Friday, June 29, 2007


Earlier this term my year 8 class spent a bit of time looking at some Greek and Roman drama. I gave them a brief summary of a few different plays, and asked them to come up with their own 5-minute version. One group did a particularly good job with Plautus’ Amphitryo. In the play Jupiter disguises himself as Amphitryo in order to sleep with his wife, Alcmene. Mercury stands guard outside the house, disguised as Amphitryo’s slave, Sosia. Much of the the humour of the play revolves around mistaken identities, and the confusion of the real Amphitryo and Sosia. It’s hard to convey in words alone, but here are a few extracts:

M. Cuius es? S. Amphitruonis, inquam, Sosia. M. Ergo istoc magis,
quia vaniloquo's, vapulabis: ego sum, non tu, Sosia.
SOS. Ita di faciant, ut tu potius sis atque ego te ut verberem.
[lines 378-80]

Mercury: Whose slave are you?
Sosia: I’m Sosia, Amphitryo’s slave.
Mercury: Lies again…. Take that… I tell you I am Sosia.
Sosia: I wish you were, by all the gods, then you’d be getting the beating.

MERC. Ego sum Sosia ille quem tu dudum esse aiebas mihi.
SOS. Obsecro ut per pacem liceat te alloqui, ut ne vapulem.
[lines 387-8]

Mercury: [punching him] You said you were Sosia, and I tell you I’m Sosia.
Sosia: Look, mister, could I have a few minutes’ peace to speak to you, and no more beating?

MERC. Dic si quid vis, non nocebo. SOS. Tuae fide credo? MERC. Meae.
SOS. Quid si falles? MERC. Tum Mercurius Sosiae iratus siet.
SOS. Animum advorte. nunc licet mihi libere quidvis loqui.
Amphitruonis ego sum servos Sosia.
[lines 391-4]

Mercury: Say what you want to say. I won’t hurt you.
Sosia: Promise?
Mercury: Promise.
Sosia: And if you break it?
Mercury: Then may all the wrath of Mercury fall upon Sosia.
Sosia: Well now, listen. Now can I get a word in- the fact is, I am Amphitryo’s slave, Sosia.

MERC. Quid nunc? vincon argumentis, te non esse Sosiam?
SOS. Tu negas med esse? MERC. Quid ego ni negem, qui egomet siem?
SOS. Per Iovem iuro med esse neque me falsum dicere.
MERC. At ego per Mercurium iuro, tibi Iovem non credere;
nam iniurato scio plus credet mihi quam iurato tibi.
SOS. Quis ego sum saltem, si non sum Sosia? te interrogo.
MERC. Vbi ego Sosia nolim esse, tu esto sane Sosia;
nunc, quando ego sum, vapulabis, ni hinc abis, ignobilis.
[lines 433-440]

Mercury: Are you convinced now that you’re not Sosia?
Sosia: You think I’m not?
Mercury: Well of course you’re not, since I am.
Sosia: But I swear by Jupiter I am not Lying.
Mercury: And I swear by Mercury Jupiter doesn’t believe you. He’d take my bare word against your oath, for that matter.
Sosia: Well for Jupiter’s sake, who am I, if I’m not Sosia?
Mercury: You can be Sosia as much as you like, when I don’t want to be. At the moment I am Sosia, and you can pack off, or take another thrashing- scum!

And here's some of what my year 8 class came up with:

Sosia: Quis es tu?
Mercury: Who are you?
Sosia: I’m Sosia
Mercury: I’m Sosia
Sosia: No, I’m Sosia
Mercury: No, I’m Sosia, you must be someone else.
Sosia: Well, I’m Sosia, Amphitryo’s friend.
Mercury: No, I’m Sosia, Amphitryo’s friend.
Sosia: Then who am I?
Mercury: You are an impostor. You are not Sosia, I am.
Sosia: But I’m sure I’m Sosia, see [waves Amphitryo’s letter in front of Mercury’s face]. I was sent by Amphitryo to tell Alcmene he is coming back home.
Mercury: [takes the letter] No, Amphitryo sent me with this letter to Alcmene- You are an impostor and you stole the letter off me!
Sosia: You are confusing me.
Mercury: Nooo. You are confusing me.
Sosia: I am?
Mercury: You are.
Sosia: How?
Mercury: Well, you are telling me I am not someone, but I am, and you are saying that you are me and I am you, but I am not you at all, just as you are not me, so what you are saying is wrong, because I am not you, and you are not me, therefore I am right that I am me, and you are not me but yourself. See?
Sosia: [nodding] No!
Mercury: [smirks] You sir, are an impostor. Off you go, back to your master.

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