Plot Summary

Scene 1

Aegiale queen of Egypt, and Ianthe, her maid, come to the cave of Irus the Blind Beggar of Alexandria. There Aegiale begs Irus to see where Duke Cleanthes is. The Duke was banished by Ptolemy, king of Egypt, for attempting to woo Aegiale, who interceded to save him from death. Irus tells the queen that she also did pursue Cleanthes’ love. He then tells her to find him she must take his true picture through the land and proclaim a great reward for the person that finds him, and threaten death to any that succor him. Aegiale thanks Irus with a rich jewel, then departs.

Irus then reveals he is in fact Cleanthes in disguise, as well as being the rich usurer Leon and the outlandish Count Hermes. Pego, Irus’ servant enters with three lovely maids, Elimine, Samathis and Martia, each who has a servant attending them, Menippus, Pollidor, and Druso. The three maids banter with their servants who have been charged by the parents of each maid to watch over them and not let them fall into wonton talk of dalliance. The maids proclaim they have come to talk to the harmless blind beggar and reluctantly the servants depart. Once the servants depart the maids beg Irus to tell their fortunes.

Irus tells Elimine to wait in her father’s tower for a man with a velvet patch over his eye, she is to choose this man for her husband. Samathis next begs her fortune, Irus tells her to set out a banquet and the man who comes and bids her welcome to her own feast will be her husband. He also tells her that after her first husband she will have her choice among mighty kings for her second. Finally he tells Martia to place rosemary and rue in her bosom when she gets up the next morning. A man shall come to her father’s door offering kindness and crave the herbs for a favor; he will tread on the bitter rue, but keep the rosemary. The three maids thank Irus and depart. Pego reappears dressed as a burgomaster and Irus remembers that Pego is to seize on the lands of Antisthenes, a man who owes money to Leon. Then the pair exit.

Scene 2

Elimine enters in the tower waiting for her husband to wander by. Count Hermes (Irus) enters and she runs down to greet him. As she enters to the count a Spaniard, Bragadino enters as well. Hermes and Bragadino argue over who is to be Elimine’s husband. Eventually they decide to woo the maid. The one that wins shall escort her through the town hand in hand; the one that looses must follow biting his thumbs. They agree and Bragadino attempts to woo Elimine first. Hermes interrupts him, and finally makes his short speech. Elimine, acting upon Irus’ advice, chooses Hermes.

Scene 3

Aegiale, Ianthe, a herald, Euribates and Clearchus, two courtiers, enter carrying a picture of Cleanthes. They set the picture on a spring in the center of the town and the herald proclaims that Ptolemy offers a great reward for the person who finds Cleanthes, and death for those that succor him. Aegiale and her attendants exit to call upon the nymphs of Isis and Leon (Irus) enters with a sword. He explains that the sword is Cleanthes’ and he will keep the city looking for Cleanthes by pretending to have seen him. He lays the sword next to his picture and calls out as if calling to Cleanthes. Three lords enter, ask which way Cleanthes went and exit in the direction Leon sends them.

Samathis and her maid Jaquine enter with a banquet. Leon advances and eventually invites Samathis to her own banquet. Samathis accepts Leon as her husband, despite his large nose. Samathis and her maids exit, and Leon tells the audience that now that he has won both women, he intends to make further sport by tempting them into affairs with each other’s husbands.

Scene 4

Ptolemy, Aegiale, Doricles, Prince of Arcadia, Aspasia, daughter of Ptolemy, Ianthe, Euphrosyne, Clearchus, and Euribates enter. Ptolemy expresses his regret to Doricles that his daughter does not love him, for he wants the pair to be married. Aegiale sends Aspasia away to play games with Ianthe, then scolds her husband for taking the wrong approach in getting Aspasia to love Doricles. She suggests that he should persuade Aspasia that Doricles does not lover her, thereby making her do the work to woo him. Doricles admits he cannot act like he does not love Aspasia, and Aegiale offers to teach him how.

Aegiale and Doricles exit and Antisthenes, Leon and Pego dressed as a Burgomaster enter. The king proceeds to adjudicate the case between Leon and Antisthenes. Antisthenes claims he paid the money owed, 4000£ to Leon at the rock of the Irus. Leon claims that he did not pay, but asked to pay the 4000 three months later, as well as another 1000. Leon states he refused the offer, and that Antisthenes paid him nothing. Euribates claims that he helped to tender the 4000£ on the stone of Irus, and that Leon is lying. Leon offers to produce a noble witness, count Hermes. The King orders him to do so, and Leon explains that he will not return, having been sick lately, and that the Burgomaster can sit for him in the case. After Leon’s exit Pego comments on how sick the usurer has been. Count Hermes then enters. He backs up Leon’s story. Antisthenes and Euribates ask him where he was that he heard the exchange, as they did not see him. He claims that he was nearby. The Count also states that Irus overheard the exchange and can vouch for Leon. The king orders Irus brought in and the Count states he will summon Irus, but that he must ride to Corrucus, so he will not return. Irus enters and again, backs up Leon’s story. Ptolemy, convinced by the two surprise witnesses awards Antisthenes’ lands to Leon.

Scene 5

Elimine, Samathis and Martia enter discussing their new husbands. The maids all ridicule each other’s husbands, while extolling the virtues of their own. Martia and Samathis exit and Elimine tells the audience how her husband must always ride out of town every other night. Leon enters followed by Druso, Samathis’ servant. Leon proceeds to woo Elimine with fair words, and eventually Elimine acquiesces to a secret affair. The pair exit and Samathis enters. Druso (who has exited a some point, but has no stage direction to indicate where) enters and tells Samathis that Leon, her husband, is away having an affair with Elimine.

Scene 6

Aegiale enters with the guard and bemoans her life without Cleanthes. Count Hermes then arrives and demands to be let in. He finally breaks in past the guards and declares to Aegiale that he knows what passed between her and Cleanthes the night he was banished. She denies ever saying such things, and the count produces a cutting from a Mandrake tree, the tree is actually Aegiale’s son transformed by the evil sorceresses Hella. The sight of the twig touches Aegiale. Hermes tells her to burn the twig in a fire, and the act will send Ptolemy to the grave, then will Cleanthes return to her. He gives her a knife to cut up the twig and after a little banter with the guards, exits. Aegiale talks to the branch and tells it she will cut it up, and burn it.

Scene 7

Elimine and Samathis enter. Samathis berates Elimine for sleeping with her husband, Leon. Elimine does not understand Samathis veiled words and departs declaring her mad. Count Hermes enters then and woos Samathis, hinting is it but quid pro quo that Samathis sleep with Elimine’s husband. The pair exit and Elimine reenters with her servant, Menippus. Menippus tells her that her husband has gone off to have an affair with Samathis. She swears revenge and demands Menippus summon the burgomaster. He cautions her against rash actions, and tells her to simply verbally abuse him. Menippus exits as Count Hermes enters from Samathis’ place. Elimine berates him for cheating on her, and he states it was a fair reaction to her affair with Leon. Elimine exits curing Leon and Hermes declares he will follow and stir up more trouble.

Scene 8

King Porus of Ethiopia, King Rhesus of Arabia, King Bion of Phasiaca, and King Bebritius of Bebritia enter with soldiers. They declare their intention to make war on Egypt and Ptolemy, for a prophesy stated that Doricles should marry the daughter of Ptolemy, and in so doing the four surrounding kingdoms should become subjugated by Egypt. They express relief that Cleanthes has been exiled, for his prowess in battle would have assured certain defeat for the four kings.

Scene 9

Doricles and Aspasia enter as Doricles makes another attempt to woo Aspasia. Count Hermes enters, and rages as Ptolemy has declared Doricles heir to Egypt, he then kills Doricles. Aspasia declares that Egypt will hate him for killing Doricles. Hermes attempts to woo the princess away with him, she refuses. Hermes informs the audience he that his disguise will end, and he will now become Leon. He exits and Aspasia cries murder.

Euribates enters and Aspasia tells him Count Hermes killed Doricles. Ptolemy and several Lords enter and bemoan the death of Doricles. A messenger then enters telling of the four kings massing against Egypt. Clearchus tells the king that the armies massed in Memphis and Caspia combined with the power in Alexandria would be enough to drive back the four kings. Ptolemy agrees and declares they will do just that, he first orders Doricles’ body buried, and word of his murder to be hushed up while they search for Count Hermes. Leon enters then and declares a miracle. He states that he saw Hermes running from Alexandria, and just outside the city the earth opened up and swallowed him whole. Ptolemy declares the heavens just, and he and his lords exit. Leon admits he made up the story to keep people from searching for Hermes, and that he is about to make Leon disappear as well.

First he heads to a place where certain debtors of Leon have sworn to send payment. A messenger soon enters with payment from Calatius. A second messenger enters with payment from Druso the Italian. Leon hands them their bills and they depart. Leon then explains that the money will be used to support Cleanthes in the wars. Just then Clearchus enters declaring the war has taken a bad turn, and Acates and Acanthes, friend of Duke Cleanthes have been slaughtered in the battle. Clearchus exits and Leon rages that his friends have been killed, he vows revenge and storms off.

Scene 10

Duke Cleanthes enters with the four kings, Pego, Clearchus, and Euribates. He declares that he is now king of Egypt as Ptolemy fell in battle, and the people have declared him king. He tells the four kings they must now submit to Egypt’s rule. The four kings relent and give up their crowns to Egypt. Elimine and Samathis enter with child. They both supplicate Cleanthes asking for help. Elimine tells that she is the widow of Count Hermes, and that Ptolemy seized upon his lands after he killed Doricles. Now she has nothing, and a child to raise. Samathis declares that Leon’s debtors have take all his land and property and turned her out. Cleanthes turns to Pego to confirm this. Pego does, and states that he saw Leon throw himself off the tower of Alexandria. Cleanthes in an aside tells the audience that he told Pego to tell of Leon’s suicide to keep people from searching for him. He then declares he will act as father to both the children and support the young widows. He then asks if their husbands were such bad men. They both admit that their husbands cheated on them, and it comes out that they in fact had affairs with each other’s husbands. Cleanthes tells Pego to restore the lands of the dead husbands to the widows.

Martia then enters with child. She wails that Pego will go to war and make a widow of her. Pego jests with her and asks Cleanthes for a boon, to be the child’s godfather. Cleanthes accepts. The kings enter into the discussion and declare Martia should have a better husband than a burgomaster, but she declares she loves Pego. The four kings then declare how beautiful Elimine and Samathis are, Porus pines for Elimine, Bion and Rhesus pine for Samathis, and Bebritius yearns for them both. They argue and try to convince Cleanthes to give them the women as wives. Cleanthes notes to the audience that he did declare the women would have their choice of kings as second husbands, and Samathis openly blesses Irus for the prediction. Cleanthes lets the women decide, Elimine chooses Porus, and Samathis chooses Bion. Rhesus and Bebritius bemoan their fate, but Cleanthes declares they shall also have Egyptian wives to seal their loyalty to Egypt. Cleanthes then invites the assembled to a celebration with Greek wine and dancing.

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