To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.  



TEREUS king of Thrace
PROCNE the queen, wife of Tereus
EUGENES Tereus’ advisor
PHAULUS servant of Tereus
THREE MATES belonging to Tereus’ fleet
PHILOMELA Procne’s sister.
ITYS son of Procne and Tereus
FAUSTULUS a royal shepherd
FAUSTULA the shepherd’s daughter

EARTH, SEA (the Chorus)


First the Prince enters with his nobles and the rest of his escort, all dressed in gowns. They sit. While music plays Fortune enters, bearing a book in her hands, preceded by her priestess. Fortune addresses them.

FORT. And what is your begowned majesty preparing next, an assembly of the neighbors? Do you have an interest in creating a new world? Is this the day for a council? Rather you should get up on your feet, you possessor of a short-lived kingdom. How long will your councils create vain delays? Let them get to acting, let these new kings portray old ones: a fresh mask comes along, but the councils, manners, and deeds of the ancients endure. Choose your story by casting a lot according to my page. Cast your lot. (The prince chooses a page at random and lights on the story of Tereus.) What is it?
PRINCE I read the name of Tereus.
FORT. Take off your gowns, you right distinguished company, as I myself shall divest myself of my veil, so that I may play my part with open eyes. With my hand I now set my rounded wheel by my feet. Let each of you ready himself as a sad participant on the stage, for sorrows have pleasure of their own. Watch out for yourselves, I judge you by your merits and give each man his due: I bestow my affection on the frank, the upright and learned, but let those who are not good be aware they are held in scorn. (They all depart, leaving a crown and scepter on the prince’s chair so that it might not be entirely vacant. Soon they individually appear in the action of the play.)


EARTH Stand still, Sea, you blight on humanity. Why do you so persistently enter in to someone else’s kingdom?
SEA Settle down, vile Earth, you heavy element. Why hold a place higher than you should?
EARTH Nature gave me this place.
SEA She didn’t give it in accordance with your deserts, rather she allowed her rights to be violated for the sake of mankind. Thus I suffer a loss.
EARTH You’re too swollen, envying another’s goods.
SEA You are too proud, encroaching on my realm.
EARTH You don’t know how to control your kingdom. I possess forests, fields, and pleasant valleys. Springtime adorns my mountains, so I am wholly happy and elegant. Summer opens its lap, autumn blesses me with its abundance, wholesome winter makes me sound. Furthermore, I hide a rich heap of gems deep within my bowls. I nourish plants, herbs, beasts and men, which your ever-insatiable whirlpool snatches away.
SEA No, Earth, the earth is more rapacious than the water, a hostile mother gobbling up her own children.
EARTH A friendly mother who hides her children in her bosom.
SEA But Sea hides hers so they may reemerge, whereas heavy Earth oppresses them forever.
EARTH The world curses you, the heaven shudders at you, you prepare such great calamities and disasters.
SEA Why reproach me for calamities, death and slaughter, when you create these things in a thousand ways? On you, a brother uses a sword to kill his brother, a son removes his father by poison, a son-in-law pursues his father-in-law with arms, a man kills his wife. Here the host deceives his guest, there thieves rob men of their goods and life. I say nothing of force, wantonness, and deceit, not to mention the follies of the old, together with the trickery of the young, and the thousand crimes with which all earth abounds, with which it is all filled. But the ocean is chiefly free. If I am ever moved in some manner, I give a prior warning. I send forth winds as harbingers of my wrath, albeit it is just one. For why do bold men, commanded by the Fates to ply the land, not the waters, set unjust weights upon my back? Yet I often tolerate this. When I can suffer it no more, I make the sky to be menacing, and yet the sailor, unconcerned about himself and his men, goes to his ruin, nor hears me in his deafness or observes my threats in his blindness. Nevertheless you call me cruel, savage and deaf. I have long tolerated these unfair complaints, but hear me now, so that you all may equally know how Earth is unjustly railing at the peaceful ocean.
EARTH Since you are so earnestly complaining of your injury, let the gods, those fair umpires, judge the both of us. I grant you a place with me here on this mountain, where I myself observe the things done by land and sea.
SEA (Mounting their throne.) I like your offer. But see, by my first glance I see that ships have gained their harbor. The sea does not snatch away everybody.
EARTH But often a storm thunders within the very harbor. (They take their seat.)


Shouting and rejoicing offstage. Three comrades of Tereus coming from the harbor run across the stage in turn, rejoicing, and quickly exit.

1. Io triumph, we have overcome the threats of the sea. (Exit.)
2. Io triumph, happy Tereus returns. (Exit.)
3. Io triumph, Philomela arrives in safety. (Exit.)

Enter Tereus and Philomela with a procession.

TER. At last, the threats of the stars and sky scattered, and the fear of the flooding sea cast off, we plant our feet on the longed-for land. Sweet Philomela, at whose arrival the earth and sky smile, exulting Thrace leaps, why do you strike me as sad? When the day is fair, why is your brow overclouded? Our terror of the waves has passed, the winds are still.
PHIL. Lofty Tereus, we have overcome the ocean’s floods. But meantime my heart, seething within, is swollen, and either perceives or invents signs of a new storm. Having seen a wolf, a lamb shivers. Thus. perhaps, lately terrified by the sea, I still retain some traces of my old fear, and now that the evil has ceased, my fear does not abate. Perhaps I am longing for my homeland and missing my father.
TER. All this land is your homeland, here is your father, and, as you may see for yourself, I rush into a fatherly embrace. (He kisses her)
PHIL. If I did not believe that a father’s kisses are chaste, my face would be touched by a blush, my mind by a sense of shame.
TER. I am following Procne’s commands. For your sister bade me kiss you, and I give her my ready obedience. (He kisses her.)
 PHIL. My sister has learned to be a wife. I am a virgin, and it befits chaste virgins to be sparing in kissing a man.
TER. (Aside.) How hungry is lust in its excess! Although it enjoys everything it craves, it still craves more. Just now a single kiss was enough. Now it is not, it seeks greater things.
PHIL. (Aside.) My fear is in vain, I have kings as pledges of my safety, my sister is a queen. (To Tereus.) Where is my sister? Why has not come to meet her sister?
TER. She’s unaware of your arrival, she will be here when she’s informed.
PHIL. Send a messenger to inform her.
TER. One will be sent. While away your time in happiness while the king arranges triumphs and organizes a parade. (Exeunt omnes. Tereus and Phaulus remain.)
Come here, Phaulus. Do you love me?
PHAU. More than Jove.
TER. So I desire. For each man either loves Jove or fears him. He will readily scorn my commands, and do those of Jove. What will he do for his king? What can you do?
PHAU. Just command me, and I won’t be afraid to assault the gods above.
TER. Many men do not fear the gods, since they do not see them. What if I command you to murder innocents whom you see and whom you love?
PHAU. If his life is guilty, he has need to repent. If he is innocent, let him die while still an innocent.
TER. Oh how soothing I find your voice, I embrace you! This is what I would wish. I do not like my servants, your fellows.
PHAU. I easily imagine that, I don’t either. Will they die?
TER. Not by my hand.
PHAU. I’ll pierce their breasts and drag out their hearts.
TER. You’re too merciful.
PHAU. Do you want me to chop them into bits?
TER. It’s enough to pierce their hearts. But you can’t do this, you don’t want to.
PHAU. Now I want to live and to please my king. They die.
TER. They are many, you are one.
PHAU. I want to hear the method of this slaughter.
TER. Approach your friends in good cheer. Tell them it is my command that they should celebrate my return with a new holiday. Then let happy bumpers go a-flying, let their feasting by dominated by wine, and let Bacchus and Bacchus’ madness undo them all. Soon, when they are overcome by the wine and their heads are lolling in sleep, let them board a ship. Then you should drill holes in the vessel, so that while the sailors are drinking noble wines the ship might drink in the sea. Leave them thus, so that the ocean may be guilty of the murder, so that they may suddenly die by their own crime and folly. And so let this bitter liquor kill those whom the sweet liquor has failed to satisfy.
PHAU. Oh happy work, I shall undertake it.
TER. And may you bring it to a happy conclusion! You will have me, the king, as your friend, and no small reward will be given you. (Exit Phaulus.) He must receive a punishment instead of a reward. I like the betrayal, but the betrayer is a burden to me. The weight on my shoulders is burdensome, I shall cast of the yoke. (Exit.)


Enter Procne the queen, her son Itys, and others.

PROC. Oh you who hold a second realm amidst the waters, mighty lord of the seas, father of the winds, ruler of the deep, at whose nod the floods grow still and the sea offers a safe road, do not deceive me, preserve that which has been entrusted to you. Give me my husband, give me my sister, who my prayers have committed to your trust. Are you a god? It is the gods’ way to do everything placidly. Be placid, make the sea placid. Are you a god? It is the god’s way to be sparing of their fury and threats. Settle the furies of the floods, the threats of the waves. Are you a god? It is the god’s way to live, and to give life to all things. Do not take away what you have given, let my sister Philomela live long, and also my husband Tereus.
EUGENES Venerable Procne, if you will listen to Eugenes (and old men are wise, so that you should give them a hearing), be of good cheer. I do not deny that just prayers are fitting for all people, but I would not have you conceive empty fears while supreme good health is thriving. No unfriendly star is shining in the heaven, no cloud stretched across the sky issues its threat. The winds are still and favorable.
PROC. But often a great storm breaks amidst supreme tranquility. This is now the fourth month since he departed, and the third day after that on which he promised he would come back to me, if Neptune would give him fair sailing. The winds are blowing in the right direction, yet my husband fails to come.
EU. Perhaps your father is not allowing him to depart so swiftly, or will entirely forbid his sole daughter, the support of his old age, to leave, unless his mind is assaulted by many an earnest entreaty. Perhaps he is assembling his servants and preparing ships so that your sister may come here with a more numerous escort. Many things can postpone a royal arrival, but nothing can prevent it.
ITYS Mother, I’ll go to meet my father, I’ll make him hurry.
PROC. So, Itys, you dare to entrust yourself to the wind and the waves?
ITYS Father’s not afraid, why should I be?
ITYS. Because your father’s a man, but you a boy.
ITYS I’m a boy, but I have a man’s spirits within me, and a great mind flourishes in this tiny body.
EU. How I rejoice to hear this, how a new star seems to be shining in our sky! May your noble and royal character long endure, the hope and consolation of Thrace.
PROC. I want swift servants to be sent out in all directions to our harbors, who might ask all those who have taken ship if they have chanced to see my Tereus anywhere in their journey. (Exeunt.)


Enter Tereus, alone. He is soon joined by Phaulus.

TER. The ship has perished in the waves thanks to the wiles of my friend, and let everything perish as long as my pleasure remains save for me, as long as my household is sufficiently safe. (Enter Phaulus.). But behold, the doer of this murder and the artisan of this crime approaches happily. I know he is expecting a reward, and he’ll receive his proper one. (To Phaules.) Am I to be called happy?
PHAU. Only if you can call the wretched death of your servants happiness. Live, I call you happy.
TER. They’ve perished for sure?
PHAU. If anybody can perish for sure.
TER. Nobody saved his life by a struggle? Nobody swam to shore?
PHAU. Nobody, Rather, the raging waters sank them all alike.
TER. And what spirits did they show in death?
PHAU. None, since Bacchus had already sunk their spirits. Their wretched voices and horrible shouts were heard, when the assembly now saw the ship to be sinking. Each man grabbed himself a rope, and vainly called upon me for help. I turned a deaf ear and laughed.
TER. (Aside.) The villain laughed!
PHAU. Because of my safety and their death. And so, like a tiger sated by its prey, I returned on a skiff, like a soldier rejoicing in the killing of his foemen, and now the servant thanks you, his leader and master, for the spoils and reward for his service.
TER. The fruit of this service is mine, but the reward is yours. I kiss you as my associate and friend.
PHAU. Let me kiss my king’s feet.
TER. Rise up, you great part of myself, you partner of my kingdom.
PHAU. Let me be called your servant.
TER. As long as you live, I tell, you, you must be my comrade in ruling. But see how uncertain a king’s life is. (He kills Phaulus.)
TER. Thus now you’ll hold your tongue. You won’t whisper about this crime of ours, if only I am a little less than kindly in repaying your deserts. In crime there’s no limit save crime, and the best way of repaying the man to whom you owe the most is not to repay him at all. For when you cannot requite with good, you must requite with evil. But so far my friend lies unburied. Since I’m the cause of his death, I’ll give him a tomb, and so at length he’ll gain a reward for his service, so that in death he may find repose in the bosom of his king. (Exit, carrying the body.)


Enter Philomela’s maid.

MAID Has my mistress Philomela left home so as to mourn on alien soil? For the poor woman is sitting alongside a fountain, where she unhappily is complaining to the nymphs that she has lost her all. For food she eats grass, for wine she drinks tears. Instead of servants she has threatening beasts, instead of fine songs she listens to screech-owls, instead of her father’s royal palace she dwells in a forest, and instead of attendants chattering Echo mocks her. Thus in her unhappiness she has sent me to complain to the king of all these wrongs. (Enter Tereus.) I see him. He’s frowning, should I speak?
TER. This chattering little crow is too lively. She’ll follow Phaulus, I’ll marry them in death.
MAID Great-hearted prince, forgive me if I speak boldly. My mistress Philomela grieves at your long absence, and complains that she has been abandoned. Where are her sister and servants?
TER. Be silent. (He kills the maid.)
TER. For I know you wouldn’t be silent if I didn’t thus stop your mouth. You complain of my long absence, Philomela. Be careful lest you soon complain of my excessive presence. For I am coming in haste, to pile crime on crime. But first I must join this woman to her husband. (Exit with the dead maid.)


Enter Philomela, alone.

PHIL. My servant has not returned, I am alone and hateful to all things. Should a fearful virgin be abandoned thus? Should Thrace thus receive its king and his friends? Oh sister, my sister Procne, love of you has brought me here, why are you not here so I might see my love? My brother Tereus comes. (Enter Tereus.)
TER. Philomela, worthy of blessing the bedchamber of Jove, whom earth acknowledges to be its mistress, and heaven its goddess, whom Phoebus admires as if she were a new star, easily outshining his own brilliance, send forth your light, shine so that the amazed world may see you. There’s small difference between virtue concealed and sloth entombed.
PHIL. What do these words mean?
TER. Nature has granted us good things so that we may use them, and nothing is good unless usage makes it so. Your beauty is a flower, a fragile good. You should cultivate and enjoy it.
PHIL. I do not understand.
TER. I am a potent king, the very title of king sounds of power.
PHIL. You are free to govern. What do you command? What is your order to me?
TER. To love.
PHIL. But whom?
TER. Me.
PHIL. I do love you.
TER. That’s not enough, I crave more.
PHIL. What more can be granted.
TER. Love’s fruit.
PHIL. What?
TER. In my unhappiness I fear to speak
PHIL. What’s this fruit?
TER. A kiss.
PHIL. Easily obtained.
TER. This breeze fans the fire of my love, and my doubtful heart is thrown into commotion by new flames. (Kisses her.)
PHIL. Woe’s me, what does Tereus seek? What is the king preparing? Away with lust, let the god preserve this virgin! A sudden pallor comes over his handsome cheeks, he furrows his brow in a frown. Shall I speak to him calmly? Brother, sovereign, of what are you silently thinking in your mind?
TER. You want to know? Of adoring you.
PHIL. Where are my careful servants?
TER. I am here as your servant.
PHIL. It pleases you to joke, but where are my servants staying? Solitude scarcely befits such great princes.
TER. The greatest pleasure is the one they are wont to enjoy in solitude.
PHIL. But that seen by all, which it is not shameful to speak of, is more honorable.
TER. Shame is an empty word, fear a futile invention.
PHIL. He who cannot be swayed by shame or fear, let him above all else bear the name of an impudent man.
TER. Let us direct our stroll into the forest a little while, so that birdsong, conjoined with the plashing of the waves might strike our ears with their sweet sounds. (Exeunt.)


Enter the royal shepherd Faustulus, alone.

FAUST. I am. Who am I? The shepherd of the royal flock, and I think it no mean office. Thanks to me, the nation lives and thrives. Other men feed their flocks, I feed the king. The common folk call me Faustulus, and I’m a lucky mean. My single daughter is dear to me, the darling of my mind, the life and consolation of her father. She’s old enough for a husband, and she’ll get a fine one. But I should keep still. (Enter Faustulus’ daughter.)
DAUGHT. Dear father, nothing is amiss or troubled in the countryside, everything in the forest is doing well.
FAUST. Everything will always do well upon your arrival. You adore the forests and fields, and thus they adore you.
DAUGHT. I adore you, my father.
FAUST. I acknowledge that you’re a loyal daughter. I accept your love, and I’ll give you a handsome reward.
DAUGHT. I think it enough that you accept my love.
FAUST. Today let care be taken that our elegant home shines and that everything is tidy. On the king’s arrival (and he cannot be away for long), I know that many people from the court (as is only reasonable) will come to see the royal shepherd at his home. (Exit Faustula.) Oh thrice-blessed Faustulus, to whom Jupiter has given such a pious, upright, modest child! (Exit.)


Enter Tereus, alone.

A short hour remains for piety, a time for repentance, and an opportunity for repentance. For the things I have committed are trifles, all but nothing, in comparison to the crime I am preparing. It is a monstrosity: it terrifies its progenitor, and yet it will come to light. Religion, right and law forbid it, the gods, reputation, virtue, earth, sea and sky tremble. But what are the gods? What is heaven? Jokes and old wives’ tales. Religion? A deceitful mask, a pointless invention. What are laws? Nets stretch to capture the unwary. What is virtue itself? A shadow, a word, a game, nothing. A man frightened by shadows cannot enjoy things. Philomela, I am coming. Have no fear, for you will become Juno-like, both the sister and the wife of Jove. (Exit.)


SEA What do you see, Earth?
EARTH What, Sea?
SEA Unspeakable things.
EARTH Monstrous things.
SEA But what has committed them?
EARTH The sea.
SEA I deny it.
EARTH Is it not obvious? The sea has consumed them.
SEA For the savage earth has rejected its children, and the sea accepted them.
EARTH But accepted them so as to destroy them.
SEA I gladly admit this, but the first contrivance of crime was done on earth.
EARTH So, Sea, you acknowledge you are a fit instrument for murder and death.
SEA A sword in a strong hand saves, but give it to a madman and it kills. The best things work harm if you use them amiss.
EARTH Earth without sea works no harm.
SEA Just wait, these are the seeds of evils, the harvest follows, which earth alone will reap, without sea or waters. (They sit.)

Go to Act II