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ACT II, SCENE i
MODESTUS, VITUS, <TRIBUNE>
Now that Vitus is settled in the palace, Modestus urgest him to be steadfast.
MOD. Thus far, Vitus, our ship has been resting at anchor. It has been protected by the harbor, not fearing the threats of the stormy east wind. But now we are being borne on the heaving bosom of the sea, and through the restless paths of threatening Nereus. On all sides the south wind, that ruler of the sea, blows on the ocean, angrily scouring and snatching at the strait, heaving with its boiling brine. Now we have need of art. You must constantly sit stationed at the helm, steering our little barque in a straight course. If ever an uncontrolled whirlwind should drive our boat towards Charybis, or if Scylla’s rage drags at it for the devouring, keep your eye fixed on that star which is propitious for the pious sailor. Christ shines as that star in heaven’s ether, propitious for that pious sailor.
VIT. He always glitters, and I always keep an eye on Him. He does not my sight to wander astray. I cling to this single vision, keeping watch for that bright fire amidst heaven’s light. Under His guidance, my ship, once safe, has experienced the shifting storms and seas and has made its way, not permitting itself to become overwhelmed and made a plaything of the raging south wind, when nature drove her waves against my barque on my father’s sea. These things have taught me how to overcome Father Ocean on my ship. (He means that he has most steadfastly overcome his father Hylas, when he tried all manner of ways to turn him away from Christ.)
MOD. He who has been able to overcome his own father is unconquerable and needs fear no threats. But if Nereus should promise you a favorable voyage, if the east wind should lower and the crashing of the sea should subside, if a following breeze should fill your sails and drive your both as it cuts through the glassy water, and the surface of the ocean should continue serene, then you should grip your helm all the tighter and put no faith in the sea. Often a light breeze has deceived a sailor, and, while he trusted his barque to tranquil waters, he entered the blind shoals of Sirens and calm waters concealing sandbanks. You are trading a forest for a palace, wild beasts for its lords, your cave for a great hall, and grass for royal couches. Uncomplicated poverty has come to a wealthy home. Shade, places of retreat, leisure, the repose of silence, these have all disappeared, replaced by passion, smoke, wealth, and the hubbub of affairs. You must see what is to be hoped for, and what to be avoided. Rome shakes one’s virtue. You stand before Diocletian. Smile, but be fearful. Stand your ground and smile at his anger, but dread his smile. Wear a happy face when the tyrant threatens you, but a grave one when he praises you. For often the man who cannot be tamed by anger can be mastered by gentle kindness and its peaceful discourse. When Caesar caresses your ears with flattering speech, when he offers you the glory of a royal appearance and a share of his scepter equal to his son’s, this is an empty gift. You must think this a good of perishable brightness, trifles bathed in vain brilliance. That King of Kings, that eternal Commander of Commanders, is preparing for you a kingdom purchased by His blood. That house of his, that house painted by starry gems, that palace of the sun, that tranquil home in the flaming heaven, the eternal abode of the supernals, that will open its royal court for you, which you may inhabit, forever blessed as a comrade of the heavenly race.
VIT. Oh, the single goal and purpose of my prayers! For this hope’s sake let me be dragged through swords, through balls of fire, through a thousand terrible forms of death, I shall endure them triumphantly. Now, impatient of delay, my soul within is struggling. Now it is eager to break out of the prison of my enclosing heart, being devoted to Christ. It boils, it pants, it is afire. Loathing this earth, it is swept upwards towards the homes of the supernals, and regards whatever it sees as mortal. It holds cheap scepters, honor, the royal court, and wealth. Life is a vain hope, a vain dream of things. It is a vain shadow of light, a mockery, a nothing. Death alone, Christ, is the sum of my prayers, a death endured for Your sake. Away with these sluggish delays!
MOD. Noble prayers, you champion worthy of the stars! But no more of these complaints about delay, the delay is not long. We stand beneath the falling blow. This perhaps the last time I speak with you. At any moment, Caesar’s unexpected snatching will takes us off to different fates. Vitus, I like it we are in our extremities. Let us anticipate the event. Receive my final embrace. (They embrace each other.) A final farewell, my son. Let a noble death attest your faith. Farewell, my dear little son.
VIT. And a final farewell to you, father. Soon, translated to the fiery citadels, you will acknowledge me as your son, father.
TRIB. Hurry up, old man, Caesar bids you be led away.
ACT II, SCENE ii
URBANUS, DIOCLETIAN, VALERIUS, LUPUS, FIRMUS AND OTHERS
Vitus frees Valerius of his evil spirit, and wonderfully captivates Diocletian.
An incense-pot stands on the alter.
URB. Fire’s on the altar, Caesar. Cast on some incense and beg for your son’s rescue. Then let the boy-wizard apply his arts.
DIO. A mortal should provide the cure which the gods refuse. He who has neglected human protections besieges the gods in vain. Let the experiment first be made whether the boy has any power with his arcane methods.
VAL. What can a boy accomplish with his magical art? Father, offer incense to the gods.
DIO. See how I offer incense to the supernals, my son. (He scatters incense from the pot.)
VAL. Ah, I’m tortured! I’m tortured enough (He twists his body to and fro.)
VIT. Invincible Caesar, you are busying yourself with vain protections. The malady increases, fed by these very remedies.
URB. This is what I was afraid of, Caesar. Trained in the magic arts, the boy proclaims that the protections of the gods are in vain. Complete the rites you have begun. The strength of his madness is waning.
DIO. Gladly I complete the rites. (He adds more incense.)
VAL. Ah, my tormentor rages within! Alas, I am torn apart by pain. I am wholly on fire.
DIO. Unpropitious rites! The feeble hand of Jove! (He throws away the incense and knocks over the altar.) Oh my sweet child, what madness twists your limbs? What fire burns within you.
URB. It will stop. Make the gods grant you your wishes.
DIO. Do you keep on croaking about those merciless gods? See how they are tearing at my guts.
VIT. This hidden bane scorns human powers
URB. But not those of the gods.
VIT. The gods’ salvation is in vain. The more harvest of the orient you bring to their temples, the more pain the boy will fear. Rather, this futile crop of Araby you strew on their altars feeds the pain of pain of the disease that clings to his inner marrow.
DIO. Bah! Obscure words. Without beating around the bush, tell me what pain lies hidden.
VIT. The deep-seated force of this disease requires deep explanations.
DIO. So seek your further reasons. I am holding my breath and paying close attention.
VIT. Since it is your command, august prince, that I find and retrieve the source of this plague, although my age is reluctant to bear that heavier burden, permit me to obey such a great injunction. Time had not yet set a-whirling the fleeting cycles of the years, the golden light had not yet dispelled the obstinate languors of eternal night, when God, mighty with His powers and lacking nothing, living out His existence amidst a heap of many good things, experiencing no first day and no final one. When He saw fit, He commanded Chaos and the great void to transform into the varied forms of things. He spoke. The world sprang forth, but from no kind of seed, the heaven rose up into the aether aloft, the earth subsided, pulled down by its native gravity. A thousand lights painted shining Olympus, a thousand parti-colored flowers thrived on the earth. And yet there was nobody to inhabit this heavenly palace, and no dweller for the earth, when the world’s Architect created subtle living beings above the stars, beings which no weight bore down, active legions, snow-white winged choirs. In these creatures there flowed a rich vein of divine nature, lively virtue, and a sturdy force of intellect, and much inborn strength of mind, so that they could solve the riddles of truth. When these had been bidden to reign in the houses of the stars, God promised greater rewards if they would keep the faith for a little while. But oh, the potent spur of ambition! It shakes even immortal hearts. Quickly becoming dissatisfied with their lot, a part of them challenged God with their prideful daring, and Lucifer the one who outshone their choir in his divine resources, was the first to grow ambitious for the throne that had been denied him. He wearied of being governed, he was ashamed to be content with second place and obey his holy Creator. He sought to gain the supreme scepter. Thus some undeserving fellow, taken out of his countryside cottage and raised aloft by royal favor, who has stood first among the high lords of the realm, becomes the first to adopt a disloyal attitude, and is the first to direct a pestilence against his overlord, being greedy for his crown. And without delay this pestilence became contagious and began to spread, attracting winged bands from far and wide, as numerous as leaves falling off branches when frost has bitten the forest with its sharp pang. Then God, enraged by justifiable wrath, let loose his subtle lightning against that impious crew, and as soon as they were touched by it they rushed away, driven from heaven, and in their hasty flight they were compelled to bury themselves underneath the fiery homes of Hell’s fires. And now they forever pay the inescapable penalties for their crime. Thus those who were lifted up above heaven and above God by greedy lust for power have fallen beneath the air and the ground, down to the utmost basement of Tartarus. But meanwhile this Stygian crew has turned its attention to this earth, and has directed that wrath, which it is forbidden to spew forth against the One who took vengeance upon their crime, against Man, the governor of the earth, the noble replica of God his Father. Why say more? They took that first glory of the human stock, the father of mankind, whom God had created with His own hand and blessed with fine powers of intellect, and turned him into a rebel. Then, emboldened by this success, they oppressed all his progeny with a greater pestilence. This is why a thousand gods have been invented. This is why there stand a thousand altars of Jove, even though their cannot be more than a single divinity, God, who governs everything. Nevertheless, that Stygian robber keeps all mortals enmeshed in his deceit, commanding that he himself be worshiped in the guise of tree-trunks, stealing the honor due to nature’s Ruler. But matching rewards await those who worship him. For he repays this sinful piety with whatever evils he keeps stored away in the bosom of accursed night. And those whom he has bound to himself with a weightier bond he oppresses with a plague that assumes many a form while they are in this life, and when they are dead he burns them on an eternal fire. This is attested by the noble scion of your Roman house, Caesar, your son, your distinguished offspring. A cruel spirit roams through the boy’s limbs and provokes excruciating pain.
DIO. A rebellious shade possesses my son?
VIT. Your son.
DIO. Roaming through his limbs?
VIT. It wanders.
DIO. Or are you mocking his father with an empty terror?
VIT. There is no room here for mockery.
URB. And with what guarantee do you show us this is true?
VAL. With this one, you unclean priest. (He boxes the high priest’s ear.)
VIT. Stop that, you naughty boy.
DIO. His high spirits have diminished. How can there be such great strength in boyish limbs?
VIT. Caesar, even if you acquire the brawn of a Hercules, even if you muster many battalions and legions, such as no day has ever witnessed, this beast from the Styx will shatter them all.
FIRM. Are these signs of trickery?
LUP. I fear the wiles of witchcraft. I warn you, Caesar, I fear them.
VIT. Behold what you ought to fear. I speak whereof I know. This snake itself will provide proof of its presence, using the boy’s voice. Come, you enemy, speak.
VAL. Go away, you’re tormenting me.
VIT. Slow down, you pestilenc!
LUP. Caesar, he rails at your son with unbecoming speech and calls him a pestilence.
VIT. You’re wrong. I am aiming my words at a snake from Tartarus. Tell me who you are.
VAL. Spare me.
VIT. Christ, the Ruler of heaven and earth, commands you.
VAL. (He reveals himself.) I am, I am —
VIT. Who are you?
VAL. — the ruler of Avernus.
VIT. You lie foully, snake. You are a firebrand of Avernus. Christ is the only God who rules the lands of the Styx. Speak up, who are you?
VAL. A spirit of error, damned to the Underworld.
VIT. Good. What task assigned you to the Roman royal court?
VAL. To war against Christ, to bring aid to the fallen gods, to plant errors on a firm footing. You want more?
VIT. With what a statement do you prove your presence? Vehannachash hay ah gnarum mikol chaitath hassadah.
VAL. Κἀγὼ θελόντης τῷδ’ ὑπεζύγην πόνω,
Οὐδ᾿ αὐ τοιαύτην γλῶσσαν ἐν κακοῖς φιλῶ.
DIO. Is he a Greek in his speech?
VIT. Or a Frenchman, a Moor, or a Spaniard. Ask him to speak in any of the world’s languages, and he’ll give you what you want.
DIO. Let him say something Welsh.
VIT. Don’t be slow in doing as he bids. (The demon speaks in Welsh.)
VAL. Alban à waddod y duwie, i ben à syrthiodd, ond i en aid ir nef yn inion à gyrchodd.
FIR. He’s talking about Alban’s death on British soil.
DIO. My mind’s amazed. How did this become public knowledge, since a dispatch was sent to me alone about the execution of that guilty fellow Alban?
VIT. He does not know the future. But he understands everything done throughout this wide world as soon as it has happened.
VAL. Oh woe! Oh woe! Who’s gnawing at my liver with his sharp bite? Oh, the force of the pain! I’m pricked. Come to my help, oh father.
DIO. My sweet child, would that your father could offer you relief! Vitus, if you have any power, use it now, drive out the plague.
VIT. That’s more than a mortal can do. Christ will banish the poison with His mighty hand.
DIO. That divinity created just yesterday whom Christians worship?
VIT. That divinity Who has endured forever whom Christians worship.
DIO. That Jew, the one whose crimes fixed to his cross, naked?
VIT. The one who brought down Man’s salvation from heaven, the one at whom conquered Hell trembled when he was fixed to his cross.
URB. The boy has begun wandering off into nonsense. Christ greater than Jove the Thunderer?
VIT. This will be proven. Let Jupiter, fixed to his altar, relieve the boy if he can. Let him expel the demon. Come, high priest, make a heap of incense, burn entire Arabian forests on your fire. Gather together everything that goes up in Sabaean clouds. Slaughter sheep. Let much bulls’ blood drench your alter. Pour forth a multitude of prayers, pester all the gods with your humble entreaty, the gods on high, the gods of this earth, and the gods below, to see if they are capable of expelling this unseen bane from the royal offspring.
URB. Over-confident in your art, you are noisy. A magic spell binds even the gods.
VIT. Oh mighty gods, whom any old Circe can bind whenever she wants! Caesar, these are mere fancies. What can withstand an immortal god? Reason denies this is possible.
DIO. Does reason deny or prove that Christ can ward off a demon? Let your faith be demonstrated by an example.
VIT. It will be, if I may ask the demon a few questions first. Come, you base monster, Christ commands you to answer, even against your will. Beware of uttering falsehoods. Who manufactured gods throughout the world?
VAL. I did.
VIT. Whose divinity does Italy worship?
VIT. Who issues instructions from altars?
VAL. I do.
VIT. Who has issued forth Delphic oracles from a golden tripod?
VAL. Who? I have.
VIT. Who has instructed the Latins in incense, rites, sacrifices, altars, holy and unholy days, and a thousand was of performing worship? Tell me, who has instructed them?
VAL. I have.
VIT. And what reward do they get for their effort?
VAL. The chaos of eternal night. The Styx and pitch, eternal flame and cruel pain.
VIT. Whom do you imagine Christ to be? Why hold your tongue?
VAL. It is harmful to speak.
VIT. When Christ commands you? God is compelling you to speak up. Whom do you imagine Christ to be? Surely you won’t remain silent?
VAL. Man and God.
VIT. Come then, Christ, man and God, He who with His strength once burst through the barriers of Hell, commands you to depart hence.
VAL. Oh, spare me!
VIT. You must leave immediately. You stay, you rascal?
VAL. What home do you bid me seek?
VIT. A home belonging to dim Orcus.
VAL. (He points to the high priest.) Allow me to lodge in the frame of my priest.
VIT. Seek out pools of fire.
VIT. Knock over that false Jove, in which you are transported. (He contorts his body strangely. Jove’s statue is overthrown.)
VAL. To Hell! To Hell!
DIO. Panic strikes me as I fear.
VIT. Banish your panic, Caesar. The expelled demon is fleeing to the black shades. (Valerius comes back to himself.)
DIO. Oh, son!
VAL. Oh father!
DIO. You’re alive?
VAL. My life returns with a joyous revival.
DIO. You’re healthy?
VAL. With my pain banished, my breast is free.
DIO. You’re strong?
VAL. Suddenly unwonted strength surged through my limbs. Although I like what has happened, I can scarcely believe anything of the sort could ever happen to me. The health of my frame has never been better.
LUP. Signs of Thessalian charms!
FIRM. This mighty boy has dispelled the pestilence with his magical charm.
URB. At the same time this unspeakable lad has overthrown supreme Jove.
VAL. You’ll easily set him upright. However it happened, I nevertheless embrace the one responsible for my salvation. (He drapes his left arm around Vitus’ neck.) Let Olympus hear me. I swear by you, you abodes of the supernals, by your fires, by your inviolable divinity, as long as I breathe the air, as long as life governs my senses, my good disposition towards this boy will remain steadfast in my unchanging mind.
DIO. He will likewise receive gifts in token of my piety. Now let a holiday dissolve Rome in cheers, now let the world be at play. Let no theater be lacking in royal games. Let my royal court resound and echo with the repeated name of Vitus, who brought us aid in our extremities, being pious towards the king’s child. Go, Firmus, escort the lad into the apartments of the Augustus’ household. Let welcome rest soothe the weary boy. I am obliged to confess, out of the Christian flock this boy alone has swayed my mind, being rich in wit. With what an expression he bore himself! What beauty on his brow! What suasion on his lips! What charm in his eloquence! The man who banishes Christ from his mind and induces him to transfer his love to the gods, him I shall gratefully repay for his good services. He shall reap the great rewards of Caesar’s good will.
ACT II, SCENE iii
YOUNG MAN, DIOCLETIAN, URBANUS, LUPUS, VALERIUS, HERALD
The herald’s account of how a certain Christian publicly ripped up his edict infuriates Diocletian.
Y. M. Caesar’s herald has come into the palace, gasping for breath, and begs for an audience.
DIO. I admit the man.
HER. A great crime, Caesar! Oh, the foul wrong!
DIO. What sad news do you bring? Speak up.
HER. Oh, the felony! It shames me, it shames me to tell of it. Caesar’s name and prestige lie trampled underfoot. Holy fear of the laws has departed men’s minds. You bade me read out your edict against the Christians with a stentorian voice. While I was announcing your commands to the people in the middle of the city (be amazed, my prince), some member of the Christian flock boldly sprang forth, like a savage tiger struck by robbers’ spears. Hurling himself through the crowd, he snatched the sacred edict with a madman’s hand and tore it to shreds. Then he hotly dashed these on the ground and furiously trampled them underfoot, just as a fierce bull paws the sand as it works itself up for a fight. Then he wildly shouted, “Go, you herald of Hell, report this crime to the Augustus. Tell that tyrant that, even after all the brutal commands of that great beast, after so many means of cruel death, scaffolds, lashes, racks, and crosses, there remains a man who tears up and tramples the edict of that bestial acolyte, and on bended knee worships the name and glory of Christ.” Having said these words, he rushed out of the crowd without being arrested, and as a fugitive he mocked our entire city, our Caesar, our laws, and our gods.
DIO. Rome witnessed, heard, and endured this tantrum and didn’t rip that man from Hell into shreds? Nobody tore out that insolent man’s sacrilegious tongue by the roots? Or crammed fire down his hateful throat? Oh, the sloth of the people! Oh, what a blot on the Latin nation! When will the god ever hurl fires from his vengeful hand, if it remains quiet now? Jove should be ashamed of the reproach. The cowardly crew of gods should be ashamed to have kept their hands idle, without sacrificing this monster to the Styx with their weaponry. But let that pass. Let heaven be slothful, let the gods hold their silence, let Rome let this insult to its ruler pass unavenged. I have anger enough. When a law needs to be written, it requires the assistance of the mind; after it has been passed, the service of of the sword. You shouldn’t strive to legislate if you lack the ability to punish transgressions of the law. The man guilty of this horrible crime may have run away, but he has not escape. Let him seek out the unknown world, across the lair of the north wind and the shoals of the sea, let the other side of the world protect him when he has sailed away, let him descend to the Avernus’ dungeons or hide himself in Christ’s bosom: amidst the shades and dark Chaos, he will remain exposed to my torches. A quarry caught in my net, he will pay forfeits that suit his crime, by the sword and the club, by torture and death. This is Christ’s sect? Heaping insults on their august leaders? With a sacrilegious foot to trample the laws’ mandates, in the sight of the people, in the city’s central Forum, and sow this black plague among the citizenry? By Lethe’s waters, I swear I will destroy this unclean breed. A cruel artist of death, I’ll devise punishments in a quantity such as the overlord of the sinners does not have ready in Erebus. But I am determined to spare one Christian from death, Diocletian’s sweet delight. Oh, how much grace shines forth in his countenance! I keep remembering the brightness of his noble brow, the radiance of his youth, the elegance of his sweet discourse. Even now the golden image of his face hovers before my eyes, and his star-like beauty. This is your task, high priest, and yours too, my son, to use whatever means you may, be it a smile, be it threats, to turn this boy to the worship of Thundering Jove.
VAL. I shall gratefully repay my physician by doing him this service.
ACT II, SCENE iii
Furious against Vitus, Urbanus and Lupus conspire for his speedy destruction, the one by treachery, the other by violence.
URB. I shall savagely repay your physician with ruin. This madness is deep-seated in Caesar’s mind, enduring as a dagger pointed at our throats.
LUP. So will a little boy, so mighty for his magical incantations, confound all laws of heaven and earth? What’s the use of a brow made august by the glory of a priestly fillet, the sacred awe of his office, and the supervision of the palace’s worship, it that cheap dwarf is to provoke Caesar’s wrath and arm his hand with steel against Jove’s sacred priest? Oh, the disgrace of your reverend rank! This Christian firebrand is wounding all the priestly order with his reproaches. This babbling boy from the gutter, capable of conjuring Furies from the realm of Dis, is binding even the Thunderer with his unholy mumbles. He slowed heaven’s hesitant power, so that none of the gods was able to banish the pestilence from Valerius’ body. This is a blot on the gods! This is disgrace not to be erased in any age of the world! Heaven is deferring to a little boy. Can you be tolerant and let these things go unavenged?
URB. Sooner may I be stricken by lightning and plunged in the deepest Styx. Sooner let the sun rise from Thetis’ bosom in the west, let the west wind blow from an eastern home, Sirius spew forth snow from his panting maw, the north wind bring the springtime, Tartarus light, and winter crops, than I not gain vengeance for this shameful blot. Was fury not able to kill Caius, that priest with his awe-inspiring crown, although he belonged to the Augustus family, and sport with Agnes’ throat, and consign Sebastian to a fearful death, and yet be unable to use its steel to probe the innards of a little boy? It could, and I shall do away with this plague. You, you dark ruler of the silent region, hear me as I pray. Make Chaos yawn open, with the world pushed back, swiftly let loose the throng of sinners from their accursed abode, and entrust all these pestilences to me. Just as lightning, flashing forth from a burst cloud, shakes these guilty lands, or as vapor issues from the gaping earth, stinking with plague and dire disease, burdening the air with its unclean breath, so shall I pass through the entire flock of Christians, and spew upon Christ’s followers whatever you can fetch out of Tartarus.
LUP. I too crave to pour on their guts, on that kingdom of evil men, all the pools of angry Dis. Yet we should not both travel the same route. Let my crafty talent inspire me, and your violence and fury do the same to you. Caesar is eager to employ a huge reward to draw the boy to embrace Jove. Rewards command my attention, hunger for gold inspires me. What man is not bound fast and moved by the tawny shine of gold? Hence I want to muster all my force of mind and sinews to that the boy’s mind may be convinced and he may surrender himself to the ruler of the world and the gods of Latium, and, a rebel against Christ, worship with sincere incense.
URB. What argument, what strategy will sway the stubborn fellow?
LUP. I’ll tell you in a few words. Tonight our festive theater will perform masques in the royal household. Genesius will play his parts with his usual skill, Genesius, that consummate delight of the children of Aeneas — nobody better at passing the day with clever witticisms, and dissolving the theater in laughter with timely jests. Pretending to be a Christian, he imbibed that sect’s rites and sacraments. Soon he is going to bring whatever he absorbed onto the stage to make Rome laugh. Vitus will be in the audience as a companion of the Augustus. What do you imagine the boy will think when he sees himself made a laughingstock? He will not be able to tolerate the mimes and the amusement of giggling Rome. When he has witnessed Christian rites being assailed by the jests of so many hooting spectators, it’s necessary that he will yield. Nobody in the world approves of that which is hissed at by one and all. And yet, if his heart remains stubborn, he will fall headlong into your furies. You must infuriate Caesar. That dragon will destroy the little fellow with a single puff.
URB. You choose the counsel you like best. I shall attack by steel, by fire, and by my bloody arts. The road of deceits is a slow one, the road of arms is short.
LUP. I shall put the counsels I have adopted into action.
URB. Do so.
ACT II, SCENE v
URBANUS, HYLAS, PAPINUS where URB?
Hylas bribes Urbanus into letting him speak with Vitus.
URB. He who sends prayers where missiles might be sent invokes Nemesis in vain. Phoebus will not wash his locks in the ruddy ocean before Vitus bathes the ground with his red blood, and Modestus too. The quarry have come into my snares. Only Caesar can obstruct my undertakings, and the boy keeps him agape with that rosy face of his. What effort will remove that obstacle?
HYL. Are you telling me my son has been handed over to the high priest? (He deliberates by himself.)
URB. He’s been given to me.
PAP. I’m repeating what I’ve been told.
HYL To be swayed?
PAP. By both threats and gifts.
URB. Although he might be swayed by gifts, he still requires destruction.
HYL. How do you appraise the priest’s nature?
PAP. Savage and menacing. He has a kind of baleful majesty, and a cruel face. There’s a glare in his eyes, a frown in his brow, and a foul color in his face. He’s an image of Pluto.
URB. The sole way for virtue to deal with the enemies of the gods is to be cruel and impious.
HYL. As his father, I bemoan my son, who’s all but put to death.
URB. He will die, I swear it.
PAP. And he who is customarily savage is likewise greedy. Bribes will get you what you want.
URB. But no bribes will rescue the boy from his doom.
PAP. Gold will open the way to an interview with your son.
URB. Not even a wealthy flood of the rich Tagus.
HYL. If I can have this interview, it’s all over. The sight of his father and of his squalid condition will break down my son. What was Caesar’s reaction when he learned that Vitus was a Christian?
PAP. He was irate, but, captivated by his ruddy cheeks and snow-white brow, he set aside his anger.
HYL. Who would not my boy win over with that sweet countenance of his? But I, the father who gave it to him, am the only one to be forbidden the sight of that ambrosial face.
URB. This is the art by which I’ll overcome Caesar’s infatuation for the boy. Under my guidance, the Augustus’ son may busy himself trying to sway the boy to do his father’s will. But Vitus, being a persuasive speaker, will taint Valerius’ boyish heart with the Christian plague. This will kindle Caesar’s just wrath. Thus have I decided, I’ll launch a quick attack. (He pretends to be about to leave his house.)
PAP. Good sir, why are you groaning? Look here, the high priest is asking whom you want to meet.
HYL. He’s here.
PAP. Quite nearby.
HYL. I’ll speak to him. Supreme pontiff of great Jove, if I am permitted to beseech a stranger, I seek a tiny favor.
URB. Tell me what’s the matter. If your request is reasonable, you will gain the favor you wish, if you are a stranger just as much as if you were a friend.
HYL. In a secluded inner sanctum of the royal household lives Vitus, entrusted to you. I crave to speak with him.
URB. I confess I desire to comply with your wish, but my good faith objects.
HYL. Good faith to Caesar?
URB. To Jove.
HYL. Under my guidance, the boy will call on Jove in humble tones.
URB. A boy who tramples on the Augustus’ promises will easily absorb your advice?
HYL. Often a man disdaining great wealth has been won over by the words of a friend.
URB. You are seeking a chance to deceive.
HYL. What room for deceit can their be in words?
URB. The room for speech at which a Christian snatches.
HYL. I deny I am a Christian. By Phoebus’ face I swear there is no deceit.
URB. With what bond do you pledge your faith?
HYL. A golden one. (He offers a golden necklace.)
URB. I must admit you have an unbreakable one. Gold binds good faith with a powerful knot.
PAP. (Aside.) And likewise unbinds good faith with its false glitter.
URB. Go up to the Augustus’ house. I shall follow as you lead the way.
HYL. (To Papinus.) Slave, you may retire. (Exeunt separately.)
URB. If I’m not mistaken he’s a priest of the Christian flock. I’m laughing. At a great price this fool has purchased his downfall. He gave me a chain of gold, I’ll repay him with one of iron. This sheep destined for the slaughterhouse has contributed a golden fleece. I’ll summon the Augustus, so that from concealment he may be a witness, observing the man’s arts and wiles. I’ll stand by Caesar as his companion.
Go to Act III