The play is set in a public square near the Pantheon in Rome.  Dominating the square is a singular sculpture—or, more accurately, a double one, for it is a likeness of the two-faced Roman god, Janus—whose ability (or curse) to see backwards into the past as well as forwards into the future, makes him (them) the god of division, of threshold, of endings and beginnings.  We take the name of that pivotal month, January, from Janus.

As the play opens, Janus is talking to himself—as always.  The two faces of Janus will henceforth be designated Janus Left and Janus Right.

Janus Left (with a sigh):  You know that wasn’t really much of a year. 

Janus Right:  Which one do you mean?

JL:  The one just past.

JR:  Oh yes, of course.   No, I suppose not.  To tell the truth, I can scarcely remember it.

JL (impatiently):  You really have no sense of the past at all, do you? 

JR (cheerfully):  I’m too busy looking forward to what’s coming next!

JL:  As an idea, the future is too frivolous.  You don’t know anything about it and so you can’t ponder it.

JR (also impatiently):  And of course you delight in pondering the past!  What good is that?  It’s all over and done with!

JL:  What’s over and done with holds still—like a work of art.  The past is beautiful because it is an artifact!

JR (dismissively):  Dust and Cobwebs.  Useless useless useless!

JL (smugly):  And what’s so useful about the future?

JR:  Just the fact that it’s coming!

JL (contemptuously): You’re a child.

JR (equally contemptuously):  You’re a dry stick.  A yellowed weed.  An empty husk.

JL:  You know, I hate sharing this pedestal with you!!

JR:  Same here!