Fat Tuesday 1: Xantippe and Goat’s Meat

As the Carnival reaches it’s lamentable climax Sancrucensis reminds it’s readers of the long suffering Socrates (as recorded by Wing-Commander Baring):


Scene. — A room in Socrates’ house. Xantippe is seated at table, on which an unappetising meal, consisting of figs, parsley, and some hashed goat’s meat, is spread.

Enter Socrates

Xantippe. You’re twenty minutes late.

Socrates. I’m sorry, I was kept

Xantippe. Wasting your time as usual, I suppose, and bothering people with questions who have got something better to do than to listen to you. You can’t think what a mistake you make by going on like that. You can’t think how much people dislike it. If people enjoyed it, or admired it, I could understand the waste of time — but they don’t. It only makes them angry. Everybody’s saying so.

Socrates. Who’s everybody ?

Xantippe. There you are with your questions again. Please don’t try to catch me out with those kind of tricks. I’m not a philosopher. I’m not a sophist. I know I’m not clever — I’m only a woman. But I do know the difference between right and wrong and black and white, and I don’t think it’s very kind of you, or very generous either, to be always pointing out my ignorance, and perpetually making me the butt of your sarcasm.

Socrates. But I never said a word.

Xantippe. Oh, please, don’t try and wriggle out of it. We all know you’re very good at that. I do hate that shuffling so. It’s so cowardly. I do like a man one can trust — and depend on — who when he says Yes means Yes, and when he says No means No.

Socrates. I’m sorry I spoke.

Xantippe. I suppose that’s what’s called irony. I’ve no doubt it’s very clever, but I’m afraid it’s wasted on me. I should keep those remarks for the market-place and the gymnasia and the workshops. I’ve no doubt they’d be highly appreciated there by that clique of young men who do nothing but admire each other. I’m afraid I’m old-fashioned. I was brought up to think a man should treat his wife with decent civility, and try, even if he did think her stupid, not to be always showing it.


Xantippe. Please give me your plate. I will help you to the goat.

Socrates. None for me, thank you, to-day.

Xantippe. Why not ? I suppose it’s not good enough. I’m afraid I can’t provide the food you get at your grand friends’ houses, but I do think it’s rather cruel of you to sneer at my poor humble efforts.

Socrates. I promise you, Xantippe, nothing was farther from my thoughts. I’m not hungry. I’ve really got no appetite for meat to-day. I’ll have some figs, if you don’t mind.

Xantippe. I suppose that’s a new fad, not to eat meat. I assure you people talk quite enough about you as it is without your making yourself more peculiar. Only yesterday Chrysilla was talking about your clothes. She asked if you made them dirty on purpose. She said the spots on the back couldn’t have got there by accident. Every one notices it — every one says the same thing. Of course they think it’s my fault. No doubt it’s very amusing for people who don’t mind attracting attention and who like being notorious ; but it is rather hard on me. And when I hear people saying ” Poor Socrates ! it is such a shame that his wife looks after him so badly and doesn’t even mend his sandals ” — I admit I do feel rather hurt. However, that would never enter into your head. A philosopher hasn’t time to think of other people. I suppose unselfishness doesn’t form part of a sophist’s training, does it ?

[Socrates says nothing, but eats first one fig and then another.

Xantippe. I think you might at least answer when you’re spoken to. I am far from expecting you to treat me with consideration or respect ; but I do expect ordinary civility.

[Socrates goes on eating figs in silence.

Xantippe. Oh, I see, you’re going to sulk. First you browbeat, then you’re satirical. Then you sneer at the food, and then you sulk.

Socrates. I never said a word against the food.

Xantippe. You never said a word against the food. You only kept me waiting nearly half an hour for dinner — not that that was anything new – I’m sure I ought to be used to that by now — and you only refused to look at the dish which I had taken pains to cook with my own hands for you.

Socrates. All I said was I wasn’t hungry — that I had no appetite for meat.

Xantippe. You’ve eaten all the figs. You’ve got quite an appetite for those.

Socrates. That’s different.

Xantippe. Oh, that’s different, is it ? One can be hungry enough to eat all the fruit there is in the house, which I was especially keeping for this evening, but not hungry enough to touch a piece of meat. I suppose that’s algebra.


3 thoughts on “Fat Tuesday 1: Xantippe and Goat’s Meat

  1. Pingback: Maurice Baring and the Great War | Sancrucensis

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