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ACT III

 

 SCENE I

AMPHITRYON

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

 SCENE II

 MERCURY, AMPHITRYON

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

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

MERC. Hullo! Gently, gently! Who knocks?

AMPH. I.

MERC. Who, I?

AMPH. Ah! Open.

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

AMPH. So? You do not know me?

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

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

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

AMPH. Do you see me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MERC. You, my master?

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

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

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

MERC. Amphitryon?

AMPH. Certainly.

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

AMPH. What? Again?

MERC. Was it a feast-day wine?

AMPH. Heavens!

MERC. Was it old or new?

AMPH. What insults!

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

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

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

AMPH. What! Is Amphitryon in there?

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

 SCENE III

AMPHITRYON

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

 SCENE IV

 SOSIE, NAUCRATES, POLIDAS, AMPHITRYON

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

AMPH. Ah! You are here?

SOS. Monsieur.

AMPH. Insolent, bold rascal!

SOS. What?

AMPH. I shall teach you to treat me thus.

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

AMPH. What is the matter with me, villain?

SOS. Hullo, gentlemen, come here quickly.

NAU. Ah! Stay, I beseech you.

SOS. Of what am I guilty?

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

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

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

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

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

SOS. I am dead.

NAU. Restrain this anger.

SOS. Gentlemen.

POL. What is it?

SOS. Has he struck me?

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

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

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

AMPH. Who gave you that order?

SOS. You.

AMPH. When?

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

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

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

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

 SCENE V

 JUPITER, AMPHITRYON, NAUCRATES, POLIDAS, SOSIE

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

AMPH. Good Gods! What do I see?

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

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

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

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

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

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

NAU. Stay.

AMPH. Leave me alone.

NAU. Ye Gods! What would you do?

AMPH. Punish the miserable treachery of an impostor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 SCENE VI

 MERCURY, SOSIE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MERC. Not at all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MERC. What do you say?

SOS. Nothing.

MERC. I am sure you muttered something.

SOS. Ask anyone; I do not breathe.

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

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

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

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

 SCENE VII

 AMPHITRYON, ARGATIPHONTIDAS, POSICLES, SOSIE

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

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

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

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

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

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

AMPH. Come on.

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

AMPH. Get up. What is the matter?

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

AMPH. Follow me.

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

 SCENE VIII

 CLEANTHIS, NAUCRATES, POLIDAS, SOSIE, AMPHITRYON,

 ARGATIPHONTIDAS, POSICLES

CLE. O Heaven!

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

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

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

 SCENE IX

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

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

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

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

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

 SCENE X

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

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

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

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

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

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

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