Miles Gloriosus, or The Braggart Captain

Act Two, Scene One

The prologue.[1]


To tell the subject of this our play, I have all willingness, if you will but have the kindness to listen to it. But he who does not wish to listen, let him arise and go out, that there may be room where he may sit who does wish to listen. Now I will disclose to you both the subject and the name of the play which we are just now about to act, and for the sake of which you are now seated in this mirthful place[2], “Alazon” is the name[3], in Greek, of this Comedy; the same we call in Latin. “the Braggart”. This city is Ephesus; then, the Captain, my master, who has gone off hence to the Forum, a bragging, impudent, stinking fellow, brimful of lying and lasciviousness, says that all the women are following him of their own accord. Wherever he goes, he is the laughing.stock of all; and so, the Courtesans here–since they make wry mouths at him, you may see the greater part of them with lips all awry. I wish you now to know this, how I came to be his slave, from him to whom I was a servant before; for ’tis not long that I lave been in slavery to him. Give your attention, for now I will begin the argument. A very worthy young man at Athens was my master. He was in love with a Courtesan, brought up at Athens, in Attica, and she on the other hand loved him; such affection is most worthy to be cherished. In the public service, he was sent to Naupactus[4] as Ambassador on behalf of that mighty republic. In the meantime, by chance, this Captain came to Athens. He introduced himself to this lady of my master, began to cajole her mother with presents of wine, trinkets, and costly treats; and so the Captain made himself on intimate terms with the procuress. As soon as ever an opportunity was presented for this Captain, he tricked this procuress, the mother of the damsel, whom my master loved. For, unknown to her mother, he put the daughter on board ship, and carried this woman, against her will, hitherto Ephesus. Soon as I knew that the lady of my master was carried off from Athens, as quickly as ever I was able, I procured for myself a ship: I embarked, that I might carry tidings of this matter to my master at Naupactum. When we had got out to sea, some pirates, as they had hoped to do, took that ship on board of which I was; thus I was undone before I reached my master, for whom I had commenced to proceed on my voyage. He that took me, gave me as a present to this same Captain. After he had taken me home to his own house, I saw there that favorite of my master who lived at Athens. When, on the other hand, she perceived me, she gave me a sign with her eyes not to address her by name. Afterward, when there was an opportunity, the damsel complained to me of her hard fate. She said that she wished to escape to Athens from this house, that she was attached to him, that master of mine who lived at Athens, and that she had never hated anyone more thoroughly than this same Captain. As I discovered the feelings of the damsel, I took tablets, sealed them in private, and gave them to a certain merchant to carry to him (my master, I mean, who was at Athens, and who had so loved her), in order that he might come hither. He did not slight the message, for he both is come, and is lodging here next door, with his host, a friend of his father’s, a nice old man. He, too, gives every assistance to his guest in his amour, and encourages and seconds us with his help and his advice. Therefore, here (pointing to the CAPTAIN’S house) , in-doors, I have found a grand contrivance, by which to cause these lovers, each, to meet the other. For one room, which the Captain gave to his mistress for no one but herself to set foot in, in that same room I have dug a hole through the party-wall, in order that there may secretly be an ingress for the damsel from the one house to the other. And this I have done with the knowledge of the old gentleman; ’twas he that gave the advice. But my fellow-servant, whom the Captain has given as a keeper to his mistress, is a person of no great worth. By clever contrivances and ingenious devices, we will throw dust[5] in his eyes, and we will make him so as not to see what he really does see. And that you may not hereafter make mistakes, this damsel to-day, in this house and in that, will perform in turn a double part, and will be the same, but will pretend to be another, person. Thus will the keeper of the damsel be gulled. But there is a noise[6] at the door here of the old gentleman, our neighbour. ‘Tis himself coming out ’tis he, the nice old man that I was speaking of. (He retires to a distance.)

  1. Prologue: As the Prologue of the play commences with the Second Act. it may appear to be misplaced; but it really is properly placed here, as the preceding act is introductory, and has nothing to do with the plot, being void of incident. Its purpose is to acquaint us with the character of the Captain, who is to be duped and punished in the piece according to his desert.
  2. This mirthful place: He alludes to the theatres, where scenic representations took place on public festival
  3. Alazon is the name: ἀλάζων, "the boaster," he says, was the Greek name of the play. It is not known who was the Greek author from whom Plautus took this play, which is one of his best.
  4. Naupactus: This was a city situated on the sea-coast of Aetolia.
  5. We will throw dust: "Glaucomam obiiciemus;" literally, "we will throw a malady in his eyes." "Glaucoma" was a disease of the crystalline humours of the eye.
  6. There is a noise: The street doors of the ancients consisted of folding-doors, whence the plural form, "fores." These opened outward into the street, and not, like those of modern times, within. For this reason, when any person was coming out, it was customary for him to give warning by making a noise with his knuckles or a stick on the inside.


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Miles Gloriosus, or The Braggart Captain Copyright © 2020 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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