Racine

Berenice: Act IV

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

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Contents


Act IV Scene I (Berenice, alone)

Berenice Phenice is not come? How slow these moments

seem, compared with swift emotions!

I shiver, roam, languish, demoralised;

my strength abandons me, at rest I die.

Phenice is not come? That she delays,

troubles my heart with tidings of dismay!

Phenice will have no reply to give me,

Titus, ungrateful Titus, denies my plea;

He flees; he steals away from my just anger.


Act IV Scene II (Berenice, Phenice)

Berenice Well, dear Phenice, have you seen the emperor?

What said he? Will he come?

Phenice I saw him, yes,

and pictured for his eyes your soul’s distress.

I saw those eyes shed tears he would retain.

Berenice Does he come to me?

Phenice Doubt not, he will again.

But will you appear in such wild disarray?

Recover yourself, Madame; be calm, I pray.

Let me restore those veils all out of place,

and those stray hairs, that conceal your face.

Let me repair those traces of your tears.

Berenice No, leave them, Phenice, lest he appear.

Alas! What do these vain things matter?

If him my truth, my tears, the sighs I utter,

and, as my tears show, my evident pain

and near approach to death, cannot regain,

tell me what such superfluous acts are for,

and all this feeble splendour he ignores?

Phenice Why burden him with these unjust reproaches?

I hear faint sounds, the emperor approaches.

Come, flee the others; let us now return;

alone, await this meeting for which you yearn.

(They exit, enter Titus and Paulinus)


Act IV Scene III (Titus, Paulinus, their followers)

Titus Paulinus, go, calm the queen’s disquietude:

I will see her. I need a moment’s solitude.

All leave me.

Paulinus You gods! How I dread this encounter!

Heaven save his glory and the State’s honour.

I’ll go see the queen.

(Exit Paulinus)


Act IV Scene IV (Titus, alone)

Titus Well, Titus, what is this you do?

Berenice awaits. What insanity drives you?

Are you determined, your farewells ready,

your heart prepared for heights of cruelty?

For, in this combat, it is not pure courage

you require, but rather to act the savage!

Can I sustain that gaze, whose gentle art

knows how to find the paths to my heart?

When I see those eyes, filled with her fears,

fixed on mine, defeating me with her tears,

will I possess the power to recall sad duty;

say ‘I no longer wish to see you’; deeply

wound the heart that loves me? I adore her.

And why wound it, obeying my own order?

Has Rome not still to speak of its desire?

Are cries around the palace mounting higher?

Is the State dangling above some precipice

and I to save it, by such a sacrifice as this?

All are mute, I alone am swift to rehearse

these ills I own the power to reverse.

Who knows, given so virtuous a woman:

might Rome not accept her as a Roman?

Rome by its choice might justify mine.

Yet, no, its choice is not ours to define.

Let Rome weigh its law in the balance

against her love, tears, and perseverance:

Rome will support us…Oh, open those eyes!

What air do you breathe? Are you not apprised

of a hatred of kings imbibed at the breast,

unmoved by love, or fear, or all the rest?

Rome judged your queen by exiling its kings.

Have you not heard from birth that very thing?

Did you not hear, as well, the voice of glory

announcing your duty to you, in the army?

When you, with Berenice, saw Rome again,

did you not hear Rome’s judgement then?

How often must Rome voice her desire?

Coward! Make love, renounce the empire!

Go hide yourself among some distant race;

yield to hearts more worthy of your place.

Are such the deeds of greatness, of glory

that in men’s hearts recall our memory?

For eight days I have reigned, and to this hour

I have done all for love, yet what for honour?

What tale of that precious time can I give?

Where are the happy days I hoped to live?

Whose tears have I dried? What eyes express

within their orbs the fruits of my kindness?

Does the world find its destiny now changed?

Can I know the length of life for me ordained?

Of all those days, so long anticipated,

how many have I not simply wasted!

No more delay, do as honour now requires,

break the sole link….


Act IV Scene V (Titus, Berenice)

(Berenice, entering)

Berenice …let me act as I desire!

In vain all your counsels hold me here,

I must see him. Ah, Sire, you appear!

Well? Is it true that Titus abandons me?

That we must part, you rule our destiny!

Titus Do not kill, Madame, a prince in distress.

We must not give way here to tenderness.

Cruel enough the pain that stirs, devours,

without your tears to rob me of my powers.

Rather recall that heart that, so frequently,

found me attentive to the voice of duty.

Now the time has come. Let love be silent.

With the eye of glory, reason, rest content,

to view my duty in all its harsh severity.

Set yourself aside now, prove a help to me;

strengthen my heart, counter its weakness,

stem the tears that, falling, prove endless;

or if we cannot control them, then at least

let thoughts of glory support us in our grief,

let all the world now comprehend, unseen,

these tears of an emperor, and a queen.

Now, finally, my Princess, we must part.

Berenice Oh, cruel! Is it now you wound my heart?

What have you done? And yet I believed

I was loved. Indeed, my soul, long pleased

with your dear presence, only lived for you.

Where were your laws, when first I told you?

What have you brought me to, what excess?

Did you not say: ‘Oh, unfortunate Princess,

what are your hopes? Do not be deceived,

give not a heart that cannot be received.’

Did you receive it, only to return it so,

when it depends on your heart alone?

Twenty times, all conspired against us.

Was that not the opportunity to part us?

A host of reasons for my death were there;

I could have readily accused your father,

the senate, the people, all things Roman,

all the world, rather than your dear hand.

Their hatred, long declared towards me,

had long prepared me for such misery.

Then I would not have thought you so cruel,

as now, when I dreamed our love immortal,

with your heart freed to further its desires,

Rome silent, and your father with his sires,

when all the world had granted you its due,

when I had nothing left to fear but you.

Titus And I alone could my own self destroy.

Once I could live, and my heart employ.

Then I refused to look towards the future,

or seek what it might one day dissever,

I wished my vows to prove invincible;

never reflected, dreamed the impossible.

How was I to know? I had hoped to die

without our ever uttering our goodbyes.

The very obstacles increased love’s fire.

The empire spoke, but glory, not desire,

had not, as yet, played its essential part,

swaying, as it must, an emperor’s heart.

I know the sorrow that such acts accrue,

I know I must learn to live forgoing you,

and that my heart parts from itself again,

yet living is not the issue, I must reign.

Berenice Well reign, cruel emperor! Bow down to glory:

I’ll not dispute. I waited for you, purely

to hear the very mouth that spoke forever

of love that would bind our lives together,

that mouth, in confessing its disloyalty,

itself ordain my absence for all eternity.

I wished to hear your lips declare it true,

I’ll hear no more; forever now, adieu…

Forever! Sire! Do you not feel the dread

a lover feels when that cruel word is said?

In a month, a year, how we must suffer too,

when land and sea distance me from you?

The day will dawn, and the day will cease,

without Titus ever seeing Berenice,

without Titus ever being seen by her.

But what misplaced anxiety, what error!

Consoled by my departure from his presence,

will he deign to count those days of absence,

those days so brief for him, so long for me?

Titus Madame, there will not be many such, I see.

I hope that soon sad Rumour will have proved

what you will then confess, that you were loved.

You’ll see that Titus could not, without dying…

Berenice Ah, Sire, if that is true, why then this sighing?

I can no longer speak of marriage, true,

since Rome condemns me not to see you.

But why do you envy me the air you breathe?

Titus Do as you wish Madame, ah, do not leave.

I’ll not resist. Yet I know my own weakness.

It means endless struggle, fear of tenderness,

endless alertness to avoid retracing, too,

my steps that your charm directs towards you.

Why! My heart, beside itself in an instant,

recalls that it loves you, at this very moment.

Berenice Well, sir, well, and what might happen then?

Are the Romans ready to wage war again?

Titus Who knows how they’ll view the very rumour?

If they speak out, if cry succeeds to murmur,

must blood not be shed to justify my choice?

While if they are silent, seeming to rejoice,

to what do you expose me? What must I pay

to requite all their indulgence some fine day?

What would they not dare to demand of me?

Am I to uphold a law I cannot keep?

Berenice You would set Berenice’s tears at nothing!

Titus At nothing! Oh, the injustice of the thing!

Berenice For an unjust law, you can change tomorrow,

you must doom yourself then to eternal sorrow?

Rome has its rights, Sire, have you not yours?

Are its interests more sacred then than ours?

Tell me, speak.

Titus Alas, how you distress me!

Berenice You are the emperor, Sire, and yet you weep!

Titus Yes Madame, it is true, I weep, I sigh,

I shudder. Yet, in accepting the empire, I

have sworn to maintain the laws of Rome.

I must maintain them. Already it is known

Rome has demanded loyalty of my peers.

Retrace Rome to its origins, it appears

its leaders always performed their duty.

One, keeping faith, returned to the enemy,

seeking death, the sentence ordained there;

Another proscribed his victorious brother;

Another, with dry, almost indifferent eyes,

at his own command, saw his two sons die.

Always, alas, their country and its glory

in Roman hearts, won the day utterly.

I know the unhappy Titus, in quitting you,

outdoes their severity, their ancient virtue,

that all’s surpassed by my act of loyalty,

but Madame, do you think me unworthy

of leaving posterity this notable example

that all their efforts will find hard to equal?

Berenice No, I think all seems easy to barbarity;

to kill me, well within your capability.

Regarding your feelings, my mind is clear.

I will no longer talk of remaining here.

What? Would I desire, shamed and despised,

to face the scorn of those who hate, deride?

I wished you to force a refusal, as you see.

It’s done, and you need have no fear of me.

Do not expect me to speak of injuries,

or call heaven as witness to your perjuries;

no, if heaven is moved still by my fears,

I pray that death obliterates my tears.

If I am to swear a vow against injustice,

and if, in dying, the sorrowful Berenice,

wishes to seek vengeance, for her part

she’ll wreak it on your thankless heart.

I know so great a love cannot be effaced.

that my present grief, past acts of grace,

my blood, which I would shed here too,

are enemies enough to bestow on you.

And, unrepentant regarding such intent,

I’ll leave the task of vengeance to them.

Farewell.

(Exit Berenice)


Act IV Scene VI (Titus, Paulinus)

Paulinus With what intent, my lord, did she go?

Is she disposed to leave this realm, or no?

Titus Paulinus, I am lost. I can act no further.

She seeks to die. We must pursue her.

Swiftly, to her aid.

Paulinus Have you not orders served,

that all her actions now must be observed?

Her women, gathered with her, at this time,

will drive such sad thoughts from her mind.

No, fear nothing. The matter runs its course,

Sire; the worst is done, the victory is yours.

I know you could not hear her without pity,

nor could I resist, though seeing her only.

But reflect further, think, in your distress,

what glory must succeed unhappiness,

what plaudits the world prepares for you,

what future joy…

Titus Ah no, I am but a brute!

I hate myself. That Nero, whom all detest,

never spurred his cruelty to such excess.

I could not endure it if Berenice were lost,

Come now, and let Rome wonder, as it must.

Paulinus My lord?

Titus I am nigh out of my wits.

Excess of grief has overcome my spirits.

Paulinus Do not disturb the course of your action:

already your farewells provoke reaction;

Rome, that sighed, triumphs, and today,

the temples all resound with your praise;

Rome now lauds your virtues to the sky,

with laurels crowns your statues on high.

Titus Oh Rome! Oh Berenice! O gods above!

Why am I emperor? Why am I in love?


Act IV Scene VII (Titus, Antiochus, Paulinus. Arsaces)

Antiochus What have you done, my lord? Fair Berenice

may well be dying, embraced by her Phenice.

She pays no heed to tears, advice, reason;

she cries out for a weapon or for poison.

You alone can overcome her wish to die.

You are named, and she’s recalled to life.

Her eyes turn endlessly in your direction,

seeming to ask for you in her affliction.

I cannot bear the spectacle, it wounds me.

Why delay? Go, show yourself and swiftly.

Preserve this virtue, this grace, this beauty.

Or renounce, my lord, all your humanity.

Speak the word.

Titus Ah, what word, indeed?

Do I know at this moment if I breathe?

(Enter Rutilius)


Act IV Scene VIII (Titus, Antiochus, Paulinus, Arsaces, Rutilius)

Rutilius My lord, the tribunes, senate, consulate,

come to petition you, in the name of the State.

A vast crowd following, filled with impatience,

wait for you to grace them with your presence.

Titus I hear, you gods: all fears you would allay

in this heart you see designed to go astray.

Paulinus Come, Sire, let us attend them, and be seen,

let us hear the senate.

Antiochus Oh, hasten to the queen.

Paulinus What? Would you, Sire, with this indignity,

trample on all the empire in its majesty?

Rome…

Titus Enough, Paulinus, we will hear them.

Prince, I cannot escape my duty to them.

Go. See the queen. I hope, knowing I return,

she will not doubt the love with which I burn.

End of Act IV