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THE ACROSTIC ARGUMENT.
and all his property (Rem), to his friend Callicles. He (Istoc) being absent,
Enter LUXURY and POVERTY.
(Exit POVERTY, who enters the house of CHARMIDES.
and who she is who has gone in here (pointing to the house), if you give your attention. In
1 The Prologue) This Prologue is one of the few figurative ones to be found in the Comedies of Plautus. He appropriately represents Luxury as introducing her daughter Poverty to the abode of the dissipated Lesbonicus. Claudian has a somewhat similar passage in his poem to Rufinus:
Et Luxus, populator opum, cui, semper adhærens,
Infelix humili gressu comitatur Egestas. And Luxury, the waster of wealth, whom, ever attending, wretched Poverty accompanies with humble step." It has been justly observed, that Plautus here avoids a fault which he often falls into, of acquainting the audience with too much of the plot.
the first place, Plautus has given me the name of Luxury, and then he has willed that this Poverty should be my daughter. But why, at my suggestion, she has just entered here, listen and give attentive ear while I inform you. There is a certain young man who is living in this house ; by my assistance he has squandered away his paternal estate. Since I see that there is nothing left for him to support me, I have given him my daughter, together with whom to pass his life. But expect nothing about the plot of this play: the old men who will come hither will disclose the matter to you. The name of this play in the Greek is “The Treasure” [Thesaurus] ; Philemon wrote it?: Plautus translated it into Latin?, and gave it the name of “ The Three Pieces of Money” [Trinummus]. Now, he begs this of you, that it may be allowed the play to keep that name. Thus much have I to say. Farewell. Attend in silence.
ACT THE FIRST.
Enter MEGARONIDES, MEG. To reprove one's friend for a fault that deserves it, is a thankless task; but sometimes 'tis useful and 'tis profitable. Therefore, this day will I soundly reprove my friend for a fault that much deserves it. Unwilling am I, did not my friendship bid me do it. For this faultiness has encroached too much upon good morals, so drooping now are nearly all of them. But while they are in this distempered state, bad morals, in the mean time, have sprung up most plenteously, like well-watered plants ; nor is there now anything abundant here but these same bad morals. Of them you may now reap a most plenteous harvest: and here a set of men are making the favour of a few of much more value than that in which they may benefit the many. Thus private interests outdo that which is to the public advantage-interests which in many points are a hindrance, and a nuisance, and cause an obstruction both to private and to public welfare.
1 Philemon wrote it)-Ver. 19. Not only Philemon, but Menander also, wrote a play, entitled the “ Treasure."
2 In Latin)-Ver. 19. “Barbare.” We learn from Festus, and other authors, that the Greeks were in the habit of calling all nations, without exception, but themselves, “ barbarians.” Hence the present expression, which literally means “ into barbarous language.”
enemy, and is
Enter CALLICLES. CALL. (as he enters). I wish our household God? to be graced with a chaplet. Wife (addressing her within), pay him due respect, that this dwelling may turn out for us prosperous, lucky, happy, and fortunate; and (in a lower voice) that, as soon as I possibly may, I may see you dead
MEG. This is he who in his old age has become a childs -who has been guilty of a fault that deserves correction. I will accost the man.
CALL. (looking around). Whose voice is it that sounds near me ?
MEG. Of one who wishes you well, if you are as I desire you to be; but, if you are otherwise, of one who is your
you. Call. Health to you, O my friend and years’-mate! How are you, Megaronides ?
MEG. And, i' faith4, health to you, Callicles ! well? Have you been well?
Household God)-Ver. 39. Literally, " Lar.” The Lares were the household Gods, or tutelary Deities of each family. The figures of them were kept, among the Romans, near the hearth, in the “ Lararium,” which was a recess formed for that purpose, and in which prayers were offered up on rising in the morning. There were both public and private Lares. The latter were by some thought to have been identical with the “Manes,” or “shades," of the ancestors of the family occupying the house. The public Lares were the “Urbani,” presiding over the cities; “Rustici," over the country; " Compitales," over cross
and “ Marini," over the sea. Varro tells us that there were 265 stations for the statues of the Lares at the corner of the streets of Rome. "Lar” was an Etrurian word, signifying “noble,” or “lord.” The Greeks adorned their household Gods with the leaves of the plane-tree, the Romans with ears of corn. This was especially done on entering a new house, on which the wish was expressed that it might turn out prosperous, lucky, happy, and fortunate to the new occupants. Quod bonum, faustum, felix, fortunatumque sit.” Callicles here expresses this wish on taking possession of the house which he has just bought of Lesbonicus.
2 Wife)-Ver. 40. Being at the door of his house, before shutting it, he calls to his wife within. His kind wish as to the duration of her life he expresses just as he shuts the door.
3 Has become a child)—Ver. 43. He means to say that he has become a boy, from the fact of his being in need of correction.
4 And i' faith)-Ver. 49. “ Hercle," " by Hercules ;" “ Ecastor," " by Castor;
CALL. I am well, and I have been still better.
MEG. 'Tis well, i' faith, for you, that she is alive and well.
CALL. Troth, I believe that you are glad if I have any misfortune. MEG. That which I have, I wish for all my
friends as well.
CALL. Harkye, how does your wife do?
the Gods that, surviving you, she may last out your life.
MEG. By my troth! if indeed she were only married to yourself, I could wish it sincerely.
Call. Do you wish that we should exchange ?—that I should take yours, and you mine? I'd be making you not to get a bit the better of the bargain of me.
MEG. Indeed, I fancy? you would not be surprising me
Call. Aye, faith, I should cause you not to be knowing? the thing you were about.
Meg. Keep what you've got; the evil that we know is the best. But if I were now
to take one that I know not, I should not know what to do.
CALL. In good sooth, just as one lives: a long life, one lives a happy life.
MEG. But give your attention to this, and have done with your joking, for I am come hither to you for a given purpose. “ Edepol," " by Pollux," or " by the temple of Pollux," and "Pol," " by Pollux,'* were the every-day oaths in the mouths of the Romans, and were used for the purpose of adding weight to the asseverations of the speaker. A literal translation of them throughout this work would hardly be in accordance with the euphony required by the English ear. They are therefore rendered throughout by such expressions as “i' faith," " troth,” « by my troth," &c.
1 Indeed I fancy)-Ver. 61. “Neque,” which implies a negative, seems to be more in accordance with the sense of the passage than the affirmative “nempe," which is the reading of Ritschel; it has therefore been adopted.
2 Not to be knowing)— Ver. 62. That is, “the risk you would run in taking her for your wife.”
3 Just as one lives)—Ver. 65. The meaning of this passage seems to be somewhat obscure, and many of the Editions give this line to Megaronides. It is probable,
CALL. Why have you come ?
MEG. That I may rebuke you soundly with many harsh words. CALL. Me, do you say? MEG. Is there any one else here besides you
and me? CALL. (looking about). There is no one.
MEG. Why, then, do you ask if ’tis you I mean to rebuke ? Unless, indeed, you think that I am about to reprove my own self. For if your former principles now flag in you, or if the manners of the age are working a change in your disposition, and if you preserve not those of the olden time, but are catching up these new ones, you will strike all your friends with a malady so direful, that they will turn sick at seeing and hearing you.
CALL. How comes it into your mind to utter these expressions ?
* MEG. Because it becomes all good men and all good women to have a care to keep suspicion and guilt away from themselves.
CALL. Both cannot be done. MEG. Why so ?
CALL. Do you ask? I am the keeper of my own heart, so as not to admit guilt there ; suspicion is centred in the heart of another. For if now I should suspect that you had stolen the crown from the head of Jupiter in the Capitol', the statue which stands on the highest summit of the temple; if
you had not done so, and still it should please me to suspect you, how could you prevent me from suspecting you ? But I am anxious to know what this matter is. however, that Callicles intends, as a consolation for them both, to say that life itself is a blessing, and that they ought not by unnecessary anxieties to shorten it, but rather to submit with patience to their domestic grievances.
1 In the Capitol)-Ver. 84. Plautus does not much care about anachronism or dramatic precision; though the plot of the play is derived from the Greek, and the scene laid at Athens, he makes frequent reference to Roman localities and manners. It is probable that the expression here employed was proverbial at Rome, to signify a deed of daring and unscrupulous character. From ancient writers we learn that there was a statue of Jupiter seated in a chariot, placed on the roof of the Capitoline Temple. Tarquinius Priscus employed Etrurian artists to make a statue of pottery for this purpose; and the original chariot, with its four horses, was made of baked clay. In later and more opulent times, the crown placed on the statue was of great value, so much so as to act as a temptation to one Petilius, who attempted to steal it, and being canght in the fact, was afterwards nicknamed “Capitolinus." Mention is again made of this statue in the Menæchmi, act v., sc. 5, 1. 38.