Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Duel of Abuse ~ Round Xn1

(Déjà vu characters from 424 BC ~ courtesy of ARISTOPHANES[1] with some names slightly amended for clarity.)

 In the last post, Dimisthenes asks, “Who will get us out of this mess?” And who should promptly show up but a sausage-seller! He is swiftly recruited to the cause. What follows is an Aristophian distillation of mankind’s perennial conflict—one we have endured in recent Republican “debates” and will yet endure, more intensely, in anticipated Rep & Dem ones.

At core, we have a duel of economic ideologies, which, in analysis (and in Artistophanes), are more alike in practice than not. Dimisthenes and the CHORUS of Knights (or the Benighted, as the case may be!) root for the Sausage-Seller.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. The oracles of the gods summon me! Faith! I do not at all understand how I can be capable of governing the people.
[DIMISTHENES]. Nothing simpler. Continue your trade. Mix and knead together all the state business as you do for your sausages. To win the people, always cook them some savoury that pleases them. Besides, you possess all the attributes of a demagogue; a screeching, horrible voice, a perverse, cross-grained nature and the language of the market-place. In you all is united which is needful for governing. The oracles are in your favour, even including that of [Phila]Delphi[a]. Come, take a chaplet [garland or wreath for the head], offer a libation to the god of Stupidity and take care to fight vigorously.
 SAUSAGE-SELLER. Who will be my ally? for the rich fear [the present demagogue, Clecon] and the poor shudder at the sight of him.
 [DIMISTHENES]. You will have a thousand brave Knights who detest him, on your side; also the honest citizens amongst the spectators, those who are men of brave hearts, and finally myself and the god [of the market-place]. Fear not, … the public have wit enough to recognize him.
[Then the demagogue CLECON arrives.]
[NOTE: Our twenty-first century words may be gold-plated, but in essence, can we not hear clear echoes of Aristophanes?!]
[CLECON]. I denounce this fellow; he has had tasty stews exported from [America] for the [enemies’] fleet.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I denounce him, who runs into the [public trust] with empty belly and comes out with it full.
[CLECON]. You are travelling the right road to get killed.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will baffle your machinations.
[CLECON]. Dare to look me in the face!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I too was brought up in the market-place.
[CLECON]. I will cut you to shreds if you whisper a word.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will daub you with dung if you open your mouth.
[CLECON]. I own I am a thief; do you admit yourself another.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. By our Hermes of the market-place, if caught in the act, why, I perjure myself before those who saw me.
[CLECON]. These are my own special tricks. I will denounce you to the [Judges] as the owner of sacred tripe, that has not paid tithe [or taxes].

SAUSAGE-SELLER. Just hear what sort of fellow that fine citizen is.
[CLECON]. Will you not let me speak?
SAUSAGE-SELLER. Assuredly not, for I also am a sad rascal. …
[CLECON]. Once more, will you not let me speak?
[CLECON]. Yes, by Zeus, but you shall!
SAUSAGE-SELLER. No, by Posidon! We will fight first to see who shall speak first.

[CLECON]. I will rush into the Senate and set them all by the ears.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I will lug out your gut to stuff like a sausage.
[CLECON]. As for me, I will seize you by the rump and hurl you head foremost through the door.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. I denounce you for cowardice.
[CLECON]. I will tan your hide.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. I will flay you and make a thief's pouch with the skin.
[CLECON]. I will peg you out on the ground.

SAUSAGE-SELLER. … he has only made himself a name by reaping another's harvest; and now he has tied up the ears he gathered over there, he lets them dry and seeks to sell them.

[CLECON]. I will bring four suits against you, each of one hundred talents.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And I twenty against you for shirking duty and more than a thousand for robbery.

[CLECON]. You are an impostor.
SAUSAGE-SELLER. And you are a rogue.
 [And so on and on!]


[2012 Study Questions: Who/What is “Clecon”? Who/What is Dimisthenes? Who/What is the Sausage-Seller? Who are the CHORUS of Knights?]

 [1] “Duel of Abuse” comes from p. 14 (CHORUS) of Aristophanes' (circa 444 –385 BC) play, “The Knights,” from The Eleven Comedies, Volume 1, Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition, 2005-08-01. The text of this post is from pp. 8-13 as condensed (with minor changes and updates in [ ]) by SMS.
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