Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to Acharnae--
That's where you have to imagine we are now, Acharnae,
A little suburb of Athens down at the foot of Mount Parnes,
Where they make their money burning wood for charcoal.
Aristophanes--remember him?--made it famous in a play. 5
And what am I doing here? I'm a god, come to tell you
What you have to know before you can watch the show.
Not a very important god, I have to admit, but even so,
No mortal prologue would do for this little bit of drama.
You see, no one human knows the whole story. 10
So it has to be a god, and here I am. We lesser gods
Take it in turn to introduce comedies; the great gods,
The Olympians, are much too dignified (they say),
And will only do tragedy. Of course, after what Aristophanes
Did to them on stage, you can see they might be a bit reluctant. 15
But where was I? Oh, yes: about to tell you something.
Well, first, this house here belongs to Charisios,
A young man who got married not too long ago.
And this house belongs to his good friend Chairestratos,
Who's still single. They're both pretty well-to-do young men, 20
And Charisios got a whole four talents' dowry with his wife.
(And that, for those of you who aren't much on finance,
Is quite a lot of dough, especially for a tightwad like her father.)
Pamphile (that's the wife) brought more with her than her husband knew:
She already had one in the pod. And what neither of them knew 25
Was that Charisios is the father of the baby. You see,
Last year they both went down to a festival, the Tauropolia,
That's held in one of the seaside villages. It's a local thing,
But lots of young people go there from Athens. Why?
Well, the girls go because the only way they're allowed out 30
Is if it's something religious, and the boys go to see the girls.
Oh, yes, and they all go to drink and dance and listen to music.
If that doesn't sound religious to you, you don't know Athenians.
So Charisios and Pamphile went to the Tauropolia. Not together--
She went with a whole group of girls and women, 35
And he just took his trusty slave Onesimos. Young men
Aren't required to have chaperones, though maybe they should be.
Charisios got drunk--what else?--and horny--that usually happens.
And when he saw Pamphile dancing, a little drunk too, maybe,
There was only one thing on his mind. So he waited 40
Until she had to duck into the bushes, and then he tackled her.
You can guess what followed. She never saw him,
And by morning he'd forgotten everything but his headache.
It was pure chance that he ended up marrying her
Four months down the line. He doesn't know the baby's his, 45
So he's walked out on his wife, even though he loves her.
A man can't have his wife cheating on him.
They're both miserable and lonely, but don't worry:
That won't last forever. The baby's still alive, and it's on its way
Home to its real parents. Charisios is in for a surprise, 50
But it's a good one. Don't you be surprised now, though.>
Exit prologue. Enter KARION and ONESIMOS from the city.
By the gods, Onesimos--is your master the young man (Fr. 1)
Who's got Habrotonon accompanying him--and not just on her harp!--
Even though he's just been married?
He's the one all right.
<I suppose it's all over the city by now? 55
I couldn't believe it when I heard it. I'd have said it was impossible.
What do you know about it?
I provided their wedding feast.
Not that Pamphile's father was willing to shell out for a proper party,
Not him. Stingy old bastard.> And if I just happened (Fr. 5)
To oversalt his salt-fish, <well, you can't blame me. 60
But your master Charisios, he didn't notice what he ate.
He only had eyes for his wife. Indecent, is what it was.
A man can get love anywhere. He doesn't need it from his wife.
What he needs from his wife is a good dowry and children.
Well, he got himself a good dowry all right--old Smikrines 65
Handed over 4 talents without a murmur.
And that's another damn strange thing about this marriage.
Why would that old tightwad give away so much money?
Maybe he knew the goods weren't as promised.
That sweet little blushing bride was no virgin. 70
And she seemed like such a nice respectable girl.
That's what we all thought. You're right about Charisios:
He was head over heels in love with her. Still is, the idiot.
And she seemed to love him too. It was all kissy-kissy.
We all thought my master had gotten himself the perfect deal: 75
Not only rich, but pretty! But I learned better soon enough.
What happened?>There's nothing I like better (Fr. 2)
Than knowing absolutely everything.
Well, after they'd been married a couple of months,
Pamphile suggested a little holiday to Charisios. 80
And off he went, to visit some distant relatives
Who'd moved to one of the colonies long ago.
Well, when a woman gets her husband out of the way like that,
It can only mean one thing: she's having a bit on the side.
I was suspicious immediately, but not my master. 85
Charisios wouldn't hear a word against her.
But I kept my eyes open, and it wasn't long before I had proof.>
Onesimos, you're a man after my own heart. (Fr. 2)
You like getting into everybody's business.
Well, just this once I wish I hadn't! Five months to the day 90
After that wedding feast, Pamphile gave birth to a baby.
Not that I saw it, of course. She kept to her own rooms all the time,
And sent us all away when it was time. And a few days later,
She sent me to fetch her old nurse Sophrone. I hung around,
And when the old woman came out, she was carrying a baby. 95
Well, what could I do? That was no preemie. There's no way
My master could be the father. So I told him as soon as he got back.
I've never seen him so angry. He raged and roared like a bull.
Pamphile wept and pleaded, but she couldn't deny it.
So now my master's gone to stay next door with Chairestratos, 100
Drowning his sorrows in women and wine and parties.
So that's how it happened. Well, Habrotonon will cheer him up.
But why hasn't Pamphile gone back to her father's house?
Is Charisios too embarrassed to send her?
I don't know. He won't talk about his plans, if he has any. 105
He won't let anyone even speak Pamphile's name.
Enter CHAIRESTRATOS from his own house.
Onesimos! There you are at last! Is this the cook?
The finest chef in Athens, at your service.>
Well, then, why aren't you inside getting us something to eat? (Fr. 3)
You've kept Charisios waiting long enough, and he's hungry. 110
Get on inside, and you too, Onesimos: you can help wash up.
Exit ONESIMOS and KARION into CHAIRESTRATOS' house.
Enter SMIKRINES from the city.
But who's this coming up the road? An old man, and a rich one.
No part of our party. But wait! I know him! It's Pamphile's father.
That's trouble for sure. Come to take Pamphile back, I bet,
Since Charisios has abandoned her. But will she go? 115
I want to watch this.
It's like Euripides says:
Children are nothing but trouble. They're always breaking your heart.
And there's no pleasing women. Nor understanding them either.
I had a dutiful, loving daughter until she got married.
I was generous, but did she thank me? No, she avoided me. 120
She's repaid her poor parents by not speaking to us,
Hasn't had anything to do with the family for months.
Thought her husband was more important. That's just not right.
And now I'm hearing things about him I don't like at all.
I've come to get the truth out of my daughter, 125
And see if Charisios is really such a high roller.>
That man and his wine! I wouldn't mind it so much,
I wouldn't complain if it was just that he was getting drunk.
No, what's really incredible, practically beyond belief,
Is the way he can spend two obols per carafe, 130
And then drink the stuff instead of putting it in a safe!
That's just what I expected:
He's come gate-crashing--to break up the party and the affair.
And what business is it of mine what he does? That's a sorry story.
He's taken 4 talents of silver from me as a dowry
And he's not even living in the same house as his wife! 135
No, he's sleeping in someone else's bed, and paying a pimp
Twelve drachmas a day of my money for the privilege!
Well, well. He knows the price of a good lay to the penny.
A man could live for more than six months on twelve drachmas!
He's right about that, too. It used to be that two obols a day 140
Was enough to keep a man from starving.
Enter HABROTONON from CHAIRESTRATOS' house.
Chairestratos, honey, Charisios is waiting for you.
But who's that?
The father of the bride.
Then why does he look as miserable as a skid-row bum?
He must be pretty down on his luck <to stand here talking to himself.
He's paying> a girl to play the harp for him! 145
<Or making> his wife <pay for it, probably. I ask you,
Is that what a man should do with his wife's dowry?
Is that any way to run a household? If I'd only known
That Charisios let money run through his fingers this way,
I'd never have agreed to give Pamphile to him--well, (5)
He could have had the girl if he wanted, but not the dowry!
I'm going to put a stop to this right now, and either
Put Charisios back in his own house where he belongs,
Or take Pamphile and her dowry home!
And I'll be out of a job! This is the best contract I've had yet, (10)
And I don't want to lose it. Chairestratos!
Does Pamphile's father know where Charisios is?
Well, I sure haven't told him! Besides, you heard him:
If he knew where Charisios was, he'd go straight after him.
And does Pamphile know her husband is at your house? (15)
She must know: Onesimos is running back and forth all the time,
And that's one slave who can never keep his mouth shut.
Then she'll tell him!
Probably. Why shouldn't she? He's her father.
On the other hand, there's no telling what Pamphile will do.
She hasn't tried to put a stop to this yet. (20)
We can't let him come in and spoil everything!
By the gods, it's a young Athenian gentleman
And a juicy little tart of a musician. A girl who plays the harp,
Unless I miss my guess. An expensive-looking one, too.
So you're the one to blame for this, are you? (25)
Greedy little bitch! You can't be satisfied with corrupting a man,
You've got to impoverish his wife while you're at it!
This is all your fault, I bet--you've led him on, seduced him,
Asked him for presents. Money, money, money:
That's all a woman like you is interested in! (30)
And all a stingy old man like you cares about!
Where are you keeping my son-in-law?
I'm not telling.
Shall I come in and search?
You can't: this is my property.
And who are you, her pimp? You look like one.> (35)
What a nasty man you are! Don't talk <like that to a citizen!
And not to a poor working girl like me, either!>
Oh, go to hell and do your whining somewhere else! 160
I'm going inside, so I can get the real story
Of how things are with my daughter. And after that,
I'll figure out what kind of an attack to mount against Charisios.
Exit SMIKRINES into CHARISIOS' house.
Shouldn't we go in and tell Charisios that his father-in-law is here?
Yes, let's go. What a troublemaker he is. 165
Puts a house into complete disorder.
Well, I wish he'd do that to a lot of houses.
A lot of them?
Well, at least to the one next door.
You mean mine?
I mean yours. But let's go in to Charisios now.
We'd better go, because there's a whole mob of teenage boys
Headed this way, and they're completely pissed and very rowdy. 170
I don't think it's a good idea to get in their way.
Enter CHARISIOS from CHAIRESTRATOS' house.
I've gotten myself in a proper mess now. Alas for me!
Oh, woe! Where do I turn? What am I going to do with this baby?
And what do I say to Pamphile? I have to tell her something.
Enter SMIKRINES and PAMPHILE from CHARISIOS' house.
Oh, hell! Here she comes now, with her father! I can't let them see me,
But I want to hear what he has to say to her. I know--
I'll hide behind the door and listen.
Exit CHARISIOS into CHAIRESTRATOS' house.
I'm telling you, Pamphile, you're making a big mistake.>
Maybe, but if you try to rescue me against my will,
You'll be my master, not my father. 715
Why should it even require persuasion, or words?
Isn't it obvious? Your husband's behavior speaks for itself,
Pamphile. Speaks? It shouts. But if I have to spell it out for you,
I'm ready. I've got three main points to put to you.
He's a lost cause, and that means your cause is lost as well. 720
<He's a philanderer and doesn't care about you, and you--
You're so eager to let yourself be exploited
That you won't believe that I'm trying to help you.
You've got the whole thing backwards, lovey:
It's your father who cares about you, not your husband. 725
And it's your father you should listen to.
I'm only looking after your best interests, after all.
He's not looking after anything, just chasing after loose women.
What kind of a husband does that? Is that why you got married?
So your husband could spend your money like water, 730
And not even spend it on you? He was spending enough
On that so-called musician before, when it was casual.
What do you think is going to happen now that she's had his child?
I'll tell you what: you're going to pay to bring up someone else's kid!
I didn't give Charisios your hand in marriage so he could do this! 735
A wife is for the sowing of legitimate children, and her dowry
Is supposed to support her, not her husband's bastards.
He's not keeping his side of the bargain, so why should you?
Surely you can't be hoping it will improve?
His goodtime girl has a stranglehold on him now. 740
She's the mother of his child. He'll take her as a permanent mistress,
And never come to you at all, so you'll have no children of your own
To call him back to his matrimonial duties. And how, I ask you,
Is a man like Charisios supposed to support two households?
He's just spent half your dowry to buy her freedom. 745
Do you know how much a girl like that costs? (You'd better not:
I brought you up better than that.) Think of the expenses involved
Just in sending you both to all the women's festivals!>
He'll have to pay admission for two to the Thesmophoria,
To the Skira. Just think about it--he'll be utterly ruined. 750
Don't you agree this looks like financial suicide?
Look what's in store for you. He'll tell you he has to go out--
Down to the waterfront. And he'll get good and settled in there, too.
<He'll make you miserable, and you'll spend all your time
Waiting and worrying, too anxious to eat while he gets drunk with her. 755
Mark my words, Pamphile: Charisios has left you for good.
He's not coming back. I can see that a mile away.
I wish you'd wake up and see that he never loved you.
It's clear enough from his appalling behavior
That he only married you for your money. 760
I gave you enough to keep you in style for the rest of your life,
And how much of it is left now? Not very much,
Not the way he's been spending. Didn't you see the bags of silver
Chairestratos walked off with. All that beautiful money,
My money, your money, and now some pimp's got it. 765
And what do you get for it? A rival for your husband's affections.
How can you let him do this to you?
How can you take it so quietly?
Why do you put up with it at all?
I don't understand why you didn't turn around and come home 770
As soon as Charisios showed his true nature.
At least then you could have brought your money with you!
All right, so maybe there was a chance before
That your husband would get tired of his tart
And come back for something more wholesome. 775
But that was before this baby was discovered.
I wish I'd never gotten involved with that mess.
If the shepherd had kept his cheap little jewels,
Charisios would never know he had a son.
He'd have had no reason to elevate this girl from cheap trick 780
To live-in lover, no need to pay such an exorbitant sum
To keep his baby from being raised a slave.
But you're a slave to your devotion.
You can't see that one thing will only lead to another.
First it's booze, then women--what's next? Gambling? 785
Or perhaps he'll decide one bastard son isn't enough
And father more of them on different women.
You don't think Hotpants is going to let go of him
Now that she has him, do you? >
You're not going to be able to talk her into leaving. 790
She'll just sit there and pout. She knows what she's doing,
And she's got a plan to put herself on a level with his wife.
She'll put you out of the running. It's difficult, Pamphile,
For a respectable freeborn lady to fight a tart.
A whore fights dirtier, she has more experience at it, 795
She's not ashamed of anything. She knows how to flatter a man,
And more I won't mention. I can predict your future
As surely as if I were the Pythia, and I know what's in store.
She'll put herself forward anyway she can,
And he'll go along with her plans willingly. 800
Please, father, let me tell my side of the story.
You think that because of all I've suffered
<I should leave my husband and come home to you.
You think I have no hope, and that this baby
Is proof that Charisios is debauched and untrustworthy. 805
On the contrary: look how responsibly he's behaved
Since discovering he was a father. Could you do less?
If you had such a child, would you let it starve
Or grow up an orphan and a slave, never knowing its father?
Just because he's bought this girl her freedom 810
Doesn't mean he'll spend all his time with her.>
They say <any man can make a mistake.>
Well, Charisios made one--before <we got married.>
Should I leave him <because of that? No marriage
Would ever last> if every man <who played around> 815
Lost <his wife because of it. Should I leave him>
Just on account of this? <Or should I instead>
Share the good times with him only if
I know ahead of time <they'll last?>By the gods,
I came here to be his life partner. <Charisios> 820
Got into trouble? I can put up with that. <I don't care>
If he maintains and lives in two houses, <or even
If he puts her wishes first, <ahead of mine.>
But if I want anything to be different, <I can't let>
Either pain or <difficulty make me give up.> 825
It's best for me <and my reputation to be forgiving.>
You think I can't tell <what the other woman
Is really aiming for, <and how she plans>
To get me put aside? Well, she'll soon see
That I'm genuinely devoted to Charisios 830
<And that she won't outlast me.
She might think> it will be easy to split us up,
<But when she tries> her hand at it,
<She'll find out that she's the weaker contender,
And she'll put herself out in the cold. 835
Well, have it your way then, if you won't listen to sense.
I can't drag you off by force, but just you wait:
You'll come home of your own free will soon enough,
Once he's made you a pauper and broken your heart.
And don't think I won't say 'I told you so.' 840
Please just go home, father.
I'm going, I'm going. But it's unnatural, that's what it is.
How did a sensible man like me end up with a romantic like you
For a daughter? It must be your mother's fault.
Exit SMIKRINES to the city.
Oh, I hope I've done the right thing. I hate fighting with Father, 845
But what else can I do? I can't tell him the truth, that I'm lucky
Charisios didn't send me home.> I've burned myself out with weeping, Fr. 8
<But I'm not going to leave my husband. How I envy that girl!
She has Charisios, and her child--and I have neither.
My poor baby. If only you'd had a different father, 850
None of this would have happened.
Oh, there you are, love. Won't you tell me what's wrong? No?
What do you mean, where am I going? What does it look like?>
I'm going outside. The baby's been making an awful fuss,
Enter HABROTONON, carrying the baby
Haven't you, poor thing? And I don't even know what's the
Oh, won't some god out there take pity on my misery? 855
Poor sweet little baby. When are you going to see your mother?
And where do I start looking for her?
Well, I should be going inside.
My lady! Wait!
Are you addressing me?
I am. Turn and look at me.
Do you recognize me, madam? Do you know who I am?
It is her. I thought I'd know her if I saw her. Am I glad to see you! 860
Who are you?
Here, give me your hand.
Tell me, sweetheart, did you go <with your friends> last year
To see the sights at the Tauropolia?
First tell me where you got that baby you're holding.
My dear friend, do you see something you recognize? 865
No, no, don't be afraid of me, my lady.
But didn't you give birth to it yourself?
I did pretend to,
But not so I could do the real mother out of her rights.
I needed time to find her--and now I have.
I saw you the night this baby was conceived.
But then--who is the father? 870
Oh, my dear--are you telling me the truth?
Trust me, I am. But aren't you the lady of this house,
Oh woman blessed, oh happy wife,
Some god has taken pity on you. But one of the neighbors
Might come outside and hear us. 875
Take me into your house with you,
So I can tell you the rest of the story, more clearly.
Exit HABROTONON and PAMPHILE into CHARISIOS' house.
Enter ONESIMOS from CHAIRESTRATOS' house.
He's gone mad, by Apollo. Yep, he's crazy.
He's completely mad, he really is. By the gods, he's crazy.
It's my master Charisios I'm talking about. 880
Got a bad case of black bile, or something like that.
I mean, what else could anyone say was going on?
Until just now he was standing just inside the doors
For ages, poking his nose through a crack and eavesdropping.
His wife's father was lecturing her about the situation here, 885
Or that's the impression I got, ladies and gentlemen,
And it made Charisios turn the strangest colors--indescribable.
He kept shouting 'Oh, sweet sweet sweet Pamphile,
What marvelous things you're saying,' and pounding his forehead
With his hand. When he left off that it was 'Oh, woe is me, 890
'What a wife I married, and what a mess I've gotten into!'
And when he'd finally heard it all and come away from the door,
That's when we got the gnashing of teeth, the tearing of hair--
That's when he went completely out of his mind. He kept shouting
'I'm a criminal! That I could have done such a thing myself 895
And become a father to a bastard child
And not shown the slightest sympathy or forgiveness
To her when she got in the same kind of trouble through no fault of her own.
I'm a heartless savage!' He keeps accusing himself--enthusiastically!--
And he looks all worked up. His eyes are bloodshot. 900
It made my hair stand on end. I'm so scared I can hardly talk.
The way he's acting right now, if he saw me,
The one who split them up in the first place, he might kill me.
That's why I've come out here, snuck out in secret.
But oh, where shall I turn? What counsel is there? I'm lost. 905
I'm done for. He's pounding on the door. He's coming out.
Zeus the Savior, save me--if you can!
Exit ONESIMOS into CHARISIOS' house.
Enter CHARISIOS from CHAIRESTRATOS' house.
And here I thought I was such a paragon of virtue.
I had a reputation to protect. I thought I knew right from wrong.
Pure as the driven snow, beyond reproach, above suspicion. 910
But all that time there was some god looking over my shoulder,
Waiting for the right moment to show me my feet of clay.
Unfortunate Charisios, triply destested by the gods,
You sure talked yourself up, had an ego out to here,
Wouldn't put up with it when your wife got into trouble she never wanted.
Well, I'll show you. You got into exactly the same kind of trouble, 915
And she was sweet and forgiving about it, but you rejected her,
Shamed her, and then proved yourself a pompous ass and a hypocrite
By getting into the same kind of trouble she had.
But she kept right on defending you to her father,
Saying she was your partner for life, 920
For better or for worse, and it wasn't right for her to leave
If things got tough. And you were so damn self-righteous
<When she was in trouble, you had no loyalty to her at all.
Is that any way for a decent man to behave, you> barbarian?
<If only you'd acted>sensibly to her <before, and remembered 925
What you'd promised when> you married her.
Some life-partner you are!> And now her father
Is doing his damnedest to talk her around. Well, so what?
I'll tell him just where I stand. Smikrines, stop interfering.
You're not going to take my wife away from me. 930
Why are you making so much trouble and pressuring Pamphile?
Why are you always hanging around here? Mind your own business.
Enter ONESIMOS from CHARISIOS' house.
Oimoi talas. What a lot of trouble I'm in.
You got me into this, Habrotonon,
So you'd better not let me down now.
And how long have you been standing here eavesdropping,
You little sod?
I swear to god I just came outside now. 935
<So when did you sneak off,
And what kind of new trouble have you been stirring up,>
Snooping and spying on everything?
I just wanted to get out of your way, master,
When you were raving like that.
<Why? It was your fault I had something to be angry about.> 940
But don't you see <there's nothing to be upset about after all?>
Who are you?
<Did you forget me so soon, love?>
Aren't you <in the wrong house, then? And where's your baby?
He's not my <baby.>
Not yours? 945
And you can <thank me for that.>
But you had me absolutely <convinced.
This was all her idea. She talked me into it.
Well, you were the one to show me the ring.>
What's she saying, Onesimos? Has she made a fool of me? 950
I swear she talked me into it.
So you were an accessory to the crime?
Please don't be angry at him, lovey.
The baby's real mother is your lawful wedded wife,
And no one else.
I only wish.
Sweet goddess Demeter!
What are you trying to tell me? 955
Only the truth.
The baby is Pamphile's?
But it's my son.
Yes, hers and yours both.
Habrotonon, I beg you, don't make fun of me this way.
<There's nothing I want more in the world than for that baby
I fathered to be Pamphile's baby too, but that's not possible. 960
Yes it is. She was the girl you raped at the Tauropolia.
You lost your ring in the struggle and she ended up with it.
But then how did you get it?
And where did he get it?
It was found with the baby, and he recognized it as yours.
That part of our story was true: the shepherd Daos 965
Found your son and the ring. He gave the baby to Syros,
But wanted to keep the ring for himself. Now the baby is where he belongs,
In your house with his real mother--Pamphile.
But why didn't you just tell me the truth?
Silly man, how could I? What good would it have done? 970
I couldn't tell you> until I knew <who the mother was.
You've got me there. All right, then--you did the right thing.
And now you've told me the happiest news in the world.
I can hardly believe my good fortune.
The gods have had pity on me after all. 975
By Zeus the Philandere, I owe Pamphile an apology--
But now that I know the baby's hers, she might forgive me.
Oh, please please please forgive me, Pamphile.
Let's all go inside now, and put everything to rights.
Exeunt omnes into CHARISIOS' house.