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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Spagnoletto - Act 5
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The Spagnoletto - Act 5 Post by :winwayne Category :Plays Author :Emma Lazarus Date :May 2012 Read :3506

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The Spagnoletto - Act 5



(A Room in DON TOMMASO'S House. ANNICCA discovered, attired in mourning. Enter DON TOMMASO.)

If he still live, now shall we hear of him.
The news I learn will lure him from his covert,
Where'er it lie, to pardon or avenge.

ANNICCA (eagerly).
What news? What cheer, Tommaso?

Meagre cheer,
But tidings that break through our slow suspense,
Like the first thunder-clap in sultry air.
Don John sets sail from Sicily, to wed
A Princess chosen by the King. Maria--

Talk not of her--I know her not; her name
Will sear thy tongue. Think'st thou, in truth this news
Will draw my father from his hiding-place?
No--teach me not to hope. Within my heart
A sure voice tells me he is dead. Not his
The spirit to drag out a shameful life,
To shrink from honest eyes, to sink his brow
Unto the dust, here where he wore his crown.
Thou knowest him. Have I not cause to mourn
Uncomforted, that he, the first of fathers,
Self-murdered--nay, child-murdered--Oh, Tommaso,
I would fare barefoot to the ends of the earth
To look again upon his living face,
See in his eyes the light of love restored--
Not blasting me with lightnings as before--
To kneel to him, to solace him, to win
For mine own head, yoked in my sister's curse
The blessing he refused me.

Well, take comfort;
This grace may yet be thine.



(Palermo. A Nunnery. Enter ABBESS, followed by a Lay-Sister.)

Is the poor creature roused?

Nay, she still sleeps.
'T would break your pious heart to see her, mother.
She begged our meanest cell, though 't is past doubt
She has been bred to delicate luxury.
I deemed her spent, had not the soft breast heaved
As gently as a babe's and even in dreams
Two crystal drops oozed from her swollen lids,
And trickled down her cheeks. Her grief sleeps not,
Although the fragile body craves its rest.

Poor child! I fear she hath sore need of prayer.
Hath she yet spoken?

Only such scant words
Of thanks or answer as our proffered service
Or questionings demand. When we are silent,
Even if she wake, she seemeth unaware
Of any presence. She will sit and wail,
Rocking upon the ground, with dull, wide eyes,
Wherefrom the streaming tears unceasing course;
The only sound that then escapes her lips
Is, "Father, Father!" in such piteous strain
As though her rent heart bled to utter it.

Still she abides then by her first request
To take the black veil and its vows to-morrow?

Yea, to that purpose desperately she clings.
This evening, if she rouse, she makes confession.
Even now a holy friar waits without,
Fra Bruno, of the order of Carthusians,
Beyond Palermo.

I will speak with him,
Ere he confess her, since we know him not.
Follow me, child, and see if she have waked.



(A Cell in the Nunnery. MARIA discovered asleep on a straw pallet. She starts suddenly from her sleep with a little cry, half rises and remains seated on her pallet.)

Oh, that wild dream! My weary bones still ache
With the fierce pain; they wrenched me limb from limb.
Thou hadst full cause, my father. But thou, Juan,
What was my sin to thee, save too much love?
Oh, would to God my back were crooked with age,
My smooth cheek seamed with wrinkles, my bright hair
Hoary with years, and my quick blood impeded
By sluggish torpor, so were I near the end
Of woes that seem eternal! I am strong--
Death will not rescue me. Within my veins
I feel the vigorous pulses of young life,
Refusing my release. My heart at times
Rebels against the habit of despair,
And, ere I am aware, has wandered back,
Among forbidden paths. What prayer, what penance,
Will shrive me clean before the sight of heaven?
My hands are black with parricide. Why else
Should his dead face arise three nights before me,
Bleached, ghastly, dripping as of one that's drowned,
To freeze my heart with horror? Christ, have mercy!

(She covers her face with her hands in an agony of despair.)

(Enter a MONK.)

May peace be in this place!

(MARIA shudders violently at the sound of his voice; looks up and sees the MONK with bent head, and hands partially extended, as one who invokes a blessing. She rises, falls at his feet, and takes the hem of his skirt between her hands, pressing it to he lips.)

Welcome, thrice welcome!
Bid me not rise, nor bless me with pure hands.
Ask not to see my face. Here let me lie,
Kissing the dust--a cast-away, a trait'ress,
A murderess, a parricide!

With all Hell's curses is the crime thou nam'st!
What devil moved thee? Who and whence art thou,
That wear'st the form of woman, though thou lack'st
The heart of the she-wolf? Who was thy parent,
What fiend of torture, that thine impious hands
Should quench the living source of thine own life?

Spare me! oh, spare me! Nay, my hands are clean.
He was the first, best, noblest among men.
I was his light, his soul, his breath of life.
These I withdrew from him, and made his days
A darkness. Yet, perchance he is not dead,
And blood and tears may wash away my guilt.
Oh, tell me there is hope, though it gleam far--
One solitary ray, one steadfast spark,
Beyond a million years of purgatory!
My burning soul thirsts for the dewy balm
Of comfortable grace. One word, one word,
Or ere I perish of despair!

What word?
The one wherewith thou bad'st thy father hope?
What though he be not dead? Is breathing life?
Hast thou not murdered him in spirit? dealt
The death-blow to his heart? Cheat not thy soul
With empty dreams--thy God hath judged ye guilty!

Have pity, father! Let me tell thee all.
Thou, cloistered, holy and austere, know'st not
My glittering temptations. My betrayer
Was of an angel's aspect. His were all gifts,
All grace, all seeming virtue. I was plunged,
Deaf, dumb, and blind, and hand-bound in the deep.
If a poor drowning creature craved thine aid,
Thou wouldst not spurn it. Such a one am I,
And all the waves roll over me. Wrest me from my doom!
Say not that I am lost!

I can but say
What the just Spirit prompts. Myself am naught
To pardon or condemn. The sin is sinned;
The fruit forbid is tasted, yea, and pressed
Of its last honeyed juices. Wilt thou now
Escape the after-bitterness with prayers,
Scourgings, and wringings of the hands? Shall these
Undo what has been done?--make whole the heart
Thy crime hath snapt in twain?--restore the wits
Thy sin hath scattered? No! Thy punishment
Is huge as thine offence. Death shall not help,
Neither shall pious life wash out the stain.
Living thou'rt doomed, and dead, thou shalt be lost,
Beyond salvation.

(springing to her feet).

Impious priest, thou liest!
God will have mercy--as my father would,
Could he but see me in mine agony!

(The MONK throws back his cowl and discovers himself as the SPAGNOLETTO. MARIA utters a piercing cry and throws herself speechless at his feet.)

Thou know'st me not. I am not what I was.
My outward shape remains unchanged; these eyes,
Now gloating on thine anguish, are the same
That wept to see a shadow cross thy brow;
These ears, that drink the music of thy groans,
Shrank from thy lightest sigh of melancholy.
Thou think'st to find the father in me still?
Thy parricidal hands have murdered him--
Thou shalt not find a man. I am the spirit
Of blind revenge--a brute, unswerving force.
What deemest thou hath bound me unto life?
Ambition, pleasure, or the sense of fear?
What, but the sure hope of this fierce, glad hour,
That I might track thee down to this--might see
Thy tortured body writhe beneath my feet,
And blast thy stricken spirit with my curse?

(in a crushed voice).

Have mercy! mercy!

Yes, I will have mercy--
The mercy of the tiger or the wolf,
Athirst for blood.

(terror-struck, rises upon her knees in an
attitude of supplication. RIBERA averts his face).

Oh, father, kill me not!
Turn not away--I am not changed for thee!
In God's name, look at me--thy child, thine own!
Spare me, oh, spare me, till I win of Heaven
Some sign of promise! I am lost forever
If I die now.

(looks at her in silence, then pushing her
from him laughs bitterly).

Nay, have no fear of me.
I would not do thee that much grace to ease thee
Of the gross burden of the flesh. Behold,
Thou shalt be cursed with weary length of days;
And when thou seek'st to purge thy guilty heart,
Thou shalt find there a sin no prayer may shrive--
The murder of thy father. To all dreams
That haunt thee of past anguish, shall be added
The vision of this horror!

(He draws from his girdle a dagger and stabs himself to the heart; he falls and dies, and MARIA flings herself, swooning upon his body.)

Emma Lazarus's Play: Spagnoletto

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