To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.  


FID. So what shall I do, Onophrius? Cornelius is upset by what I told him. I accused his wife, and since I couldn’t persuade him, I promised him I’d prove this, but I don’t know how.
ON. [Aside.] Unhappy Onophrius, what tragedies you’ve stirred up!
FID. Somebody is to be procured to go indoors and keep an eye on Cornelius.
ON. But what man will you find so rash as to dare do that? It seems far best to me (which comes from Cicero by rote) to yield to the time and obey necessity. So if you can’t do this, you shouldn’t wish to.
FID. Whatever happens, wicked Victoria will die, and that by my own hands if it cannot be done otherwise.
ON. But that’s unworthy of you, if you’ll pardon my saying so.
You’ll win great praise and ample spoils,
You and your boy,
If one woman is conquered by the wiles of two of the gods.

FID. So does this strange piety of yours towards the cruelest of women count more with you than your affection and benevolence towards me?
ON. Fidelis, don’t rage so greatly.
Wrath beclouds the mind, and you cannot descry the truth.
FID. Skip the aphorisms. Tell me in a word if you have any means of helping me.
ON. I don’t have any, nor if I did would I allow myself to be polluted thus with murder. For you know this, that those who act and their accomplices are punished with the same penalty.
FID. Go away, you unworthy wretch, but I’ll find someone else to rescue me from these difficulties. [Exit Onophrius.]


FID. Come here, Narcissus.
NARC. What do you want, master?
FID. I just met with Cornelius and told him of his wife’s misdeeds. He refused to believe me unless he sees it with his own eyes. So we must invent some trick, so that womanly glory may be taken away from women.
NARC. I’ll do this, master, as much as my manly ability allows, and I’ll work at it industriously. For, by Castor, she toys with us in wretched ways. So I’m going back to my Attilia. Therefore, having changed costume, I’ll enter the house as if I were an adulterer. You hide yourself and Cornelius, so that with his own eyes he may see me coming out.
FID. But this doesn’t seem sufficient, Narcissus, that he see you coming out the door, unless you address Victoria by name when you’ve made your exit.
NARC. Excellent. As I come out I’ll call her by name and praise too, and thank her for giving me such liberal hospitality. But you must watch out for this, lest you let Cornelius come out of hiding before I’ve reached a place of safety.
FID. I’ll take care of that. You remember to call her Victoria.
NARC. And take care of this too, please, that Cornelius doesn’t make an assault on me.
FID. Come, hide yourself with that hood. (Narcissus has a hood with him.)
NARC. This way?
FID. Excellent.
NARC. Would that you’d delegate this responsibility to somebody else!
FID. Ah, Narcissus, you’re the death of me.
NARC. No, I’m rushing to my own.
FID. Have no doubt, I tell you. Meanwhile I’ll meet with Cornelius and bring him, so that hiding here he’ll see you.


FORT. Women’s love being so inconstant, who’d be so foolish as to dance attendance on women? Since this city is great, since it has plenty of women, I’ll pluck my joys, I’ll enjoy my pleasures, and I shall not omit what’s at hand while I care about the future. Medusa promised me I’d possess Barbara, but the witch hasn’t brought this about yet, the bearded old hag. But here she is. Medusa mine, you’re the woman I want. And what about Barbara? Does she love me, does she remember me? What day is appointed for our joys?
MED. I’m afraid lest the clever thing might cheat us with her wiles.
FORT. I’m not afraid of her wiles, as long as I possess her.
MED. I’m so oppressed by difficulties in my own life that —
FORT. I understand what you mean. Take this money, and see that I get control of her as a mistress, so that I’m reduced from a third figure to a prime, that is Barbara, I mean my Barbara, who’s figure is most perfect.
MED. What’s that, master?
FORT. [Aside.] I’m talking too deeply, the ignorant woman doesn’t understand me. [Aloud.] I’m speaking of the reduction of dialectic syllogisms, which by a cabalistic art I used metaphorically for the seduction of women.
MED. How dialectically, how
cabbalistically, in a nagging kind of way!
FORT. But do you understand the way this reduction works?
MED. I’ve heard scholars arguing about the modes of syllogisms, about the mode of reduction, and in the third figure I find no mode that begins in F, in which Fortunius could be placed, unless you like Felapton.
FORT. Oh yes, that one, but since you’ve begun to philosophize, tell me, if you can, by what species of reduction?
MED. S wants to be converted simply, but C by accident
M wants to be transposed, and F to be led by the impossible.
F — Fortunius will be led back by the impossible.
FORT. What are you saying, you sophist? Can’t I be led back to Barbara?
MED. Yes you can, but by the impossible.
FORT. You’re too wise, Medusa, I’d rather be led back in some other way.
MED. Perhaps by a transposition of terms?
FORT. What’s that?
MED. It’s necessary that the terms be transposed, namely yours and hers. This term is an anagogic word.
FORT. Excellent, that pleases me very much. What sweeter than to have our terms transposed?
MED. But wait, and hear this one thing. As soon as you go to her today, say this secretly to yourself three times: Ambracullac, Buphalicaccio, Hortelado. Let me hear you pronounce it.
FORT. Anculabrac.
MED. But you’re mistaken. Ambracullac, I say.
FORT. Alacambrac.
MED That’s terrible
FORT. You go first, I’ll follow.
MED. Am.
MED. bra
FORT. bra
MED. cul
FORT. cul
MED. lac.
FORT. lac.
MED. pha
FORT. pha
MED. lac
FORT. lac
MED. cio.
FORT. cio.
MED. Hor
MED. te
FORT. te
MED. la
FORT. la
MED. do.
FORT. do.
MED. Ambracullac, Buphalaccio, Hortelado.
FORT. What, you evil thing, is this complicated riddling? I need to undertake an easier plan.
MED. So you want me to tell it to you in a word?
FORT. Yes I want you to.
MED. I’ve found an excellent way to achieve this. Barbara adores Fidelis, and so she wants me to entice him to love her with my charms. I’ll go and tell her I’ve accomplished everything, and have handled Fidelis with my art so that he promised me he’d come to her tonight dressed as a rustic so he could get in easier. So you dress up that way and knock at her dor. I’ll be inside and lead you to her straightway.
FORT. What if she recognizes I’m Fortunius?
MED. Nobody’s in the house but her father, her nurse, and her maid. Her father’s sick, the maid will be sent away from the house, the nurse will be waiting for you in her chamber without a light, I’ll lead you without any risk.
FORT. So go and arrange this. I’ll come back in the evening.


FID. Do you want us to hide here someplace, so that you may see if anybody comes out of the house?
CORN. By Hercules, I like that.
FID. And behold, your door is open.
CORN. I see.
FID. Let’s conceal ourselves here. See, somebody’s come out the door.
CORN. Let me leave.
FID. But stay, look at the man.
NARC. Oh Victoria, Victoria, by far most pleasant of women, with what joys you’ve honored me tonight!
CORN. Oh the rascal! Let me take vengeance, let me depart, I say.
FID. Will you plant horns on your head immediately, Cornelius?
CORN. By Jupiter, what is this if not an affront? Is this an honorable deed, is this the duty of a wife to whom I’ve entrusted my life and my fortune? But you won’t do this unavenged. I’ll make an example of you, you’ll die, wicked woman, and that by my hand, evil witch.
FID. I like it that she should die, but I mislike the manner of her death. For you to kill her yourself is very shameful, nor safe enough.
CORN. So what do you suggest?
FID. That she drink poison unawares, then you can tell her parents it occurred thanks to some accident. (Fidelis departs [taking Narcissus with him.])
CORN. I like the plan. (He knocks on his door.)


VICT. My husband, I’m glad you’ve arrived safety. Pray come in.
CORN. I don’t want to, order that my cap and gown be brought.
VICT. Do you hear, Virginia? Bring these things to your master quickly. What troubles you so, dear soul? Are you in good health?
CORN. Keep quiet, I say, don’t disturb me.
VICT. Here’s everything.
CORN. Get inside. I’ll bring it about quickly that you repent of your shamefulness. (Goes to the Forum.)
VICT. Did you hear what he said at the end? Alas, the things that were hidden are now revealed, my love-charms are made public, and Salvation herself couldn’t save me if she wanted. Oh very slow Frangipetra! Oh very cowardly Frangipetra!
VIRG. But now it will do no good to call out.
VICT. What do you want me to do?
VIRG. To get yourself out of trouble quickly, if you can.
VICT. But how can I get myself out of trouble?
VIRG. You must contrive to entice Fidelis to mercy.
VICT. But how can this be done?
VIRG. Wiles, art, tears, howling, grieving, lamentations, sighs. Thus in a brief time you’ll purge all the anger from his mind.
VICT. And why will that help?
VIRG. Why will it help, you ask? It will be very helpful. For if Fidelis were to undertake your protection, everything will be in safe waters. There’ll be no reason why you should fear Cornelius.
VICT. But he’s not here.
VIRG. I’ll bring him here even against his will. He’ll come, if only to scourge you with his stings.

FORTUNIUS, wearing a rustic’s clothes

I’ll go and make trial whether Medusa told me the truth. If I possess her, I’ll fill my mind with displays of joy. If otherwise, I’ll bear it even-mindedly.


FID. [To himself.] Love deludes the senses. Love is not only blind himself, but also render those blind whom he has embraced. But now I’ve removed that veil from my eyes. Beneath that free-born exterior I’ve seen the heart of a tigress to lurk. I see that women’s minds are so constituted that they don’t regret anything, nor fear anything, nor think that any law holds them. Wantonness and petulance dwells in their eyes, fickleness and inconstancy on their brow, schemes most base in their hearts, hauteur in their walk, arrogance in their glance. But I see my Onophrius. [Aloud.] How does my vengeance strike you? I have already triumphed in earnest, for I see Victoria being dragged to her death.
ON. He who rejoices in the misfortunes and miseries of others ought to heed that old saying, “he who prepares evil for another creates evil for himself,” and this one, “you get something of evil by being evil’s neighbor,” and “for your business is being transacted when the nearby wall grows hot.” You’re too cruel. To err is human. Nor, I think, was Penelope always weaving her webs.
FID. But contain yourself within your chambers. If you continue saying what you wish, you’ll hear something you don’t wish. In future I have no need of your precepts. I’ll go and incite Cornelius to this killing.
ON. Later you’ll regret your madness.
FID. I won’t treat you in the ways you deserve, versifier. But get going, don’t come back to my house again, lest you get what’s coming to you. [Exit.]


ON. Oh inept Onophrius, unfortunate Onophrius, who, while you were striving to divert Fidelis from loving Victoria, lost her and lost Onophrius himself. What good in expounding Terence to boys if you can’t remember that line of his, “flattery makes you friends, truth makes you enemies?” If I had egged Fidelis on in his enthusiasms, nothing bad would have come to me out of this business. But now I’ve missed the chance of a wife and I’ve destroyed Victoria. Now I won’t be whole in sum and whole in any part, now there will be no amatory antiperistasis, now my Primum Mobile won’t sink in the west, now there’s no target for my Sagittarius, no water for my Pisces. (Enter Narcissus.) Now what place, says Achates,
“What region of the earth is not full of our sufferings?”
Muse, recall to me the causes, the injury to her divine godhead,
That compelled the grieving queen of the gods to involve Onophrius
In so many hardships?
I’m an exile, helpless, a vagabond, a woman was responsible for the deed.

Thus are human affairs:
Exulted, I glory, downcast, I am diminufied.
We are naught but earth, and what is earth but smoke?
And smoke is naught. Therefore we are naught.

NARC. Oh the sweet sound of a moribund swan! But why are you so sad, Onophrius.
ON. Alas, I am a wretch of afflicted heart.
NARC. Are the strings of your lyre coming apart?
ON. Heart, I say, not apart, the source of life, the font of the senses, from which dangle the arteries.
But now I grow faint, but now my voice stops in my throat.
That insatiable, no-returnable abyss,
Here where each image is plunged, seen to grow horrid and go amiss.

But you, Narcissus, take these poems before I breathe out my spirit, as a token of my friendship.
In a worldly thing there’s naught but pain.
From a worldly thing wise men refrain.
For a wordly thing the rich man plows the main
From a worldly thing no glory will you gain.

If I actually die, carve this on my tomb:
Ah Narcissus, just now, white-hot with black bile, Fidelis banished me from his house. He threw, I say, this miserable man out the door. And it’s night-time and I haven’t had dinner yet, nor do I know where I may sleep. I haven’t any money with which to buy those things. For I can’t earn a subsidy, nor literary furniture. But (and this seems to me very much the most bitter) he called me a bad versifier, me, who have a great name worldwide, so that passers-by say “he’s that Onophrius.” So I beg you by Apollo, I pray you by the nine Muses, that you lend me some coins to get those things.
NARC. Indeed, if I had anything to give, I wouldn’t lend them but give them to you as you spoke.
ON. You give as a loan when you lend it to me, and it’s called a loan as if it were an alone-owning, since what was mine alone is now your own.
NARC. But I don’t like it, that what I own becomes yours alone. For what I give you I want to be repaid.
ON. I was explaining the word’s etymology. Which if you furnish me, I’ll repay with interest.
NARC. Dominus doctor Onophrius, I scarcely understand what you mean. But I’ll bring something about, which I’ll briefly explain. I have a certain cheap, threadbare article of clothing, dressed in which you may beg for your food. In this city there are plenty of liberal men, and particularly generous and noble ladies. You can put the generosity of these ladies and gentlemen to the test.
ON. But that’s not decorum, it’s unworthy of such a grave personage.
NARC. Farewell to dignity when necessity urges. You’re not the first poet who lived in this manner. “Homer himself left behind no wealth.”
ON. But I’ll not do it. I’d rather perish, and I’ll run my unhappy breast through with steel. Me a beggar?
NARC. It’s necessary.
ON. I won’t tolerate it.
NARC. So you’ll be miserable.
ON. I’ll bid this stout spirit bear it, I’ve borne worse. The son of king Perseus of Macedon, the heir of such a realm, transformed himself from a prince to a blacksmith so he wouldn’t die of hunger, and other men who have now lived, that is to say who are not alive, that is, who are dead. It’s a solace to the wretched to have companions in suffering.
NARC. And the garment I mentioned is of the kind that covers you from head to foot and even hides your face, so that you can go freely into each household, speak to the servants, and even the serving-girls, and perhaps even the mistress of the house. Believe me, Onophrius, if I were a lover of women, by Castor I’d never use any other garment.
ON. I’d gladly have a look at it.
NARC. Want me to bring it out?
ON. Hercules, please do.
NARC. So be it. [Aside.] Woe to you, Doctor Duncehead.
ON. What doesn’t happen in a year happened in a second. What more convenient thing could have occurred? Now I’ll both preserve my dear soul Victoria and calm the roiling sea of my fortune. I’ll go, I’ll go inside, I’ll show Victoria how unkind Fidelis betrayed her. Thus I’ll gain her gratitude. And who knows whether she’ll throw herself into flight with me? “Fortune helps the bold,” and “love conquers all,” and “while I breathe, I hope.”
NARC. Here it is. How does it strike you, Onophrius?
ON. It’s excellent, and I thank you as much as I can.
NARC. Come, now everything’s ready. Nothing remains except for you to go in.
ON. I’ll see to that.
NARC. And remember this one thing too, that when you’ve come out of the house you send the costume back to me.
ON. I’ll do it, I promise. I hope that, with Virtue my guide and Fortune my companion, I’ll accomplish each thing. [Exit.]
NARC. Unless Fortune helps you as a fool, you’ll go home laden down with poundings, not pounds. [Narcissus remains onstage.]


ON. If somebody in this crowd does not know the art of loving,
Let him read me, and having read my poem, let him love expertly.

Glogmatheos glomeros, galasin, galagisga, gaginnos,
Ton pateron tripopes tara non tara tarlari quino.

He who has thrice repeated these two poems, thrice wept, thrice sung, will have thrice gained a double kiss, says Tully
NARC. There’s a part of the prison called the Tullianum, prepared for Ciceronians of this ilk. [Exit.]
ON. If thrice you knock and nobody answers, depart
If I’ve thrice made the attempt and the matter doesn’t go well, I’ll depart.

But what? Me go? Rather, should I prepare myself not to be ensnared in the harlot’s seductions? To be able but to refuse is noble. It’s a virtue to have abstained from what delights. But because Nature has wished me to be mild, gentle, kind, loving, amiable, because I’m not made of hard wood, but because there’s something tender and soft in my spirit, and inasmuch as this business is worthy of my straining all my muscles, I’ll readily suffer myself to be loved by Victoria. For if Apollo, brother of Diana and son of Jove, abased himself to become a shepherd so that he could more readily et cetera, why does shame stand in my way? For Tully said that what is done according to precedent men deem to be lawfully done. So while I steal most pleasant kisses, you, Phoebus, hold your horses, give such a night to me, Onophrius, such as you granted Jove when he was seducing Alcmena. But is that Victoria in the window? Yes, it is my Victoria. I’ll draw nearer, so by the elegance of my diction I may reveal to her my wounded heart.
ATT. I see my Narcissus, I see my dear heart. By Hercules, I want to flee with him.
ON. I’ll go. But alas, now I see that it’s true, that when somebody undertakes a great work the blood recedes from his extremities to his heart, the fountain of his vital spirit. But even in these serious matters you are wont to become more emotional than your age can sustain. Nevertheless, be of good cheer, Onophrius, for it is a mark of a good orator to shake a little at the beginning of a speech.
ATT. I’ll stay here and listen to his words.
ON. Oh fairest of women, my dove,
(Unless the tale is vain, worthy of Jove as bull or or bullion)
forgive me, if I seem such a forward fellow that, without that reserve which befits a free man, I fasten on you of a sudden, as the wolf upon the shearling lamb. For that I do this I am compelled by that fiery rascal, the winged one, the son of Cytherea. And so by your tresses more than golden, and your brow more than silvery, and your cheeks more than empurpled, and your lips more than rubicund, and by your hands soft and pliable, and by all that, whatever of yours is sweet, I ask you, and by Castor and Pollux I beseech you,
That now your ocean might now be made foamy by my oar.
Which if you bring to pass, by my oath I bind my faith, that in me you will discern the strength of a Hector, the frame of a Hercules, the might of a Caesar, and the learning of a Diogenes.
ATT. You are speaking so that I don’t understand, and so that you might see if I love anybody else but yourself. But there’s no need, for I know you full well, and if you wait a bit I’ll give myself as companion on your journey. (She brings out clothes.)
ON. I give great thanks to you, oh sun on high, and to you, goddess of Cyprus, mistress of earth no less than sea, that you have brought me to this summum bonum.
ATT. You have done me by far the greatest favor, my delight.
ON. Clever woman, she’s changed both her clothes and her voice so she can’t be recognized.
ATT. For since our love has become known to all, the whole household is in an uproar, so that unless you take me away by force it will be necessary for me to be branded with great disgrace.
ON. Because I feared this, I put on this costume to bring you succor. For when Cornelius swore that you must die, all my effort will have been undertaken in vain, if I were not to come in time, which is the chiefest of all things.
ATT. Long is the time now, my darling, since I’ve fallen in love with you and wished to live with you, but since I am a servant and obey somebody else’s command, it was long better to keep my silence than reveal the matter.
ON. In truth, Cornelius is agitated with such rage that not only a woman, who is under his control by law and deed, but even a man in his power could justly be afraid. But now catch your breath, collect yourself. You must embrace hope, hope is the first way to safety.
ATT. You’ve been reading poets so long that you seem to me to be a son of Poetry. But please speak so that I can comprehend you.
ON. A man’s fairest treasure is literature, learning makes everyone benign, and Periander prudently said, “Walk with good men.” Poets truly are those in whose company you can play at odds and evens in the darkness. Scipio brought poets with him on campaign. Ennius called poets saints in their own right. Of the learned, the race of the poets is the most ancient. But, o sweetest, give me a kiss of peace, which will be the beginning of our sweetness. Then we’ll let the poet play, for he who steals a kiss, if he does not steal the rest,
Is worthy to lose also what he has stolen.
ATT. But let’s flee. I see somebody or other. I’ll be recognized immediately.
ON. What news out of Africa? Don’t torture yourself, I say, don’t flee. Linger here a moment, and beg with a piteous voice.


ATT. Pray give something, noble sirs, to a poor little widow.
ON. Succor the senescent.
WATCH. 1 People aren’t wont to beg at this time of night. What are these clothes, whipping-stock? Let’s have a look.
ATT. These are my clothes, I don’t want you to look at them.
WATCH. 1 No, I say you stole them.
ATT. No, you’re lying, you evil man.
WATCH. 2 This one looks to me like a thief who stole his garment, grab him.
ON. But there’s no need, It’s one thing to be, another to seem something. I’m no thief, but a good man and skilled at rhetoric.
Of what you take by theft you soon will be bereft.
Things ill acquired ill disappear, what Christ doesn’t peel the tax-man steals.
A thief isn’t a bandit, but a person who steals in the dark.
The bandit lurks in broad daylight, they both deserve the gallows.

But truly.
If one someone removes Homer from the number of the bards
I, next to the first, then will be first myself.

WATCH. 2 What do you have to do with this woman?
ON. I’ve nothing to do with her, but by pure chance we came together in this place.
WATCH. 1 Come to the judge.
ATT. What need for a judge? I’m an honest woman, and I live in Cornelius’ house.
ON. And I’m learned, and the preceptor of Fidelis.
WATCH 2 And we’re hunting dogs, who track down the likes of you.
ATT. In what unhappiness I’ve plunged myself, trying to please you!
ON. How I utterly ruined myself, wanting to love you!
ATT. But rescue me.
ON. These fetters impede me from so doing.
ATT. Am I thus being separated from you, my Narcissus?
ON. I’m Onophrius, nor can I give you aid, Victoria.
ATT. What do you want with Victoria? She’s inside, and she hasn’t found out about our troubles.
WATCH. 2 Let’s have a look at their faces, you look her over, I’ll do him.
ATT. Oh you rascal, and what am I looking at?
ON. Gods and goddesses, what opinion has misled me?
ATT. Oh you unworthy little rhetorician, thus you cheat me with your tricks?
ON. Oh you most bold slut, thus you deceive learned men? I thought I was seeing my darling Victoria and that I was about to be blessed, as I escorted her into my kingdom. By the faith of the gods! I wasted a perfectly fine oration composed in the epideictic genre, when I heaped her with undeserved praises. Now would that, like a second Hipponax I could drive her to death with my iambs.
I swear by sea, by the lands, by the third divinities,
by the waters of Styx, by the three faces of Diana, by Neptune’s trident, by Jove’s fiery bolt, by Bacchus Semelethighborn, the thunderbumping pledge of her lightningstruck bower, a half-grown, half-created embryo, by curvicursant rivers, by the goatfoot Fauns, by the waterplantoverspread waves, by shadowysnapping Dactyls, and lastly by Jove on high,
There’s no faith in her, today bad, tomorrow worse.
Although you scan all the realms which Bootes surveys,
You scarce find any whom you can see without blemish.
Let your labor be without praise, your head without hair.
Woman is to be thrown to Arcadian wolves,
Woman is worthy to be fed to the Cerberus-dog.

Woman is thing that’s painted, tainted, with curses to be attainted.
May God’s worthy vengeance damn her eyes.
But you, good sirs, pray look at me carefully, I’m not the man you imagine. This garment is cheap, but the old saw says “wisdom hides beneath a shabby cloak.”
WATCH. 1 Come along freely, unless you want to be dragged.
ON. This is some force, to be pushed and pulled at once! I’ll come, but what I’ve said is worthy of being comprehended.
WATCH. 2 But we don’t want to understand you.
ON. So you’re not men, for the Stagyrite said that every man wishes to know, that is, to understand.
WATCH 2. Still objecting, animal?
ON. I am one, indeed, but rational and mortal.
WATCH. 2 How this buffoon wounds us with his sayings!
ON. No, it was my answer, not my saying, because you hurt me first.
WATCH. 2 Let’s drag him along.
ON. This happens when the learned encounter the unlearned.

Go to Act V