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ACT III, SCENE i
THE BISHOP OF SARDIS
The Bishop of Sardis complains of the great persecution of Christians instigated by the emperor Domitian, and describes the various difficulties of his episcopal duties.
BISH. Whoever has entrusted his life to the doubtful wind and has boldly braved the ocean’s threats on a fragile barque, and, protected only by thin wood, sees the land disappearing, has never fearfully quailed at greater ills. When the waves rage according to the riotous west wind’s whim, cloudy Orion terrifies a nimble ship with his ruddy light no more than those who Fortune has lifted up on her fickle while dread storms in their affairs and great downfalls. For a man in power, Scylla, Charybdis, and reefs lying under a stormy sea are less fearful than a downfall, when, after having been lifted up by public acclaim and set in a place of honor, he contemplates other men’s catastrophes and in his uncertainty quakes over the possibility of his own. A man who is not equal to governing either other men or himself should fear high station and learn that its safer to hide under the roof of a rural cottage than to tread the thresholds of the mighty with a proud foot. No royal diadem encircles my head, and yet care equal to that of a royal scepter burdens my heart. For, having chanced to be made bishop of this place, alas, on what a fearful summit of affairs I am perched! On one side our savage emperor rages against Christians with hatred, and terrifies the faithful with his threat of death. On the other side, Acheron is attacking our flock with silent deceit, troubling doubtful minds with its wiles until they cast aside their fear until it compels them to renounce their faith or, conscious of their sinfulness, to hasten further into wrongdoing. A greater evil has been added to these, a safe way that has been invented for mischiefmaking. Heresy, that teacher of pleasant deceit, has gained strength from this from its inception, preaching that what is unjust is pious, and what is base is holy, gilding over sin and making God excuse its crime as if He favors base things, thus removing all fear of sacred Law and fear of punishment. It clothes itself in false piety and adorns its cheeks with spurious sanctity, so that, by feigning peace with the sound of its voice, it deceitfully fills gullible hearts with lethal poison. From this source has flowed grave atheism, wholly devoid of all faith and campaigning against God, befouling heaven itself with its bane. While, in the manner of sailors, I steer my all but gaping ship amidst shoals, tides, and the great downpour of the elements, while the weight of all the souls and salvation of this people, given me by heaven, burdens my shoulders, alas, what great terror and cares overwhelm my mind, fearful amidst the flood that other men’s sin might not come down on my head and that the Almighty might not demand an recompense for the loss of the flock from its shepherd’s hand! One consideration prevents me from succumbing to these ills and keeps my failing mind from despair, God’s present help and the hope for His divine intervention, for He promises to be a help to His people. He has given me forewarning signs of the rise and fall of this woe, harbingers of this coming storm, and told me that, although Avernus should return to earth and rise up with the summoned threats of Aeolus, falling on my battered barque with its full weight, it will not prevail. Let all the world come with joined arm and the hard wrath of fearsome kings fulminate with a threatening hand that it will obliterate the glory of our Christian race, they will never be able to destroy the rock upon which our Church is built, as is my own see. The faith will endure forever, and Christianity’s fame will spread wherever the sun brings and takes away the lovely day. I see a matron wending her silent way here. A tearful cloud darkens her sad cheeks, and she has a heart oppressed by great sorrow. [Enter Beatrix.]
ACT III, SCENE ii
BEATRIX, THE BISHOP
Reparatus’ mother Beatrix, using an invented story to explain her son’s condition to the Bishop, first arouses his pity. Then, more openly placing all the blame on him, she provokes him to recognize the situation and regret it.
BEAT. Take a little moment to hear my complaints and lend an ear to the prayers which a very unhappy mother will sigh and make on behalf of her child.
BISH. This place is free of onlookers, and so are we. Tell me what weighs on your mind.
BEAT. After my husband had been taken away, I lived as a widow in a household blessed by a single child. The boy grew in his tender years, showing great signs of his future character, so that he became no less dear to those who lived in our quarter and knew him than to me, his mother. It chanced that my house gave hospitality to an old man come from a foreign city. Captivated with love for the boy and bewitched by his rare character, and at the same time mindful of our poverty and burden, he decided to take the boy from my hands, adopt him in lieu of a son of his own, and give him to a certain friend to be raised. The man in question was powerful with his wealth and extensive property, but not endowed with great good faith. For after the venerable old gentleman had left our city, he lost interest in his ward and in the promise he had given his friend. After the boy had grown to adolescence, an age where he could be molded like wax by any evil influence at all, his guardian (either wickedly sinning or wearied by the constant demands of friendship) indulgently allowed him free rein to run down dangerous ways. By an unheard-of sin, the guardian abandoned the sensibility, not only of a friend, but also of a man. In the quiet of night, a robber crew invaded the household of this paterfamilias. The young boy was prompt to confront them, and, ready to fight against unequal odds on behalf of their shared home and property, he attacked them but was defeated by his youth and the number of his enemies. Then, in his extremity, he asked for aid. Fearing for himself more than for his ward, his guardian refused this, and shut his door to keep out the thieves and also the young man, all but expiring because of his wounds. Being barred from the house, the gang stood around the very terrorized young man, threatening him with death and destruction if he did not ransom his safety. What was he to do? His helpless body lay prostrate and he had no blood-money to give his murders. He approached his miser of a master with tearful entreaties. But he stood there, more unmoved than a rock lashed by stormy Aeolus after the east wind has raised the sea up to the stars. He refused to redeem the boy for a trifling weight of gold. Indeed, he railed at the lad with bitter words, calling him rash, headstrong, and fit to pay the price for his boldness. Indeed he said that he was a party to those men’s crime, the inventor of the whole scheme, and the robbers’ leader. Poor lad! Who could adequately lament your misfortune? Where could your mother, having given you the last kisses of her love and groaning, deposit your bones and set your lifeless limbs on a pyre? Why make my story long in the telling? These people, made fierce only by their greed, dragged him away, his hands bound behind his back, an inhumane spectacle. His unhappy mother had no idea what manner of death she was to mourn, and what punishments he was destined to suffer. But it was granted this unlucky woman as her lot in life always to lament the boy’s unexpected fate, the fact that the good promise he had shown for his later years was cut short, and his harsh misfortune, as well as her own life, dragged out over-long in mourning, and also her trust, planted in a barren field, and the guardian’s atrocious bad faith.
BISH. Who was that inhabitant of uncouth Scythia or Caucasian of that cruel clime, whose bowels were harder than a Hyrcanian tigress, whose heart was more closed to human suffering than that of an unhearing adder?
BEAT. What good would it do you to learn that someone you regard as dearer than any friend is a cruel man?
BISH. No, I regard him as worse than any enemy. So tell me his name.
BEAT. You’d wish I hadn’t told you. Often it is painful to learn something unpleasant to hear.
BISH. It is painful not know what you should fear.
BEAT. You do wrong to fear evils which cannot be repaired.
BISH. I fear what is to come. For evils are created for the sake of evils.
BEAT. One must defer to reputation.
BISH. Having a reputation is a crime for a bad man.
BEAT. What if he’s powerful?
BISH. The truth fears no man.
BEAT. And if he’s a Christian?
BISH. His guilt is all the worse.
BEAT. What if you were to be both the accused and the judge in this matter?
BISH. I’d hand down sentence against myself and condemn myself.
BEAT. Well then, allow the suppliant mother to kneel and appeal to you as judge, and to lodge my accusation against you.
BISH. Why do you call me guilty with your riddling words?
BEAT. Hear the case, so that you may judge yourself. Hyperion has circled the world fifteen times on his chariot, dressing the green earth with short-lived roses, from the time that a little boy was entrusted you by the hand of the apostle John for the rearing, whom you consecrated with the new name of Reparatus when you lifted him from the baptismal font. He had my wretched self for a mother. The common folk call me Beatrix, but my situation is scarcely blessed. It would be hard to say whether the boy should called more unfortunate because of his mother’s misfortunes, or his mother more unhappy for his. Wrapping the story of this evil in the riddling of dark, enigmatic words, I have reopened my maternal wounds, and spoken of the stolen wealth I lost when you were his guardian, and I do lament their loss. You saw the lad passing his soft days in idleness and play, yet you did nothing to restrain has steps as he was heading towards naughtiness. And when that crew of robbers broke in, that brood of vices, and that hateful crew of the Styx had wounded his soul, you cruelly refused to apply a remedy to his ills. Instead of oil and balsam, you heaped cures and the arrogant threats of an enflamed mind on the poor boy until, locked out of your house, he despaired of his salvation, lost the shield of hope and faith, and became both the prey and the companion of robbers, destined soon to be the prey of the hound of Hell, and, alas, was torn out of his mother’s embrace. I have stated my case. I demand the judge keep his word.
BISH. As when a wayfarer sees a snake which he has carelessly stepped on while it lurked beneath a bramble-bush, and runs through the underbrush and all the wandering byways of the place, but can never seem to plant his foot safely, as the serpent raises its venom-swollen head and coils its body, hissing threats, so at the deceptive sound of your riddling words my mind is captured, like a beast caught in a net, and turns its winged sight in every direction to find a place of refuge, but does not know how to find an escape from such labyrinths. I am bested in my own estimation. So what should I do as a judge? Or as an accused man? My duty, and the need to keep my word, places a demand on both. The mother places a demand on both, and God even more so. She presses me as the judge, but He as the convicted felon. I owe the mother her son, and my soul to God, so what Daedalus will invent a way of extricating an old man from such great ills? I am appointed judge over myself, but I stand as convicted before God. I am compelled to pass sentence against myself and suffer it. I flee myself, as a convict flees his judge. And likewise, as a judge, I make myself the convict. Oh you oppressed by a similar care and pastoral responsibility, take heed, if a faithful soul belonging to Christ’s flock and committed to your care lapses because of your negligence, you must believe that all the laws of heaven and earth will demand an accounting from your hand. And learn, you parents, and those who have the care of governing errant youth not to bridle them with an over-harsh hand as they mature. For their strength is broken by harsh measure. Nor indulge them overmuch, lest they overflow with wantonness. God provides a better-tempered authority. And you, a mother greatly abounding in sorrows and heavy cares, behold your son’s murderer, his dire master, a harsh old man, and see if he has been made a faithful judge of himself, convicted in the sight of yourself, and the world, and mankind, and God. What more do you demand of me? I acknowledge my crime, that by over-indulgence I did too much to provoke the lad’s headstrong impulsiveness. Then, when he had done wrong, I unadvisedly terrified him overmuch and drove him from my home, until in his unwholesome hope his youthful fury fell into worse evil as his boldness increased, and he finally fell into the clutches of robbers as their prey. If it is permissible to excuse my grave dereliction, it was a mistake of my piety, not my will. But what excuse does a bishop have? He who is made a guide to others and errs himself will be destroyed by his own art. What more can I say?
BEAT. [Aside.] What are you doing, poor Beatrix? Where are you being swept by your anger and your love for your son, so as to trouble this old man’s mind importunately by the sound of your shouting and commit a new wrong by harping on an old one? What if he is free of wrongdoing and is taking this guilt upon himself by a holy deception, so as to indulge my love and the pain of my motherly mind might restrain itself? I acknowledge the man’s piety and a mother’s guilt. [Aloud.] Behold, I sink to the ground on my knees and will never rise unless you grant your forgiveness to this poor mother, whose anger sinned against you and likewise against your faith with rash daring. Then, if tears can earn such a great thing, and if a mother’s sobs can gain prayers and public orisons on behalf of her son, then these tears and groans ask this grace from you, when enjoyment of the saving celestial Host is offered by the hands of priests at the God-consecrated altar.
BISH. Rise up, you have achieved public praise in the sight of God, and in the presence of the faithful congregation I shall utter prayers for your son’s safety. Even today I shall worship God and His holy altars, sacrificing the only-begotten God the Son to his coeval God the Father in a bloodless rite, and showing him to the people for their adoration, praying to Christ that he bring back Reparatus make him one of His flock, and stay his errant steps, so that He might console you and cleanse me of my sinfulness. [Exit.]
ACT III, SCENA iii
After describing a dream she had during the preceding night, Beatrix hurries to her son in the forest.
BEAT. May God speed your vow with His kindly favor! Some heavenly impulse resounds in my spirit, happier than usual, and bids me set aside my sorrow and devote my mind to rejoicing and celebrations. Now, too, I remember the vision I saw in a dream last night. An old man stood before my eyes, beautiful with much radiance. Was this the true image and semblance of God’s beloved John? Talking a wild young man by the hand, he knelt and called him to pray. A strange thing! His hand, which had been spattered with drops of blood, grew white, and a steady rain falling from the old man’s tearful cheeks washed away the bloodstains, making them purer than untouched snow. Then the apparition seemed to me to speak as follows: “See how fair his hand grows. This color is due to all these tears. and to your love.” At these words I swooned with joy. Finally, when I rushed to embrace and kiss my son, I was abandoned by the empty mist of that deceiving vision, and Phoebus came a-flying to banish sleep’s darkness. And so, returning to my ancient fears, I railed at the vain apparitions of fickle Morpheus, and night’s deception. Why delay? I must hasten to the caves of the fearful forest and the cliffside dwellings made of stone, the homes of robbers. I shall live in those trackless lairs and not be moved from them, unless I either bring new life to my recovered son, or gain death from his own hand.
ACT III, SCENA iv
The young man Carinus, who has exchanged costumes with Amaranthus’ daughter during their flight, but then lost the girl, has found Cacus’ clothing. Clad in this, he enters the city of Sardis, where he ponders what he should do.
CAR. It’s Fortune’s way to bring great changes to great things in a trice. She casts the lofty monuments of kings to the ground, she strikes with lightning houses that reach up to rival the sky. Over the long passage of time, she makes all things equal: mountains with valleys, shores with seas, scepters with farmers’ mattocks, dukes with shepherds. In her great harshness she has cast me down too, although I am not born of high degree nor to an illustrious family, but rather from the netherworld of a humble stock, and has made me unhappy in every way, so that other men’s worst woes look like blessings in comparison with my own troubles. Fortune has found a place beyond the limits of misery from which to savage me, and wholly oppresses poor Carinus with a mass of cares and fear. Which of these evils should I deplore first, and which second? Shall I mourn the death of Amaranthus, and the bitter misfortunes of that harmless old man? That he has perished, overcome by the wiles of robbers? Shall I use my sad lamentation to bewail the maiden’s flight? Shall I describe how she is abandoned by herself in unknown regions, left to wander about in fear, concealed in a young man’s costume? Oh the harsh, sad memory of that thing! Either she has already expired of hunger, or she is languishing, having been made the prey of savage men. And yet you survive, Carinus, destined to live on as the monument of so great an evil? You lament the girl’s misfortune, and yet you drag on your life and escape such traps? Go back, and seek out the robbers’ greedy clutches. Return the clothing you have stolen by your naughty trick give it back to its sacrilegious owner. After having lost the girl, and after the death of the old man, what sweet thing remains for you? Better that you had endured a final fate as Amaranthus’ companion than to have pursued a degenerate and unlucky lot with a mind unaccustomed to hardships as a runaway, unhappily dying in a strange land. You should die at the hands of the robbers, Carinus, or by your own, and lose your life.
But what am I doing? Where is my madness carrying me in my frenzy? Have I left my homeland in search of Christ’s faith in order to set the example of committing a crime unworthy of a Christian man? Come back to your senses, and do not shun the path of hope and eternal salvation that God has shown. Rumor has it that in this city many men profess the orthodox Faith. Here I must learn my ABC’s of faith. Furthermore, I shall investigate what manners are used by these men, and what rule or manner of life they follow. With the help of this costume, I have fled the robbers’ wiles protected under the false color of Cacus’ name. I want to impersonate the Gnostic appearance of that same thief, until all my affairs are in a safe position. Christ favor my enterprises! Somebody’s coming out this door. [Enter Polypus.]
ACT III, SCENE v
Polypus, an old politician, speaks much about his way of life (while Carinus overhears) him, and proposes to eject his wife from his household for being a Christian, and to take their children away from her.
POLY. I congratulate myself both for my genius and my ingenuity, for it is thanks to them that I prudently deal with all of live’s evils. Whatever course I plot, this breeze speeds my sails and is a north star that never deceives me in showing me a safe way over the stormy sea. I gladly given an ear to the differing views concerning God propounded by the chattering school of philosophers with their windy squawking. One ascribes the chief praise to Jove, another to Apollo, and a third worships Christ with divine honor because, having by triumphed over the pagan gods and the realm of the Styx, He alone is the God Who governs the comings and goings of the stars and the reins of Nature. But I acknowledge now this god, now that, and worship them all. Or, if the occasion arises, I worship none. And, in lieu of a god, I revere Caesar, who governs this earth. In my eyes, Caesar is a god of gods. I worship the god that Caesar worships, I hate the god he hates.
CAR. Monstrous piety!
POLY. Let Him rule heaven Who wants to, and Who by Himself is stronger than all the rest (and my sure reason tells me this is Christ), but let Him leave the earth to Caesar. Inasmuch as Caesar bids us deny Christ, I abjure and deny Him. And since he worships Dictaean Jove, so do I.
CAR. And since he worships demons, so do you.
POLY. There’s another god, too. But I’m afraid to mention him, lest rumor and the breezes waft word of this to Caesar’s ears. At this point, I must quibble that there’s a greater god than Caesar, and dearer to my heart. But I dread to talk about this.
CAR. What can this unmentionable god be?
POLY. But I’ll speak briefly. I’m my own god. Be silent, somebody’s listening.
CAR. Nobody. I heard nothing.
POLY. Hush, you breezes. I myself am greater than Caesar or any god. I worship whatever god serves my advantage. And Caesar gets worshipped in second place. What noise is the breeze making?
CAR. Keep going, I don’t hear anything.
POLY. My reason compels me to confess Christ is God, my fear compels me to worship Caesar. But if it beings me any advantage, I acknowledge both, or neither. I prefer the useful to anything that’s honorable. I prefer profit to God, myself to profit, and life to all good things. I’m marked by a seven-fold change or religion I was transformed from a pagan into a pork-hating Jew. Soon thereafter I adopted Christ’s faith. Then, as an apostate, I enlisted in the Gnostics’ accursed rites. Then I became a Christian again, and next a Caesar-worshipper. Now, all but a silly atheist, I believe in nothing inaccessible to assured reason. This world and the wheel of the sky is a machine contrived by some god’s art. But I admit that under compulsion, I strive after God as much as I can. But everywhere I go I encounter this divinity sticking in my guts, and in vain I try to banish Him from my inmost heart. And yet I apply myself to this one principle, that in my deeds I deny Him in Whom I am compelled to believe with my mind.
CAR. Oh what a strange man! Amidst the dark caves I never saw any robbers’ evil the like of this. How the treacherous houses of noblemen spew forth such Proteus-like shape-shifters! Surely a man disloyal to God cannot be faithful to men? I’d sooner believe the northern sea could carry blazing torches on its waves, or that Aetna could be frozen over with Scythian ice, or that snow could fall beneath the blazing Dogstar.
POLY. Nothing is to be thought more silly than a scrupulous man who professes the faith he has conceived in his secret heart, who does not think it the action of a political man to adapt to the times or fear for his own position as he wields the reins of public business. But the man who knows how to dissimulate, who is bound to no faith to his own detriment, frequently visits the courts of princes or travels through unknown lands, living wherever he wishes in security. He is called the familiar of emperors, performs embassies, or obtains the position of viceroy of some city or province. And furthermore he becomes privy to princes’ secrets, for there’s nothing he can’t invent, attempt, or do. And this is the course of the river I follow nowadays.
CAR. You’re sailing dangerous waters, poor fellow.
POLY. Come, live, Polypus. Better to renounce your faith than your profit, honors, advantage, and the good things of your life. Somebody will object, “Maybe you’ll die soon. What will become of you?” My answer is, “Perhaps I’ll do well. For we are given the ability to repent wherever we want, at any time. Our salvation is postponed, but not taken away from us, as long as a man confesses in God with his final breath. I heap my life with good things. I’ll live for Caesar, and Die for God, and cease my sinning at that very moment.”
CAR. Poor man! You live for God when you can’t commit sin. But when your dying day is upon you, you won’t abandon your sins. Rather, they’ll abandon you. When you reserve your earlier times for Caesar and your final ones for God, you’ll lose them all at once, destined to lose your good things both at present and in the future.
POLY. But a new difficulty just crossed my men. Politicians of this age call it Tedium of Wife, when a woman excessively devoted to God gets in the way of her husband’s advantage. Here a new source of ruin confronts me. For, being married to a Christian woman, I live out days fear of fear and worries, while the public considers me a Christian because of her piety.
CAR. Very harmful for your rascality.
POLY. And she uses a thousand arts to recruit me for her Christian flock.
CAR. She’s trying to whitewash an Ethiopian.
POLY. My children are at an easily impressionable age, when they’re wont to imitate their mother’s example. But fear of Caesar’s wrath frightens my mind more than any danger.
CAR. The wrath of God doesn’t frighten him at all.
POLY. I’ll not tolerate it any more. So it is my pleasure to eliminate Caesar’s fury altogether by banishing my wife from my home unless she comes to her senses. I’m thinking of taking my sons from her bosom and giving them to others for their religious instruction, so they’ll forget about God.
CAR. He’s trying to make his sons resemble their father.
POLY. Let them become pleasing in Caesar’s sight.
CAR. I. e., impious.
POLY. The doubtful question is how this may be accomplished. What if I do it this way? Or that? Now it’s come to me.
CAR. A great wrong.
POLY. I’ve got it.
CAR. What’s this monstrosity?
POLY. I’ve found a way to remove my wife.
CAR. I suppose he means remove her life.
POLY. That’ll be it.
CAR. Perhaps he’ll kill er.
POLY. I can poison her.
CAR. You can poison yourself.
POLY. Or stab her.
POLY. Or drown her.
CAR. Crucifixion is better.
POLY. Or hang her.
POLY. Caesar likes these actions against Christians.
CAR. Or he likes them if they rebound against yourself.
POLY. I can. But I don’t like to go this way. I’ll brood on another.
CAR. Maybe a worse one.
POLY. This very trite method discredits a political man. I have to avoid the commonplace. I want to earn Caesar’s favor by some invention. Let this be the object of my industry. Aim the swordpoint of your frenzy here, Polypus.
CAR. This political frenzy surpasses poetical frenzy, it’s pure craziness.
POLY. Hooray, I’ve got it.
CAR. Now he’s flattering himself. Next he’ll be flattering Caesar.
POLY. I like this.
CAR. This is it, he’s smiling. Let’s listen.
POLY. I’ll go —
CAR. To hell
POLY. — immediately —
CAR. Continue, I won’t stop you.
POLY. — to the magistrate.
CAR. Of the Styx.
POLY. I’ll tell him —
CAR. He means he’ll tell the devils.
POLY. — the reason for my visit.
CAR. Which will be criminal.
POLY. Then I’ll tell him he should punish my wife for her faith.
CAR. And you for your perfidy. That’s just.
POLY. I’ll petition, let them condemn her to the penalties of the law.
CAR. Eternal hellfire.
POLY. Perhaps I’ll obtain it.
CAR. That’s for sure.
POLY. My servant, whom I sent to Philadelphia, has made a timely arrival. He plays the part of Echo and faithfully repeats the last thing you’ve said to him, because he imagines that pleases me. He is well known by the name of Aio. I greatly like him, because he is a Roman by birth, but a Greek in his loyalty.
CAR. Fine praise for a servant! Fine servant for a master!
POLY. But I see his mouth is downturned, and I suppose something bad has befallen him. Aio, why that sad face? [Enter Aio.]
ACT III, SCENE vi
AIO, POLYPUS, CARINUS
Aio the parasite, Polypus’ servant, tells his master how Cacus seduced his wife and fled with her into the forest. Polypus reveals to him his plan about disposing of his wife as well, and giving his sons to some Gnostic preceptor. He is greatly disturbed by Carinus’ appearance and false story. And now, on the point of escaping into the forest, he is called back by him. Thinking him to be a Gnostic, he brings him to his home for the purpose of corrupting his wife and children.
AIO I have horns, master, can’t you see?
POLY. I don’t see anything.
AIO But I feel them.
POLY. What news do you bring?
AIO You ask? It’s written on my forehead, read it here.
POLY. What am I supposed to read there?
AIO On my forehead, I tell you.
POLY. What do you have on your forehead?
AIO You’re not asking me what I’m wearing on my forehead?
POLY. I’m asking.
AIO I tell you again, horns.
POLY. You’re joking.
AIO Have a look.
POLY. I’ve repeatedly told you I don’t see anything.
AIO That’s strange. Nevertheless, whatever you say, so do I.
POLY. What do you say?
AIO I say that you see nothing on my forehead, and that you’ve told me that repeatedly. Deny I have horns and I’ll deny it too.
POLY. Now you’re pleasing me. I should humor Caesar, you should humor me. You are acting politically and with caution. I do not wish you to have horns.
AIO Since you don’t wish them, master, they’ve disappeared. Deny that I have horns and a forehead, and I’ll have neither.
POLY. Let there be a forehead, but no horns.
AIO I’m the forehead, I leave the horns to my master.
POLY. I like that.
AIO One donkey scratches another. This one gores the master with a horn, that one butts the servant with his forehead, and so they help each other out.
POLY. Tell me, Aio, why do you imagine you wear horns?
AIO That was done for my wife’s sake.
POLY. What did your wife do?
AIO She went to the forest.
POLY. Let her go. What have you lost? Would that my wife would go away!
AIO I pray for the same thing. Would that your wife would go away, and mine would remain!
POLY. What are you saying?
AIO I am saying you could have had mine.
POLY. Good enough. I perceive your love.
AIO Would that I had a second wife for you, master! But I have none.
POLY. Don’t feel sad. You can have mine, if you want.
AIO I will, if that would please my master.
CAR. That kind of sharing between friends than is better than good faith, since it embraces their wives too.
POLY. What kind of case removed your wife?
AIO First of all, she was corrupted by the genitive and dative. Then the ablative abstracted her from my home, and the vocative provoked her to join the robbers.
POLY. Solve your riddle, I fail to understand it.
AIO While my wife was staying at Philadelphia, a certain clergyman of the Gnostic sect turned up in my absence. This fellow was called by the name of Cacus, a bold-faced man but one whose manners feigned holiness, who taught that unheard-of doctrine that all women were free to commit adultery while their husbands were asleep, with God’s approval. In her desire for novelty, my wife took this fellow into our house by nights, and let him out again in the daytime. Finally she grew so abandoned that she gave herself to his bed. You see this was the dative case, followed by the genitive. Furthermore, now the prospect of my return had begun to frighten them both and they needed to go elsewhere. And Candida, my wife, followed Cacus when he provoked her, and the pair sought the robbers and their forest. Now you see that the vocative case preceded the ablative case, and that my wife followed Professor Cacus and left her husband.
CAR. He could have called it the cacative case.
POLY. He explains the entire situation acutely and with wonderful art. I myself have need of the accusative case, to remove my wife from my household. For this reason I’m going to the magistrate now. What do you think?
AIO The same as my master.
POLY. I heard you. I’m thinking of expelling my wife from my house because she’s a Christian. What do you say?
AIO I approve of this. But where will she live henceforth?
POLY. Who cares?
AIO So it’s a small thing to you if, since I lack a wife, I take yours. If my master approves.
CAR. Careful, that’s risky.
POLY. What, a Christian woman?
AIO If I acquire here as a mistress, master, the laws approve.
POLY. True, that would be political. And, since you are giving me advice, what if I set her up as a public prostitute in my house?
AIO Or in mine, it’s all the same.
POLY. This would be welcome for Caesar.
AIO I don’t doubt it.
POLY. Next, I’ll take away our sons from her.
AIO And give them to whom?
POLY. To whom would you imagine?
AIO He’s already thought about this. I’ll think about it next, after my master.
POLY. I want to hand them over to the Gnostic for their instruction.
AIO My thought too. What if he makes them robbers, as he did my wife?
POLY. Let him do so. All the more reason for me to want to have this done.
AIO Didn’t I think of this first?
POLY. For many good things come from robbery.
AIO That’s my opinion.
POLY. Your scruples disappear, as does that fear of God with which men are so infatuated. Enthusiasm for good works is removed, as does the hope you place in your merits, your sanctity, piety, shame, religion, all faith in heaven and Hell, and a thousand similar bits of nonsense. In their places succeeds boldness as the ruler of your life, that prudent guile we call politeness, and care for oneself. You are unconcerned whether your profit is made by right or wrong. The man who owns property, acquire it how he may, stands in a better position than the man who has nothing. In this world, God has made everything available to everybody, and each thing belongs to the first to take it, even if he takes it from somebody else.
AIO Thus, master, taking, stealing, robbing, stealing, and enjoying is permitted to all men, in whatever ways they desire?
AIO I think so too.
CAR. If having no opinion is a sure mark of stupidity, the man who thinks everything’s all the same is surely wise. But he who is over-wise is just as much of a fool as a man who isn’t wise at all.
POLY. I’ll say more. I this age of ours, those who flourish by robbery and fraud hold the highest honors. I can summarize a few of robbers’ ways. Robbers plunder helpless men, and commit wholesale slaughter on the wealthy in order to gain their goods, in a manner similar to that of those who devote their energies to governing provinces. You can also call our judges murderers, for when they see men who abound in wealth and property caught up in the snares of the law, they first strip them of their goods and then butcher them, under the guise of serving the public good, but actually in order to serve their private advantage. At night they often encounter and despoil honest men, but during the day, supported by the public authority of their office, they wage a furious assault against those they perceive to be better off than themselves. Or, if their enviable fortune does grow in their coffers, their affairs don’t appear to stand in a sufficiently secure position if they aren’t well-instructed in robbers’ wiles. Robber favors robber, but nobody favors a just man. So, if I were to be a just man, I would either have to die, or soon to go elsewhere in search of piety, since it is exiled from this world of ours. Now you see why I want my sons to become robbers.
AIO Now I see, and I think no position is better than that of the robber. I even approve the decision of my wife Candida to follow Cacus, and henceforth I want to be enlisted in the roster of robbers, so I may serve my master, with both of us being more political men.
POLY. Now you’re thinking wisely, Aio. There’s no room for good men here. Everything is full of bad ones. “Man is wolf to man.” You need the craft of a fox to live among treacherous wolves.
CAR. I’ll approach these gentlemen before they leave. I’ll keep my costume, but discard the name of Cacus, and pretend to be a new arrival.
POLY. Why are we delaying, Aio? Why don’t we speed to the magistrate? I am burdened by wife-wearieness. It’s dangerous to have a pious woman in our house. The wolves will have the chance to plunder the sheepfold. Now I sense that schemes are being laid against my wealth. Let’s go.
AIO See, master, a new guest has appeared.
POLY. Do I see a Gnostic gentleman?
CAR. I greet you in the Lord, and pray you have a happy life.
AIO He seems to be talking about merriment and venery.
POLY. We pray the same for you. Where do you come from? How, why, and to whom?
CAR. I come to you as a swift messenger from Ephesus.
POLY. To tell me what?
CAR. Stupendous things.
POLY. Tell me.
CAR. That mage of Tyana, commonly called Apollonius, has been borne through the air and was standing beside you. But he was wrapped in a mist, so that he could not be seen by any eye. He has noted all the secrets of your heart which you have uttered, and reported them to me.
POLY. I fear something bad will come from this. Where’s this mage?
CAR. He has been wafted away by the light breezes and fled back to Ephesus. And he has decided to go to Caesar’s palace at Rome.
POLY. To accuse me before Caesar, woe’s me! Tell me what he disclosed to you.
CAR. He said you worship and live for yourself more than for very Caesar.
POLY. An amazing betrayal! I’m ruined.
CAR. And that you have made up your mind that now you’re a greater divinity than Jove or Caesar.
POLY. I’m ruined in every way.
CAR. He also told me that you acknowledge Caesar to be a god under compulsion.
POLY. Then he’ll also say I die under compulsion.
CAR. And that you regard profit as a god second only to yourself, but greater than Caesar or any other.
POLY. Continue. I won’t die just one death, but rather a thousand.
CAR. That you regard all Caesar’s agents and our provincial commanders in Asia as robbers.
POLY. Aio, what is this wretch to do? I’m betrayed by magic art.
AIO I affirm whatever it pleases my master to say.
POLY. I’m betrayed, I’m annihilated.
AIO Just so.
POLY. I’m bound to hang or die by the sword.
AIO Just so.
POLY. I’m lost.
AIO Just so.
POLY. I’m a fool.
AIO Just so.
POLY. I’m stupid.
AIO Just so.
POLY. I’m a dunce of a politician.
AIO I agree.
POLY. A head without a brain.
AIO Who doubts it?
POLY. A byword among men.
AIO I have to agree.
POLY. An inhabitant of the Styx.
AIO You’re a prophet.
POLY. Prey for the hangman.
AIO I think so.
POLY. A heap of every misery.
AIO You grasp the very thing.
POLY. So what’s to do?
AIO Whatever you want.
POLY. I’ll go the forest. I’ve decided to live among the robbers.
AIO Get going. I’ll stay here with your wife and your property. Give Candida my greetings and tell her she should leave Cacus and take you as her bedfellow.
POLY. Good-bye to you, Aio, and to all men.
AIO Good-bye. Be sure that whatever sons Candida bears you live in the political style of robbers.
CAR. [Aside.] I’ve terrorized the poor old man more than enough. I’ll call the fearful fellow back and put an end to the flight he has undertaken. [Aloud to the departing Polypus.]
Stop, Polypus. What are you afraid of? There’s no evil intended for you in this thing. The mage is eager to protect your life and his own, in any way he can. He’s fleeing Caesar, who’s indignant and angry against himself. Nor could he harm you even if he lodged an accusation against you, since he lacks evidence and trustworthy witnesses, unless you confess your secret guilt to everybody.
POLY. The business is safe. He’s given me true advice. I deny I said the words the mage claims I uttered. I appeal to your faith, and the sacred faith of Caesar, what you report has never issued from my mouth.
CAR. [Aside.] Now the poor man suffers on the other extreme.
AIO So you won’t go?
POLY. Go where?
AIO To the forest, master.
AIO To the robbers.
POLY. What? Me?
AIO You just said so.
POLY. I didn’t say anything.
AIO I agree, but nevertheless I overheard —
POLY. You’re mistaken. For you didn’t overhear anything/
AIO I say you did. To me alone you seemed to speak against Caesar, although I perhaps dreamed it. You didn’t say the words heard by the mage?
POLY. I didn’t speak any words against Caesar, nor did any mage hear me. You are dreaming.
AIO That could be. Didn’t you call yourself a ruined, foolish old man, a wretch, a public byword, a denizen of the Styx, and much else besides, which I heard just now?
POLY. Just now? What’s this just now?
AIO Just now, in my dream.
POLY. And so you are wise in your dreams.
AIO Didn’t you decide to flee to the robbers, and wasn’t it your intention to hand over your wealth and your wife to me?
POLY. It escapes my memory. I recall nothing of the sort.
AIO Damn! There’s no risk in an open admission. There’s no for you to deny what you did. If I have any ability to convince you, you should go to the robbers.
POLY. I won’t do that. But I do maintain you heard nothing at all, nor did I say it.
AIO Not unless in my dreams, master.
POLY. You did well to dream.
AIO A servant dreams for his master, and a master for his servant. Both are very stupid.
POLY. Listen here, Aio. What if I hand over my wife to be corrupted by this Gnostic, and my children to be reared in his liberal faith?
AIO You mean the faith of robbers.
POLY. You understand.
AIO I say you’re wise. But more so if you flee.
POLY. Well then, it’s time to go to the magistrate. I’ll denounce my wife’s faith to him, so as to display my zeal for pleasing Caesar. You will be present as a sworn witness and party to the deed, and will have a share of my praise.
AIO I follow my master with tongue, feet, wit, and hands.
POLY. That’s well. [To Carinus.] My friend, may I put your faith to the test in a difficult matter?
CAR. You may.
POLY. It is my lot to have a Christian wife, excessively devoted to God (the popular terms is a Catholic). She’s prudent, modest, and sober beyond measure, and cannot be swayed from God’s worship by any entreaties or art. And so I’m trying to remove her, either from her faith in one God, or from my house. When I saw you, a gentleman of the Gnostic sect, since I know you people are regarded as possessed of a very elastic conscience, being Christians in name but pagans in deed, as you proclaim your reformed faith to the world, since this faith lacks nothing by way of a title of sanctity, and comes well equipped with the color of Gospel freedom. And by denying freedom to reason you take good works away from Man, whom you preach is no different from a brute beast when it comes to control over his is own destiny. Because of these accomplishments and teachings, by which you, being the greater rascals, set an example for secular folk, the laws leave you free rein to commit every manner of evil, with the result that the Christian faith appears to occupy a place worse than paganism. Therefore I grant you full power over my wife. You are to consider that the corruption of her bodily and mental goods by any means you see fit will be welcome in my eyes. Likewise I commit to you my sons, to be instructed in whatever faith you choose, as long as it is lacking in sanctity and good works.
CAR. I accept your boys. I also promise I will attend to your wife so that your honor and advantage will be served.
POLY. Come, Ago, you’ll go straight to the courtroom, where you will await my arrival after a short time. Let’s go inside.
CAR. I follow. [Exeunt into the house.]
ACT III, SCENE vii
Aio plans on committing theft and then making his escape.
AIO I believe that whoever is in the service of a political man and his not devoted his mind to fraud, his hand to thievery, his tongue to lies, and put wings on his feet so he might go elsewhere when the occasion requires, has wasted his time and effort. From the time that Candida went off with that robber Cacus, I’ve had a hankering to imitate my wife’s example and become a robber. That way of life is more to my mind and, as my master has pointed out, all men follow it, from the common folk right up to the patricians. But as a precondition, it is requisite that the man who has dedicated his hand to robbery must commit a theft at home. So I must devise a way to steal something from my master, if that’s possible. With both hands I’ll seize the opportunity so that he won’t think he has wasted his effort just now, when he, as it were, sang hymns in my ears in praise of robbers’ wiles. Someday I’ll be called not just Aio, but also Facio. Now I just use words to give my approval to other men’s deeds, now it remains for me to prove my words with actual deeds. Therefore I’ll trade my method of flattery, which consists of my talkative nature, for hands, the instruments of theft. I’m waiting for a chance, which will soon be granted, after the old man has banished his wife from the house. She is the single obstacle to my self-serving deceit. With her out of the way, the road to theft will be traveled with ease. I’m hastening to the court, then I’ll return home.
Go to Act IV