Act 4, Scene IV

Scene: Before the Fort of Bonduca.

Enter SUETONIUS, JUNIUS, DECIUS, DEMETRIUS, CURIUS, and Soldiers; BONDUCA, two Daughters, and NENNIUS, on the ramparts. Drums and colours.

Suetonius.
Bring up the catapults, and shake the wall;
We will not be out-braved thus.
Nennius.
Shake the earth,
Ye cannot shake our souls. Bring up your rams,
And with their armed heads make the fort totter,
Ye do but rock us into death.
[Exit.
Junius.
See, Sir,
See the Icenian queen in all her glory,
From the strong battlements proudly appearing,
As if she meant to give us lashes!
Decius.
Yield, queen.
Bonduca.
I am unacquainted with that language, Roman.
Suetonius.
Yield, honour'd lady, and expect our mercy,
We love thy nobleness.
[Exit Decius.
Bonduca.
I thank ye! ye say well;
But mercy and love are sins in Rome and hell.
Suetonius.
You cannot 'scape our strength; you must yield, lady:
You must adore and fear the power of Rome.
Bonduca.
If Rome be earthly, why should any knee
With bending adoration worship her?
She's vicious; and, your partial selves confess,
Aspires, the height of all impiety;
Therefore 'tis fitter I should reverence
The thatched houses where the Britons dwell
In careless mirth; where the bless'd household gods
See nought but chaste and simple purity.
'Tis not high power that makes a place divine,
Nor that the men from gods derive their line;
But sacred thoughts, in holy bosoms stored,
Make people noble, and the place adored.
Suetonius.
Beat the wall deeper!
Bonduca.
Beat it to the centre,
We will not sink one thought.
Suetonius.
I'll make ye.
Bonduca.
No.

Enter PETILLIUS, who whispers SUETONIUS.

2 Daughter.
O mother, these are fearful hours; speak gently
To these fierce men, they will afford ye pity.
Bonduca.
Pity? Thou fearful girl, 'tis for those wretches
That misery makes tame. Wouldst thou live less?
Wast not thou born a princess? Can my blood,
And thy brave father's spirit, suffer in thee
So base a separation from thyself,
As mercy from these tyrants? Thou lovest lust sure,
And long'st to prostitute thy youth and beauty
To common slaves for bread. Say they had mercy,
The devil a relenting conscience,
The lives of kings rest in their diadems,
Which to their bodies lively souls do give
And, ceasing to be kings, they cease to live.
Shew such another fear, and, by the Gods,
I'll fling thee to their fury.—
Suetonius.
He is dead then?
Petillius.
I think so certainly; yet all my means, sir,
Even to the hazard of my life——
Suetonius.
No more:
We must not seem to mourn here.

Enter DECIUS.

Decius.
There is a breach made;
Is it your will we charge, sir!
Suetonius.
Once more, mercy,
Mercy to all that yield!
Bonduca.
I scorn to answer:—
Speak to him, girl—and hear thy sister.
1 Daughter.
General,
Hear me, and mark me well, and look upon me,
Directly in my face, my woman's face,
Whose only beauty is the hate it bears ye;
See with thy narrowest eyes, thy sharpest wishes,
Into my soul, and see what there inhabits;
See if one fear, one shadow of a terror,
One paleness dare appear but from my anger,
To lay hold on your mercies. No, ye fools,
Poor fortune's fools, we were not born for triumphs,
To follow your gay sports, and fill your slaves
With hoots and acclamations.
Petillius.
Brave behaviour!
1 Daughter.
The children of as great as Rome, as noble,
Our names before her, and our deeds her envy,
Must we gild o'er your conquest, make your state,
That is not fairly strong, but fortunate?
No, no, ye Romans, we have ways to 'scape ye,
To make ye poor again, indeed our prisoners,
And stick our triumphs full.
Petillius.
S'death, I shall love her!
1 Daughter.
To torture ye with suffering, like our slaves;
To make ye curse our patience, wish the world
Were lost again, to win us only, and esteem [it]
The end of all ambitions.
Bonduca.
Do ye wonder?
We'll make our monuments in spite of fortune;
In spite of all your eagles' wings, we'll work
A pitch above you; and from our height we'll stoop
As fearless of your bloody soars, and fortunate,
As if we pray'd on heartless doves. ,
Suetonius.
Strange stiffness!
Decius, go charge the breach.
[Exit Decius.
Bonduca.
Charge it home, Roman;
We shall deceive thee else.—Where's Nennius!

Enter NENNIUS.

Nennius.
They have made a mighty breach.
Bonduca.
Stick in thy body,
And make it good but half an hour.
Nennius.
I'll do it.
1 Daughter.
And then be sure to die.
Nennius.
It shall go hard else.
Bonduca.
Farewell, with all my heart! We shall meet yonder
Where few of these must come.
Nennius.
Gods take thee, lady!
[Exit.
Bonduca.
Bring up the swords and poison.

Enter one with Swords and a great Cup of Poison.

2 Daughter.
Oh, my fortune!
Bonduca.
How, how, ye whore?
2 Daughter.
Good mother, nothing to offend you.
Bonduca.
Here, wench.—
Behold us, Romans!
Suetonius.
Mercy yet.
Bonduca.
No talking!
Puff! there goes all your pity.—Come, short prayers,
And let's dispatch the business! You begin;
Shrink not, I'll see you do't.
2 Daughter.
Oh, gentle mother!
Oh, Romans! oh, my heart! I dare not.
Suetonius.
Woman, woman,
Unnatural woman!
2 Daughter.
Oh, persuade her, Romans!
Alas, I am young, and would live.—Noble mother,
Can ye kill that ye gave life? Are my years
Fit for destruction?
Suetonius.
Yield, and be a queen still,
A mother, and a friend.
Bonduca.
Ye talk!—Come, hold it,
And put it home.
1 Daughter.
Fy, sister, fy!
What would you live to be?
Bonduca.
A whore still?
2 Daughter.
Mercy!
Suetonius.
Hear her, thou wretched woman!
2 Daughter.
Mercy, mother!
[Kneels.
Oh, whither will you send me? I was once
Your darling, your delight.
Bonduca.
Oh, gods! fear in my family?—Do it, and noble.
2 Daughter.
Oh, do not frown then.
1 Daughter.
Do it, worthy sister;
'Tis nothing; 'tis a pleasure: We'll go with vou.
2 Daughter.
Oh, if knew but whither!
1 Daughter.
To the blessed:
Where we shall meet our father——
Suetonius.
Woman!
Bonduca.
Talk not.
1 Daughter.
Where nothing but true joy is——
Bonduca.
That's a good wench!
[2 Daughter drinks.
Mine own sweet girl! put it close to thee.
2 Daughter.
Oh,
Comfort me still, for Heaven's sake.
1 Daughter.
Where eternal
Our youths are, and our beauties; where no wars come,
Nor lustful slaves to ravish us.
2 Daughter.
That steels me;
A long farewell to this world!
[Dies.
Bonduca.
Good; I'll help thee.
1 Daughter.
The next is mine.—
Show me a Roman lady in all your stories,
Dare do this for her honour; they are cowards,
Eat coals like compell'd cats: your great saint, Lucrece,
Died not for honour; Tarquin tupt her well,
And, mad she could not hold him, bled.
Petillius.
By Heaven.
I am in love! I would give an hundred pound now
But to lie with this woman's behaviour. Oh, the devil!
1 Daughter.
Ye shall see me example: All your Rome,
If I were proud and loved ambition,
If I were lustful, all your ways of pleasure,
If I were greedy, all the wealth ye conquer—
Bonduca.
Make haste.
1 Daughter.
I will.—[Drinks.]—Could not entice to live,
But two short hours, this frailty. Would ye learn
How to die bravely, Romans, to fling off
This case of flesh, lose all your cares for ever?
Live, as we have done, well, and fear the gods;
Hunt honour, and not nations, with your swords;
Keep your minds humble, vour devotions high;
So shall ye learn the noblest part, to die.
[Dies.
Bonduca.
I come, wench.—To ye all, Fate's hangmen, you
That ease the aged Destinies and cut
The threads of kingdoms as they draw 'em! here,
Here is a draught would ask no less than Cæsar
To pledge it for the glory's sake!
Curius.
Great lady!
Suetonius.
Make up your own conditions.
Bonduca.
So we will.
Suetonius.
Stay!
Demetrius.
Stay!
Suetonius.
Be anything.
Bonduca.
A saint, Suetonius,
[Drinks.
When thou shalt fear, and die like a slave. Ye fools,
Ye should have tied up Death first, when ye conquer'd;
Ye sweat for us in vain else: See him here!
He is ours still, and our friend; laughs, it your pities;
And we command him with as easy reins
As do our enemies.—I feel the poison.—
Poor vanquish'd Romans, with what matchless tortures
Could I now rack ye! But I pity ye,
Desiring to die quiet: Nay, so much
I hate to prosecute my victory,
That I will give ye counsel ere I die:
If you will keep your laws and empire whole,
Place in your Roman flesh a Briton soul.
[Dies.
Suetonius.
Desperate and strange!

Enter DECIUS.

Decius.
'Tis won, sir, and the Britons
All put to th' sword.
Suetonius.
Give her fair funeral:
She was truly noble, and a queen.
Petillius.
Pox take it,
A love-mange grown upon me! What a spirit!
Junius.
I am glad of this! I have found you.
Petillius.
In my belly,
Oh, how it tumbles!
Junius.
Ye good gods, I thank ye!
[Exeunt.