ACT I
Scene IV
 

CLEANTHIS, MERCURY (Mercury turns to go away)

CLEANTHIS
So? Is it thus you quit me?

MERCURY
What would you have? Do you wish me not to do my duty, and follow in Amphitryon's footsteps?

CLEANTHIS
To separate from me so rudely as this, you villain!

MERCURY
It is a fine subject to make a fuss about! We have still plenty of time to live together!

CLEANTHIS
But to go in such a churlish manner, without saying a single kind word to cheer me!

MERCURY
Where the deuce shall I dig up silly compliments? Fifteen years of married life exhaust nonsense; we said all we had to say to each other a long time ago.

CLEANTHIS
Look at Amphitryon, you rascal; see how his ardour burns for Alcmene; and then blush for the little passion that you show your wife.

MERCURY
But, gracious me! Cleanthis, they are still lovers. There comes a certain age when all this passes away; what suits them well in these early days would look ridiculous in us, old married people. It would be it fine sight to see us embracing each other, and saying sweet nothings!

CLEANTHIS
Oh! You perfidious wretch, must I give up hope that a heart sighs for me?

MERCURY
No, I should be sorry to say that; but I have too long a beard to dare to sigh; I should make you die of laughter.

CLEANTHIS
You brute, do you deserve the good fortune of having a virtuous woman for your wife?

MERCURY
Good Heavens! You are but too virtuous; this fine virtue is not worth anything to me. Do not be quite so honest a woman, and don't bother me so much.

CLEANTHIS
What? Do you blame me for being too honest?

MERCURY
A woman's gentleness is what charms me most: your virtue makes a clatter that never ceases to deafen me.

CLEANTHIS
You care for hearts full of false tenderness, for those women with the laudable and fine talent of knowing how to smother their husbands with caresses in order to make them oblivious of the existence of lovers.

MERCURY
Well! Shall I tell you what I think? An imaginary evil concerns fools only; my device should be: 'Less honour and more peace.'

CLEANTHIS
Would you, without any repugnance, suffer me openly to love a gallant?

MERCURY
Yes, if I were no longer worried by your tongue, and if it changed your temper and your goings-on. I prefer a convenient vice, to a fatiguing virtue. Adieu, Cleanthis, my dear soul; I must follow Amphitryon. (He goes away.)

CLE Why has not my heart sufficient resolution to punish this infamous scoundrel? Ah, how it maddens me, now, that I am an honest woman!