The Virgin Martyr – Act 5, Scene 2

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Enter DIOCLESIAN, MAXIMINUS, EPIRE, PONTUS, and MACEDON, meeting ARTEMIA and Attendants.

 ARTEMIA
Glory and conquest still attend upon
Triumphant Cæsar!

DIOCLESIAN
Let thy wish, fair daughter
Be equally divided, and hereafter
Learn thou to know and reverence Maximinus,
Whose power with mine united makes one Cæsar.

MAXIMINUS
But that I fear ‘twould be held flattery,
The bonds consider’d in which we stand tide
As love and empire, I should say till now
I ne’er had seen a lady I thought worthy
To be my mistress.

ARTEMIA
Sir, you show yourself
Both courtier and soldier, but take heed,
Take heed, my lord, though my dull pointed beauty,
Stain’d by a harsh refusal in my servant,
Cannot dart forth such beams as may inflame you,
You may encounter such a powerful one,
That with a pleasing heat will thaw your heart,
Though bound in ribs of ice.   Love is still love;
His bow and arrows are the same; great Julius,
That to his successors left the name of Cæsar,
Whom war could never tame, that with dry eyes
Beheld the large plains of Pharsalia, cover’d
With the dead carcasses of senators
And citizens of Rome; when the world knew
No other lord but him, struck deep in years too,
And man grey-hair’d forget the lusts of youth,
After all this, meeting fair Cleopatra,
A suppliant too, the magic of her eye,
Even in his pride of conquest, took him captive,
Nor are you more secure.

MAXIMINUS
Were you deform’d,
But, by the gods, you are most excellent,
Your gravity and discretion would o’ercome me,
And I should be more proud in being a prisoner
To your fair virtues, then all of the honours,
Wealth, title, empire, that my sword hath purchas’d.

DIOCLESIAN
This meets my wishes; welcome it, Artemia,
With outstretch’d arms, and study to forget
That Antoninus ever was.  Thy fate
Reserv’d thee for this better choice; embrace it.

EPIRE
This happy match brings new nerves to give strength
To our continued league.

MACEDON
Hymen himself
Will bless this marriage, which we will solemnize
In the presence of these kings.

PONTUS
Who rest most happy
To be eyewitnesses of a match that brings
Peace to the empire.

DIOCLETIAN
We much thank your loves.
But where’s Sapritius, our governor,
And our most zealous provost, good Theophilus?
If ever prince were blest in a true servant,
Or could the gods be debtors to a man,
Both they and we stand far engag’d to cherish
His piety and service.

ARTEMIS
Sir, the governor
Brooks sadly his son’s loss, although he turn’d
Apostata in death, but bold Theophilus,
Who for the same cause, in my presence, seal’d
His holy anger on this daughter’s hearts,
Having with tortures first tried to convert her,
Dragg’d the bewitching Christian to the scaffold
And saw her lose her head.

DIOCLESIAN
He is all worthy,
And from his own mouth I would gladly hear
The manner how she suffer’d.

ARTEMIA
‘Twill be deliver’d
With such contempt and scorn, I know his nature,
That rather ‘twill beget your highness’ laughter,
Then the least pity.

DIOCLETIAN
To that end I will hear it.

Enter THEOPHILUS, SAPRITIUS, and MACRINUS.

 ARTEMIA
He comes, with him the governor.

DIOCLETIAN
O, Sapritius,
I am to chide you for your tenderness,
But yet remembering that you are a father,
I will forget it.  Good Theophilus,
I’ll speak with you anon.  [To SAPRITIUS.] Nearer your ear.

THEOPHILUS
By Antoninus’ soul, I do conjure you,
And though not for religion, for his friendship,
Without demanding what’s the cause that moves me,
Receive my signet.  By the power of this,
Go to my prisons, and release all Christians
That are in fetters there by my command.

MACRINUS
But what shall follow?

THEOPHILUS
Haste then to the port.
You shall there find two tall ships ready rigg’d
In which embark the poor distressed souls,
And bear them from the reach of tyranny.
Enquire not whither you are bound; the deity
That they adore will give you prosperous winds
And make your voyage such, and largely pay for
Your hazard, and your travail.  Leave me here,
There is a scene that I must act alone.
Haste, good Macrinus, and the great God guide you!

MACRINUS
I’ll undertake’t. There’s something prompts me to it.
‘Tis to save innocent blood, a saint-like act,
And to be merciful has never been
By moral men themselves esteem’d a sin.                       [Exit MACRINUS.

DIOCLESIAN
You know your charge.

SAPRITIUS
And will with care observe it.

DIOCLESIAN
For I profess he is not Cæsar’s friend
That sheds a tear for any torture that’
A Christian suffers.  Welcome, my best servant;
My careful, zealous provost, thou hast toil’d
To satisfied my will though in extremes.
I love thee for’t.  Thou art fine rock, no changeling.
Prithee deliver, and for my sake do it
Without excess of bitterness or scoffs,
Before my brother and these kings, how took
The Christian her death.

THEOPHILUS
And such a presence
Though every private head in this large room
Were circl’d round with an imperial crown,
Her story will deserve, it is so full
Of excellency and wonder.

DIOCLESIAN
Ha! how’s this?

THEOPHILUS
O, mark it therefore, and with that attention
As you would here an embassy from heaven
By a wing’d legate, for the truth deliver’d
Both how and what this blessed virgin suffer’d,
And Dorothea but hereafter nam’d,
You will rise up with reverence, and no more
As things unworthy of your thoughts, remember
What the canoniz’d Spartan ladies were,
Which lying Greece so boasts of.  Your own matrons,
Your Roman dames whose figures you yet keep
As holy relics in her history
Will find a second urn. Gracchus’ Cornelia,
Paulina, that in death desir’d to follow
Her husband Seneca, nor Brutus’ Portia
That swallow’d burning coals to overtake him,
Though all their several worths were given to one
With this is to be mention’d.

MAXIMINUS
Is he mad?

DIOCLESIAN
Why, they did die, Theophilus, and boldly;
This did no more.

THEOPHILUS
They out of desperation
Or for vain glory of an after-name,
Parted with life; this had not mutinous sons,
As the rash Gracchi were; nor was this saint
A doting mother, as Cornelia was.
This lost no husband, in whose overthrow
Her wealth and honour sunk, no fear of want
Did make her being tedious, but aiming
At an immortal crown, and in His cause
Who only can bestow it; who sent down
Legions of ministering angels to bear up
Her spotless soul to heaven, who entertain’d it
With choice celestial music, equal to
The motion of the spheres.  She, uncompell’d,
Chang’d this life for a better.  My lord Sapritius,
You were present at her death; did you not hear
Such ravishing sounds?

SAPRITIUS
Yet you said then it was witchcraft,
And devilish illusions.

THEOPHILUS
I then heard it
With sinful ears, and belch’d out blasphemous words
Against his deity, which then I knew not,
Nor did believe in him.

DIOCLESIAN
Why, dost thou now?
Or dar’st thou in our hearing?

THEOPHILUS
Were my voice
As loud as is his thunder, to be heard
Through the world, all potentates on earth
Ready to burst with rage should they but hear it,
Though hell to aid their malice lent her furies,
Yet I would speak, and speak again, and boldly.
I am a Christian, and the powers you worship
But dreams of fools and madmen!

MAXIMINUS
Lay hands on him!

THEOPHILUS
Thou twice a child, for doting age so makes thee,
Thou couldst not else thy pilgrimage of life,
Being almost past through, in the last moment
Destroy what ere thou hast done good or great.
Thy youth did promise much, and, grown a man
Thou madst it good, and, with increase of years
Thy actions still better’d.  As the sun
Thou didst rise gloriously, kepst a constant course
In all thy journey, and now in the evening
When thou shouldst pass with honour to thy rest,
Wilt thou fall like a meteor?

SAPRITIUS
Yet confess
That thou art mad, and that thy tongue and heart
Had no agreement.

MAXIMINUS
Do:  no way is left else,
To save thy life, Theophilus.

DIOCLESIAN
But, refuse it,
Destruction as horrid and as sudden
Shall fall upon thee, as if hell stood open
And thou wert sinking thither.

THEOPHILUS
Hear me yet,
Hear, for my service past.

ARTEMIA
What will he say?

THEOPHILUS
As ever I deserv’d your favour, hear me,
And grant one boon.  ‘Tis not for life I sue for,
Not is it fit that I that ne’er knew pity
To any Christian, being one myself,
Should look for any.  No, I rather beg
The utmost of your cruelty.  I stand
Accomptable for thousand Christian deaths,
And were it possible that I could die
A day for every one, then live again
To be again tormented; ‘twere to me
An easy penance, and I should pass through
A gentle cleansing fire; but, that denied me,
It being beyond the strength of feeble nature,
My suit is, you would have no pity on me.
In mine own house there are a thousand engines
Of studied cruelty, which I did prepare
For miserable Christians; let me feel
As the Sicilian did his brazen bull,
The horridst you can find, and I will say
In death that you are merciful.

DIOCLESIAN
Despair not;
In this thou shalt prevail.  Go fetch them hither       [Some go for the rack.
Death shall put on a thousand shapes at once,
And so appear before thee, racks, and whips,
Thy flesh with burning pincers torn, shall feed
The fire that heats them, and what’s wanting to
The torture of thy body, I’ll supply
In punishing thy mind.  Fetch all the Christians
That are in hold, and here before his face
Cut ‘em in pieces.

THEOPHILUS
‘Tis not in thy power.
It was the first good deed I ever did.
They are remov’d out of thy reach; hoe e’er
I was determin’d for my sins to die,
I first took order for their liberty,
And still I dare thy worst.

DIOCLESIAN
Bind him, I say;
Make every artery and sinew crack.
The slave that makes him give the loudest shriek
Shall have ten thousand drachmas.  Wretch, I’ll force thee
To curse the power thou worshipst.

THEOPHILUS
Never, never;
No breath of mine shall ever be spent on him;              [They torment him.
But what shall speak his majesty or mercy.
I am honour’d in my suff’rings, weak tormentors.
More tortures, more!  Alas, you are unskilful.
For heaven’s sake, more!  My breast is yet untorn.
Here purchase the reward that was propounded.
The iron’s cool; here are arms and thighs!
Spare no part of me!

MAXIMINUS
He endures beyond
The suff’rance of a man!

SAPRITIUS
No sigh nor groan
To witness he has feeling.

DIOCLESIAN
Harder, villains!

Enter HARPAX

 HARPAX
Unless that he blasphemes, he’s lost for ever.
If torments ever could bring forth despair,
Let these compel him to it.  Oh, me!
My ancient enemies again!                                                            [Falls down.

Enter DOROTHEA in a white robe, crowns upon her robe, a crown upon her head, lead in by ANGELO the angel, ANTONINUS, CALISTE, and CHRISTETA following all in white, but less glorious; the angel with a crown for THEOPHILUS.

 THEOPHILUS
Most glorious vision!
Did ere so hard a bed yield man a dream
So heavenly as this?  I am confirm’d,
Confirm’d, you blessed spirits, and make haste
To take that crown of immortality
You offer to me.  Death till this blest minute
I never thought thee slow pac’d, nor could I
Hasten thee now for any pain I suffer,
But that thou keepst me from a glorious wreath
Which through this stormy way I would creep to,
And humbly kneeling with humility wear it.
Oh, now I feel thee, blessed spirits, I come,
And witness for me, all these wounds and scars,
I die a soldier in the Christian wars.                                                 [Dies.

SAPRITIUS
I have seen thousands tortur’d, but ne’er yet
A constancy like this.

HARPAX
I am twice damn’d!

ANGELO
Haste to thy place appointed, cursed fiend.
In spite of hell, this soldier’s not thy prey.
‘Tis I have won, thou that hast lost the day.

[Exit ANGELO with DOROTHEA, THEOPHILUS, ANTONINUS,
CALISTE, and CHRISTETA; the Devil sinks with lightning.

 DIOCLESIAN
I think the centre of the earth be crack’d,
Yet I still stand unmov’d, and will go on.
The persecution that is here begun,
Through all the world with violence shall run.                      [Flourish; exeunt.

F I N I S.

 

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