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The Duchess of Padua by Oscar Wilde

Part 3 out of 3

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May I not tell this dreadful tale of sin,
If any sin there be upon my soul?

DUCHESS

Thou dost but waste thy time.

CARDINAL

Alack, my son,
I have no power with the secular arm.
My task begins when justice has been done,
To urge the wavering sinner to repent
And to confess to Holy Church's ear
The dreadful secrets of a sinful mind.

DUCHESS

Thou mayest speak to the confessional
Until thy lips grow weary of their tale,
But here thou shalt not speak.

GUIDO

My reverend father,
You bring me but cold comfort.

CARDINAL

Nay, my son,
For the great power of our mother Church,
Ends not with this poor bubble of a world,
Of which we are but dust, as Jerome saith,
For if the sinner doth repentant die,
Our prayers and holy masses much avail
To bring the guilty soul from purgatory.

DUCHESS

And when in purgatory thou seest my Lord
With that red star of blood upon his heart,
Tell him I sent thee hither.

GUIDO

O dear God!

MORANZONE

This is the woman, is it, whom you loved?

CARDINAL

Your Grace is very cruel to this man.

DUCHESS

No more than he was cruel to her Grace.

CARDINAL

Yet mercy is the sovereign right of princes.

DUCHESS

I got no mercy, and I give it not.
He hath changed my heart into a heart of stone,
He hath sown rank nettles in a goodly field,
He hath poisoned the wells of pity in my breast,
He hath withered up all kindness at the root;
My life is as some famine murdered land,
Whence all good things have perished utterly:
I am what he hath made me.
[The DUCHESS weeps.]

JEPPO

Is it not strange
That she should so have loved the wicked Duke?

MAFFIO

It is most strange when women love their lords,
And when they love them not it is most strange.

JEPPO

What a philosopher thou art, Petrucci!

MAFFIO

Ay! I can bear the ills of other men,
Which is philosophy.

DUCHESS

They tarry long,
These greybeards and their council; bid them come;
Bid them come quickly, else I think my heart
Will beat itself to bursting: not indeed,
That I here care to live; God knows my life
Is not so full of joy, yet, for all that,
I would not die companionless, or go
Lonely to Hell.
Look, my Lord Cardinal,
Canst thou not see across my forehead here,
In scarlet letters writ, the word Revenge?
Fetch me some water, I will wash it off:
'Twas branded there last night, but in the day-time
I need not wear it, need I, my Lord Cardinal?
Oh, how it sears and burns into my brain:
Give me a knife; not that one, but another,
And I will cut it out.

CARDINAL

It is most natural
To be incensed against the murderous hand
That treacherously stabbed your sleeping lord.

DUCHESS

I would, old Cardinal, I could burn that hand;
But it will burn hereafter.

CARDINAL

Nay, the Church
Ordains us to forgive our enemies.

DUCHESS

Forgiveness? what is that? I never got it.
They come at last: well, my Lord Justice, well.
[Enter the LORD JUSTICE.]

LORD JUSTICE

Most gracious Lady, and our sovereign Liege,
We have long pondered on the point at issue,
And much considered of your Grace's wisdom,
And never wisdom spake from fairer lips -

DUCHESS

Proceed, sir, without compliment.

LORD JUSTICE

We find,
As your own Grace did rightly signify,
That any citizen, who by force or craft
Conspires against the person of the Liege,
Is ipso facto outlaw, void of rights
Such as pertain to other citizens,
Is traitor, and a public enemy,
Who may by any casual sword be slain
Without the slayer's danger; nay, if brought
Into the presence of the tribunal,
Must with dumb lips and silence reverent
Listen unto his well-deserved doom,
Nor has the privilege of open speech.

DUCHESS

I thank thee, my Lord Justice, heartily;
I like your law: and now I pray dispatch
This public outlaw to his righteous doom;
What is there more?

LORD JUSTICE

Ay, there is more, your Grace.
This man being alien born, not Paduan,
Nor by allegiance bound unto the Duke,
Save such as common nature doth lay down,
Hath, though accused of treasons manifold,
Whose slightest penalty is certain death,
Yet still the right of public utterance
Before the people and the open court;
Nay, shall be much entreated by the Court,
To make some formal pleading for his life,
Lest his own city, righteously incensed,
Should with an unjust trial tax our state,
And wars spring up against the commonwealth:
So merciful are the laws of Padua
Unto the stranger living in her gates.

DUCHESS

Being of my Lord's household, is he stranger here?

LORD JUSTICE

Ay, until seven years of service spent
He cannot be a Paduan citizen.

GUIDO

I thank thee, my Lord Justice, heartily;
I like your law.

SECOND CITIZEN

I like no law at all:
Were there no law there'd be no law-breakers,
So all men would be virtuous.

FIRST CITIZEN

So they would;
'Tis a wise saying that, and brings you far.

TIPSTAFF

Ay! to the gallows, knave.

DUCHESS

Is this the law?

LORD JUSTICE

It is the law most certainly, my liege.

DUCHESS

Show me the book: 'tis written in blood-red.

JEPPO

Look at the Duchess.

DUCHESS

Thou accursed law,
I would that I could tear thee from the state
As easy as I tear thee from this book.
[Tears out the page.]
Come here, Count Bardi: are you honourable?
Get a horse ready for me at my house,
For I must ride to Venice instantly.

BARDI

To Venice, Madam?

DUCHESS

Not a word of this,
Go, go at once. [Exit COUNT BARDI.]
A moment, my Lord Justice.
If, as thou sayest it, this is the law -
Nay, nay, I doubt not that thou sayest right,
Though right be wrong in such a case as this -
May I not by the virtue of mine office
Adjourn this court until another day?

LORD JUSTICE

Madam, you cannot stay a trial for blood.

DUCHESS

I will not tarry then to hear this man
Rail with rude tongue against our sacred person.
Come, gentlemen.

LORD JUSTICE

My liege,
You cannot leave this court until the prisoner
Be purged or guilty of this dread offence.

DUCHESS

Cannot, Lord Justice? By what right do you
Set barriers in my path where I should go?
Am I not Duchess here in Padua,
And the state's regent?

LORD JUSTICE

For that reason, Madam,
Being the fountain-head of life and death
Whence, like a mighty river, justice flows,
Without thy presence justice is dried up
And fails of purpose: thou must tarry here.

DUCHESS

What, wilt thou keep me here against my will?

LORD JUSTICE

We pray thy will be not against the law.

DUCHESS

What if I force my way out of the court?

LORD JUSTICE

Thou canst not force the Court to give thee way.

DUCHESS

I will not tarry. [Rises from her seat.]

LORD JUSTICE

Is the usher here?
Let him stand forth. [Usher comes forward.]
Thou knowest thy business, sir.
[The Usher closes the doors of the court, which are L., and when
the DUCHESS and her retinue approach, kneels down.]

USHER

In all humility I beseech your Grace
Turn not my duty to discourtesy,
Nor make my unwelcome office an offence.

DUCHESS

Is there no gentleman amongst you all
To prick this prating fellow from our way?

MAFFIO

[drawing his sword]
Ay! that will I.

LORD JUSTICE

Count Maffio, have a care,
And you, sir. [To JEPPO.]
The first man who draws his sword
Upon the meanest officer of this Court,
Dies before nightfall.

DUCHESS

Sirs, put up your swords:
It is most meet that I should hear this man.
[Goes back to throne.]

MORANZONE

Now hast thou got thy enemy in thy hand.

LORD JUSTICE

[taking the time-glass up]
Guido Ferranti, while the crumbling sand
Falls through this time-glass, thou hast leave to speak.
This and no more.

GUIDO

It is enough, my lord.

LORD JUSTICE

Thou standest on the extreme verge of death;
See that thou speakest nothing but the truth,
Naught else will serve thee.

GUIDO

If I speak it not,
Then give my body to the headsman there.

LORD JUSTICE

[turns the time-glass]
Let there be silence while the prisoner speaks.

TIPSTAFF

Silence in the Court there.

GUIDO

My Lords Justices,
And reverent judges of this worthy court,
I hardly know where to begin my tale,
So strangely dreadful is this history.
First, let me tell you of what birth I am.
I am the son of that good Duke Lorenzo
Who was with damned treachery done to death
By a most wicked villain, lately Duke
Of this good town of Padua.

LORD JUSTICE

Have a care,
It will avail thee nought to mock this prince
Who now lies in his coffin.

MAFFIO

By Saint James,
This is the Duke of Parma's rightful heir.

JEPPO

I always thought him noble.

GUIDO

I confess
That with the purport of a just revenge,
A most just vengeance on a man of blood,
I entered the Duke's household, served his will,
Sat at his board, drank of his wine, and was
His intimate: so much I will confess,
And this too, that I waited till he grew
To give the fondest secrets of his life
Into my keeping, till he fawned on me,
And trusted me in every private matter
Even as my noble father trusted him;
That for this thing I waited.
[To the Headsman.] Thou man of blood!
Turn not thine axe on me before the time:
Who knows if it be time for me to die?
Is there no other neck in court but mine?

LORD JUSTICE

The sand within the time-glass flows apace.
Come quickly to the murder of the Duke.

GUIDO

I will be brief: Last night at twelve o' the clock,
By a strong rope I scaled the palace wall,
With purport to revenge my father's murder -
Ay! with that purport I confess, my lord.
This much I will acknowledge, and this also,
That as with stealthy feet I climbed the stair
Which led unto the chamber of the Duke,
And reached my hand out for the scarlet cloth
Which shook and shivered in the gusty door,
Lo! the white moon that sailed in the great heaven
Flooded with silver light the darkened room,
Night lit her candles for me, and I saw
The man I hated, cursing in his sleep;
And thinking of a most dear father murdered,
Sold to the scaffold, bartered to the block,
I smote the treacherous villain to the heart
With this same dagger, which by chance I found
Within the chamber.

DUCHESS

[rising from her seat]
Oh!

GUIDO

[hurriedly]
I killed the Duke.
Now, my Lord Justice, if I may crave a boon,
Suffer me not to see another sun
Light up the misery of this loathsome world.

LORD JUSTICE

Thy boon is granted, thou shalt die to-night.
Lead him away. Come, Madam
[GUIDO is led off; as he goes the DUCHESS stretches out her arms
and rushes down the stage.]

DUCHESS

Guido! Guido!
[Faints.]

Tableau

END OF ACT IV.

ACT V

SCENE

A dungeon in the public prison of Padua; Guido lies asleep on a
pallet (L.C.); a table with a goblet on it is set (L.C.); five
soldiers are drinking and playing dice in the corner on a stone
table; one of them has a lantern hung to his halbert; a torch is
set in the wall over Guido's head. Two grated windows behind, one
on each side of the door which is (C.), look out into the passage;
the stage is rather dark.

FIRST SOLDIER

[throws dice]
Sixes again! good Pietro.

SECOND SOLDIER

I' faith, lieutenant, I will play with thee no more. I will lose
everything.

THIRD SOLDIER

Except thy wits; thou art safe there!

SECOND SOLDIER

Ay, ay, he cannot take them from me.

THIRD SOLDIER

No; for thou hast no wits to give him.

THE SOLDIERS

[loudly]
Ha! ha! ha!

FIRST SOLDIER

Silence! You will wake the prisoner; he is asleep.

SECOND SOLDIER

What matter? He will get sleep enough when he is buried. I
warrant he'd be glad if we could wake him when he's in the grave.

THIRD SOLDIER

Nay! for when he wakes there it will be judgment day.

SECOND SOLDIER

Ay, and he has done a grievous thing; for, look you, to murder one
of us who are but flesh and blood is a sin, and to kill a Duke goes
being near against the law.

FIRST SOLDIER

Well, well, he was a wicked Duke.

SECOND SOLDIER

And so he should not have touched him; if one meddles with wicked
people, one is like to be tainted with their wickedness.

THIRD SOLDIER

Ay, that is true. How old is the prisoner?

SECOND SOLDIER

Old enough to do wrong, and not old enough to be wise.

FIRST SOLDIER

Why, then, he might be any age.

SECOND SOLDIER

They say the Duchess wanted to pardon him.

FIRST SOLDIER

Is that so?

SECOND SOLDIER

Ay, and did much entreat the Lord Justice, but he would not.

FIRST SOLDIER

I had thought, Pietro, that the Duchess was omnipotent.

SECOND SOLDIER

True, she is well-favoured; I know none so comely.

THE SOLDIERS

Ha! ha! ha!

FIRST SOLDIER

I meant I had thought our Duchess could do anything.

SECOND SOLDIER

Nay, for he is now given over to the Justices, and they will see
that justice be done; they and stout Hugh the headsman; but when
his head is off, why then the Duchess can pardon him if she likes;
there is no law against that.

FIRST SOLDIER

I do not think that stout Hugh, as you call him, will do the
business for him after all. This Guido is of gentle birth, and so
by the law can drink poison first, if it so be his pleasure.

THIRD SOLDIER

And if he does not drink it?

FIRST SOLDIER

Why, then, they will kill him.
[Knocking comes at the door.]

FIRST SOLDIER

See who that is.
[Third Soldier goes over and looks through the wicket.]

THIRD SOLDIER

It is a woman, sir.

FIRST SOLDIER

Is she pretty?

THIRD SOLDIER

I can't tell. She is masked, lieutenant.

FIRST SOLDIER

It is only very ugly or very beautiful women who ever hide their
faces. Let her in.
[Soldier opens the door, and the DUCHESS masked and cloaked
enters.]

DUCHESS

[to Third Soldier]
Are you the officer on guard?

FIRST SOLDIER

[coming forward]
I am, madam.

DUCHESS

I must see the prisoner alone.

FIRST SOLDIER

I am afraid that is impossible. [The DUCHESS hands him a ring, he
looks at and returns it to her with a bow and makes a sign to the
Soldiers.] Stand without there. [Exeunt the Soldiers.]

DUCHESS

Officer, your men are somewhat rough.

FIRST SOLDIER

They mean no harm.

DUCHESS

I shall be going back in a few minutes. As I pass through the
corridor do not let them try and lift my mask.

FIRST SOLDIER

You need not be afraid, madam.

DUCHESS

I have a particular reason for wishing my face not to be seen.

FIRST SOLDIER

Madam, with this ring you can go in and out as you please; it is
the Duchess's own ring.

DUCHESS

Leave us. [The Soldier turns to go out.] A moment, sir. For what
hour is . . .

FIRST SOLDIER

At twelve o'clock, madam, we have orders to lead him out; but I
dare say he won't wait for us; he's more like to take a drink out
of that poison yonder. Men are afraid of the headsman.

DUCHESS

Is that poison?

FIRST SOLDIER

Ay, madam, and very sure poison too.

DUCHESS

You may go, sir.

FIRST SOLDIER

By Saint James, a pretty hand! I wonder who she is. Some woman
who loved him, perhaps. [Exit.]

DUCHESS

[taking her mark off] At last!
He can escape now in this cloak and vizard,
We are of a height almost: they will not know him;
As for myself what matter?
So that he does not curse me as he goes,
I care but little: I wonder will he curse me.
He has the right. It is eleven now;
They will not come till twelve.
[Goes over to the table.]
So this is poison.
Is it not strange that in this liquor here
There lies the key to all philosophies?
[Takes the cup up.]
It smells of poppies. I remember well
That, when I was a child in Sicily,
I took the scarlet poppies from the corn,
And made a little wreath, and my grave uncle,
Don John of Naples, laughed: I did not know
That they had power to stay the springs of life,
To make the pulse cease beating, and to chill
The blood in its own vessels, till men come
And with a hook hale the poor body out,
And throw it in a ditch: the body, ay, -
What of the soul? that goes to heaven or hell.
Where will mine go?
[Takes the torch from the wall, and goes over to the bed.]
How peacefully here he sleeps,
Like a young schoolboy tired out with play:
I would that I could sleep so peacefully,
But I have dreams. [Bending over him.]
Poor boy: what if I kissed him?
No, no, my lips would burn him like a fire.
He has had enough of Love. Still that white neck
Will 'scape the headsman: I have seen to that:
He will get hence from Padua to-night,
And that is well. You are very wise, Lord Justices,
And yet you are not half so wise as I am,
And that is well.
O God! how I have loved you,
And what a bloody flower did Love bear!
[Comes back to the table.]
What if I drank these juices, and so ceased?
Were it not better than to wait till Death
Come to my bed with all his serving men,
Remorse, disease, old age, and misery?
I wonder does one suffer much: I think
That I am very young to die like this,
But so it must be. Why, why should I die?
He will escape to-night, and so his blood
Will not be on my head. No, I must die;
I have been guilty, therefore I must die;
He loves me not, and therefore I must die:
I would die happier if he would kiss me,
But he will not do that. I did not know him.
I thought he meant to sell me to the Judge;
That is not strange; we women never know
Our lovers till they leave us.
[Bell begins to toll]
Thou vile bell,
That like a bloodhound from thy brazen throat
Call'st for this man's life, cease! thou shalt not get it.
He stirs--I must be quick: [Takes up cup.]
O Love, Love, Love,
I did not think that I would pledge thee thus!
[Drinks poison, and sets the cup down on the table behind her: the
noise wakens GUIDO, who starts up, and does not see what she has
done. There is silence for a minute, each looking at the other.]
I do not come to ask your pardon now,
Seeing I know I stand beyond all pardon;
Enough of that: I have already, sir,
Confessed my sin to the Lords Justices;
They would not listen to me: and some said
I did invent a tale to save your life;
You have trafficked with me; others said
That women played with pity as with men;
Others that grief for my slain Lord and husband
Had robbed me of my wits: they would not hear me,
And, when I sware it on the holy book,
They bade the doctor cure me. They are ten,
Ten against one, and they possess your life.
They call me Duchess here in Padua.
I do not know, sir; if I be the Duchess,
I wrote your pardon, and they would not take it;
They call it treason, say I taught them that;
Maybe I did. Within an hour, Guido,
They will be here, and drag you from the cell,
And bind your hands behind your back, and bid you
Kneel at the block: I am before them there;
Here is the signet ring of Padua,
'Twill bring you safely through the men on guard;
There is my cloak and vizard; they have orders
Not to be curious: when you pass the gate
Turn to the left, and at the second bridge
You will find horses waiting: by to-morrow
You will be at Venice, safe. [A pause.]
Do you not speak?
Will you not even curse me ere you go? -
You have the right. [A pause.]
You do not understand
There lies between you and the headsman's axe
Hardly so much sand in the hour-glass
As a child's palm could carry: here is the ring:
I have washed my hand: there is no blood upon it:
You need not fear. Will you not take the ring?

GUIDO

[takes ring and kisses it]
Ay! gladly, Madam.

DUCHESS

And leave Padua.

GUIDO

Leave Padua.

DUCHESS

But it must be to-night.

GUIDO

To-night it shall be.

DUCHESS

Oh, thank God for that!

GUIDO

So I can live; life never seemed so sweet
As at this moment.

DUCHESS

Do not tarry, Guido,
There is my cloak: the horse is at the bridge,
The second bridge below the ferry house:
Why do you tarry? Can your ears not hear
This dreadful bell, whose every ringing stroke
Robs one brief minute from your boyish life.
Go quickly.

GUIDO

Ay! he will come soon enough.

DUCHESS

Who?

GUIDO

[calmly]
Why, the headsman.

DUCHESS

No, no.

GUIDO

Only he
Can bring me out of Padua.

DUCHESS

You dare not!
You dare not burden my o'erburdened soul
With two dead men! I think one is enough.
For when I stand before God, face to face,
I would not have you, with a scarlet thread
Around your white throat, coming up behind
To say I did it.

GUIDO

Madam, I wait.

DUCHESS

No, no, you cannot: you do not understand,
I have less power in Padua to-night
Than any common woman; they will kill you.
I saw the scaffold as I crossed the square,
Already the low rabble throng about it
With fearful jests, and horrid merriment,
As though it were a morris-dancer's platform,
And not Death's sable throne. O Guido, Guido,
You must escape!

GUIDO

Madam, I tarry here.

DUCHESS

Guido, you shall not: it would be a thing
So terrible that the amazed stars
Would fall from heaven, and the palsied moon
Be in her sphere eclipsed, and the great sun
Refuse to shine upon the unjust earth
Which saw thee die.

GUIDO

Be sure I shall not stir.

DUCHESS

[wringing her hands]
Is one sin not enough, but must it breed
A second sin more horrible again
Than was the one that bare it? O God, God,
Seal up sin's teeming womb, and make it barren,
I will not have more blood upon my hand
Than I have now.

GUIDO

[seizing her hand]
What! am I fallen so low
That I may not have leave to die for you?

DUCHESS

[tearing her hand away]
Die for me?--no, my life is a vile thing,
Thrown to the miry highways of this world;
You shall not die for me, you shall not, Guido;
I am a guilty woman.

GUIDO

Guilty?--let those
Who know what a thing temptation is,
Let those who have not walked as we have done,
In the red fire of passion, those whose lives
Are dull and colourless, in a word let those,
If any such there be, who have not loved,
Cast stones against you. As for me -

DUCHESS

Alas!

GUIDO

[falling at her feet]
You are my lady, and you are my love!
O hair of gold, O crimson lips, O face
Made for the luring and the love of man!
Incarnate image of pure loveliness!
Worshipping thee I do forget the past,
Worshipping thee my soul comes close to thine,
Worshipping thee I seem to be a god,
And though they give my body to the block,
Yet is my love eternal!
[DUCHESS puts her hands over her face: GUIDO draws them down.]
Sweet, lift up
The trailing curtains that overhang your eyes
That I may look into those eyes, and tell you
I love you, never more than now when Death
Thrusts his cold lips between us: Beatrice,
I love you: have you no word left to say?
Oh, I can bear the executioner,
But not this silence: will you not say you love me?
Speak but that word and Death shall lose his sting,
But speak it not, and fifty thousand deaths
Are, in comparison, mercy. Oh, you are cruel,
And do not love me.

DUCHESS

Alas! I have no right
For I have stained the innocent hands of love
With spilt-out blood: there is blood on the ground;
I set it there.

GUIDO

Sweet, it was not yourself,
It was some devil tempted you.

DUCHESS

[rising suddenly]
No, no,
We are each our own devil, and we make
This world our hell.

GUIDO

Then let high Paradise
Fall into Tartarus! for I shall make
This world my heaven for a little space.
The sin was mine, if any sin there was.
'Twas I who nurtured murder in my heart,
Sweetened my meats, seasoned my wine with it,
And in my fancy slew the accursed Duke
A hundred times a day. Why, had this man
Died half so often as I wished him to,
Death had been stalking ever through the house,
And murder had not slept.
But you, fond heart,
Whose little eyes grew tender over a whipt hound,
You whom the little children laughed to see
Because you brought the sunlight where you passed,
You the white angel of God's purity,
This which men call your sin, what was it?

DUCHESS

Ay!
What was it? There are times it seems a dream,
An evil dream sent by an evil god,
And then I see the dead face in the coffin
And know it is no dream, but that my hand
Is red with blood, and that my desperate soul
Striving to find some haven for its love
From the wild tempest of this raging world,
Has wrecked its bark upon the rocks of sin.
What was it, said you?--murder merely? Nothing
But murder, horrible murder.

GUIDO

Nay, nay, nay,
'Twas but the passion-flower of your love
That in one moment leapt to terrible life,
And in one moment bare this gory fruit,
Which I had plucked in thought a thousand times.
My soul was murderous, but my hand refused;
Your hand wrought murder, but your soul was pure.
And so I love you, Beatrice, and let him
Who has no mercy for your stricken head,
Lack mercy up in heaven! Kiss me, sweet.
[Tries to kiss her.]

DUCHESS

No, no, your lips are pure, and mine are soiled,
For Guilt has been my paramour, and Sin
Lain in my bed: O Guido, if you love me
Get hence, for every moment is a worm
Which gnaws your life away: nay, sweet, get hence,
And if in after time you think of me,
Think of me as of one who loved you more
Than anything on earth; think of me, Guido,
As of a woman merely, one who tried
To make her life a sacrifice to love,
And slew love in the trial: Oh, what is that?
The bell has stopped from ringing, and I hear
The feet of armed men upon the stair.

GUIDO

[aside]
That is the signal for the guard to come.

DUCHESS

Why has the bell stopped ringing?

GUIDO

If you must know,
That stops my life on this side of the grave,
But on the other we shall meet again.

DUCHESS

No, no, 'tis not too late: you must get hence;
The horse is by the bridge, there is still time.
Away, away, you must not tarry here!
[Noise of Soldiers in the passage.]

A VOICE OUTSIDE

Room for the Lord Justice of Padua!
[The LORD JUSTICE is seen through the grated window passing down
the corridor preceded by men bearing torches.]

DUCHESS

It is too late.

A VOICE OUTSIDE

Room for the headsman.

DUCHESS

[sinks down]
Oh!
[The Headsman with his axe on his shoulder is seen passing the
corridor, followed by Monks bearing candles.]

GUIDO

Farewell, dear love, for I must drink this poison.
I do not fear the headsman, but I would die
Not on the lonely scaffold.
But here,
Here in thine arms, kissing thy mouth: farewell!
[Goes to the table and takes the goblet up.] What, art thou empty?
[Throws it to the ground.]
O thou churlish gaoler,
Even of poisons niggard!

DUCHESS

[faintly]
Blame him not.

GUIDO

O God! you have not drunk it, Beatrice?
Tell me you have not?

DUCHESS

Were I to deny it,
There is a fire eating at my heart
Which would find utterance.

GUIDO

O treacherous love,
Why have you not left a drop for me?

DUCHESS

No, no, it held but death enough for one.

GUIDO

Is there no poison still upon your lips,
That I may draw it from them?

DUCHESS

Why should you die?
You have not spilt blood, and so need not die:
I have spilt blood, and therefore I must die.
Was it not said blood should be spilt for blood?
Who said that? I forget.

GUIDO

Tarry for me,
Our souls will go together.

DUCHESS

Nay, you must live.
There are many other women in the world
Who will love you, and not murder for your sake.

GUIDO

I love you only.

DUCHESS

You need not die for that.

GUIDO

Ah, if we die together, love, why then
Can we not lie together in one grave?

DUCHESS

A grave is but a narrow wedding-bed.

GUIDO

It is enough for us

DUCHESS

And they will strew it
With a stark winding-sheet, and bitter herbs:
I think there are no roses in the grave,
Or if there are, they all are withered now
Since my Lord went there.

GUIDO

Ah! dear Beatrice,
Your lips are roses that death cannot wither.

DUCHESS

Nay, if we lie together, will not my lips
Fall into dust, and your enamoured eyes
Shrivel to sightless sockets, and the worms,
Which are our groomsmen, eat away your heart?

GUIDO

I do not care: Death has no power on love.
And so by Love's immortal sovereignty
I will die with you.

DUCHESS

But the grave is black,
And the pit black, so I must go before
To light the candles for your coming hither.
No, no, I will not die, I will not die.
Love, you are strong, and young, and very brave;
Stand between me and the angel of death,
And wrestle with him for me.
[Thrusts GUIDO in front of her with his back to the audience.]
I will kiss you,
When you have thrown him. Oh, have you no cordial,
To stay the workings of this poison in me?
Are there no rivers left in Italy
That you will not fetch me one cup of water
To quench this fire?

GUIDO

O God!

DUCHESS

You did not tell me
There was a drought in Italy, and no water:
Nothing but fire.

GUIDO

O Love!

DUCHESS

Send for a leech,
Not him who stanched my husband, but another
We have no time: send for a leech, I say:
There is an antidote against each poison,
And he will sell it if we give him money.
Tell him that I will give him Padua,
For one short hour of life: I will not die.
Oh, I am sick to death; no, do not touch me,
This poison gnaws my heart: I did not know
It was such pain to die: I thought that life
Had taken all the agonies to itself;
It seems it is not so.

GUIDO

O damned stars
Quench your vile cresset-lights in tears, and bid
The moon, your mistress, shine no more to-night.

DUCHESS

Guido, why are we here? I think this room
Is poorly furnished for a marriage chamber.
Let us get hence at once. Where are the horses?
We should be on our way to Venice now.
How cold the night is! We must ride faster.
[The Monks begin to chant outside.]
Music! It should be merrier; but grief
Is of the fashion now--I know not why.
You must not weep: do we not love each other? -
That is enough. Death, what do you here?
You were not bidden to this table, sir;
Away, we have no need of you: I tell you
It was in wine I pledged you, not in poison.
They lied who told you that I drank your poison.
It was spilt upon the ground, like my Lord's blood;
You came too late.

GUIDO

Sweet, there is nothing there:
These things are only unreal shadows.

DUCHESS

Death,
Why do you tarry, get to the upper chamber;
The cold meats of my husband's funeral feast
Are set for you; this is a wedding feast.
You are out of place, sir; and, besides, 'tis summer.
We do not need these heavy fires now,
You scorch us.
Oh, I am burned up,
Can you do nothing? Water, give me water,
Or else more poison. No: I feel no pain -
Is it not curious I should feel no pain? -
And Death has gone away, I am glad of that.
I thought he meant to part us. Tell me, Guido,
Are you not sorry that you ever saw me?

GUIDO

I swear I would not have lived otherwise.
Why, in this dull and common world of ours
Men have died looking for such moments as this
And have not found them.

DUCHESS

Then you are not sorry?
How strange that seems.

GUIDO

What, Beatrice, have I not
Stood face to face with beauty? That is enough
For one man's life. Why, love, I could be merry;
I have been often sadder at a feast,
But who were sad at such a feast as this
When Love and Death are both our cup-bearers?
We love and die together.

DUCHESS

Oh, I have been
Guilty beyond all women, and indeed
Beyond all women punished. Do you think -
No, that could not be--Oh, do you think that love
Can wipe the bloody stain from off my hands,
Pour balm into my wounds, heal up my hurts,
And wash my scarlet sins as white as snow? -
For I have sinned.

GUIDO

They do not sin at all
Who sin for love.

DUCHESS

No, I have sinned, and yet
Perchance my sin will be forgiven me.
I have loved much

[They kiss each other now for the first time in this Act, when
suddenly the DUCHESS leaps up in the dreadful spasm of death, tears
in agony at her dress, and finally, with face twisted and distorted
with pain, falls back dead in a chair. GUIDO seizing her dagger
from her belt, kills himself; and, as he falls across her knees,
clutches at the cloak which is on the back of the chair, and throws
it entirely over her. There is a little pause. Then down the
passage comes the tramp of Soldiers; the door is opened, and the
LORD JUSTICE, the Headsman, and the Guard enter and see this figure
shrouded in black, and GUIDO lying dead across her. The LORD
JUSTICE rushes forward and drags the cloak off the DUCHESS, whose
face is now the marble image of peace, the sign of God's
forgiveness.]

Tableau

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