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THE KNIGHTS by Aristophanes, Part 01

420 BC
THE KNIGHTS
by Aristophanes
anonymous translator
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY

DEMOSTHENES
NICIAS
AGORACRITUS, a Sausage-Seller
CLEON
DEMOS
CHORUS OF KNIGHTS
KNIGHTS
(SCENE:-The Orchestra represents the Pnyx at Athens; in the back-
ground is the house of DEMOS.)

DEMOSTHENES
Oh! alas! alas! alas! Oh! woe! oh! woe! Miserable Paphlagonian!
may the gods destroy both him and his cursed advice! Since that evil
day when this new slave entered the house he has never ceased
belabouring us with blows.
NICIAS
May the plague seize him, the arch-fiend-him and his lying tales!
DEMOSTHENES
Hah! my poor fellow, what is your condition?
NICIAS
Very wretched, just like your own.
DEMOSTHENES
Then come, let us sing a duet of groans in the style of Olympus.
DEMOSTHENES AND NICIAS
Boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo! boo, hoo!!
DEMOSTHENES
Bah! it's lost labour to weep! Enough of groaning! Let us consider
now to save our pelts.
NICIAS
But how to do it! Can you suggest anything?
DEMOSTHENES
No, you begin. I cede you the honour.
NICIAS
By Apollo! no, not I. Come, have courage! Speak, and then I will
say what I think.
DEMOSTHENES (in tragic style)
"Ah! would you but tell me what I should tell you!
NICIAS
I dare not. How could I express my thoughts with the pomp of
Euripides?
DEMOSTHENES
Oh! please spare me! Do not pelt me with those vegetables, but
find some way of leaving our master.
NICIAS
Well, then! Say "Let-us-bolt," like this, in one breath.
DEMOSTHENES
I follow you-'Let-us-bolt."
NICIAS
Now after "Let-us-bolt" say "at-top-speed
DEMOSTHENES
"At-top-speed!
NICIAS
Splendid! just as if you were masturbating; first slowly,
"Let-us-bolt"; then quick and firmly, "at-top-speed!"
DEMOSTHENES
Let-us-bolt, let-us-bolt-at-top-speed!
NICIAS
Hah! does that not please you?
DEMOSTHENES
Yes, indeed, yet I fear your omen bodes no good to my hide.
NICIAS
How so?
DEMOSTHENES
Because masturbation chafes the skin.
NICIAS
The best thing we can do for the moment is to throw ourselves at
the feet of the statue of some god.
DEMOSTHENES
Of which statue? Any statue? Do you then believe there are gods?
NICIAS
Certainly.
DEMOSTHENES
What proof have you?
NICIAS
The proof that they have taken a grudge against me. Is that not
enough?
DEMOSTHENES
I'm convinced it is. But to pass on. Do you consent to my
telling the spectators of our troubles?
NICIAS
There's nothing wrong with that, and we might ask them to show
us by their manner, whether our facts and actions are to their liking.
DEMOSTHENES
I will begin then. We have a very brutal master, a perfect glutton
for beans, and most bad-tempered; it's Demos of the Pnyx, an
intolerable old man and half deaf. The beginning of last month he
bought a slave, a Paphlagonian tanner, an arrant rogue, the
incarnation of calumny. This man of leather knows his old master
thoroughly; he plays the fawning cur, flatters, cajoles, wheedles, and
dupes him at will with little scraps of leavings, which he allows
him to get. "Dear Demos," he will say, "try a single case and you will
have done enough; then take your bath, eat, swallow and devour; here
are three obols." Then the Paphlagonian filches from one of us what we
have prepared and makes a present of it to our old man. The other
day I had just kneaded a Spartan cake at Pylos, the cunning rogue came
behind my back, sneaked it and offered the cake, which was my
invention, in his own name. He keeps us at a distance and suffers none
but himself to wait upon the master; when Demos is dining, he keeps
close to his side with a thong in his hand and puts the orators to
flight. He keeps singing oracles to him, so that the old man now
thinks of nothing but the Sibyl. Then, when he sees him thoroughly
obfuscated, he uses all his cunning and piles up lies and calumnies
against the household; then we are scourged and the Paphlagonian
runs about among the slaves to demand contributions with threats and
gathers them in with both hands. He will say, "You see how I have
had Hylas beaten! Either content me or die at once!" We are forced
to give, for otherwise the old man tramples on us and makes us crap
forth all our body contains. (To NICIAS) There must be an end to it,
friend Let us see! what can be done? Who will get us out of this mess?

 

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