Tessera caerulea — commentariolum. Tessera rubicunda - nota textualis. Tessera viridis — translatio.
ACTUS IV, SCENE i
VETURIUS, VIRGINIUS, ROMAN ARMY, SEMPRONIUS, A ROMAN CITIZEN, NUMITORIUS’ SON
VET. Exhausted, we return. Virginius has occupied the city, inflicting a swift rout, and Siccius is approaching at forced-march speed. Have you any further news? Tell us, Siccius.
SIC. The long journey from the camp to Rome has cost me effort. Virginius now holds the city, and it is right for Antonius to learn this. I hear that certain treasonous citizens have condemned Appius’ crimes. But see how threatening Virginius has arrived, wearing a fierce expression.
SEMP. Is this your clothing, Virginius? Why these bloodstains? Why is your hand stained with gore?
VIRG. With your armed hand hurl your fearful thunderbolt at me from your heavenly home, you. ruler of heaven. Let your menacing flame consume this ancient body, let your balls of fire destroy this guilty person. Let heaven burst asunder and let a storm roar forth, and let the entire world know that my wretched self is dead. Criminal, accursed, impious, damned by heaven, I have deserved this. And when your brother leaves off, you lord of the trident, extract your due punishment, let the deep sea arise against its dire barrier, let the swelling ocean surge forth over the land, let it foam, let it spew forth its waters in their ebb and flow. Let the wave swallow me, and let whatever fearful thing lurks in its brine overwhelm this noxious old man. Or if the gods above favor crimes, you be present, you shades, let the ruler of Avernus let loose everlasting chaos. You earth, foul and clad in fearful squalor, yawn and take me. Open the recesses of your denser air, open your caverns, let me be hidden in a great cave where the sad night tends its dense abysses. Come, you Furies, from your pallid regions produce your pitchy torches, your flails, let your braided whips scourge my back with their bloody blows. Let that hateful bird feed on my renewing liver, let that slippery rock roll about on my shoulder. Let the wheel whirl for me, as well as the fleeing, deceiving water. I shall deservedly take up the burdens of the Titans, let the silent shades assault me as an abominable father. Flames, pitch, and fires are small things, I admit. Why delay my punishments, idle Nature? This hand of mine has done violence to the natural order we enjoy. Why do I still see the golden light of the sun? Why am I defiling the brightness of the clear air? Strong in the murder of a timid girl, why does my sinful hand hesitate? Give weapons to this wretch and I shall cut short my lingering existence in the light of day. With this bloody knife and this ruinous hand, alas the sorrow, I shall follow my murdered only daughter. Will nobody finish me with his friendly spear? Or does some worse evil await this dire old man? I ask you gods for nothing more than to sacrifice me to the gods of the Underworld. Take me, you depths. Take this person, you shades, not destined to depart the Underworld. Or rather, let the sack, the cock, the dog be prepared. I like the snake’s companionship down in the deep, and the disgrace of the ape gives me similar delight. Let black oxen and a black cart carry me off, or a grievous pall cover me as I am driven to my death. Stretch my frame, executioner, tear me apart limb by bloody limb. Let your cords hold me suspended. Appius is slow and hesitant, he pauses in joining a father to his daughter. Where are the arms of the law? Where are its threats? Hear, you Underworld, hear, you world, the things I shall confess in my guilt.
SIC. What bloody grief is provoking Virginius? His anxious, glum comrades are seeking him. Our allies are armed, do you want to avenge this crime? Virginius will see a fearless Siccius arriving at the quick-step, and the rest will accompany him.
VET. This sword will fight for Virginius. Give the ready command, and I shall obey your orders. What reason has impelled this poor man to give free rein to the passions of his thunderstruck mind? Vengeance is readied, Veturius’ weapons will provide it.
VIRG. Do not aim your weapons at any man. I am the sole guilty party, I am the only person unworthy of enjoying the light of day. I am a parricide, Virginia lies dead by this hand of mine, Virginia perished by this knife. I, her father, alas, killed my sole daughter, a father’s grief closes my mind, competing emotions roil my troubled self and I wretchedly fall to the ground. Darkness closes my eyes and they refuse to see the daylight any longer. Ah, the blood, this is the pure blood of my daughter, which all the waters of the sea cannot wash away, or holy flames can purge. My sin pursues me, this head of mine is the single thing which can appease the gods, even though as her father I was compelled to do the deed. Hear the shabby story, ruinous to me, fit to make the city and its posterity blush, fit to astonish history, a disgrace to soldiers and a bane for fathers. Why am I delaying, an embarrassment to the sun? Virginia was often tempted by sweet letters, entreaties, and threats. With a chaste heart she resisted. The raging decemvir Appius used Claudius to have her haled before his tribunal. That man maintained she was his by right, a servant-girl born in his household, and petitioned Appius for her. As if made arrogant by his anger, in the middle of the courtroom he dared exact his vengeance, alas, and made this girl of my blood a sacrifice to his lust, and the paternal heat flared up more mightily within me. With this knife, with this hand I willingly killed the maiden so to free her from the yoke of servitude. She died, chaste and mine.
ALL The bloody crime!
SIC. Virginius, take my good faith and my vengeful powers and use them however you will.
ALL We will march wherever you lead us.
VIRG. I fear no more for myself, comrades. The fates have stolen my wife Numitoria, her death made me a bachelor. Did I murder my daughter so as to live on as an isolated, bereft old bachelor? This hand of mine will retain its constancy, I will fearlessly despoil Appius of his youthful body and of that portion of blood which hides within his veins. But I do fear for you, I regret your misfortunes, you upon whom those tyrants the decemvirs furiously exercise their wrath. Would that Virginius could be a warning to you all of how Appius might rip your daughters from your bosoms for his lustful purposes and send their bodies under the heavy yoke of servitude!
CITIZEN While they paralyze you with the sound of their weeping, while their crime astounds you brave soldiers, the city is entirely up and arms and besieges Appius’ house, the proletariat restrains his lustful passions. They have possession of his home while his fearful colleague Oppius throws away his fasces and flees the Forum, and now no safety remains for the decemvirs. The feeble commoners wish to die as free men. Look down upon them. Will liberty belong only to those who have arms, or will their togas prove stronger than the brutal sword? This is intolerable, soldiers. You must join arms with the citizenry. Let this power fail, let tyranny collapse.
SIC. Your dear freedom is granted you, if our army be daring. Now the gods favor your wishes. Now Siccius’ hour has dawned, on which he will seek the right of exacting blood-vengeance on the decemvirs. We certainly need be on our guard, soldiers. My brother lies dead in Sabine land and Virginia in the middle of the Forum. He lies as a corpse, she as a victim to lust, and dire starvation has recently oppressed you wretches. So why do we brave men continue to let our hands hover over the hilts of their words? Don’t you think these are injuries enough.
VET. Our vengeance is more than sufficiently deserved, if it please you. Let our arms be raised, let our energetic captains bend their banners towards the city, I shall avenge your daughter. Let Appius atone for his crime with his spilled blood.
SON OF NUM. Their unbounded fury accepts no bridle, neither any concern for the gods nor any reason guides their minds. The darker recesses of prison hold my father, the lictor heaped chains on his free neck as Rome looked on — ah the unheard-of crime! — for saying that Virginia was his niece, at which the decemvir was thunderstruck: “Come, lictor, bind his hands and lock him up in the black dungeon of a dire prison until he atones for the insults he has inflicted on me.” Brave men, his son begs you to free my innocent father from his chains, soldiers, and release an upright citizen who loves you.
ALL We are suffering indignities.
VET. Raise the eagles, captains, and swiftly bring it about, comrades, that a free Numitorius is able to give you thanks.
CITIZEN An equal misfortune holds Icilius prisoner and his cross is being readied. Dire and bestial punishments are prepared for that innocent man, because he dared say the girl was plighted to himself and ought to be treated chastely. Soldiers, injured Icilius begs your hands and your support.
SEMP. Would any man believe these monstrosities? Who has seen crimes heaped upon crimes? Our citizens are very slow to respond, as are our soldiers.
VIRG. An unhappy old man, I ask that it be permitted Virginia to have the empty glory of a stone with a small inscription. Let me gaze upon her wound, inflicted by a father’s hand. Let me erect a tomb for my single poor daughter.
ALL Let Appius pay for his crime.
SON I must take off my toga and strap this sword to my side until my father exits his cell. What are we doing? Why has our sluggish virtue been slow to act? At least let us enjoy some safety, soldiers. (Enter a messenger.)
MESS. The Fathers pray you to desist in this rebellious uprising. They tearfully request that brave men should not foment cruel uprisings.
VET. Henceforth no commands have any value for us brave men until the decemvir takes off his purple, once more a private citizen, and until Appius’ head is sent rolling by a sword.
MESS. If Appius pays for his crime will you put down your arms?
ALL We call for Horatius alone, and Valerius. Let them be sent, for they are beloved to the army.
SIC. We will listen to the Fathers’ mandates coming from their mouths, they alone will be able to make an impression on the roiling camp.
SEMP. Take back this message: the army has steel, it has hands.
ACT IV, SCENE ii
The body is brought onstage.
IC. Cruel wound! Unhappy wound! You renew my sorrows. Ah Virginia, lately Icilius’ honor, hope, and glory! Ah, grief oppresses me and chokes off my voice. This corpse possessed and still does possess my vital spirit. Is this a father’s knife? Is this a father’s hand? You gods, can I witness such a dire wrong? See how the rosy charm of her brow fades by death’s pallor. Maidenly modesty once lay upon these cheeks, which are now pale with a lurid hue. These eyes served as my stars, now hidden, shut with an iron sleep. Her lips were lately marked with signs of heaven, her honeyed voice is destined long to remain silent, they have lost their glory. This breast, once a shrine of chastity, lies open with a gaping wound.
NUM. Icilius, in vain you emit heavy complaints with your words and seek to rouse her pious shade. Let your tears vanish, these are weapons dear to women. Let your lamentations cease, and the defeated Appius and his decemvirs experience your sorrows. Command that they be banished the city and enter prison. At this point, the optimates support you alone. Horatius has taken up arms and Valerius is displaying sure signs of acting as a magistrate, frequently naming Icilius and saying that he will be the leader in gaining his deserved revenge. Icilius’ name is taken up throughout the Forum, see how the city itself justly seethes with grief.
IC. Let my fellow citizens perceive Appius’ savage outrage, let the whole city see the evidence of his crime. Let us take her up on our shoulders. Lately this girl was Icilius’ intended bride, bestowed on me by her father in accordance with our holy custom. Let all you wives and children, mothers and fathers, free men and slaves come a-running. This is Appius’ lust. See the gaping wound, ah! the inflicted to my sorrow. What security remains, what is safe in the city, if it is legal to abduct intended brides by cunning and deceit? Avenge something not seen by any earlier age, have a care for your posterity. Rejoice, you barren women, alas for cruel fertility! Henceforth it will be a crime to have had children. Arm your avenging hands, let Appius pay the price, let the decemvir suffer heavy penalties for his felony. Virginia, I shall take the lead in performing your rites, let your shade learn that Icilius is vengeful. Come hither, you gods above and below.
ACT IV, SCENE iii
RIOTING IN THE FORUM
AP. Lictor, be quick in attacking these troublemakers. Enchain their hands even tighter, my fellow citizens.
FIRST LICTOR These manacles are ready for mischiefmaking hands, they’ll soon be put on.
SECOND LICTOR You vile mob, see how the decemvirs command you to be thrown into a dark dungeon. Appius commands us to bind your hands
HOR. Show respect for this assembly, you shabby henchmen. Over there stand our sacred Fathers, there stands the second order, and here we have the elected leaders of the plebeians and the faction of the optimates. Appius has reveled enough in the blood of our citizenry. At length let him grow quiet.
FIRST LICT. Don’t the decemvirs have legitimate authority over dissidents? Isn’t it seditious to refuse to to defer to the man to whom the senate showed deference?
SECOND LICT. You’ll come in chains, Appius orders your arrest. Take these bonds you have earned, rascal.
VAL. If you want to compete with me before the law, I stand bail for Icilius. I’ll address my fellow citizens whenever I want and it is legal. But if you prefer a show of force, I’ll resort to violence in order to defend myself against violence. Meanwhile I’ll break your cruel axes so that Appius cannot threaten the Fathers with destruction or the disgrace of imprisonment. Go, lictor, and tell him that we have lawfully prevailed, and will not defer to his power, no longer being his inferiors in dignity or popular support.
SEMP. Oppius, a bloody danger will overtake you all, if you are not careful. Every citizen is thronging the Forum, they are an armed power. The outcries of our citizenry demand Appius for his punishment. Numitorius is a free man, as is Icilius, they’re freed of their chains, so get going swiftly. The decemvirs’ faction will entirely collapse unless Oppius alone opposes the lust of its madmen. Make haste, delay will be ruinous. Behold, the multitude has been aroused and now nearly all Rome, passionate and threatening, has occupied the Forum.
OPP. Our government has been overcome by violence, the crowds are howling. We must defer to this cruel storm. Who’s their popular leader? Who broke Appius’ axes? I recognize Valerius. What do his words signify?
VAL. (Speechifying.) I am of the opinion that my fellow citizens should restore the right of the vote, and that long ago Appius has deserved imprisonment. If they act in a threatening way, the rest of his colleagues should be suppressed in the same way.
OPP. The entire popular convocation declares Appius to be a criminal. But let the Fathers be convened and show us what is to be done.
HOR. I will hasten to assemble the senate. It is the sole source of repose and safety for this troubled city.
VAL. Hasten to the senate house. Let us all go, we must consult for the sake of the republic, and it is unbecoming for the Fathers to fail the people. (Exeunt all, leaving the Furies.)
FIRST FURY (Driving the ghost of Lucretia.) Will you not be quick to throw the plebeians and Fathers into commotion? Or do you prefer to be flailed with my poisonous whips? Go on, you accursed, treacherous, brutal, impious, rebellious soul, you will be urged on by my torches if you do not make haste of your own volition. Won’t you speak, you naughty woman?
LUC. Savage ruler of the shades, permit poor Lucretia to return to the stygian lakes. I pray you give my shade its usual oblivion. Return me to deep night, lest I am compelled once more to behold abominable princes. Don’t hand me over to the lustful license of a tyrant. For me, the Inferno is better, and the heavy punishments of Tartarus are more welcome than the sight of the city, or the splendor of the sun above.
SECOND FURY This bloody torch laden with its fiery pitch will make you speak, I’ll flay your back with this knotted lash if you don’t turn about immediately and move your fellow citizens. Let criminal Rome hear your complaints, let its concord crumble and its mutual affection perish. Speak aloud as a herald.
LUC. Come hither, you matrons, you who are moved by the modesty of a chaste appearance, the decent concealment of a lowered hemline, and tresses bound by a brooch. Come hither, your Lucretia summons you, released from the pallid realm. This breast, opened wide by my own hand, albeit I was compelled by my disgrace and shame, speaks to you. Once upon a time that dire king had no fear in wounding my chastity. But my upright sense of shame cleansed itself all blame: by the swift shedding of my blood I set an example for my age of the world. Come hither you brave men who govern the laws. Where is fierce Brutus? Or my father, mighty with his steel? Where is my husband, once distinguished by his popularity? Under leadership of all these the government of that mad, arrogant prince collapsed. Tarquin was exiled, as was the cruelty of Porsena, and an imprisoned Rome recovered from tyranny. It is fatal to be a chaste woman. Lately Virginia has been seen by the dark Styx, telling of the grave catastrophe of her new wound. She told us how she had been wooed by Appius, how she stoutly resisted his lust, and how her pure breast had been stabbed by her father’s hand. Our situations were alike, and I pray that their results are too. Avenge this crime, you new consuls. May you new tribunes guard the republic. Let Virginia be the companion of chaste Lucretia. It is enough to have issued this advice, I return to Tartarus.
ACT IV, SCENE iv
THE TRIBUNES, THE SENATE, THE ARMY’S DELEGATION
IC. Indeed it is fair that our citizens be given their stolen rights, and that new tribunes of the people, once your sole bulwark. should return. It is your responsibility, pontifex, to keep watch on the birds, whether they announce future events with their cries, helping us as birds of prophecy, or whether they foretell by their flight. The pontifex presides over elections. You must guide us when we are in doubt and summon your fellow citizens to the Campus Martius. Let our magistrates be deemed sacred.
FUR. I am moved by the dangers of dissent. Men’s spirits are aroused by the tottering condition of our republic. Icilius. I must seek our safety amidst our troubled times, I’ll placate the gods by offering up incense at their altars, I shall devise pious prayers. And, since our fellow citizens wish consuls to be returned to them, and our lowest order demands tribunes for itself, I shall announce a day for elections at the Campus Martius. You should plant a shining banner atop our citadel, let trumpets loudly sound, and may the gods attend to the rest.
FIRST LICTOR I shall ascend the Capitoline so that our citizens might behold that flag with its tokens of peace.
SECOND LICT. I shall shepherd our citizens into their voting stalls, so that that field might be renewed and display free voting, now dead and buried.
FIRST LICT. The stalls are summoning the citizenry.
NUM. And the Campus is summoning you. Lead the way, pontifex. I pray that many a bird give its assent, and that under the guidance of Furius the people might renew its leadership. Go ahead, venerable sir, keep watch for lightning on the left and for prophetic birds. Let the voting-field be free of thunder on the left and earthquakes.
FUR. It shall be as the gods command. (Enter Oppius.)
OP. A terrible crime! A passionate faction, furious and threatening, riots through the city. It abominates all the decemvirs because of the offense of one of them. You must cast your grave votes as a remedy. Let the pontifex be summoned swiftly.
FIRST LICT. Furius is present.
HOR. This business demands your attention, pontifex. You alone can pacify the mad populace. For only religion and fear of the gods is capable of calming impassioned men.
FUR. I was preparing to consult the gods on the Campus Martius, so that the Tribute of the People might resume his honors. This is the sole road to peace.
OP. I am very afraid lest the camp is in turmoil, lest the common soldiers draw swords against their officers and demand that Appius’ new misdeed be avenged. Virginius is dear to one and all, and his title as father and his recent sorrow will perhaps destroy their discipline. We must take measures against this great evil.
VAL. Leave this task to me. I’ll visit the camp and urge the soldiers to reserve their hatred for our enemies. Let them be properly obedient to their captains. Let only Horatius accompany me and I’ll shatter their rebellious passions and pacify them.
HOR. No day will accuse me of being behindhand in these matters. I shall be your companion in this undertaking, no matter where fortune carries us.
OPP. Farewell, you glories of your people and bright lights of the Fathers. Restrain this uprising. Let them vote for concord.
HOR. AND VAL. Farewell, Fathers.
OP. Great fear oppresses me. Perhaps it would be more expedient for Horatius and Valerius to remain here, where the could restrain the frenzy of the common folk.
TARP. Entrust that care to me, Fathers. Let Julius, a former consul, be my companion, and let Sulpitius stand it my side, once ennobled by the lofty axes. I shall hurry to the camp and quench this ardent indignation. I shall instruct the army in its duties. By your leave, I shall report to Horatius and Valerius that I laid first laid claim on this legation. If I achieve nothing and the senate’s threats and entreaties leave the recalcitrant army moved, they can go there, if the gods lend a favorable hand.
OPP. Let this be resolved, Tarpeius. Let this be your responsibility.
VIRG. (To the army.) Comrades, why do I linger on enjoying the breath of life? What reason makes life desirable for a lonely old man, a bereft father? Are we unmoved by our common danger? Will our battalions allow Appius to proceed with violence against our persons, unpunished?
VET. We shall not endure this wrong. Antonius will atone with his spilt blood, and the rest of the decemvirs will experience a similar downfall. Siccius, now you have the chance to avenge the blood shed by your murdered brother. Let Antonius have his chains and let the same fate await his heavy-handed colleagues.
SICC. You evil general, the shades of my brother are striving to place these manacles on you, and you draw back your hand? These chains and bonds are prepared for you, or this sword.
ANT. What crime have I unhappily committed?
SEMP. The violation of our liberty places these chains on you, and your deadly colleague Appius hands you over to a bloody end.
SICC. Follow me, you faithless general.
VET. Would that Veturius could hold all those scurvy decemvirs the way he now holds Antonius, their lawless government would suffer a downfall! But what are we doing? Lift up that flag planted in the ground, soldier, let the eagles be rased. The Aventine awaits us. Give the signal, trumpeter, with a warning blare. Don’t you like the idea of filling the Sacred Mount with these squadrons?
SEMP. I’ll gladly carry forward the standards.
SICC. Good, let’s go. I am thirsty for Appius’ blood
VET. Behold, our chosen hill lies open, ready to be occupied by our army and its camp. Behold the ridges of the Aventine. Today I’ll give it the honor of bearing Virginia’s tomb.
VIRG. May the gods repay you with favors matching your deeds, comrades. Virginius will be reborn thanks to this gift, and set aside his heavy old age once more. It will suffice for my murdered daughter’s shade if she perceives our act of vengeance’ that, with the decemvirs’ faction destroyed, our sacred liberty is restored thanks to your virtue, accompanied by her father. (Enter Tarpeius.)
TARP. The senate sends a representative, soldiers, to ask by whose command you have dared raise your standards, which of your officers has convinced you to march on the city. Is this the good faith you vowed to your commanders? Are your tents deserted? What does this throng portend? Who has encircled the city? Why does the Aventine resound with the uproar of raging men? Why is this armed faction threatening Rome? Is this how brave men plunge weapons into the bowels of their nation, which might better experience you as a rebellious enemy? Pray let this fury subside and reason return. What are you thinking, Veturius? Is this how it seems to you, Siccius? Can this be pleasing to Sempronius? Nobody answers me, are you all tongue-tied. Words fail you all.
ALL We call for Valerius and Horatius. Let them be sent.
TARP. Soldiers, the senate will now command Valerius and Horatius to hasten to you. They love you, the Fathers adore them. Beware lest insolent audacity, temerity, or wrath make you headstrong. It is sufficient to give this warning. Farewell, until your requested commanders arrive. Pray ground your weapons.
ACT IV, SCENE v
THE ROMAN ARMY, THE SENATE, APPIUS, OPPIUS, HORATIUS, VALERIUS, TARPEIUS, SULPITIUS, THE SON OF NUMITORIUS
VIRG. Comrades, great dread can attach to small things. This recent legation and the fear it caused went to show how easily a fierce multitude can be coopted when it lacks leadership. Perhaps each speaker delivered a useful opinion about what needs be done. But such a response led to a catastrophe: there was no genuine virtue, no warlike planning. We should all be of a single mind, if the public danger requires something. I would recommend that within the camp there be ten military tribunes with supreme authority to determine everything that should be done. Let the army look to those ten for its orders.
VET. Virginius, let such a great honor belong to you alone.
SEMP. Virginius, the army ought to be indebted to you for undertaking this task.
SICC. Virginius, this is our decision, you be our commander.
VIRG. While I’m an unhappy wretch?
ALL The camp calls for you to be its commander, Virginius.
VIRG. Your affection and ready disposition are welcome and I very much thank you for your support which would appoint Virginius to such a lofty position, as if I were competent. But my grief for my dead daughter does not permit me to accept any honor, my domestic sorrow constrains me, my daughter prevents this unhappy old man from accepting any public responsibility. What could be happy or glorious for me after inflicting that wound? After bloodying my hands? After plunging that knife into her virginal breast? Then too, it would not be right for such an unpopular man to command others. Chose another commander, comrades. I no longer resist the Fates, if I am allowed to die.
OP. (In the senate.) Spurius, pray tell us what transpired at the camp. Are our soldiers taking up their abandoned standards, or does their anger persist?
TARP. Our hopes for concord are dashed. The army yields to no warnings or entreaties. The requirements situation call for you, Horatius, and the common soldiery are demanding you, Valerius.
VAL. Valerius is not going to the camp before the faction of the governing decemvirs lays down its arms. You resign your proud fasces, Oppius, and take off the purple. Our yearly magistracies are returning. Fathers, Valerius does not refuse to undertake this duty or these labors.
OP. I should set aside my axes? Am I to go without these fasces? No day will see Spurius Oppius a private citizen until the laws are put right and the course of legislation dismisses all ten of us.
HOR. If you all do not take off your purple willingly, then you will do so under compulsion, since you are burdensome to all orders of society. I ask you, to whom will you henceforth dictate the laws? The lonely emptiness of the Forum clearly pronounces you hateful to the people. Our republic will collapse and this city be destroyed by steel or bloodshed, unless you put off the purple of supreme honor.
APP. Appius will never take off that which Rome deservedly conferred on him. It would not be right for us decemvirs, legally inaugurated, to be brought to heel, save by a law written, published, and announced to the people.
SON OF N. You are untroubled by any concern for the republic when it is torn by dissent, Fathers, as you fearfully indulge in your pointless haggling. Now the army has created ten tribunes, such a great undertaking was done under the leadership of Virginius, and he holds Antonius bound in chains. Nor is our army’s anger any less than that of the Sabines. Under Icilius’ leadership it has elected the same number of tribunes, and you should not imagine it is lacking in determination. Right now they are pitching their tents on the Sacred Mount, in the manner of our ancestors. In their disorderly state they are now threatening arson, swords, torches, and every manner of dire thing. They are asking what can be safe in our Latin city, if villains thus persist in furiously slaking their lust, and sacred liberty perishes for us poor folk? If chastity is an empty word? If our erstwhile consuls are abolished? And if Virginia lacks a tomb and is destined long to lack one, if you do not help. And you, Appius, the source of these evils —
APP. I recognize the unspeakable seed of Numitorius? Do you, the dregs and basest part of the sordid plebeians dare insult those in authority?
SON Though my breeding be never so humble and no distinguished pedigree adorns my house, although no shelf adorns my atrium, my father is nevertheless a patriot and no liberty was lost under his leadership, no virgin feared for her chastity, no fathers groaned. The city is not overthrown and weeping, the camp is not condemning Numitorius. I admit he holds the lowest place in the city, and yet you are not allowed to trample on the plebeians.
TARP. We can do without a mighty consul and a decimvir better than a tribune of the people. I am of the opinion that you ought now to remove the purple, I am of the opinion this would pacify the city.
OP., APP. I won’t go without my fasces, I shall not remove my robe.
VAL. The consensus of the Fathers, the interest in obtaining peace in our afflicted city, and the unanimous outcry of all our orders is that henceforth you are not decemvirs. Let the government which has ceased to exist be stripped of its sacred insignia.
APP., OP. The Fathers compel us to be private citizens against our will? We’ll not endure that.
SULP. You will endure it, you evildoers. If you disdain the laws and are untroubled by the feelings of your fellow citizens, and if you do not resign willingly, we must resort to force.
HOR. I hope we resort to force.
SULP. You evil-minded fellows, will you take off the purple?
APP. That outrage will not occur during Appius’ lifetime.
OPP. That outrage will not occur during Oppius lifetime.
SULP. Indeed it will. You magistrate’s attendant, in accordance with the mandate of the Fathers fall upon Appius the troublemaker and likewise pull Oppius off his throne, weigh down his hands with chains, and lead him to the Tullianum b . The Fathers command this.
TARP., HOR., VAL. Lead them off, lictor, and arrest anybody who opposes you.
FIRST LICT. These chains are prepared for Appius’ hands.
SECOND LICT. You threaten him in vain, these chains belong to Oppius.
OPP., AP. Oh dire madness! Wicked traitors!
SULP. Fathers, our citizens have now recovered their lost rights. Now we must see what has transpired in the Campus Martius, whether the birds of omen have delivered their message and the consul and the tribune have taken up their fasces. You, you beloved son of a glorious father, visit the voting-pens4. Command Furius to report the votes and the Fathers to take an interest in what might settle the turbulent condition of the city.
SON OF N. I’m ready to go, I’ll be careful to announce what must be done.
VAL. How welcome to learn of conditions in the camp!
SULP. Those soldiers who were campaigning in Sabine territory have arrived under Icilius’ standards, but the legion which had held the fields of Etruria have Virginius as their leader, and now are settled on the Sacred Mount, as Numitorius’ son has now advised me. I have discovered these things by means of other witnesses as well.
ACT IV, SCENE vi
THE INAUGURATION OF THE CONSULS AND TRIBUNES
SON OF N. Furius, the Fathers are asking you what has been done, and whether the dignity of the consuls is to be restored. Have the gods spoken favorably to the tribunes? Is the decemvirate dead and gone? Now the city has no fear of a hundred axes.
FUR. The gods have been favorable, a lawful election has now created consuls and Rome once more has its tribunes. But I see Valerius and Horatius approaching. This is welcome, they have been made our consuls.
HOR. The auspices have been taken, the pontifex is returning to the Campus, and Rome once again has new consuls.
VAL. Holy priest, tell us what the gods intend.
FUR. Behold, the gods grant Horace and Valerius the badges of consular dignity, pray take up your fasces of happy omen. The voting-pens appoint you, and rejoicing Rome seeks you as her consuls.
VAL. I shall ensure that henceforth nothing shall be harmful, and I shall willingly restore our abolished laws, my fellow citizens. May the gods above be my witnesses, citizens, during my consulship I shall always hold the republic dearer than my own life.
HOR. Do the voting-pens and the favoring people create me the second chief of the republic? I pray the gods that our future actions be prosperous, and I call Jove on high and you, my fellow citizens, no concern for my private affairs will distract me now that I am made a consul.
FUR. ’Tis well, may the powers above help you. Farewell, good consuls.
HOR. Farewell, Furius. Lead the way, lictor, the city must be put in good order, and the vengeance of the law must be provided to poor Virginius.
VIRG. The criminal decemvirs languish pent up in the darkness of the dungeon, let us be vigorous in prosecuting their dire crime.
NUM. What good news you tell Numitorius, my brother! How delighted I am to have survived, so that I can witness the decemvir beheaded in the Forum or in his prison, and to be dragged to the deep current of the Tiber by a hook! But here’s Furius. What happier forecasts have you to announce, Furius? What magistrates are our fellow citizens to have once more? Who are consecrated as our tribunes?
FUR. Valerius and Horatius have already been proclaimed consuls, let this be a good and happy thing. The happy city calls for Icilius, Virginius, and Numitorius, for the plebeians make you their tribunes.
IC. Me a tribune? Does Icilius seem worthy of so great an honor? Do my fellow citizens elect me?
Does a lawful election consecrate me as a magistrate? This favor of the common people will tightly bind Icilius, henceforth no day will accuse me of being an ingrate. Hail, blessed purple! Return, you liberty once lost! I shall ensure that all things are safe. Let my fellow citizens acknowledge that I possess the fasces for the public good and advantage.
VIRG. So is that honor to be born once more by this old man. Is this badge of the fasces to be assumed by a wretched father, and the purple to be worn on his shoulders? I do not decline, if the republic requires it. At all times Virginius will comport himself a a citizen. My magistrate’s assistant, hand me the purple, let this sword be hung at my side. I swear by the eternal gods, I shall use these fasces in no way but modestly, for the peace and quiet of each and every one of Rome’s social orders.
NUM. Bring me the purple, lictor, which is to be worn on my aged shoulders since Rome seeks me as its tribune. Though my trembling hands can wield no arms, let this drawn sword be worn at my side. Bear witness, Jupiter, you ruler of the world, great Mars, father of our city, mother Vesta, and you, Romulus, our patron hero, Numitorius will not wield the fasces for any purpose which could harm the republic. This is enough to proclaim.
SICC. This hill has been able to display the constancy of the Latin common people. Here great usury once created great danger, but here my grandfather took up the fasces as a tribune and the plebeians’ liberty was protected, the authority of the consuls was shattered and the madness of the optimates succumbed after receiving a defeat. My grandfather will witness his grandson vigorously imitating himself at this same apex of dignity. I swear by the gods on high, above all by mighty Jove, and by that prince who was our founder, I shall be a help to the plebeians, wielding these fasces I have taken up for the public good. If I am deceitful, gods, let this purple in which I am clad exist to my shame, let lightning drive this my person down to the shades below, and perish Sicinius.
FUR. Pray let the tribunes have their deserved happiness.
VIRG. This bloody crime provokes me, the blood shed by my daughter hovers before my eyes. Its brutality and the memory of this treacherous misdeed robs this wretched father of his sleep at night. I, her father, killed his only daughter, and to her father she alone looks for vengeance. Alas, the bloodstained shade of this innocent only daughter lacks a tomb. Whether the Blessed Fields await you, owed you for your virtues, where you may happily join the company of pious heroines and where Persephone may relieve you of your chaste sorrows, or whether you wander the shore of the sad Styx alone while your father readies revenge for your death, be present, appeased. Behold, in the sight of Rome the requital demanded by your chastity will be granted you, the requital earned by the crime of impious Appius.
NUM. Swiftly swoop down on Claudius, lictor. When he is captured put chains on him and lock his sorry self in a black cell until the tribunes command him to come forth. Make Antonius leave the camp and take off his purple in the Forum, no longer recalcitrant.
LICT. I shall carry out your commands.
CLAUD. Rumor terrifies my fearful self. On the one hand, I hear the riotous outcries of the aroused army. There fierce elderly Numitorius entertains the soldiers with his frequent speechifying. On the other, the other camp resounds with support for Icilius and extols his impious name to high heaven with its favorable shouting. And just now — But may the gods keep this omen at a far distance. Appius, together with his comrade the decemvir Oppius, has been dragged from the middle of the senate and imprisoned in the Tullianum, and this has given poor Claudius reason for fear. But an even worse rumor has filled my ears, that new consuls have been created by a lawful election. It is burdensome to hear the names of Valerius and Horatius, ah, those enemies of Appius, those hateful, wicked, malevolent enemies. But let it be so, let these men be consuls, perhaps the plebeians will protect me. But I am foolishly wrong. The pontifex standing in the middle of the Forum pronounced arrogant Icilius, that most brave Virginius and, ah! cautious Numitorius tribunes of the people. Either an ill-disposed, lying rumor has reported these things or certain death and a shameful fate await me. But these things presage the ultimate of bad fortune for Claudius. I must escape the assault of this threatening danger somewhere where the name of Rome is entirely unknown. (Enter lictor.)
LICT. Stay, evil Claudius, the tribunes require you to post bail. Follow me, if you don’t wish to be dragged.
CLAUD. I obey. Lictor, ah good lictor, tell me how affairs have turned out in the city and in the camp. Are Appius and his companion Oppius shut up in the darkness of prison? Who are the new tribunes of the people?
LICT. Your chains will tell you. Follow me, evildoer.
CLAUD. I am not seeking to avoid my punishment. But let me in my unhappiness know the state of the city.
LICT. The Rostra will let you know tomorrow.
CLAUD. Alas! Poor Claudius, unlucky Claudius, farewell to your beloved freedom!
Go to Act V