Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a blue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square.
ACT IV, SCENE i
MONTEZUMA, TACLAXUS, SOLDIER
MONT. Unchain the prince and bring him here quickly. (Exit soldier.) So has the traitor come so far in his madness? You tell me he is attacking the palace itself?
TAC. It’s true. Armed with a furious throng of citizens, Quicuxtemocus is ferociously besieging the outer palace wall. Standing conspicuous in the forefront, he himself is whipping these men into a rebellious frenzy. With his rascal voice he’s roaring that you are rebel against the gods, saying over and over that you have basely betrayed our nation to foreign enemies, and claiming that you are unworthy to wield the reins of our empire any longer.
MONT. Alas that I was so witless that I could not detect the traitor’s plan any sooner! Alas, my friend, I fear that our final day is upon us, and the hard hand of ineluctable fate. Heaven threatens this, and it has already sent me torches in the sky as proofs of its anger. The sun has shone with a baleful redness, and for a long time a comet has gleamed, bearing forecasts of a sad destiny, a comet ever menacing for kings, and never glowing without some bad portent for their kingdoms.
TAC. I hope that the care of the gods will give us better protection, and that they will not permit your royal dynasty to suffer a downfall. Perhaps they will supply some remedy for your ills.
MONT. Alas, no remedy for our affairs remains. I am caught on all sides by a twofold evil. A foreign enemy keeps me pent up inside, while outside a domestic one menaces, and both are very frightful. And what could have been my single help, Mexus, is held captive too. Ah how I, a father, allowed my faultless son to be oppressed! I was too suspicious and, being uxorious, was willing to defer to a stepmother’s envy. But see, he’s here. Let us alone a little while, Taclaxus. [Enter Mexus.]
ACT IV, SCENE ii
MONT. Hurry here, son. Hurry to your wretched father’s bosom.
MEX. Is this how you bid me a final farewell, father? Is this how you send me to my death? Ah, why do you want to kill me twice? Rather, since I could seem guilty in your eyes, let me die neglected. It will go easier on me if I bear the weight of your severity with no admixture of your love. I have been taught to tolerate this by long experience, but I have no idea how to bear this mixture of love and harshness.
MONT. Alas, my son! You are killing me with your complaint, just yet harsh. I confess, ah, I confess that I was severe, hard, unkind, and savage to you.
MEX. So what am I think? That my father has changed his mind? You arent’t consigning me to death, father?
MONT. Alas, you to death!
MEX. Yes, me myself, this rebellious son who is imagining the death of his brother and the queen.
MONT. My son, your innocence is finally clear to me. The queen herself had no fear to delegate this crime.
MEX. The queen herself? Heavens! But what could make her reveal the truth?
MONT. It was revealed by the scheming of a faithless traitor. Quicuxtemocus, the architect of the felony and the man who urged it has finally revealed his intentions, since he has openly rebelled and is stirring up the rage of the common people against us for refusing to yield Axacus to his death.
MEX. He dared devise such a great wrong?
MONT. Ah, he didn’t just dare devise this wrong. As a rebel he’s besieging the palace. There’s no remaining room for hope. We’re all ruined. Therefore, my boy, I pray you take pity on your unhappy father and at least grant me your embrace, although I deserve neither of these things.
MEX. Oh, open your arms for me, father, open them entirely. I’ll happily return to your bosom, father. Now I don’t dread the severe jokes of fate. If die I must, I’ll die cheerfully and with a will, after having been returned into your favor and know that my father requites my life.
MONT. Will you be able to love me, my son?
MEX. You can ask that, father?
MONT. What, love your executioner, who unjustly destroyed you? Who has brought down ruin on myself, on you, and on all the royal household?
MEX. What are you saying, father? What reproaches are you heaping on yourself?
MONT. Very true reproaches, alas! I was the executioner of you, of myself, and of my people when I wildly rejected your wholesome advice. When I was too uxorious and an unjust supporter of your stepmother, and seemed to be too complaisant in betraying her stepson to her machinations. And when I was suspicious and was willing to believe you were striving to murder your brother. And so I should indeed love you, my son, and mourn the misfortune of my innocent child. But although you might be able to love your father, you are under no obligation to do so. Henceforth I could be an object of hatred to one and all, but to no man more so than to my son. Indeed, my son, from now on you should abominate and curse me.
MEX. Alas, father, why should you want to kill me with your bitter complaints? Ah, I pray you to abandon these unfair laments. Rather we should adopt some wholesome counsel and see whether there is some way we can get the best of the danger that threatens your life, and if there is some means whereby we can save my brother’s life from the people’s rage.
MONT. Alas, son, I lost the single support of my hope when I forbade you to return to my camp. You could have advanced your victorious standards in my support, and rescued your nation from this twofold evil. Now we have no remaining hope. Our enemy is without, and also within.
MEX. If I am not mistaken, father, the enemy without is more dangerous, and more to be feared by you. So let us make up our minds to entrust ourselves to the foreigners. I want to request their aid against the fury of our citizenry. I imagine that they themselves want to to protect us. Even if they refuse to give you back all of your erstwhile dignity, they certainly will keep you safe until you are given some other opportunity for reasserting your rights.
MONT. My son, if any counsel remains, this one might prevail. But I think I’m too offended by them than that I could bring myself to make these pleas. This responsibility will be entrusted to you. Go to their commander, use your prudence. You can do this more wisely than could your father. (Enter Cortez.) But see, he himself is present. I’ll sadly withdraw, son, grieving over your misfortune more than my own. (Exit Montezuma.)
ACT IV, SCENE iii
COR. Why does your father shun my presence, Mexus? Perhaps I have been burdensome? If so, I’ll retire. I have no desire to trouble the afflicted, indeed I’d rather give them consolation.
MEX. Great commander, your arrival is in no wise burdensome to us. But my father, oppressed by the great weight of his woes, preferred to withdraw so as to devote himself to his sorrow a little while. Meanwhile, if it is no trouble, I’d gladly have a few words with you.
COR. No one else’s conversation could be more welcome. For, my prince, your merits, your noble endowments of mind, your virtue, which is beyond your years, your famed glory at arms, and all the triumphs you have gained at an age when other boys have barely begun to set aside their toys, justly inspire the love and respect of all heroes. Indeed, prince, even if I saw nothing else in you, just your miseries would make you dear to me.
MEX. The noble nature of your kindness, the generous disposition of your mind, and your pious sentiments of kindness towards those in misfortune, argue even to those of my nation that you were born under a gentle star, or are of more than a mortal pedigree. Certainly these things have put us in good hope and confidence of obtaining your help in our affliction. For now we are unashamed to request this from you, against the enterprise of a traitorous man and the rebellious threats of our angry population. Perhaps you will be surprised that I have abased myself to the point of making such requests from you, since you might also seem a man we should regard as our enemy. But this is the state, such is the miserable condition of our affairs, that the welfare of my father, my brother, and our nation seems destined to be safer in the hands of a foreign enemy than it would be in those of our own citizens. So I beg you to protect my father from the blind fury of his people, and not to allow my brother to fall victim on the bloody altars. This I beg, commander, as I fall at your feet.
COR. Ah, rise up, prince. When your dignity has fallen, you have no need of entreaties. It is enough for me to know your miseries. I want you to know what whatever help lies in me is entirely at your service. Indeed, my prince, lest you think I am speaking to no purpose, you should know that I have already refused to hand over Axacus as a victim to the sacrilegious threats of the raging populace. Indeed, when they began to make good their threats with force of arms, once or twice I drove them back. Terrified by the novel noise of our death-dealing method of warfare and safe from the death, the rebels are keeping themselves at a distance from the palace, nor would I imagine they’ll readily try their hand at war again. Therefore, I trust, their insane madness will subside, and quickly security will return for you and your father.
MEX. This concern of yours for those in unhappiness truly proclaims that you are noble hero. And, since we have received such happy first signs of your kindness, I hope that that you will bring your favor to fruition and not just free my father from these woes so that you might reduce him to the worse evil of servitude, nor choose to impose any manner of condition which would make it seem you desire a reward for this service. Rather, since fortune has entrusted the lot of our miserable king into your hands, continue to confirm my father’s scepter by your noble onslaught. Just be aware that someday his royal liberality will duly requite you for your kindness. But on the other hand, commander, if you are thinking of taking another route and strive to impose an alien yoke on us, then you must know this. I swear by heaven, if in no other way can I avenge my nation, I shall by my death forestall being compelled to witness any shame for it and for my father.
COR. Cease fearing, my prince. For the relief of miseries, the removal of crime, the protection of good men, the doing of good for all men, this is my work, this is my task, nor do I seek any payment for this task. Only one reward blesses heroes, the consciousness of doing good for many men and the pleasure of doing the deeds itself. (Enter Ords.) But our Ordas approaches. Come, friend, tell me the situation.
ACT IV, SCENE iv
MEXUS, CORTEZ, ORDÁS
ORD. It could hardly be worse. Our enemies’ rage provokes harder fighting than ever. We can barely withstand them.
COR. So our often-repulsed enemy has returned? He’s not yet sated with slaughter?
ORD. He appears to be more enraged by his losses. They have no further fear of our artillery, and voluntarily rush headlong to their doom. And our supply of gunpowder is running low. (Enter Pizarro.)
ACT IV, SCENE v
MEXUS, CORTEZ, ORDÁS, PIZARRO
PIZ. If your presence was ever needed, general, it is now. Our counsels, our spirits, and our weapons are running low. On every side, the ferocious enemy is so oppressing our camp that we must soon think of sounding the recall, unless we all wish to die.
COR. We shall overcome the evil, I hope. If it goes otherwise, you should think of retreating along with us, my prince, if you wish to be safe. In our camp we have a store of new weaponry, and from there we can re-attack the city with refreshed strength and be better equipped to quell our enemies’ audacity in a battle. (Exeunt.)
ACT IV, SCENE vi
MEX. Me retreat? To what place? Alas, better that I fall with my falling country. But I want to learn my father’s intention. If he elects to flee, I shall not refuse to do the same myself. If he should await his doom, I shall cleave to him as his companion in death.
Go to Act V