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Come in the path of the soft false dawn,
The bird, blithe comer,
Can make a summer
Come when the mighty log is flame,
Now do not fear
To take good cheer;
A. C. HARRINGTON.
THE HAUNTED HOUSE.
A COMEDY BY TITUS MACCUS PLAUTUS.
EARNED readers, quotquot adestis, be pleased to pass on to
the next article: these pages are not for you. And you especially, Professor, in whose undisputed domain I am timidly poaching, crawling under the hedge, dilate not the nostril of scorn, invoke no Furies or Vejoves, perform no frenzied eclactisma of disgust ;- in the words of your favorite author, molestus ne sis: abi istinc: abi dierecte atque extempulo!
Having cleared the coast of all formidable critics by this effective exorcism, I can now proceed, much at my ease.
It has occurred to me, as an imperfectly informed person, that there may be many other imperfectly informed persons, to whose minds the ancient Romans invariably present themselves as a solemn stiff sort of fellows, always talking in long Latin sentences with the verb at the end, marching behind the eagles, going in procession to the Capitol, leaping into chasms, swimming in armor over rivers, failing on their swords, and doing other grim and aquiline things, quite incompatible with anything like fun. To such persons, if such there be, it has struck me as aforesaid that a specimen of Roman fun, or the
kind of fun Romans loved and laughed at in the rough old republican days when they were fighting Hannibal, would not be unpleasing ; and for this purpose I have thrown into such English as I can command, a comedy of Plautus — the Mostellaria, or, as I shall call it, “The Haunted House.” In doing this I have used the freest license throughout, and cut away whole scenes where they did not suit my purpose.
I am not going to venture beyond my depth into any disquisition on Roman theatres in the time of the Punic wars : I never saw one, nor has anybody else for the last two thousand years. It will be sufficient if the reader pictures to himself a semicircular wooden structure, probably little better than a temporary scaffolding, and much like the arrangement of a modern circus. The spectators are seated on rows of benches, which rise as they go back from the orchestra that is, the level semicircle in front - with gangways running parallel with the benches, crossed by others running down toward the stage. If the reader have an ambitious imaginaiion, he can take his seat in the orchestra with the consuls and senators, or in one of the fourteen rows behind these, the reserved seats of the equestrian order, or he can mingle, if he prefers it, with the commonaliy.
Before him, and forming the rear of the orchestra, he will see a raised stage, with no side-scenes, and closed at the back by a dropcurtain. This being drawn down under the platform, the solitary scene is disclosed, which shuis in the back of the stage. It represents a street in Athens. Two bouses, with vestibules, an altar before each, and a practicable front door at the back of the vestibule, face the spectator. In the street before ihe vestibules, or in the vestibules themselves, the whole action passes.
There being no printed or written play-bills, an actor comes forward by way of prologue, and tells the audience the name of the play they are to see, and who is its author. He further explains that the scene is laid in Athens ; that one of the houses they see belongs to Simo, and the other to Theuropides, two old gentlemen, the latter of whom has been voyaging on business for about three years, and whose son, young Philolaches, abetted by the slave Tranio, has been having high jinks in the old man's absence, dicing, feasting, and carousing with other young bloods, but especially with his crony, Callidamates, and Philematium and Delphium, iwo young ladies “ with no bigodd nonsense about them,” as Mr. Sparkler says.
And now he retires — whether with a bow or not, I am unable to say - and the play begins.
THE HAUNTED HOUSE.
THEUROPIDES, an old Gentleman of Athens. | DELPHIUM, his sweetheart.
A MONEY-LENDER, or Banker,
TRANIO, PHILEMATIUM, his sweetheart.
GRUMIO, CALLIDAMATES, friend of Philolaches. PHANISCUS, servant of Callidamates.
}servants of Theuropides.
Act 1.- SCENE I.
Grumio. Come out of that kitchen, you rascal, you that can chop logic so finely over the dishes and pans. Come out of the house, I say! Ah, my fine fellow, if I live to get you on the farm once, won't I take it out of you, that's all ! Come out of the kitchen !
[Enter Tranio from house. Tranio. What upon earth are you bawling about in the street there? Do you think you're on the farm ? Get away from the house. Go back to your farm: clear out from the door there! Be off, I say! (Hits him.] Were you waiting for that ?
Grum. What do you strike me for, you scoundrel ?
Grum. Never mind. Only just let the old man come home. Just let him come home, and see how you eat him up while he's away, that's all !
Tran. Clodhopper, be rational: don't tell lies. How can anybody eat a man up while he's away?
Grum. And so you cast up the farm to me, my fine town-spark? No wonder you don't like it
, Tranio, my boy: you know you'll go before very long to the treadmill there. Before many days are over you'll be a clodhopper yourself, with a nice bracelet on your wrist and an anklet on your leg, Tranio, my boy. Go it while you can: swill, squander money, carouse night and day, corrupt our master's son, who used to be, though I say it, the finest, and modestest, and savingest young man in all Attica — and what is he now? Was it for this old master placed him in your charge when he went away?
Tran. Confound you, what business have you to concern yourself about me or what I do? He didn't put me in your charge, did he? Haven't you oxen on the farm to look after ? As for me, I like to eat and drink and flirt with the girls ; but I do it at the risk of my own back, not yours.
Grum. Isn't this an impudent rascal, now?
Grum. Ay, ay; I dare say. We can't all smell of musk and patchouli like you ; nor feed on partridges and pheasants. Some of us are glad enough of a dish of boiled onions. Well, well ; you're having your good time now; but never mind; wait a bit. My good time and your bad time are both to come.
Tran. Hark ye, Grumio, you're only envious because you have to work while I enjoy myself. Bless you, old fellow, that's just as it ought to be. I was made to flirt with the girls, and you to go clumping through the mud, poking up your old oxen. There's a natural difference in fellows, you know.
Grum. O you precious rascal! When the old man comes, if he don't poke you up and punch you as full of holes as a sieve
Tran. Come now, I've had about enough of that. If you have come for anything, say what it is and begone.
Grum. Are you ever going to give me the feed for my oxen? If you're not, give me the money to buy it, if you have any left from your —
Tran. Shut up and be off to your farm. I am going to the wharf to get some fish for dinner. I'll send you out the feed tomorrow. Now clear out: I'm off.
[Exit Tranio. Grum. He no more cares what I say, than Ah, lord, if the old man would only come back before house and lands and all are gone! He won't find them, if he stays much longer. Well, I'm off. What troubles me most, is my young master. They've ruined him ruined him! and there wasn't a finer young man in all Attica !
SCENE II. [Philolaches enters and moralises to the effect that he is going to the bad. Compares himself to a house well built, but ruined by bad tenants.]
[Philematium and her maid Scapha have a long dialogue, in which the former avows that she cares for no one but Philolaches. Philolaches, concealed, listens to it; then appears, and proposes to Philematium that they should také lunch. A table is placed in the vestibule and wine is brought, when Callidamates and his sweetheart are seen approaching. The young fellow has been taking too much wine already.]
SCENE IV. CALLIDAMATES, DELPHIUM, PHILOLACHES, PHILEMATIUM. Callid. I'm going to see Philolaches; that's where I'm going : now you know. At - other place - lunch was beastly, an' people were bores. I'm going to see Philolaches — know he'll be glad to Look here am I at all — ti-li-tipsy, do you
think? Delph. Not a bit : just a little lively.
Callid. You're the nicest girl I know. I wish you'd just steady me a bit. Delph. Take care - don't you fall, for goodness' sake!
Won't you just let me lie down here?
Callid. Do you think I'm ti-ti-tipsy? Come on then. Do you know where I'm going? I just remember: I'm going home. Now
Delph. No you're not.
Callid. You dear old fellow - don't know how glad am to see you. Best friend 've got in the world.
Philol. Come in, both of you, and sit down.
think I'll take a nap.
* Ecquid tibi videor ma-ma-madere?
Act. II, Scene 1.
The rest as before. Enier TRANIO. Tranio. Jupiter has certainly laid himself out to ruin me and my young master. It's all up with us. I go down to the wharf: what do I see there? A ship in, and my old master coming ashore. And now if there is anybody with bones of iron and skin of sole-leather that can be hired to take the beatings and the torments that are in store for me, let him come forward and name his price — I'm his man.
Philol. Here comes the dinner: Tranio is back.
Tranio. You ask that? Have all these things cleared away at once! Who's this asleep?
Callid. Father come back? Tell him go 'way again. What come back for, anyhow?
Philol. What upon earth shall I do?
Tranio. Down goes his head, and he's off again. Wake him up again, somebody. Philol. Wake up, I tell you. My father will be here directly.
Callid. Give me my shoes. I'll go and get my sword - kill your father.
Philol. Hold your tongue. Pick him up, some of you, and carry him off.
Tranio, Never mind : I can help the matter. What if I manage things so that your father not only will not enter the house, but will keep far away from it? You all go in and have these things cleared up at once.
Delph. I suppose we had better be going.