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- The Acharnians - 5/12 -


let us hear the good grounds you can give us; I am curious to know them. Now mind, as you proposed yourself, place your head on the block and speak.

DICAEOPOLIS Here is the block; and, though I am but a very sorry speaker, I wish nevertheless to talk freely of the Lacedaemonians and without the protection of my buckler. Yet I have many reasons for fear. I know our rustics; they are delighted if some braggart comes, and rightly or wrongly, loads both them and their city with praise and flattery; they do not see that such toad-eaters[1] are traitors, who sell them for gain. As for the old men, I know their weakness; they only seek to overwhelm the accused with their votes.[2] Nor have I forgotten how Cleon treated me because of my comedy last year;[3] he dragged me before the Senate and there he uttered endless slanders against me; 'twas a tempest of abuse, a deluge of lies. Through what a slough of mud he dragged me! I almost perished. Permit me, therefore, before I speak, to dress in the manner most likely to draw pity.

f[1] Orators in the pay of the enemy. f[2] Satire on the Athenians' addiction to law-suits. f[3] 'The Babylonians.' Cleon had denounced Aristophanes to the Senate for having scoffed at Athens before strangers, many of whom were present at the performance. The play is now lost.

CHORUS What evasions, subterfuges and delays! Hold! here is the sombre helmet of Pluto with its thick bristling plume; Hieronymus[1] lends it to you; then open Sisyphus'[2] bag of wiles; but hurry, hurry, pray, for discussion does not admit of delay.

f[1] A tragic poet; we know next to nothing of him or his works. f[2] Son of Aeolus, renowned in fable for his robberies, and for the tortures to which he was put by Pluto. He was cunning enough to break loose out of hell, but Hermes brought him back again.

DICAEOPOLIS The time has come for me to manifest my courage, so I will go and seek Euripides. Ho! slave, slave!

SLAVE Who's there?

DICAEOPOLIS Is Euripides at home?

SLAVE He is and he isn't; understand that, if you have wit for't.

DICAEOPOLIS How? He is and he isn't![1]

f[1] This whole scene is directed at Euripides; Aristophanes ridicules the subtleties of his poetry and the trickeries of his staging, which, according to him, he only used to attract the less refined among his audience.

SLAVE Certainly, old man; busy gathering subtle fancies here and there, his mind is not in the house, but he himself is; perched aloft, he is composing a tragedy.

DICAEOPOLIS Oh, Euripides, you are indeed happy to have a slave so quick at repartee! Now, fellow, call your master.

SLAVE Impossible!

DICAEOPOLIS So much the worse. But I will not go. Come, let us knock at the door. Euripides, my little Euripides, my darling Euripides, listen; never had man greater right to your pity. It is Dicaeopolis of the Chollidan Deme who calls you. Do you hear?

EURIPIDES I have no time to waste.

DICAEOPOLIS Very well, have yourself wheeled out here.[1]

f[1] "Wheeled out"--that is, by means of a mechanical contrivance of the Greek stage, by which an interior was shown, the set scene with performers, etc., all complete, being in some way, which cannot be clearly made out from the descriptions, swung out or wheeled out on to the main stage.

EURIPIDES Impossible.

DICAEOPOLIS Nevertheless...

EURIPIDES Well, let them roll me out; as to coming down, I have not the time.

DICAEOPOLIS Euripides....

EURIPIDES What words strike my ear?

DICAEOPOLIS You perch aloft to compose tragedies, when you might just as well do them on the ground. I am not astonished at your introducing cripples on the stage.[1] And why dress in these miserable tragic rags? I do not wonder that your heroes are beggars. But, Euripides, on my knees I beseech you, give me the tatters of some old piece; for I have to treat the Chorus to a long speech, and if I do it ill it is all over with me.

f[1] Having been lamed, it is of course implied, by tumbling from the lofty apparatus on which the Author sat perched to write his tragedies.

EURIPIDES What rags do you prefer? Those in which I rigged out Aeneus[1] on the stage, that unhappy, miserable old man?

f[1] Euripides delighted, or was supposed by his critic Aristophanes to delight, in the representation of misery and wretchedness on the stage. 'Aeneus,' 'Phoenix,' 'Philoctetes,' 'Bellerophon,' 'Telephus,' Ino' are titles of six tragedies of his in this genre of which fragments are extant.

DICAEOPOLIS No, I want those of some hero still more unfortunate.

EURIPIDES Of Phoenix, the blind man?

DICAEOPOLIS No, not of Phoenix, you have another hero more unfortunate than him.

EURIPIDES Now, what tatters DOES he want? Do you mean those of the beggar Philoctetes?

DICAEOPOLIS No, of another far more the mendicant.

EURIPIDES Is it the filthy dress of the lame fellow, Bellerophon?

DICAEOPOLIS No, 'tis not Bellerophon; he, whom I mean, was not only lame and a beggar, but boastful and a fine speaker.

EURIPIDES Ah! I know, it is Telephus, the Mysian.

DICAEOPOLIS Yes, Telephus. Give me his rags, I beg of you.

EURIPIDES Slave! give him Telephus' tatters; they are on top of the rags of Thyestes and mixed with those of Ino.

SLAVE Catch hold! here they are.

DICAEOPOLIS Oh! Zeus, whose eye pierces everywhere and embraces all, permit me to assume the most wretched dress on earth. Euripides, cap your kindness by giving me the little Mysian hat, that goes so well with these tatters. I must to-day have the look of a beggar; "be what I am, but not appear to be";[1] the audience will know well who I am, but the Chorus will be fools enough not to, and I shall dupe 'em with my subtle phrases.

f[1] Line borrowed from Euripides. A great number of verses are similarly parodied in this scene.

EURIPIDES I will give you the hat; I love the clever tricks of an ingenious brain like yours.

DICAEOPOLIS Rest happy, and may it befall Telephus as I wish. Ah! I already feel myself filled with quibbles. But I must have a beggar's staff.

EURIPIDES Here you are, and now get you gone from this porch.

DICAEOPOLIS Oh, my soul! You see how you are driven from this house, when I still need so many accessories. But let us be pressing, obstinate, importunate. Euripides, give me a little basket with a lamp alight inside.

EURIPIDES Whatever do you want such a thing as that for?

DICAEOPOLIS I do not need it, but I want it all the same.

EURIPIDES You importune me; get you gone!

DICAEOPOLIS Alas! may the gods grant you a destiny as brilliant as your mother's.[1]


The Acharnians - 5/12

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