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THE WASPS by Aristophanes, Part 01

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

PHILOCLEON
BDELYCLEON, his Son
SOSIAS, Slave of Philocleon
XANTHIAS, Slave of Philocleon
BOYS
DOGS
A GUEST
A BAKER'S WIFE
AN ACCUSER
CHORUS OF WASPS
WASPS
(SCENE:-In the background is the house of PHILOCLEON, surrounded
by a huge net. Two slaves are on guard, one of them asleep. On the
roof is BDELYCLEON.)

SOSIAS (waking XANTHIAS UP)
Why, Xanthias! what are you doing, wretched man?
XANTHIAS
I am teaching myself how to rest; I have been awake and on watch
the whole night.
SOSIAS
So you want to earn trouble for your ribs, eh? Don't you know what
sort of animal we are guarding here?
XANTHIAS
Aye indeed! but I want to put my cares to sleep for a while.
(He falls asleep again.)
SOSIAS
Beware what you do. I too feel soft sleep spreading over my eyes,
XANTHIAS.
Are you crazy, like a Corybant?
SOSIAS
No! It's Bacchus who lulls me off.
XANTHIAS
Then you serve the same god as myself. just now a heavy slumber
settled on my eyelids like a hostile Mede; I nodded and, faith! I
had a wondrous dream.
SOSIAS
Indeed! and so had I. A dream such as I never had before. But
first tell me yours.
XANTHIAS
I saw an eagle, a gigantic bird, descend upon the market-place; it
seized a brazen buckler with its talons and bore it away into the
highest heavens; then I saw it was Cleonymus had thrown it away.
SOSIAS
This Cleonymus is a riddle worth propounding among guests. How can
one and the same animal have cast away his buckler both on land, in
the sky and at sea?
XANTHIAS
Alas! what ill does such a dream portend for me?
SOSIAS
Rest undisturbed! Please the gods, no evil will befall you.
XANTHIAS
Nevertheless, it's a fatal omen when a man throws away his
weapons. But what was your dream? Let me hear.
SOSIAS
Oh! it is a dream of high import. It has reference to the hull
of the State; to nothing less.
XANTHIAS
Tell it to me quickly; show me its very keel.
SOSIAS
In my first slumber I thought I saw sheep, wearing cloaks and
carrying staves, met in assembly on the Pnyx; a rapacious whale was
haranguing them and screaming like a pig that is being grilled.
XANTHIAS
Faugh! faugh!
SOSIAS
What's the matter?
XANTHIAS
Enough, enough, spare me. Your dream stinks vilely of old leather.
SOSIAS
Then this scoundrelly whale seized a balance and set to weighing
ox-fat.
XANTHIAS
Alas! it's our poor Athenian people, whom this accursed beast
wishes to cut up and despoil of their fat.
SOSIAS
Seated on the ground close to it, I saw Theorus, who had the
head of crow. Then Alcibiades said to me in his lisping way, "Do you
thee? Theoruth hath a crow'th head."
XANTHIAS
Ah! that's very well lisped indeed!
SOSIAS
Isn't this mighty strange? Theorus turning into a crow!
XANTHIAS
No, it is glorious.
SOSIAS
Why?
XANTHIAS
Why? He was a man and now he has suddenly become a crow; does it
not foretoken that he will take his flight from here and go to the
crows?
SOSIAS
Interpreting dreams so aptly certainly is worth two obols.

 

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