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ACT IV, SCENE i
STILBO, THE EMPEROR, BARDAS
Michael, Bardas, and Stilbo search Theoctistus’ study and papers. Michael comes across Berillus’ gem, planted by Stilbo.
They examine Theoctistus’ study.
STIL. This is the guilty household of hateful crime, the inner sanctum of Dis.
EMP. Does our Cyclops forge his great thunderbolts in such a small cave?
BARD. A place can never be lacking for an architect of crime to concoct his schemes.
EMP. Come now, let our hunt surround our hidden quarry. Let us look in every nook and cranny with a keen eye. (They come across various books, reading out their titles and a sentiment from each.). Let’s begin here. THE MIND OF EPICURUS. Nothing is greater than virtue. If virtue wields your scepter, you may rein happily. Wrong destroys empires. The hell with this trash!
BARD. THE PRECEPTS OF SOLMON. Entrust the scepter to a man, a child ruins kingdoms.
EMP. Here’s another old man blowing bubbles.
STIL. THE CONTEST OF JOB May God come to the aid of a man in affliction. May I overwhelm legions clad in bronze.
EMP. Sinister or not, you will suffer the deserved punishment for your deceits, even if God does not will it. (The title of the grimoire taken from the boys, which Melindus had been commanded to burn.)
BARD. THE STYGIAN SIBYL.
EMP. A title worthy of a son of Jove of the Underworld!
BARD. Whoever you are that desires to summon shades from the lake of Acheron, having appeased Dis, harken. What further proof of his black mind do you require, Caesar? By this art, he throws royal households into confusion, bringing all the Styx to our court. Unless you are prepared to eradicate this dire plague in short order, this mage will overthrew your palace, your subjects, and your cities with his Colchian bane. (There is a paper, on which Theoctistus has written his prayers and entreaties.)
STIL. THE PRAYERS OF AN EAGER MAN.
EMP. Read the rascal’s prayers.
STIL. You, Who govern heaven in accordance with Your serene will, and sweetly bid shining Phoebus to preside over the lesser lights, You brilliance of the rising sun, keep Michael under control. Let the little boy move in his own orbits, governed by his mother’s rule. Then let him command the stars as a prince and control lords and commoners with an equal splendor, oh Father of the sunbeams. Oh, the prayers of a traitor! Oh, the entreaties of a monster! With his hellish mouth he saucily calls you, Caesar, who wield the world’s reins at your whim, a little boy, always recommending your mother’s shameful yoke.
EMP. Even though overmastered by his evil, I’ll make him tremble at a king and a man. Nobody has ever been able to escape the reach of an irate sovereign and live in security. (He comes across the gem planted by Stilbo). What gleam shines here with its doubtful light?
BARD. Hands off, Caesar. Perhaps poison lurks within this enchanted gold. There are a thousand deadly ways in which this crew of wizards infuses their poison into royal veins.
EMP. I’m burning to examine it. Show it to me, whatever it is. (Bardas does so.) What monstrosity am I seeing? Alas, the mighty credit of the truth! I swear by the stars, Theoctistus has laid Berillus low with that terrible hand of his, my sweet second half. This token of my love announces his murder.
BARD. I recognize the gem.
STIL. It was a gift of the Augustus.
EMP. So bring here whatever evils lurks in great Erebus. One fire will not be enough to expiate the manner of this hideous crime.
STIL. The villain snuffed out the life of Caesar’s darling with a thunderbolt, let him atone for his evildoing in a monstrous fire.
ACT IV, SCENE ii
MELINDUS, THE EMPEROR, BARDAS, STILBO
Melindus is arrested by the emperor, as if he were a magician.
MEL. (He carries a black torch, so as to burn the grimoire entitled The Stygian Sibyl.) At length I have kindled this torch of malign night, blazing with a cloud of pitch. You would think it has been snatched from the hands of Tartarus’ Megaera. My intention is to cast on a pyre this black tome containing magicians’ wiles. Come, torch, and spread fires equal to those of Phlegethon. Cast flames of abominable brightness. Fill the sky with your foul tresses of sulphur and pitch. Let this pyre be worthy of these accursed spells.
EMP. Be still, my lords, something new is coming to light.
MEL. (Addressing the book as if it were a Sibyl equipped with understanding.) Come, Sibyl, your fatal fires are summoning you. (Michael and his companions hide themselves, to observe what is being done.)
EMP. You see?
MEL. I adjure you once more, place yourself in my hands, you dark sister of the Furies, you Stygian Sibyl.
EMP. Dread assaults me against my will, nor can I stand the specters of this hellish screech-owl.
BARD. Bear up, Caesar. This fellow will open up a way for our deceit.
MEL. Where, where are you, you dire nurse of Plutus of the Avernus? Thrice summoned, do you not yet submit to my flaming torch, you wrinkled hag? Enough of your concealing.
EMP. (Seizing Melindus by the neck.) I’ll allow no more. Oh, you dark son of Circe, are you too schooled in muttering spells with Thessalian art? You play the mage even at your tender years? Tell me, what evil are you contriving? What Fury is rising out of Orcus? What spirit are you conjuring up with your incantation?
MEL. I disown such a great crime.
EMP. His master taught this boy these arts of Dis, this trickery.
MEL. Oh Caesar, you’re killing me! Theoctistus outshines the very snow in his harmless candor, his innocence outshines Phoebus’ glow. No man wages more serious wars against the masters of Circe’s incantations. This man, bound to the supernals by his affection, owes nothing to Orcus. As a victor, he subdues Acheron.
EMP. You hear how bold-facedly he denies the crimes which have been revealed by our handiwork?
BARD. Why these Circe-songs? Why this torch, stolen from Avernus?
STIL. Why this murmur, with its magical sound?
EMP. Do you imagine your crime is unknown? I swear by the horrible divinity of the Stygian lake, if you do not confess, fire will bring to light your secret. I shall set a torch to the very fibers of ¥our heart.
MEL. If my crimes are now brought to light, what need for flames? If you are speaking about my heart’s hidden recesses, no force of flame can penetrate to the inner sanctum of the human mind. But I’ll freely tell you what you so greatly want to know. No woman of Colchis taught me spells, no Orcus taught me the black arts. Under the guidance of Theoctistus, I shun and chase away wizards and the entire crew of the moonlight as if they were the plague. But this bane, grown from a hellish seed, is growing in Caesar’s own household. That elegant gang of boys which wanders around you, that honor and glory at your side, is unguardedly imbibing Circe’s poison.
EMP. What are you spewing forth out of that lying mouth? Is the magical madness agitating my boys?
MEL. Your boys. (Bardas holds the grimoire in his hand. Melindus seizes it and shows it to Michael.) Look at this book you’ve just snatched, its fearful charms, its murmur of the infernal lake. The Stygian Sibyl has given it a pretty name. At Theoctistus behest, this is the witch I seek, with the intention of consigning its trickery to the avenging flames, the trickery of Avernus. Only vengeful fire will cleanse away its evils. Let flames purify wizards.
EMP. (Loudly calling for his boys.). Come here, boys, come here. If you lie and deceive me, I’ll make sure this deceit rebounds on its author.
MEL. So be it. But, if you will favor my wishes, I ask one thing of you Caesar, that I may be the first to speak to the boys.
EMP. You may speak first.
ACT IV, SCENE iii
FOUR BOYS WITH THE OTHERS IN THE PRECEDING SCEHE
Although his innocence has been proven, Melindus is handed over to the emperor’s boys for punishment, as if he were their false accuser. By playing a trick, he escapes to freedom.
Melindus pretends that the book is his, but that Michael has accused him of theft.
MEL. Tell me, my friends, did Melindus steal any book from you against your will? I swear that this treasure is mine, although by permission of the Augustus I am being accused of committing a disgraceful theft.
BOY 1 Oh, the detestable crime of a thief, of a triple-thief! At last you stand revealed, you robber. This villain has hidden in his pocket an enchanting volume stolen from your boys.
BOY 2 This book containing its rare arts, is ours.
BOY 3 It’s ours, I’ve assiduously leafed through its pages.
BOY 4 Oh the disgrace of this theft!
EMP. So I am surrounded by an unsightly crew of wizards, like Pluto by the Furies? This is your book, fitted out with its Stygian incantations? This is the school of boys? I swear by the shades of the Avernus, I’ll vengefully consign this book to the fire, and likewise its readers.
BOY 1 (Claiming he had been deceived and thought it was a volume of Homer.) The madness of magic is infecting us? Don’t these pages bear the divine Homer? Caesar, there’s either some malevolent misrepresentation or some mistake hidden here.
BOY 2 What’s the title on the cover? This is the brilliant work of what bard?
STIL. The Stygian Sibyl.
BOY 2 I abjure Stygian incantations. None of us have already seen or read its pages. If I’m not speaking the truth, may Orcus yawn and gulp me down.
THE OTHER THREE BOYS May Orcus yawn and gulp me down.
BARD. Hear that, rascal? While dissembling your original crimes you devise greater ones.
EMP. What lies have you told to besmirch my boys so greatly? Well then. You boys to whom he attached a horrible blot for deceit, seize this monster, and treat the guilty person to the punishments he has so richly earned. (Exeunt)
BOY 4 Our quarry has come into our nets. Behold the fox, friends, how his sly heart is mirrored in his very eyes! How he hides his deceits behind a gentle face! How the smoothness of his face covers over his black arts, by which he chatters and reveals our peccadillos! Do you see? His very treachery, lurking beneath his cheeks, blushes out of guilt for his reprehensible fraud.
BOY 1 You tattle about our jokes, you betray our witty sallies, you chattering magpie.
BOY 2 You spy by night, you report to your master our every boyish game.
BOY 3 Now punishment and Nemesis summon this informer. Tell me, friends, what form of punishment is your pleasure?
BOY 4 Let his eyes be gouged out less he see any evil in our doings.
BOY 1 But he has ears and will blab about whatever games we play at court. Let our fury, just in its punishment, make him deaf as well as blind.
BOY 2 Will his very chatter not repay us tit for tat?
BOY 3 Let his first tortures rip out that viper’s tongue from his mouth. Let the tongueless snake learn to control his hissing.
MEL. Your toil in inventing punishments exerts itself in vain. I have no concern for your thousand ways of applying torture, or your thousand arts of working harm. Let your lives be free of mischiefmaking, your manners of bestiality, your hearts of the plague of Colchis. Then I shall hold my peace. While your zest of depravity drives you blindly onwards, although my tongue be unstrung I shall speak of whatever naughtiness might occur.
BOY 2 So, since you are on the verge of death, you need to confess the sins in your heart, prostrate yourself, and pray to the Thunderer.
MEL. But first let a priest come to hear my confession and absolve my sins.
BOY 2 I’ll go and fetch a confessor. (He exits, in search of a priest.)
MEL. Why am I standing here, a sluggard? What do I care about a priest? Call back your friend. Of my own free will, I shall freely say everything in the open.
BOY 3 He’ll be right back. (The second goes to bring back the first.)
MEL. I appeal to you, you stars. Go far away, you dire spawn, go far away, you monsters. (Here Melindus looks up heavenward, as do the two remaining boys. He seizes the sword of one of them, forcibly clears himself a way, and makes his escape.)
BOY 4 He fled? Oh, the fearful beast! (The other two return.)
BOY 2 Where did Melindus go?
BOY 1 A whirlwind out of Thessaly took away the Thessalian wizard to Orcus.
BOY 3 Now we can resume our easy games in safety. Come, let’s while away the day.
ACT IV, SCENE iv
STILBO, FOUR BOYS
Stilbo employs deceit to inflame four of Caesar’s hopelessly corrupted boys against Theoctistus.
STIL. Come here, lads. Caesar requires your loyalty.
BOY 1 Caesar? What’s threatening?
STIL. The evil of fearful murder.
BOY 2 Let the crime be forestalled. Tell us who’s responsible for this scurvy misdeed.
BOY 3 That sweet light of Theodora? That hard-faced man who manages both poles by the lift of his eyebrow?
BOY 4 That latter-day Aristides? That starchy greybeard?
STIL. That gloomy embodiment of good morals, who has no grain of salt wit, no elegance of character, forbidding, harsh, unkempt, and wild, who has often withered your jokes with a glance and forbidden your play with his menacing fierce brow? The triple Sisters are spurring him on against the king?
BOY 1 And we’re standing here?
BOY 2 And we’re delaying?
BOY 3 And he burdens heaven and earth, that thief who snorts out his pieties?
BOY 4 Let him perish, being dragged through all the ways of ruin.
STIL. So let everyone inspired by the glory of having rescued his king stand with his sword at the ready. When the bell strikes six, collect in a band and come into my house by the postern gate. When you have gathered, I’ll tell you more about what needs to be done.
BOY 1 Good.
BOY 2 We understand.
STIL. Let your good faith seal our secrets.
ACT IV, SCENE v
STILBO, CREO, LYASTER (SERVANTS OF THEOCTISTUS)
He likewise suborns two servants of Theoctistus.
STIL. A following wind swells my sails, my work’s a–boil. The hour for vengeance is flying closer. Come, destiny, if you give a favorable nod to my undertakings, give me the chance to say a few words to Theoctistus’ servants. I want to tell them a false story, and if they give me a friendly hearing and gullibly swallow it, I’ll make them recount it to Charon as they float across the pools of Lethe. The tribe of servants is low-down, the scum of the earth, stupid, and I think they are governed by the same rule as cattle: if I wish them to live, then let them do so, bhen their death is more to my liking, let them be slaughtered. They’re here, ones such as trickery’s way adores to trip up. My fortune is running high. Greetings, Creo. Greetings, Lyaster.
CR. And equal good health to Stilbo.
STIL. Is your master enjoying good health at home or abroad?
LY. Accompanied by Manuel, he is slowly making his way here.
STIL. Is he returning in good spirits?
CR. Oh, yes.
STIL. (Aside.) His mind is ignorant of evil, he has no fear of his impending doom.
CR. Are you implying that the Fates are menacing our happy Theoctistus?
STIL. I am implying that the Fates are menacing his innocent person.
LY. Who is preparing the Fates against his innocent person?
STIL. Someone who is deflecting the downfall he deserves for his crimes onto an undeserving man.
CR. Stop speaking in riddles.
STIL. Jannes, forever mindful of his disgrace, is plying his arts and is about to arrive, bearing darts to be hurled against the person of Theoctistus.
STIL. His treacherous hand is about to lay Theoctistus low unexpectedly.
LY. May a friendly God avert this unlucky omen!
STIL. Both of you must stand guard at his door with drawn sword, and when Jannes approaches on stealthy foot and grovels on the ground, having said “spare me or destroy me,” you must rush forward and run this hateful foe through with your sword. But better to speak about this indoors. Theoctistus approaches.
LY. Lead the way inside.
ACT IV, SCENE vi
Having changed his mind, Manuel unsuccessfully urges Theoctistus to flee.
MAN. If a gentle breeze always blew on my sail from a single direction, so that my ship sailed over tranquil seas, sure of its wind, there would be no art of steering, no artistry for the steersman, nor would a learned hand adjust the yards this way and that, reefing sail when the savage south wind blew. A great storm, bringing shifting seas, tests a helmsman. Theoctistus, I change my mind. I, who just lately urged you to postpone your flight, am compelled to retrace my steps. If you are wise, furl your sails. Be cautious and withdraw our head from the great tempest. Leave the court for a little while, until the fury of the north wind blows itself out and turns into breezes, exhausted by its own force.
THE. Why this different voice, Manuel? Has some other opinion overcome you?
MAN. The mind’s power is driven in accordance with the advice of current affairs. Now that things have been turned topsy-turvy, a new way of thinking changes my mind, and it is no vain one. Does a charioteer always follow the same track? If some crag raises up its mass, if some ditch hangs up his wheels, he swerves his car and takes a safe route.
THE. What power threatens?
THE. That companion of innocent men.
MAN. But bloodthirsty nonetheless.
THE. Is envy setting new snares, or is it feeding its same old fires with a new puff of air?
MAN. The rumor circulating at court is uncertain, but it is certain about its target (just as ominous moans and groans announce the coming of a great storm), nor is its source is known. They say that whatever evil impends is intended against your person. You should remove yourself from this forthcoming collapse, away from the court.
THE. So you’re telling me I should flee?
MAN. I’m telling you you should be on your guard.
THE. Because of what crime?
MAN. The one your adversary invents.
THE. An invented blot fades.
MAN. After it has laid you low.
THE. Catastrophe will over take a fearless man, as long as I am innocent.
MAN. Catastrophe harms guilty and innocent alike.
THE. A man whose mind is not a-tremble over any guilt is a victor, and feels no fears.
MAN. Virtue can made a man blessed, but not safe.
THE. Virtue furnishes safe protections for the man who cultivates it.
MAN. So choose the safe protections of virtue, assembled within yourself, but do so far away from the royal household.
THE. Shall I anticipate uncertain losses by exposing myself to certain reproach?
MAN. Nobody will think it reproachful to protect your life.
THE. Unless one’s fixed policy of retaining his honor requires his death.
MAN. The rumored reason for your death is uncertain.
THE. To make it certain by fleeing would be an act of madness. Forgive me, Manuel, if calm virtue shuns base hiding-places. Whoever lives out a pure life, under the guidance of Astraea and with heaven bearing witness, why should he ever fear anything? Why should he struggle to evade envy’s deceit? The very act of flight would certify his guilt. He who goes into concealment is seeking refuge from some crime. I imagine my enemy would pay a great price, should I flee from a false charge yet condemn myself as guilty of a misdeed by no means false. And what of the fact that piety requires me to lend a hand to our collapsing empire in any way I can?
MAN. Having been killed, your hand would no longer be available.
THE. But only after I had attested my loyalty with my dying breath.
MAN. This very loyalty to your nation requires your survival.
THE. Whoever flees declines to survive for his nation.
MAN. If his nation’s safety requires one to hide, he is scarcely fleeing his nation.
THE. God forbid! A blameless heart does not know how to hide, nor would this be right. Let envy arm Avernus’ daughters for my killing, let it brand me with base accusations of crimes, let it spew forth poisons from its mouth, and the Chaos of Tartarus from its heart, I choose to confront it. No day will find me a weakling. Granted that death would forestall the small amount of life remaining to me, I shall forego that small amount and, as am I bidden, suffer the arrows of my hastened death, as long as honor’s law and true virtue approve.
MAN. Neither honor’s law nor true virtue approve of one hastening on one’s doom. God, the Father of life and death, commanded a man’s life-cycle to roll onwards, not to stop itself voluntarily. He who rushes headlong towards death unprovoked is committing suicide.
THE. No madness is hurling me against somebody’s sword. I am standing firm in my place, defending the position of my erstwhile honor. If some power of envy should attack my undeserving self, it does not behoove me to be driven back from the ground I have been commanded to hold.
MAN. Retreat while not under compulsion, with the intention of someday retaking your ground, bright with all the greater glory.
THE. Oh spare me, Manuel, spare me your ignoble desire that I should flee from doubtful circumstances.
MAN. Theoctistus, to whom I am bound by sacred faith and life we have shared so long, oh, change your mind and give yourself back to Manuel! One mind lives in our two hearts. The downfall that strikes you will overwhelms me with the same blow.
THE. The God who will rescue you from your doom will also preserve me, dead as I may be, as long as you breathe the air.
MAN. Me enjoy the light of life, if you are murdered! That I should breathe! That I should go on living! Equally balanced in the scales, my boundless love for a dear friend and my grief would not wish such things. In the name of love’s law, and in the name of the faith and unity of our shared life, take shelter and guard against death.
THE. I shall guard against it, as long as I avoid being branded for doing wrong.
MAN. Since you persevere in your obstinate opinion, unmoved, unbendable, irretrievable, unswayed by reason’s entreaties, farewell forever. From the bottom of my heart, and swearing by an old man’s loyalty, I am leaving Caesar’s household so I shall not be obliged to be present and witness you being consigned to an evil end.
ACT IV, SCENE vii
THEOCTISTUS, JANNES, TWO SERVANTS, THE SIX BOYS
Having scorned Jannes’ false tears, Theoctistus is taken by the boys at Jannes’ contrivance.
THE. Whatever catastrophe has been drawing out a threatening delay is now near at hand. My premonitions are clear, since the signs are obvious. Overcome by his affection, Manuel has quit the Augustus’ household, as has Eubulus, removed by guile. They have departed. I alone remain to be bitten by the cruel tooth of envy. I am alone, yet not alone. He with a mind untouched by iniquity has company enough. God, surround me with a mighty bodyguard, then let Avernus howl. I shall go where heaven summons. (The sixth hour sounds.) Time flows swiftly along Year presses on year, month goes before months, nights yield to days and days to nights, and hour crowds upon hour. Among the changes of one’s hastening existence, his life perishes with its stealthy passage, murdering itself minute by minute. Happy the man who attains an honorable ending. (Enter Jannes.)
JAN. (To himself.) Now hasten, my mind, contrive the final example of your fraud. Your quarry stands there as your prey. (Aloud.) What threats make your face so terrible, Theoctistus? Why avert your head?
THE. I refuse to put up with a monster. Go away, spare my eyes the harsh sight of you.
JAN. I shall, without delay.
THE. Long ago you should have gone into exile on some barren shore.
JAN. Caesar quashed my penalty.
THE. It was his mother who imposed it.
JAN. She has been commanded to submit to her son.
THE. While a child should rule? Go, submit to exile, obey Theodora’s commands.
JAN. Theoctistus —
THE. Go far away.
JAN. I pray you give a patient hearing to a few words from piteous Jannes.
THE. You are asking that I imbibe your poison, disguised by fraud.
JAN. God, bearing witness on high, denies what you say.
THE. Then speak. This is your final opportunity to talk.
JAN. How long do you go on kicking a wretch while he is down? Is there no limit to your anger? Does my guilty fear and my conscience-stricken mind, never at ease with itself, not supply fear enough? Oh these tortures, that deserve to be pitied even by the monsters of the Underworld! Shall I speak? How how often do the bloody scourges of my sins rend my heart! A vulture does not rage against wild beasts as my guilty mind rages against itself. Neither daylight nor darkness give me intervals of peace, my grief goes along in an unbroken spate. Thus I wander amidst the passions of a benumbed mind, a disturbance to the sky and a disgraceful laughingstock to earth. Go now, and let your anger nurse its lively fires. Let your hatred increase, if it can do anything to enhance my woes. Why heap evils on evils, Theoctistus? Am I not suffering enough ruination? Oh, spare an exhausted man.
THE. I recognize your deceitful way. Your show of grief fails to delude me, nor does your eye, well-schooled in shedding copious tears. Set aside your frauds and pray to an avenging God, coming to hate your sins. Let genuine sorrow make you grieve, and the sensibility of a sound mind make you weep. Then come a-begging.
JAN. A stony chill freezes me. I swear by the stars —
THE. The stars proclaim you a liar.
JAN. By the laws of this earth —
THE. Which you have harmed with your crime.
JAN. By the justice of the Thunderer —
THE. Whom you should dread, since you have insulted Him.
JAN. By the fires of Tartarus —
THE. To which you consecrate your false self. Get away, liar.
JAN. Oh, the good faith of heaven and earth! Why do you vex me? Spare me or destroy me. (Jannes flees, having tossed a dagger at Theoctistus’ feet. His servants come running in with drawn swords. The boys attack hem, and Theoctistus and his servants are taken. Melindus intervenes and attacks the boys with the intention of freeing his master, but in vain.)
SERV. 1 Let him die.
SERV. 2 Let him be slaughtered. Where has the villain hidden himself.
THE. What’s this?
BOY 1 Let’s take them.
BOY 2 Let’s overcome them.
BOY 3 Tie their hands behind their backs.
SERV. 2 Shall we, men, surrender to boys? Let our lightning-like anger direct our swords this way and that.
BOY 4 Cut ’em down.
BOY 5 Stab ’em.
BOY 6 Cut ’em into a thousand pieces.
THE. Put up your weapons, servants, surrender your hands to their bonds.
BOY 1 Tie up their limbs tightly. (Enter Melindus.)
MEL. Why, why, you rebels? Against Theoctistus? Oh, the wrong! Let your weapons, your savage steel be aimed against me.
THE. Sheath your sword, Melindus, one boy is not equal to the fight. Overcome the shame of this misfortune by sharing it with me.
MEL. You have forbidden it, that is enough. It would be sweet to die while obeying you.
BOY 1 The beast is caught.
BOY 2 And a puppy.
BOY 3 Bah, the dregs of the world!
BOY 4 Oh, the disgrace of the universe!
BOY 1 What madness has inspired you to imagine the killing of Caesar’s divinity? Has such a zeal for power made you hot? Do you see? (Picking up the dagger left by Jannes.) Did you intend to plant this in the king’s side? I’ll drive it into your heart.
BOY 2 Stop. His crimes require a more serious punishment.
ACTUS IV, SCENA viii
THE EMPEROR, BARDAS, BASILIUS, STILBO, THEOCTISTUS, MELINDUS, TWO SERVANTS, THE SIX BOYS, TWO BODYGUARDS
Falsely denounced to the emperor by these same men, Theoctistus is first sentenced to exile.
EMP. Come, my lords. The sound of clashing steel has assaulted my ears.
BOY 3 Oh the foul crime, Caesar?
EMP. What’s this commotion?
BOY 1 So that this villain might not take to his heels, we have guarded him with drawn sword. Judge this crime, both as judge and prosecutor, this monstrous, dire, barbaric, horrendous crime.
EMP. Tell me what make you shudder. Speak up quickly.
BOY 1 If my mind has subsided, if my tongue is freed of its amazement and can speak words. Do you see this deadly weapon, forged at the Styx? How sharp its dire point is? Behold the fearful instrument of our murder. This dagger, this dagger (I shudder at the crime) was supposed to have been plunged into your blood, if your trusty band of companions had not broken their cruel spirits.
STIL. I shudder at the monstrosity.
EMP. Continue, name the guilty party.
BOY 2 I call on you, you dear bevy of my my friends, bear witness that I am speaking the truth. Theoctistus is indicted as the doer of this bold deed, and his two servants have lent a helping hand.
EMP. Take these people to the gallows, bailiff. Let them be hustled away.
SERVANT Hear us, Caesar.
THE. You’re killing innocent men.
EMP. Let them be executed, I say.
SERVANTS Stilbo —
STIL. Let the Styx swallow them after they’ve been hanged. Should I protect impious men with my help?
THE. Oh stop, Caesar. I swear you are insulting God by shedding innocent blood.
BOY 1 Oh, the empty shamefacedness of your words! Are you proclaiming these are innocents, when their dire loyalty has made them your confederates? Did they not stand there together with drawn swords until you would give the command for murder? Did not you give this order: “Let this man go for the throat of Bardas, that one for Manuel’s, and I’ll deal with Caesar’s.”
BARD. Tell us, you band of boys, did you hear what he’s telling us?
BOY 3 I swear I did.
BOY 2 Me too.
BOY 4 I take my oath.
BOY 5 So do I.
BOY 6 I agree.
BARD. Six witnesses prove that the deed was done.
STIL. What need for witnesses? Read his signed confession. Even his blade has his guilt inscribed on it.
BARD. AGAINST CAESAR. Oh, the writing of a bloodthirsty hand! To what height of madness does the madness for power not drive one? This sovereign, who nature’s law tells us must be protected, this sovereign to whom all right, and the life, liberty, security, and sole hope of the realm entrust themselves — are you ready to murder him with a single blow?
STIL. Injured by what rebuff are you repaying him with death, in obedience to your ungrateful mind? His father enrolled you in the company of the purple-clad, beautified your home with a mass of tawny gold, and gave you the reins of government and control over Michael’s infant years, and this is how you repay him? Oh the foul squalor of your mind, always forgetful. So would you suffer this sweet glory of the earth, this light of our age with a brilliance to match the stars, the fire of this face, the snow of this holy brow, this noble scion of sovereigns, this head of our empire, to have earned this fate? What stone hardens your mind? What brass your heart?
BAS. What about the fact that this man, well-schooled in summoning up the lord of the shadowy Styx, is aiming at the reins of the empire under the instructions of Orcus, and is seen to have learned the ways of fraud thanks to spectres and the stage-effects of the Underworld? Do you imagine his crime is concealed, when the crew of Dis taught him to destroy me by poison, Caesar with a dagger, and Bardas by treachery?
EMP. The heat of your heart and your mind’s cruel thirst should have rested content with a single crime. Did it befit you to have wanted to overthrow these two pillars of our empire and leading figures of our realm, on whom the safety of our affairs wholly rests?
STIL. Nor was the limit for his furious acts. Mighty with his Thessalian incantation, he stole heaven’s thunderbolt and with its savage conflagration he burned Berillus, Caesar, your Berillus. Oh the dire weapons of this monster! He attacked the vitals of the master by thrusting through his servant. And, so that there may be no mistake about his craft, this gem wins belief, this gem brought to light in the dark house of Theoctistus.
BARD. Let Melindus, his partner in this egregious crime, wear this beauty among gems, stolen from Berillus.
THE. Thus let the mask of many a crime burden Theoctistus. Berillus’ thunderbolt, the gem, madness for power, the whispers of witches, steel bared against the king, frauds, poison — a thousand manners of crime. Remake the mask, Caesar, and even Phoebus himself will cleanse away these crafty falsehoods with his rays. See how one witness disagrees with the next! This one pretends that I was planning the horrid deed with steel, that one with poison. Both disagree with the truth, and they fail to agree with each other. I am said to have made my way to the pinnacle by means of all the Furies. The well-known rule of my morality goes to show that this is a hellish fiction. I am said to have shared out bloodthirsty commands between my servants, and to have armed their hands with a dagger. Why I am, the accused, prevented from defending the truth by calling a servant to bear witness? Why are we commanded to die before being put on trial? A witness shows up the guilty and protects the innocent. Do you want to learn the crimes of Theoctistus, Augustus? I am defending the honor of the office entrusted to me, in what way is legal. As long as Bardas rules the court alone and according to his whim, and Stilbo empurples the Senate, your boys pass their days with Bacchus, and their nights with disgraceful use of leisure. I am unstained. The savage work of envy yearns to overthrow me because I am resisting these evils. But I am not anxious. Let impiety burst its guts, let envy arm bloody hands against heaven, the mind that clings to the fair and the just always endures. You, Caesar, should accept the advice of your fostering mother. Revere her and,. until your hand and your age are equal to the scepter, let your mother the Augusta govern the empire.
EMP. Why mention that hateful name to me? While Theodora is refusing me the rights of the scepter, that bloodthirsty Maenad is preparing my death by means of yourself. I have nevertheless conquered this stepmother, a true Alcides, and I have conquered the agent of her crime. Go and tell my mother these words of mine: let her depart the household of the Augustus, let her flee from the court, let her enter a nunnery and devote herself to perpetual seclusion. And you, you unspeakable villain, dwell forever in far-off climes where nature is a-dying. Your crime deserved to be atoned for with steel and fire, but I grant your life as a gift to my dead father.
THE. You have blessed me, Caesar, I regard this as a present, not a punishment, this escape from the treacherous court I have long sought. You give me back to myself. Finally, enjoying free rights over myself far from toils and mist, I shall live carefree, cloudless days. I shall go to the depths of a forest. If my final prayers have any power, I shall ask for this single thing, that your favor will spare innocent Melindus. Protect this boy. He gives promise of being of great service to you when he comes to maturity. Good faith and cultivated beauties of character will scarcely produce a better. He is a loyal servant, and the sure salvation of your realms.
MEL. Oh master, spare your entreaties, spare your advice. With you an exile, am I supposed to haunt the royal threshold? Should this royal court which banishes you, a home of perfidy, a house of evil men, a dark homestead of envy, continue to hold me? Rather I am determined to hate forever both the court and whatever the court promises with its untrustworthy splendor. Take me as the comrade and servant of your fortune, I am happy enough.
EMP. Take away this chatterbox, soldier, take him bound to a dark dungeon. A cell will tame this saucy lad.
MEL. Now power will tear me away from the master to whom I cling, not even steel and fire. Oh allow his servant an equal exile, Caesar!
EMP. Take him away quickly.
MEL. Rather kill me, cut me to pieces. I shall follow him as a shade, if I cannot do so in life. But spare me, prince. Give Theoctistus back his boy! Let a single road receive us both.
EMP. Go away, you monsters. Let a single road damn you both.
ACT IV, SCENA ix
BARDUS, STILBO, THE EMPEROR, BASILIUS, THE BOYS
The emperor, considering the will of his supporters, agrees to Theoctistus’ murder.
BARD. Bah, your hand is too sluggish! Is this crime, deserving of the Phlegethon, going to be punished by exile?
STIL. I suppose you are waiting until he returns and completes his design, plunging his weapons in our throats.
EMP. Exile will give him more protracted woes.
BARD. It will give him opportunities for revenge.
BAS. Can he, helpless, exiled, and defenseless, be able to take revenge?
BARD. Time will bring this runaway’s return, fraud will supply him with weapons. As long as your adversary breathes the air, you must fear his retaliation.
STIL. What soft fear is weakening your great mind. Why be kind, Caesar, and indulge your enemy with the light of day? Who puts down his foe so light-handedly?
EMP. So you like the penalty of a hasty death?
BARD. I do.
STIL. I do. We approve it.
EMP. What place is agreeable for his killing.
STIL. In a secluded room of your court. Let him fall on your mother’s bosom, where the woman might witness her darling, the light of her eyes, the agent of her crime, has paid a fine price for her scheme.
EMP. On my mother’s bosom? Criminal! My mind shudders at the means of such an unspeakable felony.
BARD. Let a lictor attack him when he’s left her chamber.
BAS. He him be stricken down while in exile, far from his nation and your realm, where no avenger of his murder might whip up the rebellious common folk into a frenzy.
STIL. You are afraid of an avenger of his murder?
BAS. I fear popular anger.
STIL. Make sure you don’t provoke it. Mild anger is slow to develop the urge to retaliate.
BAS. What’s this, priest of Minerva? “Make sure you don’t provoke it?” Do you count me among the rebels?
BARD. We regard anyone who indulges our enemy with the delay of exile as being favorable towards him.
BAS. And I regard anybody who stains the Augustus’ threshold with blood as being an enemy.
BARD. Oh you great champion of peace! You father of your country! (He gives Basilius a push.) Go, protect our enemy.
BAS. You touch me and I restrain my anger? You choose, Caesar, and I give my approval to whatever you decide.
EMP. Subside, Basilius.
BARD. Let him continue on his unlucky way, let him burst his sides.
STIL. Let him gnash his teeth, let him foam at the mouth, let him bawl. Why be sluggish and hang back, Caesar? Do you command your enemy to be put to death in the household of your court?
EMP. Blood will flow.
STIL. Let it flow, let it flood. Blood which a parricide pours forth from his ruined heart is food for the eyes.
EMP. How my sad mother will weep! How she’ll mourn his murder!
BARD. You craven heart! The degenerate fear of your mind! In your mind you strive to rule alone and pursue the horror of war, yet you can’t stand the sight of a dead enemy’s blood? And you shun your mother’s weeping? Go on, fulfill your wish, if you are worthy to wield the scepter.
EMP. This is your wish? This is your command?
BARD. This is our wish and, if you refuse anything, this is also our command.
EMP. Let my murdered enemy fall, even if it is onto my own lap. Kill him however you want, Bardas.
ALL Ho for triumph! Live forever, Caesar. (Chorus or interlude.)
Go to Act V