Phormio, by Terence

Act the First.

Scene I.

Davus alone.

Geta, my worthy friend and countryman,
Came to me yesterday: for some time past
I’ve ow’d him some small balance of account:
This he desir’d I would make up: I have;
And brought it with me: for his master’s son,
I am inform’d, has lately got a wife:
So I suppose this sum is scrap’d together
For a bride-gift. Alack, how hard it is
That he, who is already poor, should still
Throw in his mite to swell the rich man’s heap!
What he scarce, ounce by ounce, from short allowance,
Sorely defrauding his own appetite,
Has spar’d, poor wretch! shall she sweep all at once,
Unheeding with what labor it was got?
Geta, moreover, shall be struck for more;
Another gift, when madam’s brought to bed;
Another too, when master’s birthday’s kept,
And they initiate him. — All this mamma
Shall carry off, the bantling her excuse.
But is that Geta?

Scene II.

Enter Geta .

Geta (at entering.) If a red-hair’d man
Inquire for me —

Davus. No more! he’s here.

Geta. Oh, Davus!
The very man that I was going after.

Davus. Here, take this! (Gives a purse.) ’Tis all told: you’ll find it right;
The sum I ow’d you.

Geta. Honest, worthy Davus!
I thank you for your punctuality.

Davus. And well you may, as men and times go now,
Things, by my troth, are come to such a pass,
If a man pays you what he owes, you’re much
Beholden to him. — But, pray, why so sad?

Geta. I? — You can scarce imagine in what dread.
What danger I am in.

Davus. How so?

Geta. I’ll tell you,
So you will keep it secret.

Davus. Away, fool!
The man whose faith in money you have tried,
D’ye fear to trust with words? — And to what end
Should I deceive you?

Geta. List, then!

Davus. I’m all ear.

Geta. D’ye know our old man’s elder brother, Chremes?

Davus. Know him? aye, sure.

Geta. You do? — And his son Phædria?

Davus. As well as I know you.

Geta. It so fell out,
Both the old men were forc’d to journey forth
At the same season. He to Lemnos, ours
Into Cilicia, to an old acquaintance
Who had decoy’d the old curmudgeon thither
By wheedling letters, almost promising
Mountains of gold.

Davus. To one that had so much
More than enough already?

Geta. Prithee, peace!
Money’s his passion.

Davus. Oh, would I had been
A man of fortune, I!

Geta. At their departure,
The two old gentlemen appointed me
A kind of governor to both their sons.

Davus. A hard task, Geta!

Geta. Troth, I found it so.
My angry Genius for my sins ordain’d it.
At first I took upon me to oppose:
In short, while I was trusty to th’ old man,
The young one made my shoulders answer for it.

Davus. So I suppose: for what a foolish task
To kick against the pricks!

Geta. I then resolv’d
To give them their own way in every thing.

Davus. Aye, then you made your market.

Geta. Our young spark
Play’d no mad pranks at first: but Phædria
Got him immediately a music-girl:
Fond of her to distraction! she belong’d
To a most avaricious, sordid pimp;
Nor had we aught to give; — th’ old gentleman
Had taken care of that. Naught else remain’d,
Except to feed his eyes, to follow her,
To lead her out to school, and hand her home.
We too, for lack of other business, gave
Our time to Phædria. Opposite the school,
Whither she went to take her lessons, stood
A barber’s shop, wherein most commonly
We waited her return. Hither one day
Came a young man in tears: we were amaz’d,
And ask’d the cause. Never (said he, and wept)
Did I suppose the weight of poverty
A load so sad, so insupportable,
As it appear’d but now. — I saw but now,
Not far from hence, a miserable virgin
Lamenting her dead mother. Near the corpse
She sat; nor friend, nor kindred, nor acquaintance,
Except one poor old woman, was there near
To aid the funeral. I pitied her:
Her beauty, too, was exquisite. — In short,
He mov’d us all: and Antipho at once
Cried, “Shall we go and visit her?” — Why, aye,
“I think so,” said the other; “let us go!”
“Conduct us, if you please.” — We went, arriv’d.
And saw her. — Beautiful she was indeed!
More justly to be reckon’d so, for she
Had no additions to set off her beauty.
Her hair dishevel’d, barefoot, woe-begone,
In tears, and miserably clad: that if
The life and soul of beauty had not dwelt
Within her very form, all these together
Must have extinguish’d it. — The spark, possess’d
Already with the music-girl, just cried,
“She’s well enough.” — But our young gentleman —

Davus. Fell, I suppose, in love.

Geta. In love, indeed.
But mark the end! next day, away he goes
To the old woman straight, beseeching her
To let him have the girl. — “Not she, indeed!
Nor was it like a gentleman,” she said,
“For him to think on’t: She’s a citizen,
An honest girl, and born of honest parents:—
If he would marry her indeed, by law
He might do that; on no account, aught else.”
— Our spark, distracted, knew not what to do:
At once he long’d to marry her, at once
Dreaded his absent father.

Davus. Would not he,
Had he return’d, have giv’n consent?

Geta. To wed
A girl of neither family nor fortune?

Davus. What then?

Geta. What then! There is a parasite,
One Phormio, a bold, enterprising fellow,
Who — all the Gods confound him! —

Davus. What did he?

Geta. Gave us the following counsel. — “There’s a law
That orphan Girls should wed their next of kin,
Which law obliges too their next of kin
To marry them.” — I’ll say that you’re her kinsman,
And sue a writ against you. I’ll pretend
To be her father’s friend, and bring the cause
Before the judges. Who her father was,
Her mother who, and how she’s your relation,
All this sham evidence I’ll forge; by which
The cause will turn entirely in my favor.
You shall disprove no tittle of the charge;
So I succeed. — Your father will return;
Prosecute me; — what then? — The girl’s our own.”

Davus. A pleasant piece of impudence!

Geta. It pleas’d
Our spark at least: he put it into practice;
Came into court; and he was cast; and married.

Davus. How say you?

Geta. Just as you have heard.

Davus. Oh Geta,
What will become of you?

Geta. I don’t know, faith.
But only this I know, what’er chance brings,
I’ll patiently endure.

Davus. Why, that’s well said,
And like a man.

Geta. All my dependence is
Upon myself.

Davus. And that’s the best.

Geta. I might
Beg one indeed to intercede for me,
Who may plead thus — “Nay, pardon him this once!
But if he fails again, I’ve not a word
To say for him.” — And well if he don’t add,
“When I go hence e’en hang him!”

Davus. What of him,
Gentleman-usher to the music-girl?
How goes he on?

Geta. So, so!

Davus. He has not much
To give, perhaps.

Geta. Just nothing, but mere hope.

Davus. His father too, is he return’d?

Geta. Not yet.

Davus. Nor your old man, when do you look for him?

Geta. I don’t know certainly: but I have heard
That there’s a letter from him come to port,
Which I am going for.

Davus. Would you aught else
With me, good Geta?

Geta. Nothing, but farewell!

Exit Davus .
Ho, boy! what, nobody at home! (Enter boy.) Take this
And give it Dorcium. (Gives the Purse, and Exit.)

Scene III.

Antipho, Phædria .

Ant. Is it come to this?
My father, Phædria! — my best friend! — That I
Should tremble, when I think of his return!
When, had I not been inconsiderate,
I, as ’tis meet, might have expected him.

Phæd. What now?

Ant. Is that a question? and from you?
Who know the atrocious fault I have committed?
Oh, that it ne’er had enter’d Phormio’s mind
To give such counsel! nor to urge me on,
In the extravagance of blind desire,
To this rash act, the source of my misfortunes!
I should not have possess’d her: that indeed
Had made me wretched some few days. — But then
This constant anguish had not torn my mind. —

Phæd. I hear you.

Ant. — While each moment I expect
His coming to divorce me.

Phæd. Other men,
For lack of what they love, are miserable;
Abundance is your grievance. You’re too rich
A lover, Antipho! For your condition
Is to be wish’d and pray’d for. Now, by Heaven,
Might I, so long as you have done, enjoy
My love, it were bought cheaply with my life.
How hard my lot, unsatisfied, unbless’d!
How happy yours, in full possession! — One
Of lib’ral birth, ingenuous disposition,
And honest fame, without expense, you’ve got:
The wife, whom you desir’d! — in all things bless’d,
But want the disposition to believe so.
Had you, like me, a scoundrel pimp to deal with,
Then you’d perceive — But sure ’tis in our nature
Never to be contented.

Ant. Now to me,
Phædria, ’tis you appear the happy man.
Still quite at large, free to consider still,
To keep, pursue, or quit her: I, alas!
Have so entangled and perplex’d myself,
That I can neither keep nor let her go.
— What now? isn’t that our Geta, whom I see
Running this way? — ’Tis he himself — Ah me,
How do I fear what news he brings!

Scene IV.

Enter at a distance Geta, running.

Geta. Confusion!
A quick thought, Geta, or you’re quite undone,
So many evils take you unprepar’d;
Which I know neither how to shun nor how
To extricate myself: for this bold stroke
Of ours can’t long be hid.

Ant. What’s this confusion?

Geta. Then I have scarce a moment’s time to think.
My master is arriv’d.

Ant. What mischief’s that?

Geta. Who, when he shall have heard it, by what art
Shall I appease his anger? — Shall I speak?
’Twill irritate him. — Hold my peace? — enrage him. —
Defend myself? — impossible? — Oh, wretch!
Now for myself in pain, now Antipho
Distracts my mind. — But him I pity most;
For him I fear; ’tis he retains me here:
For, were it not for him, I’d soon provide
For my own safety — aye, and be reveng’d
On the old graybeard — carry something off,
And show my master a light pair of heels.

Ant. What scheme to rob and run away is this?

Geta. But where shall I find Antipho? where seek him?

Phæd. He mentions you.

Ant. I know not what, but doubt
That he’s the messenger of some ill news.

Phæd. Have you your wits?

Geta. I’ll home: he’s chiefly there.

Phæd. Let’s call him back!

Ant. Holloa, you! stop!

Geta. Heyday!
Authority enough, be who you will.

Ant. Geta!

Geta (turning). The very man I wish’d to meet!

Ant. Tell us, what news? — in one word, if you can.

Geta. I’ll do it.

Ant. Speak!

Geta. This moment at the port —

Ant. My father?

Geta. Even so.

Ant. Undone!

Phæd. Heyday!

Ant. What shall I do?

Phæd. What say you? (To Geta .)

Geta. That I’ve seen
His father, Sir, — your uncle.

Ant. How shall I,
Wretch that I am! oppose this sudden evil!
Should I be so unhappy to be torn
From thee, my Phanium, life’s not worth my care.

Geta. Since that’s the case then, Antipho, you ought
To be the more upon your guard.

Ant. Alas!
I’m not myself.

Geta. But now you should be most so, Antipho.
For if your father should discern your fear,
He’ll think you conscious of a fault.

Phæd. That’s true.

Ant. I can not help it, nor seem otherwise.

Geta. How would you manage in worse difficulties?

Ant. Since I’m not equal to bear this, to those
I should be more unequal.

Geta. This is nothing.
Pooh, Phædria, let him go! why waste our time?
I will be gone. (Going.)

Phæd. And I. (Going.)

Ant. Nay, prithee, stay!
What if I should dissemble? — Will that do?

Endeavoring to assume another air.

Geta. Ridiculous!

Ant. Nay, look at me! will that

Geta. Not it.

Ant. Or this?

Geta. Almost.

Ant. Or this?

Geta. Aye! now you’ve hit it. Do but stick to that;
Answer him boldly; give him hit for dash,
Nor let him bear you down with angry words.

Ant. I understand you.

Geta. “Forc’d” — “against your will” —
“By law” — “by sentence of the court” — d’ye take me?
— But what old gentleman is that I see
Turning the corner of the street?

Ant. ’Tis he.
I dare not face him. (Going.)

Geta. Ah! what is’t you do?
Where d’ye run, Antipho! stay, stay, I say.

Ant. I know myself and my offense too well:
To you, then, I commend my life and love.


Scene V.

Manent Phædria and Geta .

Phæd. Geta, what now?

Geta. You shall be roundly chid;
I soundly drubb’d; or I am much deceiv’d.
— But what e’en now we counsel’d Antipho,
It now behooves ourselves to practice, Phædria.

Phæd. Talk not of what behooves, but say at once
What you would have me do.

Geta. Do you remember
The plea whereon you both agreed to rest,
At your first vent’ring on this enterprise?
“That Phormio’s suit was just, sure, equitable,
Not to be controverted.” —

Phæd. I remember.

Geta. Now then that plea! or, if it’s possible,
One better or more plausible.

Phæd. I’ll do’t.

Geta. Do you attack him first! I’ll lie in ambush,
To reinforce you, if you give ground.

Phæd. Well. (They retire.)

Scene VI.

Enter Demipho at another part of the stage.

Dem. How’s this? a wife! what, Antipho! and ne’er
Ask my consent? — nor my authority —
Or, grant we pass authority, not dread
My wrath at least? — To have no sense of shame?
— Oh, impudence! — Oh, Geta, rare adviser!

Geta. Geta at last.

Dem. What they will say to me,
Or what excuse they will devise, I wonder.

Geta. Oh, we have settled that already: think
Of something else.

Dem. Will he say this to me,
— “Against my will I did it” — “Forc’d by law” —
— I hear you: I confess it.

Geta. Very well.

Dem. But conscious of the fraud, without a word
In answer or defense, to yield the cause
Tamely to your opponents — did the law
Force you to that too?

Phæd. That’s home.

Geta. Give me leave.
I’ll manage it.

Dem. I know not what to do:
This stroke has come so unawares upon me,
Beyond all expectation, past belief.
— I’m so enrag’d, I can’t compose my mind
To think upon it. — Wherefore ev’ry man,
When his affairs go on most swimmingly,
Ev’n then it most behooves to arm himself
Against the coming storm: loss, danger, exile,
Returning ever let him look to meet;
His son in fault, wife dead, or daughter sick —
All common accidents, and may have happen’d;
That nothing should seem new or strange. But if
Aught has fall’n out beyond his hopes, all that
Let him account clear gain.

Geta. Oh, Phædria,
’Tis wonderful how much a wiser man
I am than my old master. My misfortunes
I have consider’d well. — At his return
Doom’d to grind ever in the mill, beat, chain’d,
Or set to labor in the fields; of these
Nothing will happen new. If aught falls out
Beyond my hopes, all that I’ll count clear gain.
— But why delay t’accost th’ old gentleman,
And speak him fair at first? (Phædria goes forward.)

Dem. Methinks I see
My nephew Phædria.

Phæd. My good Uncle, welcome!

Dem. Your servant! — But where’s Antipho?

Phæd. I’m glad
To see you safe —

Dem. Well, well! — But answer me.

Phæd. He’s well: hard by. — But have affairs turn’d out
According to your wishes?

Dem. Would they had!

Phæd. Why, what’s the matter?

Dem. What’s the matter, Phædria?
You’ve clapp’d up a fine marriage in my absence.

Phæd. What! are you angry with him about that?

Geta. Well counterfeited!

Dem. Should I not be angry?
Let me but set eyes on him, he shall know
That his offenses have converted me
From a mild father to a most severe one.

Phæd. He has done nothing, Uncle, to offend you.

Dem. See, all alike! the whole gang hangs together:
Know one, and you know all.

Phæd. Nay, ’tis not so.

Dem. One does a fault, the other’s hard at hand
To bear him out: when t’other slips, he’s ready:
Each in their turn!

Geta. I’ faith th’ old gentleman
Has blunder’d on their humors to a hair.

Dem. For, were’t not so, you’d not defend him, Phædria.

Phæd. If, Uncle, Antipho has done a wrong,
Or to his interest or reputation,
I am content he suffer as he may:
But if another, with malicious fraud,
Has laid a snare for unexperienced youth,
And triumph’d o’er it; can you lay the blame
On us, or on the judges, who oft take
Through envy from the rich, or from compassion
Add to the poor?

Geta. Unless I knew the cause,
I should imagine this was truth he spoke.

Dem. What judge can know the merits on your side,
When you put in no plea; as he has done?

Phæd. He has behav’d like an ingenuous youth.
When he came into court, he wanted pow’r
To utter what he had prepar’d, so much
He was abash’d by fear and modesty.

Geta. Oh brave! — But why, without more loss of time,
Don’t I accost th’ old man! (Going up.) My master, welcome!
I am rejoic’d to see you safe return’d.

Dem. What! my good master Governor! your slave!
The prop! the pillar of our family!
To whom, at my departure hence, I gave
My son in charge.

Geta. I’ve heard you for some time
Accuse us all quite undeservedly,
And me, of all, most undeservedly.
For what could I have done in this affair?
A slave the laws will not allow to plead;
Nor can he be an evidence.

Dem. I grant it.
Nay more — the boy was bashful — I allow it.
— You but a slave. — But if she had been prov’d
Ever so plainly a relation, why
Needed he marry her? and why not rather
Give her, according to the law, a portion,
And let her seek some other for a husband?
Why did he rather bring a beggar home?

Geta. ’Twas not the thought, but money that was wanting.

Dem. He might have borrow’d it!

Geta. Have borrow’d it!
Easily said.

Dem. If not to be had else,
On interest.

Geta. Nay, now indeed you’ve hit it!
Who would advance him money in your life?

Dem. Well, well, it shall not, and it can not be,
That I should suffer her to live with him
As wife a single day. There is no cause.
— Would I might see that fellow, or could tell
Where he resides!

Geta. What, Phormio!

Dem. The girl’s Patron.

Geta. He shall be with you straight.

Dem. Where’s Antipho?

Phæd. Abroad.

Dem. Go, Phædria; find him, bring him here.

Phæd. I’ll go directly.


Geta (aside). Aye, to Pamphila.


Scene VII.

Demipho alone.

I’ll home, and thank the Gods for my return:
Thence to the Forum, and convene some friends,
Who may be present at this interview,
That Phormio may not take me unprepar’d.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01