Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher. Philaster.
Vol. 47, pp. 667-677 of The Harvard Classics
In the days when contact with the theatre meant exile from the best society, Beaumont and Fletcher, men from good families, dared to ally themselves with the stage as playwrights. "Philaster" won them immortal praise.
Act the First
CLE. HERE’S no lords nor ladies.
DION. Credit me, gentlemen, I wonder at it. They receiv’d strict charge from the King to attend here; besides, it was boldly published that no officer should forbid any gentleman that desired to attend and hear.
CLE. Can you guess the cause?
DION. Sir, it is plain, about the Spanish Prince, that’s come to marry our kingdom’s heir and be our sovereign.
THRA. Many that will seem to know much say she looks not on him like a maid in love.
DION. Faith, sir, the multitude, that seldom know any thing but their own opinions, speak that they would have; but the prince, before his own approach, receiv’d so many confident messages from the state, that I think she’s resolv’d to be rul’d.
CLE. Sir, it is thought, with her he shall enjoy both these kingdoms of Sicily and Calabria.
DION. Sir, it is without controversy so meant. But ’twill be a troublesome labour for him to enjoy both these kingdoms with safety, the right heir to one of them living, and living so virtuously; especially, the people admiring the bravery of his mind and lamenting his injuries.
CLE. Who, Philaster?
DION. Yes; whose father, we all know, was by our late King of Calabria unrighteously deposed from his fruitful Sicily. Myself drew some blood in those wars, which I would give my hand to be washed from.
CLE. Sir, my ignorance in state-policy will not let me know why, Philaster being heir to one of these kingdoms, the King should suffer him to walk abroad with such free liberty.
DION. Sir, it seems your nature is more constant than to inquire after state-news. But the King, of late, made a hazard of both the kingdoms, of Sicily and his own, with offering but to imprison Philaster; at which the city was in arms, not to be charmed down by any state-order or proclamation, till they saw Philaster ride through the streets pleased and without a guard; at which they threw their hats and their arms from them; some to make bonfires, some to drink, all for his deliverance: which wise men say is the cause the King labours to bring in the power of a foreign nation to awe his own with.
Enter GALATEA, a LADY and MEGRA
THRA. See, the ladies! What’s the first?
DION. A wise and modest gentlewoman that attends the princess.
CLE. The second?
DION. She is one that may stand still discreetly enough, and ill-favour’dly dance her measure; simper when she is courted by her friend, and slight her husband.
CLE. The last?
DION. Faith, I think she is one whom the state keeps for the agents of our confederate princes; she’ll cog 2 and lie with a whole army, before the league shall break. Her name is common through the kingdom, and the trophies of her dishonour advanced beyond Hercules’ Pillars. She loves to try the several constitutions of men’s bodies and, indeed, has destroyed the worth of her own body by making experiment upon it for the good of the commonwealth.
CLE. She’s a profitable member.
MEG. Peace, if you love me! You shall see these gentlemen stand their ground and not court us.
GAL. What if they should?
LA. What if they should?
MEG. Nay, let her alone.—What if they should! Why, if they should, I say they were never abroad. What foreigner would do so? It writes them directly untravell’d.
GAL. Why, what if they be?
LA. What if they be!
MEG. Good madam, let her go on.—What if they be! Why, if they be, I will justify, they cannot maintain discourse with a judicious lady, nor make a leg 3 nor say “Excuse me.”
GAL. Ha, ha, ha!
MEG. Do you laugh, madam?
DION. Your desires upon you, ladies!
MEG. Then you must sit beside us.
DION. I shall sit near you then, lady.
MEG. Near me, perhaps; but there’s a lady endures no stranger; and to me you appear a very strange fellow.
LA. Methinks he’s not so strange; he would quickly be acquainted.
THRA. Peace, the King!
Enter KING, PHARAMOND, ARETHUSA, and Train
KING. To give a stronger testimony of love
Than sickly promises (which commonly
In princes find both birth and burial
In one breath) we have drawn you, worthy sir,
To make your fair endearments to our daughter.
And worthy services known to our subjects,
Now lov’d and wondered at; next, our intent
To plant you deeply our immediate heir
Both to our blood and kingdoms. For this lady,
(The best part of your life, as you confirm me,
And I believe,) though her few years and sex
Yet teach her nothing but her fears and blushes,
Desires without desire, discourse and knowledge
Only of what herself is to herself,
Make her feel moderate health; and when she sleeps,
In making no ill day, knows no ill dreams.
Think not, dear sir, these undivided parts,
That must mould up a virgin, are put on
To show her so, as borrowed ornaments
To speak her perfect love to you, or add
An artificial shadow to her nature,—
No, sir; I boldly dare proclaim her yet
No woman. But woo her still, and think her modesty
A sweeter mistress than the offer’d language
Of any dame, were she a queen, whose eye
Last, noble son (for so I now must call you),
What I have done thus public, is not only
To add a comfort in particular
To you or me, but all; and to confirm
The nobles and the gentry of these kingdoms
By oath to your succession, which shall be
Within this month at most.
THRA. This will be hardly done.
CLE. It must be ill done, if it be done.
DION. When ’tis at best, ’twill be but half done, whilst
So brave a gentleman is wrong’d and flung off.
THRA. I fear.
CLE. Who does not?
DION. I fear not for myself, and yet I fear too.
Well, we shall see, we shall see. No more.
PHA. Kissing your white hand, mistress, I take leave
To thank your royal father; and thus far
To be my own free trumpet. Understand,
Great King, and these your subjects, mine that must be,
(For so deserving you have spoke me, sir.
And so deserving I dare speak myself,)
To what a person, of what eminence,
Ripe expectation, of what faculties,
Manners and virtues, you would wed your kingdoms;
You in me have your wishes. Oh, this country!
By more than all the gods, I hold it happy;
Happy in their dear memories that have been
Kings great and good; happy in yours that is;
And from you (as a chronicle to keep
Your noble name from eating age) do I
Opine myself most happy. Gentlemen,
Believe me in a word, a prince’s word,
There shall be nothing to make up a kingdom
Mighty and flourishing, defenced, fear’d,
Equal to be commanded and obeyed,
But through the travails of my life I’ll find it,
And tie it to this country. By all the gods,
My reign shall be so easy to the subject,
That every man shall be his prince himself,
And his own law—yet I his prince and law.
And, dearest lady, to your dearest self
(Dear in the choice of him whose name and lustre
Must make you more and mightier) let me say,
You are the blessed’st living; for, sweet princess,
You shall enjoy a man of men to be
Your servant; you shall make him yours, for whom
Great queens must die.
CLE. This speech calls him Spaniard, being nothing but a large inventory
of his own commendations.
DION. I wonder what’s his price; for certainly
He’ll sell himself, he has so prais’d his shape.
But here comes one more worthy those large speeches,
Than the large speaker of them.
Let me be swallowed quick, if I can find,
In all the anatomy of yon man’s virtues,
One sinew sound enough to promise for him,
He shall be constable. By this sun,
He’ll ne’er make king unless it be for trifles,
In my poor judgment.
PHI. [kneeling.] Right noble sir, as low as my obedience,
And with a heart as loyal as my knee,
I beg your favour.
KING. Rise; you have it, sir. [PHILASTER rises.]
DION. Mark but the King, how pale he looks! He fears!
Oh, this same whorson conscience, how it jades us!
KING. Speak your intents, sir.
PHI. Shall I speak ’em freely?
Be still my royal sovereign.
KING. As a subject,
We give you freedom.
DION. Now it heats.
PHI. Then thus I turn
My language to you, prince; you, foreign man!
Ne’er stare nor put on wonder, for you must
Endure me, and you shall. This earth you tread upon
(A dowry, as you hope, with this fair princess),
By my dead father (oh, I had a father,
Whose memory I bow to!) was not left
To your inheritance, and I up and living—
Having myself about me and my sword,
The souls of all my name and memories,
These arms and some few friends beside the gods—
To part so calmly with it, and sit still
And say, “I might have been.” I tell thee, Pharamond,
When thou art king, look I be dead and rotten,
And my name ashes: for, hear me, Pharamond!
This very ground thou goest on, this fat earth,
My father’s friends made fertile with their faiths,
Before that day of shame shall gape and swallow
Thee and thy nation, like a hungry grave,
Into her hidden bowels. Prince, it shall;
By the just gods, it shall!
PHA. He’s mad; beyond cure, mad.
DION. Here is a fellow has some fire in’s veins:
The outlandish prince looks like a tooth-drawer.
PHI. Sir prince of popinjays, 5 I’ll make it well
Appear to you I am not mad.
KING. You displease us:
You are too bold.
PHI. No, sir, I am too tame,
Too much a turtle, a thing born without passion,
A faint shadow, that every drunken cloud
Sails over, and makes nothing.
KING. I do not fancy this.
THRA. I do not think ’twill prove so.
DION. H’as given him a general purge already,
For all the right he has; and now he means
To let him blood. Be constant, gentlemen:
Be heaven, I’ll run his hazard,
Although I run my name out of the kingdom!
CLE. Peace, we are all one soul.
PHA. What you have seen in me to stir offence
I cannot find, unless it be this lady,
Offer’d into mine arms with the succession;
Which I must keep, (though it hath pleas’d your fury
To mutiny within you,) without disputing
Your genealogies, or taking knowledge
Whose branch you are. The King will leave it me,
And I dare make it mine. You have your answer.
PHI. If thou wert sole inheritor to him
Shine upon any thing but thine; were Pharamond
As truly valiant as I feel him cold,
And ring’d among the choicest of his friends
(Such as would blush to talk such serious follies,
Or back such bellied commendations),
You should hear further from me.
KING. Sir, you wrong the prince; I gave you not this freedom
To brave our best friends. You deserve our frown.
Go to; be better temper’d.
PHI. It must be, sir, when I am nobler us’d.
This would have been a pattern of succession,
Had he ne’er met this mischief. By my life,
He is the worthiest the true name of man
This day within my knowledge.
MEG. I cannot tell what you may call your knowledge;
But the other is the man set in mine eye.
KING. Philaster, tell me
The injuries you aim at in your riddles.
PHI. If you had my eyes, sir, and sufferance,
My griefs upon you, and my broken fortunes,
My wants great, and now nought but hopes and fears,
My wrongs would make ill riddles to be laugh’d at.
Dare you be still my king, and right me not?
KING. Give me your wrongs in private.
PHI. Take them,
And ease me of a load would bow strong Atlas. They whisper.
CLE. He dares not stand the shock.
DION. I cannot blame him; there’s danger in’t. Every man in this age has not a soul of crystal, for all men to read their actions through: men’s hearts and faces are so far asunder, that they hold no intelligence. Do but view yon stranger well, and you shall see a fever through all his bravery, and feel him shake like a true tenant. 11 If he give not back his crown again upon the report of an elder-gun, I have no augury.
KING. Go to;
Be more yourself, as you respect our favour;
You’ll stir us else. Sir, I must have you know,
That you are, and shall be, at our pleasure, what
Fashion we will put upon you. Smooth your brow,
Or by the gods—
PHI. I am dead, sir; you’re my fate. It was not I
Said, I was wrong’d; I carry all about me
My weak stars led me to, all my weak fortunes.
Who dares in all this presence speak, (that is
But man of flesh, and may be mortal,) tell me
I do not most entirely love this prince,
And honour his full virtues!
KING. Sure, he’s possess’d.
PHI. Yes, with my father’s spirit. It’s here, O King,
A dangerous spirit! Now he tells me, King,
I was a king’s heir, bids me be a king,
And whispers to me, these are all my subjects.
’Tis strange he will not let me sleep, but dives
Into my fancy, and there gives me shapes
That kneel and do me service, cry me king:
But I’ll suppress him; he’s a factious spirit,
And will undo me.—[To PHAR.] Noble sir, your hand;
I am your servant.
KING. Away! I do not like this:
I’ll make you tamer, or I’ll dispossess you
Both of your life and spirit. For this time
I pardon your wild speech, without so much
As your imprisonment. Exeunt KING, PHARAMOND, ARETHUSA [and Attendants.]
DION. I thank you, sir; you dare not for the people.
GAL. Ladies, what think you now of this brave fellow?
MEG. A pretty talking fellow, hot at hand. But eye yon stranger: is he not a fine complete gentleman? Oh, these strangers, I do affect them strangely! They do the rarest home-things, and please the fullest! As I live, I could love all the nation over and over for his sake.
GAL. Gods comfort your poor head-piece, lady! ’Tis a weak one and had need of a night-cap. Exeunt Ladies.
DION. See, how his fancy labours! Has he not
Spoke home and bravely? What a dangerous train
Did he give fire to! How he shook the King.
Made his soul melt within him, and his blood
Run into whey! It stood upon his brow
Like a cold winter-dew.
You have no suit to me? I am no minion.
You stand, methinks, like men that would be courtiers,
Not to undo your children. You’re all honest:
Go, get you home again, and make your country
A virtuous court, to which your great ones may,
In their diseased age, retire and live recluse.
CLE. How do you, worthy sir?
PHI. Well, very well;
And so well that, if the King please, I find
I may live many years.
DION. The King must please,
Whilst we know what you are and who you are,
But add your father to you; in whose name
We’ll waken all the gods, and conjure up
The rods of vengeance, the abused people,
Who, like to raging torrents, shall swell high,
And so begirt the dens of these male-dragons,
That, through the strongest safety, they shall beg
For mercy at your sword’s point.
PHI. Friends, no more;
Our ears may be corrupted; ’tis an age
We dare not trust our wills to. Do you love me?
THRA. Do we love Heaven and honour?
PHI. My Lord Dion, you had
A virtuous gentlewoman call’d you father;
Is she yet alive?
DION. Most honour’d sir, she is;
And, for the penance but of an idle dream,
Has undertook a tedious pilgrimage.
Enter a Lady
PHI. Is it to me, or any of these gentlemen, you come?
LADY. To you, brave lord; the princess would entreat
Your present company.
PHI. The princess send for me! You are mistaken.
LADY. If you be called Philaster, ’tis to you.
PHI. Kiss her fair hand, and say I will attend her. [Exit Lady.]
DION. Do you know what you do?
PHI. Yes; go to see a woman.
CLE. But do you weigh the danger you are in?
PHI. Danger in a sweet face!
By Jupiter, I must not fear a woman!
THRA. But are you sure it was the princess sent?
PHI. I do not think it, gentlemen; she’s noble.
Her eye may shoot me dead, or those true red
And white friends in her cheeks may steal my soul out;
There’s all the danger in’t. But, be what may,
Her single name hath armed me. Exit.
DION. Go on,
And be as truly happy as thou’rt fearless!—
Come, gentlemen, let’s make our friends acquainted,
Lest the King prove false. Exeunt.
Note 1. The presence chamber in the palace.
Note 2. Cheat.
Note 3. Bow.
Note 4. Lovers.
Note 5. Parrots.
Note 6. Unbalanced in mind.
Note 7. I. e., Alexander the Great.
Note 8. Bugbears.
Note 9. A model prince.
Note 10. The phrase, a dog of wax, is used elsewhere in a contemptuous sense, but has not been explained.
Note 11. Probably corrupt. Q1 truant. Mod. edd. tyrant, recreant, in a true tertian.
Note 12. Mason conj. Qq. F. you. If I could be induced not to ruin your families by antagonizing the king.
Note 13. Q1. Other edd. injuries.
Note 14. Plot.