Tessera caerulea — commentariolum. Tessera rubicunda - nota textualis. Tessera viridis — translatio.
ACT V, SCENE i
In the prison they exchange recriminations.
CLAUD. Appius, you impious author of this unspeakable crime. Appius, you who have long been raging with accursed fires, you downfall of Rome, you plague, you ruination, you bane, you death of the laws, you ulcer on the republic, you disgrace to morality, damned, accursed, villainous, abominable, are you not ashamed of your unheard-of felony? Is this how you drag down your friends with you, you lecher? Claudius is doomed to die here in this prison for offering himself as the agent for Appius’ lunacy. Is this the reward I wretchedly obtain for my effort, either the fork and the cross and a bloody execution or reprehensible disgrace. And yet I receive this sure consolation, to see you wretchedly languishing in your cell and perhaps hanging in the middle of the Forum. Unclean, deceitful man, let our ill-disposed posterity remember you as the inventor of a novel crime, and unfriendly reputation attach to your name. Let the gods be angry at you and let whoever rules the shades below with his scepter be wrathful against you. Let Cerberus bark at you alone, let him banish you alone from his pious congregations. For you in your infamy I pray an afflicted life, and bitter Hell when you are dead.
APP. Please don’t burden me with your fresh grieving, Claudius, don’t weary me with your complaining. Appius’ fate is something to be mourned even by his enemies. Lately I occupied first place in a flourishing city, a man Rome could have called blessed and enviable, but now I am locked up in a dark cell. Here I await the threats of the tribunes, the mockeries of fate, and an awful death by a brutal execution.
CLAUD. Justice has not entirely left the world in her hatred of this earth. Let the executioner be leisurely in chopping you into bits. Let him delay your death so that, often wounded, your wounds may gape and bring you fresh pain. As payment for his effort Appius gives Claudius these chains and this squalid cell. Oh, what a fine dependent! Oh you noble patron! Thus out of your goodness you free your followers from servitude and bid your citizens exist in a happy condition. (Enter lictor.)
LICT. Come forth from your cells. The Fathers summon you, Appius, so you may resign your office. Antonius awaits you, as does your comrade Oppius and the seven others.
APP. I come forth gladly. Free these hands from their bonds, lictor.
CLAUD. Get going, you hateful person, you iniquitous person. Let the Furies be your guides, and let the Furies guide you back.
LICT. A crowd is packing the Forum, looking for you alone. Step along quickly.
VAL. Here comes the viator, bringing Appius with him.
HOR. Antonius, so that everything may be done properly you make a beginning.
ANT. Antonius bids you, you sinister fasces and your guilty magistracy, a long farewell, since he is bent on freeing his fellow citizens of their fear. I am a private man, and I give you my greetings, consuls.
OPP. Farewell, you splendor of the ill-omened decemviral purple. Since it was my fellow citizens who bade me take up my fasces, I willingly put off my purple.
APP. Treacherous Fortune does not find me a coward when she threatens me. I foresaw her weapons, and now I do not object that Appius’ grievous enemies are taking up arms and that his opponents, those bloodthirsty enemies, are exacting revenge for their adversities. Let adverse fortune mock and oppress Appius. I refuse nothing dire, and care nothing for the alluring title of decemvir. This blood must be shed to satisfy my unpopularity. Assume, my fellow citizens, these transitory honors, Appius is ready and willing to offer you his blood.
VAL. I pray that this day be auspicious for my fellow citizens.
HOR. Let the gods look favorably on my prayers.
FIRST LICTOR Your fellow citizens declare that the decemvirs, formerly proud with their fasces, must post bail.
SECOND LICT. Antonius, and likewise Oppius, are commanded to endure house arrest. But you, Appius, Virginius consigns to imprisonment.
APP. So I am guilty and alone must endure prison?
FIRST LICT. Only you. Stretch out your hands for their manacles.
SECOND LICT. Why continue to resist? Go to jail, you deserve it.
ACT V, SCENE ii u
MESS. Caius, a disgraceful reputation, a shameful blot and a criminal charge attaches to your family if you do not go to the city, unless you move along quickly.
GAI. Can anything be harsher and unhappier for me than to lack a fatherland, than always to be a wretched vagabond living in a strange household? The sun has made twelve circles through the stars, Cynthia has driven her chariot through twice six revolutions, since the arrogance of my dire nephew bade me be an exile. I have been living here at Regillus, my ancient homestead, with a small band of dependents, until my fortune take a turn for the better, content with my lot in life, until Appius, that savage nephew sets down his fasces. Then I shall be happier to return, as long as the Forum resounds with no complaints of my fellow citizens.
MESS. So you may make your happy return, for no decemvir Appius exists in the city. Rather, he is wasting away in a cell foul with squalor, and likewise his associates.
GAI. You are deceiving me with your empty talk. Or has the senate commanded dire Appius to be taken away in chains, a crime the gods should greatly forbid?
MESS. Your Appius lies laden down with chains. Come quickly to his aid or he will atone for his crime with his death.
GAI. What accusation finally made our supreme decemvir a defendant? Are his peers subject to the same accusation or has some crime been charged to him alone? I beg you tell me of my miseries, and speak plainly of the disgrace of his Claudian clan.
MESS. His shameless love brought him down. But move along quickly, go back to Rome if you don’t wish to kill your nephew.
GAI. I shall hold out a ready hand to my nephew, wretched, afflicted, and oppressed by evils, forgetful of domestic insults once received. I shall vindicate my blood kinsman from the criminal accusation of violating the laws, unless the gods are entirely averse and hold Appius liable for his crimes.
ICILIUS, VIRGINIUS, NUMITORIUS
NUM. I hear that Caius, that glory of the Claudian clan, has quit Regillus. Lately he abandoned Romulus’ city as a fugitive exile, thanks to the hatred of his cruel nephew Appius, but he has changed his mind and has returned and is begging that his blood kinsman be pardoned.
VIRG. He should be allowed to return. The grief of an injured uncle seems just. But sooner will a discordant nature break this truest, and the Don will flow as far as the icy shores of Britain, the Danube will flow downhill southward to the place where Phoebus scorches the soil with his eternal heat, than good faith will abandon your sad father, murdered Virginia, so he will leave you unavenged. See. Caius is approaching us on rapid steps, let this be your responsibility. I am leaving here, my daughter does not permit me to behold any member of that hateful family. I leave this to you, Icilius.
NUM. Tearful words and heavy lamentations come to my ear. Behold, Icilius, you see he is surrounded by a large following.
GAI. What’s this, my fellow citizens? Appius lies, laden with chains around his neck, in a dark cell. Are you pleased to repay his previous good deeds for the republic with shameful bonds? Is the man whom the noble axes had placed in the first rank of the decemvirs, and by achieving the pinnacle of honor had risen above the other members of his noble clan, to set a strange example, to be hidden in dark recesses where he can scarcely beg for his precarious life thanks the unreasonable dislike and authority of a few men? Romans, what man not possessed of a hostile mind can tolerate this? What crime, what felony so great has Appius alone committed? But let it be so, let some misdeed be acknowledged. Let this single mistake be granted to the glory of his forefathers and to myself. No clan has ever existed in this Roman city to surpass the Claudians in their good faith, love, and martial energy. So, my fellow citizens, it ought to be the care and concern of all of you to insure lest, because of this guilt of Appius and his single faul,t his entire clan perish along with him.
IC. Go, lictor, remove this man and command him to keep far away from my sight. Let him stifle his sorrowful words. A tribune’s responsibility is organizing the republic and restoring the condition of this troubled city.
LICT. Caius, the tribune bids you subside.
GAI. Ah Icilius, endure a few words from me. The ancient Claudian house, brave and noble, begs you.
IC. I should like to help you, Caius, but right, my dignity, and the laws of our fellow citizens forbid. Virginia’s blood cries out for vengeance, the unburied shades of that maiden perclude the decemvir’s salvation. Suppose that would forgive Appius’ criminal endeavors. Would her father, who inflames the camp, be willing to suffer this, and would her uncle, who is ennobled by the axes, allow any means of expiating this public loss other than the death of an executed Appius? Would the popular faction permit this felony to go unpunished?
NUM. Numitorius will not permit this crime to pass unavenged. Caius, let this conclusion (which our fellow citizens ought not to meddle with) be fixed in your mind: this vengeance is to be wreaked on Appius so that he may appease the girl’s shade with his blood. So cease, your threats and your entreaties are without point.
GAI. Alas the unhappy condition of advanced old age! Harsh misfortune has brought Caius to this catastrophe, that he must witness the chief and leading light of his clan offer up his back to scourges, and possibly to the axe. I alone shall offer resistance as long as the blood runs hot in my veins, I shall forestall this misdeed, I shall champion the Claudians, and by my complaining I shall fill all Rome with my sad grumbling. Perhaps with my weeping I can move my fellow citizens, or even her father.
ACT V, SCENE iii
THE TRIBUNES, THE ENEMY ARMY, GAIUS
VIRG. Caius is dashing about the city and throughout the Forum, he delights in repeating his entreaties with bouts of weeping mixed in. He will fail to move anyone, Appius’ guilt excludes those prayers.
NUM. The former merits of the Claudian clan indeed were illustrious. Considering that our republic stands in a parlous condition, what do you want done?
IC. With a full outcry women, children, men, matrons and old men are shouting, the city weeps as with its tearful voice it demands vengeance for the murdered girl. I am of the opinion that the guilty parties should be dragged from their prison to the Forum, let the people hear the actions of their dire frenzy. Go, lictor, and bring out Appius and Claudius, the both of them bound in chains. Let Oppius accompany them, but without bonds. Do this quickly.
LICT. I shall hasten to the Tullianum, fetch those you command from their prison, and lead them to the Forum.
IC. Once more I’ll bring the corpse of my bride.
VIRG. I wretchedly admit a father’s cruelty. Behold this corpse and this wound, Appius. Acknowledge your wounding, accomplished by your hand. Her injured, unlucky father demands retribution, our groaning matrons call for Appius for his punishment. Our fellow citizens are shouting. Defend innocent Appius. You have no words to say. Don’t speak, the tribunes ordain that these axes take off your head in the middle of the Forum. The laws pronounce you guilty of an infamous, detestable kind of crime.
APP. Slippery Fortune mocks me, Virginius, and promotes a base plebeian to occupy my chair. This throne in which you are seated belongs to Appius. But I scorn my lot. I spit at you, a tribune, I disdain your accomplices, and I appeal to my fellow citizens.
NUM. A fine statement! The man who recently suspended the law appeals to his fellow citizens! Appius do you imagine the Rostra will be gentler towards you, do you fancy that the common people will be more favorable than the atrocity and savage horror of your crime demands? What man in the city will look on this niece of mine dry-eyed and by his vote absolve Appius?
APP. I nevertheless appeal to the people.
VIRG. Viator, drag him away from the Forum and take him back to the prison in chains. On the day after tomorrow let his fellow citizens perceive with what polluted spirits he acted.
LICT. Virginius bids you be taken off to your dark prison.
MAM. TUSC. I hear that factional strife is occurring in the city, that the decemvirs have doffed their purple and new consuls have been created. Arm yourselves quickly, comrades, the gods will give us our well-deserved revenge.
ALL Your follows are all ready, lead us where you will.
MAM. Your virtue shines forth. Let the danger of your nation move you, let your wives move you, this tyranny, and the baseness of your enemy.
LENT. Away with all delay. The new consuls must be suppressed before they gain strength and realize they are under attack. Let friendly Fortune favor you, Mamilius.
PULV. The deposed decemvirs offer an easy road to victory nor, man of Tusculum, should I imagine we should delay any more. Order your men in a battle-line and hurl them against the Latins.
VENN. This business we must conduct requires no vain words, Mamilius, we have need of action. I’ll carry this standard and plant it in the middle of the Forum. This hand of mine will deal out slaughter on their open field.
VOL. I admit that our enemies’ affairs are in confusion, Tusculan. Either this rumor brings false tidings or Rome is in a doubtful condition and new magistrates have taken up the reins, so our victory is easy. So send somebody who can bring us surer news, his return will suggest successful plans.
SOR. I’ll go cautiously and, a surer reporter, spy out what is being done in the city of Romulus. If things are in a peaceful condition, I’ll quickly inform you, man of Tusculan. If things are caught up in a civic storm, then I’ll return all the more eagerly and bring you happier hope.
ALG. It’s a matter of little concern whether the city’s business is peaceful or caught up in turbulent upheavals. I am of the opinion that our enemies must be put down by any means whatsoever. These forces of ours, man of Tusculum, are in high spirits, and their virtue is eager to display itself.
MAM. And so in a third battle, comrades, I shall employ these hands of ours. Sun, bear me witness, and you gods above, hear the words of this man from Tusculum and the spirits of his soldiers. Either the first hour on which we can fight will grant us victory, or I shall encounter an honorable death.
ALL We all vow to you our vigorous effort.
MAM. This is enough, I pray the gods be friendly to our wishes. Give the signal, bugler, and you fall into your ranks.
ACT V, SCENE iv
APPIUS, OPPIUS, CLAUDIUS, TRIBUNES, VALERIUS THE CONSUL, THE CONSULAR TARPEIUS, MESSENGER, LICTOR
APP. (in prison.) Fortune, sweet when you choose to favor wretched, men who become puffed up with empty glory, Fortune, dire, blind, inexorable, seductive, deceitful, how you spin your treacherous wheel and with savage force cast down those whom you have lifted up! I have a distinguished pedigree, forefathers noble in the civic toga and the martial cloak, I was foremost of the ten honored by the purple of supremacy. Rome was subject under my feet, its citizens my subjects. I was the chief man of the city, the pillar of the republic. I was the spokesman of the laws, surrounded by a numerous throng of dependents. Why harp on these things? I was Appius. Now I am stripped of all consolations, laden down with chains, filthy in my dark cell, a laughing-stock to the vile plebeians, and I wretchedly dread their threats. Perhaps I am marked down for punishment. The fork, the scourges, and hangmen are being readied for my poor self, and the common folk crowd the Forum, bent on witnessing Appius’ punishments with an eager eye. But I shall cheat my threatening fellow citizens, as I mean to use this hand with bravery. Alas, I am embarrassed and ashamed to drag out this precarious life any further. What manner of death are you readying for your patron?
CLAUD. If it is your wish to anticipate that disgraceful hour, if your fixed decision to avoid the anger of those raging men by your own hand, take this cup of poison which was readied by your Claudius. You, the patron, will drink it, and your industrious dependent will follow.
APP. Give me the cup. Hail, blessed potion which will free me from this imprisonment, freeing me from the chains of this body and allowing me to seek the heavenly home earned by the virtues of the Claudian clan. Farewell, anxious honors, troublesome with the hope you offer, unsteady in accordance with Fortune’s favor, I willingly free myself of cares, malevolent hatred, and pride. I feel the toxin being taken into my heart, the poison creeps along and makes my head loll. The darkness grows, life flees my miserable self.
OPP. You’ll have me as a companion in death, just as you had me as a colleague in the purple and the summit of civic dignity, and I put aside the long-lasting burden of this poor body. Claudius, tell them that the consuls have no power over Oppius, much less those troublemaking tribunes. With this steel and this hand I scorn you, you anxious honors. (Stabs himself.)
CLAUD. With this hand I shall follow these dead men. But what are you attempting, wretch? Perhaps, Claudius, these deceased gentlemen will give you hope for life. Remain alive and perhaps a merciful father Virginius will allow you to live.
VIRG. Bugler, be prompt in sounding a wild blast. The day appointed for judgements is at hand. Does this not move your senses, Virginia? Sorrow prevents me from saying more.
LICT. Let them pack the Forum more tightly. Hurry along, citizens.
VAL. That trumpet call announces that the court is ready. Now let the tribunes take their places. All hail to the tribunes’ status, the salvation of the Roman proletariat which had previously been held captive.
TARP. The senate has a few requests of you and sends its consul. And it has bidden me, a consular, to stand beside him.
NUM. Let that ivory throne be given to the consul, and let this other chair receive you, consular. If the senate commands us to do anything, it will find us ready and obedient.
VAL. This concord of the city, the unanimous consensus of its three social orders demands this, that a crime be avenged. It is most just that this worst of stains be washed away, even by blood, and that his concord visit deserved punishments on the accused. By its edict the senate condemns Appius. Behold our published announcement. Virginius, let this be the single consolation for your sorrow. Read it. Let hostile Appius, our bloodthirsty enemy and an impious traitor, be indicted. Let him appear at the Rostra and explain and excuse his abominable felony for the benefit of his fellow citizens. Let Virginia receive a tomb at public expense and let its chaste inscriptions console her father. Let Icilius have permission to call the slain girl his blessed wife, and let Numitorius now cease mourning her sorrowful end. Let the punishment of this crime now be the responsibility of the tribunes. Are not these words of the tribune welcome to you? Have not the Fathers restored our ancient laws to your satisfaction? Come, give your approval. Sign these things which can protect our civic security and safeguard your fellow citizens, let your signatures attest that peace has returned. Let today confirm your minds and long bind them with unchanging ties. Let them be monuments of mutual affection, and let our descendants look at them and eagerly read that vengeance has been provided for crime, and that our Fathers, offended by the atrocity of this crime, have by their just sentence condemned Appius, the architect of this evil. Does this strike you as reasonable?
SIC. Nothing can please an upright consul which ought to be vetoed by the tribunes. It is welcome that the senate has now conferred upon the girl the honor of a tomb and a living name, and that it has absolved of guilt her father, now mourning her death. All ten tribunes of the people approve the senate’s commands, and thank the consul for having granted us public honor. Spurius, they praise you for being our supporter.
TARP. Let today put an end to our persistent hatred, henceforth let threats be kept at a far distance, let there be no outbreaks of fury, let friendly concord return to our citizenry, and let our incorrigible citizens pay the price. Nobody in the senate will champion Appius, nobody will prevent his public scourging in the Forum. And let the other nine receive bloody reprisals, if they deserve it. Thus this matter is to be decided by our fellow citizens and you tribunes, and, whatever needs doing, the senate vows its vigorous help in all things. But why is our viator, wearing a sad expression and grieving, approaching?
MESS. The enemy is at our walls. He aims his weapons and his firebrands, and, having prepared a new army, the man of Tusculum is terrorizing everything.
TARP. One consul calls upon another. As far as I am concerned, Valerius, you must speedily convene the senate, our soldiers are to be put in order, and our often-defeated army needs to be defeated once again by your arms.
VAL. Viator, you must quickly assemble the senate. You, tribunes, must serve as judges, examine the crime, and pronounce final doom upon the guilty to whom punishment attaches.
MESS. The senate will be in attendance, in response to your commands, and your colleague present there begs that you hurry.
VAL. The senate summons me, may it go well for the republic.
VIRG. Farewell, consul, and you, his consular companion. Be quick, you lictor, and fetch Appius from prison. And speedily show his freedman Claudius to the citizenry.
LICT. Your command will be obeyed.
NUM. A throng of plaintiffs are here. Only Claudius comes forth, and from a different direction Icilius carries his beloved’s corpse.
VIRG. What’s your answer, you bloody butcher, you unspeakable pimp? Force him to come closer, viator.
CLAUD. Poor me! What disgrace I have to endure by myself. It was the atrocious frenzy of others that sank me in this pit of abominable guilt. Don’t drag me to death any more since I have already come to prefer it. Or, if this is not sufficient for you, heap more chains on these terrible hands of mine.
IC. Behold, citizens, the dire guilt of Appius. This one maiden aroused his lust. Previously Virginia was Icilius’ intended bride, the daughter of a tribune, the niece of a tribune, and a freeborn citizen’s daughter. It is for you to see, you judges, you fair-minded citizens, what penalties the accused ought to play. I am overwhelmed with grief, everlasting sorrow oppresses me.
NUM. Let it be up to you, Siccinius, to pronounce his deserved sentence. For grief overwhelms her father, her uncle, and her bridegroom.
SICC. Come, you ruined man, you foul agent of the decemvir’s heat and lust, speak up. Was Virginia your handmaiden or this man’s daughter? What clear proof have you? Were you haling your humble serving-girl before the tribune?
CLAUD. Pray trouble me no further. I confess I committed that crime, for which I am greatly afraid. For I urged a free maiden on my patron. I demanded her as if she were mine, since she did not yield, overcome by no gold or threats. Let my punishment be a worthy one. Whatever it is, I shall willingly endure it.
SICC. Hasten to the prison. Drag Appius, and also Oppius, to the Forum, bound in chains.
MESS. The tribunes cannot do this, much less yourselves. My fellow citizens, Appius his died bravely, using his own hand like a man. His colleague Oppius accompanied him. With my own eye I witnessed this outrage being committed, judges. Let them find severer judges in the Underworld, Aeacus and harsh Minos. Now they are sadly wandering about the places of that third destiny. You should consult for the good of the republic and direct your concerns elsewhere.
NUM. Tell us the manner of their death, what form it too.
MESS. When Oppius saw the appointed day dawn on which a father’s grief would summon him before his fellow citizens, with bloodstained hand he inflicted a wound on himself and wearily gave up his failing ghost, having much complained beforehand about his failed destiny. And Appius died by a cup, consuming poison administered by his own hand.
IC. Oh heaven’s great concern for us, the avenging gods!
NUM. Lictor, during the night bury both this man’s hands and his head beneath chains. Attach a hanging weight to the unhappy body of Claudius, a traitor and a defeated citizen, and execute him outside the city limits, and let his blood seep lavishly within the walls. Then, when it is ready, let your sword lop of his head.
CLAUD. In the end you should have mercy, Virginius. Let me be an example of your clemency. What does it avail you to feed the citizens’ eyes with this base blood of mine. It is sufficient vengeance that Appius is dead and the decemvirs have taken off their purple. Let my poor self suffer banishment, but let my life be saved. Thus the gods of heaven will bless this purple of yours, thus reputation will proclaim you a mild father, thus future ages will speak of you as a mild and kindly man. Let life be granted Claudius.
VIRG. I give you your life, but you mut free my paternal eyes of their pain. I sentence you to exile. Both the tribunes and an injured father command you to go without a homeland for a long time. And may the darker regions of Hell receive Appius and his dire accomplices. Let their shades experience the damaging menaces of Dis as long as heaven continues to wheel its stars. As long as water runs its downhill courses let their torments persist, let there be no ending, let harsh torments and heavy punishments rend them.