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ACT V, SCENE i
Basilius, grieving that Theoctistus has been harmed by his agency, desires either to rescue him or gain revenge for him.
BAS. Coward, sluggard, still unavenged after all those insults of your enemy, do you persist in assailing the winds with your vain words? You should have aroused your vengeful Furies long ago. Bardas ought to have fallen already, run through by your sword, relieving the world if the sight of his impious face, being plunged into the lake of Dis. Shall I long continue to wander about, hissed at, shoved by his awful hand, held in contempt, a plaything for the royal court? Shall my adversary triumph over me, reaching up to heaven with that upraised neck of his, without suffering punishments dealt out with matching fury? Is he to reign? Is he to cut his capers? Is he to thunder? Oh my mind, slow to anger, heedless of revenge! Where is your former angry-hearted rage? Where is your passion for a fight? Where is my arm, mighty with its Giants’ thunderbolt? Oh, rouse your heart! Rouse your strength, let loose the powerful blow of your hand. Bardas, you ingrate, it was at your decision that my sword sinned, reddened with the blood of Eubulus. It sinned. Forgive it, you stars. I could have put an innocent man to death, if the Fates were not protecting him. This is your reward? Do you rashly drive a friend into exile, acting by a treacherous impulse? But why waste the day with unwelcome complaints? I have earned reproach, I admit. I deserve rebuff, hisses, mockery, laughter, for with my lying words I have destroyed that undeserving star of the royal court, that pillar of Astraea, that glory of virtue. Captivated by the guile of Stilbo (if my mind’s belief is not in in vain), I gave the man over to death, a participant in an unspeakable deception. Heaven forgive me. I am ashamed of my naive mind. Oh, if some way of preventing this death remains, so that the innocent man would not perish! I shall go. My grief gives me strength. Let anybody who works against the man with his bold-faced daring be overcome by death. Although an iron hedge of drawn swords should be standing, I shall go where their bronze is amassed at its thickest. But where should I go in my fury? If the both of us should fall, if conquered virtue should groan, what would my blood, shed along with his, accomplish? Where woulod a man be found to avenge us? I believe I must proceed more cautiously. While he piously informs Theodora of his final wishes, his adversary is readying his doom. So I firmly plant myself here at a distance, either his avenger or his champion. Unless Bardas forces my hand with superior forces, I shall prevent the crime. If my hope is dashed, overcome by force, I shall avenge it.
Theoctistus is murdered at court by the agency of Bardas and Stilbo, with Jannes looking on.
JAN. Keep on, Phoebus, hurry up and bury your shining head. We have no need of light. An obscene shroud of darkness, party to our abominable crime, is more to my liking. Let the sky grow pale. Hide your faces, you heavenly race, I require a different set of witnesses for my crime. You, to whom the throng of Avernus are available for punishment, you flame-scorched crew, you sowers of the vices, come bear witness. And you who delight in the bloodshed and slaughter of lofty men, you second-in-command to Dis, break forth, you plague. You will behold a feat of daring worthy of even your heart. (Here six spirits spring forth from concealment, investing the court, taking up station here and there on the stage.) Am I mistaken? They come a-flying in accordance with my will. From here I shall observe the way in which this hoped-for murder is accomplished.
BARD. (He leads soldiers, whom he distributes about the stage.) Come, let your arms discharge their dreadful thunderbolts. Keep watch at the door. Let whoever comes to help, friend or foe, fall by your lightning-like swords. Away with any distinction of family or rank. If Caesar himself should delay this business, let him be attacked. Bardas will grant you immunity.
BAS. Oh, the public enemy!
BARD. If our scheme goes according to plan, costly gifts will repay your loyalty.
STIL. The Augusta’s beloved is being driven from his lair, our quarry must be laid low with our spears.
BARD. Where’s the assassin/
STIL. He’s here, an acolyte who feeds on human gore. Behold the deadly monster, an image of Dis. Does he not bear a resemblance to Jove of the Avernus? (Enter Misander.)
MIS. Who requires me for this bloody work?
BARD. You are in good health, my friend?
MIS. I am.
BARD. Healthy enough to probe the fibers of a great heart with your steel?
MIS. Healthy enough to rend the fibers of the heart of a Hercules. Set the hundred-handed Giants before me, or the brutal Centaurs, this single blade will destroy them all
STIL. And high lords too? Men great for their deeds and possessed of innocent hearts?
MIS. Even if they are born of Jove, men of celestial pedigree. This blade renders innocents and the guilty all alike.
BARD. So come, set aside your fear.
MIS. My fear has been banished by long experience in bloodshed.
BARD. Let your heart be filled with the Caucasus.
MIS. It is filled with Scylla and Charybdis, with Dis and Chaos.
BARD. Prepare your hand.
MIS. Bid the victim be produced. My arm is set to strike.
BARD. He’s gone out, but he’ll return. Wait, but be ready. (Footsteps are heard.)
MIS. He’s approaching, I’ll mark him with my steel.
BARD. You’re wrong, you must wait. Has nobody barred the door?
JAN. May an evil plague bar the door for our visitor! (Enter Methodius.)
BARD. What event brings you here so hastily, Your Eminence?
METH. If it is permissible and timely, I’d like a few words with Theoctistus.
BARD. I believe he is alone, taking a stroll in Caesar’s garden. You are free to enter.
METH. Why this gleam of drawn swords? Who is disturbing the imperial peace?
BARD. My servants are fighting a mock battle.
METH. My foreboding mind fears that this is no game, and that anger at work.
BARD. (Aside.) Hurry up and direct your damned footsteps elsewhere. (Exit Methodius) Stilbo, stand guard at the door and shoo away those who would enter.
STIL. Whoever makes his entrance will enter into his death. (Enter Theoctistus.)
THE. At length, condemned, I am escaping this proud household. O three times, four times happy the day on which I make my escape! Proscribed, I flee the court. This is how it repays its servants. Go now and eagerly devote yourself to lofty Fortune’s capricious wheel! But even so, it is a pleasure to have fled this royal home, so full of mists. So I call you to witness, you race of celestials, you glories of a better court, you lords of heaven, that I have always craved a marshland hut, where, rising above hope and fear, I might pay out my prayers to God in security. God has granted me my wishes. This storm will provide a harbor, this flight will give me a nation. Sweet repose will come, albeit in my very exile. I give you great praises, Father of nature, having first prayed that whatever evil threatens the Augustus, whatever burdens the eastern world, will join me in exile, in some remote corners of the world.
BARD. Attack him! (The assassin starts trembling in mid-attack.)
MIS. Fear has gotten the better of my hesitating hand.
THE. Oh, when a happy day shines on my prayers! Would that this would happen!
STIL. Let’s help his weapon, let’s lend a hand.
THE. Oh, what fire flies through my benumbed limbs? Where, where, Father of heaven, do you summon me? From one court to another? I am coming.
BARD. Let’s clear his way. (The murder occurs offstage.)
STIL. Cut up his innards. Lay the hellish fellow low.
BAS. Restrain your rage. Oh, the crime!
BARD. It’s finished. He has it.
THE. Jesus! (Basilius comes to his aid, too late.)
BAS. Are you failing, you dear champion of heaven? Are you dying, Theoctistus? Spare Basilius.
THE. God. (The stage-building opens to reveal him, prostrate.)
BAS. Alas! The harsh peace of death has relaxed this murdered man. Will you die unavenged? Let Stilbo keep you company.
ACT V, SCENE iii
Jannes and his brother are congratulating themselves about Theoctistus’ murder, when he is overcome by a frenzy, and then is carried off in mid-air.
JAN. Well done.
ARS. Happily done.
JAN. Fortunately done, just as we wished. No part of our scheme as gone awry. I have completed the crime. Oh, the cheering! Oh, the triumph! Oh, the happy day! Go now, proud man, and knock tiaras off heads. (He plants his foot on the body.) Lie there underfoot, Theoctistus. Now I triumphantly stand on your dead self. Now I’m glad to be Jannes, the man who understood what it was like to be disgraced, the man who stood up against your proud throne, the man who withstood a thousand evils. How your blood captivates my eyes!
ARS. How it satisfies our anger!
JAN. Now I’m happy to have devoted my heart to the dark lord of the Styx, pledging my loyalty at altars drunken with human blood, defiling households with the murder of children, depriving mothers of their babes, playing the wolf behind a false face, and satisfying my hunger with meals of human flesh as I roistered down the streets. Lie there underfoot, Theoctistus. Now I triumphantly stand on your dead self. Oh the cheering!
ARS. Oh, the triumph!
JAN. Oh, the happy day! I give you my praises, you dark judge of the dead. I fulfil my vows. You may claim your promised due. You may rip the soul out of my inmost body. But, if I must not yet walk the way of my doom, in the meantime you may set siege to my body. See how my heart is open, eager to grant you its hospitality. Break in, Pluto. Take possession of this besieged heart. Then take me away, borne aloft in mid-sir, where your magical crew is gathered in its throngs. There I shall worship you as a god with continual offerings of incense. (A kind of underground bellow is heard.) I am heard. A noise has sounded from deep within the earth. I am being inspired, the divinity of Jove of the Underworld is at hand. (Jannes is compelled by the demon that possesses him to make peculiar. gestures.)
ARS. My brother’s suddenly silent. A twitching shakes his limbs. His cruel eyes are rolling in his face, red as fire. His breast heaves as he opens it to give hospitality to the great god. He accepts the divinity deep with him, throwing himself entirely open to serve as this Jove’s royal court. And now, scarcely capable of withstanding so great a ruler, he surrenders his mind and his self-control to that tyrant. Noises struggle in his throat. He’s thinking some thought, his muttering will find a way to express itself. (Jannes uncontrollably attempts to strangle Arsaverus, as if he were Theoctistus. He gives him a thrashing.)
JAN. Orcus has burst apart. The marshland of the shades can be seen. I am born through the empty realms of Dis, through the dead. What’s that shade, staring at me with its baleful eyes? Theoctistus? I shall implacably take vengeance on my foe, even in infernal Styx. Come, pay your forfeits, you evil shade, you downfall of my good fortune.
ARS. Keep away, Jannes. You’re going for your brother’s throat.
JAN. Now you are opening up my kingdom, having been driven out of your own. Here bring your scourges, you Furies. Here let Phlegethon roll its fires. Here let come every monster of Dis. Here let come whatever evil lurks at the bottom of Erebus.
ARS. Hold your hand, brother!
JAN. You continue to threaten me, you hateful shade? Let my blows be redoubled. May your pain endure forever. (Suddenly Jannes collapses, as though dead. Soon, after his brother has departed, he returns to himself and is snatched up by a flying chariot drawn by serpents or fire-breathing horses.)
ARS. Have mercy, Pluto. He has fallen, and slumber follows after his defeated anger. May this peace hold him captive until he has shaken off the god which had possessed his body.
JAN. Now hold back your Furies, Pluto. Enough of this madness. Come, come, you fire-footed team. I want to course through the lofty courses of the clouds. Hasten on the chariot. You stop? Father of Erebus — I recognize the sound. Come, make your way, flying as swift as lightning. You see me. More quickly, more quickly!
ACT V, SCENE iv
Having made all preparations for his journey, Melindus awaits Theoctistus at the appointed place. Then he comes across his dead both.
MEL. (At the appointed place, dressed in hermit’s garb and searching for or awaiting Theoctistus at the appointed place.) Oh thrice-happy escape from vain things! We are shaking off the royal court. Let its mist and deception keep far off, and likewise its gold. Happy poverty is to my liking. This robe will keep me happy, exiled from my cares. I seek deserts and solitudes, and as a runaway I am taking along a great treasure, the affection of Theoctistus. As long as that remains, for me every day will shine bright and clear, even if the world goes to ruin. May the stars always protect you, dear prince, I pray for nothing else. But why does he delay? He told me to hasten here. It was easy for him to gain entry into the royal court, but it takes time for him to get out. (He starts to leave.) I shall go see whether he has suffered some misfortune within. Blood covers the ground, I dread the omen. Am I mistaken, or is someone lying here, swimming in his own blood? Oh, the catastrophe! Oh, the wrong! Theoctistus? Oh, I’m ruined! Oh, the treachery of the lords! Does Theoctistus, the great mind of this court, the illumination of kings, the defender of the world, the glory of our eastern nation, the terror of the guilty, the sturdy bulwark of good men, lie here, murdered? The dire handiwork of envy! Has Melindus’ hope come down to this? Is this the hoped-for course of his peaceful life? His sweet escape from affairs? Blessed peace of the forest! Oh, the bitter fate! Prince Theoctistus, the sole salvation of Melindus, the chiefest part of myself, you die, and as a runaway you leave Melindus alone? Am I left alone tp my sorrows as you flee? Oh, would that I could sink down to the fiery abodes together with you, so that, if anything survives after you are gone, I might join it to you in suffering a similar lot. (The murderer left behind a dagger, which Melindus snatches up.) Bestial weapon! Oh hand, accursed by your blade! Servant of a savage art! Oh, better if your accursed point had pierced my side, mine!
ACT V, SCENE v
BASILIUS, MELINDUS, STILBO
Compelled by Basilius, Stilbo confesses his deceits and comes close to being killed.
BAS. (Dragging Stilbo by the collar.) Aim your weapons here, Melindus. Better to direct your Furies here. Whatever wrong thing exists is right when directed against this fellow. He is the teller of tales, the father of lies, by whose steel the man we all bewail is laid low. You may angrily shove your sword into this man’s guts.
MEL. Dire, cruel, ferocious, what fury drove you to murder an innocent man? Have a look, feed your eyes, slake your thirst for blood. Do you recognize this atrocious example of your handiwork! Recognize it! Oh, you offshoot of the everlasting tree! So could you destroy this model of good faith, this light of our laws? Could you use your steel to befoul this heart, so tenacious of the right, this stainless person, this chaste dwelling-place of a harmless man? Theoctistus, you sweet glory of the supernals! If any warmth is still alive in your veins, rise up and take your vengeance. See, your enemy is still alive. (He receives no response.) Nothing of your soul remains. Alas, this parricide has drained you of your life, this butcher, this mangler, this tiger, this Harpy, this vulture.
BAS. By dying you will suffer deserved punishments for your crimes. I am determined on serving you up to the lord of the dead as an offering.
STIL. Have mercy, Basilius.
BAS. You pray too late.
STIL. You are harassing an innocent man.
BAS. The architect of such a bestial murder.
STIL. He deserved it.
BAS. How so?
STIL. He was plotting Caesar’s assassination.
BAS. Oh, your lying tongue! Tell me the man responsible for this deception or I’ll stab you in the breast.
STIL. With a helping hand from Jannes, and one from Bardas, I pinned this accusation on that holy man.
BAS. You agent of a dire fraud, you perpetrator of evil, go.
STIL. Spare me.
BAS. Pay the eternal forfeit for your felony.
STIL. (He struggles until he is stricken.) Oh, the blow! I die, I perish. Oh, the good faith in this realm!
ACT V, SCENE vi
BARDUS, MELINDUS, BASILIUS, THE EMPEROR MICHAEL, METHODIUS, BOYS, LICTORES
The court is thrown into confusion when Theoctistus’ innocence is revealed. Rebuked by Methodius, the emperor abdicates.
Bardas and Basilius fight.
BARD. Put up your steel.
BAS. Whoever comes to your aid dies.
BARD. Stand back, rebels.
BAS. Die, you sponsor of murder. Push back his companions, Melindus. Let’s have a man-to-man combat.
EMP. (Quickly entering.) Stop it, my lords. Get between them, lictors. What fury rages here with its bold turmoil? Does my court breed the wrath of bloody combat? My lords, you pay homage to your leader with an unreasonable kind of dutifulness. Learn to submit to the bridle of an a grown man’s rule, that woman has departed my court. The Augustus rules the world in accordance with his own dictate, and he declines to accept any colleagues. I swear by the Thunderer, who ever does violence to my household with a sword has earned the fate of death.
BARD. And yet you tolerate having your household run red with innocent blood.
MEL. Indeed, for the blood of Theoctistus runs red everywhere.
BARD. Stilbo —
EMP. What evil has he suffered.
BARD. Stilbo, the guide and tutor of your youth —
EMP. Surely he is not dead?
BARD— washes your house with a river of blood.
BARD. Cut down by a great blow to the head. If in some way the Fates want him preserved, I have protected Theoctistus’ body. If the Fates oppress him in death, you are looking at the agents of his murder. This is the anger that arranged the threats of their steel.
EMP. Stilbo? The guide of my mind? Oh, the crime! Violated by a sword? It should have first stricken the throat of the Augustus. I swear by infernal Chaos, I shall avenge this act of daring.
MEL. Put a check on your mind’s upheavals, Caesar. Your resentment has flared up against pious anger. That bulwark of your court has fallen when overcome by treachery, alas, he has fallen. Bardas, you should dread the avenging flames of heaven. His blood cries out for you as the guilty man, it cries out for your punishment. Do you see? (He displays the body of Theoctistus.)
BAS. Do you see the unspeakable evidence of your murder?
BARD. I see a rebel, an executed traitor.
BAS. Killed by your deceit.
BARD. By his own criminality.
BAS. Revenge, Caesar? Stilbo — I call on you to bear witness to the truth, you sun — Stilbo devised this crime, supported equally by the venom of Jannes and the handiwork of Bardas. Blameless Theoctistus suffers this doom. Stilbo confessed these things before he fled.
BARD. Shred and eat me, if he is not inventing lies.
EMP. Oh, today abounds with evil! Is this what it is to govern? Do anger, dissent, treacheries, squabbles, quarrels, bloodshed, deaths and murders serve as the auspices under which I start my reign? Is my royal peace ruptured by disturbance, my imperial repose by such great evils? This one groans that Theoctistus was done in by fraud, that one complains that Stilbo was stabbed in the side. The one claims that the former was justly murdered, the other that the latter was justly harmed. Both equally affirm this, on one side by his outcry, on the other by his laments. Am I, the Caesar, supposed to take the time to intermediate between these two? Am I to interrupt my play and waste my time with such concerns? Before that, let the world go to ruin, let games the earth gape open, its guts exposed, let the universe burn with infernal fire, let everything be damned.
METH. Let the wind dispel your wishes. Where are you being carried by your passion, Caesar, why do you voluntarily taunt heaven with your threats? Do you think that God’s asleep, or that his divinity has been driven out of the universe? Avoid making such an error. He remains as the witness and punisher of your sin, wielding his fearful weapons of fire from heaven even against kings. Caesar, the blood of this just man, oh what fearful cries it sends to heaven, demanding punishment! The pillar of our empire lies dead, his mother is banished, the safety of Christendom is undermined, and your royal court is corrupted.
EMP. Bardas extorted this crime from me.
METH. Someday Bardas will pay for that extortion. Why beg God to be mild in His wrath, Bardas? God, the Avenger of innocent blood? Beware. Blood needs to be atoned for by blood, murder by death. Appease heaven, and let as many tears water your cheeks as his drops of blood soak the ground.
EMP. Am I standing? Am I ruling? Am I breathing? Am I experiencing this? May the man who gave me the proud title of ruler be damned forever. (He casts aside his insignia.) Depart, you badges of rule, you collection of cares. Depart, scepter, crown, purple robe. Let whoever wants govern, I am devoted to games. Lead the way, boys, you crew well suited to my tastes. Lead the way, boys. It’s time to dance. Let Basilius rule, with Bardas for an associate.
ACT V, FINAL SCENE
BARDAS, THE SHADE OF THEOCTISTUS
Bardas is beset by the furies of a guilty conscience.
BARD. “Let Basilius rule, with Bardas for an associate?” What screech-owl, what ill-omened owl strikes my ears? “Let Basilius rule, with Bardas for an associate.” Whence this tune with its unfriendly notes? Caesar said these things? Heaven forfend. Some breeze has wafted me these sounds from a mouth of uncertain identity. Caesar looks up to me, he adores me, he reveres me. I am summoned to the scepter by myself, free of any partner. The blood of Theoctistus, the blood of that chaste heart floats me to the throne. Do I not yet triumph, Caesar? If crime is the price of rule, I have earned it by my evildoing. I have done violence to the lords by deceit, to the royal household by murder, to the city by upheaval, and to heaven by my wrongdoing, and yet I do not have sole rule? For Basilius, having been assigned an equal fortune, wields the reins as my partner, Basilius, raised up from the common plebeian herd, Basilius, my foe. Oh, the disgrace! Oh the shame of Bardas? Is this what that bloodshed has come to? The effort of my deceits? I am torn apart by envy, I am torn apart. Resentment ravages my guts, I am being driven insane. Let Caesar be attacked, let Basilius die by the sword, let the royal court be shaken! Let the city be consumed by fire, with all its households. I require avenging torches. (The shade does not yet appear.)
SHADE Blood needs to be atoned for by blood, murder by death.
BARD. What’s that he says? What god is terrifying me with that horrifying shade? “Blood needs to be atoned for by blood, murder by death?” Whose death? Whose blood? (It is still hidden.)
SHADE The blood of Bardas and the death of Bardas.
BARD. You lie, whoever you are who thunders with that hateful voice. You lie, you invisible shade. The crime that has been committed will be atoned for neither by the death of Bardas nor by his blood. Cry out as you will, a happy Bardas will live a long life and die an old man. (Here Theoctistus appears, saying nothing, but until the end of the play he only uses his hand and nod to invite the unwilling Bardas to follow him, and Bardas cannot help but follow.) Gloomy apparition! Am I mistaken, or has Theoctistus returned from Orcus to frighten me and summon me with his hand? Go away, monster, Why summon me against my will? (The shade disappears.) Thus misplaced belief mocks me in my sleep. Morpheus manufactures images in wonderful ways, and deceives an ailing man with apparitions. When exiled sleep gives a mind back its daylight, a terrified man laughs at the shapes and returns to his proper self. “Let Basilius rule, with Bardas for an associate?” (The shade appears.) You continue to summon me, you lord of Avernus? Go far, far away. Should I be eager to follow a Fury when it summons? I loathe shades, I shudder at them, I turn away from them, I shun them. (It disappears.) Go and return to your appointed house of the Dire Ones. The royal court of the supernals summons me, the Chaos of the guilty calls for you. I shall take another route, through the opposite opening. (It appears.) You continue to reappear, and beckon me with your wild nod and gesture? You attempt the impossible. (It disappears.) Sooner will you uproot the Caucasus. I am determined on going this way. (It appears.) Orcus confronts me with a Fury wherever I turn. This persistent hand summons me. An unseen power drags me against my will, just as Scylla swallows a ship attempting to flee. Oh you base shade, you dark sister of monsters! Nod “yes,“ nod “no.” Shake your head in every direction. Tire out your hand. (It disappears.) Obstruct me on my way, you will return to Avernus by yourself. I am determined never to follow, not even if you invite me, shaking your head forever. (It appears.) Alas! Sad specter! Stubborn monster’s whelp! Where is your hand compelling me. Is your intention to use that hellish hand to hale me to the courtroom of Dis while I live and enjoy the use of my sight? I shall not go. I shall remain, rooted in place forever like a crag. The entire crew of the Furies, the whole clan of hobgoblins, the combined rage of all the shades will never budge me. And yet I am being swept along against my will. What plague, what evil spirit from Erebus is possessing my limbs? I resist goingthe way my steps are being directed, but another direction drags me backwards, through another direction invites me towards refuge. Albeit unwillingly, I am being taken where the shade drives me. Is this the ending of my affairs? Is this the profit of my prideful attitude? Damned by the shades, I shall enjoy neither the lot of the citizens of heaven or hell. I shall wander in between, suffering the evils of both. I shall attract the infernals and repel the supernals by the scars on my lightning-struck brow. From the one side I shall experience horror, on the other the shame of seeing the hateful light. Oh, an existence worse than Orcus! Bah, the effort I have wasted! Go now, seek the height of Fortune. Climb up and violently reach for the summit. By fair means and foul, violently grasp at royal scepters. Having chased after after the prizes of the royal court, I have gained this shade.