Miles Gloriosus, or The Braggart Captain

Act Three, Scene Two

PALAESTRIO
What mighty turmoils I create! What mighty engines I do set to work! This very day I shall take his mistress away from the Captain, if my soldiers are only well drilled[1]. But I’ll call him out. Goes to the door and calls. Hallo! Sceledrus, if you are not busy, come out to the front of the house; I, Palaestrio, call you. Enter LUCRIO from the CAPTAIN’s house.

LUCRIO
Sceledrus is not at leisure.

PALAESTRIO
Why so?

LUCRIO
He’s fast asleep, gulping[2].

PALAESTRIO
How, gulping?

LUCRIO
He’s snoring, ’twas that I meant to say: but, because ’tis very like gulping when you are snoring—- * * * * * * *

PALAESTRIO
What! Is Sceledrus asleep in-doors?

LUCRIO
Not with his nose, in fact; for with that he is calling out loud enough.

PALAESTRIO
He has taken a cup by stealth; the butler has lately tapped a cask of nardine[3]. Oho! you rascal, you are his deputy-butler[4]. Oho!

LUCRIO
What do you mean?

PALAESTRIO
How has he thought fit to go to sleep?

LUCRIO
With his eyes, I suppose.

PALAESTRIO
I don’t ask you that, you vagabond. Step this way: you’re undone now unless I know the truth. Did you draw the wine for him?

LUCRIO
I did not draw it.

PALAESTRIO
Do you deny it?

LUCRIO
I’ faith, I do deny it undoubtedly; for he charged me not to tell. I really didn’t just[5] draw for him eight half-pints into a pitcher, and, when drawn, he didn’t just drink it hot[6], at his breakfast.

PALAESTRIO
And you didn’t just drink as well?

LUCRIO
The Gods confound me if I did drink–if I could drink.

PALAESTRIO
Why so?

LUCRIO
Because, in fact, I only sipped; for it was too hot; it burnt my throat.

PALAESTRIO
Some are gloriously drunk, while others are drinking vinegar-water[7]. The cellar’s trusted to an honest butler, as well as under-butler.

LUCRIO
I’ faith, you’d be doing the same, if it was entrusted to you. Since you can’t follow our example, you are envious now.

PALAESTRIO
Come, now, did he ever draw any wine before this? Answer me, you rascal. And, that you may understand it, I give you this notice: if you purposely tell me an untruth, you shall be put to the torture.

LUCRIO
Indeed so? That you may inform, forsooth, that I told you; and then I shall be turned out of my fattening post in the cellar, that you may find another under-butler to draw for your own self.

PALAESTRIO
On my honour, I will not; come, speak out boldly to me.

LUCRIO
By my troth, I never saw him draw any. But thus was it; he requested me, and then I drew it.

PALAESTRIO
Think of that now! very frequently, I guess, the casks were standing on their heads[8] there.

LUCRIO
No, faith, the casks would not[9] have stood so very badly there. But there happened to be in the cellar a bit of a slippery spot; a two-pint pot was placed there, near the casks, in this fashion shows the way. Frequently, that was filled ten times in a day. When the pot acted the reveller, the casks were all tottering.

PALAESTRIO
Get you gone in-doors. Both of you, I find, are acting the revellers in the wine-cellar. I’ faith, I shall fetch my master home just now from the Forum.

LUCRIO
aside. I’m ruined. My master, when he comes home, will have me tortured, when he knows of these doings. I’ faith, I’ll fly somewhither, and put off this punishment to another day. To the AUDIENCE. Don’t you tell him[10], I do entreat you most earnestly. He is going.

PALAESTRIO
Whither are you betaking yourself?

LUCRIO
I am sent elsewhere: I’ll come back here just now.

PALAESTRIO
Who has sent you?

LUCRIO
Philocomasium.

PALAESTRIO
Go; be back directly.

LUCRIO
If it is divided, prithee do you only take my share of the punishment while I’m away. (Exit LUCRIO.) PALAESTRIO, alone.

PALAESTRIO
So–I understand what scheme the lady is upon. Because Sceledrus is asleep, she has sent her under-keeper away out of doors, whilst she may pass from our house to next door. That’s all right. Looks down the street. But Periplecomenus is bringing here a woman of very comely appearance, her, for whom I commissioned him. By my faith, the Gods are helping us in this matter. How becomingly drest she struts along[11], not like a Courtesan. This business is prospering charmingly in our hands. Stands aside.


  1. Are only well drilled: “Manipularis” was a term applied to the common soldiers of the legion, inasmuch as they were formed into small companies, marshalled in open order, called “manipuli.” Each maniple had two centurions, whose duty it was to drill their men, inspect their arms, clothing, and food, visit the sentinels, and regulate the conduct of the privates both in the camp and in the field. They sat as judges in minor offences, and had the power of ordering corporal punishment, whence their badge of office was a vine sapling. “Bene centuriati” consequently means here “well drilled.”
  2. Asleep, gulping: “Sorbeo” means not only “to drink up,” but to make that gulping noise in snoring which is produced by inhaling the breath with the mouth open, and the head thrown back. Palaestrio purposely misunderstands him, for the purpose of getting a confession out of him.
  3. A cask of nardine: According to the reading here adopted, he guesses that Sceledrus has got drunk upon some nardine wine, that had been lately tapped. The Romans used many articles for flavouring their wines. Spikenard, an Eastern aromatic, is here referred to. Horehound, squills, wormwood, and myrtle-berries were used for making medical wines. Cornels, figs, medlars, roses, asparagus, parsley, radishes, laurels, junipers, cassia, cinnamon, and saffron, with many other particulars, were also used for flavouring wines.
  4. His deputy-butler: Some Commentators take this passage to mean, that Sceledrus really was the “promus,” or “butler;” but it seems more probable that Palaestrio says, by way of accusation, “Sceledrus has not only been acting the butler on this occasion, but you have been acting as his deputy, in secretly helping him to draw it.” Lucrio was the “subcustos” of Sceledrus, the “deputy-keeper” of Philocomasium, and the under-butler as well.
  5. Didn’t just: He adheres to his promise by denying it in words, but m such a way as to make a full confession of what has happened. “Hemina” was a measure among the Greeks and Romans of nearly half a pint.
  6. Drink it hot: It has been already remarked, that the Romans were much in the habit of drinking wine, made warm and mixed with spices. The taking it at “prandium,” about twelve in the day, shows how Sceledrus presumed on the office of trust which had been conferred upon him.
  7. Vinegar-water: “Posca” was the name of the mixture of vinegar and water which constituted the drink of the Roman soldiers, the lower classes, and the slaves. Palaestrio grumbles on finding that while he is drinking vinegar and water his fellow-slave is enjoying himself on mulled wine.
  8. Standing on their heads: He means to say that the “amphorae,” no doubt, were often turned bottom upwards for the purpose of pouring out their contents.
  9. The casks would not: The whole of this passage is of somewhat obscure signification. The two lines probably mean, “The casks (cadi) would not have fallen down there so very much, had it not been that one part of the cellar was very slippery indeed.” He then shows how (sic) the pot was put close by the casks, so that, they slipping down, it was filled as often as ten times in one day; and he concludes by saying, that when the pot acted the Bacchanal (debacchabatur), the casks slipped down again. Probably by acting the Bacchanal he means to say that the pot got filled and was then emptied, just like the Bacchanals, who, doubtless, were not particular at vomiting a part of the enormous quantities of wine which they imbibed; and he naively tells the truth, by saying that the cask slipping was the result of the pot being emptied, and so laying the fault more upon the pot than the drinker.
  10. Don’t you tell him: These occasional addresses to the Spectators, in the middle of the dialogue, were made in the same spirit and for the same purpose for which the clown on our stage addresses his jokes to the audience, namely, to provoke a hearty laugh.
  11. She struts along: By the use of the word incedit, he probably refers to the assumed stateliness of her gait.

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Miles Gloriosus, or The Braggart Captain by The Comedies of Plautus. Henry Thomas Riley. London. G. Bell and Sons. 1912. Digitized by Perseus Digital Library, Tufts University, oved to Pressbooks by Ryerson Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book