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ACT III, SCENE i
Zeno learns Harmatius’ intentions from Urbitius, and crows about his coming revenge.
ZENO Banished from my shuddering mind, my panic has ceased. At last I have revived. I embrace the route of deceit. Let these bloodthirsty generals toy with me with their false faces, let them cheer the dancing. Let that tricky actor Harmatius lead the dance, let him lead it and bring his black crime onstage. It is my pleasure to recline on my couch and observe the dancing. I shall be present as Master of the Revels, but one such as is the Lord of Erebus when he observes the crew of Eumenides at leisure for the dance, signifying with a terrible nod that he approves of the torches of those mad Furies. Such as he, I swear by the swamp of the dark Styx, such as he shall I look upon that treacherous martial troupe Let my soldiers stand with their swords at the ready. Let my nobles protect my sides on either hand. Let my brother join me as my companion. Thus indeed it is. Kingdoms are not fixed firmly by a single nail. The enemy besieging my throne has three advantages: he is treacherous, well-funded, and upright Wile will restrain his treachery, my soldiers his wealth, and my feigned virtue his rectitude.
URB. Adept in these arts, Caesar, you will long wield the reins of our lands, mighty in your virtue, your riches, your martial strength, and your counsel.
ACT III, SCENE ii
ZENO, SEBASTIANUS, LONGINUS, URBITIUS, HARMATIUS, SOLDIERS
With everything in readiness for arresting Harmatius, Zeno receive him back from the war, with both of them wearing false faces.
SEB. Caesar, having entered the palace, Harmatius requests an audience. Longinus is preparing your armaments. Your soldiers are filled with anger and a hellish spirit of criminality. They are exclaiming that he must be punished by steel.
ZENO Oh, well done! (Enter Longinus, with soldiers.)
LONG. See, here are the soldiers, ready in their armor, tireless in their duty and firm in their resolve.
ZENO I appreciate their loyalty, brother. (Zeno places the Praetorian Guard in concealment.) Oh you band, loyal to your nation, loyal to us Caesars, stealthily take your places in concealment, and be at the ready. Soon, after the dance has begun, I shall require your assistance, and you must quickly burst onto the stage. Let them all be bound, and let them all moan, frog-marched into far-distant, dark cells beneath a vast weight of chains. That’s all, get going. Brother, you escort Harmatius, and let our lords follow. Let my trusty Praetorian Guard keep watch under arms. Let it protect my royal gates and stand guard at my side.
LONG. You’ve said enough. The time brooks no delay.
ZENO Well then, the matter is at the crisis point. Our quarry has arrived, doomed to be caught in our nets. If the event confirms our scheme, oh what a swollen mass of hatred and anger will disgorge itself on this beast! I’ll slake my thirst. The world will learn what a hideous crime it is to imagine the death of kings. But the rancor in my countenance must be suppressed, and the ill-will in my words. Our quarry approaches. (Enter Harmatius, accompanied by Longinus and the others.)
Am I looking at that son of Mars, that glory of heroes? Oh happy me! Arise, you Phoebus, your head shining with better gold, bring us a happy day. Harmatius is here, a man such as accustomed to emerge superior to every tumult of war. Harmatius, the better part of my soul, Zeno’s great brilliance, the pillar of his mighty empire, the Augustus’ salvation. I swear by the Thunderer, your return to the Augustus is welcome. I pledge you triumphs on your return. A hundred columns will celebrate you as a noble conqueror, and the like number of statues will depict you to the life, the fair work of the sculptor.
LONG. (Aside.) How well this actor plays his treacherous part!
HARM. My august prince, worthy to rule this vast world forever, may heaven bless your scepter. You are my Gradivus. If any martial heat burns in my heart, it is your countenance that has kindled it. For you my shield blazes, for you my sword flashes, my spear is brandished, my bugle sets in motion my victorious companies. Under your command, the effort of warfare never wearies me. I shall boldly go where you command, even if I am confronted by the stern frown of Mars, by a high-standing crop of spears, by bloodshed, wrath, and the fear of unconquerable death. And after being surrounded by the horrid confusion of fighters, by battles, by the sounds of bugles, the sweet light of Caesar’s countenance soothes my spirit, its peace refreshes me in my exhaustion.
LONG. (Aside.) Said with spirit, my Ulysses.
ZENO What can adequately repay you for such great merits?
HARM. Caesar, it is a reward greater than I could hope for to have once kissed your reverend hand.
ZENO Why aim for a mere hand, my great-hearted commander? Now that you have returned, let me embrace you and clasp you close.
URB. ·(Aside.) What a foxy trick.
ZENO Now let the trumpet strike at the stars, let it sing its song of triumph. Let the heaven ring with the name of Harmatius. Let cheering resound in every part of the palace, and let no stage go without its royal show.
LONG. Sit yourself, Caesar. A troupe of eight soldiers will weave a dance, Mars will make his proud entrance onstage in his triumphal car.
ZENO Let Harmatius sit beside me. (They all sit down, with Zeno in the middle between Longinus and Harmatius.)
THE ARGUMENT OF THE COURTLY BALLET
As trumpets sadly sound, the chariot of Mars comes onstage, drawn by four tigers. In its seat sits Mars, his costume and expression displaying sadness. (The actor playing Mars is a supporter of Zeno, designated as president of the dance by Urbitius.) Around the chariot are placed military officers brandishing lances, their heads decorated with laurel-wreaths and crests, and they are all plunged in a deadly sleep. When the chariot comes to a halt in front of Caesar, from his throne Mars relates how, as he was driving over the fields of Thrace, he came across these warriors, prisoners of their deadly sleep. And it has been decreed by destiny that they should never awaken unless they are touched by the sword of the most energetic of mankind’s commanders. Hence he asks Zeno if it would be too much trouble to wake the slumbering heroes. Zeno tries to bestow the honor on Harmatius, but Harmatius declines, saying this is a task for Zeno alone. Mars settles the dispute by decreeing that Harmatius should supply the sword, but that Caesar should do the touching. This occurs. To the sound of a trumpet, the heroes are awakened. Springing to their feet, they thank Caesar. Soon, having expressed their misfortune by means of riddles under Mars’ guidance, they perform military dances. When the moment is ripe, Caesar gives a sign. His soldiers burst out of concealment, and Harmatius and all his followers are arrested.
ZENO What sad procession is bringing us Mars? What kind of triumph is this?
HARM. The outcome will reveal that.
Mars speaks from his chariot.
MARS I am come, the father of battle , the sire of armaments, and I humbly implore your trust, Caesar, I implore you to lend a hand. You see how this chariot is struggling along in sad squalor? Sorrow has defeated even Mars. Lately, while being borne about Odrysium in my car, at the place here the Hebrus washes its shore I chanced to see these prostrate officers. I called out, but it did no good. Bellona muted my trumpet, their slumber did not relax. Having taken them aboard my chariot, I gave them a good shaking, but to no avail. I asked Phoebus about their fate, and he replied that they were enchanted by witchcraft, and could not be awakened and rescued from their slumber until they had been touched by a supreme commander, one whose equal Phoebus does not see beneath heaven, thus fulfilling the Fates’ commands. You, ruler of the world, excellent overlord of commanders, who have gained the palm in war, those highest honors, release these mens from their lethal repose. May your drawn blade put an end to their fate.
ZENO Draw your sword, my warrior. The glory of this deeds, and the fair liberty of these officers pertains exclusively to you. The laurel covers your locks with its well-earned shade.
HARM. Oh spare me! Let me be free of any sign of an ungrateful mind. Brilliance belongs to the titan, water to the sea, and to you the palm won in battle.
ZENO But by the agency of your hand.
HARM. Which Caesar made invincible by his favorable disposition.
ZENO Come, put an end to their fate, return these sleepers to their proper selves.
HARM. Harmatius’ steel has learned how to kill its enemy, but saving lives is royal business.
ZENO It has pleased me to delegate this royal task to you.
HARM. The god requires the Augustus.
ZENO Mars requires a warlike commander.
MARS I shall resolve your quarrel with my justly-balanced scales. Let Harmatius supply the sword, and Caesar the hand.
HARM. It is yours to command, and mine to obey. (Receiving Harmatius’ sword, Zeno stands up.)
ZENO Sleep, you noxious servant of Circe, you god as strong as steel, you unhappy attendant upon the stars, you scurvy henchman of fate, beloved to the shades, you brother of death, you son of dark Tartarus, come now, wake up and abandon these noble captains of Mars. (He touches them with the sword.) They are touched with the sword, this sword which my commander’s noble hand has driven through his enemies, a leader such as is the god when he hurls his forked fire from a cloud, working fearful slaughter. So come now, and at Mars’ command release these men from their deadly slumber. The bugle-call summons these heroes. (The trumpet blows. They are awakened by its blare.)
MARS Hail, oh sons of Mars, you race of heroes, you lofty glories of warfare. Breathe the life-giving air of heaven, behold the brilliance of the shining sun. Life is granted you, your iron sleep has departed. Acknowledge the man who has made you see the light, our mighty sovereign, the mortal closest to heaven. Prostrate yourselves and worship the man responsible for your good fortune.
THE FIRST KNIGHT SPEAKS FOR THEM ALL
Oh thrice blessed and more, whichever king you are who governs nations with your friendly nod. As long as your golden brow, furnished with the bright beams of Phoebus, reflects their stellar sire and worships the sovereign of the stars, so long will the noble race of Mars, possessed of an ardent heart, be inspired with martial spirit, mindful of the life you have added to it now that you have restored the light of day, with sleep banished far away.
MARS Now give a cheer for the Augustus, you warlike chorus, give a cheer. Let the the earth shake with your steps as you dance to the tune of the lyre.
ZENO But first, I have a question. Why this kind of thing? What is Fortune up to? What’s the point?
THE SECOND KNIGHT
We are commanded by fate to conceal the Fates’ secrets. Nevertheless, you may have what you want, wrapped up in these riddling terms. (He enigmatically describes betrayal.). Under honor’s lodestar, a father begot armed men, a father distinguished in the martial arts of war. (He means Harmatius.) He was injured by an enemy, a murderer of his own offspring. (Zeno.) He was a tyrant to his nation, the death of innocent men, a plague upon affairs, a maelstrom of wrongdoing, a confusion of errors, a monster of evils. Bent on vengeance, we took up arms. (Why they took up the arms with which they were equipped when they made their appearance.) But before we could engage in a fight, we all fell victim to a common fate. (We stretched out, seized by a false sleep.). Our enemy found us, (Zeno, who provided the occasion for this false sleep.), and the recalled to life those he had laid low with his hands. (The touch of the sword.) “To arms, to arms,” we straightway bawled, and joined in vowing death for our enemy. There you have the riddle of our fate, Caesar.
ZENO I understand. I want to ponder this, no Oedipus will be lacking. In the meantime, let your dance continue. (They dance, with Mars their leader. While the music plays its prelude they line up in pairs and hand Mars their spears so that they may be freer to dance. Mars passes these on to a servant hidden behind the curtain. Around the end of the dance they draw daggers (for they lack swords), and entrust these to Mars. Longinus speaks in his brother’s ear.
LONG. To arms, brother. The matter at hand, the place, and the time summon us.
ZENO To arms, soldiers, to arms, I’m betrayed. Arrest Harmatius, bind the rebels. Oh this great Hellish crime! “‘To arms’ we straightway bawled, and joined in vowing death for our enemy.” I do the vowing. You will atone for your crime by dying a cruel death. Go, give them over to a dungeon of dark night, let them languish there, freighted with great weights amidst the chains and the filth of their cell. Get going, you villains.
HARM. Caesar —
ZENO You always call the Augustus’ title hideous and dire for yourself. Oh, you traitor!
HARM. You’re punishing an innocent man, I swear. (When the others have been dragged away, Harmatius is recalled and in a chaotic trial is condemned to death.)
Fetch back the villain. It is a cheap bargain for one man to forfeit his head for the sake of the rest. You, my lords, must weigh this crime in your scales of justice.
LONG. Harmatius plotted death for the Augustus.
LONG. Guilty of a horrendous crime.
HARM. A crime I disown.
LONG. A witness will prove it.
HARM. Sooner will the pale mist of Acheron befoul the stars, the eternal bane of night will darken the sun.
ZENO Come, Urbitius, disclose this furtive felony.
URB. I swear by You, great Ruler of this world Who sees the hidden fantasies of the human mind, and Who, with Your dread countenance, will sooner or later terrify those guilty of perjury, I call You to the stand. I cite, vow, and invoke You, if I swear to falsehoods, then strike me with Your forked fire for bearing false witness, plunge me in the deepest Styx. Harmatius, furious over his son’s demotion, plotted to murder the Augustus by means of this military dance.
LONG. Now proclaim that you are innocent of bloodthirsty deceit.
ZENO. Now use your fraud to hide your crime. Now breathe forth your anger with martial spirit and bawl that you are innocent. You sought to attack my royal guts? You will pay, Harmatius, you will pay for this unspeakable felony, I swear by the Thunderer.
HARM. God almighty! I perceive the tricks of you brothers, you bloodthirsty brothers. You are seeking the blood of an innocent commander. I offer you free access to my veins, take my life. The heart of Harmatius disdains an extension of this frail existence, thinking it beneath his dignity. I have no fear. And yet what merits of mine are you repaying with death, Zeno, you ingrate? It was for your sake that I exposed myself to fearful risks amidst the menacing clash of arms, amidst slaughter, as bloody battle was mowing down my battle-line. What I just mentioned is very much a trifle. It was these arms, this blood running hot in my veins and so frequently spilled, this faithfulness of mind that gladly restored you to your former station after you had been deposed and were lost, homeless, and prostrate. Overwhelmed by the weight of my merits, Caesar, and unable to give adequate thanks to Harmatius, you repay him with treachery. In his father’a absence, you remove his son from his position, and swiftly send against him this son of Persephone, this Fury, to subdue him with a firebrand of deceit. (He means Urbitius.) Oh, a scheme worthy of Styx forever! You have fraudulently manufactured a crime so you may inflict the death penalty. Go ahead, drink a friend’s blood, quench your thirst. Lord it proudly, yet this blood will pursue you as long as you live, blood accompanied by my terrible shade. (To Urbitius.) You infernal firebrand. (Zeno suffers a seizure of the epilepsy from which he frequently suffers. Harmatius is led off to his execution.)
ZENO Oh the tongue of that three-headed hound! He has hurt me to the core. Take him way, and cover my head.
LONG. Go, soldiers, take one axe and behead them all. (To Zeno.) Get up.
SEB. His usual malady is polluting him.
LONG. Let him lie on his back.
URB. Put pillows under him, boy.
LONG. There’s one law for us all, brutal nature does not exempt kings. Breathe deeply, brother. Regain your strength. (Zeno returns to his proper self.)
ZENO His accursed slander brought back my malady. Where has the thief gone?
LONG. To the realm of Dis. A soldier has removed his head.
ZENO Good, I’m revived, the warmth has returned to my veins. Sebastianus, send out men who will spread the word about Harmatius’ treasonable crime throughout our people. The unstable common folk are fickle, and side with the party who is the first to catch their ear. Rumor moves the average man. You, Urbitius, take a goodly sum of gold out of the palace treasury and go racing to the camp. Soothe the regiments with your artful eloquence, and calm the soldiers. Harp on the criminality of their captains, their atrocious, bloodthirsty, horrible, hellish criminality. Tell them that soldiers must keep the faith in their mouths and in their hearts, and revere myself alone. Let a golden harvest of money befall the loyal soldier. Be quick.
URB. I’m on my way.
ZENO Brother, we are blessed. You’ll wield the scepter as your brother’s colleague and heir-apparent. Pelagius alone delays our undertakings.
LONG. That is a job that calls for me. He is the guaranteed prey of my deceit. Let us put him on trial for the abominable sin of renouncing Christ and worshiping Jove. There will be more than one witness to lodge the accusation.
ZENO Is your subtle craft capable of trumping up such a great crime?
LONG I can do it.
LONG. Always concealed.
ZENO If only!
LONG. I swear by the stars.
ZENO If you’re as good as your word, the business is done. I’ll cut off that rebel’s head, I swear. No rancor will condemn his execution as unjust. Be cautious in carrying out your scheme.
LONG. I won’t delay.
ACT III, SCENE iii
ZENO, URBITIUS, ANASTASIUS
Anastasius convinces Urbitius to lie and say that the money had been sent by himself, and by harping on Zeno’s cruelty he wins over the soldiers’ minds.
URB. I’m hastening to the camp, Caesar, bearing a great mass of ruddy gold.
ZENO Make the trip quickly. Tire out your horse, the days’ passing. (Exit Zeno. Enter Anastasius.)
URB. Anastasius, what a great blessing of fortune favors my wishes in every respect! By royal command, I’m going to the camp laden down with money.
AN. What a stroke of luck! Go, Godspeed. And you must first drive the soldiers wild with anger. Announce that Harmatius, that great glory of Mars, that pillar of our tottering empire, has died a cruel death thanks to the wiles of the Augustus and the fury of his brother. Their grief will immediately swell up, grief will beget rage, and rage will fill them with vengeful wrath. Hence what a storm of evil will sweep through their ranks! The army will be hot for the death of the brothers, it will demand punishments that fit the crime. And while their fire is burning hot, you must go a step further and distribute a stipend with a lavish hand. Let the word fly through their companies that this is my gift. Hence they will believe you. Gifts overwhelm legions defended by adamantine walls. Overcome by the money, the soldiers will freely acknowledge me to be the head of state and the predestined avenger of their betrayed commander. Follow up this happy assault by egging on their happy shouts with your own friendly voice, and in good time I shall make my appearance.
URB. I’ll eagerly do as you tell me. You are coming close to the throne, even if Zeno’s burst guts gape wide.
AN. Go ahead. I am waiting for Pelagius, who will meet his fate thanks to my next piece of treachery.
ACT III, SCENE iv
Anastasius congratulates himself on the success of his affairs.
Who refuses the gifts of favorable Fortune? She abandons grasping men, flitting away on fugitive wings. This man challenges his destiny in wild gambling, that one storm-tossed on the sea, and a third among the empurpled grandees of the empire:, they all weary the goddess with their perpetual prayers. She frowns with an angry face, and tramples on her devotees. And yet she raises me to the top of her wheel, bearing me above the realms of the winds. Now the golden flame of the crown on my brow sheds light in every direction. Now my robes are bright red, their hem sweeps the royal court, and, lofty on my throne, I dictate laws to the people. Yet why am I cheering mere happenstance? I worship you, my mind. For me, you are a god greater than thundering Jove. He is a fool who seeks out and fears any other god in this uncertain world. Every man’s mind is his own god. This is his wheel of fortune, it shapes his destiny and the course of his affairs. When his mind is downcast, it makes a man wretched, when it is elated it makes him happy. When his two-shaped mind flaps its wings, he is borne through the clouds with impunity and hovers high above the clear heaven. Oh, this fair spark of the living aether! Continue and separate me from the earth, lifted above the common run of mankind, add me to the home of the stars as a shining light. Oh, I’ve said too little. As a sun, let me alone wield the world’s lofty reins.
ACT III, SCENE v
URBITIUS, CASTOR, SOLDIERS
Having announced the execution of Harmatius, Urbitius first fires the soldiers with the spirit of revenge, then inspires them to transfer the government to Anastasius.
URB. Thus far, my fortune flies forward, borne on gentle wings. It remains to win over the legions by a huge act of deceit. The soldiers are keeping watch at the walls and gates, and word of the cruel execution has not yet been able to reach their idle battalions. I still have a fine name and credit for my well-known seemliness. But if I am reported to have had a hand in Harmatius’ death, then in a loud voice I shall swear by Orcus, the seas, the land, the skies, and their three Joves, that this is an untruth. Suppose a witness attests to my guilt. Yet be that as it may. I shall lie that I was compelled by fear of a hideous death and the kings’ threats. If these dodges fail me, a shower of gold will subdue the hotheads within the army. The power of gold softens the hardest of hearts. Oh, what a mighty good! And see, I am nearing the camp. Now, my mind, summon up your deceits. Summon their vengeful cohorts to arms. Let grief for their murdered commander stir up an implacable storm of wrath. Oh the crimes of kings! Oh the method of their unspeakable deceit!
CAS. It’s Urbitius?
URB. Oh, the savage bane of perfidy!
CAS. What’s the reason for your lamentation.
URB So does such a great lust for the blood of friends burn in royal hearts too?
CAS. I swear by Olympus, you’re torturing me. What evil news are you bringing?
URB. Don’t ask, this evil cannot be matched by the telling. It defeats my eloquence.
CAS. Let it defeat you, but tell me nevertheless. When grief is at hand, it is helpful to understand what is to be lamented. If we must die, let us die quickly
URB. Harmatius —
CAS. My mind shudders.
URB. — has lost his head, put to death by a royal axe.
CAS. Harmatius? That terror the world, mighty in arms, that thunderbolt of Gradivus, that excellent commander of captains, our second Mars.
CAS. He’s dead?
URB. He’s laid low, having been overcome.
CAS. Caught by what art?
URB. By the one that usually captures great men, by treachery. When he returned, Zeno embraced him with a happy face, bidding him spend his day in triumphs and being cheered throughout the royal court. While Harmatius watched a performance sitting between the two tyrants, a signal was given and a company of soldiers suddenly erupted from concealment and beheaded your captive commander as a dire act of murder.
CAS. Now the world should spew forth a vengeful storm from every quarter. Let an uncontrolled whirlwind of flame envelop the court, sweeping you and your realms to the deepest realms of Tartarus, you bloodthirsty brothers. Damn that unspeakable race! To arms, to arms, soldiers. Wield your vengeful steel. Let the rage of angry Mars destroy and butcher the tyrants and all their race, and let the trumpet sound its terrible tune, let bugles blare. Go forth and destroy everything.
URB. Restrain your chagrin, Castor, you are in a pointless hurry. Virtue needs counsel, it is crimes that require passion. Many soldiers occupy the royal court, and a cohort with strong reinforcements surrounds the gates. The city is up in arms, the walls are guarded. A strong force of noblemen protect the Augustus’ persons. Casting the dice of Mars would be uncertain, and a test of the royal wrath would be doubtful. Rather, your steel would blindly range through innocent and guilty alike, inflicting equal slaughter on both.
CAS. So will Zeno pay no penalties for his outrage?
URB. He will, but another way remains for his punishment. Anastasius survives, mighty with his lofty mind, a man possessed of great virtue and much martial energy, and having a great accumulation of wealth. Make your soldiers ready to swear their loyalty to him alone and to watchfully await every order, when the opportunity gives the signal. In the meantime, he offers this trifling indication of his good disposition to your companies. If heaven blesses him with continued life, he will pay lavish rewards for such great services.
CAS. Thanks be to Anastasius. Let him alone have power.
ALL Thanks be to Anastasius. Let him alone have the power.
CAS. My anger lessens thanks to your admonitions, my fury thanks to your good advice. We are dedicated to Anastasius. Let him command, we shall be ready, with arms in our hands, to confront any eventuality.
URB. I shall report to Anastasius the loyalty of your arms and the eagerness of your hands. Farewell, you glories of Mars, until I return. (Exit. )
CAS. So is Harmatius, the chief glory of Mars, dead, powerful both in his craft and in his steel? None better than him for shattering enemy ranks, none better at managing the tigers of fuming Mars or handling Bellona’s chances with his skill. March forward, soldiers, at a sad pace. Scratch the ground with your reversed spears. Let the trumpet bellow with its hoarse blare, and the drums thump with a glum rumble.
CHORUS OF MUSICIANS OR INTERLUDE
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