Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a blue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square.
ACT V, SCENE i
Any hope, any support for my life lies buried in my breast, nor is there any security in my heart, but I have lost it all. To me everything, sea, sky, earth, seems to guarantee that I am deserted, that I am crushed. Oh wretched me, I don't know what to do! I am sick at heart; I would like some water. I am overcome and undone. My head is aching, I cannot hear, and I cannot see very well with my eyes. No woman is more unhappy than I am, nor can anyone even think that she is. The fact is that if I am separated from the count, what is left for me other than to be completely wretched? I have gotten myself into the unhappy position that I have no means either of losing him or of keeping him. All the difficulties seem to be conspiring against me alone. I am a thorn to those inside. They all look at me with narrowed eyes, servants, maids, sons. Even the countess (as I hear) avoids me by hiding inside. In addition the priest (as Falerna told me) keeps saying that it is wicked for one man to be united in marriage with two women. Oh, what a harsh law these unhappy men in Germany live under, much more perverse than the laws in my country. There a man can legitimately have two or more wives, and if this custom prevailed now in Germany, I would not be lamenting and weeping such tears from my eyes. A good wife can happily live with one man, but a man cannot happily live with one wife. What should I do? What friend can I find in my distress? Who will give me advice? Where can I seek any relief? What should I do? Should I go away or stay? Should I go inside or should I flee? By heaven I don't know what I should do, except that I know one thing, that I am cut off from everyone. There is no place any more for me, not in my own country, not with the count. Oh, I am as good as dead.
ACT V, SCENE ii
FAL. Now our situation is such that even if everyone could put their heads together to seek a remedy for this disaster that has befallen me, my mistress, and my mistress's servant Carloman, they would not find any relief. Woe is me! So many troubles beset us so suddenly that we cannot escape: violence, poverty, injustice, isolation, infamy. What an age this is! What villainy! What an accursed race! What an evil man!
Sul. Wretched me! Do I see Falerna here, and she sad herself?
FAL. Whom neither fidelity nor oaths, nor even pity could move or soften — nor the fact that she freed him.
SULT. I don't understand what this unhappy woman is saying. I'll draw nearer.
FAL. Wretched me! I am scarcely in control of my senses, I'm burning with such rage. There is nothing that I would like better than to have this family right in front of me, so that I could vomit my wrath all over them while this wound is still fresh. I would be satisfied with any punishment for myself, provided that I took vengeance on them. I would first stop the breath of the count himself, who brought us here. And as for that chaplain, the instigator, how I would rend him in all sorts of ways! I would grab him by the middle, raise him up, and put him headfirst into the ground so that he spattered the street with his brains. As for the rest, I would rush on them, drive them, grab them, pound them, and trample them.
SULT. O Falerna, what threats are you making?
FAL. O my Lady, didn't I tell you that you should leave here immediately? That you should flee this wicked count?
SULT. Ah, don't make any accusations against my own Count Ludwig.
Fal. Didn't he solemnly swear to you that he wished to make you his wife?
SULT. Wretched me!
FAL. Why is he now deserting you? In one hand he holds a rock, in the other he shows you bread.
SULT. Don't criticize the count. Instead calculate what we should do. I already know what misery I am in; you just give me some advice about what I should do.
FAL. O my Lady, shall I advise you to anything except flee this place immediately?
SULT. And go where?
FAL. You ask? To our homeland of course.
SULT. No, you fool Falerna! What do you think my father would say? With what face could I address my mother; what could I, the prodigal daughter, say?
FAL. Well then, flee wherever in the world you wish.
SULT. Am I going to wander here and there, an exile in alien places, unknown, poverty-stricken, without hope? Impossible!
FAL. But Mistress, why are you staying here? Is it that you wish everyone to consider you a whore, a concubine, a kept woman. Not well-advised.
SULT. I know what I will do. Run fast, look for Carloman, and come back here with him.
FAL. What will we do?
Sul. We will fall at the count's knees and will beg and entreat him as suppliants that, if he cannot have me any longer as a wife, at least he will allow me to be his maidservant.
FAL. What are you saying?
SULT. Go and do as I ordered.
FAL. But just think what you are doing!
SULT. What did I just tell you?
FAL. I'll go and do it.
ACT V, SCENE iii
I see that this one remedy remains for me in my misery: to become a servant, a maid, and not be cast out of the house. Do you see? Human Fortune forms and shapes us as it wishes. Myself, from free-born she has made a servant, from the very highest to the very lowest. I used to command, but now I obey another's command. Thus I have lost everything, my homeland, my father, my freedom. I am alone; I have no one here any more, neither friend or relative. Now I will go to the count and make every effort, use all of my abilities. I will beg, I will earnestly entreat each friend as I see him. I am determined to approach and make a trial of anyone, high or low, to see if I can become a maidservant to this count who once brought me as his wife into his homeland. But if Ludwig — alas, once my own Ludwig — listens to these conditions which I gladly offer, but pushes me, his maidservant, away, he will not go unpunished. For there is a God who hears and sees what we do.
ACT V, SCENE iv
LUD. I can never give sufficient thanks to God Almighty for restoring my wife, my children, and my homeland to me. A short while ago I took off that Saracen clothing and put on these Christian clothes. I have shaved off the bristling barbarian beard which I wore. I know that only you, my God, sent Sultana to me and by her help and aid alone I escaped and became free. But is this not our beloved Sultana here?
Sul. Oh, is this not our dearest Ludwig here? O wretched me, I don't know what to say to him.
Lud. My Sultana, what do these words mean? I have never seen you so sad before. Tell me, I beg you, why does cheerfulness so shun you? You are not as neatly arrayed as you usually are. ([to audience] Look here, how deeply she sighs.) You are pale. So that we can know, I beg you tell us both of these things: what the problem is, and how you want me to help. Please don't afflict me with grief because of your tears.
SULT. O wretched me!
LUD. I don't know why you are trembling.
SULT. Oh, hold me so I don't collapse.
LUD. O dear, what sickness is this?
SULT. I don't know.
LUD. What? Did no one summon a doctor here?
SULT. I don't know.
LUD. In the name of the gods and men, what is this if not unhappiness?
SULT. Is there any unhappy person so star-crossed in love as I am?
LUD. What kind of thing am I hearing?
SULT. Everyone is constantly doing his very best to separate me from Ludwig.
LUD. This language is terrifying me and making me utterly fearful and wretched.
SULT. If this happens, I will be totally lost.
LUD. Tell me what you fear; I love only you.
SULT. Once you loved me, but now perhaps concern for another weighs on your heart.
LUD. Why shouldn't I love you? Did we not swear to each other long ago, I to you, you to me, I to Sultana, you to Ludwig, that neither of us would live except I with her or she with me.
SULT. By heaven I remember that we did so.
LUD. So why then do you doubt my promises?
SULT. I have no doubts, but...
LUD. What is it? Speak to me, or tell me who is pulling you away from me.
SULT. Tell me who is not pulling you away from me; I want you to tell me that first. Oh, only don't cast me out of your palace. Although I am not your wife any longer, I still love you, wish the best for you, and passionately long for you. In my experience I found you to always have a wonderfully loving disposition towards me, and I hope that you live the rest of your life with great good fortune with your former wife, who is much more fortunate than I am, since harsh necessity tears you far from me.
LUD. I beg you to tell me what necessity tears you from me. In truth, no one will separate you from me except death.
SULT. Only don't desert me, deserted, hapless, exiled.
LUD. Why, how could I even try to do that? I could let you be deceived? You who confided to me all of your affections and your whole existence? You whom I have held especially dear in my heart as my wife? Could I allow your nature, so well and modestly brought up and educated, be forced by poverty to change into something else? I will not do it.
SULT. I would have no fears if the decision were in your hands alone, but what can you do against the law?
LUD. Come now, do you think me so cowardly? Do you assume that I am so ungrateful, so inhuman and brutish that neither our intimacy, our love, nor our hopes will move me or convince me to keep faith with you?
SULT. I know one thing, that I well deserve that you not forget me.
LUD. I not forget you! O Sultana, Sultana, to this day written on my soul are those words that I said when I gave myself to you completely. I took you once and for all then, and I will preserve you now. If the Pope, on whose decision this business now hangs, decrees that our marriage is not valid in the future (which I do not wish), nevertheless I will honor you no less as my own wife.
SULT. I don't ask for anything more, if only you help me as much as you can and not allow such an egregious injustice to be done to me.
LUD. I will indeed help you, defend you, and bring all possible assistance. I will never allow you to perish. It would be better for me to perish.
SULT. And so I am throwing myself completely at your mercy, my dear Ludwig, my only hope. O my safety more healthful than my own safety, I beg you by your right hand, the hand which I am now holding in mine, by your liberation, by my isolation, by your fidelity, by your children, by our promised marriage, by these countless tears which you see flowing from my eyes, if I have ever loved you in place of my own brother, or if I considered only you far more important than my own homeland, or if I have ever been compliant to your wishes in all things, I urge, I pray, I entreat you to pity this unhappy Sultana, pity this abandoned maiden. I give myself to you, not as a wife or a spouse or a helpmeet, but as a servant, a handmaid, a menial, an attendant on your wife.
LUD. Oh Sultana, you would be too precious an assistant.
SULT. Oh Ludwig my love, what stands in my way of becoming a servant? I would more gladly be a lowly maidservant in your country than a free-woman in mine — or to live my life apart from you. You know how many royal suitors I had in my homeland, all of whom I spurned, so that I, as a maidservant, might serve the servant of my father. Indeed I would die a thousand times before I live apart from you. I will not be a burden to your household. May you live — and live long — with your wife, provided only that I, an unhappy menial, can abide in some dark corner, cooking, weaving, sweeping, or spinning; provided only that your wife does not drive me away (I entreat you!) or tear my hair. Again and again I beg only this, that you not desert me or be so brutish and hard-hearted that you drive me away. It will be enough for me to be able to say ever after that I love you. Now, whether you want to or not, you are the only reason for me to live.
LUD. Be sure that I will consider you more dear to me than my own eyes.
ACT V, SCENE v
CARLOMANN FALERNA, LUDWIG, SULTANA
Car. Hey, do I hear something? The C ount is over there standing with Sultana.
Fal. So let's fall at his feet as suppliants.
Car. As you wish.
Lud. What do you all want?
Fal. Both of us, needy and in want, embrace your knees begging that you not drive us from your home, but preserve us, since we find ourselves in an unknown place with uncertain hopes. If possible, allow Sultana, our mistress, to serve as a maid in your palace, for she now has no home, no hope anywhere.
Car. Oh my Lord Count, I entreat you, do not desert our mistress.
Lud. Give me your hands and both of you rise from your knees. I will live with you, my Sultana, and I will gladly end my days with you.
Sul. Oh, I hope that at last some god my take heed of us, who have been ruined!
ACT V, vi
THE COUNTESS, SIGISMUND,, LITTLE LUDWIG, COUNT LUDWIG, FALERNA, SULTANA, THE OTHERS
SIG. I will do as you say, Mother.
L. L. I too will earnestly beseech our lord father not to separate himself from us.
COUNT. I certainly would never have believed that he could convince himself to take another wife while I yet live. But isn't that him standing there?
L. L. Where?
COUNT. To the left, and he has our new guest with him!
SULT. Who is that woman over there?
FAL. The countess is coming.
SUL. Oh, what shall I do? I'll fly away.
LUD. Stay, stay, my Sultana.
COUNT. Now, my sons, let us fall at his feet.
SIG. I will do it.
L. L. As you wish.
LUD. What is this? Arise, my wife. Arise, my sons.
COUNT. Oh, don't refuse your assistance!
LUD.. Arise, my wife.
COUNT. I am not your wife, Master, but your maidservant.
LUD. Damn, what ill fortune is this? I cannot really account for it, unless I believe that I was born for the purpose of suffering disaster.
SIG. My Lord Father, don't expel our dearest mother because of your intimacy with this guest.
L. L. O Father, o precious Father, I beg you not to drive mommy away from you.
COUNT. Ludwig, although I do love you, I can convince myself to bear with equanimity the fact that she sleeps with you. Just allow me to be your maidservant and do not totally shut out the children once born to you.
SULT. O Lady Countess, I am not theCount's wife, but rather your poor handmaid.
COUNT. We have no need of a handmaid, except for one who weaves, grinds, cuts firewood, spins yarn, sweeps the palace, endures a beating, and who every day cooks food for the family. You are not able to do a single one of these things at all. And if you could, I would not allow it. Instead, since you freed Ludwig, my beloved husband — alas, former husband — and married him besides, keep him for yourself with my blessing. [to Ludwig] It's enough for me to have seen you, my dearest Ludwig, once again before I die. But if I can be your maidservant in the future, I will live my life in the shadows and be the most satisfied woman of all.
SULT. I won't allow it. I will be his maidservant.
COUNT. From now on I will be the maidservant, not you.
LUD. Oh, ladies, why do you argue so earnestly between yourselves? Why do you ask me for what is not in my power to give? Instead, whatever his Venerable Holiness the Pope decrees, that we must do.
COUNT. Whatever he decrees, still I will be your maidservant and will not desert you.
SULT. And I will always serve you. The Pope will not prevent me from being your maidservant.
L. L. Please Father, keep both, or if you are not pleased with that course, make sure that you give me this foreign maiden as my mother.
LUD. I am reduced to such straits that I really have no idea what I will do with them.
ACT V, SCENE vii
ROSINA, HERMANN. THE OTHERS
ROS. If they can be suppliants to the count for their mistress, why don't we become suppliants for our lady.
HERM. Let's do it. You ask us to do just the right thing, Rosina.
ROS. O Lord Count, from the bottom of our hearts we ask you not to utterly desert our mistress, who waited for you with such longing while you were abroad.
HERM. Or not to despise your honey-sweet sons, my Lord.
LUD. Are you too wearing me down? Are you killing me? What kind of thing is this? I was hoping to have two wives, but now it seems I don't even have one. Both are competing to become maidservants, as I understand from what they say. I have not been transported into my homeland, but to some isolated and alien territory, and I really don't know where I am. O wretched and unhappy me! Was is for this that I avoided losing my life? Was it for this that I was so eager to return home? How much better it would have been to spend my life anywhere else in the world than to return here. Alas, I can hardly refrain from crying! In vain I escaped the sea's savage storms. I really thought I was in my homeland, in a safe place, but now I see that these savage waves have carried me onto the rocks. Wretched me! Because of my tears I cannot stay outdoors here any longer.
SULT. He's gone inside. Now I am visibly deserted.
COUNT. Quite the contrary. The fact is that my sons and I are all shut out.
SULT. Now there is no hope at all which could promise some security to me. But who is this who is traveling straight down the street towards us? I am so anxious and afraid that I am wretched with fright.
ACT V, SCENE viii
A PAPAL NUNCIO, THE OTHERS
NUNC. This is the location, the area, if I'm not mistaken, where Ludwig, Count of Gleichen, lives. I am bringing this letter to him. Look, here are some people who will change me from uncertain to certain about what I want to know. And, as I can conjecture from what I see, this is the Saracen woman herself, on whose behalf the Pope has sent me here. I'll speak to her. Dear maiden, greetings.
SULT. Greetings to you, sir.
NUNC. Please be willing to respond to what I ask.
SULT. Ask what you wish, Sir. I'll be ready to answer.
NUNC. Are you not the spouse of Ludwig of Gleichen, who recently returned to Thuringia from abroad?
SULT. Oh Sir, why do you mock me in my unhappiness with this question?
NUNC. May God keep me from mocking you! Just tell me please if you are the wife of Count Ludwig here in Gleichen.
SULT. This lady is the Countess.
NUNC. Oh, I was once, but now I am something else.
NUNC. OK then, are you that maiden who came with the count from Saracen lands?
SULT. I know that I did, and I cannot deny it.
NUNC. Did he in fact promise you the bonds of matrimony?
SULT. He certainly did. But I wish now only that I could be his maidservant.
COUNT. But I have told you so many times that you are his countess, and I will be his servant.
NUNC. What if I could make you both wives together of the Count?
COUNT. Sir, do not deceive us poor, unhappy women.
NUNC. For the love of God, I am not deceiving you, but I will proclaim to you what is the exact truth. To wit, both of you will be wives of Ludwig, Count of Gleichen.
COUNT. Please, you are not luring us with false hopes, are you? How can it be that one man has two wives?
NUNC. Easily, and I will speak of the entire matter when Ludwig himself, your lord, is present.
L. L. Indeed, I will call my lord father out here.
NUNC. Tell him that I am bringing a message from the supreme Pontiff, and he will certainly want to be here to share the news.
L. L. I am doing this, sir and will soon be back.
COUNT. O God Almighty, save me, I pray. Were you sent by the Pope to this land?
NUNC. I say so.
COUNT. To the Count?
NUNC. To him. But here the Count comes himself.
ACT V, SCENE ix
LUDWIG, LITTLE LUDWIG, THE OTHERS
L. L. Here he is. Do you see?
LUD. I see, my beloved son.
NUNC. Greetings, Count Ludwig.
LUD. Dear Sir, you greet me and in return I give you great thanks. But if you please, tell me what you want from me.
NUNC. I will. But first I want to know if you are the Ludwig of Gleichen, who was with the Pope in Rome not long ago along along with a Saracen maiden.
LUD. I am, and here she is, the women whom you see standing by us.
NUNC. So I judge, Ludwig. Now I give you the happy message which His Holiness the Pope ordered me to bring.
LUD. Oh, what is it? Don't hold me in suspense for long.
NUNC. Of course. Read the dispensation recorded on this paper — or I will read it to you.
LUD. Dear Sir, I'd rather that you read the notice inscribed by his holy hand.
NUNC. I will do so. Listen.
LUD. I will.
NUNC. [reads proclamation]
Pope Gregory, the ninth of this name, Bishop and servant of all the servants of the Lord Christ, Pope of Rome, sends devoted greetings and the apostolic benediction to Ludwig, Count of Gleichen. We have learned the following: about fourteen years ago you set out with Emperor Frederick II for Palestine to recover the tomb in Jerusalem of our only Savior. You happened to leave the Emperor's camp and were captured and kept in cruelest slavery among the Saracens. You could not have been freed from these heavy chains and harsh custody by any means or methods except by a Saracen girl named Sultana, whom you were compelled to marry, unaware that your former wife was still alive in Thuringia. Now there is no doubt that you have met your legitimate former wife, who is still alive, in your homeland.
Wherefore the most holy Pontiff with plenary powers entrusted to him by Christ the Lord, whose vicar he is, grants, permits, and assents that in the future in one house, in one bed, with one love, you may embrace as you will two wives simultaneously, the one whom you had in your homeland, and the other, Sultana, by whose aid you affirm that you were freed. Given at Rome in the year one thousand two hundred forty after the birth of Christ from the Virgin Mary, under the proper seal of the Roman Pontiff.
What do you think of this proclamation?
LUD. Sir, I rejoice with all my heart.
COUNT. O dear maiden, what do we hear?
NUNC. Are you pleased with this letter?
LUD. You are asking me if I am pleased? Indeed I am very pleased.
NUNC. To be clear: you want both wives to be joined with you.
LUD. Certainly, and my chaplain stands nearby most conveniently. You will unite all of us.
CHAP. I will do so, Noble Count, for I heard in every detail what His Holiness the Supreme Pontiff decreed.
NUNC. So will Your Reverence join together the Count with the two wives who are standing here?
CHAP. I will, and may the outcome be propitious, lucky, and successful! My Lord Count, if it is your intention to marry both women, give me your right hand.
LUD. With pleasure; here you have my hand.
CHAP. Now you, my Lady Countess, if you wish, despite everything, to acknowledge this man as husband, place your hand on his.
COUNT. I do so wish. I do this freely, since our father the most holy Pope has allowed it.
CHAP. Very well. Now you, Sultana, stretch out your hand to him if you wish to be Ludwig's bride.
SULT. I assure you that I want to be his bride more joyfully than Joy herself.
CHAP. Therefore I join and unite you three: you, Lord Count, with this woman and that woman, and you, Lady Countesses both, with this man in an unbreakable bond. May God Almighty so prosper your union that each year both of them will make the count the father of new offspring. May it be done. Amen.
L. L.. Amen.
LUD. O beautiful, red-letter day, one full of delights of all kinds! How great are the thanks that I must give to His Holiness the Pope! By the love of Almighty God, for joy I don't know where I am, now that both of you are my wives. Or are you still competing between yourselves to become my maidservant?
COUNT. O Fortune, O Good Luck, with what great blessings have you loaded this day with sudden success for my master!
SULT. Oh my sweet partner, my most beloved fellow-wife, O Lady Countess, how long have I deeply loved you with all my heart, how I embrace you!
COUNT. By heaven I am not sorry at all to share a half of this blessing with you! We must remember this: I am you and you are me, we are both one soul; we both love one lover. When he is with me, he is still with you, but when he is with you, he is still there with me, and neither envies the other.
SULT. Now you are my sons too.
COUNT. I will present both of them to you.
SULT. I will love both no differently than if I had given them birth.
SIG. I entrust myself into your hand, sweetest Mother.
L. L. And just as before, I hand all of myself over to you, from her hand to yours.
SULT. Let me embrace you both, my dearest sons.
LUD. O fellow-countrymen, is there anyone alive more fortunate than me this day? There is no one, for clearly God has manifested all His power in me, on whom suddenly so many blessings have been bestowed. O Sultana, what should I mention first or especially praise? You who gave me the advice that I should act? Or myself, who dared to make a beginning? Or should I extol Fortune, who was my guide, and who has so successfully crowded in one day events so numerous, so significant? Or the indulgence and the holiness of the Pope? O great God, preserve these blessings for us! O Sultana, the contriver, the initiator, the perfecter of all my delights, do you understand how transported I am with joy?
HERM. O happiest and most blessed day of all!
ROS. How delightfully this business is prospering today in our hands! I know that no mortal has obtained this indulgence except my count.
SULT. Whatever was previously cloudy or doubtful in my mind is now quite clear and transparent, and my heart is now light.
CHAP. God Almighty, this letter sent by the Pope at Rome is worth its weight in fine gold.
HERM. But Chaplain, you just told us that one man never married two wives. How does this now seem to you?
Chap. Hermann, whatever his Supreme Holiness the Pope formally approves, that must be accepted; no one must reject it. No one has ever balanced the accounts for his life so well that circumstances, age, and habits may not bring something new or make some suggestion, with the result that what you thought you knew, you don't know, and what you thought was of prime importance, you now reject when you try it out. This has happened to me now, when I opposed bigamy.
LUD. Now my wife, listen.
BOTH WIVES What is it?
LUD. It's good that you both answered, because I want to speak to both of you.
BOTH WIVES. Tell us what you wish, lord.
LUD. Why are we so slow to give Falerna to our Hermann as a wife?
COUNT. If she wishes to.
FAL. I do so wish, my Count.
LUD. Therefore let it be done.
COUNT. And done very well.
HERM. So you are betrothing her to me as a wife, o excellent Lord?
LUD. I am betrothing her.
SULT. Nice work!
HERM. This is a very easy matter, if she is willing. I do desire it.
COUNT. But Sultana has a servant here.
SULT. What then?
COUNT. Honorable and modest.
LUD. So they say.
COUNT. And there is perhaps no one whose welfare he has to consider, since he is alone.
CARL. What does she intend?
COUNT. It is right that you should marry Rosina, and you should make an effort to bring it about.
CARL. Me marry her, my lady?
COUNT. Again I say, you.
SULT. Look, Rosina.
ROS. Mistress, what is it?
SULT. Take heart. Today you are marrying this man.
SULT. Take heart, I repeat.
ROS. How? To this man? Now?
SULT. As soon as possible.
ROS. O mistress, may God himself hate me if I do not love you more than I love my eyes.
SULT. What? More than him?
ROS. Equally, mistress.
LUD. Now why are we staying here, why are we so dilatory, my dearest wives? Why don't we go inside to celebrate both our marriages and theirs?
BOTH WIVES As you wish.
LUD. We will receive this envoy of the thrice-blessed Pope at a regal banquet as our new guest.
BOTH WIVES I think we should do this.
LUD. You, chaplain, take this messenger inside with you.
CHAP. Indeed, whatever your orders are, I will do them most gladly.
Spectators, do not wait until they come out to you. No one will come out. Everyone inside will finish these weddings. When that is done, they will lay aside their costumes and each player will again return in an orderly manner to his usual studies. Now, spectators, as to what is left for you to do: seeing that the whole world is acting on a stage, take very good care that you act your parts in this comedy of life in an orderly and proper manner, so that you remain in good standing and do not slip and fall in the final Act.
The play is finished. Now farewell. Give us applause and depart.