Read ACT III. of Don Carlos A Play, free online book, by Friedrich Schiller, on


The king’s bedchamber.  On the toilet two burning lights.  In the background several pages asleep resting on their knees.  The king, in half undress, stands before the table, with one arm bent over the chair, in a reflecting posture.  Before him is a medallion and papers.

Of a warm fancy she has ever been! 
Who can deny it?  I could never love her,
Yet has she never seemed to miss my love. 
And so ’tis plain-she’s false!

Makes a movement which brings him to himself. 
He looks round with surprise.

Where have I been? 
Is no one watching here, then, save the king? 
The light’s burnt out, and yet it is not day. 
I must forego my slumbers for to-night. 
Take it, kind nature, for enjoyed!  No time
Have monarchs to retrieve the nights they lose. 
I’m now awake, and day it shall be.

He puts out the candles, and draws aside the window-curtain. 
He observes the sleeping pages-remains for some time standing
before them-then rings a bell.

Asleep within the antechamber, too?


The king, count Lerma.

Lerma (surprised at seeing the king). 
Does not your majesty feel well?

The left Pavilion of the palace was in flames: 
Did you not hear the alarum?

               No, my liege.

No!  What?  And did I only dream it then? 
’Twas surely real!  Does not the queen sleep there?

She does, your majesty.

             This dream affrights me! 
In future let the guards be doubled there
As soon as it grows dark.  Dost hear?  And yet
Let it be done in secret.  I would not -
Why do you gaze on me?

            Your bloodshot eyes,
I mark, that beg repose.  Dare I remind
My liege of an inestimable life,
And of your subjects, who with pale dismay
Would in such features read of restless nights? 
But two brief hours of morning sleep would -

King (with troubled look). 
Shall I find sleep within the Escurial? 
Let the king sleep, and he may lose his crown,
The husband, his wife’s heart.  But no! not so;
This is but slander.  Was it not a woman
Whispered the crime to me?  Woman, thy name
Is calumny?  The deed I’ll hold unproved,
Until a man confirms the fatal truth!

To the pages, who in the meanwhile have awaked.

Summon Duke Alva!
              Pages go.

Count, come nearer to me.

Fixes a searching look on the count.

Is all this true?  Oh for omniscience now,
Though but so long as a man’s pulse might beat. 
Is it true?  Upon your oath!  Am I deceived?

My great, my best of kings!

King (drawing back). 
               King! naught but king! 
And king again!  No better answer than
Mere hollow echo!  When I strike this rock
For water, to assuage my burning thirst,
It gives me molten gold.

             What true, my liege?

Oh, nothing, nothing!  Leave me!  Get thee gone!

The count going, the king calls him back again.

Say, are you married? and are you a father?

I am, your majesty.

           What! married-yet
You dare to watch a night here with your king! 
Your hair is gray, and yet you do not blush
To think your wife is honest.  Get thee home;
You’ll find her locked, this moment, in your son’s
Incestuous embrace.  Believe your king. 
Now go; you stand amazed; you stare at me
With searching eye, because of my gray hairs. 
Unhappy man, reflect.  Queens never taint
Their virtue thus:  doubt it, and you shall die!

Lerma (with warmth). 
Who dare do so?  In all my monarch’s realms
Who has the daring hardihood to breathe
Suspicion on her angel purity? 
To slander thus the best of queens -

                   The best! 
The best, from you, too!  She has ardent friends,
I find, around.  It must have cost her much-
More than methinks she could afford to give. 
You are dismissed; now send the duke to me.

I hear him in the antechamber.

King (with a milder tone). 
What you observed is very true.  My head
Burns with the fever of this sleepless night! 
What I have uttered in this waking dream,
Mark you, forget!  I am your gracious king!

Presents his hand to kiss.  Exit Lerma, opening
the door at the same time to duke Alva.


   The king and duke Alva.

Alva (approaching the king with an air of doubt). 
This unexpected order, at so strange
An hour!
   Starts on looking closer at the king
     And then those looks!

King (has seated himself, and taken hold of the medallion on the table. 
   Looks at the duke for some time in silence). 
                Is it true
I have no faithful servant!


                  A blow
Aimed at my life in its most vital part! 
Full well ’twas known, yet no one warned me of it.

Alva (with a look of astonishment). 
A blow aimed at your majesty! and yet
Escape your Alva’s eye?

King (showing him letters). 
             Know you this writing?

It is the prince’s hand.

King (a pause-watches the duke closely). 
             Do you suspect
Then nothing?  Often have you cautioned me
Gainst his ambition.  Was there nothing more
Than his ambition should have made me tremble?

Ambition is a word of largest import,
And much it may comprise.

              And had you naught
Of special purport to disclose?

Alva (after a pause, mysteriously). 
                 Your majesty
Hath given the kingdom’s welfare to my charge: 
On this my inmost, secret thoughts are bent,
And my best vigilance.  Beyond this charge
What I may think, suspect, or know belongs
To me alone.  These are the sacred treasures
Which not the vassal only, but the slave,
The very slave, may from a king withhold. 
Not all that to my mind seems plain is yet
Mature enough to meet the monarch’s ear. 
Would he be answered-then must I implore
He will not question as a king.

King (handing the letters). 
                 Read these.

Alva (reads them, and turns to the king with a look of terror). 
Who was the madman placed these fatal papers
In my king’s bands?

           You know, then, who is meant? 
No name you see is mentioned in the paper.

Alva (stepping back confused). 
I was too hasty!

         But you know!

Alva (after some consideration). 
                 ’Tis spoken! 
The king commands,-I dare not now conceal. 
I’ll not deny it-I do know the person.

King (starting up in violent emotion). 
God of revenge! inspire me to invent
Some new, unheard-of torture!  Is their crime
So clear, so plain, so public to the world,
That without e’en the trouble of inquiry
The veriest hint suffices to reveal it? 
This is too much!  I did not dream of this! 
I am the last of all, then, to discern it-
The last in all my realm?

Alva (throwing himself at the king’s feet). 
              Yes, I confess
My guilt, most gracious monarch.  I’m ashamed
A coward prudence should have tied my tongue
When truth, and justice, and my sovereign’s honor
Urged me to speak.  But since all else are silent
And since the magic spell of beauty binds
All other tongues, I dare to give it voice;
Though well I know a son’s warm protestations,
A wife’s seductive charms and winning tears -

King (suddenly with warmth). 
Rise, Alva! thou hast now my royal promise;
Rise, and speak fearlessly!

Alva (rising). 
               Your majesty,
Perchance, may bear in your remembrance still
What happened in the garden at Aranjuez. 
You found the queen deserted by her ladies,
With looks confused-alone, within a bower,-

Proceed.  What further have I yet to hear?

The Marchioness of Mondecar was banished
Because she boldly sacrificed herself
To save the queen!  It has been since discovered
She did no more than she had been commanded. 
Prince Carlos had been there.

King (starting). 
                The prince!  What more?

Upon the ground the footsteps of a man
Were traced, till finally they disappeared
Close to a grotto, leftward of the bower,
Where lay a handkerchief the prince had dropped. 
This wakened our suspicions.  But besides,
The gardener met the prince upon the spot,-
Just at the time, as near as we can guess,
Your majesty appeared within the walk.

King (recovering from gloomy thought). 
And yet she wept when I but seemed to doubt! 
She made me blush before the assembled court,
Blush to my very self!  By heaven!  I stood
In presence of her virtue, like a culprit.

   A long and deep silence.  He sits down and hides his face.

Yes, Alva, you are right!  All this may lead
To something dreadful-leave me for a moment -

But, gracious sire, all this is not enough -

King (snatching up the papers). 
Nor this, nor this?-nor all the harmony
Of these most damning proofs?  ’Tis clear as day-
I knew it long ago-their heinous guilt
Began when first I took her from your hands,
Here in Madrid.  I think I see her now,
With look of horror, pale as midnight ghost,
Fixing her eyes upon my hoary hair! 
’Twas then the treacherous game began!

                    The prince,
In welcoming a mother-lost his bride! 
Long had they nursed a mutual passion, long
Each other’s ardent feelings understood,
Which her new state forbade her to indulge. 
The fear which still attends love’s first avowal
Was long subdued.  Seduction, bolder grown,
Spoke in those forms of easy confidence
Which recollections of the past allowed. 
Allied by harmony of souls and years,
And now by similar restraints provoked,
They readily obeyed their wild desires. 
Reasons of state opposed their early union-
But can it, sire, be thought she ever gave
To the state council such authority? 
That she subdued the passion of her soul
To scrutinize with more attentive eye
The election of the cabinet.  Her heart
Was bent on love, and won a diadem.

King (offended, and with bitterness). 
You are a nice observer, duke, and I
Admire your eloquence.  I thank you truly.
        Rising coldly and haughtily. 
But you are right.  The queen has deeply erred
In keeping from me letters of such import,
And in concealing the intrusive visit
The prince paid in the garden:-from a false
Mistaken honor she has deeply erred
And I shall question further.
          Ringing the bell. 
                Who waits now
Within the antechamber?  You, Duke Alva,
I need no longer.  Go.

            And has my zeal
A second time displeased your majesty?

King (to a page who enters). 
Summon Domingo.  Duke, I pardon you
For having made me tremble for a moment,
With secret apprehension, lest yourself
Might fall a victim to a foul misdeed.

Exit Alva.


The king, Domingo
King walks up and down the room to collect his thoughts.

Domingo (after contemplating the king for some time with a respectful
How joyfully surprised I am to find
Your majesty so tranquil and collected.


      And heaven be thanked my fears were groundless! 
Now may I hope the best.

             Your fears!  What feared you?

I dare not hide it from your majesty
That I had learned a secret -

King (gloomily). 
                And have I
Expressed a wish to share your secret with you? 
Who ventures to anticipate me thus? 
Too forward, by mine honor!

               Gracious monarch! 
The place, the occasion, seal of secrecy
’Neath which I learned it-free me from this charge. 
It was intrusted to me at the seat
Of penitence-intrusted as a crime
That deeply weighed upon the tender soul
Of the fair sinner who confessed her guilt,
And sought the pardon of offended heaven. 
Too late the princess weeps a foul misdeed
That may involve the queen herself in ruin.

Indeed!  Kind soul!  You have correctly guessed
The occasion of your summons.  You must guide me
Through this dark labyrinth wherein blind zeal
Has tangled me.  From you I hope for truth. 
Be candid with me; what must I believe,
And what determine?  From your sacred office
I look for strictest truth.

               And if, my liege,
The mildness ever incident to this
My holy calling, did not such restraint
Impose upon me, still I would entreat
Your majesty, for your own peace of mind,
To urge no further this discovery,
And cease forever to pursue a secret
Which never can be happily explained. 
All that is yet discovered may be pardoned. 
Let the king say the word-and then the queen
Has never sinned.  The monarch’s will bestows
Virtue and fortune, both with equal ease. 
And the king’s undisturbed tranquillity
Is, in itself, sufficient to destroy
The rumors set on foot by calumny.

What!  Rumors! and of me! among my subjects!

All falsehood, sire!  Naught but the vilest falsehood! 
I’ll swear ’tis false!  Yet what’s believed by all,
Groundless and unconfirmed although it be,
Works its effect, as sure as truth itself.

Not in this case, by heaven!

               A virtuous name
Is, after all, my liege, the only prize
Which queens and peasants’ wives contest together.

For which I surely have no need to tremble.

   He looks doubtingly at Domingo.  After a pause.

Priest, thou hast something fearful to impart. 
Delay it not.  I read it plainly stamped
In thy ill-boding looks.  Then out with it,
Whate’er it be.  Let me no longer tremble
Upon the rack.  What do the people say?

The people, sire, are liable to err,
Nay err assuredly.  What people think
Should not alarm the king.  Yet that they should
Presume so far as to indulge such thoughts -

Why must I beg this poisonous draught so long?

The people often muse upon that month
Which brought your majesty so near the grave,
From that time, thirty weeks had scarce elapsed,
Before the queen’s delivery was announced.

The king rises and rings the bell.  Duke Alva
enters.  Domingo alarmed.

I am amazed, your majesty!

King (going towards Alva). 
You are a man-defend me from this priest!

Domingo (he and duke Alva exchange embarrassed looks.  After a pause). 
Could we have but foreseen that this occurrence
Would be avenged upon its mere relater.

Said you a bastard?  I had scarce, you say,
Escaped the pangs of death when first she felt
She should, in nature’s time, become a mother. 
Explain how this occurred!  ’Twas then, if I
Remember right, that you, in every church,
Ordered devotions to St. Dominick,
For the especial wonder he vouchsafed. 
On one side or the other, then, you lie! 
What would you have me credit?  Oh, I see
Full plainly through you now!  If this dark plot
Had then been ripe your saint had lost his fame.

This plot?

      How can you with a harmony
So unexampled in your very thoughts
Concur, and not have first conspired together? 
Would you persuade me thus?  Think you that I
Perceived not with what eagerness you pounced
Upon your prey?  With what delight you fed
Upon my pain,-my agony of grief? 
Full well I marked the ardent, burning zeal
With which the duke forestalled the mark of grace
I destined for my son.  And how this priest
Presumed to fortify his petty spleen
With my wrath’s giant arm!  I am, forsooth,
A bow which each of you may bend at pleasure
But I have yet a will.  And if I needs
Must doubt-perhaps I may begin with you.

Reward like this our truth did ne’er expect.

Your truth!  Truth warns of apprehended danger. 
’Tis malice that speaks only of the past. 
What can I gain by your officiousness? 
Should your suspicion ripen to full truth,
What follows but the pangs of separation,
The melancholy triumphs of revenge? 
But no:  you only fear-you feed me with
Conjectures vague.  To hell’s profound abyss
You lead me on, then flee yourself away.

What other proofs than these are possible,
When our own eyes can scarcely trust themselves?

King (after a long pause, turning earnestly and solemnly
   towards Domingo). 
The grandees of the realm shall be convened,
And I will sit in judgment.  Then step forth
In front of all, if you have courage for it,
And charge her as a strumpet.  She shall die-
Die without mercy-and the prince, too, with her! 
But mark me well:  if she but clear herself
That doom shall fall on you.  Now, dare you show
Honor to truth by such a sacrifice? 
Determine.  No, you dare not.  You are silent. 
Such is the zeal of liars!

Alva (who has stood at a distance, answers coldly and calmly). 
              I will do it.

King (turns round with astonishment and looks at the duke for
   a long time without moving). 
That’s boldly said!  But thou hast risked thy life
In stubborn conflicts for far less a prize. 
Has risked it with a gamester’s recklessness-
For honor’s empty bubble.  What is life
To thee?  I’ll not expose the royal blood
To such a madman’s power, whose highest hope
Must be to yield his wretched being up
With some renown.  I spurn your offer.  Go;
And wait my orders in the audience chamber.



   The king alone.

Now give me, gracious Providence! a man. 
Thou’st given me much already.  Now vouchsafe me
A man! for thou alone canst grant the boon. 
Thine eye doth penetrate all hidden things
Oh! give me but a friend:  for I am not
Omniscient like to thee.  The ministers
Whom thou hast chosen for me thou dost know-
And their deserts:  and as their merits claim,
I value them.  Their subjugated vices,
Coerced by rein severe, serve all my ends,
As thy storms purify this nether world. 
I thirst for truth.  To reach its tranquil spring,
Through the dark heaps of thick surrounding error,
Is not the lot of kings.  Give me the man,
So rarely found, of pure and open heart,
Of judgment clear, and eye unprejudiced,
To aid me in the search.  I cast the lots. 
And may I find that man, among the thousands
Who flutter in the sunshine of a court.

   He opens an escritoire and takes out a portfolio. 
   After turning over the leaves a long time.

Nothing but names, mere names are here:-no note
E’en of the services to which they owe
Their place upon the roll!  Oh, what can be
Of shorter memory than gratitude! 
Here, in this other list, I read each fault
Most accurately marked.  That is not well! 
Can vengeance stand in need of such a help?

He reads further.

Count Egmont!  What doth he here?  Long ago
The victory of St. Quentin is forgotten. 
I place him with the dead.

He effaces this name and writes it on the other roll
after he has read further.

The Marquis Posa!

The Marquis Posa!  I can scarce recall
This person to mind.  And doubly marked! 
A proof I destined him for some great purpose. 
How is it possible?  This man, till now,
Has ever shunned my presence-still has fled
His royal debtor’s eye?  The only man,
By heaven, within the compass of my realm,
Who does not court my favor.  Did he burn
With avarice, or ambition, long ago
He had appeared before my throne.  I’ll try
This wondrous man.  He who can thus dispense
With royalty will doubtless speak the truth.


   The Audience Chamber.

   Don Carlos in conversation with the prince of ParmaDukes
   Alva, Feria, and Medina Sidonia, count Lerma, and other
   grandees, with papers in their hands, awaiting the king.

Medina Sidonia (seems to be shunned by all the grandees, turns
   towards duke Alva, who, alone and absorbed in himself, walks
   up and down). 
Duke, you have had an audience of the king? 
How did you find him minded?

               Somewhat ill
For you, and for the news you bring.

Medina Sidonia
                   My heart
Was lighter ’mid the roar of English cannon
Than here on Spanish ground.

Carlos, who had regarded him with silent sympathy,
now approaches him and presses his hand.

My warmest thanks,
Prince, for this generous tear.  You may perceive
How all avoid me.  Now my fate is sealed.

Still hope the best both from my father’s favor,
And your own innocence.

Medina Sidonia
             Prince, I have lost
A fleet more mighty than e’er ploughed the waves. 
And what is such a head as mine to set
’Gainst seventy sunken galleons?  And therewith
Five hopeful sons!  Alas! that breaks my heart.


The king enters from his chamber, attired.  The former
all uncover and make room on both sides, while they form
a semicircle round him.  Silence.

King (rapidly surveying the whole circle). 
Be covered, all.

Don Carlos and the prince of Parma approach first
and kiss the KING’s hand:  he turns with friendly mien
to the latter, taking no notice of his son.

Your mother, nephew, fain
Would be informed what favor you have won
Here in Madrid.

         That question let her ask
When I have fought my maiden battle, sire.

Be satisfied; your turn will come at last,
When these old props decay.
           To the duke of Feria
               What brings you here?

Feria (kneeling to the king). 
The master, sire, of Calatrava’s order
This morning died.  I here return his cross.

King (takes the order and looks round the whole circle). 
And who is worthiest after him to wear it?

He beckons to duke Alva, who approaches and bends
on one knee.  The king hangs the order on his neck.

You are my ablest general!  Ne’er aspire
To more, and, duke, my favors shall not fail you.

   He perceives the duke of Medina Sidonia.

My admiral!

Medina Sidonia
       And here you see, great king,
All that remains of the Armada’s might,
And of the flower of Spain.

King (after a pause). 
               God rules above us! 
I sent you to contend with men, and not
With rocks and storms.  You’re welcome to Madrid.

   Extending his hand to him to kiss.

I thank you for preserving in yourself
A faithful servant to me.  For as such
I value him, my lords; and ’tis my will
That you should honor him.

   He motions him to rise and cover himself, then turns
   to the others.

What more remains?

To Don Carlos and the prince of Parma.

Princes, I thank you.

They retire; the other grandees approach, and kneeling,
hand their papers to the king.  He looks over them rapidly,
and hands them to duke Alva.

Duke, let these be laid
Before me in the council.  Who waits further?

No one answers.

How comes it that amidst my train of nobles
The Marquis Posa ne’er appears?  I know
This Marquis Posa served me with distinction. 
Does he still live?  Why is he not among you?

The chevalier is just returned from travel,
Completed through all Europe.  He is now
Here in Madrid, and waits a public day
To cast himself before his sovereign’s feet.

The Marquis Posa?  Right, he is the same
Bold Knight of Malta, sire, of whom renown
Proclaims this gallant deed.  Upon a summons
Of the Grand Master, all the valiant knights
Assembled in their island, at that time
Besieged by Soliman.  This noble youth,
Scarce numbering eighteen summers, straightway fled
From Alcala, where he pursued his studies,
And suddenly arrived at La Valette
“This Cross,” he said, “was bought for me; and now
To prove I’m worthy of it.”  He was one
Of forty knights who held St. Elmo’s Castle,
At midday, ’gainst Piali, Ulucciali,
And Mustapha, and Hassem; the assault
Being thrice repeated.  When the castle fell,
And all the valiant knights were killed around him,
He plunged into the ocean, and alone
Reached La Valette in safety.  Two months after
The foe deserts the island, and the knight
Returned to end his interrupted studies.

It was the Marquis Posa, too, who crushed
The dread conspiracy in Catalonia;
And by his marked activity preserved
That powerful province to the Spanish crown.

I am amazed!  What sort of man is this
Who can deserve so highly, yet awake
No pang of envy in the breasts of three
Who speak his praise?  The character he owns
Must be of noble stamp indeed, or else
A very blank.  I’m curious to behold
This wondrous man.
       To duke Alva
          Conduct him to the council
When mass is over.
       Exit duke.  The king calls Feria
          And do you preside
Here in my place.

          The king is kind to-day.

Media Sidonia
Call him a god!  So he has proved to me!

You well deserve your fortune, admiral! 
You have my warmest wishes.

One of the grandees
               Sir, and mine.

A second
And also mine.

A third
        My heart exults with joy-
So excellent a general!

The first.
             The king
Showed you no kindness, ’twas your strict desert.

Lerma (to Medina Sidonia, taking leave). 
Oh, how two little words have made your fortune!

Exeunt all.


The KING’s Cabinet. 
Marquis Posa and duke Alva.

Marquis (as he enters). 
Does he want me?  What me?  Impossible! 
You must mistake the name.  What can he want
With me?

     To know you.

No more; I regret the precious minutes
That I must lose:  time passes swiftly by.

I now commend you to your lucky stars. 
The king is in your hands.  Employ this moment
To your own best advantage; for, remember,
If it is lost, you are alone to blame.


   The marquis alone.

Duke, ’tis well spoken!  Turn to good account
The moment which presents itself but once! 
Truly this courtier reads a useful lesson
If not in his sense good, at least in mine.

   Walks a few steps backwards and forwards.

How came I here?  Is it caprice or chance
That shows me now my image in this mirror? 
Why, out of millions, should it picture me-
The most unlikely-and present my form
To the king’s memory?  Was this but chance? 
Perhaps ’twas something more!-what else is chance
But the rude stone which from the sculptor’s hand
Receives its life?  Chance comes from Providence,
And man must mould it to his own designs. 
What the king wants with me but little matters;
I know the business I shall have with him. 
Were but one spark of truth with boldness flung
Into the despot’s soul, how fruitful ’twere
In the kind hand of Providence; and so
What first appeared capricious act of chalice,
May be designed for some momentous end. 
Whate’er it be, I’ll act on this belief.

He takes a few turns in the room, and stands at last in tranquil contemplation before a painting.  The king appears in the neighboring room, where he gives some orders.  He then enters and stands motionless at the door, and contemplates the marquis for some time without being observed.


The king, and marquis Posa.

The marquis, as soon as he observes the king, comes forward
and sinks on one knee; then rises and remains standing before
him without any sign of confusion.

King (looks at him with surprise). 
We’ve met before then?


               You did my crown
Some service?  Why then do you shun my thanks? 
My memory is thronged with suitor’s claims. 
One only is omniscient.  ’Twas your duty
To seek your monarch’s eye!  Why did you not?

Two days have scarce elapsed since my return
From foreign travel, sire.

              I would not stand
Indebted to a subject; ask some favor -

I enjoy the laws.

          So does the murderer!

Then how much more the honest citizen! 
My lot contents me, sire.

King (aside). 
              By heavens! a proud
And dauntless mind!  That was to be expected. 
Proud I would have my Spaniards.  Better far
The cup should overflow than not be full. 
They say you’ve left my service?

                  To make way
For some one worthier, I withdrew.

’Tis pity.  When spirits such as yours make holiday,
The state must suffer.  But perchance you feared
To miss the post best suited to your merits.

Oh, no!  I doubt not the experienced judge,
In human nature skilled-his proper study,-
Will have discovered at a glance wherein
I may be useful to him, wherein not. 
With deepest gratitude, I feel the favor
Wherewith, by so exalted an opinion,
Your majesty is loading me; and yet -

He pauses.

You hesitate?

        I am, I must confess,
Sire, at this moment, unprepared to clothe
My thoughts, as the world’s citizen, in phrase
Beseeming to your subject.  When I left
The court forever, sire, I deemed myself
Released from the necessity to give
My reasons for this step.

              Are they so weak? 
What do you fear to risk by their disclosure?

My life at farthest, sire,-were time allowed
For me to weary you-but this denied-

Then truth itself must suffer.  I must choose
’Twixt your displeasure and contempt. 
And if I must decide, I rather would appear
Worthy of punishment than pity.

King (with a look of expectation). 

I cannot be the servant of a prince.
   The king looks at him with astonishment. 
I will not cheat the buyer.  Should you deem
Me worthy of your service, you prescribe
A course of duty for me; you command
My arm in battle and my head in council. 
Then, not my actions, but the applause they meet
At court becomes their object.  But for me
Virtue possesses an intrinsic worth. 
I would, myself, create that happiness
A monarch, with my hand, would seek to plant,
And duty’s task would prove an inward joy,
And be my willing choice.  Say, like you this? 
And in your own creation could you hear
A new creator?  For I ne’er could stoop
To be the chisel where I fain would be-
The sculptor’s self.  I dearly love mankind,
My gracious liege, but in a monarchy
I dare not love another than myself.

This ardor is most laudable.  You wish
To do good deeds to others; how you do them
Is but of small account to patriots,
Or to the wise.  Choose then within these realms
The office where you best may satisfy
This noble impulse.

           ’Tis not to be found.


   What your majesty would spread abroad,
Through these my hands-is it the good of men? 
Is it the happiness that my pure love
Would to mankind impart?  Before such bliss
Monarchs would tremble.  No!  Court policy
Has raised up new enjoyments for mankind. 
Which she is always rich enough to grant;
And wakened, in the hearts of men, new wishes
Which such enjoyments only can content. 
In her own mint she coins the truth-such truth! 
As she herself can tolerate:  all forms
Unlike her own are broken.  But is that
Which can content the court enough for me? 
Must my affection for my brother pledge
Itself to work my brother injury? 
To call him happy when he dare not think? 
Sire, choose not me to spread the happiness
Which you have stamped for us.  I must decline
To circulate such coin.  I cannot be
The servant of a prince.

King (suddenly). 
             You are, perhaps,
A Protestant?

Marquis (after some reflection). 
        Our creeds, my liege, are one.
                A pause. 
I am misunderstood.  I feared as much. 
You see the veil torn by my hand aside
From all the mysteries of majesty. 
Who can assure you I shall still regard
As sacred that which ceases to alarm me? 
I may seem dangerous, because I think
Above myself.  I am not so, my liege;
My wishes lie corroding here.  The rage
   Laying his hand on his breast. 
For innovation, which but serves to increase
The heavy weight of chains it cannot break,
Shall never fire my blood!  The world is yet
Unripe for my ideal; and I live
A citizen of ages yet to come. 
But does a fancied picture break your rest? 
A breach of yours destroys it.

                Say, am I
The first to whom your views are known?

                     You are.

King (rises, walks a few paces and then stops opposite
   the marquis-aside). 
This tone, at least, is new; but flattery
Exhausts itself.  And men of talent still
Disdain to imitate.  So let us test
Its opposite for once.  Why should I not? 
There is a charm in novelty.  Should we
Be so agreed, I will bethink me now
Of some new state employment, in whose duties
Your powerful mind -

           Sire, I perceive how small,
How mean, your notions are of manly worth. 
Suspecting, in an honest man’s discourse,
Naught but a flatterer’s artifice-methinks
I can explain the cause of this your error. 
Mankind compel you to it.  With free choice
They have disclaimed their true nobility,
Lowered themselves to their degraded state. 
Before man’s inward worth, as from a phantom,
They fly in terror-and contented with
Their poverty, they ornament their chains
With slavish prudence; and they call it virtue
To bear them with a show of resignation. 
Thus did you find the world, and thus it was
By your great father handed o’er to you. 
In this debased connection-how could you
Respect mankind?

         Your words contain some truth.

Alas! that when from the Creator’s hand
You took mankind, and moulded him to suit
Your own ideas, making yourself the god
Of this new creature, you should overlook
That you yourself remained a human being-
A very man, as from God’s hands you came. 
Still did you feel a mortal’s wants and pains. 
You needed sympathy; but to a God
One can but sacrifice, and pray, and tremble-
Wretched exchange!  Perversion most unblest
Of sacred nature!  Once degrade mankind,
And make him but a thing to play upon,
Who then can share the harmony with you?

King (aside). 
By heaven, he moves me!

             But this sacrifice
To you is valueless.  You thus become
A thing apart, a species of your own. 
This is the price you pay for being a god;
’Twere dreadful were it not so, and if you
Gained nothing by the misery of millions! 
And if the very freedom you destroyed
Were the sole blessing that could make you happy. 
Dismiss me, sire, I pray you; for my theme
Bears me too far; my heart is full; too strong
The charm, to stand before the only man
To whom I may reveal it.

The count Lerma enters, and whispers a few words
to the king, who signs him to withdraw, and continues
sitting in his former posture.

King (to the marquis, after Lerma is gone). 
             Nay, continue.

Marquis (after a pause).

I feel, sire-all the worth -

                Proceed; you had
Yet more to say to me.

            Your majesty,
I lately passed through Flanders and Brabant,
So many rich and blooming provinces,
Filled with a valiant, great, and honest people. 
To be the father of a race like this
I thought must be divine indeed; and then
I stumbled on a heap of burnt men’s bones.

He stops, he fixes a penetrating look on the king,
who endeavors to return his glance; but he looks on
the ground, embarrassed and confused.

True, you are forced to act so; but that you
Could dare fulfil your task-this fills my soul
With shuddering horror!  Oh, ’tis pity that
The victim, weltering in his blood, must cease
To chant the praises of his sacrificer! 
And that mere men-not beings loftier far-
Should write the history of the world.  But soon
A milder age will follow that of Philip,
An age of truer wisdom; hand in hand,
The subjects’ welfare and the sovereign’s greatness
Will walk in union.  Then the careful state
Will spare her children, and necessity
No longer glory to be thus inhuman.

When, think you, would that blessed age arrive,
If I had shrunk before the curse of this? 
Behold my Spain, see here the burgher’s good
Blooms in eternal and unclouded peace. 
A peace like this will I bestow on Flanders.

Marquis (hastily). 
The churchyard’s peace!  And do you hope to end
What you have now begun?  Say, do you hope
To check the ripening change of Christendom,
The universal spring, that shall renew
The earth’s fair form?  Would you alone, in Europe,
Fling yourself down before the rapid wheel
Of destiny, which rolls its ceaseless course,
And seize its spokes with human arm.  Vain thought! 
Already thousands have your kingdom fled
In joyful poverty:  the honest burgher
For his faith exiled, was your noblest subject! 
See! with a mother’s arms, Elizabeth
Welcomes the fugitives, and Britain blooms
In rich luxuriance, from our country’s arts. 
Bereft of the new Christian’s industry,
Granada lies forsaken, and all Europe
Exulting, sees his foe oppressed with wounds,
By its own hands inflicted!

   The king is moved; the marquis observes it,
   and advances a step nearer.

You would plant
For all eternity, and yet the seeds
You sow around you are the seeds of death! 
This hopeless task, with nature’s laws at strife,
Will ne’er survive the spirit of its founder. 
You labor for ingratitude; in vain,
With nature you engage in desperate struggle-
In vain you waste your high and royal life
In projects of destruction.  Man is greater
Than you esteem him.  He will burst the chains
Of a long slumber, and reclaim once more
His just and hallowed rights.  With Nero’s name,
And fell Busiris’, will he couple yours;
And-ah! you once deserved a better fate.

How know you that?

          In very truth you did-
Yes, I repeat it-by the Almighty power! 
Restore us all you have deprived us of,
And, generous as strong, let happiness
Flow from your horn of plenty-let man’s mind
Ripen in your vast empire-give us back
All you have taken from us-and become,
Amidst a thousand kings, a king indeed!

   He advances boldly, and fixes on him a look of
   earnestness and enthusiasm.

Oh, that the eloquence of all those myriads,
Whose fate depends on this momentous hour,
Could hover on my lips, and fan the spark
That lights thine eye into a glorious flame! 
Renounce the mimicry of godlike powers
Which level us to nothing.  Be, in truth,
An image of the Deity himself! 
Never did mortal man possess so much
For purpose so divine.  The kings of Europe
Pay homage to the name of Spain.  Be you
The leader of these kings.  One pen-stroke now,
One motion of your hand, can new create
The earth! but grant us liberty of thought.

         Casts himself at his feet.

King (surprised, turns away his face, then again looks
   towards the marquis). 
Enthusiast most strange! arise; but I -

Look round on all the glorious face of nature,
On freedom it is founded-see how rich,
Through freedom it has grown.  The great Creator
Bestows upon the worm its drop of dew,
And gives free-will a triumph in abodes
Where lone corruption reigns.  See your creation,
How small, how poor!  The rustling of a leaf
Alarms the mighty lord of Christendom. 
Each virtue makes you quake with fear.  While he,
Not to disturb fair freedom’s blest appearance,
Permits the frightful ravages of evil
To waste his fair domains.  The great Creator
We see not-he conceals himself within
His own eternal laws.  The sceptic sees
Their operation, but beholds not Him. 
“Wherefore a God!” he cries, “the world itself
Suffices for itself!” And Christian prayer
Ne’er praised him more than doth this blasphemy.

And will you undertake to raise up this
Exalted standard of weak human nature
In my dominions?

         You can do it, sire. 
Who else?  Devote to your own people’s bliss
The kingly power, which has too long enriched
The greatness of the throne alone.  Restore
The prostrate dignity of human nature,
And let the subject be, what once he was,
The end and object of the monarch’s care,
Bound by no duty, save a brother’s love. 
And when mankind is to itself restored,
Roused to a sense of its own innate worth,
When freedom’s lofty virtues proudly flourish-
Then, sire, when you have made your own wide realms
The happiest in the world, it then may be
Your duty to subdue the universe.

King (after a long pause). 
I’ve heard you to the end.  Far differently
I find, than in the minds of other men,
The world exists in yours.  And you shall not
By foreign laws be judged.  I am the first
To whom you have your secret self disclosed;
I know it-so believe it-for the sake
Of this forbearance-that you have till now
Concealed these sentiments, although embraced
With so much ardor,-for this cautious prudence. 
I will forget, young man, that I have learned them,
And how I learned them.  Rise!  I will confute
Your youthful dreams by my matured experience,
Not by my power as king.  Such is my will,
And therefore act I thus.  Poison itself
May, in a worthy nature, be transformed
To some benignant use.  But, sir, beware
My Inquisition!  ’Twould afflict me much -


King (lost in surprise). 
     Ne’er met I such a man as that! 
No, marquis, no! you wrong me!  Not to you
Will I become a Nero-not to you!-
All happiness shall not be blasted round me,
And you at least, beneath my very eyes,
May dare continue to remain a man.

Marquis (quickly). 
And, sire, my fellow-subjects?  Not for me,
Nor my own cause, I pleaded.  Sire! your subjects -

Nay, if you know so well how future times
Will judge me, let them learn at least from you,
That when I found a man, I could respect him.

Oh, let not the most just of kings at once
Be the most unjust!  In your realm of Flanders
There are a thousand better men than I.
But you-sire! may I dare to say so much-
For the first time, perhaps, see liberty
In milder form portrayed.

King (with gentle severity). 
              No more of this,
Young man!  You would, I know, think otherwise
Had you but learned to understand mankind
As I. But truly-I would not this meeting
Should prove our last.  How can I hope to win you?

Pray leave me as I am.  What value, sire,
Should I be to you were you to corrupt me?

This pride I will not bear.  From this day forth
I hold you in my service.  No remonstrance-
For I will have it so.
        After a pause. 
            But how is this? 
What would I now?  Was it not truth I wished? 
But here is something more.  Marquis, so far
You’ve learned to know me as a king; but yet
You know me not as man-
         The marquis seems to meditate. 
            I understand you-
Were I the most unfortunate of fathers,
Yet as a husband may I not be blest?

If the possession of a hopeful son,
And a most lovely spouse, confer a claim
On mortal to assume that title, sire,
In both respects, you are supremely blest.

King (with a serious look). 
That am I not-and never, till this hour,
Have I so deeply felt that I am not so.

Contemplating the marquis with a look of melancholy.

The prince possesses a right noble mind. 
I ne’er have known him otherwise.

                  I have
The treasure he has robbed me of, no crown
Can e’er requite.  So virtuous a queen!

Who dare assert it, sire?

              The world! and scandal! 
And I myself!  Here lie the damning proofs
Of doubtless guilt-and others, too, exist,
From which I fear the worst.  But still ’tis hard
To trust one proof alone.  Who brings the charge? 
And oh! if this were possible-that she,
The queen, so foully could pollute her honor,
Then how much easier were it to believe
An Eboli may be a slanderer! 
Does not that priest detest my son and her? 
And can I doubt that Alva broods revenge? 
My wife has higher worth than all together.

And there exists besides in woman’s soul
A treasure, sire, beyond all outward show,
Above the reach of slander-female virtue!

Marquis! those thoughts are mine.  It costs too much
To sink so low as they accuse the queen. 
The sacred ties of honor are not broken
With so much ease, as some would fain persuade me. 
Marquis, you know mankind.  Just such a man
As you I long have wished for-you are kind-
Cheerful-and deeply versed in human nature-
Therefore I’ve chosen you -

Marquis (surprised and alarmed). 
               Me, sire!

                    You stand
Before your king and ask no special favor-
For yourself nothing!-that is new to me-
You will be just-ne’er weakly swayed by passion. 
Watch my son close-search the queen’s inmost heart. 
You shall have power to speak with her in private. 
              He rings a bell.

     And if with but one hope fulfilled
I now depart, then is this day indeed
The happiest of my life.

King (holds out his hand to him to kiss). 
             I hold it not
Amongst my days a lost one.
   The marquis rises and goes.  Count Lerma enters. 
               Count, in future,
The marquis is to enter, unannounced.