Di mume Sosye

[Aunt Sosye]


Act I. A nicely furnished house. Dodye and his wife Sosye are arguing over Dodye’s niece, Khinke. Sosye complains that her husband and niece are making her life miserable. Their friend Ispanski enters and says Sosye should be kinder to her niece. Sosye leaves. Ispanski says that his friend Moyshe is ready to sign the marriage contract (tnoyim) with Dodye’s niece, and tells Dodye to stand up to his wife. But when Sosye calls Dodye from offstage, he runs to her. Khinke enters, sewing a dress as she walks. She complains about how Sosye treats her; Ispanski tells her to be patient until they’re engaged. He goes; Khinke reflects on wanting her mother to think she’s happy. She cries. Sosye enters with the matchmaker, Yudke Fayfer. She sends Khinke out to get food and drink, and Khinke returns with it as Sosye asks Yudke the results of his latest inquiries. He is optimistic. When he asks to meet Dodye’s niece, Sosye says that she’s not around, and isn’t worth meeting anyway. Yudke concludes that there’s nothing to discuss, since the man he spoke to about a match wanted Dodye’s niece, not Sosye’s sister. With Sosye now enraged, Yudke goes. Sosye turns her wrath on Khinke, saying she wants her out of the house by the next day. Sosye’s brother Moyshe enters as Sosye is pushing Khinke out of the room. He scolds his sister for being so cruel. Sosye says she doesn’t want him to marry a servant girl, for “a pot stinks of whatever’s been burnt into it,” and says she has someone better for him. He says he’s not so set on marrying Khinke that he’d refuse to reconsider if that would make Sosye behave better. Moyshe says that if he does pursue this plan, he’ll find some fault in the girl at the last minute so Sosye won’t be the villain. Sosye whispers that fault in Moyshe’s ear, and he says he’s convinced, and though they’ll still invite guests for the ceremonial meal that accompanies the signing of the tnoyim, he won’t marry the girl. Sosye leaves, ecstatic. He thumbs his nose at her: “Take that, my dear sister!”

Act II. Same place, with tables full of food and wine. Khinke, dressed for the meal, marvels at her aunt’s sudden good behavior. She thinks it must be because her cousin, a university student, is coming, and Sosye doesn’t want to look bad in front of him. But Khinke is more bothered by Sosye’s sweetness than by her wrath. Ispanski tells Dodye that he’s worked things out with Moyshe; now they need Dodye to stand up to his wife. Sosye and her Mother enter, prepare for the ceremony. The Cantor enters. Sosye asks whether he knows her sister and the man who’s been suggested as a match for her. He says that the man has a reputation for finding fault with the bride at the last minute and breaking off the match. Moyshe, to Sosye’s shock, accepts Khinke as his bride. Dodye actually stands up to Sosye, who says she wants a divorce. She rips up the tnoyim, but Moyshe says the paper isn’t what matters; he’ll still marry Khinke. Sosye collapses. Yudke the matchmaker enters, and when he learns about all the recent going-on, says he has lost his appetite. Another guest, though, points out that he has filled his pockets with food.

Act III. Sosye urges her sister, Khantshe Genendl, to change her clothes and attend to her appearance, since Sosye’s nephew is well dressed. Khantshe goes. Sosye’s nephew Zilberzayd arrives. Sosye pooh-poohs his praise for Khinke when the girl passes through, and tells him that her sister is so pretty that a man once tried to kidnap her. Khantshe enters; Sosye leaves her alone with Zilberzayd. On the way out, Sosye advises her to say as little as possible. Zilberzayd isn’t sure how to proceed, and asks her questions in various languges. She understands none of it and gives him rambling, incoherent answers. Sosye, who has been eavesdropping, intervenes, then leaves. Zilberzayd teaches Khantshe about how friends kiss when they part. She challenges him to a staring contest, then bursts out laughing. He asks her to imagine that she is his bride. They are about to kiss, but interrupted by Ispanski’s entrance. She runs out. Zilberzayd marvels at Khantshe’s ignorance. Ispanski asks him to pretend he’s in love with her in order to save Khinke’s wedding--then he can call it off. Zilberzayd reluctantly agrees. Sosye tells Zilberzayd he has ‘bewitched’ her sister; she leaves with Ispanski. Zilberzayd, alone, says he’ll get back at Sosye, but wonders why Dodye lets her get away with so much. He berates Dodye for letting his wife boss him around, and says she won’t get away with it. Zilberzayd goes, slamming the door behind him. Dodye, clearly preoccupied by Zilberzayd’s observation that he ‘lets Sosye lead him by the nose,’ keeps dropping the word ‘nose’ into the conversation as he argues with Sosye. He says that Zilberzayd is totally wrong for Khantshe, who would be much better off with a simple working man. Sosye curses him elaborately for making Khantshe unhappy.

Act IV. Two craftsman at work in a watchmaker’s workshop. One of them, Shmuel, sings an ode to watches. His co-worker, a Litvak named Faytl Dovid, recounts his extensive experience at being married, describing the various wives he has left. Yudke comes to summon Faytl Dovid, and tells him not to worry about Zilberzayd; the girl is Faytl’s. They go. An unknown woman enters, saying she is “Dovidke’s” sister, and is looking for him to give her some money for her and her children. Shmuel says that her timing is perfect, since Dovid is about to marry a wealthy girl; he points her to the house where the ceremony is to take place.

Scene change: Dodye’s rooms. Moyshe and Khinke, having just gotten married, sit off to the side as servants bring in food. Ispanski pulls Zilberzayd aside and tells him not to do anything to get back at Sosye. The best way to hurt her will be to play his part and make her feel that she blew it. When she enters, Zilberzayd goes into character, pretending to be miserable. Sosye tries to console him. Khantshe comes running in to summon Sosye, who goes away, miserable. Khantshe is delirious; Zilberzayd pretends she has made him miserable. The tnoyim ceremony is about to begin when Khatskl and a servant girl come running in; she caught him eating out of the pot. Then before the ceremony can get under way, Faytl Dovid tells the people who have assembled that he has a ‘flaw’: he is married with children. But he just needs the money to go home and get divorced, and then he’ll come back and marry. The unknown woman enters, curses Faytl for having left her 8 years ago, and drags him out, cursing. Sosye turns to Dodye, who goes to the door where the couple just exited, and asks to be taken too.


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Four Acts


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