Act 1, Scene I

Scene: The Camp of Arbaces, on the Frontiers of Armenia.

Enter MARDONIUS and BESSUS.

Mardonius.
Bessus, the king has made a fair hand on't; he has ended the wars at a blow. 'Would my sword had a close basket hilt, to hold wine, and the blade would make knives; for we shall have nothing but eating and drinking.
Bessus.
We, that are commanders, shall do well enough.
Mardonius.
'Faith, Bessus, such commanders as thou may: I had as lieve set thee perdue for a pudding i' th' dark, as Alexander the Great.
Bessus.
I love these jests exceedingly.
Mardonius.
I think thou lov'st'em better than quarrelling, Bessus; I'll say so much in thy behalf. And yet thou'rt valiant enough upon a retreat: I think thou would'st kill any man that stopp'd thee, an thou couldst.
Bessus.
But was not this a brave combat, Mardonius?
Mardonius.
Why, didst thou see it?
Bessus.
You stood with me.
Mardonius.
I did so; but methought thou wink'd'st every blow they strake.
Bessus.
Well, I believe there are better soldiers than I, that never saw two princes fight in lists.
Mardonius.
By my troth, I think so too, Bessus; many a thousand: But, certainly, all that are worse than thou have seen as much.
Bessus.
'Twas bravely done of our king.
Mardonius.
Yes if he had not ended the wars. I'm glad thou dar'st talk of such dangerous businesses.
Bessus.
To take a prince prisoner in the heart of his own country, in single combat!
Mardonius.
See how thy blood cruddles at this! I think thou couldst be contented to be beaten i' this passion.
Bessus.
Shall I tell you truly?
Mardonius.
Ay.
Bessus.
I could willingly venture for it.
Mardonius.
Hum! no venture neither, good Bessus.
Bessus.
Let me not live, if I do not think it is a braver piece of service than that I'm so famed for.
Mardonius.
Why, art thou famed for any valour?
Bessus.
I famed? Ay, I warrant you.
Mardonius.
I am very heartily glad on't: I have been with thee ever since thou cam'st to the wars, and this is the first word that ever I heard on't. Pr'ythee, who fames thee?
Bessus.
The Christian world.
Mardonius.
'Tis heathenishly done of 'em; in my conscience, thou deserv'st it not.
Bessus.
I ha' done good service.
Mardonius.
I do not know how thou may'st wait of a man in's chamber, or thy agility in shifting a trencher; but otherwise no service, good Bessus.
Bessus.
You saw me do the service yourself.
Mardonius.
Not so hasty, sweet Bessus! Where was it? is the place vanish'd?
Bessus.
At Bessus' Desperate Redemption.
Mardonius.
At Bessus' Desperate Redemption! where's that?
Bessus.
There, where I redeem'd the day; the place bears my name.
Mardonius.
Pr'ythee who christened it.?
Bessus.
The soldier.
Mardonius.
If I were not a very merrily disposed man, what would become of thee? One that had but a grain of choler in the whole composition of his body, would send thee o an errand to the worms, for putting thy name upon that field: Did not I beat thee there, i' th' head o' th' troops with a truncheon, because thou wouldst needs run away with thy company, when we should charge the enemy?
Bessus.
True; but I did not run.
Mardonius.
Right, Bessus: I beat thee out on't.
Bessus.
But came not I up when the day was gone, and redeem'd all?
Mardonius.
Thou knowest, and so do I, thou meant'st to fly, and thy fear making thee mistake, thou ran'st upon the enemy; and a hot charge thou gavest; as, I'll do thee right, thou art furious in running away; and, I think we owe thy fear for our victory. If I were the king, and were sure thou wouldst mistake always, and run away upon the enemy, thou shouldst be general, by this light.
Bessus.
You'll never leave this till I fall foul.
Mardonius.
No more such words, dear Bessus; for though I have ever known thee a coward, and therefore durst never strike thee, yet if thou proceed'st, I will allow thee valiant, and beat thee.
Bessus.
Come, our king's a brave fellow.
Mardonius.
He is so, Bessus; I wonder how thou com'st to know it. But, if thou wert a man of understanding, I would tell thee, he is vain-glorious and humble, and angry and patient, and merrv and dull, and joyful and sorrowful, in extremities, in an hour. Do not think me thy friend, for this; for if I cared who knew it, thou shouldst not hear it, Bessus. Here he is, with the prey in his foot.

Enter ARBACES, TIGRANES, two Gentlemen, and Attendants.

Arbaces.
Thy sadness, brave Tigranes, takes away
From my full victory: Am I become
Of so small fame, that any man should grieve
When I o'ercome him? They that placed me here,
Intended it an honour, large enough
For the most valiant living, but to dare
Oppose me single, though he lost the day.
What should afflict you? You are as free as I.
To be my prisoner, is to be more free
Than you were formerly. And never think,
The man I held worthy to combat me
Shall be used servilely. Thy ransom is,
To take my only sister to thy wife:
A heavy one, Tigranes; for she is
A lady, that the neighbour princes send
Blanks to fetch home. I have been too unkind
To her, Tigranes: She, but nine years old,
I left her, and ne'er saw her since: Your wars
Have held me long, and taught me, though a youth,
The way to victory. She was a pretty child;
Then, I was little better; but now fame
Cries loudly on her, and my messengers
Make me believe she is a miracle.
She'll make you shrink, as I did, with a stroke
But of her eve, Tigranes.
Tigranes.
Is it the course of
Iberia to use her prisoners thus?
Had fortune thrown my name above Arbaces',
I should not thus have talk'd; for in Armenia,
We hold it base. You should have kept your temper
Till you saw home again, where 'tis the fashion,
Perhaps, to brag.
Arbaces.
Be you my witness, earth,
Need I to brag? Doth not this captive prince
Speak me sufficiently, and all the acts
That I have wrought upon his suffering land?
Should I then boast? Where lies that foot of ground,
Within his whole realm, that I have not past,
Fighting and conquering: Far then from me
Be ostentation. I could tell the world,
How I have laid his kingdom desolate,
By this sole arm, propp'd bv divinity;
Stript him out of his glories; and have sent
The pride of all his youth to people graves;
And made his virgins languish for their loves;
If I would brag. Should I, that have the power
To teach the neighbour world humility,
Mix with vain-glory?
Mardonius.
Indeed, this is none!
[Aside.
Arbaces.
Tigranes, no; did I but take delight
To stretch my deeds as others do, on words,
I could amaze my hearers.
Mardonius.
So you do.
[Aside.
Arbaces.
But he shall wrong his and my modesty,
That thinks me apt to boast: After an act
Fit for a god to do upon his foe,
A little glory in a soldier's mouth
Is well-becoming; be it far from vain.
Mardonius.
'Tis pity, that valour should be thus drunk.
[Aside.
Arbaces.
I offer you my sister, and you answer,
I do insult: A lady that no suit
Nor treasure, nor thy crown, could purchase thee,
But that thou fought'st with me.
Tigranes.
Though this be worse
Than that you spoke before, it strikes not me;
But, that you think to over-grace me with
The marriage of your sister, troubles me.
I would give worlds for ransoms, were they mine,
Rather than have her.
Arbaces.
See, if I insult,
That am the conqueror, and for a ransom
Offer rich treasure to the conquered,
Which he refuses, and I bear his scorn
It cannot be self-flattery to say,
The daughters of your country, set by her,
Would see their shame, run home, and blush to death
At their own foulness. Yet she is not fair,
Nor beautiful, those words express her not:
They say, her looks have something excellent,
That wants a name yet. Were she odious,
Her birth deserves the empire of the world:
Sister to guch a brother; that hath ta'en
Victory prisoner, and throughout the earth
Carries her bound, and should he let her loose,
She durst not leave him. Nature did her wrong,
To print continual conquest on her cheeks
And make no man worthy for her to take,
But me, that am too near her; and as strangely
She did for me: But you will think I brag.
Mardonius.
I do, I'll be sworn. Thv valour and thy passions severed , would have made two excellent fellows in their kinds. I know not, whether I should be sorry thou art so valiant, or so passionate: 'Would one of 'em were away!
[Aside.
Tigranes.
Do I refuse her, that I doubt her worth?
Were she as virtuous as she would be thought;
So perfect, that no one of her own sex
Could find a want she had; so tempting fair,
That she could wish it off for damning souls;
I would pay any ransom, twenty lives,
Rather than meet her married in my bed.
Perhaps, I have a love, where I have fix'd
Mine eyes, not to be moved, and she on me;
I am not fickle.
Arbaces.
Is that all the cause?
Think you, vou can so knit yourself in love
To any other, that her searching sight
Cannot dissolve it? So, before you tried,
You thought yourself a match for me in fight.
Trust me, Tigranes, she can do as much
In peace, as I in war; she'll conquer too.
You shall see, if you have the power to stand
The force of her swift looks. If you dislike,
I'll send you home with love, and name your ransom
Some other way; but if she be your choice,
She frees you. To Iberia you must.
Tigranes.
Sir, I have learn'd a prisoner's sufferance,
And will obey. But give me leave to talk
In private with some friends before I go.
Arbaces.
Some do await him forth, and see him safe;
But let him freely send for whom he please,
And none dare to disturb his conference;
I will not have him know what bondage is,
Till he be free from me.
[Exit Tigranes with Attendants.

      This, prince, Mardonius,
Is full of wisdom, valour, all the graces
Man can receive.
Mardonius.
And yet you conquer'd him.
Arbaces.
And yet I conquer'd him, and could have done,
Hadst thou joined with him, though thy name in arms
Be great. Must all men, that are virtuous,
Think suddenly to match themselves with me?
I conquer'd him, and bravely; did I not?
Bessus.
An please your majesty, I was afraid at first——
Mardonius.
When wert thou other?
Arbaces.
Of what?
Bessus.
That you would not have spied your best advantages; for your majesty, in my opinion, lay too high; methinks, under favour, you should have lain thus.
Mardonius.
Like a tailor at a wake.
Bessus.
And then, if't please your majesty to remember, at one time——by my troth, I wish'd mvself wi' you.
Mardonius.
Bv my troth, thou wouldst ha' stunk 'em both out o' th' lists.
Arbaces.
What to do?
Bessus.
To put your majesty in mind of an occasion: you lay thus, and Tigranes falsified a blow at your leg, which you, by doing thus, avoided; but, if you had whipped up your leg thus, and reach'd him on the ear, you had made the blood-royal run about his head.
Mardonius.
What country fence-school didst thou learn that at?
Arbaces.
Puff! did not I take him nobly?
Mardonius.
Why, you did and you have talk'd enough on't.
Arbaces.
Talk enough!
Will you confine my words? By Heav'n and earth,
I were much better be a king of beasts
Than such a people! If I had not patience
Above a god, I should be call'd a tyrant,
Throughout the world! They will offend to death
Each minute: Let me hear thee speak again,
And thou art earth again. Why, this is like
Tigranes' speech, that needs would say I bragg'd.
Bessus, he said I bragg'd.
Bessus.
Ha, ha, ha!
Arbaces.
Why dost thou laugh?
By all the world, I'm grown ridiculous
To mv own subjects. Tie me to a chair
And jest at me! But I shall make a start,
And punish some, that others may take heed
How they are haughty. Who will answer me?
He said I boasted: speak, Mardonius,
Did I?—He will not answer. Oh, my temper!
I give you thanks above, that taught my heart
Patience; I can endure his silence? What, will none
Vouchsafe to give me audience? Am I grown
To such a poor respect? or do you mean
To break my wind? Speak, speak, some one of you
Or else, by Heaven——
1 Gentleman.
So please your——
Arbaces.
Monstrous!
I cannot be heard out; they cut me off,
As if I were too saucy. I will live
In woods, and talk to trees; they will allow me
To end what I begin. The meanest subject
Can find a freedom to discharge his soul,
And not I. Now it is a time to speak;
I hearken.
1 Gentleman.
May it please——
Arbaces.
I mean not you;
Did not I stop you once? But I am grown
To balk! But I desire let another speak.
2 Gentleman.
I hope your majesty——
Arbaces.
Thou draw'st thy words,
That I must wait an hour, where other men
Can hear in instants: Throw your words away
Quick, and to purpose; I have told you this.
Bessus.
An't please your majesty——
Arbaces.
Wilt thou devour me? This is such a rudeness
As yet you never show'd me: and I want
Power to command ye; else, Mardonius
Would speak at my request. Were you my king,
I would have answer'd at your word, Mardonius.
I pray you speak, and truly, did I boast?
Mardonius.
Truth will offend you.
Arbaces.
You take all great care what will offend me
When you dare to utter such things as these.
Mardonius.
You told Tigranes, you had won his land
With that sole arm, propp'd by divinity:
Was not that bragging, and a wrong to us
That daily ventured lives?
Arbaces.
O, that thy name
Were great as mine! 'would I had paid my wealth
It were as great, as I might combat thee!
I would, through all the regions habitable,
Search thee, and, having found thee, with my sword
Drive thee about the world, till I had met
Some place that yet man's curiosity
Hath miss'd of: There, there would I strike thee dead:
Forgotten of mankind, such funeral rites
As beasts would give thee, thou shouldst have.
Bessus.
The king rages extremely: shall we slink away?
He'll strike us.
2 Gentleman.
Content.
Arbaces.
There I would make you know, 'twas this sole arm.
I rant, you were my instruments and did
As I commanded you; but 'twas this arm
Moved you like wheels; it moved you as it pleased.
Whither slip you now? What, are you too good
To wait on me? I had need have temper,
That rule such people: I have nothing left
At my own choice! I would I might be private:
Mean men enjoy themselves; but 'tis our curse
To have a tumult, that, out of their loves,
Will wait on us, whether we will or no.
Go, get you gone! Why, here they stand like death:
Mv words move nothing.
1 Gentleman.
Must we go?
Bessus.
I know not.
Arbaces.
I pray you, leave me, sirs. I'm proud of this
That you will be entreated from my sight.
[Exeunt all but Arbaces and Mardonius.

Why, now they leave me all. Mardonius!
Mardonius.
Sir.
Arbaces.
Will you leave me quite alone? Methinks,
Civility should teach you more than this,
If I were but your friend. Stay here, and wait.
Mardonius.
Sir, shall I speak?
Arbaces.
Why, you would now think much
To be denied; but I can scarce intreat
What I would have. Do, speak.
Mardonius.
But will you hear me out?
Arbaces.
With me you article, to talk thus: Well,
I will hear you out.
Mardonius.
[Kneels.] Sir, that I have ever loved you, my sword hath spoken for me; that I do, if it be doubted, I dare call an oath, a great one, to my witness; and were you not my king, from amongst men I should have chose you out'to love above the rest: Nor can this challenge thanks; for my own sake I should have doted, because I would have loved the most deserving man; for so you are.
Arbaces.
Alas, Mardonius, rise! you shall not kneel:
We all are soldiers, and all venture lives;
And where there is no difference in men's worths,
Titles are jests. Who can outvalue thee?
Mardonius, thou hast loved me, and hast wrong;
Thy love is not rewarded; but, believe
It shall be better. More than friend in arms,
My father, and my tutor, good Mardonius!
Mardonius.
Sir, you did promise you would hear me out.
Arbaces.
And so I will: Speak freely, for from thee
Nothing can come, but worthy things and true.
Mardonius.
Though you have all this worth, you hold some qualities that do eclipse your virtues.
Arbaces.
Eclipse my virtues?
Mardonius.
Yes; your passions; which are so manifold, that they appear even in this: When I commend you, you hug me for that truth; when I speak your faults, you make a start, and fly the hearing: But——
Arbaces.
When you commend me? Oh, that I should live
To need such commendations! If my deeds
Blew not my praise themselves about the earth,
I were most wretched! Spare your idle praise:
If thou didst mean to flatter, and shouldst utter
Words in my praise, that thou thought'st impudence,
My deeds should make 'em modest. When you praise,
I hug you? 'Tis so false, that, wert thou worthy,
Thou shouldst receive a death, a glorious death,
From me! But thou shalt understand thy lies;
For shouldst thou praise me into Heaven, and there
Leave me enthroned, I would despise thee though
As much as now, which is as much as dust,
Because I see thy envy.
Mardonius.
However you will use me after, yet, for your own
promise sake, hear me the rest.
Arbaces.
I will, and after call unto the winds;
For they shall lend as large an ear as I
To what you utter. Speak!
Mardonius.
Would you but leave these hasty tempers, which I do not say take from you all your worths, but darken 'em, then you will shine indeed.
Arbaces.
Well.
Mardonius.
Yet I would have you keep some passions, lest men should take you for a god, your virtues are such.
Arbaces.
Why, now you flatter.
Mardonius.
I never understood the word. Were you no king, and free from these wild moods, should I chuse a companion for wit and pleasure, it should be you; or for honesty to interchange my bosom with, it should be you; or wisdom to give me counsel, I would pick out you; or valour to defend my reputation, still I would find you out for you are fit to fight for all the world, if it could come in question. Now I have spoke: Consider to yourself; find out a use; if so, then what shall fall to me is not material.
Arbaces.
Is not material? more than ten such lives
As mine, Mardonius! It was nobly said;
Thou hast spoke truth, and boldly such a truth
As might offend another. I have been
Too passionate and idle; thou shalt see
A swift amendment. But I want those parts
You praise me for: I fight for all the world!
Give thee a sword, and thou wilt go as far
Beyond me, as thou art beyond in years;
I know thou dar'st and wilt. It troubles me
That I should use so rough a phrase to thee:
Impute it to my folly, what thou wilt,
So thou wilt pardon me. That thou and I
Should differ thus!
Mardonius.
Why, 'tis no matter, Sir.
Arbaces.
'Faith, but it is: But thou dost ever take
All things I do thus patiently; for which
I never can requite thee, but with love;
And that thou shalt be sure of. Thou and I
Have not been merry lately: Pr'ythee tell me,
Where hadst thou that same jewel in thine ear?
Mardonius.
Why, at the taking of a town.
Arbaces.
A wench, upon my life, a wench, Mardonius,
Gave thee that jewel.
Mardonius.
Wench! They respect not me; I'm old and rough, and every limb about me, but that which should, Crows stiffer. I' those businesses, I may swear I am truly honest; for I pay justly for what I take, and would be glad to be at a certainly.
Arbaces.
Why, do the wenches encroach upon thee?
Mardonius.
Ay, by this light, do they.
Arbaces.
Didst thou sit at an old rent with 'em?
Mardonius.
Yes, faith.
Arbaces.
And do they improve themselves?
Mardonius.
Ay, ten shillings to me, every new young fellow they come acquainted with.
Arbaces.
How canst live on't?
Mardonius.
Why, I think, I must petition to you.
Arbaces.
Thou shalt take 'em up at my price.

Enter two Gentlemen and BESSUS.

Mardonius.
Your price?
Arbaces.
Ay, at the king's price.
Mardonius.
That may be more than I'm worth.
2 Gentleman.
Is he not merry now?
1 Gentleman.
I think not.
Bessus.
He is, he is: We'll show ourselves.
Arbaces.
Bessus! I thought you had been in Iberia by this; I bade you haste; Gobrias will want entertainment for me.
Bessus.
An't please your majesty, I have a suit.
Arbaces.
Is't not lousy, Bessus? what is't?
Bessus.
I am to carry a lady with me.
Arbaces.
Then thou hast two suits.
Bessus.
And if I can prefer her to the lady Panthea, your majesty's sister, to learn fashions, as her friends term it, it will be worth something to me.
Arbaces.
So many nights' lodgings as 'tis thither; will't not?
Bessus.
I know not that; but gold I shall be sure of.
Arbaces.
Why, thou shalt bid her entertain her from me, so thou wilt resolve me one thing.
Bessus.
If I can.
Arbaces.
'Faith, tis a very disputable question; and yet, I think, thou canst decide it.
Bessus.
Your majesty has a good opinion of my understanding.
Arbaces.
I have so good an opinion of it: 'Tis whether thou be valiant.
Bessus.
Somebodv has traduced me to you: Do you see this sword, Sir?
[Draws.
Arbaces.
Yes.
Bessus.
If I do not make my back-biters eat it to a knife within this week, say I am not valiant.

Enter a Messenger.

Messenger.
Health to your majesty!
[Delivers a letter.
Arbaces.
From Gobrias?
Messenger.
Yes, Sir.
Arbaces.
How does he? is he well?
Messenger.
In perfect health.
Arbaces.
Take that for thy good news.
[Gives money.
A trustier servant to his prince there lives not,
Than is good Gobrias.
[Reads.
1 Gentleman.
The king starts back.
Mardonius.
His blood goes back as fast.
2 Gentleman.
And now it comes again.
Mardonius.
He alters strangely.
Arbaces.
The hand of Heaven is on me: Be it far
From me to struggle! If my secret sins
Have pull'd this curse upon me, lend me tears
Enow to wash me white, that I way feel
A child-like innocence within my breast!
Which, once perform'd, oh, give me leave to stand
As fix'd as constancy herself; my eyes
Set here unmoved, regardless of the world,
Though thousand miseries encompass me!
Mardonius.
This is strange!—Sir, how do you?
Arbaces.
Mardonius! my mother——
Mardonius.
Is she dead?
Arbaces.
Alas, she's not so happy! Thou dost know
How she hath labour'd, since my father died,
To take by treason hence this loathed life,
That would but be to serve her. I have pardon'd,
And pardon'd, and by that have made her fit
To practise new sins, not repent the old.
She now had hired a slave to come from thence
And strike me here; whom Gobrias, sifting out,
Took, and condemn'd, and executed there.
The careful'st servant! Heaven, let me but live
To pay that man! Nature is poor to me,
That will not let me have as many deaths
As are the times that he hath saved my life,
That I might die 'em over all for him.
Mardonius.
Sir, let her bear her sins on her own head;
Vex not yourself.
Arbaces.
What will the world,
Conceive of me? with what unnatural sins
Will they suppose me laden, when my life
Is sought by her, that gave it to the world?
But yet he writes me comfort here: My sister,
He says, is grown in beauty and in grace;
In all the innocent virtues that become
A tender spotless maid: She stains her cheeks
With mourning tears, to purge her mother's ill;
And 'mongst that sacred dew she mingles prayers,
Her pure oblations, for my safe return.—
If I have lost the duty of a son
If any pomp or vanity of state
Made me forget my natural offices;
Nay, further, if I have not every night
Expostulated with my wand'r'ing thoughts,
If aught unto my parent they have err'd,
And call'd 'em back; do you direct her arm
Unto this foul dissembling heart of mine.
But if I have been just to her, send out
Your power to compass me, and hold me safe
From searching treason; I will use no means
But prayer: For, rather suffer me to see
From mine own veins issue a deadly flood,
Than wash my dangers off with mother's blood.
Mardonius.
I ne'er saw such sudden extremities.
[Exeunt.