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ACT III, SCENE i
After a kind of competition in expressing their affection for each other, both Alban and Amphibalus have a change of costume and make their escape. St. Alban is taken, while the other one barely manages to make his escape.
ALBAN, AMPHIBALUS, FAUSTULUS, A SHEPHERD, THEOPISTUS, PROTEUS, AGATHO, THRASO, POLEMO
AMPH. So has Proteus frankly said that those gods are manufactured?
ALB Unless a thick mist of darkness beclouds his mind, he has quite ridiculed their empty chaos. Like someone bent on menace, I attacked him with my sword drawn as if determined to discover whether he was undetermined in his faith. He stood there fearlessly. (Enter Theopistus and gives a letter to Alban.) “Crispus to Alban: Quick, quick, quick!” Who gave this to us?
THEO. The shepherd.
ALB. Don’t let him leave yet. (Exit Theopistus.) “Whatever this is, it is best to trust a friend’s safe ears. It is best to give your friend a hearing while your ears are still safe. Proteus, less sincere than that Proteus of mythology, has no reverence for the holy name of our faith and is betraying you and the priest. Now he comes a-flying with a cohort to arrest the both of you. Farewell and flee.” Oh that deceptive Sinon! His soul is for sale! Thus you conceal the venom of your tongue with venom?
AMPH. Our Proteus surpasses the sea-god Proteus in his unreliability Come, let the world go to smash, you must stand firm with your own mass. This is a time that calls for fearless minds.
ALB. Take to your heels, Amphibalus. Let me courageously confront our enemy by myself. Let me alone die, since I alone brought about your downfall.
AMPH. Rather I am the cause of your funeral, I placed Alban on his bier when I bade him pay a visit to Marcellus. You forest is so full of funereal cypress, why did you inflict this treacherous blow on Allban?
ALB. I am little concerned by about fate, whatever that may be, I am more pained by Amphibalus’ pain.
AMPH. Stop mourning my downfall on your doleful lute. For me, today is better than my birthday. I am lifting my head above the stars, now I inhale heaven’s sweetly=-blowing breezes.
ALB. He who can bestow life on many others should live.
AMPH. So let my Alban survive as an heir, let Amphibalus fall.
ALB. It should rather be you.
AMPH. And so it is reasonable for me to teach you how to die.
ALB. And who shall use his artistic hand to cultivate the new shoots in Britain’s vineyards if the executioner appoints your black hour?
AMPH. Britain’s vines will flourish all the more if watered by my blood.
ALB. Let Alban be the first fruit of your garden.
AMPH. Ah! Let us rather both take flight. Christ commands us to flee menacing tyrants.
ALB. So let’s change costumes and both make our excapes. Proteus’ flying chariot will soon be here. Minerva will dress you with her skilled Coan shuttle. Elegant dress will conceal Amphibalus, but give me away. Here’s the key. Father, you will look splendid in Oebalian crimson.
AMPH. I like the color of martyrs. (Enter Theopistus.)
ALB. Theopistus! Have the shepherd hurry here. (Exit Theopistus.) These things are not unexpected. I had a foretaste of your game, Fortune. You will discover that my heart is well prepared to deal with her slippery wheel. (Enter Faustulus.). Since you have brought me golden news I appoint you the heir of my mantle.
FAUST. Tyrian wool will ill befit a shepherd’s shoulders.
ALB. I’ll swap my cloak for your tunic.
FAUST. If such is your command I’m obliged to humor you.
Faustulus takes off his tunic, which Alban puts on.
ALB. Fortune’s weapons fear Minerva’s rough cloth. Perhaps this hat will fit your head.
FAUST. And perhaps my cap will likewise suit yours.
ALB. I’ll make a good shepherd if only you’ll hand over your boots.
FAUST. I’ll gladly hand over, if not my buskins, at least my socks. Their two l\ayers of leather offer good protection against stormy December.
ALB. Hand me your crook and take this sword decorated with gems. No let me be Argus of the Grove. Give a whistle if you happen to see a squadron of horse.
FAUST. You’ll always find Faustulus to be trustworthy. Goodbye, Amphibalus! (Exit shepherd, enter Amphibalus.)
ALB. Farewell, Amphibalus.
AMPH. Farewell, Alban, you first martyr of the Britons.
ALB. Guard the door, Theopistus.
THEO. So you’re taking flight, Alban? (The shepherd whistles.)
ALB. Flee, Amphibalus, flee. A cloud of horsemen is approaching.
AMPH. Fight stoutly, the supernals are keeping an eye on your combat. (Exeunt. Enter the shepherd.
FAUST. Good gods! What ups and downs in our affairs! Before I came to Alban’s house I was Faustulus. After experiencing his generosity I’m changed from Faustulus to Faustus. But if I run into the soldiers now instead of Faustus I’ll become Faustulus once more. (He hears a commotion.) But if I stay here any longer instead of being even Faustulus I’ll become the most unhappy of mortals. (Exit. Enter the soldiers. Proteus knocks at the door.)
THEO. Who’s knocking at the door?
PROT. Open your door or I’ll break your window.
THEO. What do you want?
PROT. Your master.
THEO. He’s gone out.
PROT. You men encircle the grove while I break the lock. (He bursts in with the soldiers. They enter the house while others search the forest. They come across the shepherd.)
AGATHO The quarry has fallen into ou r nets. Alban, halt. Soldier, be quick in blocking his route of escape.
THRASO You’re wrong, Agatho. This lying herdsman is doing a fine job of copying his master.
FAUST. I’m a shepherd, not a herdsman.
POLEMO Purple ill suits a shepherd.
AG. A crook suits shepherds, a sword is fitting for soldiers.
TH. The small crown of a cap can’t hide the long ears of a donkey.
AG. Stripped of his colors, this little crow makes me laugh.
POL. Where did Alban flee?
FAUST. Hither, thither, to the right, to the left, in all directions.
TH. You infernal puppy! You mock officers of the militia?
FAUST. Oh, oh, oh! I want to weep rather than laugh. Mournful elegy, let down your unworthy hair. Oh now your name will be all too truthful. Farewell, you harpies.
AG. Who’s that?
TH. Stay still. The woods are protecting the priest who entrusted himself to them in his flight.
AMPH. (Quietly.) He’s alaready craftly broken through these winding paths. And if Amphibalus has been captured, he won’t be taken.
PROT. Look carefully, soldiers? Is this pigsty not open yet?
POL. He’s escaped in disguise. You are looking at the snake’s true discarded skin. (He displays the costume taken from the shepherd. Proteus points at the shepherd’s hut.)
PROT. Perhaps he’s hidden here, covered with peasants’ hay.
TH. Hooray, our quarry’s in sight!
A bundle of hay is removed, revealing Alban, praying and holding a crucifix.
ACT III, SCENE ii
Proteus mocks Alban. Astonished at his indomitable patience, Agatho acknowledges that Christ alone is God.
PROTEUS, ALBAN, AGATHO, THRASO
PROT. Get up! It is in vain that you’re bothering that carpenter of Galilee with your prayers. Do you know Proteus?
ALB. Full well.
PROT. Do you see how well this make-believe shepherd brandishis his crook? From this book I learned how to deceive his master. He’s speechless, in imitation of his fish. Perhaps the Pope at Rome commands him to eat fish today. Where is your excellent Italian? Will he ever sprinkle your head with the living water? Is this how a venerable shepherd abandons his sheep?
AG. You’re too insolent in kicking a man while he’s down. A lion spares its prey when it’s laid low. It suffices for captives that they have been caught.
PROT. You’re defending followers of Christ, Agatho. You should exercise self-control in your speech.
AG. I was mad to have worshiped mute statues. Now this boy’s sanctity compels me to set my sail on a reverse course. The candor of his happy brow, the modest rosiness of his cloudless face, the check he keeps on his tongue while you hurl your thousand insults, have taken hold of my mind. Christ, henceforth Agatho will fight under your standards.
ALB. Your sweet name suits you well, “Agatho” smacks of goodness, and the cause you defend is likewise a good one. Trusting in it, you will scorn fires, plates, swords, wheels, and the very artisans of death.
AG. Alban, take back your sword.
ALB. There’s no need for weaponry. A just man will prevail over the armed legions of the Styx.
PROT. You will be provided with a theater where you may earn your praise, but now, in your squalid condition, climb up to Astraea’s dock. Marcellus will handle the fatal urn. Thraso, Alban’s sword is yours.
TH. I embrace this token of your esteem. (Exeunt.)
ACT III, SCENE iii
Having surmounted Marcellus’ wheedlings and threats, St. Alban and Agatho are thrust into imprisonment. Capnodes and Proteus twist Marcellus’ mind towards severity when he is inclined to be merciful.
PROTEUS, ALBAN, AGATHO, THRASO
PROT. Marcellus, I present you with this pair of felons. The foreign priest outran our nets, abandoning his flock. Yet lest the other one be alone, Agatho appointed himself the Achates at his side. He calls that tree-hanging house-builder God.
MARC. Why his squalid appearance?
PROT. He snuck into this impoverished hut costumed as a shepherd, but the straw scarcely sufficed to conceal him.
MARC. Clean off his filth. I want Alban to shine forth in his erstwhile finery and return to his proper self. (His cloak, hat and sword are returned to him.) Alban, you scion of an ancient family of Albion, this rough appearance is appropriate for those who manage sheep, but ill befits royal blood. But why does a god nailed to a piece of wood ouitshine the supreme father of the gods?
ALB. Are you actually calling the Jove who burns in Hell’s deepest pit the father of the supernals?
MARC. The house of Dis only torments sinners.
ALB. Oh the holy god, who stole his father’s ancestral realms! Who’s unaware of Jove’s thefts? The Britons use the gods’ sins as an excuse for their own.
MARC. All the world worships this divinity. Will you by yourself instruct the world new forms of sanctity? If you wish to claim a monopoly on wisdom, Alban, you deceived yourself.
ALB. Do you call a man alone who is accompanied by so many legions of martyrs with their not unbecoming blood?
MARC. You will become a comrade of those martyred men unless you worship the god of the forest whom you have overthrown.
ALB. I admit I did overthrow him, with my foot I did not sufficient trample on him. This thorn pains me.
MARC. Who can tolerate the lashings of this man’s pert tongue? He’s waging open war against the supernals. Chains will control your hands and also your tongue.
ALB. With its odor jailhouse stench will surpass the fragrance of Arab harvests, as long as Christ is present as my companion.
MARC. Do you like prison too, Agatho?
AG. Alban’s cell is better than your palace.
MARC. Let the dungeon of a rocky cavern confine the both of them until the executioner invites them to meet his dire axe.
ALB. When will the sun’s rosy chariot bring that day?
MARC. You poor boy! Stop in your tracks. Where are you in such a rash haste to go?
ALB. I am going to the stars.
MARC. (Aside.) My affection does not know how to play a judge’s part well. (Aloud.) Come, adore the forest-god.
ALB. I abjure a foul sin, seemingly sweet but hateful both to my eyes and my mind. (Exeunt Alban, Agatho, and their guards.)
MARC. He flies like a winged ship with full sail as it rushes headlong towards unseen rocks. Why does the poor wretch plunge ahead at full sail? The Fates are hastening along at more than enough speed. Are you not touched by the first flowering of down on his cheeks? Will death’s harsh scythe reap a bud that has barely begun to open? Even if the felon’s mind is fearless and he can behold his downfall dry-eyed, his bitter situation compels his judge to weep. (Enter Capnodes.)
CAP. Oh what scourges the gods have in store for us!
MARC. What’s that?
CAP. Sylvanus’ gaping wounds are oozing gore. The god’ blood is demanding bloodshed. (Enter Proteus and the soldiers.)
MARC. I shall provide it.
PROT. Crispus is seeking out Alban’s cell.
MARC. Keep him at a far distance.
PROT. He insists on being allowed enrance. Since the door is not open he is now conversing through the grating. I fear lest this foul plague infect Crispus too.
MARC. Stamp this plague out lest it spread further. Will Crispus, that heart of my heart, imbibe this contagion inmost being? Let the plague be cut out with steel so that my boy might survive. Quick, quick, let the prison give forth this pair of felons, let the axe sever the necks of them both. (Exit.)
ACT III, SCENE iv
The martyrs are beheaded, but not with impunity. The executioner and Marcellus lose their eyes, the one of his body and the other of his mind. Moved by these things, Crispus decides to enlist for Christ at the earliest possible o pportunity. The prison becomes visible.
PROTEUS, POLEMO, ALBAN, AGATHO, THRASO, CRISPUS, MARCELLUS
PROT. Open the cell, Polemo.
POL. I bring the both of you the fatal news of your death.
ALB. Oh, what a snow-white day!
AG. My wedding-day.
ALB. When will you allow me to brighten the Milky Way by the addition of a new star? (The theater is hung with black.)
PROT. Any moment now you will be quaffing blessed cups of nectar. But you must mount the scaffold before you mount up to heaven.
ALB. I shall do so with pleasure. The more we abandon the lifeless soil of this world the closer we are to touching the lofty heaven with our and. (They climb up to the scaffold and remove their shirts.) Now I discard my garment, about to discard my life. Companion in gaining laurels, do you see the choirs of the starry skies? Soon you will be taking prideful steps to join them.
AG. Allow me to hug your neck with a final embrace. When I embrace you, Alban, I am embracing heaven.
THRASO You will not find my hands to be unsteady.
ALB. To You, Christ, I dedicate the firstfruits of British soil.
AG. Christ, drown my sins in a river of my blood.
TH. Oh would that my single steel could mow down all the offspring of this Lernean brood! (As he raises his hands the curtains are closed. Enter Crispus.)
CRISP. Oh, too much a scene from a tragedy! What uncouth Gete or man who drinks from the Don could restrain his tears, Alban, beholding your head evilly cut off from your comely neck? Let Proteus behold the sport of his fury, Crispus cannot watch this horrendous crime. (Enter Thraso, clutching his bloodstained axe.)
AG. Both of them are boarding the old man’s fatal skiff, this steel has dispatched them.
CRISP. Go away, you monster!
AG. Suddenly night is darkening the sky with its black wings. (While thunder and lightning strike, Thraso is blinded.) Or is only from my eyes that the daylight is being stolen? I open my eyelids as much as I can but I still cannot behold the sweet brightness of golden sunlight.
CRISP. Good! On her winged chariot Justice has come down from heaven. You are paying the penalties for your recent sin, you wretch. Alban is vexing your eyes with Cimmerian night.
TH. I acknowledge heaven’s vengeful thunderbolt. (Enter Marcellus, demented and equipped with a nightcap, a lantern, and so forth.)
MARC. Vulcan, conceal yourself within this cage of horn. While the dark of night shouds the world with black mantel Mulciber and I am tracking your footsteps, Alban.
CRISP. Oh father! (Marcellus paces back and forth in search of Alban.)
MARC. Thus far Alban has not shown himself. My boy, I’m looking for Alban.
CRISP. He’s submitted his neck to your axe.
MARC. You lie.
CRISP. Are you shunning your son, stung by some gadfly? They’re blind, the both of them. This one lacks the illumination of his mind, and the other is deprived of the light of the sun. But the shadows fall heavier on my father.
TH. (Groping a wall.) Give a hand to this wandering man, Crispus, lest your father’s wrath sacrifices me to Hell as its victim. (Crispus lends his hand to Thraso. Marcellus interposes himself.)
MARC. Let this be the company of the three Graces, with Virtue in the milld. How many fat cattle has this steel butchered?
TH. Marcellus, I can’t see the sunlight.
MARC. At least look at my lantern.
CRISP. He’s blind.
MARC. I’ll provide the light. If you want light, follow my lantern. (He leads Thraso by the hand.)
TH. Have pity, Crispus.
MARC. Sallustius Crispus, ha, ha, ha. It delights me that you are cultivated with Latin eloquence. (Exit.)
CRISP. Poor father! Are you a case of the blind leading the blind? Both will stumble. But, father, your blindness will teach me to see better, I am determined to follow Alban as my teacher. For me he has opened the highway which leads to the stars. Let me take this road, although it is a narrow won, until I have the enjoyment of sweet Alban.
A DUMB SHOW IN WHICH HIS MARTYRDOM IS REVEALED TO AMPHIBALUS IN HIS SLEEP
Enter first an executioner, brandishing stones at the sleeping man. Then comes a second wielding a stake which he plants in the ground, around which he wraps the sleeper’s innards, cut out with his knife. Then he circles the stake until he has wrapped the man’s intestines around the stake and returns to the place where he started. Finally St. Alban, crowned with laurel by St. Amphibalus, clasps his hands and invites him to heaven. The curtain comes down.