Miles Gloriosus, or The Braggart Captain

Act Two, Scene Six

SCLEDRUS, alone.

SCELEDRUS
Well, he’s off; nor cares he any more for his master’s business than if he were not in his service. For sure she really is now here in-doors in the house, for I myself found her just now lying down in our house. I am resolved now to employ myself in watching. Places himself against the CAPTAIN’S door. Enter PERIPLECOMENUS from his house.

PERIPLECOMENUS
Faith, but these men here, these servants of my neighbour the Captain, take me not to be a man, but a woman, so much do they trifle with me. My lady guest, who came here yesterday from Athens with the gentleman, my guest, is she to be mauled about and made fun of here in the street–a lady, free-born and free?

SCELEDRUS
aside. By my troth, I’m undone. He’s coming in a straight line up towards me. I fear that this matter may cause me great trouble, so far as I have heard this old gentleman speak.

PERIPLECOMENUS
I’ll up to this fellow. Was it you, Sceledrus, source of mischief, that were just now making fun of my lady guest before the house?

SCELEDRUS
Good neighbour, listen, I beg.

PERIPLECOMENUS
I, listen to you?

SCELEDRUS
I wish to clear myself.

PERIPLECOMENUS
You, clear yourself to me, who have done an action so gross and so unbecoming? And because you are soldiers[1], do you suppose, you gallows-bird, that you may do what you like with us?

SCELEDRUS
May I—-?

PERIPLECOMENUS
But so may all the Gods and Goddesses prosper me, if a punishment with the rod[2] is not given to you at my request, a long and lasting one, from morning to evening; because you have been breaking my gutters and my tiles, while you were following there a monkey-like your own self[3]; because, too, you have been peeping down from there at my guest in my house, when he was caressing and fondling his mistress; besides, you have dared to accuse the chaste lady of your master of criminality, and myself of a heinous offence; and further, because you have dared to maul about my lady guest before my house. If the punishment of the whip is not given to you, I will cause your master to be more laden with disgrace than the sea is full of waves in a heavy storm.

SCELEDRUS
I am driven to such straits, Periplecomenus, that I don’t know whether it is fitter for me rather to dispute this matter with you, or whether, if she is not our lady, and if our lady was not seen by me, it seems more proper for me to excuse myself to you; as even now I don’t know which I saw, so like is that guest of yours to our lady–if, indeed, she is not the same person.

PERIPLECOMENUS
Go into my house and look: you’ll soon see.

SCELEDRUS
May I go?

PERIPLECOMENUS
Why, I command you; go and examine at your leisure.

SCELEDRUS
I am determined to do so. Goes into the house of PERIPLECOMENUS.

PERIPLECOMENUS
probably looking up to a window in the CAPTAIN’S house. Ho! Philocomasium[4]! pass instantly, with all speed, into my house; ’tis absolutely necessary. Afterwards, when Sceledrus shall have come out from my house, pass quickly, with all haste, back again to your own house. By my troth, now, I’m afraid she’ll be making some blunder. Should he not see the woman. Door opens. Enter SCLEDRUS from the house of PERIPLECOMENUS.

SCELEDRUS
O ye immortal Gods! A woman more like, and more the same, who is not the same, I do not think the Gods could make.

PERIPLECOMENUS
What now?

SCELEDRUS
I certainly merit chastisement.

PERIPLECOMENUS
What then? Is it she?

SCELEDRUS
Although ’tis she, ’tis not she.

PERIPLECOMENUS
Have you seen this lady?

SCELEDRUS
I have seen both her and the gentleman, your guest, caressing and kissing.

PERIPLECOMENUS
Is it she?

SCELEDRUS
I know not.

PERIPLECOMENUS
Would you know for certain?

SCELEDRUS
I should like to.

PERIPLECOMENUS
Go you this instant into your own house: see whether your lady is within.

SCELEDRUS
Very well: you’ve advised me rightly. I’ll be out again to you this instant. Goes into the CAPTAIN’S house.

PERIPLECOMENUS
I’ faith, I never saw any man more cleverly fooled, and by more singular devices. But here he is coming. Enter SCLEDRUS from the CAPTAIN’s house.

SCELEDRUS
Periplecomenus, by Gods and men, and by my own folly, and by your knees! I do beseech you—-

PERIPLECOMENUS
What now?

SCELEDRUS
Pardon my ignorance and my folly; now, at length, I know that I am half-witted, blind, and thoughtless; for, behold! Philocomasium is at home.

PERIPLECOMENUS
How, then, hang-dog[5]. Have you seen them both?

SCELEDRUS
I have seen them.

PERIPLECOMENUS
I wish you to bring your master to me.

SCELEDRUS
Indeed, I confess that I deserve a very great punishment; and I own that I have done a wrong to your lady guest. But I thought that she was the lady of my master, to whom the Captain, my master, gave me as a keeper; for it is not possible for water ever to be drawn more like to water from the same well, than is she to this lady guest of yours. And I will confess, as well, that I did look through the skylight into your house.

PERIPLECOMENUS
Why shouldn’t you confess what I saw myself?

SCELEDRUS
And there saw in your house this lady guest of yours, kissing.

PERIPLECOMENUS
You saw her?

SCELEDRUS
I saw her. Why should I deny what I did see? But I fancied that I had seen Philocomasium.

PERIPLECOMENUS
And did you suppose me to be the very vilest of all men, in allowing[6], with my own knowledge, such an injury so glaringly to be done to my neighbour?

SCELEDRUS
Now, at length, I am of opinion that it was done foolishly by me, when I come to understand the matter; but still I did not do it with any ill intent.

PERIPLECOMENUS
Yes, but ’twas improperly done; for it befits a person that is a servant to keep his eyes, and hands, and talk, asleep.

SCELEDRUS
Now, if after this day I mutter anything, even what I know for certain, give me over to torture; I’ll give myself up to you. This time, prithee, do pardon me for this.

PERIPLECOMENUS
I shall subdue my feelings, so as to think that it was not done by you with malicious intent. I will pardon you in this matter.

SCELEDRUS
May the Gods bless you, then!

PERIPLECOMENUS
Troth now, as the Gods may prosper you, really do restrain your tongue henceforth; even that which you do know, don’t know, and don’t you see what you do see.

SCELEDRUS
You counsel me aright; so I’m resolved to do. Are you quite appeased?

PERIPLECOMENUS
Away with you.

SCELEDRUS
Is there aught else you now require of me?

PERIPLECOMENUS
That you would know me not. Makes as if he is departing.

SCELEDRUS
aside. He has been cajoling me. How kindly he vouchsafed his favour not to be angry. I know what plan he is upon that directly the Captain returns home from the Forum, I may be caught at home. He and Palaestrio together have me in their power: I have perceived that, and for some time I’ve known it. I’ faith, never will I be seeking a bait this day from out of that wicker-net[7]. For now somewhither will I betake myself, and for some days will I lie concealed until this turmoil is hushed and their resentment is softened. Enough punishment for my unlucky prating have I already merited. But still, whatever befalls me I’ll be off hence home. Goes into the CAPTAIN’S house. PERIPLECOMENUS, alone.

PERIPLECOMENUS
So he has departed hence. I’ faith, I know right well, that a dead pig full oft has more relish[8] by far than a living one: so bamboozled has he been, that he did not see what he really did see. For his eyes and ears, and thoughts have come over to us. So far, ’tis right cleverly managed; the lady has played her part most excellently. I’ll go back again to my Senate[9]; for Palaestrio is now at home in my house, and now Sceledrus is gone from the door. A full Senate can now be held. I’ll go in; lest while I am absent, there should be a distribution[10] of their parts among them. Goes into his house.


  1. Because you are soldiers: He alludes to the lawless character of the mercenary soldier, whose name, “latro,” came afterwards to be applied to robbers and cut-throats of all descriptions. It may be here remarked, that the word “miles,” which is applied throughout the play to their master, the Captain, is a general term for one following the profession of arms, whether officer or private. The word is translated “Captain,” without reference to his rank, any further than that he was a commanding officer.
  2. With the rod: The slaves were more frequently beaten with flagra, or whips; but they were sometimes scourged with virgae, or rods. This was done by the “lorarius,” a slave who was kept for the purpose
  3. Like your own self: “Condignam te;” literally, “worthy,” or deserving of yourself.
  4. Philocomasium: Directly Sceledrus turns his back, the old man calls out for Philocomasium, who is supposed at that moment to be in the Captain’s house. How he does so is somewhat of a mystery to the Commentators. Thornton, in his translation, suggests that he calls through the window, where it is natural to imagine that Philocomasium might be stationed within hearing to observe all that passed. He could hardly, however, call “through” the window of the ground floor, as these were generally more than six feet from the ground; and, indeed, there were rarely any windows at all on the basement. It is most likely that Philocomasium is hidden behind the “clatri” or “lattice” of the window in her room on the first-floor, whence she observes all that passes. In a future line we find Acroteleutium and Milphidippa owning that they had been watching from the window what was going on outside. Schmieder thinks that the whole plan having been prearranged between Periplecomenus and Philocomasium, he merely on this occasion makes a sign to her, the meaning of which is here expressed in words, and he supposes, what it does not deem necessary to suppose, that his servants have been ordered to delay Sceledrus, so as to give time to the damsel to pass through into his house.
  5. Hang-dog: “Furcifer.” Literally, “bearer of the ‘furca.'” Slaves are repeatedly thus called in these plays, as, by way of punishment for their misdeeds, they were compelled to carry a “furca,” or two pieces of wood shaped like the letter V, round their necks, with their hands tied to the ends of the instrument.
  6. In allowing: The old gentleman must surely have changed colour when he said this.
  7. That wicker-net: The “nassa” was a contrivance, by means of joining willow rods, for catching fish. It was probably somewhat in the shape of a large bottle with a narrow mouth, which was placed with a bait in it, facing the current of the stream. See the Halieuticon of Ovid, l. 11.
  8. Has more relish: He puns on the word “sapis;” and probably this was a common saying of the day. “Sapio” means either “to be wise,” or “to have a relishing flavour.” Now, inasmuch as the flesh of the pig is of a relishing nature, it may be very truly said, that it has more of the “sapit” in it when dead than alive. In reference to Sceledrus, he seems to mean that he will prove of much more use to their plan now he is bewildered and half deprived of his senses, than when in full possession of his faculties; and that, in fact, so far as their object is concerned, there will be more of the “sapit” in him now than there was before.
  9. To my Senate: He calls his fellow-plotters in the mischief, namely, Palaestrio, Philocomasium, and Pleusicles, his Senate, which is now meeting in consultation. When sitting in deliberation, the Senate was said to be “frequens” which may be rendered “sitting,” or “full.”
  10. Be a distribution: “Sortitus” or “sortitio” was the distribution by the Senate of the Roman provinces among the Proconsuls. He keeps up the Metaphor of the Senate, and says, that he must make haste, or all the provinces will be distributed; or, in other words, that each party will have agreed on the part he has to play, and will leave him nothing to do.

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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.

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