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If anybody’s expecting something rather grand, let him know that this is the beginning of the realm, inaugurated in a private household, and its effort is not yet bearing fruit. Fortune is only uplifting our prince; when he has been uplifted, perhaps he will give you something more majestic.
Enter three citizens (scholars) debating the condition of the newly-founded government.
1. Greetings, friends, and a good day too you. Certainly you are well met. What’s the news about these things.
2. By Hercules, for a long time I’ve heard nothing new. It seems to me that all is lying quiet.
1. So does our prince, lately elected by vote of all the Commons, value honor and applause so lightly? Where’s that old-fashioned zeal of an unbridled spirit snatching honor from the nation’s fostering bosom? Back then everybody valued rule more than his life. Men sought for honor, honor did not seek out men. Did our man refuse this distinction when it was offered? Has he disdained those men from whom he received this honor?
2. I think he scorns both you and it.
3. You are not thinking aright. Trust me, he scorns neither you nor it.
1. So why doesn’t he come out in broad daylight, and firm up our newly-founded constitution with laws, as behooves the genuine head of such a great body?
2. If you are calling a king a head, I am of the opinion that a constitution is better of when it is headless.
1. Watch what you say.
2. Yes, I’ll say it again. Is the people so unaware of its own power that it submits so many necks to a single head? Does it tolerate having a single citizen govern many fellow-citizens? Is this fair? I don’t see why any man you care to name should be set above me or thee. Should I, a free man, submit to being anybody’s slave? Before that, I’ll see any “master” drowned in the ocean.
1. I can’t stand any more of these unlawful words.
2. You can’t stand them. You’ll stand them against your will, unless you choose to depart.
1. You’ll be put on trial for treason, and I won’t conceal your guilt.
2. You won’t conceal it? Pray conceal your foolishness, if you can.
1. Are you adding insults to your guilt?
2. Why not, since you deserve them.
3. Cease your quarrel, gentlemen. You are too harsh, and you too violent. A state without a king can be happy enough, but in the meantime a king does no harm.
2. He does a lot of harm.
1. He does a lot of good.
3. Restrain yourselves a moment. Scarcely any popular state observes the laws, but his subjects are too punctual in obeying a tyrant. If somebody rules, he will do so at his pleasure. If somebody rules peacefully and teaches law, administering justice in a calm and pious spirit, this man can be very helpful for a republic. But that talk of yours is scarcely fitting, and highly illegal. It is dangerous to speak about great men. And so, Philarchus, if you don’t like what my friend is saying, at least keep quiet for my sake. What he says is said out of anger. If he doesn’t change his mind, it will be his downfall. (Enter a messenger from the market-place.)
MESS. Gentlemen, what are you doing, since the king has summoned you? Or haven’t you heard the news?
3. We’ve heard nothing. So what’s afoot?
MESS. He who was lately created our prince, thinking that the government you have granted him is not on a firm enough footing, is making ready to go to Fortune’s temple, consult the goddess, and do as she commands. He’ll keep the position if the goddess grants it, but if she takes it away he has decided to abdicate his scepter, and not to enjoy power without divine consent.
3. He’s adopted an excellent plan, may it turn out well! So let’s accompany our prince to the chapel of the goddess. (Exeunt, but the second (whose name is Misanax) remains behind.)
So he’s preparing to go to Fortune’s temple? Consult the goddess? Do what she commands? What goddess? Fortune. But what kind of goddess? Unfair, deceitful, blind. And what manner of men does she help. Fortune is unfair, she gives to the unworthy. Fortune is deceitful, she turns her back on the man who hopes for the greatest things. Fortune is blind, she doesn’t see what kind of fellows she uplifts. Being foolish, Fortune helps fools most of all. But should I think of myself now? What kind of fellow am I? I deserve less than that man, yet chance will give me more. I am not hopeful, but she opens her hands to the man who does not hope. I am not especially wise, but he whom she chooses is wise. Fortune ought to wish a kingdom for me as much as for that man, if not more so. I don’t object to kingships, except because of the identity of this king, whom I know will be a great enemy of my freedom in the future. But if I were to gain the throne, how greatly I should approve of kingdoms! Heavens, how greatly I would wish kings to be obeyed! A kingship is the best of constitutions. But do I seem fit to enjoy rule? Why not call together my friends and companions? Me go to the temple? Now look here, I’ll steal a march on your prince. If chance should favor me, I’ll be the prince. Oh how well a scepter would suit this royal hand! How well a crown would decorate my head! I already see one man kneeling before me in adoration, another offering gifts and uttering his prayers. I’ll promote the one and give an ear to the other. But time’s passing. I’m going, I’m flying, seeking a throne. (Exit.)
Enter Fortune’s priestess Tolmaea, by herself, and then Fortune is heard from within.
TOL. This is the home of Fortune, decorated by the gifts of princes and the spoils of captains. Here stands her magnificent altar, at which all the world worships, which humanity adorns with its offerings. Here is the world’s treasure-house, here honor and effort, want and plenty, hope, fear, good things and bad all serve under a single deity. She offers her right hand, full of good things, to the deserving, but to the unworthy she offers her left, weighed down with heavy ills. Being a goddess of justice, she’s blind: just as she receives all men bearing an equal outward appearance, so Fortune excellently weighs their inward merits. She has no eyes lest she look at outward things and give good things to men who are familiar to her, but rather so she might give to the deserving, even if he be a stranger. If she sometimes shows favor to fools, she thinks this is fair, for she helps wretches who do not know how to help themselves. So those whom Nature has afflicted, she lifts up by her lot. When one goddess oppresses, another one helps.
FORT. (Within.) Tolmaea.
TOL. What divine voice strikes my ears?
FORT. Tolmaea, timid, uncouth, vile men are approaching. I don’t wish to be seen.
TOL If my name’s Tolmaea, I’ll obey the commands of the holy goddess.
REB 1. So far we’ve undertaken our rebellious work boldly enough, but who will be the first to go inside the temple? Who will touch the altar with his unwashed hand?
REB. 2. Why call this a temple? These are unhewn stones, which we can tear down with our strong hands.
REB. 3. I’m not afraid of the senate, yet I reverence the goddess’ splendor.
REB. 4. Even if she’s a goddess, she’s a blind one who doesn’t witness crimes.
TOL. Oh the great crime! How unlike the other bad man this one is! The one is quaking fearfully, but this one impudently fulminates. Fortune favors neither, she only helps the daring with her prosperity.
REB. 2. Then we’ll chase after the goods of you who are fleeing.
TOL. Get away, you mad crew, unclean and insolent! If one of you advances a foot, you’ll all die.
REB. 1. Forgive us, holy divinity .
TOL. I am not the goddess, I am the priestess who reveals her commandments and expresses her anger. If anybody comes closer, he dies.
REB. 3. Oh spare us, holy maiden.
REB. 2. Why does she make us needy slaves? We have been born as free men.
TOL. Good things turn out bad if they are abused. Nature has bestowed freedom on her sons, but bad lives champion wantonness.
REB. 1. Why does the harsh goddess allow fate to take a turn for the worse, although it should be constant and changeless?
TOL. Men change, destinies do not. Every man makes his lot turn out well, if he be good, ill if he be bad. Fortune does nothing but dole out what your deeds demand.
REB. 3. Why is she now imposing royal government on a free city?
REB. 2. Or why is she setting up a tyrant who is a foreigner, an alien? If there has to be a king, let a member of our crew rise up, and we’ll obey him.
TOL. First it behooves you to obey, so that you may learn to govern well. The task of the common folk is to accept their prince with good cheer, it is granted to Fortune to choose and install him.
REB. 4. Fortune is an empty word.
REB. 1. A goddess of fools.
REB. 3. A meaningless divinity.
REB. 2. A shifting wind.
REB. 4. A nothing.
TOL. You’ll find out she’s a something, although unwillingly. You’ll always bear the yoke of misfortune. Why is their punishment late in coming? Do I hear music being sung? Stay here, unmoving, until I impose evils such as would make a free mind shudder. Stand still. He who enjoys good things yet seeks for more than he has is seeking for evils. (She gives the first rebel a beetle.)
REB. 1. Woe’s me, what weighs on my shoulders and impedes my movement?
TOL. That’s misery, a heavy load. Accept this lot. (She gives the second a carter’s whip.)
REB. 2. Woe’s me, why are both my feet stuck in the mud?
TOL. That’s misery, a daughter of the earth Accept this lot. (She gives the third a smith’s hammer.)
REB. 3. Woe’s me, what raucous noise assaults my ears?
TOL. That’s misery, the worst of sounds. Accept this lot. (She gives the fourth a cobbler’s apron.)
REB. 4. Woe’s me, what’s pressing my sides and covering my loins?
TOL. That’s misery, a harsh bond. Accept this lot, and when each of you makes an end of his evildoing , the goddess will make an end of these things too. But if you persist in your crimes, accept this ending of your life, thus the wrathful goddess decrees. If anybody refuses the burden imposed by the goddess, perhaps she will give him a heavier, he’ll not shake off the weight. (Exit.)
REB 2. Who do I seem to be?
REB. 4. Oh, what am I becoming?
REB. 1 What monstrosity am I producing?
REB. 3. What is my right hand doing?
REB. 1. What does this rope mean? We’re all wretchedly ruined.
REB. 4. We are nothing.
REB. 2. We’re repenting too late. Rather, we need to seek a remedy for our evils, and each of us must think hat he already possesses whatever he wants. Thus nobody will unhappily seek a kingdom, and fortune will have given each of us a kind of a kingdom. I happen to govern horses with my whip, so I rule them with a scepter.
REB. 4. If you can call shoes men, and a crowd of men is worse than a good shoe, which does not take in water like men take in wine, I too enjoy a magistracy amongst my fellows. For I correct the bad, just as magistrates do.
REB. 1. Am I a nobody? Any wood you care to mention falls for me, and great trunks tremble at my hand.
REB. 2. As long as each man praises what is his, everything is fine.
REB. 3. Let no more evils befall, none worse. Let us suffer them, lest this rope oppress us to.
REB. 2. The rope our hard lot threatens. So we continue as we have begun we shall overcome the worst of lots by tolerating everything. Thus, perhaps, in the end the merciful goddess will make an end to our ills.
REB. 1. Thus, thus let it happen. An evil is lightened when you tolerate it. (Exeunt.)
PRINCE You have dragged me thus far, my fellow citizens, although against my will. I repeat that you have dragged me, although I admit this was by your prayer that I take on such a baleful yoke which no shoulder should have to carry, no labor should have to support. This is your love, but love is a burden when it weighs heavily. I acknowledge this was given me as a gift, but I am afraid to enjoy this gift, nor do I chose to enjoy it unless some divine voice should confirm what your voice has decreed. So this is the day, this is the hour when Fortune is being consulted, that goddess of kindness.
TREAS. Although they call her blind, she will see, my lofty prince, and crown your merits.
PRINCE I don’t give an ear to your “merits,” but I accept your love.
CHAMB. Our love because of your merits. The mouths of the cheering Commons attest that your name is worthy of honor, your position worthy of rule.
PRINCE But often the Commons uplifts unworthy men. I seem to have ill deserved this, if I rule in the name of the people.
THES. Even the austere senate cheerfully submits to your rule.
PRINCE I am continuing, but on timid feet. (Enter Tolmaea. Fortune within.)
TOL. What does the majestic goddess command.
FORT. Powerful men are here, I am favorable. Accept their offerings.
PRINCE Continue, comrades. I have been made the foremost by your suffrage, but I shall be present as the hindmost by my lot. I don’t want to snatch honor from others. If the goddess relieves me of this burden, how gratefully I will enjoy my former tranquility. I would prefer to live in a humble place and obey the powerful, rather than occupy the highest place and be obeyed. Envy attends on power, anxiety accompanies the throne.
CAM. The priestess is present, shall the offerings be made to the goddess?
PHIL. Consecrated maiden, according to whose will the august temple may be entered, the happy goddess is within our sight. Let us be permitted to enter, let us be permitted to offer pious gifts at the altar.
TOL. Lo, the friendly goddess honors you with her presence.
PHIL. Oh the sacred divinity! Oh the goddess, supremely powerful, with whose good things this whole world is filled, by whose hand the lowest are raised aloft and the highest fall, look upon us suppliants with a peaceful face. Let some men pray to Minerva, others to Jove, let others worship Apollo of Delphi with their supplications, or, driven by Furies, sing of Bacchus, let others adhere to Romulus, we make you, Fortune, our goddess, and give you a place in heaven. (He offers incense.)
TREAS. Give a friendly ear to our prayers. I bear the triumphant goddess’ laurel, evergreen with its leaves. (He offers a laurel garland.)
PRINCE I offer a token of the shining sunlight. (He offers an image of the sun.)
PHIL. And I a hymn of praise.
JUST. And I globe of heaven in earth, since her supreme majesty is visible throughout the world.
PEAS. AND FOOL And we give garlands interwoven with purple.
TOL. And I pour forth liquors, so your piety shines. Thus your love is ardent, and the brightness of your dutifulness shines forth. Your gifts have prevailed, your sacrifice is pleasing. The kindly goddess has closed her left hand and opened her right, so that she might bestow only good things. Come in due order. With your hands set on the wheel, each of you receive your individual lots, but first you must kneel and make a solemn vow that each of you will live content with his lot, and always boldly persevere in your goodly cause.
ALL We swear, thus may good Fortune preserve us.
TOL. Since Fortune is blind, she decrees that nobody should see his goods before he possesses them. (After various gestures of goodwill they defer to the lawyer.)
LAW. Holy goddess, grant that I might I may make good use of my lot, whatever it may be.
TOL. Reverence justice, lawyer, help the wretched, defend the good cause, use the right. Now all turns out well for you these days, sitting on the right-hand seat.
LAW. I am a justice. He who pronounces justice, assigning to each man that which is his own and punishing the evil, appears to be doing God’s work on earth.
PHIL. Who am I?
TOL. Philosopher, or some manner of prophet, your seat is on the left, not because I deem you unworthy of a better seat, but it pleases the goddess that some men adorn their places, and that some are adorned by the places they hold.
PHIL. I should be content, mindful of my vow. Some poetic divinity governs, philosophy rules the whole of the mind’s passions. It bridles rebellious impulses, and I call this government. I know that the lot of knowledge is hard and difficult, and yet it is fair, and takes great pleasure in itself. It does not strive to please the common man, and so is less acceptable to the uncouth public. Learning has no enemies save the ignorant, the unlettered, and the dunces whom Minerva has not flavored with her salt. Let the lawyer speak much, albeit with little learning. Let the miser heap up gold, but not for himself. Let some other puffed-up donkey seize the lion’s spoils, let him hide his folly under a costly costume purchased by base obsequiousness. Let another seek power by a thousand fraudulent devices, let other men seek other things, I am pleased with my lot.
THES. What is my lot?
TOL. To open and close your wallet by turns for the public good. Beware not to be too stingy in its closing, nor to spendthrift in its opening. Take this seat. For wealth is Fortunes’ secondmost good.
THES. Why shouldn’t I be called the first, since everything else is based on money. It is the prop of the throne, the crown of peace, sinew in war, consolation at home, and the only traveler’s aid abroad. Let men seek other things, I am pleased with my lot.
CHAM. What is Fortune preparing for me?
TOL. Your care for the king’s chamber has given you a key, which you must vigilantly preserve as his guard, lest somebody attack the prince unawares. This no servile task, sit on the right.
CHAM. I accept the place the goddess has decreed for me. My my agency the kindly favor of our prince will be pent up or let loose, and, being presence, I shall enjoy the splendor of his lofty majesty. Let other men seek other things, I am pleased with my lot.
TOL. Who’s next?
PRINCE I fear I am unworthy to be given anything by the goddess. If you impose something heavy I shall succumb if you don’t support me, if you don’t help.
TOL. Fortune is smiling, you all should cheer, she has given a crown. The public throng acknowledges the prince as their own. So that heaven might hear, let the whole city resound with happy shouts, and let all the Commons cry out may he reign! May he thrive! May he triumph! May he live!
ALL Long may he live!
TOL. Mount up with heaven’s favor and goodly auspices. You […], not having been placed on the goddess’ right hand. She bestows everything on you, and by means of your hands bestows whatever is welcome, whatever one can hope for.
PRINCE I mount the throne heaven-appointed throne, and I acknowledge that such a great honor is the goddess’ gift. What offerings shall I make? What prayers should I pour out to you? I dedicate myself wholly to your divinity. You must protect the realm and guide the people entrusted to me. Unless your hand confirms my government, alas, how quickly I am climbing so I might suffer a fall!
TOL. Rise up, prince, the goddess grants your wishes.
PRINCE I am rising up, and how mighty I am growing as I rise! How suddenly I am wholly changed! Lo, my eyes are keener than usual, I hear more with my ears. As I speak, these arms are growing longer, and my feet swifter, so that they might catch crime. My heart is doubled, my spirits swell within. Fear your king, subjects. Do your duty, priestess.
TOL. To the peasant and the fool.] Your lot still remains twofold.
PEAS. They are not empires, this kingdom does not hold the two of us. Whatever it is, I’ll tolerate it.
TOL. At length your hoe has stricken it.
PEAS. And that’s no new kind of lot. It’s inglorious, but necessary. I admit it’s not lofty, but it’s safe enough. There’s no place to fall: when somebody exists on this earth who’s simple, candid, rustic, and knows no tricks, and if he possesses no profit from crime, he is free from guilt. I truly live, for I live by my own hand. Thanks to me the mighty eat their bread and have their drink. I pledge my work and effort to my king. Let other men seek other things, I am pleased with my lot.
FOOL What’s mine? How long do I turn the wheel but get nothing? I’m climbing again, will I beyond doubt become powerful? What? It’s turning again.
TOL. Fortune is very concerned about what to give you, and at last she ministers to your elegant self.
FOOL Come, goddess. Come, priestess. So am I foolish? If henceforth I say nothing that makes any sense, I shall still continue to speak. Perhaps I’ll turn a better profit on my folly than do many arts with all their tricks. [To the philosopher.] I’m talking to you.
PHIL. Why are you challenging only me. You stone, you blockhead, you empty trunk, I hope you’ll sit at my feet so I may kick your head.
FOOL Why, any fool you care to name has more sense than to associate with a philosopher and his poverty-stricken books. And besides, a philosopher can only feed a single fool, whereas kings support many. If I know nothing else, I know to attach myself to those in power.
PHIL. How folly attacks wisdom alone and wounds it with its reproaches!
FOOL No, you’re quite wrong. For (with one exception, I mean) this fool’s cap can fit any head at all. How well it suits the peasant! May my lot help me, it looks better on him than does his own hat. You are wise, my excellent censor, that’s two of us. [To the audience.] I’m not hitting at you, you noble-born. And yet folly frequently enters into palaces, and wit into cottages.
TREAS. Oh what great license is often granted a fool! How he speaks much in safety while the wise man holds his tongue!
FOOL I wait until something falls. Then the fool snatches it.
CHAMB. Better apples fall into pigs’ mouths. Like the air, a fool owns whatever is empty.
TOL. Lofty prince, since the goddess has appointed you a god on earth, behold, she leaves the rest to your judgment; I mean you may bestow rewards and honors on good men as you chose, and suppress the evil. He will confer blessings on plans that have until now been bad. Under the goddess’ auspices continue on your happy way.
PRINCE If I ever become forgetful of the honor conferred me, may all my majesty collapse, even in within an hour. I consecrate a nobler temple to Fortune. I vow new servants for her, together with an annual offering, and if her divinity will accept anything else, I shall grant it.
Enter a messenger from the market-place.
MESS. With a happy shout the entire crowded city is thundering for its ruler, the market-place resounds with cheers. Impatient of delay, the welkin attests the joy. The Commons craves to glimpse their prince’s face. The senate is present, a bevy of lictors expectantly follows, and everybody is exclaiming give us our king.
PRINCE I want them to come into the temple, so I may say a little. (Enter four senators, together with four lictors carrying a crown.) I neither can nor wish to say much. Briefly, you have your prince, your king, your leader, and it is your responsibility to adore him, to fear him, to follow him. I expect your affection, and if I do not receive it I shall inflict fear. That which I cannot obtain by being pleasant I shall command. I shall peacefully guide the willing, drag the unwilling, and break the man who won’t be bent. I recognize that this rule is the gift you have given, and greater power has arisen. I shall obtain this government in accordance with the goddess’ will, and in accordance with her will I shall exercise it. I say it again: I shall exercise this rule with a strong hand and extreme severity. That’s enough said about my government. It follows (and I would prefer to speak of this) that I say a word about my affection. I pledge my zeal, my loyalty, and the wakeful nights which my care will require. I pledge days full of effort for your good, I am preparing masques and routs for your sake. I promise plays, and whatever befits a prince will occur during my reign, or nothing will occur. These things are what my will dictates.
ALL Oh, long may he live! (Exeunt.)
THE PHILOSOPHER SPEAKS THE EPILOGUE
A learned man, I ask this one remaining thing from you learned men, a philosopher asks philosophers, and it is no great thing. Since my adverse lot put me on the left-hand side, you give me a kinder hand. (Exit.)