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of which we hear when he is going to do anything particularly savage or treacherous.
Flamen-Falstaff has got a capital grievance in hand. Rome is supposed to protect her vassals. But Carthaginian vessels have been plundering those of some Asian merchants, and Flaminius has not interfered. The poor merchants make plaint to the priest of Cybele, and the Ambassador, entering, is attacked by Berecinthius in the severest manner, and called to account for his conduct. The Roman is contemptuously haughty, and scoffs at the pursy advocate, but is at length enraged into menace; tells the complainers that they shall be pulverised with iron hammers if they say more, and hints to the Flamen that men have been hanged for inciting Roman vassals to sedition. Flaminius stalks off, leaving the priest to rave and the despoiled merchants to wail, and call those terque quaterque beati who died on the field with Antiochus. It is highly convenient, not to say rather curious, that they should take that moment for recounting what happened twenty-two years before, for the next moment Antiochus enters. He demands charity to a poor man, “as they are Asians" (the "as" hath a meaning not in the dictionaries, but well understood by lovers of poetry), and is instantly recognised by the three merchants. His voice, his features, the marks of wounds, all identify him. I am going to make a remark in vindication of those who, as I said above, supposed this play to be a comedy. Tradition may have handed down the next passage. The Flamen recognises a certain hollowness in the king's under jaw, occasioned by the loss of a tooth pulled out by his chirurgeon. One of the merchants, for further confirmation, asks that dentist's name.' The king gives it, and their last doubt vanishes. “May Asia once more flourish !” they cry with shouts. The priest then offers to provide fit garments for Antiochus, that he may present himself to the Carthaginian Senate.
The Roman Ambassador, ever vigilant, is informed that a man, calling himself Antiochus, is receiving homage in Carthage. marks that two persons have already been executed for that imposture, and that a third shall share their fate. He sends to his friend Amilcar, the Prince of the Senate, to beg that the soi-disant Antiochus may be arrested. Whether the king was really killed or not, Flaminius observes that it is for the safety of Rome that he should be believed dead. While his messenger is gone, three men desire speech of the Roman. He admits them, and they prove to be the attendants of Antiochus, who have come to curry favour with omnipotent Rome, by announcing the approach of Antiochus to Carthage. Flaminius affects to disbelieve in the identity, whereon they, who have served
so long with the king, give such distinct and detailed evidence, that the Ambassador asks them whether the facts are known to any but themselves. They are not. The rascals confess that they robbed their master, and hope that he has hanged himself. Flaminius, with his pleasant smile, makes them promise that they will tell no one else, and offers them sanctuary in his house, lest the robbery be urged against them. Need I say that the villains rejoice as they are committed to the care of the Secretary of Legation, who is charged to show them all hospitality? They do not see in the smile, or hear in the promise that when they next come out they shall not fear who sees them, the hint given to the secretary,
“A pill of sublimated mercury As sugar to their wine."
They are promptly dispatched, and we seem to be rather glad that vengeance has lost so little time.
Carthage's Senate is in session, and discussing the Antiochus question. The noble President is for an honourable course, whereas the noble Lord Hanno, who knows the value Rome sets on Asia, her only profitable conquest, thinks there is danger in not surrendering her enemy. The noble Lord Asdrubal is for handing over Antiochus to the Ambassador. Finally, it is carried, without a division, that the king and the Roman shall both be heard. Flaminius enters, loftily, and at once, in the haughtiest way, takes the Senate to task for being so slow in doing right to Rome. Her declaring Antiochus dead, and this man an impostor, ought to be enough for Carthage. But the Punic spirit is roused, and the Senate will not be dictated to. The alleged Antiochus shall be heard. He enters, habited as a king, and attended by Flamen-Falstaff, and the three Asians.
Antiochus declares himself, makes an eloquent speech, and apprises some whom he sees around him that he remembers them at his own court in their humbler days. He makes a deep impression ; but the Roman charges him with being either an apostate Jew or a cheating Greek, and describes the death of the real Antiochus, and the golden urn and royal monument which were accorded by the lenity of the conquerors. He then denounces the abettors of the impostor, among them “a turbulent Flamen, grown fat with idleness.” That obese clergyman retorts with language which was no doubt very abusive, from what follows; but here is one of the chasms in the text. However, as the President informs him that his goddess, Cybele, has saved him from a whipping, and has him extruded, and as he himself admits, he goes to “roar his wrongs out,” we may
assume that he used his best oratory. The dis-establishment of this spiritual orator being effected, Flaminius demands the surrender of Antiochus. The king delivers a long and pathetic protest, and in further proof of his claim, puts in a memorial of a long past transaction between his own court and Carthage, and this, on examination, is found exactly to agree with the senatorial records. The pertinacious Roman at once explains that this is done by magic, and refuses to hear more—Rome's honour is taxed. He departs, desiring the Senate to consider what it is to have Rome as friend or enemy. The Senate takes a middle course, is inclined to believe in Antiochus, but cannot protect him as a king until he has other recognition, wishes him to go elsewhere for justice, but will not give him up to Rome. Antiochus despairs.
“ Poor men, though fallen, may rise ; but kings like me,
If once by fortune slaved, are ne'er set free."
Still in Carthage as the third act opens.
The Roman is plotting for the destruction of the king. The detail need not be told. "The corpulent Flamen," who, like many fat men, likes to have his own way, has induced Antiochus to fly with him, and to fly so far as the Court of Prusias, King of Bithynia, which is, as I have said, by the Black Sea. This king, and his queen, had been close friends with Antiochus in the days of his glory. According to the fashion of our ancestors, this change of scene is instantaneously effected, and we are out of Western Africa and in Eastern Asia. The journey has fatigued the king a little, but the fat Flamen has held out nobly, and has gone on to ensure a reception for Antiochus. At length, thank the gods, we get a lady on the stage, not a single feminine utterance having been heard until the tragedy is half over. The gentle Queen of Prusias has little to say now, but when she receives the salute of Antiochus, she remarks that she never kissed any other man before, save her husband. She, at least, is no Queen Guinever. King Prusias talks boldly, will protect Antiochus, and consider how to restore to him his own, meantime will be his host. The royal party retire, Flamen-Falstaff exults. He has done it all, and he will do much more. He will do it lest the increase of his size
“Should metamorphose me into the shape
Of a great tortoise, and I shall appear
Jeer at my bulk, and spare not." He will begin by the trifling achievement of driving the Romans out of Asia. Then, leaguing with Carthage and with Egypt, he will him
self take the command of the army, march on Rome, and fill Tiber with the carcasses of men, women, and children, be drawn in a chariot by senators, and have his enemy Flaminius led like a dog in a chain.
By the Nine Gods, there is Flaminius! He too has come, and it is by order of the Senate of Rome, who have superseded him at Carthage, and sent him to capture Antiochus. “ What have I to do with thee ?” stammers the poor quaking fat priest ? “You'll know at leisure," replies the Roman, and passes on.
Flaminius has secured the Prime Minister of Prusias, an official who desires certain Roman honours, and who is bribed to advise the vacillating King of Bithynia to give up Antiochus. Prusias is for some time defiant, but the thunder of Rome is poured out in such a tremendous volley, and is echoed so effectively by the treacherous Premier, that the king yields, and when Antiochus comes in it is to be informed that he must be delivered up. In vain the poor exiled monarch pleads piteously for mercy, and prays to be set alive in a desert rather than be handed over to cruel Flaminius; in vain does the gentle queen, rousing for the first time in her wedded life to give her lord counsel, point out that he is doing a shameful deed, one that a woman would recoil from. Antiochus is borne off guarded. The Flamen, too, would retire ; but Flaminius, with his fatal smile, begs that priest to accompany him. Poor Berecinthius has a guess at what is likely, and remarks, in his Falstaffian way,–
“The comfort is, whether I drown or hang,
I shall not be long about it.”
We are in Callipolis. A mischievous “scenic artist” (Mr. Stanfield and Mr. David Roberts were scene-painters), who wished to puzzle a manager who had told him to get up this play, might ask him which of the seven cities called Callipolis he pleased to mean. It would not much matter, but the one in Massinger's eye was in the line from Bithynia to Sicily. The scene is in the street, and there is some talk between an oldish, rough Proconsul and a gallant young captain about a most fascinating Traviata who has recently arrived, and who is turning the heads of all the un-virtuous. As the lighthearted soldier cannot show his friend a photograph of the lady, he proposes to take him to see her, but the other with a very plain and comprehensive curse declines, and then Flaminius, who has arrived with his prisoners, enters. He knows the Proconsul, and wants his advice. It is true that Antiochus is in prison, but the state of feeling in Asia makes it necessary that he should be proclaimed and recog
nised there as an impostor. The most effective way to manage this would be to get him to confess that he had assumed the name of king. The rough and ready Proconsul suggests torture, as a certain means of producing this; but Flaminius has seen enough of his victim to disbelieve in its efficacy. He has done his best to make Antiochus kill himself in despair, and at that moment the king completes three days of starvation. The rough and ready Proconsul suggests a few hours more. But Flaminius has an idea that if some “place of rest” could be offered to the poor king, and pleasure and security for the rest of his days, he would be likely to yield.
Thereupon occurs to the Proconsul the extraordinary idea of sending the beautiful and all-victorious Traviata to fascinate Antiochus into selling his birth-right for a handsome mess of pottage-let us write potage, which means a good deal. They first, however, have a dagger and a halter conveyed to him. He is enraged at the discourtesy that will not even provide him an executioner, and then he resists all temptation to suicide.
“My better angel,
I need not detail the scene in the prison where the lady carries out the orders of her patrons. After the above speech, which does honour to gymnosophy, it is clear that the king is not likely to yield to the seductions of a personage of that sort. He speedily discovers her innocence, and admiration of himself, to be assumed, and apprises her of that discovery, and of his opinion of her, in language which leaves no mistake in her mind, or the reader's. La Traviata goes out cursing and raging, and tearing off her clothes, declaring in her wrath that she will never more wear a rag that he hath breathed on. The Proconsul and Flaminius enter, and order Antiochus away, as we suppose, to death. “Death ends all, however,” says the poor king.
And they do hang the fat Flamen-Falstaff, and one of the merchants. Flaminius hinted that such things had been done to sedition-mongers, and now his hint is illustrated. “At leisure" the Flamen discovers what he has to do with Flaminius. We are at the place of execution. Berecinthius has been cruelly treated in prison, starved, and ordered
Vol. IV., N. S. 1869.