Music. Enter Hymen with a torch burning; a boy in
a white robe before, singing and strewing flowers;
after Hymen, a nymph, encompassed in her tresses,
bearing a wheaten garland; then Theseus between two
other nymphs with wheaten chaplets on their heads;
then Hippolyta the bride, led by Pirithous, and another
holding a garland over her head, her tresses likewise
hanging; after her, Emilia holding up her train;
then Artesius and attendants
Roses, their sharp spines being gone,
Not royal in their smells alone,
But in their hue,
Maiden pinks, of odour faint,
Daisies smell-less, yet most quaint,
And sweet thyme true,
Primrose, first-born child of Ver,
[personification of] spring, springtime
Merry springtime's harbinger,
With harebells dim,
Oxlips, in their cradles growing,
Marigolds, on death-beds blowing,
All dear Nature's children sweet,
Lie 'fore bride and bridegroom's feet,
Blessing their sense.
He strews flowers
Not an angel of the air,
Bird melodious or bird fair,
Is absent hence;
The crow, the slanderous cuckoo, nor
The boding raven, nor chough hoar,
Nor chattering pie,
May on our bridehouse perch or sing,
Or with them any discord bring,
But from it fly.
Enter three Queens in black, with veils stained, with
imperial crowns. The First Queen falls down at the
foot of Theseus; the Second falls down at the foot of
Hippolyta; the Third before Emilia
For pity's sake and true gentility's,
Hear and respect me!
For your mother's sake,
And as you wish your womb may thrive with fair ones,
Hear and respect me!
Now for the love of him whom Jove hath marked
The honour of your bed, and for the sake
Of clear virginity, be advocate
For us and our distresses! This good deed
Shall raze you out o'th' book of trespasses
All you are set down there
Sad lady, rise.
No knees to me.
What woman I may stead that is distressed
Does bind me to her.
What's your request? Deliver you for all.
We are three queens, whose sovereigns fell before
The wrath of cruel Creon; who endured
The beaks of ravens, talons of the kites,
And pecks of crows in the foul fields of Thebes.
He will not suffer us to burn their bones,
To urn their ashes, nor to take th' offence
Of mortal loathsomeness from the blest eye
Of holy Phoebus, but infects the winds
With stench of our slain lords. O, pity, Duke!
Thou purger of the earth, draw thy feared sword
That does good turns to th' world; give us the bones
Of our dead kings, that we may chapel them;
And of thy boundless goodness take some note
That for our crowned heads we have no roof,
Save this which is the lion's and the bear's,
And vault to everything.
Pray you kneel not;
I was transported with your speech, and suffered
Your knees to wrong themselves. I have heard the fortunes
Of your dead lords, which gives me such lamenting
As wakes my vengeance and revenge for 'em.
King Capaneus was your lord; the day
That he should marry you, at such a season
As now it is with me, I met your groom.
By Mars's altar, you were that time fair;
Not Juno's mantle fairer then your tresses,
Nor in more bounty spread her; your wheaten wreath
Was then nor threshed nor blasted; Fortune at you
Dimpled her cheeks with smiles. Hercules our kinsman –
Then weaker than your eyes – laid by his club;
He tumbled down upon his Nemean hide
And swore his sinews thawed. O grief and time,
Fearful consumers, you will all devour!
O, I hope some god,
Some god hath put his mercy in your manhood,
Whereto he'll infuse power, and press you forth
O, no knees, none, widow;
Unto the helmeted Bellona use them,
And pray for me, your soldier; troubled I am.
He turns away
Most dreaded Amazonian, that hast slain
The scythe-tusked boar, that with thy arm as strong
As it is white wast near to make the male
To thy sex captive, but that this thy lord,
Born to uphold creation in that honour
First Nature styled it in, shrunk thee into
The bound thou wast o'erflowing, at once subduing
Thy force and thy affection; soldieress,
That equally canst poise sternness with pity,
Whom now I know hast much more power on him
Then ever he had on thee, who owest his strength
And his love too, who is a servant for
The tenor of thy speech; dear glass of ladies,
Bid him that we whom flaming war doth scorch
Under the shadow of his sword may cool us;
Require him he advance it o'er our heads;
Speak't in a woman's key, like such a woman
As any of us three; weep ere you fail.
Lend us a knee;
But touch the ground for us no longer time
Then a dove's motion when the head's plucked off;
Tell him, if he i'th' blood-sized field lay swollen,
Showing the sun his teeth, grinning at the moon,
What you would do.
Poor lady, say no more;
I had as lief trace this good action with you
As that whereto I am going, and never yet
Went I so willing way. My lord is taken
Heart-deep with your distress; let him consider.
I'll speak anon.
O, my petition was
Set down in ice, which by hot grief uncandied
Melts into drops; so sorrow wanting form
Is pressed with deeper matter.
Pray stand up;
Your grief is written in your cheek.
You cannot read it there; there through my tears,
Like wrinkled pebbles in a glassy stream,
You may behold 'em. Lady, lady, alack,
He that will all the treasure know o'th' earth
Must know the centre too; he that will fish
For my least minnow, let him lead his line
To catch one at my heart. O, pardon me!
Extremity that sharpens sundry wits
wits, also five wits
faculties of the mind (common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation, memory) or body (the five senses)
Makes me a fool.
Pray you say nothing, pray you;
Who cannot feel nor see the rain, being in't,
Knows neither wet nor dry. If that you were
The ground-piece of some painter, I would buy you
T' instruct me 'gainst a capital grief, indeed
Such heart-pierced demonstration; but alas,
Being a natural sister of our sex,
Your sorrow beats so ardently upon me
That it shall make a counter-reflect 'gainst
My brother's heart, and warm it to some pity
Though it were made of stone. Pray have good comfort.
Forward to th' temple! Leave not out a jot
O'th' sacred ceremony.
O, this celebration
Will longer last and be more costly than
Your suppliants' war. Remember that your fame
Knolls in the ear o'th' world; what you do quickly
Is not done rashly; your first thought is more
Than others' laboured meditance, your premeditating
More than their actions. But O Jove, your actions,
Soon as they move, as ospreys do the fish,
Subdue before they touch. Think, dear Duke, think
What beds our slain kings have.
What griefs our beds,
That our dear lords have none.
None fit for th' dead.
Those that with cords, knives, drams, precipitance,
Weary of this world's light, have to themselves
Been death's most horrid agents, human grace
Affords them dust and shadow.
But our lords
Lie blistering 'fore the visiting sun,
And were good kings when living.
It is true,
And I will give you comfort,
To give your dead lords graves; the which to do
Must make some work with Creon.
And that work
Presents itself to th' doing.
Now 'twill take form; the heats are gone tomorrow.
Then, bootless toil must recompense itself
With its own sweat; now, he's secure,
Not dreams we stand before your puissance,
Rinsing our holy begging in our eyes
To make petition clear.
Now you may take him,
Drunk with his victory.
And his army full
Of bread and sloth.
Artesius, that best knowest
How to draw out fit to this enterprise
The primest for this proceeding, and the number
To carry such a business, forth and levy
Our worthiest instruments, whilst we dispatch
This grand act of our life, this daring deed
Of fate in wedlock.
Dowagers, take hands.
Let us be widows to our woes; delay
Commends us to a famishing hope.
We come unseasonably; but when could grief
Cull forth, as unpanged judgement can, fittest time
For best solicitation?
Why, good ladies,
This is a service, whereto I am going,
Greater than any war; it more imports me
Than all the actions that I have foregone
Or futurely can cope.
The more proclaiming
Our suit shall be neglected, when her arms,
Able to lock Jove from a synod, shall
By warranting moonlight corslet thee; O, when
hold tightly, embrace [like a corslet = defensive armour]
Her twinning cherries shall their sweetness fall
Upon thy tasteful lips, what wilt thou think
Of rotten kings or blubbered queens, what care
For what thou feelest not, what thou feelest being able
To make Mars spurn his drum? O, if thou couch
But one night with her, every hour in't will
Take hostage of thee for a hundred, and
Thou shalt remember nothing more than what
That banquet bids thee too.
Though much unlike
You should be so transported, as much sorry
I should be such a suitor; yet I think
Did I not by th' abstaining of my joy,
Which breeds a deeper longing, cure their surfeit
That craves a present medicine, I should pluck
All ladies' scandal on me. Therefore, sir,
As I shall here make trial of my prayers,
Either presuming them to have some force
Or sentencing for aye their vigour dumb,
Prorogue this business we are going about, and hang
Your shield afore your heart, about that neck
Which is my fee, and which I freely lend
To do these poor queens service.
O, help now!
Our cause cries for your knee.
If you grant not
My sister her petition in that force,
With that celerity and nature which
She makes it in, from henceforth I'll not dare
To ask you anything, nor be so hardy
Ever to take a husband.
Pray stand up.
I am entreating of myself to do
That which you kneel to have me.
All the ladies rise
Lead on the bride; get you and pray the gods
For success and return; omit not anything
In the pretended celebration. Queens,
Follow your soldier. (To Artesius) As before, hence you,
And at the banks of Aulis meet us with
The forces you can raise, where we shall find
The moiety of a number for a business
More bigger-looked. (To Hippolyta) Since that our theme is haste,
I stamp this kiss upon thy current lip;
(he kisses her)
Sweet, keep it as my token. – Set you forward,
For I will see you gone.
The marriage procession moves towards the temple
Farewell, my beauteous sister. Pirithous,
Keep the feast full, bate not an hour on't.
I'll follow you at heels; the feast's solemnity
Shall want till your return.
Cousin, I charge you,
Budge not from Athens. We shall be returning
Ere you can end this feast, of which I pray you
Make no abatement. Once more, farewell all.
The procession goes out
Thus dost thou still make good the tongue o'th' world.
And earn'st a deity equal with Mars.
If not above him, for
Thou being but mortal makest affections bend
To godlike honours; they themselves, some say,
Groan under such a mastery.
As we are men,
Thus should we do; being sensually subdued,
We lose our human title. Good cheer, ladies;
Now turn we towards your comforts.