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ACTUS II, SCENA i
APPIUS, MESSENGER, VIRGINIA, NURSE, CUPID
Appius with his lictors
APP. Indeed, this is the way it is. Troublemakers are asking for the return of elected consuls, the madness of the loathsome plebeians is arming them against the decemvirs, more powerful than themselves. We must confront this, our power is to be shored up by the use of force, whatever stands in our way must die. The Fates will only see me set aside my fasces as a private citizen at the hour which opens my crypt and carries me to my tomb. That is a noble way to bury tyrants, thus may I die.
MESS. Your noble colleague sends you his greeting . (Hands Appius a letter.)
APP. (reading.) Done in by my craft, Siccius lies dead, that rival of the decemvirate, that invidious enemy. You attend to the rest within the city. Good, my highest hope has been granted. Our enemy is removed, the camp is controlled by intimidation. These axes will cow the citizens with their terror. You must return to the camp, greet them individually, and carry this letter written in my hand.
MESS. Farewell, Appius. (To himself.) This document conceals schemes, deceits, and deceptions, and yet I’ll carry it and hand it over, if only the gods look favorably on our afflicted affairs and do not persist in oppressing us unhappy folk with catastrophe.
VA. Now the time is pressing and I must go to school, lest delay makes me tardy. Of a certainty, the shops are open throughout the Forum.
NURSE My ward, the hope and glory of your household and the single consolation and hope of my old age, you should. get going.
APP. (Catching sight of her.) Is some divinity making my senses go astray or is this Phoebus’ sister, a more handsome Pallas, or Cypris herself, emerging from the waves anew? Mortal seed does not create such a countenance.
CUPID Which of the gods has not felt my handiwork? Which of the goddesses has not feared my torches? Everything the earth produces from fruitful seed, whatever is tossed about by the waves in the current of their ebb and flow, whatever the fickle air encloses is in its vast bosom, all of these worship only me, Cupid, and revere me as their master. Trees, fruits, grain, cattle and men kneel before me, the gods themselves humbly entreat, love, and tremble at me. Although old in years, the master of the forked lightning has experienced this hand of mine, and likewise his brother who dictates laws to the sea, and he who has been allotted the third palace of Avernus has caught fire from my torches. Indeed my mother Cytherea, that goddess of golden beauty, has given birth under the compulsion of her son, and, stricken by my powers, has caught a fire in her heart matching those that beset humanity. My mind is contriving a new deed, it is my desire that the city’s recent condition be thrown into confusion. I shall bring it about that the powers, the threats, angers and rages, and the insolent arrogance of the decemvirs give way, so that this arrow of Cupid might pierce a recalcitrant heart. Let the bow be stretched, let a woeful wound be planted at my chosen target. But with his fierce spirit Appius strides along, escorted in by armed men. Let him suffer my intended wound, thanks to this arrow. (Enter Appius.)
APP. Alas! Dread is vexing my good spirits, and, again, unbounded joy fills my heart. Doubtful terror rends it, hope inspires it. My fears forbid, and I know not for what to hope. Does this upheaval portend something strange? Are the gods showing me bad omens, or rather do they favor me? Or is it perhaps a meaningless fright that makes me fearful? I acknowledge that these are rare signs of a disturbed mind.
CUP. ’Tis well. Let my hand plant its aimed arrow at its target, his heart. (Shoots.) Oh good bow! Oh my skillful self! I shall continue by filling him with flames wretchedly concealed. Being Cupid, I shall kindle mad fires which no day will quench save for the one which brings him to his tomb.
APP. What’s this? Flame rages with its heated torch and a strange fire has invaded all my frame. No part remains untouched, my limbs are scorched, fastened upon by these sudden conflagrations. I feel novel movements in my heart, nor is there any reason. Whatever threatens, may the god improve its omen! Perhaps this commotion is a sign of novelties: is it announcing danger for my person?
CUP. Now my poison is a-boil. I shall continue adding new firebrands and shoot other arrows until he is heedless of his dignity and in full public view rushes to commit every kind of crime, driven by his crazed mind. And, lest the chaste girl submit, overcome by his threats or his gifts, I shall test her maidenly heart with a light and simple dart, so that she might demand Icilius alone and breathe love for this single man, valuing all things less than her chastity. (Enter Virginia.) Surely this is the hoped-for girl.
VA. It’s time, I must return home. I have lingered long enough I fear my stern nurses usual threats.
CUP. I shall be quick in aiming my bow, and strike the maiden’s breast with the full force of my arrow, so that she may always be heedful of the wedding-torch.
ACT II, SCENE ii blue scenes bit?
APPIUS, CLAUDIUS, LICTOR
APP. Go away, my lictors, you noxious throng, leave me to my misfortune. I have no further interest in public business, I feel no anxiety about the army nor any concern about what the senators are doing. The law is not dear to me. Heat pent up within is scorching me, fire ranges through my guts. Neither the peace of night nor the bright daylight provide me solace. The moon finds me lingering, Cynthius finds me groaning, and from their high heaven the stars find me mourning as the fury of burning fire rages and torments me in my unhappiness. Just as heat overflows from its crater on Etna, or the fiery jets of the Chimaera terrorize the Lycians, or Vesuvius belches forth fireballs from its lofty ridges, disarming the fearful citizenry, so this ranging heat has invaded my heart. Tell me, Claudius, what repose or what means can ease it? It is a timely happenstance that has chosen to bring you here.
CLAUD. What evil, what pain troubles you, Appius? Have malevolent fascinators deprived you of your spirits, is some unfriendly spirit harming you, or has some evil eye robbed you of your senses? Offer up incense to the gods so they may remove this spell and return Appius to his proper self.
APP. Sound advice. But stronger impulses offer their resistance, nor am I minded to worship the gods by offering up a victim or to visit the temple, their sacred walls will possess none of my votive offerings.
CLAUD. Possibly some danger confronts the decemvirs, is that the reason for your anxiety? Let their power be shored up by a display of force, let soldiers display their weapons throughout the Forum. But where’s your lictor? Does Appius lack his fasces, offering his flanks unguarded? Is he unable to use his axes to confront the will and the fury of the maddened plebeians? Lictor, how in the world it the mob being constrained by the fear of Appius? Is this is well-known power? You lazy lictor.
LICT. He commanded us to leave him, we only did so under compulsion.
CLAUD. Perhaps the camp inspired you? Do you fear the disposition of the disloyal army? Provide strong protection. Let the sword defend men whom the laws cannot.
APP. No power at Rome frightens Appius. Do you want to know the truth? It is love that torments and rends me, harmful and raging love which deprives me of my senses, and savagely makes me prey to itself alone. It ravages my body, distracts me from my business, and denies me rest.
CLAUD. Love is thought to be a power dire for mortals. But he who resists its first assault safely remains the victor. So be quick in quenching the flames planted in your heart, nor allow yourself to be deferential to evil lust.
APP. What mortal can take up arms against the gods? These are Cupid’s fixed decrees.
CLAUD. Mortals invent such fictions for themselves at the instigation of lust, which favors their base vices. It has invented the ardors of amour, its firebrands, bows, arrows, and quivers. No boy is such an accurate archer, nor is their any divinity or power attached to Venus. Don’t yield, and the pleasures will beat a hasty retreat. See that you do nothing unbecoming to Appius.
APP. In vain you try to apply remedies, nothing can ease my cares, nothing can take away my pain save only the Fates or the welcome favors of that sweet little girl.
CLAUD. Rome won’t bury any crime or sin of Appius in the hidden recesses of oblivion. Come, speedily show reverence for that honor with which the gods have blessed you, commit no wrong unworthy of Appius.
APP. Reason is overcome, frenzy rules in my mind and heeds no warnings. Make no further entreaties. Either a bloody death must be prepared for Appius, or my love must quickly be satisfied. It’s either the girl or the hired chief mourner.
CLAUD. So you choose to dash ahead like a wild beast? To loose the bridle on blind love? Make me the assistant in your scheme. Whatever mistress catches your fancy in this city will eventually throw up her hands in surrender, overpowered by your entreaties or your threats. Tell me what girl has stolen your heart. What’s her family?
APP. No noble line of forefathers or pedigree, no atrium full of waxen images elevates her, but in beauty she uniquely surpasses the goddess of whom antiquity speaks or whom the present age sees. Her name is Virginia.
CLAUD. I’ll soon hand her over to you in an obliging frame of mind, Appius. You be happier and find some rest, feeling free to entrust me with the remainder of this concern.
APP. Oh Claudius, I’d be the equal to the gods, or even their better, if the hope of enjoying this maiden’s embrace were to dawn for me. Assuredly, a worthy reward will await you for your effort.
CLAUD. Though her heart may be protected by brass or buried by stones, prevail I shall.
ACT II, SCENE iii
VIRGINIA, CLAUDIUS, THE NURSE
VA.. My father has written me no message from the camp, he has given me no reassurance of his well-being in a letter written by his hand. How wretchedly I fear lest his silence threatens some evil omen! The tenth day has passed by, and ten times now Cynthia has passed through all the heaven in her car, while great dread has exhausted me, anxious and fearful, lest some savage enemy has gained possession of the Roman camp. May the gods banish that omen far away, giving safety to our city, solace to its citizens, victory to its leaders, and slaughter to its enemies! But my stern schoolmaster summons me to school. (Enter Claudius).
CLAUD. Pray stay in your swift walk, if it please, and lend an ear to a few peaceful words, words destined to bestow the highest honors on your household, your father, yourself, and not least to all your kinsmen.
VA. Has my father issued you any command? How welcome to me!
CLAUD. I’ll make you blessed, foremost among Roman matrons, the queen of this noble city, and bear you on glory’s lofty car, so you may be an object of envy to all the girls.
VA. Sufficient dignity for a girl if her father is safe, sufficient dignity if he is alive and well. I humbly pray the gods for nothing more.
CLAUD. Oh beauty worthy of goddesses, oh bashful modesty! You are a girl to whom the Fates intend a worthy reward if you render yourself compliant.
VA. I scarcely understand what your riddling words mean.
CLAUD. Appius is overwhelmed by the love of you.
VA. Away with the shameless words of such a statement. The bold-faced adulterer!
CLAUD. This is Appius the decemvir, to whose axes, commands and will Rome itself submits, he whom the patricians adore, the people worship, and the senate loves. You are extremely fortunate if you can bring yourself to experience your happiness.
VA. The height of happiness is to live chastely and obey my father’s advice.
CLAUD. I admit there is some good in those things, and I would not wish you to shake off your father’s yoke. Take this letter, written in Appius’ own hand, he adores, venerates and worships you, and demands you has his wife.
VA. Take away that evil scrap of paper. My father did not raise me so that I would dismiss chaste modesty from my mind, and become a sacrifice to his criminal lust.
CLAUD. Nevertheless, take it, of you please. No magic charm will assault your eyes, this scrap of paper is not witchcraft to steal away your mind.
VA. (Reading the letter.) My heart, my soul, my senses, my mistress Virginia, a mistress mightier than the goddesses, your Appius greets you and, heedless of his power, faints with the desire to have you alone as a wife. He casts his eyes on you alone as long as heaven’s hidden torches continue to shine. He breathes forth you alone, as long as the sun’s brightness continues to shine. You throw his public affairs into confusion, you alone govern his fasces and cruel axes. My soul, the better part of my wounded heart, you are destined to wear the purple and are fated to be my only wife.
CLAUD. Does your bridegroom not vow everything you could wish?
VA. You are trying to wed water to fire. Sooner will Cynthius sink his chariot in the water, with nature’s order reversed, and bring the day from the western quarter, than Appius will convince me with his bold-faced entreaty. So cease your sly attempts to test a girl’s heart with your pointless prayers. (Enter the Nurse.) But here’s my nurse. Go away, you perjurer, you rascal.
CLAUD. You evil hag, I hope a wild fig tree will weigh down on your impious urn, let the earth lie heavy upon it, let a harmful thorn bush grow out of your ashes, and may poverty torment you while you still live. (Exit.)
NURSE Why linger, girl, when household concerns are calling? Who is that runaway who was speaking to you in solitude? Is this how you are mindful of your modesty and chastity? Are these things you promised to your departing father? What letter are you holding in our hand?
VA. Spare me, nurse. Have a look at these candied, evil symptoms of insane boldness, then give this to Icilius. Let Numitorius and my father himself have a look.
NURSE This is the decemvir’s handwriting. Sweet promises! You are naive, be careful to keep concealed this document given you, lest it make trouble for your bridegroom, your father, yourself and perhaps me as well. But, when tested by his entreaties you should resist stoutly.
VA. He can kill me, but he can scarcely win me over.
ACT II, SCENE iv
FIRST F. You must trouble doomed Rome with novel luxury, while I’ll provoke Appius criminal spirits, already arrogant and threatening. But what is he doing? And whence comes my brother Astarot?
SECOND F. Dragged forth from the shadowy cave of everlasting night and the dark recesses of black Dis, I have come, bent on revisiting my homes above. In the deep of the night I have unwillingly abandoned chaos, thick with shadows, compelled to behold the bright light of the shining sun and behold the light of heaven. Ixion, wearied by the burden of his wheel, is catching his breath, amidst the waters Tantalus is quenching his thirst, that renewable liver is crowing while the bird refuses it, no pain is being inflicted by that vulture, though lately he was bloodthirsty, and the Danaides have ceased their pointless labors. In my absence peace is granted to Tartarus. But why should I allow Romulus’ doomed descendants to triumph thus and mock my realm with impunity? I shall not allow it, I shall drive Appius headlong to wrath, I shall cause sudden disturbance in Rome, throw its laws into confusion. I shall command a strange, damnable, dire, fierce, cruel, savage, baleful, grievous and wild crime to arise, so that here the senate, and there the equestrians and people might call for arms, and so that the mutinous army might harbor dissent. Kindled by these torches, a funeral pyre will consume all Italy, ablaze with a novel source of fire, a maiden of solemn good faith. Devoted to her betrothed and heedful of her chastity, she shall refuse the stubborn assaults of that ferocious man. Her betrothed on the one hand, and her father on the other, will desire the maiden’s honor to be preserved. A violent Appius will hale her into court, and Claudius, the agent of his dire enterprise, will demand the girl to be set under the yoke of servitude, his sense of honor cast aside. Then with his own hand her father will stab her beloved heart and give her over to death. This hand will guide the whole business to a catastrophe, this torch will set the pyre ablaze. But I tarry too long, I shall make my powers known to the Romans. Away with sluggish delay.
ACT II, SCENE v
APPIUS, CLAUDIUS, VIRGINIA, THE FURY
Appius with his followers.
APP. Claudius’ slow delay renews my pains. Perhaps my rebellious mistress is turning a deaf ear to his entreaties. But I do not think so. It would not behoove Appius, the leading personality in the decemvirate’s regime to suffer a rebuff. But ;ove disdain such honors. Oh may Venus make us equals! I am blessed enough if Virginia heeds me. But here’s Claudius, wearing a glum expression and trudging along sadly. (Enter Claudius.). Tell me, what makes you downcast? Does my mistress refuse me, caring nothing for my wishes?
CLAUD. As a harsh crag, rough and intractable, rebuffs the water, so the maiden scorns converse with you because of her chaste heart, and says that her maidenhead is reserved exclusively for Icilius. She is not to be swayed.
APP. If entreaties have no power, perhaps harsh words will make her bend. Possibly the girl will yield to hard threats. You must mix menaces in with your entreaties. Go again. If she persists and does nothing to diminish my pain, force must be applied, you will make her mine by a show of strength.
CLAUD. With the city in a state of turmoil, this way is not safe.
APP. It’s unsafe, I admit. But yet it will receive consideration. Go, take this letter.
CLAUD. I’ll be happy to carry it. (He crosses the stage and sees Virginia and the nurse). Her hateful nurse, that evil person, is her companion.
NURSE That seducer is at hand. Manage your fight with care, my ward. If he offers a letter, you should take it so that the city, the Fathers, your parent, the proletariat and the army can behold as evidence of your chastity.
CLAUD. Appius bids his mistress be in good health. He totally burns, rages, and pines. Unless you are kind and rescue him, he is bound to die a pitiful, savage death. And he begs you to read about the condition of his mind. (Hands her a letter.)
VA. (Reading the letter.) You core of my heart, you bright light of Appiu, s by whose brilliance he is reduced to ash, you welcome sweetness, darling, honey, rose, have mercy on your lover. Unless you give his entreaties a favorable hearing, today will end either his suffering or his life.
CLAUD. At length, Virginia, you should permit your recalcitrant heart to be overcome. Peacefully surrender yourself to this great, powerful man, who has the ability to make you a happy woman, lifted up from your plebeian status and the low-down dregs. If, haughty and insolent, you neglect this man and do not give a patient hearing to his entreaties, nor submit to him with a humble disposition, he will avenge himself. Think about what your father is, and you yourself, and your friends who share your rank in society, and beware earning the wrath of a decemvir.
VA. Let him direct all the brunt of his fury against me, let him wield the fearful lightning bolt with which he is armed against me, let him thunder and storm, I shall offer my head to his whirlwind, and no day will alter my modest sensibilities.
CLAUD. If no blandishments or wealth move you, at least be terrified by the prospect of punishment and peril.
VA. Let him rend my limbs asunder, let him pierce my tormented body, I shall die as the chaste Virginia.
CLAUD. So shall I carry back these final responses? Are these your unalterable desires?
VA. Yes, unalterable. My steadfast mind is true to itself.
CLAUD. Under compulsion you will do that which you decline to do freely. Whoever provokes those in power neglects his own happiness and, heedless of himself, does not see what harsh Nemesis is preparing.
VA. Away with your bold-faced conversation, you unholy pimp. Don’t resort to your dagger to test a maiden’s heart.
FURY Continue trying to seduce this lovely virgin, wicked Appius. Lash out at the stars, the heavens, the sky, overturn the present condition of your city. For this I shall provoke the shades, I shall empty out the deep hollows of Tartarus so that the decemvirs may fall. I shall summon the proletariat to the Rostra, I shall incite riotous upheavals, I shall alter the laws, I shall throw the senate-house into confusion. But why am I delaying? The palaces, market-places and households should already have been set ablaze by my arson, and likewise the granaries, the gods’ temples and tenements. I have exercised unreasonable mercy, I have neglected a Fury’s habits, but I shall resume my old ferocity, I shall restore honor to Taenarum, their will be clear proofs of my rage against Rome. But I waste my time.
ACT II, SCENE vi
NUMITORIUS, VIRGINIA, THE NURSE, ICILIUS, HORATIUS, VALERIUS, SPURIUS. TARPEIUS
NUM. Your friends beg you check your tears, Virginia. In the absence of your father I shall take his part. I shall protect my niece, I do not refuse to be the single champion of your chastity. The laws of blood-kinship requires this, my deceased sister demands it. Why drench your cheeks with weeping? Rather you should recount this entire tragedy, and this assembly of your fiends will find a remedy.
VA. I am ashamed to speak, having so often been sought by wiles and pleasant words.
IC. What? Has Icilius’ consort been sought for debauchery? Has anybody in Romulus’ city dared do this in my lifetime? Won’t he die by my hand and atone for his sin?
HOR. If you act aright, the laws and rights of our nation, as well as the customs of our ancestral people will bring you face-to-face with this fellow after he has bound in chains, whatever seducer is daring to commit this hateful crime. There exist a tribunal, a courtroom, judgments, and laws.
IC. Am I to tolerate in silence this unprecedented crime, such as could make all the ages of this world shudder, a source of shame to myself and my posterity, without contriving a revenge worthy of a man? I want to get started.
VAL. Spare yourself, Icilius, and control yourself. What wrath urges one to do is often a thing at which the mind shudders once it is done, and a hand is late in admitting its guilt. Bridle your youthful anger with its pointless heat, and let reason moderate your unrestrained impulses, excessively let loose. Tell us everything, Virginia.
IC. I shall not tolerate these things.
TARP. You should act in accordance with the laws, Icilius, and in the Roman way you should command that he appear in chains before the praetor’s bench. Our favorable citizens will support you, the state will lodge its accusation, and you will have us ready at your side. Vengeance will be our concern, and Virginia will feel that she is not lacking a father. This scurvy adulterer will pay the price, and all your supporters will bring this to pass better than Icilius could by himself. The protections of the law are stronger than those of your own hand, don’t create danger for your supporters. Meanwhile, continue with your story, Virginia.
VA. After my father left the city, headed for the camp, and after he had sadly said farewell, this man set traps for my modesty. With his promises he offered me a legal marriage and said I’d be blessed with such a husband, and that I should not spurn the golden gifts of Venus, since men in power bestow wealth.
IC. Let me rip the face off this adulterer, let me tear him limb from limb.
NUM. Cease, furious Icilius, nor interrupt the rest of her story. You have not yet learned the identity of your enemy, nor has reason provided any means by which you might revenge yourself for such a great disgrace. Leave this thing to your friends.
VA. And so as I was going to school this sly, cunning, impertinent, impious pimp, affable with his friendly discourse, would confront me with his mixture of cheerful words and and intimidation. After giving me his usual greeting he would thrust these letters into my timid hand, calling me his mistress and his lady.
NUM. Appius gives Virginia a handsome greeting as if she were his own woman, mighty Appius, Appius, the lead singer in the chorus of the decemvirs.
IC. So do criminal deceits lurk beneath such a great mantle of office? Does Appius take advantage of this? Surely decemvirs should not set aside the laws so as to debauch children and brides. Appius though he may be, he will die by this hand.
NURSE Would that I could join you in that attempt! I’d fly at his beard?
IC. In my eagerness, friends, I beg you not to restrain me anymore.
HOR. A throng of henchmen crowd about him, Icilius, nor would it be easy for you to attack a magistrate whom the patricians fear, the army respects, and his colleagues adore. We must pursue some other, safer course which has less fear and danger.
IC. This sword will make an end to his shameless days, this hand will free our nation of his tyranny.
VAL. We must act with moderation. Appius has great power, his name is popular and his lineage is distinguished. You cannot hurt him, but you can harm yourself.
IC. I have no concern about death, as long as he dies by this hand.
NUM. You must approach Appius and ask him not to continue, not to assail the maiden’s chastity. And, should he reject you, her father must be summoned from the camp.
HOR. I like this. If her father were present he could make an impression on Appius and provide peace for his troubled daughter.
VAL. Go to Appius’ home, feigning a friendly attitude. Pretend to be happy and manage your words to that he does not discover you are aware of this thing done so treacherously. Explain the case as if it were a public complaint lodged with a supreme judge and decemvir, that a certain Roman citizen is undertaking strange deceits against a beloved wife.
TARP. But beware lest your unrestrained spirit make you speak any harsh words to Appius. You must prevail by law, just as Appius does by lust.
IC. I shall heed you, my friends. Having been admonished, I thank you.
HOR. And you, boy, go to the camp on swift feet and warn Virginius he must return to the city as quickly as possible.
MESS. I’ll see Virginius before Phoebus sets.
NUM. Icilius, you must cast a bridle on his uncontrolled lust. Remember that you are dealing with a decemvir.
VAL. Take care lest no rumor get abroad in the city, or even in Appius’ household, and some mistake make you a byword for our fellow citizens. See that you are cautious, since you desire to help your bride. For you have the ability to do great harm both to her and yourself. Hence this business requires great silence.
TARP. I greatly fear violence, Icilius, if Appius discovers you are defending the interests of the injured maiden or of your own. So keep your actions covert.
ACT II, SCENE vii
APPIUS, CLAUDIUS, ICILIUS
APP. My bitter lot! Oh, you fierce Fates! What good do my axes do me when I am stricken by this mad frenzy, what good do my fasces do this decemvir? What good is it to have my person surrounded by an armed band, if I am exposed to the power of crazed love, if that naughty boy denies me repose and ranges throughout my mind? They were fortunate back in former ages! They could devote their attention to free love, undeterred by an unreasonable betrothed, a stern father, or the laws. But here’s Claudius. (Enter Claudius.) Do you bring me sorrows, harbingers of my death? Do you bring to me in my unhappiness, or does my mistress make any pledge of my salvation? Why are you hesitating? Don’t deny your words to an afflicted man. You see how I have already prepared myself for bitter news.
CLAUD. She stoutly resists and refuses to provide any solace. Rather, she issues threats and chastely bids me keep my distance.
APP. Has a low-down proletariat acquired such high spirits? Suffering this rebuff, I’ll resort to my power. My fresh grief will erupt.
CLAUD. If you have a fixed determination to possess the girl, something comes to mind which will free you of this plague without making Appius seem responsible for the offence. I’ll lay claim to her as if she were born in my household. I’ll hale her to court as my serving-girl, as if she were born to her erstwhile master by a handmaid. In this business there will be need for your severity. You will sit as the judge and give my words a patient hearing. I shall demand my servant back and you will grant me her possession. Thus you will gain this unwilling girl who chose to refuse you.
APP. Oh, your keen mind! I like this, act, demand the rightful return of your servant whose “mother” (a woman past the age of childbearing) had brought home, purchased by her own money. I like this invention, oh you canny fellow! But act quickly so that excessive delay does not harm me.
CLAUD. I’ll try again to see if I can move or sway the rebellious girl.
APP. If that is unsuccessful, lictor, you will do your duty and drag this girl, already owed to my servant, to the sacred courtroom and to my bedroom. Let everything which must be done be hidden in silence.
CLAUD. Abandon these vain fears of yours. Within your nets I shall trap this quarry you seek. But see, Icilius is quickly approaching.
IC. Greetings, you pillar of Rome and glory of our Fathers, Appius, the glory of the senate and the darling of the common folk.
APP. May you have the good health you deserve, Icilius. What is your desire? What reason, what business has led you to visit my home so suddenly? Can Appius be of service to you? Command and here you will find a man to do your bidding.
IC. There are a few things I would discuss with you in private, remove your servants. The thing I need to discuss will not impose greatly on your time, once these witnesses depart.
APP. You may retire, my servants. Leave my atrium, lictor. (Everybody leaves.) This is place is free from all business, and nobody is overhearing. Tell me whatever the matter is.
IC. You unclean adulterer, if you show any signs of fear with your voice, this sword will be plunged into your throat. Keep whatever we do wrapped in silence, or you’ll pay for this crime with your death. Swear by the gods, both those above and those below, that you will not reveal whatever is transacted here.
APP. Pray have mercy, don’t stain your hands with the blood of Appius. Rather, you should revere the sacred honor of a magistrate. I swear by those that dwell in heaven and all the gods. What great crime do you want to expiate with my blood?
IC. Oh you dire fellow, you sewer of deceit, is this how with your false and anxious talk you conceal the debauchery your mind has designed? Has not the dear little maiden Virginia often been assaulted by your art, you treacherous and bold-faced pimp? Has she not received letters written in your hand, which were supposed to wrest the chastity from my intended bride? Will you deny this, you thief? Is this not your jewel? Is this not your writing? Look at this seal. Is this not your handwriting? Acknowledge this treacherous token and your words, Appius greets his mistress. Won’t you blush? Will you give me an answer, you violent, impious robber, you brutal, criminal plunderer of another man’s bed?
APP. Spare a man who admits his guilt, Icilius. If a wrong has been done, I shall make it right.
IC. This girl is not a sacrificial victim for a decemvir’s lust, her father did not raise my intended for such duties. Rather, she is the destined wife of Icilius, pledged by a solemn agreement. So cease. If I hear any more about letters or threats sent by Appius, this sword will put an end to your unclean love. (Exit.)
APP. I’ll not endure this unavenged. You’ll pay forfeits and my lashes will scourge your vile back.
ACT II, SCENE viii
VIRGINIUS, A MESSENGER, THE FURIES, CLAUDIUS, VIRGINIA, THE NURSE, A LICTOR
VIRG. Now the time appointed for Icilius marriage has nearly come, his period of betrothal is almost at an end, and now the wedding-torches must be raised. But a gasping messenger has arrived at a quick pace. How stands my household?
MESS. This letter will inform you what is transpiring in the city. Deliberations have already been held concerning your house, as you can learn from this letter.
VIRG. (Reading the letter.) The matter is at a crisis. Your domestic concerns require that you, the father, return. This is Icilius’ handiwork, he is entirely enamored with his girl and demands her, since she his pledged bride. Forgive him, come and tell him so. Let our furniture gleam, let new clothing be worn, let feasts be made ready. I shall request that your commander grant you leave, so that this bothersome boy’s wishes can be satisfied.
MESS. Don’t disappoint him, I beg you. Your family demands this, your circle of friends request it.
VIRG. Go, give my greetings to my daughter and father-in-law, and inform my brother and his friends of my speedy return. (Exeunt.)
FIRST FURY The matter has been advanced. Out of control, the decemvir burns with his frantic mind, he blazes with my fires. This firebrand has touched off a pyre deep within his heart. I shall press him, I shall banish peace and throw all Rome’s social orders into confusion so that the discordant city may suffer dissention. I shall feast my eyes on its flames and drink its gore.
SECOND FURY Go ahead, Claudius, go ahead and use your brutal hand to claim a free girl so that she might fall to you as if she were a vile servant. Hale Virginius’ daughter before the tribunal, claim her and make her your own, you unclean pimp. And be strong, Appius, in opposing your savage axes. You, bridegroom, and you, his uncle, oppose his foul love, and let the citizens of Rome, its soldiers, equestrians and Fathers witness his hateful crime. (Enter Virginia, Claudius and the nurse.)
CLAUD. Follow your master as his captive.
VA. Don’t lay your shameless hand on my chaste breast.
CLAUD. You are my handmaid, born in our household. I seek to bring you to the courtroom, to the tribunal.
NURSE Villain, she is a freeborn citizen. Keep away your unclean hand or I’ll scratch your face and you’ll feel an old woman’s strength.
CLAUD. Take this serving-girl, lictor. You bear witness, good citizens.
LICT. If you do not come with me freely, you will under compulsion. Appius’ cell awaits you.
VA. This is naked violence. Bridegroom, uncle, father, good citizens, come to the aid of my modesty, let me die a chaste girl. The decemvir’s lust is dragging me away.
CLAUD., LICT Come to the tribunal.
NURSE You won’t pull her away from my bosom as long as my life continues and heat moves my veins.
CLAUD., LICT. Come along unwillingly.
NURSE Hold your hand, villain.
MESS. Come quickly, Icilius, he’s dragging Virginia to the courtroom, as she vainly calls out your name and that of her father. Behold, that crew you see is surrounding the girl.
IC. Filthy pimp, this girl you are violating is mine, Virginia, Icilius’ betrothed, destined to be joined to me by chaste wedding-torches.
LICT. Nevertheless, she’ll come to court.
IC. Thief, impious man, obscene kidnapper, let go your criminal hand and give a husband back his bride.
CLAUD. The praetor summons. I swear that the laws of our citizens and our ancestral customs are being violated by this fellow. Woe, come to my aid, this citizen offers open resistance and by his action denies he is in the right.
NUM. This maiden is my niece, my chaste sister bore him to her husband. Remove your shameless hands from a pure maiden.
CLAUD., LICT. The laws have been abolished, you are not allowed to go to court.
Go to Act III