self!
AEM. My Pylades!
DIN. My Orestes!
deus ex machina!
DIN. Stop the nonsense. Go, I’ll accompany you.
AEM. As if I were so ill-mannered, Pylades mine? To a stranger, it always —
DIN. I hardly dare leave you behind my back. By Hercules, I yield place to you, you are the greater ne’er-do-well.
AEM. So let us go together, you who are my Commodity.
DIN. You who are my Opportunity, let us go. (Exeunt.)


GNO. As is said in Menaechmi, Act I, Scene ii, let us have a sepulcher and while away this day: Good, Plautus, thus called from “broad as a plate.” Thus Horace says to bury the day, and the poet of Latium in his excellence writes Now Hesperus concludes the day, with Olympus closed.
GEL. Is the day dead? Ha, ha, ha, ha, I say, Tutor, is the day dead?
MOR. It may die, assuredly, or it may hang itself if it wants. Boy, bring wine. Hum — Haven’t you anything older?
BOY Right away, right away. (He drinks.) There’s nobody in all the city who could give you better, not if you were his own brother.
MOR. Brother, you villain? Am I not the sole son of Polyporus? But I’ll take the risk (He drinks.)
BOY How it sparkles, as if —
MOR. It sparkles? Let me see if perhaps this is preferable — certainly it sparkles well. (He drinks.) What, you evil thing, are you trying to snatch my feet?
BOY Me, master?
MOR. I’ll never offer you a half-filled cup, Tutor, I’ve better manners — give wine to the tutor, boy. (He drinks.)
BOY Right away, right away, I say, I can’t be here and there at the same time.
GEL. Now I’ll stun the lad with my wit. Come here.
BOY I’m at your service most greatly.
GEL. But come here, most small. How I twist the word! What are you doing, most small?
BOY You see.
GEL. You were so tiny that I scarcely could.
BOY Right away, right away, I’m coming now, wine quickly to the assembly.
GEL. He’s flown off, I almost slew the fellow with a single word. Thus I always wreak calamity on those with whom I speak. I wounded a man with jokes at the Sign of the Rose on February 2. (He writes.)
GNO. Ah, Gelasimus, leave off mocking him. He’s a boy of freeborn face and freeborn modesty. Come closer, why do you fix your eyes on the ground so? Lift up your head, aren’t you aware that the Greek word for man, anthropos, is derived from words meaning “to look upward.” While the other animals look downwards at the ground, nature gave men an elevated face, and bade us look at heaven and raise our upright countenances to the stars.
GEL. He can’t answer, I slaughtered him with a joke just now. Good, Gelasimus, you’ll never get a reputation for having changed.
MOR. Fetch the wine quickly, boy. Why are we wasting good hours?
GNO. Do you hear? Let be Coan, Masican, or Leucadian, Falernian, Lesbian, Coecubian. And do you here? Make sure it’s not Vatican, Veian, or Lalentan. For we read in our authors that these were ill-regarded.
BOY Consider it done: wine quickly to The Rose.
MOR. Come back, boy: bring a goblet bigger than yourself. For I could drink you out of a cup instead of an eggyolk. [As the boy is about to leave, he collides with Aemylio, who is entering.]


BOY Where are you hastening, good sir? They don’t want a fiddle-player, go away with your new tunes.
AEM. You dwarf, you chip. You third part of a man, you product of nature’s miserliness, are you telling me I am not allowed to speak to my friends?
BOY To your friends? Look for them in a dark tavern. They don’t drink wine, except perhaps on our sovereign’s birthday when it is ladled out of the gutters.
AEM. Go hang, you little gallows-bird.
BOY. Right away, right away. (Exit.)
AEM. Your old friend bids you hearty greetings, and it is my pleasure that you have arrived here safe and sound. If it should escape your memory who I am —
GEL. You’re not very mistaken.
GNO. “You’ve pricked the thing with a pin,” for thus I imagine it is better said.
AEM. But I both remember you and will always be sure that I keep you in my memory. For I once was the dearest friend to Morion’s father Polyporus, after he had entertained me as a visitor from abroad.
GNO. Indeed you are endowed with a good memory: for I imagine you have learned the art which (on the showing of Cicero) Simonides is said to have invented.
AEM. Greetings, Gelasimus. [Aside.] Gods keep me from making a mistake. [Aloud.] Greetings, Morion.
MOR. I don’t know you any more than the Man in the Moon. But, if you wish, greetings.
GEL. I’ll play tricks on this man too. Have your clothes (ha, ha, he) also been abroad?
AEM. I’ve just now returned from the wars, I was not able to change them. As soon as I heard you had arrived I hastened to visit you.
GEL. Bad clothes, by heaven! Did they flee from the war? Or did they show tail? By this I mean your tail.
AEM. Oh, by Hercules, I’m very happy that you explained that to me, for that’s where the joke is. Gelasimus, you’re the same old fellow.
GEL. [Aside.] Doubtless he knows me, I’ll not press him any more. Ha, ha, ha! “Did they show tail?” I don’t want to do this in the stranger’s presence, but afterwards I’ll write it down.
AEM. Swords created for me this ruination you see. Then have a look at my hat, behold the work of guns, doesn’t the stench of gunpowder assault your nostrils?
GEL. Oh warfare, bad for our welfare. There I go again, today I’ll never stop.
GNO. Wars more than civil waged over the Aemathian fields. Has this man quite slipped from my memory? I’m embarrassed to forget a close friend so badly. So he won’t say I’m haughty, I’ll pretend that I know him. I’m unsure who he is, but no matter, a certain friend is discerned in an uncertain business.
AEM. How fares Polyporus’ wife? How is she bearing her old age?
GEL. As if it were an injury, badly. If a hundred strangers were present I’d not fail to write that one down. (He writes.)
GNO. Oho, now that’s enough. Now greetings, my excellent friend, I pretended as a joke (as they say) that I didn’t know you previously.
GEL. You really know him? Seriously, Tutor, tell me his name, I pray.
GNO. His name. As if — It’s on the tip of my tongue.
AEM. I’m ruined, I’ve forgotten the name. Oh! It’s Peripolemarchus.
GNO. Good gods! That’s it for sure. We often forget the things we know quite well, as the proverb wittily says, such as our fingers.
GEL. Certainly when I turn it over in my mind, as if through a mist I recall having seen that face.
MOR. Than I remember too, and so I drink your health. Hey, Peripo — Periplome — It doesn’t matter much, you know what I mean, I drink your health.
GNO. Let’s all sit down, method is to be observed in every matter. Thus we may better seize the gifts of Bacchus. Call for the boy.
GEL. He won’t obey me, Tutor, I just made fun of him.
GNO. Hey, boy, climb up to roof of the building.
BOY (Below.) I’m coming immediately, right away.
GNO. But quicker than asparagus cooks. Lo, come, away with slothful delays.
AEM. [Aside.] I have my prey, I’m rescued. Two things will quickly ruin these three donkeys, drunkenness and myself. [Aloud.] Hey, you! While we’re lavishly draining our cups, tell the harpist inside to entertain us with a tune. You, circulate strong wine, grant us to drink from full goblets. Begin from the top.
GNO. You give beautiful advice, Peripolemarchus. It pleases me to wax insane.
MOR. For a long time I’ve been far too much sane. Shh! Peace! Oh, the harmony! How it pulses! (Music.)
GNO. Hey, Morion, are your eyes closed in sleep?
MOR. No, no, no. Let me be of no account.
GEL. Heavens, Morion’s soused.
MOR. Me soused, Gelasimus? Am I soused, Tutor? Give me a sword, Peripomarchides.
GEL. Do I see a crowd of men standing around there? You’re quite drunk, Gelasimus. By the immortal gods, you’re drunk.
GNO. I sing of arms and the man who first came to Italy from the shores of Troy, a refugee by fate — Here (hic) were his arms, here (hic) was his chariot. Circulate the strong wine, villain. He was tossed about much on lands and sea, by force of the gods above, because of the remembering wrath — Hand me a cup. My friend, good for me, good for you, master Vergil good — I sing of arms and the man — (He drinks.)
MOR. (Above.) He’s well off, I’ll have another drink so they won’t think I’m drunk. [Dinon looks out from the building.]
DIN. Here I’ll observe their actions and words. How vigorously they indulge their natures! Upon my life, I’ll bring it about that tomorrow they cry more than they’ve drunk today. Then, if it please Bacchus, we’ll spend a happy day in this manner, and a pleasant one: I thirst for drunkenness.
AEM. If I were not pretending to drink, by Hercules, they’d overthrow me with their bumpers, thus they’re hastening to their doom. The gods want me to be happy.
GEL. I’m not drunk, Gelasimus.
GEL. Nor am I.
MOR. Nor am I.
GEL. So good, let me greet you.
MOR. Indeed I’m the most witty.
GEL. But I’m much more so.
MOR. You more so?
GEL. More so, I say.
MOR. Good, but I’m the wittiest. Hey, I drink your health.
GEL. I can hardly keep from weeping, Morion, I love you so.
MOR. Oh Gelasimus!
GEL. O Morion!
GNO. Move your hands quickly! (The boy exits. Inside, Dinon makes noise and issues maritime shouting.) Why are you standing there?. Like the fellow in the comedy, I’ll give you a great box on the ear.
MOR. Gods preserve us! A huge storm! Let us go pray, Tutor.
GEL. A storm, really! Surer than sure a whirlwind as arisen, it beats upon our ship so vehemently that I can scarcely stand up.
GNO. But behold the shouting of men and howling of rigging! Have I completely forgotten we’re aboard ship? Hey, sailors, take care lest the ship is shattered, or perchance run onto a rock. The storm’s growing.
DIN. [Aside.] Heavens, excellent men! [Calling out.] We’re ruined, the ship’s ruined, every man is preparing to meet this end. [Aside.] They don’t know my voice, I’ll do a fine job of deceiving them.
AEM. [Aside.] That’s Dinon’s voice, hooray! Well done.
GNO. (Looking at the lanterns.) The stars can still be seen. This is Pollux, that’s Castor.
AEM. Hey, Captain. Captain, I say! How long will we live?
DIN. Barely half an hour, we’re ruined!
MOR. Alas, what shall I do in my misery? I’m going to puke again for fear. If I’m overwhelmed by the waves now, I’ll never sail again.
AEM. Come here, Gnomicus, come here. Do you see that tenth wave?
GNO. The surge of the tenth wave comes. It’s after the ninth and before the eleventh.
GEL. Oh, if somebody could drink to my health now! I can’t stop joking, even in very moment of death. I’ll breathe forth my soul with a joke.
MOR. I can’t let myself die. (Kneels.) Oh, how many times I’ve sinned! (Drinks.) How many times I’ve got soused! (Drinks.) How often I’ve whored! After this, I’ll never see my father again, I’ll never drink again. (Drinks.) Go away, you miserable bottle. (Breaks it.) Let us turn ourselves to prayer, Tutor, right away.
GNO. Indeed. O thrice, four times blessed, whom it befell to meet death before the eyes of their fathers, under the high walls of Troy.
BOY You called?
AEM. Gods damn you, how inopportunely you barge in here! Get away, gallows-bait. (Pushes him out.)
GNO. What’s happening?
AEM. You ask? Do you see that some marine god is standing by the prow.
MOR. No, that’s a great fish.
AEM. A fish?
MOR. A fish, by Hercules. By Hercules, I tell you it’s a fish, I can tell that by its voice.
DIN. The rigging’s torn, the sails blown off, the ship’s torn to pieces. It’s all over with us, friends.
MOR. Oh death — What shall I do? I beg and pray you to spare me, you fish. I’m Polyporus’ eldest son by birth.
DIN. [Aside.] I’ll empty this bucket over their heads. [Aloud.] We’re ruined! Ho, my friends, we’re ruined, the sea’s consuming us. (Throws down the water.) Now, now it’s consuming us, we’re ruined.
GNO. Oh we wretches! Do you see how the ship’s drinking in the waters. Even Salvation herself could not save this family, as the comic poet says most evilly. Oh Peripolemarchus, I pray you, hide me in the ship’s hold.
GEL. And me, me too, I beg you. (He pushes them into Bombardomachides’ room.)
MOMOR. Farewell, I’m going to die now. (He falls.)
DIN. Ha, ha, he. By the gods, a pretty, witty thing! Nothing could turn out better than has this scheme.
AEM. Psst! Psst! Dinon, psst! They’re deep asleep. (Dinon comes down.) Yes, I’m very mistaken, if these men haven’t suffered a genuine shipwreck. (Enter the boy.)
BOY No, no, no, money must be paid for the expenses these men have run up before you may carry him off. (Dinon rifles Morion’s purse and pays the boy his money.)
AEM. Money? Most gladly, most gladly, take it.
BOY Now you can have this donkey for yourself, right away, right away. (Exit.)
AEM. Oh Jove and the other celestials! (They lift up Morion.) An audience would have to die from laughter, if somebody dramatized this as a comedy. (Exeunt.)

Go to Act II