To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.
ACT V, SCENE i
LEO, THEOPHILUS sleeping, PAPIAS, BALBUS, TWO SOLDIERS
Terrified by visions, Leo inspects the custody kept on Balbus in the thick of the night, and threatens his sleeping guards with death. Balbus conspires with Papias, the captain of the guard.
LEO Although prison confines the rebel commander and he is quite encircled by armed soldiers, nevertheless in my sleep I shudder at my downfall, as I also do when awake. Fostering daylight and dark night both feed my cares. My mind, anxious about the future, inspires my heart with hideous cares. I seem to be being dragged off to my death, yet I do not see why I am being dragged. The ruler of kingdoms must always be fearful. For it is necessary that a man feared by many must fear many more. Leo is under close attack. My mind foretells great evil, drawing near on every side. Every noise excites me, every shadow makes me flinch, every sound jars on me. I dread everything. The disloyal commoners are seeking to cast my yoke from off their necks. The army has long been inclined towards the house of Balbus. The ill-advised nobility refuse to endure my scepter. How much terror there is here for my doubtful self, dreading lest some scheme is being hatched in the still of the night! And with cocked ear I shiver at every sound. (A dog barks.) The dire complaint of Tartarus’ hound! I quake at the omen of this sad song, my horror grows. (An owl hoots.) A sinister bird has uttered its deadly plaints. Its ill–omened song advises that my doom is at hand. Be quiet, you wild owl. (It thunders dreadfully.) Is it still thundering with that terrible roar? Sweat drenches my limbs, my heart palpitates. The night acquires a ghastly hue, heaven bellows, a dog howls, owls rattle my windows, screech-owls groan. Poor Leo, what evils surround you? Oh life worse then death, worse than the Styx! Oh if my body would only turn as hard as rock! How I would like to stand like a cliff, with a face of marble! (He shakes off his fear.) This is the fear of kings! I’m ashamed of this great heart of mine! Do I dread shades, I who have despatched so many shades to Orcus? Rather I should be oppressing the Styx, its shades, and the horrid visions of Orcus with my terrible domination. Where should I first direct my weapons? (He comes across the sleeping Theophilus.) What monstrosity do I behold? Stand up and speak, you shade of Dis. In the name of the goddesses of night, the dark throng of Avernus and guilty Chaos, tell me who you are. I swear, I conjure you, I beg you, why hold your silence? I am drawing nearer. I recognize his face. This son Theophilus, worse than his terrible father grows for the ruination of the house of Leo. Our seed returns to its origins. The vices of the parents shape their sons, and bad roots bear similar fruits. Therefore let him spew forth his tainted soul by suffocation. Let this hand crush his throat. (He looks around him.) The night is deep, there is no witness, the boy is exposed to me since sleep overwhelms him. Leo has been harmed by Balbus My hatred spurs me on. Perish this hateful family. (Intending to strangle the boy, he suddenly recoils, surprised by his voice.)
THE. Leo, Leo?
LEO Panic wholly assails my heart, even a boy in his sleep has the power to terrify me.
THE. (Talking in his sleep.) Beware, Leo.
LEO Of what should I be wary? Tell me what Leo must avoid. Sleep sometimes reveals the mind’s secrets. I’ll use a few words to test him. Tell me, of what should Leo be wary?
THE. Those plunged in sleep.
LEO Is sleep working for my destruction?
THE. Sleep needs to be slept to its conclusion.
LEO I’ll make your father sleep the sleep of death, having been given over to the flames. But where has the sleeper been weaving his schemes?
THE. Where the fierce lion will roar with a festive mouth. (He means at church, when Leo sings a hymn.)
LEO “Where the fierce lion will roar with a festive mouth?” A very riddling oracle! Why linger? All right, let them plot death for innocent Leo, let me borne down to Orcus alive. But Balbus will lead the way, I swear by the shades of Jove of the Underworld. (He passes on to the cell where the captive Balbus is being held.). So let me inspect whether my trusty band of watchmen is keeping Balbus in bondage. (He sees them sleeping.) Oh, their elusive loyalty! What’s this? My soldiers indulging in sleep? Is Papias resting on the ground? Stretched out on his cot, is Balbus enjoying a deep slumber? Leo is a free man, and yet he is wide awake, unable to sleep, and yet Balbus, soon to be burned alive, is enjoying sound repose? With a quiet breast, Balbus would hardly be snoring if he were fearing for himself. (He raises his hand and threatens the watchmen.) I swear, when I have given the holy rites their appointed time, I shall punish the guards with the same death as the prisoner, taking vengeance for their slothful work. (Exit.)
SOL. 1 We’re all dead men. Balbus, are you sleeping with a calm mind?
PAP. (Waking up.) Tell me, where has Balbus —
SOL. 1 He’s lying there?
PAP. So what fear has overcome my heart.
SOL. 1 Your final one.
PAP. I’m aghast.
SOL. 1 Caesar has stalked off just n0w, fulminating terribly.
PAP. What Furies are maddening his mind?
SOL. 1 When he saw us buried in deep sleep, he grew passionate, he roared, he raged. Swearing that we were equally infected with the plague of guilt and were destined to suffer with fresh-flowing blood, he went off.
PAP. What wind will pluck me up and sweep me away through the air? I fear Leo. Our sure destruction is at hand, it’s all over. Will a man who puts noblemen to death for sport spare anyone he has sworn to kill? We are dead men, unless flight proves our salvation.
SOL. 2 Flight may recommend itself to cowards, I’ll defend my life with my good right hand.
PAP. Even now repose keeps your mind carefree, Balbus.
BALB. (Slowly awakening.). Who’s disturbing my sleep?
PAP. Wake up, you’re finished.
BALB. What a happy image was moving my heart while I was senseless!
PAP. You must forget these vain mental delusions? Serious matters demand your attention.
BALB. Prophetic sleep was teaching serious things to my mind.
PAP. The image of death.
BALB. I seemed to be seeing a way of putting up a fight. A leopard was waging war against a lion, the ruler of the forest. The lion roared. They met in combat and soaked their necks with much blood. The lion was the stronger and worked harm with his claws, his maw, and his mane. But the agile-bodied leopard relied on a thousand tricks and wiles. Their raging long hung in the balance with an uncertain outcome. In the end the leopard caught the lion unawares, ripping open his breast with its harmful teeth.
PAP. But Leo, that wild ruler of our forest, will tear us all to shreds.
BALB. One beast can kill so many men?
PAP. We die for you, Balbus.
BALB. I disown the guilt.
PAP. Having caught us asleep, he has consigned us all to a terrible death.
BALB. You trusty band of comrades, does my suffering the unspeakable fate which confronts me drag you into the same doom? Oh harsh fates of Balbus, which forbid him to die by himself! Am I to pull you down, undeservedly, in the same downfall? No, it is fury, Leo’s fury, which has condemned us to a common misfortune. But why should we delay? You see that matters stand on the knife-edge. A great weight of chains holds me down, and when the night passes I am destined for terrible flames, and a cruel doom awaits you (oh, the bitter lot!), marked down for cruel slaughter. How often has his hand, stained with the blood of his subjects, shown him to be an implacable tyrant? Even though a man is born of the stock of the Augustus, that counts for little: innocent or guilty, lawfully or not, he dies at Leo’s whim. The madness of this Nemean Lion is sufficiently well known, as are his strength and his fury. Therefore do you innocent men hesitate to remove this guilty tyrant, hateful to heaven and to his nation, after so many bitter monstrosities?
SOLD. 2 The decrees of Nature and the laws of honor bid us protect ourselves by warding off force with force.
SOL. 1 But our oath of fidelity forbids us to strike a sovereign.
BALB. Not when he has been the first to break his faith.
SOL. 2 And why call this monster a sovereign? Should we call someone a sovereign when his hand is never unbloodied? Call him the bane of the Empire, the ruin of the nobility, the devastation of the common folk, a blot on heaven and earth. Call him an image of Dis, whom nobody but a mushroom of a man can tolerate.
SOL. 1 Perish the tyrant.
SOL. 2 May this plague meet his end.
BALB. Vow your silence and your loyalty regarding these secret matters.
PAP. I swear by the everlasting stars.
ALL We give our everlasting pledge.
BALB Oh you stout-hearted men! You must hasten in the direction where your just passion moves your hearts. God will look down on this noble enterprise. If by any stroke of good fortune salvation attends upon our deed, I shall remember and reward your good merits.
PAP. By what deceit can Leo be lured into our nets? His fear compels him to be vigilant against all schemes, and no show of force, no trickery can get the better of him.
BALB. That is my task. Each of you must store up in his memory what I am about to say. Tomorrow honors the day Christ emerged from the womb into the light of day. Leo is preparing to celebrate this day in accordance with our ancient rites, leaving his apartment in the deep of night. Surrounded by a troop of the pious he will go to the cathedral intending to offer up his prayers to heaven, perhaps the last prayers he will ever utter. You must disguise yourselves in white robes, and conceal daggers underneath your garments. At the same time, direct your steps to the cathedral, mingling with the pious, each man picking an inconspicuous spot, so that no shadow of deceit might reveal our plan. Soon, when Leo rises to offer up his prayers, launch yourselves at him with your blades. Let him fall, stabbed before the altar. Then, if such is your will, give a shout, Let Balbus rule! Long live Balbus!
PAP. Good, we understand, Do you agree with Balbus’ idea?
SOL. 1 I applaud it.
SOL. 2 I approve it.
BALB. Oh you men, dear to Balbus, embrace me. I swear by the Thunderer, if the result answers to my prayers, you shall lose your military cloaks and be given purple gowns. And you, loyal Papias, when Leo falls by our steel, direct my legions against the royal party, and arrest Leo’s children, his consort, and his servants. Do you understand?
BALB. May heaven speed our wishes.
Balbus’ prayer to Fortune.
BALB. Favor me, you Fates. And you, Fortune, mighty on this earth, whirl the wheel with which you amuse yourself, but now stands still. How long will you keep your games from their accustomed sport? Will Balbus dangle at its bottom while Leo triumphs at its top? Oh, spin your wheel. You turn and overturn the destinies of kings, goddess. With your mighty hand you often swap the royal court for taverns, triumphs for death, and lords for servants. If you are blind and cannot see me in my misery, goddess, at least hear me praying. Pray grant my enterprise a favorable course, turn my punishment into triumphs for my realm. Let my grief be transformed into gaiety, my chains into a collar of office, my cell into a royal house, my pallid squalor into purple, my sorrow into a smile. My pyre rises up in the middle of the city as the theater for my execution, but I would rather mount the lofty stage of kingship. Let my pyre rise up to heaven and touch the stars. For, close to heaven, I could tear that beast of Nemea from its golden home. Vulcan, savage with his anger, will spew forth glowing sparks far and wide, an omen I like. For the crown perched high on my tresses will shoot forth its fair beams. If you manage these wishes with your favorable nod, Fortune, I swear that I, bound by my vow, will slaughter a hundred broad-backed bulls at your altars. (With his hand he rattles the iron chain which binds him.) Then you, you chain which faithfully binds my legs, will be transmuted into gold and weigh down my neck .(Enter the two soldiers.) But who approaches at such a hasty pace? How I fail to recognize him in his disguise! How stands our affair?
SOLD. 1 (Wearing white vestments, as if he were a priest.) Our scheme is readied. Do you see how this robe, resembling that of a consecrated priest, suits me?
BALB. I perceive the trick. And your blade?
SOLD. 2 Hidden underneath this holy vestment. Can you see its gleam?
BALB. Yes, I see it. You have taken good precautions. What about Leo?
SOLD. 1 He has quit his chamber, heading for the cathedral. The hour draws close. The frequent peal of the bell give the final signal.
BALB. I pray that a prosperous outcome attend our undertakings. Go where the occasion summons you, and I shall pray.
SOLD. 1 Let us join the band, Moscho. Rich rewards await us after the deed is done.
SOLD. 2 Come, let us conceal ourselves. Let us stand, separate and inconspicuously, and walk at a slow pace. And when Leo rises from his throne, meaning to lead the hymn with that out-of-tune voice of his, let him be stricken
SOLD. 1 Consider it done. (Enter Papias with two members of the conspiracy.) You great glories of Caesar’s bodyguard, are you daring?
THE. Bold enough to raise a hand against Jove the Thunderer.
PAP. Stay where you are. When Caesar falls to the ground, stabbed, bind his sons in chains.
PHIL. Consider them bound.
PAP. All is well arranged. I shall join Caesar as a companion. Behold, the cathedral has been decorated and is being assaulted by a festive sound. (The great cathedral is opened up. Tarasius the Patriarch, bringing with him the newly-executed Iconodules, can be seen above the high altar.)
TAR. You purple-clad throng of heaven whom Leo put to death with his cruel sword, stand aside and join me in witnessing the hand that avenges such a great sin. As punishment for his misdeed, a just God will lay this lion low. He will fall, cut down before the altar, overcome by excruciation, he who in his foul sinfulness hated the crucifix, despoiling the altar of its beauty.
Leo is killed before the altar, while participating in divine service. Elected emperor, Balbus penalizes Leo’s sons with perpetual exile.
When the musical instruments fall silent, a priest intones domine labia &c. An offstage choir gives the responses. Then Christus natus est hodie, venite adoremus is sung offstage. When this is finished, the emperor intones, Christe redemptor omnium. As a mark of honor two conspirators flank him, as if they were canons.
LEO Christe redemptor omnium —
SOLD. 1 And you, ravager of all things, must die someday. (He strikes the emperor, who, seizing the cross from the high altar, vainly seeks to defend himself.)
LEO Come here, my sons. I am dying.
PAP. What’s the point? He’s dead. Let him be taken.
LEO Oh, I’m being butchered!
SOLD. 2 You’re heading for the cross you hate so much, Leo?
LEO Sabatius my son —
SAB. Oh, father!
LEO Help me, Pluto.
SOLD. 1 Seek out Pluto’s realms.
LEO Oh - oh! I’m being burned alive. Help me, you Furies — (He is killed beneath the high altar, where he finally sought refuge.)
SOLD. 1 Well done.
PAP. Now do your killing.
SOLD. 2 Now do your threatening.
SOLD. 1 Now do your roaring, you lion.
PAP. Let Balbus triumph, let Balbus rule the Empire.
OFFSTAGE Let Balbus triumph, let Balbus rule the Empire.
Balbus is called forth from his cell.
PAP. Balbus, ruler of the world, you should marvel at your change in fortunes. Come forth a free man.
BALB. The tyrant has fallen?
PAP. He’s fallen.
BALB. He’s dead?
PAP. He’s finished.
BALB. Oh happy me! Oh wheel of blessed Fortune! Now my head reaches up to the sky. Leo is dead? Oh heaven’s favor! Now I am happy to be alive, now I am entirely blessed. I rejoice, I triumph, I rule while Leo lies dead. But tell me, where did this plague betake himself?
PAP. You may look down on the tyrant, befouled by his own gore.
BALB. Oh the sweet sight! Soldier, drag him into the light. (His body is dragged into view.). Thus it should be. Let the dire, flesh-eating, fierce, pitiless monster be dragged. Even now he reeks of sin. Go now, tyrant, kill well-deserving men by your deceit, slaughter innocents, trample on suppliants’ entreaties. (He sets his foot upon the body.) Leo Leo, offer yourself for my foot to trample. Having lately threatened me with flames, go, suffer eternal flames yourself, pay forfeits worthy of your crimes, plunged in the lowest basement of Tartarus. Balbus triumphs over you, dead though you may be. And you, oh my trusty band of allies, fame will praise you for your share in such a great deed. You are champions of heaven and earth, the glory of your nation. Strip him of the badges of supreme rule, tear the crown from off this monster, so that your hair might better be crowned. Let those who put down this bane on the kingdom govern the realm.
PAP. Let us not commit the sin of being over-bold. Let Balbus triumph, let Balbus rule the Empire.
BALB. Do you agree?
PAP. All our outcry cheers you alone.
BALB. Since this is your command, I shall rule. Give me a hand, smith, and knock off these chains. (The chains are knocked off by a smith.)
SMITH Your smith has done as instructed.
BALB. Well done. My former liberty returns now that I am freed. Go, soldier, before I bear the emblems of office, fetch the spawn of that accursed father. Let them see both extremes of their remarkable fortune. Let them see and let them howl. You sons, worse than your accursed father, come here. Behold the turning wheel of Fortune. Balbus triumphs and tramples prostrate Leo underfoot.
SAB. The sin of your terrible crime! Yawn wide, earth, and remove me far from the light of day? You kick the Augustus with your feet?
BALB. I am kicking a tyrant.
BAS. Oh the crime! Amazement overcomes my heart, and darkness my mind.
SAB. Oh, I am torn, I am killed! (He falls in a swoon.)
SOLD. 1 His mind has failed him, the strength has departed his bone.
BALB. This is indeed what I wholeheartedly sought, horror torments the one, and madness the other. Oh, the happy aspect of affairs! Now I should divest myself of this sad-colored garment. Now, my lords, you may invest me with the emblems of kingship. Let the crown illuminate my head, the ivory scepter my hand, and the robe of state my neck.
SAB. What monstrosities I am obliged to tolerate! Oh the hellish sin! Come forth, you light, and, transformed into balls of fire, speedily destroy this tyrant.
BAS. Open your maw, earth, and send for the fearful shade of our father. Avenge this disgrace, father.
BALB. How sweetly this song strikes my ears from either side! Balbus would like this, even if purchased at a great price. Go, Papias, and bring Theophilus to his father. Meanwhile, reclining on this couch, I shall decide with what penalty I shall oppress the seed of Leo. (He sits on his throne. The stage opens on one side and Theophilus is seen sleeping.)
THE. Who wants me? How nicely I had forgotten myself.
PAP. Time to get up.
THE. I’d prefer to be overcome by everlasting sleep.
PAP. Caesar summons you to his throne.
THE. So I’m being summoned to the tribunal of my irate sovereign? Well then, let us go. I shall share in my father’s doom.
PAP. Rejoice, my prince. Your father has survived his doom.
THE. Even now you are toying with an unhappy boy?
PAP. I am indulging in no sport. Now that Leo has been killed, I swear that your rescued father breathes the air of life, powerful in his government.
THE. Balbus is breathing?
PAP. He is governing.
THE. And Leo has been baffled?
PAP. He has been dethroned.
THE. He’s dead?
PAP. He lies, bereft of life.
THE. You are feigning hope on your face.
PAP. See for yourself. Caesar is seated on his lofty golden throne.
THE. I’m astonished. Oh, father! You’re living?
BALB. And breathing.
THE. Amazed joy overwhelms my mind. (He faints for joy.)
BALB. My son.
PAP. The force of joy has overcome his boyish mind.
BALB. Let your hand revive him by its rubbing. Theophilus, my son —
THE. Oh father! You’re alive, spared the fire?
BALB. As Caesar I wield the reins of empire.
THE. Oh happy day! You Ruler of the world, great Father of this earth, grant, grant that your fostering favor may bless this realm.
BALB. Come, my son. Abandon the signs of your sad misfortune, and join me in ruling the world with a mind worthy of a Caesar. But you, you spawn of Leo, you must discard your emblems of royalty. Hand them over to Theophilus. Let them both be despoiled. Let a dark gown replace Tyrian purple. Thus let them be dragged to the pyre that has been built. Let fire devour these villains.
THE. Oh, father, have mercy. Don’t let these innocent sons atone for the faults of their guilty father.
BALB. You call innocent a son at whose criminal urging his father rages? But let it be so, let them owe their lives to your entreaties. Let them soon be castrated and depart far away to some squalid corner of the world together with all their race. But, before that, let both of them see their father dragged by his feet through the market-place. Let Leo, that world-wrecker, provide the world with this fearful example. Let the common people trample on this unburied tyrant of their nation, until they have sufficiently vented their wrath. These are my commands, and you, trusty Papias, must see that they are observed. My son, a banquet summons us.
THE. Go now, Sabatius, and strike the mother of Christ with your drawn steel. Pay your deserved penalty.
SAB. I have earned it, I must confess. God, forgive this sinner. (Leo’s body is dragged off to the market-place).
PAP. Take hold of the body, soldier, and lead the procession. We must make haste. Phoebus is returning with his eastern rising.
BALB. Oh, just reprisals of heaven. Oh, our vengeful God!
TAR. (To the spectators.) You have seen a reversal of fortune fit for the crime he has committed. A tyrant has lost his royal court, his life, heaven, and God. You yourselves should mount up to the crystal climes of the starry abode, your locks bound with wreaths of laurel.