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ACT V, SCENE i
Enter Procne and Philomela.
PROC. What are you doing, my Philomela.? (Philomela hides her face.) Are you weeping, sister? I know you are a wretched concubine, I know that I am greatly wounded. But at the same time, the adulterer is known, we ought to attack him, we ought to assault him with all our powers. Rise up, the hour has come when heavy vengeance awaits that hateful man, the ultimate of evil. I have devised a sacred feast, to which he alone may come, he’s caught. Just favor me, you crew of Furies, so that I may prepare something worthy of rabid Procne. (Philomela, listening eagerly, pays attention to what is being said.). Do you want me to kindle a pyre and hurl defeated Tereus in its midst? Or perhaps that I leave him his tongue, since he has cut out yours, and first dig out his eyes? Or skin him alive so that he might be one single wound? Or, if you prefer, shall I first remove that member with which he stole your shame? What evil deed will I not commit? (Enter Itys calmly, boasting to his mother.)
ITYS Oh Mother, look, see what kind Father has given me!
ITYS. (Aside.) Now I praise the Fury, I perceive the gods are favorable.
ITYS (Approaches Philomela.) Why is that woman a guest in the home of the king? Why do you invade our house? You make no answer? (Philomela pushes Itys away.) I’ll teach you better, if you even push our servants away with that barbaric voice of yours.
PROC. How like his father! He’s inhospitable, harsh, unkind, and crude.
ITYS I’ll tolerate this now, but if — (Turning to his mother.) See what Father gave me. What will my beloved mother give?
PROC. (Aside.) This is what your mother will give you, lest you follow your father’s evil example and incestuously debauch my sister.
ITYS Let me kiss you.
PROC. Why are my cheeks awash with tears? Strong nature, I know you put up a strong fight, but you are overcome and you kill. But the boy is calling for his mother. (She wretchedly looks at her son and her sister by turns. [To Itys.]) Why is this woman not calling me her sister? She can’t speak. And soon I’ll make you quiet, blabbermouth. (She gives him a hard look.)
ITYS Why are you looking at your son so balefully? If I done something wrong unawares, I beg your pardon.
PROC. You boast of your father’s gift. You mustn’t learn to boast of his crimes. (Getting ready to strangle him with the chain.) At least receive this fruit of my love, that you choke out your life in a golden noose.
ITYS Oh spare me, mother, spare me!
PROC. Sister, lend a hand.
ITYS Why has this child deserved this?
PROC. The puppy barks?
ITYS Oh, I’m keeping quiet, I’m keeping quiet.
PROC. Keep quiet forever. (She stabs his breast with a knife while at the same time Philomela goes for his throat.) I praise your hand, sister, for the father must first be attacked by means of his son, so that the wretch may find nothing bright to sustain his shattered soul. It remains for me to cut him into bits. You must take care that one part leaps on a brazen pan, another hisses impaled on spits, and a third bakes, enclosed in a hot oven. This is the banquet that will be offered up, this is the meal I’ll serve. Tereus’ wife will become pious in crime. (Exeunt, carrying the dead Itys.)
ACT V, SCENE ii
Enter Tereus, Eugenes, and others .
TER. Is an edict being published that henceforth all Thrace should number today among its holidays?
STEWARD. Swift messengers are discharging your commands.
TER. And are new and nobler temples being consecrated to the twice-born god, by which the world may know that their king is grateful and mindful of his good?
EU. The holy priests are now making their prayers at the altars, everywhere a happy throng is marching through the palace, filling the air with its tuneful notes of joy. The fire is bright, the doors hang green with laurel, and a voice of triumph sounds out in the market-place.
TER. Oh divinities, favorable at last! Oh peaceful gods, who tonight have readily given me everything for which I hoped! While musicians are making the air resound with their plucking and the thin flute pours forth its sweet notes, I want new purple carpets to be put down, new rites to be devised, lest anything be wanting for my magnificent display. (Exeunt omnes.)
ACT V, SCENE iii
Enter the maid and steward, together with other servants, to set the table.
MAID The queen is hastening the dinner forward, and commands everything to be prepared with speed.
STEW. There’s great anticipation and great preparation. There’s almost no guest, his consort has invited the king alone.
MAID Her love is great, and such great joy demands a great banquet.
STEW. Place two chairs here. Perhaps Prince Itys will be present, bring a third and set it neatly in this place. (Enter the queen, alone.)
PROC. Thus, thus should careful servants do, your effort will find its due reward. Let the rest be brought, but meanwhile leave me by myself, so that I may prepare sweet-smelling scents and perform the rest of my vows to Bacchus. (Exeunt omnes. Procne remains, and, drawing aside a curtain, addresses Philomela.) Now you may be present, boldly keep your spirits high. Put off the trembling woman, put on the tigress, breathing venom. And when you perceive that he is engorged by his own blood and glutted with his son, come out triumphantly and show him his conquered son’s head, as if it were a great prize or spoils. Come, Tereus, now a novel feast awaits you. This meal will quench your thirst for blood. (Exeunt.)
ACT V, SCENE iv
First the servant enter with their equipment, then Tereus and Procne in great estate, holding hands.
PROC. Enter with a happy step, greatest sovereign. Depart, servants, for now I am stingy and begrudge everybody such great goods, except my husband.
TER. Somebody fetch my son Itys, so that he may serve new bumpers to his father, like a Ganymede.
PROC. There’s no need, I myself have command him to be here promptly. (Aside.) He’ll be here quicker than you might wish, since you have given him a chain to bind him to his duty.
TER. Recline, dear consort, now we’re alone.
PROC. First I want to make some prayers to you. Reverend Tereus, our god on earth, with a friendly face accept the prayers of your consort, who has consecrated this altar to your divinity, where there are fine victims, fine banquets, a sweet voice, smoke, incense, a grateful, willing mind, and my face’s peaceful glow. A wife is a priestess, a husband a god, and a home a temple.
TER. (He kneels next to the table.) Oh fair token of love, longed-for sacrifice! See, thus I approach your altar as a priest. Supreme ruler of the heavenly home, deign to let the cups flow like nectar and that your food become ambrosial. Let nothing be absent that might please the supreme god.
PROC. (She kneels on the other side.) Goddesses born of Night, grant that our cups brim with dire hemlock, let this entire table bear deadly poison. (She rises.) My prayers are finished now, husband. Take your seat.
TER. Let us both take our places with joined hands. I don’t think that Jupiter sits any greater among the stars than Tereus now does on this lofty throne.
PROC. (Makes a toast.) First I pay a cup of libation to our Jove.
TER. (Accepting it.) May I always suffer the thirst of a Tantalus if I don’t eagerly drink this all down.
PROC. (Serving the food.) Taste this pleasant meal, even if it is less than elegant.
TER. Everything served by your hand is elegant. Why does my knife suddenly grow dull and turn back?
PROC. I always want your appetite to be keener than your knife.
TER. I’m amazed. As if refusing to perform its office, the steel is broken.
PROC. Take mine. This knife of mine knows how to penetrate inmost places.
TER. This serves as evidence that we are fiercer than hard steel. The innocent steel refuses to bite the innocent dead, yet we savagely chew them daily. And those we cannot attack with our sharp tooth, we do with our biting tongue, so that repose is denied even to death.
PROC. Stop saying such vain things, your evidence is without point.
TER As you please, although there’s something which troubles my ignorant heart.
PROC. Let us exchange a kiss, as a condiment for the remainder of the meal.
TER. You spice it well. Just now you called yourself a priestess.
PROC. I know.
TER. Do priestesses reserve any part of the sacrifice for themselves? Why are you drinking, but not eating?
PROC. Because the offering should first satisfy the god.
TER. If I am that god, I am well satisfied. But my son’s missing. Why hasn’t he come yet?
PROC. He is present. Does the father wholly fail to recognize his son?
TER. Where is he?
PROC. Why seek him when he is here, blind soul? Don’t you perceive him?
TER. I don’t see him.
PROC. You’ve tasted him, you wretch, and you will see the portion left behind by your insatiable gluttony. (Philomela appears with Itys’ head, which she casts in Tereus’ face.) Do you recognize this woman? She’s your sister. Why swell up? Are you preparing yourself to commit a new debauchery? Take the remainder of your son. You’ve eaten his limbs, now you can also eat his head. Alas that one voice cannot express the happiness of two women, attest to it, speak the praise of the triumph that crime has given to crime! You removed her tongue, but you left her hand.
TER. Oh, what have I done? Oh the crime! The father has become his son’s sad tomb. Oh savage gods!
PROC. Is the adulterer weeping? Laugh, sister. (Both laugh in abundance.)
TER. You monsters laugh, too?
PROC. Go ahead, vulture, eat your own guts.
TER. I’ll probe your guts.
PROC. And eat them raw? My life pleases me, because I shall die.
TER. And you, follow your sister. These chattering tattletales of my crime must not live. Now reach the bank of the Styx. (He kills Procne, and then Philomela, then suddenly goes mad.) Why is Charon refusing them his skiff? Why is the hoarse old man muttering to himself within? Wait until Tereus comes. I want them to be taken across without delay. For Tereus is not coming, I won’t let him come. Be quiet! What’s this uproar? Let the wolf restrain his howl, let the Stygian dog quickly cease his barking, you’ll awaken the princesses. Or don’t you see how they’re sweetly smiling in their sleep? Give me a pillow, this couch is too hard. (He puts pillows beneath their heads.) Put these under thus, softly lift their heads, cover their faces lest the sunlight offend them. (He imagines that his son’s shade is present.) What are you seeking, you headless shade? Why cast a torch so I can see your mangled limbs? You’re mistaken, boy, I’m no Aeacus or Minos of Cnossus. Rhadamanthus sits in deepest Tartarus, seek out the Styx. There you will find judges for your case, and those goddesses the Furies, avengers of wrongdoing. Baleful Megaera is here. What guilty man to you seek? Why threaten so? I acknowledge my son, I didn’t kill him. Why complain about my sister? I didn’t kill her. Both are asleep, they’re not dead. (He draws up a chair. He props up his sister, and also his wife in another chair, and places cups in their hands.) Behold, supper is set, if you please. You’ll be a cheerful guest. Take a seat here, furious goddess. My sister is getting up from the ground and peacefully reclining at the table, and you see my wife. How both of them are plying their cups! First I toast your sisters, and quaff down for the Father of the Styx. (He drinks twice.). My wife toasts you with a full cup. (He makes his wife drink.) Now you can report to your commander that the earth is peaceful enough. Or, if you choose, so that he might learn everything, thus your companion Tereus appears before his two witnesses. (He kills himself.)
SEA Unkind Earth!
EARTH I admit it.
SEA An ingrate to the best of men, you are to near to Tartarus, whose evils you acquire from your nearness. You easily surpass it committing crimes with your poisons, you friendly begetter of thorns, you stepmother to crops, you harsh nurse to grains, you stinking mother of vapors.
EARTH I acknowledge all those things. Don’t press me, for I shudder at my own evils.
SEA Henceforth I’ll cease washing your offscourings, I’ll refuse you fountains, I’ll shut the mouths of rivers so that the world may grow parched and perish of thirst.
EARTH If the destruction of mankind should chance to please you, let us be of one mind, I promise my aid. No longer shall I bear the plough, nor give back the seeds entrusted to me. The forest will stand denuded of its foliage, the meadow will grow barren, the fields will be parched with heat, so that, good fruits being denied, I shall win the palm for wrongdoing.
SEA I am departing, lest your mud corrupt me or your foulness sully my streams and you trouble my waters.
EARTH And I shall hurl myself headlong into mankind’s destruction. No longer shall the oppressed earth bear the weight of its iniquity. Being shaken, I shall confound everything.
Enter the Prince with his nobles, &c., all wearing gowns, with Fortune leading the way. And when all have taken their seats, she speaks the Epilogue.
So this is finished. Thus the various things that needed to be done have been transacted. “Does Fortune wish to command more?” you silently ask, and resign your titles unwillingly. But cease imitating the savage ways of tyrants and change your mask. Another day is appointed for other things, since, being no mean citizen, you will stand up against tyrants, occupying a place second only to the King. But in the end you will complain of these changes, as you regret that I have turned my wheel to your misfortune.