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What is done wisely, is done well. Be bold
As thou art just. 'T is like a truant child
To fear that others know what thou hast done,
Even from thine own strong consciousness, and thus
Write on unsteady eyes and alter'd cheeks
All thou wouldst hide. Be faithful to thyself,
And fear no other witness but thy fear.
For if, as cannot be, some circumstance
Should rise in accusation, we can blind
Suspicion with such cheap astonishment,
Or overbear it with such guiltless pride,
As murderers cannot feign. The deed is done,
And what may follow now regards not me.
I am as universal as the light;

Free as the earth-surrounding air; as firm
As the world's centre. Consequence, to me,
Is as the wind which strikes the solid rock
But shakes it not.

[A cry within and tumult.

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Guilty! Who dares talk of guilt?

I am more innocent of parricide

My Lord,

Than is a child born fatherless-Dear Mother,
Your gentleness and patience are no shield
For this keen-judging world, this two-edged lie,
Which seems, but is not. What! will human laws,
Rather will
ye who are their ministers,

Bar all access to retribution first,

And then, when Heaven doth interpose to do
ye neglect, arming familiar things
To the redress of an unwonted crime,
Make ye the victims who demanded it

Culprits? 'T is ye are culprits! That poor wretch
Who stands so pale, and trembling, and amazed,
If it be true he murder'd Cenci, was

A sword in the right hand of justest God.
Wherefore should I have wielded it? unless

The crimes which mortal tongue dare never name,
God therefore scruples to avenge.


You own

That you desired his death?


It would have been A crime no less than his, if for one moment That fierce desire had faded in my heart. "T is true I did believe, and hope, and pray, Aye, I even knew-for God is wise and just, That some strange sudden death hung over him. "T is true that this did happen, and most true There was no other rest for me on earth, No other hope in Heaven-now what of this?


Strange thoughts beget strange deeds; and here are both I judge thee not.


And yet, if you arrest me, You are the judge and executioner

Of that which is the life of life: the breath
Of accusation kills an innocent name,
And leaves for lame acquittal the poor life,
Which is a mask without it. T is most false
That I am guilty of foul parricide;
Although I must rejoice, for justest cause,
That other hands have sent my father's soul
To ask the mercy he denied to me.
Now leave us free: stain not a noble house
With vague surmises of rejected crime;
Add to our sufferings and your own neglect
No heavier sum; let them have been enough:
Leave us the wreck we have.


I dare not, Lady.

I pray that you prepare yourselves for Rome: There the Pope's further pleasure will be known.


O, not to Rome! O, take us not to Rome!


Why not to Rome, dear mother? There, as here,
Our innocence is as an armed heel

To trample accusation. God is there
As here, and with his shadow ever clothes
The innocent, the injured, and the weak;
And such are we. Cheer up, dear Lady, lean

On me; collect your wandering thoughts. My Lord,
As soon as you have taken some refreshment,
And had all such examinations made

Upon the spot, as may be necessary

To the full understanding of this matter,
We shall be ready. Mother; will you come?

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She knows not yet the uses of the world.
She fears that power is as a beast which grasps
And loosens not: a snake whose look transmutes
All things to guilt which is its nutriment.
She cannot know how well the supine slaves
Of blind authority read the truth of things
When written on a brow of guilelessness:
She sees not yet triumphant Innocence
Stand at the judgment-seat of mortal man,
A judge and an accuser of the wrong
Which drags it there. Prepare yourself, My Lord;
Our suite will join yours in the court below.


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Whilst we for basest ends-I fear, Orsino,
While I consider all your words and looks,
Comparing them with your proposal now,
That you must be a villain. For what end
Could you engage in such a perilous crime,
Training me on with hints, and signs, and smiles,
Even to this gulf? Thou art no liar; No,
Thou art a lie! traitor and murderer!
Coward and slave! But, no-defend thyself; [Drawing.
Let the sword speak what the indignant tongue
Disdains to brand thee with.


Put up your weapon.

Is it the desperation of your fear
Makes thus rash and sudden with your friend,
Now ruin'd for your sake? If honest anger
Have moved you, know, that what I just proposed
Was but to try you. As for me, I think,
Thankless affection led me to this point,
From which, if my firm temper could repent,

I cannot now recede. Even whilst we speak

The ministers of justice wait below:

They grant me these brief moments. Now, if you
Have any word of melancholy comfort

To speak to your pale wife, 't were best to pass
Out at the postern, and avoid them so.


Oh, generous friend! How canst thou pardon me? Would that my life could purchase thine!


That wish

Now comes a day too late. Haste; fare thee well! Hear'st thou not steps along the corridor?


I'm sorry for it; but the guards are waiting
At his own gate, and such was my contrivance
That I might rid me both of him and them.
I thought to act a solemn comedy
Upon the painted scene of this new world,
And to attain my own peculiar ends

By some such plot of mingled good and ill
As others weave; but there arose a Power
Which grasp'd and snapp'd the threads of my device,
And turn'd it to a net of ruin-Ha!

[A shout is heard.

Is that my name I hear proclaim'd abroad?
But I will pass, wrapt in a vile disguise;
Rags on my back, and a false innocence
Upon my face, through the misdeeming crowd
Which judges by what seems. "T is easy then
For a new name and for a country new,
And a new life, fashion'd on old desires,
To change the honours of abandon'd Rome.
And these must be the masks of that within,
Which must remain unalter'd.--Oh, I fear
That what is pass'd will never let me rest!
Why, when none else is conscious, but myself,
Of my misdeeds, should my own heart's contempt
Trouble me? Have I not the power to fly

My own reproaches? Shall I be the slave
Of-what? A word? which those of this false world
Employ against each other, not themselves;

As men wear daggers not for self-offence.

But if I am mistaken, where shall I
Find the disguise to hide me from myself,
As now I skulk from every other eye?



A Hall of Justice.


Poor wretch! I pity thee: yet stay awhile.


CAMILLO, JUDGES, etc., are discovered seated; MARZIO is Guards, lead him not away.

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Cardinal Camillo,

You have a good repute for gentleness
And wisdom: can it be that you sit here

To countenance a wicked farce like this?

When some obscure, and trembling slave is dragg'd From sufferings which might shake the sternest heart, And bade to answer, not as he believes,

But as those may suspect or do desire,

Whose questions thence suggest their own reply:
And that in peril of such hideous torments


As merciful God spares even the damn'd. Speak now
The thing you surely know, which is that
If your fine frame were stretch'd upon that wheel,
And you were told, Confess that you did poison
Your little nephew: that fair blue-eyed child
Who was the load-star of your life; and though
All see, since his most swift and piteous death,

That day and night, and heaven and earth, and time,
And all the things hoped for or done therein
Are changed to you, through your exceeding grief,
Yet you would say, I confess any thing-

And beg from your tormentors, like that slave,
The refuge of dishonourable death.

I pray thee, Cardinal, that thou assert
My innocence.

CAMILLO (much moved).

What shall we think, my lords?

Shame on these tears! I thought the heart was frozen I would pledge my soul

Which is their fountain.

That she is guiltless.

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Oh, dart

And who art thou, thus chosen forth Out of the multitude of living men

The terrible resentment of those

To kill the innocent?


On the dread earth! Turn them away from me!

They wound: 't was torture forced the truth. My Lords, Having said this, let me be led to death.


I am Marzio,

Thy father's vassal.

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My Lords, if by my nature I had been

So stern, as to have plann'd the crime alleged,
Which your suspicions dictate to this slave,
And the rack makes him utter, do you
I should have left this two-edged instrument
my misdeed; this man, this bloody knife
With my own name engraven on the heft,
Lying unsheathed amid a world of foes,

For my own death? That with such horrible need

For deepest silence, I should have neglected
So trivial a precaution, as the making
His tomb the keeper of a secret written

On a thief's memory? What is his poor life?
What are a thousand lives? A parricide
Had trampled them like dust; and see, he lives!
[Turning to MARZIO.
And thou-


Oh, spare me! Speak to me no more! That stern yet piteous look, those solemn tones, Wound worse than torture.

(To the Judges.) I have told it all; For pity's sake lead me away to death.


Guards, lead him nearer the lady Beatrice :
He shrinks from her regard like autumn's leaf
From the keen breath of the serenest north.


Oh, thou who tremblest on the giddy verge
Of life and death, pause ere thou answerest me;
So mayest thou answer God with less dismay:
What evil have we done thee? I, alas!
Have lived but on this earth a few sad years,
And so my lot was order'd that a father
First turn'd the moments of awakening life

To drops, each poisoning youth's sweet hope; and then
Stabb'd with one blow my everlasting soul;
And my untainted fame; and even that peace
Which sleeps within the core of the heart's heart,
But the wound was not mortal; so my hate
Became the only worship I could lift
To our great Father, who in pity and love,
Armed thee, as thou dost say, to cut him off;
And thus his wrong becomes my accusation:
And art thou the accuser? If thou hopest
Mercy in heaven, show justice upon earth:
Worse than a bloody hand is a hard heart.
If thou hast done murders, made thy life's path

Over the trampled laws of God and man,
Rush not before thy Judge, and say: « My Maker,
I have done this and more; for there was one
Who was most pure and innocent on earth;
And because she endured what never any
Guilty or innocent endured before:

Because her wrongs could not be told, not thought;
Because thy hand at length did rescue her;

I with my words kill'd her and all her kin.-
Think, I adjure you, what it is to slay
The reverence living in the minds of men
Towards our ancient house, and stainless fame!
Think what it is to strangle infant pity,
Cradled in the belief of guileless looks,
Till it become a crime to suffer. Think
What 't is to blot with infamy and blood
All that which shows like innocence, and is,
Hear me, great God! I swear, most innocent,
So that the world lose all discrimination
Between the sly, fierce, wild regard of guilt,
And that which now compels thee to reply
To what I ask: Am I, or am I not
A parricide?

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