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The Grouch (Dyskolos)
PAN, the god, prologue speaker
SOSTRATOS, young man who has fallen in love
CHAIREAS, parasite, friend of Sostratos
PYRRHIAS, slave belonging to the family of Sostratos
KNEMON, the "dyskolos," the dyspeptic grouch
YOUNG GIRL, unmarried daughter of Knemon (no name given
in the papyrus)
DAOS, slave belonging to Gorgias
GORGIAS, farmer, half-brother of Knemon's daughter by the
GETAS, slave belonging to Sostratos' family
SIMICHE, an old woman, Knemon's slave and nurse to his
KALLIPPIDES, Sostratos' father
CHORUS of revelers
Plangon, Sostratos' sister
Parthenis, a female piper
Donax and Syrus, slaves
Myrrhine, Knemon's wife and mother of Gorgias and the
(The action takes place in Phyle, a village about thirteen miles from
Athens that was famous for a shrine to Pan and the Nymphs.
The actual shrine was on the side of a steep cliff; in the theater it
is represented by the opening to a cave in the center of the stage.
On the left is a farmhouse belonging to Knemon, the dyspeptic
misanthrope; on the right is another farmhouse belonging to
Gorgias and his mother. The spring of the Nymphs, where the
sacrifices take place, is inside the shrine. The audience cannot see
inside, so these actions will be reported. Next to one of the doors,
along the country lane that goes by the houses, is an altar to
Apollo Agyieus, Apollo as the god of streets and roads. The
audience cannot see the well and dung-heap situated behind
Knemon's house or the lands farmed by Knemon and Gorgias,
but will imagine them as they are pointed out. The ridge where
Knemon is first seen picking wild pears is just off stage to the left.
Farther away, on the right, is the large farm owned by
Kallipides, Sostratos' father. The place has an air of desolation; it
is hilly, rocky, very difficult to farm, and mostly good for
(In the early morning, the god Pan comes out of his shrine to deliver
the explanatory prologue to the audience.)
Let your imaginative forces work
to make this place appear as Phyle--
an Attic village where the celebrated shrine
from which I come belongs to those
who have the strength to farm the rocks.
The field here on my right belongs to Knemon,
a human lacking in humanity,
bilious toward everyone, detesting crowds.
"Crowds" do I say? He's lived a lengthy time
and hardly ever said a gracious word
to anyone. He's never first to say "hello,"
with one exception, and that's me,
his neighbor, Pan. He doesn't like it,
but he must. (I'm dangerous when crossed.)
This Knemon once was married to a widow
whose husband had just died and left her
with a tiny son. Yoked in one harness,
they lived by fighting through the days
and taking up the greater part of night
existing wretchedly. And then a daughter came,
and things got worse. When misery
was all there was, and life was harsh
and full of toil, she left and joined her son.
Here, in this neighborhood, he owned a little place,
where now he is his mother's sole support
(with barely enough). One loyal slave,
long in the family, is all the help they have.
This boy's quite grown by now.
His mind's advanced beyond his years.
Experience in living brought him up.
The old man and his daughter live alone
with an old female servant. Carrying wood,
digging, he works all the time.
Beginning with his wife and the neighbors
all the way to Cholargos, down there,
he hates every one of them. The girl
is innocent in all her ways--
not one thing ugly about her.
With pious care she tends the Nymphs
who share my shrine, and as she honors us
so are we moved to care for her.
There's a boy whose father farms a wealthy place,
worth many talents, right in this vicinity.
The city's where he lives, but now he's here
to hunt, and just by chance he's in this place
with his companion in the chase.
I've inspired him, made him mad for the girl:
That's the essence. If you want the rest,
watch if you wish--and you ought to wish it!
That youth I told you of is coming near,
intent on telling to his friend
these matters that we all might hear.
(Pan goes back to his shrine. Sostratos and a hunting companion, named
Chaireas and called a parasite in the list of
personae in the papyrus, come on stage from the
farm belonging to Sostratos' father.)
What are you saying? You saw a free-born girl
putting garlands on the local Nymphs--
and right away you're in love?
That's fast. When you started out today
did you plan to fall in love?
You're mocking me,
but I am really wretched, Chaireas.
It's not that I don't believe you.
That's why I'm taking you into my heart.
I also think of you as practical.
That's the way I am, Sostratos.
Suppose a hetaira has captured a friend.
Right away I grab her, get drunk,
burn down the house! Don't listen to reason!
Before you discover who she is,
you've got to try your luck.
Slow-going makes you burn for a girl,
and a quick start means a quick finish.
But if you mean marriage with a free-born female,
then I'm a different sort of friend.
I make inquiries about her family,
finances and style. It's permanent
arrangements that we're talking here.
I leave a future record for my friend.
That's well and good,
but not very pleasing.
But even in your case we should
give the facts a thorough hearing.
At dawn I sent out Pyrrhias
from home, but not to hunt--
To her father. To meet with
the person in charge, whoever he is.
Heracles! What are you saying?
I made a mistake. Missions like these
Aren't for slaves. It isn't easy
to know what succeeds, when someone's in love.
It's been quite some time since he's been gone,
and I've been wondering--I said to him--
"Get right back home, and tell me here,
where I am waiting, what I want to know."
(They are suddenly interrupted by a terrified Pyrrhias dashing onto the
stage from the left. He is out of breath and dazed
as if he has just encountered a malevolent spirit
of superhuman force.)
Make room! Watch out! Get off the road!
A crazy man is chasing me--he's mad!
What's this all about, my lad?
I'm pelted with clods, with sod, with stones.
Pelted? Where to now, you miserable wretch?
PYRRHIAS (trying to escape across to the right)
Is he still coming after me?
SOSTRATOS (holding him back)
By Zeus, he's not!
He was, I thought.
What are you saying?
Let's clear out of here, I'm begging!
Away from his door, as far as we're able.
Some son of Distress, a man possessed
by blackness of bile and dreadful demons
lives there. You sent me to a man
who is big trouble. I've broken my toes
falling over all those rocks.
Has he been drinking, coming here like this?
His wits are wandering, that's clear.
By Zeus, I swear it, Sostratos,
I'd rather die! Watch out somehow.
I can't go on; I'm out of breath.
I knocked on the door and asked for the master,
A beaten-down old woman came--
she stood right here, where I am now
and showed me where he was
up on the hill collecting sour pears.
(Pyrrhias is frantic. His encounter with the old man has made him
sound like an incompetent fool. Chaireas and
Sostratos find the story hard to believe since they
have not yet seen Knemon.)
What's that, you lucky dog? But as for me,
I took some steps upon his bit of land,
and while a good way off, in friendly fashion,
Put out my hand in greeting as I spoke.
"I've come on business, sir," I said.
"On your behalf, I've hurried here."
Right away, he says, "Damn you, are you
spying on my place?" Then he
picked up some sod and threw it in my face.
Go to hell!
While this was going on, I shut my eyes,
and said, "I hope Poseidon gets you,"
when next he grabbed a pointed pole
and really cleaned me up with it.
He said, "What business could there be,"
of some concern to you and me?"
"Can't you find a public road?" he screamed.
Without a doubt, you're describing
a farmer who's out of his mind.
Here's how it ends: I ran away
and he chased me, first around the hill,
at least two miles, and then below
into these bushes, throwing clods and stones
and then the pears when nothing else was there.
A rotten business, an absolutely
damned old man. I beg you, find another place.
That's the way that cowards talk.
You've no idea what path you walk.
He'll gobble us up.
Perhaps at this moment he's suffering.
It seems to me now, Sostratos, that we
can wait awhile. For you should know,
in business, it's more practical
to wait until the moment's opportune.
Poor farmers are prickly, He's not alone;
It's all of them. At dawn, tomorrow,
since I know the house, I'll go alone.
And now it's best you wait at home.
That's the way to play it.
(Having decided to his own satisfaction what would be best, Chaireas
departs without waiting for an answer. Sostratos
then turns his attention to his slave after deciding
that Chaireas is of no use to him.)
PYRRHIAS (happy to have Chaireas take care of things)
That's what we should do.
SOSTRATOS (thinking Chaireas has failed him)
That's an excuse he's gladly seized upon.
It was immediately clear
he didn't want to come with me,
and didn't approve of my marriage plans.
(turning furiously to Pyrrhias)
And as for you, you lowest of the low,
I hope the gods destroy you.
How have I injured you, Sostratos?
It's clear you've caused some damage to his place,
Why would someone beat you if you did nothing wrong?
He's here, that man himself! O best of masters,
now I'll take me off, and you can talk to him.
(Pyrrhias makes his escape. Sostratos on stage alone starts his monologue.
As he is speaking, he notices Knemon appear at the
left, coming from the ridge. By the time his speech
is finished, Sostratos has moved as far away as
he can from Knemon's house, while Knemon is
standing in the middle of the stage, ready to begin
his comments to the spectators.)
SOSTRATOS (to himself and answering the absent Pyrrhias)
I can't! I never can persuade a soul
no matter what I talk about.
And how can I address a man like him?
That's no philanthropist I'm looking at.
By Zeus, he's serious! I'll slip aside
a little from the door. That's better.
How he shouts, while walking all alone!
He must be mad, it seems to me--
I'm frightened, by Apollo and the gods.
(Shouldn't a person tell the truth?)
Well, didn't Perseus have double-luck?
First, the wings--he never had to meet
with people walking on the ground.
And then he had some sort of property
which turned the mob of nuisances to stone.
That's what I want! They'd be plentiful
everywhere--human statues made of stone.
By Asclepius, my life is now
unlivable. They're talking,
trespassing, crossing my land.
I suppose, by Zeus, I waste my time
standing by the side of the road!
I don't work that bit of field:
those people coming by have chased me off,
and now they follow me up to the hill-tops.
A multi-multitudinous mob!
Good grief! Another one of them
is standing right beside our door!
Will he really strike at me?
A quiet place is nowhere to be found.
You can't even plan to hang yourself in peace.
Can it be me enraging him?
I'm waiting here for someone, sir, it was agreed--
KNEMON (ignoring him)
What did I say? Is this the stoa
or the local shrine for rendezvous?
Whenever there's a man you wish to see,
arrange to meet them all beside my door.
Certainly, construct an assembly-room,
if that's what you have in mind!
Why not a council-chamber? I'm accursed!
The evil is abusive insolence,
as it appears to me.
(Knemon exits, going angrily into his house.)
I can't be casual about this job.
Real effort is required here.
That's clear, but shall I go for Getas,
who's my father's slave? By the gods, I will!
He's hot stuff, with lots of experience
in all sorts of things. He'll beat off his bile.
I don't approve of long delays:
why, even in a single day,
lots could happen. Oh, there's noise at the door!
(Young girl, Knemon's daughter, enters.)
Alas, for all my sufferings;
and what shall I do now? My nurse,
while lifting up the jar,
dropped the well-ropes in the well.
SOSTRATOS (aside, thinking only of the appeal of his beloved)
O Father Zeus, Apollo the healer,
beloved Dioscuri--unbeatable beauty!
Father gave me orders coming in
to make the water hot.
SOSTRATOS (overwhelmed by her)
If he discovers this, he'll treat her
like a criminal. I have no time to talk.
O dearest Nymphs, you've got to take it on.
But I'm ashamed to go inside
if there are people making sacrifice--
Just give it to me and right away
I'll dip the jug and bring it up.
Yes, by the gods, and quickly too!
SOSTRATOS (to himself as he goes into the shrine)
She's a natural aristocrat
although her look is countrified.
O gods deserving deepest reverence,
what can save me now?
Dear me, who's banging at the door?
Can that be father coming out?
I'll catch some blows if he catches me out.
DAOS (speaking to Gorgias' mother inside as he comes on stage from the other house)
I'm slaving and serving forever here
while he's out there digging alone.
I've got to go and help him out.
O cursed Poverty! How have we happened
on such an intimate relationship?
Why has your constant presence
settled in our house?
Take the jar.
GIRL (from the door of her house)
Bring it here.
Whatever is this man after?
Be well! Take care of your father.
Oh, my! O Sostratos, stop complaining.
It will be all right.
What will be all right?
SOSTRATOS (still to himself)
Don't worry, do as you planned--get Get as--
tell him everything and bring him back.
(He goes offstage.)
Is something ugly going on?
I'm not the least bit pleased.
When a boy is waiting on a girl,
corruption's close. But, Knemon, as for you--
I hope the gods destroy you totally.
You've left that innocent and harmless girl
alone in this deserted place,
with no protection anywhere.
That's why he came by! Finding out,
he slipped away and thought he'd try his luck.
Fast as I can, I'll let her brother know.
We'll watch out on her behalf.
I believe I will start on it now--
for here's a group of followers of Pan.
I see they're looking somewhat drunk,
so I think I'm better off away.
(Chorus of revelers comes on stage, singing a lighthearted paean to Pan
and providing the choral performance sung
between the acts.)
(Daos and Gorgias are alone on stage. Gorgias, hearing about
Sostratos' arrival at the farm, criticizes Daos for not dealing
more forcefully with the situation.)
Was this an insignificant affair
that you could handle carelessly?
How is that?
You should have told him, whoever he was,
as soon as you saw him come forward,
by Zeus, that you'd better never,
ever see him again acting like that.
But you kept off, as if this business
was somebody else's concern.
It isn't possible to run away
from family responsibility.
My sister's our concern, although her father
wishes it were otherwise. Don't imitate
If she falls victim to some shame,
disgrace would also come to me.
From the outside, no one ever knows
who is to blame. They only see results.
(They walk toward Knemon's house.)