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ACT V, SCENE i
QUICUXTEMOCUS, TRUXELLUS, PRIEST
QUIC. We have conquered, my friends. We have finally shown what Mexicans can accomplish under a strong leader. Those men whom feeble Montezuma let into the city have proved unequal in war and have felt our lightning, even though they themselves were armed with the lightning of Jove. With the help of the gods and the favor of my good fortune, we have expelled this noxious plague, and freed our city of a dread enemy.
TRUX. And, to fill the measure of our happiness, king Montezuma himself and his royal family are all in our grasp. We could not hope for better spoils of victory.
PRIEST We must dare another deed, so that you may hence forth rule as our prince free and unencumbered by any fear. As long as Montezuma lives and breathes, you will not wield the scepter in safety. This popular favor can quickly desert you, their former reverence for the king can reassert itself when the people’s rage subsides. And you know Mexus’ popularity with the army. They will give you little trouble, if you remove the head of this evil.
QUIC. My friend, I see our situation well enough. I’m aware I’m not yet a king in all respects. There still remains one doubtful and difficult obstacle, which I’ll nevertheless overcome with ease, relying on your help and loyalty.
TRUX. So let’s address the issue immediately. All delay is ruinous. You know how devoted our loyalty is towards yourself.
PRIEST Tell me what deed you wish us undertake. I swear by the altars of the gods, I shall be not be found behindhand in committing any crime our cause requires.
QUIC. Noble hearts! How greatly I like your zeal and the ready strength of your intrepid minds! Continue to support my spirited advance. Thus, thus one mounts to the stars, thus the noble honors of good fortune are sought. Trifling minds are wont to fear crimes. He who craves to be great and noble will make his way through any crimes you care to mention, for fortune’s highway is paved with wrongdoing. If I rule, I rule thanks to you, and I swear by heaven that a reward worthy of your support awaits you. Coucopoca, while the people’s rage is still a-boil, let Axacus fall victim at your altars. This work requires your service, leave the rest to me and I’ll quickly remove the source of our fear.
PRIEST You can consider the task you assign me to have been done, and the boy already to have been snatched from his father’s bosom. Your divinity has demanded this single victim, and it shall have him. For none of the gods is more important in my eyes. (Exit the priest.)
ACT V, SCENE ii
QUIC. My friend, I must confess that a doubtful passion troubles my heart. What’s the source of my sudden trouble of mind, what does this mental confusion mean? Reason itself rebels against my hope and my mind, true to itself, blanches at this amount of treason. In vain ambition applies its goads in vain, and urges me to atrocious felony with its seductive thirst for honor. Reverence for the king and I know not what honor still reside in my heart. My mind scarcely dares, I must admit, complete the crime I have started.
TRUX. Disgraceful for a great heart! What’s this rigor of finicky virtue? What niggling fear intrudes itself to delay the dawning of your hope, when it has made such a great beginning? How long, my prince, will your noble thirst for power fear to shed a little guilty blood? What has happened to your noble opinion, which preaches that there is no difference between legal and illegal, right and wrong, when supreme power is at stake and civic upheavals offer the chance to commit crime with impunity? Virtue is an empty word. Piety, faith, the fair and the honorable, this is the coin of base-born minds. Men will dare mint themselves better, if the logic of fair fortune requires. But if that scruple persists in troubling your heart, you should bear in mind, my prince, our situation. Trust me, you have gone too far to retrace your steps with safety.
You are telling the truth, my friend. I appreciate full well that I cannot stand still during this crisis of my affairs. I need to break free by means both right and wrong, and I must set small value on the pricks of a reluctant conscience. Indeed, the royal household needs to be destroyed entirely, if I wish to be free of danger. So, my friend, see to it that a double cup of lethal juice is prepaired. (Enter Montezuma.) But the prince is here. Get to work, and inform me when everything is in readiness. [Exit Truxellus. Enter Montezuma.]
ACT V, SCENE iii
MEX. What is this thing you are daring to do, Quicuxtemocus? Tell me why Axacus is being torn from the bosom of his parents. Have you dared give him to the altars as a victim?
QUIC. Why ask, prince. The gods require this gift, nor does it behoove me to deny their request.
MEX. Really, you rebel? Are you claiming that the gods can make their demands out of malice? Rather, set aside your mask. Tell me instead that this victim was immolated to yourself, so that in this way you might complete your work of high treason. But what’s the point in indulging your savagery and continuing onward, after your counsels and the scheme you devised have achieved their desired result? Here is the point, Quicuxtemocus, at which you should have stopped, had you any sense. It was scarcely befitting for you to crown your crimes with the murder of an innocent. As far as I can see, you ill consult for your honor and your situation with such a deed. Perhaps our people have tolerated the fact that you are a treacherous rebel, but they will not tolerate you for being so blood-thirsty, barbaric, unkind, and impious.
QUIC. Whew, what spirits, what crazed arrogance! At this crucial moment, my prince, you should not reproach me for these things. You should realize that you live or die in accordance with my whim.
MEX. Yes, you traitor, I admit I know this all too well. But what do you suppose I’ll do, humbly beg you for death?
QUIC. Certainly you should not be provoking my retaliation by insulting me, nor cutting off your access to my bounty.
MEX. Listen to Quicuxtemocus rattle on about goodness! You would do better to leave that virtue to the lioness and the ravening tiger. Sometimes a lioness or a tiger spares its prey, but a savage man is never wont to be sparing: a man who is savage, unreliable and similar to yourself.
QUIC. I see you have a bad opinion of me, my prince.
MEX. I admit it is not of the best.
QUIC. But, my prince, I believe you should pretend, if you wish to remain safe and sound.
MEX. You mean I should be so base as to adopt your arts. Not so, Quicuxtemocus: I leave such dodges and frauds to you. My mind is not hard to read. My heart is free of fraud and fearless of death. But why say the same thing to me over and over, and urge me timidly to beg you for my life, although you are to determined by no means to grant it?
QUIC. Me refuse to grant life to a suppliant?
MEX. Just so, Quicuxtemocus. Even if you wished to go contrary to your nature and spare me, you would scarcely dare do so. For you perceive that, as long as I am alive, nothing will ever be safe for you. You would know that the avenger of your crime lived, a man who never lacked popularity with the soldiers, or the will to avenging his king and punishing your misdeeds. But suppose you were blind, so much so that you would possibly become your own enemy, and think my life worth saving, even though that would run contrary to your advantage. Do you imagine I would be so grateful to you I would be willing to live thanks to a rebel, his inferior and robbed of the right to my own dignity? Life is not worth that much to me, Quicuxtemocus. Where a robber reigns, it does not befit Mexus to live. It behooves him to die along with his perishing country.
QUIC. You’ll perhaps gain your wish soon, my prince.
MEX. Why not right now? Behold my naked breast, strike. Why are you hesitate? Perhaps you are ashamed to attack an unarmed man. So command that my arms be returned to me, so we might be allowed to fight on equal terms. This will give you the best way to avoid the mark of cruelty and cowardice. Indeed, thus you would be able to boast of my killing. So congratulations on your courage. What? Surely you aren’t afraid of me? Have no fear, you can easily destroy an beardless boy.
QUIC. You chatter on with too much pertness, boy. I can soon tame you of your high spirits.
MEX. Get to work, Quicuxtemocus. Why rattle on with empty threats?
QUIC. Why is Truxellus delaying? (Enter Montezuma and Truxellus.). But the king is coming this way , full of wrath.
ACT V, SCENE iv
MONTEZUMA, MEXUS, QUICUXTEMOCUS, TACLAXUS
TAC. Alas, my king, stop. Where are you blindly —
MONT. Has the rebel handed over Axacus to his death? And, Taclaxus, you would restrain me? Let me disgorge my wrath on this faithless person. Even if I bring on my own death, that’s a small thing. I have lived long enough and ore. If I must die, I shall die a sound person. What good is life for an unhappy king and father?
TAC. By anything which —
MONT. I command you to depart. Leave me to myself. Show reverence for your king’s final command. (Exit Taclaxus.)
ACT V, SCENE v
MONTEZUMA, MEXUS, QUICUXTEMOCUS
MONT. So, Quicuxtemocus, you have manfully laid low your dread foe.
QUIC. I admit that, with the gods’ help, I have rid the city of a plague that needed to be feared.
MEX. And one not destined to return, perhaps.
MONT. But you are keeping silent about the palm you have won and the glory of your great victory. And, as I hear, you have achieved something else, a crime more worthy of a Quicuxtemocus. You have manfully put a helpless child to death, and are nobly crowing over the blood of Axacus.
QUIC. Pray don’t blame me for Axacus’ death. Rather you should accuse the gods.
MONT. You sacrilegiously dare shift the unspeakable blame onto the gods themselves? Does heaven hear this and remain idle?
MEX. As if the gods demanded Axacus to be given them as a victim so they might support Quicuxtemocus’ sly undertakings and treasonous schemes!
MONT. I understand your machinations, you rebel, albeit too late. You ungrateful traitor! Is this how you repay my kindnesses to you? Until now I have cherished you at my bosom, and lavishly bestowed all those proofs of royal favor on you, so that you, having suffered no harm, might inflict these wounds on me? Even if you had faithlessly chosen to steal my scepter and my life, you assuredly should be less savage. It would have been fitting to destroy me by a single death. I should not have had to be rendered irate by the death of my son, nor to suffer a double death.
QUIC. I see that my presence is burdensome for you, my prince. I shall retire so that your anger might abate.
MONT. Go, you perfidious man, but rather so that you may prepare our death. Whatever you do, be sure you do it quickly. (Exit Quicuxtemocus.)
ACT V, SCENE vi
MONT. Alas, my son,now my troubled heart is pierced by a single care. Now I fear for you alone, for you I tremble. Tell me whether there is any gleam of hope. Did the rebel yield to your entreaties and spare your life?
MEX. Yield to my entreaties and spare my life? Why ask, father? Should I humbly beg a tiger to spare me? I should sooner use my prayers in an attempt to sway a bear or a ravening wolf. And if that traitor were to give my life of his own volition, do you believe I’d account that a favor?
MONT. But, my son, could you scorn the threats of death with a steady gaze? Have you no young man’s fear of dying before his time?
MEX. That man does not fall prematurely, for whom longer life would be shameful and wretched. When one must die, it is the mark of a base mind to shudder at death, I have already learned to hold it in disdain. But today I have learned to love and even to ask to be loved.
MONT. My son, I am returned to life. Henceforth I forgive the gods. A midst my miseries they have assuredly given me this consolation, that Mexus will die worth of himself, if die he must, and worthy of his father. (Enter Truxellus and his henchmen.) But what does this sad assembly mean?
ACT V, SCENE vii
MONTEZUMA, MEXUS, TRUXELLUS, SOLDIERS
TRUX. Forgive me, my prince, if I bring you commands as another man’s herald. Although I lament your fate, I am nevertheless unwillingly —
MONT. I understand you, Truxellus. No need for those words, your loyalty requires no excuses. It is well enough known to the traitor, and to me. But abandon your concern. You are scarcely bringing me unexpected commands, nor are you as unwelcome a herald of my fate as you perhaps suppose. So that I might free Quicuxtemocus and you of your fear, Truxellus, I shall make no delay. You avenging gods! But let it be, thus it is decreed, that all my dynasty shall die with me. But I pray you in turn do destroy the men responsible, and punish this faithless crime as it deserves. (Exeunt Montezuma, Mexus, and Truxellus. Enter Quicuxtemocus and a messenger.)
ACTS V, SCENE viii
QUIC. So you are telling me the Spanish have come back?
MESS. They have rejoined battle in full force. The soldiers you recently commanded to pursue them as they were fleeing the city have been driven back, and they hold the walls and the middle of the city. Thundering everywhere with their forked lightning, they are making their way to the palace by means of a thousand slaughter. While presiding over the rites of the gods, Coulcopoca has already fallen victim to their fury.
QUIC. Coulcopoca! Oh, that’s a dire omen for myself. Where’s Truxellus? (Enter Truxellus.)
MESS. Look, he’s here in the nick of time.
ACT V, SCENE ix
QUIC. Alas, my friend, this is sad news! But tell me first, have you done as I told you? (Enter Montezuma and Mexus.).
TRUX. They have both drunk a deadly poison.
ACT V, SCENE x
MONTEZUMA, MEXUS, QUICUXTEMOCUS, TRUXELLUS
QUIC. They’ve not yet breathed their last.
MONT. You need not worry, traitor. See my son lying in deep death. His young body could not long withstand the poison’s bane. Nor have any fear, his father will join him in a little while. (Here the roar of muskets is heard from afar.)
TRUX. What sound has assaulted my ears?
QUIC. The Spaniard is at hand. To arms! To arms, soldiers! (Enter a messenger.)
ACT V, SCENE xi
A SECOND MESSENGER WITH THE SAME
MESS. Alas, my prince, you are ruined. Our terrible enemy presses us, and all but possesses the palace as a conqueror. Your soldiers are falling back on every side.
MONT. Now you are receiving your comeuppance, Quicuxtemocus. Why are you paralyzed with fear? What do you dread? Gather your courage. See how your soldiers require your presence.
QUIC. I must go to meet this evil. (Exeunt Quicuxtemocus, Truxellus &c.)
ACT V, SCENE xii
MONT. Now you must take on new strength for a little while, my soul. Take on new vigor. Cease your impending escape from my body for a moment, unwilling though may be, and pray live a little more, until it befalls you to learn of the traitor’s fates. Even amidst unhappy circumstances, you will die happy if you know that the guilty have received well-earned punishment for their crime. (Another roar.) The sound of weaponry hastens closer and closer. (Shouting of soldiers.) Oh happy day! See the traitors! And see the hand of vengeance!
ACT V, SCENE xiii
Commotion. Enter Quicuxtemocus, Truxellus, &c. fighting with Cortez, Vasq<uez>, &c.
MONT. I see the rebels falling. Now I have lived enough.
COR. What sight am I seeing? King! Prince! The crime! Bring them out into the open, soldier. Alas, king!
MONT. My friend.
COR. You live?
MONT. See, my son has been the first to die. I myself live, but can scarcely breathe. The poison’s bane has quite suffused through my body.
COR. Alas, what was the cause of this barbaric, cruel, impious crime?
MONT. You are witnessing the crime of my own people.
VASQ. Oh, the dire felony!
COR. Poor prince!
MONT. Stop feeling pity for me. I die happily and willingly, after having received the consolation of seeing you return as my avenger. I gladly clasp your hand. I commend my nation and my kingdom to you. Give me a hand, Taclaxus. Help me lie down, I’m failing.
TAC. My prince.
MONT. Accept my last farewell. Good-bye, my friend. My son, I come to you as a companion.
TAC. Alas, he has groaned his last.
COR. Oh sad day! Oh the dolorous misfortunes of this unlucky king! Taclaxus, I give these royal bodies to their subjects for burial. Our religion prevents us from attending, but we will mourn as much as we may. See they receive a funeral to match their dignity. But let no human victim be slaughtered, and see that all impious superstition is absent. (Turning to his men.) Whew, my friends, what realms this one day has added to our power! Everywhere, I admit, we have conducted ourselves excellently and manfully. We have done things which nobody but a Spaniard would dare to do, and which our descendants will perhaps consider a fable. But let us not grow to proud in this prosperity, my friends. Rather let us humbly credit this wonderful good fortune to God alone. For whatever realms mortals imagine they themselves create flourish thanks to Him, and fall thanks to the same.