ACT II
Scene III
 

CLEANTHIS, SOSIE

CLEANTHIS
Something must have turned his brain; but the brother will soon finish this quarrel.

SOSIE
This is a very sharp blow for my master; his fate is cruel. I greatly fear something coming for myself. I will go softly in enlightening her.

CLEANTHIS
Let me see whether he will so much as speak to me! I will not reveal anything.

SOSIE
These things are often annoying when one knows about them: I hesitate to ask her. Would it not be better not to risk anything, and to ignore what may have happened? Yet, at all hazard, I must see. I cannot help myself. Curiosity concerning things which one would rather not know is a human weakness. Heaven preserve you, Cleanthis!

CLEANTHIS
Ah! Ah! You dare to come near me, you villain!

SOSIE
Good Heavens! What is the matter with you? You are always in a temper, and become angry about nothing!

CLEANTHIS
What do you call about nothing? Speak out.

SOSIE
I call about nothing what is called about nothing in verse as well as in prose; and nothing, as you well know, means to say nothing, or very little.

CLEANTHIS
I do not know what keeps me from scratching your eyes out, infamous rascal, to teach you how far the anger of a woman can go.

SOSIE
Hullo! What do you mean by this furious rage?

CLEANTHIS
Then you call that nothing, perhaps, which you have done to me?

SOSIE
What was that?

CLEANTHIS
So? You feign to be innocent? Do you follow the example of your master and say you did not return here?

SOSIE
No, I know the contrary too well; but I will be frank with you. We had drunk some wretched wine, which might have made me forget what I did.

CLEANTHIS
You think, perhaps, to excuse yourself by this trick, . . .

SOSIE
No, in truth you may believe me. I was in such a condition that I may have done things I should regret; I do not remember what they were.

CLEANTHIS
You do not even remember the manner in which you thought fit to treat me when you came from the port?

SOSIE
Not at all. You had better tell me all about it; I am just and sincere, and would condemn myself were I wrong.

CLEANTHIS.Well? Amphitryon having warned me of your return, I sat up until you came; but I never saw such coldness: I had myself to remind you that you had a wife; and, when I wanted to kiss you, you, turned away your head, and gave me your ear.

SOSIE
Good.

CLEANTHIS
What do you mean by good?

SOSIE
Good gracious! You do not know why I talk like this, Cleanthis: I had been eating garlic, and, like a well-bred man, just turned my breath away from you.

CLEANTHIS
I showed you every possible tenderness; but you were as deaf as a post to everything I said; never a kind word passed your lips.

SOSIE
Courage!

CLEANTHIS
In short, my flame bad to burn alone, its chaste ardour did not find anything in you but ice; you were the culprit in a return that might have been so different: you even went so far as to refuse to take your place in bed, which the laws of wedlock oblige you to occupy.

SOSIE
What? Did I not go to bed?

CLEANTHIS
No, you coward.

SOSIE
Is it possible?

CLEANTHIS
It is but too true, you rascal. Of all affronts this affront is the greatest; and, instead of your heart repairing its wrong this morning, you left me with words full of undisguised contempt.

SOSIE
Vivat Sosie!

CLEANTHIS
Eh, what? Has my complaint had this effect? You laugh at your fine goings on?

SOSIE
How pleased I am with myself!

CLEANTHIS
Is this the way to express your grief at such an outrage?

SOSIE
I should never have believed I could be so prudent.

CLEANTHIS
Instead of condemning yourself for such a perfidious trick, you rejoice at it to my face!

SOSIE
Good gracious! Gently, gently! If I appear pleased, you must believe that I have a very strong private reason for it; without thinking of it, I never did better than in using you in such a manner as I did.

CLEANTHIS
Are you laughing at me, you villain?

SOSIE
No, I am speaking openly to you. I was in a wretched state. I had a certain load, which your words have lifted from my soul. I was very apprehensive, and feared that I had played the fool with you.

CLEANTHIS
What is this fear? Come, let us know what you mean.

SOSIE
The doctors say that, when one is drunk, one should abstain from one's wife, for, in that condition we can only have children who are dull, and who cannot live. Think, if my heart had not armed itself with coldness, what troubles might have followed!

CLEANTHIS
I do not care a fig for doctors, with their insipid reasonings. Let them rule those who are sick without wishing to govern healthy people. They meddle with too many affairs when they seek to rein in our chaste desires; in addition to the dog days, and their strict rules, they tell us a hundred ridiculous stories into the bargain.

SOSIE
Gently.

CLEANTHIS
No; I maintain theirs is a worthless conclusion: those reasons come from idiotic brains. Neither wine nor time ought to prevent the duties of conjugal love from being fulfilled; doctors are donkeys.

SOSIE
I entreat you, moderate your anger against them; they are honest people, whatever the world may say of them.

CLEANTHIS
Things are not what you think them; you can shut up; your excuse will not go down; and, sooner or later, I tell you plainly, I will avenge myself for the contempt you show me every day. I remember everything you said just now, and I shall try to make use of the liberty you gave me, You faithless, cowardly husband.

SOSIE
What?

CLEANTHIS
You told me just now, you villain, that you would heartily agree to my loving another.

SOSIE
Ah! In that matter I was wrong. I retract; my honour is at stake. You had better beware you do not give way to that sentiment.

CLEANTHIS
Nevertheless if some time I can make up my mind to the thing . . .

SOSIE
Just stop talking for the present. Amphitryon is coming back, and he seems pleased.