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Maria Stuart

Friedrich Schiller

Maria Stuart

Act Two

Texte intégral

Elizabeth I of England, ca. 1580, oil on panel. English School. Wikimedia, public domain,​wiki/​File:English_School_Elizabeth_I_of_England_c._1580.jpg

1The Palace of Westminster

Scene One

2Earl Kent and Sir William Davison meet.

3[750] DAVISON. Is that you, Lord Kent? Back from the lists so soon?

4The festival’s done?

5KENT. Were you not at the games?

6DAVISON. I could not get away.

7KENT. A brilliant spectacle!

8A feat of good taste and good manners. Just listen!

9A virginal stronghold of Beauty is

10Assaulted by Desire. Lord Marshal, Chief Judge,

11The Seneschal and other knights of the Queen

12Defend it. France’s cavaliers attack.

13A Herald in a madrigal had called out

14The fortress, the Chancellor answered from the wall.

15[760] Artillery now comes into play, fires bouquets and perfumes

16In vain! The storm repulsed, Desire must withdraw.

17DAVISON. An evil augury for the French suit, I fear.

18KENT. Oh, only jest. The fort will yield in the end.

19DAVISON. You think so? I doubt it.

20KENT. The difficult points are

  • 34 Honorific of a French king’s eldest brother.

21Settled, admitted all: Monsieur34 will worship

22In a closed chapel, honor our Church, defend it

23Abroad. Had you but seen how all men rejoiced!

24Eternal fear in this Kingdom is that she

25Die without issue and this Stuart, a Catholic,

26[770] Succeed her.

27DAVISON. England need fear such a succession

28No longer. She goes into the bridal chamber,

29My Lady Mary to the steps of the scaffold.

30KENT. The Queen is coming!

Scene Two

31As above. Elizabeth, escorted by Leicester. Count Aubespine, Bellievre, Earl Shrewsbury, Lord Burghley, with other French and English Lords, enter.

32ELIZABETH (to Aubespine). Count! I do lament

33These noble lords, whom gallant zeal has brought us

34Across the waters, that they not find the courtly

  • 35 Saint Germain, then outside Paris, was a seat of the court of France.

35Glories of Saint Germain35 here at my Court.

36Magnificent feasts of the gods the Queen Mother

  • 36 The redoubtable Catherine de’ Medici, widow of King Henry II, mother of Francis II and of Charles I (...)

37Of France36 invents are all beyond me. A

38Contented, mannerly folk thronging my litter

39[780] Wherever I appear—this spectacle I

40Can offer strangers’ gaze with some pride. Brilliance

41Of noble damsels all abloom in Catherine’s

42Gardens of beauty simply would eclipse my

43Less glorious deserts along with their author.

44AUBESPINE. Westminster’s court shows but one lady, to the

45Stranger’s surprise, but all that pleases in

46The charming sex is gathered up in this one.

47BELLIEVRE. Exalted Majesty of England, grant

48That we take leave, to delight Monsieur, our royal

49[790] Lord, with the much-desired news. His heart’s impatience

50Has driven him from Paris. He awaits

51The messengers of his good fortune in Amiens,

52And he has sent his posts as far as Calais

53To bring acceptance that your royal mouth speaks

54With lightning speed to his ecstatic ear.

55ELIZABETH. Count Bellievre, do not press me. It is not time, I

56Repeat, to light the wedding torch. A cloud

57Hangs over England, mourning would become me

58Far more than blinding bridal display. A painful

59[800] Blow is about to strike my heart and my House.

60BELLIEVRE. A promise to be honored in happier times, then.

61ELIZABETH. Kings are the slaves of their rank, never free

62To follow their heart. Ever have I wished

63To die unmarried, have inscribed on my tomb:

64“Here lies the virgin Queen.” That had been fame!

65My subjects will have none of it. They only

66Think of when I am gone. Not enough that now

67Blessing lies on this land. I’m taxed with their future.

68My virgin freedom I’m to give for my people,

69[810] A lord and master they would force on me, too.

70He will make clear that I am a mere woman,

71And I thought I’d ruled like a man and a king.

72I understand God is not served when one

73Departs from Nature’s order. All praise to those

74Before me who opened cloisters, restored whole thousands

  • 37 That is to say, to marriage and childbearing.

75To Nature’s duties.37 But a queen who does

76Not spend her days in idle reflection, rather

77Takes up the heaviest duties undiscouraged—

78Let her be excepted from the natural purpose

79[820] That makes one half our kind submit to the other.

80AUBESPINE. With every virtue glorified on your throne,

81My Queen, you need but light the way of the sex

82Of which you are the glory by offering it

83A model of its signal deserts. To be sure,

84There lives no man on earth who is worthy of

85Your bringing him the sacrifice of your freedom.

86But if high birth, high rank, heroic virtues

87And manly beauty should make a mortal worth

88That honor—

89ELIZABETH. There’s no doubt, Ambassador,

90[830] That marriage to a royal son of France does

91Me honor! I confess most frankly if it

92Must be, if I must yield to my people’s insistence,

93Which, as I fear, will prove yet stronger than I am,

94I know no prince in Europe whom I would give

95My greatest treasure, freedom, with less reluctance.

96Let this confession be enough for you.

97BELLIEVRE. It is the loveliest of hopes but only

98A hope. My Lord would wish more—

99ELIZABETH. What would he wish?

100(She draws a ring from her finger and contemplates it.)

101In nothing the queen exceeds the commoner’s wife!

102[840] One and the same sign points to one same duty,

103And one same servitude. A ring makes a marriage.

104It’s rings, too, that make chains. Present His Highness

105This gift. It is no chain yet, does not bind me,

106But it can yet become a link that does bind.

107BELLIEVRE (kneeling to receive the ring).

108In his name, great Queen, I receive this gift

109And press the kiss of homage on my Queen’s hand.

110ELIZABETH (to Earl Leicester, at whom she gazed throughout this last speech).

111My Lord, permit me!

  • 38 Famously, the badge of the Order of the Garter, the kingdom’s highest. Its motto translates: “Shame (...)

112(She removes his blue sash38 and drapes it on Bellievre.)

113Drape this ornament

114About His Highness as I drape you here and

115Receive you into the duties of my Order.

116[850] Honny soit qui mal y pense! All suspicion

117Between our nations vanish, let a sash

118Of trust embrace the Crowns of France and Britain!

119AUBESPINE. Great Queen, this is a day of joy for all.

120May no afflicted soul on this Island feel pain!

121Mercy shines on your brow. Oh, that a glimmer

122Of its joyful light fall upon an unhappy

123Princess of equal interest to both Britain

124And France—

125ELIZABETH. No more, Count. Let us not mix two

126Affairs that can in no way be related.

127[860] If France desires alliance with me in earnest,

128It must take part in every concern of mine.

129It cannot be the friend of my foe—

130AUBESPINE. Unworthy

131In your eyes, too, were it, should it forget in

132This bond an unhappy soul of its confession

  • 39 Mary, aged seventeen, was widowed of the French king Francis II. See the “Short Life of Mary Stuart (...)

133And widow of its king.39 Mere honor, human


135ELIZABETH. In this sense I know how to value

136Its plea. France answers to its duty of friendship.

137It shall be granted me to act as a queen.

138(She bows to the French Lords, who withdraw respectfully with the other Lords.)

Scene Three

139Elizabeth. Leicester. Burghley. Talbot.

140The Queen takes her seat.

141BURGHLEY. Most glorious Queen! Today you answer the wishes

142[870] Of all your people. Now at last we can

143Enjoy the blessed days you grant us, no longer

144Staring into a stormy future. But one

145Thing more would all demand. Grant this and today

146Has founded England’s welfare for all time.

147ELIZABETH. What more do my people want? Tell me, my Lord.


149Demand the head of Mary Stuart. If you

150Would give them precious freedom, the light of Truth,

151She must no longer be. If we are not to

152Fear for your life, your foe must perish. You know

153[880] Not all our Britons think alike. Full many

154Pay secret tribute to Roman idolatry.

  • 40 These are three brothers of the House of Guise, sons of Francis, Duke of Lorraine, and Mary’s cousi (...)

155Sworn to the brothers Lorraine,40 they have vowed you

156War to the death. The Bishop’s seat at Reims is

157Their arsenal. There they forge hot thunderbolts,

158Teach regicide and send out missions, fanatics

159In all kinds of disguise. Three times they’ve attempted

160Your life. They hatch more of their likes in this pit.

  • 41 Goddess of ruin.

161At Fotheringhay sits the Ate41 of this war,

162Enflaming the Realm with the torch of love.

163[890] She flatters youths with hope, to certain destruction.

164The lure is to free her, to replace you their purpose.

165Lorraine believes you a usurper, crowned by chance.

166They led the foolish Mary to call herself queen.

167There’ll be no peace with her, none with her House!

168Or you must strike the blow or you must receive it.

169Her life is death to you, her death your life!

170ELIZABETH. My Lord, yours is a dismal office. I know

171Your chaste zeal, know the solid wisdom you speak.

172This wisdom, though, demands blood, which I loathe.

173[900] Find milder counsel. Lord Shrewsbury, what say you?

174TALBOT. You justly praise the zeal inspiring loyal

175Burghley’s breast. I, though far less eloquent,

176Nurture a heart no less true. Long live my Queen,

177The joy of her folk, long live the peace that she brings us!

178This Island has not seen such days since ruled

179By its own princes. May it not redeem its

180Good fortune at the price of its good name.

181May Talbot’s eyes be closed if ever this be!

182ELIZABETH. God save us if we ever blot our good name!

183[910] TALBOT. You then will think of other means of saving

184The Realm. For executing Mary Stuart

185Is no lawful means. You cannot pronounce

186Judgment against one who is not your subject,

187As she is not.

188ELIZABETH. My Council of State then

189Is wrong, and wrong my Parliament and the law courts

190Of England, which all recognized this right—

191TALBOT. Vote of majority is no proof of justice.

192England is not the world, your Parliament

193No union of all humankind. Nor is

194[920] Present-day England to be our England in future

195As it is not the England of the past.

196As inclination rises, then falls, so judgment,

197Too, rises and falls, a wandering wave on the sea.

198Do not claim you must yield to what is needful,

199To your people’s clamor. Every moment you

200Can prove your will free. But try it. Declare

201That you loathe blood, wish to see your sister saved.

202Show those of different counsel truth of king’s anger.

203Necessity you’ll see vanish, justice become

204[930] Injustice. You must judge, you only. You

205Cannot lean on this broken reed. Heed your goodness.

206God laid no rigor in a woman’s heart,

207Our Forebears, who let women rule, too, decreed

208That rigor be no virtue among our kings.

209ELIZABETH. Lord Shrewsbury gives warm counsel for my foe.

210I would hear counsel in my favor instead.

211TALBOT. One granted her no counsel, no one dared speak

212In her behalf, expose himself to your wrath.

213Grant me, an old man on the brink of the grave

214[940] Whom earthly hope no longer seduces, right to

215Protect her now she is abandoned. Let

216One not say passion and self-seeking spoke

217Loudly in your State Council, mercy was silent.

218The world entire unites in league against her,

219And you yourself have never seen her face.

220Nothing in your heart speaks for this stranger.

221I do not speak here in defense of her guilt.

222They say she had her husband murdered. Proven

223Is that she wed the murderer—a grave crime!

224[950] These things took place in dark times—civil war.

225Beset by hostile vassals, in her weakness

226She threw herself into a bold man’s strong arms.

227Who knows what artful force had mastered her?

228For woman is but weak and easily broken.

229ELIZABETH. Woman is not weak. There are strong souls among us.

230I’ll not hear weakness spoken of in my presence.

231TALBOT. Ill fortune served you as a hard school. You saw

232No far-away throne, but a grave at your feet.

233At Woodstock, in the Tower you were brought up

  • 42 Mary Tudor, succeeding to the throne, first confined her half-sister Elizabeth in the Tower, then h (...)

234[960] In sorrow, without flatterers.42 Far from the world,

235You learned reflection, insight, life’s true goods.

236She, still a child, was brought to France, to the court

237Of thoughtless pleasure and frivolity,

238Dazzled by brilliant vice and swept toward ruin.

239She had received the idle gift of beauty,

240She outshone all her kind in rank and figure—

241ELIZABETH. Come to yourself, Lord Shrewsbury! We sit in Council.

242What charms must they be to enflame an old man!

243Lord Leicester, you alone are silent? What

244[970] Makes him so eloquent, does it strike you dumb?

245LEICESTER. Surprise dumbfounds me, Queen. One fills your ear

246With horrors, tales that terrify the riffraff

247Of London’s back lanes make their way into your

248State Council, occupy the minds of grave men.

249Amazement seizes me that the landless Queen

250Of Scotland, powerless to keep her own throne,

251Derision of her vassals, dregs of her land,

252Should terrify you now she is in prison!

253What makes her so frightful? That she claims your realm? That

254[980] The House of Guise will not know you as Queen?

255Can their dispute reach a right yours from birth?

256Confirmed by act of Parliament? Is she

257Not silently refused by Henry’s last will?

258Will England, content in this new Light, now throw

259Itself into a papist’s arms, desert its

260Adored Queen for the one who murdered Darnley?

261What do they want, these men who torment you, yet

262Alive, with this heir? Cannot marry you soon

263Enough to save both Church and Kingdom from danger?

264[990] Are you not still in the first bloom of youth?

265Does she not fade daily into the grave?

266By God! I hope you tread that grave yet many

267A year without having to cast her into it.

268BURGHLEY. Lord Leicester has not always judged things so.

269LEICESTER. It’s true, before the court I voted her death.

270In Council I say otherwise. We speak

271Here not of justice but of our advantage.

272Is now the time to fear her? France, her sole shield,

273Deserts her, now that you would give the king’s son

274[1000] Your hand and hope of new heirs blooms in the land.

275Why kill her? She is dead! Contempt is true death.

276Beware lest pity bring her back to life!

277My counsel: Let the sentence stand in full force.

278She live, but under the keen blade of the axe.

279An arm raised in her behalf and the axe falls.

280ELIZABETH (rising). My Lords, I thank you. I have heard your counsel.

281With God’s help, who lights kings’ way on this earth,

282I shall consider and choose what seems best.

Scene Four

283As above. Knight Paulet with Mortimer.

284ELIZABETH. Here’s Amias Paulet. What do you bring, sir?

285[1010] PAULET. My glorious Queen, my nephew, newly returned from

286Far travels, throws himself at your feet and swears

287Allegiance. Pray receive him into your favor.

288MORTIMER (dropping to one knee).

289Long live my royal Lady, crowned in glory!

290ELIZABETH. Stand up. I welcome you in England, sir.

291You have made the Grand Tour, crossed France to Rome,

292And stopped at Reims. What are our foes plotting now?

293MORTIMER. Confusion fog their minds and turn their arrows

294Back on their bowmen!

  • 43 For Morgan and Ross, see note 24, above.

295ELIZABETH. You saw Morgan and Ross?43

296MORTIMER. I met all Scottish exiles plotting against us

297[1020] At Reims and gained their trust.

298PAULET. They gave him letters

299In cipher for the Scottish Queen. He has

300Delivered them all into our hands, my Queen.

301ELIZABETH. And what are they preparing for us now?

302MORTIMER. They were all thunderstruck that France forsakes them

303And binds itself to England. They put their hopes now

304In Spain.

  • 44 Sir Francis Walsingham, chief of intelligence.

305ELIZABETH. As Walsingham has written me.44

306MORTIMER. A bull against you, hurled from Rome by the Pope,

307Arrived at Reims just as I left. The next ship

  • 45 This is renewal of the papal anathema against Elizabeth. It will figure in Mortimer’s plot.

308Brings it to England.45

309LEICESTER. England fears such no longer.

310[1030] BURGHLEY. A fearful weapon in fanatics’ hands.

311ELIZABETH (with a searching look at Mortimer).

312At Reims, they say, you studied and converted?

313MORTIMER. I’ll not deny that I gave myself the air.

314My great desire to serve you went so far!

315ELIZABETH (to Paulet, who presents papers).

316What’s this?

317PAULET. A letter from the Queen of Scotland.

318BURGHLEY (reaching for the letter). Give it to me.

319PAULET (giving the letter to the Queen).

320Pardon, my Lord High Treasurer! Into the Queen’s

321Own hands. These are my orders. She always says

322That I am her foe. I am not. I oppose

323Only her vices. What agrees with my duties

324[1040] I gladly render her.

  • 46 They are arranging to meet.

325(While the Queen reads the letter, Mortimer and Leicester speak secretly.)46

326BURGHLEY (to Paulet). What’s in that letter?

327Complaints that should be spared the Queen’s soft heart.

328PAULET. That she has told me. She begs as a great favor

329To see the Queen face to face.

330BURGHLEY (quickly). Not on my life!

331TALBOT. Why not? She asks for nothing unlawful.

332BURGHLEY. The favor of the Queen’s face she has undone

333As one who plotted murder. No true and faithful

334Counsel would give such treasonous advice.

335TALBOT. If our Queen wishes to oblige her, would

336You hamper such a merciful impulse?

337[1050] BURGHLEY. She is condemned. Her head is under the axe.

338It ill becomes Her Majesty to see

339A head condemned to death. And judgment cannot

340Be carried out. The royal presence brings mercy—

341ELIZABETH (having read the letter, drying her tears).

342Oh, what is man? What earthly happiness?

343How far this queen has fallen, who set out

344With proud hopes, was called to the oldest throne

  • 47 The French lay claim to the oldest throne in Christendom, at the conversion of Clovis (496); the th (...)

345In Christendom, and thought to wear three crowns!47

346How different her words from when she assumed

347The arms of England and let herself be called

  • 48 Henry II of France raised a pretension to England and France on behalf of his eldest son Francis an (...)

348[1060] Queen of the British Isles!48 Your pardon, my Lords.

349Sorrow and sadness seize me, seeing earthly

350Things stand no faster, feeling human fate,

351The terrifying, brush just past my head.

352TALBOT. Oh, merciful Queen, God has touched your heart.

353Obey this heavenly urging! Gravely she has

354Atoned a grave crime. Let her trials now end!

355Give her your hand, descend, a light in her darkness.

356BURGHLEY. Stand fast, great Queen. Let no grand feeling mislead you.

357Do not rob yourself of your freedom to do

358[1070] What must be. Pardon her you cannot, nor save her.

359Do not invite blame that you looked in triumph

360Upon your victim, feasted on the sight.

361LEICESTER. Let’s keep ourselves in proper bounds, my Lords.

362The Queen has no need of our wisdom to choose

363The worthiest course. Meeting of the two queens

364Is unrelated to proceedings at court.

365Mary’s condemned by England’s law, not the Queen’s will.

366Becoming to Elizabeth’s great soul

367Is that she follow urgings of her heart,

368[1080] So far the law keeps to its proper course.

369ELIZABETH. Go now, my Lords. Leave us to find means, duly

370To join requirements mercy makes of us

371With what necessity imposes upon us.

372Now take your leave.

373(The Lords go off. She calls Mortimer back from the threshold.)

374Sir Mortimer! One word!

Scene Five

375Elizabeth. Mortimer.

376ELIZABETH (having measured him with her gaze).

377You showed bold courage and rare self-restraint for

378Your years. A man who masters arts of deception

379So young matures soon, shortens his probation.

380Destiny calls you to a grand career.

381I prophesy it of you and, to your

382[1090] Good fortune, I can make my prophecy come true.

383MORTIMER. Exalted Mistress, what I am and can do

384Is dedicated to your service only.

385ELIZABETH. You, who have come to know the enemies of England,

386Know, too, their fierce hate cannot be reconciled,

387Nor can their murderous projects be exhausted.

388Almighty God has shielded me until now, but

389The crown on my head trembles while she lives,

390Giving fanatics a pretext, feeding their hopes.

391MORTIMER. She lives no longer once you give the order.

392[1100] ELIZABETH. I believed that once and I have gotten no further.

393I wanted to let the law act and keep

394My hands clean. Judgment has been passed. What have

395I gained? A verdict must be executed.

396And I must give the order. Mine is the deed.

397It’s I must own it. There’s no saving appearance.

398MORTIMER. What harm appearance where the cause is just?

399ELIZABETH. How little you know the world, Knight!

400What one appears has everyone for a judge,

401What one is has none. Of my justice I’ll

402[1110] Persuade no one. My part in this must be doubtful.

403Darkness alone protects so double a deed.

404Most foolish of all is to own to a thing.

405One does not lose what one does not give away.

406MORTIMER (feeling his way).

407The best thing then would be—

408ELIZABETH (swiftly). Of course it would!

409My guardian angel speaks through you. Go on!

410You grasp the matter, unlike Paulet, your uncle.

411MORTIMER (startled). You put it to the Knight?

412ELIZABETH. To my great regret.

413MORTIMER. Forgive the old man. Age makes him uncertain.

414Such daring demands youth.

415ELIZABETH (quickly). From you I may—

416[1120] MORTIMER. I lend you my hand. Save your name as you’re able—

417ELIZABETH. If you should wake me with the news one morning:

418The Stuart Queen has gone out of this life—

419MORTIMER. Count on me.

420ELIZABETH. When shall I sleep peacefully again?

421MORTIMER. Let the next new moon bring you peace.

422ELIZABETH. Farewell, sir.

423My gratitude must take the colors of night.

424But silence is the god of men of good fortune.

425Secrecy fastens tenderest bonds warm and tight. (She goes off.)

Scene Six

426Mortimer alone

427Go now, dissembling Queen. As you, the world

428Just so will I deceive you. Do I look like

429[1130] A murderer? Is there ruthlessness in my face?

430Just you trust in my arm, hold yours back, take on

431A merciful air, and wait for my aid—

432And we’ll gain time to join force for her rescue!

433Advance me, dangle a great prize— And were you

434That great prize—you and all your woman’s favors!

435Who are you? What can you give? The one highest good,

436Life’s greatest ornament, when one heart, self-

437Forgetting, rapt, gives itself to another—

438This crown of womanhood you’ve never known

439[1140] Nor ever been the happiness of a man.

440I must await Lord Leicester—odious errand!

441I’ll save her, I alone, by my design,

442Danger, fame and the prize— They shall be mine!

443(As he is about to go, Paulet enters.)

Scene Seven

444Mortimer. Paulet. Then Leicester.

445PAULET. What did the Queen say?

446MORTIMER. Nothing, Uncle, nothing

447At all important.

448PAULET (fixing him). Listen, Mortimer!

449You’re stepping onto a slippery slope. A king’s

450Favor seduces, youth craves honor. Don’t let

451Ambition draw you down the wrong path!

452MORTIMER. But Uncle—

453Were you not the one who brought me to court?

454[1150] PAULET. And how I wish I had not! Our house did not

455Gain its good name at this Court. You stand firm,

456My nephew. Do not pay too high a price!

457Do not offend your conscience!

458MORTIMER. What are you thinking?

459PAULET. However great the Queen would make you, mistrust

460Her flatteries. When you have done her bidding, she will

461Deny you and avenge the bloody deed

462To keep her name spotless.

463MORTIMER. You say, bloody deed—

464PAULET. Enough such shamming! I know what she has

465Presumed of you. She hopes to find your youthful

466[1160] Ambition willing as my brittle old age

467Was not. Did you consent? Did you?

468MORTIMER. My uncle!

469LEICESTER (entering).

470Good sir, permit a word with your nephew here.

471The Queen is well-disposed toward him, she wishes

472That Lady Stuart’s person be committed

473To him without condition. She puts her trust

474In his good faith.

475PAULET. In his good faith—well, fine!

476LEICESTER. You say—

477PAULET. Her trust in his good faith! And I,

478My Lord, put my trust in my two open eyes. (He goes off.)

Scene Eight

479Leicester. Mortimer.

480LEICESTER (astonished). What has come over the Knight?

481[1170] MORTIMER. I do not know. The unexpected trust—

482LEICESTER (with a searching gaze).

483Tell me, Knight, do you deserve to be trusted?

484MORTIMER (equally searching).

485I put the same question to you, Lord Leicester.

486LEICESTER. You wished to speak to me in confidence.

487MORTIMER. Assure me first that I dare do so, my Lord.

488LEICESTER. And who gives me assurance for you, sir?

489Let my mistrust not be thought an insult! I

490See you assume two faces at this Court.

491One necessarily is false. Which is it?

492MORTIMER. That is just as I find it with you, Earl Leicester.

493[1180] LEICESTER. Who is to make a start?

494MORTIMER. One with less to lose.

495LEICESTER. Well, then. That’s you!

496MORTIMER. It’s you. The witness of one

497So eminent and powerful can destroy me.

498Mine’s null and void against your rank and favor.

499LEICESTER. Quite wrong! In all else I am powerful,

500But not on the sore point I am about to

501Betray to you. There I can be brought to fall.

502MORTIMER. If almighty Lord Leicester condescends

503To make such a confession to me, then I

504Can think more highly of myself and set an

505[1190] Example.

506LEICESTER. Go before me. I will follow.

507MORTIMER (producing the letter).

508A letter sent you by the Queen of Scotland.

509LEICESTER (starts and reaches for the letter).

510Speak softly, sir. What’s this? Oh! It’s her likeness!

  • 49 An intrigue between Mary and Leicester is Schiller’s invention.

511(He kisses it, then contemplates it in silence.)49

512MORTIMER (having observed Leicester sharply while he reads).

513My Lord, I believe you now.

514LEICESTER (having read). You know what this says?

515MORTIMER. Not in the least.

516LEICESTER. She will have told you—

517MORTIMER. Nothing

518At all. I’m baffled that Elizabeth’s

519Favorite, Earl Leicester, Mary’s sworn enemy,

520One of her judges, is the man from whom

521That Queen hopes rescue. Yet your eyes tell me

522Too clearly what you feel for her.

523LEICESTER. First tell me

524[1200] Why her fate interests you so hotly, sir, how

525You gained her trust.

526MORTIMER. In few words: I was converted

527At Rome, allied with the Guises, and commended

528By the Archbishop to the Queen of Scotland.

529LEICESTER. I know of your conversion. It stirred my trust.

530Your hand, sir. Pardon my doubts. I cannot be

531Too careful. Walsingham and Burghley hate me.

532You could have been their tool—

533MORTIMER. What small steps a great

534Lord must take at this Court—

535LEICESTER. What happiness to

536Confess to a friend how I was constrained!

537[1210] I never hated Mary. Force of events

538Set me against her. Long before Darnley,

539She was intended for me—favor I scorned.

540I seek her now, imprisoned, at death’s door,

541At risk of my life.

542MORTIMER. An act that calls for courage.

543LEICESTER. The shape of things has changed in the meanwhile, sir.

544Ambition made me cold to youth and beauty.

545I hoped yet to possess the Queen of England.

546MORTIMER. And it is known to all that she preferred you.

547LEICESTER. It seemed so. But after ten lost years of an

548[1220] Unflagging courtship, hated constraint— Oh, sir,

549My heart swells! Why, if only they knew what chains

550They envy me for! After ten years of burning

551Incense to her vanity, submitting

552To every ripple in her sultan’s moods,

553A plaything of her whims and stubbornness,

554Caressed now by her tenderness, now repulsed

555By her stiff pride, tormented equally

556First by her favor, then by her cold rigor,

557Watched like a prisoner by her Argus-eyed

558[1230] Jealousy, cross-examined like a child,

559Shamed like a servant—words fail for this hell—

560I’m cheated at the post of my prize. Another

561Comes and I lose my long-possessed rights to a

562Blossoming young bridegroom, am pushed off the stage.

563Her hand and favor I lose—he is lovable.

564MORTIMER. He’s Catherine’s son and pupil. He knows to please.

565LEICESTER. I look for a spar in this shipwreck and

566Return to my first hope. Ambition drives me

567No longer. Youth and beauty move me. I

568[1240] Compare and see the treasure I have lost.

569I see her plunged deep into wretchedness by

570My fault. If I could save her now and possess her?

  • 50 An event that lies outside the action. The letter Mortimer brings is therefore the second step.

571I reach her and reveal my changed heart.50 You bring

572A letter saying she forgives and accepts me.

573MORTIMER. But nothing have you done that would save her!

574You let her be condemned and voted her death!

575A miracle must happen, light of Truth

576Must strike me, her guard’s nephew, Heaven must

577Prepare a savior in Rome’s Vatican. Or

578[1250] She’d not have found a way to contact you!

579LEICESTER. It cost me quite enough! Just then they took her

580From Talbot. Fotheringhay became her prison,

581Paulet her warden. I was blocked. Before the

582World I must prosecute her. Do not think

583I’d let her die. I hoped, still hope to hinder

584The worst until means can be found to free her.

585MORTIMER. Means have been found. My secret given for yours. I

586Shall be the one to free her. I’m here for that.

587We’re ready. Your support assures our success.

588[1260] LEICESTER. What’s that? You frighten me. You would—

589MORTIMER. Throw open

590Her prison by force. I have confederates, all’s—

591LEICESTER. Confederates? Confidants? Who know my secret?

592MORTIMER. Be unconcerned. Our plan was made without you,

593It can be done without you.

594LEICESTER. I am assured

595My name will not be mentioned?

596MORTIMER. Quite sure. So

597Cautious, my Lord? You would save Lady Stuart,

598Possess her? You find friends as if sent from Heaven,

599And you show more unease than joy and relief?

600LEICESTER. No use of force! Too dangerous!

601MORTIMER. So is delay!

602[1270] LEICESTER. Sir, I insist. It is not to be dared.

603MORTIMER (bitter). No indeed! Not by you, who want to possess her!

604We only want to save her, we don’t dither.

605LEICESTER. Knight, you are hasty in a thorny cause.

606MORTIMER. And you slow and cold in a case of honor.

607LEICESTER. I see us caught up and entangled in nets.

608MORTIMER. I feel the courage to cut all of them through.

609LEICESTER. This courage is called madness, courage of fools.

610MORTIMER. This prudence is less than true valor, my Lord.

611LEICESTER. You’d like to find your way to Babington’s end?

  • 51 On Norfolk, see note 7, above.

612[1280] MORTIMER. And you’d not imitate Lord Norfolk’s great heart?51

613LEICESTER. Norfolk’s fortune was not to lead a bride home.

614MORTIMER. He proved that he was worthy of doing so.

615LEICESTER. If we are lost in this, she is lost, too.

616MORTIMER. And if we shy back, she will not be saved.

617LEICESTER. You will spoil all that’s just now well underway.

618MORTIMER. A way, no doubt, that you’ve opened before us?

619What have you ever done to help or to save her?

620Were I rascal enough to murder her, as

621The Queen expects of me just as we speak,

622[1290] What measure had you taken to save her life?

623LEICESTER (astonished). The Queen gave you this murderous instruction?

624MORTIMER. She mistook me as Mary mistook you.

625LEICESTER. And you consented? Did you?

626MORTIMER. As you say.

627To stop her purchasing another’s hands

628I offered mine.

629LEICESTER. You have done well. We’ve won

630Breathing space. She depends on you. The sentence

631Lies idle. We gain time.

632MORTIMER (impatient). We’re losing time!

633LEICESTER. She counts on you. The less will she scruple to

634Assume an open air of clemency.

635[1300] I can perhaps lead her to come upon

636Her rival face to face. That binds her hands,

  • 52 See above, Scene Four, line 1045f., 1050ff.

637As Burghley says.52 Yes! I’ll give it all I can!

638MORTIMER. And where do you arrive? If Mary lives,

639All goes on as before. It’s life-long prison,

640And will come to my bold attempt after all.

641Why not begin so? Bring an army together,

642Just arm the nobles in your many castles!

643Mary has countless secret friends, the houses

  • 53 The Howards were dukes of Norfolk; the Percys, dukes and earls of Northumberland.

644Of Howard and Percy,53 rich in heroes still,

645[1310] Only attend a powerful lord’s example.

646Enough of this deception! Act openly!

647Defend, like a knight, the woman you love.

648You rule the person of the Queen of England,

649If you wish to. Lure her to one of your castles,

650Show her a man! Keep her your captive there

651Until she release Mary Stuart again!

652LEICESTER. What an extravagance! Do you know this ground?

653This Court? How tight this female kingdom

654Has bound our spirits? You just look for the

655[1320] Heroic spirit that once ruled this land!

656Crushed! Under lock and key! And to a woman!

657Every heart’s mainspring unwound! Heed my example.

658Nothing imprudent. — Someone’s coming. Go now!

659MORTIMER. Mary has hopes! What am I to bring her?

660LEICESTER. Bring her the vow of my undying love!

661MORTIMER. Bring that yourself! I offered to serve in

662Her rescue, not to serve you as your Cupid! (He goes off.)

Scene Nine

663Elizabeth. Leicester.

664ELIZABETH. Who left you just now? I thought I heard talking.

665LEICESTER (whirling around at her entrance).

666It was Sir Mortimer.

667ELIZABETH. What is it, my Lord?

668[1330] You’re startled?

669LEICESTER (composing himself).

670At the sight of you, my Lady.

671I’m dazzled by your beauty and your charm.

672Ah, me!

673ELIZABETH. You sigh?

674LEICESTER. Have I not reason to sigh?

675To see your beauty renews nameless pain, my

676Sadness at coming loss.

677ELIZABETH. But what do you lose?

678LEICESTER. Your heart I shall lose and your lovable self.

679Your youthful husband will hold you in fiery

680Embrace. He will possess your heart entirely,

681Though none on earth adores you as I do.

682The Duc d’Anjou has never seen you, loves

683[1340] Only your glory. In his place I’d lay down a crown.

684ELIZABETH. Pity me, Dudley. Do not scold me. I

685May not consult my heart. Oh, it had chosen

686Otherwise. How I envy other women,

687Those who may love as they choose. I may not

688Award a crown to the man whom I treasure.

689To Lady Stuart it was granted to give

690Her hand as she chose, she permitted herself

691Everything, drained pleasure’s cup to the lees.

692LEICESTER. Now she must drain the cup of sorrow instead.

693[1350] ELIZABETH. She scorned opinion, chose to live at her ease.

694Never did she assume the yoke of duty

695That I bent under. She won all men’s favor

696Because her sole aim was to be a woman,

697And she is courted by both young and old.

698Such are men. All are mere slaves of their senses.

699This Talbot—did he not become young again

700Just as he came to speak of her great charm?

701LEICESTER. Forgive him. He was once her keeper, and her

702Flattery and fawning, her wiles turned his head.

703[1360] ELIZABETH. And is she then the beauty that they say?

704Portraits will flatter and descriptions lie.

705Only my eyes would tell me what to believe.

706Why the strange look?

707LEICESTER. I pictured you next to Mary.

708I’d like to have that pleasure, if it’s secret.

709The pleasure of a victory then would be yours.

710She, too, would see how you exceed her in

711Your noble figure as in every virtue,

712For envy has sharp eyes.

713ELIZABETH. But she is the younger.

714LEICESTER. Younger! Her suffering aged her before her time.

715[1370] And then to see you as a bride—and bride of

716The French king’s son—she who made so much of her

717French marriage, boasts of help from mighty France.

718ELIZABETH (with a shrug). They’re pressing me to see her.

719LEICESTER (vivid). She asks it as

720Favor, grant it as penalty! When she sees

721Your beauty, guarded by your honor, made more

722Glorious by spotless reputation and heightened

723Again by a bright crown, and graced by the chaste

724Wreath of a bride, the hour of her destruction

725Has struck. No, never were you better armed for

726[1380] Triumph of beauty. If you went straight before her

727Just as you are?

728ELIZABETH. Now? No, oh no. Not now.

729No. That I must think through, consult with Burghley—

730LEICESTER (breaking in). Burghley! He reckons only reasons of state.

731You have rights as a woman, too. A point so

732Tender is for you only to judge. — But no!

733Reasons of state also require that you meet—to

734Persuade your people of your greatness of heart.

735Then you can rid yourself of her as you please.

736ELIZABETH. It’s unbecoming that I see her in want

737[1390] And need. They say she is not royally kept.

738LEICESTER. Chance

739Comes to our aid. Today the great chase leads

740Past Fotheringhay, and Lady Stuart can be

741Found walking in the park. You happen by,

742Nothing appears to have been planned in advance.

743Should it offend you, you need not address her.

744ELIZABETH. If this is foolishness, then, Leicester, it’s yours.

745Today I’d not deny you any request.

746Of all my subjects I’ve hurt you the most.

747(Looking at him tenderly)

748Even if it’s an idle notion of yours,

749[1400] Honest affection shows itself by permitting

750That which it knows neither wise nor befitting.

751(Leicester throws himself at her feet.)

752The curtain falls.


34 Honorific of a French king’s eldest brother.

35 Saint Germain, then outside Paris, was a seat of the court of France.

36 The redoubtable Catherine de’ Medici, widow of King Henry II, mother of Francis II and of Charles IX, for whom she stood as regent.

37 That is to say, to marriage and childbearing.

38 Famously, the badge of the Order of the Garter, the kingdom’s highest. Its motto translates: “Shame on any who thinks ill of this.” Folklore traces the Order to a lady’s loss of her garter in the heat of dancing at a ball, which seems to be false.

39 Mary, aged seventeen, was widowed of the French king Francis II. See the “Short Life of Mary Stuart.”

40 These are three brothers of the House of Guise, sons of Francis, Duke of Lorraine, and Mary’s cousins.

41 Goddess of ruin.

42 Mary Tudor, succeeding to the throne, first confined her half-sister Elizabeth in the Tower, then had her removed to Woodstock in Oxfordshire. See note 10, above.

43 For Morgan and Ross, see note 24, above.

44 Sir Francis Walsingham, chief of intelligence.

45 This is renewal of the papal anathema against Elizabeth. It will figure in Mortimer’s plot.

46 They are arranging to meet.

47 The French lay claim to the oldest throne in Christendom, at the conversion of Clovis (496); the three crowns are those of France, England, and Scotland.

48 Henry II of France raised a pretension to England and France on behalf of his eldest son Francis and Mary, and quartered the royal arms accordingly.

49 An intrigue between Mary and Leicester is Schiller’s invention.

50 An event that lies outside the action. The letter Mortimer brings is therefore the second step.

51 On Norfolk, see note 7, above.

52 See above, Scene Four, line 1045f., 1050ff.

53 The Howards were dukes of Norfolk; the Percys, dukes and earls of Northumberland.

Table des illustrations

Légende Elizabeth I of England, ca. 1580, oil on panel. English School. Wikimedia, public domain,​wiki/​File:English_School_Elizabeth_I_of_England_c._1580.jpg
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