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


ATO. You fleeteing gales, and whirling blasts of wind
Which through each quarter of the world 1345
More swift then posts doe carrie messages
When as you hover over Hesperia
Remember that you tell Medaea this
That I have done, and bid her not be proud
For that poore peice of mischeife that she wrought 1350 
On Jasons sons, in wreake of Jasons wrongs.
Say that Atossa hath outstrip’t her farre,
And yet Atossa willout strip herselfe.
I have not now, as erst Medea did,
Us’d magicke spells, or charms of Thessalie,
Nor mingled any venemous dragons gall
And temper’d it with ghastly screechowles blood,
Nor gathered poysonous hearbs, whose deadly juyce
Mix’t with the ashes of a deadmans tomb
Worke such effects of death, nor called the moone 1360
From out her spheare to further mine attempts.
What I have done, t’is I alone have done;
The prayse of all this feate belongs to me:
From foorth the plenteous storehouse of my breast
It all proceeds, whatever hath bene done. 1365
Witt worke no more; and cease your happy hands:
It is enough; I am reveng’d at full.
Can so just anger have so short a date?
If here I stay, the glory of the fact
Will perish quite; no no, it is not enough: 1370
Atossa prosecute thine enterprise,
Hold on the vengeance which thou hast begunne
Goe now, command our servants to attend,
Bid them with speed prepare a princely feast
And with a royall banquett load the board: 1375
Bring me some water from the running streame
That I may purifie my bloudy hands:
See what a deepe and perfect vermilion
Hath stayned my fingers, see how faire a glosse 
This purple bloud giues to my sinowie joynts. 1380
This scarlett hew so beawtifies my hands,
As when a red rose amongst lillies stands;
How loth am I to wash away this bloud!
Yet will I wash away this purple gore
That this being gone my heart may thirst for more. 1385
CHO. What kind of banquet will your grace provide?
ATO. A solemne feast of yearely memorie
Fitt for a king, and for a kings new bride.
The strumpett mother and her bastard bratts
While yett they liv’d so dearly he did love 1390
That nought might match his love to her and them;
And thinke you then that any cates may please
His dainty mouth so well, as flesh of them
Whom liveing he did allwayes love so well?
<2> CHO. O what a hatefull execrable deed 1395
Shall he commit not knoweing what he doeth?
ATO. Tush all were well, if he might never know it,
But knowe’t he shall to work his greater woe.
3 CHO. Why looke you so upon that laurell wreath?
ATO. These leaves in poysoned liquor have bene steep’d, 1400 
With this the massie boule shall circled be
That he may drinke sweet <Bacchus> wine and death.
4. CHO. Wilt you in furie worke thy husbands death?
ATO. Shall I doe nothing more then Atreus?
Shall I doe nothing more than Tantalus? 1405
Let it be sayde in ages to succeed:
This was my plott, this was Atossa’s deed. 
1 CHO. I mervaile much at this impatient mood.
ATO. Nay mervaile rather that with thirling sound
Of brazen trumpetts I shake not all the ground 1410
And make the planes of Bactria to sound 
With armed troupes, or that the turret tops
Flame not by this about the tyrants eares,
And Oxus waves made red with purple bloud
Stand as the billowes of the Caspian sea. 1415
Mervaile I say (for that deserves more wordes)
That with so small a punishment as this —
3 CHO. Who ever will anothers fault correct
Must have regard that none doe him detect.
ATO. Why tis a usuall thing in warre to see 1420
Both parts complayne of warre and injury.
3 CHO. Aye but alas through guile and subtiltie
A sillie woman thou hast causd to dye.
ATO. It skills not so I kill mine eniemie
Whether by manhood or by treacherie. 1425
4 CHO. May women then be counted enemies?
ATO. Women to women may be enemies.
1 CHO. Roxana neither knewe thee nor thy state.
ATO. Knowne or not knowne my rivall I will hate.
2 CHO. The children guiltelesse were of this offence. 1430
ATO. The children were the fruite of this offence.
3 CHO. Besides the guiltlesse bloud that thou hast shed
Why hast thou stayn’d the holy marriage bed?
ATO. The sweet revenge that best contents the mind
Is to crie quittance in the selfe same kind.
4 CHO. The king will certainly revenge these wrongs. 1435
ATO. The queene allready hath reveng’d her wrongs.
1 CHO. Refenge doth ill become Atossa’s hand.
ATO. Refenge doeth well become Atossa’s heart.
2 CHO. Such martiall thoughts fitt not your tender sex
ATO. Such tender trickes fitt not his martiall sexe. 1440
3 CHO. Great empresse feare, the all revenging gods
Doe seldome passe by sinns unpunished.
ATO. Talke of such things to babes and holy fooles.
Who stands on narrow point of some steep rock
Ready to fall, setles his steadfast eye 1445
Upon the ground beneathe, not on the skie.
But now the tyrant comes to feast with me.
With sug’red words I will enchant his eares,
With gloweing lookes I will bewitch his hearte:
Sweet words, smooth lookes, what not to work his smarte. 1450 



 ORO The prudent lord hath wisely counseld me
With heedful care, old danger to prevent
And warily aboide the strumpetts baite;
Anger and rigour have counter counsel’d me
And thrust me on with speedy violence 1455 
To ridde my selfe at once of all my feares.
The plot is layd, the executioner
Shall be this garland taught sufficiently
To doe my will, with this I’le crowne the cup
That she may drinke a health unto her death. 1460 
Meane while I’le gloze with her in pleasing termes,
And with a curtaine of a favouring looke
Shadowe myne anger, […]
ATO. The happy favour of the holy gods,
Eternall peace, long life, and wished health 1465 
Allwayes attend the person of the king.
This shineing sun my lord presents to me,
A joyfull day, which I of right must honour;
But the bright sunshine of your highnes presence
Doubles the ioy thereof. 1470 
 ORO. Let me embrace theem peerlesse paragon,
And sweetly twyne thee in my loveing armes.
To day I’le revell for Atossa’s sake.
For sweet Atossa, greife depart a while.
ATO. So farre I am indebted to your grace 1475 
That I can neve rpay the sum of thankes
Which I confesse I owe. Anger keepe close a whole
 ORO. Sett downe, faire queene. ATO. First place yourselfe my Lord. 



Of fayre Atossa be a silver song,
That blessed wight, 1480
 And of the bright day which brought to the world
So fayre a sight.
Matuta did a while her face outshew
But soone withdrew.
For well she knewe 1485 
Atossa’s brightnesse would her overthrowe.
Pray we the bright day that brought to the world
So fayre a sight
May not see night.
Pray we that Atossa may flourish long 1490
In princely plight.



 ORO. Loe now all’s sure, she’s sped I’le warrant her.
Goe fetch my cates, to finish up the feast.
MOL. My heart doeth drinke a full carowse of bloud,
My thirsty eyes are glutted with revenge. 1495
Say cruell hands, what can I more desire?
Suspition thou hast bravely played thy part.
They’re both entangled in the nett of death;
What remains (for somewhat yet remains)
Let rage or vengeance finish: now my soule 1500
Shall sleepe and rest in quiet <rose-heap’d> grave.
 ORO. Heere’s one dish more Atossa, very sweet.
With this of all I will thy person greet.
If thou doest Bessus know, heere take his head
Which thou alive didst love, enioy him dead. 1505 
Now glutt thyselfe with him, kisse kisse his head
And cary it unto my princely bed.
ATO. I knowe the face, tis a dainty dish
And likes me wondrous well; unthankfulnesse
Suites not with princely minds, I will requite 1510 
Daintie with dainties, one dish for another.
I have a precious preserve in store
Kept for your grace, this ten yeares day and more.
Loe heere’s a dish, heere’s service for a prince,
There’s the old swan with cygnets by her syde. 1515
This bird was never hatcht in Bactria
But farre beyond the sea in a forraine land;
A cunning fowler catcht her in a wood
With ten yeares toyle. This pompe befitts a king.
ORO. What cursed object checks my fainting eyes? 1520
What dismall spectacle abates my spirits?
Bright shineing substance of the chystall sky,
And thou great God that guid’st the lightsome waine;
Whose glistering beames chace from another world
The mist of darkenes, shrow’d thy glorious head 1525 
Under the curtaine of a foggie cloud;
That so the brightnesse of thy purest eye
Be’nt stayned with sight of such great villainie.
Night hale thy sable mantle ouer heaven
And in despight of Venus hide thy face, 1530 
And into Chaos (that confused mould
Whence first the world came foorth) make all returne
And see no more, for they have seene to much.
And let the fleshy substance of my heart
Be frozen harder then a marble stone. 1535
But thou bloudthirsty ravening lionesse
Sprung from no princely stocke, nor gentle,
Not one Medea, not one Scylla maskes
Under the vizards of those ghastly lookes,
But all the hatefull monsters of old time 1540 
And whosover else the bashfull pen
Of former ages sham’d to register,
Lyes couch’d within the harbour of thy breast.
Thy joynts are framed of unrelenting mould
Fetch’d from the forest of Hyrcania, 1545 
Where savage lions nurse their angry whelps,
Whose more then flintie hardnesse farre exceeds
The rockye substance of mount Caucasus.
Thou hast a heart whose fertile furrowes yeild
A plentious harvest of ten thousand mischeifes. 1550 
ATO. Loe how the king would mourne for me,
What showers of teares would was his princely cheeks;
With what laments would he importune heaven
And weary all the gods, if I were gone,
That for a harlott makes such pitious moane? 1555 
Come Father come embrace these tender imps
Kiss thy sweet wife. Ah see the pretty wormes,
See how they love their dad, see how the damme
Loves the old sire; why? This is love indeed
When for desire they have to see your grace: 1560 
The hasty heads come running all alone
Least bodies weight should slacke their flyeing speed.
 ORO. Out franticke beldame, scold’st thou at my woes?
Laugh’st thou at these outragious villanies?
And add’st more fewell to my burning heart? 1565 
Firebrand of hell, Medaea is asham’d
To thinke on thee; Scylla and all the rout
Of hellish furies blush to heare thy name.
But if these bloudy streames of sad revenge
Which shoote like lightning from thy fiery eyes 1570 
Be yet aswag’d with all thy butcheries,
Deliver to my hands their headlesse trunks.
That favour none denies his enemies.
ATO. That favour of our grace we’ll graunt to thee.
Poore silly foole, crav’st thou that which you hast? 1575
Husband and father, thou hast gorged thyselfe
Upon thy wife and children; what kind heart,
Rest’st thou so soone? Art thou so soone agast?
Call back his flyeing soule and bid it stay.
The greatest part of this my glorious act 1580 
Dyes without honour if you lette him goe.
Recover him, bring him to life againe
That he may feele his death, and dye alive.
 ORO. After so dismall tragicke villanies
Doeth nature still hold on her steady course, 1585 
And these bright bodies that ride o’re our heads
Continue still their circled motion? 
Strong underpropping axletree that bear’st
The weighty burden of the starry skie,
Slide from thy place and crack in thousand shivers, 1590
And lett the stary frame which thou support’st
Fall on our heads with furious violence
And bury all things in eternall night.
Dull senseless earth, seest thou these damned dead
And are thy caves still clos’d? Gape, but gape wide 1595 
And when thou hast Atossa in thy wombe
Then close thy jawes and let them never open.
Now Phebus, now t’were time thy Phaethon
Were mounted in his fathers schorching wayne,
That heaven might flame, and earth be set on fire, 1600 
Or that a forked dart of lightning throwne
From Joves strong arme amidst the empty ayre
Might fall upon the pallace of the queene.
I see an ocean of my miseries
Whose rageing waves abide no checke of shoare 1605 
Nor weight of ship, my heart must needs be drownd
Belov’d Roxana, little Sisimethres,
Sweet Ariaspe, where are you? Speake to me.
Harke, harke, I heare a hollow voice ascend
From foorth my entrales, that cries “heere we are.” 1610 
Why do I then desire their companie
That are imprison’d in my bodies walls?
Why doe I wish to touch those whome I touch,
Why to embrace those whome I do embrace?
How neere they are! And yet how farre away! 1615 
Why dye I not? Why am I yet alive?
With whome death hath so great an interest,
Whose body is no body but a toombe
Of straunge events? O world turn’d upside downe!
The father in his children should survive, 1620 
But out alas my children are return’d
Into their fathers body: giant like
My body is augmented three times more,
My greife made threefold. Why then have I not
A threefold tongue to tell my miseries? 1625 
Lips stop the passage of my fainteing voice:
The more I greive, the more my greife encreaseth
Yet doe not so but let the sad laments
Of my poore wife and children have a vent.
Eternall sleepe close mine unhallowed eyes 1630 
That are defil’d with sinfull spectacles.
Yet let the windowes of mine eyes be open
That my beloved spouse and harmelesse babes
May see her death, that caus’d them dye.
I’le gore myselfe with poynt of sharpned steele 1635 
And make a gate for death to enter in.
Yet will I not least my unhappy hand
Should wound my children and my sweet Roxana.
ATO. Nay thou mayst spare that labour well enough,
That care’s all ready taken, for ere this 1640 
The poysonous juyce hath spread though every vein
And palefac’d death hath mark’t thee for his owne.
It joyes my heart to thinke how solemnly
I crown’d thy quaffing bowle with conquering baye
Whose venom’d leaves taught Bachus pleasing fruite 1645 
T’infect thy heart, th’art sped I’lle warrant thee.
Now lett my vengeance end, it is enough
That I have made thee knowe thy misery.
There’s one thing wanting yet thou should’st have seene:
Thy wife carv’d up, thy children butchered; 1650 
And drunke a full carowse of luke warm bloud
When with a daggers point I broach’d their veines.
Then might’st thou best have drunk the claret up
Because it was thine owne, and the children being
Thine, I knowe they frely would have giv’t their father. 1655 
Good reason too, because he gave it them.
Alase poore soule when thou thought’st nothing so
I made my right hand drive into their sides,
And in mine angry talents grip’d the hearts.
O had’st you heard their heart strings how they crack’d 1660 
When they were strayned, or seene their livers squeez’d
Betwixt my fingers! O what a screekeing song
The sobbing hearts sung to their funeralls.
Thou saw’st not how when scorcht with heate of fire
The bloudy goare dropt from their trembling joints, 1665 
And livers panted still upon the spitts;
Nor didst thou see the night owles flye
About the house and with their gripeing clawes
Tare from the spittes the skorched reeking hearts.
 ORO. Ti’s thine Atossa, thou hast wonne the day, 1670 
Thine be the prayse of all this villanie.
Yet shalt thou knowe that gods are righteous.
Revenge with whip in hand stalkes at your heeles,
And all the troupes of furies waite on thee
With deadly poyson of a dragons gall. 1675 
Thy vaines are taynted and thou canst not scape.
Conquer’d we conquer; foyled we foile againe.
ATO. To dye upon the carcase of my foe
T’is honorable, I shall not dye alone.
The weight of my unweldy bodies fall 1680
Drives downe the great’st of Bactria.
If after all these naughty deeds achiev’d
With happy hand and fortunate successe
I should survive, my glory would decay.
Nay I will post with speed to Pluto<es house> 1685  
And tryumph for my new gayn’d victory.
 ORO. This deadly poyson worketh inwardly
And rageth through the marrow of my bones
So now againe by fatall destinie
My children and my wife shall dye with me. 1690 
But lett’s represse our greife least proud Atossa
Invent new tryumphs o’re my miserie.
’Mongst all the troups of courtly favorites
Is there not one that comes to take his leave
And give a fayre well to my fainting soule? 1695 
Will not Arsaces see me ere I dye
That I may breath the last within his armes?
Mirrour of virtues, love and loyaltie,
Seest thou this sad accursed spectacle,
A liveing grave, a husband, wife and children 1700 
All heere entomb’d, a king bereav’d of life
By a dissembling womans treacherie?
Arsaces to thy trust we leave our crowne
And on thy shoulders lay our kingdomes weight.
ARS. O heavie sight, o cruell destinies! 1705 
ORO. The heate of poyson now assayles my heart,
And seekes to banish hence my wretched soule.
All hayle you ghosts, I stand at banke of Styx
Wayting for Charon to waft o’er my soule.
But thou the sinke of sin, thou’st follow me. 1710
One hell can never torture thee enough
For all thy devilish execrable sins.
Yet shalt thou feare what torments hell affoords:
Thou’lst feele the famisht thirst of Tantalus,
Ixions endlesse wheele shall be thy coach, 1715
Lett Belides to thee resigne their taske;
Thou’lst rowle the toylsome stone of Sisyphus.
Ile raise all hell to frame your punishments.
CHO. The poyson’d vapor seareth on her bonds:
She gaspes for breath, her pulses beate unequally 1720 
The frowneing firebrands of her glanceing eyes
Shine like some commet, like So’s bloudy beames;
She lisps, she threatens, gasps and wallowes,
She trembles, laughs, and groaneing inwardly
She belcheth foorth deepe sighs of sulphure smell 1725 
As Bachus drunken servants wont to doe.
Those symptomes shew how strong the poyson works,
Bereaving her of witt, or words, of life.
ATO. What’s this? I hover in the emptie aire
And make long traces with my cloudy coach. 1730 
How dark it is! Phoebus hath plungd the day
In deepest gulfe of black obscuritie.
And thus my heynous mischeife is obscur’d.
O great renowne! O glorious stratagems
That cause bright Phoebus thus to hide his face 1735
Asham’d to see my tragicke masacers!
But see where Minos ’raignes me at the barre
And layes unto my charge my villanies.
What shall I doe? <And> whether shall I flie?
T’is vaine to flye where no excuse can serve 1740
Guilty, judge Minos, I confesse I was
The author and the actor of those villanies.
Bessus was guilteles, for he but brought to me
The harlot and her bratts, I murdered them:
And I will onely bide those punishmentes 1745 
Which all my former villanies deserve.
Aye justice will something my torments ease
But justice still denies all hope of ease.
Well then perforce I must and will indure them.
Let Tantalius, Ixion, Belides, 1750 
Let Sisyphus and all the hellish rout
Resigne their taskes and torments unto me,
All these I will endure, what will you more?
Avant you damned hellhounds, Sisimethres,
Roxana, husband spare me. Minos saith noe. 1755 
Then goe yee hellish feinds I come I come. 



Nor ought we to doe one another wrong
Nor wrongs revenge, but leave them unto God.
But blinded wrath in will runs all along
And for himself deserves and makes the rod.1760
Wee shew the horror that proceeds from both.
See the scourge and learne the deeds to loath.