Swetnam the Woman Hater – Act Three, scene one

Return to the previous scene

Enter ATTICUS, IAGO, NICANOR, Two Judges, Notary, and Attendants.

How full of troubles is the state of kings,
Abroad, with foes at home, with faithless friends,
Within with cares, without, a thousand fears.
Yet all summ’d up together, doth not make
Such an impression in our troubled thoughts
As this one act of disobedience
In our own issue.

Gracious sovereign,
Yet for that high respect, be favourable.
She is your daughter.

And the only hope
Of all Sicily, since Lorenzo’s loss.

Bring to the bar the prisoners. This offence
Hath lost in us a father and a friend
And calls for justice from us as a king.
Yet think not, lords, but ‘tis with grief of mind,
Nor can a father easily forget
A daughter whom he once so dearly lov’d.
Yet we had rather become issueless
Than leave it noted to posterity
An act of such injustice.

Yet, dread liege,
Oh, do not too much aggravate the crime,
Rather impute it to their childish love.

To love, my lords? It that were lowable,
What act to vile, but might be so excus’d?
The murderer, that sheddeth guiltless blood,
Might plead, it was for love of his revenge,
The felon likewise might excuse his theft,
With love of money, and the traitor too
Might say, it was for love of sovereignty.
And indeed, all offenders so might plead.
Therefore, my lords, you that sit here to judge,
Let all respect of persons be forgot,
And deal uprightly, that you may resemble
The highest judge, whose seat on earth you hold;
And for you know, the laws of Sicily
Forbid to punish two, for one offence,
Let your care be to find the principal,
The primus motor that begun the cause;
For the effect, you see, is but the issue
That one of them may worthily reeive
Deserved death; the other may be sent,
As less offending, into banishment.                                                             [Exit.

Enter LISANDRO and LEONIDA. The Prisoners brought to the bar by a Guard.

Th’offence wherewith you both stand tax’d withal,
Appears so manifest in gross, that now
We need not question all particulars
In public here; but yet your trial shall
Be honourable, as your persons were
Before this black impression. Therefore say,
Which of you two begun th’occasion,
By any means, direct, or indirect?
And answer truly as you look for grace.

‘Twas I, my honour’d lords.

My lords, ‘twas I.

Let not this honourable court be swayed
By false suggestions. That the fault was mine,
Appears as manifest as midday’s sun:
‘Twas I that first attempted, sued, and prayed,
Used all the subtle engines art could invent,
Or Nature yield to force affection,
Only to gain the royal princess’ love;
For what can women above weakness act?
Or, what fort’s so strong, but yields at length
To a continued siege?
Th’attempt, I knew, was hard and dangerous,
Therefore more honourable in the conquest,
Which ere I would have left, I would ha’ past
More dangers then ere Jason underwent.
Then, since you see, my lords, the guilt was mine,
Pardon the princess, me to death resign.

Pardon, my lords; Lisandro, let me die.
If ever you’ll perform an act of justice
Shall make you truly famous, do it here,
Here upon me; the guilt alone is mine.
‘Twas this alluring face, and tempting smiles,
That drew on his affections. Say that he
Did first commence the suit; the fault was mine
In yielding to it. ‘Tis the greater shame
For women to consent, then men to ask;
And yet, before he spoke, I had engag’d
My heart and love to him, unask’d, unpray’d,
And then, you know, how soon our eyes discovers
The true affection that we bear our lovers;
Then since the guilt alone remains in me,
Let me be judg’d, and set Lisandro free.

This knot is intricate.

‘Tis fallacy.
Who can allege one article ‘gainst her?
Th’offence was, breaking of the king’s command,
That none, on pain of death, should visit her,
Unless appointed by the king himself;
And that alone was mine. ‘Twas my device.
I took the borrowed shape; I broke the law,
And I must suffer for’t. Then do no wrong
Her spotless chastity.

How, chastity?

If any here conceive her otherwise,
That very thought will damn him. She’s as chaste
As ere your mothers in their cradles were,
For any act committed.

Harder still.

A confused labyrinth. We shall ne’er wind out.

My lords, believe him not. The guilt lies here.
‘Twas I that sent him that deluding shape,
In which he got admittance. The offence
Rests only here; and therefore, good my lords,
Let the condemning sentence pass on me,
Or else, I will protest to all the world,
You are unjust, and take my death upon’t.

Fie, madam, how your wrong your innocence!
And seeming, lady, to be pitiful
To me you are most cruel, for my life
Should be a willing sacrifice to death,
To expiate the guilt of my offence.
Remember what continual pains I took
By messages, entreaties, gifts, and prayers,
To win your favour dear Leonida.
Justice in this will be impiety,
Unless it here be show’d. I beg it may.

I beg against him. He is innocent.
The fact alone was mine. I was the first,
The middle, and the end;
And justice here must end,
Or ‘tis injustice.


Is the sentence given?

Not yet, my lord. We are as far to seek
In the true knowledge of the prime offender,
As at the first, for they plead guilty both;
Both strive to aggravate their own offence,
And both excuse each other. On our lives,
We cannot yet determine where’s the cause.

It is impossible
That sacred justice should be hoodwink’d still,
Though she be falsely painted so. Here eyes
Are clear, and so perspicuous, that no crime
Can mask itself in any borrowed shape,
But she’ll discover it. Let ‘em be return’d
Back to their several wards till we devise
Some better course for the discovery.

Dread sovereign, I know no better way,
Than to assay by torture, to enforce
A free confession, several, one from other;
For though they now, our of affection,
Plead their own guilt, as if they fear’d not death;
Yet, when they feel him sting once, then the care
Of life, and safety, will discover all.

My lord Nicanor, this is ill-advis’d,
Savouring too much of force and tyranny.
Is’t fit that princes should subject themselves
To any tortures, such as are prepared
For base offenders? ‘Tis ignobly done,
So to incense the king.

How, sir?

E’en so,
You show a proud aspiring mind, my lord,
After a kingdom that would ruinate
Two royal lovers for so small a fact;
But, mark my words, Nicanor, ere the crown
Impale thy temples by her timeless end,
Mine and five thousand lives shall all expire.

I weigh thy words, not this—                                  [Snaps his fingers.

Nor I thy frown;
I’ll incense one, shall quickly pull you down.                                [Exit.

How’s your opinion then, to search it out?

My liege, we know no better way than this:
Let there be public proclamation made
Throughout the kingdom that there may be found
Two advocates to plead this difference
In public disputation, man and woman,
The wisest, and the best experienc’d
That can be found or heard of in the land;
Or any such will proffer of themselves
To undertake the plea; for questionless,
None are so impudent to undergo
So great a controversy except those
That know themselves sufficient.

We are pleas’d.
See it effected with all the speed you can.
The charge by yours, my lord. Dissolve the court.                               [Exeunt.

Proceed to the next scene


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