This week has been one of the most challenging of recent history for me–not due to intense spiritual experiences (as was the case a few weeks ago), nor from personal decisions having to do with the direction of my engagement in certain matters (same), but simply because of time constraints and demands, and a fever pitch of stress on several levels at the college where I work.
I would love to have more time to properly honor the Deities and Heroes celebrated this week, but I have not had it, alas, and thus must make do with what I can.
Over the last few weeks, as a result of a few things that occurred in the Toys of Dionysos course that Sannion is teaching, I was prompted to write a play. The usual three-act structure (Tragedy, Comedy, Satyr-play) was obvious, and the subjects for the tragedy and the satyr-play were likewise things I’ve been wanting to write for (literally) years, and they’ll all be coming together soon…but, the comedy’s plot was a mystery to me, and I had no ideas. With some (positive!) goading from Sannion and the Toys, the plot soon emerged with even richer connections than I had expected. The other two acts yet remain to be written, but it will happen easily and quickly when I am able to devote some time to it, and they may possibly appear in an anthology of some sort later this year…we shall see (and that largely depends on others!). But, I wanted to share it–in absence of anything else–because it has to do with Antinous, and also has Hadrian, Sabina, and Lucius Marius Vitalis in it…and yet, not.
What confounded me with this whole process was that the subjects for the other two acts–Polydeukion and Hadrian for the tragedy and satyr-play, respectively–were obvious, and their plots long-determined in my own mind, but what about a comedy for Antinous? It would be too easy to just make something up about him as a divinity–in fact, I’ve already done so–but what episode in his life was comedic? More as the result of looking at a particular style of comedy that Hadrian actually enjoyed to have performed at his dinner parties, and with a little help from one of the Toys in particular, it soon became obvious. The result is what you have below, written in late March/early April of the present year, and shared only with a small number of people thus far in a private context.
Without further ado–apart from announcing that the agon I hosted earlier only had one entrant, so there is no grand prize, but nonetheless that intrepid entrant and his worthy contribution will be given a token of appreciation, at very least–I now present to you the play.
The Winemakers: A Dionysian Drama in Three Acts
by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus
Comedy: “The Wine-Pressers”
THE FIVE SLAVES:
Macchus (a large-nosed slave)
Bucco (a fat slave)
Manducus (another slave)
Samnio (a young slave)
Pappus (an old slave)
Lucius Marius Vitalis
[Enter the Five Slaves]
MANDUCUS: Bring the ladder, Bucco, and the buckets as well.
BUCCO: All by myself? I’m not one of the Hekatoncheires!
MACCHUS: And what is the ladder for, friend?
MANDUCUS: Unless you are Samnio, do you propose to vault into the wine-vat for the pressing of the grapes?
BUCCO: I can vault nothing myself!
PAPPUS: I have seen you vault over a table for the first grab at scraps, Bucco!
BUCCO: And you, Pappus, you couldn’t vault over a twig if your life depended on it!
PAPPUS: Come here, Bucco, and I’ll give you a twig! [Shakes his walking stick]
MACCHUS: Of what is your twig made, Pappus?
PAPPUS: Why, my twig is made of fig-wood.
MANDUCUS: Figs are tasty, and I love to fill my hole with them…
MACCHUS: Which hole, Manducus?
BUCCO: The one in his face—what other hole is there?
SAMNIO: Here, let me show you! [SAMNIO bends over and swivels his backside in the air]
BUCCO: It seems such a waste to put figs up one’s arse, though.
MACCHUS: It’s not the figs themselves that should go up…
SAMNIO: You must not be aware of the Great Mystery of Bacchus, then, Bucco!
BUCCO: What care I for such mysteries, Samnio, when the greatest mystery of Bacchus to be had…
MANDUCUS: Which is why we have the buckets, Bucco! So, take them in hand.
SAMNIO: But won’t the Dominus be upset if we steal from the pressing-vat?
MANDUCUS: He would be upset with us if we stole the wine, certainly; but it will not be wine yet, but instead only grape juice. There is no prohibition on that!
MACCHUS: How clever!
PAPPUS: And where is the pressing-vat, my friends?
MANDUCUS: In the Vallis Mirifice.
PAPPUS: The Vallum Murum, did you say? I thought that was the wall and the ditch that our Dominus made in Britannia!
SAMNIO: [To audience] No, that’s in the next act, Pappus.
VITALIS: [from offstage] It will be time for the lessons soon, Antinous!
MACCHUS: Oh, whose voice is that?
MANDUCUS: It could only be the young clerk, Lucius Marius Vitalis.
PAPPUS: If only I were younger, I’d like to marry his Vitalis… [places walking stick between his legs and begins to stroke it]
BUCCO: Perhaps your old eyes have not seen Antinous, then, Pappus!
PAPPUS: Auntie? No, I don’t think she knows us. [continues to stroke the stick]
MANDUCUS: He is as deaf as he is blind, I think.
MACCHUS: It’s too bad for him, then, that he isn’t Tiresias.
SAMNIO: So that he could prophesy about our future fates?
MACCHUS: No, so that he might turn into a woman and entertain all of us!
BUCCO: Would you love a woman so old as he is?
MACCHUS: No, certainly not! But a younger woman…
MANDUCUS: Like the Empress Sabina!
MACCHUS: Oh, if only I were Romulus…
BUCCO: Indeed—and our Dominus would then hand you your balls like Saturn did to Uranus.
MACCHUS: Perhaps the Domina could borrow Pappus’ stick, and then she could do whatever she liked to my anus!
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] What will be the lesson today, Vitalis?
VITALIS: [from offstage] I believe it is the Strobilos, Antinous.
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] The Top, you say?
VITALIS: [from offstage] The Top, indeed.
BUCCO: I suspect Vitalis is an expert in the Top.
MANDUCUS: No, I believe Antinous is an expert in the Top.
MACCHUS: Which one will top the other, then?
SAMNIO: If all of you would SHUT UP, we’ll surely hear!
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] Ooh, turn it faster, faster! Spin it, spin it!
VITALIS: [from offstage] I’m doing it as fast as I can!
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] If you don’t do it fast enough, it will never stand up, it will just keep flopping over on its side.
VITALIS: [from offstage] Well, then, perhaps you should whip it harder, if you’re the expert!
MANDUCUS: Whipping?!? What sort of madness is this they’re playing at?
MACCHUS: The kind one finds at Lupercalia.
SAMNIO: [to audience] Which is why you should always use adequate lupercation.
SABINA: [from offstage] Oh, it’s only you boys. Are you playing at the Top?
ANTINOUS AND VITALIS: [from offstage] We are, Domina.
SABINA: [from offstage] Might I join you?
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] Please do!
SAMNIO: It seems, Macchus, you might get your wish now!
SABINA: [from offstage] Oh, I see it’s only a small Top.
VITALIS: [from offstage] But once it gets going, you’ll see it stands tall and firm, Domina!
SABINA: [from offstage] So it does, Vitalis, but I find it helps if it has its point fitted firmly into a hole. Let me lie down and see if such a hole can be found.
MACCHUS: Oh, my! I must see this! Bucco, bring the ladder!
BUCCO: But then how will I see?
MACCHUS: Like the old man over there—not at all!
[MACCHUS clumsily takes the ladder from BUCCO, who struggles with it for a moment and then relents. MACCHUS takes it and sets it against the wall, to see into the window.]
MACCHUS: And now I shall mount the ladder and see Antinous and Vitalis play at the top with Sabina!
SAMNIO: Though I suspect Antinous and Vitalis are actually mounting the latter.
BUCCO: And what about me?
MACCHUS: Fuck it, Bucco!
BUCCO: Fuck it? Fuck it?…Wait—BUCKET!
[BUCCO takes the two buckets, upends them, and tries to stand on them to see into the window. In a moment, their bottoms break under his weight, and he falls down, not without knocking the ladder and MACCHUS over as well, breaking the ladder.]
MANDUCUS: Smooth move, Bucco! Now you’ve knocked the bottom out of the buckets!
SAMNIO: [to audience] As Antinous and Vitalis are surely doing to the Empress!
PAPPUS: What is going on? I can’t hear a thing!
MACCHUS: Then be quiet, all of you! If we cannot see, then we must give ear instead!
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Now, what are you boys playing at?
SABINA: [from offstage] They are showing off their small Top to me, and what skill they have with it. I have shown them the trick of placing it in the hole.
HADRIAN: [from offstage] And what have you boys learned in this?
VITALIS: [from offstage] It is easier to whip it faster if it is in the hole.
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] And surely it stands taller if it is in the hole.
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Excellent! Then I shall let you play with my own Top!
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] Oh, it’s so much bigger than ours!
VITALIS: [from offstage] And it looks like it has gone around thousands of times more!
SAMNIO: [to audience] That’s what happens when you’ve been the governor of Palmyra and the archon of Athens!
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Now, boys, you take the whip, and twist it as hard and as fast as you can. Quickly, now!
SABINA: [from offstage] Get it firmly in the hole…there, oh yes, you’ve got it now!
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Faster, faster!
SABINA: [from offstage] Oh yes, oh yes!
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] Oh, oh, I’ve never gone this fast before!
VITALIS: [from offstage] I’ve never seen one this big before!
[HADRIAN, SABINA, ANTINOUS, and VITALIS all begin grunting, screaming, and moaning as it goes faster and faster.]
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Oh…
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] And, just like that, it flops over and stops?
HADRIAN: [from offstage] I’m afraid so. That’s what happens when you play with it too much.
PAPPUS: I know how he feels!
SABINA: [from offstage] It wouldn’t have fallen over if you hadn’t let it slip out of the hole!
HADRIAN: [from offstage] The hole method is over-rated.
VITALIS: [from offstage] Is there a better way, Dominus?
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Yes: a well-oiled crease, which we used to call the “Wondrous Valley.”
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] Did you spin it there often, Dominus?
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Every chance I had, especially with boys like yourselves!
SABINA: [from offstage] Hmph! Such a childish waste of a perfectly good Top!
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Sulk all you like; I know you play at the Top with your women whenever you are able.
SABINA: [from offstage] One must play with something, husband. I grew weary of the ball you threw me, and I can dance to the drum and crottal so infrequently these days.
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] And what of the knucklebones?
SABINA: [from offstage] Alas, it has been years since I threw the Venus throw. It is all vultures and dogs for me these days.
SAMNIO: [to audience] Apparently, she’s been to Egypt.
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Would you be content with dogs if they chased your pigs more often?
SABINA: [from offstage] Who wouldn’t?
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Then what about these two dogs?
SABINA: [from offstage] Might I leash and lead them myself?
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Have the leash, but avoid the lash, my dear!
SABINA: [from offstage] It would be my pleasure! And what of this?
ANTINOUS: [from offstage] That old thing?
VITALIS: [from offstage] If it is truly useless…
HADRIAN: [from offstage] Yes, it’s time. The window!
[A large Strobilos is thrown out the window and lands in front of the Five Slaves, who are first shocked, and then scrutinize it closely.]
SAMNIO: Is that…
MANDUCUS: The Emperor’s fig?
MACCHUS: If it was in the Empress’ hole…
[MACCHUS picks it up and begins to smell it ostentatiously.]
BUCCO: Perhaps it can fill my hole, too, then.
SAMNIO: Which one?
MANDUCUS: The one in his face, lest he leave nothing for us!
MACCHUS: Or another, as it might be more enjoyable.
PAPPUS: Speak for yourselves!
[PAPPUS places his walking stick between his legs again and strokes it.]