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Having been crowned, Sabatius grows confident.

spacerSAB. Oh, the sweet, golden brightness of my smiling destiny! So does Sabatius finally wield a scepter? So does he reign? Does not his mind exult, greeted by triumphant applause, does not his mind uncontrollably rejoice? I admit, it exults, it rejoices, his guts are gladdened within, he can scarcely contain himself. What destiny, what favor has ever heaped up such great gifts of good fortune! Kingships are worth any price you care to name, even when bought by crime. But it is best to wait and acquire power when my mind can victoriously mount the throne, guilty of no bloodshed. I adore you, my destiny. Continue as you are going. Surpass whatever Phoebus sees while aloft with that ruddy face of his, only a small effort is necessary to succeed. I rule. But my father continues to reserve for himself the title of supreme command, and I am ashamed to have a partner. I rule. Yet Balbus is powerful in his wit and wealth. One must always fear somebody so close to the summit. This concern weighs upon him, that a single night should snuff out the world’s two lights. My father is under the knife. A young cub kills a feeble old lion, I have more to fear from Balbus. Captivated by his gold, the common folk hope to have him as their ruler, and the nobility adores him. But I am over-fearful concerning things which are safe: a lion never spares the beast he fears. Let him pay the due penalty for his crime. But when will he pay it? Oh, your sluggish mind, you flatterer! Why grant your enemy even a single day of peace? You should always fear your enemy, as long as he continues to breathe. So come, destroy him, put him down with your mighty hand, while it is permitted you to trample the prostrate man under your death-dealing foot.serva



Sabatius impiously damages the face of the icon of the virgin, which Balbus’ son Theophilus worships, having been given a pious upbringing by his mother.

spacerSAB. Here’s that spawn of the Amorite blue tribe, Balbus’ son, a scion worthy of his father, who is evilly coming this way with his ill-fated steps. Just looking at him, I burst. My angry heart swells, my guts gripe. Is this single boy to grow up for my downfall? Balbus stakes his life on him alone. It is for his benefit that Balbus wants to bury the house of our Augustus, it is for his benefit that he weaves his unspeakable schemes. But a single net will snare the both of them (Theophilus produces an incon of the Blessed Virgin and kisses it.) Oh, the shameful sight! In your empty-headedness do you worship images of the saints? Caesar, he is trampling on your commandments.
spacerTHE. While night makes its silent passage and sweet sleep wraps the concerns of the royal court, I am able to indulge the will of my peaceful mind.
spacerSAB. I must tiptoe to catch his words.
spacerTHE. Oh, Mother! Oh, light of the world! Oh, salvation of all things, you whom your Son has always kept unharmed, through dangers, through the fear of executioners! Grant me to say a few words from my troubled heart.
spacerSAB. Are you talking to an image, mad boy?
spacerTHE. Tell me, Mother, fostering Mother, glory of the stars, darling of the Thunderer, sweet ornament of the stars, queen of nature, rose of everlasting truth, golden flame of the universe, celestial honor, noble lady, on whose face hover three thousand Graces, on whose brow dwells majesty, purple on your cheeks, golden beauty on the twin gems of your eyes, radiant gold on your tresses, a stream of nectar on your lips, and who has the odor of ambrosia on your limbs.
spacerSAB. In his profane mind he’s worshiping the goddess.
spacer THE. Tell me, Mother, why so much madness vexes the eastern world. Good faith rarely holds a steady course. Right is prostrate while wrong flourishes.
spacerSAB. Is your doing, and that of your father’s that right is prostrate while wrong is flourishing.
spacerTHE. Even the chaste choir of your devotees is failing: part are perishing by the sword, part by squalor, and part by taking flight. In this world, it is a rare man who is able to worship you with the cloud of Sabaea, blue oh Mother, worthy of worship with constant incense.
spacerSAB. Excellent as this might be, when I have gained power I’ll put those impious fellows to death.
spacerTHE. Oh Virgin, sway the king, so that no angry ruler’s fury might ever separate me from you.
spacerSAB. I’ll forestall my father. (Emerging.) Let go of that image, you impious fellow, you demented Iconodule. (He lays hands ont he image.)
spacerTHE. Son of the Augustus —
spacerSAB. You are accomplishing nothing. Hand it over.
spacerTHE. By heaven, I beg you —
spacerSAB. Defiled by your sin.
spacerTHE. By the Lord of heaven —
spacerSAB. Whom you injure, worshiping images with your mindless daring.
spacerTHE. By your father’s scepter —
spacerSAB. Which you alone refuse to tolerate.
spacerTHE. Thus let the flower of your youth flourish, undamaged.
spacerSAB. Can it it flourish in the breeze of such great sin? Let it go.
spacerTHE. Spare me. Lend me your hand in my suffering, mighty Mary.
spacerSAB. With my blade I’ll lop off that hand. (He uses his dagger to damage the face of the icon, which he cannot wrench way by force, and exits.).
spacer THE. You can even stab my heart. No power will subdue my hand. Oh, the crime! The sin! The wrong, unheard-of in any age. Am I seeing this? Do not my eyes turn back in their sockets, refusing to tolerate so great a sin? Sob, my sorrow, bury my eyes under a thick flood of tears. Oh wound, bitter wound! Pitiless hand! What fury has broken you, beautiful Mother? Where has the brightness of your face, gone, the sweet glow of your brow, the august beauty of your eyes? Oh wound, bitter wound! Oh merciless hand! Better if his blade had done its savage work against my own face? But why my face? Better it had tasted the fibers of my heart than that its blow had defaced the ruddy countenance of my Mother. Alas! A black crime! Oh wound, bitter wound! Pitiless hand! Darken your beams, you stars, a robber has stolen her virginal beams. Hide the beauty of your face, you sun, behold how the greater beauty of her face has been devastated and ruined. Perish, you flowers, the Mother of the flowers is now damaged. Wither, you roses the rose of heaven is faded. Let black pitch defile the white heads of the lilies, see how thorns have ruined those heads. Oh wound, bitter wound! Pitiless hand! This the work of a Gelonian, a Thracian, a hardened Gete. blue You Advocate of this world, Father of the great Virgin and likewise her Son, I do not ask thatYou hurl angry lightning from the sky, bent on avenging Your Mothers’ disgrace, as punishment will no doubt fall on the villain. Nobody has done violence to Your Mother with impunity. Grant, grant that I may worship Mary by an eternal pact, she whose painted effigy Leo has ruined. Grant that I bear her image in my heart, immoveable. This is the sum of my wish. Mother, help me as I pray to you.



Sabatius induces Morocchus, a Saracen, to hide in a chest and spy on Balbus’ nocturnal counsels.

spacerSAB. Morocchus, you son of Mars, born of the stock of Hercules, if you are still fired by that passionate thirst for great praise which inspired you to undergo a series of labors, continue and give proofs of your indomitable mind. There’s a way in which you can show your spirit’s strength. I am preparing a noble deed for you to do, if only you will be fearless and daring.
spacerMOR. Surely you do not doubt that my lofty mind’s strength endures? I require an arena in which to display my strength. At your command, I shall pierce the savage ranks of indomitable Mars, and wherever a thick hedge of spears bristles, I shall cut my way with my deadly steel. You command me to fetch Cerberus from Orcus and bring him to the light of day? I shall fetch Cerberus.
spacerSAB. I acknowledge the noble impulses of your mind, but I am asking for easier things. There is no need for you to visit the haunts of the Lord of Night, a shorter road is better. Do you pledge your trusty silence regarding secret matters?
spacerMOR. I, Morocchus, swear a loyalty bound with adamant. blue
spacerSAB. Then continue and bind your loyalty even more firmly with this diamond. (He removes a diamond ring from his finger and offers it.)
spacerMOR. What’s this, Sabatius? Are you offering this diamond for sale as a joke? By the stars, I am unwilling.
spacerSAB. By Jove’s right hand, I am willing.
spacerMOR. But now could Morocchus wear that stone which glitters on your sacred finger? Gods forbid!
spacerSAB. I seal our trust with this everlasting gem.
spacerMOR. I swear, you are dragging me into this against my will. (He takes the diamond.)
spacer SAB. Come now, I entrust some words to your loyal breast. No light suspicion of threatening the scepter falls on Balbus Caesar is wavering this way and that, agitated by various passions. His night-time auguries, his fear, and a prophesy of of the Sibyl have accused Balbus of having a disloyal mind. But sure evidences of crime have not yet been detected. You are to reveal the means of this fellow’s deceit, his hellish arts, and his furtive actions.
spacerMOR. (Partially drawing his sword.) I shall reveal his furtive actions with this iron evidence. You agree?
spacerSAB. There’s no need for violence. Do you see Balbus’ house? Here he is hatching the schemes of his wily mind. If he aspires to anything criminal, it is here that he will reveal his crime to the confederates he has summoned. So you must stealthily get inside his secret chest and commit to memory whatever is transacted.
spacerMOR. So I am do the job of a mouse while enclosed in a chest, I whom the universe cannot conceal in its vast bosom?
spacerSAB. The great favor of the Augustus will give you compensation for this adventure.
spacerMOR. Although this undertaking is embarrassing, I must obey a friend. I shall enter into the household you command.
spacerSAB. What if Balbus should open the chest?
spacerMOR. He’ll step back when he’s received a blow. This blade will run our quarry through.
spacerSAB. His scheme must be found out. You’ll find a better way if you tell him the lie that you’re a spirit sent from the deep pool of Dis. Let black soot cover your face and hands. When he opens the lid of the chest, you should pop up suddenly, and in a wild voice announce that you are an emissary of Jove of Tartarus. He is stoutly to carry out his plans: tell him to dismiss his vain fears. Thus having found your way by fraud, you escape dangers yet catch your quarry none the less.
spacer MOR. Oh, you clever schemer! I am transforming myself into a Fury. Adieu, Morocchus. Let some baleful portrait-painter of the infernal household come hither. (He blackens all his face.) Behold my handsome beauty. You like?
spacerSAB. The darkling majesty of your countenance delights me. You surpass Megaera. blue Hurry, there’s need for haste.
spacerMOR. Farewell, ye gods above.
spacerSAB. If the Fates smile on our deceptions, you have your safety.
spacerMOR. And if they don’t, I have my tomb. {Climbs into the chest.) I’m hidden, shut the lid.
spacerSAB. Well done. Our snare is set with its deceitful disguise.


BALBUS alone

Balbus is very irate that Sabatius has been made heir apparent in his absence.

spacerBALB. Oh black Night, mother of the Furies, in whatever part of Avernus you pitch your abode, look favorably on my enterprises, and lend your auspices to my force, my sword-points, the death I deal. I am undertaking a huge crime, the murder of a king. Yet why am I calling this noble deed a crime? I am planning a great glory, the assassination of a tyrant, the removal of his yoke from a people. Therefore spread deep Chaos where I make my way. Let the world grow dark. Let my counsels proceed wrapped in deep shadows, let thick night fall on the royal court. Let the cloak of night wrap Olympus, being as wide as it is, and steal the stars from the gods, so heaven will not see my schemes until they have been put into effect. (Looking upwards, he sees the constellation Leo in the sky.) Behold the Nemean Lion. It shines, casting ill-omened eyes on my enterprises from afar. Let it fall headlong. And fall it indeed shall, if anything remains of Balbus’ old-time strength and cleverness. What lion? That terror of Nemea, the lion of Hercules? I am deluded and witless. A more savage lion comes along, destined to be slaughtered by the steel of Balbus, a lion nursed by Megaera, a lion of Armenia. By his ill-starred impulse and in the absence of Balbus, a boy has been bidden to receive the emblems of power as heir-apparent. Oh, the disgrace! Oh, a crime that no man should tolerate! Am I, Balbus, his partner in power, to bend my humble knees to a boy as my ruler? An old man to a child? Sooner will heaven prostrate itself and worship Acheron. Is this how Leo repays his thanks for my love, he whom my favor once selected as ruler, being raised from his plebeian condition? The ungrateful beast! What of the fact that he regarded me as guilty of a criminal intention and, deluded by a dream, feared me as his executioner, innocent though I was? Well, good: I’ll bring it about that he trembles because of a fear by no means false. God choose me, me as the avenger of this unspeakable person. I am moved, I am impelled, I am drawn. I am called to be the downfall of this accursed plague. I am that Michael, the tormentor of this cruel ruler and beast, the defender of tis land, the servant of heaven. Soon I shall be called Leo’s avenger. I feel my hand raising of its own free will to do the killing. My heart, my mouth, my inmost fiber is obsessed by Leo. Leo completely dominates my mind. But see, that sweet pair of partners in my affairs are here, Philautus and Theonus, bound to me by eternal ties.



Balbus conspires with Philautus and Theonus

spacerBALB. Oh, loyal partners in my destiny, come here. It was good fortune that brought you here.
spacerTHE. What have you in hand, in the bosom of dark night?
spacerBALB. The only deed which nobody condemns is the one left undone. You give your help?
spacerPHIL. You are talking in riddles, speak plainly. Philautus pledges his sure trustworthiness regarding your secrets.
spacerTHE. As does Theonas.
spacerBALB. Are we in a safe place?
spacerTHE. This room has no witnesses.
spacerBALB. I wish to go on a hunt.
spacerPHIL. Where?
spacerBALB. At court.
spacerTHE . What manner of prey do you seek?
spacerBALB. A merciless one, equally burdensome to heaven and earth. Shall I open my mind completely? I shall set my nets for an Armenian lion.
spacerPHIL. A game of too risky fortune! What if the beasts breaks through the net and escapes?
spacerBALB. My spear will strike him.
spacerTHE. Your hand will err.
spacerBALB. My hand can’t miss against so great a target. But have no fear. The beast will enter into my trap. Oh yes, it will.
spacerPHIL. In what way?
spacer BALB. Just hear me out. I am designing a play for Leo, to be performed when Phoebus greets the day with his shining face. Here, wearing a king’s mask, I shall show that royal authority is subjected to wine. While I am carried about, possessed by the divinity of Bacchus, I shall draw my steel and pierce the tyrant’s guts. If Fortune somehow denies success to my attempt, there’s an easy way of gaining pardon. I shall say I drew my blade while a captive to Lyaeus’ frenzy and not in control of myself. But if my dagger-point deals death, then my prayers are flown where I sent them.
spacerTHE. You are spinning the wheel of a dangerous project. If the king is killed, what ruin will overtake you? On the one side there will be public wrath, on the other the rage of the nobility, and from yet another direction the hatred of the royal family will overwhelm you.
spacerBALB. Why fear things which are safe? Every four-foot beast loathes the lion. Nobody grieves at the death of someone he dreaded in life. The common folk and the lords serve me alone. If there is anything to fear from his sons, that’s a trifle. He whoever kills a mature lion can shoot down its cubs for sport.
spacerPHIL. Oh, you clever person! Cheering, we follow where you bid us march.
spacerTHE. Here’s my heart.
spacerPHIL. Here’s my arm.
spacerTHE. Here’s my drawn steel!
spacerBALB. So focus your minds on this. Only the loyalty of Caesar’s bodyguard is questionable, this is my single remaining fear. Your effort will arrange that it casts off wild Leo’s yoke, cleaving to Balbus.
spacerTHE. Your wish will be granted.
spacer BALB. If there’s any need for a bribe, I’ll supply it all. (With a key he opens the great chest, in order to provide money. When Morocchus springs out, he and his confederates are astounded.) Specters of the Dark Region.
spacerTHE. A hideous monster!
spacerPHIL. I’m shaken.
spacerBALB. I am shuddering, I am trembling.
spacerMOR. Why tremble at my sight? I bring no evil. I am come as a servant of the Styx. I am the spirit whom Dis himself gave you as a boy, and I am joined to you as a constant duty. I approve what you have devised, and I vow my help for your enterprise (Exit.)
spacerBALB. What’s this? Does the gods’ eager support further my work? Is this spirit standing behind my pious arts, pushing them forward? We are winning. Hey, we are winning.
spacerTHE. Oh, how I have revived!
spacerPHIL. How my heart gives a cheer!
spacerBALB. A fair wind invites us out to sea. No more delays. Let each of us eagerly fall to his chosen task.
spacerTHE. Everything goes well.
spacerPHIL. The night flies by.
spacerBALB. Our deceits are calling us.



Morocchus discloses Balbus’ conspiracy to Leo.

spacerMOR. Oh, the power of skilled deceit! This one thing makes us the equals of Jove on high, this queen of nature, this single goddess on earth. Morocchus has won the victory=palm, a well-deserved honor. I seem to be aglow wearing purple, and proudly bestride the earth. Balbus imagines I’m a son of Dis, an architect of bloody crime. That’s well. Nor will this augury deceive you. I shall be present, destined to be such as you think. But here’s Caesar, accompanied by his son. This is the hour to fulfill my prayers.
spacerLEO Long ago my sleep disappeared, leaving me troubled. What news do you bring, son?
spacerSAB. I have stretched out my nets, and placed my keen-scented hounds at key places in that forest we hold in suspicion. I am awaiting our quarry.
spacerMOR. (Aside.) My prey is in the snares.
spacerLEO Are your hounds trustworthy?
spacerSAB. Theirs is a trust which the beast can never overcome by its wiles nor by leaping backwards. The task has been entrusted to Morocchus.
spacerLEO. I know the fellow. He is outstanding for his energy, his art, his faithfulness in attending to details.
spacerMOR. And also his physical strength.
spacerLEO. If by his cleverness he unearths Balbus’ criminal plans, I swear by the Thunderer that their awaits him a favor to match his loyalty and an honor to match the pains he takes.
spacerSAB. Come in, Morocchus. This subject, this occasion require you.
spacer MOR. Caesar —
spacerLEO What confronts me?
spacerMOR. A dire misfortune.
spacerLEO A matter of life or one of death?
spacerMOR. Of brutal, bloody, sad, horrendous death.
spacerLEO I shudder at the monstrosity. Tell me, who is the father of these schemes.
spacerMOR. A man concealed within your royal court.
spacerLEO Alas, this stepmother of a court! blue Let us flee it.
spacerMOR. There’d be no safety in flight.
spacerLEO So must I die?
spacerMOR. The outcome hangs in doubt, available for the man who is the first to strike.
spacerLEO Lend your father a hand, son. This scheme must be forestalled. Tell me whom I should attack with my sword.
spacerMOR. Balbus has invented an unspeakable death for the Augustus.
spacerLEO Leo’s beloved Michael, the foremost among my nobles?
spacerSAB. Leo’s bane Michael, the plague among his nobles.
spacerLEO Tell me everything. What manner of plot does he choose? Who will come forth as an accomplice in this intended murder?
spacerMOR. When Phoebus returns with his rising, Balbus, accompanied by a theatrical troupe, will demonstrate Lyaeus’ power on the stage. And, while reeling about hither and thither, feigning delirium, he will attack you with his blade, Caesar.
spacerLEO Oh, the false faith of his face, the false faith of his words! Hurry, Morocchus. Quickly muster Caesar’s bodyguard. Let them surround Caesar’s household, let every soldier be wide awake, awaiting my command. What greater evil could be accomplished by the black crew of the horrid Styx, what more could brutal Madness do with its infernal snake, than what Balbus intends with that filthy hand of his? Balbus, whom I raised from his position in the common herd and blessed with the purple, Balbus, the Augustus’ darling, is undertaking this abominable method of murder? Is this, is this why I bestowed his merits? Is this why I found him dragging out his days in a lowly cottage and brought him to the glory of government? Come, you throng of the Styx, and you, you lords of Tartarus, free that vast cave from the close watchfulness of the three-headed dog of Hell. Let the dark legion of the Underworld burst forth, and seek Balbus with with its savage jaws. I shall join my furies to this ravening crew, I harbor my own monsters. My heart is choked with rage, I am tossed about by wrath. Steel will arm my hand. I shall go, and chop the man into a thousand pieces.
spacer SAB. Subside, father. Restrain your anger’s threats.spacer
spacerLEO Shall I spare that Fury who seeks my heart with his rebel sword?
spacerSAB. Put off his death for a while.
spacerLEO So that he might first plant his steel in my heart?
spacerSAB. Force will ward off force. Your lictor will prevent the crime. A show of sorrow will strike at your enemy all the surer.
spacerLEO Granted that moderate grief can conceal itself, a heart full of rage knows not how to hide.
spacerSAB. It can be controlled by levelheadedness.
spacerLEO The expression on my face will make it obvious.
spacerSAB. It will be obvious to nobody that you hate Balbus. Hide your violence behind a pleasant expression.
spacerLEO I can look at that low–down slave with a pleasant expression? Can a false show of favor greet that monstrous ingrate? I refuse to tolerate the sight of him.
spacerSAB. You must tolerate it, so that you may fall upon the fellow with all the more savage a stroke. They soothe a sacrificial victim with their hand while they attack its throat with their savage knife.
spacerLEO It’s no mild animal I’m now attempting to strike. This wild beast will sense the intended wound and turn back my sluggish weapons against my own body.
spacerSAB. It’s an easy thing for a king to dissimulate. He smiles, he shows favor, he gives his applause, his serene countenance inspires trust, although he harbors secret venom in his heart.
spacerLEO. Why should I caress the gentleman, since it is permitted for the scepter to strike whomever it wants?
spacerSAB. Nonetheless, the dislike of the unruly common people often gets the better of a royal edict.
spacerLEO Not unless the edict is criminal.
spacerSAB. Just or unjust does not matter, unless the case is clear. The public often credits the worst interpretation and great royal favor is commonly regarded as tyranny. They call that unjust which national ordinances and laws enjoin.
spacer LEO The matter at hand has been brought to light.
spacerSAB. But it is insufficiently clear.
spacerLEO A witness will prove it.
spacerSAB. A servant’s testimony is not believed. Caesar, you must allow this man’s ferocious crime to become evident to the people.
spacerLEO He has contrives schemes against his sovereign. That’s enough, let him be put down.
spacerSAB. If you punish the man with the severe death penalty without having put him on trial, the faction of Balbus’ noble adherents will grow savage. But if they see his sudden criminal action and a drawn dagger in his hand, they will tremble at his scheme. They will freely condemn the man and mulct him with any manner of death you choose.
spacerLEO So this undeserving man will continue to breathe for the moment?
spacerSAB. He’ll purchase this brief delay at the price of suffering a worse death. What you have in mind is too easy, if by suffering a single stroke he is to atone for having contrived machinations in your household, a downfall for his sovereign, and death sorrowful for his nation. Restrain your hand until he mounts the stage he means to be bloodied by his troupe. When he seeks your breast with his furious stroke, I’ll stay his hand by intervening with my own. Your lictor will arrest and bind him.
spacerLEO So he will continue to breathe. He will be granted the privilege of drawing his hateful breath for an hour. Let him proceed, let him begin his performance. Let Balbus indulge in capers. He may play the mime, the tragic role remains mine. blue

Go to Act III