Read ACTUS PRIMUS. SCENA PRIMA. of The False One, free online book, by Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher, on ReadCentral.com.

Enter Achillas, and Achoreus.

[Ach.] I love the King, nor do dispute his power, (For that is not confin’d, nor to be censur’d By me, that am his Subject) yet allow me The liberty of a Man, that still would be A friend to Justice, to demand the motives That did induce young Ptolomy, or Photinus, (To whose directions he gives up himself, And I hope wisely) to commit his Sister, The Princess Cleopatra (if I said The Queen) Achillas ’twere (I hope) no treason, She being by her Fathers Testament (Whose memory I bow to) left Co-heir In all he stood possest of.

Achil. ’Tis confest (My good Achoreus) that in these Eastern Kingdoms Women are not exempted from the Sceptre, But claim a priviledge, equal to the Male; But how much such divisions have ta’en from The Majesty of Egypt, and what factions Have sprung from those partitions, to the ruine Of the poor Subject, (doubtful which to follow,) We have too many, and too sad examples, Therefore the wise Photinus, to prevent The Murthers, and the Massacres, that attend On disunited Government, and to shew The King without a Partner, in full splendour, Thought it convenient the fair Cleopatra, (An attribute not frequent to the Climate) Should be committed in safe Custody, In which she is attended like her Birth, Until her Beauty, or her royal Dowre, Hath found her out a Husband.

Ach. How this may Stand with the rules of policy, I know not; Most sure I am, it holds no correspondence With the Rites of AEgypt, or the Laws of Nature; But grant that Cleopatra can sit down With this disgrace (though insupportable) Can you imagine, that Romes glorious Senate (To whose charge, by the will of the dead King This government was deliver’d) or great Pompey, (That is appointed Cleopatra’s Guardian As well as Ptolomies) will e’re approve Of this rash counsel, their consent not sought for, That should authorize it?

Achil. The Civil war In which the Roman Empire is embarqu’d On a rough Sea of danger, does exact Their whole care to preserve themselves, and gives them No vacant time to think of what we do, Which hardly can concern them.

Ach. What’s your opinion Of the success? I have heard, in multitudes Of Souldiers, and all glorious pomp of war, Pompey is much superiour.

Achil. I could give you A Catalogue of all the several Nations From whence he drew his powers: but that were tedious. They have rich arms, are ten to one in number, Which makes them think the day already won; And Pompey being master of the Sea, Such plenty of all delicates are brought in, As if the place on which they are entrench’d, Were not a Camp of Souldiers, but Rome, In which Lucullus and Apicius joyn’d, To make a publique Feast: they at Dirachium Fought with success; but knew not to make use of Fortunes fair offer: so much I have heard Cæsar himself confess.

Ach. Where are they now?

Achil. In Thessalie, near the Pharsalian plains Where Cæsar with a handfull of his Men Hems in the greater number: his whole troops Exceed not twenty thousand, but old Souldiers Flesh’d in the spoils of Germany and France, Inur’d to his Command, and only know To fight and overcome; And though that Famine Raigns in his Camp, compelling them to tast Bread made of roots, forbid the use of man, (Which they with scorn threw into Pompeys Camp As in derision of his Delicates) Or corn not yet half ripe, and that a Banquet: They still besiege him, being ambitious only To come to blows, and let their swords determine Who hath the better Cause.

Enter Septiius.

Ach. May Victory
Attend on’t, where it is.

Achil. We every hour
Expect to hear the issue.

Sep. Save my good Lords; By Isis and Osiris, whom you worship; And the four hundred gods and goddesses Ador’d in Rome, I am your honours servant.

Ach. Truth needs, Septimius, no oaths.

Achil. You are cruel,
If you deny him swearing, you take from him
Three full parts of his language.

Sep. Your Honour’s bitter, Confound me, where I love I cannot say it, But I must swear’t: yet such is my ill fortune, Nor vows, nor protestations win belief, I think, and (I can find no other reason) Because I am a Roman.

Ach. No Septimius, To be a Roman were an honour to you, Did not your manners, and your life take from it, And cry aloud, that from Rome you bring nothing But Roman Vices, which you would plant here, But no seed of her vertues.

Sep. With your reverence
I am too old to learn.

Ach. Any thing honest,
That I believe, without an oath.

Sep. I fear Your Lordship has slept ill to night, and that Invites this sad discourse: ’twill make you old Before your time: ­O these vertuous Morals, And old religious principles, that fool us! I have brought you a new Song, will make you laugh, Though you were at your prayers.

Ah. What is the subject?
Be free Septimius.

Sep. ’Tis a Catalogue Of all the Gamesters of the Court and City, Which Lord lyes with that Lady, and what Gallant Sports with that Merchants wife; and does relate Who sells her honour for a Diamond, Who, for a tissew robe: whose husband’s jealous, And who so kind, that, to share with his wife, Will make the match himself: Harmless conceits, Though fools say they are dangerous: I sang it The last night at my Lord Photinus table.

Ach. How? as a Fidler?

Sep. No Sir, as a Guest, A welcom guest too: and it was approv’d of By a dozen of his friends, though they were touch’d in’t: For look you, ’tis a kind of merriment, When we have laid by foolish modesty (As not a man of fashion will wear it) To talk what we have done; at least to hear it; If meerily set down, it fires the blood, And heightens Crest-faln appetite.

Ach. New doctrine!

Achil. Was’t of your own composing?

Sep. No, I bought it Of a skulking Scribler for two Ptolomies: But the hints were mine own; the wretch was fearfull: But I have damn’d my self, should it be question’d, That I will own it.

Ach. And be punished for it: Take heed: for you may so long exercise Your scurrilous wit against authority, The Kingdoms Counsels; and make profane Jests, (Which to you (being an atheist) is nothing) Against Religion, that your great maintainers (Unless they would be thought Co-partners with you) Will leave you to the Law: and then, Septimius, Remember there are whips.

Sep. For whore’s I grant you, When they are out of date, till then are safe too, Or all the Gallants of the Court are Eunuchs, And for mine own defence I’le only add this, I’le be admitted for a wanton tale To some most private Cabinets, when your Priest-hood (Though laden with the mysteries of your goddess) Shall wait without unnoted: so I leave you To your pious thoughts. [Exit.

Achil. ’Tis a strange impudence,
This fellow does put on.

Ach. The wonder great,
He is accepted of.

Achil. Vices, for him, Make as free way as vertues doe for others. ’Tis the times fault: yet Great ones still have grace’d To make them sport, or rub them o’re with flattery, Observers of all kinds.

Enter Photinus, and Septimius.

Ach. No more of him, He is not worth our thoughts: a Fugitive From Pompeys army: and now in a danger When he should use his service.

Achil. See how he hangs
On great Photinus Ear.

Sep. Hell, and the furies, And all the plagues of darkness light upon me: You are my god on earth: and let me have Your favour here, fall what can fall hereafter.

Pho. Thou art believ’d: dost thou want mony?

Sep. No Sir.

Pho. Or hast thou any suite? these ever follow
Thy vehement protestations.

Sep. You much wrong me; How can I want, when your beams shine upon me, Unless employment to express my zeal To do your greatness service? do but think A deed so dark, the Sun would blush to look on, For which Man-kind would curse me, and arm all The powers above, and those below against me: Command me, I will on.

Pho. When I have use,
I’le put you to the test.

Sep. May it be speedy, And something worth my danger: you are cold, And know not your own powers: this brow was fashion’d To wear a Kingly wreath, and your grave judgment, Given to dispose of monarchies, not to govern A childs affairs, the peoples eye’s upon you, The Souldier courts you: will you wear a garment Of sordid loyalty when ’tis out of fashion?

Pho. When Pompey was thy General, Septimius,
Thou saidst as much to him.

Sep. All my love to him, To Cæsar, Rome, and the whole world is lost In the Ocean of your Bounties: I have no friend, Project, design, or Countrey, but your favour, Which I’le preserve at any rate.

Pho. No more; When I call on you, fall not off: perhaps Sooner than you expect, I may employ you, So leave me for a while.

Sep. Ever your Creature. [Exit.

Pho. Good day Achoreus; my best friend Achillas,
Hath fame deliver’d yet no certain rumour
Of the great Roman Action?

Achil. That we are To enquire, and learn of you Sir: whose grave care For Egypts happiness, and great Ptolomies good, Hath eyes and ears in all parts.

Enter Ptolomy, Labienus, Guard.

Pho. I’le not boast,
What my Intelligence costs me: but ’ere long
You shall know more. The King, with him a Roman.

Ach. The scarlet livery of unfortunate war
Dy’d deeply on his face.

Achil. ’Tis Labienus Caesars Lieutenant in the wars of Gaul, And fortunate in all his undertakings: But since these Civil jars he turn’d to Pompey, And though he followed the better Cause Not with the like success.

Pho. Such as are wise
Leave falling buildings, flye to those that rise;
But more of that hereafter.

Lab. In a word, Sir, These gaping wounds, not taken as a slave, Speak Pompey’s loss: to tell you of the Battail, How many thousand several bloody shapes Death wore that day in triumph: how we bore The shock of Caesars charge: or with what fury His Souldiers came on as if they had been So many Caesars, and like him ambitious To tread upon the liberty of Rome: How Fathers kill’d their Sons, or Sons their Fathers, Or how the Roman Piles on either side Drew Roman blood, which spent, the Prince of weapons, (The sword) succeeded, which in Civil wars Appoints the Tent on which wing’d victory Shall make a certain Stand; then, how the Plains Flow’d o’re with blood, and what a cloud of vulturs And other birds of prey, hung o’re both armies, Attending when their ready Servitors, (The Souldiers, from whom the angry gods Had took all sense of reason, and of pity) Would serve in their own carkasses for a feast, How Cæsar with his Javelin force’d them on That made the least stop, when their angry hands Were lifted up against some known friends face; Then coming to the body of the army He shews the sacred Senate, and forbids them To wast their force upon the Common Souldier, Whom willingly, if e’re he did know pity, He would have spar’d.

Ptol. The reason Labienus?

Lab. Full well he knows, that in their blood he was To pass to Empire, and that through their bowels He must invade the Laws of Rome, and give A period to the liberty of the world. Then fell the Lepidi, and the bold Corvini, The fam’d Torquati, Scipio’s, and Marcelli, (Names next to Pompeys, most renown’d on Earth) The Nobles, and the Commons lay together, And Pontique, Punique, and Assyrian blood Made up one crimson Lake: which Pompey seeing, And that his, and the fate of Rome had left him Standing upon the Rampier of his Camp, Though scorning all that could fall on himself, He pities them whose fortunes are embarqu’d In his unlucky quarrel; cryes aloud too That they should sound retreat, and save themselves: That he desir’d not, so much noble blood Should be lost in his service, or attend On his misfortunes: and then, taking horse With some few of his friends, he came to Lesbos, And with Cornelia, his Wife, and Sons, He’s touch’d upon your shore: the King of Parthia, (Famous in his defeature of the Crassi) Offer’d him his protection, but Pompey Relying on his Benefits, and your Faith, Hath chosen AEgypt for his Sanctuary, Till he may recollect his scattered powers, And try a second day: now Ptolomy, Though he appear not like that glorious thing That three times rode in triumph, and gave laws To conquer’d Nations, and made Crowns his gift (As this of yours, your noble Father took From his victorious hand, and you still wear it At his devotion) to do you more honour In his declin’d estate, as the straightst Pine In a full grove of his yet flourishing friends, He flyes to you for succour, and expects The entertainment of your Fathers friend, And Guardian to your self.

Ptol. To say I grieve his fortune As much as if the Crown I wear (his gift) Were ravish’d from me, is a holy truth, Our Gods can witness for me: yet, being young, And not a free disposer of my self; Let not a few hours, borrowed for advice, Beget suspicion of unthankfulness, (Which next to Hell I hate) pray you retire, And take a little rest, and let his wounds Be with that care attended, as they were Carv’d on my flesh: good Labienus, think The little respite, I desire shall be Wholly emploi’d to find the readiest way To doe great Pompey service.

Lab. May the gods
(As you intend) protect you. [Exit.

Ptol. Sit: sit all,
It is my pleasure: your advice, and freely.

Ach. A short deliberation in this, May serve to give you counsel: to be honest, Religious and thankfull, in themselves Are forcible motives, and can need no flourish Or gloss in the perswader; your kept faith, (Though Pompey never rise to th’ height he’s fallen from) Cæsar himself will love; and my opinion Is (still committing it to graver censure) You pay the debt you owe him, with the hazard Of all you can call yours.

Ptol. What’s yours, (Photinus?)

Pho. Achoreus (great Ptolomy) hath counsell’d Like a Religious, and honest man, Worthy the honour that he justly holds In being Priest to Isis: But alas, What in a man, sequester’d from the world, Or in a private person, is prefer’d, No policy allows of in a King, To be or just, or thankfull, makes Kings guilty, And faith (though prais’d) is punish’d that supports Such as good Fate forsakes: joyn with the gods, Observe the man they favour, leave the wretched, The Stars are not more distant from the Earth Than profit is from honesty; all the power, Prerogative, and greatness of a Prince Is lost, if he descend once but to steer His course, as what’s right, guides him: let him leave The Scepter, that strives only to be good, Since Kingdomes are maintain’d by force and blood.

Ach. Oh wicked!

Ptol. Peace: goe on.

Pho. Proud Pompey shews how much he scorns your youth, In thinking that you cannot keep your own From such as are or’e come. If you are tired With being a King, let not a stranger take What nearer pledges challenge: resign rather The government of Egypt and of Nile To Cleopatra, that has title to them, At least defend them from the Roman gripe, What was not Pompeys, while the wars endured, The Conquerour will not challenge; by all the world Forsaken and despis’d, your gentle Guardian His hopes and fortunes desperate, makes choice of What Nation he shall fall with: and pursu’d By their pale ghosts, slain in this Civil war, He flyes not Cæsar only, but the Senate, Of which, the greater part have cloi’d the hunger Of sharp Pharsalian fowl, he flies the Nations That he drew to his Quarrel, whose Estates Are sunk in his: and in no place receiv’d, Hath found out Egypt, by him yet not ruin’d: And Ptolomy, things consider’d, justly may Complain of Pompey: wherefore should he stain Our Egypt, with the spots of civil war? Or make the peaceable, or quiet Nile Doubted of Cæsar? wherefore should he draw His loss, and overthrow upon our heads? Or choose this place to suffer in? already We have offended Cæsar, in our wishes, And no way left us to redeem his favour But by the head of Pompey.

Ach. Great Osiris,
Defend thy AEgypt from such cruelty,
And barbarous ingratitude!

Pho. Holy trifles, And not to have place in designs of State; This sword, which Fate commands me to unsheath, I would not draw on Pompey, if not vanquish’d. I grant it rather should have pass’d through Cæsar, But we must follow where his fortune leads us; All provident Princes measure their intents According to their power, and so dispose them: And thinkst thou (Ptolomy) that thou canst prop His Ruines, under whom sad Rome now suffers? Or ’tempt the Conquerours force when ’tis confirm’d? Shall we, that in the Battail sate as Neuters Serve him that’s overcome? No, no, he’s lost. And though ’tis noble to a sinking friend To lend a helping hand, while there is hope He may recover, thy part not engag’d Though one most dear, when all his hopes are dead, To drown him, set thy foot upon his head.

Ach. Most execrable Counsel.

Pho. To be follow’d,
’Tis for the Kingdoms safety.

Ptol. We give up
Our absolute power to thee: dispose of it
As reason shall direct thee.

Pho. Good Achillas, Seek out Septimius: do you but sooth him, He is already wrought: leave the dispatch To me of Labienus: ’tis determin’d Already how you shall proceed: nor Fate Shall alter it, since now the dye is cast, But that this hour to Pompey is his last. [Exit.

SCENA II.

Enter Apollodorus, Eros, Arsino.

Apol. Is the Queen stirring, Eros?

Eros. Yes, for in truth
She touch’d no bed to night.

Apol. I am sorry for it,
And wish it were in me, with my hazard,
To give her ease.

Ars. Sir, she accepts your will, And does acknowledge she hath found you noble, So far, as if restraint of liberty Could give admission to a thought of mirth, She is your debtor for it.

Apol. Did you tell her Of the sports I have prepar’d to entertain her? She was us’d to take delight, with her fair hand, To angle in the Nile, where the glad fish (As if they knew who ’twas sought to deceive ’em) Contended to be taken: other times To strike the Stag, who wounded by her arrows, Forgot his tears in death, and kneeling thanks her To his last gasp, then prouder of his Fate, Than if with Garlands Crown’d, he had been chosen To fall a Sacrifice before the altar Of the Virgin Huntress: the King, nor great Photinus Forbid her any pleasure; and the Circuit In which she is confin’d, gladly affords Variety of pastimes, which I would Encrease with my best service.

Eros. O, but the thought That she that was born free, and to dispense Restraint, or liberty to others, should be At the devotion of her Brother, whom She only knows her equal, makes this place In which she lives (though stor’d with all delights) A loathsome dungeon to her.

Apol. Yet, (howe’re She shall interpret it) I’le not be wanting To do my best to serve her: I have prepar’d Choise Musick near her Cabinet, and compos’d Some few lines, (set unto a solemn time) In the praise of imprisonment. Begin Boy.

THE SONG.

Look out bright eyes, and bless the air:
Even in shadows you are fair.
Shut-up-beauty is like fire,
That breaks out clearer still and higher.
Though your body be confin’d,
And soft Love a prisoner bound,
Yet the beauty of your mind
Neither check, nor chain hath found.
Look out nobly then, and dare
Even the Fetters that you wear.

Enter Cleopatra.

Cleo. But that we are assur’d this tastes of duty, And love in you, my Guardian, and desire In you, my Sister, and the rest, to please us, We should receive this, as a sawcy rudeness Offer’d our private thoughts. But your intents Are to delight us: alas, you wash an Ethiop: Can Cleopatra, while she does remember Whose Daughter she is, and whose Sister? (O I suffer in the name) and that (in Justice) There is no place in AEgypt, where I stand, But that the tributary Earth is proud To kiss the foot of her, that is her Queen, Can she, I say, that is all this, e’re relish Of comfort, or delight, while base Photinus, Bond-man Achillas, and all other monsters That raign o’re Ptolomy, make that a Court, Where they reside, and this, where I, a Prison? But there’s a Rome, a Senate, and a Cæsar, (Though the great Pompey lean to Ptolomy) May think of Cleopatra.

Ap. Pompey, Madam?

Cleo. What of him? speak: if ill, Apollodorus, It is my happiness: and for thy news Receive a favour (Kings have kneel’d in vain for) And kiss my hand.

Ap. He’s lost.

Cleo. Speak it again!

Ap. His army routed: he fled and pursu’d
By the all-conquering Cæsar.

Cleo. Whither bends he?

Ap. To Egypt.

Cleo. Ha! in person?

Ap. ’Tis receiv’d
For an undoubted truth.

Cleo. I live again, And if assurance of my love, and beauty Deceive me not, I now shall find a Judge To do me right: but how to free my self, And get access? the Guards are strong upon me, This door I must pass through. Apollodorus, Thou often hast profess’d (to do me service,) Thy life was not thine own.

Ap. I am not alter’d; And let your excellency propound a means, In which I may but give the least assistance, That may restore you, to that you were born to, (Though it call on the anger of the King, Or, (what’s more deadly) all his Minion Photinus can do to me) I, unmov’d, Offer my throat to serve you: ever provided, It bear some probable shew to be effected. To lose my self upon no ground, were madness, Not loyal duty.

Cleo. Stand off: to thee alone, I will discover what I dare not trust My Sister with, Cæsar is amorous, And taken more with the title of a Queen, Than feature or proportion, he lov’d Eunoe, A Moor, deformed too, I have heard, that brought No other object to inflame his blood, But that her Husband was a King, on both He did bestow rich presents; shall I then, That with a princely birth, bring beauty with me, That know to prize my self at mine own rate, Despair his favour? art thou mine?

Ap. I am.

Cleo. I have found out a way shall bring me to him, Spight of Photinus watches; if I prosper, (As I am confident I shall) expect Things greater than thy wishes; though I purchase His grace with loss of my virginity, It skills not, if it bring home Majesty. [Exeunt.