The Virgin Martyr – Act 1, Scene 1

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Come to Cæsaria to-night?

Most true, sir.

The emperor in person?

Do I live?

‘Tis wondrous strange.  The marches of great princes
Like to the motions of prodigious meteors,
Are step by step observed, and loud tongued Fame
The harbinger to prepare their entertainment;
And were it possible so great an army,
Though covered with the night, could be so near?
The governor cannot be so unfriended
Among the many that attend his person,
But by some secret means he should have notice
Of Cæsar’s purpose, in this then, excuse me
If I appear incredulous.

At your pleasure.

Yet when I call to mind you never failed me
In things more difficult, but have discovered
Deeds that were done thousand leagues distant from me,
When neither woods, nor caves, nor secret vaults,
No nor the power they serve, could keep these Christians,
Or from my reach or punishment, but thy magic
Still laid them open, I begin again
To as confident as heretofore.
It is not possible thy powerful art
Should meet a check, or fail.

Enter a Priest with the image of Jupiter; CALISTE and CHRISTETA.

Look on these vestals,
The holy pledges that the gods have giv’n you,
Your chaste fair daughters.  Wer’t not to upbraid
A service to a master not unthankful,
I could say these in spite of your prevention,
Seduc’d by an imagin’d faith, not reason,
Which is the strength of Nature, quite forsaking
The Gentile gods had yielded up themselves
To this new found religion.  This I crossed,
Discovered their intentions, taught you to use
With gentle words and mild persuasions
The power and the authority of a father
Set off with cruel threats, and so reclaimed ‘em;
And whereas they with torments should have died,
[Aside.] Hell’s furies to me had they undergone it,
[Aloud.] They are now votaries in great Jupiter’s temple,
And by his priest instructed, grown familiar
With all the mysteries, nay the most abstruse ones
Belonging to his Deity.

‘Twas a benefit
For which I ever owe you.  Hail, Jove’s flamen!
Have these my daughters reconciled themselves,
Abandoning for ever the Christian way,
To your opinion?

And are constant in it;
They teach their teachers with the depth of judgement,
And are with arguments able to convert
The enemies to our gods, and answer all
They can object against us.

My dear daughters!

We dare dispute against this new sprung sect
In private or in public.

My best lady,
Persever in it.

And what we maintain
We will seal with our bloods.

Brave resolution!
I ev’n grow fat to see my labours prosper.

I young again, to your devotions.

My prayers be present with you.                  [Exeunt Priest and Daughters.

Oh, my Harpax,
Thou engine of my wishes, thou that steeldst
My bloody resolutions, thou that armst
My eyes ‘gainst womanish tears and soft compassion
Instructing me without a sigh to look on
Babes torn by violence from their mothers’ breasts
To feed the fire, and with them make one flame;
Old men as beasts, in beasts’ skins torn by dogs,
Virgins and matrons tire the executioners,
Yet I unsatisfied think their torments easy.

And in that just, not cruel.

Were all sceptres
That grace the hands of kings made into one,
And offered me, all crowns laid at my feet,
I would contemn them all; thus spit at them;
So I to all posterities might be called
The strongest champion of the pagan gods
And rooter out of Christians.

Oh, mine own,
Mine own dear lord, to further this great work
I ever live thy slave.


No more, the governor.

Keep the ports close, and let the guards be doubled;
Disarm the Christians; call it death in any
To wear a sword, or in his house to have one.

I shall be careful, sir.

It will well become you.
Such as refuse to offer sacrifice
To any of our gods, put to the torture.
Grub us this growing mischief by the roots;
And know when we are merciful to them,
We to ourselves are cruel.

You pour oil
On fire that burns already at the height,
I know the emperor’s edict and my charge,
And they shall find no favour.

My good lord,
This care is timely for the entertainment
Of our great master, who this night in person
Comes here to thank you.

Who?  The emperor?

To clear your doubts he does return in triumph,
King’s lackeying by his triumphant chariot ;
And in this glorious victory, my lord,
You have an ample share, for know, your son,
The ne’er enough commended Antonius
So well hath fleshed his maiden sword, and died
His snowy plumes so deep in enemies’ blood,
That, besides public grace beyond his hopes,
There are rewards propounded.

I would know
No mean in thine, could this be true.

My head answer the forfeit.

Of his victory
There was some rumour, but it was assured
The army passed a full day’s journey higher
Into the country.

It was so determined,
But for the further honour of your son,
And to observe the government of the city,
And with what rigor or remiss indulgence
The Christians are pursued he makes his stay here.
For proof, his trumpets speak his near arrival.             [Trumpets afar off.

Haste, good Sempronius, draw up our guards,
And with all ceremonious pomp receive
The conquering army.  Let our garrison speak
Their welcome in loud shouts, the city show
Her state and wealth.

I am gone.                                                                      [Exit.

O, I am ravished
With the great honour!  Cherish, good Theophilus,
This knowing scholar.  Send for your fair daughters.
I will present them to the emperor,
And in the sweet conversion, as a mirror,
Express you zeal and duty.

Fetch them, good Harpax.                         [Exit HARPAX.

A Guard brought in by SEMPRONIUS, soldiers leading in three kings bound, ANTONIUS and MACRINUS carrying the Emperor’s Eagles, DIOCLESIAN with a gilt laurel on his head, leading in ARTEMIA.  SAPRITIUS kisses the Emperor’s hand, then embraces his Son; HARPAX brings in CALISTA and CHRISTETA.  Loud shouts.

So, at all parts I find Cæsaria
Completely governed; the licentious soldier
Confined in modest limits, and the people
Taught to obey, and not compelled with rigour,
The ancient Roman discipline revived,
Which raised Rome to her greatness, and proclaimed her
The glorious mistress of the conquered world;
But, above all, the service of the gods
So zealously observed, that good Sapritius
In words to thank you for your care and duty,
Were mush unworthy Dioclesian’s honour,
Or his magnificence to  his loyal servants;
But I shall find a time with noble titles
To recompense your merits.

Mightiest Cæsar,
Whose power upon this globe of earth is equal
To Jove’s in heaven, whose victorious triumphs
On proud rebellious kings that stir against it
Are perfect figures of his immortal trophies
Won in the giant’s war, whose conquering sword,
Guided by his strong arm, as deadly kills
As did his thunder, all that I have done,
Or if my strength were centupled, could do,
Comes short of what my loyalty must challenge.
But, if in any thing I have deserved
Great Cæsar’s smile, ‘tis in my humble care
Still to preserve the honour of those gods
That make him what he is; my zeal to them
I ever have expressed in my fell hate
Against the Christian sect, that with one blow
Ascribing all things to an unknown power,
Would strike down all their temples, and allows them
Nor sacrifice now alters.

Thou in this
Walkst hand in hand with me; my will and power
Shall not alone confirm, but honour all
That are in this most forward.

Sacred Cæsar,
If your imperial majesty stand pleased
To shower your favours upon such as are
The boldest champions of our religion,
Look on this reverend man to whom the power
Of searching out, and punishing such delinquents
Was by your choice committed, and for proof
He hath deserved the grace imposed upon him,
And with a fair and even hand proceeded
Partial to none, not to himself, or those
Of equal nearness to himself, behold
This pair of virgins.

What are these?

His daughters.

Now by your sacred fortune, they are fair ones,
Exceeding fair ones; would ‘twere in my power
To make them mine!

They are the gods, great lady,
They were most happy in your service else;
On these when they fall from their father’s faith,
I used a judge’s power, entreaties failing,
They being seduced, to win them to adore
The holy powers we worship, I put on
The scarlet robe of bolt authority,
And as they had been strangers to my blood,
Presented them in the most horrid form
All kind of tortures, part of whish they suffered
With Roman constancy.

And could you endure,
Being a father, to behold their limbs
Extended on the rack?

I did, but must
Confess there was a strange contention in me,
Between the impartial office of a judge,
And pity of a father; to help justice
Religion stepped in, under which odds
Compassion fell; yet still I was a father,
For even then, when the flinty hangman’s whips
Were worn with stripes spent on their tender limbs,
I kneeled, and wept, and begged them though they would
Be cruel to themselves, they would take pity
On my grey hairs.  Now note a sudden change,
Which I with joy remember:  those, whom torture
Nor fear of death could terrify, were overcome
By seeing of my sufferings, and so won,
Returning to the faith that they were born in,
I gave them to the gods, and be assured,
I that used justice with a rigorous hand
Upon such beauteous virgins, and mine own,
Will use no favour where the cause commands me
To any other, but as rocks be deaf
To all entreaties.

Thou deservest thy place,
Still hold it, and with honour.  Things thus ordered
Touching the gods ‘tis lawful to descend
To human cares, and exercise that power
Heaven has conferred upon me, which that you
Rebels and traitors to the power of Rome
Should not with all extremities undergo
What can you urge to qualify your crimes
Or mitigate my anger?

We are now
Slaves to thy power, that yesterday were kings,
And had command o’er others; we confess
Our grandsires paid yours tribute, yet left us,
As their forefathers had, desire of freedom,
And if you Romans hold it glorious honour
Not only to defend what is your own,
But to enlarge your Empire, though our fortune
Denies that happiness, who can accuse
The famished mouth if it attempt to feed,
Or such whose fetters ear into their freedoms,
If they desire to shake them off?

We stand
The last examples to prove how uncertain
All human happiness is, and are prepared
To endure the worst.

That spoke, which now is highest
In Fortune’s wheel, must, when she turns it next,
Decline as low as we are.  This considered,
Taught the Egyptian Hercules, Sesostris,
That had his chariot drawn by captive kings,
To free them from that slavery, but to hope
Such mercy from a Roman were mere madness.
We are familiar with what cruelty
Rome since her infant greatness, ever used
Such as she triumphed over, age nor sex
Exempted from her tyranny; sceptered princes
Kept in your common dungeons, and their children
In scorn trained up in base mechanic arts
For public bondman; in the catalogue
Of those unfortunate men, we expect to have
Our names remembered.

In all growing empires
Ev’n cruelty is useful; some must suffer
And be set up examples to strike terror
In others though far off; but when a state
Is raised to her perfection and her bases
Too firm to shrink or yield, we may use mercy,
And do’t with safety.  But to whom?  Not cowards,
Or such whose baseness shames the conqueror,
And robs him of his victory, as weak Perseus
Did great Æmilius.  Know therefore, kings
Of Epire, Pontus, and of Macedon,
That I with courtesy can use my prisoners
As well as make them mine by force, provided
That they are noble enemies.  Such I found you,
Before I made you mine; and since you were so,
You have not lost the courages of princes,
Although the fortune.  Had you born yourselves
Dejectedly, and base, no slavery
Had been to easy for you, but such is
The power of noble valour, that we love it
Even in our enemies, and taken with it,
Desire to make them friends, as I will you.

Mock us not, Cæsar.

By the gods, I do not.
Unloose their bonds; I now as friends embrace you.
Give them their crowns again.

We are twice o’ercome
By courage and by courtesy.

But this latter
Shall teach us to live ever faithful vassals
To Dioclesian and the power of Rome.

All kingdoms fall before her!

And all kings
Contend to honour Cæsar!

I believe
Your tongues are the true trumpets of your  hearts,
And in it I most happy.  Queen of fate,
Imperious Fortune, mix some light disaster
With my so many joys, to season them,
And give them sweeter relish; I’m girt round
With true felicity:  faithful subjects here,
Here bold commanders, here with new-made friends;
But, what’s the crown of all in thee Artemia,
My only child, whose love to me and duty
Strive to exceed each other?

I make payment
But of a debt which I stand bound to tender
As a daughter, and a subject.

Which requires yet
A retribution from me, Artemia,
Tied by a father’s care, how to bestow
A jewel, of all things to me most precious;
Nor will I therefore longer keep thee from
The chief joys of creation, marriage rites;
Which that thou with greater pleasures taste of.
Thou shalt not like with mine eyes, but thine own.
Among these kings, forgetting they were captives;
Or those, remembering not they are my subjects,
Make choice of any.  By Jove’s dreadful thunder,
My will shall rank with thine!

It is a bounty
The daughters of great princes seldom meet with.
For they, to make up breaches in the state,
Of for some other politic ends are forced
To match where they affect not, may my life
Deserve this favour!

Speak, I long to know
The man thou wilt make happy.

If that titles
Or the adored name of Queen could take me,
Here would I fix mine eyes and look no farther.
But these are baits to take a mean born lady,
Not her that boldly may call Cæsar father.
In that I can bring honour unto any
But for no king that lives receive addition,
To raise desert and virtue by my fortune,
Though in a low estate, were greater glory,
Than to mix greatness with a prince that owes
No worth but that name only.

I commend thee,
‘Tis like thyself.

If then of men beneath me
My choice is to be made, where shall I seek
But among those that best deserve from you,
That have served you most faithfully, that in dangers
Have stood next to you, that have interposed
Their breasts as shields of proof to dull the swords
Aimed at your bosom, that have spent their blood
To crown your brows with laurel.

[Aside.] Citherea,
Great queen of love be now propitious to me!

[To SAPRITIUS.] Now mark what I foretold.

[Aside.] Her eye on me,
Fair Venus’ son draw forth a leaden dart,
And that she may hate me, transfix her with it;
Or if thou needs wilt use a golden one,
Shoot in the behalf of any other,
Thou know’st I am thy votary elsewhere.


How he blushes!

Welcome, fool, thy fortune.
Stand like a block when such an angel courts thee!

I am no object to divert your eye
From the beholding.

Rather a bright sun
Too glorious for him to gaze upon
That took not first flights from the eagle’s aerie.
As I look on the temples, or the, or the gods
And with that reverence, lady, I behold you,
And shall do ever.

And it will become you,
While thus we stand at distance, but if love,
Love born out of th’assurance of your virtues,
Teach me to stoop so low—

O, rather take
A higher flight!

Why, fear you to be raised?
Say I put off the dreadful awe that waits
On majesty, or with you share by beams,
Nay, make you to outshine me, change the name
Of subject unto lord, rob you of service
That’s due from you to me, and in me make it
Duty to honour you, would you refuse me?

Refuse you, madam, such a worn as I am,
Refuse, what kings upon their knees would sue for?
Call it, great lady, by another name,
An humble modesty that would not  match
A molehill with Olympus!

He that’s famous
For honourable actions in the war,
As you are, Antoninus, a proved soldier
Is fellow to a king.

If you love valour,
As ‘tis a kingly virtue, seek it out
And cherish it in a king, there is shines brightest
And yields the bravest lustre.  Look on Epire,
A prince in whom it is incorporate,
And let it not disgrace him that he was
O’ercome by Cæsar; it was a victory
To stand so long against him, had you seen him,
How in one bloody scene he did discharge
The parts of a commander and a soldier,
Wise in direction, bold in execution;
You would have said, great Cæsar’s self excepted,
The world yields not his equal.

Yet I have heard,
Encountering him alone in the head of his troop,
You took him prisoner.

‘Tis a truth, great princess,
I’ll not detract from valour.

‘Twas mere fortune,
Courage had no hand in it.

Did ever man
Strive so against his own good?

Spiritless villain!
How I am tortured!  By the immortal gods,
I now could kill him.

Hold, Sapritius, hold,
On our displeasure hold!

Why, this would make
A father mad!  ‘Tis not to be endured!
Your honour’s tainted by it.

By heaven, it is!
I shall think of’t.

‘Tis not to be forgotten.

Nay, kneel not, sir, I am no ravisher,
Nor so far gone in fond affection to you
But that I can retire, my honour safe.
Yet say hereafter that thou hast neglected
What but seen in possession of another
Will run thee mad with envy.

In her looks
Revenge is written.

As you love your life,
Study to appease her.

Gracious madam, hear me.

And be again refused?

The tender of
My life, my service, or since you vouchsafe it,
My love, my heart, my all, and pardon me;
Pardon, dear princess that I made some scruple
To leave a valley of security
To mount up to the hill of majesty,
On which the nearer Jove, the nearer lightning.
What knew I but your grace made trial of me?
Durst I presume to embrace where but to touch
With an unmannered hand was death?  The fox
When he saw first the forest’s king, the lion,
Was almost dead with fear; the second view
Only a little daunted him; the third
He durst salute him boldly.  Pray you apply this
And you shall find a little time will teach me
To look with more familiar eyes upon you
Then duty yet allows me.

Well excused.

You may redeem all yet.

And that he may
Have means and opportunity to do so,
Artemia, I leave you my substitute
In fair Cæsaria.

And here as yourself
We will obey and serve her.

So you prove hers I wish no other heir,
Think on’t; be careful of your charge Theophilus;
Sapritius, be you my daughter’s guardian.
Your company I wish confederate princes
In our Dalmatian wars, which finished,
With victory I hope, and Maximinus
Our brother and copartner in the Empire
At my request won to confirm as much,
The kingdoms I took from you we’ll restore
And make you greater than you were before.

[Exeunt all but ANTONINUS and MACRINUS.

Oh, I am lost, forever lost, Macrinus,
The anchor of the wretched, hope, forsakes me,
And with one blast of fortune all my light
Of happiness is put out.

You are like to those
That are ill only, ‘cause they are too well;
That, surfeiting in the excess of blessings,
Call their abundance want.  What could you wish,
That is not fall’n upon you?  Honour, greatness,
Respect, wealth, favour, the whole world for a dower;
And with a princess, whose excelling form
Exceeds her fortune.

Yet poison still is poison,
Though drunk in gold; and all these flattering glories
To me, ready to starve, a painted banquet,
And no essential food.  When I am scorched
With fire, can flames in any other quench me?
What is her love to me, greatness, or empire,
That am slave to another, who alone
Can give me ease or freedom?

Sir, you point at
Your dotage on the scornful Dorothea.
Is she, though fair, the same day to be named
With best Artemia?  In all their courses,
Wise men propose their ends.  With sweet Artemia
There comes along pleasure, security,
Ushered by all that in this life is precious;
With Dorothea, though her birth be noble,
The daughter to a senator of Rome,
By him left rich, yet with a private wealth
And far inferior to yours, arrives
The emperor’s frown, which like a mortal plague
Speaks death is near, the princess heavy scorn,
Under which you will shrink, your father’s fury,
Which to resist even that she stands suspected
A favourer of the Christian sect, she brings
Not danger but assured destruction with her;
This truly weighed, once smile of great Artemia
Is to be cherished and preferred before
All joys in Dorothea; therefore leave her.

In what thou thinkst thou art most wise, thou art
Grossly abused, Macrinus, and most foolish.
For any man to match above his rank
Is but to sell his liberty; with Artemia
I still must live a servant, but enjoying
Divinest Dorothea, I shall rule,
Rule as becomes a husband; for the danger,
Or call it, if you will, assured destruction,
I slight it thus.  If then thou art my friend,
As I dare swear thou art, and wilt not take
A governor’s place upon thee, be my helper.

You know I dare, and will do anything.
Put me to the test.

Go then, Macrinus,
To Dorothea; tell her I have worn,
In all the battles I have fought, her figure,
Her figure in my heart, which, like a deity,
Hath still protected me.  Thou canst speak well,
And of thy choicest language spare a little
To make her understand how much I love her,
And how I languish for her.  Bear these jewels,
Send in the way of sacrifice, not service,
As to my goddess.  All lets thrown behind me
Or fears that may deter me, say this morning
I mean to visit her by the name of friendship,
No words to contradict this.

I am yours,
And if my travail this way be ill spent,
Judge mot my readier will by the event.                                       [Exeunt.


Proceed to the next scene


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