Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a blue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square.
ACT 2ND, SCENE 1ST
ORO. Doe our disquiet thoughts feigne coward feares 295
As they are wonted in affaires of state,
Or the angry powers, and Fortune, Vertues foe,
Intend some mischeife to my dearest love?
Whatere it be my heart some ill misdoubts
Yet why it should doubt, my heart knowes no cause 300
BES. Feare without cause is wisdomes greatest stayne.
ORO. Feare and distrust are wisdomes greatest strength.
BES. May it please unto your servant to make knowne your feare.
ORO. Feare knowne may be avoided: I suspect.
BES. Suspicion’s hasty that o’errunneth feare. 305
ORO. Suspicion’s slowe that followeth true feare.
BES. Let him suspect that may have cause to feare.
Kings whom feare they? ORO. In secret most of all
People are made acquainted with our greifs, not
With our feares. BES. What should Roxana feare? 310
ORO. What should a woman feare, so much belov’d?
Heaven seldome shewes his spite on things despised.
But that I may be rid of this vayne feare
Heere take these keyes, this ring, and seals of love,
This glasse the often witness of my woes 315
And these rag’d letters, washt in sorrowes teares
Allmost to nothing: goe, despatch, run, flye.
My heart will ne’re be quiet, till thy returne.
Delay encreaseth greife. BES. My gratious lord
What hast and trust may doe shall be performed. 320
But whence proceeds your colours sudden change,
Your lookes uncertaine, and these wandring stepps,
This sudden trembling and unconstant mind?
Cast halfe your care on me, all if you can;
Nothing will more rejoyce a subjects heart 325
Then to diminish or sustaine the greife
Of his dread souereign lord: sorrow conceal’d
Devours itself, when sorrow told finds ease.
ORO. Silence must cure, which will encrease reveald.
BES. Things told to men of trust are more conceal’d. 330
ORO. Trusting to much doeth learne men to deceave
BES. And not to trust, doeth men of trust bereave.
ORO. I have no certaine knowledge; but suspect.
BES. Suspition often doeth her fear detect.
ORO. Can I trust others and my selfe not hold? 335
BES. What I shall heare thinke to a stone is told.
ORO. The touchstone divers secrets doeth beray.
BES. Or to a dumbe man that can nothing say.
ORO. Dumbe men that cannot speake, can tell by signes.
BES. Without desert my credit then declines. 340
ORO. Bessus not so, my mind distraught with feare
Without rule of herself scarce trusts her selfe.
I was affrayed the queene by some mischance
Had heard the secret of Roxana’s love,
So sad she seemd erewhile, and discontent. 345
Suspition on her eye; never men saw
More lively patterns of feirce jealousie.
Goe Bessus and in all hast possible
Whilst I determine some matter of weight
Revive my heavie soule with quicke returne. 350
ACT 2ND, SCENE 2ND
Fortune unconstant in thy greatest favours
But fearefull in thy frownes, whether am I?
On a steepe mountaine top advanced high
To tryumph next the king in majestie
Where falling death pursues me, standing feare. 355
When I liv’d meanly then I liv’d secure,
Lyeing on the earth, I had not whence to fall;
This Fortune saw and bad “Let him be mounted.”
The onely way to ruine is to rise.
Now I perceive the propp of my estate 360
Begins to shrinke; dangers insatiable gulfe
Gapes for my fall, and needs must Bessus fall; [Enter Suspition.]
Except in wilfull anguish of despaire
Bessus leape headlong to prevent the fall.
On every side I feare as I am fear’d. 365
The king suspects if anything be told;
I onely must needs tell, that onely knowe.
The queene suspects if any thing be not told.
The fault is onely mine, for onely me
The king partaketh in his secresies. 370
Thus is my life entangled every way.
Tell or tell not, the danger is all one,
By one or other I am sure to dye.
Yet this is nothing to my other ills.
Great god of love, that keep proud hearts in awe 375
And scorn’st to triumph over miserie,
How am I carried headlong to mishap
By love, or is it furie? Furie rathe.
Presumptious proud heart breake these swelling waves
And let not lust exceed the bands of reason. 380
Dare Bessus love Atossa? So base groome
So mightie queene of Bactria? On whose browe
Chast honour sitts, with awfull majestie
And soveraigne beautie, and controwling shame.
Foole that I am, seeking cause not to love 390
I love the more; for praise is both th’ effect
And cause of love. SUSP. There’s no hope to obtaine.
BES. I love the more; things hardest gott best please;
In blood and sweat stands all a conquerours praise.
SUSP. Thou lov’st a queene. BES. And queens need nothing paie. 395
T’is feare and shame makes honesty so deare.
SUSP. The queene is faire. BES. Yet thinks herself not faire
Unless her fayreness be belov’d. SUSP. She’s chast.
BES. Can faire and chast, darknes and light agree?
Let all faire women judge if that can be. 400
SUSP. If she yeild not, what grace can’st thou attain?
BES. I’le love her still, love will have love againe.
But she will yeild, women know how to love
That have lov’d once; maidens love, but know not what
Wives know, and therefore love, and love to knowe. 405
But it agrees not with a lover’s heart
To trifle thus; love that can stay can wast.
I long to see the queene that I may speake,
Either shall her heart bowe, or my heart breake.
SUSP. What if the queene consent not at the first? 410
BES. Then shall she knowe her husbands secret shame,
His other wife, and base children concealed.
Jealousy will yield, when Atossa will not.
SUSP. Why so it must be, wrong must wrong maintain.
Sin’s best safetie is to sin againe. 415
BES. But foolish, insolent, immodest heart
Sham’st thou not to rebel to my king, nor
To urge the practice of so vile a thought?
O what’s become of truth? Where’s pietie?
Whether is all the feare of God exil’d? 420
Where’s faith? Where’s zeale? Wher’s shame, the badge of grace?
Where’s that thing that keeps good men from ill?
If least of these within this breast did breed
This heart would ner’e conceive so foule misdeed.
Ah wretch, though late, resolve thyself at last 425
And let truth make amends for treason past. [Enter Atossa.]
But see Atossa from her princely eyes
Darting forth flames of love, my heart’s on fire,
I cannot hold, now is the greife renew’d
Of my late feare; stay honorable shame, 430
Why leav’st thou me? T’is gone and heere againe
But lightly; now t’is all, all wholly gone.
ACT 2ND, SCENE 3RD
ATOSSA, BESSUS, SUSPITION
ATO. Most happy fellowship of night-walking gods,
Goblins and spirits, protectors of our house
And thou cheife parent of strange fantasie, 435
Great mother Earth, and Night, whose glorious head
Is crown’d with starres, and in whose bosom sleepe
All quiet soules, and whatsoever power
To mans unquiet braine nightly presents
Fearefull foretelling shewes of dire events, 440
Be gratious unto me and to my house.
Those ominous threatenings of the last nights dream
Bring not on us, but on our enemies.
Bessus what mean’st thou thus amaz’d to stand?
To chaunge thy coilour thus? To hang thy head? 445
Ghastly to stare? To wring thy hands and sigh?
Is Bessus also terrified with dreames?
BES. By day my gratious lady, more then night.
ATO. So sluggards use to dreame when day is light.
BES. Hope, gentle madam, is a wakemans dreame. 450
ATO. And may wee knowe the subject of your dreame?
BES. Needs must you know, what most yourselfe concernes.
ATO. If good, be’t ours, if ill, God sheild us from’t.
BES. T’is in y our power to turne it as you will.
ATO. Then let us knowe it, be it good or ill. 455
BES. Dreameing last night, me thought I was in love.
ATO. In love? With whom I pray this? Whats her name?
BES. Nay, that I cannot tell for feare and shame.
ATO. By such companions love is much annoy’d.
BES. Yet such companions cannot love avoyd. 460
ATO. At least describe her by some spetiall signe.
BES. As like yourselfe she is as like may be.
ATO. Such one myself could like, that so likes me.
BES. Such is her speech, her countenance, her gesture.
ATO. What that me thus from myselfe hath stolne? 465
BES. Her person if you please, I’le shew your grace.
ATO. And who will aske her name that sees her face?
BES. Heere that perfection of her beawty dwells. [He gives her a glasse.]
ATO. Save mine own image I see nothing else.
BES. Then madame in that glasse there’s no deceit. 470
ATO. Traitour, how dar’st thou such a dreame conceit?
BES. I hope a freindly dreame shall not offend.
ATO. Why should’st thou dreame on things impossible?
BES. Oh madam whilst we wake, we have all one world
But when we sleepe each man a worlde his owne. 475
In sleepe men dreame of that they most desire.
ATO. Then this should seeme to be no sleeping fire.
BES. Is love a fault? Then I for pardon sue.
ATO. Not love but faith is unto princes due.
BES. Who bids the lesse, forbids not what is more. 480
ATO What’s more then faith is slaveries madnes.
BES. Madnesse or slavery whatsoere, yet is it
Atossa’s slave, and for Atossa mad.
ATO. But leave’t you had best. Shame would become you better.
BES. He never knewe the vertue of true love 485
That at his pleasure can forgoe his love.
Death and true love are ruled by destiny.
ATO. If destiny compell you to offend,
Destiny will that you be punished.
BES. Is this your kindnesse to your loveing freinds? 490
What may your enemies look for? At. All’s one.
A mortall enemie and an odious freind.
BES. The fault if any be t’is onely yours.
ATO. Who bad thee love? BES. That brightnes of your beawty.
ATO. Who forc’d thee looke on me? BES. Your shineing beawty. 495
ATO. To thee it shines not. BES. Starrs who can hide?
ATO. Bridle this brainesicke fury. BES. Who but mad
Durst ever undertake to bridle fury?
ATO. Tne king shall knowe it. BES. So the king knows more.
ATO. Thyself shall pay for’t. BES. What availeth lesse 500
Without fruition of my sweet desires?
ATO. Shall Cupid beemish boy or his flurt mother
Make me to scorne of base affection
To please the rascall sort? We have liv’d to long,
Bessus beginns to love us: oh we are faire, 505
He knowes the kings mind or he durst not doe’t,
Th’art of his counsaile that makes thee so bold.
Sus. She knowes thy thoughts allready, speake, prevent her.
BES. So it may please your grace to pardon me
I’le tell you secrets that concern your life. 510
ATO. Speake boldly Bessus, I will freely give
Not pardon onely but creditt to thy words.
BES. king Oromasdes hath another wife. At. Whats that?
BES. His unckles daughter. At. Did the heavens knowe’t?
BES. And two young children. ATO. Can the earth endure it? 515
BES. Heires to the kingdome. ATO. Shall Atossa suffer it?
BES. Besides he seekes divorce. ATO. From his own life?
BES. Farre in a secret corner of the wood
Had Moleon hid her in a wooden towre
And there the king as he in hinting stray’d 520
With no man save myself in companie
Found her fast lock’t; and entring did relate
Her fathers death, and his succession.
She wept and wrung h er hands, but he with words
Of flattering kindnesse wonne her to his will 525
And lay with her and after married her.
And now the reason why she comes not home
To be proclaymed <the> queene of Bactria,
He tells her that his mother doth withstand it.
ATO. Am I so writhen old to be his mother? 530
Truly sir boy you shall be whipt for this.
BES. Now these love tokens must I carrie her
And these his letters messengers of feare;
This hath my too much favour to the king
Long while conceal’d, but love hath uttered it. 535
To save your honour I have hazarded
Mine owne lifes safetie, whether I shall live or dy
T’is in y our hands; imagine how I love you.
ATO. What loathsome vapour from accursed hell
Breaths in my face? What cloud of dismall night 540
Darkeneth my sense? As from the Aetnaean forge
Where proud Enceladus belcheth foorth a stench
Of filthy smoke, that makes the gods to tremble
And heaven to shake for feare of endlesse night.
Come come you Furies, come you damned flocke 545
Of scrichowle hags, and all you howling troopes
Of spirits and fayries shake your fyrie brands
Ore my accursed head, so let me burne
As doeth the Lemnian smithy, from whose forge
Flye flakes of wildfire, or as the thunderbolt 550
Breakeing the thicke wal’d prison of a cloud
Drives foorth the ruptured streames of fiery raine.
Cease anger, cease, t’is now no time to sigh.
Whats spent in mourning hindereth revenge.
I will be all or none, our husbands lost; 555
Why seeke another then, he’s quickly found.
Heere, my sweet Bessus I accept thy love.
No stones of precious worth from Indian seas,
No weight of Ophir gold shall be thy dowre,
Nor crowne or scepter, these I’ve not for thee. 560
Onely that whore, and her two bastard bratts
Deliver to mine hands, and winne my heart.
Our mind is altered now, we long to see
Our unknowne daughter and our sonne in law;
Till now the kings wife hath bene injured, 565
She shall be queene, God save her mightines.
BES. My queene my goddesse, o how I tryumph
In this rich conquest, to your heavenly selfe
In thought more fully then I can in words.
I’le offer sacrifice of most humble thanks 570
That with more speech I may effect your will. [Exit.]
At. Ah I am wrong’d, derided and despys’d,
And made the object of mine enemies scorne
And which is worse, after all these villanies,
Whoredome, false contract, sonne unnaturall, 575
And ten year’s ignorance, now I come to knowe.
Yet all this while (which thing repents me most)
I have bene faithfull, innocent and chast.
But now my courage riseth, now my greife
And all the errour now of ten yeares past 580
Returns at once, which all succeding time
Cannot sufficiently serve to bewaile.
Him a base exile, needy and distrest
My father did restore to his estate
At my request, and shall he cast me out? 585
I gave it him, and I can take it from him.
It is noe marveile now that I be barren,
His love was wandiring, to our bed he came
As to his mothers, cold and out of heart.
This did my dreames fortell, and gods doe tell 590
At last, ten yeares contented for to beare.
Roxana queene; shall I yeild to a whore?
Shall I nurse bastards? Shall I loose my crowne?
First shall the northerne wagones weary teame
Drinke up the Ocean, and eternall rest 595
Cease on the restlesse charriot of the sunn.
Avant fond reason, and effeminate shame
And lady Conscience and dame Charitie,
And whate’re resists that desperate course of sin.
Let wrath possesse your roomes with dire revenge 600
And willfull rage, to these my breast lyes open.
Not so the Hydra’s boyleing venome suck’t
Alcides strength; nor so young Pentheus
Was rent in peices by the bloudy hands
Of drunken Ino, nor so bitterly 605
Medea rag’d, beguiled of her love,
When all the starrs she called and all the gods
To her laments: farre greater is my greife
And more my rage to effect some villany
Beyond the example of all former times. [Exit.] 610
1. The venome of a wicked tongue
That doeth true freindships trust betray
And things concealed in secret long
Watcheth aduantadge to bewray.
O how it brings to light beleife 615
An ominous horror of mischeife.
2. Strife and confusion hence arise
As when a blast of northerne wind
With violent furie swepes the skies
And shoulders heaven from his hold.620
3. All honorable things it doeth deface
As when some star’s contagious influence
A sett of roses blasteth with disgrace
And maks them loose their beawties excellence.
4. Impatient wrath, and kind goodwill 625
From this one fountaine jointly flow
As you shall see on Aetneas hill
Both flames of fire and heapes of snow.
1. The tongue by treason so inured
Thoughts secret to reueale, 630
O would (as Niobes pride was cured)
It might to stone congeale.
2. Or not be able to expresse
What it would tell
As they that drinke forgetfulnesse635
From Lethe’s well.
3. O might his words no stay of creditt find
But flye like scatterd dust before the wind.
Go to Act III