A COLLECTION OF OLD ENGLISH PLAYS, VOL. I
In Four Volumes
The Tragedy of Nero The Mayde's Metamorphosis The Martyr'd Souldier The Noble Souldier
Most of the Plays in the present Collection have not been reprinted, and some have not been printed at all. In the second volume there will be published for the first time a fine tragedy (hitherto quite unknown) by Massinger and Fletcher, and a lively comedy (also quite unknown) by James Shirley. The recovery of these two pieces should be of considerable interest to all students of dramatic literature.
The Editor hopes to give in Vol. III. an unpublished play of Thomas Heywood. In the fourth volume there will be a reprint of the Arden of Feversham, from the excessively rare quarto of 1592.
INTRODUCTION TO THE TRAGEDY OF NERO.
Of the many irreparable losses sustained by classical literature few are more to be deplored than the loss of the closing chapters of Tacitus' Annals. Nero, it is true, is a far less complex character than Tiberius; and there can be no question that Tacitus' sketch of Nero is less elaborate than his study of the elder tyrant. Indeed, no historical figure stands out for all time with features of such hideous vividness as Tacitus' portrait of Tiberius; nowhere do we find emphasised with such terrible earnestness, the stoical poet's anathema against tyrants "Virtutem videant intabescantque relicta." Other writers would have turned back sickened from the task of following Tiberius through mazes of cruelty and craft. But Tacitus pursues his victim with the patience of a sleuth-hound; he seems to find a ruthless satisfaction in stripping the soul of its coverings; he treads the floor of hell and watches with equanimity the writhings of the damned. The reader is at once strangely attracted and repelled by the pages of Tacitus; there is a weird fascination that holds him fast, as the glittering eye of the Ancient Mariner held the Wedding Guest. It was owing partly, no doubt, to the hideousness of the subject that the Elizabethan Dramatists shrank from seeking materials in the Annals; but hardly the abominations of Nero or Tiberius could daunt such daring spirits as Webster or Ford. Rather we must impute their silence to the powerful mastery of Tacitus; it was awe that held them from treading in the historian's steps. Ben Jonson ventured on the enchanted ground; but not all the fine old poet's wealth of classical learning, not his observance of the dramatic proprieties nor his masculine intellect, could put life into the dead bones of Sejanus or conjure up the muffled sinister figure of Tiberius. Where Ben Jonson failed, the unknown author of the Tragedy of Nero has, to some extent, succeeded.
After reading the first few opening-lines the reader feels at once that this forgotten old play is the work of no ordinary man. The brilliant scornful figure of Petronius, a character admirably sustained throughout, rivets his attention from the first. In the blank verse there is the true dramatic ring, and the style is "full and heightened." As we read on we have no cause for disappointment. The second scene which shows us the citizens hurrying to witness the triumphant entry of Nero, is vigorous and animated. Nero's boasting is pitched in just the right key; bombast and eloquence are equally mixt. If he had been living in our own day Nero might possibly have made an ephemeral name for himself among the writers of the Sub-Swinburnian School. His longer poems were, no doubt, nerveless and insipid, deserving the scornful criticism of Tacitus and Persius; but the fragments preserved by Seneca shew that he had some skill in polishing far-fetched conceits. Our playwright has not fallen into the error of making Nero "out-Herod Herod"; through the crazy raptures we see the ruins of a nobler nature. Poppaea's arrowy sarcasms, her contemptuous impatience and adroit tact are admirable. The fine irony of the following passage is certainly noticeable:—
"Pop. I prayse your witt, my Lord, that choose such safe Honors, safe spoyles, worm without dust or blood.
Nero. What, mocke ye me, Poppaea.
Pop. Nay, in good faith, my Lord, I speake in earnest: I hate that headie and adventurous crew That goe to loose their owne to purchase but The breath of others and the common voyce; Them that will loose their hearing for a sound, That by death onely seeke to get a living, Make skarres their beautie and count losse of Limmes The commendation of a proper man, And so goe halting to immortality,— Such fooles I love worse then they doe their lives."
It is indeed strange to find such lines as those in the work of an unknown author. The verses gain strength as they advance, and the diction is terse and keen. This one short extract would suffice to show that the writer was a literary craftsman of a very high order.
In the fourth scene, where the conspirators are met, the writer's power is no less strikingly shown. Here, if anywhere, his evil genius might have led him astray; for no temptation is stronger than the desire to indulge in rhetorical displays. Even the author of Bothwell, despite his wonderful command of language, wearies us at times by his vehement iteration. Our unknown playwright has guarded himself against this fault; and, steeped as he was to the lips in classical learning, his abstinence must have cost him some trouble. My notes will shew that he had not confined himself to Tacitus, but had studied Suetonius and Dion Cassius, Juvenal and Persius. He makes no parade of his learning, but we see that he has lived among his characters, leaving no source of information unexplored. The meeting of the conspirators is brought before our eyes with wonderful vividness. Scevinus' opening speech glows and rings with indignation. Seneca, in more temperate language, bewails the fall of the high hopes that he had conceived of his former pupil, finely moralizing that "High fortunes, like strong wines, do trie their vessels." Some spirited lines are put into Lucan's mouth:—
"But to throw downe the walls and Gates of Rome To make an entrance for an Hobby-horse; To vaunt to th'people his ridiculous spoyles; To come with Lawrell and with Olyves crown'd For having been the worst of all the singers, Is beyond Patience!"
In another passage the grandiloquence and the vanity of the poet of the Pharsalia are well depicted.
The second act opens with Antonius' suit to Poppaea, which is full of passion and poetry, but is not allowed to usurp too much room in the progress of the play. Then, in fine contrast to the grovelling servility of the Emperor's creatures, we see the erect figure of the grand stoic philosopher, Persius' tutor, Cornutus, whose free-spokenness procures him banishment. Afterwards follows a second conference of the conspirators, in which scene the author has followed closely in the steps of Tacitus.
One of the most life-like passages in the play is at the beginning of the third act, where Nimphidius describes to Poppaea how the weary audience were imprisoned in the theatre during Nero's performance, with guards stationed at the doors, and spies on all sides scanning each man's face to note down every smile or frown. Our author draws largely upon Tacitus and the highly-coloured account of Suetonius; but he has, besides, a telling way of his own, and some of his lines are very happy. Poppaea's wit bites shrewdly; and even Nimphidius' wicked breast must have been chilled at such bitter jesting as:—
"How did our Princely husband act Orestes? Did he not wish againe his Mother living? Her death would add great life unto his part."
As Nero approaches his crowning act of wickedness, the burning of Rome, his words assume a grim intensity. The invocation to the severe powers is the language of a man at strife at once with the whole world and himself. In the representation of the burning of Rome it will perhaps be thought that the author hardly rises to the height of his theme. The Vergilian simile put into the mouth of Antonius is distinctly misplaced; but as our author so seldom offends in this respect he may be pardoned for the nonce. It may seem a somewhat crude treatment to introduce a mother mourning for her burnt child, and a son weeping over the body of his father; but the naturalness of the language and the absence of extravagance must be commended. Some of the lines have the ring of genuine pathos, as here:—
"Where are thy counsels, where thy good examples? And that kind roughness of a Father's anger?"
The scene immediately preceding contains the noble speech of Petronius quoted by Charles Lamb in the Specimens. In a space of twenty lines the author has concentrated a world of wisdom. One knows not whether to admire more the justness of the thought or the exquisite finish of the diction. Few finer things have been said on the raison d'etre of tragedy from the time when Aristotle in the Poetics formulated his memorable dictum. The admirable rhythmical flow should be noted. There is a rare suppleness and strength in the verses; we could not put one line before another without destroying the effect of the whole; no verse stands out obstinately from its fellows, but all are knit firmly, yet lightly, together: and a line of magnificent strength fitly closes a magnificent passage. Hardly a sonnet of Shakespeare or Mr. Rossetti could be more perfect.
At the beginning of the fourth act, when the freedman Milichus discloses Piso's conspiracy, Nero's trepidation is well depicted. It is curious that among the conspirators the author should not have introduced the dauntless woman, Epicharis, who refused under the most cruel tortures to betray the names of her accomplices, and after biting out her tongue died from the sufferings that she had endured on the rack. "There," as mad Hieronymo said, "you could show a passion." Even Tacitus, who upbraids the other conspirators with pusillanimity, marks his admiration of this noble woman. No reader will quarrel with the playwright if he has thought fit to paint the conspirators in brighter colours than the historian had done. When Scevinus is speaking we seem to be listening to the voice of Shakespeare's Cassius: witness the exhortation to Piso,—
"O Piso thinke, Thinke on that day when in the Parthian fields Thou cryedst to th'flying Legions to turne And looke Death in the face; he was not grim, But faire and lovely when he came in armes."
The character of Piso, for whom Tacitus shows such undisguised contempt, is drawn with kindliness and sympathy. Seneca, too, who meets with grudging praise from the stern historian, stands out ennobled in the play. His bearing in the presence of death is admirably dignified; and the polite philosopher, whose words were so faultless and whose deeds were so faulty, could hardly have improved upon the chaste diction of the farewell address assigned him by the playwright.
While Seneca's grave wise words are still ringing in our ears we are called to watch a leave-taking of a different kind. No reader of the Annals can ever forget the strange description of the end of Petronius;—how the man whose whole life had "gone, like a revel, by" neither faltered, when he heard his doom pronounced, nor changed a whit his wonted gaiety; but dying, as he had lived, in abandoned luxury, sent under seal to the emperor, in lieu of flatteries, the unblushing record of their common vices. The obscure playwright is no less impressive than the world-renowned historian. While Antonius and Enanthe are picturing to themselves the consternation into which Petronius will be thrown by the emperor's edict, the object of their commiseration presents himself. Briefly dismissing the centurion, he turns with kindling cheek to his scared mistress—"Come, let us drink and dash the posts with wine!" Then he discourses on the blessings of death; he begins in a semi-ironical vein, but soon, forgetful of his auditors, is borne away on the wings of ecstacy. The intense realism of the writing is appalling. He speaks as a "prophet new inspired," and we listen in wonderment and awe. The language is amazingly strong and rich, and the imagination gorgeous.
At the beginning of the fifth act comes the news of the rising of Julius Vindex. Like a true coward Nero makes light of the distant danger; but when the rumours fly thick and fast he gives way to womanish passionateness, idly upbraiding the gods instead of consulting for his own safety. His despair and terror when he perceives the inevitable doom are powerfully rendered. The fear of the after-world makes him long for annihilation; his imagination presents to him "the furies arm'd with linkes, with whippes, with snakes," and he dreads to meet his mother and those "troopes of slaughtered friends" before the tribunal of the Judge
"That will not leave unto authoritie, Nor favour the oppressions of the great."
But, fine as it undoubtedly is, the closing scene of the play bears no comparison with the pathetic narrative of Suetonius. Riding out, muffled, from Rome amid thunder and lightning, attended but by four followers, the doomed emperor hears from the neighbouring camp the shouts of the soldiers cursing the name of Nero and calling down blessings on Galba. Passing some wayfarers on the road, he hears one of them whisper, "Hi Neronem persequuntur;" and another asks, "Ecquid in urbe novi de Nerone?" Further on his horse takes fright, terrified by the stench from a corpse that lay in the road-side: in the confusion the emperor's face is uncovered, and at that moment he is recognized and saluted by a Praetorian soldier who is riding towards the City. Reaching a by-path, they dismount and make their way hardly through reeds and thickets. When his attendant, Phaon, urged him to conceal himself in a sandpit, Nero "negavit se vivum sub terram iturum;" but soon, creeping on hands and knees into a cavern's mouth, he spread a tattered coverlet over himself and lay down to rest. And now the pangs of hunger and thirst racked him; but he refused the coarse bread that his attendants offered, only taking a draught of warm water. Then he bade his attendants dig his grave and get faggots and fire, that his body might be saved from indignities; and while these preparations were being made he kept moaning "qualis artifex pereo!" Presently comes a messenger bringing news that Nero had been adjudged an "enemy" by the senate and sentenced to be punished "more majorum." Enquiring the nature of the punishment, and learning that it consisted in fastening the criminal's neck to a fork and scourging him, naked, to death, the wretched emperor hastily snatched a pair of daggers and tried the edges; but his courage failed him and he put them by, saying that "not yet was the fatal moment at hand." At one time he begged some one of his attendants to show him an example of fortitude by dying first; at another he chid himself for his own irresolution, exclaiming: [Greek: "ou prepei Neroni, ou prepei—naephein dei en tois toioutois—age, egeire seauton."] But now were heard approaching the horsemen who had been commissioned to bring back the emperor alive. The time for wavering was over: hurriedly ejaculating the line of Homer,
[Greek: "Hippon m'okypodon amphi ktypos ouata ballei,"]
he drove the steel into his throat. To the centurion, who pretended that he had come to his aid and who vainly tried to stanch the wound, he replied "Sero, et Haec est fides!" and expired.
Such is the tragic tale of horror told by Suetonius. Nero's last words in the play "O Rome, farewell," &c., seem very poor to "Sero et Haec est fides"; but, if the playwright was young and inexperienced, we can hardly wonder that his strength failed him at this supreme moment. Surely the wonder should rather be that we find so many noble passages throughout this anonymous play. Who the writer may have been I dare not conjecture. In his fine rhetorical power he resembles Chapman; but he had a far truer dramatic gift than that great but chaotic writer. He is never tiresome as Chapman is, who, when he has said a fine thing, seems often to set himself to undo the effect. His gorgeous imagination and his daring remind us of Marlowe; the leave-taking of Petronius is certainly worthy of Marlowe. He is like Marlowe, too, in another way,—he has no comic power and (wiser, in this respect, than Ford) is aware of his deficiency. We find in Nero none of those touches of swift subtle pathos that dazzle us in the Duchess of Malfy; but we find strokes of sarcasm no less keen and trenchant. Sometimes in the ring of the verse and in turns of expression, we seem to catch Shakespearian echoes; as here—
"Staid men suspect their wisedome or their faith, To whom our counsels we have not reveald; And while (our party seeking to disgrace) They traitors call us, each man treason praiseth And hateth faith, when Piso is a traitor." (iv. i);
"'Cause you were lovely therefore did I love: O, if to Love you anger you so much, You should not have such cheekes nor lips to touch: You should not have your snow nor curral spy'd;— If you but look on us, in vain you chide: We must not see your Face, nor heare your speech: Now, while you Love forbid, you Love doe teach."
I am inclined to think that the tragedy of Nero was the first and last attempt of some young student, steeped in classical learning and attracted by the strange fascination of the Annals,—of one who, failing to gain a hearing at first, never courted the breath of popularity again; just as the author of Joseph and his Brethren, when his noble poem fell still-born from the press, turned contemptuously away and preserved thenceforward an unbroken silence. It should be noticed that the 4to. of 1633 is not really a new edition; it is merely the 4to. of 1624, with a new title-page. In a copy bearing the later date I found a few unimportant differences of reading; but no student of the Elizabethan drama needs to be reminded that variae lectiones not uncommonly occur in copies of the same edition. The words "newly written" on the title-page are meant to distinguish the Tragedy of Nero from the wretched Tragedy of Claudius Tiberius Nero published in 1607.
But now I will bring my remarks to a close. It has been at once a pride and a pleasure to me to rescue this fine old play from undeserved oblivion. There is but one living poet whose genius could treat worthily the tragical story of Nero's life and death. In his three noble sonnets, "The Emperor's Progress," Mr. Swinburne shows that he has pondered the subject deeply: if ever he should give us a Tragedy of Nero, we may be sure that one more deathless contribution would be added to our dramatic literature.
Addenda and Corrigenda.
After Nero had been printed I found among the Egerton MSS. (No. 1994), in the British Museum, a transcript in a contemporary hand. The precious folio to which it belongs contains fifteen plays: of these some will be printed entire in Vols. II and III, and a full account of the other pieces will be given in an appendix to Vol. II. The transcript of Nero is not by any means so accurate as the printed copy; and sometimes we meet with the most ridiculous mistakes. For instance, on p. 82 for "Beauties sweet Scarres" the MS. gives "Starres"; on p. 19 for "Nisa" ("not Bacchus drawn from Nisa") we find "Nilus"; and in the line "Nor us, though Romane, Lais will refuse" (p. 81) the MS. pointlessly reads "Ladies will refuse." On the other hand, many of the readings are a distinct improvement, and I am glad to find some of my own emendations confirmed. But let us start ab initio:—
p. 13, l. 4. 4to. Imperiall tytles; MS. Imperial stuffe.
p. 14, l. 3. 4to. small grace; MS. sale grace.—The allusion in the following line to the notorious "dark lights" makes the MS. reading certain.—Lower down for "and other of thy blindnesses" the MS. gives "another": neither reading is intelligible.
p. 17, l. 5. MS. rightly gives "cleave the ayre."
p. 30, l. 2. "Fatumst in partibus illis Quas sinus abscondit. Petron." added in margin of MS.
p. 31, l. 17. 4to. or bruised in my fall; MS. I bruised in my fall!
p. 32, l. 4. 4to. Shoulder pack't Peleus; MS. Shoulder peac'd. The MS. confirms my emendation "shoulder-piec'd."
p. 32, l. 13. 4to. shoutes and noyse; MS. shoutes and triumphs.—From this point to p. 39 (last line but one) the MS. is defective.
p. 40, l. 8. 4to. our visitation; MS. or visitation.
p. 42, l. 11. 4to. others; MS. ours.
p. 46, l. 22. 4to. Wracke out; MS. wreake not.
p. 47, l. 17. 4to. Toth' the point of Agrippa; MS. tooth' prince [sic] of Agrippinas.
p. 54, l. 2. 4to. Pleides burnes; Jupiter Saturne burnes; MS. Alcides burnes, Jupiter Stator burnes.
p. 54, l. 23. 4to. thee gets; in MS. gets has been corrected, by a different hand, into Getes.
p. 54, l. 26. 4to. the most condemned; MS. the ——— condemned: a blank is unfortunately left in the MS.
p. 56, l. 20. 4to. writhes; MS. wreathes.
p. 59, l. 1. MS. I now command the souldyer of the Cyttie.
p. 61, l. 13. The MS. preserves the three following lines, not found in the printed copy—
"High spirits soaring still at great attempts, And such whose wisdomes, to their other wrongs, Distaste the basenesse of the government."
p. 62, l. 15. 4to. are we; MS. arowe.
p. 66, l. 4 "Sed quis custodiet ipsos Custodes. Juvenal" noted in margin of MS.
p. 68, l. 15. 4to. Galley-asses? MS. gallowses.
p. 69, l. 1. The MS. makes the difficulty even greater by reading—
"Silver colour [sic] on the Medaean fields Not Tiber colour."
p. 75, l. 2. 4to. One that in whispering oreheard; MS. one that this fellow whispring I oreharde.
p. 78, l. 22. 4to. from whence it first let down; MS. from whence at first let down.
p. 80. In note (1) for "Eilius Italicus" read "Silius Italicus."
p. 127. In note (2) for "Henry IV" read I Henry IV.
p. 182, l. 6. Dele [?]. The sense is quite plain if we remember that soldiers degraded on account of misconduct were made "pioners": vid. commentators on Othello, iii. 3. Hence "pioner" is used for "the meanest, most ignorant soldier."
p. 228. In note (2) for "earlle good wine" read "Earlle good-wine."
p. 236. In note (2) after "[Greek: staphis] and" add "[Greek: agria]."
p. 255. The lines "To the reader of this Play" are also found at the end of T. Heywood's "Royal King and Loyal Subject."
p. 257, l. 1. I find (on turning to Mr. Arbor's Transcript) that the Noble Spanish Souldier had been previously entered on the Stationers' Registers (16 May, 1631), by John Jackman, as a work of Dekker's. Since the sheets have been passing through the press, I have become convinced that Dekker's share was more considerable than I was willing to allow in the prefatory Note.
p. 276. Note (2) is misleading; the reading of the 4to "flye-boat" is no doubt right. "Fly-boat" comes from Span. filibote, flibote—a fast-sailing vessel. The Dons hastily steer clear of the rude soldier.
p. 294. In note (1) for "Bayford ballads" read "Bagford Ballads."
THE TRAGEDY OF NERO,
Imprinted at London by Augustine Mathewes, and John Norton, for Thomas Jones, and are to bee sold at the blacke Raven in the Strand, 1624.
The Tragedie of Nero.
Enter Petronius Arbyter, Antonius Honoratus.
Petron. Tush, take the wench I showed thee now, or else some other seeke. What? can your choler no way be allayed But with Imperiall tytles? Will you more tytles unto Caesar give?
Anto. Great are thy fortunes Nero, great thy power, Thy Empyre lymited with natures bounds; Upon thy ground the Sunne doth set and ryse; The day and night are thine, Nor can the Planets, wander where they will, See that proud earth that feares not Caesars name. Yet nothing of all this I envy thee; But her, to whom the world unforst obayes, Whose eye's more worth then all it lookes upon; In whom all beautyes Nature hath enclos'd That through the wide Earth or Heaven are dispos'd.
Petron. Indeed she steales and robs each part o'th world With borrowed beauties to enflame thine eye: The Sea, to fetch her Pearle, is div'd into; The Diomond rocks are cut to make her shine; To plume her pryde the Birds do naked sing: When my Enanthe, in a homely gowne—
Anto. Homely, I faith.
Petron. I, homely in her gowne, But looke vpon her face and that's set out With no small grace; no vayled shadowes helpe. Foole! that hadst rather with false lights and darke Beguiled be then see the ware thou buyest.
Poppea royally attended, and passe over the Stage in State.
Anto. Great Queene, whom Nature made to be her glory, Fortune got eies and came to be thy servant, Honour is proud to be thy tytle; though Thy beauties doe draw up my soule, yet still So bright, so glorious is thy Maiestie That it beates downe againe my clyming thoughts.
Petron. Why, true; And other of thy blindnesses thou seest[?] Such one to love thou dar'st not speake unto. Give me a wench that will be easily had Not woed with cost, and being sent for comes: And when I have her foulded in mine armes Then Cleopatra she, or Lucres is; Ile give her any title.
Anto. Yet not so much her greatnesse and estate My hopes disharten as her chastitie.
Petron. Chastitie! foole! a word not knowne in Courts. Well may it lodge in meane and countrey homes Where povertie and labour keepes them downe, Short sleepes and hands made hard with Thuscan Woll, But never comes to great mens Pallaces Where ease and riches stirring thoughts beget, Provoking meates and surfet wines inflame; Where all there setting forth's but to be wooed, And wooed they would not be but to be wonne. Will one man serve Poppea? nay, thou shalt Make her as soone contented with an [one?] eye.
Nimphidius to them.
Nimph. Whil'st Nero in the streetes his Pageants shewes I to his fair wives chambers sent for am. You gracious Starres that smiled on my birth, And thou bright Starre more powerful then them all, Whose favouring smiles have made me what I am, Thou shalt my God, my Fate and fortune be. [Ex. Nimph.
Anto. How sausely yon fellow Enters the Empresse Chamber.
Petron. I, and her too, Antonius, knowest thou him?
Anto. What? knowe the only favorite of the Court? Indeed, not many dayes ago thou mightest Have not unlawfully askt that question.
Petron. Why is he rais'd?
Anto. That have I sought in him But never peece of good desert could find. He is Nimphidia's sonne, the free'd woman, Which basenesse to shake off he nothing hath But his own pride?
Petron. You remember when Gallus, Celsus, And others too, though now forgotten, were Great in Poppeas eyes?
Anton. I doe, and did interpret it in them An honorable favor she bare vertue. Or parts like vertue.
Petron. The cause is one of theirs and this man's Grace. I once was great in wavering smiles of Court; I fell, because I knew. Since have I given My time to my owne pleasures, and would now Advise thee, too, to meane and safe delights: The thigh's as soft the sheepes back covereth As that with crimson and with Gold adorn'd. Yet, cause I see that thy restraind desires Cannot their owne way choose, come thou with me; Perhaps He shew thee means of remedie.
1 Rom. Whither so fast, man? Whither so fast?
2 Rom. Whither but where your eares do lead you? To Neros Triumphs and the shouts you heare.
1 Rom Why? comes he crown'd with Parthian overthrow And brings he Volegesus with him chain'd?
2 Rom. Parthian overthrowne! why he comes crownd For victories which never Roman wonne; For having Greece in her owne arts overthrowne, In Singing, Dauncing, Horse-rase, Stage-playing. Never, O Rome had never such a Prince.
1 Rom. Yet, I have heard, our ancestors were crown'd For other Victories.
2 Rom. None of our ancestors were ere like him.
Within: Nero, Apollo, Nero, Hercules!
1 Rom. Harke how th'applauding shouts doe cleave the ayre, This idle talke will make me loose the sight.
Two Romans more to them.
3 Rom. Whither goe you? alls done i'th Capytall, And Nero, having there his tables hung And Garlands up, is to the Pallace gone. 'Twas beyond wonder; I shall never see, Nay, I never looke to see the like againe: Eighteen hundred and eight Crownes For severall victories, and the place set downe Where, and in what, and whom he overcame.
4 Rom. That was set down ith' tables that were borne Upon the Souldiers speares.
1 Rom. O made, and sometimes use[d] for other Ends!
2 Rom. But did he winne them all with singing?
3 Rom. Faith, all with singing and with stage-playing.
1 Rom. So many Crowns got with a song!
4 Rom. But did you marke the Greek Musitians Behind his Chariot, hanging downe their heads, Sham'd and overcome in their professions? O Rome was never honour'd so before.
3 Rom. But what was he that rode ith' Chariot with him?
4 Rom. That was Diodorus the Mynstrill that he favours.
3 Rom. Was there ever such a Prince!
2 Rom. O Nero Augustus, the true Augustus!
3 Rom. Nay, had you seen him as he rode along With an Olimpicke Crowne upon his head And with a Pythian on his arme, you would have thought, Looking on one, he had Apollo seem'd, On th'other, Hercules.
2 Rom. I have heard my father oft repeat the Triumphs Which in Augustus Caesars tymes were showne Upon his Victorie ore the Illirians; But it seemes it was not like to this.
3 & 4 Rom. Push, it could not be like this.
2, 3 & 4 _Rom_. O _Nero, Appollo, Nero, Hercules!
[Exeunt 2, 3 & 4 Rom.
1 Rom. Whether Augustus Triumph greater was I cannot tell; his Triumphs cause, I know, Was greater farre and farre more Honourable. What are wee People, or our flattering voyces That always shame and foolish things applaud, Having no sparke of Soule? All eares and eyes, Pleased with vaine showes, deluded by our sences, Still enemies to wisedome and to goodnesse. [Exit.
Enter Nero, Poppea, Nimphidius, Epaphroditus, Neophilus and others.
Nero. Now, fayre Poppea, see thy Nero shine In bright Achaias spoyles and Rome in him. The Capitall hath other Trophies seene Then it was wont; not spoyles with blood bedew'd Or the unhappy obsequies of Death, But such as Caesars cunning, not his force, Hath wrung from Greece too bragging of her art.
Tigell. And in this strife the glories all your owne, Your tribunes cannot share this prayse with you; Here your Centurions hath no part at all, Bootless your Armies and your Eagles were; No Navies helpt to bring away this conquest.
Nimph. Even Fortunes selfe, Fortune the Queene of Kingdomes, That Warrs grim valour graceth with her deeds, Will claime no portion in this Victorie.
Nero. Not Bacchus drawn from Nisa downe with Tigers, Curbing with viny rains their wilful heads Whilst some doe gape upon his Ivy Thirse, Some on the dangling grapes that crowne his head, All praise his beautie and continuing youth; So strooke amased India with wonder As Neroes glories did the Greekish townes, Elis and Pisa and the rich Micenae, Junonian Argos and yet Corinth proud Of her two Seas; all which ore-come did yeeld To me their praise and prises of their games.
Poppea. Yet in your Greekish iourney, we do heare, Sparta and Athens, the two eyes of Greece, Neither beheld your person or your skill; Whether because they did afford no games Or for their too much gravitie.
Nero. Why, what Should I have seene in them? but in the one Hunger, black pottage and men hot to die Thereby to rid themselves of misery: And what in th'other? but short Capes, long Beards; Much wrangling in things needlesse to be knowne, Wisedome in words and onely austere faces. I will not be Aieceleaus nor Solon. Nero was there where he might honour win; And honour hath he wonn and brought from Greece Those spoyles which never Roman could obtaine, Spoyles won by witt and Tropheis of his skill.
Nimph. What a thing he makes it to be a Minstrill!
Poppea. I prayse your witt, my Lord, that choose such safe Honors, safe spoyles, won without dust or blood.
Nero. What, mock ye me, Poppea?
Poppea. Nay, in good faith, my Lord, I speake in earnest: I hate that headie and adventurous crew That goe to loose their owne to purchase but The breath of others and the common voyce; Them that will loose their hearing for a sound, That by death onely seeke to get a living, Make skarrs there beautie and count losse of Limmes The commendation of a proper man, And soe goe halting to immortality— Such fooles I love worse then they doe their lives.
Nero. But now, Poppea, having laid apart Our boastfull spoyles and ornaments of Triumph, Come we like Jove from Phlegra—
Poppea. O Giantlike comparison!
Nero. When after all his Fiers and wandering darts He comes to bath himselfe in Juno's eyes. But thou, then wrangling Juno farre more fayre, Stayning the evening beautie of the Skie Or the dayes brightnesse, shall make glad thy Caesar, Shalt make him proud such beauties to Inioy. [Exeunt.
Manet Nimphidius solus.
Nimph. Such beauties to inioy were happinesse And a reward sufficient in itselfe, Although no other end or hopes were aim'd at; But I have other: tis not Poppeas armes Nor the short pleasures of a wanton bed That can extinguish mine aspiring thirst To Neroes Crowne. By her love I must climbe, Her bed is but a step unto his Throne. Already wise men laugh at him and hate him; The people, though his Mynstrelsie doth please them, They feare his cruelty, hate his exactions, Which his need still must force him to encrease; The multitude, which cannot one thing long Like or dislike, being cloy'd with vanitie Will hate their own delights; though wisedome doe not Even wearinesse at length will give them eyes. Thus I, by Neroes and Poppeas favour Rais'd to the envious height of second place, May gaine the first. Hate must strike Nero downe, Love make Nimphidius way unto a Crowne.
Enter Seneca, Scevinus, Lucan and Flavius.
Scevin. His first beginning was his Fathers death; His brothers poysoning and wives bloudy end Came next; his mothers murther clos'd up all. Yet hitherto he was but wicked, when The guilt of greater evills tooke away the shame Of lesser, and did headlong thrust him forth To be the scorne and laughter to the world. Then first an Emperour came upon the stage And sung to please Carmen and Candle-sellers, And learnt to act, to daunce, to be a Fencer, And in despight o'the Maiestie of Princes He fell to wrastling and was soyl'd with dust And tumbled on the earth with servile hands.
Seneca. He sometimes trayned was in better studies And had a child-hood promis'd other hopes: High fortunes like stronge wines do trie their vessels. Was not the Race and Theatre bigge enough To have inclos'd thy follies heere at home? O could not Rome and Italie containe Thy shame, but thou must crosse the seas to shewe it?
Scevin. And make them that had wont to see our Consuls, With conquering Eagles waving in the field, Instead of that behold an Emperor dauncing, Playing oth' stage and what else but to name Were infamie.
Lucan. O Mummius, O Flaminius, You whom your vertues have not made more famous Than Neros vices, you went ore to Greece But t'other warres, and brought home other conquests; You Corinth and Micaena overthrew, And Perseus selfe, the great Achilles race, Orecame; having Minervas stayned Temples And your slayne Ancestors of Troy reveng'd.
Seneca. They strove with Kings and Kinglike adversaries, Were even in their Enemies made happie; The Macedonian Courage tryed of old And the new greatnesse of the Syrian power: But he for Phillip and Antiochus Hath found more easie enemies to deale with— Terpnus, Pammenes, and a rout of Fidlers.
Scevin. Why, all the begging Mynstrills by the way He tooke along with him and forc'd to strive That he might overcome, Imagining Himselfe Immortall by such victories.
Flav. The Men he carried over were enough T'have put the Parthian to his second flight Or the proud Indian taught the Roman Yoke.
Scevin. But they were Neroes men, like Nero arm'd With Lutes and Harps and Pipes and Fiddle-cases, Souldyers to th'shadow traynd and not the field.
Flav. Therefore they brought spoyles of such Soldyers worthy.
Lucan. But to throw downe the walls and Gates of Rome To make an entrance for an Hobby-horse; To vaunt to th'people his rediculous spoyles; To come with Lawrell and with Olyves crown'd For having beene the worst of all the Singers, Is beyond Patience.
Scevin. I, and anger too. Had you but seene him in his Chariot ryde, That Chariot in which Augustus late His Triumphs ore so many Nations shew'd, And with him in the same a Minstrell plac'd The whil'st the people, running by his side, 'Hayle thou Olimpick Conqueror' did cry, 'O haile thou Pithian!' and did fill the sky With shame and voices Heaven would not have heard.
Seneca. I saw't, but turn'd away my eyes and eares, Angry they should be privie to such sights. Why do I stand relating of the storie Which in the doing had enough to grieve me? Tell on and end the tale, you whom it pleaseth; Mee mine own sorrow stops from further speaking. Nero, my love doth make thy fault and my griefe greater. [Ex. Sen.
Scevin. I doe commend in Seneca this passion; And yet me thinkes our Countries miserie Doth at our hands crave somewhat more then teares.
Lucan. Pittie, though't doth a kind affection show, If it end there, our weaknesse makes us know.
Flav. Let children weepe and men seeke remedie.
Scevin. Stoutly, and like a soldier, Flavius; Yet to seeke remedie to a Princes ill Seldome but it doth the Phisitian kill.
Flav. And if it doe, Scevinus, it shall take But a devoted soule from Flavius, Which to my Countrey and the Gods of Rome Alreadie sacred is and given away. Deathe is no stranger unto me, I have The doubtfull hazard in twelve Battailes throwne; My chaunce was life.
Lucan. Why doe we go to fight in Brittanie And end our lives under another Sunne? Seeke causelesse dangers out? The German might Enioy his Woods and his owne Allis drinke, Yet we walke safely in the streets of Rome; Bonduca hinders not but we might live, Whom we do hurt. Them we call enemies, And those our Lords that spoyle and murder us.
Scevin. Nothing is hard to them that dare to die. This nobler resolution in you, Lords, Heartens me to disclose some thoughts that I— The matter is of waight and dangerous.
Lucan. I see you feare us Scaevinus.
Scevin. Nay, nay, although the thing be full of feare.
Flav. Tell it to faithfull Eares what eare it bee.
Scevin. Faith, let it goe, it will but trouble us, Be hurtfull to the speaker and the hearer.
Lucan. If our long friendship or the opinion—
Scevin. Why should I feare to tell them? Why, is he not a Parricide a Player? Nay, Lucan, is he not thine Enemie? Hate not the Heavens as well as men to see That condemn'd head? And you, O righteous Gods, Whither so ere you now are fled and will No more looke downe upon th'oppressed Earth; O severe anger of the highest Gods And thou, sterne power to whom the Greekes assigne Scourges and swords to punish proud mens wrongs, If you be more then names found out to awe us And that we doe not vainely build you alters, Aid that iust arme that's bent to execute What you should doe.
Lucan. Stay, y'are carried too much away, Scevinus.
Scevin. Why, what will you say for him? hath he not Sought to suppresse your Poem, to bereave That honour every tongue in duty paid it. Nay, what can you say for him, hath he not Broacht his owne wives (a chast wives) breast and torne With Scithian hands his Mothers bowels up? The inhospitable Caucasus is milde; The More, that in the boyling desert seekes With blood of strangers to imbrue his iawes, Upbraides the Roman now with barbarousnesse.
Lucan. You are to earnest: I neither can nor will I speake for him; And though he sought my learned paynes to wrong I hate him not for that; My verse shall live When Neroes body shall be throwne in Tiber, And times to come shall blesse those wicked armes. I love th'unnatural wounds from whence did flow Another Cirrha, a new Hellicon. I hate him that he is Romes enemie, An enemie to Vertue; sits on high To shame the seate: and in that hate my life And blood I'le mingle on the earth with yours.
Flav. My deeds, Scevinus, shall speake my consent,
Scevin. Tis answerd as I lookt for, Noble Poet, Worthy the double Lawrell. Flavius, Good lucke, I see, doth vertuous meanings ayde, And therefore have the Heavens forborne their duties To grace our swords with glorious blood of Tyrants.
Finis Actus Primi.
Enter Petronius solus.
Here waites Poppea her Nimphidius comming And hath this garden and these walkes chose out To blesse her with more pleasures then their owne. Not only Arras hangings and silke beds Are guilty of the faults we blame them for: Somewhat these arbors and you trees doe know Whil'st your kind shades you to these night sports show. Night sports? Faith, they are done in open day And the Sunne see'th and envieth their play. Hither have I Love-sicke Antonius brought And thrust him on occasion so long sought; Shewed him the Empresse in a thicket by, Her loves approach waiting with greedie Eye; And told him, if he ever meant to prove The doubtfull issue of his hopelesse Love, This is the place and time wherein to try it; Women will heere the suite that will deny it. The suit's not hard that she comes for to take; Who (hot in lust of men) doth difference make? At last loath, willing, to her did he pace: Arme him, Priapus, with thy powerfull Mace. But see, they comming are; how they agree Heere will I harken; shroud me, gentle tree.
Enter Poppea and Antonius.
Anton. Seeke not to grieve that heart which is thine owne. In Loves sweete fires let heat of rage burne out; These brows could never yet to wrinkle learne, Nor anger out of such faire eyes look forth.
Poppea. You may solicit your presumptious suites; You duety may, and shame too, lay aside; Disturbe my privacie, and I forsooth Must be afeard even to be angry at you!
Anton. What shame is't to be mastred by such beautie? Who but to serve you comes, how wants he dutie? Or, if it be a shame, the shame is yours; The fault is onely in your Eies, they drew me: Cause you were lovely therefore did I love. O, if to Love you anger you so much, You should not have such cheekes nor lips to touch, You should not have your snow nor currall spy'd;— If you but looke on us in vaine you chide. We must not see your face, nor heare your speech; Now, whilst you Love forbid, you Love do teach.
Petron. He doth better than I thought he would.
Poppea. I will not learne my beauties worth of you; I know you neither are the first nor greatest Whom it hath mov'd: He whom the World obayes Is fear'd with anger of my threatening eyes. It is for you afarre off to adore it, And not to reach at it with sawsie hands: Feare is the Love that's due to God and Princes.
Petron. All this is but to edge his appetite.
Anton. O doe not see thy faire in that false glasse Of outward difference; Looke into my heart. There shalt thou see thy selfe Inthroaned set In greater Maiesty then all the pompe Of Rome or Nero. Tis not the crowching awe And Ceremony with which we flatter Princes That can to Loves true duties be compar'd.
Poppea. Sir, let me goe or He make knowne your Love To them that shall requite it but with hate.
Petron. On, on, thou hast the goale; the fort is beaten; Women are wonne when they begin to threaten.
Anton. Your Noblenesse doth warrant me from that, Nor need you others helpe to punish me Who by your forehead am condem'd or free. They that to be revendg'd do bend their minde Seeke always recompence in that same kind The wrong was done them; Love was mine offence, In that revenge, in that seeke recompence.
Poppea. Further to answere will still cause replyes, And those as ill doe please me as your selfe. If you'le an answere take that's breefe and true, I hate my selfe if I be lov'd of you. [Exit Popp.
Petron. What, gone? but she will come againe sure: no? It passeth cleane my cunning, all my rules: For Womens wantonnesse there is no rule. To take her in the itching of her Lust, A propper young man putting forth himselfe! Why, Fate! there's Fate and hidden providence In cod piece matters.
Anton. O unhappy Man! What comfort have I now, Petronius?
Petron. Council your selfe; Ile teach no more but learne.
Anton. This comfort yet: He shall not so escape Who causeth my disgrace, Nimphidius; Whom had I here—Well, for my true-hearts love I see she hates me. And shall I love one That hates me, and bestowes what I deserve Upon my rivall? No; farewell Poppea, Farewell Poppea and farewell all Love: Yet thus much shall it still prevaile in me That I will hate Nimphidius for thee.
Petron. Farewell to her, to my Enanthe welcome. Who now will to my burning kisses stoope, Now with an easie cruelty deny That which she, rather then the asker, would Have forced from her then begin her selfe. Their loves that list upon great Ladies set; I still will love the Wench that I can get.
Enter Nero, Tigellinus, Epaphroditus, and Neophilus.
Nero. Tigellinus, said the villaine Proculus I was throwne downe in running?
Tigell. My Lord, he said that you were crown'd for that You could not doe.
Nero. For that I could not doe? Why, Elis saw me doe't, and doe't it with wonder Of all the Iudges and the lookers on; And yet to see—A villaine! could not doe't? Who did it better? I warrant you he said I from the Chariot fell against my will.
Tigell. He said, My Lord, you were throwne out of it All crusht and maim'd and almost bruis'd to death.
Nero. Malicious Rogue! when I fell willingly To show of purpose with what little hurt Might a good rider beare a forced fall. How sayest thou, Tigellinus? I am sure Thou hast in driving as much skill as he.
Tigell. My Lord, you greater cunning shew'd in falling Then had you sate.
Nero. I know I did; or bruised in my fall? Hurt! I protest I felt no griefe in it. Goe, Tigellinus, fetch the villaines head. This makes me see his heart in other things. Fetch me his head; he nere shall speake againe. [Ex. Tigell. What doe we Princes differ from the durt And basenesse of the common Multitude If to the scorne of each malicious tongue We subiect are: For that I had no skill, Not he that his farre famed daughter set A prise to Victoria and had bin Crown'd With thirteene Sutors deaths till he at length By fate of Gods and Servants treason fell, (Shoulder pack't Pelops, glorying in his spoyles) Could with more skill his coupled horses guide. Even as a Barke that through the mooving Flood Her linnen wings and the forc't ayre doe beare; The Byllowes fome, she smoothly cutts them through; So past my burning Axeltree along: The people follow with their Eyes and Voyce, And now the wind doth see it selfe outrun And the Clouds wonder to be left behind, Whilst the void ayre is fild with shoutes and noyse, And Neroes name doth beate the brazen Skie; Jupiter envying loath doth heare my praise. Then their greene bowes and Crownes of Olive wreaths, The Conquerors praise, they give me as my due. And yet this Rogue sayth No, we have no skill.
Enter a servant to them.
Servant. My Lord, the Stage and all the furniture—
Nero. I have no skill to drive a Chariot! Had he but robde me, broke my treasurie: The red-Sea's mine, mine are the Indian stones, The Worlds mine owne; then cannot I be robde? But spightfully to undermine my fame, To take away my arte! he would my life As well, no doubt, could he tould (tell?) how.
Enter Tigellinus with Proculus head.
Neoph. My Lord, Tigellinus is backe come with Proculus head. (Strikes him.)
Nero. O cry thee mercie, good Neophilus; Give him five hundred sesterces for amends. Hast brought him, Tigellinus?
Tigell. Heres his head, my Lord.
Nero. His tongue had bin enough.
Tigell. I did as you commanded me, my Lord.
Nero. Thou toldst not me, though, he had such a nose! Now are you quiet and have quieted me: This tis to be commander of the World. Let them extoll weake pittie that do neede it, Let meane men cry to have Law and Iustice done And tell their griefes to Heaven that heares them not: Kings must upon the Peoples headlesse courses Walk to securitie and ease of minde. Why, what have we to doe with th'ayrie names (That old age and Philosophers found out) Of Iustice and ne're certaine Equitie? The God's revenge themselves and so will we; Where right is scand Authoritie's orethrowne: We have a high prerogative above it. Slaves may do what is right, we what we please: The people will repine and think it ill, But they must beare, and praise too, what we will.
Enter Cornutus to them.
Neoph. My Lord, Cornutus whom you sent for's come.
Nero. Welcome, good Cornutus. Are all things ready for the stage, As I gave charge?
Corn. They only stay your coming.
Nero. Cornutus, I must act to day Orestes.
Corn. You have done that alreadie, and too truely. (Aside.)
Nero. And when our Sceane is done I meane besides To read some compositions of my owne, Which, for the great opinion I my selfe And Rome in generall of thy Judgment hath, Before I publish them Ile shew them thee.
Corn. My Lord, my disabilities—
Nero. I know thy modestie: Ile only shew thee now my works beginning.— Goe see, Epaphroditus, Musick made ready; I will sing to day.— [Exit Epa. Cornutus, I pray thee come neere And let me heare thy Judgement in my paynes. I would have thee more familiar, good Cornutus; Nero doth prise desert and more esteemes Them that in knowledge second him, then power. Marke with what style and state my worke begins.
Corn. Might not my Interruption offend, Whats your workes name, my Lord? what write you of?
Nero. I meane to write the deeds of all the Romans.
Corn. Of all the Romans? A huge argument.
Nero. I have not yet bethought me of a title:— (he reades,)
"You Enthrall Powers which the wide Fortunes doon Of Empyre-crown'd seaven-Mountaine-seated Rome, Full blowne Inspire me with Machlaean rage That I may bellow out Romes Prentisage; As when the Menades do fill their Drums And crooked hornes with Mimalonean hummes And Evion do Ingeminate around, Which reparable Eccho doth resound."
How doest thou like our Muses paines, Cornutus?
Corn. The verses have more in them than I see: Your work, my Lord, I doubt will be too long.
Nero. Too long?
Tigell. Too long?
Corn. I, if you write the deedes of all the Romans. How many Bookes thinke you t'include it in?
Nero. I thinke to write about foure hundred Bookes.
Corn. Four hundred! Why, my Lord, they'le nere be read.
Tigell. Why, he whom you esteeme so much, Crisippus, Wrote many more.
Corn. But they were profitable to common life And did Men Honestie and Wisedome teach.
[Exit Nero and Tigell.
Corn. See with what earnestnesse he crav'd my Judgment, And now he freely hath it how it likes him.
Neoph. The Prince is angry, and his fall is neere; Let us begon lest we partake his ruines.
[Exeunt omnes praeter Cornu.
Manet Cornutus solus.
What should I doe at Court? I cannot lye. Why didst thou call me, Nero, from my Booke; Didst thou for flatterie of Cornutus looke? No, let those purple Fellowes that stand by thee (That admire shew and things that thou canst give) Leave to please Truth and Vertue to please thee. Nero, there is no thing in thy power Cornutus Doth wish or fear.
Enter Tigellinus to him.
Tigell. Tis Neroes pleasure that you straight depart To Giara, and there remaine confin'd: Thus he, out of his Princely Clemencie, Hath Death, your due, turn'd but to banishment.
Corn. Why, Tigellinus?
Tigell. I have done, upon your perill go or stay. [Ex. Ti.
Corn. And why should Death or Banishment be due For speaking that which was requir'd, my thought? O why doe Princes love to be deceiv'd And even do force abuses on themselves? Their Eares are so with pleasing speech beguil'd That Truth they mallice, Flatterie truth account, And their owne Soule and understanding lost Goe, what they are, to seeke in other men. Alas, weake Prince, how hast thou punisht me To banish me from thee? O let me goe And dwell in Taurus, dwell in Ethiope So that I doe not dwell at Rome with thee. The farther still I goe from hence, I know, The farther I leave Shame and Vice behind. Where can I goe but I shall see thee, Sunne? And Heaven will be as neere me still as here. Can they so farre a knowing soule exyle That her owne roofe she sees not ore her head?
Enter Piso, Scevinus, Lucan, Flavius.
Piso. Noble Gentlemen, what thankes, what recompence Shall hee give you that give to him the world? One life to them that must so many venture, And that the worst of all, is too meane paye; Yet can give no more. Take that, bestow it Upon your service.
Lucan. O Piso, that vouchsafest To grace our headlesse partie with thy name, Whom having our conductor we need not Have fear'd to goe against the well try'd vallor Of Julius or stayednesse of Augustus, Much lesse the shame and Womanhood of Nero; When we had once given out that our pretences Were all for thee, our end to make thee Prince, They thronging came to give their names, Men, Women, Gentlemen, People, Soldiers, Senators, The Campe and Cittie grew asham'd that Nero And Piso should be offered them together.
Scevin. We seeke not now (as in the happy dayes Oth' common wealth they did) for libertie; O you deere ashes, Cassius and Brutus, That was with you entomb'd, their let it rest. We are contented with the galling yoke If they will only leave us necks to beare it: We seeke no longer freedome, we seeke life; At least, not to be murdred, let us die On Enemies swords. Shall we, whom neither The Median Bow nor Macedonian Speare Nor the fierce Gaul nor painted Briton could Subdue, lay down our neckes to tyrants axe? Why doe we talke of Vertue that obay Weaknesse and Vice?
Piso. Have patience, good Scevinus.
Lucan. Weaknesse and servile Government we hitherto Obeyed have, which, that we may no longer, We have our lives and fortunes now set up, And have our cause with Pisoes credit strengthned.
Flav. Which makes it doubtfull whether love to him Or Neroes hatred hath drawne more unto us.
Piso. I see the good thoughts you have of me, Lords. Lets now proceede to th'purpose of our meeting: I pray you take your places. Lets have some paper brought.
Scevin. Whose within?
Enter Milichus to them.
Mill. My Lord.
Scevin. Some Inke and Paper.
Enter againe with Incke and Paper.
Flav. Whose that, Scevinus?
Scevin. It is my freed man, Milichus.
Lucan. Is he trustie?
Scevin. I, for as great matters as we are about.
Piso. And those are great ones.
Lucan. I aske not that we meane to need his trust; Gaine hath great soveraigntie ore servile mindes.
Scevin. O but my benefits have bound him to me. I from a bondman have his state not onely Advanct to freedome but to wealth and credit.
Piso. Mili. waite ith' next chamber till we call. [abscondit se. The thing determinde on, our meeting now Is of the meanes and place, due circumstance As to the doing of things: 'tis required So done it names the action.
Mili. I wonder (aside) What makes this new resort to haunt our house. When wonted Lucius Piso to come hither, Or Lucan when so oft as now of late?
Piso. And since the field and open shew of armes Disliked you, and that for the generall good You meane to end all styrres in end of him; That, as the ground, must first be thought upon.
Mill. Besides, this comming cannot be for forme, (aside) Our (Mere?) visitation; they goe aside And have long conferences by themselves.
Lucan. Piso, his coming to your house at Baiae To bathe and banquet will fit meanes afford, Amidst his cups, to end his hated life: Let him die drunke that nere liv'd soberly.
Piso. O be it farre that I should staine my Table And Gods of Hospitalitie with blood. Let not our cause (now Innocent) be soyld With such a plot, nor Pisoes name made hatefull. What place can better fit our action Then his owne house, that boundlesse envied heape Built with the spoyles and blood of Cittizens, That hath taken up the Citie, left no roome For Rome to stand on? Romanes get you gone And dwell at Veiae, if that Veiae too This (His?) house ore runne not.
Lucan. But twill be hard to doe it in his house And harder to escape, being done.
Piso. Not so: Rufus, the Captaine of the Guard, 's with us, And divers other oth' Praetorian band Already made (named?); many, though unacquainted With our intents, have had disgrace and wrongs Which grieve them still; most will be glad of change, And even they that lov'd him best, when once They see him gone, will smile oth' comming times, Let goe things past and looke to their owne safetie: Besides, th'astonishment and feare will be So great, so sodaine that 'twill hinder them From doing anything.
Mili. No private businesse can concerne them all: (aside) Their countenances are troubled and looke sad; Doubt and importance in their face is read.
Lucan. Yet still, I think it were Safer t'attempt him private and alone.
Flav. But 'twill not carry that opinion with it; 'Twill seeme more foule and come from private malice. Brutus and they, to right the common cause, Did chuse a publike place.
Scevin. Our deed is honest, why should it seeke corners? Tis for the people done, let them behold it; Let me have them a witnesse of my truth And love to th'Common-wealth. The danger's greater, So is the glory. Why should our pale counsels Tend whether feare rather then vertue calls them? I doe not like these cold considerings. First let our thoughts looke up to what is honest, Next to what's safe. If danger may deterre us Nothing that's great or good shall ere be done: And, when we first gave hands upon this deed, To th'common safetie we our owne gave up. Let no man venture on a princes death, How bad soever, with beliefe to escape; Dispaire must be our hope, fame o[u]r reward. To make the generall liking to concurre With others (ours?) were even to strike him in his shame Or (as he thinks) his glory, on the stage, And so too truly make't a Tragedy; When all the people cannot chuse but clap So sweet a close, and 'twill not Caesar be That shall be slaine, a Roman Prince; Twill be Alcmaeon or blind Oedipus.
Mili. And if it be of publique matters 'tis not (aside) Like to be talke or idle fault finding, On which the coward onely spends his wisedome: These are all men of action and of spirit, And dare performe what they determine on.
Lucan. What thinke you of Poppaea, Tigellinus And th'other odious Instruments of Court? Were it not best at once to rid them all?
Scevin. In Caesars ruine Anthony was spared; Lets not our cause with needlesse blood distaine. One onely mov'd, the change will not appeare; When too much licence given to the sword, Though against ill, will make even good men feare. Besides, things setled, you at pleasure may By Law and publique Iudgement have them rid.
Mili. And if it be but talke oth' State 'tis Treason. (aside) Like it they cannot, that they cannot doe: If seeke to mend it, and remoove the Prince, That's highest Treason: change his Councellours, That's alteration of the Government, The common cloke that Treasons muffled in: If laying force aside, to seeke by suite And faire petition t'have the State reform'd, That's tutering of the Prince and takes away Th' one his person, this his Soveraigntie. Barely in private talke to shew dislike Of what is done is dangerous; therefore the action Mislike you cause the doer likes you not. Men are not fit to live ith' state they hate.
Piso. Though we would all have that imployment sought, Yet, since your worthy forwardnesse Scevinus Prevents us and so Nobly beggs for danger, Be this (thine?) the chosen hand to doe the deed; The fortune of the Empire speed your sword.
Scevin. Vertue and Heaven speed it. You home-borne Gods of our countrey, Romulus and Vesta, That Thuscan Tiber and Romes towers defends, Forbid not yet at length a happie end To former evils; let this hand revenge The wronged world; enough we now have suffered.
Manet Milichus solus.
Mili. Tush, all this long Consulting's more then words, It ends not there; th'have some attempt, some plot Against the state: well, I'le observe it farther And, if I find it, make my profit of it. [Exit.
Finis Actus Secundus. [Sic.]
Enter Poppea solus. [Sic.]
Poppea. I lookt Nimphidius would have come ere this. Makes he no greater hast to our embraces, Or doth the easiness abate his edge? Or seeme we not as faire still as we did? Or is he so with Neroes playing wonne That he before Poppea doth preferre it? Or doth he think to have occasion still, Still to have time to waite on our stolne meetings?
Enter Nimphidius to her.
But see, his presence now doth end those doubts. What is't, Nimphidius, hath so long detain'd you?
Nimphid. Faith, Lady, causes strong enough, High walls, bard dores, and guards of armed men.
Poppea. Were you Imprisoned, then, as you were going To the Theater?
Nimphid. Not in my going, Lady, But in the Theater I was imprisoned. For after he was once upon the Stage The Gates were more severely lookt into Then at a town besieg'd: no man, no cause Was Currant, no, nor passant. At other sights The striefe is only to get in, but here The stirre was all in getting out againe. Had we not bin kept to it so I thinke 'Twould nere have been so tedious, though I know 'Twas hard to judge whether his doing of it Were more absurd then 'twas for him to doe it. But when we once were forct to be spectators, Compel'd to that which should have bin a pleasure, We could no longer beare the wearisomnesse: No paine so irksome as a forct delight. Some fell down dead or seem'd at least to doe so, Under that colour to be carried forth. Then death first pleasur'd men, the shape all feare Was put on gladly; some clomb ore the walls And so, by falling, caught in earnest that Which th'other did dissemble. There were women That (being not able to intreat the guard To let them passe the gates) were brought to bed Amidst the throngs of men, and made Lucina Blush to see that unwonted companie.
Poppea. If 'twere so straightly kept how got you forth?
Nimphid. Faith, Lady, I came pretending hast In Face and Countenance, told them I was sent For things bith' Prince forgot about the sceane, Which both my credit made them to beleeve And Nero newly whispered me before. Thus did I passe the gates; the danger, Ladie, I have not yet escapt.
Poppea. What danger meane you?
Nimphid. The danger of his anger when he knowes How I thus shranke away; for there stood knaves, That put downe in their Tables all that stir'd And markt in each there cheerefulnesse or sadnesse.
Poppea. I warrant He excuse you; but I pray Lett's be a little better for your sight. How did our Princely husband act Orestes? Did he not wish againe his mother living? Her death would adde great life unto his part. But come, I pray; the storie of your sight.
Nimph. O doe not drive me to those hatefull paines. Lady, I was too much in seeing vext; Let it not be redoubled with the telling. I now am well and heare, my eares set free; O be mercifull, doe not bring me backe Unto my prison, at least free your selfe. It will not passe away, but stay the time; Wracke out the houres in length. O give me leave: As one that wearied with the toyle at sea And now on wished shore hath firm'd his foote, He lookes about and glads his thoughts and eyes With sight oth' greene cloath'd ground and leavy trees, Of flowers that begge more then the looking on, And likes these other waters narrow shores; So let me lay my wearines in these armes, Nothing but kisses to this mouth discourse, My thoughts be compast in those circl'd Eyes, Eyes on no obiect looke but on these Cheekes; Be blest my hands with touch of those round brests Whiter and softer than the downe of Swans. Let me of thee and of thy beauties glory An endless tell, but never wearying story.
Enter Nero, Epaphroditus, Neophilus.
Nero. Come Sirs, I faith, how did you like my acting? What? wast not as you lookt for?
Epaphr. Yes, my Lord, and much beyond.
Nero. Did I not doe it to the life?
Epaphr. The very doing never was so lively As was this counterfeyting.
Nero. And when I came Toth' point of Agripp—Clytemnestras death, Did it not move the feeling auditory?
Epaphr. They had beene stones whom that could not have mov'd.
Nero. Did not my voice hold out well to the end, And serv'd me afterwards afresh to sing with?
Neoph. We know Appollo cannot match your voice.
Epaphr. By Jove! I thinke you are the God himselfe Come from above to shew your hidden arts And fill us men with wonder of your skill.
Nero. Nay, faith, speake truely, doe not flatter me; I know you need not; flattery's but where Desert is meane.
Epaphr. I sweare by thee, O Caesar, Then whom no power of heaven I honour more, No mortall Voice can passe or equall thine.
Nero. They tell of Orpheus, when he tooke his Lute And moov'd the noble Ivory with his touch, Hebrus stood still, Pangea bow'd his head, Ossa then first shooke off his snowe and came To listen to the moovings of his song; The gentle Popler tooke the baye along, And call'd the Pyne downe from his Mountaine seate; The Virgine Bay, although the Arts she hates Oth' Delphick God, was with his voice orecome; He his twice-lost Euridice bewailes And Proserpines vaine gifts, and makes the shores And hollow caves of forrests now untreed Beare his griefe company, and all things teacheth His lost loves name; Then water, ayre, and ground Euridice, Euridice resound. These are bould tales, of which the Greeks have store; But if he could from Hell once more returne And would compare his hand and voice with mine, I, though himselfe were iudge, he then should see How much the Latine staines the Thracian lyar. I oft have walkt by Tibers flowing bankes And heard the Swan sing her own epitaph: When she heard me she held her peace and died. Let others raise from earthly things their praise; Heaven hath stood still to hear my happy ayres And ceast th'eternall Musicke of the Spheares To marke my voyce and mend their tunes by mine.
Neoph. O divine voice!
Epaphr. Happy are they that heare it!
Enter Tigellinus to them.
Nero. But here comes Tigellinus; come, thy bill. Are there so many? I see I have enemies.
Epaphr. Have you put Caius in? I saw him frowne.
Neoph. And in the midst oth' Emperors action. Gallus laught out, and as I thinke in scorne.
Nero. Vespasian too asleepe? was he so drowsie? Well, he shall sleepe the Iron sleepe of death. And did Thrasea looke so sourely on us?
Tigell. He never smilde, my Lord, nor would vouchsafe With one applause to grace your action.
Nero. Our action needed not be grac'd by him: Hee's our old enemie and still maligns us. 'Twill have an end, nay it shall have an end. Why, I have bin too pittifull, too remisse; My easinesse is laught at and contemn'd. But I will change it; not as heretofore By singling out them one by one to death: Each common man can such revenges have; A Princes anger must lay desolate Citties, Kingdomes consume, Roote up mankind. O could I live to see the generall end, Behold the world enwrapt in funerall flame, When as the Sunne shall lend his beames to burne What he before brought forth, and water serve Not to extinguish but to nurse the fire; Then, like the Salamander, bathing me In the last Ashes of all mortall things Let me give up this breath. Priam was happie, Happie indeed; he saw his Troy burnt And Illion lye on heapes, whilst thy pure streames (Divine Scamander) did run Phrygian blood, And heard the pleasant cries of Troian mothers. Could I see Rome so!
Tigell. Your Maiestie may easily, Without this trouble to your sacred mind.
Nero. What may I easily doe? Kill thee or him: How may I rid you all? Where is the Man That will all others end and last himselfe? O that I had thy Thunder in my hand, Thou idle Rover, I'de not shoote at trees And spend in woods my unregarded vengeance, Ide shevire them downe upon their guilty roofes And fill the streetes with bloody burials. But 'tis not Heaven can give me what I seeke; To you, you hated kingdomes of the night, You severe powers that not like those above Will with faire words or childrens cryes be wonne, That have a stile beyond that Heaven is proud off, Deriving not from Art a makers Name But in destruction power and terror shew, To you I flye for succour; you, whose dwellings For torments are belyde, must give me ease. Furies, lend me your fires; no, they are here, They must be other fires, materiall brands That must the burning of my heat allay. I bring to you no rude unpractiz'd hands, Already doe they reeke with mothers' blood. Tush, that's but innocent to what now I meane: Alasse, what evell could those yeeres commit! The world in this shall see my setled wit.
Enter Seneca, Petronius.
Seneca. Petronius, you were at the Theater?
Petron. Seneca, I was, and saw your Kingly Pupyll In Mynstrills habit stand before the Iudges Bowing those hands which the worlds Scepter hold, And with great awe and reverence beseeching Indifferent hearing and an equall doome. Then Caesar doubted first to be oreborne; And so he ioyn'd himselfe to th'other singers And straightly all other Lawes oth' Stage observ'd, As not (though weary) to sit downe, not spit, Not wipe his sweat off but with what he wore. Meane time how would he eye his adversaries, How he would seeke t'have all they did disgract; Traduce them privily, openly raile at them; And them he could not conquer so he would Corrupt with money to doe worse then he. This was his singing part: his acting now.
Seneca. Nay, even end here, for I have heard enough; I have a Fidler heard him, let me not See him a Player, nor the fearefull voyce Of Romes great Monarch now command in Iest— Our Prince be Agamemnon in a Play!
Petron. Why, Seneca, 'Tis better in [a] Play Be Agamemnon than himselfe indeed. How oft, with danger of the field beset Or with home mutineys, would he unbee Himselfe; or, over cruel alters weeping, Wish that with putting off a vizard hee Might his true inward sorrow lay aside. The showes of things are better then themselves. How doth it stirre this ayery part of us To heare our Poets tell imagin'd fights And the strange blowes that fained courage gives! When I Achilles heare upon the Stage Speake Honour and the greatnesse of his soule, Me thinkes I too could on a Phrygian Speare Runne boldly and make tales for after times; But when we come to act it in the deed Death mars this bravery, and the ugly feares Of th'other world sit on the proudest browe, And boasting Valour looseth his red cheeke.
A Romane to them.
Rom. Fire, fire! helpe, we burne!
2 Rom. Fire, water, fire, helpe, fire!
Seneca. Fire? Where?
Petron. Where? What fire?
Rom. O round about, here, there, on every side The girdling flame doth with unkind embraces Compasse the Citie.
Petron. How came this fire? by whom?
Seneca. Wast chance or purpose?
Petron. Why is't not quencht?
Rom. Alas, there are a many there with weapons, And whether it be for pray or by command They hinder, nay, they throwe on fire-brands.
Enter Antonius to them.
Anton. The fire increaseth and will not be staid, But like a stream that tumbling from a hill Orewhelmes the fields, orewhelmes the hopefull toyle Oth' husbandman and headlong beares the woods; The unweeting Shepheard on a Rocke afarre Amazed heares the feareful noyse; so here Danger and Terror strive which shall exceed. Some cry and yet are well; some are kild silent; Some kindly runne to helpe their neighbours house, The whilest their own's afire; some save their goods And leave their dearer pledges in the flame; One takes his little sonnes with trembling hands; Tother his house-Gods saves, which could not him; All bann the doer, and with wishes kill Their absent Murderer.
Petron. What, are the Gauls returnd? Doth Brennus brandish fire-brands againe?
Seneca. What can Heaven now unto our suffrings adde?
Enter another Romane to them.
Rom. O all goes downe, Rome falleth from the Roofe; The winds aloft, the conquering flame turnes all Into it selfe. Nor doe the Gods escape; Plei[a]des burnes; Iupiter, Saturne burnes; The Altar now is made a sacrifice, And Vesta mournes to see her Virgin fires Mingle with prophane ashes.
Seneca. Heaven, hast thou set this end to Roman greatnesse? Were the worlds spoyles for this to Rome devided To make but our fires bigger? You Gods, whose anger made us great, grant yet Some change in misery. We begge not now To have our Consull tread on Asian Kings Or spurne the quivered Susa at their feet; This we have had before: we beg to live, At least not thus to die. Let Cannae come, Let Allias waters turne again to blood: To these will any miseries be light.
Petron. Why with false Auguries have we bin deceiv'd? Why was our Empire told us should endure With Sunne and Moone in time, in brightnesse pass them, And that our end should be oth' world and it? What, can Celestiall Godheads double too?
Seneca. O Rome, the envy late But now the pitie of the world! the Getes? The men of Cholcos at thy sufferings grive; The shaggy dweller in the Scithian Rockes, The Mosch condemned to perpetual snowes, That never wept at kindreds burials Suffers with thee and feeles his heart to soften. O should the Parthyan heare these miseries He would (his low and native hate apart) Sit downe with us and lend an Enemies teare To grace the funerall fires of ending Rome.
Soft Musique. Enter Nero above alone with a Timbrell.
I, now my Troy lookes beautious in her flames; The Tyrrhene Seas are bright with Roman fires Whilst the amazed Mariner afarre, Gazing on th'unknowne light, wonders what starre Heaven hath begot to ease the aged Moone. When Pirrhus, stryding ore the cynders, stood On ground where Troy late was, and with his Eye Measur'd the height of what he had throwne downe,— A Citie great in people and in power, Walls built with hands of God—he now forgive[s] The ten yeares length and thinkes his wounds well heald, Bath'd in the blood of Priams fifty sonnes. Yet am not I appeas'd; I must see more Then Towers and Collomns tumble to the ground; 'Twas not the high built walls and guiltlesse stones That Nero did provoke: themselves must be the wood To feed this fire or quench it with their blood.
Enter a Woman with a burnt Child.
Wom. O my deare Infant, O my Child, my Child, Unhappy comfort of my nine moneths paines; And did I beare thee only for the fire, Was I to that end made a mother?
Nero. I, now begins the sceane that I would have.
Enter a Man bearing another dead.
Man. O Father, speake yet; no, the mercilesse blowe Hath all bereft speech, motion, sense and life.
Wom. O beauteous innocence, whitenes ill blackt, How to be made a coale didst thou deserve?
Man. O reverend wrinckles, well becoming palenesse, Why hath death now lifes colours given thee And mockes thee with the beauties of fresh youth?
Wom. Why wert thou given me to be tane away So soone, or could not Heaven tell how to punish But first by blessing mee?
Man. Why where thy years Lengthened so long to be cut off untimely?
Nero. Play on, play on, and fill the golden skies With cryes and pitie, with your blood; Mens Eyes—
Wom. Where are thy flattering smiles, thy pretty kisses, And armes that wont to writhe about my necke?
Man. Where are thy counsels? where thy good example, And that kind roughnes of a Father's anger?
Wom. Whom have I now to leane my old age on?
Man. Who shall I now have to set right my youth? Gods, if yee be not fled from Heaven, helpe us.
Nero. I like this Musique well; they like not mine. Now in the teare[s] of all men let me sing, And make it doubtfull to the Gods above Whether the Earth be pleas'd or doe complaine.
Man. But may the man that all this blood hath shed Never bequeath to th'earth an old gray head; Let him untimely be cut off before. And leave a course like this, all wounds and gore; Be there no friends at hand, no standers by In love or pittie mov'd to close that Eye: O let him die, the wish and hate of all, And not a teare to grace his Funerall.
Wom. Heaven, you will heare (that which the world doth scorn) The prayers of misery and soules forlorne. Your anger waxeth by delaying stronger, O now for mercy be despis'd no longer; Let him that makes so many Mothers childlesse Make his unhappy in her fruitfulnesse. Let him no issue leave to beare his name Or sonne to right a Fathers wronged fame; Our flames to quit be righteous in your yre, And when he dies let him want funerall fire.
Nero. Let Heaven do what it will, this I have done. Already doe you feel my furies waight: Rome is become a grave of her late greatnes; Her clowdes of smoke have tane away the day, Her flames the night. Now, unbeleaving Eyes, what crave you more?
Enter Neophilus to him.
Neoph. O save your selfe, my Lord: your Pallace burnes.
Nero. My Pallace? how? what traiterous hand?
Enter Tigellinus to them.
Tigell. O flie, my Lord, and save your selfe betimes. The winde doth beate the fire upon your house, The eating flame devoures your double gates; Your pillars fall, your golden roofes doe melt; Your antique Tables and Greeke Imagery The fire besets; and the smoake, you see, Doth choake my speech: O flie and save your life.
Nero. Heaven thou dost strive, I see, for victory.
Enter Nimphidius solus.
See how Fate workes unto their purpos'd end And without all selfe-Industry will raise Whom they determine to make great and happy. Nero throwes down himselfe, I stirre him not; He runnes unto destruction, studies wayes To compasse danger and attaine the hate Of all. Bee his owne wishis on his head, Nor Rome with fire more then revenges burne. Let me stand still or lye or sleepe, I rise. Poppea some new favour will seeke out My wakings to salute; I cannot stirre But messages of new preferment meet me. Now she hath made me Captaine of the Guard So well I beare me in these night Alarmes That she imagin'd I was made for Armes. I now command the Souldier, he the Citie: If any chance doe turne the Prince aside (As many hatreds, mischiefes threaten him) Ours is his wife; his seat and throwne is ours: He's next in right that hath the strongest powers. [Exit.
Enter Scevinus, Milichus.
Scevin. O Troy and O yee soules of our forefathers Which in your countreys fires were offered up, How neere your Nephews to your fortunes come. Yet they were Grecian hands began your flame; But that our Temples and our houses smoake, Our Marble buildings turne to be our Tombes, Burnt bones and spurnt at Courses fill the streets, Not Pirrhus nor thou, Hanniball, art Author: Sad Rome is ruin'd by a Romane hand. But if to Neroes end this onely way Heavens Justice hath chose out, and peoples love Could not but by these feebling ills be mov'd, We doe not then at all complaine; our harmes On this condition please us; let us die And cloy the Parthian with revenge and pitie.
Mili. My Master hath seald up his Testament; Those bond-men which he liketh best set free; Given money, and more liberally then he us'd. And now, as if a farewell to the world Were meant, a sumpteous banquet hath he made; Yet not with countenance that feasters use, But cheeres his friends the whilest himselfe lookes sad.
Scevin. I have from Fortunes Temple tane this sword; May it be fortunate and now at least, Since it could not prevent, punish the Evill. To Rome it had bin better done before, But though lesse helping now they'le praise it more. Great Soveraigne of all mortall actions. Whom only wretched men and Poets blame, Speed thou the weapon which I have from thee. 'Twas not amid thy Temple Monuments In vaine repos'd; somewhat I know't hath done: O with new honours let it be laid up. Strike bouldly, arme; so many powerful prayers Of dead and living hover over thee.
Mili. And though sometimes with talk impertinent And idle fances he would fame a mirth, Yet is it easie seene somewhat is heere The which he dares not let his face make shew of.
Scevin. Long want of use hath made it dull and blunt.— See, Milichus, this weapon better edg'd.
Mili. Sharpning of swords? When must wee then have blowes? Or meanes my Master, Cato-like, to exempt Himselfe from power of Fates and, cloy'd with life, Give the Gods backe their unregarded gift? But he hath neither Catoes mind nor cause; A man given ore to pleasures and soft ease. Which makes me still to doubt how in affaires Of Princes he dares meddle or desires.
Scevin. We shall have blowes on both sides.—Milichus, Provide me store of cloathes to bind up wounds.— What an't be heart for heart; Death is the worst. The Gods sure keepe it, hide from us that live. How sweet death is because we should goe on And be their bailes.—There are about the house Some stones that will stanch blood; see them set up.— This world I see hath no felicitie: Ile trie the other.
Mili. Neroes life is sought; The sword's prepar'd against anothers breast, The helpe for his. It can be no private foe, For then 'twere best to make it knowne and call His troupes of bond and freed men to his aide. Besides his Counsellors, Seneca And Lucan, are no Managers of quarrels.
Scevin. Me thinkes I see him struggling on the ground, Heare his unmanly outcries and lost prayers Made to the Gods which turne their heads away. Nero, this day must end the worlds desires And head-long send thee to unquenched fires. [Exit.
Mili. Why doe I further idly stand debating? My proofes are but too many and too frequent, And Princes Eares still to suspitions open. Who ever, being but accus'd, was quit? For States are wise and cut of ylls that may be. Meane men must die that t'other may sleepe sound. Chiefely that rule whose weaknes, apt to feares, And bad deserts of all men makes them know There's none but is in heart what hee's accused. [Exit.
Finis Actus Tertii.
Enter Nero, Poppaea, Nimphidius, Tigellinus, Neophilus, and Epaphroditus_.
Nero. This kisse, sweete love Ile force from thee, and this; And of such spoiles and victories be prowder Than if I had the fierce Pannonian Or gray-eyed German ten times overcome. Let Iulius goe and fight at end oth' world And conquer from the wilde inhabitants Their cold and poverty, whilst Nero here Makes other warres, warres where the conquerd gaines, Where to orecome is to be prisoner. O willingly I give my freedome up And put on my owne chaines, And am in love with my captivitie. Such Venus is when on the sandy shore Of Xanthus or on Idas pleasant greene She leades the dance; her the Nymphes all a-rowe And smyling graces do accompany. If Bacchus could his stragling Mynion Grace with a glorious wreath of shining Starres, Why should not Heaven my Poppaea Crowne? The Northerne teeme shall move into a round, New constellations rise to honour thee; The earth shall wooe thy favours and the Sea Lay his rich shells and treasure at thy feete. For thee Hidaspis shall throw up his gold, Panchaia breath the rich delightful smells; The Seres and the feather'd man of Inde Shall their fine arts and curious labours bring; And where the Sunn's not knowne Poppaeas name Shall midst their feasts and barbarous pompe be sung.
Poppea. I, now I am worthy to be Queene oth' world, Fairer then Venus or the Bacchus love; But you'le anon unto your cutt-boy Sporus, Your new made woman; to whom now, I heare, You are wedded too.
Nero. I wedded?
Poppaea. I, you wedded. Did you not heare the words oth' Auspyces? Was not the boy in bride-like garments drest? Marriage bookes seald as 'twere for yssue to Be had betweene you? solemne feasts prepar'd, While all the Court with God-give-you-Ioy sounds? It had bin good Domitius your Father Had nere had other wife.
Nero. Your froward, foole; y'are still so bitter. Whose that?
Enter Milichus to them.
Nimph. One that it seemes, my Lord, doth come in hast.
Nero. Yet in his face he sends his tale before him. Bad newes thou tellest?
Mili. 'Tis bad I tell, but good that I can tell it Therefore your Maiestie will pardon me If I offend your eares to save your life.
Nero. Why? is my life indangerd? How ends the circumstance? thou wrackst my thoughts.
Mili. My Lord, your life is conspir'd against.
Nero. By whom?
Mili. I must be of the world excus'd in this, If the great dutie to your Maiestie, Makes me all other lesser to neglect.
Nero. Th'art a tedious fellow. Speake: by whom?
Mili. By my Master.
Nero. Who's thy Master?
Poppea. Scevinus? why should he conspire?— Unlesse he thinke that likenesse in conditions May make him, too, worthy oth' Empire thought.
Nero. Who are else in it?
[Mili]. I thinke Natalis, Subrius, Flavus, Lucan, Seneca, and Lucius Piso, Asper and Quintilianus.
Nero. Ha done, Thou'ilt reckon all Rome anone; and so thou maist, Th'are villaines all, Ile not trust one of them. O that the Romanes had all but one necke!
Poppea. Pisoes slie creeping into mens affections And popular arts have given long cause of doubt; And th'others late observed discontents, Risen from misinterpreted disgraces, May make us credit this relation.
Nero. Where are they? come they not upon us yet? See the Guard doubled, see the Gates shut up. Why, they'le surprise us in our Court anon.
Mili. Not so, my Lord; they are at Pisoes house And thinke themselves yet safe and undiscry'd.
Nero. Lets thither then, And take them in this false security.
Tigell. 'Twere better first to publish them traytors.
Nimph. That were to make them so And force them all upon their Enemies. Now without stirre or hazard theyle be tane And boldly triall dare and law demaund; Besides, this accusation may be forg'd By mallice or mistaking.
Poppea. What likes you doe, Nimphidius, out of hand: Two waies distract when either would prevaile. If they, suspecting but this fellowes absence, Should try the Citie and attempt their friends How dangerous might Pisoes favour be?
Nimph. I to himselfe would make the matter cleare Which now upon one servants credit stands. The Cities favour keepes within the bonds Of profit, they'le love none to hurt themselves; Honour and friendship they heare others name, Themselves doe neither feele nor know the same. To put them yet (though needlesse) in some feare Weele keepe their streets with armed companies; Then, if they stirre, they see their wives and houses Prepar'd a pray to th'greedy Souldier.
Poppea. Let us be quicke then, you to Pisoes house, While I and Tigellinus further sift This fellowes knowledge.
[Ex. omnes praeter Nero.
Nero. Looke to the gates and walles oth' Citie; looke The river be well kept; have watches set In every passage and in every way.— But who shall watch these watches? What if they, Begin and play the Traitors first? O where shall I Seeke faith or them that I may wisely trust? The Citie favours the conspirators; The Senate in disgrace and feare hath liv'd; The Camp—why? most are souldiers that he named; Besides, he knowes not all, and like a foole I interrupted him, else had he named Those that stood by me. O securitie, Which we so much seeke after, yet art still To Courts a stranger and dost rather choose The smoaky reedes and sedgy cottages Then the proud roofes and wanton cost of kings. O sweet dispised ioyes of poverty, A happines unknowne unto the Gods! Would I had rather in poore Gabii bin Or Ulubrae a ragged Magistrate, Sat as a Iudge of measures and of corne Then the adored Monarke of the world. Mother, thou didst deservedly in this, That from a private and sure state didst raise My fortunes to this slippery hill of greatnesse Where I can neither stand nor fall with life. [Exit.
Enter Piso, Lucan, Scevinus, Flavius.
Flav. But, since we are discover'd, what remaines But put our lives upon our hands? these swords Shall try us Traitors or true Citizens.
Scevin. And what should make this hazard doubt successe? Stout men are oft with sudden onsets danted: What shall this Stage-player be?
Lucan. It is not now Augustus gravitie nor Tiberius craft, But Tigellinus and Chrisogonus, Eunuckes and women that we goe against.
Scevin. This for thy owne sake, this for ours we begg, That thou wilt suffer him to be orecome; Why shouldst thou keepe so many vowed swords From such a hated throate?
Flav. Or shall we feare To trust unto the Gods so good a cause?
Lucan. By this we may ourselves Heavens favour promise Because all noblenesse and worth on earth We see's on our side. Here the Fabys sonne, Here the Corvini are and take that part There noble Fathers would, if now they liv'd. There's not a soule that claimes Nobilitie, Either by his or his forefathers merit, But is with us; with us the gallant youth Whom passed dangers or hote bloud makes bould; Staid men suspect their wisdome or their faith To whom our counsels we have not reveald; And while (our party seeking to disgrace) They traitors call us, each man treason praiseth And hateth faith when Piso is a traitor.
Scevin. And, at adventure, what by stoutnesse can Befall us worse than will by cowardise? If both the people and the souldier failde us Yet shall we die at least worthy our selves, Worthy our ancestors. O Piso thinke, Thinke on that day when in the Parthian fields Thou cryedst to th'flying Legions to turne And looke Death in the face; he was not grim But faire and lovely when he came in armes. O why there di'd we not on Syrian swords? Were we reserv'd to prisons and to chaines? Behold the Galley-asses in every street; And even now they come to clap on yrons. Must Pisoes head be shewed upon a pole? Those members torne, rather then Roman-like And Piso-like with weapons in our hands Fighting in throng of enemies to die? And that it shall not be a civill warre Nero prevents, whose cruelty hath left Few Citizens; we are not Romans now But Moores, and Jewes, and utmost Spaniards, And Asiaes refuse that doe fill the Citie.
Piso. Part of us are already tak'n; the rest Amaz'd and seeking holes. Our hidden ends You see laid open; Court and Citie arm'd And for feare ioyning to the part they feare. Why should we move desperate and hopelesse armes And vainely spill that noble bloud that should Christall Rubes and the Median fields, Not Tiber colour? And the more your show be, Your loves and readinesse to loose your lives, The lother I am to adventure them. Yet am I proud you would for me have dy'd; But live, and keepe your selves to worthier ends. No Mother but my owne shall weepe my death Nor will I make, by overthrowing us, Heaven guiltie of more faults yet; from the hopes Your owne good wishes rather then the thing Doe make you see, this comfort I receive Of death unforst. O friends I would not die When I can live no longer; 'tis my glory That free and willing I give up this breath, Leaving such courages as yours untri'd. But to be long in talk of dying would Shew a relenting and a doubtfull mind: By this you shall my quiet thoughts intend; I blame not Earth nor Heaven for my end. (He dies.)
Lucan. O that this noble courage had bin shewne Rather on enemies breasts then on thy owne.
Scevin. But sacred and inviolate be thy will, And let it lead and teach us. This sword I could more willingly have thrust Through Neroes breast; that fortune deni'd me, It now shall through Scevinus.
Enter Tigellinus solus.
What multitudes of villaines are here gotten In a conspiracy, which Hydra like Still in the cutting off increaseth more. The more we take the more are still appeach[t], And every man brings in new company. I wonder what we shall doe with them all! The prisons cannot hold more then they have, The Iayles are full, the holes with Gallants stincke; Strawe and gold lace together live, I thinke. 'Twere best even shut the gates oth' Citie up And make it all one Iayle; for this I am sure, There's not an honest man within the walles. And, though the guilty doth exceed the free, Yet through a base and fatall cowardise They all assist in taking one another And by their owne hands are to prison led. There's no condition nor degree of men But here are met; men of the sword and gowne, Plebeians, Senators, and women too; Ladies that might have slaine him with their eye Would use their hands; Philosophers And Polititians. Polititians? Their plot was laid too short. Poets would now Not only write but be the arguments Of Tragedies. The Emperour's much pleased: But some have named Seneca; and I Will have Petronius. One promise of pardon Or feare of torture will accusers find. [Exit.