Act 3, Scene III

Scene: An Apartment in the Palace.

Enter MARDONIUS.

Mardonius.
I'll move the king; he is most strangely alter'd: I guess the cause, I fear, too right. Heaven has some secret end in't, and 'tis a scourge, no question, justly laid upon him. He has follow'd me through twenty rooms; and ever, when I stay to wait his command, he blushes like a girl, and looks upon me as if modesty kept in his business; so turns away from me; but, if I go on, he follows me again.

Enter ARBACES.

See, here he is. I do not use this, yet, I know not how,
I cannot choose but weep to see him: his very enemies,
I think, whose wounds have bred his fame, if they should
see him now, would find tears i' their eyes.

Arbaces.
I cannot utter it! Whv should I keep
A breast to harbour thoughts I dare not speak?
Darkness is in my bosom; and there lie
A thousand thoughts that cannot brook the light.
How wilt thou vex me, when this deed is done,
Conscience, that art afraid to let me name it!
Mardonius.
How do you, sir?
Arbaces.
Whv very well, Mardonius.
How dost thou do?
Mardonius.
Better than you, I fear.
Arbaces.
I hope thou art; for, to be plain with thee,
Thou art in hell else! Secret scorching flames,
That far transcend earthly material fires,
Are crept into me, and there is no cure:
Is it not strange, Mardonius, there's no cure?
Mardonius.
Sir, either I mistake, or there is something hid, that you would utter to me.
Arbaces.
So there is: but yet I cannot do it.
Mardonius.
Out with it, sir. If it be dangerous, I will not shrink to do you service: I shall not esteem my life a weightier matter than indeed it is. I know 'tis subject to more chances than it has hours; and I were better lose it in my king's cause, than with an ague, or a fall, or (sleeping) to a thief; as all these are probable enough. Let me but know what I shall do for you.
Arbaces.
It will not out! Were you with Gobrias,
And bade him give my sister all content
The place affords, and give her leave to send
And speak to whom she please?
Mardonius.
Yes, sir, I was.
Arbaces.
And did you to Bacurius say as much
About Tigranes?
Mardonius.
Yes.
Arbaces.
That's all my business.
Mardonius.
Oh, say not so; you had an answer of this before: Besides, I think this business might be utter'd more carelessly.
Arbaces.
Come, thou shalt have it out. I do beseech thee,
By all the love thou hast profess'd to me,
To see my sister from me.
Mardonius.
Well; and what?
Arbaces.
That's all.
Mardonius.
That's strange! Shall I say nothiny to her?
Arbaces.
Not a word:
But, if thou lov'st me, find some subtle way
To make her understand by signs.
Mardonius.
But what shall I make her understand
Arbaces.
Oh, Mardonius, for that I must be pardon'd.
Mardonius.
You may; but I can only see her then.
Arbaces.
'Tis true!
[Gives him a ring.
Bear 'ner this ring, then; and. on more advice,
Thou shalt speak to her: Tell her I do love
My kindred all; wilt thou
Mardonius.
Is there no more?
Arbaces.
Oh, yes! And her the best;
Better than any brother loves his sister:
That is all.
Mardonius.
Methinks, this need not have been delivered with such a caution. I'll do it.
Arbaces.
There is more yet: Wilt thou be faithful to me?
Mardonius.
Sir, if I take upon me to deliver it after I hear it, I'll pass through fire to do it.
Arbaces.
I love her better than a brother ought.
Dost thou conceive me?
Mardonius.
I hope you do not, Sir.
Arbaces.
No! thou art dull. Kneel down before her,
And never rise again, till she will love me.
Mardonius.
Why, I think she does.
Arbaces.
But, better than she does: another way;
As wives love husbands.
Mardonius.
Why, I think there are few wives that love their husbands better than she does you.
Arbaces.
Thou wilt not understand me! Is it fit
This should be utter'd plainly? Take it, then
Naked as 'tis; I would desire her love
Lasciviously, lewdly, incestuously,
To do a sin that needs must damn us both;
And thee too. Dost thou understand me now?
Mardonius.
Yes; there's your ring, again. What have I done,
Dishonestly, in my whole life, name it,
That you should put so base a business to me?
Arbaces.
Didst thou not tell me, thou wouldst do it?
Mardonius.
Yes, if I undertook it: But if all
My hairs were lives, I would not be engaged
In such a cause to save my last life.
Arbaces.
Oh, guilt, how poor and weak a thing art thou!
This man, that is my servant, whom my breath
Might blow about the world, might beat me here
Having this cause; whilst I, press'd down with sin,
Could not resist him.—Hear, Mardonius!
It was a motion mis-beseeming man,
And I am sorry for it.
Mardonius.
Heaven grant you may be so! You must understand, nothing that you can utter can remove my love and service from my prince: but, otherwise, I think, I shall not love you more: For you are sinful, and, if you do this crime, you ought to have no laws; for, after this, it will be great injustice in you to punish any offender, for any crime. For myself, I find my heart too big; I feel, I have not patience to look on, whilst you run these forbidden courses. Means I have none but your favour; and I am rather glad that I shall lose 'em both together, than keep 'em with such conditions. I shall find a dwelling amongst some people, where, though our garments perhaps be coarser, we shall be richer far within, and harbour no such vices in 'em. The gods preserve you, and mend——
Arbaces.
Mardonius! Stay, Mardonius! for, though
My present state requires nothing but knaves
To be about me, such as are prepared
For every wicked act, yet who does know,
But that my loathed fate may turn about,
And I have use for honest men again?
I hope. I may; I pr'ythee leave me not.

Enter BESSUS.

Bessus.
Where is the king?
Mardonius.
There.
Bessus.
An't please vour majesty, there's the knife.
Arbaces.
What knife;.'
Bessus.
The sword is eaten.
Mardonius.
Away, you fool! the king is serious
And cannot now admit your vanities.
Bessus.
Vanities! I'm no honest man, if my enemies have not brought it to this. What, do you think I lie?
Arbaces.
No. no; 'tis well, Bessus; tis very well.
I'm glad on't.
Mardonius.
If your enemies brought it to this, your enemies are cutlers. Come, leave the king.
Bessus.
Why, may not valour approach him?
Mardonius.
Yes; but he has affairs. Depart, or I shall be something unmannerly with you!
Arbaces.
No; let him stay, Mardonius; let him stay;
I have occasion with him very weighty,
And I can spare you now.
Mardonius.
Sir?
Arbaces.
Why, I can spare you now.
Bessus.
Mardonius, give way to the state affairs.
Mardonius.
Indeed, you are fitter for his present purpose.
[Exit Mardonius.
Arbaces.
Bessus, I should employ thee: Wilt thou do't?
Bessus.
Do't for you? By this air, I will do anything, without exception, be it a good, bad, or indifferent thing.
Arbaces.
Do not swear.
Bessus.
By this light, but I will; anything whatsoever.
Arbaces.
But I shall name the thing
Thy conscience will not suffer thee to do.
Bessus.
I would fain hear that thing.
Arbaces.
Why, I would have thee get mv sister for me,—
Thou understand'st me,—in a wicked manner.
Bessus.
Oh, you would have a bout with her? I'll do't, I'll do't, i'faith.
Arbaces.
Wilt thou? dost thou make no more on't?
Bessus.
More? No. Why, is there anything else?
If there be, trust me, it shall be done too.
Arbaces.
Hast thou no greater sense of such a sin?
Thou art too wicked for my company,
Though I have hell within me, and may'st yet
Corrupt me further! Pr'ythee answer me,
How do I show to thee after this motion?
Bessus.
Why, your majesty looks as well, in my opinion, as ever
you did since you were born.
Arbaces.
But thou appear'st to me, after thy grant,
The ugliest, loathed, detestable thing,
That I have ever met with. Thou hast eyes
Like flames of sulphur, which, methinks, do dart
Infection on me; and thou hast a mouth
Enough to take me in, where there do stand
Four rows of iron teeth.
Bessus.
I feel no such thing: But 'tis no matter how I look
I'll do your business as well as they that look better. And when this is dispatched, if you have a mind to your mother, tell me, and you shall see I'll set it hard.
Arbaces.
My mother?—Heaven forgive me, to hear this!
I am inspired with horror.—Now I hate thee
Worse than my sin; which, if I could come by,
Should suffer death eternal, ne'er to rise
In any breast again. Know I will die
Languishing mad, as I resolve I shall,
Ere I will deal by such an instrument:
Thou art too sinful to employ in this.
Out of the world, away!
[Beats him.
Bessus.
What do you mean, sir?
Arbaces.
Hung round with curses, take thy fearful flight
Into the desarts; where, mongst all the monsters,
If, thou find'st one so beastly as thyself,
Thou shalt be held as innocent!
Bessus.
Good sir——
Arbaces.
If there were no such instruments as thou,
We kings could never act such wicked deeds!
Seek out a man that mocks divinity,
That breaks each precept both of God and man,
And nature too, and does it without lust,
Merely because it is a law, and good,
And live with him; for him thou can'st not spoil.
Away, I say !—
[Exit Bessus.
I will not do this sin.
I'll press it here, till it do break my breast:
It heaves to get out; but thou art a sin,
And, spite of torture, I will keep thee in.
[Exit.