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ACT IV, SCENE i blue
SOPHRONIA with her children

Sophronia is greatly distressed by her husband’s arrival at home with the Gnostic.

spacerSOPH. Horror shakes my mind, my limbs are numb with fear. I fear a monstrous crime against my person, and that of our children, is being manufacturer by my savage husband’s hand. He has brought home a man of the Gnostic ganng, whose teaching is wont to debauch young men’s infamous morals. It sullies virgin’s reputations with its foul uncleanness, and defiles matrons’ names with its base notoriety. Where shall I flee in my misery? For this great storm, these great machinations and the familiar rage of my harsh husband, are seeking my person. Christ (for this is Your cause), protect my piety and innocence in the shadow of Your divinity, so that my mind may succumb to no ill, and my body be defiled by no brand of shame. And defend these children with Your right hand, so that they never lapse from the faith thanks to strange doctrine, or be deluded by the wicked artfulness of heresy. [Enter Polypus and Carinus.]



Bringing Carinus, Polypus comes across his wife kneeling in prayer and is very angry, and then he threatens her with death or exile. After trying to dissuade her from her determined Christian faith, he wrests the children away and leaves them with Carinus, to be corrupted in any way he wishes.

spacerPOLY. Do I see her on her knees, praying to God? Oh the great crime! What if Caesar were to see, or the city fathers to learn, that this happens in Polypus’ house? In my very sight? By herself this woman suffices to set a bad example for a thousand men with her piety. Get up, you impious, rebellious, burdensome woman. Or, if you delay, I’ll pin you to the ground with a sword for daring to offer up prayers to Christ before my very eyes, in contravention of Caesar’s edicts.
spacerSOPH. Caesar’s edicts can scarcely forbid worship of divinity.
spacerPOLY. Whose divinity?
spacerSOPH. God’s.
spacerPOLY. Not Christ’s?
spacerSOPH. He alone is God.
spacerPOLY. So a wife is giving instruction to her husband? Will you dictate laws to Caesar?
spacerSOPH. I neither teach you nor oppose Caesar. I only regard him as lesser than God.
spacerPOLY. Lesser than God? You have not judged aright. By this statement you earn yourself death and crucifixion.
spacerSOPH. Caesar has command over his own flock, but government over Caesar belongs to God.
spacerPOLY. You should hold your tongue, wicked woman. Or I swear by by holy faith, by Caesar’s divinity —
spacerCAR. Now he’s committing perjury.
spacer POLY. You’ll pay a swift forfeit for believing that Caesar is subject to another god.
spacerSOPH. You don’t think Caesar is subject to death?
spacerPOLY. For holy piety! Me think Caesar subject to death or fate? That’s treason. Inexpiable crime! You’re being stupid, you crazy woman. Me imagine that Caesar will ever die!
spacerSOPH. Why not?
spacerPOLY. Why? Heaven forbid.
spacerSOPH. Whoever breathes the air of this human life must also die a human death.
spacerPOLY. I can’t hear any more. Now be quiet and learn what I’ve decided to do with you. Because you cultivate a piety hateful to Caesar, against the wishes of your husband, and acknowledge Christ to be a god, to my detriment, I have brought into this house a man of the Gnostic persuasion, to whom is given the care of my sons, as well as custody of your body. It will be permitted him to corrupt that faith, together with your chastity, in any way he chooses, and to mold the boys’ character with whatever instructions his mind desires, with the single exception of piety and the confession of one God. Be still now, I’ve not yet informed you of all my decisions, I’ve barely begun to enumerate your evils. For you’ll suffer greater catastrophes unless you make a retraction and compel yourself to abandon Christ’s faith. I’ll arrange for your body to be exposed for defilement in the sight of our entire people. Then you will either be burned alive, or compelled to live among the robbers in complete disgrace.
spacerSOPH. So you’ll take no account of your own reputation, or of my honor?
spacerPOLY. Why my reputation? Why should my honor outweigh the fact that Caesar is a god to my mind?
spacerSOPH. Ah, better to open my breast with your steel, better to cut open this belly which bore you sons in chaste marriage, rather than commit the evils you threaten to perform.
spacer POLY. Do you imagine Polypus is joking? I swear by the gods and by that Christ of yours, what I have said represents my seriousness of purpose. You should think that I am going to do everything I’ve said, and that you’ll suffer them.
spacerSOPH. If the north did not give you a frozen heart of most hard adamant, and a pregnant tigress did not whelp you, hear the doleful plaints of poor Sophronia with a calm mind, perhaps her very final plaints.
spacerPOLY. All right.
spacerSOPH. I kept your bed chaste, as long as you let me, and kept free of corruption. the fidelity I owe to you and God. Shall I allow this to be sinfully sullied? Shall I permit my soul to be stripped of its free will to the point that I wittingly, willingly, or even overcome by terror, should dare commit wrongdoing? Don’t imagine that the weight of crime is so light, or God so averse to our welfare,that He will allow me to be besmirched by the stain of wantonness or allow you, fettered by unspeakable guilt, to go long untouched and unpunished by the awful fire of His lightning, atoning for the wrong you have done your innocent wife, and bringing down on your head the punishment of God’s hand, slow thought it is to anger. Rather, abandon your plan, being mindful of yourself, of myself, and the children of our holy marriage.
spacerPOLY. Why cast words to the winds, and make your plaints to the sands of the sea? Loosen your clinging grasp, give me back my children.
spacerSOPH. You’re taking your sons away from their mother, savage man?
spacer POLY. No, I’m giving them to their father, to learn the Gnostic faith.
spacerSOPH. Oh, if you have any paternal love in your heart, stab them with your steel rather than allow them to acquire morals and faith alienated from God under a teacher who lives an infamous life.
spacerPOLY. Prosperous crime is better than poverty-stricken, abject piety.
spacerSOPH. But change your mind. I stretch forth my suppliant hands. Have pity on a weeping woman.
spacerPOLY. Leave quickly, I’ll be moved by no art or tears.
spacerSOPH. I’ll follow you, as your shadow does your body. I’ll stay here on the ground on my unmoving knees, until you return my sons to their mother’s bosom.
spacerPOLY. Go on and sink roots in the ground, like a a tree wont to be shaken by windstorms. If it’s your intention to die too, as far as I’m concerned, you may.
spacerSOPH. Allow me this once to give my sons one last loving kiss.
spacerPOLY. You’ll obtain nothing, refrain from these anxious entreaties. [To Carinus.] You take these children and lead them along the broad highway of the vices. I want them to imitate their father’s manners and abhor their mother’s faith.
spacerSOPH. A cruel thing for a husband to say, a cruel thing for a father to do!.
spacerPOLY. And hear what I have decided to do concerning their mother. See, I turn over to you the interior of this household and its keys. With your strength, your entreaties, and wiles you will strive to subdue her mind and body. And if there’s any fraud by which you can render her infamous or shameless, use it.
spacerSOPH. I beg you to take back that impious decree.
spacerPOLY. Go ahead and do as I said. I’m leaving.
spacerSOPH. You’re leaving? Woe’s me!
spacerCAR. Wait. [She swoons.] She’s fainted.
spacerPOLY. Let her breathe her last. I’m going.



Thinking Carinus to be a Gnostic, Sophronia is greatly upset. Finally she listens to his story and is greatly consoled. But she is greatly terrified once more when her husband returns with soldiers.

spacerCAR. What harsher thing have these eyes ever seen than this old villain? By God’s and men’s faith! Who can rightfully deny that robbers are pious, when nature has created more inhumane men in city dwellings! I do not regard it as the deeds of men, or even of wild beasts, to care not a whit for reputation, a wife’s chastity, or the law of God, but to to measure everything in terms of profit, to hunt after honors, names, and short-lived titles by any felony at all, to earn the fickle affection and favor of rulers by crime and at their own shameful cost. I consider it more correct to compare them to the impious monstrosities of Avernus and regard them as examples of Giant-like crime blue and disgrace. But where are you being swept away, Carinus? Why are you delaying in helping to a soul suffering amidst extremities? Go to her. Revive her comatose spirits. Then console her and relieve the afflicted woman of her fear. [Sophronia starts to revive.] How grudgingly she regains the light of day and the sources of her woe! She’s breathing, she’s come back to her senses.
spacerSOPH. Woe’s me! Open your dark caverns, earth, and hide me alive within your bosom. It is sufficient to have seen and touched the virus of unspeakable sin. I committed an impious deed, when my chaste soul did not die by this hand, before the sight and shameful company of this bestial man sullied my eyes. Where can I hide myself? What shall I do in my misery? In what way should I seek death?
spacerCAR. Grant me a little time for speaking before you inflict a final doom upon yourself.
spacer SOPH. Me listen to you talking and admit the words of your nasty speech into my ears? Father of heaven! Before I would do that, use your forked lightning to strike me down to the shades below. Go away, monster, get out of my sight. I’ll never give a hearing to you as you plead your unspeakable case, as long as I have the ability to die.
spacerCAR. I’m determined to die before you see any injury done to your chastity in word or deed. Don’t fear anything.
spacerSOPH. Oh you architect of false wiles and fine fraud! Do you imagine Sophronia will be captivated by such pleasantries? Your serpent-like hissings have no power to move a chaste mind.
spacerCAR. If you refuse to trust my words, behold, I kneel on the ground begging your pardon. Do you continue to dread a suppliant. See how these tears beg you to give me a short space of time to speak a little.
spacerSOPH. The tears flow from my eyes no less, demanding your voice stay silent. My tears do not know how to come forth from a false heart, nor does my voice know how to mime the traitor’s art. This rascal, who with his crocodile tears deceives the gullible heart of a person who feels pity, compels my limbs to die with that wheedling mouth of his.
spacerCAR. [Aside.] Poor Carinus! How your fortune remains in this harsh position! The more you piously hope to tend others’ wounds, the more your own evils are reopened and increased. What am I to do? The trust it deserves is refused my speech, she won’t give a hearing to my words when I beg or cry. I’ll try a final means, which will either make an end to both our errors or to my evils, by the death of this soul of mine. [Aloud.] Since my words and tears fail to move you, take this dagger. Thanks to this weapon, your chastity will be free from an enemy. Strike this bared breast or hear the final words of this sighing man, intended to harm no person. If they have any weight, perhaps they will serve your advantage.
spacer SOPH. My sorrow has attained a safe position. In this hand of mine I hold either death or my chastity. What are you doing, Sophronia? His words smack of wiles, sin lurks beneath his humble suits. He knows magic whispers, he knows how to pollute chaste minds with his voice. As if you have no knowledge of Gnostic faith! There are a thousand tricks, a thousand kinds of poison lurking behind that friendly faith. He who trusts an unclean man comes to resemble him in his wantonness.
spacerCAR. You still hesitate to give me a hearing? Yet you don’t plunge the deadly steel into my breast? Can neither my words nor my tears sway your harshness? Then learn from my destruction that nothing can deter a person who has decided for die. For with a quick leap I’ll hurl my body to the ground out this window, an evil sight for the passing public, right before your eyes.
spacerSOPH. Restrain your impulse, I beg you, and speak. [To herself.] Ah, poor Sophronia! How I’m confronted by a double evil! I’ll be called shameless if I trust this shameless fellow as he speaks. But if he holds his silence, he’ll take a heavy tumble from my window, making an end of his life and my reputation. Which of these evils should I choose? Suppose he keeps silent: thus my chastity would remain intact. But I’d gain ill repute for my guilt. Suppose he speaks: even if rumor of this wrong did not spread abroad, it would not be hidden from God, and in His eyes I would be in the wrong. Suppose he dies: even if God forgave me, my reputation would reproach me with a thousand reproaches. I protect myself under the shield of my conscience and all-protecting God. So let him die. Can you be so cruel and such a hardhearted onlooker on human suffering that you refuse to help this persistent young man avoid an untimely death? What wrong has he done so far with that mouth of his? What has he done with his face to deserve your hatred? If it was sinful to enter your household, this was by my husband’s command. Possibly it is error rather than avoidance of the truth which has swollen this young man’s head. Where am I being taken by my mind’s doubt? Suppose he is base: I have God as an avenger of sin, and this weapon in my hand to take revenge for his lust, a weapon he himself provided for my honor, and as a pledge of his innocence. So why am I forbidding this lad to speak even a few words which might be to the advantage of us both? Let him speak. [To Carinus.} See, I’m ready to hear you, or to die: to listen, if a brief speech issues from your chaste mouth, or to die, if your mouth is impure.
spacer CAR. Then, to be brief, you must understand that I am not the Gnostic this costume proclaims, but rather a young man in all respects rendered most unhappy by the hand of God, and a Christian in my hope and my life, if the occasion allowed. After suffering ills at the hands of robbers, after having had my companions taken away by death and flight, and after having had my life saved by deceit and having stolen this Gnostic man’s costume, I have come to this city alone, unknown, wretched, far from my ancestral shore, and homeless. I eventually gave a compliant ear to your husband’s speech, in which he determined to expose your faith and shame to reproach in his own absence, and to give his sons over to a Gnostic man. I freely offered to serve his desire, and also accepted the care of his children from his hand. But I followed your husband to this household with the intention of warning you about the entire matter, and with the desire of stimulating my piety by following your example. If I have done anything wrong, this sin has been committed by a pious error, and deserves your forgiveness. Now I will keep my silence, you understand the the story of my lot in life and its reasons.
spacerSOPH. My mind has come back to life. I don’t know what else to say. So will I be permitted a brief embrace, and to place my arms around the necks of my sons?
spacerCAR. You may.
spacerSOPH. Oh me, enriched with a thousand good things, and rescued from a thousand fears and ills! What else am I to do? With a pious heart, young man, forgive a mother’s mistake. God has destined you for heaven, I praise His divine handiwork. And, if that wicked costume did not prevent me, I would worship at your feet as if you were some angel. After these sons have been restored to their mother and my salvation has been granted me, what thanks can I give you? With what praise can I honor you?
spacer CAR. Let my highest praise be a good conscience for this deed and the memory of having managed this thing well. But the time advises that you must find a remedy for your future ills. You need to learn that in his inhuman frame of mind your husband has already gone to the magistrate to have you removed far from his household. So tell me what you want to be done by me, or what plain to adopt for the future, and I’ll do it.
spacerSOPH. I ask for one thing. Whatever the unkind city fathers or my husband decide concerning myself, keep the children entrusted to your care by my husband in the faith, the faith which befits an initiate into the Christian rites, and the faith thanks to which you came to the rescue of their mother, just now suffering from profound dread. Then, should anything bad befall me, I should bear it with an easier mind. But what’s this uproar I hear? Alas! My husband’s at the door, surrounded by a band of soldiers. Chill horror makes my hair stand on end. I fear a storm no less serious than death itself. This flood seek to attack the ship of my heart. Oh You Who calms Neptune’s realm with Your serene countenance, ruler of heaven and sea, Christ, be present for me, steady the reeling barque of my body, and steer my mind.
spacerCAR. Come now, Carinus, exert yourself on behalf of this woman’s faith and chastity. It’s a fair thing to die, when piety and the cause of honor summon you.
spacerSOPH. By the future good things you expect in heaven, and by Christ’s divinity, which I worship, I pray you have pity and cease your headstrong threats, lest you appear too pious towards an afflicted woman and bring down ruin on me, the children, and yourself. Where neither words nor physical strength are of any use, it is safe to keep one’s silent. Whatever bad thing happens, you will look on my misfortunes in silence. Then you will seek out the Bishop of Sardis and tell him of my woes and your story, so that he may piously help us both: so he will help me with prayers and show you the way to a celestial life.



Polypus hands over his wife to the bailiffs after the magistrate has condemned her to join the robbers because of her Christian faith, and then he applauds Carinus as he sends him out of the house, together with the children.

spacerPOLY. Approach, bailiff. I give into your hands my wife, a rebel against Caesar, an enemy of Jove, a follower of Christ, opposed to her husband, convicted of treason, and sentenced to death. death. But thanks to Caesar’s clemency and the decision of the city fathers, it has been decided that, with the fear of death removed, she should first be banished to the robbers to be debauched in her body and mind, so that she will all the sooner be dissuaded from her devotion and faith in Christ. Just do your duty.
spacerBAIL. Therefore by command of Caesar, the god of the world and mankind, I take possession of your body, Sophronia, wife of Polypus, and am dragging you to the forest, where are you are to be turned into a depraved woman amidst the robber-band, unless you come to your senses and recant your faith in Christ.
spacerSOPH. Woe’s me! Is such an atrocious deed called Caesar’s clemency? On, the unheard-of wrong! Oh the merciless mercy, the brutal city fathers! If they had relegated me to wild beasts’ lairs, or even if they had condemned me to die, I would have deservedly called them pious men. But to robbers? To men marked by debauchery and crime? To betray the chastity of your wife, together with her saving faith, to their murderous caves? What a dire wrong! This is a wrong at which an uncouth inhabitant of Scythia and its freezing clime would shudder, at which the mournful water concealed in hollow caverns and stones would weep, and which Echo would deplore with the sound of her repeating voice.
spacerPOLY. You hesitate, bailiff? Take away the recalcitrant woman.
spacerBAIL. Perhaps she’ll abjure Christ.
spacerSOPH. The horrendous sin! Do you imagine I’ll deny my faith in Christ? Sooner will the dry North Star touch Neptune, and rivers turn their waters back to their sources. Take me away in my misery and set this body down in any place in the world where sorrow rages and chill horror of extreme evil dwells, but I’ll never be budged from my faith in Christ alone.
spacer POLY. You hear that impious speech against Caesar, and you allow her to speak?
spacerBAIL. It’s time to go.
spacerSOPH. Wait a moment, I beg you, while I say my final farewell to my sons and husband.
spacerPOLY. Prevent this crime, lest, if you let her embrace her sons or speak to them, your loyalty to Caesar appear to waver.
spacerBAIL. Either come along, or we’ll drag you against your will.
spacerSOPH. I follow. God, forgive my savage husband and this mother, and protect my sons. Alas! I’m being taken to the forest, and to the robbers.
spacerCAR. Indeed, you’re leaving behind y0u hearts harder than those of robbers and men who can be compared to wild beasts. I can barely keep my hands off this infamous monster, my rage yearns to remove this unkind man from human existence. But I am restrained by the thought of these children and their very unhappy mothers.
spacerPOLY. Now I happily applaud myself. I have won the laurel and palm of political affairs. But another scheme for making my wife unhappy occurs to me. Go to the city gates. You will hold the boys by the hand in the sight of their mother, besides the very road that leads to the forest, and when she sees them with you her sorrow will increase.
spacerCAR [Aside.] I’m going, but I’ll take another route, to the bishop.
spacerPOLY. Don’t come back before you see the mother removed from the city. Come, you laurel. Crown this head, you evergreen leaves which garland the head of Apollo. In in the glory of my artful guile I have surpassed poets and triumphing commanders.



Aio seizes the opportunity to play tricks on his master, fills him with various fears, and persuades him to make himself heir to all his goods. Then he lets him down into a well, clad as an old lady. Finally he flees to the robbers, laden down with gold and silver.

spacerAIO Good. I find him alone, congratulating himself on his wife’s misfortunes. Now there’s an opportunity to deceive him.
spacerPOLY. Whoever cannily devotes himself to political affairs is bound to forestall these inconveniences. Before allowing his neighbor to grow in wealth or reputation, he must always be ready to lodge an accusation against whoever he regards as a rival for his honor and glory. If he lacks any other enemy, let him make trouble for his wife, his brother, or his friend.
spacerAIO Thus I’m preparing to make trouble for my master.
spacerPOLY. Thus he’ll turn out well-prepared and skilled.
spacerAIO He’s boasted long enough. Now Davus blue comes on the stage. [Calling out.] Hoo, hoo! We’re ruined.
spacerPOLY. Is that Aio I here weeping?
spacerAIO We’re ruined.
spacerPOLY. Perhaps he’s mourning my wife’s departure to the forest.
spacerAIO You’re been ruined, Polypus.
spacerPOLY. Is he saying I’ve been ruined?
spacerAIO Polypus, I’ll see you in this life no more. I have just seen racks, crosses, scourges, flails, wild beasts, steel, and fires being made ready for you.
spacerPOLY. Why torment your master? Tell me the reason, and be quick about it.
spacer POLY Ah, I’m shaking all over. My tongue stumbles in the telling, my hair stands on end.
spacerPOLY. Unhappy me! This horror forebodes a great evil. Let me know what troubles threaten me, lest in my great terror I be obliged to dig out the place and the reason.
spacerAIO Stop my fleeing soul, lest it float off in the breezes, and I’ll reveal everything. When that accursed mage of Tyana was carried from our city, he went home on his nimble Roman cloud I saw him riding on the back of a demon, and, immediately growing suspicious, I asked him the reason for his journey. He answered that it was Caesar’s edict that he bring a writing about you to the senate. blue
spacerPOLY. I deeply dread that mage? So what was written?
spacerAIO Briefly, that they should punish you with crucifixion after a thousand tortures —
spacerPOLY. I am ruined.
spacerAIO — because of your words against Caesar and Jove. I’ve seen every kind of punishment being placed in readiness, but an entire day would scarcely suffice to enumerate them. It’s almost midday, when the soldiers will take you off for questioning.
spacerPOLY. Pick me up as I collapse, for I feel my soul failing me for fear.
spacerAIO Take care lest your soul betray your body by its foul stench. Lift your heart out of your boots, stand up fearless. Hope exists that you can get away by flight.
spacerPOLY. Would that I had already fled to the robbers!
spacerAIO You grow wise, albeit late. Now you know what it means not to believe me.
spacerPOLY. Now I do, and I beg your pardon.
spacer AIO Come, quickly fetch from your coffer as much money as you think sufficient for a long journey. Do that quickly, and come back immediately.
spacerPOLY. I’ll be right back. [Exit.]
spacerAIO The business has gone as I wished. I decided to upset him with wily inventions. Now watch me, I’ll getting ready to write a document to which he will sign his name. There, I’ve finished. It’s small, but will serve a large purpose. [Reenter Polypus.]
spacerPOLY. I’ve brought this weight of gold, such as a single man can barely carry on his shoulders.
spacerAIO If we happen to need a donkey to carry it, I can easily find one.
 spacerPOLY. I like that.
spacerAIO Come, take this document, sign your name at the bottom. Why are you hesitating?
spacerPOLY. Are you bidding me manumit you and make you heir to my goods?
spacerAIO You’re bothered by that? Am I to think you a political man, if you are unaware of the necessity for this thing? I don’t speak of myself. that I’m rescuing your life from Caesar’s grasp and exposing mine to danger in place of yours. Think only of this. For if you are removed by the law, all your property would accrue to his fisc, unless it is alienated from yourself and your kinsmen beforehand. For in that case the sons would pay the penalty for their father’s deeds. Now, since you entrust to me yourself and your goods, you have Aio for a faithful servant in your affairs, as you are aware. I admit the situation is grave, but it must be endured. Hand it over quickly.
spacerPOLY. I have doubts what I should do.
spacer AIO You’re still in doubt? Come, I have to gay good-bye, you have to die. I give you a last adieu.
spacerPOLY. Wait, Aio. I’m writing.
spacerAIO Now it’s late. Adieu.
spacerPOLY. I’ve written, Aio, I’ve written.
spacerAIO Hand it over immediately. Why are you waiting?
spacerPOLY. I’ll keep it myself.
spacerAIO Damn! Are you minded to destroy me and yourself as well? Adieu. Adieu once more, I’m going. For I see men in the distance, approaching our house.
spacerPOLY. Take the document and stay. Save my life, I beg you, and I’ll hand over everything to you.
spacerAIO Aio’s not so hard-hearted that he will refuse an inheritance when it’s offered. I feel sorry for you, master. I can’t go away without helping you. You need to hide somewhere.
spacerPOLY. Tell me where.
spacerAIO A sewer is the most opportune place for you and the least troublesome.
spacerPOLY. But it stinks, Aio.
spacerAIO It won’t betray you, since you and it smell alike.
spacerPOLY. I’ll do as you say.
spacerAIO Wait. I think it better for you to get into this woolen sack, so I can take you out of the house to avoid detection.
spacerPOLY. I’ll get in.
spacerAIO Quickly. But beware, if anybody strikes you with is foot or with a club, don’t make a sound. Confine your voice in your throat.
spacerPOLY. Consider me to be a stone.
spacer AIO Get in. I’ve put this political gentleman in a sack. What if I leave him hanging from some branch, take my loot, and escape? But I need this sack to carry the loot out the house door. So I must dispose of my master elsewhere. Come, Polypus, get out. The old man’s unconscious, he’s being too scrupulous in obeying my commands. since he does not heed my grave accent, I’ll make whether an acute on the final syllable can achieve anything. I’ll poke the little point of my spear here. [Prods him.]
spacerPOLY. Oh, oh.
spacerAIO He’s come back to life, I’ve raised the dead. I want to try again.
spacerPOLY. Oh.
spacerAIO Come out the sack, master.
spacerPOLY. What is it?
spacerAIO Only a little point, the prick of which you can’t endure without making noise. So how will you endure the executioner’s steel and the torments of the cross.
spacerPOLY. Poor me! Go ahead, poke me again. I’ll bear it with patience.
spacerAIO Stand there bravely.
spacerPOLY. Oh, stop now. I can’t stand any more without tears.
spacerAIO Now I see we must cut out your tongue with a knife, lest it betray your body and soul to death.
spacerPOLY. Rather prick my skin with your little points, prick it again a thousand times.
spacerAIO I want your tongue. Come closer.
spacer POLY. That’s harsh. Cut it gently, I beg you.
spacerAIO Stick it out gently.
spacerPOLY. Oh.
spacerAIO You’re shouting too much. Come back.
spacerPOLY. Show me my tongue.
spacerAIO Do you imagine you’re talking without a tongue? Nothing’s been done yet by me.
spacerPOLY. But enough by me. See, I’m going home.
spacerAIO But when I think about it, there’s no point in depriving your tongue of its sound, since sighing can reveal hidden sensation. Take back your tongue as a gift from me.
spacerPOLY. I greatly thank you.
spacerAIO We must adopt another plan.
spacerPOLY. What plan?
spacerAIO I have it. Don’t you have some old woman’s costume at home?
spacerPOLY. One, that belonged to a dead nurse.
spacerAIO You must immediately put it on, and a bandage to conceal your face and beard, as if your teeth were hurting you. In that get-up you’ll enable your escape. And I’ll load gold and silver into this sack, and bring it to you when you’re far from the city.
spacerPOLY. That’s political.
spacerAIO Get inside quickly, there’s need for haste.
spacerPOLY. I’m going. [Exit into the house.]
spacerAIO He’s gone? So while he’s putting on the costume, my idea is to make my escape, laden down with this loot. But I haven’t removed this old man sufficiently out of sight. Something remains to be done.
spacerPOLY. Aio, give me a hand.
spacerAIO Gladly. Oh how much you resemble and old woman!
spacerPOLY. You like it?
spacer AIO You walk like one too. You should speak.
spacerPOLY. [In a high voice.] Alas, this accursed toothache has attacked me!
spacerAIO A very shrill voice. Old ladies are wont to let their mouths gape open, with a little more bad breath.
spacerPOLY. Try this. [In a high voice,] Oh, these savage teeth! Give me some cloves for both my gums.
spacerAIO Well done. Today no donkey or little old lady will bray more adroitly than Polypus. I’ll see if the way is free for our departure.
spacerPOLY. I didn’t imagine that there was such great trustworthiness in a servant as I perceive in my man Aio. Today, bent on rescuing me from the fear of death, he has surpassed his very master in political wiles. How close I came to believing that an angry God had stirred up all these ills for me for my wife’s sake! Now my old frame of mind has returned. For I think the idea that concern provokes a placid God, that He cares what is transacted between husband and wife on this earth, or that anger can trouble His placid state of mind as He pursues our vices with His sulfurous lightning, are to be accounted among old wives’ tales or the toys of poets. But what news does Aio bring back?
spacerAIO For you, the worst.
spacerPOLY. Tell me.
spacerAIO May the gods of heaven and Hell damn this mage!
spacerPOLY. What happened, pray tell.
spacerAIO I pray that demons carry this man to Hell alive.
spacerPOLY. Who?
spacerAIO The mage.
spacerPOLY. What more do you hear about the mage?
spacer AIO He’s using a large band of soldiers to set up roadblocks everywhere, he’s ordered them to detain all men and women passing on the streets until the truth comes to light, and he is approaching your door in the company of a magistrate to place you under arrest. It was with difficulty that I escaped the soldiers’ clutches to inform you.
spacerPOLY. I’m destroyed for having handed my wife over to the robbers, as God is demanding my punishment. What do you recommend that I do?
spacerAIO I want to see your body hanging from this branch, with the noose breaking your neck.
spacerPOLY. Give me better advice.
spacerAIO Dash your brains out against this wall.
spacerPOLY. I don’t like it.
spacerAIO Take a headlong fall out a high window.
spacerPOLY. Give me gentler suggestions.
spacerAIO What do you mean gentler? Well then, I’ll hide you by letting you down a rope into a well. No place is gentler than that, you’ll not find a convenient hiding-place to match it.
spacerPOLY. Maybe I’ll catch a cold.
spacerAIO You’ll be caught by the mage if you waste time.
spacerPOLY. Let me down into the well.
spacerAIO Come.
spacerPOLY Surely the water isn’t very deep?
spacerAIO It’s chin-deep.
spacerPOLY. Poor me! How long will I have to stay in that place?
spacerAIO A few hours, or maybe a complete day and night.
spacerPOLY. I’ll die of cold and hunger.
spacerAIO It’s a small thing to die in a well, as long as you don’t die aloft on a shameful cross.
spacerPOLY. A harsh consolation!
spacer AIO A political man should also perish politically. Come, it’s best to do quickly that which is necessary. Maybe you’ll be pulled up sooner. As soon as the mage has left here, you’ll get back up.
spacerPOLY. Enough. Let me down slowly so I don’t fall.
spacerAIO Very slowly. If you’re wise, you’ll refrain from coughing.
spacerPOLY. As much as I can.
spacerAIO Listen, the enemy’s knocking at your door.
spacerPOLY. {As he disappears down the well.] Oh, I’m being drowned!
spacerAIO Be still. Ha ha. Who can keep from laughing. While this rheumy old man swims at the bottom of the well, his servant will be swimming with gold. I’m headed for the forest. For I see the young Gnostic standing at our door. He’s come inside, I’m leaving. I’ll make a quiet escape out the garden gate, so nobody will see me as I make my departure.


CARINUS with the boys, POLYPUS

Coming home with the boys, Carinus pulls Polypus up from the well. Thinking him to be an old woman, he sharply rebukes him. By what he says, Polypus finally realizes he has been cheated by Aio, and thinks about pursuing him to the forest.

spacerCAR. Amidst my heavy sorrows, at length I feel a breeze of happiness thanks to the arrival of a new light to this city, a light whose glory has been shone today to the whole great world today by that apostle so well-approved by God that he often held Christ resting on his breast. And while Christ was dying on his cross, He adopted this man as the son of his mother, and called him His brother. blue This man has stayed in the middle of Sardis, receiving hospitality in the household of the city’s bishop. Hence joy has shone for our Christian company, which is uplifted by the expectation of a great joy, of which no small part blesses this heart of mine. Lest Polypus grow suspicious, I have brought back the boys I had led from his house. But I’m surprised there’s such solitude and silence in this place. The old man has gone out somewhere, soon to return. [To the children.] Go, and play your games in the house. Meantime I’ll brood upon my sorrows.
spacerPOLY. Aio.
spacerCAR. What sad sound comes to my ears?
spacerPOLY. I’m dying now.
spacerCAR. It’s coming from nearby, but no place reveals the speaker.
spacerPOLY. Hey, Aio, why are you silent?
spacerCAR. Where are you?
spacerPOLY. Here, here.
spacerCAR. Where’s that?
spacerPOLY. You know that well enough. In the well.
spacer CAR. I hear the voice of a man struggling at the bottom of this deep well. I’ll give him a hand. What do you want? I’m here.
spacerPOLY. Hoo! I’m perishing of cold.
spacerCAR. Take this rope, with a bucket.
spacerPOLY. I want to.
spacerCAR. Why are you delaying?
spacerPOLY. I’m shaking all over. [Carinus pulls him up.]
spacerCAR. What monstrosity am I seeing? I pulled up a woman from the pool of water, although I thought he was a man.
spacerPOLY. Now I’m carrying a barrelful of ice-water in my belly. Oh, my guts will soon start rumbling. Who are you? Where’s Aio? Has the mage gone yet?
spacerCAR. What is this witch thinking about a mage and Aio?
spacerPOLY. I’m determined to die to escape being killed, rather than be persuaded to go back down the well.
spacerCAR. How this hag complains! I don’t know the story of her misfortune.
spacerPOLY. Hell and a rack abide in this well. My face shakes from coughing, and my limbs are frozen stuff. Where’s Aio hiding? Tell me, pray, where’s the mage?
spacerCAR. I have no idea where Aio is, nor do I know about any mage. {Aside.] Surely this old dame is Aio’s girl-friend.
spacerPOLY. Didn’t you see a man leaving the house?
spacerCAR. Not even a donkey.
spacerPOLY. Didn’t you pass by soldiers guarding the streets?
spacerCAR. I didn’t see any of them occupied by so much as a single dog.
spacerPOLY. And you didn’t see the mage and a magistrate lingering there, or meet them returning from my house?
spacerCAR. Not even a mouse.
spacerPOLY. Woe’s me! Whether you’re telling the truth or not, I’m ruined.
spacer CAR. This deluded old woman is speaking in riddles.
spacerPOLY. Oh woe! Aio, you traitor!
spacerCAR. She’s reproaching her lover for his treachery.
spacerPOLY. Could you abandon me?
spacerCAR. What a rotten corpse!
spacerPOLY. Was this the loyalty he should have shown me?
spacerCAR. Loyalty to a witch!
spacerPOLY. Are these the rewards for my love?
spacerCAR. Call it your horror.
spacerPOLY. What, when, how, or why I should do first, second, third, or fourth escapes me.
spacerCAR. I’ll tell you, in their proper order.
spacerPOLY. Go ahead.
spacerCAR. First, it behooves you to hang yourself. Second, to be dragged down to Hell alive. Third, to suffer the hateful embraces of demons. And fourth, to burn in the flames of an eternal fire.
spacerPOLY. Did Aio bribe you to bother an old man?
spacerCAR. I think there’s nothing more disgraceful than an old woman in love.
spacerPOLY. Now I see that those who are under obligation to me for my favors have entered into a conspiracy to swindle this one person. One torments me with fear, plunges me in the water, steals my wealth, and runs away. The other mocks me, calling me a doting hag.
spacerCAR. What does Aio’s escape have to do with you? Or what’s the problem, since you’re an old woman and your flesh is numb?
spacer POLY. Alas, alas! What else did I say was being done against my person than associations of rascals?
spacerCAR. Are you preparing a handy and safe place for fornication down in the well?
spacerPOLY. He’s singing the same song?
spacerCAR. And with a married man?
spacerPOLY. Bah, the impudent man!
spacerCAR. Bah, the shameless mind of a rotten old witch!
spacerPOLY. Keep going, I’ll bear it with patience.
spacerCAR. Who doesn’t rightly abominate women like yourself, disgraceful for their shamelessness?
spacerPOLY. Sooner or later you should make an end to this.
spacerCAR. Come now, subdue your flesh, put your life on a better footing.
spacerPOLY. See here, now he’s preaching.
spacerCAR. Be mindful of death
spacerPOLY. I beg you in the name of whatever you most hope for in this world, shut your mouth sometime and have pity for Polypus.
spacerCAR. You’re Polypus?
spacerPOLY. Look at my beard.
spacerCAR. Hm. I didn’t imagine this.
spacerPOLY. I think, if only you’d shut up — I’m not asking now what you do or don’t know about me. I’m only only asking you about Aio.
spacerCAR. I’m saying I know nothing —
spacerPOLY. What’s this nothing?
spacerCAR. About Aio’s theft and escape, or about your falling to the bottom of the well. And I’d know even less about you, had not your beard advised me.
spacerPOLY. Accursed Aio acted alone in cheating me.
spacerCAR. Had you not already taught him the wiles of robbers, he wouldn’t have done this.
spacerPOLY. I’m undone by my own art. He has escaped to the robbers, and I am determined to give chase, after I have committed my goods and sons to be managed by your good faith. The rest you’ll learn at my hearthside.

Go to Act V