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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Plautus (c. 254–184 B.C.)

The Suspicious Miser

From “The Pot of Gold”


Eun.Tell me, pray, who is she whom you would like to take for a wife?

Meg.I’ll tell you. Do you know that Euclio, the poor old man close by?

Eun.I know him; not a bad sort of man.

Meg.I’d like his maiden daughter to be promised me in marriage. Don’t make any words about it, sister; I know what you are going to say—that she’s poor. This poor girl pleases me.

Eun.May the gods prosper it!

Meg.I hope the same.

Eun.Do you wish me to stay for anything else?

Meg.No; farewell.

Eun.And to you the same, brother.(Goes into the house.)

Meg.I’ll go to see Euclio, if he’s at home. But, ah! here comes the very man toward his own house!

Euc.(to himself).I had a presentiment that I was going out to no purpose when I left my house, and therefore I went unwillingly; for neither did any one of the wardsmen come, nor yet the master of the ward, who ought to have distributed the money. Now I’m making all haste to hasten home; for, though I myself am here, my mind’s at home.

Meg.May you be well, and ever fortunate, Euclio!

Euc.May the gods bless you, Megadorus!

Meg.How are you? Are you quite well and contented?

Euc.(aside).It isn’t for nothing when a rich man accosts a poor man courteously. Now, this fellow knows that I’ve got some gold; for that reason he salutes me more courteously.

Meg.Do you say that you are well?

Euc.Oh, I’m not very well in the money line.

Meg.But if you’ve a contented mind, you have enough for passing a happy life with.

Euc.(aside).By my faith, the old woman has made a discovery to him about the gold; it is clear she has told him. I’ll cut off her tongue, and tear out her eyes, when I get home.

Meg.Why are you talking to yourself?

Euc.I’m lamenting my poverty. I’ve a grown-up girl without a portion, and one that can’t be disposed of in marriage; nor am I able to marry her to anybody.

Meg.Hold your peace; be of good courage, Euclio; she shall have a husband; you shall be assisted by myself. If you have need of help, command me.

Euc.(aside).Now he is aiming at my property, while he’s making promises. He’s gaping for my gold, that he may devour it; in the one hand he is carrying a stone, while he shows the bread in the other. I trust no person who, rich himself, is exceedingly courteous to a poor man; when he extends his hand with a kind air, then is he loading you with some damage. I know these polyps, who, when they’ve touched a thing, hold it fast.

Meg.Give me your attention, Euclio, for a little while; I wish to speak a few words to you about a common concern of yours and mine.

Euc.(aside).Alas! wo is me! My gold has been carried off from my house. Now he’s wishing for this thing, I’m sure, to come to a compromise with me; but I’ll look in my house first.(He goes toward his door.)

Meg.Where are you going?

Euc.I’ll return to you directly, for there’s something I must go and see to at home.(Goes into his house.)

Meg.I verily believe that when I make mention of his daughter, for him to promise her to me, he’ll suppose that I am laughing at him; for I do not know of any man poorer than he.

EUCLIO returns from his house.
Euc.(aside).The gods favor me; my property’s all safe. If nothing’s lost, it’s safe. I was dreadfully afraid before I went indoors. I was almost dead.(Aloud.)I’m come back to you, Megadorus, if you wish to say anything to me.

Meg.I thank you. I beg that as to what I shall inquire of you, you’ll not hesitate to speak out boldly.

Euc.So long, indeed, as you inquire nothing that I mayn’t choose to speak out upon.

Meg.Tell me, of what sort of family do you consider me to be sprung?

Euc.Of a good one.

Meg.What do you think about my character?

Euc.It’s a good one.

Meg.What of my conduct?

Euc.Neither bad nor dishonest.

Meg.Do you know my age?

Euc.I know that you are as rich in years as in pocket.

Meg.I surely did always take you to be a citizen without evil guile, and now I am convinced.

Euc.(aside).He smells the gold.(Aloud.)What do you want with me now?

Meg.Since you know me, and I know you, what sort of person you are, may it bring a blessing on myself, and you, and your daughter, if I now ask your daughter as my wife. Promise me that it shall be so.

Euc.Heyday! Megadorus, you are doing a deed that’s not becoming to your usual actions, in laughing at me, a poor man, and guiltless toward yourself and toward your family. For neither in act, nor in words, have I ever deserved it of you that you should do what you are doing now.

Meg.I vow that I neither came to laugh at you nor am I laughing at you, nor do I think you deserving of it.

Euc.Why, then, do you ask my daughter for yourself?

Meg.Because I believe that the match would be a good thing for all of us.

Euc.It suggests itself to my mind, Megadorus, that you are a wealthy man, a man of rank, and that I am the poorest of the poor. Now, if I should give my daughter in marriage to you, it suggests itself to my mind that you are the ox, and that I am the ass; when I’m yoked to you, and when I’m not able to bear the burden equally with yourself, I, the ass, must lie down in the mire; you, the ox, would regard me no more than if I had never been born. I should then feel aggrieved, and my own class would laugh at me. In neither direction should I have a fixed stall, if there should be a divorce; the asses would tear me with their teeth, the oxen would butt at me with their horns. This is the great risk, in my passing over from the asses to the oxen.

Meg.The nearer you can unite yourself in alliance with honorable people the better. Do you receive this proposal, listen to me, and promise her to me.

Euc.But there is no marriage portion, I tell you.

Meg.You are to give none; so long as she comes with good principles, she is sufficiently portioned.

Euc.I say so for this reason, that you mayn’t be supposing that I have found any treasures.

Meg.I know that; don’t enlarge upon it. Promise her to me.

Euc.So be it.(Starts and looks about.)But, oh, Jupiter, am I not utterly undone?

Meg.What’s the matter with you?

Euc.What was it sounded just now as though it were iron?

Meg.I ordered them to dig up the garden at my place.(EUCLIO runs off into his house.)But where has this man gone? He’s off, and he hasn’t fully answered me; he treats me with contempt. Because he sees that I wish for his friendship, he acts after the usual manner of mankind. For if a wealthy person goes to ask a favor of a poorer one, the poor man is afraid to treat with him; through suspicion he hurts his own interest. The same person, when this opportunity is lost, afterward wishes for it too late.

Euc.(coming out of the house, addressing servant within).By the powers, if I don’t give you up to have your tongue cut out by the roots, I order and I authorize you to hand me over to any one you please, to be mutilated.

Meg.By my troth, Euclio, I perceive that you consider me a fit man for you to make sport of in my old age, for no fault of my own.

Euc.I’ faith, Megadorus, I am not doing so, nor should I desire it were I able to.

Meg.Well, then, do you betroth your daughter to me?

Euc.On those terms, and with that portion which I mentioned to you.

Meg.Do you promise her, then?

Euc.I do promise her.

Meg.May the gods bestow their blessings on it!

Euc.May the gods do so! Observe and remember that we’ve agreed, that my daughter is not to bring you any portion.

Meg.I remember it.

Euc.But I understand in what fashion people are wont to equivocate; an agreement is no agreement, no agreement is an agreement—just as it pleases you.

Meg.I’ll have no misunderstanding with you. But what reason is there why we shouldn’t have the nuptials this day?

Euc.Why, by my troth, there is very good reason why we should.

Meg.I’ll go, then, and prepare matters. Do you want me for anything more?

Euc.All is settled. Farewell.

Meg.(going to the door of his house and calling out).Hullo! Strobilus, follow me quickly to the meat-market.(Exit MEGADORUS.)

Euc.He has gone. Immortal gods, I do beseech you! How powerful is gold! I do believe, now, that he has had some intimation that I’ve got a treasure at home. He’s gaping for that; for the sake of that has he persisted in this alliance!