"Egyptian Soap Opera Episode"

Unknown Artist 

One of the most depressing features of dynastic Egyptian home life was the addiction to what we would call soap operas. Women of all classes would drop what they were doing when the delivery slave arrived at their door with the daily episode of their favorite show. Wealthier women were known to subscribe to as many as eight different programs, and would send their personal slaves to wait at the artisan's homes to claim the instalment almost before the ink was dry on the linen.


In the episode preserved here, Sha-Hep-She confronts her husband, Tut-Ra-Ashur, as he staggers home at three herons past midnight, green-faced with overindulgence in millet beer and smelling of the House of the Dancing Girls rather than the office, where he swore he would be working on an end-of-the-quarter financial report. Sha-Hep-She upbraids him, pointing out that the kitchen slave had put the haunch of antelope on the table at the stroke of eight, and that it was now past reheating, and that she should have listened to her mother and not taken the first bride-price that was offered to her.


Tut-Ra-Ashur is properly abashed, not willing to admit that he has also lost 800 kep on the jackal races that same evening, and that he fears his mistress Shel-Ka-Nah may be carrying his child. Little does he know that Sha-Hep-She and the Royal Overseer have been playing gander-upon-goose in the pool since noon and that she has spent the household budget buying perfume cones from faraway Shalimshazz.


Sha-Hep-She's concluding remarks foretell tomorrow's episode as she says "Are those two serpents in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

 

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