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Title: Amphitryon
Author: Molière, 1622-1673
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Amphitryon" ***

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AMPHITRYON

A play


By Moliere


Translated by A.R. Waller


Amphitryon was played for the first time in Paris, at the Theatre du
Palais-Royal, January 13, 1668. It was successfully received, holding
the boards until the 18th of March, when Easter intervened. After the
re-opening of the theatre, it was played half a dozen times more the
same year, and continued to please.

The first edition was published in 1668.

Note: It is perhaps hardly necessary to refer the reader to Amphitryon,
by Plautus, the comedy upon which Moliere's charming play was, in
the main, based. The rendering attempted here can give but a faint
reflection of the original, for hardly any comedy of Moliere's loses
more in the process of translation.



AMPHITRYON



PROLOGUE


MERCURY, on a cloud; NIGHT, in a chariot drawn by two horses

MERC. Wait! Gentle Night; deign to stay awhile: Some help is needed from
you. I have two words to say to you from Jupiter.

NIGHT. Ah! Ah! It is you, Seigneur Mercury! Who would have thought of
you here, in that position?

MERC. Well, feeling tired, and not being able to fulfil the different
duties Jupiter ordered me, I quietly sat down on this cloud to await
your coming.

NIGHT. You jest, Mercury: you do not mean it; does it become the Gods to
say they are tired?

MERC. Are the Gods made of iron?

NIGHT. No; but one must always have a care for divine decorum. There are
certain words the use of which debases this sublime quality, and it is
meet that these should be left to men, because they are unworthy.

MERC. You speak at your ease, fair lady, from a swiftly rolling chariot,
in which, like a dame free from care; you are drawn by two fine horses
wherever you like. But it is not the same with me. Such is my miserable
fate that I cannot bear the poets too great a grudge for their gross
impertinence in having, by an unjust law, which they wish to retain in
force, given a separate conveyance to each God, for his own use, and
left me to go on foot: me, like a village messenger, though, as everyone
knows, I am the famous messenger of the sovereign of the Gods, on the
earth and in the heavens. Without any exaggeration, I need more than any
one else the means of being carried about, because of all the duties he
puts upon me.

NIGHT. What can one do? The poets do what pleases them. It is not the
only stupidity we have detected in these gentlemen. But surely your
irritation against them is wrong, for the wings at your feet are a
friendly gift of theirs.

MERC. Yes; but does going more quickly tire oneself less?

NIGHT. Let us leave the matter, Seigneur Mercury, and learn what is
wanted.

MERC. Jupiter, as I have told you, wishes the dark aid of your cloak for
a certain gallant adventure, which a new love affair has furnished
him. His custom is not new to you, I believe: often does he neglect the
heavens for the earth; and you are not ignorant that this master of
the Gods loves to take upon himself the guise of man to woo earthly
beauties. He knows a hundred ingenious tricks to entrap the most
obdurate. He has felt the darts of Alcmene's eyes; and, whilst
Amphitryon, her husband, commands the Theban troops on the plains of
Boeotia, Jupiter has taken his form, and assuaged his pains, in the
possession of the sweetest of pleasures. The condition of the couple is
propitious to his desire: Hymen joined them only a few days ago; and the
young warmth of their tender love suggested to Jupiter to have recourse
to this fine artifice. His stratagem proved successful in this case; but
with many a cherished object a similar disguise would not be of any
use: it is not always a sure means of pleasing, to adopt the form, of a
husband.

NIGHT. I admire Jupiter, and I cannot imagine all the disguises which
come into his head.

MERC. By these means he wishes to taste all sorts of conditions: that
is the act of a God who is not a fool. However mortals may regard him,
I should think very meanly of him if he never quitted his redoubtable
mien, and were always in the heavens, standing upon his dignity. In my
opinion, there is nothing more idiotic than always to be imprisoned in
one's grandeur; above all, a lofty rank becomes very inconvenient in
the transports of amorous ardour. Jupiter, no doubt, is a connoisseur
in pleasure, and he knows how to descend from the height of his supreme
glory. So that he can enter into everything that pleases him, he
entirely casts aside himself, and then it is no longer Jupiter who
appears.

NIGHT. I could overlook seeing him step down from his sublime stage
to that of men, since he wishes to enter into all the transports which
their natures can supply, and join in their jests, if, in the changes
which take his fancy, he would confine himself to nature. But I do not
think it fitting to see Jupiter as a bull, a serpent, a swan, or what
not, and it does not astonish me that it is sometimes talked about.

MERC. Let all the busybodies talk; such changes have their own charms
and surpass people's understanding. The God knows what he does in this
affair as in everything else: in the movements of their tender passions,
animals are not so loutish as one might think.

NIGHT. Let us return to the lady whose favours he enjoys. If, by his
stratagem, his pursuit is successful, what more can he wish? What can I
do?

MERC. He wishes that you would slacken the pace of your horses, to
satisfy the passion of his amorous heart, and so make of a delightful
night the longest night of all; that you would give him more time for
his transports, and retard the birth of day since it will hasten the
return of him whose place he occupies.

NIGHT. Really the employment which the great Jupiter reserves for me
is a worthy one! The service he requires of me passes under a very
respectable name.

MERC. You are somewhat old-fashioned for a young goddess! Such an
employment is not debasing except among people of mean birth. When
one has the happiness of belonging to lofty rank, whatever one does is
always right and good; things change their names to suit what one may
be.

NIGHT. You know more about such matters than I do; I will trust to your
enlightened views and accept this employment.

MERC. Come, come, now, Madam Night, a little gently, I beseech you. The
world gives you the reputation of not being so scrupulous. In a hundred
different climes you are made the confidant of many gallant adventures;
and, if I may speak candidly, we do not owe each other anything.

NIGHT. Let us cease these reproaches and remain what we are. Let us not
give men cause to laugh by telling each other the truth.

MERC. Adieu. I am going there to play my part in this business, promptly
to strip myself of the form of Mercury and to take in its place the
figure of Amphitryon's valet.

NIGHT. I am going to keep station in this hemisphere with my sombre
train.

MERC. Good day, Night.

NIGHT. Adieu, Mercury.

(Mercury descends from his cloud to the earth, and Night goes away in
her chariot.)

END OF THE PROLOGUE.



ACT I



SCENE I

SOSIE

Who goes there? Eh? My fear grows with every step. Gentlemen, I am a
friend to all the world. Ah! What unparalleled boldness, to be out at
this hour! My master is crowned with fame, but what a villainous trick
he plays me here! What? If he had any love for his neighbour, would he
have sent me out in such a black night? Could he not just as well have
waited until it was day before sending me to announce his return and the
details of his victory? To what servitude are thy days subjected, Sosie!
Our lot is far more hard with the great than with the mean. They insist
that everything in nature should be compelled to sacrifice itself for
them. Night and day, hail, wind, peril, heat, cold, as soon as they
speak we must fly. Twenty years of assiduous service do not gain us any
consideration from them. The least little whim draws down upon us their
anger.

Notwithstanding this, our infatuated hearts cling to the empty honour
of remaining near them, contented with the false idea, which every one
holds, that we are happy. In vain reason bids us retire; in vain our
spite sometimes consents to this; to be near them is too powerful
an influence on our zeal, and the least favour of a caressing glance
immediately re-engages us. But at last, I see our house through the
darkness, and my fear vanishes.

I must prepare some thought-out speech for my mission. I must give
Alcmene warlike description of the fierce combat which put our enemies
to flight. But how the deuce can I do this since I was not there? Never
mind; let us talk of cut and thrust, as though I were an eyewitness. How
many people describe battles from which they remained far away! In order
to act my part without discredit, I will rehearse it a little.

This is the chamber into which I am ushered as the messenger: this
lantern is Alcmene, to whom I have to speak. (He sets his lantern on
the ground and salutes it.) 'Madam, Amphitryon, my master and your
husband,... (Good! that is a fine beginning!) whose mind is ever full
of your charms, has chosen me from amongst all to bring tidings of the
success of his arms, and of his desire to be near you.' 'Ah! Really, my
poor Sosie, I am delighted to see you back again.' 'Madam, you do me too
much honour: my lot is an enviable one.' (Well answered!)

'How is Amphitryon?' 'Madam, as a man of courage should be, when glory
leads him.' (Very good! A capital idea!) 'When will my heart be charmed
and satisfied by his return?' 'As soon as possible, assuredly, Madam,
but his heart desires a speedier return.' (Ah!) 'In what state has the
war left him? What says he? What does he? Ease my anxiety.' He says less
than he does, Madam, and makes his enemies tremble.' (Plague! where do I
get all these fine speeches?) 'What are the rebels doing? Tell me, what
is their condition?' 'They could not resist our efforts, Madam; we cut
them to pieces, put their chief, Pterelas, to death, took Telebos by
assault; and now the port rings with our prowess.' 'Ah! What a success!
Ye Gods! Who could ever have imagined it? Tell me, Sosie, how it
happened.' 'I will, gladly, Madam; and, without boasting, I can tell
you, with the greatest accuracy, the details of this victory. Imagine,
therefore, Madam, that Telebos is on this side. (He marks the places
on his hand, or on the ground.) It is a city really almost as large as
Thebes. The river is, say, there. Here, our people encamped; and that
space was occupied by our enemies. On a height, somewhere about here,
was their infantry; and, lower down, on the right side, was their
cavalry. After having addressed prayers to the Gods, and issued all the
orders, the signal was given. The enemy, thinking to turn our flank,
divided their horse soldiers into three platoons; but we soon chilled
their warmth, and you shall see how. Here is our vanguard ready to begin
work; there, were the archers of our king, Creon; and here, the main
army (some one makes a slight noise), which was just going to... Stay;
the main body is afraid'; I think I hear some noise.



SCENE II

MERCURY, SOSIE

MERC. (Under the form of Sosie.) Under this mask which resembles him,
I will drive away the babbler from here. His unfortunate arrival may
disturb the pleasures our lovers are tasting together.

SOS. My heart revives a little; perhaps it was nothing. Lest
anything untoward should happen, however, I will go in to finish the
conversation.

MERC. I shall prevent your doing that unless you are stronger than
Mercury.

SOS. This night seems to me unusually long. By the time I have been
on the way, either my master has taken evening for morning, or lovely
Phoebus slumbers too long in bed through having taken too much wine.

MERC. With what irreverence this lubber speaks of the Gods! My arm
shall soon chastise this insolence; I shall have a fine game with him,
stealing his name as well as his likeness.

SOS. Ah! upon my word, I was right: I am done for, miserable creature
that I am! I see a man before our house whose mien bodes me no good. I
will sing a little to show some semblance of assurance.

(He sings; and, when Mercury speaks, his voice weakens, little by
little.)

MERC. What rascal is this, who takes the unwarrantable licence of
singing and deafening me like this? Does he wish me to curry his coat
for him?

SOS. Assuredly that fellow does not like music.

MERC. For more than a week, I have not found any one whose bones I could
break; my arm will lose its strength in this idleness. I must look out
for some one's back to get my wind again.

SOS. What the deuce of a fellow is this? My heart thrills with clutching
fear. But why should I tremble thus? Perhaps the rogue is as much afraid
as I am, and talks in this way to hide his fear from me under a feigned
audacity. Yes, yes, I will not allow him to think me a goose. If I am
not bold, I will try to appear so. Let me seek courage by reason; he is
alone, even as I am; I am strong, I have a good master, and there is our
house.

MERC. Who goes there?

SOS. I.

MERC. Who, I?

SOS. I. Courage, Sosie!

MERC. Tell me, what is your condition?

SOS. To be a man, and to speak.

MERC. Are you a master, or a servant?

SOS. As fancy takes me.

MERC. Where are you going?

SOS. Where I intend to go.

MERC. Ah! This annoys me.

SOS. I am ravished to hear it.

MERC. By hook or by crook, I must definitely know all about you, you
wretch; what you do, whence you come before the day breaks, where you
are going, and who you may be.

SOS. I do good and ill by turns; I come from there; I go there; I belong
to my master.

MERC. You show wit, and I see you think to play the man of importance
for my edification. I feel inclined to make your acquaintance by
slapping your face.

SOS. Mine?

MERC. Yours; and there you get it, sharp. (Mercury gives him a slap.)

SOS. Ah! Ah! This is a fine game!

MERC. No; it is only a laughing matter, a reply to your quips.

SOS. Good heavens! Friend, how you swing out your arm without any one
saying anything to you.

MERC. These are my lightest clouts, little ordinary smacks.

SOS. If I were as hasty as you, we should have a fine ado.

MERC. All this is nothing as yet: it is merely to fill up time; we shall
soon see something else; but let us continue our conversation.

SOS. I give up the game. (He turns to go away.)

MERC. Where are you going?

SOS. What does it matter to you?

MERC. I want to know where you are going.

SOS. I am going to open that door. Why do you detain me?

MERC. If you dare to go near it, I shall rain down a storm of blows on
you.

SOS. What? You wish to hinder me from entering our own house by threats?

MERC. What do you say, your house?

SOS. Yes, our house.

MERC. O, the scoundrel! You speak of that house?

SOS. Certainly. Is not Amphitryon the master of it?

MERC. Well! What does that prove?

SOS. I am his valet.

MERC. You?

SOS. I.

MERC. His valet?

SOS. Unquestionably.

MERC. Valet of Amphitryon?

SOS. Of Amphitryon himself.

MERC. Your name is?

SOS. Sosie.

MERC. Eh? What?

SOS. Sosie.

MERC. Listen: do you realise that my fist can knock you spinning?

SOS. Why? What fury has seized you now?

MERC. Tell me, who made you so rash as to take the name of Sosie?

SOS. I do not take it; I have always borne it.

MERC. O what a monstrous lie! What confounded impudence! You dare to
maintain that Sosie is your name?

SOS. Certainly; I maintain it, for the good reason that the Gods have so
ordered it by their supreme power. It is not in my power to say no, and
to be any one else than myself.

(Mercury beats him.) MERC. A thousand stripes ought to be the reward of
such audacity.

SOS. Justice, citizens! Help! I beseech you.

MERC. So, you gallows-bird, you yell out?

SOS. You beat me down with a thousand blows, and yet do not wish me to
cry out?

MERC. It is thus that my arm...

SOS. The action is unworthy. You gloat over the advantage which my want
of courage gives you over me; that is not fair treatment. It is mere
bullying to wish to profit by the poltroonery of those whom one makes to
feel the weight of one's arm. To thrash a man who does not retaliate is
not the act of a generous soul; and to show courage against men who have
none merits condemnation.

MERC. Well! Are you still Sosie? What say you?

SOS. Your blows have not made any metamorphosis in me; all the change
there is is that in the matter I am Sosie thrashed.

MERC. Still? A hundred fresh blows for this fresh impudence.

SOS. Have mercy, a truce to your blows.

MERC. Then a truce to your insolence.

SOS. Anything that pleases you; I will keep silence. The dispute between
us is too unequal.

MERC. Are you still Sosie? Say, villain!

SOS. Alas! I am what you wish; dispose of my lot exactly as you please:
your arm 'has made you the master of it.

MERC. I think you said your name was Sosie?

SOS. True, until now I thought the matter was clear; but your rod has
made me see that I was mistaken in this affair.

MERC. I am Sosie: all Thebes avows it. Amphitryon has never had other
than me.

SOS. You, Sosie?

MERC. Yes, Sosie; and if any one trifles with me, he must take care of
himself.

SOS. Heavens! Must I thus renounce myself, and see my name stolen by an
impostor. How lucky I am a poltroon! Or, by the death...!

MERC. What are you mumbling between your teeth?

SOS. Nothing. But, in the name of the Gods, give me leave to speak one
moment with you.

MERC. Speak.

SOS. But promise me, I beseech you, that there shall not be any more
strokes. Let us sign a truce.

MERC. Let that pass; go on, I grant you this point.

SOS. Tell me, who put this fancy into your head? What benefit will it be
to you to take my name? In short, were you a demon, could you hinder me
from being myself, from being Sosie?

MERC. What is this, you dare...

SOS. Ah! Gently: there is a truce to blows.

MERC. What! Gallows-bird, impostor, scoundrel...

SOS. As for abuse, give me as much as you please; it makes but a slight
wound and does not bother me.

MERC. You say you are Sosie?

SOS. Yes. Some ridiculous tale...

MERC. So, I shall break our truce, and take back my word.

SOS. I can't help it. I cannot annihilate myself for you, and endure so
improbable a tale. Is it in your power to be what I am? Can I cease to
be myself? Did any one ever hear of such a thing? And can you give the
lie to a hundred clear indications? Do I dream? Do I sleep? Is my mind
troubled by powerful transports? Do I not feel I am awake? Am I not in
my right senses? Has not my master, Amphitryon, commanded me to come
here to Alcmene his wife? Am I not, in commending his passion to her,
to give her an account of his deeds against our enemies? Have I not just
come from the harbour? Do I not hold a lantern in my hand? Have I not
found you in front of our house? Did I not speak to you in a perfectly
friendly manner? Do you not make use of my poltroonery to hinder me from
entering our house? Have you not vented your rage upon my back? Have you
not showered blows on me? Ah! All this is but too true: would to Heaven
it were less real! Cease therefore to jeer at a wretch's lot, and leave
me to acquit myself where my duty calls me.

MERC. Stop, or the shortest step brings down upon your back clattering
evidence of my just anger. All you have just said is mine, except the
blows. It is I, whom Amphitryon sent to Alcmene; who has just arrived
from the Persian port; I, who have come to announce the valour of his
arm, which has gained us a glorious victory, and slain the chief of
our enemies. In short, I am undoubtedly Sosie, son of Dave, an honest
shepherd; brother of Arpage, who died in a foreign land; husband of
Cleanthis the prude, whose temper drives me wild; I, who received a
thousand cuts from a whip at Thebes, without ever saying anything about
it; and who was once publicly branded on the back for being too worthy a
man.

SOS. He is right. If he were not Sosie, he could not know all he says;
all this is so astounding that even I begin to believe him a little. In
fact, now I look at him, I see he has my figure, looks, and manners. I
wilt ask him some question, in order to clear up this mystery. What
did Amphitryon obtain as his share of all the plunder taken from our
enemies?

MERC. Five fine large diamonds, beautifully set in a cluster, which
their chief wore as a rare piece of handicraft.

SOS. For whom does he intend so rich a present?

MERC. For his wife; he intends her to wear it.

SOS. Where have you put it, until you meet her?

MERC. In a casket sealed with the arms of my master.

SOS. He does not tell a single lie at any turn: I begin to doubt myself
in earnest. He has already cowed me into believing him to be Sosie; and
he might even reason me into thinking him so. Yet, when I touch myself,
and recollect, it seems to me I am myself. Where can I find some light
that will clearly make my way plain? What I have done alone, and what no
one has seen, cannot be known to any one else: that, at least, belongs
to me. I will astonish him by this question: it will confound him, and
we shall see. When they were at close quarters, what were you doing in
our tents, whither you ran to hide yourself away?

MERC. Off a ham

SOS. That is it!

MERC. Which I unearthed, I soon cut two succulent slices: they suited me
nicely. I added to them a wine which was usually kept dark, and,
gloated over the sight of it before I tasted it. So I took heart for our
fighters.

SOS. This unparalleled proof ends matters well in his favour; and,
unless he were in the bottle, there is nothing to be said. From the
proofs you show me, I cannot deny that you are Sosie: I admit it. But,
if you are he, tell me whom you wish me to be; for I must be someone.

MERC. When I shall no longer be Sosie, you may be he, I consent to that;
but I promise you it shall be the death of you if you take up such a
fancy while I am he.

SOS. All this confusion turns me inside out, for reason is against what
I see. But I must end this by some means; and the shortest way for me is
to go in there.

MERC. Oh! You gallows-bird, you want to taste the stick.

SOS. What is the matter? Great Gods! He makes the blows ring again; my
back will ache for a month. I will leave this devil of a fellow, and
return to the harbour. O just Heavens, what a fine ambassador I have
been!

MERC. At last, I have made him fly; this treatment has paid him out for
many of his deeds. But here is Jupiter, gallantly escorting his lover
Alcmene.



SCENE III

JUPITER, ALCMENE, CLEANTHIS, MERCURY

JUP. My dear Alcmene, forbid the torch-bearers to come near. They give
me delight in enabling me to see you; but they might betray my being
here, and this were best unrevealed. Restrained by all the heavy cares
with which the glory of our arms held me bound, my heart has stolen from
the duties of my post the moments it has just given to your charms. This
theft, which I have consecrated to your beauty, might be blamed by the
public voice; and the only witness I want, is she who can thank me for
it.

ALC. I take great interest, Amphitryon, in the glory which your
illustrious exploits have cast upon you; the fame of your victory moves
my heart to its depths. But when I see that this disastrous honour keeps
my lover away from me, such is my heart's feeling that I cannot forbear
to think ill of it, and to regret the high order which makes you general
of the Thebans. It is sweet after a victory to see the glory to which
one's lover has been raised; but, from among the perils attached to this
glory, a deadly blow, alas! may soon fall. With how many fears is one's
heart wounded at the report of the least skirmish! In the horror of such
a thought, is there anything that can console for the threatened stroke?
And with whatever laurels the victor may be crowned, whatever share
one may have in that supreme honour, is it worth what it costs a tender
heart, which trembles every moment for its lover?

JUP. I do not see anything in you but what inflames my passion;
everything shows me a deeply enamoured heart; and, I confess, it is a
great delight to find so much love in a beloved object. But, if I may
dare say so, one scruple in the tender sentiments which you show me
causes me anxiety; and, in order to enjoy you the more, dear Alcmene, my
heart would rather see love only, and not duty, in the favours which I
receive from you; may they arise solely from affection, and have respect
to my person only; let not my condition as your husband be the reason
for them.

ALC. Yet it is in that name that the ardour which burns me holds
the right to show itself: I do not understand this new scruple which
troubles your heart.

JUP. The love and tenderness which I have for you far exceeds a
husband's; in these sweet moments, you do not realise its delicacy; You
do not understand that a heart deeply in love studiously attaches itself
to a hundred little trifles, and is restless over the manner of being
happy. In me, fair and charming Alcmene, you see a lover and a husband;
but, to speak frankly, it is the lover that appeals to me; when near
you, I feel the husband restrains him. This lover, who is supremely
jealous of your love, wishes your heart to abandon itself solely to him:
his passion does not wish anything the husband gives him. He wishes to
obtain the warmth of your love from the fountain-head, and not to owe
anything to the bonds of wedlock, or to a duty which palls and makes the
heart sad, for by these the sweetness of the most cherished favours
is daily poisoned. This idea, in short, tosses him to and fro, and he
wishes, in order to satisfy his scruples, that you would differentiate
where the occasion offends him, the husband to be only for your virtue,
and the lover to have the whole affection and tenderness of a heart
known to be full of kindness.

ALC. In truth, Amphitryon, you must be jesting, to talk thus; I should
be afraid anyone who heard you would think you were not sane.

JUP. There is more reason in this discourse, Alcmene, than you think.
But a longer stay here would render me guilty, and time presses for my
return to port. Adieu. The stern call of duty tears me away from you
for a time; but, lovely Alcmene, I beseech you at least to think of the
lover when you see the husband.

ALC. I do not separate what the Gods unite: both husband and lover are
very precious to me.

CLE. O Heaven! How delightful are the caresses of an ardently cherished
husband! How far my poor husband is from all this tenderness!

MERC. I must tell Night she has but to furl all her sails; the Sun may
now arise from his bed and put out the stars.



SCENE IV

CLEANTHIS, MERCURY (Mercury turns to go away)

CLE. So? Is it thus you quit me?

MERC. What would you have? Do you wish me not to do my duty, and follow
in Amphitryon's footsteps?

CLE. To separate from me so rudely as this, you villain!

MERC. It is a fine subject to make a fuss about! We have still plenty of
time to live together!

CLE. But to go in such a churlish manner, without saying a single kind
word to cheer me!

MERC. Where the deuce shall I dig up silly compliments? Fifteen years of
married life exhaust nonsense; we said all we had to say to each other a
long time ago.

CLE. Look at Amphitryon, you rascal; see how his ardour burns for
Alcmene; and then blush for the little passion that you show your wife.

MERC. But, gracious me! Cleanthis, they are still lovers. There comes
a certain age when all this passes away; what suits them well in these
early days would look ridiculous in us, old married people. It would be
it fine sight to see us embracing each other, and saying sweet nothings!

CLE. Oh! You perfidious wretch, must I give up hope that a heart sighs
for me?

MERC. No, I should be sorry to say that; but I have too long a beard to
dare to sigh; I should make you die of laughter.

CLE. You brute, do you deserve the good fortune of having a virtuous
woman for your wife?

MERC. Good Heavens! You are but too virtuous; this fine virtue is not
worth anything to me. Do not be quite so honest a woman, and don't
bother me so much.

CLE. What? Do you blame me for being too honest?

MERC. A woman's gentleness is what charms me most: your virtue makes a
clatter that never ceases to deafen me.

CLE. You care for hearts full of false tenderness, for those women with
the laudable and fine talent of knowing how to smother their husbands
with caresses in order to make them oblivious of the existence of
lovers.

MERC. Well! Shall I tell you what I think? An imaginary evil concerns
fools only; my device should be: 'Less honour and more peace.'

CLE. Would you, without any repugnance, suffer me openly to love a
gallant?

MERC. Yes, if I were no longer worried by your tongue, and if it
changed your temper and your goings-on. I prefer a convenient vice, to
a fatiguing virtue. Adieu, Cleanthis, my dear soul; I must follow
Amphitryon. (He goes away.)

CLE Why has not my heart sufficient resolution to punish this infamous
scoundrel? Ah, how it maddens me, now, that I am an honest woman!

END OF THE FIRST ACT



ACT II



SCENE I

AMPHITRYON, SOSIE

AMPH. Come here, you rascal, come here. Do you know, Master Villain,
that your talk is sufficient to cause me to knock you down, and that my
wrath waits only for a stick to thrash you as I intend?

SOS. If you take it in that way, Monsieur, I have nothing more to say;
you will be always in the right.

AMPH. So? You scoundrel, you wish to impose upon me as truths tales
which I know to be extravagantly far-fetched?

SOS. No; I am the servant, and you are the master; it shall not be
otherwise than you wish it, Monsieur.

AMPH. Come, I will choke down the anger that inflames me, and hear all
you have to say about your mission. I must unravel this confusion before
I see my wife. Collect your senses, think well over what you say, and
answer each question word for word.

SOS. But, lest I make a mistake, tell me, I beseech you, beforehand, in
what way it would please you to have this affair healed. Shall I speak,
Monsieur, according to my conscience, or as usual when near the great?
Shall I tell the truth or use a certain complaisance?

AMPH. No; I only wish you to give me a perfectly unvarnished account.

SOS. Good. That is enough; leave it to me; you have, but to interrogate
me.

AMPH. Upon the order which I lately gave you...

SOS. I set forth under skies veiled in black crape, swearing bitterly
against you for this wretched martyrdom, and cursing twenty times the
order of which you speak.

AMPH. What do you mean, you villain?

SOS. You have only to speak, Monsieur, and I shall lie, if you desire
it.

AMPH. That is how a valet shows his zeal for us. Never mind. What
happened to you on the way?

SOS. I had a mortal fright at the least thing I met.

AMPH. Poltroon!

SOS. Nature has her caprices in forming us; she gives us differing
inclinations; some find a thousand delights in exposing themselves; I
find them in taking care of myself.

AMPH. When you arrived at the house...?

SOS. When I reached the door, I wished to rehearse to myself for a short
time, in what tone and in what manner I should give a glorious account
of the battle.

AMPH. What followed?

SOS. Some one came to annoy and trouble me.

AMPH. Who was he?

SOS. Sosie; another I, jealous of your orders, whom you sent to Alcmene
from the port, and who has as full knowledge of our secrets as I who am
speaking to you.

AMPH. What nonsense!

SOS. No, Monsieur, it is the simple truth: this I was at your house
sooner than I; and, I swear to you, I was there before I had arrived.

AMPH. Pray, where does all this cursed nonsense come from? Is it a
dream? Is it drunkenness? Mind-wandering? Or a sorry joke?

SOS. No, it is the thing as it is, and by no means an idle tale. I am
a man of honour, I give you my word, and you must please believe it.
I tell you, believing I was but one Sosie, I found myself two at your
house; and of these two I's, piqued with jealousy, one is at the house,
and the other is with you; the I who is here, tired out, found the other
I fresh, jolly and active, having no other anxiety than to fight and
break bones.

AMPH. I confess I must be of a very placid temper, very peaceable, very
gentle, to permit a valet to entertain me with such nonsense!

SOS. If you become angry, no more conference between us: you know all
will be over at once.

AMPH. No; I will listen to you without being carried away; I promised
it. But tell me in good earnest, is there any shadow of likelihood in
this new mystery which you have just told me?

SOS. No; you are right, the matter must appear to everyone past credit.
It is a fact past understanding, an extravagant, ridiculous, far-fetched
tale: it shocks common sense; but it is none the less a fact.

AMPH. How can anyone believe it, unless he has taken leave of his
senses?

SOS. I myself did not believe it without extreme difficulty: I thought
I was losing my senses when I saw myself two, and, for a long time, I
treated my other self as an impostor: but he compelled me in the end
to recognise myself; I saw it was I, without any trickery; from head to
foot he is like me-handsome, a noble air, well built, charming manners;
in fact, two peas do not resemble each other more; were it not that his
hands are a little too heavy, I should be perfectly satisfied.

AMPH. I had need exhort myself to patience! But did you not in the end
go into the house?

SOS. Good, go in! Ah! In what fashion? Have I never wished to listen to
reason? Did I not forbid myself to enter our door?

AMPH. In what way?

SOS. With a stick, my back still aches from it.

AMPH. You have been thrashed?

SOS. Truly.

AMPH. And by whom?

SOS. Myself.

AMPH. You have thrashed yourself?

SOS. Yes, I; not the I who is here, but the I from the house, who whacks
soundly.

AMPH. Heaven confound you for talking to me like this!

SOS. I am not joking; the I whom I have just met has great advantages
over the I who speaks to you. He has a strong arm and great courage; I
have had proofs of both; this devil of an I has licked me soundly; he is
a fellow who can do wonders.

AMPH. Let us, cease this. Have you seen my wife?

SOS. No.

AMPH. Why not?

SOS. For a sufficiently strong reason.

AMPH. Who hindered you, scoundrel? Explain yourself.

SOS. Must I repeat the same thing twenty times? I, I tell you, this I
who is more robust than I, this I who took possession of the door by
force, this I who made me slope off, this I who wishes to be the only I,
this I who is jealous of myself, this valiant I, whose anger made itself
known to this poltroon of an I, in fact, this I who is at our house,
this I who has shown himself to be my master, this I who has racked me
with pain.

AMPH. His brain must be addled by having had too much to drink this
morning.

SOS. May I be hanged if I have had anything to drink but water: I take
my oath on it.

AMPH. Then your senses must have been fast asleep: some silly dream has
shown you all these fairy tales and confused mysteries which you wish me
to take for truths.

SOS. That is just as far away from the truth. I have not slept, and I do
not even feel inclined that way. I am speaking to you wide-awake; I
was wide awake this morning, upon my life! And the other Sosie was also
wide-awake, when he drubbed me so well.

AMPH. Follow me; I order you to be silent. You tire my brain too much;
I must be an out-and-out fool to have the patience to listen to the
nonsense a valet has to say.

SOS. All talk is nonsense that comes from a man who is unknown. If a
great man were to say it, it would be exquisite language.

AMPH. Let us go in without waiting any longer. But here comes Alcmene
clothed in all her charms. Doubtless she does not expect me so soon, and
my arrival will surprise her.



SCENE II

ALCMENE, CLEANTHIS, AMPHITRYON, SOSIE

ALC. Come, Cleanthis, let us attend the Gods, pay them our homage for
my husband's sake, and thank them for the glorious success, of which
Thebes, by his arm, reaps the advantage. O ye Gods!

AMPH. Heaven grant that victorious Amphitryon may be met with renewed
pleasure by his wife: that this day may be favourable to my passion, and
restore you to me with the same heart: may I again find as much love as
my heart brings to you!

ALC. Ah! Have you returned so soon.

AMPH. Really, you give me but a sorry proof of your love; this, 'Ah!
have you returned so soon?' is scarcely the language a heart really
inflamed with love would use on such an occasion as this. I dared to
flatter myself I had remained away from you too long. The expectation
of an ardently longed for return makes each moment seem of great length;
the absence of what we love, however brief it may be, is always too
long.

ALC. I do not see...

AMPH. No, Alcmene, time is measured in such cases by one's impatience;
you count the moments of absence as one who does not love. When we
really love, the slightest separation kills us; the one whom we love to
see never returns too soon. I confess that the love I bear you has cause
to complain of your reception; I expected different expressions of joy
and tenderness from your heart.

ALC. I cannot understand on what you found the words you have just
uttered; if you complain of me, upon my word I do not know what would
satisfy you. I think I showed a sufficiently tender joy last night, at
your happy return; my heart responded by every means you could wish to
the claims of your affection.

AMPH. In what way?

ALC. Did I not clearly show the sudden transports of a perfect joy?
Could a heart's feelings be better expressed at the return of a husband
who is tenderly loved?

AMPH. What do you say?

ALC. That even your affection showed an inconceivable joy at my
reception; and that, as you left me at break of day, I do not see that
my surprise at this sudden return is so guilty.

AMPH. Did you, in a dream last night, Alcmene, anticipate in idea the
reality of my hastened return; and having, perhaps, treated me kindly in
your sleep, does your heart think it has fully acquitted itself of its
duty to my passion?

ALC. Has some malignant vapour in your mind, Amphitryon, clouded the
truth of last night's return? Does your heart pretend to take away from
me the credit of all the gentle affection I showed you in my tender
welcome?

AMPH. This vapour you attribute to me seems to me somewhat strange.

ALC. It is in return for the dream which you attribute to me.

AMPH. Unless it is because of a dream, what you have just now told me is
entirely inexcusable.

ALC. Unless it is a vapour which troubles your mind, what I have heard
from you cannot be justified.

AMPH. Let us leave this vapour for a moment, Alcmene.

ALC. Let us leave this dream for a moment, Amphitryon.

AMPH. One cannot jest on the subject in question without being carried
too far.

ALC. Undoubtedly; and, as a sure proof of it, I begin to feel somewhat
uneasy.

AMPH. Is it thus you wish to try to make amends for the welcome of which
I complain?

ALC. Do you desire to try to amuse yourself by this feint?

AMPH. For Heaven's, sake, I beseech you, Alcmene! Let us cease this, and
talk seriously.

ALC. You carry your amusement too far, Amphitryon: let there be an end
to this raillery.

AMPH. Do you really dare maintain to my face that I was seen here before
this hour?

ALC. Have you really the assurance to deny that you came here early
yesterday evening?

AMPH. I! I came yesterday?

ALC. Certainly; and you went away again before dawn.

AMPH. Heavens! Was ever such a debate as this heard before? Who would
not be astonished at all this? Sosie?

SOS. She needs six grains of hellebore, Monsieur; her brain is turned.

AMPH. Alcmene, in the name of all the Gods, this discourse will have a
strange ending! Recollect your senses a little better, and think what
you say.

ALC. I am indeed thinking seriously; all in the house saw your arrival.
I am ignorant what motive makes you act thus; but, if the thing were
in need of proof, if it were true that such a thing could be forgotten,
from whom, but from you, could I have heard the news of the latest of
all your battles, and of the five diamonds worn by Pterelas, who was
plunged into eternal night by the strength of your arm? Could one wish
for surer testimony?

AMPH. What? I have already given you the cluster of diamonds which I had
for my share, and intended for you?

ALC. Assuredly. It is not difficult to convince you thoroughly on that
point.

AMPH. How?

ALC. Here it is.

AMPH. Sosie!

SOS. She is jesting: I have it here; Monsieur, the feint is useless.

AMPH. The seal is whole.

ALC. Is it a vision? There. Will you think this proof strong enough?

AMPH. Ah Heaven! O just Heaven!

ALC. Come, Amphitryon, you are joking in acting thus: you ought to be
ashamed of it.

AMPH. Break this seal, quickly.

SOS. (Having opened the casket.) Upon my word, the casket is empty.
It must have been taken out by witchcraft, or else it came by itself a
guide, to her whom it knew it was intended to adorn.

AMPH. O Gods, whose power governs all things, what is this adventure?
What can I augur from it that does not clutch at my heart?

SOS. If she speaks the truth, we have the same lot, and, like me,
Monsieur, you are double.

AMPH. Be silent.

ALC. Why are you so surprised? What causes all this confusion?

AMPH. O Heaven! What strange perplexity! I see incidents which surpass
Nature, and my honour fears an adventure which my mind does not
understand.

ALC. Do you still wish to deny your hasty return, when you have this
sensible proof of it?

AMPH. No; but if it be possible, deign to tell me what passed at this
return.

ALC. Since you ask an account of the matter, you still say it was not
you?

AMPH. Pardon me; but I have a certain reason which makes me ask you to
give us this account.

ALC. Have the important cares which perhaps engross you made you so
quickly lose the remembrance of it?

AMPH. Perhaps; but, in short, you would please me by telling me the
whole story.

ALC. The story is not long. I advanced towards you full of a delighted
surprise; I embraced you tenderly, and showed my joy more than once.

AMPH. (to himself.) Ah! I could have done without so sweet a welcome.

ALC. You first made me this valuable gift, which you destined for me
from the spoils of the conquered. Your heart vehemently unfolded to me
all the violence of its love, and the annoying duties which had kept it
enchained, the happiness of seeing me again, the torments of absence,
all the care which your impatience to return had given you; never
has your love, on similar occasions, seemed to me so tender and so
passionate.

AMPH. (to himself.) Can one be more cruelly tortured?

ALC. As you may well believe, these transports and this tenderness did
not displease me; if I must confess it, Amphitryon, my heart found a
thousand charms in them.

AMPH. What followed, pray?

ALC. We interrupted each other with a thousand questions concerning each
other. The table was laid. We supped together by ourselves; and, supper
over, we went to bed.

AMPH. Together?

ALC. Assuredly. What a question?

AMPH. Ah; this is the most cruel stroke of all; my jealous passion
trembled to assure itself of this.

ALC. Why do you blush so deeply at a word? Have I done something wrong
in going to bed with you?

AMPH. No, to my great misery, it was not I; whoever says I was here
yesterday, tells, of all falsehoods, the most horrible.

ALC. Amphitryon!

AMPH. Perfidious woman!

ALC. Ah! What madness is this!

AMPH. No, no; no more sweetness, no more respect; this rebuff puts an
end to all my constancy; at this ghastly moment, my heart breathes only
fury and, vengeance.

ALC. On whom then would you be avenged? What want of faith in me makes
you treat me now as a criminal?

AMPH. I do not know, but it was not I; this despair makes me capable of
anything.

ALC. Away unworthy husband, the deed speaks for itself, the imposture
is frightful. It is too great an insult to accuse me of infidelity.
If these confused transports mean that you seek a pretext to break the
nuptial bonds which hold me enchained to you, all these pretences are
superfluous, for I am determined that this day all our ties shall be
broken.

AMPH. After the unworthy affront, which I now learn has been done me,
that is indeed what you must prepare yourself for; it is the least that
can be expected; and things may not perhaps remain there. The dishonour
is sure; my misery is made plain to me; and my pride in vain would hide
it from me. The details are still not clear: My anger is just and I
claim to be enlightened. Your brother can positively avouch that I did
not leave him until this morning: I will go and seek him, in order that
I may confound you about the return falsely imputed to me. Afterwards,
we will penetrate to the bottom of a mystery unheard of until now; and,
in the fury of a righteous anger, woe to him who has betrayed me!

SOS. Monsieur...

AMPH. Do not accompany me, but remain here for me.

CLE. Must I...?

ALC. I cannot hear anything: leave me alone: do not follow me.



SCENE III

CLEANTHIS, SOSIE

CLE. Something must have turned his brain; but the brother will soon
finish this quarrel.

SOS. This is a very sharp blow for my master; his fate is cruel.
I greatly fear something coming for myself. I will go softly in
enlightening her.

CLE. Let me see whether he will so much as speak to me! I will not
reveal anything.

SOS. These things are often annoying when one knows about them: I
hesitate to ask her. Would it not be better not to risk anything, and to
ignore what may have happened? Yet, at all hazard, I must see. I cannot
help myself. Curiosity concerning things which one would rather not know
is a human weakness. Heaven preserve you, Cleanthis!

CLE. Ah! Ah! You dare to come near me, you villain!

SOS. Good Heavens! What is the matter with you? You are always in a
temper, and become angry about nothing!

CLE. What do you call about nothing? Speak out.

SOS. I call about nothing what is called about nothing in verse as well
as in prose; and nothing, as you well know, means to say nothing, or
very little.

CLE. I do not know what keeps me from scratching your eyes out, infamous
rascal, to teach you how far the anger of a woman can go.

SOS. Hullo! What do you mean by this furious rage?

CLE. Then you call that nothing, perhaps, which you have done to me?

SOS. What was that?

CLE. So? You feign to be innocent? Do you follow the example of your
master and say you did not return here?

SOS. No, I know the contrary too well; but I will be frank with you.
We had drunk some wretched wine, which might have made me forget what I
did.

CLE. You think, perhaps, to excuse yourself by this trick,...

SOS. No, in truth you may believe me. I was in such a condition that I
may have done things I should regret; I do not remember what they were.

CLE. You do not even remember the manner in which you thought fit to
treat me when you came from the port?

SOS. Not at all. You had better tell me all about it; I am just and
sincere, and would condemn myself were I wrong.

CLE. Well? Amphitryon having warned me of your return, I sat up until you
came; but I never saw such coldness: I had myself to remind you that you
had a wife; and, when I wanted to kiss you, you, turned away your head,
and gave me your ear.

SOS. Good.

CLE. What do you mean by good?

SOS. Good gracious! You do not know why I talk like this, Cleanthis: I
had been eating garlic, and, like a well-bred man, just turned my breath
away from you.

CLE. I showed you every possible tenderness; but you were as deaf as a
post to everything I said; never a kind word passed your lips.

SOS. Courage!

CLE. In short, my flame bad to burn alone, its chaste ardour did not
find anything in you but ice; you were the culprit in a return that
might have been so different: you even went so far as to refuse to take
your place in bed, which the laws of wedlock oblige you to occupy.

SOS. What? Did I not go to bed?

CLE. No, you coward.

SOS. Is it possible?

CLE. It is but too true, you rascal. Of all affronts this affront is the
greatest; and, instead of your heart repairing its wrong this morning,
you left me with words full of undisguised contempt.

SOS. Vivat Sosie!

CLE. Eh, what? Has my complaint had this effect? You laugh at your fine
goings on?

SOS. How pleased I am with myself!

CLE. Is this the way to express your grief at such an outrage?

SOS. I should never have believed I could be so prudent.

CLE. Instead of condemning yourself for such a perfidious trick, you
rejoice at it to my face!

SOS. Good gracious! Gently, gently! If I appear pleased, you must
believe that I have a very strong private reason for it; without
thinking of it, I never did better than in using you in such a manner as
I did.

CLE. Are you laughing at me, you villain?

SOS. No, I am speaking openly to you. I was in a wretched state. I had
a certain load, which your words have lifted from my soul. I was very
apprehensive, and feared that I had played the fool with you.

CLE. What is this fear? Come, let us know what you mean.

SOS. The doctors say that, when one is drunk, one should abstain from
one's wife, for, in that condition we can only have children who are
dull, and who cannot live. Think, if my heart had not armed itself with
coldness, what troubles might have followed!

CLE. I do not care a fig for doctors, with their insipid reasonings. Let
them rule those who are sick without wishing to govern healthy people.
They meddle with too many affairs when they seek to rein in our chaste
desires; in addition to the dog days, and their strict rules, they tell
us a hundred ridiculous stories into the bargain.

SOS. Gently.

CLE. No; I maintain theirs is a worthless conclusion: those reasons come
from idiotic brains. Neither wine nor time ought to prevent the duties
of conjugal love from being fulfilled; doctors are donkeys.

SOS. I entreat you, moderate your anger against them; they are honest
people, whatever the world may say of them.

CLE. Things are not what you think them; you can shut up; your excuse
will not go down; and, sooner or later, I tell you plainly, I will
avenge myself for the contempt you show me every day. I remember
everything you said just now, and I shall try to make use of the liberty
you gave me, You faithless, cowardly husband.

SOS. What?

CLE. You told me just now, you villain, that you would heartily agree to
my loving another.

SOS. Ah! In that matter I was wrong. I retract; my honour is at stake.
You had better beware you do not give way to that sentiment.

CLE. Nevertheless if some time I can make up my mind to the thing...

SOS. Just stop talking for the present. Amphitryon is coming back, and
he seems pleased.



SCENE IV

JUPITER, CLEANTHIS, SOSIE

JUP. I shall take this opportunity of appearing to Alcmene to banish
the sorrow in which she wishes to indulge, and, under the pretence
that brings me here, I will gratify my passion with the delight of a
reconciliation with her. Alcmene is upstairs, is she not?

CLE. Yes; she is thoroughly upset and wishes to be left alone: she has
forbidden me to follow her.

JUP. Whatever prohibition she may have given you does not concern me.

CLE. So far as I can see, his grief has beaten a quick retreat.



SCENE V

CLEANTHIS, SOSIE

SOS. What do you say, Cleanthis, to these cheerful looks, after his
terrible rage?

CLE. That we should all do well to send all men to the devil; the best
of them is not worth much.

SOS. You say that because you are in a passion; but you are too fond of
men; upon my word, you would all look as black as thunder if the devil
were to take them all away.

CLE. Really...

SOS. Here they come. Hush.



SCENE VI

JUPITER, ALCMENE, CLEANTHIS, SOSIE

JUP. Do you want to drive me to despair? Alas! Stay, lovely Alcmene.

ALC. No, I cannot remain longer with the author of my grief.

JUP. I beseech you

ALC. Leave me.

JUP. What...?

ALC. Leave me, I tell you.

JUP. Her tears touch me to the heart; her sorrow troubles me. Allow me
to

ALC. No, do not follow me.

JUP. Where are you going?

ALC. Where you are not.

JUP. That would be a vain attempt to make. I am linked to your beauty
by too close a bond to suffer a moment's separation from you. I shall
follow you everywhere, Alcmene.

ALC. And I shall flee from you everywhere.

JUP. I am very terrible, then!

ALC. Yes, more than I can say. Indeed, I look upon you as a frightful
monster, a cruel, furious monster, whose approach is to be feared; as a
monster to be avoided everywhere. My heart suffers incredible grief
at the sight of you; it is a torture that overpowers me; I do not know
anything under Heaven so frightful, horrible and odious, that I could
not better endure than you.

JUP. Alas! Do these words really come from your mouth?

ALC. I have many more in my heart; I only regret I cannot find words to
express all I feel.

JUP. Ah! What has my heart done to you, Alcmene, that I should be looked
upon as such a monster?

ALC. Oh! Just Heaven! He can ask that? Is it not enough to drive me mad?

JUP. Yet, in a milder spirit...

ALC. No; I do not wish either to see or to hear anything of you.

JUP. Have you really the heart to treat me thus? Is this the tender love
which I heard yesterday was to last so long?

ALC. No, no, it is not; your base insults have ordained it otherwise.
That passionate and tender love does not exist any longer; you have
cruelly killed it in my heart by a hundred keen wounds. In its
place stands an inflexible wrath, a lively resentment, an invincible
indignation, the despair of a heart justly incensed, which resolves to
hate you for this grievous injury, as much as it was willing to love
you; that is to say to hate as much as possible.

JUP. Alas! Your love must have had but little strength, if it can be
killed by so slight a matter! Can a jest divorce us? Is there any need
to be so roused at a trifle?

ALC. Ah! It is just that which offends me: that which my anger cannot
pardon. I should have felt less wounded by the justifiable transports
of a fit of jealousy. Jealousy makes impressions the force of which
oftentimes carries us beyond our control; at such times the most
discreet mind, no doubt, finds it difficult enough to answer for its
deeds. The violence of a heart which may have been deluded has, in its
very delusion, a peace-offering for an aggrieved soul, and the love that
gave birth to its fears, furnishes, in spite of all its violence, at
least some reasons to urge as excuse. Outbursts such as these ever have
love as an excuse against anger: for love gave birth to them, and we can
easily pardon what we cannot control.

But to fly into uncontrollable fury, in gaiety of heart, and so
causelessly and keenly to wound the tenderness and honour of a heart
that dearly loves you, ah! It is too cruel a blow: my grief can never
forget it.

JUP. Yes, you are right, Alcmene; I admit it. This action is
unquestionably an odious crime; I do not pretend to justify it longer:
yet allow my heart to defend itself in your eyes, and let it reveal to
you who is to blame for this insulting fury. To tell you frankly, it is
the husband Alcmene, who has done this wrong; it is the husband whom you
must blame. The lover has no share in this churlish anger: his heart is
not capable of offending you. He has too much respect and affection for
you ever to think of it; had he been guilty of the crime of doing aught
that could wound you, he would pierce himself with a hundred stabs
before your eyes. But the husband has cast aside that humble submission
which should always be yours; by his harsh deeds, the husband has made
himself known; he thought the rights of marriage allowed him everything.
Yes, it is he no doubt who is guilty towards you; he only has
ill-treated your lovely person. Hate, detest the husband; I consent to
it; I yield him to your mercy; but, Alcmene, spare the lover from
the anger which such an offence gives you; do not let him suffer;
differentiate between him and the guilty one; and, finally, in order to
be just, do not punish him for what he has not done.

ALC. Oh! All these subtleties are but frivolous excuses; such language
only annoys incensed minds. In vain do you use these ridiculous
prevarications. I do not make any distinction in him who offends me;
everything in him becomes the object of my anger, the lover and the
husband are alike confounded in its just violence. Both occupy my
thoughts; both are painted in the same colours by my wounded heart. Both
are guilty; both have offended me; and both are odious to me.

JUP. Well! Then, since you wish it, I must charge myself with the
offence. Yes, you are right, when you sacrifice me as a guilty victim to
your resentment. Anger towards me sways you; it is but too just, and all
the terrible wrath you show causes me to suffer only lawful torments. It
is right you should shun my presence, and in your anger threaten to flee
from me everywhere. I must be a detestable object to you; you are right
in thinking ill of me. My crime in being offensive in your charming
eyes surpasses every horror; it is a crime that offends men and Gods; in
short, as punishment for my insolence I deserve that your hatred should
vent its utmost upon me. I beg your forgiveness, I beg it upon my knees,
I beg it for the sake of the most lively passion, of the tenderest love
for you, which has ever been kindled in a human breast. If, charming
Alcmene, your heart refuses me the pardon which I have the audacity to
seek, then shall a well-aimed stroke put an end to my life, and release
me from the harsh severity of a penalty which I can no longer bear. Yes,
this state of things drives me to despair. Do not think, Alcmene, that,
enamoured as I am of your celestial charms, I can live a day under your
wrath. Even these moments' agony is barbarously prolonged and my sad
heart sinks under their mortal blows. The cruel wounds of a thousand
vultures are not comparable in any way to my lively grief. Alcmene, you
have but to tell me I need not hope for pardon: and immediately this
sword, by a happy thrust, shall pierce the heart of a miserable wretch
before your eyes. This heart, this traitorous heart, too deserving of
death, since it has offended an adorable being, will be happy if, in
descending into the place of shades, my death appeases your anger, and,
after this wretched day, it leaves in your soul no impression of hatred
in remembering my love! This is all I ask as a sovereign favour.

ALC. Ah! Cruel husband.

JUP. Speak, Alcmene, speak.

ALC. Must I still keep some kindness for you, who insult me by so many
indignities?

JUP. Whatever resentment an outrage causes us, can it hold out against
the remorse of a heart deeply in love?

ALC. A heart full of passion would rather expose itself to a thousand
deaths, than offend the object beloved.

JUP. The more one loves, the easier it is

ALC. No, do not speak to me any longer about it; you deserve my hatred.

JUP. You hate me then?

ALC. I make every effort to do so, and it annoys me to feel that all
your insults do not yet carry my vengeance so far as yield to it.

JUP. But why this violence, since I offer to kill myself to satisfy your
revenge? Pronounce the sentence and immediately I will obey.

ALC. It is impossible to wish for another's death if hatred be absent.

JUP. I cannot live unless you abandon the wrath that overwhelms me, and
unless you grant me the favour of a pardon which I beg at your feet.
Decide to do one or the other quickly: to punish, or to absolve.

ALC. Alas! The only resolution I can take is but too clearly apparent.
My heart has too plainly betrayed me, for me to wish to maintain this
anger: is it not to say we pardon, when we say we cannot hate?

JUP. Ah, charming Alcmene, overwhelmed with delight I must...

ALC. Forbear: I hate myself for such weakness.

JUP. Go, Sosie, make haste; a sweet joy fills my soul. See what officers
of the army you can find, and ask them to dine with me. (Softly aside.)
Mercury can fill his post, while he is away from here.



SCENE VII

CLEANTHIS, SOSIE

SOS. Come! Now, you see, this couple, Cleanthis. Will you follow
their example, and let us also make peace? Indulge in some slight
reconciliation?

CLE. For the sake of your lovely mug, Oh yes! I will, and no mistake.

SOS. What? You will not?

CLE. No.

SOS. It doesn't matter to me. So much the worse for you.

CLE. Well, well, come back.

SOS. No, not, likely! I shall not do anything of the kind, I shall be
angry. I turn now.

CLE. Go away, you villain, let me alone; one gets tired now and then of
being an honest woman.

END OF THE SECOND ACT



ACT III



SCENE I

AMPHITRYON

Yes, so doubt fate hides him purposely from me; at last am I tired of
trying to find him. I do not know anything that can be more cruel than
my lot. In spite of all my endeavours, I cannot find him whom I seek;
all those I do not seek I find. A thousand tiresome bores, who do not
think they are so, drive me mad with their congratulations on our feats
of arms, although they know little of me. In the cruel embarrassment and
anxiety that troubles me, they all burden me with their attentions, and
their rejoicings make my uneasiness worse. In vain I try to pass them
by, to flee from their persecutions; their killing friendship stops me
on all sides; whilst I reply to the ardour of their expressions by a nod
of the head, I mutter under my breath a hundred curses on them. Ah! How
little we are flattered by praise, honour and all that a great victory
brings, when inwardly we suffer keen sorrow! How willingly would I
exchange all this glory to have peace of mind! At every turn my jealousy
twits me with my disgrace; the more my mind ponders over it, the less
can I unravel its miserable confusion. The theft of the diamonds does
not astonish me; seals may be tampered with unperceived; but my most
cruel torment is that she insists I gave the gift to her personally
yesterday. Nature oftentimes produces resemblances, which some impostors
have adopted in order to deceive; but it is inconceivable that, under
these appearances, a man should pass himself off as a husband; there are
a thousand differences in a relationship such as this which a wife could
easily detect. The marvellous effects of Thessalian magic have at all
times been renowned; but I have always looked upon as idle tales the
famous stories everyone talks of. It would be a hard fate if I, after so
glorious a victory elsewhere, should be compelled to believe them at
the cost of my own honour. I will question her again upon this wretched
mystery, and see if it is not a silly fancy that has taken advantage of
her disordered brain. O righteous Heaven, may this thought be true, and
may she even have lost her senses, so that I may be happy!



SCENE II

MERCURY, AMPHITRYON

MERC. Since love does not offer me any pleasure here, I will at least
enjoy myself in another way, and enliven my dismal leisure by putting
Amphitron out of all patience. This may not be very charitable in a
God; but I shall not bother myself about that; my planet tells me I am
somewhat given to malice.

AMPH. How is it that the door is closed at this hour?

MERC. Hullo! Gently, gently! Who knocks?

AMPH. I.

MERC. Who, I?

AMPH. Ah! Open.

MERC. What do you mean by 'open'? Who are you, pray, to make such a row,
and speak like that?

AMPH. So? You do not know me?

MERC. No, nor have I the least wish to.

AMPH. Is every one losing his senses today? Is the malady spreading?
Sosie! Hullo, Sosie!

MERC. Come, now! Sosie: that is my name; are you afraid I shall forget
it?

AMPH. Do you see me?

MERC. Well enough. What can possess your arm to make such an uproar?
What do you want down there?

AMPH. I, you gallows-bird! What do I want?

MERC. What do you not want then? Speak, if you want to be understood.

AMPH. Listen, you villain: I will come up with a stick to make you
understand, and give you a fine lesson. How dare you speak to me like
that?

MERC. Softly, softly! If you make the least attempt to create an uproar,
I shall send you down some messengers who will annoy you.

AMPH. Oh Heavens! Did anyone ever conceive such insolence? And from a
servant, from a beggar?

MERC. Come, now! What is the matter? Have you gone over everything
correctly? Have your big eyes taken everything in? He glares, so savage
he looks! If looks could bite, he would have torn me to shreds by now.

AMPH. I tremble at what you are bringing upon yourself with all this
impudent talk. What a frightful storm you are brewing for yourself! What
a tempest of blows will storm down on your back!

MERC. If you do not soon disappear from here, my friend, you may come in
for some mauling.

AMPH. Ah! You villain, you shall know to your confusion what it is for a
valet to attack his master.

MERC. You, my master?

AMPH. Yes, rascal. Do you dare to say you do not recognise me?

MERC. I do not recognise any other master than Amphitryon.

AMPH. And who, besides myself, may this Amphitryon be?

MERC. Amphitryon?

AMPH. Certainly.

MERC. Ah! What an illusion! Come, tell me in what decent tavern you have
addled your brain?

AMPH. What? Again?

MERC. Was it a feast-day wine?

AMPH. Heavens!

MERC. Was it old or new?

AMPH. What insults!

MERC. New goes to one's head, if drunk without water.

AMPH. Ah! I shall tear your tongue out soon.

MERC. Pass on, my dear friend; believe me, no one here will listen to
you. I respect wine. Go away, make yourself scarce, and leave Amphitryon
to the pleasures which he is tasting.

AMPH. What! Is Amphitryon in there?

MERC. Rather: covered with the laurels of his fine victory, he is side
by side with the lovely Alcmene enjoying the delights of a charming
tete-a-tete. They are tasting the pleasures of being reconciled, now
their love-tiff has blown over. Take care how you disturb their sweet
privacy, unless you wish him to punish you for your excessive rashness.



SCENE III

AMPHITRYON

Ah! What a frightful blow he has given me! How cruelly has he put me to
confusion! If matters are as this villain says, to what a state are my
honour and my affection reduced? What course can I adopt? Am I to noise
it abroad or keep it secret? Ought I, in my anger, to keep the dishonour
of my house to myself or make it public? Come! Must one even think what
to do in so gross an affront? I have no standing, nothing to hope for;
all my anxiety now shall be how to avenge myself.



SCENE IV

SOSIE, NAUCRATES, POLIDAS, AMPHITRYON

SOS. All I have been able to do, Monsieur, with all my diligence, is to
have brought these gentlemen here.

AMPH. Ah! You are here?

SOS. Monsieur.

AMPH. Insolent, bold rascal!

SOS. What?

AMPH. I shall teach you to treat me thus.

SOS. What is it? What is the matter with you?

AMPH. What is the matter with me, villain?

SOS. Hullo, gentlemen, come here quickly.

NAU. Ah! Stay, I beseech you.

SOS. Of what am I guilty?

AMPH. You ask me that, you scoundrel? Let me satisfy my righteous anger.

SOS. When they hang any one, they tell him why they do it.

NAU. At least condescend to tell us what his crime may be.

SOS. I beseech you, gentlemen, keep a tight hold of me.

AMPH. Yes! He has just had the audacity to shut the door in my face, and
to add threats to a thousand impudent jeers! Ah! You villain!

SOS. I am dead.

NAU. Restrain this anger.

SOS. Gentlemen.

POL. What is it?

SOS. Has he struck me?

AMPH. No, he must have his reward for the language he has made free to
use just now.

SOS. How could that be when I was elsewhere busy carrying out your
orders? These gentlemen here can bear witness that I have just invited
them to dine with you.

NAU. That is true: he has just delivered us this message, and would not
quit us.

AMPH. Who gave you that order?

SOS. You.

AMPH. When?

SOS. After you made your peace, when you were rejoicing at the delight
of having appeased Alcmene's anger.

AMPH. O Heaven! Every instant, every step, adds something to my cruel
martyrdom; I am so utterly confused that I no longer know either what to
believe or what to say.

NAU. All he has just told us, of what has happened at your house,
surpasses what is natural so much, that before doing anything and before
flying into such a passion, you ought to clear up the whole of this
adventure.

AMPH. Come; you can second my efforts; Heaven has brought you here most
opportunely. Let me see what fortune brings me today; let me solve this
mystery, and know my fate. Alas! I burn to learn it, and I dread it more
than death.



SCENE V

JUPITER, AMPHITRYON, NAUCRATES, POLIDAS, SOSIE

JUP. What is this noise that compels me to come down? Who knocks as
though he were master where I am master?

AMPH. Good Gods! What do I see?

NAU. Heaven! What prodigy is this? What? Here are two Amphitryons!

AMPH. My soul is struck dumb. Alas! I cannot do anything more: the
adventure is at an end; my fate is clear; what I see tells me all.

NAU. The more narrowly I watch them, the more I find they resemble each
other.

SOS. Gentlemen, this is the true one; the other is an impostor who ought
to be chastised.

POL. Truly, this marvellous resemblance keeps my judgment in suspense.

AMPH. We have been tricked too long by an execrable rogue; I must break
the spell with this steel.

NAU. Stay.

AMPH. Leave me alone.

NAU. Ye Gods! What would you do?

AMPH. Punish the miserable treachery of an impostor.

JUP. Gently, gently! There is very little need of being carried away
by passion; when a man bursts out in such a rage as this, it makes one
think he has bad reasons.

SOS. Yes; it is an enchanter, who has a talisman that enables him to
resemble the masters of houses.

AMPH. For your share in this insulting language, I shall make you feel a
thousand blows.

SOS. My master is a man of courage: he will not allow his followers to
be thrashed.

AMPH. Let me assuage my deep anger, and wash out my affront in the
scoundrel's blood.

NAU. We shall not suffer this strange combat of Amphitryon against
himself.

AMPH. What? Does my honour receive this treatment from you? Do my
friends undertake the defence of a rogue? Far from being the first to
take up my vengeance, they themselves place obstacles in the way of my
resentment?

NAU. What do you wish us to decide, when two Amphitryons are before us
and all the warmth of our friendship is in suspense? If we were now to
show towards you, we fear we might make a mistake, and not recognise
you. Truly we see in you the appearance of Amphitryon, the glorious
support of the Thebans' well-being; but we also see the same appearance
in him, and we cannot judge which he is. Our duty is not doubtful,
the impostor ought to bite the dust at our hands; but this perfect
resemblance hides him between you two; and it is too hazardous a stroke
to undertake in the dark. Let us find out quietly on which side the
imposture may be; then, as soon as we have unravelled the adventure, it
will not be necessary for you to tell us our duty.

JUP. Yes, you are right, this resemblance authorises you to doubt both
of us. I am not offended to see you cannot make up your minds: I am more
reasonable, and excuse you. The eye cannot differentiate between us. I
see one can easily be mistaken. You do not see me give way to anger, nor
draw my sword: that is a bad way to enlighten a mystery; I can find one
more gentle and more certain. One of us is Amphitryon; and both of us
may seem so in your eyes. It is for me to end this confusion. I intend
to make myself so well known to all, that, at the overwhelming proofs I
shall bring forward to show who I am, he himself shall agree concerning
the blood from which I sprang, and he shall no longer have occasion to
say anything. Before all the Thebans I will reveal the truth to you;
the affair is, unquestionably, of sufficient importance to justify my
seeking to clear it up in the sight of all. Alcmene expects this public
testimony from me; her virtue, which is outraged by the noise of this
mischance, demands justification, and I will see justice is done it. My
love for her compels me to it. I shall call together an assembly of the
noblest chiefs, for the explanation her honour requires. While waiting
with you for these desirable witnesses, I pray you to condescend to
honour the table to which Sosie has invited you.

SOS. I was not mistaken, gentlemen, this word puts an end to all
irresolution: the real Amphitryon is the Amphitryon who gives dinners.

AMPH. O Heaven! Can my humiliation go further? Must I indeed suffer the
martyrdom of listening to all that this impostor has just said to my
face, my arms bound, though his words drive me mad?

NAU. You are wrong to complain. Let us await the explanation which shall
render resentment seasonable. I do not know whether he imposes upon us
or not; but he speaks on the matter as though he were right.

AMPH. Go, you weak-kneed friends, and flatter the imposture. Thebes has
other friends who will flock round me, different from you. I will go and
find some who, sharing the insult, will know how to lend their hand in
my just cause.

JUP. Ah well! I await them; I shall know how to decide the discussion in
their presence.

AMPH. You rogue, you think perhaps to evade justice thus; but nothing
shall shield you from my vengeance.

JUP. I shall not now condescend to answer this insulting language; soon
I shall be able to confound your fury with two words.

AMPH. Not Heaven, not Heaven itself can protect you: I shall dog your
footsteps even to Hell.

JUP. It will not be necessary; you will soon see I shall not fly away.

AMPH. Now, before he goes away with these, I will make haste to gather
together friends who will aid my cause; they will come to my house and
help me to pierce him with a thousand thrusts.

JUP. No ceremony, I implore you; let us go quickly into the house.

NAU. Really, this adventure utterly confounds the senses and the reason.

SOS. A truce, gentlemen, to all your surprises; let us joyfully sit down
to feed until the morning. I intend to feast well, so that I may be in
good condition to relate our valiant deeds! I am itching to attack the
dishes; I never felt so hungry.



SCENE VI

MERCURY, SOSIE

MERC. Stop. What have you come to poke your nose in here for, you
impudent turn-spit?

SOS. Ah! Gently, gently, for mercy's sake!

MERC. Ah! You have come back again! I shall tan your hide for you.

SOS. Ah! Brave and generous I, compose yourself, I beseech you. Sosie,
spare Sosie a little, and do not divert yourself by knocking yourself
down.

MERC. Who gave you liberty to call yourself by that name? Did I not
expressly forbid you to do so, under penalty of experiencing a thousand
cuts from the cane?

SOS. It is a name we both may bear at the same time, under the same
master. I am recognised as Sosie everywhere; I permit you to be he,
permit me to be so, too. Let us leave it to the two Amphitryons to give
vent to their jealousies, and, though they contend, let the two Sosies
live in the bonds of peace.

MERC. No, one is quite enough; I am determined not to allow any
division.

SOS. You shall have precedence over me; I will be the younger, and you
shall be the elder.

MERC. No: a brother is a nuisance, and not to my taste; I intend to be
the only son.

SOS. O barbarous and tyrannical heart! Allow me at least to be your
shadow.

MERC. Not at all.

SOS. Let your soul humanise itself with a little pity! Allow me to be
near you in that capacity: I shall be everywhere so submissive a shadow
that you will be pleased with me.

MERC. No quarter; the law is immutable. If you again have the audacity
to go in there, a thousand blows shall be the fruit.

SOS. Alas! Poor Sosie, to what miserable disgrace are you reduced!

MERC. So? Your lips presume again to give yourself a name I forbid!

SOS. No, I did not intend myself; I was speaking of an old Sosie, who
was formerly a relative of mine, and whom, with the utmost barbarity,
they drove out of the house at dinner hour.

MERC. Take care you do not fall into that idiocy if you wish to remain
among the number of the living.

SOS. How I would thwack you if I had the courage, for your wretched
puffed up pride, you double son of a strumpet!

MERC. What do you say?

SOS. Nothing.

MERC. I am sure you muttered something.

SOS. Ask anyone; I do not breathe.

MERC. Nevertheless I am absolutely certain that something about a son of
a strumpet struck my ear.

SOS. It must have been a parrot roused by the beautiful weather.

MERC. Adieu. If your back itches for a currying, here is where I live.

SOS. O Heavens! What a cursed hour is the dinner hour to be turned out
of doors! Come, let us yield to fate in our affliction. Let us today
follow blind caprice, and join the unfortunate Sosie to the unfortunate
Amphitryon: it is a suitable union. I see he is coming in good company.



SCENE VII

AMPHITRYON, ARGATIPHONTIDAS, POSICLES, SOSIE

AMPH. Stay here, gentlemen, follow me a little way off, and do not all
advance, I pray you, until there is need for it.

POS. I quite understand this blow touches you to the heart.

AMPH. Ah! My sorrow is bitter through and through: I suffer in my
affection, as much as in my honour.

POS. If this resemblance is such as is said, Alcmene, without being
guilty...

AMPH. Ah! In this affair, a simple error becomes a veritable crime,
and, though no way consenting, innocence perishes in it. Such errors,
in whatever way we look at them, affect us in the most sensitive parts;
reason often, often pardons them, when honour and love cannot.

ARGAT. I do not bother my thoughts about that; but I hate your gentlemen
for their disgraceful delay; it is a proceeding which wounds me to the
quick, and one which courageous people will never approve. When any
man has need of us, we ought to throw ourselves headforemost into his
concerns. Argatiphontidas is not one for compromising matters. It is
not seemly for men of honour to listen to the arguments of a friend's
adversary; one should only listen to vengeance at such times. The
proceeding does not please me; in quarrels such as these we ought always
to begin sending the sword through the body, without any nonsense. Yes,
whatever happens, you shall see that Argatiphontidas goes straight to
the point. I entreat you not to let the villain die by any other hand
than mine.

AMPH. Come on.

SOS. I come, Monsieur, to undergo at your knees the just punishment of
cursed audacity. Strike, beat, drub, overwhelm me with blows, kill me
in your anger; you will do well, I deserve it; I shall not say a single
word against you.

AMPH. Get up. What is the matter?

SOS. I have been turned away unceremoniously; thinking to eat and
rejoice like them, I did not think that, as it turned out, I was waiting
there to thrash myself. Yes, the other I, valet to the other you, has
played the very devil with me once more. The same cruel fate seems to
pursue us both today, Monsieur. In short, they have un-Sosied me, as
they un-Amphitryon'd you.

AMPH. Follow me.

SOS. Is it not better to see if anybody is coming?



SCENE VIII

CLEANTHIS, NAUCRATES, POLIDAS, SOSIE, AMPHITRYON,

ARGATIPHONTIDAS, POSICLES

CLE. O Heaven!

AMPH. What frightens you like this? Why are you afraid of me?

CLE. Why! You are up there and I see you here!

NAU. Do not hurry; here he comes to give, before us all, the explanation
we want. If we may believe what he has just said about it, it will
banish away your trouble and care.



SCENE IX

MERCURY, CLEANTHIS, NAUCRATES, POLIDAS, SOSIE, AMPHITRYON,
ARGATIPHONTIDAS, POSICLES

MERC. Yes, you shall all see him; know beforehand that it is the
grand master of the Gods, whom, under the cherished features of this
resemblance, Alcmene has caused to descend here from the heavens. As
for me, I am Mercury. Not knowing what else to do, I have given him
a drubbing whose appearance I took. He may now console himself, for
strokes from the wand of a God confer honour on him who has to submit to
them.

SOS. Upon my word, Monsieur God, I am your servant; I could have done
without your attentions.

MERC. I now give you leave to be Sosie. I am tired of wearing such an
ugly mug; I am going to the heavens, to scrape it all off with ambrosia.
(He flies away to the skies.)

SOS. May Heaven forever keep you from the desire of wishing to come near
me again! Your fury against me has been too bitter; never in my life
have I seen a God who was more of a devil than you!



SCENE X

JUPITER, CLEANTHIS, NAUCRATES, POLIDAS, SOSIE, AMPHITRYON,
ARGATIPHONTIDAS, POSICLES

JUP. (In a cloud,) Behold, Amphitryon, who has imposed on you; under his
own aspect you see Jupiter. By these signs you may easily know him; they
are sufficient, I think, to restore your heart where it should be to
bring back peace and happiness to your family. My name, which the whole
earth continually adores, thus stifles all scandal that might be spread
abroad. A share with Jupiter has nothing that in the least dishonours,
for doubtless, it can be but glorious to find one's self the rival of
the sovereign of the Gods. I do not see any reason why your love should
murmur; it is I, God as I am, who ought to be jealous in this affair.
Alcmene is wholly yours, whatever means one may employ; it must be
gratifying to your passion to see that there is no other way of pleasing
her than to appear as her husband. Even Jupiter, clothed in his immortal
glory, could not by himself undermine her fidelity; what he has received
from her was granted by her ardent heart only to you.

SOS. The Seigneur Jupiter knows how to gild the pill.

JUP. Cast aside, therefore, the black care that stifles your heart;
restore perfect peace to the ardour which consumes you. In your house
shall be born a son, who, under the name of Hercules, shall cause the
vast universe to ring with his deeds. A glorious future crowned with
a thousand blessings shall let every one see I am your support; I will
make your fate the envy of the whole world. You may boldly flatter
yourself with what these promises confer. It is a crime to doubt them,
for the words of Jupiter are the decrees of fate. (He is lost in the
clouds.)

NAU. Truly, I am delighted at these evident marks...

SOS. Gentlemen, will you please take my advice? Do not embark in
these sugary congratulations; it is a bad speculation; phrases are
embarrassing on either side, in such a compliment. The great God Jupiter
has done us much honour, and, unquestionably, his kindness towards us
is unparalleled; he promises us the infallible happiness of a fortune
crowned with a thousand blessings, and in our house shall be born a
brave son. Nothing could be better than this. But, nevertheless, let us
cut short our speeches, and each one retire quietly to his own house. In
such affairs as these, it is always best not to say anything.





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