The Tragedy of Julia Agrippina; Empress of Rome.
Thus to the Roman Palace, as our home
And proper mansion, is Megæra come
No stranger to these walls: not more in Hell
Then here, do mischief, and we Furies dwell
Let the unenvied Gods henceforth possess
Poor Peasants’ hearts, and rule in Cottages;
Let virtue lurk among the rural Swains,
Whilst vice in Rome’s Imperial Palace reigns,
And rules those breasts, whom all the world obeys.
What though the Gods and virtue first did raise
Rome to that height it holds? They did but make
An Empire large enough for us to take,
And build a strength for us to manage now.
Though virtue made the Roman greatness grow,
She now forsakes it at the height: the Powers,
And fruits of all her diligence are ours.
But to preserve that interest, and keep high
Our hold in this commanding family,
A blacker Fury than myself must rise,
To fill these roofs with fresh impieties.
Rise cruel ghost, ascend Caligula,
That lately didst the world’s proud sceptre sway
Beyond our wish; who though an Emperor,
In wickedness wer't greater than in power;
 And clothed with flesh among mankind did'st dwell
A Fiend more black than any was in Hell.
From those dark vaults ascend, to blast this fair
And gorgeous Palace, like that poisonous air,
Which Earth-quakes from the ground’s torn entrails, breath
To fill the world with pestilence and death.
He comes; He comes: the very house begins
To shake with horror of approaching sins.
The night grows blacker than before, and I
Myself am filled with new impiety.
Why am I raised from the vaults below?
What mischief can an airy shadow do?
What can a naked ghost perform? In vain
Are all intents, unless I reigned again,
Obeyed by all the Roman power, and wore
That wicked body which I had before.
What then I did you know, and if your power
Could have maintained me Emperor longer,
I had outdone your wishes, and given birth
To such new mischief, as the suffering earth
Had groaned to feel. What my intentions were
Did to the world in those black books appear,
When all Rome’s Senate were to death designed?
And chests of poison that I left behind,
Which since my death into the Ocean thrown,
 Poisoned the waves for many leagues, and on
Poor fishes wrought that execution,
Which on mankind I meant they should have done.
What can I now perform alas?
With thy contagious presence blast this roof;
Infect th’Imperial House with all the ill
That Hell and thou canst bring. Let mischief still
Reign here, and keep out banished Piety,
Justice, and Conscience; let no sacred tie
Of Nature, or Religious laws restrain
Their Parricidal hands: all names be vain
Of brother, child, or parent. Let the wife
with impious rage destroy her husband’s life,
The brother kill the brother, and the Son
Rip up his parent’s bowels.
It will be done.
The actors are my kindred, and like mine
Must play their parts: ambitious Agrippina,
Pursue thy cruel projects, and upon
A husband's murder raise thy impious Son,
That he may play the parricide again,
And murder thee, that gav'st him life and reign.
That all the world astonished at so high
Ingratitude and foul impiety,
May fear the Monster’s reign, yet suffer more
 Then they could fear, or e’re was felt before.
Let what no foes, no furies durst conspire
To act ‘gainst Rome, nor I myself desire
When I was Prince; be cursed Nero's crimes.
Let his dire story in succeeding times
From all earth’s Tyrants else the wonder draw,
And men almost forget Caligula.
The fates consent; that thunder, which we hear
From Acheron, confirms the omen there.
Down wicked Ghost into thy cell below,
We must no longer hide; the Cocks do crow,
The twinkling stars begin to hide their heads.
The day would down, and from Aurora’s bed
Would Titan rise, but that he fears to see
Such instruments of hell’s impiety.
The Gods themselves forbid our longer stay,
For fear our presence should retard the day.
Pallas, Vitellius, Pollio.
Now is the time noble Vitellius,
For you, and you most honoured Pollio,
To make that service you have done complete
To royal Agrippina; briefly thus:
The two commanders o’th Prætorian camp
Crispinus Rufus, and that Lucius Geta
Must be displaced, and someone of nearer trust
To her designs advanced in their room,
Or else our power will never be full. They love
Britannicus too well, this is the thing
The Empress wishes; let your eloquence
And wisdom further it in Cæsar's ear.
Fear us not Pallas; but what successes.
Have we to take their charge?
One must take all.
You may pretend the inconvenience
Of two commanders, and so take from Cæsar
All jealousy of the plot.
Who shall it be?
Burrhus Afranius, a wise valiant man,
Beloved and honoured by the soldiers.
None can except against him, and the change
Will not displease the camp; nor can his merit
Make him less thankful to her, knowing well,
 'Twas in her power to make it otherwise.
But the advancing of such able men
As Seneca and Burrhus will take off
All envy from the Empress and ourselves.
Then we with praise have wrought our purposes,
And made our party strong, while Seneca
Shall sway the Senate, Burrhus rule the camp
To her designs. But I'll presume no further
T’instruct your wisdoms, or much less to doubt
Your true affections to the state and honour
Of Agrippina, who will then have power
To make more large requital to her friends,
In which most high and happy rank, you two
Are chiefly seated: she acknowledges
Her self indebted to your eloquence
Noble Vitellius, who in Senate lately
You proved her marriage lawful and being Censor,
Deposed Silenus from his Prætorship,
Who should have married young Octavia.
To you, brave Pollio, whose persuasions
Have ben the cause young Nero now enjoys
That happy marriage, which Silanus lost.
But most of all she owed to both your pains.
In causing Cæsar to adopt her Nero.
Twas hard to work at first. Cæsar stuck at it,
 Alleging that the Claudian family
Never adopted any, and besides
When Lucius Geta and Crispinus Rufus
In love they bore to young Britannicus
Told him that that adoption to the world
Would be ridiculous; by precedent
We did refute it, showing how Tiberius
Having a son and nephew both alive,
Adopted the issue of Germanions.
My Lords, 'twas nobly carried; this design
That now we have in hand, though not so hard
To work, will prove as advantageous.
Be you with Cæsar; I'll go satisfy
The Empress of your loves.
Farewell brave Pallas.
Exit Vitellius. & Pollio.
Farewell my Lords. Go flattering Senators,
Go use your best persuasive eloquence,
Whilst I alone upon your envy rise,
Whilst I enjoy in Agrippina’s love
The fruit of your obsequious diligence.
What though my birth be humble, and my style?
But one of Cæsar's freed-men? Though I boast not
Patrician blood, nor in my galleries
Display old ranks of nose-less ancestors,
Or ear-cropped images, if I enjoy
 Whatever high nobility can give
Respect and power, the state can witness it.
The Senate fear me, and in flattery
Have su'd to Cæsar to confer on me
Prætorian and Quæstorian ornaments,
Which I at last vouchsafed to accept.
When my command alone has doomed to death
The noblest of that order; men whose names
Old Rome has boasted of, whose virtues raised
Her to that envied height that now she holds.
Their murders stupid Cæsar rather chose
To take upon himself, than question me.
Let dull Patricians boast their airy titles,
And count me base, whilst I commend their lives,
And for the furtherance of my high intents,
Make noblest men my hated instruments.
But ha! Narcissus? Yes, there comes a man
That was my rival once, whom I feared more
Than all the Lords of Rome. My fellow freed man,
That knew our ways of power, that not the Senate,
But Cæsar’s chamber did command the world,
And rule the fate of men; But Fortune's turned,
And he not worth my regard or fear.
In mastering him I feel my greatest strength
Not look upon me! Am I fall’n so low?
 Did I in equal place with this proud man,
Nay fare above him, sway the state, and rule
Great Cæsar's heart, while Messallina lived?
And was not there content (Oh punishment
Of my ambitious aims) but caused the death
Of that loose Empress to bring in the expulst
Aelia Petina, and instead of her
Have let this Tigress Agrippina in,
This dragon spirit, to devour us all
Except proud Pallas her adulterer?
What unavoided dangers every way
Threaten this life? For if young Nero reign,
I die, that sought to cross his mother’s match.
If ere Britannicus do reign, I die
That caused his mother’s death. What shall I do?
Where shall I lean for safety? Better trust
The innocent goodness of Britannicus
Then Agrippina's fierce and cruel nature;
Nor can I hope more goodness from her son.
That may give longer respite to my fear.
Besides it bears the greater show of justice,
And honest service to my Royal Master.
Since we must fall, it is some happiness
To fall the honest way, if we may call
That honesty at all, or recall virtue
 To which necessity enforces us,
And we by fortune not election practise.
Enter Geta, Crispinus.
Here comes two friends of young Britannicus,
Hail Lucius Geta, hail Crispinus Rufus.
Brave Romans, you are come
Fitly to ease my overburdened breast
Of weighty thoughts, which I dare freely trust
Unto your noble ears.
You may Narcissus,
Trust truth with us.
Or any honest secret.
What is’t you would with us?
You know my Lords,
(And I must needs confess) I was a means
Of Messalina's death; but all the Gods
Can witness with me how unwillingly
I lent a hand to that sad action.
And but for Cæsar's safety, which I prize
Above my life and fortunes, and which then
I thought endangered much by her bold act,
Nought in the world could e’re have moved me to it.
What hence would you infer?
Then Know my Lords,
How little I respect my private ends
 To do the public service, and can lose
Myself for Cæsar’s good: it may be thought
When the most hopeful Prince Britannicus
Shall wear that wreath which all the world adores,
To me it may be fatal, as a foe
Unto his mother: but I rather wish
Myself for ever lost, than that brave Prince
Should not succeed his father.
What fear is there of that?
What power on earth,
Can bar his right, whilst we command the camp?
I'd rather see (which all the Gods avert)
Rome rent again with civil broils, than he
Should lose unjustly the Imperial throne.
Y’are true and noble friends; and here I vow
To join with you, and use my uttermost power
T’advance the honour of Britannicus.
What danger threatens it?
Do you not know
To whom the Son of Agrippina's married?
And that honour were enough for him.
Without adoption too, were his aims private,
And that his crafty mother did not cast
 A way for him to the succession.
'Twas strangely done of Cæsar, I confess.
They make the faction strong, and cunningly
Increase the train of Nero, and displace
The faithful servants of Britannicus.
Wise Seneca's recalled from banishment
By Agrippina’s means, not for the love
She bares his virtue; but to make him hers,
That Seneca's authority may gain
The people’s love to her ambitious son,
Of whose young years he takes tuition.
I think no less.
Besides to make the match
For her young Nero with Octavia.
Noble Silanus died, who might have proved
A faithful prop to Claudius’ family.
In blood that fatal marriage was begun,
I feared the Omen; Agrippina's fierce
And cruel nature has too much ben seen
In this short time. Lollia Paulina, Niece
To Cotta Messalinus, and late wife
To Caius Cæsar, for no other cause
Then aiming once at Claudius’ marriage
Is banished to Italy; her goods are seized,
And but five millions of Sesterces left her
 Of all her great estate; but there the malice
Of this fell woman stays not: now we hear
A Tribune is dispatched away, to kill
The banished Lady, and bring back her head.
Oh barbarous cruelty!
Yet more I fear,
Since her Domitius is adopted now.
I fear she’ll shortly aim at higher blood.
We’ll guard the life of young Britannicus.
And I'll be vigilant for Cæsar's safety.
When all her ends are wrought, his death is next.
Here comes the youthful hope of Rome and us.
Tell me, my friends, am not I Cæsar's son?
My Lord, who dares to question it?
I was his eldest son, and whilst I lived
I thought that Cæsar had not lacked an heir.
But I at last have found an elder brother,
Domitius is adopted Cæsar's son
His name is Nero now. I cannot tell
What is my fault.
Excellent youth, how much
Beyond his years he apprehends his wrongs?
Fear not swet Prince, though Agrippina's son
Be two years elder then yourself, the Senate
 Will never judge that an adopted Son
Shall in succession be preferred before
The true and natural heir.
You ever loved me,
Pray do so still.
While we have breath, my Lord,
You shall command our lives.
Has feeble Cæsar wrought a snare to catch
His own unhappy life in! Grow swet prince,
Grow up to strengthen the Imperial house,
And Curb the furious malice of thy foes.
Enter Nero, Pallas.
Brother Britannicus, hail.
Hail to you,
Do you scorn
My salutation, or not know my name?
That was your fathers name; and why not yours?
How's that? Proud boy.
Exit Britanicus,Geta,Crispinus &Narcicuss.
Well, let them go, my Lord.
'Twas not the brain of young Britannicus
That could give birth to this minurious scorn,
Though for his years, the boy be capable.
But riper heads then his: there went his counsel
Crispinus Rufus, and that Lucius Geta,
 Who swell the youth with boasting hopes, and think
Their power can give protection to his pride.
I’ll make them see their error, and perceive,
One breath of mine can blow them from their strengths.
This news I'll bear to Agrippina straight.
Come Prince; Britannicus shall find anon
What feeble props his pride has leaned upon.
Agrippina, Seneca, Vitellius, Pollio.
You are my Judges.
Your poor servants, Madam.
Nay that must be your office; you have read
My Commentaries over, and I look for
A faithful censure. I am sure, my Lords,
You have both learning able to discern,
And such integrity as will not flatter.
Speak Seneca, I see they look on you,
How do you like them?
Such, and so good they be, that ablest men
May boldly speak, and not offend the truth,
Nor you at all; the style is full and Princely.
Stately and absolute, beyond what e’re
These eyes have seen; and Rome, whose majesty
Is there described, in after times shall owe
For her memorial to your learned pen,
More then to all those fading monuments
 Built with the riches of the spoiled world.
When rust shall eat her brass, when times strong hand
Shall bruise to dust her marble Palaces,
Triumphal Arches, Pillars, Obelisks’
When Julius’ Temple, Claudius’ Aqueducts,
Agrippa's Baths, and Pompey's Theatre,
Nay Rome itself shall not be found at all.
Historians books shall live; those strong records,
Those deathless monuments alone shall show
What, and how great the Roman Empire was.
The act is Noble; not the present world
Alone shall owe to Agrippina’s worth,
(As for her gracious government it dos)
But future ages shall acknowledge more
To the rich labours of her Royal pen.
The wisest Princes never sought to raise
Their present state alone, but to preserve
Themselves immortal by an endless fame.
For memory of me, besides these books,
If that our Augurs fail not in their skill,
Or flatter not, that German Colony,
Which I of late deducted over the Rhine
To Ubium, for evermore the name
Of Agrippina's Colony shall bear.
That act, though great, declares your power alone,
 Your wealth and greatness, but these learned books
Express your wisdom, and for these you owe
Nothing at all to Fortune.
Thus I mean
To spend all time which from affairs of state,
And business of our Empire can be spared.
Is she already turned our Emperor?
Those wretches have too narrow souls, who think
That persons great and eminent in state
Can spare no time to purchase fame by writing,
But what they steal from action and employment,
As if no mind were large enough for both.
Who was more full of action, and more fit
To rule, nay rule the world, than Julius Cæsar?
Yet he was of my mind.
Oh strange male spirit!
Can there be found no other parallel
But Julius Cæsar to a woman’s mind?
Yet Julius was to blame, he toiled too much
To get his honour, and too much debarred
His nature the free use of Princely pleasures.
Sure Lucius Sylla had an ample mind;
It is Sylla's character, that Sallust gives him,
A free and great enjoyer of his pleasures.
Yet how industrious his actions speak,
 He found fit time to rule the Roman world,
And write both Greek and Latin Commentaries.
The souls of Sylla and of Cæsar both
I think have entered her.
Well worthy friends,
You do approve my way of writing then?
Yes gracious Madam; and because you named
Great Julius to us, I was thinking now
That as in blood, so in your styles of writing
There was some nearness.
Seneca, I thank you;
But I confess your positive approbation
Pleased me as well as that comparison.
Dos not your Majesty esteem his book?
Indifferent well; a good loose careless way.
I think directly with Asinius Pollio,
Had Cæsar lived, he would have mended it;
The man had far more in him then that shows.
Yet under favour, Madam, some have thought
Those Commentaries hardly could be mended,
A style so strong, naked, and beautiful,
Free from affected words, and from all gloss
Or dress of Oratory, as in stead
Of leading others in a way to write,
It quite discourages the ablest men.
 So Hirtius thought, and that famed Cicero,
The greatest master of Rome's eloquence.
Are those your authors then? That Hirtius
Was Cæsar's servant partial in his heart,
Or else he flattered him; for Cicero,
They were so far out of his tedious strain,
He could not censure them.
Yet able men
Can truly censure of another style
Than what themselves have used.
He was not able,
No, not in Oratory. Had I ruled
Rome and her Senate then, as now I do,
Not all th’Orations that e’er Cicero
Made in the Senate, should have saved one hair
Of an offender, or condemned a Mouse.
How confident she is in censuring!
I am amazed, but let her have her way.
Forgive my silence noble Cicero,
Here thy defence is vain; but what I spare,
The tongues of all posterity shall speak.
Enter Pallas, Tribune.
The Tribune, Madam, is returned and brings
Lollia Paulina's head.
Let him come in.
Your pleasure, great Augusta, is performed.
 Let me peruse this face. Ha! ‘Tis is much changed.
Her teeth shall make me sure, they did not grow
The common way; I am confirmed; ‘Tis she.
Reward him Pallas.
The Gods preserve
O pale death,
Thou mock of beauty, and of greatness too;
Was this the face, that once in Cæsar's love
Was Agrippina's rival, and durst hope
As much 'gainst me, as my unquestioned power
Has wrought on her? Was this that beauty, once
That wore the riches of the world about it?
For whose attire, all lands, all seas were searched,
All creatures robbed? This! This was that Paulina,
Whom Cajus Cæsar served, whom Rome adored
And the world feared.
Such a sight me think
Should make her sadly think of human frailty.
Take hence the head, least in her death she gains
A greater conquest o’er me, than her life
Could ever do, to make me shed a tear.
I would not wrong the justice I have done
So much as to lament it now. You know
My friends, she had a spirit dangerous.
 And though my nature could have pardoned her,
Reason of state forbade it, which then told me
Great ruins have ben wrought by foolish pity.
Would she had such a nature! But it is now
Too late to give her counsel.
So let all
That dare contest with Agrippina, fall.
Cæsar is come to visit you.
Vitellius, Pollio, Pallas, second me.
Enter Cæsar, Antistius.
How fares my Agrippina?
When I am blest with Cæsars company.
That shall be oft, my love, when Rome’s affairs
And public business will give me leave.
I would partake myself of those affairs,
Rather than want your presence
I believe it.
Thou shall; ‘Tis only for thy dearest sake
I love my fortunes, thy swet fellowship
Makes light the burthen of my government.
To ease great Cæsars care, shall ever be
The height of my desires: before you came
My heart was sad. I sent for these my friends
T’impart the reason to them.
 Sad; for what?
Weighing the troubles of a Princely state,
And all the dangers that still threaten it.
She strikes upon the fittest string;
No passion reigns in him so much as fear.
We were devising of the fittest means
To give your state security: you know
Your strongest guard is the Prætorian camp.
That camp commanded now by two,
May be by captains too ambitious strife
Divided into fractions, and so made
Less serviceable, should your safety need them.
Cæsar remembers when that bold attempt
Of Silius was, how the Prætorian camp
Was by their general strife in mutiny,
And had not one ben chosen for that day
To rule them all, Cæsar had not ben safe.
Wise men in calms provide for storms to come.
None knows how dangerous the times may prove,
Though now the state be safe, and may the Gods
To Cæsar's honour long preserve it so.
What new design is this, that all of them
Second so readily, and I was not
 Acquainted with it? If’t proves mischievous,
I thank the Empress for my ignorance.
Burrhus Afranius is a worthy man,
Fit for the place, and faithful, well-beloved
By all the soldiers: such a change, my Lord,
None can except against: Let him take all.
What e’re her ends may be, this proposition
For noble Burrhus sake, I must approve.
It is true, my love, I make no question
Of Burrhus’ worth, and fitness for the place:
But what offence have Geta and Crispinus
Ben e’er accused of? Or what just suspicions
Are there of them?
I will not be unjust
To accuse guiltless men, although I price
Thy safety, Cæsar, equal to my life,
I know no crimes of note they have committed.
Cæsar, it is no loss to them at all,
They both have plenteous fortunes to retire to.
And in so neere a cause, who dares examine
Great Cæsar's counsels, or enquire the reason?
Shall Burrhus have it Cæsar? Speak thy pleasure.
Or if my care offend, I shall hereafter
Forbear to meddle.
No, swet Agrippina;
 Since thou wilt have it so; go Pallas, draw
The warrant straight, and seal it in our name.
Let Geta and Crispinus be removed,
And Burrhus take possession presently.
This day, my love, the Britain prisoners
Sent from Ostorius Scapula, and late
Arrived at Rome, shall be in public showed.
There thou shall see that brave Barbarian Prince,
That bold Caractacus, whose stubborn spirit
So many years contemned the Roman power.
He now is taken.
‘Twas a victory
Sent from the Gods to honour Claudius' reign.
Had he ben basely taken, or at first
Yielded himself, as he had got no honour,
But ben forgotten in his fall, and nought
Had e’er ben mentioned of him but his death:
So had thy glory Cæsar ben far less.
Not war-like Syphax the Numidian King,
Stubborn Jugurtha, nor great Perseus
Ever brought to Rome by their captivity
More real honour than this Britain Prince.
Nor do we price our name Britannicus
Fetched from that island, less than Scipio,
His honoured name of Africanus prized.
 Thy style, O Cæsar, is the greater far
Drawn from the conquest of another world,
Which nature meant by interposing cold
And stormy seas, to guard from Latin arms.
Great Julius Cæsar did but only show
That land to us, whose conquest was reserved
By heavens decree to honour Claudius name.
Cæsar, let's sit together; one Tribunal
Will hold us both.
It shall be so, my love,
Thou, as myself, shall pardon or condemn.
My love, dear Otho, faine would bid thee stay,
But danger now forbids it, for my Lord
Returns by this time homewards from the Palace.
We must obey the times necessity
Swetest Poppæa, though I part from thee
With such a sadness as will lose by all
Comparisons, and cannot be expressed
But by itself, to say that Otho parts
From fair Poppæa, is more tragic
Then soul from body, honour from a man.
I could, me thinks, flatter my fears, to keep
Thee ever here.
And I can scorn all fears,
And dangers too, if thou command me stay.
No, go, my Love, and warily let's meet
That we may often meet. But why should still
Our highest bliss want freedom?
‘Tis, my fair one,
The envy of the Gods, who think the state
Of men would equal theirs if greatest joys
Were easiest to obtain, and therefore still
In horrid dangers wrap their dearest gifts,
As all the poets ancient fables taught.
Fire-breathing bulls did guard the Colchian fleece;
 A waking dragon kept the golden fruit.
But thou, Poppæa, in my thoughts a prize
Of greater value, and more lustre far
Then that which drew the bold Thessalian forth
So far from Greece, or made Alcmenaes son
Invade th’Hesperides, are kept from me
By stronger guards, the awful Roman laws,
Those laws resist our love.
Oh where was Otho
Then, when my virgin blossom was the hope
Of thousand noble youths? Hadst thou ben seen,
Poppæaes bed and beauties had ben thine,
And with a lawful uncontrolled flame
Had met thy wish in those delights, which now
We are enforced to steal.
Must it be so.
It must while Rufus lives.
Nor can I blame blest Rufus, if he strives
To keep that wealth, which if it lay beyond
The Indian Ganges, Scythian Tanais,
Or horned Ammons scorched and thirsty sands,
Would draw the Roman Monarch to forsake
His worlds Imperial seat there to enjoy,
And think those banished that remained at Rome.
 If I were Cæsar, and condemned by fate
To want Poppæa’s love, I should be poor.
No other dear perogative could that
High wreath bestow, but only power to make
Thee mine without a rival, I might then
With boldness take thee from Crispinus arms.
But could that act be lawful?
Canst thou doubt it?
Where two loves meet can marriage be unlawful?
Of which love is the soul, the very form
That gives it being no dead outward tie,
But natures strong and inward sympathy,
Can make a marriage, which the Gods alone
Have power to breed in us, and therefore they
Have only power to tie so swet a knot.
I am thy mate; nor did thy father, when
He gave that snowy hand unto another,
Ought but rebel against the Gods decree.
Thou art to good an advocate, and I
Too partial for a judge.
Be constant to me
Till fortune give a bolder privilege.
And warrant to our love, of which I have
Received such fair presages, as I cannot
Despair; mean while by stealth I must behold
 Those starry eyes, and think myself most happy
In that, though no man know my happiness.
Can men count those delights a happiness
Which they conceal?
Yes, those that truly love.
Madam, my Lord is come.
Farewell dear Otho.
Farewell, love guard thee till we meet again.
Enter Crispinus, Geta.
Come Lucius study to forget it now,
And let's be truly merry. My Poppæa
Bid' Lucius Geta welcome, my colleague
That was, but still my friend.
You are most welcome.
Thanks fairest Lady.
But my Lord, what means
That speech of yours, that Lucius Geta once
Was your colleague and is not?
I’ll tell thee,
Great Agrippina has commanded Cæsar,
To command Pallas, to command us two,
To quit our charge and suddenly resign
The government of the Prætorian camp
To Burrhus handa at which he storms; but I
Am merrier far, and lighter then before.
We may live freely now; Cæsar has taken
 A weighty burden from my weary neck
I thank his goodness.
Thank his sottishness,
It is that has pleasured you. Ah friend, it needs
Must grieve all noble hearts, that can love justice,
And pity suffering innocence, to see
The harmless years of young Britannicus
Exposed to all the malice of his foes;
And stupid Cæsar made the instrument
To ruin his own son, whilst his great power
By others is abused against himself
And his posterity.
I do believe it.
His servants all, that to himself were true,
Or faithful to his son, are murdered now,
Or else displaced by her: our truth's the cause
That we have lost our places.
It is no matter;
We loose no honour by our truth; and since
While we had power, we faithfully discharged
Our trust to Cæsar, let's no longer strive
To guard him 'gainst his will, but take his gift.
He gives us ease, and freedom, to retire,
And taste the swets of privacy, and there
Enjoy our lives free from the glorious noise
 And troubles of a Court. Instead of waiting
On Cæsar now, on thee I will bestow
That time, my fair Poppæa, and attend
On thy delights; thou wilt not cast me off
As Cæsar dos.
She cannot promise you,
I know her heart better than you in that.
None can describe the swets of country life
But those blest men that do enjoy, and taste them.
Plain husband men, though far below our pitch
Of fortune placed, enjoy a wealth above us.
To whom the earth with true and bounteous justice
Free from wars cares, returns an easy food.
They breath the fresh and uncorrupted air,
And by clear brooks enjoy untroubled sleeps.
Their state is fearless and secure, enriched
With several blessings, such as greatest Kings
Might in true justice envy, and themselves
Would count too happy, if they truly knew them.
It is true, Crispinus, greatest Monarchs oft
Have in the midst of all their careful glories,
Desired such lives as those plain people lead.
Let us enjoy that happiness then Lucius
The country sports and recreations
And friends as innocent as we, with whom
 We need not fear the strength of richest wine
In drawing out our secrets; but well filled
At suppertime may hold a free discourse
Of Cæsar's weakness, of the wealth and pride
Of his freedmen, how lordly Pallas rules;
How fierce and cruel Agrippina is,
What slaves the Roman Senate are become,
And yet next morn awake with confidence.
All this, my Lord, you may discourse at Rome
If you can wisely choose your company.
Well said Poppæa, thou art a woman right,
Thou love’s the city well.
I cannot blame her,
Such beauty seeks no corners, but may well
Become th’Imperial city of the world.
Come Lucius Geta, let's go in and laugh
At our proud enemies, enjoy their malice,
And drown our cares in rich Falernian wine
As ancient as Opimius Consulship.
Here comes a man Crispinus, I believe
Is sorry for this change.
I think so Lucius.
Hail noble Romans.
Hail to you Narcissus.
How dare you venture a salute on us,
 Or make a visit to such guilty men?
Guilty my Lord, in what?
In being wronged.
Those that are wronged in Court, are made offenders.
I must confess, my Lord, it was a wrong
To you and your Colleague to be displaced.
But you have spirits great enough to scorn
That injury, and pity him that did it,
I mean that suffered his proud foes to do it
Rather against himself then you; the wrong
Must fall on Cæsar, and his hapless house.
Blinded by fate, and never his fall, he throws
Away the best supporters of his state.
The thought of that as I am true, Narcissus,
Afflicts me more then mine own loss can do.
For me, I think myself well freed from trouble
Were’t not for fear of poor Britannicus.
I do believe it, noble Lords, but you
Are now discharged, and may retire with safety.
My part is yet to play, a part of danger,
And I will act it bravely. Here I vow
By all the Gods, no fear shall make me shrink
Till I have once more righted Claudius
Against the lusts and treasons of a wife.
Nor do I boast of Messalina's death.
 It was the times necessity, that made
Me then to show my power: that power perchance
Is yet as much; nor shall the Lordly Pallas,
Though swelled with Agrippina’s lustful favours,
And back’s by her authority, he thinks
Himself sole ruler in th’Imperial house,
Fined that Narcissus is so fallen in spirit
But that I dare attempt as much as then.
Great Cæsar's safety is as much in danger
As then it was, his nuptial bed as stained.
And I will die, or take the same revenge,
That then was taken; all their plots and treasons
Will I reveal to Cæsar, and pursue it
With such a dauntless constancy, that if
The Gods forget not to be just, this day
Proud Agrippina, and her minion fall.
The young Britannicus shall stand secure
In his high birthright; Messalina's ghost
Shall then perchance, although she hate me now,
Forgive the hand that caused her overthrow.
Bravely resolved, Narcissus.
You shall do
An act that all good men shall thank you for.
Will you go in, and taste my wine.
 I came but only to reveal my purpose
To you, whose noble wishes may befriend it.
And when occasion serves, may truly witness
My just intents; this hour I am expected
By Cæsar in his gardens; there I'll put
My life upon the hazard; every minute
May breed a change, and all delays have danger.
For Cæsar upon those discoveries
That I already have made to him, uttered
Some words last night at supper in his wine.
Of which I fear that Agrippina took
Too great a notice, therefore speed must help us.
Farewell my Lords.
Farewell: the Gods assist thee.
So rich a bondage is Poppæas love,
That I were base if I should wish for freedom,
Nay more, ingrate, should I desire to change
So swet a care for quietness itself.
Should I suppose that state, which some dull souls
Call calm content, were half so rich, so free
As are these pinings, this captivity.
Were there in love no cares, no sighs, no fears,
There were in love no happiness at all.
What bliss, what wealth did e're the world bestow
On man, but cares and fears attended it?
 Yet who so base, as to be freed from those,
Would throw away the highest bliss on earth?
Let silly shepherds, whose poor narrow souls
Not much exceed the beasts they tend and feed,
That know, like them, no farther regions
Then some few fields, no larger bounds of pleasure
Then satisfaction of bare natures needs,
Be still secure since they have nought to lose,
And rest content because they never knew
What cities were, and gorgeous Palaces.
Should Monarchs, who are taught to know th'extent
Of natures wealth, and what the world affords,
Forgo their glorious fortunes, cause they want
That wretched thing, which only ignorance,
And low contempt can give, Security?
Should I forgo my fair Poppæae's love
Because some cares, some fears and sighs attend it:
When every smile of hers can recompense
A thousand such? Were too much poorness in me
Had I nere seen those starry eyes of hers
More hapless far my ignorance had ben.
I had, like wretched men, that are borne blind,
Ne’re known there was a Sun to guidE the world.
But to enjoy her love without all fears,
Without all rivals, were a bliss beyond
 Mortality; the Gods would envy me.
She’s now another mans; that may be thought
The greatest bar to Otho's happiness.
But I have framed in my jealous thoughts
A greater bar than that, young Nero Cæsar,
In whose acquaintance I of late have found
So near a room, as fair presages tell us,
Is like to wear th'Imperial wreath; his power
May take her for me from Crispinus arms.
But then perchance I loose her more then ever.
Or should he see her now to rival me
T'were undone: he’s amorous, and oft
Solicits me to let him see my Mistress.
I for that friendship, which I dare not lose,
Dare not deny his importunity.
And therefore to prevent what may ensue
(For yet he never heard Poppæa's name)
I have made love to the fair freed woman,
Young Acte of mean rank, but such a face,
As whosoever had not seen Poppæa,
Would think this Acte nature’s Masterpiece.
On her will I divert young Nero's love.
And to that purpose I have got her picture.
But here he comes.
What Otho, still retired?
 Where lives the face that breeds this melancholy?
There is no other cause can do't; I know
Thou art not busy'd with affairs of state.
I prithee let me see her, a friends counsel
I say ease thy passion.
'Tis not fit a Prince
Should stoop so low as to the passions
Of private men.
The name of friend admits
Of no such distance.
A no man, whom you
Are pleased to call a friend, deserves that name,
Unless he know himself to be your servant.
Come prithee, leave thy fooling, and be plain.
Where there is no familiarity
Society is lost. Why art thou fearful
To let me see her whosoever she be?
Sir. I could give you a plain common reason,
If she be foul, she is not worth your sight.
If faire, you are too great a rival for me.
But yet, know Sir, I am so free from those
Unworthy fears, that I dare trust my life,
My love, and all I have into your hands.
Spoke like a friend, and thou may safely do't.
Then first behold her picture, and by that
 Find whether she be worth the sight or no.
Can any mortal beauty be so swet?
I would there were not.
Sure the painter flatters.
Oh no, he had not art enough to reach
The glory of it; were the substance here
How dull would this now lovely table show!
See how his greedy eyes devour the picture.
He’s caught, he’s caught. Cupid, I thank thee now.
I never saw true beauty ‘till this hour.
But wherefore didst thou wish there were no substance
So swet as this? Why would'st thou be deprived
Of such a happiness? But I perceive
It is thy fear, come, let it not be so.
I but desire to see whether the painter
Have err'd or no, and do not think, my Otho,
That I will wrong thy love so much, or make
My wife Octavia jealous.
Sir, how e’re,
My life, my love, and fortunes all are yours.
Your Majesty may yet prevent it all,
And justly throw upon the Traitors heads
That ruin which so boldly threatens you,
And your too much abused family.
Yet Cæsar may be safe, if he will use
 That power the Gods have put into his hands.
That course, Narcissus, can we run, to make
The people sensible of our estate,
That danger threatens us, and how our Justice
Is forced to meet the treasons of a wife?
Yet not too vain a care of popular breath,
Or what the Vulgar may surmise, outweigh
The safety of your person, and your house.
But I am most assured that all the world
Except yourself, have long observed their plots;
And if they see your wakened Justice now
Arise to censure Agrippina's death,
They will not think the execution done
Too soon on her. These humble knees, Oh Cæsar.
Which for your safety I so oft have bowed
Before the Gods, now to your sacred self
I bow, entreating that you would be safe,
And not believe the Gods by miracle
Will work for you, whilst you neglect yourself.
Arise Narcissus, 'tis th'unhappy fate
Of Princes ever (as Augustus Cæsar
Was wont to say), the people ne're believe
That treasons were complotted 'gainst their persons,
Until those treasons take effect, and then
Too late perchance they pity and believe.
 But was the wise Augustus therefore slow
Or timorous to cut offenders off?
Feared he the peoples whispers? Cæsar, no.
He well knew to use the sword he had.
He had not else lived ‘till times gentle hand
Dissolved in peace his long felicity,
And made the world by such continuance
Of power, believe he was a God on earth.
But some offenders are too great to suffer
The common course of Justice; against such
Wise Princes have forborne to draw the sword,
And rather sought some ways of policy
How to ensnare them.
Cæsar, those are ways
As much unfit for Princes as unsafe.
As many Monarchs have in dangerous times
Ben ruined quite by going ways too low
(Though they have seemed subtle), as proud subjects
Have ben undone by playing Princes parts.
And as this high, and open way befits
The power and person of earths greatest Monarch,
So it befits the times necessity.
You have already, Cæsar, showed your sword,
And if you strike not now, you do not right
Yourself at all, but only arm your foes
 With plots of mischief to prevent their own,
And hasten on your quick destruction.
You have already threatened, and those speeches
By Agrippina, and her minion Pallas
Were overheard; who, like seen snakes will now
Bestir themselves in a more desperate fury.
I have already cast mine own poor life
Into the utmost hazard, but alas!
That is a thing not now considerable.
The Gods above can tell how willingly
For Cæsar's safety I would sacrifice
This life; make me the chief instrument
Impose what part of this exploit you please
Upon Narcissus hand, and if I fail
To execute, I'll not refuse to die.
Oh my Narcissus, I have found thy faith
In other services; it is resolved,
Their pride shall feel my justice; thou shall see
How soon I will secure myself and thee.
We are discovered Pallas, all our drifts
Are sounded by Narcissus, and by him
Laid open to Cæsar, who dissembling yet
The knowledge of it, seeks a sudden way
To ruin both of us. Nor had we feared
So soon as felt his fury, had not wine
 Betrayed his thoughts to us. You know last night
What speeches Cæsar in his drunkenness
Let fall before us, and 'twas lately told me
That meeting young Britannicus he wept,
Confessed that he had wronged him, and there vowed
A quick redress. What counsel shall we take?
We have no time for counsel, but must act
As soon as think. we go not now to work
But to prevent a mischief, and our cure
Must be as strong, and quick of operation
As our disease is dangerous and sudden.
That bird, that sees the snare, and will be caught
Deserves his death; and since that Cæsar knows
His purpose is discovered, (as Narcissus
He’s before this informed him that we heard it)
He’ll quickly act what else he had deferred.
No way is left us but to meet the danger,
And for prevention first attempt to do
That which we fear to suffer.
By what means
Shall we procure his death? For poison slow
Perchance may fail to lend a timely help
Unto our safety, and too quick a venom
May make the fact suspected.
Should the fact
 Be ne're so much suspected, your estate
Would be more safe then now it is; but who
Would dare to utter it when Cæsar's dead,
And your own Son the Emperor? For so
My confidence assures me it will be.
Therefore be speedy, Madam, for your danger
Where fame, where life, and Empire all are threatened,
Gives you no nice election. So 't be done,
No matter how.
Thou hast confirmed me, Pallas.
The way's resolved already; there were lately
The fairest mushrooms sent from Libya
That e're these eyes beheld, a meat which he
Affects with greediness; in one of those
Cæsar shall meet his death; if that should fail
His chief Physician Xenophon is mine.
But are things strong, and ready to confirm
The Empire upon Nero?
'Tis the best
And happiest time, before Britannicus
Be grown to riper years, while yet he wears
His childish robe, and Nero has ben shown
To all the people in triumphal weds.
But when the deed is done, place warily
Your guards about the Palace gates, and keep
 Britannicus within, whilst Nero backed
By Seneca and Burrhus, by the camp
And Senate be saluted Emperor,
And all be settled sure.
How fit a time
To work his own destruction Cæsar chose
To tempt with threatening Agrippina's fury!
Petronius, Otho, Montanus.
Is Nero fired?
Extremely. I at first
Seemed melancholy to loose Acte so,
And he seemed loath to wrong me, but at last
When his desires were high, I cunningly
Withdrew my interest, and gave way to his.
Which he has taken for the greatest favour
That ever man could do him and I hope
It has endeared him strongly.
Thou wilt grow
A happy man.
'Tis the best way to rise.
The wench is fair, and of behaviour
Wanton enough to make the arrantst novice
A perfect scholar in the school of Venus.
Seneca himself rather will give way
That he should satisfy his lust on her
Then seek th'adulteries of noble women.
But gentlemen, have you not heard the news?
There is a great combustion in the Palace
As I have ben informed thieves, are fallen out.
The two proud freemen Pallas and Narcissus
Are clashing 'gainst each other.
I am glad on’t.
 I hope some curious rogueries will come on't.
Those are the fellows that have ruled the state
These many years, and trampled on the lives
Of noble men Cæsar's credulous weakness.
But yet me thinks Narcissus should not dare
Not to contest with Pallas he has got
Too great a start of him, and is too near
Acquainted with the empress.
So they say.
Has a fine time on't who would think the rogue
Could be so ambitious as to court an Empress?
'Twas her ambitions to be made the wife
Of Claudius, that first made her prostitute
Herself so low, and court this fellows love,
Whom she perceived to have a ruling power
Over his doting master; to ambition
She sacrificed her honour ‘tis well known.
And he by doing of the Empress, takes
The surest way of keeping Cæsar’s love.
Yes, there's no doubt of that. You know the proverb.
Well met my Lords; I come to find you out.
What's the news Anicetus?
Great my Lord.
Cæsar, is wondrous sick, 'tis thought to death.
The Palace is by soldiers guarded round.
 A great and frequent Senate is assembling.
The Consuls and the Priests are making vows
For Cæsar's safety.
Claudius is old
There have been other ways to end a Prince
Besides old age. But what is that to us?
Come let's away and show our forwardness
To joy or mourning as occasion serves.
I am prepared for both.
And so am I.
Both must be done, if Cæsar dies, our grief
Must last but ‘till the successor be known;
And then we must rejoice.
Shall have true cause of joy if Nero reign,
Britannicus, Octavia, Xenophon.
Shall I not see my father ere he die?
Good Madam, pardon me,
Nothing is now so great an enemy
To his disease as noise and company.
He's lately fallen into a gentle slumber.
Deep sleeps his fever will not let him take.
I'll certify your highness when he wakes.
And wait upon you.
 Thanks good Xenophon.
I long to hear what favour Nero finds
In the Praetorian camp, how Cæsar's death
Is by the soldiers and the Senate taken.
Welcome my dearest Pallas. What's the news?
Madam, as good as Jove himself could send,
No sooner in the camp was Cæsar's death
Divulged, but Burrhus enters to his charge,
And Nero with him, who by all the cohorts
Was presently saluted Emperor.
Only some few were silent, and a while
Stood still expecting young Britannicus.
But when they saw their expectation
Was all in vain, and none but Nero came,
Fearing at last to lose the Donative
Which Burrhus promised them in Nero's name,
They joined themselves unto the greater part.
Britannicus within the Palace here
Is safe enough for coming forth today.
The Senate have scarce heard of Cæsar's death
For we concealed it ‘till all things were ready.
Now in a Princely chariot mounted high
Guarded by Burrhus and the soldiers,
Nero sets forward to the Senate house.
But having past the camp, you need not fear
 The Senate, Madam.
Pallas thou wert never
A messenger of lucky news to me.
A safe contriver of the highest plots,
A happy instrument thou hast deserved
What e’re thou hast enjoyed, though thou have tasted
That which a Cæsar sued to taste, and bought
The world in recompense.
If ever Pallas
Had any fire that could advance his thoughts
To high and great exploits, he kindled it
At your cælestial beauty, as from heaven
Prometheus stole that active fire, by which
He durst himself adventure to create
The noblest creature man. What act on earth,
What undertaking should he tremble at
Whom Agrippina's favours animate?
And what had I ben but a piece of earth
Cold, dull, and useless, had I not ben quickened
By your ethereal touch.
Of this high day has made thee eloquent
The love of royal Agrippina can
Inspire the dullest Soul with life and language.
When the Italian Queen was pleased to grace
 A shepherds boy more then his humble thoughts
Could hope or wish, the ravished tongue forgot
That rural language which before it used.
Ah Pallas, what a glorious change is here!
How is the lowness of our late despair
Turned to the height of joy and happiness?
Quick resolution well purfu'd will cure
The saddest state.
Go thou and hear more news,
Whilst I dispose of things about the Palace.
A Senate, Pollio Consul, Vitellius, Seneca, Otho, Petronius, Montanus.
May all the Gods accept our sacrifice,
And be propitious to the vows, that we
Have vowed for Cæsar's safety.
Let the great,
Divine and sacred Nero Claudius,
The care of heaven, sole ruler of the earth,
And Rome's high Father not forsake his world
So soon t'increase the number of the Gods.
Hail to the Consul, and this sacred Senate.
Great Claudius Cæsar's dead, in whose high throne
With one consent the soldiers have agreed
To seat young Nero, his adopted son.
And do by me entreat your suffrages
Fathers conscript, to ratify their choice.
Let not young Nero's years disparage him,
 Nor trouble you, since happy presidents
May well be shown, grave Fathers. Great Augustus
Of glorious memory, no more in debt
To years than he began to rule the state,
With what success not one in all this noble
And great assembly can be ignorant.
But weigh with me the difference of the times.
The state is settled, and has flourished long
In peaceful government, no civil rents.
No factions now, nor armies are a foot
To stain with Latin blood Philippi Plaines,
To dye the Artic and Sicilian Seas,
And through all regions bare th'unnatural wounds
Of bleeding Rome. No such affrighting names
As Marcus Brutus, Cassius, Lepidus.
Great Pompey's son, or fierce Antonius,
Armed with the power of half the Roman world
Stand to oppose him. Oh yee Gods how great!
How many dangers had beset the state
When young Augustus managed it! Yet he
Withstood and vanquished all those difficulties.
And why should Nero our elected Prince
Aged like Augustus, not be able now
To sway a peaceful sceptre? For the right
To this high wreath, although Britannicus
 Were born the natural son of Claudius,
A Prince of hope enough, and may by some
Be thought much wronged in this election,
Yet weigh it rightly, and no wrong is done.
For Nero was adopted. But besides
The claim of his adoption, he is born
A truer heir to our Imperial house,
Sprung up from the loins of great Augustus Cæsar.
Britannicus from Livia's sons alone.
Nor are the years of young Britannicus
So ripe as his to govern.
Has wisely showed his undoubted right,
And I with joy approve the soldier’s choice.
The Gods preserve Nero our Emperor.
Now is the height of all my wishes reached.
Enter Nero with Tribune.
Room for Cæsar.
He goes on, and takes his state.
Hail, Nero Cæsar.
Hail great Emperor.
Most sacred Tribune.
Holiest highest Priest.
Father of Rome.
 That honourable title
Is yet too weighty for my tender years.
Then let me wear it, fathers, when my pains
My toil and travel for the public weal
By aide and favour of the Gods have made
Me worthy of it. But your free consent
Fathers conscript, your powerful suffrages,
Powerful and honoured as the voice of heaven
In confirmation of the soldiers choice,
Fills me with joy immortal, and shall bind
My best endeavours to requite that love.
My heart is clear, my education
Was not in factious, in tumultuous times,
Or civil broils, my former life has been
As free from doing as receiving wrong.
And therefore bring I to th'Imperial Throne,
No fears, no grudges, hatred or revenge.
This sacred Senate, which the world adores,
Shall still retain her old prerogative
While Nero lives. My private house affairs
Shall from the free Republic be divided,
And never turn the course of common Justice.
No public Office shall be bought for gold.
The sacred Consulary power shall judge
As heretofore, th'affairs of Italy
 And foreign provinces. My care alone
Shall be to rule and lead the Soldiers.
And such to all the people will I be
As I would wish th'immortal Gods to me.
Oh speech most worthy Jupiter himself!
Worthy forever to be registered
In brazen Pillars for the world to read.
Let public thanks by Senate be decreed
To Cæsar's grace and goodness.
Let me deserve them first. First give me leave
What I have promised to perform in deeds,
That then if thanks or praises be bestowed
They may be judged as due, and better Crown
Your own true justice, and the Princes merits.
Oh happy Rome in such an Emperor!
Long may he reign on earth, and late, oh late
Become a glorious star in Heaven.
Will Cæsar give the watching soldiers?
The excellent mother, Tribune, is their word.
Your company, noble Consul, we'll entreat
Home to the Palace.
I'll attend on Cæsar.
Otho, Petronius, Montanus.
The Prince has promised fair.
 Else Seneca,
That made the speech for him had been too blame.
Well, let him speak as Seneca instructs
In public still say I, I know his heart
And secret thoughts better then Seneca
Shall ever do; and there are Jovial days
A coming, gallants, say I prophecy.
Will it be lawful to eat Lybian mushrooms,
And British oysters without being cited
Before the censor?
Yes Curtius, and to whore
For vacuation after them; those gifts
Will be Court virtues. Come, the Prince is hopeful.
Would I might have the bringing of him up.
If I can help it, thou shalt have a share
In his tuition. Welcome Anicetus. Anicetus
Is it to me you come?
To you, my Lord.
Cæsar desires your company at the palace.
Cæsar's desire, is a command, which I
With joy obey, return my humble duty
Good Anicetus, I'll attend him straight.
Now my mad shavers, do you know me yet?
Yes, very well. The question is, if thou
Wilt know us now?
 Tut man, Nero shall know you.
I'll bring you both into his near acquaintance.
Now fair Poppæa's mine and mine alone.
Cæsar must grant my first petition,
Or else deny the love he swore to me
If e're he wore the worlds Imperial wreath.
His power must fetch Poppæa from her husband.
Nor is the deed so envious. Other Princes
Have done the like, and yet not taxed in story.
Besides, he knows Crispinus never loved him,
And was an enemy to his adoption.
'Gainst him perchance he will the sooner grant it.
This is the day that sets a glorious Crown
On all my great designs. This day declares
My power, and makes the trembling world to know
That Agrippina. only can bestow
The Roman Empire, and command the wheel
Of suffering Fortune, holding in her hand
The fate of nation. Is there not a name
Above Augusta to inform the world
How great I am? What Roman Deity
Shall I assume? The petty Goddesses
Would all resign; but that they blushing think
Their styles and altars are too mean for me.
Lacinion Juno shall be proud to share
300 Her glories all with me, and think her power
Graced with my fellowship would brighter shine;
Or leave her name, and be adored by mine.
Enter Nero, Pollio, Seneca,
My Nero is returned, hail Nero Cæsar.
Hail great and dear Augusta, best of Mothers.
To whose sole care and goodness Cæsar owes
All those rich honours that he wears today,
And will acknowledge ever.
For many years let this blest day return,
That dos bestow for my dear Lord and husband
The ne're-enough lamented Claudius
So true a solace on my grieved Soul.
This is that Cæsar now, on whom my hopes
And comforts all rely.
This is that Cæsar.
Who in obedience and true filial love
To Agrippina will forever strive
With virtuous emulation, to excel
Her most admired and exemplary goodness.
How well this piety becomes them both.
Long live great Nero Cæsar.
Thanks good Pallas.
We are indebted to thy faithful service;
And therefore till we find some greater means
 To make requital, still retain that office
Which in our father Claudius time thou held'st.
Be still our steward of th'Imperial house.
He has deserved it.
For the funerals
Of our dead father, in what state and order
They shall be celebrated, we refer
To you dear Mother.
Let the order of them
Be like Augustus Cæsar's. Let him have
A Censors funeral with divine honours,
And put among the number of the Gods.
Nor shall our grandmother great Livia
With her Tiberius to Augustus’ show
More piety, or more magnificence
Then we to our divinest Claudius.
If we be bound to think the Gods consider
This human world, why are we not as well
Bound to believe the greatest members of it
On whom the fates of all the rest depend,
Should be their greatest care? Why should the Gods
Extend their narrow providence, and show
Their power in woods and rural villages,
Yet think th'Imperial family of Rome
Not worth their care at all? For if they had
Where slept their justice, when great Claudius
Was murdered by his servants and his wife,
And they adored, and honoured by the state
For acting that accursed deed! What right
Can all the subject world receive from thence!
What good can dwell upon the earth with safety?
Proud Pallas, thou hast got the victory
O're poor Narcissus, and mayest safely triumph
With thy false Empress, for no law can reach
The height you soar at now. But yet take heed
That very crime, the same Impiety
That aided you in your foul enterprise
To vanquish me and justice on my side,
May one day pull you down.
 Too truly Rufus, thou, and I foresaw
This fatal storm 'gainst Claudius’ woeful house.
Britannicus is now the object grown
Of all men's piety.
In the wrong he did
Unto his hopeful son, he needs must see
His own destruction woven. But if Claudius,
When I detected all their plots to him,
Had ben of nature quick and resolute
He had prevented all, and scap'd his murder.
'Tis certain he was poisoned.
I fear will rue that sad adoption,
And in the wrongs of young Britannicus
Will bear too deep a share. While the fierce rule
Of Agrippina lasts.
What better hope
Does Nero promise us? Those that are near,
And inward with his nature, do suspect
In him all seeds of vice and tyranny,
Though smothered for a time, at least, not hurtful
While he refrains from melding with the state
That his night rambling revels, drinking feasts,
And cruel sports that he's delighted in,
 Are vices of his nature, not his youth.
'Tis true, Narcissus, I of late have heard
Many begin to fear the prophecy
of Aenobarbus his detested sire
That nothing good could be begot twixt him
And Agrippina. Too too true alas!
Such prophecies of some of our late Princes
Have proved to Rome, as that Augustus made
Of the slow-jawed Tiberius, and Tiberius
Of his successor Caius, whom he named
A Phaeton to the unhappy world.
All that I hope for is a wretched life,
If that be not too much for me to hope.
Into Campania will I go, but there
If death pursue me, Cæsar's arms are long,
And I am armed for any accident.
Let none, but with a spirit prepared to die,
Dare to adventure on prosperity.
Rufus and I are both resolved to leave
The city too, we are not safe within it.
But far perchance, removed from her sight
We may escape fell Agrippina's spite.
Ah Lucius Geta, I am now enforced
To that retirement, which we lately talked of.
Because my danger moved me not before,
 Fresh cause is given me. Now I would not breath
The air of Rome for all the wealth within it.
What cause is that Crispinus? Speak.
That was my wife is carried from my house,
And divorced from me by command from Cæsar.
The Prince begins his reign most hopefully.
Do you not wonder how I bear it thus?
I must confess the loss is wondrous great.
True, had she ben my chaste and faithful wife,
The loss had ben beyond all estimation.
Nor could a manly spirit have borne the wrong.
But she was none of mine, her heart, my Lucius.
As I have since discovered, long ago
Was given to wanton Otho, and with him
'Tis thought she stole her close adulterous hours.
For on that Otho, Nero has bestowed her
Wanting her heart, that gaudy piece of Earth
That men call beauty, I should soon have scorned,
Though Cæsar's warrant had not come at all.
Shall we be gone, my friend?
With all my heart.
It was my fear Poppæa would have caused
Your stay too long.
I'll put her from my thoughts.
 Farewell my Lords, all happiness attend
Your Country life, though I can hope for none.
Farewell Narcissus may the Gods protect thee.
Thus greatest Monarchs oft have given away
What they themselves ne're saw, nor e're knew how
To value truly. Nero has bestowed
A gift unknown on me, which I, that taste
How swet it is, would not again forgo
For all his Empire’s wealth.
Nor would I change
My Otho's love for great Augustus’ state.
There to enjoy where both extremely love
Is such a happiness (as I have heard
Some do observe) it seldom does befall
A married pair, or if it do, that bliss
Endures not long, so envious are the fates.
But that's a dream, my love, I do not fear.
Thou need'st not fear Poppæa's constancy
Though Cæsar were thy rival,
Sweet I do not;
I dare not wrong thy truth, or take so much
From mine own happiness, as to suspect
Thy constant mind at all. But Cæsar's power
Is of extent as large as mans desire.
'Twas that, that made thee mine; and nought but that
 That gave, can take my happiness away.
Thou hast a face, Poppæa, that would clear
A ravisher from guilt, that would excuse
The treason of a friend, and make my wrong
No stain to Cæsar's honour, though the Gods,
Or Cato were his judges.
Cæsar would not;
He loves thee well, besides a noble mind
Would scorn to taste the fruits of forced love.
A long besieging is as forcible
As an assault, and wins the fort as sure
Though not so soon.
Nay, spare your arguments.
I can look through them; thou art fearful, Otho,
That I should long to see the Court, alas
I have no such ambition to be known
To Agrippina or Octavia.
Mistake me not, swet love, I am so far
From jealousy of thee, that 'twas my purpose
To make it my request that thou would'st go
And see great Cæsar's Court. Nor do I think
Octavia would be jealous, or that danger
That once befell the fair Calpurnia,
Whom Agrippina banished Italy
Because that Claudius Cæsar praised her beauty,
 Should fall on thee.
It shall not fall on me,
I will not see the Court. Fie Otho fie
How wretchedly in striving to conceal
Thy jealousy, thou dost betray it to me!
Why dost thou tell me so of Cæsar's power,
Octavia's wrath, Calpurnia's banishment
Through Agrippina's envy? 'Tis thy love
Better then all these subtle tricks will keep
My thoughts at home.
It shall appear to thee
I do not fear at all, or if I did,
Tis not the failing of thy constancy.
Enjoy what freedom thou desir'st, Poppæa.
Now for a little while excuse my absence,
I must for sake thee, though unwillingly.
Cæsar, I fear, expected my return
Long before this love has beguiled the time,
And made my stay seem shorter than it is.
But I shall think till I return again
The hours are long, till then, farewell Poppæa.
I find his fears already, my estate
Was better far before Rufus Crispinus
Was grave and knew not wantonness enough
To make him jealous as this Otho dos
 That too unlawful love, which then I showed
To Otho, is the mother of these fears.
Is old Seleucus the Magician come?
Madam he waits without,
Go call him hither.
Seleucus is the master of his Art.
All his predictions hitherto have proved
Most true and certain. why should I desire
To know my future fate; and hasten woe
(Should it prove ill) before the time of woe?
But 'tis a longing that I cannot check
Welcome Seleucus, have you found it out?
Madam, your scheme is drawn, and there I find
The stars allot another husband to you.
Another, after Otho?
Yes, a third.
What shall he be?
The greatest Prince on earth.
Yes, it must be Cæsar, Madam.
And 'tis as true as if the oracles
Of Jove and Phoebus had foretold it both.
This Cæsar that now lives?
I can no further
Instruct you Madam; what you hear is true.
 Drink this Seleucus for my sake. Farewell.
To be Augusta is the greatest gift
The fates can give; nor dos it seems to me
A thing so much unlikely. Otho's fear
Perchance was fatal. If it were, in vain
His care will be, nor can he then accuse
Me, but the fates that overruled my love.
It is decreed, Silanus must not live.
Th'Imperial blood, that runs within his veins
Were there no other cause, is crime enough.
He is descended in the same degree
That Nero is from great Augustus’ loins.
And some have lately whispered that his age
Is more mature for sovereignty then Nero's.
Besides thou know'st his brother Lucius,
That should have married young Octavia,
By us was hunted to his death, and he
May meditate revenge.
You need not fear
A spirit so sluggish as Silanus’.
Your brother Caius Cæsar, in the midd'st
Of all his fears and jealousies to which
He sacrificed so many noble branches
Of your Imperial house, contemned Silanus
Is one in whom there was no spirit, or danger,
 And called him nothing but the golden beast.
We cannot tell, if times of trouble come,
How much that beast by courage of attendants
And confluence of soldiers may be changed.
He is Proconsul now of Asia,
And may here after, if the people should
Malign our government, bring power against us.
If you will have it so Publius Celerius
And Aelius now going for Asia
Have undertaken there to poison him.
Let it be done. But Pallas, first of all
Let a centurion be dispatched into
Campania, to kill Narcissus. There
He must not live, that did contrive our ruin
And knows, I fear, the means by which we scap'd it
By our command it shall be warranted.
But tell me Pallas, ere thou goest, are all
The German soldiers come?
Madam they are.
You have a royal guard.
Go dearest Pallas,
Dispatch Celerius into Asia,
And the Centurion to Campania.
Now Agrippina is herself, and all
The power and dignity she holds, her own.
 I do not owe it to a marriage bed,
Or poor dependence on a husbands love,
Where every minion might have rivalled me.
There is no power, no state at all, but what
Is independent, absolute and free.
Besides my proper and peculiar guards
Two lectors by the Senate are assigned
Distinct from Cæsar and the Consuls state
To wait on me, that all the world at last
Th'Imperial power may in a woman know.
I was an Empresses but ne're reigned till now.
Enter Nero, Britannicus, Otho, Petronius, Montanus, Acte.
Come sit my friends, they here are freely welcome
That bring free Jovial hearts far hence be all
Sad looks, sour gestures, and Censorious thoughts.
They fit not Nero's table. Kiss me Acte,
And smile upon the feast.
Is warrant strong enough.
And thou shalt find
No rigid Catoes here.
True, great Cæsar,
Let such sour Scauri sit at home, and write
Against the pleasure of this happy age
Dull satyrs, such as water, or the lees
Of Tuscan wine beget. Let them admire
 Those old penurious times, when Curius fed
On leeks and onions, when Fabritus
Feasted the frugal Senate with hung bef
And rusty bacon, and in earthen pots
Drunk small Etruscan wine; let them be still
Such as themselves would make themselves, unworthy
To taste the plenty that Rome now enjoys.
Why did our famed ancestors so far
Extend their conquering arms, and strive to get
The riches of the world, but that their Nephews
Might now enjoy them? 'Twere ingratitude
To their rich labours, should we scorn to use
What they have got, or if the use of it
In us be riot, sure 'twas avarice
In them, that toiled so much to purchase it.
Which of those rigid Censors, that declaim
Against the vices of the times, and tax
Rome as luxurious now would call it virtue
In a rich citizen, whose store-houses
Were fraught with the best provisions, his chests crowded
His cellars full of rich Campanian wine,
Yet he himself to drink the coarsest lees,
To feed on acorns, pulse, and crabs, to wrong
His nature, and defraud his Genius?
Tis said the Furies keep pined Tantalus
 From tasting those delicious fruits he sees.
Such would the Roman virtue be, should she
Affright her sons the masters of the world
From tasting that which they themselves possess.
Tis true, those former ages were most frugal,
We thank them for't, the better is our fare.
Let those that list, now when they have no need,
Still imitate, and boast their hungry virtue.
Whilst we poor sinners are content with pheasants,
Numidian hens, and Lybian purple wings
Wild goats, bores, hares, thrushes, and mushrooms,
Oysters, and mullets, and such vicious meats.
Fill me some wine. Montanus melancholy,
And silent now?
Cæsar, I was but listening
To hear Petronius good morality,
Otho I know cannot be melancholy,
He is a bridegroom, and but new posses't
Of that fair treasure he has courted
So long, well Otho, I must have a sight
Of fair Poppæa, such I know she is.
She is unworthy of great Cæsar's sight.
A round, go Anicetus bring the lots,
Because that no respect of power shall let
The freedom of our mirth, whoever draws
 The longest cut shall be our King tonight,
And be obeyed what e’re he shall command.
I will resign my chair to him. Come draw.
Enter Anicetus they draw.
‘Tis I that am your King.
I shall believe
That Fortune has her eyes.
In getting Crowns
Nero, thy fortune is too good for mine.
I know none envy me.
No envy can
Redress my wrongs.
I will begin with Otho.
I do command thee send by Anicetus
Some trusty token that immediately
May fetch Poppæa hither to the banquet.
It shall be done, this ring will fetch her hither.
I never thought 'twould come to this.
Of bringing Acte in, I see has failed.
I care not much, he would at last have seen her.
Thou wilt not frown my Acte, though thou see
Another beauty here.
So royal Cæsar,
Nor shall you hear me envious, or detracting,
Although I know Poppæa is a Lady
 Whose beauty dos as far excel poor Acte,
As Cinthia dos the lesser stars, or Venus
The other Sea-nymphs.
Freely spoke, fair Acte.
Here you shall find the saying dos not hold
That women are detractors from each other.
Mean time begin a health.
So please it Cæsar
To great Augusta, Agrippina's health.
Let it go round. And now Petronius.
I come to thee, I do command thee write
A Satire presently against those pleasures
Thou didst so lately praise, against th'attire,
And costly diet of this notorious age.
This is thy task.
I must obey the King:
And now's the fittest time for such a satire.
I never find my virtue of that strength
As to contemn good Victuals, but upon
A well filled stomach.
Give him wine to heighten't.
I've writ already a Satiric Poem
In a grave angry way, where I complain
That Rome’s excess, corruption, luxury,
Ruined the present government, and twixt
 Cæsar, and Pompey caused a civil war.
Listen, and hear my castigations.
"Now all the world victorious Rome had won
"All lands, all Seas, the morn and evening Sun,
"Nor was content; the Ocean's furrowed o’re
"With armed ships; if any far-hid shore,
"Or land there were, whence burnished gold was brought
"It was their foe: by impious war they sought
"(Fates fitted so), for wealth, old known delight
"They scorn, and Vulgar bare-worn pleasure slight.
"Pearls in th'Assirian lakes the soldier's love.
"Bright polished earth in hew with purple strove.
"Numidia marble brings the Scythian yields
"His early fleece, the Arabs spoil their fields.
"But see more ruin yet, and greater wounds
"Of injured peace, the Mauritanian grounds
"And Libyan Ammon's farthest woods, to get
"Wild beasts are searched whose teeth a price must set.
"Upon their death, fierce Tigers fetched from far,
"And stalking stately on the Theatre
"Are fed with humane slaughter to delight
"The peoples eyes. After the Persian rite
"(Alas I shame to speak it, and display
"The ruin-threatening fates), they cut way
"Manhood from growth spoiled youths, for Venery
 "Softening their nature, to keep back thereby
"In spite of time, their age herself in kind
"Abused nature seeks, but cannot find.
"They dote on Catamites, weak bending hammes,
"Unnerved bodies, and a thousand names
"Of new attires, loose hair of men, in whom
"All man is lost! O slaves from Africa come,
"Rich Citron boards, bright purple, which to view
"Loosening the senses bear a gold like hew.
"A wanton train, in wine and surfeits drowned
"The far fetched table do encompass round.
"The wealth that all the spacious world contains
"By lawless arms the roaming soldier gains,
"Their gluttony grows witty; guilt-heads caught
"At Sea, alive are to their tables brought.
No more, my furious Satirist, thou hast chide
The times sufficiently.
If you be pleased
I have obeyed.
Well, I perceive Petronius
A man may write a Satire, and yet be
No Scaurus, Curius, or Fabritius.
A Satirist should be the contrary,
And know those vices, which he means to tax.
Brother Britannicus thy task is next,
 Stand up and sing a song.
Give me some time:
I cannot do't extempore, what subject?
Choose that yourself.
Then give me leave to sing
Mine own misfortunes, how I came to loose
The Roman sceptre.
How! That will not fit
A feast of mirth.
No, let them laugh that wine.
A good smart youth.
This must not be endured.
I must be freed from this continual fear,
Than be excused. Be merry Gentlemen,
I wonder Anicetus stays so long.
Enter Anicetus with Poppæa.
But see they come. Is this Poppæa, Otho?
‘Tis she, great Cæsar.
Wonder of her sex!
Bright paragon of Rome! All beauties yet
That I have seen, have ben but foils to set
A greater lustre on this star of light.
His eyes are fixt; his changing looks do speak
A depth of passion, or my jealous fears,
Dazzle mine eyes too much.
Tis so, she's lost.
 If ever Lady were a tennis ball,
'Tis this, she’s bandied so from one to t'other.
Must then another reap the envied fruit
Of my injustice? Must Poppæa be
My crime, that took her from her other Lord,
To be his pleasure?
Is great Cæsar sad!
No Otho, still she shows more fair and fair.
I cannot check my love; sit fairest Lady.
And with your lustre grace our feast. I see
Thou art a most incomparable judge
In beauty, Otho, and were I to choose
A wife again, I'd trust no eye but thine.
Would I might serve you Sir in anything.
But tell me thy opinion in one question.
Which dost thou think the noblest in a Prince,
If he would use his power, and do an act
That may be thought unjust, to do't for friendship,
Or satisfaction of his own delight?
Sir, had you made the case a private man's
(For the delights of Princes, as themselves,
We must count sacred) I could soon resolve it.
Let it be so, for 'tis the same in justice.
I think it noblest then to do't for friendship.
For friendship ever was held honourable,
 But satisfaction of our own delights
A thing of weaknesses rather than of honour.
I see his drift.
Augustus Cæsar then
And I by power have done the self same act.
But in the cause I have excelled Augustus,
For he to satisfy his own hot love
From Claudius Nero took fair Livia.
I from Crispinus took a brighter beauty
To show myself no lover, but a friend.
Do not mistake me Otho, and suppose
I do repent the favour I have done
I know ‘tis well bestowed.
‘Twas such a favour
That I confess, great Cæsar, as no tongue
Can be enough expressive; so ‘tis hard
To find a heart that's large enough to pay
Sufficient thanks in thought, but pious men
Have still acknowledged that no thanks of ours
Can equalize the bounty of the Gods.
And Princes are like them, should I think less
I should both wrong the giver, and the gift.
In valuing her aright thou show'st thy self
As wise as just. I wish thee joy of her.
But fairest Lady, since it was so late
 Before you graced our feast, I cannot think
That I have entertained you yet at all.
The scene shall therefore change, another room
Shall bid Poppæa welcome to the Court.
Yet Cæsar and his mother well agree.
The Gods continue it, but Vitellius,
I fear the sequel. Agrippina’s fierce
And haughty disposition will too much
Provoke her son 'tis thought, and he too forward
To throw all nature off.
I think so too.
And therefore I could wish that Agrippina
Would go a gentler way; she must not build
Too much upon her merits, though we know
‘Twas she that put the sceptre in his hand.
For vicious natures, where they once begin
To take distaste, and purpose no requital,
The greater debt they owe, the more they hate.
Besides she’ll find it harder far to work
Her ends upon a son, than 'twas to rule
A doting husband.
Time will show it all,
And we ere long shall know which way to lean.
Will Agrippina sit today with Cæsar
On his Tribunal, to give audience
 To those Armenian Ambassadors?
There is no doubt she would, but I have spoiled
That state I hope; for I have counselled Nero.
That if she come, he shall arise and meet her,
As if he did it in respect, and duty
Deferring th'audience of th'Ambassador;
I hope she will not understand our drift.
Pray heaven she do not, for you know her fierceness.
It would be Rome’s disgrace, the Senate’s shame
And my great crime, if the Ambassadors
That come to plead their country’s cause at Rome,
Should see a woman perching up with Cæsar
Into the chair to give them audience.
And sit commanding o’re the Roman ensigns;
'Twas not the custom of our Ancestors
To see such sights.
True Lucius Seneca,
Our Ancestors had no such kind of women;
She in her heart's a man, and you mistake
If you esteem her only Cæsar's mother,
Not his Colleague, and partner in the Empire
Or more than so.
I am not so ungrateful
To hate the woman, since I know it was
Her favour, that repealed my banishment.
 But I dislike these things, that foreign states
In her unseemly carriage should behold
The shame of Rome, and would she keep a temper
Fitting the quality of her sex and place,
I should admire the bravery of her mind.
Enter Nero, Vitellius, Pollio, Nero, takes his state, after them the
Long live great Nero Cæsar, the chief care
Of heaven, and highest Sovereign of the Earth,
The Princes of Armenia, Vologeses
And Tiridates greet your Majesty
By us, and do congratulate the honour,
Which since divinest Claudius left the earth
To make a God in heaven, is fallen on you.
And to your high Tribunall do refer
The controversy that is now betwixt them.
My mother's come, defer th'Ambassadors
As ‘twas appointed Seneca.
Hail dearest mother.
Wherefore rises Cæsar
From his Tribunal when affairs of state
Are brought before him?
No respect can be
Too much for me to give great Agrippina.
Excuse me, Cæsar, if it be respect,
‘Tis now unseasonable, take your seat,
 I'll sit with you myself, and hear th'affairs
Of these Armenian Ambassadors.
We have deferred the business a while,
And thought upon a fitter time to hear it.
If you arise because the audience
Is ended or deferred upon just reasons,
‘Tis not respect to me that made you rise,
As you alleged at first, but I have found it,
The reason that deferred this audience
Was Agrippina’s coming.
This I feared.
‘Twas carried ill of Cæsar at the first.
I see thou blushest, Nero, and may'st justly,
To call that reverence, which was affront,
Was a dissembling not befitting Cæsar.
And to affront a mother so deserving
Was not the duty that befitted Nero.
Can nearest Agrippina, think her Nero
Will ever do an act that may be judged
Affront to her?
This was thou knot’s it Nero.
And so dos thy adviser Seneca
From him it came, no other Senator
Durst to have counselled my disgrace but he.
Never will Seneca, so much obliged
 To Agrippina’s royal favour, wish
Or council her disgrace.
Philosophy ne're taught ingratitude.
If you had thought the place unfit for me,
You might have told me privately before,
Not used this trick which how so e’re it hold
In Stoicism, I'm sure is nought in state.
She pays him home.
Her spirit cannot brake
The least appearance of an injury.
Cæsar, I'll leave thee now, nor shall my presence
Be any hindrance to thy state affairs.
I'll go along with you.
I'll shortly teach him new Philosophy.
Exit Agrippina and Nero.
She’s full of anger; but it moves not me,
Since what I did was just, and for the honour
Of Rome and Cæsar; honest actions
Will be enough protection to themselves.
Take the best courses to prevent her fury.
Ah noble Burrhus, it must be hereafter
Our greatest care to curb that woman’s pride.
And what we can remove her from all rule
And government of state, for Agrippina
 Is of too hot and fierce a disposition.
What should we do? ‘Twere pity to incense
Her son against her.
The Gods forbid that we
Should strive to make the Prince unnatural.
But to prevent this inconvenience,
I will persuade young Cæsar not with purpose
to wrong his mother, somewhat to abate
Her dangerous greatness, to remove from her
Part of her guard of German soldiers,
And to displace her wicked counsellor
That insolent and Lordly freedman Pallas.
You need not use persuasions to your pupil
(The Gods forgive it if I judge amiss)
To stand against his mother; I much fear
He will too quickly hate her, for no reason
To state belonging, but because she grows
Imperious over him, and strives to curb
His lust and riots, those, those Seneca
I fear are seeds of future tyranny.
And for his love (as if the fates decreed
To make his passions all preposterous)
His virtuous wife, noble Octavia,
The only inocence in this wicked age
Of women great and good, is loathed by him.
 That most afflicts me, could we find a cure
For that disease? All other maladies
A riper age will in some part redress,
And I will strive to change them by degrees,
And get him to forsake his loose associates.
But let us first endeavour to remove
Fierce Agrippina from all rule of state.
I’ll join with you, and use my best endeavours.
Shall I that am an Emperor, be checked,
Controlled and baffled in my Palace thus?
I will remove this mother far from me,
And give command to Burrhus to provide
That house that was Antonia's for her.
The Palace shall be free to my delights,
I make no doubt but that the people know,
And hate her pride, and will the less repine
At what I do against her. I have told her
(For she provoked me past all patience)
Part of my mind already, she shall rue
Perchance too late the fierceness she has showed
Ungrateful Nero, is thy mothers power
So soon offensive grown? Canst thou so soon
Cast off all filial duties, and forget
What I deserve from thee? Wouldst thou deprive
Me of all power that gave all power to thee?
 Did I so wickedly for thee procure
The height of human state, that thou shouldst take
All state from me with greater wickedness?
Oh wronged Claudius, this sad punishment
My bloody treason, and ingratitude
To thy offended Manes justly pays.
By the most loving, and most injured Lord,
The worst of wives was more beloved than now,
The best of mothers by a wicked Son.
I’ll make him know what hand it was that raised
His fortunes to this height. But wherefore weeps
My dear Octavia?
What accursed fate
Pursues the woeful Claudian family?
Dear daughter, speak thy grief.
Was I bestowed,
Or rather lost in marriage, to advance
Upon my brother's ruin, Nero's state
To be by him despised, hated and made
A base freed-woman’s slave?
What freed woman?
Acte, thy Nero's concubine, my mistress
That dares within the palace to contest,
Nay, to revile Octavia.
She dares not,
 Nor shall she do't, I'll slit the strumpets nose,
If she dare speak 'gainst thee.
You cannot mother.
Nero delights in none but her, his soul
In Acte lives; on her he dos bestow
That love, that's due to me, but me he loathes.
Oh dismal love, Oh fatal marriage!
Take comfort sweet Octavia, I'll redress
Thy wrongs, or venture mine own fall with thee.
You have complained I see, Octavia.
Is there a chiding toward?
Has thy guilt,
And th'unkind wrongs thou hast already done
Unthankful Nero, to thy virtuous wife
Armed thee with such an impudence, that now
Thou canst prevent her just accusing thus?
Me thinks although thou had'st no spark
Of goodness left thee, yet in Policy
Thou should'st not dare maintain a base borne strumpet
Against thy lawful wife great Claudius daughter.
Me thinks in policy you might remember
You speak to Cæsar, not a child.
Thou hast forgot the duty of a child.
 I will be better known; if I be crossed
In my delights, I will be bold to cross
You in your pleasures too.
Oh heavens, what pleasures,
What joys or studies have I ever had
But to prefer thee Nero? are my cares
And all my labours thus requited now?
Let not too vain and foolish confidence
Of what thou art, make thee presume to wrong
Thy mother and thy wise, or thou shalt know
The Empires lawful heir is yet alive.
The wronged Britannicus is growing up
To take his right, and to revenge the wrongs
Which he and all his family sustain;
I'll go myself to the Prætorian Camp,
And plead his cause before the Soldiers.
There let one-handed Burrhus, and that base
Unthankful exile Seneca, appear
Against the daughter of Germanicus.
Yes, plead the cause of young Britannicus,
And when y'have done, provide an advocate
To plead your own.
Gone so abruptly from us,
Slights he mine anger so?
Madam I fear
 You took too harsh a way, his looks were wild
And full of rage; my sad misgiving soul
Tells me some mischief’s working in his thoughts.
Fear not, Octavia, we’ll take the best
And surest courses to prevent the ill
That may ensue, and if mature advice
And counsel cannot bridle him, we’ll use
Another means to curb his insolence.
I have already by my bounty made
Most of the Tribunes and Centurions.
My guards are strong, and shall be vigilant
Over the safety of Britannicus,
As mine own person, there's no open act
Of mischief can be on the sudden wrought.
The Gods I hope will guard our innocence.
My fears have ben too slow, and 'twas high time
That Agrippina's thundering threats had waked
My sleeping mischief’s; which shall now no more
Study disguises, but appear in bold
And open acts with Cæsar’s stamp upon them,
Fearless of vulgar whispering jealousies.
Upon thy death, Britannicus, a price
No less then Rome’s imperial wreath is set.
The deed, when done, will privilege itself,
And make the power of Nero strong enough
 To warrant his misdeed, who dare revenge
Or blame th'offence that frees me from a rival?
But I shall leave a worse, and nearer fare
Behind, my mother Agrippina lives;
She lives my rival, nay my partner still,
Nay more than that my Queen and Governess.
I am no Prince, no man, nothing at all
While Agrippina lives, must she then live
To make me nothing? Must the name of mother
Outweigh a sceptre? Could the name of husband
Protect her Claudius? No; her own example
Shall teach me state. But first, Britannicus
Must be removed; his death assures my state,
And makes me able to contest with her.
That gentle poison, which Locusta gave him,
If poison 'twere, whilest we did vainly fear
The peoples talk, has kept my fears alive.
Where is this hag?
Fiend, fury, devil.
Mercy, mercy, Cæsar.
I'll hew thy cursed carcass into a tome,
Thou gav'st Britannicus an antidote
In stead of poison.
 Twas a gentle poison,
And such as you commanded me to make,
Hold Cæsar hold; I will redeem all yet.
Do it or die, make me a poison strong,
A quick and speeding one.
It shall be done.
No sooner tasted, but it shall destroy.
I'll see the trial of it, and reward
Thy service well, but if Britannicus
Out live this day, this day shall be thy last.
Burrhus, Vitellius, Anicetus, Soldiers
It is the will of Cæsar, soldiers
You must be all discharged from guarding her.
But you shall have allowance, and thus much
I'll promise for your comforts, you shall be
The next that are ascribed into the list
Of the Prætorian camp.
Thanks, noble Burrhus.
Go Anicetus, give command that straight
That house, which was Antonia's, be prepared
For Agrippina, and her family.
Cæsar will have the Palace to himself.
Does Agrippina know't?
Not yet I think.
Is there displeasure then 'twixt her and Cæsar?
I know not. You'll excuse my hast, my Lord
I must take leave.
I like not these new turns.
I came to visit her: but now I'll spare
My hail this morn.
Whither so fast my Lord?
To visit Agrippina.
Stay, I'll tell you.
There is some difference twixt her and Cæsar.
Her guards are tak'n away. I parted now
From Burrhus, who discharged them. She herself
 Shall be removed from the Imperial palace.
I like not that, I'll spare my visit then.
Otho will loose his wife then?
Yes, no doubt,
And I believe must leave the City too.
Nero's extremely fired, and he will have her
Alone; poor Otho must not rival Cæsar
Nor indeed is it fitting that the husband
Should make th'adulterer a cuckold.
Do'st thou believe, Petronius, that this change
Yes, I warrant her.
She thinks her beauty never could have done her
A greater service.
But she seemed to love
I confess Montanus,
I think her appetite stood well to Otho,
For it is a rascal of a winning carriage
And curious feature. But she has enjoyed him
Sometime already, and that passion
Which you call love, dos move in a degree
So low, and feeble, it is soon swallowed up
In the deep torrent of ambition.
Poppæa's proud, nor can that breast of hers
 Harbour a love so strong, but it must yield
To pride her quality predominant.
What can she be but Nero's concubine?
I see not what high honour lies in that.
You cannot tell what she may be in time.
She cannot be Augusta, that high name
Octavia, while she lives, will keep; he dares not
Forsake that wife (how e're he do affect her)
To whom he may be said to owe the Empire.
For mine own part, I know not how ‘twill go.
But I dare swear Poppæa, e're this time,
Has asked and heard what the Chaldæans say
About her fortunes; our fine dames of Rome
Must still be tampering with that kind of cattle.
Their dogs, their monkeys, and themselves do nothing
Without th'advise of such a cunning man,
Last thou seen Otho lately?
How dos he look upon the business?
With somewhat sad; but Cæsar seems to use him
So wonderful kindly that he cannot think
He’s wronged at all.
Prithee, let's find him out.
No longer steward of th'Imperial house!
Are greatest benefits so soon forgot
 By wicked Princes? 'Tis and ever was
The fate of Courts, Monarchs unjustly hate
Acknowledgment. What power, what honour now
Dos Nero, hold but what he owes to me?
My merit, nay my wickedness, which did
To him increase the merit, for this heart
Has bled the more for my ingratitude
To my best master Claudius, his sad wrongs
Another now revenges! Oh Narcissus,
I chance the conquest that I got o’re thee,
When we two strove about the successor
To Claudius Cæsar, will hereafter prove
More fatal to the conqueror, then him
That lost the day. Thou in Campania
Liv'dst happily, though hunted to thy death
By us; and carried to thy grave the honour
By aiding the just side, Oh Royal Empress,
I fear our care to raise unthankful Nero
Will prove at last our own destruction
My place loss I, weigh not, but for fear
It prove a step to your dishonour, Madam.
‘Tis for my sake that thou hast lost it, Pallas,
With me my friends are hated. Oh sad fate
That follows impious actions! Well perchance
And happily might I have lived if wronged
 Britannicus had reigned! Oh would the loss
Of this unworthy life could yet procure
That injured Prince his due.
Can fortune turn
The course of things so strangely, that you Madam,
The Prince’s mother and his raiser too
Should wish the others reign.
It can, it can.
This is the power and justice of the Gods,
That when we think ourselves most safe in ill,
Can frustrate all our confidence and make
That power, which seemed to be our prop, to be
Our only cause of ruin. We are children,
Vice makes us children, like to them, we cry
For knives to hurt ourselves with, and the Gods
To punish us oft grant what we desire.
A hearse brought in. Octavia following.
What doleful noise is this?
A me, I fear.
Oh dismal day! Oh wretched family!
Fly back bright Phoebus to the Eastern shore,
Or hide thy head; thou hast at Rome beheld
A feast more black then e’re Mycenæ saw.
Ah dearest brother, sweet Britannicus.
 Poisoned at Nero's table.
Break my heart
The greatest woe, that could befall, is come.
Forgive me, gentle Soul; 'twas I that gave
That viper life, and rule to ruin thee.
Thou need'st not curse me; the impiety
Of him that killed thee, will revenge thy death.
Fair hope of Rome, sweet flower untimely cropped,
What presentation shall sad Pallas make
T'appease thy wronged ghost, and expiate
My foul offences? To the King and Queen
Of sable night I'll build two grassy altars;
And yearly there, if any years at all
I have to live, with sad libations
Invoke the manes of Britannicus;
Thou from the groves of fair Elysium
Forever wailed, forever honoured Prince,
Deign to accept my humble sacrifice.
Or if those rights be too too mean for thee,
Perchance the Genius of afflicted Rome
Shall wep hereafter o’re thy grave, and wail
Th'untimely death of her Britannicus.
Gentle to thee let earth and water prove.
This woeful murder of Britannicus.
Bodes ill to me, and my presaging soul
 Is filled with ghastly fears. Ah Pallas, Pallas,
This is the entrance into Parricide,
And but the Prologue to a mothers death.
Would I could speak to your distress and fears
A true and real comfort, such a one
As might not flatter your estate, and make
You weaker then before, by taking from you
All study of prevention.
Is come to visit you.
Exit Pallas, Enter Nero.
What, weping Madam? What unworthy cause
Dares force a tear from great Augusta's eye
While Nero lives? If't be my brother's death,
That caused this sorrow, I could join in tears,
Had not that tragedy already robbed
Mine eyes of moisture.
Makes me less trust his nature then before.
The Gods have robbed me of one comfort now
The fellowship of swet Britannicus,
That all my piety may be confined
To you, dear mother, you contain alone
Within a parent’s sacred name, all styles
Of kindred now, all bonds of pious love.
 Fear not a change in me.
I do not Cæsar.
Minarvus feast is celebrated now
Five days at Baiæ thither you shall go
And feast with me dear mother, there forget
All jealous fears, and you shall never more
Complain of Nero.
If the stratagem
Of Anicetus prosper, her complaint
Shall be to Pluto, and the Ghosts below.
Otho with his Commission.
The Government of Lusitania,
By Nero's grace and favour is bestowed
On me! Oh glorious name of banishment!
Yet welcome now, since fair Poppæa's lost.
I thank thee, Nero, thou provid'st a brave
And honourable cure for that sad wound
Thou hast inflicted on my love-sick Soul.
How great a torture had it ben to me
To live in Rome divorced from her, and see
That beauty folded in another's arms!
Hence wanton thoughts; fond love forever vanish,
Collect my soul what e’re thou hast within thee
Of Roman left, and answer to the call
Bright honour makes, some favourable God
Pitying the lusts and riots of a youth
So much misled, has sent this seeming loss
 To wake me from so base a lethargy.
Employed in foreign action, I shall live
Free from th'infectious vices of this Court,
And far from seeing the abhorred effects
Of future tyranny, which needs must break
From Nero's vicious nature. At my birth
The Augures promised high and glorious hopes,
This is the way to bring them. Spain shall find
Another Otho than was sent from Rome.
Poppæa promised here to meet, and take
Her last leave of me. Why should I again
Renew my passion by the sight of her?
But't is but one poor look, and so farewell.
Hail Marcus Otho Emperor of Rome,
Cæsar that shall be.
It is thy fate,
Which shall not be prevented.
Tell me father,
(For your predictions ever have ben true)
Shall I behold Poppæa's face again,
When I have left the City?
Never! A heavy doom yet I in lieu
Of her shall gain the Empire of the world.
 Juno will heal the wounds that Venus gives.
See, there she comes; her beauty waxes still,
Or else the sad conceit of never more
Seeing that face, makes it appear more fair.
How dull the edge of Honour grows already!
Here could I stay, and like the Trojan Prince
Locked in fair Dido’s arms forget forever
Th'Italian land, and all my future fame.
Him Jove admonished to depart from thence.
Me the command of Cæsar forces hence,
And leaves no power in my election.
Oh hard fate in love
Is mine, whose joys were never lasting yet.
Speak not so soon that killing word farewell.
What gain, alas, can one small minute be?
Or if 'twere gain to me, to the Poppæa
'Twere loss to keep thee from thy Cæsar’s sight.
He is thy servant, whom the world obeys.
Ah Otho, love can witness that this fortune
Was never sought by me.
Thou wert too great
A treasure for a private man to keep.
No; live still happy with thy Cæsar here
And grant me one request, if of that love
 Which once we vowed so dear, there yet remains
So small a part as may deserve the name
Of common friendship, use thy power with Cæsar
My government may be continued long.
Rather let me entreat the contrary,
And keep thee here at Rome.
It must not be.
Never while Nero lives, and lives with thee.
It must be love no more, but friendship now
Twixt us Poppæa, which may still be kept
In absence by good wishes, and without
Those nearer comforts which fond love requires.
But who shall teach me to forget that swet
Delicious lesson which loves school did teach?
When thy admired beauty was the book,
And I a Scholar too too forward then?
Oh would great Cæsar’s power to cure my wound,
Could but bestow so privative a good
As loss of memory. But that, alas,
Were too unjust a cure, and I could wish
Rather to suffer still then quite forget
That I was once Poppæa’s envied love.
I'll rather strive to solace my fick soul
With contemplation of past happiness,
And by recounting o're our former joys
 Deceive those hours of sorrow I must pass.
And I for comfort of our absent love
Will cherish hopes that we shall meet again.
No, think me dead, bright love, and I'll enforce
My imagination to believe that thou
Translated by some amorous Deity
Hast left the earth to beautify the sky,
And turn Astronomer in love, to find
Thy figure out among those radiant lights
Which Jove’s transformed Paramours have made.
'Mongst those I'll seek for fair Poppæa’s star,
And swear I see it, rather then believe
Thou liv'st on earth debarred from Otho's sight.
I must begin to part, I see; for thou
In modesty art loath to chide me hence,
And bid me quit the place. Farewell Poppæa.
Such height to happiness may'st thou enjoy
As Cæsar’s constant love can bring to thee.
As much good fortune follow Otho still
‘Tis power that parts us, All the Gods can tell.
How well I love thee Otho. But those Gods,
That have ordained another fate for me
Must be obeyed yet Nero must be wrought
With cunning to my ends, or else my fortune
Is low and poor, my title nought at all.
 Tis not the love of Cæsar, but the honour,
And that high title which attends his love
That is Poppæa’s aim; Octavia
Debars me yet from that, and Agrippina
Is fierce, and keeps her son in Pupillage.
Now fair Poppæa, thou art mine alone;
Otho's removed, embrace the happy change
That fortune brings thee, thou hast found instead
Of him, a Cæsar, who besides his state
Has brought a heart as true to thee, and love
As strong and fervent as poor Otho's was.
Thou we'rt before a diamond coarsely set,
A clouded star, the Fates did pity thee,
And would no longer let that beauty lie
Eclipsed in a private family;
No seat but Rome’s Imperial throne, no sphere
But Cæsar’s arms were fit for these bright eyes
To shine in, and the subject world t'adore
Their lustre, like some constellation
New risen to amaze mortality.
Not Rome alone, but all the farthest shores
That Peleus silver-footed wife e're knew
Shall call Poppæa mistress.
Those are honours
Cæsar, too high, too great for me to hope.
 To hope, my love, they are thine own already.
Cæsar, thou know'st it cannot be; and I
That might have lived content with Otho's love;
And there enjoyed the honoured name of wife,
Must in the Palace find a baser style.
Thou wrong'st my power, Poppæa, if thou think
I cannot give the highest style to thee,
And if thou think I mean it not, thou wrong'st
My truest love.
Octavia is alive
No love of thine can bear Augustus’ state
But only she.
She shall be soon removed
To make a room for fair Poppæa's honour.
Nor will the Senate dare to grumble at it.
Though all were silent else, fierce Agrippina
Would in that act control thee, and think me
To meane for Cæsar’s wife, though I am sprung
(For I may speak a truth that Rome can witness)
From noble and triumphant Ancestors.
There, love, thou strik'st upon the truest string.
That Agrippina was my greatest fear,
Though now she is not; for I'll tell it thee,
If Anicetus stratagem have taken,
Ere this she wanders on the Stygian shore.
 Weary I was of her imperious pride,
And feared her cruel plots. How that succeeds
Is now my greatest expectation.
Nor do I live till Anicetus come
And bring my safety in that woman’s death.
See, Anicetus is returned.
What is my fate? Thou carry’st in thy voice
The life and death of Cæsar.
Was done, great Cæsar, but your mother scap'd.
Escap'd? How could it be, but you were false,
And all conspired together to betray
My life in saving hers? How could she ‘scape?
We chose the night to act it in; but night,
Proved not so black as night; the stars gave light,
No wind at all blew as we launched forth.
Down in the Galley Agrippina lay,
And at her feet lay Aceronia
With joy discoursing of your courtesy,
And favour lately showed her, but when I
The watch-word gave, the covering of the place
Loaded with lead fell down, and pressed to death
Her servant Gallus. But when th'other part
By fortune stronger, broke not, nor the vessel
 Was loosed asunder, all being in amaze
The rowers straight 'way thought it best to weigh,
The galley at one side, and sink her so
There Aceronia floating in the waves
Faining herself to be the Empress, cried
Help, help the Prince’s mother. But the rowers
With poles, and oars straight killed her as she swam.
But Agrippina in a silence caused
By policy or fear, swam to the bank,
Having received but one wound, and there
Succoured by little barks, through Lucrine lake
To her own house was carried at the last.
Oh, I am lost and dead, I shall be straight
Surprised and killed; she’ll arm her slaves, and stir
The soldiers up, or to the Senate house
Complain, and show the wound she has received
And tell the story there. What shall I do?
Advise me, my Poppæa, Anicetus,
But yet advise me nothing but her death,
No other course is safe, Nero must die
If Agrippina live. Call Burrhus to me.
Send forth the soldiers to dispatch her straight.
It is no action for a soldiers hand
Nor will the camp for brave Germanicus,
Her father's sake, be drawn to butcher her;
 Let Anicetus finish the exploit
He has begun.
It must be so; go on
With thy religious act, good Anicetus.
Thou art obliged to finish it, or else
What thou hast done already, will procure
My ruin rather than security;
Choose thee what aid thou wilt.
I have them ready.
Fear it not Cæsar, Agrippina’s dead.
Oh comfortable voice thou art, the man
Thou only Anicetus, that bestow'st
The Empire upon Nero. To thy gift
I will acknowledge it, and celebrate
This as my day of coronation.
What plot shall we invent to hide the deed,
And put th'intent of murder upon her?
To bring you news of her escape, I'll find
A way to do’t, 'tis strange none yet come from her.
See Agerinus comes.
All health to Cæsar
Augusta by the favour of the Gods
Has lately scap'd a strange and wonderful
Danger at Sea.
Cæsar when any of her servants come,
 What means this poniard?
Anicetus lets fall a ponyard behind Agerinus.
In Cæsar’s presence, Agerinus?
She sends to murder me. Drag hence the slave,
And torture him to death.
I am as free
From guilt in this as innocence itself.
Hence with the villain to his death, and thou
Dear Anicetus, forward with thy plot.
Agrippina, brought in by Seleucus, she sits.
Leave me alone; but be not far from me.
Who would rely upon the gratitude
Of men? Or trust the fruit of benefits,
That now behold, or shall hereafter read
My woeful fortune? I, that have bestowed
What ere the world contains, to be possesed
By impious Nero, in reward, expect
Nothing but bloody death. 'Twas too too true
That strange deceitful galley was a plot
An impious engine made to murder me,
As by the fierceness of the slaves, my wound,
And Aceroniaes death it did appear.
Can I expect that Nero should relent?
Or that the tyrant in a brothers blood
Imbrued already, should not rather think
No mischief can be safe till fully done?
 Oh had his thoughts ben good, had my escape
Ben grateful to him, all the house ere this
With visitants, and clients had ben filled
To ask and see how Cæsar’s mother did
Where now are all the hails, the bended knees,
Low prostrate faces, and officious tongues,
That strove in honouring Agrippina’s name?
Vanished alas, and nought but solitude,
Ill-boding silence, and neglect remain
In this forsaken Palace. But too soon
Ay me, I fear the approach of villainy.
What noise is that at door! Where are my servants?
Mnester, Seleucus, Galla, Xenophon.
No answer made! Are they departed too!
Then vanish all my hopes, false world farewell
With all thy fading glories. But alas,
Whither from hence shall Agrippina fly?
What regions are there in the other world
But my injustice has already filled
With wronged Ghosts? There young Silanus wanders,
Lollia Paullina and great Claudius
My murdered Lord, yet those sad spirits perchance
Abhorring Nero's base ingratitude,
And glutted with revenge, will cease to hate
At last, and pity Agrippina's state.
Enter Anicetus, Oloaritus, and others.
 Ay me, is Anicetus, come again?
Then I am dead past hope, murder, help, help.
You guess our business right, but 'tis in vain
To call for help, your guards are far enough.
Oh hold your hands a while; hear me but speak
Consider with yourselves before you act
A deed so execrable as will stick
A lasting brand on your abhorred names.
This murder will be famous through the world.
All men will fly your hated company.
Like birds of night shall you for ever hide
Your guilty heads. Or, which is worse then that,
Nero himself, who did command the deed,
(As you pretend) shall guerdon you with death,
And quit himself by punishing of you.
O rather venture Nero’s frown, and keep
Can they be innocent,
That disobey their Prince’s will?
You did mistake the Prince. I am his mother.
‘Twas I that gave him birth; nay more, that put
Into his hand the sceptre of the world.
Could he command my death?
We did not stand
 Examining the cause.
Then strike this womb
This tragical, and ever cursed womb,
That to the ruin of mankind brought forth
That monster Nero, here, here take revenge.
Here Justice bids you strike. Let these sad wounds
Serve to appease the hatred of the earth
'Gainst Agrippina for dire Nero's birth.