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Whilst King GORBODUC in the presence of his councillors

laments the death of his eldest son, FERREX, whom PORREX, the younger son, has slain; MARCELLA, a court lady, enters and relates the miserable end of PORREX, stabbed by his mother in his bed.


Gorb. What cruel destiny,

What froward fate hath sorted us this chance?
That even in those where we should comfort find,
Where our delight now in our aged days
Should rest and be, even there our only grief
And deepest sorrows to abridge our life,
Most pining cares and deadly thoughts do grow.
Arost. Your grace should now, in these grave
years of yours,

Have found ere this the price of mortal joys,
How short they be, how fading here on earth,
How full of change, how brittle our estate,
Of nothing sure, save only of the death,
To whom both man and all the world doth owe


Their end at last; neither should nature's power
In other sort against your heart prevail,
Than as the naked hand whose stroke assays
The armed breast where force doth light in vain.

Gorb. Many can yield right grave and sage advice
Of patient sprite to others wrapt in woe,
And can in speech both rule and conquer kind,*
Who, if by proof they might feel nature's force,
Would shew themselves men as they are indeed,
Which now will needs be gods: but what doth mean
The sorry cheer of her that here doth come?


MARCELLA enters.

Marc. Oh where is ruth? or where is pity now?
Whither is gentle heart and mercy fled?
Are they exil'd out of our stony breasts,
Never to make return? is all the world
Drowned in blood, and sunk in cruelty?
If not in women mercy may be found,
If not (alas) within the mother's breast
To her own child, to her own flesh and blood;
If ruth be banished thence, if pity there
May have no place, if there no gentle heart
Do live and dwell, where should we seek it then?
Gorb. Madam (alas) what means your woful tale?
Marc. O silly woman I, why to this hour
Have kind and fortune thus deferr'd my breath,
That I should live to see this doleful day?
Will ever wight believe that such hard heart
Could rest within the cruel mother's breast,
With her own hand to slay her only son?
But out (alas) these eyes beheld the same,
They saw the dreary sight, and are become
Most ruthful records of the bloody fact.
Porrex, alas, is by his mother slain,
And with her hand, a woful thing to tell,
While slumb'ring on his careful bed he rests,
His heart stabb'd in with knife is reft of life.



Gorb. O Eubulus, oh draw this sword of ours,
And pierce this heart with speed. O hateful light,
O loathsome life, O sweet and welcome death.
Dear Eubulus, work this we thee beseech.



Patient your grace, perhaps he liveth yet,

*Nature; natural affection.

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With wound receiv'd but not of certain death.
Gorb. O let us then repair unto the place,
And see if Porrex live, or thus be slain.

Marc. Alas, he liveth not, it is too true,
That with these eyes, of him a peerless prince,
Son to a king, and in the flower of youth,
Even with a twink* a senseless stock I saw.
Arost. O damned deed!


If not his princely cheer and countenance,
His valiant active arms, his manly breast,

* Twinkling of the eye.


But hear his ruthful end.

The noble prince, pierced with the sudden wound, 10
Out of his wretched slumber hastely start,+
Whose strength now failing, straight he overthrew,
When in the fall his eyes ev'n now unclosed,
Beheld the queen, and cried to her for help;
We then, alas, the ladies which that time
Did there attend, seeing that heinous deed,
And hearing him oft call the wretched name
Of mother, and to cry to her for aid,
Whose direful hand gave him the mortal wound,
Pitying, alas, (for nought else could we do)
His rueful end, ran to the woful bed,
Despoiled straight his breast, and all we might
Wiped in vain with napkins next at hand
The sudden streams of blood, that flushed fast
Out of the gaping wound. O what a look,
O what a ruthful steadfast eye methought
He fixt upon my face, which to my death
Will never part from me, when with a braid
A deep fetch'd sigh he gave, and therewithal
Clasping his hands, to heaven he cast his sight; 30
And straight, pale death pressing within his face,
The flying ghost his mortal corpse forsook.

Arost. Never did age bring forth so vile a fact.
Marc. O hard and cruel hap that thus assign'd
Unto so worthy wight so wretched end :
But most hard cruel heart, that could consent
To lend the hateful destinies that hand,
By which, alas, so heinous crime was wrought.
O queen of adamant, O marble breast,
If not the favour of his comely face,

† Started.



If not his fair and seemly personage;

His noble limbs, in such proportion cast,
As would have rapt a silly woman's thought;
If this might not have mov'd thy bloody heart,
And that most cruel hand the wretched weapon
E'en to let fall, and kissed him in the face,
With tears for ruth to reave such one by death;
Should nature yet consent to slay her son?
O mother, thou to murder thus thy child!
E'en Jove with justice must with light'ning flames
From heaven send down some strange revenge on thee.
Ah noble prince, how oft have I beheld

Thee mounted on thy fierce and trampling steed,
Shining in armour bright before the tilt,
And with thy mistress' sleeve tied on thy helm,
And charge thy staff, to please thy lady's eye,
That bow'd the head piece of thy friendly foe!
How oft in arms on horse to bend the mace,
How oft in arms on foot to break the sword,
Which never now these eyes may see again.


Arost. Madam, alas, in vain these plaints are shed.
Rather with me depart, and help to assuage
The thoughtful griefs, that in the aged king
Must needs by nature grow, by death of this
His only son, whom he did hold so dear.

Marc. What wight is that which saw that I did


And could refrain to wail with plaint and tears?
Not I, alas, that heart is not in me;
But let us go, for I am griev'd anew,


To call to mind the wretched father's woe. [Exeunt.
Chorus of aged men. When greedy lust in royal
seat to reign

Hath reft all care of gods and eke of men ;
And cruel heart, wrath, treason, and disdain,
Within th' ambitious breast are lodged, then
Behold how mischief wide herself displays,
And with the brother's hand the brother slays.

When blood thus shed doth stain the heaven's face,
Crying to Jove for vengeance of the deed,
The mighty God e'en moveth from his place
With wrath to wreak; then sends he forth with speed
The dreadful Furies, daughters of the night,


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With serpents girt, carrying the whip of ire,
With hair of stinging snakes, and shining bright
With flames and blood, and with a brand of fire:
These, for revenge of wretched murder done,
Doth cause the mother kill her only son.

Blood asketh blood, and death must death requit ;
Jove by his just and everlasting doom
Justly hath ever so requited it.

This times before record, and times to come
Shall find it true, and so doth present proof
Present before our eyes for our behoof.

O happy wight that suffers not the snare
Of murderous mind to tangle him in blood:
And happy he that can in time beware
By others' harms, and turn it to his good:
But woe to him that fearing not to offend,
Doth serve his lust, and will not see the end.

II. (G.)



[The style of this old play is stiff and cumbersome, like the dresses of its times. There may be flesh and blood underneath, but we cannot get at it. Sir Philip Sydney has praised it for its morality. One of its authors might easily furnish that. Norton was an associate to Hopkins, Sternhold, and Robert Wisdom, in the Singing Psalms. I am willing to believe that Lord Buckhurst supplied the more vital parts. The chief beauty in the extract is of a secret nature. Marcella obscurely intimates that the murdered prince Porrex and she had been lovers.]


A Messenger brings to GISMUND a cup from the King her Father, enclosing the heart of her Lord, whom she had espoused without his sanction.

Mess. Thy father, O queen, here in this cup hath sent


The thing to joy and comfort thee withal,
Which thou lovedst best: ev'n as thou wast content
To comfort him with his best joy of all.

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