The Virgin Martyr – Act 2, Scene 2

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Enter MACRINUS, being met by THEOPHILUS and HARPAX.

 THEOPHILUS
Sun, god of the day, guide thee, Macrinus!

MACRINUS
And thee, Theophilus!

THEOPHILUS
Gladst thou in such scorn?
I call my wish back.

MACRINUS
I’m in haste.

THEOPHILUS
One word.
Take the least hand of time up; stay.

MACRINUS
Be brief.

THEOPHILUS
As thought.  I prithee tell me, good Macrinus,
How health and our fair princess lay together
This night, for you can tell, courtiers have flies
That buzz all news unto them.

MACRINUS
She slept but ill.

THEOPHILUS
Double thy courtesy.  How does Antoninus?

MACRINUS
Ill, well, straight, crooked, I know not how.

THEOPHILUS
Once more,
Thy head is full of windmills; when does the princess
Fill a bed full of beauty, and bestow it
On Antoninus, on the wedding night?

MACRINUS
I know not.

THEOPHILUS
No!  Thou art the manuscript
Where Antoninus writes down all his secrets;
Honest Macrinus, tell me.

MACRINUS
Fare you well, sir.                                                         [Exit.

HARPAX
Honesty is some fiend and frights him hence;
A many Courtiers love it not.

THEOPHILUS
What peace
Of this state-wheel, which winds up Antoninus,
Is broke, it runs so jarringly?  The man
Is from himself divided.  Oh thou, the eye
By which I wonders see, tell my, my Harpax,
What gadfly tickles so this Macrinus,
That up-flinging the tail, he breaks thus from me?

HARPAX
Oh, sir, his brainpan is a bed of snakes,
Whose stings shoot through his eye-balls, whose poisonous spawn
Engenders such a fry of speckled villainies,
That unless charms more strong than adamant
Be used, the Roman eagles wings shall melt
And Cæsar’s diadem be from his head
Spurned by base feet, the laurel which he wears,
Returning victor, be enforced to kiss
That which it hates, the fire.   And can this ram,
This Antoninus-Engine, being made ready
To so much mischief, keep a steady motion?
His eyes and feet, you see, give strange assaults.

THEOPHILUS
I’m turned a marble statue at thy language,
Which printed is in such crabbed characters
It puzzles all my reading.  What, in the name
Of Pluto, now is hatching?

HARPAX
This Macrinus,
The line is, upon which love errands run
‘Twixt Antoninus and that ghost of women,
The bloodless Dorothea, who in prayer
And meditation, mocking all your gods,
Drinks up her ruby colour; yet Antonius
Plays the Endymion to this pale faced moon,
Courts her, seeks to catch her eyes.

THEOPHILUS
And what of that?

HARPAX
These are but creeping billows,
Not got to shore yet; but if Dorothea
Fall on his bosom, and be fired with love,
Your coldest women do so, had you ink
Brewed from the infernal Styx, not all that blackness
Can make a thing so foul, as the dishonours,
Disgraces, buffetings, and most base affronts
Upon the bright Artemia, star of court,
Great Cæsar’s daughter.

THEOPHILUS
I now conster thee.

HARPAX
Nay more:  a firmament of clouds being filled
With Jove’s artillery, shot down at once
To pash your gods in pieces, cannot give so deep a blow
To the religion there, and pagan lore
As this:  for Dorothea hates your gods,
And, if she once blast Antoninus soul,
Making it foul like hers—Oh! The example—

THEOPHILUS
Eats through Cæsarea’s heart like liquid poison!
Have I invented tortures to tear Christians,
To see but which, could all that feels hell’s torments
Have leave to stand aloof here on earth’s stage,
They would be mad till they again descended,
Holding the pains most horrid of such souls,
May-games to those of mine; has this my hand
Set down a Christian’s execution
In such dire postures, that the very hangman
Fell at my foot dead, hearing but their figures;
And shall Macrinus and his fellow masquer
Strangle me in a dance?

HARPAX
No, on, I do hug thee,
For drilling thy quick brains in this rich plot
Of tortures ‘gainst these Christians.  On!  I hug thee!

THEOPHILUS
Both hug and holy me:  to this Dorothea
Fly thou and I in thunder.

HARPAX
Not for kingdoms
Piled upon kingdoms!  There’s a villain page
Waits on her, whom I would not for the world
Hold traffic with.  I do so hate his sight,
That should I look on him I must sink down.

THEOPHILUS
I will not loose thee then, her to confound,
None but this head with glories shall be crowned.

HARPAX
Oh!  Mine own as I would wish thee!                                            [Exeunt.

 

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