Racine

Berenice: Act III

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2018 All Rights Reserved

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Contents


Act III Scene I (Titus, Antiochus, Arsaces)

Titus So, prince, you are leaving? What reason might

demand your swift departure, or rather flight?

Prior to your going, would you hide from me?

Can it be you’d quit Rome as my enemy?

What will the court, I, Rome, the empire say?

But, as your friend, can I not make you stay?

What do you complain of? That, unwittingly,

among a crowd of kings you are lost to me?

While my father lived my heart was open to you:

and that was the only gift I had to give you;

yet now my hand gives freely, as my heart,

fleeing my kindness, you choose to depart.

Think you that, forgetful of the past, of late,

my sole concern is with my present state,

and that all my friends here, crowds indeed,

are so many strangers I no longer need?

You yourself, who seek to hide from view,

Prince, more than ever, I have need of you.

Antiochus I, my lord?

Titus You.

Antiochus What could you hope for now

from an unhappy prince, my lord, except his vow?

Titus Prince, I do not forget that my great victory

owes to your deeds the best part of its glory,

that Rome, among its captives without number,

saw many whom Antiochus’ chains encumber,

that on the Capitol she viewed, in fine array,

Judea’s spoils, your hands amassed that day.

I expect from you no blood-stained exploits,

I only ask to borrow, for a while, your voice.

I know that Berenice, indebted to your care,

believes herself to own true friendship there.

In Rome she sees, and listens to Antiochus,

you make one heart, and one soul, with us.

In the name of our friendship, true and fine

employ the power you have, as it were mine:

See her on my behalf.

Antiochus Appear to her eyes?

The queen has already heard my last goodbyes.

Titus Prince, for me now, you must speak to her anew.

Antiochus Oh, speak yourself, my lord! She adores you.

Why deprive yourself, at such a moment now,

of your pleasure in making her so fair a vow?

She awaits you lord, filled with impatience,

I answer, in leaving, for her true obedience;

She told me: let this marriage take its course.

You have only to see her, and she is yours.

Titus Oh, if so sweet a vow had power to please me!

How happy I would be if that were my duty!

My happiness waited on this day, to prosper,

and yet today, prince, I must abandon her.

Antiochus Abandon her, my lord? You?

Titus Such is my destiny.

There can be no marriage between her and me;

I flattered myself with that sweet hope in vain:

Tomorrow, she must leave with you again.

Antiochus What do I hear? O heaven!

Titus Pity my irksome power:

Master of the world, I rule hers, and the hour.

I can make kings, dispose of them in a day;

yet cannot dispose of the heart where I may.

Rome, always opposed to kings, disdains

to countenance a queenly beauty’s reign.

Descent from a hundred kings, her royalty,

tarnishes her in their eyes, dishonours me.

My heart, set free, without fear of blame,

might burn, at its will, in obscure flames;

Rome, with delight, would see me wed

to the least worthy beauty here, instead.

Even Julius yielded to opinion’s flow.

Tomorrow then, should the queen not go,

tomorrow she will hear the crowd, in fury,

demanding she leave at once, and openly.

To save my name from harm, her memory,

since we must yield, then let us yield nobly.

The absence for days of my voice and glance

may have foretold this sad news in advance.  

And even now, anxious, and concerned,

she waits for me to explain myself to her.

Of a forbidden love, go, ease the torment,

spare my heart the pain of enlightenment.

Go, explain to her my distress, my silence,

and let her allow me to evade her presence.

Be the sole witness of my tears and hers;

bear to her my farewells, hers rehearse;

let us both avoid a disastrous spectacle,

consuming all love left, in its debacle.

If the hope she lives and reigns in my heart

can sweeten the news that we must part,

swear to her Prince, that forever faithful,

grieving at heart, and in a deeper exile,

bearing to the tomb my lover’s name,

one long banishment will be my reign,

should heaven, in our parting of the ways,

afflict me also with such length of days.

Prince, by merely her friendship blessed,

do not abandon her, in her distress.

Let the Orient have you both in sight;

let this become a triumph, not a flight;

let such true friendship form eternal ties;

ensure my name is still before her eyes.

To ensure your lands adjoin each other,

the Euphrates of each will form the border.

I know the Senate, praising your name,

with united voice will confirm the same.

I will add Cilicia to your Commagene,

Farewell. Quit not my princess, my queen,

all that formed the true desire of my heart,

all I shall love, till my last sighs depart.

Exit Titus


Act III Scene II (Antiochus, Arsaces)

Arsaces Thus the gods prepare to grant you justice.

You will go, my lord, but with Berenice.

Far from taking her, they deliver her to you.

Antiochus Arsaces, grant me time to breathe. It is true,

that the change is great, my surprise extreme.

Titus trusts to my hands she of whom I dream!

Dare I believe, you gods, what I have heard?

And dare I rejoice, if I believe his words?

Arsaces As for myself, my lord, what must I believe?

What obstacle is here to make you grieve?

Did you deceive me, forsaking her eyes,

when, still moved by your last goodbyes,

having dared to tell her all, still trembling,

your heart spoke to me of its new daring?

You fled a marriage that so disturbed you.

That tie thwarted, what can perturb you?

Pursue sweet joy, to which love invites.

Antiochus Arsaces, you see me charged with her flight:

I’ll delight in meeting with her, many a time,

her very eyes will accustom themselves to mine,

and her heart perhaps perceive the difference

between Titus’ coldness and my perseverance.

Here, Titus overwhelms me with his grandeur,

in Rome, all are eclipsed by his splendour;

yet though the Orient preserves his memory,

Berenice will find there traces of my glory.

Arsaces Your prayers are answered by his decision.

Antiochus Oh, how we both delight in self-deception!

Arsaces What deception?

Antiochus Might I still please her then?

Might Berenice no longer reject my attentions?

Might Berenice ease my sadness by a word?

Think you, that amidst the pain she’s incurred,

with the whole world now indifferent to her,

she yet might let me shed some tears for her,

or humble herself enough to receive from me

the assistance she might think a loving duty?

Arsaces Who better than you to counter her disgrace?

Fortune, my lord, shows her its other face;

Titus abandons her,

Antiochus Alas! Such an alteration,

in me, can only lead, to more frustration,

seeing how deep her love is from her tears.

I’ll hear her sighs, I’ll pity her. It appears

that, as the fruits of love, my bitter duty

will be to harvest tears not shed for me.

Arsaces Why must your self-inflicted wounds prove endless?

Did every a brave heart show such feebleness?

Open your eyes, my lord, and let us muse

on the many reasons Berenice has to love you.

Since Titus no longer seeks to offer her his love,

think how essential marriage with you may prove.

Antiochus Essential?

Arsaces Grant her a few days to grieve,

let her tears run their course, and I believe

all will speak for you, anger, wish for vengeance,

Titus’ absence, passage of time, your presence;

three kingdoms her strength cannot rule alone,

your neighbouring lands striving to form one:

mutual interest, reason, friendship, bind you.

Antiochus You grant me life, Arsaces, I breathe anew:

I accept so sweet a prophecy with delight.

Why do we linger? Let us act as is right.

Let us go to Berenice, say, as commanded,

as if from Titus, how she is left abandoned…

Yet wait. What is this? Is it I then, Arsaces,

who am charged with causing her distress?

Be it love, honesty, my courage is eclipsed.

Must the tender Berenice hear from my lips

that he rejects her? Who would have dreamed

such words might ever be spoken, my queen?

Arsaces Her anger will fall on Titus, entirely,

my lord: you speak at his request only.

Antiochus No we’ll not see her. We’ll respect her grief;  

others will bear the news, such is my belief.

Is it not hard enough she must face whatever

scorn it is to which Titus now condemns her,

without the ill-fated source of her displeasure,

his only rival, here, to confirm the measure?

Once more, let us depart; not, with this news,

incur, ourselves, whatever hatred now ensues.

Arsaces Oh, she is here, my lord; decide your course.

Antiochus O heavens!


Act III Scene III (Berenice, Antiochus, Arsaces, Phenice)

Berenice What, you are not yet gone, my lord?

Antiochus Madame, I see your eyes play the deceiver,

and truly the one you search for is Caesar.

Yet blame only him if, despite my goodbyes,

it is my importunate presence fills your eyes.

Perhaps at this moment I would be at Ostia

if he had not decreed I must stay at court here.

Berenice He looks for you alone; he evades us always.

Antiochus To speak with you is why he demands I stay.

Berenice With me, Prince?

Antiochus Yes, Madame.

Berenice And what would he have you say?

Antiochus Words a thousand others might better relay.

Berenice What words, my lord?

Antiochus Spare me your resentment.

Others, at this time, far from remaining silent,

triumphant perhaps, and filled with confidence,

would yield with pleasure to your impatience,

but I, always trembling, I, as you well know,

to whom your peace is dearer than my own,

who your displeasure, rather, would prefer,

now fear your sorrow more than your anger.

Before the day’s end you will understand me.

Farewell, Madame.

Berenice O heavens! What words! Oh, remain beside me,

Prince, all too deeply I hide my pain from you.

You see before you a queen distraught, it’s true,

who, heart-stricken, simply requests a word.

You fear, you say, to harm my peace, disturb

my calm; yet your cruel refusal brings pain,

excites my grief, my anger, my disdain.

If to you my peace seems a precious prize,

if I myself were ever dear to your eyes,

ease the trouble in which you find my soul:

What did Titus tell you?

Antiochus Madame, let me go…

Berenice What! You fear so little to disobey me?

Antiochus I have but to speak, and you would hate me.

Berenice I wish you would speak.

Antiochus Heavens, such violence!

Madame, again, you should bless my silence.

Berenice Prince, answer my request, in full measure,

or be certain, henceforth, of my displeasure. 

Antiochus At this, Madame, I cannot keep it from you.

Now since you wish it I must tell you, true,

but be under no illusion; what I must utter

you, perhaps, have never dared to consider.

I know your heart: so now prepare to face

my wounding it in the most tender place.

Titus commanded me…

Berenice What?

Antiochus …that I should say,

that the two of you must part, today.

Berenice Part from each other? Titus from Berenice?

Antiochus Before you, I must at least do him justice.

All that love and despair could generate

in a heart sensitive and kind, I here relate

I found in him. He wept. You, he adores.

Yet, though he loves, what of Rome’s laws?

Rome is suspicious of a reigning queen.

You must part; tomorrow, leave unseen.

Berenice Must part! Alas, Phenice!

Phenice Now, you must show

your greatness of soul, Madame, this blow

is harsh, indeed; it must confound you now.

Berenice Titus abandons me, after so many vows!

He swore to me…this, no, I cannot believe.

He does not part from me, but from his glory.

He being innocent they seek to destroy me.

This net is spread to part us, Titus loves me.

Titus would never bring about my death.

Let me see him: I’ll speak to him, no less.

Come, let us go.

Antiochus What? You see me here, and yet…

Berenice You wished for it too much to feign regret.

No, I’ll not believe. But, whether it be true

or not, take care my eyes no longer see you.

(To Phenice)

Phenice, do not abandon me in this state.

Alas! I’ll endeavour to disbelieve my fate.

(Exit Berenice and Phenice)


Act III Scene IV (Antiochus, Arsaces)

Antiochus Do I deceive myself? Have I understood her?

That I should take care, I, never to see her?

I will take care. And would be gone this day,

If Titus, despite myself, had not said stay.

We must leave, Arsaces, let us be going.

She thinks me sad, her hatred is a blessing.

You have seen me anxious and distraught,

parting from her jealous, in love, fraught;

yet now, Arsaces, now she gives offence,

I part from her perhaps with indifference?

Arsaces Less than ever, my lord, should you go.

Antiochus I, to stay here, while she disdains me so?

Am I responsible for Titus’ coldness?

Am I to be punished who am guiltless?

What an injustice this, what indignity;

here I stand, and she doubts my sincerity!

She loves Titus, she said, and I betrayed her,

What ingratitude to scorn me as the traitor!

At such a time, when, fatally it appears,

I placed before her eyes my rival’s tears,

when, to console her, I made him seem,

loving and loyal, more than he is I mean.

Arsaces What pains you take, my lord, to harm yourself.

Grant this torrent the time to spend itself;

in eight days, in a month, the thing passes.

Only delay.

Antiochus No, I must leave now, Arsaces.

I know I would sympathise with her sorrow;

my peace, my glory, say: depart tomorrow.

Let us leave now, far off evade her cruelty,

and, for a while, say naught of her to me.

However enough of the day still remains:

I’ll to my palace, await you. Go, take pains,

see that sorrow has not hurt her to excess,

be certain she lives, even though in distress.

End of Act III