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Friedrich Schiller

The Piccolomini. In five acts

Act Three

Texte intégral

1A Room

Scene One

2Illo and Terzky.

TERZKY. Tell me, how will you manage at the banquet
That I give late today for all the chiefs?
ILLO. Here’s my plan: We’ll compose a formula
In which we dedicate ourselves to serve [1160]
The Duke to the last drop of blood, but with
Respect of our sworn duties to the Kaiser.
That last proviso we set in a clause
Apart, and thus we salve our consciences.
This version we present before the meal.
No one will take exception to it. Listen
Now. After dinner, when the wine has closed
Their eyes and opened hearts, we circulate
For signature a version where that clause
Does not appear, where it has been suppressed. [1170]
Oh, come now! Do you think they’ll believe they’re bound by
An oath that we have tricked them into signing?
ILLO. Oh, we’ll still have them. Let them raise a hue
And cry. The Court will sooner credit their
Signature than their loudest protestations.
And so they’re traitors all the same, must be,
Must make a virtue of necessity.
TERZKY. Well, I’ll agree to anything as long
As we get action and move off the spot.
ILLO. It does not matter how far we get with [1180]
The generals. We need only to persuade
The Chief that they are his. He’ll act, proceed
On that assumption. Then they’re really his.
As he goes forward, they’ll be carried with him.
TERZKY. Sometimes I can’t begin to make him out.
He listens to the foe, has me write Thurn
And Arnheim, boldly rails against Sesina,
Discusses plans with us for hours on end.
Then when I think I have him: Hup! He’s gone,
Slips through my fingers, and it seems he cares [1190]
For nothing, only wants to stay in place.
ILLO. Him? Give up his old plans? I tell you he
Considers nothing else, awake, asleep,
Questions the planets day for day—
TERZKY. Did you know
He plans to watch the stars tonight, shut up in
The tower with the Doctor? The night’s supposed
To be important. They expect some great
Event, one long-awaited, to take place
Up there above.
ILLO. Were it down here below!
The generals are now all stirred up, can be [1200]
Induced to anything to keep their chief.
We have the chance to form a tight alliance
Against the Court, but innocent in name:
To keep him in command. In hot pursuit
One soon forgets how all began. I want
To stack the deck so that the Prince will find,
Will believe, them fit for any piece of daring.
Watch! Opportunity will draw him on.
When he’s once taken that great step, a step
Vienna can’t forgive, the very chain of [1210]
Events will lead him on and further on.
Decision is what he finds hard. Impelled by
Necessity, he’ll find his strength and insight.
TERZKY. That’s what the foe is waiting for before
It leads its army to us.
ILLO. Come, then. We’ll
Advance our plan these next few days beyond
What it’s attained in years. When things once favor
Us here below—you’ll see—the stars above
Will look with favor on us, too. Let’s find
The chiefs. Strike while the iron is hot, I say. [1220]
TERZKY. Give me a moment. I’m expecting Countess
Terzky here. Don’t think we’ve been idle meanwhile.
If one cord breaks, another’s been prepared.
ILLO. Of course. Your lady smiles so craftily.
What’s this?
TERZKY. A secret. Quiet now. She’s coming.
(Exit Illo.)

Scene Two

3Count and Countess Terzky, who enters from an adjacent room. A Servant, then Illo.

  • 129 This imaginary address to Wallenstein functions as a soliloquy: the Countess sets out her thoughts (...)

TERZKY. She’s coming, then? I can’t keep him much longer.
COUNTESS. She’ll be here right away. Just send him in.
TERZKY. I can’t be sure the Chief will thank us for this.
A point on which he’s never said a word,
As you well know. It’s you who have persuaded [1230]
Me. You must know just how far you can take it.
COUNTESS. I’ll answer for it. (Speaking to herself.)
No permission needed.129
Wordlessly, Brother, we each understand
The other. Can’t I guess the reason why your
Daughter’s brought here? Why he was sent to fetch her?
For this pretend engagement to a bride-
Groom known to no one may well fool another,
But I see through you. Since you can't appear
To have a hand in such a game, it’s left
To my fine penetration. Well done! You’ll [1240]
Not have deceived yourself about your sister.
A SERVANT (entering). The Generals! (Exit.)
TERZKY (to the Countess). Try to stir up his desires,
Give him too much to think about, so that
At table he’ll not hesitate to sign.
COUNTESS. You go attend your guests. Just go and send him.
TERZKY. Because it all depends upon his signing.
COUNTESS. Off to your guests. Go!
ILLO (returning). Why so long here, Terzky?
The house is full and we’re all waiting for you.
TERZKY. Coming, coming.
(To the Countess.) But don’t keep him too long.
His father might suspect— [1250]
COUNTESS. Enough for now!
(Exeunt Terzky and Illo.)

Scene Three

4Countess Terzky. Max Piccolomini.

  • 130 The German is “Base Terzky,” aunt or cousin. It signifies that Max is on intimate and respectful t (...)
  • 131 Nepomuk lies thirty kilometers southeast of Pilsen.
  • 132 Max addresses Thekla at this point as mein Fräulein. Fräulein at the time was a title reserved to (...)

MAX (hesitantly, in the doorway).
Aunt Terzky!130 May I?
(He walks into the middle of the room and looks around uneasily.)
She’s not here. Where is she?
COUNTESS. Is she perhaps behind the screen there in
The corner, hidden from you—
MAX. There are her gloves!
(He reaches for them, the Countess picks them up.)
Unkind, my aunt. Why would you so deny me—
I see it is your pleasure to torment me.
COUNTESS. What thanks for all my trouble!
If you knew
How I feel. Every moment since we’ve come,
To have to watch myself, weigh words and glances.
I am not used to that!
COUNTESS. Oh, you’ll get used
To many things, my charming friend. I must [1260]
Insist upon this test of your obedience.
On this condition only can I see
To everything and manage everywhere.
MAX. Where is she then? And why has she not come?
COUNTESS. You must leave everything to my arrangements.
Who has your interests more at heart than I do?
No one must know. Your father, too, must not,
Most surely not.
MAX. There is no need. For I’d
Betray to no one here the motions of my
Enraptured soul. Tell me, Aunt Terzky, are all [1270]
Things changed? Or is it only me? I find
Myself here among strangers, find no trace
Of my accustomed wishes and my pleasures.
Where’s it all gone? I once was quite content
In just this world. But now, how shallow it
All seems and how banal! My comrades I
Find insupportable, and my own father—
What ever have I now to say to him?
And duty, weapons—what a lot of tinsel.
It’s like one of the blessed dead returned [1280]
From realms of glory to the games of childhood,
Its interests, occupations, preferences, and
Friendships, to the whole wretched human race.
COUNTESS. I’d ask you nonetheless to cast a glance
Upon this ordinary world, where things of
No small importance are just now in train.
MAX. There’s something going on. I see it in
The swirl of strange activity around me.
And when they’re done, I too will hear about it.
Do you know where I’ve been today, Aunt Terzky? [1290]
No laughing. All the hurly-burly here
Became too much: the packs of pressing folk,
The tasteless jokes, eternal idle chit-chat.
It felt as if the walls were closing in.
I had to leave, to find a quiet place
For my full heart, seclusion for my joy.
Don’t smile, Countess. I was in church. I found
A cloister nearby called the Gates of Heaven,
Where I could be alone. The Virgin hung
Above the altar, badly painted but [1300]
The friend whom I was seeking at that moment.
How often have I seen her in her glory,
Ardor of worshippers but not for me. All
At once I understood devotion—and love.
COUNTESS. Enjoy your happiness, forget the world.
My friendship meanwhile watches for you, acts.
But you must be amenable to one
Who wants to show the way to happiness.
MAX. What’s taking her so long? Oh, golden days
Of travel: Every rising sun brought us [1310]
Together. Night alone divided us!
No hourglass ran, no timepiece struck our ear.
Time had arrested its eternal course.
Oh, one who has to count the hours has fallen
From paradise. For lovers, no clock strikes.
COUNTESS. And when did you disclose your heart to her?
MAX. This morning only did I dare to speak.
COUNTESS. This morning? After twenty days of journey?
MAX. Where you caught up with us, the hunting lodge
Between the camp and Nepomuk, last station [1320]
Along the way.131 We stood together in
A bay, our silent gaze on a bare field.
Before us we saw riding up the Dragoons
The Duke had sent as escort. Parting weighed
Upon my heart, and, trembling, I dared say:
This tells me, Mistress,132 I must part now from
My happiness. A little while and you
Will find your father, be surrounded by
New friends, and I’ll become a stranger to you,
Unnoticed in the crowd. “Speak with Aunt Terzky,” [1330]
She interrupted. Her voice shook, I saw
A glowing red suffuse her cheeks, and slowly
She raised her eyes, met mine, and I restrain
Myself no longer—
(The Princess appears in the doorway, observed by the Countess,
but not by Piccolomini.)
take her in my arms, touch
Her lips with mine—a rustling at the door
Drove us apart. You entered, and the rest
Is known to you.
COUNTESS (after a pause, stealing a glance at Thekla).
Are you so undemanding or incurious
That you don’t ask now for my secret?
MAX. Yours?
COUNTESS. Well, yes. The way I came into the room, [1340]
Right after you left, how I found my niece,
How she in the first moment of surprise—
MAX (vividly). Well?

Scene Four

5As above. Thekla entering quickly.

  • 133 The motif of the hardships of the Duchess’s marriage returns, Death, Act III, scene 3.
  • 134 Thekla appears in Act II, scene 3 decked out in jewels her father has given her. She observes, “he (...)
  • 135 An irony. It echoes Wallenstein at the very end of scene 3, just before Max enters in scene 4, and (...)
  • 136 Here begins a subtle contrasting of Max and Thekla that runs throughout the act.
  • 137 A fabulous beast, half eagle, half lion.
  • 138 The five planets—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn—and sun and moon.
  • 139 The olive branch is peace, the laurel victory.
  • 140 All in northeast Bohemia, where Wallenstein’s duchy lay.
  • 141 Max’s idyll is little to Wallenstein’s taste; see Death, Act I, scene 7, at line 504.

MAX (starting back).
Mistress! What have you let me say, Aunt Terzky?
THEKLA (to the Countess). Has he been here for long?
COUNTESS. Quite long. His time has just about run out.
And what’s kept you so long?
THEKLA. My mother wept so bitterly.133 I see
Her sorrow and can’t help my happiness.
MAX (lost in contemplating her).
I find the courage now to look at you. [1350]
I couldn’t then. The sheen of precious stones
Enclosing you obscured the one I love.134
THEKLA. Your eye saw me that way and not your heart.
MAX. When I found you this morning in the circle
Of family and in your father’s arms,
And saw myself a stranger in this group,
How much I wished to enter his embrace,
To call him father in that moment! But his
Forbidding eye demanded silent presence,
And all those diamonds frightened me, encircling [1360]
You like a studded wreath of stars. But why,
Then, must he put you under ban right at
Reception, deck an angel out straightway
For sacrifice, and lay upon this joyful
Young heart the mournful burden of its rank!
Love can address its suit to love, but such
Splendor admits approach by kings alone.135
THEKLA. No more about this masquerade. You see
How soon the burden is cast off again.
(To the Countess.)
But he’s not cheerful. Why should he not be? [1370]
It’s you, Aunt, who’ve made him so heavy-hearted!
For he was quite another on our journey!
So bright and calm! So eloquent! I’d like
To see you always so and never different.
MAX. There in your father’s arms you found yourself
In a new world that honors you, enchants
Your eye, if only by its very newness.
THEKLA. Yes, much enchants me here, I don’t deny it.136
I love the brightly bannered stage of war that
Renews in many ways a cherished image, [1380]
Connects to truth and to real life what had seemed
To be a lovely dream and nothing more.
MAX. It makes of my real happiness a dream.
I’ve lived these days upon an island in
The ether; it has now descended earthward.
This bridge that brings me back to my old life—
It separates me, bars me from my heaven.
THEKLA. It’s cheering to observe the play of life
When we hold fast a treasure in our heart,
And when I have observed it, I return [1390]
Contented to the better things I hold.
(Breaking off and playful.)
The new, unheard-of things I’ve seen in this
Short time! But all of this must pale before
The secret marvel that this castle holds.
COUNTESS (reflecting).
What would that be? For I am schooled in all
The darkest corners that this house encloses.
THEKLA (smiling). A way defended well by spirits and
Two griffins137 keeping watch before the gate—
COUNTESS (laughing). Oh, so! The astrologic tower. How
Could such a sanctuary, always closely [1400]
Guarded, have opened right away to you?
THEKLA. A little white-haired man with friendly face,
Who took a liking to me, opened for me.
MAX. That is the Duke’s astrologer, called Seni.
THEKLA. He asked me many things, my birth date, day
And month, and whether it was day or night.
COUNTESS. That was so he could cast your horoscope.
THEKLA. He also read my hand and shook his head,
Uncertain. It would seem the lines displeased him.
COUNTESS. How was it then inside that hall? I’ve seen [1410]
It always only very fleetingly.
THEKLA. It gave me an odd feeling, coming from
Bright day, to be so suddenly surrounded
By night, but faintly lit by a strange light.
Around me in a crescent stood six, seven138
Great statues representing kings; each carried
A scepter and, for crown, a star, and all
The light there seemed to come just from those stars.
My guide told me these were the planets and
They ruled our fate. That’s why one made them kings. [1420]
The last, a dark and glowering graybeard, with
A clouded yellow star-crown, this was Saturn;
Directly opposite, with ruddy sheen
And armed as if for battle, this was Mars;
And neither brings good fortune to mankind.
Beside him stood a woman of great beauty,
The star that shone above her head glowed softly;
I learned that this was Venus, star of pleasure.
Beside her on the left stood winged Mercury;
Precisely in the middle, bright as silver [1430]
And with the forehead of a king, there stood
Good-humored Jupiter, my father’s star,
And Sun and Moon attended at his side.
MAX. Oh, never will I scorn his belief in stars
And in the power of the spirit world.
It is not only human pride that fills our
Universe with mysterious, ghostly powers.
For loving hearts, too, common Nature seems
Too narrow. Deeper meaning can be found
In house tales told me in my childhood years [1440]
Than in the truths that life would have us learn.
The shining world of wonders only can
Answer the call of my delighted heart.
It opens its eternal spaces to me,
Extends to me a thousand bending boughs where
My reeling spirit rocks itself in bliss.
The fable is the home where love would live,
For love prefers the world of fairies, tokens,
Chooses to believe in gods because it’s god-like.
The ancient fable figures are no more. [1450]
That charming race has long since gone abroad;
The heart, however, needs a language; an old
Desire revives the ancient names. They now
Go wandering in the starry skies, who once
Would kindly walk beside us through our lives;
From there they smile down mildly upon lovers,
And every great thing comes from Jupiter,
From Venus every thing we know of beauty.
THEKLA. Is this the art of reading stars? Then I
Confess a faith so clear, so bright with gladness. [1460]
How comforting the thought that over us
Immeasurably a wreath of love made up
Of shining stars was woven at our birth.
COUNTESS. Heaven has not just roses, also thorns.
May they not spike the crown prepared for you!
What happy Venus has once woven is
Soon ripped apart by Mars, the sinister.
MAX. His gloomy reign will soon have run its course!
A blessing on the Prince’s earnest effort;
He’ll wind the olive branch into the laurel139 [1470]
And make the grateful world a gift of peace.
For his great heart will then be surfeited;
He’s done enough to build and keep his fame,
Can now live for himself and for his loved ones.
And he’ll withdraw to his own holdings, to
His lovely residence at Gitschin or
At Reichenberg or Castle Friedland,140 where
The borders of his game reserve and forest
Extend up to the foothills of the mountains.
There he can freely follow his creative [1480]
Urges, as prince encourage every art,
Protect all glorious and deserving things,
Can build things, plant things, contemplate the heavens,
And if his daring powers will not rest,
Why, he can wrestle with the elements,
Rechannel rivers and explode a rock face,
Prepare the way for commerce and for gain.
Our ancient battle fortunes will become then
Long stories told in longer winter nights.141
COUNTESS. Let me advise you, Cousin, not to lay [1490]
Aside the sword blade all too prematurely.
For such a bride as this deserves most richly
That she be sued for, courted by the sword.
MAX. If she but could be won by weapons only!
COUNTESS. What was that? Did you hear? I thought I heard
Quarreling coming from the banquet hall. (She goes out.)

Scene Five

  • 142 Max and Thekla address one another as Sie when they are in the presence of others, as du when they (...)

6Thekla and Max Piccolomini.142

  • 143 The first manifestation of Thekla’s shrewdness and steeliness.

THEKLA (to Piccolomini as soon as the Countess has left the room).
Don’t trust them. They are playing games.143
MAX. They could—
THEKLA. Trust no one here but me. I saw at one glance:
They have a purpose.
MAX. Have a purpose? Which?
What do they gain by making hopes for us— [1500]
THEKLA. I do not know. But believe me, it is not their
Purpose to make us happy or unite us.
MAX. What need have we of these two Terzkys? Don’t
We have your mother? Can’t we put our trust
In her, confide like children in her kindness?
THEKLA. She loves you, values you above all others,
But never could she summon courage to
Withhold a secret such as ours from Father.
For her sake we must keep it from her.
MAX. Why
So secretive? Do you know what I’ll do? [1510]
I’ll throw myself upon your father’s mercy,
Let him decide my happiness. For he
Is truthful, forthright, hates all subterfuges,
He’s good and noble—
THEKLA. That is what you are!
MAX. You know him only now. But I have lived
In sight of him a full ten years. Is this
The first time he has done a deed that’s rare,
Unhoped for? That’s his way: surprise us like
A god. He must delight, amaze us always.
Who knows if he’s not waiting now to hear my [1520]
Avowal, yours, before uniting us?
Why no reply? And why the doubtful looks?
What do you have against your father?
Nothing. I only find him much too busy
To spare the time or have the leisure for
Reflecting on our happiness.
(Taking him tenderly by the hand.) Do listen!
Let us not believe excessively in others.
These Terzkys we’ll be grateful to for what
They’ve done, but trust them only just so far
As they’ve deserved. We’ll trust in our own hearts. [1530]
MAX. Oh, shall we ever find our happiness!
THEKLA. Have we not found it? Aren’t you mine? Am I
Not thine? My soul is full of highest courage,
Our love has given it to me. I ought
Not be so open, should conceal my heart:
Decorum wants it so. Where ever then
Should you know truth, if not from my own mouth?
We’ve found each other, hold each other fast,
Eternally. Please believe me: That’s far more
Than they have reckoned with. So let us keep [1540]
It safe, like sacred plunder, safe in our
Own hearts. It fell to us from Heaven’s heights,
And we’ll thank Heaven only for this gift.
It can work wonders for us both.

Scene Six

7As above. Countess Terzky returns.

COUNTESS (urgent). My husband’s sending for you, says it’s high time.
To table!
(When they pay her no heed, she steps between them.)
THEKLA. But no. Not now.
We’ve hardly had a moment here.
COUNTESS. For you time passes quickly, Princess Niece.
MAX. No hurry, Aunt.
COUNTESS. Go! Your absence’s noticed.
Your father’s asked for you now more than once. [1550]
THEKLA. Well, well! His father!
COUNTESS. You know better, Niece.
THEKLA. What’s he to do in company like that?
That isn’t his society. They’re worthy,
Deserving men, but he’s too young for them,
He simply doesn’t fit in such surroundings.
COUNTESS. You’d rather keep him wholly for yourself?
THEKLA (vivid). Exactly right. Precisely what I want.
Just leave him here. And let their Lordships know—
COUNTESS. Why, have you lost your mind, my niece? You, Count,
Know full well what conditions we’ve agreed. [1560]
MAX. I must obey, Mistress. Farewell for now.
You’ve no reply?
(Thekla turns away abruptly.)
THEKLA (without looking at him).
None. Go, please.
Can I, when
You’re angry with me?
(He approaches her, their eyes meet, she stands a moment in silence, then throws herself into his arms; he clasps her tight.)
COUNTESS. Go! If someone should come!
I hear an uproar—strangers’ voices close by.

8(Max tears himself away and goes, the Countess accompanies him. Thekla follows him with her eyes, wanders about the room, then pauses, lost in thought. A guitar lies on a table; she picks it up. After a melancholy prelude, she sings.)

Scene Seven

9Thekla plays and sings.

Oak forest rustles and clouds rush o’er,
A maid is wandering the deep green shore,
The waves are breaking with might, with might,
And she sings aloud in the darkling night,
Her eye turned toward heaven above her.
My heart, it has died now, the world is bare. [1570]
It grants my wishes no more and nowhere.
Thou Blessed One, gather thy child to thee,
I’ve already tasted all earthly bounty,
For I have both lived and have loved here.

Scene Eight

10The Countess, returning. Thekla.

  • 144 The Piccolomini were in fact Sienese.
  • 145 Thekla’s inquiry about the Countess’s state of mind borders on the impertinent. She is retaliating (...)
  • 146 Just as Max and his father have different conceptions of ethos, Thekla and the Countess have diffe (...)
  • 147 Wallenstein’s silence on this point conduces to the catastrophe of Max and Thekla.

What is this, Mistress Niece? For shame! You’ve thrown
Yourself at him. Fie! I should think you’d put
A rather better price upon your person.
THEKLA (getting to her feet).
Your meaning, Aunt?
COUNTESS. That you should not forget
Who you are and who he is. That, I dare say,
Has not occurred to either of you. [1580]
THEKLA. What, then?
COUNTESS. That you’re Prince Friedland’s daughter.
THEKLA. So? What else?
COUNTESS. Fine answer!
THEKLA. He was born what we’ve become.
He’s from an ancient Lombard house, his mother
Was born a princess.144
COUNTESS. Are you dreaming? Truly!
We’ll therefore bid him honor Europe’s rich-
Est heiress with his hand?
THEKLA. Unnecessary.
COUNTESS. Quite. One does well not to expose oneself.
THEKLA. His father loves him. Count Octavio
Will not oppose it—
COUNTESS. His father! His! And yours, my niece? Of him what? [1590]
THEKLA. I think it’s his you fear. It’s him— his father,
I mean—from whom you’re keeping it so secret.
COUNTESS (examines her searchingly).
Niece, you’re duplicitous.
THEKLA. Touchée, ma tante?145
Oh, don’t be angry.
COUNTESS. You think your game’s won.
Don’t laugh too soon.
THEKLA. Oh, please, Aunt, don’t be angry.
COUNTESS. We’ve not yet reached that point.
THEKLA. Yes. That I believe.
COUNTESS. Do you think he has squandered so important
A life on warlike labors, has forgone
All peaceful earthly pleasure, banished sleep
From camp, and filled his noble mind with cares [1600]
Just to unite the two of you in marriage?
To fetch you finally from your cloister only
To lead you then in triumph to the man
Who’s caught your eye? He could have had that cheaper.
This seed was not sown for your childish hand
To break the bloom and tuck it in your bosom!146
THEKLA. But something that he didn’t plant could still
Produce its very finest fruits for me.
If my benign good fortune aims to prepare
Life’s joys for me from his monstrous existence— [1610]
COUNTESS. You’re talking like a girl in love. Just look
Around. Remember where you are. For you’ve
Not come into a garden of delights,
These walls have not been festooned for a wedding,
Nor guests arrayed. The only brilliance here
Is that of weapons. Or did you think one had
Assembled thousands here to form the ranks
That flank your progress to the altar? Have you
Not seen your father’s forehead dark with thought?
Your mother’s eyes in tears? The fortunes of [1620]
Our house hang in the balance! Leave behind
Your girlish feelings, childish wishes. Prove
Yourself the child of your extraordinary
Father. A woman shouldn’t belong just to
Herself. For she attaches to the fate of
An other whom she best assumes with care
And carries in her heart with tender love.
THEKLA. That’s what I heard when I was in the cloister.
I had no wishes, thought of myself as
His daughter only, this great man’s. The fame [1630]
Of his exploits, which reached me, too, gave me
This feeling and none other: I was destined
To sacrifice myself to him in sorrow.
COUNTESS. This is your destiny. Submit with gladness.
I and your mother have set an example.
THEKLA. My destiny has shown the one to whom
I’ll sacrifice myself, whom I shall follow.
COUNTESS. Your heart, my child, and not your destiny.
THEKLA. The heart’s pull is the call of destiny.
I am his own. For he alone has given [1640]
Me this new life that I live now. He has
A right to his creation. What was I
Before his love breathed life into my soul?
I’ll not think less of me than my beloved.
One who possesses priceless treasure, he
Is not to be despised. My happiness
Gives me new strength. With high earnestness
I contemplate an earnest life. I know now
That I belong to myself only. Firm will
Is mine now. I cannot be forced. And I [1650]
Can wager everything on highest goods.
COUNTESS. You would defy your father, should he have
Determined otherwise for you? You think
That you can force it from him? Know, my child,
His name is Friedland.
THEKLA. So, no less, is mine.
He is to meet his one true daughter in me.
COUNTESS. His Monarch and his Kaiser cannot force him,
And you, his daughter, think to do him battle?
THEKLA. What no one dares, his daughter dares to do.
COUNTESS. For that he’s not prepared, let me assure you. [1660]
He has surmounted every obstacle
And now should undertake his willful daughter?
Child! Child! You only know a smiling father,
Have never seen his eye in anger. Will
Your contradicting voice hold firm before him?
Alone, it’s easy to resolve great things,
Compose the purple passages, deck out
A dovish turn of mind in lion’s garb.
But you just try it. Go and meet his eye
Trained on you steadily and dare say, No. [1670]
You’ll melt before his presence, tender petal
Before a fiery all-consuming sun.
It’s not my wish to frighten you, my child.
I hope it will not come to that. Nor do
I know what he intends.147 It’s possible
His purposes will meet your wishes. But
He never can intend that you, the one
Proud daughter of his fortunes, conduct yourself
Like an infatuated little girl
And throw yourself away on one who, if [1680]
He is to gain the greatest prize, will have to
Purchase it by love’s highest sacrifice. (She goes off.)

Scene Nine

11Thekla alone.

Thanks for the warning. It makes
A certainty of my misgivings. So
It’s true: We have no friends and no one here
Is loyal. We are left with one another.
Hard battles lie ahead. Thou god-like, Love, give
Us strength. Oh, she speaks truth. Unhappy are
The auguries attending this entente of
Our hearts. No theater of hope is this. [1690]
Dull armor only rattles here, and even
Our love makes entrance armored all in steel
And girded for a battle to the death.
An ominous spirit drifts here through the house,
Fate wants to make of us a speedy ending.
From safety and repose I have been roused,
A benign magic shields my soul by blinding.
Fate lures me forward by a heavenly wight,
I see it floating toward me, close, insistent.
It draws me forth from here with god-like might [1700]
Toward the abyss, and I cannot resist it.
(Distant table music.)
Oh, when a house is fated to the fire,
The heavens drive black clouds together, churning.
Swift lightning plunges, strikes the highest spire,
And crevasses gape open, flaming, burning.
The God of Pleasure, even, raging, wielding
Hot pitch, flings fire into the burning building! (She goes off.)


129 This imaginary address to Wallenstein functions as a soliloquy: the Countess sets out her thoughts and feelings for the audience.

130 The German is “Base Terzky,” aunt or cousin. It signifies that Max is on intimate and respectful terms with the Countess.

131 Nepomuk lies thirty kilometers southeast of Pilsen.

132 Max addresses Thekla at this point as mein Fräulein. Fräulein at the time was a title reserved to the elevated social classes, as was “lady” at one time in the English-speaking world. Max’s form of address expresses his esteem for Thekla and acknowledges her superior rank.

133 The motif of the hardships of the Duchess’s marriage returns, Death, Act III, scene 3.

134 Thekla appears in Act II, scene 3 decked out in jewels her father has given her. She observes, “he … adorned me,” line 681–82.

135 An irony. It echoes Wallenstein at the very end of scene 3, just before Max enters in scene 4, and anticipates major change in Max’s fortunes (Death, Act III, scene 4).

136 Here begins a subtle contrasting of Max and Thekla that runs throughout the act.

137 A fabulous beast, half eagle, half lion.

138 The five planets—Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn—and sun and moon.

139 The olive branch is peace, the laurel victory.

140 All in northeast Bohemia, where Wallenstein’s duchy lay.

141 Max’s idyll is little to Wallenstein’s taste; see Death, Act I, scene 7, at line 504.

142 Max and Thekla address one another as Sie when they are in the presence of others, as du when they are tête-à-tête.

143 The first manifestation of Thekla’s shrewdness and steeliness.

144 The Piccolomini were in fact Sienese.

145 Thekla’s inquiry about the Countess’s state of mind borders on the impertinent. She is retaliating for the Countess’s accusation of duplicity. In effect, “Have I touched a nerve, Aunt?” In the next line she relents.

146 Just as Max and his father have different conceptions of ethos, Thekla and the Countess have different conceptions of love and duty.

147 Wallenstein’s silence on this point conduces to the catastrophe of Max and Thekla.


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