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them touch on points treated in the Notes to The
I desire to return my best thanks to Professor E.
THE plot of The Amphitruo is, or rather was, as follows. Amphitruo and his newly married wife are resident in Thebes. Creon, the king of Thebes, has given Amphitruo the command of his army against the piratical Teleboae. Amphitruo departs leaving
1 The play assigns no cause for Amphitruo's residence at Thebes, nor does this concern the plot in any way. Apollodorus (Bibl. 2. 48) narrates that Amphitryon had accidentally slain Electryon, the father of his betrothed wife Alcmena, and had fled to Thebes, where Creon was reigning. Hence, he tells us, Amphitryon led an expedition against the Teleboae, to take vengeance on their king, Pterelaus, who had killed Alcmena's brother. This differs from the play, which repre. sents Amphitruo merely as Creon's general against the Tele. boae, and the quarrel with them, apparently, as Creon's quarrel. The play differs from Apollodorus in other respects also. The latter represents the night as three times its ordin. ary length : Plautus simply as somewhat longer. According to Apollodorus, Hercules was eight months old when he strangled the serpents : Plautus represents him as just born. Apollodorus represents Amphitryon to have consulted the seer Tiresias, and to have been reconciled to his wife by his assur. ance that it was Jupiter who had visited her. In the play Jupiter himself explains overything.
his wife pregnant. During his absence Jupiter becomes enamoured of Alcumena, and assumes the guise of Amphitruo, Mercury at the same time taking the dress and form of Amphitruo's slave, Sosia. Jupiter visits Alcumena, pretending that he has returned from the conquest of the Teleboae, tells her how he has slain their king, Pterelans, with his own hand, and presents her with the golden goblet of Pterelaus. At the same time the night is preternaturally lengthened. Amphitruo having conquered the Teleboae, and returned by ship to the harbour of Thebes, sends Sosia forward at night to his house to give Alcumena tidings of his safe arrival. Sosia finds Mercury on the watch, and is driven away by him. Sosia returns to the harbour to his master, and tells him of his strange encounter with his second self, and how he was prevented coming near the house. Master and man set out together for the house of the former. Jupiter, as day is on the point of breaking, has just said farewell to Alcumena, and quitted the house. Amphitruo, to his wife's amazement, salutes her as though he had been long absent, and is thoroughly' mystified by her assertion that he had spent the night with her. He is convinced of her infidelity, announces his intention of divorcing her, and determines to appeal to Naucrates, a relation of his wife and his fellow-passenger, whether her assertion is not utterly false.
The legend naturally supplied the writer with materials thus far, but the author of the play has added to and improved on the legend by the following particulars. Jupiter, not satisfied with the mystification of Amphitruo, returns to Alcumena, and tells her that all he (Amphitruo) had just reproached her with was said as a joke. While this interview is going on, Amphitruo approaches the house, having in vain sought everywhere for Naucrates. Mercury in the guise of Sosia mounts on the roof of the house, warns Amphitruo off, loads him with abuse, and finally drenches him with water. Amphitruo, at his wit's end with rage, in a scene which is most unfortunately almost entirely lost, encounters Jupiter in his (Amphitruo's) likeness. He at once accuses him of being an adulterer: Jupiter retorts the charge. It is decided at last that it should be left to Blepharo, the helmsman of Amphitruo's ship, to decide which of the twain is the real Amphitruo. To Amphitrio's chagrin Blepharo confesses his inability to decide which is which. Jupiter enters the house. Amphitruo, locked out, is now almost driven mad : he asserts his resolution of breaking into his house and perpetrating an indiscriminate massacre, when a terrific thunderstorm breaks, and he falls speechless to the ground. Bromia, & maid servant, comes out in alarm and finds her master lying speechless. On his coming to himself, she relates the miraculous delivery of Alcumena of