ACT II
Scene II
 

ALCMENE, CLEANTHIS, AMPHITRYON, SOSIE

ALCMENE
Come, Cleanthis, let us attend the Gods, pay them our homage for my husband's sake, and thank them for the glorious success, of which Thebes, by his arm, reaps the advantage. O ye Gods!

AMPHITRYON
Heaven grant that victorious Amphitryon may be met with renewed pleasure by his wife: that this day may be favourable to my passion, and restore you to me with the same heart: may I again find as much love as my heart brings to you!

ALCMENE
Ah! Have you returned so soon.

AMPHITRYON
Really, you give me but a sorry proof of your love; this, 'Ah! have you returned so soon?' is scarcely the language a heart really inflamed with love would use on such an occasion as this. I dared to flatter myself I had remained away from you too long. The expectation of an ardently longed for return makes each moment seem of great length; the absence of what we love, however brief it may be, is always too long.

ALCMENE
I do not see . . .

AMPHITRYON
No, Alcmene, time is measured in such cases by one's impatience; you count the moments of absence as one who does not love. When we really love, the slightest separation kills us; the one whom we love to see never returns too soon. I confess that the love I bear you has cause to complain of your reception; I expected different expressions of joy and tenderness from your heart.

ALCMENE
I cannot understand on what you found the words you have just uttered; if you complain of me, upon my word I do not know what would satisfy you. I think I showed a sufficiently tender joy last night, at your happy return; my heart responded by every means you could wish to the claims of your affection.

AMPHITRYON
In what way?

ALCMENE
Did I not clearly show the sudden transports of a perfect joy? Could a heart's feelings be better expressed at the return of a husband who is tenderly loved?

AMPHITRYON
What do you say?

ALCMENE
That even your affection showed an inconceivable joy at my reception; and that, as you left me at break of day, I do not see that my surprise at this sudden return is so guilty.

AMPHITRYON
Did you, in a dream last night, Alcmene, anticipate in idea the reality of my hastened return; and having, perhaps, treated me kindly in your sleep, does your heart think it has fully acquitted itself of its duty to my passion?

ALCMENE
Has some malignant vapour in your mind, Amphitryon, clouded the truth of last night's return? Does your heart pretend to take away from me the credit of all the gentle affection I showed you in my tender welcome?

AMPHITRYON
This vapour you attribute to me seems to me somewhat strange.

ALCMENE
It is in return for the dream which you attribute to me.

AMPHITRYON
Unless it is because of a dream, what you have just now told me is entirely inexcusable.

ALCMENE
Unless it is a vapour which troubles your mind, what I have heard from you cannot be justified.

AMPHITRYON
Let us leave this vapour for a moment, Alcmene.

ALCMENE
Let us leave this dream for a moment, Amphitryon.

AMPHITRYON
One cannot jest on the subject in question without being carried too far.

ALCMENE
Undoubtedly; and, as a sure proof of it, I begin to feel somewhat uneasy.

AMPHITRYON
Is it thus you wish to try to make amends for the welcome of which I complain?

ALCMENE
Do you desire to try to amuse yourself by this feint?

AMPHITRYON
For Heaven's, sake, I beseech you, Alcmene! Let us cease this, and talk seriously.

ALCMENE
You carry your amusement too far, Amphitryon: let there be an end to this raillery.

AMPHITRYON
Do you really dare maintain to my face that I was seen here before this hour?

ALCMENE
Have you really the assurance to deny that you came here early yesterday evening?

AMPHITRYON
I! I came yesterday?

ALCMENE
Certainly; and you went away again before dawn.

AMPHITRYON
Heavens! Was ever such a debate as this heard before? Who would not be astonished at all this? Sosie?

SOSIE
She needs six grains of hellebore, Monsieur; her brain is turned.

AMPHITRYON
Alcmene, in the name of all the Gods, this discourse will have a strange ending! Recollect your senses a little better, and think what you say.

ALCMENE
I am indeed thinking seriously; all in the house saw your arrival. I am ignorant what motive makes you act thus; but, if the thing were in need of proof, if it were true that such a thing could be forgotten, from whom, but from you, could I have heard the news of the latest of all your battles, and of the five diamonds worn by Pterelas, who was plunged into eternal night by the strength of your arm? Could one wish for surer testimony?

AMPHITRYON
What? I have already given you the cluster of diamonds which I had for my share, and intended for you?

ALCMENE
Assuredly. It is not difficult to convince you thoroughly on that point.

AMPHITRYON
How?

ALCMENE
Here it is.

AMPHITRYON
Sosie!

SOSIE
She is jesting: I have it here; Monsieur, the feint is useless.

AMPHITRYON
The seal is whole.

ALCMENE
Is it a vision? There. Will you think this proof strong enough?

AMPHITRYON
Ah Heaven! O just Heaven!

ALCMENE
Come, Amphitryon, you are joking in acting thus: you ought to be ashamed of it.

AMPHITRYON
Break this seal, quickly.

SOSIE
(Having opened the casket.) Upon my word, the casket is empty. It must have been taken out by witchcraft, or else it came by itself a guide, to her whom it knew it was intended to adorn.

AMPHITRYON
O Gods, whose power governs all things, what is this adventure? What can I augur from it that does not clutch at my heart?

SOSIE
If she speaks the truth, we have the same lot, and, like me, Monsieur, you are double.

AMPHITRYON
Be silent.

ALCMENE
Why are you so surprised? What causes all this confusion?

AMPHITRYON
O Heaven! What strange perplexity! I see incidents which surpass Nature, and my honour fears an adventure which my mind does not understand.

ALCMENE
Do you still wish to deny your hasty return, when you have this sensible proof of it?

AMPHITRYON
No; but if it be possible, deign to tell me what passed at this return.

ALCMENE
Since you ask an account of the matter, you still say it was not you?

AMPHITRYON
Pardon me; but I have a certain reason which makes me ask you to give us this account.

ALCMENE
Have the important cares which perhaps engross you made you so quickly lose the remembrance of it?

AMPHITRYON
Perhaps; but, in short, you would please me by telling me the whole story.

ALCMENE
The story is not long. I advanced towards you full of a delighted surprise; I embraced you tenderly, and showed my joy more than once.

AMPHITRYON
(to himself.) Ah! I could have done without so sweet a welcome.

ALCMENE
You first made me this valuable gift, which you destined for me from the spoils of the conquered. Your heart vehemently unfolded to me all the violence of its love, and the annoying duties which had kept it enchained, the happiness of seeing me again, the torments of absence, all the care which your impatience to return had given you; never has your love, on similar occasions, seemed to me so tender and so passionate.

AMPHITRYON
(to himself.) Can one be more cruelly tortured?

ALCMENE
As you may well believe, these transports and this tenderness did not displease me; if I must confess it, Amphitryon, my heart found a thousand charms in them.

AMPHITRYON
What followed, pray?

ALCMENE
We interrupted each other with a thousand questions concerning each other. The table was laid. We supped together by ourselves; and, supper over, we went to bed.

AMPHITRYON
Together?

ALCMENE
Assuredly. What a question?

AMPHITRYON
Ah; this is the most cruel stroke of all; my jealous passion trembled to assure itself of this.

ALCMENE
Why do you blush so deeply at a word? Have I done something wrong in going to bed with you?

AMPHITRYON
No, to my great misery, it was not I; whoever says I was here yesterday, tells, of all falsehoods, the most horrible.

ALCMENE
Amphitryon!

AMPHITRYON
Perfidious woman!

ALCMENE
Ah! What madness is this!

AMPHITRYON
No, no; no more sweetness, no more respect; this rebuff puts an end to all my constancy; at this ghastly moment, my heart breathes only fury and, vengeance.

ALCMENE
On whom then would you be avenged? What want of faith in me makes you treat me now as a criminal?

AMPHITRYON
I do not know, but it was not I; this despair makes me capable of anything.

ALCMENE
Away unworthy husband, the deed speaks for itself, the imposture is frightful. It is too great an insult to accuse me of infidelity. If these confused transports mean that you seek a pretext to break the nuptial bonds which hold me enchained to you, all these pretences are superfluous, for I am determined that this day all our ties shall be broken.

AMPHITRYON
After the unworthy affront, which I now learn has been done me, that is indeed what you must prepare yourself for; it is the least that can be expected; and things may not perhaps remain there. The dishonour is sure; my misery is made plain to me; and my pride in vain would hide it from me. The details are still not clear: My anger is just and I claim to be enlightened. Your brother can positively avouch that I did not leave him until this morning: I will go and seek him, in order that I may confound you about the return falsely imputed to me. Afterwards, we will penetrate to the bottom of a mystery unheard of until now; and, in the fury of a righteous anger, woe to him who has betrayed me!

SOSIE
Monsieur . . .

AMPHITRYON
Do not accompany me, but remain here for me.

CLEANTHIS
Must I . . .?

ALCMENE
I cannot hear anything: leave me alone: do not follow me.