Swetnam the Woman Hater – Act One, scene one

Return to the Prologue

Enter IAGO and NICANOR, two noblemen of Sicilia, in private conference.

He was a virtuous and a hopeful prince,
And we have just cause to lament his death,
For he had liv’d, and Spain made war again,
He would ha’ prov’d a terror to his foe.

A greater cause of grief was never known,
Not only in his death, but for the loss
Of Prince Lorenzo too, his younger brother,
Who hath been missing almost eighteen months,
And none can tell whether alive or dead.

How does the king bear these afflictions?


Now you shall hear how fares his majesty.

Oh, my good lords, our sorrows still increase.
A greater tide of woe is to be fear’d:
The king’s decay, with grief for his two sons.

The gods forbid! Let’s in and comfort him.

Alas, his sorrow’s such,
He will not suffer us to speak to him,
But turns away in rage, and seems to tread
The pace of one, if living, living dead.

Enter KING ATTICUS in black, reading.  Dead march.

See where he comes. Lords, let us all attend,
Until his grace he pleas’d to speak to us.

“Death is the ease of pain, and end of sorrow.”
How can that be? Death gave my sorrows life,
For by his death my pain and grief begun,
And in beginning, never will have end;
For though I die, my loss will live in future memory;
Ay, and, perhaps, will be lamented too,
And registered y some, when all shall hear
Sicilia had two sons, yet had no heir.
Ha! What are you?
Who dares presume to interrupt us thus?
What means this sorrow? Wherefore are these signs,
Or unto whom are these observances?

Unto our king.

To you, my sovereign.

Your subjects all lament to see you sad.

You all are traitors then, and by my life
I will account you so.
Can you not be content with state and rule,
But you must come to take away my crown?
For solitude is sorrow’s chiefest crown.
Grief hath resign’d over his right to me,
And I am king of all woe’s monarchy.
You powers that grant regeneration,
What meant you first to give him vital breath,
And make large kingdoms proud of such a prince
As my Lusyppus was? So good, so virtuous.
Then, in his prime of years,
To take him from me by untimely death?
Oh, had my spirit wings, I would ascend
And fetch his soul again from—
Oh, my sad sorrows! Whither am I driven?
Into what maze of errors will you lead me?
This monster, grief, hath so distracted me,
I had almost forgot mortality.

Dear lord, have patience; though the heavens are pleas’d
To punish princes for their subjects’ faults,
In taking from us such a hopeful prince,
No doubt they will restore your younger son,
Who cannot be but stray’d, and will, I hope,
Be quickly heard of, to recall your joys.

No, I shall never see Lorenzo more.
This eighteen months I have not heard of him.
I fear some traitor’s hand had seiz’d his life.
If he were living, as that cannot be,
I sooner look to see me dead than he,
For I am almost spent. This heap of age,
Mixed with my sorrow, soon will end my days.

My liege, take comfort. I, your subject, vow
To go myself to seek Lorenzo forth,
And ne’er return until I find him out,
Or bring some news what is become of him.

The like will I, or ne’er come back again.

Old as I am, I’ll not be last behind,
And if my sovereign please to let me go.

I thank your loves, but I’ll restrain your wills.
If I should part from you, my days were done,
For I should never live till your return.
Nicanor, my dear friend, Iago, Sforza,
One of you three, if I die issueless,
Must after me be king of Sicily.
Do not forsake me then.

Long live your grace,
And may your issue reign eternally!

As for our daughter, fair Leonida,
Her female sex cannot inherit here.
One must enjoy both her and Sicily.                                                 [Shout within.
What sudden shout was that? Some know the cause.                  [Exit NICANOR.
Can there be so much joy left in our land,
To raise men’s voices to so high a sound?
Or wast a shriek of some new misery?
For comfort cannot be expected here.


The news, Nicanor?                                                                                   [Trumpets.

Happy, sir, I hope.
There is a soldier new arriv’d at court,
Can tell some tidings of the long lost prince.

Sir, shall he have access?

Oh, joyful news!

Is it a question, Sforza? Bring him in
As you would do some great ambassador.                                           [Exit SFORZA.

He is no less. Comes he not from a prince?
He does, if from Lorenzo he be sent.

A flourish with trumpets. Enter a Captain, brought in by the Lord SFORZA, followed by SCANFARDO.

Thou man of war, once play the orator;
Prove grief a guilty thief; Condemn my fears,
And let my sorrows suffer in these tears.
Have I a son or no? Good soldier, speak.

Sir, I arriv’d by chance upon your coast,
Yet hearing of the proclamation
Which promis’d thousands unto any man
That could bring news to the Sicilian king
Whether Lorenzo were alive or dead.

We’ll double our reward, whate’er it be,
If he be living. Dead, we’ll keep our word.
Then prithee say, what is become of him?

Not for reward, but love to that brave prince
Whose memory deserves to outlive time,
Come I to tell what I too truly know.
In the Lepanthean battle not long since,
Where he was made commander of a fleet,
Under Don John the Spanish general,
He did demean himself so manfully,
That he perform’d wonders above belief;
For when the navies join’d, the cannons played,
And thund’ring clamours rang the dying knells
Of many thousand souls. He, void of fear,
Dallied with danger, and pursued the foe
Thorough a bloody sea of victory;
Whether there slain, or taken prisoner
By the too merciless misbelieving Turks,
No man can tell.
That when victory fell to the Christians,
The conquest, and the glory of the day
Was soon eclips’d in brave Lorenzo’s loss;
That when the battle and the fight was done,
They knew not well whether they lost or won.

This news is worse than death. Happy were I
If any now could tell me he were dead.
Death is far sweeter than captivity.
My dear Lorenzo! Was it thy desire
To go to war, made thee forsake thy father,
Country, friends, life, liberty, and undergo
Death or captivity or some disaster
That exceeds ‘em both? Yet, howsoe’er,
Captain, we thank thy love. Give the reward
Was promis’d in the proclamation.

I’ll not be nice in the refusal, sir.
It is no wonder t’see a soldier want.
All good wait on ye! May the heavens be pleas’d
To make you happy in your long lost son!

My comfort it, whether alive or dead,
He bravely fought for heaven and Christendom.
Such battles martyr men; their death’s a life
Surviving all this world’s felicity.
Lords, where’s Leonida, our beauteous child?
She’s all the comfort we have left us now.
She must not have her liberty to match.
The girl is wanton, coy, and fickle too.
How many princes hath the forward elf
Set at debate, desiring but her love?
What dangers may ensue? But to present,
Nicanor, we make you her guardian.
Let her be princely us’d, but no access
By any to her presence, but by such
As we shall send, or give commandment for.
‘Tis death to any other dares attempt it.
I hear the prince of Baples seeks her love.
She shall not wed with that presumptuous boy.
His father and ourself were still at odds,
Nor shall he think we will submit to him.
Certain he knows not of Lisandro’s suit,
For if he had, he would a’ come himself,
Or sent ambassadors to speak for him.
We’ll give his answer ere tomorrow’s sun
Shall reach to his meridian. Wretched state of kings!
What end will follow where such woes begin?

[Exeunt omnes. Manet NICANOR and SCANFARDO.


My good lord?

How lik’st thou this?
I am made guardian of my own heart’s bliss.
The princess is my prisoner, I her slave.
I keep her body, but she holds my heart
Environ’d in a chest of adamant.

Is your heart iron?

Steel I think it is,
And like an anvil hammer’d by her words,
It sparkles fire that never can be quench’d,
But by the dew of her celestial breath.
Oft have I courted, been rejected too,
Yet what of that? I’ll try her once again.
What many princes have attempting fail’d,
I by access may purchase, that’s my hope.
The king, I’m sure, affects me. Nothin then
Is wanting but her love; that once obtain’d
Sicil is ours. Scanfardo, if we win,
That shalt be Lord Nicanor, I the king!                                                            [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene


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