ACT II
Scene I
 

AMPHITRYON, SOSIE

AMPHITRYON
Come here, you rascal, come here. Do you know, Master Villain, that your talk is sufficient to cause me to knock you down, and that my wrath waits only for a stick to thrash you as I intend?

SOSIE
If you take it in that way, Monsieur, I have nothing more to say; you will be always in the right.

AMPHITRYON
So? You scoundrel, you wish to impose upon me as truths tales which I know to be extravagantly far-fetched?

SOSIE
No; I am the servant, and you are the master; it shall not be otherwise than you wish it, Monsieur.

AMPHITRYON
Come, I will choke down the anger that inflames me, and hear all you have to say about your mission. I must unravel this confusion before I see my wife. Collect your senses, think well over what you say, and answer each question word for word.

SOSIE
But, lest I make a mistake, tell me, I beseech you, beforehand, in what way it would please you to have this affair healed. Shall I speak, Monsieur, according to my conscience, or as usual when near the great? Shall I tell the truth or use a certain complaisance?

AMPHITRYON
No; I only wish you to give me a perfectly unvarnished account.

SOSIE
Good. That is enough; leave it to me; you have, but to interrogate me.

AMPHITRYON
Upon the order which I lately gave you . . .

SOSIE
I set forth under skies veiled in black crape, swearing bitterly against you for this wretched martyrdom, and cursing twenty times the order of which you speak.

AMPHITRYON
What do you mean, you villain?

SOSIE
You have only to speak, Monsieur, and I shall lie, if you desire it.

AMPHITRYON
That is how a valet shows his zeal for us. Never mind. What happened to you on the way?

SOSIE
I had a mortal fright at the least thing I met.

AMPHITRYON
Poltroon!

SOSIE
Nature has her caprices in forming us; she gives us differing inclinations; some find a thousand delights in exposing themselves; I find them in taking care of myself.

AMPHITRYON
When you arrived at the house...?

SOSIE
When I reached the door, I wished to rehearse to myself for a short time, in what tone and in what manner I should give a glorious account of the battle.

AMPHITRYON
What followed?

SOSIE
Some one came to annoy and trouble me.

AMPHITRYON
Who was he?

SOSIE
Sosie; another I, jealous of your orders, whom you sent to Alcmene from the port, and who has as full knowledge of our secrets as I who am speaking to you.

AMPHITRYON
What nonsense!

SOSIE
No, Monsieur, it is the simple truth: this I was at your house sooner than I; and, I swear to you, I was there before I had arrived.

AMPHITRYON
Pray, where does all this cursed nonsense come from? Is it a dream? Is it drunkenness? Mind-wandering? Or a sorry joke?

SOSIE
No, it is the thing as it is, and by no means an idle tale. I am a man of honour, I give you my word, and you must please believe it. I tell you, believing I was but one Sosie, I found myself two at your house; and of these two I's, piqued with jealousy, one is at the house, and the other is with you; the I who is here, tired out, found the other I fresh, jolly and active, having no other anxiety than to fight and break bones.

AMPHITRYON
I confess I must be of a very placid temper, very peaceable, very gentle, to permit a valet to entertain me with such nonsense!

SOSIE
If you become angry, no more conference between us: you know all will be over at once.

AMPHITRYON
No; I will listen to you without being carried away; I promised it. But tell me in good earnest, is there any shadow of likelihood in this new mystery which you have just told me?

SOSIE
No; you are right, the matter must appear to everyone past credit. It is a fact past understanding, an extravagant, ridiculous, far-fetched tale: it shocks common sense; but it is none the less a fact.

AMPHITRYON
How can anyone believe it, unless he has taken leave of his senses?

SOSIE
I myself did not believe it without extreme difficulty: I thought I was losing my senses when I saw myself two, and, for a long time, I treated my other self as an impostor: but he compelled me in the end to recognise myself; I saw it was I, without any trickery; from head to foot he is like me-handsome, a noble air, well built, charming manners; in fact, two peas do not resemble each other more; were it not that his hands are a little too heavy, I should be perfectly satisfied.

AMPHITRYON
I had need exhort myself to patience! But did you not in the end go into the house?

SOSIE
Good, go in! Ah! In what fashion? Have I never wished to listen to reason? Did I not forbid myself to enter our door?

AMPHITRYON
In what way?

SOSIE
With a stick, my back still aches from it.

AMPHITRYON
You have been thrashed?

SOSIE
Truly.

AMPHITRYON
And by whom?

SOSIE
Myself.

AMPHITRYON
You have thrashed yourself?

SOSIE
Yes, I; not the I who is here, but the I from the house, who whacks soundly.

AMPHITRYON
Heaven confound you for talking to me like this!

SOSIE
I am not joking; the I whom I have just met has great advantages over the I who speaks to you. He has a strong arm and great courage; I have had proofs of both; this devil of an I has licked me soundly; he is a fellow who can do wonders.

AMPHITRYON
Let us, cease this. Have you seen my wife?

SOSIE
No.

AMPHITRYON
Why not?

SOSIE
For a sufficiently strong reason.

AMPHITRYON
Who hindered you, scoundrel? Explain yourself.

SOSIE
Must I repeat the same thing twenty times? I, I tell you, this I who is more robust than I, this I who took possession of the door by force, this I who made me slope off, this I who wishes to be the only I, this I who is jealous of myself, this valiant I, whose anger made itself known to this poltroon of an I, in fact, this I who is at our house, this I who has shown himself to be my master, this I who has racked me with pain.

AMPHITRYON
His brain must be addled by having had too much to drink this morning.

SOSIE
May I be hanged if I have had anything to drink but water: I take my oath on it.

AMPHITRYON
Then your senses must have been fast asleep: some silly dream has shown you all these fairy tales and confused mysteries which you wish me to take for truths.

SOSIE
That is just as far away from the truth. I have not slept, and I do not even feel inclined that way. I am speaking to you wide- awake; I was wide awake this morning, upon my life! And the other Sosie was also wide-awake, when he drubbed me so well.

AMPHITRYON
Follow me; I order you to be silent. You tire my brain too much; I must be an out-and-out fool to have the patience to listen to the nonsense a valet has to say.

SOSIE
All talk is nonsense that comes from a man who is unknown. If a great man were to say it, it would be exquisite language.

AMPHITRYON
Let us go in without waiting any longer. But here comes Alcmene clothed in all her charms. Doubtless she does not expect me so soon, and my arrival will surprise her.