To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.
ACT IV, SCENE i
NIS. Wait, do you flee me, harsh one?
IAN. Take away your hand. You lose whatever you have by holding on to it.
NIS. Ask, whatever you desire will be given you.
IAN. I ask that you keep silent.
NIS. If my tongue were to keep silent my loquacious heart would burst my sick breast, mighty Love would frown and complain.
IAN. This is nonsense, there are no prayers where the tongue is still. Restrain it, you restrain everything.
NIS. So let my deeds speak. Throughout Crete there is scarcely a cliff or a crag not often trodden by my feet. If you desire I’ll carry your commands skimming swiftly over the top of the corn-crop, over the top of the sea, and the creaking air will suffer my waxen wings. What do you desire? I’ll seek it in war, and by means of bloody wounds snatch it from our enemies, and even from Theseus himself, a man fearful to our land. Whatever Iphis cannot do, I can. Test me, you’ll see.
IAN. You cannot surpass her, though she’s a woman.
NIS. Nor do the gods have the power. If they did, abandoning the lofty skies Jupiter would seek to marry you, and Phoebus himself would swap his disdained light for you.
IAN. Why are you chattering? My mind dislikes such nonsense, you fool. Go, silly, and whatever your mad mind suggests you may pour out into the void. [Exit Ianthe.]
ACT IV, SCENE ii
Who sees the rock hidden beneath the tender skin, the lioness beneath the woman’s body? This unhappy hyena feigns a human voice. A sphinx cast down from a lofty mountain, this dire plague has not perished, that she may do me in with her fearful contagion, entranced by the beautiful charm of her skin. For the gods’ sake! [Enter Telethusa.]
TELETH. Savage divinity, ever-changing Fortune, why do you torture mankind, setting all human affairs a-whirl with swift motion? A girl should be given to a girl? A cruel fate!
NIS. Fool, do you insult Ianthe with your sacrilegious words? Oh the bold crime! As if her kindly father would give his approval to your first entreaties! Nisus, you must resist Nisus, lovers are wont to sue women again and again.
TELETH. Telethusa alone is not unhappy, the celestials have given her a companion. Nisus, why are you complaining? Sometimes one unhappy person can help another. Pour your miseries into my trusty breast.
NIS. Hard-hearted Ianthe has rejected my earnest entreaties, with her harsh laughter she mocks an undeserving suitor.
TELETH. There’s need for clever wit. Dismiss your empty wishes, nor entrust all your faith to one girl. Pay back tit with tat, scorn the arrogant girl, receive her in her pride with disdain. If she does not love, don’t love, Phaestus has many beautiful girls.
NIS. Oh the dire sound! No snake ever hissed its like from Medusa’s head, nor did the three-headed dog bark it with his rabid mouth. Thus, impious mother, you bite undeserving goddesses with your evil tooth. Nobody surpasses Ianthe, nor equals her.
TELETH. Silence, perhaps I’ll make you milder, just cease your vague frenzy.
NIS. Zephyrus will scarce be gentler, if you make these things go sweetly.
TELETH. Await the outcome, you will see strange things, if you wait with slow patience.
NIS. Oh if the stars should allow the supernals to be adored! [Exit Nisus.]
ACT III, SCENE iii
Lo how my newly-concocted scheme is growing, with heaven favorable. The constant suitor who lately extolled Ianthe to the sky with well-deserved praises, tricked by my deception, will reach for Iphis with his tender arms. Because similar roses adorn their cheeks, because a similar beauty kindles their eyes, because a grace smiles enticingly from both their brows, the fool will thinks she’s his, and will rush headlong to a false Ianthe. Who cannot abuse his credulous eyes? [Enter Lygdus and Iphis.]
LYG. There’s no woman who can vex you with trifling care.
TELETH. A heavy one will vex you, and, weighted down by a heavier one added, my good man, you have no idea what horrendous things oppress your neck.
LYG. What’s so fearful? Does a fierce horned asp trouble your dire head? Is Daedalus flying? Does Phoebus, fleeing away, catch sight of a half-bull, half-man? Or does fertile Crete produce some new monster?
TELETH. Crimes, the equals of these monsters (and at which the mind trembles), by Lygdus’ doing.
LYG. Scarce any savage crime touches my breast.
TELETH. A miserable lot, not to know the guilt that attaches to these sins. The boy you hold in your hands (his cheeks do not yet flower with down) has died, by Lygdus’ doing. You savagely destroy him by promising him a blessed life. While a conjugal fillet crowns his head, you wittingly adorn him like a sacrificial victim. Such a tender age will not bear so great a yoke, they will start quarrels, complaints, fears, and squabbles.
IPH. Has my father prepared such a strict yoke for me? Spare me, my tender neck cannot bear such great servitude.
LYG. Fool, you do not know how much the celestials have given you in giving you this.
IPH. I do not reckon as welcome goods purchased with such ills.
LYG. The ills will make the goods more welcome to you. After complaining thirst water is sweet, thorns arm the flowery rose.
IPH. But (what adds to my miseries) there is no relief for evil given here. Whatever good manifests itself is an evil, and is the worst because you, led by error, think it good.
LYG. Good Jupiter! Lo, a swine argues with Minerva, a son with his father. Petulant lad, what I am doing can be done by common law. I chose to speak to you first lest (what pertains to a tyrant) you imagine this marriage is compelled. Yet it is compelled, and what entreaties cannot achieve power will accomplish. [Exit Lygdus.]
ACT IV, SCENE iv
TELETH. When you have a dead wife, not before. You see with what catastrophes headlong Fortune oppresses us. She is an hateful enemy, you must be more cautious. If Nisus comes you must not hesitate, in friendly wise embrace and petition him: say you are sorry because of your ungrateful words and harsh expression.
IPH. Don’t teach the taught. [Enter Nisus.] These things I must do.
TELETH. I will invent the rest, and cunningly mix everything with dark night.
NIS. Where is Ianthe, dear Telethusa? Has she abandoned her harsh expression yet, and her bitter jests?
TELETH.[Aside.] I’m ruined, your voice has struck my hateful ears. You a suitor? You court Ianthe unawares.
IPH. [Pretending to be Ianthe.] You are amazed? Why not rush into my sight with a headlong dash? Are you so frozen with love? Why are you afraid of me? Turn your face to me. You will not fear my stern words any more. I desire to be feared in earnest never, in jest always.
NIS. Why does an unseemly man’s costume clothe you?
TELETH. Lest her cautious father forbid the trifling theft.
NIS. Let me give you a kiss, nymph. [He recoils, realizing it is not Ianthe.] Oh the dire crime, worthy of the Styx!
TELETH. And my wise mind foresaw these things.
NIS. Is this Ianthe? Where is Venus? Where is Apollo, sitting in his car, dividing the serene day for a fearful world?
TELETH. Why are you ranting? Relax your pompous face with easy candor. You know Ianthe’s jokes, her swollen face. You know the girl’s jokes, her unseemly laughter. Yet this boy’s ardent breast rages with love. Behold this fair girl here, distinguished for nature’s endowments, surpassing Ianthe in all ways except for that stern, unfriendly face. And this her father does not know, that she is Lygdus’ daughter. If it pleases you, she will marry you.
NIS. Let her yield to Hell, let her marry the Inferno, she who thus mocks my misery. Oh may the celestials grant that she lack a husband, so that she might learn what it is to have had a consort. [Exit Nisus.]
ACT IV, SCENE v
TELETH. How he rants with a truculent expression, and in his fury he moves his feet without restraint! Thus a headlong horse is whirled through the massed troops, the sturdy steed scatters enemy battalions.
IPH. Thus with her winding turns wanton Fortune always mocks us, this jesting divinity wanders in the dark night. She casts down, she lifts up, she makes one man wretched, another blessed, and he whom you adjudge fortunate she buries in dark shadows.
TELETH. You would have suffered unexpected murder, if my deception had not rescued you. Surely the gods are not accustomed to give us life, so that we might perish by a savage death?
IPH. The merciless divinity! I live, so that I may not miserably perish by a normal death. A novel end awaits me, a novel destiny. No woman yearns for a woman, save for myself. Such a thing Phoebus has never known, augur though he be.
TELETH. Notorious Pasiphae, born of the sun, her accomplice, sought a bull, a female sought a male. But your love, unfortunate girl, is more mad. She received what she sought, and enjoyed her desires.
IPH. Were Daedalus to fly here on his wings, would he be able to change her, to change tender Ianthe with his arts?
TELETH. What boots it to hurl entreaties at deaf heaven? [Enter Ianthe.] If the Father favors us, he would have favored us already. If he takes pleasure in my misfortunes, my complaints vex the god whom my pious prayers ought to appease. [Exit Telethusa.]
ACT IV, SCENE vi
IAN. Is he so tired of me? Or, swollen with pride, does he savagely spurn Ianthe with haughty eyes? Be I ever so dark, and an unworthy consort of his marriage-bed, yet if he were mindful and recalled our old love, I would please Iphis even as a handmaiden.
IPH. With what complaints you call on high heaven, sad Ianthe!
IAN. I call on you. The friendly Father of heaven is favorable, he has granted me everything I have wished. You must begin to favor me, Iphis, even if I do not deserve it, at least so the gods’ gifts be not in vain.
IPH. Because you are Ianthe, all men should even anticipate your wishes. But the savage divinity has denied us our love, ordering me against my will to refuse the girl I desire.
IAN. What shadows obscure your words? Am I in my deceit to live in misery, Iphis, without you as a companion?
IPH. Great suspicion clings to a lover’s inward bones, and rages senselessly. When I abandon you let the day fall from the sky, let the doubtful heaven lie in squalor with Phoebus fallen. But (which may the kindly god avert) — [Enter Nisus.]
IAN. Be silent. Pray let’s depart, Nisus approaches. With his mouth he utters sounds louder than those of Typhoeus. Flight is the best protection for our poor ears. [Exeunt Iphis and Ianthe.]
ACT IV, SCENE vii
Oh, a thing worthy of a laugh! Wanton Fortune’s bitter joke! Do you still look on this devil unavenged, Father? May hidden crimes overwhelm his hateful person with their dire effects. Bah, the gods are too kind and friendly! Has canny Iphis violated our faith? Let the sky fall headlong, its joining shattered. Therefore has deceitful Iphis pretended to be a woman?Therefore has Iphis courted me with a false entreaty? Therefore has Iphis defiled the goddesses of heaven? Therefore has he spattered excellent Ianthe with so great stains, to kill me with a novel deceit, to my misery? If Iphis is a woman, why does she woo the tender girl as a strange suitor? [Enter Telethusa.] A plague is being sent to me, a plague destined to spew destruction, ruining my failed limbs.
ACT IV, SCENE viii
TELETH. So great evils press on me that I should think myself blessed, if only I were not miserable. I do not seek a husband for my daughter, the gods are favorable enough if she does not become a husband.
NIS. Oh Iphis, always more wonderful! In diverse ways a woman, wife, and suitor all at once!
TELETH. Why play idly? Great harms are threatening your head. Weave your wiles. Thus a Cretan acts and, what is greater, a woman. The salvation you seek lies hidden by much obscurity. Rescue it from its hidden place, powerful Fortune always helps the brave.
NIS. With deception I will repel her wiles, Cretan woman will never deceive Cretan man. Tell me whether Juno patroness of marriage will still bless Ianthe and Iphis in their wedding-bed.
TELETH. Set aside your empty fears, the Fates have pronounced her yours. Nor does Juno do anything unless the Fates command. And I can do this, who cannot?
NIS. Helpless woman, am I conquered by these arts? In whatever way you are able, move a stone, summon ghosts, gods, and let the stars be mixed with the waters of Tartarus, victorious Ianthe will win my hand, and that little boy Iphis will languish, seeing everything with sad eyes. [Exit Nisus, enter Ianthe.]
TELETH. You are doing everything I desire. This is thought jealousy’s greatest bane, that whatever he pours forth from his malign mouth works to my advantage.
ACT IV, SCENE ix
IAN. Fit wings to your feet and come a-rushing, soft Hymenaeus, I am tired of this hateful delay. Fly a swift course, sweet Cupid, now there has been enough of delay. Alas, an over-slow Apollo drags on the day, let his ambling horses feel the braided lash.
TELETH. Rather let him restrain his speedy ones with a tight rein, a headlong rush urges them on in their flight.
IAN. You, not Nisus? A sick mind always creates for itself an obstacle that which it hates.
TELETH. Does not love plant roots in the heart of this idle, slothful boy, scarce a youth? Does hatred of Nisus glow so greatly that, even undeservedly, you hold him in such hatred? Yet girls are accustomed to mock gaping suitors with ambiguities.
IAN. But not Ianthe. Those she loves she loves with constancy, the warmth life has created she will abandon in death. [Exit Ianthe.]
TELETH. Would that she savagely loathed! Thus sometimes it harms one even to be loved, and favor harms the wretched. [Exit Telethusa.]
Go to Act V