Part 1 out of 7
Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Tapio Riikonen and PG
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 an unpublished play of Thomas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
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
"_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
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
_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. "Fatu[m']st 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
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:
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,
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.
_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.
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.
_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
_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.
_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.
_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_.
_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:--
"_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.
_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.
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.
_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?