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ACT II, SCENE i
EALLY, the more I consider the situation here, the more my spirit is weighed down by anguish! Just now the message came that Arsidas, Poliarchus' envoy, has come from Africa. I wonder what news he has brought or what Archombrotus and Poliarchus are scheming. But look, here he is.
ARS. O great King of Sicily, Poliarchus and Timonides send greetings to you, and at the same time order me to hand this letter to you. As for Poliarchus' achievements, o King, be aware that no praise, no glory can be great enough to celebrate him. His rule now extends far and wide. As of now he remains in Africa, where he arrived after leaving his French kingdom, driven by stormy winds and waves to a place unknown to him. When in Africa, after greeting his host, Queen Hyanisbe, Archombrotus' mother, he found that Radirobanes had declared war on Africa. The queen obtained from Poliarchus timely aid against Radirobanes, who appeared on Hyanisbe's very birthday. Because of the celebration, many Moors, drunk from their feasting, were slaughtered on the beach. However, soon both side formed regular battle lines. Radirobanes wondered that a Poliarchus was in Africa with the Moors. He did not know whether this Poliarchus was the one who he knew lived in Sicily for a time. Meanwhile both sides attacked and fought hand-to-hand, and at first the Moors' elephants, thrown into much confusion, disordered the battle lines. Radirobanes fled, dressed as a Moor, and in the confusion entered the city unrecognized. But he saw that he could not remain hidden any longer, since the squires were watering the horses, and he escaped over the lake, his horse dying as soon as he reached the shore. He returned to his tent that night, where he explained all his adventures to Virtiganes and the other noblemen. Finally after experiencing the depths of danger in the conflict, Poliarchus defeated and killed Radirobanes in single combat. He however was seriously wounded himself. Because of these wounds, which suddenly turned septic, and after passing from one doctor's hand to another's with every sign of critical illness, Poliarchus has finally recovered his strength and health quicker than expected with the help of an African doctor, Themison, who is, to be sure, of contemptible appearance and short stature, but of conspicuous skill in his practice.
MEL. What of Archombrotus? Did he also bring his mother Hyanisbe reinforcements against Radirobanes?
ARS. He was not able to do so. Although, as you know, his mother the queen summoned Archombrotus by letter to return to Africa from your Sicily, in order to postpone his marriage with Argenis and (which had to come first) to destroy the enemy Radirobanes. But Poliarchus vanquished Radirobanes well before Archombrotus could arrive in Mauritania.
MEL. So did Archombrotus finally reach Hyanisbe?
ARS. I confess that he did, but nearly with great misfortune.
MEL. Why is this? Tell me.
2. ARS. After winning this victory and being seriously wounded, as I said, Poliarchus was barely able to walk and was considering his departure from Africa, when, look!, Micipsa was sent by Hyanisbe to Poliarchus and reported that the queen's son Archombrotus had finally brought his fleet to shore and that all the nobles and commons were going joyfully to meet him. He soon arrived and his mother received him with all honors. She told him that a great danger had almost destroyed Africa, but that the French had been her protectors; Radirobanes had perished and the King of France had killed him. Archombrotus, struck by the magnitude of this assistance and burning with affection for the French king — i .e. Poliarchus — sent men to him to inform him that, if he was free, the queen and her son would soon visit him. He answered that, unless illness prevented, he would do his whole duty towards them, and at the same time he sent two of his highest noblemen to the queen and her son. He was eagerly waiting to see the prince who, as he had heard from the Moors' own report and from Hyanisbe herself, was of extraordinary character. But they called him Hyempsal, which was of course his name in common use. (He had assumed the name Archombrotus to conceal his birth, when he came secretly and in private garb here into Sicily.) Around Poliarchus were the French nobility in full regalia, and I was conversing very close by him. But after the queen entered holding her son Archombrotus by the hand, she was struck down by sudden horror, for as soon as Poliarchus saw Archombrotus, and on the other side Archombrotus recognized Poliarchus (what a scene!) what a whirlwind, what a thunderbolt did ever shoot at its destined target! With minds and faces completely changed, what rage, disdain, and blood-lust twisted the minds of each one. As if they had seen Medusa, each stood motionless. Soon with fierce and dreadful eyes, but not yet yielding to their anger in full, they eyed each other from head to foot. They stood fretting and gnashing their teeth. Even in absentia Argenis discomposed both of them. Mad rivalry gradually was overcoming both of them to such an extent that only respect for Hyanisbe — if nothing else — seemed to be preventing them from polluting the rites of hospitality and attacking each other with bare hands, since swords would be too slow. When I saw Archombrotus I lost all heart and in a panic said: “Gelanorus, we are done for. If some guardian spirit does not go between them, this day will not pass without blood and horror. Was this then Hyanisbe's son? And none knew him? None hinder this evil encounter? O Sicily, happy because she will not see the furies which she caused!”
MEL. I certainly felt great amazement when I learned from Archombrotus, as he was leaving, that he was the son of Queen Hyanisbe of Mauritania. But tell me, Arsidas, what happened with the two wrathful kings?
3. ARS. Well then, affrighted at this furious greeting between her son and guest, and uncertain what she should make of this, Hyanisbe thought fit to separate this ill-met pair, before rage became incurable madness. She would search out the malaise and its remedy later. Therefore she first addressed Poliarchus: “Forgive me, dear guest, that we have disturbed your rest in such an untimely fashion. Have a care of your health. We will go to pray to the gods that this day shall dawn a happy one for you and for us.” Then she turned to her son, whose eye was still fixed on Poliarchus, and in a low voice she ordered him to leave the room with her. He followed her command. Poliarchus added nothing except that he hoped that the gods whom the queen approached would be propitious. But she did not go to the temple. She felt seriously upset in her spirits. This unforeseen hatred between the two princes first filled the palace with terrific amazement, then the city and the garrison. Everyone was fearfully asking what this enmity was — or feigning some imagined cause. The nobles were first talking about arming themselves, then about battles and massacres. The queen, driven to distraction by so many troubles, first attempted to calm the uproar, then to sooth both her son and Poliarchus. She begged her son by the ancestral gods, by the Sicilians, and by Argenis to willingly give a breathing space to his wrath. Meanwhile Poliarchus, wounded by the sight of his rival, prepared to depart, and sending his Prefect with a message for the queen, he gave thanks for his hospitable welcome, adding that he did not want to trouble her, since she was now so busy with affectionately welcoming her son. Hyanisbe was most perplexed with these words and, having calmed her son, she went to Poliarchus who was in process of leaving and begged him with tears to put off his departure. He promised a two-day delay.
Mel. Your story, Arsidas, is certainly astounding, but I am afraid to hear what was about to happen.
ARS. In this way the first wave of trouble was breasted, and the queen busied herself in finding a more complete solution. But she was not able to find or contrive anything as long as she was ignorant of the reason for this conflict. While she was uncertain how or where she might find certain knowledge about this, an opportune circumstance presented itself. Timonides, your ambassador, had stayed on board ship while Archombrotus was going to the city. He was quickly told of the turmoil and, since he knew Poliarchus very well (as you are aware), he readily conjectured that this anger seized Archombrotus because of his love for Argenis. As a result, in order to fulfill your commands, he sent a message to the queen to give notice of his coming. The queen still continuing in her perplexity, now conceived a sudden hope that she could learn the cause of this perilous hatred from the ambassador. Giving him immediate audience, and after the requisite inquiries about you, O king, she began to bewail not only the split between Poliarchus and her son, but even more the fact that she did not know the source of such hatred, and therefore could find no way to cure it.
MEL. How did my ambassador Timonides respond?
4. ARS. He could not see any reason why he should conceal a dispute which was no great secret and nothing to be ashamed of. So in a few words he showed the queen that Poliarchus had lived in Sicily like a man of lowly status, and that he had fallen in love and hoped for marriage with Argenis, who subsequently was destined for Archombrotus; it was no marvel then that rivals aiming at so high a fortune should quarreled bitterly, considering the cause. At these words, Hyanisbe's spirits were so revived that she could scarce restrain her joy in front of Timonides. So, after considering the matter carefully to herself, she decided this: if the young men's minds were persuadable, they should be sent back to Sicily, postponing the remedy for this distemper until then.
MEL. What! To return to Sicily?
ARS. That's it, my king, since she knew that the chief part of the remedy would lie in your consent, but if their hatred could not continue without open warfare, she thought that the fury of these wrathful men must be immediately pacified by a secure peacemaking. So she returned to her son now more imperiously than before and pretended that she had learned about the enmity from Poliarchus. She said: “I am unhappy about your silence on this matter, especially since this silence concerns a matter which is far from shameful or unworthy of yourself, and I could know the very same from your rival. You both love Argenis — certainly a harsh blow for young men and a mighty cause of anger. I hear that she is a maiden whom all the gods have endowed with their gifts. She is the heiress to Sicily, and neither of you can bear to withdraw from the contest — a great stimulus to passionate spirits. I forgive you these honorable impulses, and I thank the gods that this sickness of yours is not without a cure. What you now believe that no god could accomplish, I will do; I will make each of you lay aside your hatred, make both of you love Argenis, and make her dear to both of you. You know, my son, that I delayed your marriage with Argenis, which you were so near to, until you had returned to me. You obeyed my instructions. You will soon understand that I ordered this for a purpose. But now there are certain matters which I want to hear from you — if indeed I can hope to hear the truth from a rival lover. How is Poliarchus a hindrance to your hopes? For you sent me word that, if I then consented, you had no hindrance to the immediate ceremony of marriage. So tell me, son, for it is in your interest that I know.”
MEL. What did Archombrotus say to his mother's statement?
ARS. He was much troubled when he heard the question, since he was ashamed to admit that Poliarchus was Argenis' choice. So he said that Poliarchus was no hindrance to his marriage, but that he was angered by his competitor because he was filling, as much as he could, the trusting soul of Argenis with idle and frivolous tales. The the subtle queen asked: “What if he should alienate the maiden's heart by these means? Would he not so hinder your marriage?” At this the young man responded passionately: “By Heaven, the girl should be forced by her father to this marriage, which he supports no less than do I!” Then he told his mother about Poliarchus' banishment from Sicily, the war against Lycogenes, and his own victory. Although Archombrotus made himself the hero of his narrative, Hyanisbe did not fail to notice that her son was most favored by Meleander, but Poliarchus by Argenis.
5. MEL. Arsidas, please free me from suspense so that I can decide what to think about these matters.
ARS. Hyanisbe dined with her son in a much merrier frame of mind than before. She thought she had asked enough for one night. The next day she returned to Poliarchus, after preparing not just a speech, but also an organized plan which the delay of a night had suggested to her. After greeting him with soothing words, she ordered that those who were standing around him withdraw beyond earshot and she said: “I was amazed, guest, that you and my son were angered at each other, but now I hear that this is the power of a worthy — and certainly understandable — love, and that Argenis alone has caused this strife. If this is so, I offer myself as the solution for both of you, and I am the only one who has the remedy for these distempers. What need is there for so many complaints and brawls in such an easy affair? The matter is still unbroken; vows are unsaid; Argenis is unmarried. I can make you the happy victor without the dangers of a battle, and I can bring peace between you and my son — why do you bristle at this and shrink back? Do not wonder how so great a promise can be fulfilled. Take my hand as surety that I have spoken nothing but what I will perform.”
Confused by these puzzling words and thinking that she was making sport of him, he entreated the queen to have done with these unclear words, or indeed any talk of Argenis at all. But she continued: “I will yet astonish you with a greater wonder, dear guest. I want you to have Argenis by my doing, but I will not snatch her away from my son. But it happens that you both cannot be cured by a sudden, open remedy. You both must go to Sicily, and you must deliver the letter which I will send by you to Meleander. At that point your dispute will cease and both will stop complaining about your love.”
Poliarchus thought Hyanisbe had lost her mind, but she ordered that her household gods and a small altar be fetched. After the altar was placed on the table and the coals were crackling, a cloud of incense soon covered the small idols of the gods. Then the queen bound herself with this solemn oath: “Hear me, O spirits who are present and you greater gods always vigilant to our safety, you who were born amongst us and preserve this house and this country. If I have spoken anything false to King Poliarchus or if I do not by my means bring him assured safety, rest, and joy, then utterly bereave this house of your care and guard of it, or leaving the house untouched, bring mischief and destruction upon me and my son.”
MEL. And what did Poliarchus do?
6. ARS. He was astounded at this ceremony and told the queen that he too could call on the same gods, whom she had invoked, as witnesses to his innocence. Before Archombrotus had set foot in Sicily, Argenis had promised her hand to him. This settled matter had been upset by Archombrotus' untimely desires, and because the maiden refused to change, he had resorted to the tyrant Meleander, begging that — like a hard-hearted father — he should force this free maiden of royal blood into the slavery of such a marriage. As Poliarchus kept reiterating these same words and reinforcing his anger which had finally begun to find some peace, the queen stopped him and said that she had not come to add new fuel to the fires of wrath, but to engage in reconciliation, which she could definitely supply. “How little is it that I ask, my guest? Only that you see Meleander read this letter which I am now writing before you resort to a fatal duel. Promise me that you will refrain from harsh words and weapons, O king. I pledge to you that I will extract the same oath of patience from my son. After that, as far as I am concerned you may lay everything low with your hate-filled swords.” After he heard this Poliarchus asked for a day to consider.
The queen soon approached her son with the same proposals, and to him as well she seemed to be raving mad. But it seemed very hard to refuse with obstinate anger such persistent requests and promises. Indeed, the delay seemed worthwhile, if this quarrel could find a bloodless and peaceful end through her letter to you, O Meleander. But if her promise proved false, they at least had her permission to fight, and she could not be offended at the victor because he slew his enemy. And so, with their consent, she made this agreement: neither should pursue earlier grievances, neither should encourage their followers to fight, until they had both together seen King Meleander. Now, since Poliarchus has recovered from his wounds, they are on their way to Sicily.
MEL. But how can I believe that this can happen, that Argenis, despite being betrothed to Archombrotus, and have both of them at the same time. What do you think Hyanisbe wrote?
ARS. I am as ignorant as the next person about this. All I know is that the whole matter must be settled here in Sicily by your decision. For this reason I wanted to go through the whole story for you, since I know that Timonides has written the same to you, and his letter will be presented publicly by Bocchus, who will soon be here as a messenger from Archombrotus and his mother.
MEL. You did rightly, Arsidas, although what will happen with my Argenis is not at all clear. But I will go inside.
ARS. Great King, I will take my leave. Farewell.
ACT II, SCENE ii
FTER recounting the whole affair to Meleander, now I'll go to Argenis, since I am carrying a letter to her from King Poliarchus, and I know she will be waiting for it with great expectation. I think I'll tell Argenis everything. I know she really wants to hear it all from me, especially when I report so much about the absent Poliarchus, whom she loves so dearly. I will readily dispel any suspicions which now torment the maiden. Gobryas is now staying close to the beach waiting for his King Poliarchus, and I will see to it that he shares in all t his joy. So I will pick the proper moments and will meet with Argenis and Gobryas sometimes secretly, sometimes openly.
ACT II, SCENE iii
GIVE great thanks to Neptune and the other gods of the sea because I have at last landed in Sicily. I am bringing the letters which my King Archombrotus wrote to King Meleander and to his betrothed Argenis. My king chose me as one of his most faithful retainers to do this and sent me to this island lest some treachery forestall the letters. Meleander will be amazed when I report all this: how Poliarchus was staying with Hyanisbe in Africa; how he came to Africa with countless men and a magnificently equipped fleet; how he fought so well against the Sardinians; how, as he recovered from his wounds, he was so upset by wrath, anger, and rivalry at the arrival of Archombrotus; how Hyanisbe intervened and calmed their fury; and how Hyanisbe made them both agree either to become friends again with Meleander as the conciliator, or to pursue their hatred to its ultimate conclusion here in Sicily. But to forestall further delay, I will go to Meleander and report to him all the news about Poliarchus, Archombrotus, and Hyanisbe and her proposal. I will also report the imminent arrival of the two kings.
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