Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a bTroaclue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square.
ACT II, SCENE i
Trochaic septenarii at first, then all types of verse intermingled
PAR. Really, I can barely endure the fact that my maid Barbara has fled from my house today. Now I have no one who can collect my tithes, clean my quarters, and make my bed; no one to talk with me, help me dress, comb my hair, and do all the other duties of a maid. They say that she is now living with the lawyer Chrysostom. What if I beg her to willingly take me back, her old master? There’s also something else about which I want to consult Chrysostom. There is a peasant living nearby who has owed me one hundred Philipps for some time, counting principal and interest. I would happily lose this amount if only Barbara would come back to me. But who is this man who is coming towards me with his filthy hat, his cloak of many holes, and his worn-out shoes?
PHIL. Fortune has not deserted me yet. My stomach is grumbling, and my teeth really want to do their duty. Here’s a pastor; he’ll be my prey. What if I address him with a poem and thus carve a donation out of him?
PAR. Why are you walking here, my good man? What do you seek? What are your thoughts today? Why do you look down at the ground as you do?
PHIL. Most hearty greetings to My Lord I send.
A humble servant, on you I depend.
I studied at Tübingen and taught the nobility.
I brought them to school with my kind modesty.
My purse is exhausted, few throw me a bone.
When I seek any man, he is never at home.
I could be a B. A., even a Ph. D.
Or even a porter, if all else fails me.
I have a degree, I could certainly be
Philosopher or teacher, if money came to me.
If my Lord’s not aware of any position,
Which I could fill to his full satisfaction,
At least he should give me a ducat, or more,
Which I will employ to travel afar.
PAR. Please tell me, my educated friend, what is your name.
PHIL. “The Greeks call me Sophia, the Romans Sapiens.”
PAR. Who were your parents?
PHIL. “Practice begat me, and Memory, my mother, gave me birth.”
PAR. Tell me what nation, what homeland do you come from.
PHIL. “An Andrian by family, a Syrian by descent, my homeland is Lesbos.”
PAR. For what cause or reason did you leave your homeland?
PHIL. “Haste hence, my son; this fruitless labor end.”
PAR. Do you have any brothers?
PAR. What evil thing took them away?
PHIL. “Some were made birds. Here patriots live, who, for their country’s good,
In fighting fields, were prodigal of blood.”
PAR. Why have you not stayed in your homeland with your parents?
PHIL. “I have a father and a step-dame harsh,
And twice a day both reckon up the flock,
And one withal the kids.”
PAR. Perhaps you have a wife?
PAR. Since you have no wife of your own, who takes the place of a wife?
PHIL. “We use the verbs in the first and second persons, omitting the pronouns.”
PAR. Who opened your way to these women?
PHIL. “Be bold; Venus herself helps the brave.”
PAR. What does your mistress look like?
PHIL. “Bare were her knees, and knots her garments bind. Not free from tears.
And she dares her maiden arms to manly force oppose.”
PAR. What is your station in life? Please tell me: what are you?
PHIL. “Tired from the road; famed for my learning; famed for my blood.”
PAR. What do you carry under your cloak?
PHIL. I bring “owls to Athens.”
PAR. Where are you now going? What nation do you, a stranger, make your home?
PHIL. “I’m carried, a guest, wherever the storm-wind blows me.”
PAR. Who furnishes food to you sufficient to sustain life?
PHIL. “The syntax of the word opus [’need’] varies, but it usually takes the ablative case.”
PAR. But if the peasants seize you...
PHIL. “The fight with clubs and burning brands was tried.”
PAR. If you are wise, you will refrain from these criminal actions.
PHIL. “A jar will long retain the odor of what it was
Dipped in when new.”
PAR. By heaven, I think those long fingers of yours are best suited to thievery.
PHIL. “Or know ye not that the hands of kings be long?”
PAR. What do men say of you? Don’t they call you “wicked” and “thievish”?
PHIL. “The constructions of praising and abusing are varied.”
PAR. Why do you not seek your bread by the sweat of your brow?
PHIL. “It is easier to say than to do.”
PAR. Why do you not go for a soldier?
PHIL. “There is no safety in war; we all ask you for peace.”
PAR. Do you not know that Nature is another word for Custom?
PHIL. “Drive Nature off with a pitchfork, she’ll still press back.”
PAR. Are you able to pray? Tell me what your prayer is?
PHIL. “Thou, Bacchus, god of joys and friendly cheer,
And gracious Juno, both be present here!”
PAR. Why don’t you drink water instead of wine?
PHIL. “The more they drink, they thirstier they become.”
PAR. Tell me how you pass the time. In what occupation, with what labors?
PHIL. “I plow the land, dance a musical, drink wine, rejoice joyfully, play dice, play cards, forget this thing and that.”
PAR. Why do you not look for students whom you can train in grammar?
PHIL. “The more skillful any one is, the more painstaking is he in teaching his art.”
PAR. What is your academic office?
PHIL. “There is a place in the prison which is called the Tullianum.”
PAR. What is your reaction if the police take you to prison?
PHIL. “Aghast, astonish’d, and struck dumb with fear,
I stood; like bristles rose my stiffen’d hair.”
PAR. So make sure that you do not climb the gallows like a candidate for the noose.
PHIL. “Occasionally the nominative precedes, as in A leader or controller is what we need.”
PAR. Is this how you answer me?
PHIL. “An interrogative and the word that answers it ought to be in the same case.”
PAR. So what news do you bring from your homeland?
PHIL. Caesar and the French king have made an agreement with each other. The Turks are unhappy because the siege of Vienna has been repulsed. Charles has been named Holy Roman Emperor. The Duke of Saxony has been named Pretorian Prefect. When Themistocles refused to take the lyre in a banquet, he was considered uncouth. The wall and the gate of Fregellae were struck from the sky. Soldiers have returned, one from Spain, another from France. King Midas has ass’s ears. The Athenians were overpowered by the Spartans. Archytas is spending ti me at Tarentum; he made a wooden bird which flies. The Venetians suffered greatly when Maximilian was Emperor.
PAR. Make sure you are telling me the truth.
PHIL. “’Tis not my way to tell an untruth, but yours to do this.”
PAR. What is happening in your homeland?
PHIL. “It’s raining, it’s thundering, it’s snowing, it’s getting dark, there’s lightning, day is breaking.”
PAR. In your homeland what laws, what rules do they follow?
PHIL. “Birth and beauty too are the gifts of Her Highness Cash. The common herd values friends by their usefulness.”
PAR. How highly is a priest respected?
PHIL. “He is praised by some, condemned by others.”
PAR. What kind of sermons does he give?
PHIL. “Silver’s worth less than gold, gold’s worth less than virtue.”
PAR. What do the citizens learn from these sermons?
PHIL. “Citizens, O Citizens, first you must search for wealth,
Cash before virtue!”
PAR. But I demand that my people love me and value me highly.
PHIL. “Cato preferred to be good, rather than to seem good.”
PAR. Are there many citizens in your homeland?
PHIL. “Few, but good. There are a thousand human types and all their experience varies.”
PAR. Of what appearance is your chief?
PHIL. “Red of hair, swarthy of face, short of foot, and bleary of eye.
You show yourself a portent, Zoilus, if virtuous you are.”
PAR. How does he perform his duties?
PHIL. “He acquits the ravens, and brings censure on the doves.”
PAR. How does he handle the rest of the day?
PHIL. “He sleeps soundly, drinks without eating, and retires unfed.”
PAR. What sort of consul is there in your homeland?
PHIL. “Sufficiently eloquent, but of little wisdom.”
PAR. In the Senate, what do the other colleagues or the consuls do?
PHIL. “They restore their strength with meat, and cheer their souls with wine.”
PAR. Are these men selected by gifts and bribes, or by influence?
PHIL. “Dignus [’worthy’] and indignus [’unworthy’] simply take the ablative case.”
PAR. What is your teacher like?
PHIL. “Upright of life and free from sin.”
PAR. What wealth does he have?
PHIL. “Poverty, people, wealth, hunger, contagion, disease.”
PAR. What does the lawyer, Mr. Sempronius, do there?
PHIL. “Beware the he-goat; with his horn he butts.”
PAR. What is the rest of your nation like?
PHIL. “As the habits of the rulers, such is likewise the nation.”
PAR. Do they have regular meetings, and in what order do they proceed?
PHIL. “Verbs of existence precede and the nominatives follow.”
PAR. If I give you a bonus, pray tell what will you do with the money?
PHIL. “I use, I enjoy, I employ, I possess, I feed, I press on, I exist on, I live.”
PAR. Why should I give you anything which you you will immediately waste and squander?
PHIL. “We see that comparatives use the ablative case. What is done quickly, perishes quickly.”
PAR. But right now I have no cash on hand.
PHIL. When I ask you for a loan with no interest, you say: “I don’t have it.”
PAR. Don’t you have credit with someone from whom you can borrow?
PHIL. “The number of coins a man keeps in his treasure chest, that’s
All the credit he earns.”
PAR . Come back to me tomorrow and you’ll get something then. Now I don’t have the leisure.
PHIL. “My hands always have eyes in them; they believe what they see. But my belly has no ears.”
PAR. But what will I gain if I give you some money?
PHIL. “Your honor, name, and praise shall never die.
Your goat and kids are safe.”
PAR. Come with me, so as not to delay me.
PHIL. “Watch us apples swim!” Go on; I’ll follow.
ACT II, SCENE ii
Lay that in the middle of the platform and put this furnace on top. Right, now for the charcoal. That’s enough. Where did you put the fire? Good. Now kindle the sleeping Vulcan with these bellows. Pump, pump! Give me the bellows, right now, you wicked jailbird. Why are you standing there so long? I could blow more wind out my ass than you can with the bellows! Be careful about all these ashes and dust that you are scattering. Take the bellows again and keep this flame going with a moderate blast. I will soon return, because I am bringing the living mercury next. Otherwise all my sweat over this Philosopher’s Stone will be in vain today
ACT II, SCENE iii
COURT. I don’t know where my Alchemist has escaped to so suddenly, the one who promised me mountains of gold and silver. His servant is here, but I can’t see the man himself. Maybe he has absconded with the cash that I gave him a while ago.
MERCH. I’ve come here to see if I can perhaps meet some of my debtors.
COURT. But who is this man with the long cloak?
MERCH. Who is that man with the tall plume on his hat?
COURT. Oh, it’s the merchant who comes this way, my creditor for so many years. It was an unlucky step that brought me here.
MERCH. It’s the courtier who owes me money. I got here just in time.
COURT. I’ll pretend I don’t see him and I’ll sneak away quietly from here.
MERCH. Hey, hey, sir, where are you headed, where are you dashing off to? Sir, where are you dashing off to?
COURT. [aside.] He’s got me now! Who is diverting me from my busy day with his insistent shouting? Who is delaying me?
MERCH. Greetings, sir, greetings.
COURT. Who are you?
MERCH. A merchant.
COURT. By God, I did not recognize you at that distance.
MERCH . But I recognized you right away.
COURT. Come to me tomorrow, since I am completely occupied with business right now.
MERCH. I will not bother you, since you are so busy.
COURT. So goodbye!
MERCH. But there is one thing I’d like to ask of you before you go.
COURT. Go ahead, but make it short.
MERCH. Naturally I want to know when you will pay me that large sum of money.
COURT. Please, what money?
MERCH. That money which you spent years ago in taverns, on girls, on dice games, on whores, on clothes, on rings, on horses, on dogs, falcons, swords, guns and balls.
COURT. Oh, now I know. It had not occurred to me before. You will get it from me tomorrow, friend merchant; tomorrow you’ll get it.
MERCH. But I prefer to carry the money away this moment in my hands endowed with eyes.
COURT. But if you get it tomorrow, what will prevent you from carrying away then?
MERCH. But you have sung this “tomorrow” song to me more than a thousand times.
COURT. You will have it tomorrow, just watch me. The Alchemist has bound himself by an oath to pay me back for what I gave him —if indeed he finishes (at last!) his creation of the Philosopher’s Stone by transforming living mercury into gold today.
MERCH. God Almighty, do you expect to get any cash from this charcoal-burner?
COURT. Well, he certainly swore with a sacred oath that his efforts would bring results.
MERCH. What efforts?
COURT. Alchemical efforts.
MERCH.Say fantastical efforts instead.
COURT. I also anticipate that tomorrow some other money will come from another source.
MERCH. What money?
COURT. That money which a courier will bring from my homeland.
MERCH. But, my Lord Courtier, stop making sport of me with these postponements “This tomorrow,” “that tomorrow,” the other tomorrow,” “something else tomorrow,” “something different tomorrow,” always and ever “tomorrow,” are completely wrecking me today unless you turn “tomorrow” into “today,” and I get my money.
COURT. But if I give it to you tomorrow, what reward do you promise me?
MERCH. You will win my eternal gratitude.
COURT. Not good enough; I prefer something concrete.
MERCH. And for my part I prefer something concrete tomorrow. This false nonsense of “tomorrow” repeated so often is not good enough for me.
COURT. Well, I will say the matter in a few words: If you can stay calm, you will get all your money tomorrow. Now farewell, for I have to hurry somewhere else.
MERCH. Farewell. And in addition, be careful to finally turn this hateful “tomorrow” into “today.” He’s gone. How often has this courtier sung his “tomorrow” to me, and as often my heart has been completely broken. A hundred times, a thousand times, a thousand thousand times has this old fox yelped this “tomorrow” at me up to now. And I know as well as I know I’m alive that this “tomorrow” will be just as big a lie tomorrow. But if does not cough up some cash tomorrow, I will make that lying “tomorrow” truthful, and I will bring a huge lawsuit against the Courtier, so that he won’t make sport of me unpunished.
But who is that peasant who is standing so hot and bothered in the street?
ACT II, SCENE iv
PEAS. Would that all the gods and goddesses utterly destroy our parson! The criminal practically skins me alive and drives me out of my mind every few hours for the hundred Philippics which I owe him.
MERCH. By God! Menalcas is coming this way again. He will ask me for the money I owe him for his grain.
PEAS. Isn’t that the merchant there? It is. Greetings, merchant.
MERCH. Greetings to you as well, countryman.
PEAS. Merchant, I beg you to quickly pay the cash which you owe me, and don’t be angry that I approach you so often. The reason is that my parson so presses on my miserable self and so tears into me that if I had sold my soul, I don’t believe that the Devil himself would be annoying me so often.
MERCH. If you can wait one day longer, I ask that you let me breath freely today. For I just sent to a foreign market more than a thousand in cash. If you had just come a short time before, you could have received the whole amount in toto, everything that I owe for the grain.
PEAS. So, when will I be able to get this?
MERCH. Tomorrow, if the courtier gives me the large amount that he has owed me for some time.
PEAS. I should prefer that a countryman owed you the money rather than a courtier. If a countryman owed you, you would have long since brought him before a judge and forced him to pay. But you will never force a courtier to pay, and even if he has promised, he is never going to pay. For that reason this hope, which you want me to enjoy, has dropped dead today in my heart because of this courtier cash. Instead forget about this courtier cash and just show me the countryman’s cash, since I’m a countryman. [interrupts himself] Now by Jupiter, where can I flee, where can I turn to?
MERCH. What’s with you? Where are you running?
PEAS. Speak of the devil!
PEAS. The Parson is coming here! Let me run into this building.
MERCH. No, no, stay here. He’s not coming here.
PEAS. So where?
MERCH. He’s heading to the right.
PEAS. So he’s not coming here?
PEAS. So where is that wretch racing off to?
MERCH. I believe he’s hurrying to the Lawyer.
PEAS. What Lawyer?
MERCH. The one who lives here.
MERCH. In this very lofty building with the red door.
PEAS. Hush. Let’s listen to what he’s doing
PARSON, PEASANT, MERCHANT
PARS. That wretched egghead buffoon delayed me too long.
PEAS. He’s certainly talking about me. Look, he calls me a buffoon
PARS. I gave him a contribution, the nasty cash-hunter!
PEAS. He says I hunted his cash.
MERCH. That’s right, but quiet!
PARS. Damn that wordsmith with his verbiage.
PEAS. Listen, now he calls me a blacksmith.
MERCH. I heard.
PARS. If men were living according to my judgment, I would make sure that all people like him were hanging from the gallows.
PEAS. By God, he intends that I should hang in a gibbet!
PARS. That way I am sure that these wicked vagabonds would not be acting as they do with their perverted morals.
PEAS. He calls me a vagabond, and wicked. Maybe he just saw me.
MERCH. I don’t think so. Now countryman, put your mind at ease.
PARS. I cannot find out where in the world my Barbara is.
PEAS. Did you hear? He calls me a barbarian and looks for me.
MERCH. Be quiet.
PARS. They say that she has fled.
PEAS. By God, let me run away.
MERCH. No, stay, Menalcas. He is not looking at us, he’s gone the other way.
PEAS. Why should I stay? Do you want the Parson to throw me in the jail? Farewell, Merchant, and be sure to give me the money tomorrow.
MERCH. The Countryman has left, slipped away. I could not have driven him away from my door any quicker. By heaven I owe a great debt to this Parson, provided he can drive off all my creditors from this building in the same way that he drove off the countryman. But I will now head home, so that no other creditors annoy me in the street just as this Menalcas did.
PARS. Now while I am out and about I will consult the lawyer about what I should do about Menalcas to prevent my being wretchedly defrauded of my money. But who are these men who are coming this way with tortoise-like steps, with ragged cloaks and worn staffs? What long beards cover their cadaverous faces! I will go inside the Lawyer’s house, since I’m afraid that these men are more wandering scholars, who will wrongly carve some contribution out of my wallet.
DEM. It is just as I said, Heraclitus.
HER. By Jupiter, I was not able to track anyone down at all, such a fog was in front of my eyes.
DEM. It’s the same with me: everything seems to be covered in darkness.
HER. But what then will we tell Folly if we bring no followers for her?
DEM. I don’t know, Heraclitus.
FOL. I’ll go to see how soon my philosophers will get to my palace with my retainers.
HER. I also don’t know what to say to her, except to confess right away our blindness.
FOL. But isn’t that them standing there and muttering something to each other with their heads bent low? Hey, why are you two croaking so sadly at each other here in front of my door, and no witnesses either?
HER. Folly herself is here! Woe, alas, I don’t know where to turn!
DEM. Ha ha, Heraclitus. Instead we will just stay here.
FOL. When will you bring our applicants? Or rather, where did you leave those whom you should already have brought?
HER. O Goddess, allow me one whole sentence of grief before I respond. Woe, woe, alas and alack!
DEM. Be quiet now, Heraclitus, you’ve wailed enough. But now allow me one whole sentence of laughter. Ha, ha, what joy!
FOL. Instead of that, tell me this: how many idiots, how many jesters have you brought me?
DEM. So far we have no one, Folly, who is sufficiently worthy of you.
FOL. So you have not unravelled anything in this matter of finding me courtiers?
DEM. Nothing so far.
FOL. Why? Isn’t there a sufficient number of idiots everywhere?
HER. O Goddess, that is true.
FOL. So why in the middle of the ocean are you taking so long in looking for waves?
DEM. To tell you the truth, when dealing with this age we are not as sharp-sighted as we once were. Either men are much worse now than they were then, when we drew breath, or we see less clearly in this world.
HER. The smoke of Avernus has deprived us of much of our vision. Whenever I try to grab someone, he soon flies away out of sight.
DEM. I still find that the gloomy darkness which we experienced in Pluto’s smoky palace obscures my eyes.
FOL. So you met no one?
DEM. Quite the contrary, I met many.
HER. I too bumped into all sorts of mortals who would certainly be worthy of serving you, Folly, every one of them.
FOL. So why didn’t you bring them to me?
HER. Because as soon as I tried to seize them in my hands, they immediately evaded me and secretly escaped my grasp. For example, a lawyer vanished from my sight quicker than you can say it; he was just like an eel which straightway slipped from my wet hands. All of a sudden, with his rubrics, all his glosses, with his twisted and contorted exceptions, with his cautions and his interpretations, his sections and his regulations, with his postponements, rescripts, defense speeches, delays, his articles and clauses, he vanished from my sight.
DEM. Ha ha, the same thing was happening to me: when I unhappily believed I had caught a philosopher, pale, long-nosed, sallow, austere and skinny, with his divisions, subdivisions, syllogistic structures, with all his philosophical debates, his formalities and materialities, he immediately flew from me like a bird flies from a boy’s slippery hands.
HER. From what I see, I’m guessing that you both see with insufficient sharpness.
DEM. By heaven I feel that my vision is quite dim.
HER. And I confess that I have to use eyeglasses.
FOL. Why didn’t you bring me Diogenes, who lit his lamp in broad daylight and investigated men?
DEM. We should have.
FOL. Come on, since it’s your pleasure, I will give you glass eyes.
DEM. But if they don’t fit well, I’ll ask for others to use outside.
FOL. Well, I have here one pair of eyes which fit all men; just bring me a knife.
DEM. Why do you need a knife here?
HER. Folly, here’s a small knife.
FOL. Hand it to me, for now I’ll divide these glass eyes. Democritus, you take one, and Heraclitus, you take the other. Why are you spending so much time gaping at me?
DEM. Why? Folly, do you perhaps imagine that we are one-eyed men?
FOL. Why do you ask this?
DEM. Because you want us to see with half our vision.
FOL. Don’t you know that nowadays educated men–or those who want to seem educated—do not use eyeglasses with two lenses any more, but employ only monocles which they privately fit in front of their eye if they want to pry into anything.
DEM. Ha ha, why do they do that?
HER. Because, of course, they have learned to see more with one eye than others do with two or more. Therefore they act like Argus: they close one eye in sleep and use only the other.
DEM. Well, I’ll imitate them today. Now, my monocle, fit yourself to this right eye of mine. Meanwhile, other eye, go to sleep. [Looks towards the audience.] Now, by God, what do I see here? Ha ha, ha, how many human beings do I see sitting here?
HER. Woe, alas, by the immortal gods, what is this mob here?
DEM. I see everything as clearly as a lynx; no one is more sharp-sighted than I am.
HER. I see more clearly than any fish. I’m totally telescopic. Not only are my eyes in the front, but also in the back of my head.
DEM. O Folly, how many teachers, professors, smart fellows, mechanics, butchers, sausage makers, bakers, carpenters, cooks, vintners, and merchants do I see in this theater! With one swoop I’ll bring them all to you, my dear Folly!
HER. Woe, woe, alas, alas, what Hercules could seize them all?
FOL. Hey, stop, stop, Democritus.
DEM. Why should I stop, pray tell?
FOL. You will find other subjects for me. Now let all these people go as if they were sensible men—since they are here to honor me. So be careful not to touch any of them even with the tip of your finger.
DEM. Good advice, Folly. I will do as you say. And so I will go elsewhere and keep fishing everywhere until I dredge up some fools.
HER. I too, my dear Folly, now that I have become so far-sighted, will look all around with eyes wide open, and I will roust out a million places to see if I can find idiots.
FOL. Go on, cast your eyes at the world; examine every place. Go with happy auspices.
DEM. O Folly, farewell for now.
HER. Farewell for now, Folly.
FOL. Farewell to you as well, and carefully do the things that I have ordered.
HER. We hope to.
DEM. We’re off.
Now I will go back inside, and if (as I expect) they bring me some courtiers for my kingdom, I will arrange in my mind what duties, what ranking, and what salary should be assigned to each person. Whoever seems to me to excel everyone else in stupidity, that person will gain a higher rank than any other. This is just what usually happens now in my kingdom and empire, where it is not the learned, the wise, or the experienced men who see themselves placed at the highest table, but the stupid, the careless, the vain, the blatherskites. Meanwhile those who cultivate the arts and sciences, who study literature, who practice good judgment and eloquence are told to depart and are shut out of affairs. Thus everywhere the world wants to be ruled — indeed, deceived — not by the rule of reason or the well-considered votes of the educated, but by the moronic prejudices of insane opinions. But I’ll go inside and work on this.