Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a blue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square. 


MESS. O that some whirlewinds fyery chariott
Would drive me headlong through the empty aire 960
Out to the frozen top of Caucasus
Or where the schorching sunnes incumbant beames
Burne up the Lybian sands with extreame drought,
Or else would hide me in some clouds blacke womb
Whetr I might scape heavens fearefull thunderbolt 965
And not be swallowed through the gapeing earth
Into the bowells of eternall night;
Whilst nature purge herselfe and this vile house
And these so many monsters sinke to hell.
CHO. What meanes this fearefull crie? What harme is done? 970
MESS. Or if the thund’ring gods be not prepar’d
Of arrowes for revenge, but loytryinglye
The Cyclops hammer out their fiery taske,
Let him take me, and from a riven cloud
Dart me like thunder on this sinnfull court. 975
CHO. What sin is this and who committed it?
MESS. What Egypt wat’red with seaven mighty flouds
Shall wash away the guilt of this foule sin?
Not all the waters, both which heavens containe
To abate the fiery brightnesse of the starrs, 980
And Thetys holdeth in her frothy armes,
Can purge these eyes of this accursed sight.
O that a draught of Styx infernall lake I that
Might make me to forgett that fearefull sight
Which will for ever greive me to remember. 985
CHO. Why doe thy frightfull words affright me thus?
MESS. Is hells infernall dungeon broken loose
And all her monsters sent to light againe?
Doth bloudy Atreus sojourne in the court
And lodge himselfe within Atossa’s breast990
Shall day againe be turned into night
To see a father eate his childrens flesh?
The date of auncient mischeife now growes out
Atossa’s mischeife matcheth Tantalus.
CHO. Declare in order what the queene hath done. 995
MESS. Out of the farthest syde of all the court
Which looketh towards Charles his frozen wayne
There stands a fearefull dungeon whereunto
No light of heaven ever entered,
But all about <the roome> growes poysn’ed ewe 1000
And cypresse for the grave, in whose darke branches
Night-crowes and owles at dead time of the night
With fearefull screeching make a hideous crie.
Within doeth horrible blacke darknes dwell,
And through the hollow vastnesse of this roome 1005
Flyes a soft murmuring noyse encreaseing feare;
Heere in the night time doth th’ inchanter make
His bloudy sacrifice, with birds of shame,
And the quicke bleeding liver of a man
Rent from his entralls, trembling on the coales 1010
Whilst all about the flame is stayned with bloud
And all about the roofe besmeard with smoake;
Hence many times are fearefull groanings heard,
Clashing of armour,<and> ratleing of chaines,
The thundring lash of Aeacus his whip, 1015
And fearefull howling of tormented ghosts,
And Cerberus oft with hideous barkeing rents 
His threefold throate, and oft the whole house burnes
With sudden flashes of consumeing fire.
Hether Atossa without let of feare 1020 
Boldly makes entraunce to prepare the roome.
Hangings of blacke, and mournefull furnitures
Array the walls, therein embroyderers art
Hath shew’d no skill, nor cunning needle worke
Hath circled knotts of diverse coloured flowers; 1025
In them appeares not beauty of the spring,
Noe pale hued violet, nor purple coloured rose,
Flameing narcissus, lilies golden hayre,
Lawrell still grene, nor hony-suckeing bee,
But one selfe horror of unstayn’d blacke 1030
Payntes all the hangings, pillars, roofes, and floores;
Such as was once hells loathsome furniture
When Pluto stole his bride Proserpina.
A luckelesse wood of cypresse over shades
The bridehouse doore, and all within the roomes 1035
Are sett with ominous pictures of reproach:
Saturne in surfeit of his childrens bloud,
Medea teareing her young brothers flesh
And all the shame of Greece, king Pelop sad,
Plisthenes broyl’d, Thyestes (haplesse man) 1040
Eateing himself, Pentheus dismembered
By his owne mother, and Hyppolitus
Torne with wilde horses in his fathers coach;
And round about in every corner stands
A blacke skin’d Aethiop, with a linke of pitch, 1045
As if so many ghosts from out the grave
Their flameing firebrand in the aire should wave.
CHO. To what end tends this lucklesse furniture?
MESS. Soone as Roxana in a cooleing bath
Had washed herselfe and wip’d away the deawe 1050
As if that holy rite she would performe,
Hether she came cloth’d lightly in a veile
Of softest silke, and round about her face
Hung golden locks of long discheveld haire
Much like Diana riseing from the sea 1055 
When she with her her bright shineing glasse reflects
Her brothers beames, and masked in a cloud
Envies the world the fullnesse of her beautie;
In either hand she led a princely childe
Like two lesse starrs attending on the moone;1060
Which seene, Atossa bad make fast the dore
And bound her tender hands in iron chaines,
And then with despightfull taunts revil’d her thus:
“Roxana see thy brydall is prepar’d,
The house faire hung, and entrance bravely deckt 1065
With gladsome cypresse. O what sweet-fac’d boyes
Carie the torchlight, how the pleasant owle
Foretells good lucke, Saturne shall give the bryde,
Tisiphone be brydemayde, and the devill preist.
Thy marriage vowe shall be confirm’d with teares, 1070
Thy childrens bleeding ghosts with howling shreekes
Shall sing the Hymen: wine from Stygian lake
The Belides shall bring to serve the feast,
And all the devills in hell shall be thy guests,
A solemme meeting sure, God send thee joy.” 1075
CHO. What answered shee? MESS. As a sweet nightingale
When suddenly whilst she salutes the morne
With gladsome musicke some foule ravenous kite
Doeth seaze her in his clawes; fell downe for feare,
So soone as she had viewed the fatall place 1080
And heard the terrour of Atossa’s threats
She fell downe senselesse, makeing way for death
Ere death was ready, wherewith the more enrag’d
As a feirce tygresse spoyled of her prey
Atossa cride “And willt thou thus be gone, 1085
And fear’st thou words and sights, and seek’st thou thus
By fearefull faintnesse to prevent thy death?
How great a part of our revenge shall dye
If thus thou die? Runne, fetch some compound drinke,
For I’le revive her fainteing spirits againe. 1090
Now againe we need dissemble a mothers part.
Daughter, sweet daughter speake, and have no feare.”
She like the fainting beawtie of a rose
Beate downe with violence of untimely raine,
Hardly recov’red hangs her feeble head, 1095
And with soft murmureing voice as one halfe dead
Desires to know in what she had offended,
And her two little ones weeping for grace:
“O spare our mother, spare her gratious queene.”
Atossa not regarding thus reply’d: 1100
“Thou strumpet to the king, my rivalls whore,
Learne what it is to lye with married men
And feare to violate a princes bed;
If after death the liveing soules of men
Returne in other formes, then learne and feare. 1105
Now small remaines for life, nought for example.”
These fearefull words Roxana much amaz’d,
“And o yee gods (quoth shee) that rule in heaven,
And o ye blessed soules that rest in hell,
Witnesse how Oromasdes hath betray’d 1110
My life and credit, which destinate full lyes.
Who shall I call? What god shall I entreat
Save thy great godhead, mighty emperesse?
Not all thy anger will I wish t’ appease
But take what may suffice a womans wrath. 1115
Make me thy slaveb th’more t’will vexe the king
Or kill me alone, the more will be thy praise.”
CHO. Would not Atossa heare those weeping teares?
MESS. No, no, but like the flintie Caucasus
Or as the rocky mount Marpesia 1120
Thats beat upon with often stormy flouds
Still sees the angry rageing furious sea
Yet stands unmoveable, and will not shrinke,
Or as the ocean swelling furious flouds
Stint not their furie for the shipmans crie, 1125
So she, as deafe, breaks off Roxana’s prayers
And with few words began her cruelty.
But first she made a whip with writhen knots
And forc’t her servant even against his will
With many stripes to scourge her tender sides, 1130
Wherewith the bleweishd furrowed welts did swell
And all her body o’re was blacke and blue.
The senseless lash oft twound about the whip
As loath so cruelly to torture her;
Oft as the conduit sprinkles foorth the water 1135
So sprang the bloud into Atossa’s face
And seem’d to colour shamfac’tnesse in her
Where neither shame nor womanhood was found,
For she, unsatiate, thirsted still for bloud
As doeth the chapt drie earth in summers drought. 1140
Roxana’s children pittyeing her plight
Attempted oft to beare their mothers stripes,
Whom she forbad least they should feel the smart:
Thus nature wrought this sweet contention
To ease each other from the miserie 1145
Whilst child did pittie mother, she the child.
MOL. This bloudy liquor’s pleasaunter to me
Than Bachus’ well, or Jupiters sweet wine.
MESS. After Atossa had partly satisfied
Her bloudy thirst, she then begins a worse. 1150
She unbinds her hands to a greater bane,
And puts a sword into Roxana’s hand
And said: “This scepter best becommeth thee.
Now queene Roxana, judge an harlot’s cause.”
MOL. So so t’must be, just Minos judgeth thus. 1155
MESS. Her children fear’d with this her glittering sword
Leapt suddenly into their mothers armes
And close clapt about her loueing sydes,
Even as the branches twyne about the vine.
Whome soone she pulls from th’bosome of the mother 1160
And puts a sword in her unwilling hands,
And force perforce strengtheneth the trembling hand
And caus’d it wound her children to the heart.
Atossa then to aggravate this greife
Returnd Roxana’s wayward head to see 1165
Her wounded children by their mothers hand.
The boy cryd, “Mother will you pricke your son?”
The girle, alas cryd, “Mother strike you me?”
Thus ‘gainst her will she layd her bloudy hands
Upon her children, guiltlesse of their death. 1170  

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Unwilling death is only terrible.”
Which said, she thrust a sword through her left syde
And there made passage for her breathlesse soule;
Roxana dyeing loth to bruise her children
Fell by their sydes. CHO. O sin unspeakable! 1175
Oh wickednesse, the like was never heard.
MESS. Nay yet affection bridleth not her greife.
Worse mischeife she intends, which yet’s unknowne.
CHO. What worse than this can be imagined?
CHO. This but a step to that she purposeth. 1180
CHO. She purposeth to lett their buriall?
MESS. No, shee’l entombe them. CHO. Basely? MESS. No too princely.



You gods of wedlock and you sacred power
Whose office is to keepe the marriage bed
And winged faith, o whether are you fled? 1185
Where have you hid your selves from mortall eyes?
Or is in furthest Thule your abode?
Or fled from earth, as from a place unfitt?
Are you retir’d to heavens more happy seate?
Tush now I see that justice right and faith 1190
Are idle words and names without effect.
Since she hath dar’d to stayne the bridall bed
And blott the shineing honour of her fame
Aith lawlesse lust, who only ought to be
A mirror of unspotted chastitie. 1195
And that foule lecher that parts stakes with me
My goodwife hath deserv’d his utmost duty.
The baseborne bratt without both freinde and hopes
I lifted up, and of mine owne accord,
Laden with honor, lett be next my selfe; 1200
Nay more; him only as of spetiall trust
Did I select to be my cournsellor
In high affayres and closest secrecies;
And but the queene and crowne I held alone,
All other things he had alike with me. 1205
Now since the begger is on horsebacke sett,
Like a ranke rider he forgetts himselfe,
He slacks the raynes and all at randome runs.
Perhaps since late he tasted of the queene
The scepters shineing may entice his eyes 1210
Too feeble to endure such glittering rayes:
Or else he may disclose the hidden plot
Of my Roxana: he that will defile
The sacred mariage bed will never sticke
To sett abroad my inmost secrecyes. 1215
Therefore before his faithlesse tongue performe
The lewd commandment of his wicked hart
Off goes his head: then are my secrets sure
When they are knowne to no man but myself.
So will I doe; and to my vantage use 1220
That favor, which to me the gods affoord;
Through whose instinct, the onley privie nurse
Discovered hath the shamful villanie.
And nowe behold, how foorth the lecher springs
Leapeing for joy, dauncing for jollitie. 1225
So Bessus, tryumph for thy victorie,
Hold on the vertuous course thou hast begun,
this way no doubt will bring you straight to heaven. 



BES. Heere may I freely say whatsoere I will.
ORO. Men at deaths doore may freely speake their fill. 1230
BES. O fayrest day, might’st thou for ever last.
ORO. The fayrest day is often overcast.
BES. In purple letters shall thy praise be written.
ORO. I with thy purple bloud, the inke’s most fitt.
BES. Venus, I thinke thou wert of joy conceiv’d. 1235
ORO. T’was of her father’s bloud, you are deceiv’d.
BES. Thy godhead onely is to be rever’d.
ORO. Not so. Reuenges whip ought to be fear’d.
BES. Loe how I triumph in the conquer’d spoyle.
ORO. Who conquer’d seeme, the victors often foyle. 1240
BES. The watchmen slept while I perform’d the deed.
ORO. Who seemes to sleepe gives more attentive heed
BES. And from the garden brought the golden prize.
ORO. See how unwittingly he prophesies.
BES. Like Hercules among the gods I’le dwell. 1245
ORO. Your high way then as his, doth lye by hell.
BES. Upon the starres I’le sett my conquering foot.
ORO. Who highest flies, his danger is most great.
BES. I’le honour then with songs Diana deare.
ORO. The swan sings sweetest when his dath is neare. 1250
BES. Can any mischeife stop my streame of blisse?
ORO. Both blisse and breath are lost ere long, trust this.
BES. What ayles my heart to beate against my side?
ORO. It seekes a vent, and can no longer hide.
Come on my boyes, performe your lords commaund. 1255
BES. Ah me poore wretch, now I am quite undone.
Great monarch of the worthy Bactrians,
By Bactria, thy crowne, thy royall selfe,
And all my former favours, and by thy life.
ORO. Dispatch and stay not, doe your hearts relent? 1260
BES. O heare me speake, I beg not for my life.
ORO. Whose fault is like, deserves like punishment.
Remove the cursed caitiff from my sight
And cast him foorth for beasts to banquet on.
Now need our counsels feare no treachery; 1265
Now is Roxana sure, and all the feare
Of his false tongue; the next care is
To make a riddance of my loveing queene.
Now love and feare, my lusts two counsellors,
Advize what to be done in this behalfe: 1270
Shall I proceed by formall course of law
To take revenge of her unlawfull fact?
So shall the commons knowe their kings disgrace
And every private subject laugh at me:
Or shall I closely lett the matter passe 1275
And pocket up this base indignitie
As one unable to requite a wronge?
No, no, by my consent let him be wrong’d
That undefended putts up injuries.
But heere comes Damiana from the queene: 1280
What news with thee? What message from Atossa? 



DAM. Health to the king, and many happy yeares
Atossa wisheth; and her humble suyte
Is that your grace would be her guest to day.
This day she honours with a solemme feast 1285
In memorie of her nativitie,
And might your highnesse be content therewith
She thinks your presence would much grace the same.
ORO. Tell her I will not faile. Now heart unfold
Thy secret counsels: why doest thou relent? 1290
Why doest thou talke to me of pietie?
Followe she shall; let him be righteouse
And stand on termes of pietie, whose life
Is out of danger, and himselfe secure;
He’s mad who knowes his life’s in jeopardy 1295
And yet forsooth will be religious.
Then Oromasdes take all doubts away
But doe it by thy selfe, trust no man else
To execute a dismall plott of death;
He’s onely fitt, whose safetie it concerns, 1300
To make him dead, whose death he does devise. 



<1.> Father of gods, whose direfull browe
Heavens trayne doeth feare
Whose peirceing eye injures at once
Things farre and neare, 1305
Why doest see and suffer sinne
Unpunish’t in mortall men?
<2.> With hollowe voyce the wat’ry clouds
†Not heard complaine†

And through their battered sydes appeares 1310
Thy glistring wayne.
The higher raysed mountaines feele
Thy furious hand,
And loftie oakes are blasted with
Thy scorching brand. 1315
But ah the faults of humane kind
Due punishment doe seldome find.
3. When poore Thyestes eate his child
(Oh pitious plight!)
Phoebus fled above asham’d 1320
To see the sight
And galloped backe with hasty speed
To wash his teame
That had not halfe their taske perform’d
In Thetis streame. 1325
Flye Phoebus now and be not seene
Of mortall men
More cause thou hast to hyde thy selfe
Then thou had then.
4. Now lett the scalie dragon leave 1330
His neighbour beare
And once againe from heavens height
To earth repaire
That Hercules may trie his might
By foyleing him in equall fight. 1335
Or let the righteous mpe of Jove
Her boy forsake
And from the painted Zodiacke
Herselfe betake
To speedy flight; or Chiron bend 1340
His crooked bowe:
Or let some other monstrous thing betyde
That may with former times be equalized.

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