The Court of Justice: the walls are hung with stamped grey velvet: above the hangings the wall is red, and gilt symbolical figures bear up the roof, which is made of red beams with grey soffits and moulding: a canopy of white satin flowered with gold is set for the Duchess: below it a long bench with red cloth for the Judges: below that a table for the clerks of the court. Two soldiers stand on each side of the canopy, and two soldiers guard the door; the citizens have some of them collected in the Court; others are coming in greeting one another; two tipstaffs in violet keep order with long white wands.
Good morrow, neighbour Anthony.
Good morrow, neighbour Dominick.
This is a strange day for Padua, is it not?—the Duke being dead.
I tell you, neighbour Dominick, I have not known such a day since the last Duke died.
They will try him first, and sentence him afterwards, will they not, neighbour Anthony?
Nay, for he might ’scape his punishment then; but they will condemn him first so that he gets his deserts, and give him trial afterwards so that no injustice is done.
Well, well, it will go hard with him I doubt not.
Surely it is a grievous thing to shed a Duke’s blood.
They say a Duke has blue blood.
I think our Duke’s blood was black like his soul.
Have a watch, neighbour Anthony, the officer is looking at thee.
I care not if he does but look at me; he cannot whip me with the lashes of his eye.
What think you of this young man who stuck the knife into the Duke?
Why, that he is a well-behaved, and a well-meaning, and a well-favoured lad, and yet wicked in that he killed the Duke.
’Twas the first time he did it: may be the law will not be hard on him, as he did not do it before.
Am I thy looking-glass, Master Tipstaff, that thou callest me knave?
Here be one of the household coming. Well, Dame Lucy, thou art of the Court, how does thy poor mistress the Duchess, with her sweet face?
O well-a-day! O miserable day! O day! O misery! Why it is just nineteen years last June, at Michaelmas, since I was married to my husband, and it is August now, and here is the Duke murdered; there is a coincidence for you!
Why, if it is a coincidence, they may not kill the young man: there is no law against coincidences.
But how does the Duchess?
Well well, I knew some harm would happen to the house: six weeks ago the cakes were all burned on one side, and last Saint Martin even as ever was, there flew into the candle a big moth that had wings, and a’most scared me.
But come to the Duchess, good gossip: what of her?
Marry, it is time you should ask after her, poor lady; she is distraught almost. Why, she has not slept, but paced the chamber all night long. I prayed her to have a posset, or some aqua-vitæ, and to get to bed and sleep a little for her health’s sake, but she answered me she was afraid she might dream. That was a strange answer, was it not?
These great folk have not much sense, so Providence makes it up to them in fine clothes.
Well, well, God keep murder from us, I say, as long as we are alive.
[Enter Lord Moranzone hurriedly.]
Is the Duke dead?
He has a knife in his heart, which they say is not healthy for any man.
Who is accused of having killed him?
Why, the prisoner, sir.
But who is the prisoner?
Why, he that is accused of the Duke’s murder.
I mean, what is his name?
Faith, the same which his godfathers gave him: what else should it be?
Guido Ferranti is his name, my lord.
I almost knew thine answer ere you gave it.
Yet it is strange he should have killed the Duke,
Seeing he left me in such different mood.
It is most likely when he saw the man,
This devil who had sold his father’s life,
That passion from their seat within his heart
Thrust all his boyish theories of love,
And in their place set vengeance; yet I marvel
That he escaped not.
[Turning again to the crowd.]
How was he taken? Tell me.
Marry, sir, he was taken by the heels.
But who seized him?
Why, those that did lay hold of him.
How was the alarm given?
That I cannot tell you, sir.
It was the Duchess herself who pointed him out.
The Duchess! There is something strange in this.
Ay! And the dagger was in his hand—the Duchess’s own dagger.
What did you say?
Why, marry, that it was with the Duchess’s dagger that the Duke was killed.
There is some mystery about this: I cannot understand it.
They be very long a-coming,
I warrant they will come soon enough for the prisoner.
Silence in the Court!
Thou dost break silence in bidding us keep it, Master Tipstaff.
[Enter the Lord Justice and the other Judges.]
Who is he in scarlet? Is he the headsman?
Nay, he is the Lord Justice.
[Enter Guido guarded.]
There be the prisoner surely.
He looks honest.
That be his villany: knaves nowadays do look so honest that honest folk are forced to look like knaves so as to be different.
[Enter the Headman, who takes his stand behind Guido.]
Yon be the headsman then! O Lord! Is the axe sharp, think you?
Ay! sharper than thy wits are; but the edge is not towards him, mark you.
Second Citizen [scratching his neck]
I’ faith, I like it not so near.
Tut, thou need’st not be afraid; they never cut the heads of common folk: they do but hang us.
What are the trumpets for? Is the trial over?
Nay, ’tis for the Duchess.
[Enter the Duchess in black velvet; her train of flowered black velvet is carried by two pages in violet; with her is the Cardinal in scarlet, and the gentlemen of the Court in black; she takes her seat on the throne above the Judges, who rise and take their caps off as she enters; the Cardinal sits next to her a little lower; the Courtiers group themselves about the throne.]
O poor lady, how pale she is! Will she sit there?
Ay! she is in the Duke’s place now.
That is a good thing for Padua; the Duchess is a very kind and merciful Duchess; why, she cured my child of the ague once.
Ay, and has given us bread: do not forget the bread.
Stand back, good people.
If we be good, why should we stand back?
Silence in the Court!
May it please your Grace,
Is it your pleasure we proceed to trial
Of the Duke’s murder? [Duchess bows.]
Set the prisoner forth.
What is thy name?
It matters not, my lord.
Guido Ferranti is thy name in Padua.
A man may die as well under that name as any other.
Thou art not ignorant
What dreadful charge men lay against thee here,
Namely, the treacherous murder of thy Lord,
Simone Gesso, Duke of Padua;
What dost thou say in answer?
I say nothing.
Lord Justice [rising]
Moranzone [stepping from the crowd]
Tarry, my Lord Justice.
Who art thou that bid’st justice tarry, sir?
So be it justice it can go its way;
But if it be not justice—
Who is this?
A very noble gentleman, and well known
To the late Duke.
Sir, thou art come in time
To see the murder of the Duke avenged.
There stands the man who did this heinous thing.
I ask again what proof have ye?
Lord Justice [holding up the dagger]
Which from his blood-stained hands, itself all blood,
Last night the soldiers seized: what further proof
Need we indeed?
Moranzone [takes the danger and approaches the Duchess]
Saw I not such a dagger
Hang from your Grace’s girdle yesterday?
[The Duchess shudders and makes no answer.]
Ah! my Lord Justice, may I speak a moment
With this young man, who in such peril stands?
Ay, willingly, my lord, and may you turn him
To make a full avowal of his guilt.
[Lord Moranzone goes over to Guido, who stands R. and clutches him by the hand.]
Moranzone [in a low voice]
She did it! Nay, I saw it in her eyes.
Boy, dost thou think I’ll let thy father’s son
Be by this woman butchered to his death?
Her husband sold your father, and the wife
Would sell the son in turn.
I alone did this thing: be satisfied,
My father is avenged.
Doth he confess?
My lord, I do confess
That foul unnatural murder has been done.
Why, look at that: he has a pitiful heart, and does not like murder; they will let him go for that.
Say you no more?
My lord, I say this also,
That to spill human blood is deadly sin.
Marry, he should tell that to the headsman: ’tis a good sentiment.
Lastly, my lord, I do entreat the Court
To give me leave to utter openly
The dreadful secret of this mystery,
And to point out the very guilty one
Who with this dagger last night slew the Duke.
Thou hast leave to speak.
I say he shall not speak:
What need have we of further evidence?
Was he not taken in the house at night
In Guilt’s own bloody livery?
Lord Justice [showing her the statute]
Can read the law.
Duchess [waiving book aside]
Bethink you, my Lord Justice,
Is it not very like that such a one
May, in the presence of the people here,
Utter some slanderous word against my Lord,
Against the city, or the city’s honour,
Perchance against myself.
My liege, the law.
He shall not speak, but, with gags in his mouth,
Shall climb the ladder to the bloody block.
The law, my liege.
We are not bound by law,
But with it we bind others.
My Lord Justice,
Thou wilt not suffer this injustice here.
The Court needs not thy voice, Lord Moranzone.
Madam, it were a precedent most evil
To wrest the law from its appointed course,
For, though the cause be just, yet anarchy
Might on this licence touch these golden scales
And unjust causes unjust victories gain.
I do not think your Grace can stay the law.
Ay, it is well to preach and prate of law:
Methinks, my haughty lords of Padua,
If ye are hurt in pocket or estate,
So much as makes your monstrous revenues
Less by the value of one ferry toll,
Ye do not wait the tedious law’s delay
With such sweet patience as ye counsel me.
Madam, I think you wrong our nobles here.
I think I wrong them not. Which of you all
Finding a thief within his house at night,
With some poor chattel thrust into his rags,
Will stop and parley with him? do ye not
Give him unto the officer and his hook
To be dragged gaolwards straightway?
And so now,
Had ye been men, finding this fellow here,
With my Lord’s life still hot upon his hands,
Ye would have haled him out into the court,
And struck his head off with an axe.
Speak, my Lord Justice.
Your Grace, it cannot be:
The laws of Padua are most certain here:
And by those laws the common murderer even
May with his own lips plead, and make defence.
This is no common murderer, Lord Justice,
But a great outlaw, and a most vile traitor,
Taken in open arms against the state.
For he who slays the man who rules a state
Slays the state also, widows every wife,
And makes each child an orphan, and no less
Is to be held a public enemy,
Than if he came with mighty ordonnance,
And all the spears of Venice at his back,
To beat and batter at our city gates—
Nay, is more dangerous to our commonwealth,
For walls and gates, bastions and forts, and things
Whose common elements are wood and stone
May be raised up, but who can raise again
The ruined body of my murdered lord,
And bid it live and laugh?
Now by Saint Paul
I do not think that they will let him speak.
There is much in this, listen.
Throw ashes on the head of Padua,
With sable banners hang each silent street,
Let every man be clad in solemn black;
But ere we turn to these sad rites of mourning
Let us bethink us of the desperate hand
Which wrought and brought this ruin on our state,
And straightway pack him to that narrow house,
Where no voice is, but with a little dust
Death fills right up the lying mouths of men.
Unhand me, knaves! I tell thee, my Lord Justice,
Thou mightst as well bid the untrammelled ocean,
The winter whirlwind, or the Alpine storm,
Not roar their will, as bid me hold my peace!
Ay! though ye put your knives into my throat,
Each grim and gaping wound shall find a tongue,
And cry against you.
Sir, this violence
Avails you nothing; for save the tribunal
Give thee a lawful right to open speech,
Naught that thou sayest can be credited.
[The Duchess smiles and Guido falls back with a gesture of despair.]
Madam, myself, and these wise Justices,
Will with your Grace’s sanction now retire
Into another chamber, to decide
Upon this difficult matter of the law,
And search the statutes and the precedents.
Go, my Lord Justice, search the statutes well,
Nor let this brawling traitor have his way.
Go, my Lord Justice, search thy conscience well,
Nor let a man be sent to death unheard.
[Exit the Lord Justice and the Judges.]
Silence, thou evil genius of my life!
Thou com’st between us two a second time;
This time, my lord, I think the turn is mine.
I shall not die till I have uttered voice.
Thou shalt die silent, and thy secret with thee.
Art thou that Beatrice, Duchess of Padua?
I am what thou hast made me; look at me well,
I am thy handiwork.
See, is she not
Like that white tigress which we saw at Venice,
Sent by some Indian soldan to the Doge?
Hush! she may hear thy chatter.
My young fellow,
I do not know why thou shouldst care to speak,
Seeing my axe is close upon thy neck,
And words of thine will never blunt its edge.
But if thou art so bent upon it, why
Thou mightest plead unto the Churchman yonder:
The common people call him kindly here,
Indeed I know he has a kindly soul.
This man, whose trade is death, hath courtesies
More than the others.
Why, God love you, sir,
I’ll do you your last service on this earth.
My good Lord Cardinal, in a Christian land,
With Lord Christ’s face of mercy looking down
From the high seat of Judgment, shall a man
Die unabsolved, unshrived? And if not so,
May I not tell this dreadful tale of sin,
If any sin there be upon my soul?
Thou dost but waste thy time.
Alack, my son,
I have no power with the secular arm.
My task begins when justice has been done,
To urge the wavering sinner to repent
And to confess to Holy Church’s ear
The dreadful secrets of a sinful mind.
Thou mayest speak to the confessional
Until thy lips grow weary of their tale,
But here thou shalt not speak.
My reverend father,
You bring me but cold comfort.
Nay, my son,
For the great power of our mother Church,
Ends not with this poor bubble of a world,
Of which we are but dust, as Jerome saith,
For if the sinner doth repentant die,
Our prayers and holy masses much avail
To bring the guilty soul from purgatory.
And when in purgatory thou seest my Lord
With that red star of blood upon his heart,
Tell him I sent thee hither.
O dear God!
This is the woman, is it, whom you loved?
Your Grace is very cruel to this man.
No more than he was cruel to her Grace.
Yet mercy is the sovereign right of princes.
I got no mercy, and I give it not.
He hath changed my heart into a heart of stone,
He hath sown rank nettles in a goodly field,
He hath poisoned the wells of pity in my breast,
He hath withered up all kindness at the root;
My life is as some famine murdered land,
Whence all good things have perished utterly:
I am what he hath made me.
[The Duchess weeps.]
Is it not strange
That she should so have loved the wicked Duke?
It is most strange when women love their lords,
And when they love them not it is most strange.
What a philosopher thou art, Petrucci!
Ay! I can bear the ills of other men,
Which is philosophy.
They tarry long,
These greybeards and their council; bid them come;
Bid them come quickly, else I think my heart
Will beat itself to bursting: not indeed,
That I here care to live; God knows my life
Is not so full of joy, yet, for all that,
I would not die companionless, or go
Lonely to Hell.
Look, my Lord Cardinal,
Canst thou not see across my forehead here,
In scarlet letters writ, the word Revenge?
Fetch me some water, I will wash it off:
’Twas branded there last night, but in the day-time
I need not wear it, need I, my Lord Cardinal?
Oh, how it sears and burns into my brain:
Give me a knife; not that one, but another,
And I will cut it out.
It is most natural
To be incensed against the murderous hand
That treacherously stabbed your sleeping lord.
I would, old Cardinal, I could burn that hand;
But it will burn hereafter.
Nay, the Church
Ordains us to forgive our enemies.
Forgiveness? what is that? I never got it.
They come at last: well, my Lord Justice, well.
[Enter the Lord Justice.]
Most gracious Lady, and our sovereign Liege,
We have long pondered on the point at issue,
And much considered of your Grace’s wisdom,
And never wisdom spake from fairer lips—
Proceed, sir, without compliment.
As your own Grace did rightly signify,
That any citizen, who by force or craft
Conspires against the person of the Liege,
Is ipso facto outlaw, void of rights
Such as pertain to other citizens,
Is traitor, and a public enemy,
Who may by any casual sword be slain
Without the slayer’s danger; nay, if brought
Into the presence of the tribunal,
Must with dumb lips and silence reverent
Listen unto his well-deserved doom,
Nor has the privilege of open speech.
I thank thee, my Lord Justice, heartily;
I like your law: and now I pray dispatch
This public outlaw to his righteous doom;
What is there more?
Ay, there is more, your Grace.
This man being alien born, not Paduan,
Nor by allegiance bound unto the Duke,
Save such as common nature doth lay down,
Hath, though accused of treasons manifold,
Whose slightest penalty is certain death,
Yet still the right of public utterance
Before the people and the open court;
Nay, shall be much entreated by the Court,
To make some formal pleading for his life,
Lest his own city, righteously incensed,
Should with an unjust trial tax our state,
And wars spring up against the commonwealth:
So merciful are the laws of Padua
Unto the stranger living in her gates.
Being of my Lord’s household, is he stranger here?
Ay, until seven years of service spent
He cannot be a Paduan citizen.
I thank thee, my Lord Justice, heartily;
I like your law.
I like no law at all:
Were there no law there’d be no law-breakers,
So all men would be virtuous.
So they would;
’Tis a wise saying that, and brings you far.
Ay! to the gallows, knave.
Is this the law?
It is the law most certainly, my liege.
Show me the book: ’tis written in blood-red.
Look at the Duchess.
Thou accursed law,
I would that I could tear thee from the state
As easy as I tear thee from this book.
[Tears out the page.]
Come here, Count Bardi: are you honourable?
Get a horse ready for me at my house,
For I must ride to Venice instantly.
To Venice, Madam?
Not a word of this,
Go, go at once. [Exit Count Bardi.]
A moment, my Lord Justice.
If, as thou sayest it, this is the law—
Nay, nay, I doubt not that thou sayest right,
Though right be wrong in such a case as this—
May I not by the virtue of mine office
Adjourn this court until another day?
Madam, you cannot stay a trial for blood.
I will not tarry then to hear this man
Rail with rude tongue against our sacred person.
You cannot leave this court until the prisoner
Be purged or guilty of this dread offence.
Cannot, Lord Justice? By what right do you
Set barriers in my path where I should go?
Am I not Duchess here in Padua,
And the state’s regent?
For that reason, Madam,
Being the fountain-head of life and death
Whence, like a mighty river, justice flows,
Without thy presence justice is dried up
And fails of purpose: thou must tarry here.
What, wilt thou keep me here against my will?
We pray thy will be not against the law.
What if I force my way out of the court?
Thou canst not force the Court to give thee way.
I will not tarry. [Rises from her seat.]
Is the usher here?
Let him stand forth. [Usher comes forward.]
Thou knowest thy business, sir.
[The Usher closes the doors of the court, which are L., and when the Duchess and her retinue approach, kneels down.]
In all humility I beseech your Grace
Turn not my duty to discourtesy,
Nor make my unwelcome office an offence.
Is there no gentleman amongst you all
To prick this prating fellow from our way?
Maffio [drawing his sword]
Ay! that will I.
Count Maffio, have a care,
And you, sir. [To Jeppo.]
The first man who draws his sword
Upon the meanest officer of this Court,
Dies before nightfall.
Sirs, put up your swords:
It is most meet that I should hear this man.
[Goes back to throne.]
Now hast thou got thy enemy in thy hand.
Lord Justice [taking the time-glass up]
Guido Ferranti, while the crumbling sand
Falls through this time-glass, thou hast leave to speak.
This and no more.
It is enough, my lord.
Thou standest on the extreme verge of death;
See that thou speakest nothing but the truth,
Naught else will serve thee.
If I speak it not,
Then give my body to the headsman there.
Lord Justice [turns the time-glass]
Let there be silence while the prisoner speaks.
Silence in the Court there.
My Lords Justices,
And reverent judges of this worthy court,
I hardly know where to begin my tale,
So strangely dreadful is this history.
First, let me tell you of what birth I am.
I am the son of that good Duke Lorenzo
Who was with damned treachery done to death
By a most wicked villain, lately Duke
Of this good town of Padua.
Have a care,
It will avail thee nought to mock this prince
Who now lies in his coffin.
By Saint James,
This is the Duke of Parma’s rightful heir.
I always thought him noble.
That with the purport of a just revenge,
A most just vengeance on a man of blood,
I entered the Duke’s household, served his will,
Sat at his board, drank of his wine, and was
His intimate: so much I will confess,
And this too, that I waited till he grew
To give the fondest secrets of his life
Into my keeping, till he fawned on me,
And trusted me in every private matter
Even as my noble father trusted him;
That for this thing I waited.
[To the Headsman.]
Thou man of blood!
Turn not thine axe on me before the time:
Who knows if it be time for me to die?
Is there no other neck in court but mine?
The sand within the time-glass flows apace.
Come quickly to the murder of the Duke.
I will be brief: Last night at twelve o’ the clock,
By a strong rope I scaled the palace wall,
With purport to revenge my father’s murder—
Ay! with that purport I confess, my lord.
This much I will acknowledge, and this also,
That as with stealthy feet I climbed the stair
Which led unto the chamber of the Duke,
And reached my hand out for the scarlet cloth
Which shook and shivered in the gusty door,
Lo! the white moon that sailed in the great heaven
Flooded with silver light the darkened room,
Night lit her candles for me, and I saw
The man I hated, cursing in his sleep;
And thinking of a most dear father murdered,
Sold to the scaffold, bartered to the block,
I smote the treacherous villain to the heart
With this same dagger, which by chance I found
Within the chamber.
Duchess [rising from her seat]
I killed the Duke.
Now, my Lord Justice, if I may crave a boon,
Suffer me not to see another sun
Light up the misery of this loathsome world.
Thy boon is granted, thou shalt die to-night.
Lead him away. Come, Madam
[Guido is led off; as he goes the Duchess stretches out her arms and rushes down the stage.]
END OF ACT IV.