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Easy Virtue: a Reconstruction of Plautus' Cistellaria


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1994 performance translation of Plautus' comedy *Cistellaria*

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Easy Virtue: a Reconstruction of Plautus' Cistellaria

  1. 1. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 by Sallie Goetsch (with some help from the cast) Stage direction by Kate Mendeloff © Sallie Goetsch 1994 Page 1
  2. 2. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Text in angle brackets <> has been reconstructed or added. Numbers indicate the lines in the Latin text. Numbers in parentheses indicate lines in my reconstruction. Overture by DIVINE ASSISTANCE GYMNASIUM and SELENIUM enter, laughing, from ALCESIMARCHUS’ house. They cross downstage center and seat themselves on the bench. SELENIUM Oh, Gymnasium, I always knew you were my friend, and your mother too, Even before today, but now—my own sister Wouldn’t have done more for me, if I had one. That’s how good you are to me. I can’t think of anyone else who’d have done this for me. No, really: 5 You dropped everything and came over here to help me, And I really appreciate it. I can’t thank you enough. GYMNASIUM Oh, Selenium! Don’t make such a big thing of it! Coming here wasn’t a chore, Your parties are never a bore, 10 There’s nowhere I’d rather be more. —And besides, the food’s good. SELENIUM By Pollux, I’d be happy enough To get you anything you wanted, or at least try. PHILAENIS bursts through the door of ALCESIMARCHUS’ house and falls half- over the bench, between the two young women. PHILAENIS My girl, that’s windy hospitality! Burps in SELENIUM’s face. SELENIUM How’s that? PHILAENIS It blows me away! There’s only one thing about your whole party 15 That I’d complain about, and that’s the service. SELENIUM Oh dear! What was wrong with that? Page 2
  3. 3. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 PHILAENIS You didn’t pass the wine often enough! GYMNASIUM Mother! Is that proper at this hour of the morning? PHILAENIS Why not? Nobody here but us chickens. 20 SELENIUM Oh, I do love you for a reason: You both take such good care of me, and do so much for me. PHILAENIS Ha! It’s only right, Selenium: If women like us aren’t friends to each other, Then who’ll be our friends? Wraps her arm around SELENIUM and promenades her along the front of the stage. You see those women out there with their old money and their famous husbands? Look how important it is for them to have friends and get along with each other. 25 If we do the same, and imitate them, we can still hardly survive all their put-downs. They want us to be dependent on them! Don’t want us to have anything our own, They want us to get everything from them, So we can be beggars, and they can grant favors. 30 And if you get close to them, you’ll really wish you hadn’t: They say such Nice things about poor strayed women in public, but in private— If they ever have the chance, they stab us in the back! They think we’re sleeping with their husbands, That we’re all the Other Woman—they hate our guts! 35 We used to be slaves, your mother and I, so when we were free, We took up the oldest profession—not much else we could do—and had our children— That’s you and Gymnasium—by men who just happened along. It’s not from selfishness I had my daughter follow in my footsteps, but to keep us from starving. SELENIUM Shouldn’t you let a man take care of her instead? 40 PHILAENIS Ha! I let a man take care of her every day, by Castor! One man today, And another one tonight! I make sure she never goes to bed alone. If men didn’t take care of her, we’d both die of starvation! Page 3
  4. 4. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 GYMNASIUM And of course I must do as you wish, mother. PHILAENIS It warms my heart to know what a dutiful daughter you are. 45 If you keep that attitude up, and do what I want, you’ll never be a sour old maid: You’ll hold onto your youth and stay attractive forever— To the ruin of many and our own profit, even though I’m past such work myself. GYMNASIUM May the gods grant it! PHILAENIS They can’t do much without your help. GYMNASIUM Well, I’ll help them willingly enough. But Selenium, honey, you’re so quiet. 50 And I’ve never seen you look sadder. Usually you’re so cheerful—what’s happened? And you’re not nearly as elegant as you usually are, either—Will you Look at that pathetic sigh?—And you’re pale. Come on, tell us What’s the matter and how we can help you. 55 Oh, no, don’t cry like that! You’re upsetting me. SELENIUM Oh, Gymnasium, I’m so unhappy! I’m not at all well, I’m terribly upset. I weep from my mind, I weep from my eyes, I weep from sorrow. What can I say, except that my own stupidity got me into this? GYMNASIUM Then take your stupidity and put it back where it came from. 60 SELENIUM How do I do that? GYMNASIUM Stuff it all back inside out of sight. Then nobody else will know how stupid you’ve been. SELENIUM But my heart is breaking! GYMNASIUM Your heart is breaking? What heart? Page 4
  5. 5. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Where did you get a heart? You know perfectly well That all women are heartless PHILAENIS —according to men. 65 SELENIUM If there’s a heart in there to break, it’s breaking—and if there isn’t, well, it still hurts. PHILAENIS The woman’s in love. SELENIUM Can it hurt so much to be in love? GYMNASIUM Sure. Love is like that: it leads you on by making you happy, PHILAENIS And then it gives you misery in spades. SELENIUM It sure does! 70 GYMNASIUM Love is fickle. SELENIUM And it’s playing with me now. GYMNASIUM Cheer up, hon: there’s a cure for your lovesickness. SELENIUM Only if the right doctor comes. GYMNASIUM Oh, he’ll come. SELENIUM That’s easy for you to say. But it doesn’t do me much good 75 For you to say my prince will come, unless he does come. And it’s all my own fault, because I was stupid enough Page 5
  6. 6. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 To want to have just one man and spend my life with him. PHILAENIS That’s for respectable women, Selenium, All that business of getting married and living happily ever after. A working girl’s like a city: 80 She can’t hold onto her wealth without a lot of men. SELENIUM Oh, do let me talk! This is what I asked you to come here for. I didn’t want anyone to call me a whore, and I didn’t want to be one. My mother, when I asked her, gave me my way because I’d always given her hers, And said I could live with whatever man I truly loved. PHILAENIS What a stupid thing to do! Do you mean to tell me you’re a (whispers) virgin? 85 SELENIUM Except for Alcesimarchus, No man has even made an attempt on my virtue. PHILAENIS If you’re as virtuous as all that, how did you even meet this man? SELENIUM It was at the Dionysia. My mother took me to see the parade. When we were going home, he saw me and followed me secretly right to my door. And he won my mother and me both over by 90 The things that he said, and what he’s done for us, and the gifts he’s brought. Shows GYMNASIUM her jewelry. GYMNASIUM Wish I had a man like that! She sighs wistfully, and PHILAENIS smacks her bottom. What a profit I could make! SELENIUM You know how it goes: We got to know each other, And we fell in love. PHILAENIS Oh, Selenium: Love is something you’re supposed to fake. If you fall in love for real, 95 Page 6
  7. 7. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Pretty soon you start putting his needs above your own. SELENIUM But right from the beginning, in front of my mother, even, He swore he’d marry me! And now he’s going to marry someone else: The girl next door, who’s also some relative of his from Lemnos. His father’s making him do it! And now my mother is angry at me, 100 Because I didn’t come right home to her when I found out That he’s engaged to someone else. PHILAENIS You’re in love all right: Don’t know an insult when it hits you in the face. SELENIUM Please, could you let Gymnasium stay here for a few days And look after the house for me? My mother insists I go back to her. PHILAENIS A few days without her income! You’ll send me to the poorhouse! 105 But I’ll let her stay. SELENIUM It’s very kind of you. And you, Gymnasium, If Alcesimarchus comes back when I’m gone, don’t Yell at him or anything. I know he deserves it, but I love him anyway. Just be nice and don’t say anything to upset him. Here are the keys; if you need anything, just let me know. 110 But now I must leave you. GYMNASIUM Now you’re making me cry! SELENIUM Oh, Gymnasium, farewell! They embrace as if they will never see each other again. GYMNASIUM And you take care of yourself. Steps back to look at SELENIUM. Are you really going out in public like that? SELENIUM Let the whole world know how miserable I am. Page 7
  8. 8. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 GYMNASIUM But your makeup’s run all over your face. SELENIUM Let it run if I must. GYMNASIUM Well, if it makes you happy... SELENIUM If only I could be! 115 Exit SELENIUM to MELAENIS’ house. GYMNASIUM looks after her. GYMNASIUM She’s really got it bad, doesn’t she? Turns back to PHILAENIS. Is there anything you need from me before I go in, Mom? PHILAENIS Let this be a lesson to you: Never fall in love. Go on inside. GYMNASIUM But do you want anything? PHILAENIS Just for you to take care of yourself. GYMNASIUM ’Bye, then. She kisses PHILAENIS dutifully. Exit GYMNASIUM to ALCESIMARCHUS’ house. PHILAENIS crosses down and sits on the edge of the stage. PHILAENIS Like all women in my line of work, I have one real vice: 120 We talk a lot anyway, and when we’re tanked, we talk too much. That girl who just went away from here crying?— I picked her up in an alley once, when she was just a baby. There’s a certain young man here in Sicyon, highborn as they come— 125 Oh, dear, no, I’m not going to be able to shut up, My tongue’s flowing more freely than the wine, And I had lots of wine, and lots to eat, Page 8
  9. 9. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 So now I have lots to talk about— Anyway, the boy’s blue-blooded nobility, and his father’s still alive— 130 More’s the pity, ’cause the boy’s dying of love for that young woman, The one who just left here crying. And she’s just as much in love with him. (It’s disgusting.) I gave that girl as a present to a friend of mine who’s a lady of the evening; She’d often said to me That if I found a newborn boy or girl and brought it back to her, 135 She’d bring it up as her own. She’d been saying her lover was away on vacation, 143 And he’d pay child support for that baby. 144 I did what she’d asked of me 137 As soon as I got the chance. I gave her the baby and then, afterwards, She gave birth to that baby I’d given her— 140 With no midwife and none of those labor pains Like I had with Gymnasium. That’s the way it was done. Only the two of us know about it —and you all, of course. I want you to remember that 145 In case you need it. I’m goin’ home. Exit PHILAENIS to the city. DIVINE ASSISTANCE rises from behind the piano and crosses to in front of the bench with his saxophone. DIVINE ASSISTANCE That old woman talks as much as she drinks! <Look how late in the play it is, and> She’s hardly left anything for the divine prologue to say, 150 She rushed through that story of the substitute baby so quickly. But I’d have told you even if she hadn’t, and more plainly: I’m a god, so I can speak clearly—and you could hardly follow her Without Divine Assistance—that’s me. Now pay attention, 155 And I’ll give you the straight Inhales from an imaginary joint dope. A long time ago there was a festival of Dionysus in Sicyon. Begin Dumb-Show1 A Lemnian merchant came here for the party— A very young man, and he got very drunk very late at night.... And raped a girl in the street, by force. <Don’t blame me. This happens all the time in comedy, and it all works out in the end. Just pretend it’s a soap opera so we can get on with it.> When he realized how much trouble he deserved to get in, 160 1The cast acted out the scene that DIVINE ASSISTANCE described, starting here and ending at the ** mark. Page 9
  10. 10. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 He took to his heels and fled back to Lemnos, Where he lived. Nine months later to the day, The girl he’d raped gave birth to a daughter. Since she didn’t know who’d done this to her, So she took one of her father’s slaves into confidence, 165 And gave him the baby to abandon somewhere to die. He abandoned her all right, but he was smart, see? He watched in secret to see if anyone picked the kid up. And sure enough, the old bag found the kid, 170 And gave it to the...professional mistress... Melaenis, Who brought her up as if she’d been her own daughter: Well, and modestly. Meanwhile, that rapist Married a neighbor of his who was also a relative— <And well, you know, inbreeding.....> After a while she died, doing her husband a great favor. 175 <But she left him with an ugly daughter.> When he’d observed proper mourning He came here, and got married again, This time to the same mama he’d raped before. When he realized who she was, She told him that as a result of his assault 180 She’d given birth to a daughter and given the child To a slave to expose. Right away her husband Ordered the same slave to mount a search To see whether he could find out who’d picked the kid up. Now the slave’s busting his butt to see if he can find 185 The prostitute he’d seen from hiding once, When he exposed the baby and she retrieved it. Now I’ll tell you the last thing you need to know, So you won’t be able to say I owe you anything. Here in Sicyon there’s a young man who’s father’s still alive 190 And he’s passionately in love with the adopted girl— That’s right, the one who just went home to her mother crying. But nothing lasts forever for mere mortals: The young man’s father wants him to get married <to the ugly daughter>. 195 When the girl’s mother heard this, she ordered her daughter to come home. And that’s the way it happened. Goodbye now, And may you be victorious and virtuous as you have in the past, Protect your allies, old and new, Increase your resources by your just laws, 200 Destroy your foes, pile on glory— Trash the Spartans—2** Plays a few bars of “Hail to the Victors” on his saxophone— And all that jazz. DIVINE ASSISTANCE returns to the piano. 2 Plautus has ―defeat the Carthaginians,‖ but this was more appropriate to a U-M audience. Page 10
  11. 11. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Enter ALCESIMARCHUS from the country, leading the SLAVE at the end of a very long rope and playing a harmonica. ALCESIMARCHUS I think love must have been the first form of torture invented by mankind. 203 Sings in a Dylanesque bluesy wheeze. It hounds me, it drives me, 216 It wheedles and bribes me, Doesn’t give what it gives: it deludes me. One moment invites me, the next it opposes; One moment prohibits, the next it invites. 220 With the sea’s changing temper it tries me, And smashes my poor loving heart. My father detained me at his country villa 225 Six days on end in the boonies! In all of that time I could not see my girlfriend– Isn’t it dreadful to tell? <I’m wasted and worn, I’m lost and forlorn, I’m starving, I’m thirsting for love! No huggin’ and kissin’ The lovin’ I’m missin’ ! Not a word, not a sight of my love, my delight, (5) Of my glory, my treasure, my darling, my mistress, My own Selenium! But Love doesn’t care if I’m here or I’m there, I’ll burn with desire on my funeral pyre, I’ll tremble with love in my grave! (10) What else could inspire me to flee from my father, Who’s always been generous, given me everything— Only now he wants it all back. He wants me to marry, he haunts and he harries, He threatens and bribes and persuades. (15) But nothing could make me go to the altar— Oh Jupiter take me!—with Demipho’s daughter! So you see, we just had to get away. SLAVE I hear that you’re about the unhappiest master a man could have, master. ALCESIMARCHUS What do you mean, ―just about?‖ I’m the most miserable man (20) Ever to live in Sicyon! In the world, even! SLAVE You’re going to be even unhappier when your father finds out That you’ve gone home to the girl he told you to give up. Page 11
  12. 12. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS The tyrant! The villain! Doesn’t he know anything about love? SLAVE He knows which side the bread is buttered on. (25) ALCESIMARCHUS A dowry! Ha! As if true love cared anything about a dowry! SLAVE Well, he’s got to have something to make up for what you’ve spent Buying presents for Selenium. ALCESIMARCHUS Presents for Selenium are offerings in the temple of Venus! SLAVE Well, I don’t think your father is very religious. (30) ALCESIMARCHUS Sure he is—but the old man saves his prayers for the god of money. SLAVE The god of money never smiles on young men in love. ALCESIMARCHUS Don’t I know it! I wish he’d smiled on Selenium’s parents So she would have a dowry! SLAVE For all we know, her father’s a rich senator— (35) But that doesn’t mean anything when her mother’s a freedwoman And used to be a prostitute. Give up, Alcesimarchus: Your father won’t let you marry Selenium in a million years. ALCESIMARCHUS Give up! Give up! Is that any way to talk? You’re my slave: you’re supposed to be able to help me. (40) SLAVE Sorry, master: I’m not one of those Palaestrios or Pseudoluses Who can think of a clever plan to get their masters out of anything, No matter how awful. I’m a very boring slave, really: no schemes, Page 12
  13. 13. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 No plots, no ideas—no help. ALCESIMARCHUS I should trade you in on a new model. (45) SLAVE You can’t: I’m really your father’s property, Like everything else you own—including the house Where you’ve been living with that girl. I wish you’d never laid eyes on her. ALCESIMARCHUS How can you say that? She’s the loveliest, most faithful— (50) SLAVE Please. I’ve heard it before. ALCESIMARCHUS Most delightful girlfriend any man could ever want. And she’s also the only wife I want. I mean, have you seen Demipho’s daughter? ALCESIMARCHUS and the SLAVE make faces at each other. He brought her here from Lemnos, they say, (55) When by all the gods he should have left her at home— Or buried her with her mother. She looks just like her father—and that isn’t a compliment. He probably wants to marry her off Just so he won’t have to look at her! (60) That’s why he’s bribing my father with such a big dowry. Nobody could marry her—unless maybe he was blind. Pulls SLAVE’s baseball cap down over his eyes. SLAVE Pulls his hat off and reverses it. Unless his name was Alcesimarchus. Come on— She’s your cousin or something, isn’t she? Even if you don’t want to marry her, you shouldn’t insult her. (65) ALCESIMARCHUS That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have to marry her. SLAVE I’d marry her in a minute: Page 13
  14. 14. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Your father would have to free me before the wedding. ALCESIMARCHUS I don’t think even that would be worth it. SLAVE Yes, but you’re a rich young man, Fondles the moneybag; ALCESIMARCHUS slaps his hand— and I’m a poor young slave. (70) I can’t afford to be as picky as you are. Besides, Selenium isn’t in love with me. ALCESIMARCHUS Selenium! Circles bench and goes to his door, grasping the frame on either side of the James Dean poster. Oh, Venus forgive me! Bangs head on door. What does she think of me? Bangs head on door. I told her I’d be back the same day I left. Bangs head on door. She’s been here all alone all this time— (75) Grabs SLAVE from behind and begins fondling him. What if she thinks I don’t love her? SLAVE I’m sure you’ll find a way to convince her otherwise. Pushes ALCESIMARCHUS away. ALCESIMARCHUS circles to the far end of the bench and kneels. ALCESIMARCHUS All of my agony— Bangs head on bench. All of my suffering— Page 14
  15. 15. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Bangs head on bench. Can’t begin to be enough To punish me for abandoning her like that. Jumps up. I should have come back—I should have found some way (80) To send a message, at least—disguised you or something— Pulls SLAVE’s hat over his face. Or taken a sword and fought my way out of my father’s house, Swings sword; SLAVE ducks Or dug a tunnel out of my room, Pretends to dig with his sword. Or bribed the slave who was watching over me— Throws moneybag at SLAVE. But no, I just waited until my father gave up (85) And went out on his own. Flings himself back onto the end of the bench and shoves his head into the SLAVE’s crotch. What kind of lover am I, anyway? SLAVE Pushes ALCESIMARCHUS off bench I’m sure I wouldn’t know, master. ALCESIMARCHUS Oh, I’m a coward, I’m an idiot—How, how am I ever going to make it up to her?> SLAVE I’ll tell you: Give her a sacrifice: hang yourself so she won’t be angry at you. 250 SLAVE pulls the noose from around his waist, stands on the bench, and puts the noose over ALCESIMARCHUS’ head. ALCESIMARCHUS pauses. ALCESIMARCHUS <But what good will it do me if she only forgives me After I’m dead? Puts noose over SLAVE’s head. Page 15
  16. 16. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Don’t you have a better plan? SLAVE Go in and apologize, obviously. (5) ALCESIMARCHUS That’s it then: I’ll go in right away and apologize obviously. Selenium! Selenium darling! DIVINE ASSISTANCE begins to play the theme from “Chariots of Fire” and ALCESIMARCHUS runs towards his door in slow motion. The SLAVE sits endwise on the bench and plays solitaire. GYMNASIUM Opens door. What’s all this racket? Oh, it must be Alcesimarchus coming home. ALCESIMARCHUS Embraces GYMNASIUM and swings her into a waltz. Selenium, darling, honey, lovey—Wait a minute! Who are you, And what have you done with Selenium? GYMMASIUM It’s not what I’ve done, boy, it’s what you’ve done that’s the problem. (15) You ought to be ashamed of yourself, making promises to her and then Running off like that. ALCESIMARCHUS But I am ashamed. I’m terribly ashamed. I even thought of killing myself. I was just coming to make it up to her. GYMNASIUM And how are you going to manage that one? Bigamy? (20) I can’t see Demipho’s daughter agreeing to your having a second wife. ALCESIMARCHUS Will you please just let me tell my side of the story?> Six days ago <my father insisted I come see him in the country. Frag. i I knew what it was about: he wants me to marry the girl next door. SLAVE The old man’s no fool: he wanted to remind his son where the money comes from.(25) Page 16
  17. 17. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 GYMNASIUM I know that part. What I don’t see is how it lets you off. ALCESIMARCHUS Well, I don’t want to marry her! I want to marry Selenium. GYMNASIUM And did you tell your father this? ALCESIMARCHUS Well, I told him about Selenium, and that I’d promised to marry her, But he got into such a rage that I couldn’t reason with him at all. (30) I barely managed to escape his house and get back here: He wanted to keep me prisoner, away from her! GYMNASIUM I still don’t see how this helps. You can’t marry Selenium Without your father’s permission. And he’ll never give you permission. I’m not a fool, Alcesimarchus: I know what you rich respectable folks Think about marrying the daughters of freedwomen. Melaenis hasn’t got anything to give Selenium as a dowry— (40) Not even legitimate birth! And she’s not going to let her daughter Play second fiddle to some rich bitch. ALCESIMARCHUS Is that why Selenium isn’t here? GYMNASIUM Yes. While you went home to your father, she went home to her mother. ALCESIMARCHUS Oh, woe is me, the light is gone from my life! (45) GYMNASIUM Melaenis insisted. So Selenium went home, and she asked me to Look after your house ’til you got home. Now that you’re back, I can get back to work. ALCESIMARCHUS But what about me? GYMNASIUM What about you? Page 17
  18. 18. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS What should I do? GYMNASIUM Do? Marry your rich neighbor over there and make your father happy.> (50) ALCESIMARCHUS But what if I’m in love? 273 GYMNASIUM Love is faithless. 273 <And lovers are fools. You> and that girl I know you’re in love with Should be shut up in a prison of love, night and day, 275 <So you don’t bother the rest of us, and not be let out> Until you’re dead. I’ve never <been in love. ALCESIMARCHUS But that’s terrible.> GYMNASIUM Kneels across the bench from the SLAVE and begins to play cards with him. On the contrary, it’s the best <thing that could have happened to me.> Those who love foolishly, immodestly, and improperly— 280 <like you and Selenium> shouldn’t love at all. ALCESIMARCHUS Leans forward over SLAVE to address GYMNASIUM. <Maybe not, but I’m going to have her anyway.> The old woman <can’t stop me.> (to Slave) Where are you? SLAVE Pushes ALCESIMARCHUS off him. Right here. ALCESIMARCHUS Runs to the edge of the stage. During the following interlude he begins an increasingly wild pantomime of combat. GYMNASIUM and the SLAVE continue to play cards, though they watch him. Go get my weapons. SLAVE Weapons? Page 18
  19. 19. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS And my armor. Bring that, too. SLAVE Bring you your armor? <Why on earth do you want me> to bring <that?> 285 ALCESIMARCHUS And hurry up and get me a horse. SLAVE Oh, Hercules! He’s gone stark raving mad! ALCESIMARCHUS Bring on the spearmen! Bring on the skirmishers! Lots of them—hordes of them! I won’t hold back from danger! SLAVE Absolutely crazy. GYMNASIUM He’s likely to kill himself if he keeps on like this. 290 SLAVE Are you feverish, or walking in your sleep, That you order me to bring you a horse, bring you armor, Bring on the spearmen and after that the skirmishers, Lots and lots of them? Because that’s the kind of crazy talk You’ve been throwing at me. ALCESIMARCHUS Collapses flat on his back at the DL edge of stage near steps. Did I really say that? 295 SLAVE By Hercules you did. ALCESIMARCHUS I wasn’t there to hear it. SLAVE Oh, it’s a magician you are now, to be here and not be here at the same time. Page 19
  20. 20. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 GYMNASIUM Gets up and crosses to ALCESIMARCHUS. I see you’ve been poisoned by Love, young man—and how! It makes me want to warn you all the more. ALCESIMARCHUS Sits up. Warn away. GYMNASIUM Have a care never to undertake war with Love. 300 ALCESIMARCHUS Well, then, what should I do? GYMNASIUM Go to her mother’s house And clear yourself. Swear convincingly and plead with her And persuade her not to be angry with you. ALCESIMARCHUS Jumps up and strides across the front aisle and up the DR steps toward MELAENIS’ door. That’s it then! I’ll go right in and apologize and clear myself! 304 <GYMNASIUM Yelps and flings herself in front of him before he can open the door. Not unless you can prove that you’re really going to marry Selenium. ALCESIMARCHUS But I am going to marry her. I don’t want anyone else. GYMNASIUM What about your father? Even if Melaenis forgives you, You can’t marry Selenium without your father’s consent. ALCESIMARCHUS I’ll just have to persuade my father to let me do what I want. (5) He’ll have to listen to reason. SLAVE Reason, he calls it. Wanting to marry a girl with no money. Page 20
  21. 21. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS Crosses to stand behind SLAVE and dangles moneybag over his head. There are advantages to marrying a poor girl: she can’t Hold her dowry over you to make you do what she wants. Sits down across from SLAVE and addresses him. While I’m persuading Melaenis, you go and find Father. (10) Try the forum: he said he’d be coming into town today. Then after I’ve got his consent, I can take Selenium back home. They trade high-fives. ALCESIMARCHUS gets up and puts his arm around GYMNASIUM. Would you mind watching the house a little longer, while we’re gone? GYMNASIUM Oh, I suppose not. But hurry back—or make it worth my while. (15) ALCESIMARCHUS reaches into his moneybag and pays GYMNASIUM, who exits into his house. The SLAVE exits to the forum. ALCESIMARCHUS crosses purposefully DR and shouts in the direction of MELAENIS’ house. ALCESIMARCHUS Selenium! Selenium darling! Are you in there? The “Chariots of Fire” music begins again. SELENIUM Alcesimarchus! SELENIUM runs out of the house in slow motion, which ALCESIMARCHUS mirrors. They embrace. Darling, honey, light of my life, my heart, my soul—you’re back! Oh, I missed you so much! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! ALCESIMARCHUS Not as much as I missed you, my sweet, my flower, my dove, my love! I’m sorry I was gone so long, but I couldn’t get away any sooner. (20) SELENIUM turns away from him and he follows on his knees. Please don’t be angry at me! I wanted to come back, I really did. SELENIUM Oh, Alcesimarchus! I was so afraid you’d forgotten about me, That you didn’t love me anymore. Page 21
  22. 22. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS Raises one leg so she can sit on it; she does. Impossible! Who could forget such a lovely face, such a kind heart, Sticks his face in her chest; she slaps him. Such hugs and kisses and.... Whispers in her ear. you know... (25) They growl at each other and make pawing noises. My father—that tyrant—kept me at his house in the country, Trying to persuade me to give you up and marry Demipho’s daughter. SELENIUM gets off his lap and stalks away UL. ALCESIMARCHUS hurries after her, indicating DEMIPHO’s door when he talks about the Ugly Daughter. I bet he’s never even seen the girl—just heard about her dowry! As if I could even look at any woman but you! Please, I’m like a man dying of starvation! Just one kiss? (30) Tries to kiss her. SELENIUM resists. SELENIUM aren’t going to marry Demipho’s daughter after all? ALCESIMARCHUS I’m not going to marry anyone but you. I told you that. Don’t you trust me? SELENIUM looks indulgent and takes his hand. They begin walking around to ALCESIMARCHUS’ door. How could you go away And leave an empty house to welcome me? SELENIUM But I didn’t leave an empty house— I left Gymnasium. (35) Opens the door and reveals GYMNASIUM, who waves. ALCESIMARCHUS AAHH!! Oh, her. But any house is empty Without you in it. Please come home to me. Page 22
  23. 23. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 SELENIUM Oh, my heart, my joy, I wish I could. But my mother insisted And I had to come home. ALCESIMARCHUS Well, then, I’ll just have to talk to her and persuade her (40) Reels SELENIUM out and in as if dancing with her. To let you come back to me. It shouldn’t be too hard: I’ve charmed her before. SELENIUM Breaks away from ALCESIMARCHUS. Oh, but she doesn’t trust you anymore! You’d probably have to get your father to come talk to her. ALCESIMARCHUS Sits down on bench. Fat chance of that. I couldn’t persuade him in six days— (45) But at least he couldn’t persuade me, either. SELENIUM But you can’t marry me without his permission. ALCESIMARCHUS Well, then, if I can’t marry you, I won’t marry anyone! Besides, if he’d only just agree to meet you, he’d understand Why I could never love anyone else. Leans back on bench and pulls Selenium down on top of him. You’re as modest a girl as any father could want for his son’s wife. (50) SELENIUM Pushes herself up off his chest. But I haven’t got a dowry. ALCESIMARCHUS Looks desperately toward the audience. Details, details! Who needs a dowry? My father’s rich enough already. Tries to pull SELENIUM back to him; she grabs the sword at his waistline. Uh, right. Let’s go talk to your mother. Page 23
  24. 24. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS and SELENIUM exit into MELAENIS’ house. The SENEX enters from the country leaning on a glass-topped cane and occasionally puffing at a cigar. SENEX The more I think about the way Alcesimarchus has been behaving, (55) And the lifestyle he’s gotten himself set into, The more worried I am that he’ll be irretrievably corrupted. I know, I was that age once and did all those things—in moderation, now. True, I don’t like the way most parents treat their sons; I’ve taught myself to give to my son, so he can take indulgence for granted. (60) Now I think that’s fair, but I don’t want to give him over entirely to idleness and games. Take this girl, this Selenium, that he’s living with. It was fine for a while—could have been worse, I guess— but now!> She stands in the way of vast wealth, of a great, fat dowry. Frag. iii/ 305 <So she gotta go. Alcesimarchus won’t listen to reason, (65) But maybe I can persuade the girl to go away of her own accord. How’s a girl like that going to stand up to a rich handsome man like me? If all else fails, I can offer to buy her off— That dowry from Demipho will make up for what I’d lose. By the time he gets back, she’ll be gone, and it will be too late. (70) Now, which one of these is Alcesimarchus’ house? I’ve left him on his own here, never even visited, but that’s all over. Notices James Dean poster. Yep, that’s the one. Notices DEMIPHO’s house and crosses to stand in front of the door. What’s this? Demipho? He can’t go on keeping his girlfriend next door to Demipho— A wife, now, that’s okay, but the girlfriend— got to go. Enter GYMNASIUM from ALCESIMARCHUS’ house. She tiptoes across to MELAENIS’ house and listens at the door for a moment. GYMNASIUM Well, I can’t hear any sounds of fighting, at least. (75) Maybe Melaenis is actually listening to him. SENEX Oh Venus and Cupid!> Now that’s a fine lookin’ woman! 306 I may be an old gelding, but if you got us alone together I bet I could give that little tender a run for her money! GYMNASIUM Pouts and rearranges her gloves. Page 24
  25. 25. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Alcesimarchus didn’t get home a minute too soon: Nobody hates to be alone more than I do. SENEX Call on me And you won’t be alone, baby. I’ll find you something to do. GYMNASIUM Admiring the James Dean poster. Alcesimarchus sure has kept this place up nicely. SENEX When Venus enters, it’s delightful; love is always charming. GYMNASIUM The house breathes of pure love, because a lover has made it fine. Kisses the poster. SENEX She talks just as pretty as she looks. But if I understand her correctly, by Hercules, this must be The woman who’s corrupting my son. Yes, I think it’s her, Though I’ve never seen her; I’m just drawing the natural conclusion. This is the house my son has rented, right where she’s standing. It must be her: she mentioned him by name. What if I went up and said ―Hi‖? Straightens out his suit cuffs, etc. Good morning, you incitement to ruin, you. GYMNASIUM <Old man, if you talk to me like that,> you’ll get a beating. SENEX <How else can you expect me to talk after all I’ve suffered> at your hands? Begins prodding at her legs with his cane. GYMNASIUM What on earth are you talking about? Suffer at my hands? I’ve never seen you before in my life, old man. I was just standing here minding my own business When you came up and insulted me. So much for sweet charity and the rewards of helping a friend! Page 25
  26. 26. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 There’s no reason I should stand around and let strangers Come up and insult me.> I’ll go inside: A high-class girl standing alone in the streets might be taken for a common whore. <That’s the only explanation I can see for the way you’re speaking to me. SENEX Bars her way with his cane. Wait a minute: I want to talk to you. GYMNASIUM Talk? To an incitement to ruin like me? What for? Advances on him seductively. Or are you looking to be incited to a little ruin yourself? SENEX By Pollux, you got to be the most unscrupulous woman I ever met! I was right about you all along: you’re nothing but a trouble-bringer. GYMNASIUM> Bring on the trouble: it’s profit for me. <How would I make a living If it weren’t for making trouble? They say Helen of Troy Was a beautiful evil: can I do less? SENEX Crosses to bench and sits. Oh, Alcesimarchus! Alcesimarchus! My son is ruined! It’s probably already too late to save him. GYMNASIUM By god, he must be Alcesimarchus’ father! And he seems to think I’m Selenium! Crosses to bench and sits next to SENEX and begins to paw him again. But sir, if you’re so outraged at the thought of Making love to me, then why did you speak to me at all? Won’t you enlighten me and tell me> what you want? SENEX Brushes her hands away. Get yer hands off of me! Jumps up and stands. Page 26
  27. 27. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 I want to know what it is that my son did, What wrong I or anyone of my family ever did you, That you’ve sent me and my son and his mother To ruin and plundered us? Tell me that. GYMNASIUM He’s mistaken about my identity, as I said. What a delightful situation! This is my chance to have some real fun. Adopts a tone of exaggerated outrage. But sir! How can you unjustly <attribute> such a wretched deed to an innocent woman? Starts to cry. SENEX Hey now, stop that boo-hooin’. But...don’t you have any other lover, then? GYMNASIUM There is no one else whom I love, no one at all, only your son. SENEX But < I don’t—> GYMNASIUM You’re nothing to me: men like you are my ruin. SENEX What <are you saying? You’re ruining my son.> GYMNASIUM Let him be the judge of that. <If you make me leave Alcesimarchus, I won’t have any way to live. You old men are known for being givers of lovely fripperies: Frag. iv/ 373 <Are you really going to leave a poor, helpless woman like me (5) Destitute and defenseless? Can’t you, won’t you Have pity on me and my mother and Give us something to live on? Begins patting the SENEX down in search of a wallet. PHILAENIS enters from the forum. PHILAENIS Bottle of wine, fruit of the vine, when you gonna let me get sober? Page 27
  28. 28. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Sits on DR edge of stage and speaks to audience. Well, I’ve sure made up for anything I didn’t get at breakfast! (10) I hope Alcesimarchus has come home: it’s high time Gymnasium got back to work and earned some money. Sees GYMNASIUM patting down the SENEX just as his cane goes up. And there she is, talking to a rich old man. It’s a sight to do me good. (15) SENEX If you really loved Alcesimarchus, you’d go away And let him make a marriage that’s to his benefit. Now, you just move on out and give me the keys, And promise me you won’t bother my son anymore, You little home-wrecker. (20) GYMNASIUM> You want me to promise that? It’s an insult. Frag. v I always have to make my own agreements with men 375 I make it my business never to make promises to them <Until after they’ve paid. A girl has to look out for herself. PHILAENIS That’s my girl!> If you make your demands according to the supply (25) And the means <you’ll do well. And this one looks well-supplied! Frag. vi Gets up and crosses to GYMNASIUM and SENEX. There you are, Gymnasium! Are you doing us some business? SENEX Gymnasium? Who are you, old woman, and why are you Calling this girl Gymnasium? This is Alcesimarchus’ mistress, Selenium. PHILAENIS What? She’s no more Selenium than I am! That’s my daughter, (30) Gymnasium. Selenium went home to her mother this morning. SENEX You little minx! Like to play with old folks, do you? Starts to remove his jacket But if Selenium’s gone, what are you doing here? Page 28
  29. 29. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 GYMNASIUM She asked me to look after the house until Alcesimarchus got home. SENEX Well, he’s home now, isn’t he? I heard you say so. You just give me those keys, you, and get on out of my house! (35) Struggles with GYMNASIUM over the key, which she eventually produces from her bodice and gives him. The SENEX herds GYMNASIUM and PHILAENIS out of the way with his cane and then exits into ALCESIMARCHUS’ house. PHILAENIS Looks like the fun’s over, Gymnasium. Time to get you ready for work. PHILAENIS and GYMNASIUM sit down on the stage by the piano and PHILAENIS begins painting GYMNASIUM’s toenails. They primp until PHILAENIS’ next line. LAMPADIO and DEMIPHO enter from DEMIPHO’s house. DEMIPHO jumps onto the bench and LAMPADIO begins shining his shoes. DEMIPHO All right, Lampadio: you have your orders. I’ve got to go to a senate meeting, And on the way I’m going to find Alcesimarchus’ father and discuss a few details About the weddings. I hear the boy’s in love with a prostitute and doesn’t want To get married. Young men these days—no sense of what’s good for them. (40) But if you know what’s good for you, you’ll track down that woman Who picked up my daughter when you left her. LAMPADIO Yes, master. I’ll look everywhere, I promise. And I’m sure I’ll know her If I see her. DEMIPHO Don’t come home until you have good news. DEMIPHO throws LAMPADIO a tip and exits toward the forum. LAMPADIO crosses to bench and sits. LAMPADIO Well, here I am off to try to find my mistress’ daughter —my master’s daughter too— (45) Who’s been gone for seventeen years. Mission impossible! DIVINE ASSISTANCE plays the “Mission Impossible” theme song; LAMPADIO snaps his fingers at him at the end. But a good slave doesn’t let a little thing like impossibility stop him. No, a good slave> remembers his duty. Frag. ix Page 29
  30. 30. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 If he doesn’t, he’ll find himself at some filthy job Like cleaning out a butcher’s alley Frag. xii/(50) With shorn hair and clipped ears Frag. xi <Beaten within an inch of his life Because he disobeyed his master. I’ll find that old woman if it’s the last thing I do. It’s a damn good thing I waited around after leaving the baby. (55) If I hadn’t, there’d be no hope of finding the girl; We wouldn’t even know if she was dead or alive. By Hercules, if I ever make enough money to buy my freedom, I’ll set myself up as a prophet. Just to think I knew, without even knowing I knew it, (60) That my mistress would end up marrying the man who raped her. That’s pretty damn foresighted of me, if I do say so myself. And now, if I pull this one off, Demipho and Phanostrata Will owe me a big, fat favor. Maybe they’ll even set me free. Pulls out a small flask and takes a swig. Enter CANTHARA from DEMIPHO’s house. CANTHARA What are you doing still here, Lampadio?> (65) Sits on his lap. And what’s that wine-soaked breath I smell? <Have you been Frag. x Drinking instead of working? LAMPADIO Not me, Canthara. They struggle over the flask and fall off the bench. LAMPADIO notices PHILAENIS and GYMNASIUM. Hercules! It’s the woman who took mistress’ baby! I’m sure of it! And right next door, too—I didn’t have to look very far! CANTHARA That’s right, take all the credit for my brains, as usual.> (70) LAMPADIO sneaks up on PHILAENIS and GYMNASIUM. PHILAENIS Rises and tugs GYMNASIUM along with her. Why don’t you come along then, if you’re coming? You’re awfully slow today. Frag. vii They begin to exit toward the forum. Page 30
  31. 31. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 GYMNASIUM Well, mother, I get more exercise in bed Than I do on my feet. That’s why I’m slow at walking. Frag. viii LAMPADIO runs back to CANTHARA. <LAMPADIO That girl called the old woman mother! She must be the one, The very child my mistress told me to abandon! Oh, I’m in luck today! (75) I’ll follow them and get the whole story. The old woman sure has gone downhill.> Whores were real lookers once, not like they are now, malicious slugs— 405 <Sorta like you, come to think of it. CANTHARA sticks her tongue out at him. Hope Demipho doesn’t think it’s my fault. 410 CANTHARA And who else is he going to blame? You left her there. They walk over to the bench and sit down on opposite ends of it, back to back. LAMPADIO I’d almost rather not find her if Demipho’s going to be mad. Of course, it’s his own fault his daughter’s a whore: He’s the one who raped a virgin and left her with a bastard. (Not that you’d believe it of him now, nice respectable senator—ha!) 415 But I can’t tell him that: no one listens to that kind of thing from a slave. No, somehow it’s all going to be my fault If Phanostrata’s heartbroken over the girl’s upbringing And Demipho can’t marry her off because she’s not a virgin. CANTHARA That’s right: when all else fails, blame your slave! 420 Leans her head back against LAMPADIO’s shoulder. LAMPADIO But if I don’t go after them, and I don’t bring the girl back, Demipho will string me up and beat me and crucify me—he said so. I can’t win. I’m damned if I do, and damned if I don’t. CANTHARA Sits up. But if you don’t, you’re damned now, and if you do, You might live an extra hour or two. But you’d better hurry 425 If you want to catch them. Page 31
  32. 32. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 LAMPADIO Stands. You’re right, I’d better go after them. The old woman likes to drink: I’ll buy some wine to bribe her with, and get her to bring the girl Back to her real parents. She’s been exposed to bad influences long enough. LAMPADIO exits toward the forum in the wake of GYMNASIUM and PHILAENIS. CANTHARA goes back into DEMIPHO’s house. MELAENIS shoves ALCESIMARCHUS out the door of her house. MELAENIS OUT OUT OUT! What’re you doing sneaking into my house behind my back 430 And corrupting my daughter? You know you’re not welcome. Pushes him off the stage DL. ALCESIMARCHUS You’re doing me a terrible injustice! MELAENIS We’re doing you an injustice? Well! If that isn’t a laugh! It’s we who’ve been betrayed by you, After you swore up and down Selenium was the only girl for you. 435 And what do you do? Turn around and get engaged to someone else. Well, you can just turn around and go right on back To your rich father and your rich new bride. Begins to exit back into her house. ALCESIMARCHUS Runs to intercept her before she can go back inside. I’m not leaving without Selenium. MELAENIS If you wanted her so badly, you wouldn’t have deserted her. 440 It’s too late to change your mind now. ALCESIMARCHUS I deserve better from you than this. MELAENIS You deserve! That’s a good joke. Page 32
  33. 33. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS Goes down on his knees. Then I beg you, I supplicate you, I beseech you on my knees— MELAENIS I wouldn’t take your word for all the gold in Carthage. 445 This is all your own fault—and maybe mine, a little: I should have known better than to let my daughter get involved With a rich young man. When there’s trouble, everyone listens To the man with the money. Now leave! You’re a pain in the ass. She goes into her house and slams the door. ALCESIMARCHUS scratches at the door like a cat. When MELAENIS opens the door, he grabs her ankle. ALCESIMARCHUS My house misses its little pet. Let me take her home. 450 MELAENIS Take your hand off me. She pulls away from him and crosses toward the bench. ALCESIMARCHUS follows and wraps his arms around her from behind. ALCESIMARCHUS My own dear little sister— MELAENIS I refuse to have you as my brother. ALCESIMARCHUS My little mother, then. Adopts a pose like Michelangelo’s Pieta. MELAENIS I won’t have you as a son, either. Stands up and shoves him off the bench. ALCESIMARCHUS I beg you— MELAENIS Goodbye. Page 33
  34. 34. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS —To let me— MELAENIS Why should I care? ALCESIMARCHUS Clear myself. <MELAENIS Clear out.> ALCESIMARCHUS Let me speak. MELAENIS I’ve had quite enough of your perjuries. <ALCESIMARCHUS I told you the truth! MELAENIS Even if it was true then,> it can’t be now. 455 ALCESIMARCHUS Returns to his knees again. I want to promise restitution. Attempts to hand her money. MELAENIS But I don’t want to take it. Flings his money back at him. ALCESIMARCHUS I deserve to suffer all this! MELAENIS That at least should be to her satisfaction, and you don’t deserve to be pitied! <I forbid> any man to tell me tales <and take advantage of me. As for Selenium,> she won’t <marry a man> who breaks his oaths. 460 Page 34
  35. 35. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 ALCESIMARCHUS Grabs hold of MELAENIS’ skirt. She steps back and the skirt stretches to an impressive length. I won’t let go of you unless you let me Tell you the things I want to. MELAENIS Won’t you stop being such a pest? ALCESIMARCHUS Indeed, that must be my name: Everyone’s calling me ―Pest.‖ <But I won’t let go.> MELAENIS <Let me go where I will,> please. ALCESIMARCHUS You plead in vain. Because without your full <cooperation in this matter, I’ll hang onto your skirt all> day. I’ll give you My oath> that I don’t intend any dishonor to Selenium. 470 MELAENIS I’m on guard against that oath of yours now: Where lovers are concerned, an oath sworn is an oath botched. <I was an> idiot <to listen to you in the first place. I should have known you’d only> talk nonsense. 474 <What kind of a life is Selenium going to have now? Do you realize what you’ve done to her?> ALCESIMARCHUS I’ll make it up to her, <I promise. Won’t you please tell me> 477 How I can <win back your favor? Why won’t you listen To what I have to say?> MELAENIS Because you’ve got a new woman, Who <will be a much better match>, as if you didn’t know. 480 <To hell with your ―restitution‖!> ALCESIMARCHUS And to hell with the other girl, too! <And me too,> if I ever deceive you in this. Page 35
  36. 36. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 MELAENIS I’m not interested <In your excuses.> You betrayed us, so your good faith <will be gone>. And even if you’ve put one over on me, you won’t deceive the gods. ALCESIMARCHUS I’m not going to give you anything: I’m going to take your daughter to wife! MELAENIS You’ll marry if <your father tells you to, If it’s convenient for you, the one who <profits you most!> ALCESIMARCHUS I brought her gold and gowns! MELAENIS <But you won’t from now on.> If you were really in love, you’d have <made sure> she was provided for. But I’ll let that go. Now answer what I have to ask you, and be quick about it. You gave her <all those presents so that we’d do things> The way you wanted. <Why can’t you do> what I want <now?> 491 It’s a fine joke you’re having with me when you’ve got that rich Lemnian fiancée. Go on and enjoy her! I may not be part of high society like you are, And I may not have your kind of money, but even so I have no fear that anyone would doubt my sworn word— 495 But you will know you’re only getting your just desserts if you suffer. ALCESIMARCHUS May the gods destroy me— MELAENIS I hope they do! ALCESIMARCHUS —If I ever marry that girl my father betrothed me to! MELAENIS And me, if I ever give you my daughter! ALCESIMARCHUS What? Will you make a liar out of me? MELAENIS I’d rather have you perjure yourself than 500 Page 36
  37. 37. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Ruin my life and make a fool out of my daughter. Go on, find somewhere your solemn oaths will be believed: You’ve lost all credibility with us, Alcesimarchus. ALCESIMARCHUS Just give me one chance! MELAENIS I’ve given you too many, and I regret all of them. ALCESIMARCHUS ―Stop, in the name of love! Before you break my heart!‖ MELAENIS ―Hit the road, Jack, and don’t come back 505 No more no more no more!‖ ALCESIMARCHUS You won’t send her back to me? MELAENIS You said it yourself. ALCESIMARCHUS You really won’t? MELAENIS You should know that perfectly well by now. ALCESIMARCHUS Are you sure? Really sure in your heart? MELAENIS I won’t even consider it. Stomps back into her house. ALCESIMARCHUS So may the gods and goddesses, gods in heaven and gods in the Underworld, And all the gods in between, 512 So may Juno, queen and daughter of Jupiter greatest of gods, So may Saturn his uncle— MELAENIS leans over the bottom half of her door to listen. Page 37
  38. 38. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 MELAENIS No, by Castor, his father. ALCESIMARCHUS So may the goddess of plenty, Saturn’s grandmother— MELAENIS No, his mother. 515 ALCESIMARCHUS Daughter Juno and uncle Saturn and Jupiter greatest of gods— Dammit, I forgot what I was going to say. You’ve messed me up. MELAENIS Oh, do go on. ALCESIMARCHUS Are you going to tell me what you’re thinking? MELAENIS Just keep on with your prayer. I haven’t got it quite straight what you’re trying to say here. 510 ALCESIMARCHUS No? Well, what are you going to do? MELAENIS Pay attention, and you’ll know. 511 I’m not sending her back. And that’s final. 519 ALCESIMARCHUS Then truly may Jupiter And Juno and Janus—what was I going to say? 520 Oh, yes—You listen to me, lady, and I’ll tell you how I feel. May all the gods, great and minor and even the little local spirits, Prevent me from living to kiss Selenium, If I don’t murder you and your daughter on this very day, And kill both of you again tomorrow morning at dawn, 525 And then, by Hercules, I’ll do it a third time and kill all of us, If you don’t give her back to me. There, I’ve said what I wanted. Good day! ALCESIMARCHUS storms into his house. Page 38
  39. 39. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 MELAENIS He’s gone home. But he’s pissed as hell. Now what do I do? If I give Selenium back to him, it’ll be just as I said: when he gets tired of her, He’ll kick her out and bring his Lemnian wife home. 530 But I should follow him in, anyway: I have to be careful, Or that idiotic young lover will do something drastic. Rich people don’t have to listen to us the way we have to listen to them, But I’d rather waste my effort than lose my daughter. Enter LAMPADIO from the forum. But who’s this in such a hurry to get here? Alcesimarchus worries me enough, but I don’t like the looks of this one, either: MELAENIS dives under the bench to hide. What a miserable position to be in! 535 LAMPADIO I’ve followed that old woman through the streets, calling out to her; I’ve made her absolutely miserable. But what a line she’s fed me today, And she’s managed to be mighty forgetful! As much as I flattered her, as much as I promised her, As many stories as I made up—she had just that many ways 540 To get out of giving me a straight answer! I never would have gotten her to talk if I hadn’t promised her a jug of wine. Enter PHANOSTRATA and CANTHARA from DEMIPHO’s house. PHANOSTRATA I thought I heard my slave Lampadio’s voice a minute ago. LAMPADIO Sneaks up on them and shouts his first word. Well! PHANOSTRATA and CANTHARA both jump, and PHANOSTRATA starts to fan herself. You’re not going deaf, mistress: You heard correctly. <CANTHARA> What are you doing back here? LAMPADIO Something to make <my mistress> happy. 545 Page 39
  40. 40. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 PHANOSTRATA And what’s that? LAMPADIO I saw a woman coming out of this very house a little while ago. Points to ALCESIMARCHUS’ house. PHANOSTRATA You mean the one who picked my daughter up? LAMPADIO You got it. PHANOSTRATA faints; CANTHARA gives her smelling salts and she bounces back. She moves rapidly in and out of a swoon several times in this scene. PHANOSTRATA Well, what happened after that? LAMPADIO Well, I told her how I’d seen her When she took my mistress’ daughter from by the racetrack. 550 That scared her. MELAENIS Not half as much as it scares me! It was from the racetrack that the little girl I adopted was brought to me! PHANOSTRATA Go on, please. I want so desperately to hear what happened. (up) MELAENIS And I want you not to hear it! 555 LAMPADIO So then I said to the girl, ―This old woman Wants to keep you in poverty when you could be rich. She’s only your nurse; you shouldn’t believe she’s your mother. I want to bring you back to vast wealth, Where you’ll live with a rich family, Where your father will give you a dowry the size of the lottery jackpot— 560 So you don’t have to earn a dowry the way the Etruscans do, By selling your body.‖ Page 40
  41. 41. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 PHANOSTRATA faints, then pops some pills which CANTHARA hands her. PHANOSTRATA Dear god, was the woman who adopted her a.... (mouths it, while MELAENIS speaks out loud) whore? <CANTHARA> Damn right she was a whore! LAMPADIO I’m telling this story. 565 I was starting to win the girl over to my way of thinking, When the old woman clung to her and went down on her knees And begged the girl not to desert her, and swore to me That this was her own daughter and she’d given birth to her. ―That girl you’re looking for,‖ she said, ―I gave her to a friend, 570 To bring up as her own daughter. And she’s alive,‖ she said. ―Well, where is she?‖ I asked. PHANOSTRATA Gods preserve me! MELAENIS But you’re destroying me. PHANOSTRATA You’ve got to find out who she gave the girl to. LAMPADIO I asked, and she said she gave her to Melaenis, another whore. 575 MELAENIS He’s just said my name! I’m done for! LAMPADIO When she’d said that, I didn’t stop asking questions. ―Where does she live?‖ I said. ―Come on and show me.‖ ―Oh,‖ she said, ―She’s left the country.‖ MELAENIS That’s more like it! LAMPADIO So I said, ―If she’s left the country, I’ll follow her. 580 Page 41
  42. 42. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 You’re not playing games with me now? You’ll be sorry, by Hercules, If you don’t tell me the truth.‖ She tried to weasel out of it, But I never left off following her and threatening her until she promised To show me the right place. <CANTHARA> You shouldn’t have let her go at all. LAMPADIO It’s all right. But she kept saying she had to get together 585 With a certain woman friend of hers first, Because this concerned both of them. And I know she’ll come. MELAENIS She’ll show him where I live, <and only make my troubles worse, damn her,> By telling Selenium I’ve deceived her. 590 PHANOSTRATA Jumps up and whines. What do you want me to do now? LAMPADIO Go on inside and be happy. And if your husband comes home, tell him to wait right where he is, So I won’t have to go looking for him if I want him for anything. I’m going back after the old woman. PHANOSTRATA Dashes back to LAMPADIO and grabs him. I beg you, Lampadio, don’t take any chances. LAMPADIO Your affairs are safe in my hands. 595 Pushes PHANOSTRATA back to her house. PHANOSTRATA Rushes back to LAMPADIO. I have faith in the gods and you. LAMPADIO And so have I faith—that you’ll go off home. Page 42
  43. 43. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 LAMPADIO pushes PHANOSTRATA and CANTHARA back into DEMIPHO’s house and prepares to depart. MELAENIS grabs his foot as he goes past the bench. MELAENIS Wait a minute! She crawls out from under the bench. LAMPADIO You talking to me, lady? MELAENIS Yes. LAMPADIO Why? I’ve got more than enough to do already. MELAENIS Who lives here? LAMPADIO My master, Demipho. MELAENIS But isn’t that the one who betrothed his daughter to Alcesimarchus 600 And promised the couple eternal wealth? LAMPADIO That’s the man. MELAENIS Well then, who’s this other daughter you’re all looking for now? LAMPADIO I’ll tell you: she wasn’t born to his wife, but she’s his wife’s daughter. MELAENIS Say what? You’ve lost me. LAMPADIO I’m saying that she was born to a previous woman, 605 But she’s my master’s daughter. Page 43
  44. 44. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 MELAENIS But I was sure you said that you were looking for the daughter Of the woman you were just talking to. LAMPADIO I am looking for her daughter. MELAENIS Then how, pray tell, can she be a previous woman If he’s married to her right now? LAMPADIO You’re wasting my time with all your interruptions, lady, Whoever you are. 610 There was a woman in between that he married, And the girl Alcesimarchus is engaged to is her daughter. That wife died a while ago. Got that? MELAENIS That much I understand. But what I’m trying to find out is how the earlier wife can be later And the later wife can be earlier. 615 LAMPADIO Long before he married this woman, he raped her, And she got pregnant and had a baby girl. After she’d given birth, she gave orders that the child should be exposed. So, I went and exposed her. Another woman came and saved her. I watched when she did. Later on, my master married my mistress. 620 The girl we’re looking for now is his daughter. —Why are you looking up into the heavens like that? MELAENIS You go on with your errand: I won’t keep you any longer. Now I understand. LAMPADIO Well I’m glad of that, by Hercules, Because if you didn’t understand, you’d probably never have let me go. 625 Exit LAMPADIO to the forum. MELAENIS And now I’ve got to be good against my will, Even though I don’t want to. I understand it clearly enough: Page 44
  45. 45. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Now I myself have to win favor from them, Rather than have Philaenis reveal me. I’ll go home and bring Selenium back to her parents. 630 Exit MELAENIS back into her own house. (Shtick: SLAVE enters with banana; the UGLY DAUGHTER comes out of DEMIPHO’s house. They back into each other, jump, and turn to face one another. The UGLY DAUGHTER begins pursuing the SLAVE around the outside of the auditorium. She returns alone, with the banana.) Enter MELAENIS (with cistella), SELENIUM, and HALISCA from MELAENIS’ house. They’re crying all over each other. MELAENIS Well, I’ve told you the whole story. Will you follow me, my Selenium, So that you can belong to them, as you should, and not to me anymore? I’m not at all willing to lose you, but even so I’ve convinced myself And I believe this will be to your advantage, if not to mine. There are some baby’s things in here, which Philaenis brought to me with you, 635 And gave me, so that your parents could recognize you more easily. Take this box, Halisca, and go knock on those doors. Say that I want whoever’s inside to come out here five minutes ago. HALISCA crosses to DEMIPHO’s door. At the same time, ALCESIMARCHUS enters from his own house, holding a sword. ALCESIMARCHUS Oh Death, receive me kindly, as a friend. SELENIUM Mother, our cause is lost! 640 ALCESIMARCHUS Should I stab myself here, or on the left side? MELAENIS What’s wrong? SELENIUM Don’t you see Alcesimarchus? He’s got a sword! ALCESIMARCHUS Are you going to do something? Don’t. Leave the light. SELENIUM Oh, please, hurry or he’ll kill himself! Page 45
  46. 46. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 SELENIUM runs and throws her arms around ALCESIMARCHUS’ legs. HALISCA drops the cistella in front of DEMIPHO’s house, then turns to face them. ALCESIMARCHUS Oh, my savior, more blessed than life itself, MELAENIS and HALISCA gasp as they see the position of the lovers; SELENIUM sticks her head through his legs and says “It’s all right.” You and you alone have made me live, whether or not I wished to. 645 ALCESIMARCHUS steps down from the bench and leads SELENIUM into a waltz. MELAENIS You weren’t really going to do it. ALCESIMARCHUS Don’t speak to me: To you I am dead. But I’ve got her now and I’m not going to let her go. No, by Hercules, it’s fated that she stick with me. Slave! Where are you? Close the house with bolts and bars behind me: I’m going to carry this girl over my threshold! Exit SELENIUM and ALCESIMARCHUS into ALCESIMARCHUS’ house. MELAENIS He’s gone, and he’s taken her with him. 650 I’d better follow him inside, so I can explain things to him myself, And see if I can get him to stop hating me. Exit MELAENIS and HALISCA into ALCESIMARCHUS’ house. Enter LAMPADIO from the forum. He walks up the aisle and then the stairs. LAMPADIO I don’t think I’ve ever laid eyes on an old woman who was more of a trial! Sits on the edge of the stage. How could she confess to me and then deny that she had? PHANOSTRATA calls “Lampadio!” from the door. But look, there’s my mistress. LAMPADIO walks up the stairs onto the stage. And what’s this here, this box full of toys? 655 I don’t see anyone else in the street. Bending over isn’t usually my job around here, but I’d better pick it up. Page 46
  47. 47. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Bends over and is still bent over when PHANOSTRATA and CANTHARA enter from DEMIPHO’s house PHANOSTRATA What’re you up to there, Lampadio? Crosses to bench and sits. CANTHARA remains DSL by the door. LAMPADIO This box didn’t come out of our house, did it? Gives it to CANTHARA. PHANOSTRATA is facing forward and doesn’t see it. I just picked it up by the door, here. PHANOSTRATA What were you saying about the old woman? LAMPADIO That there’s not a more wicked one in the entire world. 660 She denies everything she said to me before. PHANOSTRATA throws up her arms and gets up. LAMPADIO starts to follow her. By Hercules, I’d rather die by any means you want, right here, Than let an old woman make a laughingstock of me! PHANOSTRATA sees the box. LAMPADIO hovers behind her. PHANOSTRATA Oh, dear gods, I beg you— Faints. LAMPADIO catches her as usual. LAMPADIO What do you want from the gods? PHANOSTRATA Gets back up. —Save us. LAMPADIO What is it? PHANOSTRATA These are the same toys you left with my daughter when you abandoned her. 665 Page 47
  48. 48. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 LAMPADIO Are you nuts? PHANOSTRATA These will help us. LAMPADIO How? PHANOSTRATA They’re the ones. LAMPADIO If any other woman talked to me that way, I’d say she was drunk. PHANOSTRATA No, by Castor, I haven’t remembered it wrong. LAMPADIO Well, then, where on earth did they come from? Or did some god leave this here on our doorstep, as if it were a gift, Just at this very moment? PHANOSTRATA Oh, blessed hope, help me. HALISCA flings herself out of ALCESIMARCHUS’ door and lands on her knees. During the following speech she dodges up into the aisles and harangues the audience. PHANOSTRATA and CANTHARA are inspecting the toys. PHANOSTRATA sits on the stool, CANTHARA kneels in front of her, LAMPADIO stands behind PHANOSTRATA and looks over her shoulder. HALISCA If the gods don’t help me, I’m doomed, and I don’t know where to get help. I was careless and it preys upon my mind: I’m afraid that it may come down on my back, If my mistress finds out that this was my fault. I held it in my hands, I took it to the house— 675 And where that box is now I couldn’t tell you, Crosses to DL stairs and looks around. Except it must be near here, where I dropped it. Spectators, ladies and gents, give me a pointer: did somebody see it? Climbs down into aisle and walks along the front row. Did somebody pick it up and take it? Which way did they go from here? Page 48
  49. 49. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Trips and falls spectacularly. This routine will be repeated twice over the course of the scene. Oh, it’s no use talking to them, wasting their time: 680 They all think it’s funny when the trouble is mine. Gets back on stage and starts crawling around on her hands and knees. LAMPADIO notices her and starts watching her instead of the Barbies. I’ll see if I see any clues. For if no one had come here since I went in, The box would still be here. What’s this? Oh gods, it’s the end! My death is a done deal, sucks to be me! 685 There’s no box, and soon: no Halisca! I’ve been lost with it. But I have to go on as I started, I’ll just keep on looking. I’m afraid to go inside, I’m afraid out of doors: HALISCA opens the door. ALCESIMARCHUS runs screaming around the stage, then returns to his house. Trouble and panic wherever I turn. It’s a pretty rough life being human. Well, I hope that he’s happy, whoever took it: 690 What use has he got for it? I’m the one needs it! I’m only slowing myself, by thinking that way. Halisca, look down, keep your eyes on the ground, Search out the signs and be clever about it! LAMPADIO Mistress! PHANOSTRATA What? LAMPADIO She’s the one! PHANOSTRATA Who? LAMPADIO The one who dropped the box you’re holding. 695 PHANOSTRATA You’re right! She’s pointing to where she dropped it. Page 49
  50. 50. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 HALISCA He came by here: I can see footprints Here in the dust, so I’ll pursue them. Now here, on this spot, someone else joined him. But the tracks are all muddled: I can’t sort them out. It does me no good to know that he stood here, 700 Now that he’s gone. But there was a meeting here. Two people! That’s clearer now. Look! A print leading that way. Now just let me think. It goes there from here, and doesn’t come back. Oh, to hell with it. What’s gone is gone: the box, and my hide. I’ll go back inside. <CANTHARA> Wait! Someone wants to talk to you. HALISCA Who’s calling to me? <CANTHARA> A good woman and a no-good man want you. 705 HALISCA <What would I want with a no-good man?> But at least He seems to know what he wants, which is more than I can say. Excuse me, please, but have you seen the little box full of toys Which I lost around here somewhere? When we were running to stop Alcesimarchus from killing himself, 710 <I dropped it, and now it’s> gotten lost somehow. LAMPADIO This is the woman who lost that box, all right. Let’s be quiet awhile, mistress. HALISCA Disperii misera! What will I tell my mistress? She told me to guard it with my life, Because it would help Selenium’s parents to recognize her— My mistress adopted her when she was a little girl, 715 After a certain old madam handed her over. LAMPADIO She’s telling our story. So she should know where the girl is, and be able to tell us. HALISCA And now my mistress wants to give Selenium back to her real mother and father. Page 50
  51. 51. Easy Virtue: A Reconstruction of Plautus’ Cistellaria March 18, 1994 Please, sir, you’re not paying attention to me, and I need you to listen. LAMPADIO Oh, I’m listening, I’m just devouring your story, 720 But I also have to answer my mistress’ questions. Back to you, then: go on and tell us what you need. PHANOSTRATA What are you looking for? HALISCA I was following a trail, because I’ve lost something. <CANTHARA> Well, what have you lost? 725 HALISCA Something to make another wretched and bring our own family grief. LAMPADIO This woman is trouble, mistress. PHANOSTRATA It does look like that. <CANTHARA> And she’s doing a good imitation of a bad critter. PHANOSTRATA Which one? <CANTHARA> A caterpillar, with all its twists and turns— That’s what her story’s like. 730 LAMPADIO Now what, exactly, are you looking for? HALISCA It’s a little box, and it’s flown away on me. <CANTHARA> Must have had something inside it, then. Page 51