THE THESMOPHORIAZUSAE by Aristophanes, Part 07
Never have I listened to a cleverer or more eloquent woman.
Everything she says is true; she has examined the matter from all
sides and has weighed up every detail. Her arguments are close,
varied, and happily chosen. I believe that Xenocles himself, the son
of Carcinus, would seem to talk mere nonsense, if placed beside her.
I have only a very few words to add, for the last speaker has
covered the various points of the indictment; allow me only to tell
you what happened to me. My husband died at Cyprus, leaving me five
children, whom I had great trouble to bring up by weaving chaplets
on the myrtle market. Anyhow, I lived as well as I could until this
wretch had persuaded the spectators by his tragedies that there were
no gods; since then I have not sold as many chaplets by half. I charge
you therefore and exhort you all to punish him, for does he not
deserve it in a thousand respects, he who loads you with troubles, who
is as coarse toward you as the vegetables upon which his mother reared
him? But I must back to the market to weave my chaplets; I have twenty
to deliver yet.
This is even more animated and more trenchant than the first
speech; all she has just said is full of good sense and to the
point; it is clever, clear and well calculated to convince. Yes! we
must have striking vengeance on the insults of Euripides.
Oh, women! I am not astonished at these outbursts of fiery rage;
how could your bile not get inflamed against Euripides, who has spoken
so ill of you? As for myself, I hate the man, I swear it by my
children; it would be madness not to hate him! Yet, let us reflect a
little; we are alone and our words will not be repeated outside. Why
be so bent on his ruin? Because he has known and shown up two or three
of our faults, when we have a thousand? As for myself, not to speak of
other women, I have more than one great sin upon my conscience, but
this is the blackest of them. I had been married three days and my
husband was asleep by my side; I had a lover, who had seduced me
when I was seven years old; impelled by his passion, he came
scratching at the door; I understood at once he was there and was
going down noiselessly. "Where are you going?" asked my husband. "I am
suffering terribly with colic," I told him, "and am going to the can."
"Go ahead," he replied, and started pounding together juniper berries,
aniseed, and sage. As for myself, I moistened the door-hinge and
went to find my lover, who laid me, half-reclining upon Apollo's altar
and holding on to the sacred laurel with one hand. Well now! Consider!
that is a thing of which Euripides has never spoken. And when we
bestow our favours on slaves and muleteers for want of better, does he
mention this? And when we eat garlic early in the morning after a
night of wantonness, so that our husband, who has been keeping guard
upon the city wall, may be reassured by the smell and suspect nothing,
has Euripides ever breathed a word of this? Tell me. Neither has he
spoken of the woman who spreads open a large cloak before her
husband's eyes to make him admire it in full daylight to conceal her
lover by so doing and afford him the means of making his escape. I
know another, who for ten whole days pretended to be suffering the
pains of labour until she had secured a child; the husband hurried
in all directions to buy drugs to hasten her deliverance, and
meanwhile an old woman brought the infant in a stew-pot; to prevent
its crying she had stopped up its mouth with honey. With a sign she
told the wife that she was bringing a child for her, who at once began
exclaiming, "Go away, friend, go away, I think I am going to be
delivered; I can feel him kicking his heels in the belly ....of the
stew-pot." The husband goes off full of joy, and the old wretch
quickly takes the honey out of the child's mouth, which starts crying;
then she seizes the baby, runs to the father and tells him with a
smile on her face, "It's a lion, a lion, that is born to you; it's
your very image. Everything about it is like you, even his little
tool, curved like the sky." Are these not our everyday tricks? Why
certainly, by Artemis, and we, are angry with Euripides, who assuredly
treats us no worse than we deserve!
Great gods! where has she unearthed all that? What country gave
birth to such an audacious woman? Oh! you wretch! I should not have
thought ever a one of us could have spoken in public with such
impudence. 'Tis clear, however, that we must expect everything and, as
the old proverb says, must look beneath every stone, lest it conceal
some orator ready to sting us.
LEADER OF THE CHORUS
There is but one thing in the world worse than a shameless
woman, and that's another woman.
By Aglaurus! you have lost your wits, friends! You must be
bewitched to suffer this plague to belch forth insults against us all.
Is there no one has any spirit at all? If not, we and our
maid-servants will punish her. Run and fetch coals and let's
depilate her in proper style, to teach her not to speak ill of her