Berenice: Act V

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

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Act V Scene I (Arsaces, alone)

Arsaces Where can I find this all too faithful prince?

Heaven direct me, and support me, since

I, with its aid, in a moment, may reveal

a happiness he could scarcely hope to feel!

Act V Scene II (Antiochus, Arsaces)

Enter Antiochus

Arsaces Ah, what happy fate brings you to this place,

my lord?

Antiochus If my return seems, to you, an act of grace,

Arsaces, you may thank despair alone.

Arsaces The queen departs.

Antiochus She does?

Arsaces By evening, will be gone.

Her orders are all given. She suffers, I believe,

deeply, Titus simply abandons her to grieve.

A frustrated kindness has replaced her anger:

Berenice renounces Rome, and the emperor;

would even depart before Rome, knowing

of her situation, takes pleasure in her going.

She writes to Caesar.

Antiochus Heavens, who would have thought it?

And Titus?

Arsaces He has not appeared, not a single visit.

The people stop, surround him, in delight,

applauding the titles granted him of right;

and those titles, the respect, the compliments,

become, for our Titus, as many commitments,

binding him, my lord, with honourable ties,

despite the queen’s perpetual tears and sighs,

that direct his irresolute wishes to his duty.

It’s done. Perhaps he denies her completely.

Antiochus A reason to hope, Arsaces, I will confess.

Yet fate plagues me, with such harshness,

I have so often seen my projects falter,

that I hear, with dread, the words you utter;

and my heart, filled with unwelcome fear,

feels even hope may draw ill-fortune near.

But what is this? Titus now approaches.

What does he wish?

Act V Scene III (Titus, Antiochus, Arsaces)

Titus (entering) Stay, no one follow us.

Prince, I come at last to discharge my promise.

Berenice fills my mind, the torment’s endless.

I come, heart pierced by the tears both resign,

to calm an unhappiness less cruel than mine.

Come, Prince, come; for the last time, prove,

by witnessing it yourself, that indeed I love.

(Exit Titus)

Act V Scene IV (Antiochus, Arsaces)

Antiochus Well, Arsaces, here’s the hope you bring me,

you witness now the triumph that attends me!

Berenice parts from him, hurt to the core!

Titus has quit her, never to see her more!

What have I done, you gods, what strife

have you destined for my unhappy life?

All my days are but an endless journey

from fear to hope, from hope to tragedy.

And yet I breathe! Titus! Berenice!

No longer mock my tears! Cruel deities!

Act V Scene V (Titus, Berenice, Phenice)

Berenice No, I will hear nothing. I am resolute, myself:

I wish to leave. Why do you show yourself?

Why come to add bitterness now to despair?

Are you not content? For this, I cannot care.

Titus Grace me by listening.

Berenice The time is past.

Titus One lone

word, Madame.

Berenice No.

Titus How she disturbs my soul!

 My princess, why this sudden change of heart?

Berenice It’s done. Tomorrow, you wish that I depart;

I have resolved to leave in a short while, and I,

I go.

Titus Stay.

Berenice The ingratitude! Why must I?

To listen to the noise of an injurious people,

who cry my misfortunes from the citadel?

Do you not hear it then, their cruel spite,

while I alone shed tears, to their delight?

What offence, what crime makes me their foe?

Alas! What have I done but love you so?

Titus Will you listen, Madame, to a senseless few?

Berenice There is nothing here but misery in view.

All these rooms created with such care,

long the witness of my love, and where

all things seemed to respond with yours,

where our names entwined said: he adores,

now, offering themselves to my sad eyes,

are mere imposters, I no longer prize.

Come, Phenice.

Titus Oh heavens! You are unjust!

Berenice Return, return to your senate, as you must.

They will applaud you for your cruelty.

Is it with pleasure you hear their flattery?

Are you content quite, with all your glory?

Have you promised to forget my memory?

But to expiate our love, that will not do,

surely you’ve promised to hate me too?

Titus No, I have promised nothing. Hate you, no!

Could I forget this Berenice whom I forego!

Oh gods! That, at such a time, cruel derision

must pain my heart with unjust suspicion.

Know me, Madame, and of these five years

count all the moments, all the days of tears,

in which, with sighs, or radiant with fire,

I have expressed to you my heart’s desire:

this day surpasses all. Never, I must confess,

have you been loved with such tenderness,

and never…

Berenice You love me, you maintain.

and yet I leave, and you command the same!

What? Do you seek delight in my despair,

fearing my mind has felt too little care?

What use to me can your affection prove?

Cruel man! For pity’s sake, show me less love;

Do not recall, for me, so cherished an idea,

and let me, at least, depart, persuaded here

that, privately banished from your soul, I yet

quit an ungrateful heart, one lacking in regret.

(Titus reads her letter)

You have torn from me what I sought to write.

This is all that I ask of your love, you I invite

to read, ungrateful one, read, and let me depart.

Titus You will not go, I cannot consent; depart?

Surely all this is some cruel strategy?

You seek to die? And of all that I love, I see,

only a sorrowful memory will remain?

Seek for Antiochus, let him explain.

(Exit Phenice, Berenice falls on a couch)

Act V Scene VI (Titus, Berenice)

Titus Madame, I must make a true confession;

when I foresaw that formidable session,

where, constrained by the harsh call of duty,

renouncing sight of you seemed necessary;

envisaging the approach to our sad goodbye,

the fears, struggles, tears, reproaches, I

prepared my soul for every inward pain

that the greatest of ills might entertain.

Yet, of whatever I feared in my heart,

I had foreseen only the smallest part:

I thought my virtue less ready to succumb,

and am ashamed at what I have become.

I viewed all Rome assembled before me,

the Senate spoke, but my soul, uneasy,

listened without hearing, left them only

as a reward for their enthusiasm an icy

silence. Rome is unsure if you will go,

as yet, and for myself I scarcely know

whether I am the emperor, and a Roman.

I come to you not knowing my intention:

My love dictated it, perhaps I came

to find myself and know myself again.

What do I find? I see death in your eyes;

I see you will depart to seek that prize.

It is too much. My pain, at this sad sight,

now, in a last excess, achieves its height.

I feel all the unhappiness I could feel,

yet I see an answer to it, a last appeal.

Don’t think that tired of this confusion,

I might dry your tears by joyful union.

In this plight to which you reduce me,

I am still pursued by inexorable glory,

ever presenting to my astonished soul

an empire incompatible with that goal,

saying that after the steps I have taken

no thought of marriage must reawaken.

Yes, Madame, less than ever, I tell you,

am I prepared to yield an empire for you,

follow you and, contented in my chains,

go sigh at the world’s end, in your train.

Even you would blush at such cowardice,

you’d regret to see, in your wake, like this,

an unworthy man, without empire or court,

a sad show of love’s frailties, in short.

To escape all this to which my soul is prey,

there is, as you well know, a nobler way;

that is the road Madame, that I must go,

following many a Roman, many a hero.

When many ills exhausted their fortitude,

they all described themselves as pursued

relentlessly by fate, seeming to then insist,

like to some secret order: cease to resist.

If your tears, much longer, wound my eye,

if I see you, still, firmly resolved to die,

if I must fear for your life every moment,

if you do not swear to respect my intent,

Madame, other tears must prepare to fall.

In the state in which I am I could do all,

and my hand, then, before your very eyes,

might stain with blood our last goodbyes.

Berenice Alas!

Titus There’s nothing of which I am not capable.

For my survival, you prove now responsible.

Consider, Madame, if I am dear to you…

Act V Scene VII (Titus, Berenice, Antiochus)

Enter Antiochus

Titus Come Prince, come, I have been asking for you.

Be witness here to my unending weakness.

See if this be love with too little tenderness.

Judge us.

Antiochus Sire, it is so. I know how you have loved.

And you, in turn, Sire, know that I have proved

worthy to be honoured with your esteem, and I,

I swear to you, without shadow of a lie,

have contested all with your dear friends;

have contested all, even at the blade’s end.

Despite my protests, both entrusted to me,

the queen, her love, you yours, Sire, equally.

The queen, who hears, may disavow this:

she always saw me ardent in your praise,

keen to repay, with care, your confidence.

You think you owe me some recompense;

yet can you believe, now all proves fatal,

so faithful a friend was in truth your rival?

Titus My rival!

Antiochus Now, all pretence must cease;

Yes, Sire, I have always adored Berenice.

A hundred times I fought not to love her;

I could not forget; my own self-murderer.

The visible signs of your heart’s alteration,

restored some brief shadow of expectation,

a hope the queen’s tears then extinguished.

Bathed in tears, it was you she requested;

I came myself to summon you to her, Sire,

you came, you love, and are loved entire.

You have yielded, of that I had no doubt.

One last time, I teased the problem out,

asked of myself one last act of courage,

I sought to recall pure reason to the stage,

found myself in love, ever more deeply.

Death alone breaks such ties completely:

only by self-destruction shall it be done;

I seek my death. To tell you this, I come.

Yes, Madame, I brought him back to you.

I do not repent, my aim indeed proved true.

May heaven shower joy upon your reign,

and bring a thousand blessings in its train!

Or if heaven still seeks to bring fresh sorrows,

may the gods be content to see those blows,

which might have threatened your prosperity,

fall on a life I sacrifice to yours entirely.

Berenice (rising) Enough! You Princes, both too generous,

who to some mad extremity now drive us.

Whether I look at you, or gaze deeper,

I see, on all sides, visions of disaster.

Tears I see; hear voices speaking low

of pain and horror, blood about to flow!

(to Titus)

You know my heart, Sire, and I can say

I never wished for power, in any way:

Rome’s grandeur, the purple others prize,

has never proved attractive to my eyes.

I loved, Sire, wanted to be loved no less;

this day, I will admit, I was distressed:

I thought your love had run its course.

I know my error; you love me far more.

Your heart was troubled; I saw your tears.

Berenice, Sire, is scarcely worth such fears,

nor that, through love, these Roman lands,

at a time when Titus has achieved his plans,

while tasting the first fruits of this new day,

should in a moment see all snatched away.

I believe for five years past, until now,

you have been assured of my truest vow.

That is not all; at this late hour, I wish,

with one last effort, to surpass the rest:

I’ll live; I’ll follow your every command.

Farewell, Sire, reign: I depart this land. 

(to Antiochus)

Prince, after that goodbye, you will approve

my speech: I cannot leave the man I love

then listen, far from Rome, to other vows.

Live, and be yet more generous to me now.

Let your conduct be ruled by his and mine.

I love, I go; he loves, yet he remains behind.

Far from my eyes bear your sighs and tears.

Let us prove an example, for future years,

of the most tender, most ill-fated affection,

in all the history of the sad heart’s affliction.

All’s ready. They await. The past is past.

(to Titus)

For the last time, farewell, my lord.

Antiochus Alas!

The End of Racine’s Berenice