Tessera caerulea — commentariolum. Tessera rubicunda — nota textualis. Tessera viridis—translatio.
FOLLY REBORN (BUT SHE WAS NEVER DEAD)
THAT IS, THE FOLLY OR ERASMUS NOW WEARING THE COMIC SOCK AND BROUGHT INTO THE THEATER
BY FRIEDRICH HERMANN FLAYDER
Tübingen, Werlin Printery
FOR THE ILLUSTRIOUIS AND NOBLE DOMINUS JOHANN KARL VON GLOIACH, AND VON GEORG UND NEUDORFF &c., FRIEDRICH HERMANN FLAYDER, POET LAUREATE, PRAYS ALL HAPPINESS
OST illustrious and noble Johann Karl, receive this, not the last of my comedies, Folly Reborn, Folly who is not dead yet, and who will never die as long as this world exists. She was once adorned with a prose oration by Germany’s leading light, Erasmus of Rotterdam. Now she has been clothed by me in comic garb and brought into the theater’s glare in the sight of everyone. “What!” they will say. “Do you dare to dedicate to such a distinguished young man this Folly, or rather Foolishness?” Why should I not? In whose control is the idiocy and insanity of men more than in Wisdom and Intelligence? And these are the two jewels, my dear Johann Karl (I address you directly) which send out bright rays of great nobility from your mind. In years past the great Erasmus dedicated his Folly to Thomas More, a most skillful practitioner of the English law. I offer this Folly to you especially for this one reason, that (just like More long ago) you are most alien to Folly, and just like our Democritus, you have learned to look down on the vanities and vicissitudes of this world with winning laughter. (The unbelievable charm of your character and its mixture of good cheer with a serious mien do not allow you to imitate Heraclitus.) Even if you so wished, you could not conceal the heroic nature which is peculiarly your own. Even though unwilling, you are extraordinarily wise. Your talents surpass your years: whereas others grow their grey hairs on their chin, you grow yours in your mind, and while some old men are in their second childhood, you, while still a young man, are in your second maturity. In other words, the qualities of a fully mature talent shine from your handsome young form just as a pebble does from beneath the water or a lily from a vase. For that reason, when you are among your peers, you immediately cease to be their peer, since your inborn genius (acting as it were on another plane) distinguishes itself from the mere industriousness of the others. This genius cannot long be concealed in you without revealing itself in some notable way. At this point I will not wander off at random into the territory of your other virtues, nor will I continue by speaking unnecessarily about how much you contribute to the perfection of morality and to the knowledge of the higher languages. I will be content with my dedication to you of my Folly Reborn, Folly who bowed to the noble loftiness of your authority long ago, as if she had been defeated by you. We know that the sons of kings and princes often raise monstrous beasts and keep them in iron cages in their palaces. They do this not so that they can learn monstrous things from them, but so that they can wonder at — or laugh at — the rare variety of nature in her wildest imaginings. For this same reason, my dear Johann Karl, I offer and present this Folly tied hand and foot with comedic bonds, this beast which excites not only laughter but also tears among men. Like an all-powerful monarch, you will be able to laugh at her, while she is enclosed in her cage, rather than wonder at her. I dare assert that this beast, whom I am putting under your protection, will show herself to be so cheering, so humorous that you will be able to rival all the noblemen who feed monkeys and apes, or support court jesters and attendants—creatures who are usually attracted to courts at a high cost and supported there at an even greater cost. In our beast you will find only laughter, only humor and delight. I know very well that my Folly can accomplish in her own person what all the following performers, even acting together, cannot do: jugglers, sleight-of-hand artists, tumblers, rope-dancers, stilt-walkers, singing masters, pantomimes, castanet-dancers, lyre-players, comedians, clowns, horn-players, farceurs, satirists, rhapsodes, urban wits, dancers, sand-painters, ballet-dancers, mummers, crowd-controllers, jokers, jesters, freaks, buffoons, reciters, leapers, announcers, harlequins, stage-players, rope-walkers, mountebanks, bagpipers, and other ne’er-do-wells of this kind. Since the beginning of the world Folly has filled every moment of every life with her own amazing entertainment. So much for Folly Reborn. All that remains, my dear Johann Karl, is to ask that the gods favor and support you, and (a thing that I pray for with all my heart) that they add such robust health to your blooming talents that you may be able to visit many universities and many foreign lands and thereafter to enrich your native country with the great benefits you have gained. You may do this by attending in every way to my dear friend Mr. Johann Christoph von Grün &c., the most noble and most distinguished director of your upbringing, who is the master of laws, languages, and accomplishments of every kind.
Written at Tübingen, the Feast Day of St. Denis [Oct. 9], my birthday! On this day I finished writing my Folly, which I had begun three years earlier. 1627.
EFORE you read this comic Folly, the true offspring of Erasmus’ Folly, you ought to know, reader, that I have borrowed items such as characters and the title from Erasmus, but the plot and the arrangement derive from me. I have done this in such a way that I have eliminated from this work quite a few things that the Dutchman’s bad temper had included, especially matters which concern theology and religion, since I considered it sacrilege to pass judgment on the worship of God with jesting and laughter. In consequence, when you read the parson’s sermon in Act V, Scene iv, be aware that I placed it there not for the purpose of attacking any man’s religious belief. It is there only as an anthology collected entirely from the joke-books of von Kaysersberg, Adelphus, and Bebel, as well as the Jocorum atque Seriorum of Melander and elsewhere, and I have arranged these in a disorderly order to bring before your eyes the lack of sophistication and the imbecility of some men from the previous century. In every passage, whenever I have portrayed some misuse or error, I mean no insult to the best of the arts and sciences, to any upright man, or to good morals. To be sure, you must be aware, o best of readers, how many disasters often arise from the misuse of excellent things inflicted by that creature whom we call Man. The more excellent these things were when they were used, the worse they become when misused, although “the misuse does not negate the use,” as the schools of the philosophers like to say. As the author of the Morosophia and the demonstrator of the vanity of the sciences testifies, it often happens that “The teacher becomes dishonest, the poet a babbler, the historian a liar, the rhetorician a flatterer, the orator a showoff, the logician argumentative, the sophist a troublemaker, the Lullist a chatterbox, the mathematician a fortuneteller, the devotee of the arts becomes lustful, the dancer a stripper, the geometrician an exaggerator, the mapmaker a wanderer, the architect destructive to all, the sailor a pirate, the astronomer deceitful, the Magus dissolute, the cabalist treacherous, the scientist delusional, the metaphysician unnatural, the ethicist wayward, the political leader unjust, the economist a wastrel, the merchant a perjurer, the treasurer an embezzler, the farmer a loafer, the herdsman a cattle-rustler, the fisherman a slanderer, the hunter a bandit, the soldier a robber, the physician a murderer, the pharmacist a poisoner, the cook a glutton, the alchemist an impostor, the lawyer a trickster, the advocate a protector of a thousand crimes, the notary a forger, the judge a bribe-taker, the theologian a heretic and misleader, and so on. In other words those who are the best at the use become the worst by the misuse.” As a result I know that no good person will criticize us because, when I transformed Erasmus’ Folly, we were unwilling (as I said) to mix religious topics — or matters that seemed even more difficult — into my comedy, on the grounds that they seem far from pertaining to the comedic art. Furthermore, I preferred to show moderation and an even temper in depicting foolish characters, to the extent that I spared even the worst of men, and spoke only about faults and the misuse of the best matters. Accordingly, I will assume that anyone who has the effrontery to yelp with rabid tongue at this drama, which has been converted from Erasmus with the best intentions, has himself a bad conscience and has been consequently pierced by our words, without our knowledge. Or I will correctly judge that he should be put in the category, not of the bamboozled and hornswoggled, but of the criminal (those who cannot endure the virtues) and the insane. In the meantime, excellent and kindly reader, await more from me at a later date.
TO THE FAMOUS MAN, DOMINUS FRIEDRICH HARMANN FLAYDER, NOTED POET, HUMOROUS COMEDIAN, EXCELLENT PATRON
Unless you take care that your Folly runs forth from the press,
You will heap up a work of immense size!
How many chicks will the mother hen hatch out? If we had to list
All of them, the time would fail us.
MELCHIOR SYLVESTER ECKHARDT, POET LAUREATE AND STUDENT OF THEOLOGY
THE ARGUMENT OF FOLLY
“Vanity of vanities, and all is vanity.”
THE PEASANT or MENALCAS
THE SHYSTER, OR CHRYSOSTOMOS
ACTUS I, SCENA i
A round of applause, Spectators, on behalf of Folly — that’s me! — since this play which we are now presenting is under my protection. More applause if I please you — but I have never displeased you previously. Today I come to you reborn, even though I was never dead. You orators are morons, you playwrights are morons, because you write long prologues and long introductions in order to garner applause. But look at me— at my mere appearance, as soon as I entered this theater, I was able to gain your audience’s good will and a favorable hearing. You who are seated close to the stage are witnesses to this fact: before I came on stage, you sat here in gloom, like people who had just come back from Trophonius’ cave, but as soon as I entered, everyone’s face, everyone’s countenance immediately shone with a new, unheard of joy. This is the reason why our poet entirely eliminated any separate speaker for this comedy’s prologue. In Greek and Latin I am called Moria, and everyone here openly welcomes this play and me with such delight, with such a cheerful face — and who could more properly present it than me, since I am most welcome to everyone? Now, although this play has been written on behalf of Folly, it will not please foolish men, but only the learned. Now as I see it, you have learned my name and the play’s name. Next listen to a few words about what I will present here in this comedy; you have heard nothing so delightful before.
Today I will have you see how noble our kingdom is and how extensive our rule. Today you will hear the highest praise and an immortal encomium of me. For what makes better sense than for Folly to be the trumpeter of her own praise? And even though everyone, including all the dolts, oafs, simpletons, and idiots, puts out in public an ill report of me, nevertheless there is hardly anyone who doesn’t love me, attend to me, and cultivate my attention, or who doesn’t constantly think and dream of me. Erasmus himself, the shining star of Germany, once composed his praise of me in a most charming book. Not long after him the poet Flayder wrote a charming comedy about me. (Let Momus turn green with envy at this!) However, even if no one praises me, I’ll praise myself, since there is no room for deception with me: I don’t put on one face in front while hiding something else in my heart, nor do I carry a rock in one hand while holding out a loaf of bread in the other.
But if you’d like to hear my ancestry from its beginning: my father was Wealth, that Wealth who — as he always did — even now overturns everything from its roots and mixes up the sacred and profane. By himself he controls war, peace, commands, orders, plans, elections, actions, factions, treaties, contracts, marriages, laws, the arts, foolish things, serious things. He controls whatever fanatics do, whatever legal minds propose, whatever doctors argue, whatever philosophers explain, whatever poets imagine, whatever kings devise — my breath is failing me — in a word, he has sole control over all the public and private business of all humanity. My mother was Youth, that cheerful nymph. My homeland was the Blessed Isles, where everything grows without sowing or cultivation. My life’s first moments were marked not by wailing, but by real laughter and jesting. Drunkenness and Ignorance were the two wet-nurses who gave me the breast. Self-regard, Pleasure, Forgetfulness, Dementia, Delight, Desire, Flattery are the companions who serve me. Two young men minister to me with cheery mien: Festivity and Sloth.
You have now heard my descent, my upbringing, and my companions. As for what comes next, listen with open ears and in welcome silence what benefits I bring to both gods and men and how widely my power extends. I am that Alpha of the gods and men, because I help everyone, and I distribute everything to all of humanity. At the start of life — and nothing is sweeter and more precious than life — it’s clear that life’s happy beginning is due to me alone. All you stiff-necked Catos, all you unbending Stoics must summon my help if you want to become fathers. Only I, Folly, make sure that no one realizes the difficulties of marriage before he puts his neck under the yoke of matrimony. Only I, Folly, make sure that no girls, no women, recognize the monstrous agonies of childbirth or the troublesome efforts of child-rearing before they welcome their husbands into their arms. Even Venus has far less power than I do. From my drunken sports, my merry laughter come purple-robed kings, supercilious philosophers, sober generals, clever lawyers, learned doctors, wily courtiers, holy priests, fat monks, in short all and every body of mankind. In this way there is no part of life which lacks its own delights — i. e. continues in existence — without some seasoning of Folly. If you examine the stages of life, it is only because of me, Folly, that infancy delights everyone; because of Folly, youth charms everyone. As for maturity, the more stern and manly it is in its thinking, the more the charm of its face fades, its energy languishes, its attractiveness freezes, and its freshness withers. So that I could add some taste of pleasure to inflexible old age, in the end I dreamed up this admirable metamorphosis: I return these old geezers with one foot in the grave to childhood, and I make them children once again. So now this old guys act silly and foolish; they run on at the mouth and babble endlessly. Now if all of humanity together would totally abjure wisdom and live their lives perpetually with me, there would be no old age, but everyone would enjoy a delightful adolescence.
But what is this distant sound I hear? Who are these old men talking so absurdly?
ACT I, SCENE ii
The same meter
HERACLITUS, DEMOCRITUS, FOLLY
HER. Woe, woe, alas, alas [weeps uncontrollabluy]
DEM. Ha, ha, ha ha, he [laughs heartily].
HER.. Alas, how full of fools is every place!
DEM. Ha, ha, when you say “fool ” you’ve said it all!
FOL. By God, what insanity has seized these old goats? One laughs, the other cries, but I don’t know what the problem is, unless maybe I’m seeing them in their second childhood.
DEM. Ha ha, listen, Heraclitus.
HER. Alas, what should I listen to, Democritus?
DEM. I can’t get enough of laughing at you, ha, ha.
HER.. Alas alas, please tell me why I seem so laughable to you.
DEM. Why shouldn’t I laugh? Ha, ha [chokes with laughter.} why shouldn’t I laugh at you since you are crying all the time?
HER. Democritus, alas, a plague on your head. Why shouldn’t I be mourning for you? Alas, why shouldn’t I weep for you?
DEM. Are you really weeping for me because I mock you for always weeping?
HER. And in turn you are mocking me because I weep for you when you laugh.
DEM. But it would be better for you if you greeted me with laughter.
HER. But it would be better for you if you greeted me with tears.
DEM. Go ahead and cry; I will always laugh at you and Folly at the same time.
FOL. I don’t know what they are talking about. Why don’t I go a little closer so that I can hear what this one is crying about and what that one is laughing about.
DEM. Ha ha, Democritus, what a mass of folly is the human race!
FOL. Why is it that both give me the Latin name, this one with tears, that one with laughter?
HER. A plague on your insolence, that you want to laugh at so many educated idiots and talking heads.
DEM. Ha ha, who would ever bring tears to your eyes even if you were quite willing to weep at the stupidest stupidity of these stupid educated idiots?
HER. How foolishly does the fool speak!
DEM. Ha ha, what else can a fool speak other than foolishness?
FOL. Now they use my Greek name Moria. I’ll speak to them. Why are you fools fooling around with Folly here?
HER. Alas, why are you foolishly fooling around with me while I weep for Folly?
DEM. And why are you foolishly fooling around with me while I laugh at Folly?
FOL. Tell me which Folly are you laughing at?
DEM. That same one for which this man is weeping.
FOL. And you, which Folly are you weeping for?
HER. That same one at which this man is laughing.
FOL. To be clear: are you laughing at the Folly which your friend is bewailing?
DEM. You hit on the truth, ha ha.
FOL. And you are bewailing the Folly which your comrade is deriding?
HER. You hit the nail on the head. O woe is me, alas, alas.
DEM. Ha ha, I laugh because who could review all the faces of Folly?
HER. Woe and alas, who could sufficiently recount all the faces of Foolishness?
FOL. But have you never ever seen Folly in person?
DEM. Which Folly?
FOL. The one, of course, whom you deride and this one bewails.
DEM. Not in her very person, but we often have seen her through a mist which constantly beclouds the hearts of mortals.
HER. That Folly who bewitches the minds of all mortals.
DEM. What country you come from and what are your names? Please tell me.
HER. Well, what’s it to you who we are?
DEM. Stop questioning us about what is no concern of yours.
FOL. But in fact I have never wished for anything so much as to know your names and, along with that, your homeland.
HER. First tell us why.
DEM. I will. I perceive that you both especially want to see Folly, that most revered goddess, and for that reason I would like to be acquainted with you both.
HER. Perhaps you yourself have seen Folly at some time or other?
DEM. I know Folly exactly as well as I know myself.
HER. Have you seen her?
FOL. I say so.
DEM. I ask have you seen Foolishness?
FOL. Every day, with my own eyes.
DEM. In person?
FOL. In her very person.
DEM. I beg you to show her to us.
FOL. First tell me what you will do if you see her.
DEM. Just this: at last we could boast that we both have seen her in the flesh, her whom I have derided so often and whom he has bewailed so often.
FOL. I will do this for you if I may first know your names and homelands. Your unusual, rarely-seen clothes indicate that you are foreign. But if you do not do this, it is not right right for me to show you Folly, that happy goddess.
DEM. Heraclitus, why don’t you tell this woman our names?
HER. Oh, alas, alas, I can scarcely speak another word because of my tears.
DEM. Ha ha, from laughter I can barely utter another syllable.
FOL. Why are you so dilatory? Why are you fooling around with all this laughing and crying?
DEM. Ha ha, I will make an attempt to see if I can say my name. I am Democritus. I was born at Abdera of a wealthy father when Greece still flourished. I died after living 109 years as an investigator of Nature and a mocker of everything.
HER. I in turn am called Heraclitus of Ephesus. In life I wept a thousand times over the wretched fates of mankind, and I still bewail them, now that I realize that I have come back to life.
FOL. In the name of the gods and men, who could put any trust in you?
DEM. Ha ha, why don’t you believe us?
HER. Alas, why don’t you trust us? Indeed, in formal, legal language we swear to you that we have spoken the truth.
FOL. That you are really Democritus?
DEM. That’s what I say.
FOL. And that you are Heraclitus?
HER. That’s what I declare.
FOL. But how did you come back to life? That’s what I can’t believe.
HER. It was with the diligent efforts of poets who secretly stole the wondrous caduceus from Mercury and brought pale shades from Hades into the clear air of this sky. One of these poets brought us two back to life and led us here as if he had the god’s staff.
FOL. I accept this very literary explanation.
DEM. Now it’s your turn, woman, to tell us your name.
HER. Why don’t we go straight to Folly instead, forgetting about all this.
FOL. Why are you fools still looking for Folly, for Foolishness? You are seeing her here face to face.
FOL. It’s obvious. Look at me.
DEM. I certainly don’t see anyone other than you, standing by yourself here.
HER. By Jupiter, I don’t see anyone either, just you alone.
FOL. You are looking at Folly herself when you look at me myself.
DEM. Ha ha, what do I see? What do I think? What can I assume?
HER. You are Folly herself?
FOL. That’s how I’m entered in the census.
FOL. That I am.
FOL. Yes, she is me, myself, and I.
DEM. Ha ha, so what should I do? I know: a thousand greetings, o Goddess. After so many countless labors, after such a long time, now that I am alive again, I finally can see you.
HER. Oh, a thousand greetings as well to you. Because of you, I have wept so long and shed such tears.
FOL. And a thousand greetings to you as well, most welcome sirs.
DEM. Please, allow me to embrace you, o maiden most cheerful of mien.
FOL. As you wish.
HER. Oh, allow me to touch you, o far-ruling Queen.
FOL. Give me your hand.
DEM. Ha ha, let me gaze on you, o best of rulers.
FOL. Go ahead, as much as you wish.
HER. Please allow me to smell you first.
FOL. Sniff away, as you wish.
DEM. O Goddess, O most productive Mother, how happily I hear your eloquent speech!
HER. O Governess of men, how gladly I gaze on you!
FOL. Do you know of any king in this world whose rule is more powerful or whose government covers a wider area?
HER. I know of no ruler of any nation who can rival your domination.
DEM. Nor do I know of any empire which is greater than yours, o Goddess. O Folly, you are the milk of life, the leaven of life. You are the best seasoning, the source of all glory.
FOL. This is the truth, my Democritus.
DEM. In fact, what hurled Marcus Curtius into his pit?
HER. Oh alas, Folly herself.
DEM. And what drove Empedocles or Pliny to throw themselves into the fires, the former into Etna, the latter into Vesuvius?
HER. Oh alas, Folly and a foolish lust for investigating unknown and obscure matters.
DEM. Who once drove that rascal to sacrifice the temple of Diana of the Ephesians, one of the seven wonders of the world, to the savage violence of Vulcan?
HER. Oh alas, a foolish desire of gaining an immortal name from this crime.
DEM. What liberated the great descendants of Romulus from the dire slavery of the Tarquins?
HER. The Folly of Junius Brutus.
FOL. Therefore I am the bestower of liberty.
DEM. I always attributed this to you.
FOL. We see, my Heraclitus, that the life of mankind is nothing other than the caprice of Folly.
DEM. Your sex proves it, for I used to see women, who had suffered the dire pangs of childbirth and had very nearly entered the gates of Hades, once again embracing their beloved husbands — because of Folly.
FOL. On the other hand, let’s look at your sex as well, dear philosophers. Did you not formerly see widowers, with their wives barely in the tomb and when they should have remained at home like mourning doves, roaming like peacocks through the streets?
HER. Goddess, you speak the very truth. Although mankind’s life is stuffed with disasters and troubles, nevertheless (while I was alive) I knew many old men who barely retained the appearance of a man, babbling, balding, near to uttering their final words, raving, toothless, but who took such delight in this life-bringing air of ours that one of them dyed his gray hair, another covered his dome with artificial hair, and yet another got new teeth which were borrowed from a sow. One man was so miserably smitten by the girls that he surpassed any adolescent in the follies of love.
FOL. What is more common today, old men, than this, that these mere skeletons who have one foot in the grave are always marrying tender, delicate maidens? What need is there of many words? Aren’t these jesters, zanies, idiots, and clowns clearly the happiest people in the world?
DEM. Yes, they are, o queen. In the first place they lack any fear of death. That fatal worm of self-consciousness never gnaws at them. They are not frightened by tales of ghosts nor do they tremble at haunts and specters. They don’t faint when facing dire troubles nor get puffed up at good fortune. They feel neither shame nor love; they feel no fear, grief, ambition, or envy. In fact, as the theologians tell us, they never sin at all. They are always singing, playing, rejoicing, laughing and making everyone around them cheerful. They drive away the clouds of sadness. These men are entertained everywhere and whatever they may do or say, they do or say it with impunity. Indeed, they are cherished by the most powerful kings, who who neither dine, feast, sleep nor endure a single hour without their company. They prefer them to any philosopher.
DEM. And rightly so, for philosophers produce nothing but harsh, austere sayings, but the fools nothing but good jokes, bon mots, laughter, and chuckles.
FOL. Add this fact in addition, that my fools always tell the truth, whereas these wise men, particularly the politicians of this age, speak with forked tongue and frequently turn black into white. From the same mouth they blow hot and cold in equal measure. They bury one thing deep in their breast but spew another out of their mouths. Besides, these idiots are especially loved by my women.
HER. How does this happen?
FOL. Please, need you ask me this? Obviously, they are more vigorous, whether they are needed by day or by night. Look at those men who are always intent on a book or some other serious, difficult matter. Most of the time such men grow completely old before they are fully youths, as they drain away their life force by thinking and pondering. On the other hand my jesters are sleek and fat to the very end of their lives, the only men totally fit for women. And if they are not infected with the disease of intelligence, they will never feel the disadvantages of old age at all.
DEM. By Pluto, I believe it.
HER. By Persephone, it’s the truth. In a word, you are the only seasoning for ever occasion. How small is a man’s head, the seat of his reason, compared to the rest of his body, which is entirely subject to Folly?
DEM. Ha ha, in fact his whole head is the home of Folly. The eyes in his head — what delights them?
FOL. The smooth faces of girls and the gestures of idiots.
DEM. Now, what attracts their ears?
FOL. Music, the rattling of idiots.
HER. What attracts their noses?
FOL. The smell of civet, favored by both morons and magnates.
DEM. What attracts their palate?
FOL. Bacchus, that irrigation of idiots.
HER. What delights their choler?
FOL. Anger, that commotion of morons.
DEM. What delights their spleen?
FOL. Laughter, the mark of morons.
HER. What delights their liver?
FOL. Love and lust, the real enticement of idiots.
DEM. What delights their hands?
FOL. The handling of godlike money, which only seeks out fools.
HER. What delights their stomachs?
FOL. Gulping, of course, that close familiar of fools.
DEM. What delights their feet?
FOL. You ask? Pointless wandering, naturally.
HER. Woe, alas, why do we enumerate a man’s parts? Instead, how often are the smartest of men foully controlled by the stupidest of women!
DEM. Ha ha, look how you never see a splendid banquet to which the fools are not invited first!
FOL. What would be the point of loading your stomach with so many dainties, luxuries, pastries, and treats if you did not at the same time feast your ears and mind with laughter, nonsense, and wit? As a result I alone am the one and only baker of this confectionary. And so playing cards, acting the buffoon, eating like a glutton, draining full beakers to the dregs, enjoying jokes, playing parlor tricks, singing the Rondatinella, what ever else is suitable in banquets — all this was not invented by the Seven Greek Sages, but by me, my friends.
HER. The facts show that this is true.
DEM. However this may be, while I was still alive one thing seemed especially ridiculous to me.
FOL. My Democritus, tell us what this was.
DEM. It is that nearly everyone has his eyes so dimmed by cataracts that those features which are ugly he considers to be beautiful and attractive.
HER. Such men were the reason why I once wept whole buckets of tears.
DEM. We say “an old man loves his old lady and a boy loves his girl.”
HER. And “Those who are an Argus in business, but a Tiresias at home.”
DEM. As a result these brainless lovers are blinder than a mole, since they take such delight in strikingly ugly girls. Thus a girl with protruding lips is “good to kiss.”
HER. A chatterbox is “eloquent.”
FOL. A black girl is “dusky.”
DEM. An ignorant girl is “straightforward.”
HER. A stick-figure is “slender.”
FOL. One who says nothing is “modest.”
DEM. A short girl is “neat.”
HER. An unkind girl is “shy.”
FOL. A pushy, insolent girl is “lively.”
DEM. And so a dirty, disheveled girl is “a little careless of her appearance.”
HER. A young girl is liked for her beauty, an older one for her good sense.
FOL. Moreover they often compare misshapen girls to goddesses. If she’s tall, she’s Juno. If she’s grey-eyed, she’s Pallas Minerva. If she has large breasts, she’s Ceres; with black hair she’s Leda. A blonde is Aurora. A snub-nosed girl is Silenus’ wife. If she’s cross-eyed, she’s Venus — that’s the way Folly charms everyone.
HER. Woe, alas, in short, there is no human association, Goddess, which can be acceptable or indeed stable without you. If men do not tell white lies about each other, now flattering each other, now wisely turning a blind eye for a while, or deceiving each other with a little honeyed coating of folly, nobody would ever put up with anyone. The people would not put up with their ruler.
DEM. Nor the master his servant.
HER. Nor the mistress her handmaid.
DEM. Nor one colleague another.
HER. Nor the teacher his student.
DEM. Nor the wife her husband.
HER. Nor the lover his girlfriend.
DEM. Nor the landlord his tenant.
HER. Nor the parents their children.
DEM. Nor one messmate another.
HER. Nor a senator the consul.
DEM. Nor the congregation their pastor.
HER. Nor the pastor his congregation.
DEM. Nor the merchant his customer.
HER. Nor the employee his boss.
FOL. You see here that self-love always takes my side. But what is more stupid and foolish than to be pleased with oneself in everything and to be full of self-love? On the other hand, what benefit will it be to be unhappy about how you are faring? So go ahead and remove this factor from life, and immediately the orator with his flourishes will go cold.
DEM. Soon no musician will be pleased with his symphony.
HER. The actor and his gestures will be hissed off the stage.
DEM. Right away the poet will be mocked along with his Muse.
HER. The preacher will go dumb.
DEM. The soldier will fear the enemy.
HER. The lawyer will lose his case.
DEM. The debater will be silent.
HER. The astronomer will roam at random through the whole sky.
DEM. The scientist will be bundled out of doors.
HER. The painter will be despised along with his art.
DEM. The doctor and his purgatives will be expelled by everyone, and Minerva will become a pig.
FOL. Now, my philosophers, while we engage in all this conversation, we are murdering the daylight and all these spectators are falling asleep.
DEM. So now we will wake these sleepers up again.
FOL. Yes, we will, if you both are willing to do a useful favor for me and give me some assistance today.
HER. We will do so; just give the order. I will do you a favor, Folly, and I will help you with all my care and concern.
DEM. I too will defend you with all my power, since I have laughed at you so often.
HER. As you see, we both will eternally serve your interests.
FOL. Do you know what I have to do today?
DEM. I will if you tell me.
FOL. Today I need some men, and not just a few.
DEM. What will you do with them?
FOL. My present intention is to assemble a household for myself assembled from all types of men. They will serve in my court and honor me as their queen. I want to beg you for your diligent assistance in searching out those most suited to my kingdom and bringing them to me.
DEM. O queen, what need is there for us to collect courtly subjects for you from everywhere? Doesn’t your magnificent kingdom embrace the entire world?
FOL. My dear Democritus, I am aware of that, but that kingdom of mine is very scattered, very dispersed throughout all the corners of the world, and for that reason and with your help (if you are willing) I am today founding a Metropolis of Fools, a Miscellany of Morons, here in the very center of the universe, so that anyone can point his finger and say “this is Folly’s Kingdom.”
DEM. O Folly, now I understand your intention.
HER. I too see where you are headed.
FOL. So hurry off, search in haste, bring every mortal whom you can find, all who are scatter-brained, hag-ridden, leaden-witted blockheads; who are insane, idiotic, clownish, thick as a plank, frenzied, jackasses, dumb as rocks, educated fools, madmen, and silly, or whoever else is sunk deep in foolishness. Collect all these, my friends, and bring them quickly to me. All of them will receive a position and a salary proportionate to their merits. For your efforts I will show the greatest gratitude towards you as well.
DEM. I will do it, and am now on my way. I never did anything more gladly, even when I was formerly alive, than laughing at and looking for silly, stupid people. Ha ha, what idiots I will bring to you today!
HER. Woe, woe, alas, how many mortals sunk in the ridiculous somnolence of silliness will I escort onto this stage! [Both depart.]
FOL. They have left. I stumbled across these men just in time today, these explorers of delirium, who act just like hunting dogs: some use their nose, some their swift paws, some their piercing bark to track down rabbits or deer anywhere in the forest so that they can bring the hunter the prey which he was seeking. In this same way these philosophers, one with his laughter, the other with his tears, are tracking down thousands of my subjects in the world. I know well that today they will bring me, Folly, the prey which I seek. Now, since I have given the orders which I intended, I will go inside and wait for them to bring to me those courtiers who best suit my kingdom, so that I don’t delay my own plans.
Go to Act II