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


These words are pretty much those of the breve sent from the Vatican against the Oath of Allegiance, in the form of a papal breve (in the Italian manner), while part of the imps cross over to the Forum Exoticum and, with the help of the printer Politanus, discards his Cardinal’s identity and becomes Tortus, in full sight of the audience.

“Pope Paul V to his beloved sons scattered all over the world, and particular to his most beloved Jesuits. Greetings and apostolic blessing, my beloved sons. The strivings of the heretics in England against the truth always fill our mind with great sorrow. But when we are given to understand that at this time everything is in a worsened condition, our affliction is wonderfully increased. For we learn that their audacity has reached such an extreme that, in a response to our two breves given to the English Catholics and to Bellarmine’s letter to the archpriest Blackwell, they boast to have applied a triple wedge to our triple knot. Just as we have arranged for a response to be made to this most heretical pamphlet, so we have determined also to advise ad adjure you that each man of you should abandon his personal affairs and stand fast, his loins girded with virtue. Readied against all the strivings of the English, write your volumes immediately, and castigate their impudence. This you know, inasmuch as in my hand reside cardinalates, bishoprics, and wealthy prelacies wherewith I shall reward each man according to his merits in this matter. This therefore is our undiluted, pure and whole will, that immediately you apply your minds to writing and take care that our cause is most keenly defended by yourselves, upon whom in our mercy we also confer our apostolic blessing. Given at St. Mark at Rome under the seal of the Fisherman on the tenth of September, 1608, in the fourth year of our reign. PIETRO STROZZA.”


PRINTER Why so sad, my lord? Why did you heave such a deep sigh?
spacerTORT. Ah, my man, will they never pity me? Will they make no concession to my old age? Do they now challenge a decrepit old man to battle, who can do far less than formerly when it comes to warfare and arms?
spacerPRINTER There is the greatest need for action. The Rome’s cause threatens to collapse unless you come to its aid. Be brave.
spacerTORT. But for me to do amiss at the end of my life because of my worn out old age, how disgraceful both for me and for them!
spacerPRINTER But, my lord, using whatever power you have for befouling paper, you should employ it. What’s needed now is your authority, not your great effort.
spacerTORT. So they should have thrust an honorable cause upon me, one which could not diminish a cardinal’s sanctity. Now these matters are vexatious to me, and like a new old age.
spacerPRINTER Heavens, my lord, unless it were common practice at Rome for cardinals to act under concealed identifies, I should urge you not to do it.
spacerTORT. Nor are they allowing me to rest at long length and meditate on my impending death, guilty as I am of many misdeeds of this kind, if I am to make an honest accounting.
spacerPRINTER Immortal gods! This is what you’re doing now. When you sit on your uncle Marcellus’ throne as the successor of Paul V, then you will have the leisure to devise forgiveness for your past history as you please. Then I hope you will remember your humble servant Politanus the printer.
spacerTORT. No fear, I’ll bless you. Just be skilful in doing my bidding.
 PRINTER It will be done punctually, just give me your command.
spacerTORT. This day I require that a book be printed, if you are so minded.
spacerPRINTER I have type made of silver. I’ll require it of them, if they are so minded.
spacerTORT. Hey, it’s not worth that much.
spacerPRINTER Isn’t it?
spacer TORT. No. So that I don’t die in obscurity and ignoble, I want you to supply no mean preface for your Tortus.
spacerPRINTER And I’ll assemble a century of epigrams in praise of the author.
spacerTORT. That’s not what I am saying.
spacerPRINTER It will cost little, we have such a superabundance of poets.
spacerTORT. You’re being hateful. Attend to my business, I tell you.
spacerPRINTER I’m eager to hear what you want.
spacerTORT. Say that you have conducted an inquiry and say you have found a priest from Pavia named Tortus.
spacerPRINTER From Pavia? Not from Capua, where you used to be an archbishop?
spacerTORT. Do you continue to make trouble, rascal? I have found Capua to be poverty-stricken, no match to my title. Refrain from mentioning it.
spacerTORT I’ll keep that in mind. As far as I’m concerned the author will be from Pavia. Anything else?
spacerTORT. Call him a learned man and a theologian.
spacerPRINTER I’ll swear with full assurance that he’is a full brother to Gregory Nazianzus.
spacerTORT. And a Cardinal of the Chapel.
spacerPRINTER Whose guise you have now adopted?
spacerTORT. You understand.
spacerPRINTER Pray hurry up and write. In my brain Minerva has already hatched a preface. (Tortus sits down and starts to write.)
spacerTORT. And meanwhile, if somebody appears, I’m not Robert.
spacerPRINTER But I’m afraid you can’t conceal those ears of yours. In other respects you’re safe.
spacerTORT. Have I been careful enough?
spacerPRINTER Nearly but allow me. [He manages to hide Bellarmine’s ears.] Indeed I hardly imagine that Jove himself had finer little ears. Excellent. Now you are transformed from a Cardinal into Robert Tortus, a priest of Pavia.
spacerTORT. No. I also disown that “Robert.” There’s need for further equivocation
spacerPRINTER What’s this? Are you, the son of a notable villain, also thinking of assuming the name of a humble servant of yours, so it might proclaim you a fellow-citizen of Jove?
spacerTORT. Of whom are you speaking?
spacerPRINTER The Cretan. I mean that beast of yours, a monstrosity of a man as well as a monstrosity of a name.
spacerTORT. You’ll need traveling funds, if you continue hemming and hawing.
spacerPRINTER I think you want Andreas Eudaemon-Johannes, that fellow from Cydon.
spacerTORT. Him, him!
spacerPRINTER Who easily outdoes those gentlemen of three letters.
spacer TORT. But inasmuch as he’s a Cretan, I’m reserving him to be my successor in this effort, when the situation requires.
spacerPRINTER So whom should I call Tortus?
spacerTORT. Whom? Do you remember, when you lived at my house, a man I once kept to be my darling?
spacerPRINTER Your Matthew?
spacerTORT. The very same. Call me Matthew. My affairs will fare a little better if I go by that name.
spacerPRINTER You have instructed me sufficiently. I pray you, go ahead and apply yourself to your Matthew.
Good God, how today has made me more blessed because he has condescended to have me write his preface. Now I’m destined always to be a member of the inner circle of a man born for the papacy. But shouldn’t I linger and see how the work he has in hand is going? (He stands behind him and reads these words over his shoulder, which are quoted from Tortus.) “An anonymous book has appeared at London.” Well done! Now at the very beginning it has crossed his mind that he should pretend ignorance of something he knows full well, that rumor and popular report say this book is by the king, and that it was published by royal authority. He chooses to dissimulate this fact, so that he might be freer in criticizing the author and may more pardonably vent his spleen on the king. “Celebrating his triumph before gaining a victory.” Hey, Tortus is a truth-teller, he neatly twists all the kings words to make them say something other than what was intended. “Who appears not to have comprehended the Oath, nor the Briefs, nor the Latter.” Now he briefly begins to deal with them. If they are smart, in future they will avoid crossing men like Tortus.


PRINTER First we’ll display the Oath. (He sees an imp standing behind himself, and, panic-stricken, flees to the Forum Romanum.) Cross! I’m ruined, I’m ruined!
spacerTORT. What’s this outrageous conduct? Printer, where are you? I dislike this omen, it seems to portend something sinister and strange that he has cried out thus.
spacer DEL. Stay calm, great cardinal. I frightened the fellow as a joke.
spacerTORT. But, by the cross, why did you come?
spacer DEL. I am here to aid you and your work. Thus commands Father Loyola so you won’t lack a helper, and that in doing your job old age’s weariness won’t entirely overwhelm you.
spacerTORT. You do me a kind favor. So you should occupy this throne, since you are far more deserving than myself.
spacerDEL. You won’t sway me. To day I am given you as a famulus to keep you supplied with Politanuses until you’re finished.
spacerTORT. And right at the moment I’ve been looking for him, so he might fetch me a pair of spectacles from somewhere. For some reason or other my eyesight has been dim lately.
spacerDEL. Indeed, I know that they would be useful for you, so I brought them along from my home on Orcus. They’re of a quality that nobody can match elsewhere. (He places a huge pair of spectacles on Tortus.)
spacerTORT. Wonderful! This seems the greatest miracle of them all, that everything seems ten times bigger than life size.
spacerDEL. That’s how spectacles cunningly made in our realm should be. Now the minor faults of our enemies, no matter how little they may be, will seem huge, enhanced to such a great dimensions.
spacerTORT. Come, sit here at my right hand, and let us confront this anew. (Tortus quickly falls asleep.)


Let the imps appear onstage, where they will drink.

BEC. Shall I bid the things made ready within the house be brought out here?
spacerSCI. This is a pleasant, friendly custom. Since we are met together for the first time, we should drink together.
spacerEX. No, don’tyou bother. We’ll attend to it.
spacerSCI. And, if I understand anything, our meeting today will confer great benefits on us both.
spacerBEC. Well said.
spacerPRO. So come, my lords, pay attention.
spacerBEC. Honorable companions, is this to your liking, generally speaking?
spacerSCI. Oh, be careful what you mean, my very sweet doctor. What? We’re alone now, and I’ve decided wholly to ignore my being an Earl, or certainly a knight.
spacerBEC. Aren’t you doing yourself an injustice?
spacerSCI. That’s the way it’s going to be, we’re equals. It will be more advantageous if we sit down face-to-face.
spacerBEC. Since such is your wish. And you, Ganymede, give me the wine-bowl. Sir Scioppe, I hasten to down this quart of hock. I toast you and your prudence.
spacerSCI. Your health, doctor.
spacerDEL. What’s my Matthew doing? Hey, Father, you’re asleep. Shake off this torpor for a little while.
spacerTORT. Good advice. By Hercules, I fell asleep over this discourse —
spacerSCI. Hooray, well done. I don’t think Hercules could have done a better job of wine-gulping. Hand it over, I’ll be vigorous in matching you.
spacerTORT. — but nothing is destined to be more advantageous for their cause.
spacerDEL. Why so?
spacerTORT. Because during that interval I dreamt a dream that was in no way foolish, and which I can now hurl at the King as a weapon.
spacerDEL. What’s that?
spacerTORT. I mean it was about comparing a King and a cardinal. How do you like it?
spacerDEL. Excellent, but only if it concludes by vilifying the King.
spacerSCI. And now, Professor, in a few words I’ll disclose why I prefer you of all men.
spacerBEC. You honor me.
spacerTORT. I know your dear heart is wise and, as matters now stand, you have learned by experience how to see clearly. Deserved deserts are not immediately donated to deserving donees.
spacerBEC. If, brother, I had the ability to estimate talent by reading men’s faces, we would not have acquired pupils unsuitable for this business.
spacerPRO. [Aside.] Now these gentlemen delight me, right from the outset.
spacerSCI. For nobody would fawn on you more than myself, if you were eager to receive rewards for your good services from the scarlet-clad lords of Rome.
spacerBEC. Me? You amaze me, flatterer.
spacerSCI. By God, your stupendous erudition has earned this. But I can’t imagine why you should expect it. You can shrewdly estimate what modern usage tolerates, and how it requires different morality in its place, suitable for managing affairs.
spacerBEC. That’s never entered my head. Let Good Health and Delight hear about it. (Toasts him again.)
spacerTORT. Now I’m at a loss.
spacerDEL. Because you can’t contradict me? That’s wrong. For, if you heed me, you ought say it’s time for a digression and some pages must be inserted about an old question.
spacerBEC. I hear you eagerly, Becanus.
spacerTORT. Really. So quickly fetch my Controversies.
DEL. They’re already here. (He produces them.)
spacerSCI. But I continue with my discourse. Meanwhile, do you not see how inclined towards myself Fortune is?
spacerBEC. That’s clear as daylight.
spacerSCI. I had scarcely gotten to know Marcellus’ household when I became the dependant of that most generous patron. He soon presented me with the golden spurs and bade me to join the ranks of the patricians.
spacerBEC. You were made an Earl?
spacerSCI. Yes.
spacerPRO. Brother, he is no fool for whom Fortune wishes such a profitable torch to blaze. And so quickly, when he’s right out of the schoolroom!
spacerEX. Shush, I want to hear at last what he has in mind.
spacer SCI. Next, Rome used me as an agent for its affairs.
spacerBEC. And you didn’t do a bad job of looking out for those affairs.
spacerSCI. I barely know what I did for the next three years. Soon I did and suffered much during the Venetian affair, as you may have heard.
spacerBEC. I certainly heard the news of your imprisonment and the other ways they treated you unkindly.
spacerSCI. It’s a treacherous, irreligious city. I had scarcely been there an hour when they threw me in chains. But they won’t have done that with impunity, if Scioppe lives and has his way.
spacerBEC. They’ll pay you very deserved forfeits.
spacerSCI. A little while later, I was sent back to Rome by Archduke Ferdinand as an ambassador concerning matters of the highest importance.
spacerBEC. I don’t recollect having heard this before. Heavens, you’re the favorite plaything of Honor.
spacerSCI. I omit telling the rest. You understand the point of these things, Doctor.
spacerBEC. I suppose so that I will understand how easy a path you will have to the red biretta.
spacerSCI. You understand my intention, and how useful it will prove for your situation when I obtain it. Standing in that supreme position, I shall remember to lend you a helping hand, so that nobody will be richer in the purse, I swear by Jove. (Drinks again.).
spacerDEL. (Taking the Controversies away from him.) That’s quite enough for now. Now I return to my subject.
spacerBEC. Stoutly done, my companion. I’m following you.
spacerTORT. But I fear that we’ll take some new detour. Yet I’ll run the risk.
spacerSCI. It will be a strange thing if before many days pass I don’t offer to sell you a bishopric or something even a little better.
spacerBEC. You’re kind with your favors.
spacerSCI. And I can do this with the best of right, if now you remove the only roadblock standing in my way.
spacerBEC. I put myself in your power, I’m yours, and I devote my service to you.
spacerSCI. I fear that Pallas has been angry at me from the time I was compelled to wear a knight’s belt, thus my brain has become devoid of the written word. Since then, I have found nothing bad to say about the English, unless you supply it.
spacerBEC. Bah. Was that it?
spacerSCI. Only that. This is a trifling thing, I realize.
spacerBEC. Would that all my wishes were as easy! I can pour forth pamphlets without any trouble.
spacer PRO. Then here, if ever anywhere, it’s quite easy, since here the battle is fought with audacity more than with weightiness.
spacerEX. So don’t make sport of us, Professor. Come, by Hercules, if you have anything, share it.
spacerBEC. Well then, have you any argument on this subject already stored up in your heart?
spacerSCI. Ow, this is what I’m telling you now, no decent material offers itself. Long ago we have carefully disputed all our arguments, I and this genius of mine.
spacerPRO. And yet we haven’t discovered anything with which we might become engaged. The other things are ready at hand: denunciation, insult, mendacity, impudence — we have already loaded a number of wagons with these.
spacerBEC. That’s good.
spacerSCI. And I’ve made no small progress in learning theology from the time when, having quit school with its butt-beaters’ rods, I filched it from the Loyolatic Fathers. Here’s an outline of my contention’s main points.
spacerBEC. I praise your accomplishment. Now this will suffice under the heading of theology.
spacerSCI. And then I’m a paraphraser, I’m a man of great vision. I’ve learned by facetious examples how to twist sacred statements and say something bad and not without point about anybody at all in discussing Scripture.
spacerBEC. So you have that down pat. I’ll straightway show you what kind of writer you must be.
spacerSCI. You will make me blessed no less than yourself.
spacerBEC. Watch me.
spacerSCI. [To Profanity.] Will you pay attention to this too?
spacerPRO. Don’t trouble yourself, I already am.
spacerBEC. But in the meantime why has our tankard come to a halt? Scioppe, I want us to toast the Holy Father.
spacerSCI. An excellent and most reasonable request.
spacerTORT. Do you see what difficulty I’m moving? The cold has numbed my hand.
spacerSCI So take your time a little.
spacerDEL. Hm, give me your hand. [Passes him the tankard.] Now you’ll you’ll never find a better-equipped taphouse where they sell warm drinks.
spacerBEC. Now you have cared for him in abundance.
spacerTORT. I’ve warmed up enough.
spacerSCI. Now continue.
spacerBEC. At this point I think you need to abandon that commonplace path of argumentation and serious disputation which we princes of the pen diligently tread, so that response might contend with response and one argument provoke another.
spacerSCI. Really? I should abandon it?
spacer BEC. The advice devised for your situation by them who have more than once have pressed this work upon yous not ill-considered, being as you are still a beginner and a novice when it comes to theological questions, thanks to your peregrinations.
spacerSCI. So what do you urge, oh my learned fellow?
spacerBEC. Obviously, another route must be attempted. “He disputes against a novel argument, an example up to now familiar to no man.” Thus I shall begin your book.
spacerPRO. Good luck to the title page of that book, on which we make such a boastful claim!
spacerBEC. This is what I want.
spacerSCI. I’m eager to hear.
spacerBEC. You’ll make yourself a son of the wise men of old —
spacerSCI. I like that.
spacerBEC. Ecclesiasticus, a man born of the stock of Sirach.
spacerSCI. I really like that.
spacerBEC. Relying on that self-confidence, you may confidently approach the task of demolishing that which the King of England imagines should be accepted, not because of the weight of his arguments (for you are not competent to understand these), but out of deference to his authority.
spacerSCI. Do you mean that now I should simply detract from his authority?
spacerBEC. That’s my advice. There you have a wide field in which to range as much as you wish, and indulge in digressions as you choose.
spacerSCI. Whew, what a happy thought has entered your head, you’re no mean master at invention!
spacerBEC. Such my friends often choose to proclaim.
spacerSCI. Now I’ll soon gain the purple.
spacerFOOL. And all who wish our affairs well will feel grateful for my Flemish master.
spacerSCI. Yet pray continue, Doctor, and give me a little advice how I might most advantageously diminish the King’s prestige.
spacerBEC. Since you have been made a detractor, something must be taken away from the general impression of his royal prudence and his reputation for learning.
spacerSCI. The Society has already taught me this art.
spacer BEC. After that, so that his glory will not be glorious, or he be thought to transact business under the auspices of virtue, you should portray him anew with the ink of denunciation.
spacerPRO. Hey, that too is in readiness..
spacerBEC. Those whom the king addresses in his writing need to be filled with the suspicion that he is cultivating a deceptive friendship and actually has a mind less well-disposed towards them.
spacerSCI. Oh, angelic advice! I’m forever in your debt.
spacerBEC. You will do a fine job of tricking out the work with the rest of its decorations.
spacerPRO. Leave it to us.
spacerSCI. And after I am strutting around in scarlet you should expect joyful prosperity because of my gratitude.
spacerBEC. May the gods preserve you!.
spacerSCI. Farewell. I for my part am eager to leave here immediately and hurl myself into the task.
spacerPRO. Let us go, my companions.
spacerBEC. No, I won’t allow it. It is right and friendly for us to part just as amicably as we met.
spacerSCI. Your advice is not without point, good theologian. I can easily tolerate this brief delay so we may soak ourselves anew.
spacerEX. Pray what have you in mind, Profanity?
spacerPRO. (Pouring a little inky Styx water into his cup for both of them.) Allow me. This broth will do a nice job of driving you into a frenzy.
spacerEX. Your health, my masters.
spacerSCI. Indeed, it will be so, Doctor. We’ll drink together.
spacerBEC. Let’s drink, by Hercules.
spacerSCI. May it go well for my bishop.
spacerBEC. May it go well for our cardinal.
spacerBOTH And ill for those English.
spacerTORT. At long last, if this is enough.
spacerDEL. It is enough, whatever it is.
spacerTORT. So you go off and command the printer (as I already have) to attend to this with care.
spacerDEL. Have confidence, it will be excellently arranged. (Exeunt to the Forum Romanum.)
spacerSCI. What if I fail to make the English rue their enterprise? Now allow me to drain this last glass of wine.
spacerPRO Didn’t you say this would make ’em hot?
spacerSCI. Go, run, hurry. Let everything be readied immediately, I can’t stay stuck at the beginning any longer.
spacerEX. Good, good. Heavens, now they’re doing a fine job of drinking their drop while it’s warm
spacerSCI. Farewell, Professor. I bid you a heartfelt adieu. Just as you advise, I am pregnant with a great document, and I feel that my childbirth is near at hand. Help me, Paul, Ignatius, Lucifer.
spacerBEC. Today I can easily challenge all the chickens. Books will be printed for me more quickly then eggs will be laid by them. It is certain that they will come flowing from the press before sundown. (Exeunt omnes to the Forum Romanum.)

Go to Act III