(SCENE:-The Orchestra represents a public square in Athens; in the
background are two houses with an alley between them.)
(swinging the lantern, which is to be a signal for the other
women; in high tragic style)
Oh! Thou shining light of my earthenware lamp, from this high spot
shalt thou look abroad. Oh! lamp, I will tell thee thine origin and
thy future; 'tis the rapid whirl of the potter's wheel that has lent
thee thy shape, and thy wick counterfeits the glory of the sun;
mayst thou send the agreed signal flashing afar! In thee alone do we
confide, and thou art worthy, for thou art near us when we practise
the various postures in which Aphrodite delights upon our couches, and
none dreams even in the midst of her sports of seeking to avoid
thine eye that watches us. Thou alone shinest into the secret recesses
of our thighs and dost singe the hair that groweth there, and with thy
flame dost light the actions of our loves. If we open some cellar
stored with fruits and wine, thou art our companion, and never dost
thou betray or reveal to a neighbour the secrets thou hast learned
about us. Therefore thou shalt know likewise the whole of the plot
that I have planned with my friends, the women, at the festival of the
(She pauses and looks about her.)
I see none of those I was expecting, though dawn approaches; the
Assembly is about to gather and we must take our seats in spite of
Phyromachus, who forsooth would say, "It is meet the women sit apart
and hidden from the eyes of the men." Why, have they not been able
then to procure the false beards that they must wear, or to steal
their husbands' cloaks? Ah! I see a light approaching; let us draw
somewhat aside, for fear it should be a man.
(She hides in the alley. From the right a woman enters, followed
almost immediately by others. All are carrying staffs, men's
sandals, and cloaks over their arms.)
Let us start, it is high time; as we left our dwellings, the
cock was crowing for the second time.
PRAXAGORA (to herself)
And I have spent the whole night waiting for you. (She emerges
from the alley.) But come, let us call our neighbour by scratching
at her door; and gently too, so that her husband may hear nothing.
(coming out of her house; she is dressed like a man, with a staff
in her hand)
I was putting on my shoes, when I heard you scratching, for I
was not asleep, so there! Oh! my dear, my husband (he is a Salaminian)
never left me an instant's peace, but was at me, for ever at me, all
night long, so that it was only just now that I was able to filch
I see Clinarete coming too, along with Sostrate and their
next-door neighbour Philaenete. (To the women that are just
arriving; in a loud voice) Hurry yourselves then, for Glyce has
sworn that the last comer shall forfeit three measures of wine and a
choenix of pease.
Don't you see Melistice, the wife of Smicythion, hurrying hither
in her big shoes? I think she is the only one of us all who has had no
trouble in getting rid of her husband.
And can't you see Geusistrate, the tavern-keeper's wife, with a
lamp in her hand?
And the wives of Philodoretus and Chaeretades, and a great many
others; all the useful people in the city, in fact.