Commentary notes can be accessed by clicking on a blue square. The Latin text can be accessed by clicking on a green square.
ACT III, SCENE i
RAG. Where am I going in my folly? What room for hope remains? Into what danger has my concern for my ward drawn me in my blindness? For his sake I am exposing myself to the royal wrath, I mean for the sake of an unfaithful, runaway, unclean, impious boy, who has betrayed both me and God Himself. An apostate, he has thrown off the Christian yoke and basely entered in Mahomet’s sin. Alas, Pelagius. You young boy, all too frail! Is this to what he strength of your former merit has come, the steadfast courage of your faith? You yield so quickly? What happened to that steadfastness you used to display, that stoutheartedness? And yet I was too stern to that boy, I sought in him the strength of a grown man. Fear, the tyrant’s threats, and perhaps punishments inflicted on him, frightened his weak heart. Something must be conceded to his fear and the limited power of a mind not yet polished. Rather, it was myself who was at fault. It must be charged to my discredit that I submitted to the king’s command and so readily yielded the boy to him. I should have scorned the enraged king’s threats and certain death. I should have set an example with my own faith and emboldened the lad’s tender young faith in the face of death. Albeit it’s late in the day, I’ll go and menacingly reproach Pelagius concerning his downfall. Maguedus will grant me access, I know, for he has already signaled his disapproval of the violent tyrant’s intentions, and secretly supports us. Right now I’ll test his thinking. Hang me, that’s unimportant. I’ll just see the boy (Exit.)
ACT III, SCENE ii
ABDERRAMANUS, ZUNELMUS, SOLDIER
ABD. Tell me, soldier, has the torturer carried out my orders?
SOLD. He’s all but exceeded them. For it was thought that the boy gave up the ghost on the wheel. He finally was restored to himself, albeit with difficulty, so that he still lives but can scarcely breathe.
ABD. Good. Produce the boy for me immediately. (Exit soldier.) My son, don’t let your vain tears and complaints increase the threats of your father, so often rebuffed. Henceforth you may omit your prayers on behalf of the stubborn boy. Rather, it befits you defer to your father’s will, and not to deprecate the fate the boy has earned.
ZUN. Admittedly Pelagius deserves death. But allow me to beg at least this much, father, that you have a better concern for your reputation. Let not the sacred laws of good faith —
ABD. Where’s this freedom of speech tending, boy? You give advice to your father? You set the rules for right and wrong? Henceforth learn to revere my prudence. Even if you dare silently disapprove of my counsels, you should know it’s not your business to give advice to your parent. Get yourself away from here quickly, or I’ll take the boy and — (Exit Zunelmus.)
ACT III, SCENE iii
ABD. Pitiful young man! Alas, the torturer was too hard on you. I wanted you to be chastised, but not for your limbs to be thus unstrung. I must admit I feel sorry for you, and I join you in suffering your pains. And yet I hope that what you endured will not prove to be without their benefits, and that I may have the consolation of laying my hands on wounds, so that you in your turn may discover how good I am.
PEL. Don’t sympathize with my lot, tyrant. I don’t suffer from these evils as you would imagine, as many and great as they are, and indeed I would happily submit to more for Christ’s sake. Suffering thus is no suffering. It is our way to lay down our lives for this cause. This day has at length given me that for which I humbly prayed before, I mean that I be allowed to demonstrate my faith to God amidst hardships, and I swear by heaven that a happier day has never dawned for Pelagius. Continue the work you have begin, bring it to its completion, and add death, the goal of my hopes. Thus you can be kindly, at least in this way thus you can earn my love. But you may omit to make further trial of my faith with any more of cheating blandishments, unless you wish to arouse my hatred of yourself.
ABD. Unmanageable heart! Virtue joined to pertness! Ah, boy, why is the fine strength of your fearless mind devoted to a bad cause? You must amend the error of your prejudiced sect. Let a better standard of reason rule your senses, for you ought to weigh everything in reason’s balance. I know that cruel fury has your mind in its grip, and that a Christian is wont to fill his children with false tales about our faith together with their mother’s milk, Permit me to refute all those errors. Come, set forth the argument which makes your senses loathe Mahomet’s rites so greatly, or tell me why the Christian sect is reckoned as being holier, or why it is more divine.
PEL. My youthful age is such that it ought to embarrass a grown man to debate religion with me. Adn how much more embarrassing it ought to be, when my mind is so dulled by my punishments. But as far as your wanting to know why our law disapproves of your ways, I want to produce a few weighty arguments out of many. Why should I think anything holy or divine about a law whose author was a base impostor, which has placed no bridle on rotten wantonness, a law in accordance with which lust itself is wont to be perceived in fair things?
ABD. Why to you imagine those things to be true? Rather you should believe them to be fictions and mere trifles.
PEL. Your scads of errors prevent me from believing these are fictions.
ABD. And yet by now our religion has come to dominate nearly all the world, which is a sufficiently great proof that it is consonant with wisdom and welcome in the sight of God.
PEL. Rather, it is great proof of what force and the menacing fury of arms can achieve. Those men who cannot be brought over to your side by license and love of pleasure (a mighty sin in itself), those you are wont to drive against their will into your impious pig-sty by the sword, threats, fire, plundering, and the fear of death. Mahomet himself attests to this, as do all the commanders whom the Saracen plague subsequently showed to the world. In their eyes, Mars and Venus were the only gods. Your religion always chases after these gods, and nowadays all over the world it regards itself uniquely indebted to their divinities.
ABD. Bah, a lying fable!
PEL. As far as I am concerned, Abderramenus himself proves it is true enough.
ABD. (Aside.) The shameful scandal! Alas, I’m caught in my own nets. (Aloud.) And yet who can believe the truth of your fnction, the great fables in which your faith believes, such as no man of sane mind can accept? I mean that one being can be both God and man, three and one, and other foolishness of that kind, such children are capable of disproving.
PEL. As far as the truth of Christ’s law goes, I’m not surprised you don’t understand it. It is loftier and more sacred than can be grasped by our fleshly senses. It is not fitting that I explain revered mysteries to you. I am forbidden from casting pearls before swine.
ABD. I see that you are only inventing reproaches, boy. Reason will teach you not to fear death.
PEL. Death’s threats fail to terrify me. It will at length come in answer to my prayers.
ABD. But first you need to weigh with a sound mind where you are rushing. You do not yet understand the nature of death, you have not had a close look at its horror. I’ll give you time for serious thought, and leave you to yourself for a little while. But I warn you beforehand, you will not be walking a path strewn with roses. It will be thornier than you fancy. (Exit Abderramenus.)
ACT III, SCENE iv
PEL. You’re wrong, tyrant! No manner of death for Christ will be bitter. On these terms, no matter how awful my death is reckoned to be, for me it will be delights and roses. Yes, Christ, for me it will be delights and roses to die for Your sake. Grant me harsh things, savage me with a thousand kinds of death, as long as in this way I am required to please You, as long as in this way I can prove my faith, I shall not refuse to suffer harsh things, and a thousand kinds of death. I admit that until now I have made unworthy complaints, lest I be obliged to live so long in this barbaric realm as an exile from my homeland, and because my tender young virtue would be so greatly endangered. I did not understand Your favor towards me, Christ. I did not understand the glorious things which You were preparing for me, how constantly You exercised Your care for me. It was Your will that I be banished from my native soil and wrenched from the sweet embrace of my friends, so that I might live and die for You defenseless, as a victim of Your love. And now far away, alone, forlorn, wretched, and destitute of all human consolation though I seem to be, You, Christ, are present and have chosen to be my one consolation. Oh, how much more loveable You are when you come to Pelagius, Christ! I feel my heart afire with a strange heat. I feel it spurred by new goads of love. I burn, I am afire, I am reduced to ash entire. I acknowledge heaven’s favor. You are present, God, You shed nectar upon my limbs. You never permit my wounded body to feel its punishments. Why is this favor bestowed on my undeserving self, and why, Christ, should Pelagius gain the glory of receiving such great gifts from You? Ah, God, let whatever blood is stored up in my veins flow for You. Let my broken limbs, the pain of having my body rent asunder bear witness to You. Let my bones spring apart, let my broken body fly into a thousand pieces. (Enter Raguel and Maguedus.).
ACT III, SCENE v
PELAGIUS, RAGUEL, MAGUEDUS
MAG. So always take care that you avoid the captain’s notice.
RAG. You may depart in safety. I swear by our pious laws, my tongue will never betray my sworn faith. (Exit Maguedus.)
PEL. Heavens! I see Raguel.
RAG. Am I unwelcome? Why this sudden shuddering? Why are you fearful in your mind, boy?
PEL. Alas, Raguel, what induced you to put your life in such great jeopardy? Why come back to these forbidden places? Ah, flee. My friend, I entreat you flee the savage tyrant’s cruel threats, rescue yourself from certain death.
RAG. Bah, how you concerned you are for my life! I value my life less highly than you imagine, boy.
PEL. That grim face! What is that stern visage saying?
RAG. I’m hardly surprised that you want me to be far removed from yourself, since you are urging me to flee so that I might relieve you of my unwelcome presence, since Pelagius regards Raguel as such an unwelcome guest.
PEL. What harsh words! The savage harshness of your tongue! Raguel, my friend!
RAG. It scarcely befits me to have earned the name of friend only to lose it afterwards. That title now strikes me as disgraceful.
PEL. My mind is amazed, cold horror pervades my being. Ah, why rend my heart with these bitter reproaches? When I have suffered harsh things and am half-dead thanks to all my evils, why try to kill me with a more bitter punishment, my friend?
RAG. You complain about your punishments. You should complain more about the cowardly fear of your mind.
PEL. (Aside.) Whatever does he mean? Am I to think those words come from a sane mind? (Aloud.) Ah, Raguel, I’m not complaining about any punishment, whatever ones the tyrant might impose. Even if you yourself enjoin worse ones, Raguel, I’ll gladly endure them all for Christ’s sake.
RAG. Rather, you have now betrayed Him, you new Judas.
PEL. Alas, Raguel, what sin are you talking about? Me betray Christ? Me be called a wanton deserter of the faith?
RAG. Your unspeakable sin is all too evident. Stop trying to talk around the subject with your feigned wiles.
PEL. I swear by the stars’ fires, I swear by our just God’s final tribunal, my mind is free of sin, it clings to Christ and is true to itself. Nor has my tongue ever said anything contrary to my faith, no matter how much the tyrant may roar that he will shake it with every manner of chastisement.
RAG. So the tyrant spread a false rumor? Is the boy’s faith safe?
PEL. And soon to be decorated with a beautiful death.
RAG. How how much joy fills Raguel’s heart! You make me very happy, boy. Ah, Pelagius, forgive me if I lent too gullible ears to this sinister report, if with my harsh voice —
PEL. Why torment your heart, my friend? You should you ask forgiveness for your faith and your love? Alas, stop these plaints, which wear me down. The tyrant will soon be here. Ah, you should rather consult for your safety, you should rather leave this place, so that at least a great part of myself may live on in you.
RAG. Ah, rather that I could die together with you!
PEL. Alas, the king approaches. Ah, you’re ruined, Raguel, you’re ruined. (Enter Abderramenus.)
ACT III, SCENE vi
ABDERRAMENUS, PELAGIUS, RAGUEL
ABD. What am I seeing? It’s monstrous that this black snake could have slithered in! Soldier, lock him up in the dungeon under this palace so that I can devise a death worthy of his felony.
PEL. So thus you die for the love of me, Raguel? Oh, a harsh misfortune for Pelagius!
RAG. Banish your sorrow, Raguel has lived abundantly, and happily he will —
ABD. Cease your noise right now, you soldier of the foul Styx. (Exit Raguel.)
ACT III, SCENE vii
PEL. Vile tyrant! Wasn’t it enough to have ruined my body? You go on to ruin my name and reputation? You pretend that I have betrayed God, that I have abandoned the faith of Christ? That I basely swore reproaches against the law? A lying tongue ill suits kings.
ABD. I am scarcely minded to tolerate any more rebukes of your pert tongue, boy. I come, fierce with rage and terrible pain. You must quickly pronounce sentence of life or death upon yourself. You be your own judge, I’ll ratify your verdict.
PEL. If wanting my Christian faith to remain intact and refusing to fall into your sect’s sin is to pronounce a death-sentence on myself, it has already been pronounced. But I’ll tell you once more. As long as I live, nothing will steal Christ from me. I’ll gladly attest my faith in Him with death itself. I abominate Mahomet, together with his law. I hate the homes of your unclean nation, and I always shall.
ABD. It’s pronounced enough and more, boy. Take him to his death, henchman, and let the executioner be unstinting in its administration. Use a torturer’s rake to skin him alive, and rip him up with your biting flesh-hook, let his ruined body be rendered into a thousand parts. Then, whatever the executioner’s ingenious hand can invent to make his death all the cruelerm let him visit on the impious boy’s person.
PEL. Oh, at last a happy sentence for Pelagius! (Exit Pelagius.)
ACT III, SCENE viii
ABD. With what a face he endured my threats! With what a countenance he heard the news of his savage death! I thundered forth a worse manner of death than was just, because I was trying to put him in the utmost fear. But did he roll his eyes? Did his face turn pale? Did he give any sign of the least dread? Little boys are not in the habit of being armed with such great strength. He certainly has a more than manly courage. (Enter Zunelmus.)
ACT III, SCENE ix
ZUN. What do I hear, father? You’ve sentenced Pelagius to death?
ABD. As he deserved for his stubbornness.
ZUN. Oh my savage father! Why call you my father? In my eyes you are more of a tyrant. You’re a second Busiris, a second Phalaris, a second Nero.
ABD. You contemn that which our religion commands, my son?
ZUN. Our religion? It could be what you commanded in your unbridled rage. For what legal authority did you have over the boy’s faith?
ABD. Son, get out of your angry father’s sight. I’m afraid lest my paternal rage fall on my own flesh and blood.
ZUN. If it only would! I’ll confess this would be a boon for me in my misery. Trust me, you’ll soon regret your savagery. (Exit Zunelmus.)
ACT III, SCENE x
ABD. I admit I’ve already begun to regret it. I confess I was too severe on the boy. Alas, where was my rabid fury driving my mind? My mind was more fierce than was just in hastening on his doom, and my chagrin carried me away in my blindness. Ah, I see, at last I see. But what do I see? What inner struggle is dragging my heart into these returning cares? What are you doing, my mind? Are you abandoning your threats so quickly? So will the boy insult me with impunity? Shall he take no heed of my royal commands, and none of my love? Shall he heedlessly repay my favor with reproaches? He has deserved to die, let him die. Ah, but what has the innocent lad deserved? Rather, it was I who was guilty, because I needed to tamper with the boy’s faith. What right could I have over the mind of a hostage, to make it conform with my desires against its will? Oh, the atrocious crime! Ah, the very dire outrage! I am deservedly called a tyrant even by my own subjects. That’s how tyrants rage, that’s how they compel. The boy’s misfortune could move even the very beasts. Even a savage tigress could weep, a bear could mourn, and hard flint could melt into tears. Alas, I am moved. Why not revoke my barbarous sentence? Yes, I shall revoke it. My attendant, let a man come here immediately (Enter a soldier.) Go, soldier, run and stop Pelagius’ execution. (Exit the soldier.) But who is hastening here? I fear he is no more. [Enter a messenger.]
ACT III, SCENE xi
MESS. Alas, the atrocious deed! Alas, the lamentable wrong!
ABD. Pelagius is dead?
MESS.. He’s dead. Ah, prince, what you ask about is a trifle. I am reporting an atrocious, lamentable wrong.
ABD. What sad news do you bring? Tell me the fearful misfortune.
MESS. Alas, Zunelmus!
ABD. What do you say? Alas, my son, my Zunelmus!
MESS. Alas, he’s fallen by his own hand.
ABD. He’s fallen? Oh gods! My Zunelmus?
MESS. When he heard that Pelagius was being taken to his final punishment, Zunelmus came running to the place himself. He has scarcely arrived to the place of execution, he had scarcely come to the cruel scene, when Pelagius expired. Here Zunelmus sorrowfully groaned. Then, drawing his sword, “thus, thus, I’ll avenge my father’s deed.” Immediately the servants at hand hurled themselves at him, but in vain. He had plunged the sword into his guts up to the hilt.
ABD. Oh Styx! Oh Acheron! Oh dire crime of Tartarus! Oh woe, Zunelmus is dead! Oh woe, my Zunelmus! Blackness of night, dark Chaos, envelop the earth! Hide the sinful day. Come, titan, hide your grievous light. Take, you darkling shades, take Abderramenus’ ill-omened person beneath the pools of the Styx. My son, I shall accompany you. My son, I shall follow you to the Styx.
MESS. Alas, prince, I pray you stop your frenzy. Your son has not yet groaned his last.
ABD. What are you telling me? The boy still survives and breathes? You have made me very happy.
MESS. See, he is being brought to you. (Enter Zunelmus.)
ACT III, FINAL SCENE
ABDERRAMENUS, ZUNELMUS, MESSENGER, SOLDIERS
ABD. My son! Zunelmus! My child!
ZUN. Cruel father.
ABD. Ah, my son, I confess, ah, I confess I was too cruel. But I beg you to live, my son. Alas, live. Live, so as not to kill your father. Alas, he’s groaned his last. And I am slow to die? I’ll go beneath the shadows. I’ll go, I’ll swim the Styx, I’ll see my son again.
MESS. Stop, king. Alas, where are you rushing?
ABD. Alas, Pelagius, is this how we atone for your murder? Severe Nemesis! Stern but just heaven!
To the greater glory of God, the Mother of God, St. Ignatius, St. Xavier, and the Holy Church