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ACT III, SCENE i
CHRESTOPHILUS with a letter he has found
I would prefer not to have found this just now. It pains me to have read it, for it is scarcely fitting to read another man’s secrets. I’m sure this letter is by Aphronius. But look, here’s Philomathes. If he gives me any instructions I’ll oblige him. [Enter Philomathes.]
ACT III, SCENE ii
PHIL. Why are you so seriously engaged in reading a letter? Is anything new? Is it about love?
CHR. No, by Hercules. I don’t find anything serious in it. You may read it right now, and then it offers us a chance to play games with Aphronius, since in this letter he shows us his intentions.
PHIL. Perhaps he will rejoice in having his letter thus made public, so as to reveal he is a bridegroom-to-be.
CHR. Rather, he has more need of a child’s guardian to correct his folly. For a man who cannot govern himself to rule a wife! [Enter Cerdous on the other side of the stage.]
ACT III, SCENE iii
What man is unhappier than I? I got drunk so unseasonably that I lost the letter. Can I do my master’s work so sleepily? Other men come to Athens to acquire letters, I’ve come to lose one. Who would ever have thought that these Athenians were such tosspots? The last time I came here, with many a bumper they taught me how to guzzle like a student, and, a laughingstock for one and all, I made a muddle of everything. But what plan shall I adopt for recovering the letter? There are certain men who are privy to the stars, Philomathes and Chrestophilus, who can employ their art to restore lost things.
CHR. [Overhearing.] Now I see something which will help along our misrepresentation. Artfully you must tell Aphronius where he may find his letter, and do so as if you were a soothsayer. Utter predictions about the servant’s arrival, the letter and the marriage, and so you will assuredly raise a laugh and gain praise.
CERD. I’ll ask these young men whom I see before me. Noble sirs, where is the house of Philomathes and Chrestophilus, whom they say to be astrologers?
CHR. Chrestophilus has no knowledge of these matters, but that Philomathes you seek is very well-versed. He’s the man you are looking at.
CERD. Is that him? [Crossing over.] Begging your pardon, I suffered a mishap by losing a letter which my master entrusted to me. If your arts could restore it to me you will not go away unrewarded, or without all gratitude.
PHIL. You are the servant of Chrysophilus of Megara, not so?
CHR. [Aside.] You understand the thing.
PHIL. You have come to fetch back your young master for a marriage, whom hard-drinking young men have turned into a sot.
CHR. Good God! By what stroke of genius has he foretold this?
PHIL. If you return to your lodging, I’ll make sure the letter is returned to you within the hour.
CERD. Gods and goddesses preserve you.
CHR. If it chances to come back to you in this way, you must henceforth take care to carry out your orders with sobriety.
CERD. How the goddess Fortune has blessed my journey, since, as I hope, I’ve come across these helpful men! I marvel at the divine spirit of divination within them. (Exit. [Enter Aphronius on the other side of the stage.])
ACT III, SCENE iv
APHR. Either these modern mathematicians are wrong, or they far surpass my wit, as I am inclined to think. They decide nothing certain about this two-month chill we’ve been having, possibly this is a natural error resulting from the comet. Would that I would meet some skilled magicians, whom they say exercise command over the very demons, and produce I know not what miracles! What? Do I see Philomathes and Chrestophilus? Well met. I’m troubled by a certain problem. I’ll pass it on to you, and possibly you can form some conjecture about it.
PHIL. What it is, Aphronius?
APHR. Have the magicians nothing definite to say about this two-month chill? What’s the reason? Do you know?
PHIL. That’s a great problem that vexes the abracadabra-men. You have no reason to trouble me with such childish trifles. I can even inform you of your future destiny.
APHR. Good God! Will anybody do this?
PHIL. While I was casting a horoscope for this day, looking at the various aspects of the stars, their houses and the changes in things, I saw that today your father’s servant would bring you a letter, that he would summon you back to Megara to get married, and that your father would acquire a new mother-in-law for you.
APHR. These things are so strange that I doubt whether they will happen. But if I see that they turn out to be true, I’ll henceforth have full faith in you.
CHR. I trust in this man’s art so fully that I feel I can safely swear to the truth of these things. Go and wait at home until they come to pass.
APHR. I fear I shall have to wait longer than is reasonable for this letter. (Exit.)
PHIL. Have no fear. A messenger will soon appear. What a tame beast! How easily he’s led by the nose! Let’s go inside and have a bit of a laugh. [Exeunt. Enter Crito and Sophia.]
ACT III, SCENE v
CRIT. Sophia, many men seek you for a wife, but few deserve you. Tell me, pray, what end are you going to make to your troubles, and likewise to my own? Have you made up your mind about a husband?
SOPH. Uncle, I acknowledge your paternal concern for me, and I am duly thankful. But I’m a maiden, why should I take upon myself the concerns of marriage?
CRIT. You’re wise. Wives lead a troublesome life, and too late they recognize that they have lost the good things of the single life.
SOPH. I often hear such wives’ complaints. But a girl imagines herself being given to a good man. If a maiden leads an unmarried life, as if she were either not pretty enough, or not a good woman —
CRIT. You want to seem good? Be good and consider yourself to be pretty. And why should your beauty be a source of happiness for others? Look in a mirror, let your beauty please yourself. Believe me, if you grant your beauty to a man for his use, he will either diminish it, or quickly love you the less. Enjoy yourself, Sophia. “He is not wise who is not wise for his own benefit.”
SOPH. I don’t think a man is wise who is wise only for his own benefit, or something to be good which does not create happiness. But the life of a virgin suits Sophia.
CRIT. But I know you want a husband, and I know whom you want. You’re in love with Philomathes.
SOPH. He’s a man worthy of being loved.
CRIT. Perhaps, but consider whether he’s your equal. The pulling goes better when the yoke is well-matched.
SOPH. Where there’s equal will, mind, and manners, and an equal age, things are equal. What more do you want?
CRIT. You’re noble, it’s reasonable that you marry a nobleman.
SOPH. A sufficiently good man is noble enough. All mortals have the same blood, men are scarcely unequal whom a title or unequal lot make unequal.
CRIT. But you ought to notice whether a man is rich or poor.
SOPH. I hope for a rich man, but I prefer a sufficiently loving one. In the absence of love a rich man cannot be sweet.
CRIT. But frequently poverty renders sweet and loving men more troublesome.
SOPH. But frequently the true and constant love of lovers makes poverty less troublesome. Philomathes loves me well enough — if indeed he does. What man or woman can think he is loved enough? The rest pretend to love, he truly does.
CRIT. So it seems to you in your gullibility. But what’s the matter? Why does he visit our house more rarely than usual?
SOPH. Alas, I fear that’s my fault, since I recently treated the man so harshly. But when he returns he’ll find me sweeter. These lips will compensate for his injuries. I shall repay his anger with love, his reproaches with kisses.
CRIT. But what if he’s ceased to love you?
SOPH. Gods forbid that Philomathes abandon me! I swear by the gods, either he will gain my love, or nobody will. His Sophia will be joined to him, even if he is poor.
CRIT. What then? How will he support you?
SOPH. His constant and friendly companion Chrestophilus, as I hope, will dream up something, something will make him rich enough.
CRIT. Nor will Crito be wanting, if there’s some way I can be of help!
SOPH. How worthy you are for me to revere you in my father’s stead!
TIME What’s happening, Place? Something, or nothing at all?
PLACE Nothing. You ask for place, when there’s need for vacuum? Here everything is full (I don’t say of dullards). You want empty spaces, for this place is full of body. Farewell, ignorant Time, seek another partner who can help you more. (Exit.)
TIME I’m left again? Now I lack vacuum. Alas! I fear lest this be a vacuous, inane effort. Let me seek this companion, if he can be of any help. (Enter Vacuum.)
VAC. Whither do you summon me, evil Time? Are you dragging me to my death? If any body should touch me, alas, I wretchedly die. Step back a little further, you’re hitting my nose. Don’t let anybody follow me. Who, who’s crowding me from behind? Nobody feels me, I’m above the sky, I’m nothing, although today for your sake I’m acting on earth.
TIME It would be an empty effort to keep slandering Momus’ tongue vacant. I commend what remains to your care, exercise it with all your might.
VAC. I agree, and I warn that every man should shun my vastness. Nobody can move or live in a vacuum.
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