Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Now our loves, our tenderness, our intimacy, our mirth, our dalliance, our talking, our sweet kisses, the close embrace of us lovers equally fond, the soft, dear kisses impressed on our tender lips, the delicious pressing of the swelling bosom; of all these delights, I say, for me and for you as well, the severance, the destruction, and the downfall is at hand, unless there is some rescue for me in you or for you in me. I have taken care that you should know all these things that I have written; now shall I make trial how far you love me, and how far you pretend to do so.
Phoenicium writes this in a letter to Calidorus. Both Pseudolus and Calidorus call it a "wretched" letter, but in many ways it is a masterpiece of rhetoric. She uses imagery to tantalize the besotted Calidorus with a promise of "sweet kisses" and the "delicious pressing of the swelling bosom." She wants to raise Calidorus's desire and also to challenge Calidorus to a test: if he really loves her, he will save her from the grip of the evil Ballio.
You're going to have your girl free and in your arms today.
Pseudolus says this to Calidorus, who is upset because his beloved Phoenicium is about to be sold to Ballio. It is an audacious and highly self-confident statement for a slave to make, especially as Calidorus has no money to buy Phoenicium for himself and Ballio is a tough, crafty opponent. However, it typifies an important theme of the play: slaves or servants can be smarter than their masters. Pseudolus is the universal underdog trickster, used to surviving—and thriving—by his wits. He may be a slave, but in terms of who is as a person, he is the equal (or more) of his masters.
But just as the poet, when he has taken up his tablets, seeks what nowhere in the world exists, and still finds it, and makes that like truth which really is a fiction; now I'll become a poet; twenty minæ, which no-where in the world are now existing, still will I find.
Pseudolus shows his realization that he is up against it, having promised what he has no means to deliver. He likens himself to a poet, creating a new reality ("truth") out of what he can imagine. Critics have likened Pseudolus to Plautus, both witty masters of illusions. Pseudolus's statement brings to mind Shakespeare and his own characters' statements about illusion and reality in plays such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest.
I've touched this fellow handsomely, and cleverly has my servant managed his adversary. Now am I resolved to lie in ambush for Pseudolus in a different manner to what's done in other plays, where people lie in wait with goads or whips. Without revenge will I at once pay down the twenty minæ which I promised if he should effect it. I'll carry them to him of my own accord. This creature is very clever, very cunning, very artful. Pseudolus has surpassed the Trojan stratagem and Ulysses too.
This praise of his slave by Simo shows the play wending towards its happy ending, one in which Pseudolus will take his master out drinking as if they are equals. Simo shows his good character and his good will in saying he will pay Pseudolus what he owes him. He shows his admiration for his slave and refers in the last sentence to Homer's Iliad and the Greek's trickster way of winning the Trojan war through offering the Trojans the "gift" of a wooden horse—filled with Greek soldiers. It is high praise to say Pseudolus has surpassed the Greeks.