"A Knock-down Argument"
Context: For the songs of this comedy, the famous English musician Henry Purcell (1659–1695) composed the music. In the Dedicatory Epistle, Dryden acknowledged his indebtedness to farces by Plautus and Molière, but the first version was of much earlier Greek origin. Produced at the Theatre Royal, in Drury Lane, in October, 1690, it remained constantly on the boards until Nokes, the original Socia, died in 1696. It has often been revived, as recently as 1922. Mercury and Phoebus open the comedy in Thebes, as they discuss marital complications in Olympus. They are interrupted by the appearance of Jupiter, who demands their assistance. He wants to enjoy Amphitryon's wife, Alcmena, that night, by appearing in the likeness of her husband. He says he will beget a future Hercules to conquer monsters and reform the world. The gods are not impressed. It looks as if Jupiter has set up straw men as an excuse to create someone to knock them down. But at least the pair appreciate Jupiter's honesty.
MERCURYAy, brother Phoebus; and our father made all those monsters for Hercules to conquer, and contriv'd all those vices on purpose for him to reform, too, there's the jest on it.PHOEBUSSince arbitrary pow'r will hear no reason, 't is wisdom to be silent.MERCURYWhy, that's the point; this same arbitrary power is a knock-down argument; 't is but a word and a blow. Now methinks, our father speaks out like an honest bare-fac'd god, as he is.