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Strepsiades complains to the audience that he is too worried about household debts to get any sleep – his aristocratic wife has encouraged their son's expensive interest in horses. Strepsiades, having thought up a plan to get out of debt, wakes the youth gently and pleads with him to do something for him. Pheidippides at first agrees to do as he's asked then changes his mind when he learns that his father wants to enroll him in The Thinkery, a school for wastrels and bums that no self-respecting, athletic young man dares to be associated with.
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Published by Sovereign Classic
First published in 2016
Copyright © 2016 Sovereign Classic
SERVANT OF STREPSIADES
DISCIPLES OF SOCRATES
PASIAS, a Money-lender
AMYNIAS, another Money-lender
CHORUS OF CLOUDS
In the background are two houses, that of Strepsiades and that of Socrates, the Thoughtery. The latter is small and dingy; the in, terior of the former is shown and two beds are seen, each occupied.
STREPSIADES sitting up
Great gods! will these nights never end? will daylight never come? I heard the cock crow long ago and my slaves are snoring still! Ah! Ah! It wasn’t like this formerly. Curses on the war! has it not done me ills enough? Now I may not even chastise my own slaves. Again there’s this brave lad, who never wakes the whole long night, but, wrapped in his five coverlets, farts away to his heart’s content.
He lies down
Come! let me nestle in well and snore too, if it be possible....oh! misery, it’s vain to think of sleep with all these expenses, this stable, these debts, which are devouring me, thanks to this fine cavalier, who only knows how to look after his long locks, to show himself off in his chariot and to dream of horses! And I, I am nearly dead, when I see the moon bringing the third decade in her train and my liability falling due....Slave! light the lamp and bring me my tablets.
The slave obeys.
Who are all my creditors? Let me see and reckon up the interest. What is it I owe?....Twelve minae to Pasias....What! twelve minae to Pasias?....Why did I borrow these? Ah! I know! It was to buy that thoroughbred, which cost me so much. How I should have prized the stone that had blinded him!
PHIDIPPIDES in his sleep
That’s not fair, Philo! Drive your chariot straight, I say.
This is what is destroying me. He raves about horses, even in his sleep.
PHIDIPPIDES still sleeping
How many times round the track is the race for the chariots of war?
It’s your own father you are driving to death....to ruin. Come! what debt comes next, after that of Pasias?....Three minae to Amynias for a chariot and its two wheels.
PHIDIPPIDES still asleep
Give the horse a good roll in the dust and lead him home.
Ah! wretched boy! it’s my money that you are making roll. My creditors have distrained on my goods, and here are others again, who demand security for their interest.
What is the matter with you, father, that you groan and turn about the whole night through?
I have a bum-bailiff in the bedclothes biting me.
For pity’s sake, let me have a little sleep.
He turns over.
Very well, sleep on! but remember that all these debts will fall back on your shoulders. Oh! curses on the go-between who made me marry your mother! I lived so happily in the country, a commonplace, everyday life, but a good and easy one-had not a trouble, not a care, was rich in bees, in sheep and in olives. Then indeed I had to marry the niece of Megacles, the son of Megacles; I belonged to the country, she was from the town; she was a haughty, extravagant woman, a true Coesyra. On the nuptial day, when I lay beside her, I was reeking of the dregs of the wine-cup, of cheese and of wool; she was redolent with essences, saffron, voluptuous kisses, the love of spending, of good cheer and of wanton delights. I will not say she did nothing; no, she worked hard...to ruin me, and pretending all the while merely to be showing her the cloak she had woven for me, I said, “Wife you go too fast about your work, your threads are too closely woven and you use far too much wool.”
A slave enters witk a lamp.
There is no more oil in the lamp.
Why then did you light such a thirsty lamp? Come here, I am going to beat you.
Because you have put in too thick a wick....Later, when we had this boy, what was to be his name? It was the cause of much quarrelling with my loving wife. She insisted on having some reference to a horse in his name, that he should be called Xanthippus, Charippus or Callippides. I wanted to name him Phidonides after his grandfather. We disputed long, and finally agreed to style him Phidippides....She used to fondle and coax him, saying, “Oh! what a joy it will be to me when you have grown up, to see you, like my father, Megacles, clothed in purple and standing up straight in your chariot driving your steeds toward the town.” And I would say to him, “When, like your father, you will go, dressed in a skin, to fetch back your goats from Phelleus.” Alas! he never listened to me and his madness for horses has shattered my fortune.
He gets out of bed.
But by dint of thinking the livelong night, I have discovered a road to salvation, both miraculous and divine. If he will but follow it, I shall be out of my trouble! First, however, he must be awakened, but it must be done as gently as possible. How shall I manage it? Phidippides! my little Phidippides!
PHIDIPPIDES awaking again
What is it, father?
Kiss me and give me your hand.
PHIDIPPIDES getting up and doing as his father requests
There! What’s it all about?
Tell me! do you love me?
By Posidon, the equestrian Posidon! yes, I swear I do.
Oh, do not, I pray you, invoke this god of horses; he is the one who is the cause of all my cares. But if you really love me, and with your whole heart, my boy, believe me.
Believe you? about what?
Alter your habits forthwith and go and learn what I tell you.
Say on, what are your orders?
Will you obey me ever so little?
By Bacchus, I will obey you.
Very well then! Look this way. Do you see that little door and that little house?
Yes, father. But what are you driving at?
That is the Thoughtery of wise souls. There they prove that we are coals enclosed on all sides under a vast snuffer, which is the sky. If well paid, these men also teach one how to gain law-suits, whether they be just or not.
What do they call themselves?
I do not know exactly, but they are deep thinkers and most admirable people.
Bah! the wretches! I know them; you mean those quacks with pale faces, those barefoot fellows, such as that miserable Socrates and Chaerephon?
Silence! say nothing foolish! If you desire your father not to die of hunger, join their company and let your horses go.
No, by Bacchus! even though you gave me the pheasants that Leogoras raises.
Oh! my beloved son, I beseech you, go and follow their teachings.
And what is it I should learn?
It seems they have two courses of reasoning, the true and the false, and that, thanks to the false, the worst law-suits can be gained. If then you learn this science, which is false, I shall not have to pay an obolus of all the debts I have contracted on your account.
No, I will not do it. I should no longer dare to look at our gallant horsemen, when I had so ruined my tan.
Well then, by Demeter! I will no longer support you, neither you, nor your team, nor your saddle-horse. Go and hang yourself, I turn you out of house and home.
My uncle Megacles will not leave me without horses; I shall go to him and laugh at your anger.
He departs. STREPSIADES goes over to SOCRATES’ house.
One rebuff shall not dishearten me. With the help of the gods I will enter the Thoughtery and learn myself.
But at my age, memory has gone and the mind is slow to grasp things. How can all these fine distinctions, these subtleties be learned?
Making up his mind
Bah! why should I dally thus instead of rapping at the door? Slave, slave!
He knocks and calls.
A DISCIPLE from within
A plague on you! Who are you?
Strepsiades, the son of Phido, of the deme of Cicynna.
DISCIPLE coming out of the door
You are nothing but an ignorant and illiterate fellow to let fly at the door with such kicks. You have brought on a miscarriage-of an idea!
Pardon me, please; for I live far away from here in the country. But tell me, what was the idea that miscarried?
I may not tell it to any but a disciple.
Then tell me without fear, for I have come to study among you.
Very well then, but reflect, that these are mysteries. Lately, a flea bit Chaerephon on the brow and then from there sprang on to the head of Socrates. Socrates asked Chaerephon, “How many times the length of its legs does a flea jump?”
And how ever did he go about measuring it?
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