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ACT III, SCENE i
Panurgus slyly eludes Theagenes, who has learned of Basilindus’ crime from the servant of Aristobulus, wounded by stabbing but not yet dead. Then he impiously murders the moribund servant.
PAN. We’re all undone. I’m a-tremble, my scheme will come to light. This vile servant, come back from Orcus, is revealing it and saying that you, Basilindus, are responsible for this murder. Oh feeble dagger! Oh too light a wound! (The middle curtain is drawn to show the moribund servant on a bed, speaking with Theagenes standing alongside.) The business is destroyed. He’s explaining the means of the crime to Theagenes.
THEAG. Basilindus dared this felony? What monstrosities are you telling me about? Is what you say definitely true?
SERV. Its truth is proven by the life passing from my lips.
THEAG. Eternal Ruler of heaven, you see this and are slow to act?
PAN. Why am I standing here in amazement? I must dare some crime. (He pretends to be repentant, as if he has not observed Theagenes, but in such a way that he may seen walking around the middle of the forestage wearing a hangdog expression.) What land, what sea will receive me, guilty of an unspeakable crime?
THEAG. Tell me, what crime are you moaning about?
PAN. Oh surviving hope, single salvation of our empire, have pity on me, prince. Basilindus’ savage hand has laid Aristobulus low. This dire Thyestes, threatening the realm, has twisted around this crime by attributing it to his brother. Motivated by fear, so far I’ve kept my guilty mouth closed, but now, too late, I repent my deed.
THEAG. God is not slow to hear the prayers of suppliants. Stop your tears, virtue never spurns her devotee.
PAN. I abjure this worst of felonies. You must announce Basilindus’ crimes to all our lords. What we say will condemn him as a traitor.
THEAG. A pair of witnesses will serve to establish his disgraceful crime. I’ll go to the lords, and bring everything to light. Meanwhile you tend this poor man’s gaping wounds. (Exit Theagenes. Panurgus removes the garter from beneath his knee.)
PAN. Gently pressing with my friendly garter I’ll nurse the seeping jaws of his wound. Tell me, have you no hope of living?
PAN. How slowly this expiring vein bleeds! So now you wholeheartedly seek your native heaven and the kingdoms above?
SERV. That’s where my sickened soul is being taken.
PAN. Have no fear, it takes only a small thing to make your soul a blessed one. Putting aside the heavy shackles of mortality, you can travel the Silk Road up to your eternal homeland. (He removes the garter and wraps it around the ailing man’s neck.). Tell me, do you like this gentle kind of death?
SERV. Ah, I’m dying! The crime! Oh!
PAN. As I perceive, you don’t like it. Nevertheless it’s a journey you must take. And keep your eyes open for crime so that you can return from Hell and be a Stygian witness. That’s it, it’s done. Quickly take to your heels.
ACT III, SCENE ii
While Theagenes accuses Basilindus to the lords, he himself is falsely accused of murdering Aristobulus by Panurgus and is thrown in chains. Basilindus is saluted as king by them all.
NEOB. Mount your brother’s throne with a better fate, Basilindus, so that cruel Basilius might suffer a fit punishment for his crimes, shortened by a head.
ANDR. Swear by heaven, Basilindus, you will remain as the pillar of our tottering kingdom. If anybody lends your criminal brother a helping hand, he’ll die by this steel.
PHIL. Let your anger subside, the mind sees better when its fury has been removed. Don’t allow Libitina to cut him down with her stern scythe before Astraea has pronounced him guilty.
BASILIND. Heaven and earth cry out that he is guilty, and you still defend him? Nemesis seeks his avenging punishment while you dither.
THEAG. This goddess seeking that the Thunderer’s overdue lightning should fall upon your head. Are you giving his brother’s scepter to Basilindus, my lords? It is thanks to his unspeakable crime that the man lies prostrate whom we all bewail, and thanks to his impious deceit that Basilius groans under an unjust weight of brazen chains.
BASILIND. (Aside.) We’re ruined. Our scheme is revealed. I must put on a bold face. (Aloud.) Oh the insolent reproach of your tongue! Are you exclaiming that I have befouled the royal home with the murder of an innocent man? Oh envy, always the companion of true praise! Great father of the gods and ruler of mankind, strike the man you see to be guilty, plunge him in the deep water of Phlegethon.
NEOB. Is Theagenes quite sane?
THEAG. Who could rob me of my wits, Neobulus? It was the hand of Basilius, the hand you bid wield the noble glory of our scepter, which laid Aristobulus low. I am pronouncing things that are beyond doubt. I shall convict the man I accuse by two witnesses. Let Panurgus come forth. And at the point of death the servant wounded by your piercings continues to do his duty to his master. The chill of the Caucasus runs through my veins. Does such a vile burden on this earth live on to punish me? Oh, my idle hand! [Enter a messenger.]
MESS. After his spirit’s lengthy struggle against death, the life has left his limbs.
THEAG As he was languishing Megaera cut his lock, so that, having fed upon his breast, this champion of Hell might redouble his crime with crime. So he has died: this counselor will be sufficient to reveal his master’s impious deceits.
BASILIND. (Aside.) The dread of a guilty mind and a very culpable spirit savage my heart with their monstrous scourge. (Enter Panurgus.)
PAN. I appeal to your right hand, Neobulus, let me reveal the man responsible for your father’s death in safety. Although a lurid fortune may have created Panurgus, yet she did not create him as a liar or a slanderer.
NEOB. This steel will guarantee your immunity. Reveal the identify of the accursed man who devised this murder.
PAN. The man who devised this unspeakable murder and arranged this dire crime was Theagenes. (They all recoil.) Armed by the royal pen, he shed the blood of Aristobulus.
NEOB. So his false austerity of morals and the candor of his serene countenance conceal this wrongdoing?
ANDR. Oh what a lying life!
THEAG. Faith has fled to the ends of the earth. Ambition, guile, and a legion of vices sent forth when Hell emptied out have taken over our royal court.
BASILIND. (Aside.) My inmost being rejoices. (Basilindus supports the liar with his facial expression.) [Aloud.] You bold Ulysses.
PAN. And what part of the savage crime has yet been revealed? Soon this envy became burdensome on men innocent of its deceit, threatening me with immediate death if I didn’t speak so as to shift the king’s guilt to his brother. And Basilius also attempted in vain to seduce Aristobulus with threats to kill his sons, mixing threats with entreaties. But he tenaciously adhered to the right until he felt the stab-wound in his breast and, overwhelmed by death, offered up his true loyalty together with his blood,
BASILIND. What barbarian, what lawless nation drinking the water of the Phasis or the Tanais, would dare such a savage crime?
THEAG. Now, father of Olympus —
ANDR. Hold your tongue, you deadly night-owl.
NEOB. Soon the rigor of steel will overcome this traitor.
BASILIND. (Secretly applauding Panurgus with his hands.) [Aside.] Oh golden boy! [Aloud.] You see, Neobulus, how envy rips at my reputation with its Hellish claw.
NEOB. You’ll sit on our lofty throne, I swear.
ANDR. No matter how much the entire band of Furies joined with Dis may gnash their teeth. (The royal insignia are brought in individually, by separate boys, as Neobulus performs the office of offering them up.)
NEOB. Let your right hand bear this royal weight, your shoulders this purple garment, your head this bejeweled wreath. Let Basilindus rule the world, his brother deposed.
ALL Let Basilindus rule the world, his brother deposed. (Exeunt omnes in a procession, bareheaded, with Basilindus bringing up the rear.)
ACT III, SCENE iii
Basilius escapes from prison.
JAILOR Overcome by affection for you, my sovereign, I am freeing your hands from this disgraceful bond. You are free, flee from here.
BASIL. I swear you’ll be clad in purple, if heaven seconds my great undertaking. Indignant that I have been deposed, Anaximander is bringing up his forces. If in some way chance helps the wretched, I am thinking of his camp, bent on avenging my brother’s deceit.
ACT III, SCENE iv
Basilindus learns of Basilius’ escape and the approach of Anaximander with his army, intending to restore him to the throne. He sends forth his own army to meet them.
BASILIND. You rule, you triumph, Basilindus, you’ve accomplished all your desires. My heart can scarcely contain the pride of my elated mind. I’m bursting with my happiness. Like a dire vapor erupting from deepest Tartarus I make my bloody way to the lofty throne. Now I like to see the world running blood-red by my crime. I like having stolen the glory of the purple from a man even though he’s my brother. I like it that Aristobulus is laid low by my fraud. It was the blood of his pure heart that has bestowed this purple on Basilindus. (Enter the ghost of Aristobulus, his hands dripping with blood.)
My mind shudders, great panic sets my limbs to quaking. Has the world opened up? With the earth agape has Orcus spewed forth monsters? Go back to your Hellish caverns, you shade, you daughter of death, you daughter-in-law of Megaera!
GHOST Oh you vampire! Oh you disgrace to your family! This blood has armed the Thunderer’s avenging hand.
BASILIND. You defeat me, Aristobulus. I have confessed my wrong, I admit it, why terrify me further? Remove your fearful countenance far away, I am scorched by your blood. Is this the cost of a crown purchased by blood? [Exit the ghost. Enter Panurgus.]
PAN. Flee, Basilindus. All your safety remains in flight.
BASILIND. Has the Stygian pool spewed forth other hobgoblins?
PAN. Another Styx is spewing forth worse right now. Avenging Anaximander is bringing you an iron storm, so as to restore his friend to the throne.
BASILIND. You wound my ear, you rip me out of my mind, you ominous screech-owl. A thousand bloody Furies flail me with their scourges. Has the son taken flight as his father’s companion?
PAN. Another prison holds him and Theagenes.
BASILIND. Quickly bring them here, their arms bound behind them, so that I may disembowel them with my steel. Fetch Neobolus and Andronicus too.
PAN. I’ll outrun the winds. [Exit.]
BASILIND. Oh ambition, born of viper’s blood, how you chew at my guts with your mother’s tooth! I feel this bane deep within my marrow. But I feel it far too late. Hence savage fear, hatred, despair, and demented fury are tearing apart my wounded heart. Basilindus, have you performed such great crimes for no purpose? Has your deceitful work been wasted to no good end? It little matters that it goes to waste. I’ll bring down kingdoms and their people. I must go. Let arms, fire, the bane of Tartarus, and whatever the great rage in my heart devises be prepared against my enemy. (Enter Neobulus, Andronicus, and the two men in chains, with Panurgus.)
Help me in my extremity, Andronicus. Aroused by my brother’s deceit, Anaximander thunders in arms. Escaped from the city, Basilius has joined himself to his side. Come, Neobulus, as my champion gather iron-clad battalions under your standards. Let the blood of your innocent father fire your noble heart with a vengeful spark. Go quickly a-flying as a messenger to whatever the rage of our enemies’ common martial effort manages to form into a battle-line, telling them that I’ll sooner dispatch these sons of Avernus to their kindred shades than be mocked for wearing a yoke. Here at home I’ll settle the doubtful loyalty of the common folk, stirred up by my brother’s hostile hand.
ANDR. You are commanding things already done, I’ve anticipated your wish. Our soldiers stand under arms, a steely multitude is ready to march against our enemy.
NEOB. A thickly-packed squadron is at the ready for every call of the bugle.
THRAS. Banish ignoble fear. By this sword Basilius will fall.
ANDR. The hand of Andronicus will sacrifice this victim to Erebus.
NEOB. The tyrant owes his soul to the son of Aristobulus. Let this prize be reserved for Neobulus.
BASILIND. Go, great captains, may heaven favor your undertakings. (Exeunt omnes except Basilindus, who stands between the two captives, armed with two daggers.) You accompany me on either side, you fellows consigned to the Dirae.
THEM. We smile at your rages, tyrant, we hope for death’s hand.
BASILIND. You wish will be granted. Let this shining dagger put an end to your loitering in the hateful light, you great-hearted warrior!
THEAG. From heaven an avenging God looks down on tyrants. (Exeunt.)
ACT III, SCENE v
Although Basilius has been bested, Basilindus, imagining himself to be defeated, kills Themistarchus and Theagenes, led to this error by Neobolus, who is hot to avenge his father’s murder. As a result of this error it comes about that Basilindus himself pays the fitting penalty for his crimes.
Fighting offstage with drums, trumpets, and the clash of arms, but sounding as if they come from afar. Andronicus enters from one side-alcove and addresses the audience.
ANDR. Doubtful Mars ranges the battlefield with an uncertain spear. (He joins the battle. Neobulus enters from the other side-apc0ve, covered with dust and sweat, and speaks to the audience thus.)
NEOB. Alas, he presses us! With what wrath Basilius rages! Mindful of his lost glory, he cuts a wide swathe with his victorious sword. Anaximander presses us on our right flank. That wavering squadron requires a vigorous leader. (Exit to fight anew.)
ANDR. Let the enemy be pressed. He’s exposed his back, strike. (These words of his are heard from afar, indistinctly. Then they all raise a hoarse cheer.)
BASILIND. A horrible noise strikes my terrified ears. More and more the terror of arms comes over me. I fear the changeable wheel of treacherous fate. Let the tyrant prevail. I swear by Jove of the Underworld, if this boy possesses anything of his father’s blood, he’ll celebrate a triumph made bloody by his own gore. (Enter the ghost again, visible only to Basilindus.) Why frighten me again with your face and threaten me with your claws, you fatal shade?
GHOST It summons you, your final day summons you to Tartarus for your punishment.
BASILIND. Oh, an unpleasant life in Orcus! Am I sentenced to the Stygian shades while still alive?
NEOB. Oh just heaven! (Enter Neobulus, who sees these two men under Basilindus’ knife. Admonished that their life or death depends on his answer, he decides to lie about the truth and say that he and the others have been defeated. Therefore he runs up to Basilindus with a drawn sword, pretending to be terrified and out of breath.)
NEOB. That’s my decision. At least no chance accident will rescue these enemies from me. A quick lie will destroy them.
BASILIND. Tell me, Neobolus, in what condition our affairs stand.
NEOB. We’re ruined, Basilindus. The victorious mass of our enemy threaten the city. While a brief opportunity permits, our enemies should be put to death. Let these two fellows suffer punishment on behalf of many.
BASILIND. With my death-dealing hand I inflict this wounding. Celebrate your triumphs in the unlovely cavern of Dis. Sacrificed to my shades, you may begin to celebrate my funeral rites. This is how I appease the Styx. (After these two have been stabbed he comes down from his throne and offers his body to Neobulus for the striking.) I’ve killed our enemies, now you do your part.
NEOB. Being headstrong, you’re being led astray by a mistake.
BASILIND. Let me free you of the danger of a great mistake.
NEOB. Hear what you desire. (Now Neobulus is on the point of revealing the happy news and telling the truth about the whole business, when Basilindus, being very hasty and interrupting his words, deprives him of the opportunity by railing against himself.)
BASILIND. First listen to something which will make you shudder. You are looking at the man who designed the dire crime, the architect of your father’s murder.
NEOB. Hm, what am I doing? You are inviting death with this false accusation against yourself. I recognize that hand of yours which avenged my father’s murder.
BASILIND. I appeal to the Thunder, and (which is more proper for Basilindus to swear by) I appeal to the chaos of the shades, this impious hand did in Aristobulus.
NEOB. I can scarce believe it accomplished so great a wrong. You, supreme ruler of heaven, use your forked lightning to drive this person down to the bottom pools of Avernus, if this crime goes unavenged by my hand.
BASILIND. Why are you waiting, Neobulus? My breast is bared.
NEOB. My mind shrinks from harming a royal breast with my steel. Perhaps if your hands were bound as you begged to be despoiled of the light I’d inflict the wound with a more confident hand.
BASILIND. Behold, I freely offer my hands for binding. Be bold in tying them, Neobulus.
NEOB. My fingers are shaking. (Showing his fear and trepidation, Neobulus puts Basilindus’ hands behind his back and energetically ties them with a rope. Then he draws his sword.)
BASILIND. Now my arms are bound, I wait the axe.
NEOB. You’re waiting for the blow, you impious man? Nevertheless I’ll make you receive my steel in an unwilling breast. At my compulsion, you’ll pay the penalty I want. A harder downfall is taken amidst happy circumstances. Your army prevailed. The bands of your enemies have been driven off and your brother taken captive. You hear the cheering trumpets? It’s enough to have heard them, you’ll never enjoy your impious victory.
BASILIND. Spare me, give me a little time.
NEOB. Even if you were to give me the scepter of a Caesar, the treasures of a Midas, you wouldn’t purchase a second’s delay, you tyrant.
BASILIND. I beg you by your hand, by the royal crown and ornament which your hand set on my proud head, spare me, Neobulus. Although no man’s feet have felt my suppliant hand, let it, freed from this tight binding, draw near to yours.
NEOB. Now the penalty is death, I want to destroy an unjust man.
BASILIND. My tongue, my hasty tongue! If only you had held your silence, a single moment would have established my reign.
NEOB. Now while you don’t desire it, while you are grieving, I’ll inflict the blow.
BASILIND. Let me atone for my crime.
NEOB. You’ll pay for it forever beneath the Styx. With this wound let Theagenes, Aristobulus and Themistarchus kill you. Take your furies, your murders, your plagues with you. (Basilindus backs up across the entire forestage as Neobulus presses him with his sword. To his indignation, he is put to death as cheering cries are heard offstage.)
ACT III, FINAL SCENE
When Basilindus’ death by the sword of Neobulus is discovered, the others fall to mutual slaughter. Philocrates, the sole survivor out of them all, sums up the evils of ambition.
Andronicus, Thrasymachus and the rest, together with soldiers with bloodied swords, enter celebrating in a great procession.
ANDR. You may give a cheer, Basilindus. You possess the scepter, carefree.
THRAS. Io triumph! Basilindus holds the scepter.
NEOB. Alas, Andronicus.
ANDR. Why are you mourning?
NEOB. Does Basilius enjoy the heavens above the stars?
ANDR. His base yoke has been removed. Both kings are dead.
NEOB. Oh the accursed wrong! Oh the shameful crime! Your savage rage has slaughtered an innocent sacrifice. This tyrant, the child of a Fury from Hell, has overwhelmed my Aristobulus in a bloody death. He has destroyed his brother and all his realm.
ANDR. Astonishment stuns my mind.
PAN. So Basilindus is dead?
NEOB. As this man was confessing his deceit and condemning himself with his own words, I sacrificed him to the shades of my dead father, a worthy victim for Pluto.
PAN. I acknowledge a crime worthy of Panurgus. I am guilty. It was thanks to my cleverness that Basilindus wrecked the noble royal court with his deadly slaughter. Nor was I ashamed that this crime was dared, that it thus worked its destruction. Now I condemn my handiwork. (The corpses of the two kings are borne in a mournful procession and carried about the forestage, as trumpets sound a mournful tune.)
ANDR. Sorrowful sights to see!
NEOB. Do I see the remains of those innocent captains? Oh, this bloodstained person! Is this Basilius? Has such greatness fallen here?
ANDR. Now may an avenging God hurl His lightning from heaven, either at me or at those men. This chaste blood of kings condemns us all. But at least I’ll offer up your person to the king. Die, you hateful child of Hecate. [He kills Panurgus.]
PAN. Oh! I die. (While Andronicus is busy killing Panurgus, Thrasymachus unexpected takes a sword and attacks Neobulus as he vainly attempts to protect himself, cowering behind a curtain.)
THRAS. I sacrifice you to Basilindus, boy.
NEOB. Me, you traitor? [Thrasymachus kills him.]
ANDR. You strike too, Thrasymachus, you bloody butcher?
THRAS. I am offering up a sacrifice to Basilindus.
ANDR. You’ll feel how great a blow my arm can deal out.
THRAS. Let Typhoeus deal out his missiles against me with a hundred hands, I’ll gladly go to meet his giant’s fury. [They fight.] Oh! A guilty man, I’m being dragged down to Orcus. (They are both killed.)
ANDR. Forgive me, Basilius. Let God forgive this sinner. (With all the alcoves opened up, Aristobulus is shown with Neobulus, his head lolling in his father’s lap. In one side-alcove lie Theagenes and Themistarchus, their hands clasped, and in the other the servant and the murderer, each propped up on the other. These two are on a bier. Lying scattered about the forestage are Basilindus, Andronicus, Panurgus, and Thrasymachus. Amidst these remains of the catastrophe speaks Philocrates, the survivor.)
PHIL. From this it is evident how much blood was drunk and how many souls were sent down to the Styx by ambition, that dire bane of kingdoms and worst of plagues for men. Whoever has a heart puffed up by this infamy, with his bold hand he snatches the glory from off a royal brow, against the will of God and Man, overwhelms the bright lights of the realm by right or by wrong, throws the royal court into confusion, is unsparing of blood, flatters, conspires, smiles and kills, and there is no bond of agreement between his heart and his tongue. He turns the world back to its original chaos, puts out his mind’s heavenly beacon, knows no shame, abolishes fair faithfulness, hates the laws of virtue, and shuns counsel. Refusing to bear the chains of Mistress Reason, a foe to one and all and its own worst enemy, ambition is the worst of human ills. (Exit. The alcove is closed.)