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ACT V, SCENE xi [ACT IV, SCENE i]
THE GHOST OF AGRIPPINA, NERO, SPORUS, EPAPHRODITUS,CALVIA CRISPINILLA, NEOPHYTUS, VEIANIUS NIGER, GERELANUS
NERO I hear, but I give no hearing to my summoner.
NERO Mother, will you constantly follow me everywhere? Are you not at length as bored and disgusted by me, as I am by you? Do you feel no pity? I acknowledge, that if my breast were to be opened, you would see tortures, burning, a thousand forms of punishment, nothing but a great wound, an ulcer. Pity me at last. But that day of the turning year returns on which my mother was murdered. I know that something scarcely good is at hand, calling me. But I want to be happy, though the gods do not will it. (He summons Sporus and embraces him.)
Sporus, my queen, my mistress, Juno, Venus, Hebe, come here. Pour out your joy on my breast. (Enter his secretary Epaphroditus with letters.)
But Epaphroditus, what’s new?
EPAPHRODITUS Rebellious Vindex has issued these libels against you, Caesar.
EPAPH. Now Aenobarbus, steely of mind, brazen of voice, rules the world. A robber, not a ruler, governs the world, an auctioneer rather than a Augustus. He is no Augustus, but a bugger, a charioteer, an actor. Nor is he a man, who has been taken by a man for a bride, who has taken a man for his bride. A monster of a man, mud stained with blood. Anything at all more than a musician, yet even that (oh what great praise for a ruler!) more than a prince. If you wish to know what this Nero is up to, give ear. He rages, he has to be bound and hidden away in darkness, he is crazy. To what wickedness does this Oedipus, this Orestes, this Hercules not give birth? To what wickedness does this Medea, this Canace, this Phaedra, this Helen not give birth? He badly sings bad verses; this rotten, untrained, maladroit zither-player wickedly squanders his fortunes. Rome bears him: will Gaul bear him, or shall Vindex bear him away?
NERO He cannot bear me as a dove? He will bear me as a kite, no, as an eagle. He who cannot bear me as a gentle lamb will bear me as a lion. But, Vindex, you plan ill for yourself, good for us, since you wish to come to my assistance when I am strapped for cash. For the laws of war will allow me to pile up the immense riches of wealthy Gaul, a crop well sown, well reaped for the paying of debts. But I am called Aenobarbus, not Nero. My family name pleases me more than my adoptive one. I shall reassume that name he calls me as a reproach. This single thing annoys me, that I am called a “rotten zither-player.” You who have often applauded my celestial voice, tell me if there is any man of our times more artistic, more skilled, whether I sing artfully to my lyre, or serve as actor, scarce unequal to Roscius? You tell me, who have often drummed up applause for my celestial voice! You are aware of no equal, I know. And you can learn from this libel the falsity of the others he levels at me. (An offstage citizen simulates a quarrel with his servant.)
But what’s this ruckus?
VOICE OFFSTAGE Let an avenger visit you, wicked slave.
NERO What’s he saying?
EPAPH. An irate master is casting imprecations at his slave.
NERO Let it go ill for the both of them, unless he is praying that evils befall Vindex, since them are to come from an avenger. (More letters are handed to Epaphroditus.). But what news does this new despatch bring you?
EPAPH. More and similar evils are threatened by Vindex and the Gauls.
NERO And I shall threaten Vindex and the Gauls with evil! Let them receive ills equal to those they threaten. Go, go against them. I want any exiles or Gauls lurking in the city to be hewn down. Both groups favor Vindex and his Gauls, both are his accomplices. Let them die at the same time. I shall give whoever cuts off Vindex’ head a hundred thousand golden coins for doing me a favor. Go, lay waste to those Gauls. But what does it matter what lampoons are affixed to columns, whether they libel me? (Epaphroditus reads a libel posted on columns.)
EPAPH. Nero, the Gauls are waking you with their singing.
NERO They will come to prefer me sleeping! Now they who are waking me sing, soon they will groan, and will not sleep on either ear. Let every tribe be summoned to a muster, out of each household let the best slaves, servants, and those destined for manumission be enlisted. Let wagons be constructed to carry my stage machinery. And let my concubines, their hair cut short like men, join the army and come with me as comrades, and let them wield the Amazons’ ax and shield. Thus they will be like the force of Camilla come to fight alongside Turnus, and when I return, I shall sing of him out of Vergil.
SPORUS May you return with a luckier omen! But whence the gold to pay your soldiers’ mess-money, the life and soul of the troops?
NERO Let every order of society pay a special tax, and let them pay it in newly minted coin, refined silver and pure gold. Let every renter contribute a year’s rent to my fisc. Such is my present need, that even what has been piled up in peacetime does not suffice for this war.
EPAPH. Your confiscation comes late. Now the fisc is in a bad state.
NERO So I, who have been a good ruler, will be a bad one, so that goods may come to me.
EPAPH. But perhaps the Gauls cannot be conquered save under the generalship of a consul.
NERO I approve that auspicious remark. Both consuls will defer to me in honor. I alone shall bear the fasces, waging war against the Gauls as consul. My unique, unconquerable strategy is determined. When I have arrived in the Gauls, when I have seen the enemy camps, and when my enemy has seen my face, I shall come forth unarmed, turning my glance this way and that. They will fall silent, and I shall do nothing, save shed a tear. They will be amazed, and I shall do nothing, save shed a tear. I know they will return to their senses, drop their weapons, stretch forth their hands, begging mercy. Overjoyed, I shall sing happy triumph-songs, celebrating with my happy crew. And I wish to write the songs now, against that happy day. (A carved statue.) But behold the favorable omen: see the Gallic solder being vanquished by a Roman horseman, and dragged by his hair. I praise the gods for this happy omen! (A ring.)
SPOR. And so I wish to present our omen-taking consul with this ring. May you be all-victorious, may you enjoy your wishes no less than does the lord of Dis, Jove’s brother.
NERO What is engraved on this gem?
SPOR. The abduction of the goddess, who was at once seen, loved, and kidnapped by the god of Erebus.
NERO My sweet Sabina, this gift pleases me, because it is yours. But the omen of the kidnapping, and of deepest Dis, is scarcely pleasing. (More letters are given to Epaphroditus.)
But, Epaphroditus, what news from these new despatches?
EPAPH. New monstrosities, Caesar.
NERO Whence? What ones? How many? Whom do they threaten?
EPAPH. Even Galba has deserted.
EPAPH. He is created a new Caesar.
NERO Woe is me, I am destroyed! (He collapses, nearly dead.)
EPAPH. See, his spirit is shattered. Speechless, he has swooned. He lies collapsed, as if robbed of his life. Come to his aid, nurse. Mistress, come to his aid. Raise him up. [Enter Nero’s nurse, Calvia Crispinilla.]
CALVIA My Caesar.
SPOR. My Caesar
NERO (Looking up.) Who’s this? Who recalls me to my sorrows? It would be well for me to expire.
CALV. Raise up your head.
NERO (Shaking his head.) Oh ruined, unlucky head, you deserve to be beaten with a club, your hair should be torn!
CALV. Take up your garment.
NERO Let my garments be rent asunder. (He tears at his clothing.) You tell me to take up my garment. Take me off, let the Majority help you.
SPOR. Spare yourself, Caesar.
NERO Is there nobody of gods or mankind who spares me? Me, who am beset by both these fellows with their jealous malice?
CALV. Gather your wits.
NERO I have none.
CALV. Let them return as they were.
NERO They have perished.
SPOR. May it not be so!
EPAPH. May it not be so! Indeed, let it be so that Caesar is present, strong in his manhood, unbroken by reverses.
CALV. How are you faring? Do I see a man?
NERO You see I am unmanned.
CALV. But many princes of notable spirit have suffered similar, nor turned their back on their misfortunes.
NERO I am forced to suffer unknown, unspeakable, unheard-of things, since I am losing my power while still living.
EPAPH. It is not yet lost, while at home your soldiers throng about you, and while Virginius campaigns against the rebels abroad. For you, Caesar, he will suppress Vindex and Galba. He commands three legions of veterans, while they have no more than one, composed of a scanty number of recruits. Add the fact that Capito has twice two legions, not far from the others. You could summon seventeen more, if they were not distant. Who should be fearful, when he has such forces? No worries: your opponents will pay the forfeit, the Senate has proclaimed both Vindex and Galba public enemies. Your foes will fall. So there is nothing so hard that your virtue cannot overmaster it.
NERO Everything is suspect, loyalty is failing in everybody. Who is not afraid, when his very government is under attack? Who does not shudder and quake at such sounds? I confess, I cannot bear to have this chord be stricken: it twangs. Whatever part you touch it a wound: it hurts. Hence my tender mind quakes at every sound. Why should I guard against certain misfortunes, dread uncertain ones? I confess these things I fear are insignificant, but nonetheless fear them I do. I recall that Delphic Apollo once gave a response, that I must be on my guard against the seventy-third year.
NEOPHYTUS [Sotto voce.] That’s Galba’s age - but I should bite my tongue.
NERO What is it? What are you saying?
NEOPH. I am prophesying that you will live to thrice your present age, enjoying your rule, and will perchance die an old man.
NERO You prophecize the truth. I have no doubt that the fish would quickly return to me whatever I might lose in the sea. Thus Fortune has always been a goddess exceedingly kind to me.
SPOR. Let her be as firm in the favoring, as she has been fortunate.
NERO She has so far, and she favored me even in my cradle, nor has misfortune ever befallen me, as long as I wore that golden bracelet. But now what has happened to what I might call that favoring token of favorable Fortune? It has been lost, and so have I. The astrologer said I should be destitute, but after this I lost Britain and Armenia, and by recovering both I fulfilled the doom. Though I seem crushed by fatal setbacks, I shall rule the East, Jerusalem’s holy temple, and the entire world, destined to restore it to its pristine state. So that I might earn my daily bread, “every land supports art.” I shall live by my musical talent, so that the empire may crumble. And so I brood on the rebels and lampoon their leaders in satires: how this one has a bald head, how that one cannot wear the cap of an honest citizen, how this one has a face fit for tilling the soil and a hooked nose, the sign of a savage hawk. It is not given to every man to have such a nose. I am a second Archilochus with my Lycambean verses, which cause more pain than gout or arthritis. In the meantime, if Vindex will grant permission, if I live and conquer, I shall play publicly upon a water-organ, upon a wind-organ, and I shall perform with science upon the bagpipes. Are these not things fit for a Caesar? (More letters for Epaphroditus.) In the meantime, I condemn the treacherous heads of them both and proscribe their goods.
EPAPH. Or rather Galba proscribes yours; Vindex places a bounty on your head, and Virginius has joined arms with them both. Rubrius Gallus supports them. Thus these letters.
NERO Is this the way it is? This? (He tears them up.) Oh damnable letters, which contain such stuff! What to do now? Is it worthy of Nero to do nothing, not to suffer ? Indeed, the entire Senate will pay the price, since we despise each other with mutual loathing. It will be done in by poison mixed in its food and go to perdition. The entire will city fall to flames and wild beasts, let loose in the streets; whoever dares oppose the fires be will executed, so that nobody will rule Rome after me, the Caesar, so that any new Caesar will lack city and Senate. Thus, thus tends my mind, this I do. But this longed-for revenge is more to be wished than expected. The Senate cannot be overwhelmed, the people will block any attack on it, and would rule. What, therefore? Should I approach Sergius as a suppliant? This would not help, nor is it fitting. Should I seek the Parthians? So that they may repay me, who was lavish in acting against them? And the route to them is obstructed by rebels. What then? Shall I mount the rostrum, miserable and moaning, dressed in black, shall I try every one of my artifices so as to excite pity, and beg for mercy? They will easily grant me pardon. If they do not grant it - but surely they will - I shall ask to be made Governor of Egypt. This pleases me. To achieve it, I must compose a speech. But before I got to the rostrum the mob would rip me to pieces with its ferocious hands and frenzied minds, so that the last descendent of Aeneas will make his way to the stars no less than the first, in the manner by which the Roman people makes its gods. Alas, how I am pulled in different directions, quaking in uncertainty! I am like a ship, while the wind and waves war on each other; like a sailor, doubtful whether he should yield to wind or to wave! I hope, my friend, you will accompany me to Egypt. Let the fleet be readied. You accompany me, Gerelanus and Niger.
NIGER We should rather go to the Camp with soldiers.
GERELANUS We shall not go anywhere unless Sabinus commands.
NERO What if I command Sabinus?
GER. You will not move him.
NERO Monstrous ingrates, is this how to treat Caesar? Are you deserting him?
NIG. Caesar himself is deserting his followers.
NERO What more could happen, how could I be made more wretched? These court-nurtured mice are now preparing to flee. See, these moths who had been protected by my garment now flitter away. Why do I remain live? Why am I not dying?
NIG. Is death still such a miserable thing?
NERO I am hearing Vergil’s Turnus, and thus I shall act. I have come to my utmost extremity. “I shall follow where the god, where harsh Fortune summons.” All my hope has perished, all my safety. (He summons Locusta with her poison.)
And so that I might die as befits a Caesar, let Locusta bring poison, speedy and sure. (She brings a golden box.) I shall die like a Themistocles, a Mithridates, a Hannibal. What manner of poison is this?
LOCUSTA A poison by which all men, all faculties of life meet their end. Your brother died by this.
NERO That is good. My brother, wife, and mother urge me on towards death. So let the poison be kept in this gold box, for use at the final moment. But final things do not yet press me, and some future day will perhaps be better for the purpose. Now let tranquil sleep relieve these toilsome cares. Let my faithful bodyguard protect me a little while. (Exit Nero with Epaphroditus, Sporus, &c.)
[ACT IV, SCENE ii]NIG. Who is so faithful to a fractured man, or shows fortitude for a fearful one? Has faithfulness ever chosen the unlucky as its friends? Whose faith is not altered by altered fortune? When Fortune has felled a man, if faith bears him up, this is laudable, but if his fortune remains at low ebb, then faith pays the forfeit. So we must flee the wretched and cultivate the fortunate. I yield to the Fates, and I adopt the gods as my leaders: whom they abandon, I desert. Indeed, what’s worse, I desert a man who is deserting himself. Why should I not be swept along, where the whole world is being swept? Should I be his companion, when everyone departs? Let Nero alone. Niger will not be a loner.
GER. Tribune, take us as your comrades. For I have no desire to perish with Nero, who is perishing as you see. For that grove, which gave laurels in the time of Augustus, from which each Caesar plucked the garlands for his triumphs, and in which each Caesar planted his own tree, now grows feeble and dies along with its planter. Now all its roots are withered. And those parent trees, whom their ancestress created, a wonderfully fruitful white hen, which originally fell into Livia’s lap carrying a sprig of laurel in its beak, are dying along with the hen’s famous progeny. The temple of the Caesars has been stricken by lightning, the heads have fallen off the statues at the same time, the shattered scepter slipped from Augustus’ hand, and during the rites all the household gods went a-tumbling. Why say more? Both Caesar and the gods are hatching revolution - the gods by deserting Caesar, and Caesar by deserting them. The officers whom Caesar appointed over the Praetorians are the first to abandon him. Sabinus, standing in the highest rank, summons them to Galba’s reign, promising them three thousand sesterces apiece. And we can do equally well in earning our coins and choosing an emperor. Let us hail Galba - to hell with Nero. (Exeunt with the bodyguard detachment.)
ACT V, FINAL SCENE [ACT V]
THE GHOST OF AGRIPPINA, NERO, PHAON, SPORUS, EPAPHRODITUS, NEOPHYTUS, TWO CITIZENS, MISSICIUS THE PRAETORIAN, ANOTHER PRAETORIAN
NERO Who is the unfortunate who interrupts my light sleep by calling the name of Nero? (The souls of his victims jeer at him.)
Oh, the unquiet Forum of my guilty mind, the goad, the rack! Here are always convened to my despite my father, my brother and mother, Burrus and Plautus, my sister, both my wives, Seneca, Piso’s gang, Corbulo, Soranus, Arbiter, Thrasea, Paris, and that thundering legion of Caesars. I am shoved here, driven there, dragged hither and thither, I am tortured, bloodied, tormented, torn, killed. The quaking earth yawns and spews forth angry ghosts. This infernal crew insults me, casting in my face its snakes and torches. (Leaps up from his couch.)
But where have my guards gone? Does no watchman remain? What’s this? Where is my Tigellinus, where is Polycletus? Helius? Where is Pythagoras, my consort? Where is my throng of courtiers, freedmen, friends? Nobody answers. Nero calls, but nobody answers his call. I shall visit their houses. (He goes around, knocking on doors.)
These doors are shut. They are not at home - or rather they choose not to be. O the abominable wickedness! O the treacherous, thankless tribe of courtiers, who will not remain companions of their master when he is put on the cross - as even a louse would do! What does the courtier finally think of me, who is eager for one thing in his countenance, for another in his mind? Your courtier is outwardly modest, inwardly impudent, openly friendly, secretly malevolent, and at all times envious. A fisher in troubled waters, drinking your fat. A fawner that he might deceive, powerful to your harm. An arrogant slave, a humble master. A spoiled wastrel, greedy, a griffin, an animal of all sorts at once: a scorching basilisk, clinging ivy, a wolf disguised as a fox, a fox disguised as a sheep, a rabbit in armor. A sluggish Colossus, a vessel for sale, a hidden reef, the sepulcher of gratitude, the ashes of your favor. The false face fades, the true one returns. Now amity and trust are empty words. The man whom cohorts of soldiers lately supported, whom courtiers attended in their flocks, whom the world lately obeyed, whose rule the city feared, the god, is now destitute, needy, and poor. I was a monarch, now I am “alone without a rule.” (The ghost picks up the box.)
I return to the poison. But the box has been removed. Perhaps it would be too easy for a Nero to die by poison. So let the fierce gladiator Spicillus come here, or someone else to bring death in his hands. But neither Spicillus nor any hand is here. Thus I have no friend, nor even a foe. So why not dash off to the Tiber, there to drown Caesar, his reign, his sins? My mind burns to die bravely, but does not dare. Oh, let it be granted a secret place to recollect itself! Epaphroditus, Sporus, Phaon, and you fourth companion, Neophytus, what now?
PHAON If your will is to go to my suburban villa, it is close by.
NERO I am disguised by a threadbare tunic, with covered head, barefoot, and, lest anyone recognize me, I conceal my face with a kerchief. And I carry two daggers, my trusty agents. (Earthquake, lightning.)
NEOPHYTUS Why are you trembling? Why are you standing, why be silent?
NERO I am quaking, because the soil on which I stand is making me shake. I am standing still, because lightning is suddenly flashing before me. (A cheer.) I am keeping still, because I hear a sound from the Camp. (Another cheer.)
A SHOUT FROM THE CAMP Galba for emperor, Galba! May Nero disappear!
NERO Perish Galba! Perish his supporters!
SHOUTING SOLDIERS All evil for Nero, all good for Galba! (A third cheer.)
NERO Rather all good for Nero, all evil for Galba and his supporters! But who’s coming? (Enter a citizen.)
CITIZEN Hey, what news from Rome about Nero?
CIT. So nothing.
NERO Yes, Nero is nothing. But who’s this new fellow? (Exit first citizen. Enter another.)
CITIZEN 2 Where are you going?
NEOPH. What’s it to you?
CIT. I’ll let you pass. I think these gentlemen are pursuing Nero. (Exit.)
NERO You are letting pass men who do not wish to pursue Nero but to persecute him. (A dog barks.) But why is that dog barking? Is he too chasing me? (A cock crows.) And why is that cock crowing? Is he too betraying me, or rousing me with his song? Or does he crow his triumph over me? Oh savage, harsh, unspeakable! (Enter Missicius, a Praetorian .) But someone else is present. This soldier, I believe, is a Praetorian. (He suddenly uncovers his face.)
MISSICIUS Hail, oh Nero, farewell! (Exit.)
NERO “Hail and farewell” in one breath! Hail, because I am alive, farewell, because I am all but dead. Nero was not accustomed to being saluted thus. But this too is to be borne. When the lion is stretched out lifeless, even the rabbit insults him. But why am I delaying? Why not enter? But secretly.
PHAON And so we must travel through these brambles and reeds.
NERO Can’t you see I’m barefoot?
PHAON You can pick your way with difficulty, if you wrap your clothes around your feet.
NERO Let us proceed. Alas, how worse is shameful flight from death than death itself! But it is all for the best, as long as I stay alive.
PHAON While I prepare an entrance and sanctuary for your concealment, may you be pleased to hide in this sand-pit.
NERO I am to go beneath the earth alive? That scarce pleases me. I would rather lie concealed in these reeds while there is still light. Then I shall crawl miserably on my hands and knees along this narrow passage which will lead me to the nearest room. (Exit Phaon to make preparations.)
And there let a cloak cover a humble mattress, a bedchamber worthy of a Caesar, fit for Nero. But I am thirsty. I shall drink some drops out of water, scooping it out of this pond with my hand. What fetid water! But I am drinking it. Is this Nero’s famous potion, tasting of snow without snow’s impurities? (He drinks the water from the pond.) I’m hungry. Give me bread, Phaon
PHAON You may have the kind of bread I have at home. (Offers him black bread.)
NERO This sordid black bread turns my stomach, displeasing Caesar. (He refuses the proffered bread.) I would prefer to die than each such stuff. But I must be patient. (A tree is moved by a breeze.) What’s making a noise?
EPAPH. A gentle breeze is rustling the trees.
NERO How everything frightens me! How nothing frightens me! Even the sound of nothing! What panic terror! Like the satyr, I am frightened of my own face. I rout myself, and at the same time flee myself.
NEOPH. So why not employ a single death to escape so many fears of death, and not just the fear of impending misfortune, but so many misfortunes, reproaches, curses, scandals, and dangers? Rescue yourself from the insults that are bound to come. To always be entangled in evils is not to be involved in them just once.
NERO And so if I do not die without delay, is there no escape from my troubles?
NERO Shall prayers not profit me?
EPAPH. Not at all.
NERO Or artistry?
EPAPH. Not at all.
NERO. Or tears?
EPAPH. Not at all.
NERO Will it not help that I was a Caesar?
NEOPH. This makes the matter more urgent. From this come hatreds, crimes, machinations, conspiracies, and threats.
NERO So I must die!
NEOPH. As quickly as possible.
NERO Nero must die?
EPAPH. You must.
NERO I am shivering all over. These men whom Fortune has given me as my sole comrades are urging, insisting that I die. What should I do? I must remain sober in these circumstance. Come Nero, this does not suit you. Bestir yourself. I know I have lived a shameful life. I shall die honorably. I obey you. Dig a grave for me, my body is not exceptionally tall. Hoo! (He weeps at each thing he says.) Prepare the wood and water that will soon care for my corpse. Hoo! Oh the sorrow! Gather any chips of marble that might be at hand. Hoo! But first I ask you this, in the name of all of your affections, let not this head, once the head of the city and the world, be severed. But, as is fitting, let it be burnt with my body. Hoo! (He snatches some messages from a runner and reads.).
But, Phaon, let me see what this runner brings you. What’s this? The Fathers adjudge Nero to be an enemy, to be punished according to the custom of our ancestors. Caesar adjudges the Fathers to be an enemy of Nero. But this “to be punished according the custom of our ancestors,” what does it mean?
EPAPH. The culprit is stripped naked, his head is fastened to a fork, and he is beaten to death with rods. Afterwards his body is hurled from a cliff.
NERO O the savage outrage! Shall I endure this? Shall I, a single man, endure all these things? Impossible. (He bares the daggers.) But I cannot avoid suffering thus, unless this dagger or that one makes a brief ending, since delay itself would be even less pleasant thanks to the custom of our ancestors. Oh unfair custom, iron guts of our ancestors! (He tests the edges.) Both are sharp. Which to use? Neither pleases. (He sheathes the dagger, and places a razor to his throat.) This razor will do the job quicker. But the fatal hour is not yet at hand. However, this is the very day upon which Octavia was taken away from me. Let our laments resound. Oh Sporus, melt in tears.
SPOR. Oh woe!
NERO Lament, wail.
SPOR. Oh woe!
NERO Wail, mourn, howl.
SPOR. Oh woe!
NERO Smite your breast, beat your head, tear your hair. Let your sorrow, as mine, transcend sorrows.. Let mine surpass those of Oedipus in exile, yours those of Alcyone lamenting Ceyx. Let Echo hear us, and be heard, while she wholly resounds them all. Let our cheeks compete in being struck with our hands, with our weeping.
SPOR. Oh woe!
NERO Now let there be the same limit to you in your lamentation, to me in my weeping. The both are limitless.
SPOR. Oh woe!
NERO Now I am not miming another’s woes, as formerly. It is my tragedy that is being enacted. You witness fact, Sporus, not fiction. Now a genuine plot causes genuine pain. We are not in the theater now, we are on the stage. Rather life, real life, is to be lost to me. So truly lament, mourn, groan, wail, howl.
SPOR. Oh woe!
NERO Oh friends, until Cleopatra mourns her Antony, will one of you not piously play the role of Eros, and provide an example of the conferral of death? Let him show me that I can die. But nobody has learnt such good from misfortune. At least let some freedman quickly lend a loyal hand, as was done for Cassius and Brutus, so that I might fall the easier. For why am I delaying? (The sound of horses.) “The thunder of swift-hooved horses strikes my ears.” An armed band approaches to take me alive. Let my armed hand deliver me dead. [He stabs himself.] Alas, I perish - what an artist! What a Nero! Oh woe!
EPAPH. I would not have killed you. But I will assist you in dying sooner. (Epaphroditus helps. A centurion bursts in.)
CENTURION Where’s Nero. Is he dead?
NERO See him half-alive, done in by is own hand.
CENT. Rather, he still breathes and looks for some assistance. Applied to the wound, my cloak will stanch the blood. [He pretends to do so.]
NERO Too late. Is this your loyalty?
EPAPH. He has failed, he has expired. See, his eyes are fixed, bulging horribly out from his squalid face. There he has it, it is played out. Behold, Caesar has killed himself, and nothing remains of great Nero, save for the building of a tomb or the burning of his body.
THE THREE FURIES
ALECTO Behold, great things have been stricken down by great catastrophes, oppressed by the god.
MEGAERA Behold, the prince, has been rendered destitute, deserted by the god.
TISIPHONE Behold, his subjects have been avenged, by the avenging god.
AL. Hence great things are achieved by great powers. But may they acknowledge greater gods.
MEG. Hence princes are to be esteemed. But may they worship the reverend gods.
TIS. Hence subjects are to be freed. But may they pray for help from the gods.
AL. Thus great things will endure, if they are supported by the great god.
MEG. Thus princes will be defended, if they are defended by the god.
TIS. Thus subjects will be protected, if they are protected by the god.
NEMESIS SPEAKS THE EPILOGUE
Sisters, cease. Nero has met his end, Domitius is dominated. A good ending has been made to such an evil. At the time, the citizens of Rome cheered, the commons dashed about the Forum wearing their civic caps, the equestrians performed their rites, the Fathers celebrated the high festivals. Thus brief misfortunes yielded to enduring joy. But here reigns the daughter of peace, salvation of the realm, goddess of mercy, love-light of mankind, glory of sovereigns, Elisa. You can scarce tell whether she loves her subjects the more, or is more wellbeloved to them; whether she is the greater by virtue of her position, or the better by the disposition of her virtue; whether she favors upright and loyal courtiers, or whether she creates them thus; whether she defers more to her parliamentarians, or presides over them; whether a poet manufactures her fitting praise, or whether as a prince she merits it the more. Her reputation, deeds, and destiny are so disparate that nothing can be more different as our English goddess from Nero, these times from those, our highest goods from his evils. So let us depart. You must set aside wicked Nero, and applaud your own good fortune.