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Friedrich Schiller

The Piccolomini. In five acts

Act Five

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1A Room in Octavio Piccolomini’s quarters. Night.

Scene One

2Octavio Piccolomini. Chamberlain lighting his way. Then Max Piccolomini.

  • 164 Wallenstein, at the very outset of Death, tells Seni that day is breaking.
  • 165 See Max on Wallenstein’s wish for peace, Act I, scene 4, at line 489.
  • 166 Johann Ulrich, Baron Schaffgotsch (1595–1635), of Bohemian-Silesian nobility.
  • 167 The philosophical difference between father and son Piccolomini. It first emerges Act I, scene 4, (...)
  • 168 The Kaiser’s eldest surviving son, later Ferdinand III. See Wallenstein’s misgivings, Act II, scen (...)

OCTAVIO. Direct my son to me as soon as he
Comes in. What is the hour?
CHAMBERLAIN. It’s almost morning.164
OCTAVIO. Set down your lamp just here. We’ll not lie down [2040]
Tonight. But you may now retire to bed.
(Chamberlain goes off.
Octavio moves about the room, reflecting. Max Piccolomini enters
unobserved and watches him in silence for a moment.)
MAX. Are you annoyed with me, Octavio?
God knows, I didn’t start that ugly fight.
I saw that you had signed. What you approve
Is good enough for me. But still—you know—
I follow my own lights and no one else’ s.
OCTAVIO (goes to him and embraces him).
And so you should, my boy. You’re better guided
So than by the example of your father.
MAX. Explain yourself more clearly.
OCTAVIO. Very gladly.
After what’s happened lately, you and I [2050]
Should keep no further secrets from each other.
(They sit down together.)
Max, tell me: What do you think of that oath
They circulated for our signature?
MAX. I see no danger in it. Just that I have
No love for things so formal and contrived.
OCTAVIO. You’d have no other grounds to have refused
The signature that they were pressing for?
MAX. This was a serious move. I was distracted.
It seemed to me to be not all that urgent.
OCTAVIO. Be frank, Max: Had you no suspicion— [2060]
Suspicion? What of? No, not in the least.
OCTAVIO. Then thank your angel, Piccolomini!
He pulled you back from the abyss, unknowing.
MAX. I don’t know what you mean.
OCTAVIO. Then hear it now:
They wanted you to give your name to a piece
Of treachery, you to repudiate
Your oath and duties with a single pen stroke.
MAX (on his feet). Octavio!
OCTAVIO. Stay seated. You have much
To hear from me tonight, young friend. You’ve lived
For years in an incomprehensible [2070]
Blindness. The blackest plot spins out before
Your eyes, a hellish power beclouds the good
Lights of your senses—I am forced to speak,
To rip the blindfold from your eyes.
MAX. Before
You do, consider carefully: If this
Is mere conjecture—and I fear it is
No more—spare me. I’m not prepared to hear
It quietly.
OCTAVIO. However grave your grounds
May be for fleeing these, my better lights,
Mine are more urgent yet for forcing them [2080]
Upon you. Mark! To your heart’s innocence
I could entrust you and to your good judgment,
Did I not sense, not see, a net being spread to
Ensnare that heart. The secret
(fixing his gaze on him) you are keeping
From me obliges me to tell you mine.
MAX (attempts to answer, cannot, and drops his gaze).
OCTAVIO (after a pause).
So hear me. They’re deceiving you, playing
Disgracefully with you and all of us.
The Duke is striking attitudes as if
To leave the army; all the while they’re taking
Measures to steal the army from the Kaiser [2090]
And lead it over to the enemy.
MAX. I know this Jesuitical tale. I never
Thought you’d be one to retail it to me.
OCTAVIO. The mouth from which you have it bears you witness:
This is no Jesuitical tale I tell you.
MAX. What kind of mad man do they think the Duke?
He could intend to try and lure away
Full thirty thousand proven troops, staunch soldiers,
Among them good one thousand noblemen?
Seduce them from their oath, their duty, honor, [2100]
Combine them for a piece of purest roguery?
OCTAVIO. He wishes nothing quite so base. What he
Would have of us bears a more harmless name:
He wants to make the realm a gift of peace.165
The Kaiser, though, abhors this sort of peace,
And he would undertake to force it on him!
He wants to pacify all parts and for
His trouble he proposes to keep back
Bohemia, which he occupies already.
MAX. Has he deserved, Octavio, that we— [2110]
We two—think so unworthily of him?
OCTAVIO. What we think here has no importance. None!
The matter itself speaks, gives clearest proofs.
You know how bad our standing is at Court,
My son. You have no inkling, though, of the
Intrigues, of the mendacity they’ve used
To sow a mutiny here in camp. The bonds
That bind the officer to sovereign, bind the
Soldier to civil life have been dissolved.
Released from law and duty, he now lies [2120]
Ensconced before the state that he should shield
And makes to turn his very sword against it.
It’s now gone so far that the Kaiser lives
In fear of his own army, he suspects
Treachery in his own citadel and city.
Why, he’s about to send his youngest heirs
To safety, not before the Swede, the Lutheran—
Oh, no! Before his own sworn troops and generals.
MAX. Enough! You frighten me, this shakes me. For
I know one often trembles at mere shadows. [2130]
But still—false fear can lead to true disaster.
OCTAVIO. This fear’s not false. A civil war has flared,
The most unnatural of all wars, if we
Do not go out, confront it swiftly, quell it.
Among the captains, many have been bought,
The loyalty of the subalterns wavers,
Regiments waver, garrisons are wavering.
Our strongholds have been put in strangers’ hands ;
To Schafgotsch, that tenebrous figure, they’ve
Assigned the whole Silesian squad,166 to Terzky [2140]
Five regiments, both horse and foot, to Illo
And Kinsky, Buttler, Isolan, our best
Outfitted units. MAX. Also to us two.
OCTAVIO. Because they think they have us and that they
Can tempt us with their glittering promises.
The principalities Glatz and Sagan are
My portion of these spoils, and I see all
Too clearly the hook on which they think they can
Catch you.
MAX. Oh, no! No! No! I tell you, No!
OCTAVIO. Open your eyes! Why did they order us [2150]
To Pilsen, do you think? To seek advice?
Since when has Friedland needed our advice?
We’re summoned here to sell ourselves to him,
If we refuse—to be his hostages.
That’s why Count Gallas kept himself away.
And you’d not see your father here if higher
Duty had not compelled his coming, too.
MAX. Never did he pretend we’d not been called here
For his sake. He admits he needs our help
To hold out long. He’s done so much for us [2160]
That we are duty-bound to do for him.
OCTAVIO. Do you know what it is that we’re to do?
That Illo’s drunkenness betrayed it all.
Remember what you saw and heard. Does that
Falsified oath, its crucial clause omitted,
Not show they’re binding us to nothing good?
MAX. That business with the oath last evening is
For me no more than yet another trick
Contrived by Illo. Such a race of meddlers
Will always drive it past the point. The Duke, [2170]
They see, has fallen out at Court. They think
They’ll fix it when they drive the breach beyond
Repair. The Duke, believe me, knows nothing of it.
OCTAVIO. It pains me to destroy a faith that you
Believe so well-founded. Here, though, there’s no sparing
You. You must act, take measures right away.
Therefore, I’ll tell you: Everything I’ve said—
Which you disbelieve—I have it from himself,
From his own proper mouth.
MAX (much aroused). Not possible!
OCTAVIO. From him I heard what I’d long since discovered [2180]
By other avenues that I had opened:
That he plans to go over to the Swede
And at the head of the united armies
Compel the Kaiser to—
MAX. He’s hot and rash.
The Court insulted him quite painfully
At a bad moment—that may be—and he
Forgot himself this one time, was too quick.
OCTAVIO. In cold blood he confessed these things to me,
And having misconstrued astonishment as
Fear, let me see the letters of the Swedes [2190]
And Saxons that raise hopes of certain aid.
MAX. It cannot be, can not be, can not be!
You see that it cannot! If you had shown
Him your repugnance, sure, he would have heard.
Or you’d not be alive and standing here.
OCTAVIO. It’s true: while I expressed my reservations
And warned him urgently and earnestly, I
Concealed my true repugnance and my deepest
MAX. You could be so false? My father’s
Not like that. I had doubts about your words [2200]
As you denounced him. Now you denounce yourself.
OCTAVIO. I had no wish to penetrate his secret.
MAX. His confidence deserved an honest answer.
OCTAVIO. He was not worthy of an honest answer.
MAX. And still less worthy was he of deception.
OCTAVIO. My dearest boy, it is no simple thing
To keep a childlike spotlessness in life
The way an inner voice tells us we must do.167
Embattled with the worst dishonesty,
No honest disposition can remain so. [2210]
The curse of the bad deed is that it hatches
Unending generations of bad deeds.
I split no hairs; I merely do what’s mine
To do. The Kaiser puts my conduct to me.
It would be better, could we follow our
Own heart. But one who does denies himself not
A few goals for the good. Our proper task is
Always to serve the Kaiser well, my son.
What our hearts say must be another matter.
MAX. Today I’m fated not to understand you. [2220]
The Prince, you say, in honesty disclosed
An evil purpose. You claim you deceived
Him for a good one. Stop! I beg you. You’ll
Not get my friend. Don’t make me lose my father.
OCTAVIO (suppressing his feelings).
You’ve not heard everything, my boy. There’s more.
(After a pause.)
The Duke of Friedland has made preparation.
He trusts his stars. He plans to fall upon
Us by surprise, thinks the Bohemian crown
Already his. He errs. We, too, have taken
Measures. He’ll grasp his fate, prepared in secret. [2230]
MAX. Do nothing rash! Don’t act in haste, I beg you!
OCTAVIO. He’s crept his dark way forward softly, softly,
And softly, slyly, vengeance has crept after.
It stands behind him now, concealed, unseen.
Just one false step, and he is overtaken.
You saw that Questenberg spent time with me;
His public mandate you’re acquainted with;
He had a secret one, for me alone.
MAX. Am I to know it?
OCTAVIO. Max! With this disclosure
I lay the fortunes of the realm, along with [2240]
Your father’s very life, into your hands.
You cherish Wallenstein, a band of honor
And love has fastened you to him since first youth.
You entertain the wish—oh, let me run
Ahead of your still hesitating trust—
The hope to belong to him more intimately
Still. MAX. Father—
OCTAVIO. I have every confidence in
Your heart. But am I sure of your composure?
Have you the steel to come before this man
And give no sign, once I tell you his fate? [2250]
MAX. This scruple, after you’ve told me his guilt!
OCTAVIO (takes a paper from a casket and hands it to him).
MAX. What’s this? How—An Imperial letter patent—
OCTAVIO. Read it.
MAX (having cast a glance into the sheet).
The Prince condemned and outlawed!
It is.
MAX. But this is monstrous! A mistake!
OCTAVIO. Continue. Brace yourself.
MAX (reads on, then looks at his father, astonished).
What? You? You are—
OCTAVIO. Just for the interim. Until the King
Of Hungary can reach the army.168 Its
Supreme command has been transferred to me.
MAX. Do you think you can snatch this thing from him?
Not for a moment! Father, Father, they’ve [2260]
Imposed a fatal office on you. You
You’d undertake to execute this charge?
Disarm this mighty man among his army?
Surrounded there by loyal thousands? Never!
You’re lost! And all of us along with you!
OCTAVIO. What I must dare to do is known to me.
I stand in the Almighty’s hand; it will
Protect the pious Kaiser’s house with its
Great shield and sweep away the work of darkness.
The Kaiser still has loyal servants, here [2270]
In camp are trusty men enough who’ll take
The side of justice with élan. The loyal
Have all been warned, the rest are under watch.
I only wait for the first step, and then—
MAX. You’d move against him on suspicion merely?
OCTAVIO. Tyrannical measures aren’t the Kaiser’s way.
He’ll punish, not the wish, the deed alone.
The Prince still holds his fate in his two hands:
He leaves this crime unconsummated—then he’ll
Be quietly removed from his command [2280]
In favor of the Kaiser’s son and heir.
An honorable exile on his holdings
Will count as favor more than punishment.
At the first step he takes, however, we—
MAX. And what would you consider such a step?
He’ll never take it. You, though, could misjudge
(As you have done) a fully harmless one.
OCTAVIO. However culpable the Prince’s aims,
All steps that he has taken publicly
Were open to a mild construing. I [2290]
Intend to make no use of this sheet, short
Of a committed deed that proves high treason
Incontrovertibly, and so condemns him.
MAX. And who shall be the judge of this?
OCTAVIO. You shall.
MAX. Then we shall never need it! Since I have
Your word that you’ll not act before you have
Persuaded even me.
OCTAVIO. It’s possible?
You—knowing what you do—can still hold him
For innocent?
MAX (vivid). Your judgment can be wrong,
But not my heart. (More temperate.) A spirit such as his [2300]
Cannot be grasped like any other. Just
As he attaches his fate to the stars,
Just so does he resemble them in secret,
Eternally incomprehensible,
And marvelous rotation. Believe me, he
Is wronged. It all will reach solution yet,
And we shall see him rise, clean, pure, and shining,
Out of the depths of all this black suspicion.
OCTAVIO. We’ll see.

Scene Two

3As above. The Chamberlain. Then a Courier.

  • 169 First mentioned Act II, scene 5, line 710.
  • 170 See Act II, scene 5, at line 748.
  • 171 Gallas’s absence—and Altringer’s whereabouts—has been a subject since Act I, scene 1, line 18.

OCTAVIO. Yes? [2310]
CHAMBERLAIN. There’s a courier at the door.
OCTAVIO. So early?
Who is it? Where’s he from?
CHAMBERLAIN. He wouldn’t say.
OCTAVIO. Admit him. Keep strict silence in this matter.
(The Chamberlain goes off. A Cornet enters.)
It’s you, Cornet? Count Gallas has sent you?
I’ll take his letter.
CORNET. I’ve an oral message.
Lieutenant General Gallas wouldn’t risk—
OCTAVIO. Let’s hear it, then.
CORNET. He bade me say—I may speak
OCTAVIO. My son is well informed.
CORNET. We have him.
OCTAVIO. Who’s meant here?
CORNET. It’s the go-between, Sesina.169
OCTAVIO (quickly). You have him?
CORNET. Since two days ago, in the
Bohemian Forest. Captain Mohrbrand caught him [2320]
At daybreak, on the way to Regensburg,
Carrying dispatches to the Swedish side.
OCTAVIO. And the dispatches?
CORNET. Were directed right
Away straight to Vienna, with the prisoner.
OCTAVIO. At last! At last! Extraordinary news!
That man contains a treasury of things
We want to know. Was much discovered on him?
CORNET. A good six packets sealed with Terzky arms.
OCTAVIO. None in the Prince’s hand?
CORNET. Not that I know.170
OCTAVIO. Sesina, then? [2330]
CORNET. Seemed very badly shaken
To hear that he’d be taken to Vienna.
Count Altring heartened him by saying he
Need only willingly confess to all.
OCTAVIO. Altringer’s with your master? I heard he
Was lying sick at Linz.
CORNET. For three days now
He’s been at Frauenberg with General Gallas.171
They’ve gathered sixteen squads together, all
Elite recruits, and bid me tell you they
Are waiting only to receive your orders.
OCTAVIO. In few days much can happen. When must you [2340]
CORNET. I, too, am to await your orders.
OCTAVIO. Remain till evening.
CORNET. Yes, sir. (About to go.)
OCTAVIO. No one’s seen you?
CORNET. No, not a soul. The Capuchins received me,
As always, by the wicket to the cloister.
OCTAVIO. Go, then, and get some rest. Keep yourself hidden.
I plan to make you ready before evening.
Affairs have reached the point of rapid change,
And sooner than the day that’s breaking now
Declines to dark a fatal lot must fall.

4(Exit Cornet.)

Scene Three

5Both Piccolomini.

OCTAVIO. What now, my boy? We’ll soon be clear on this, [2350]
Since everything—it’s known—went through Sesina.
MAX (who underwent an inner struggle during the whole previous scene,
now resolutely).
I’ll look for light by quicker means. Farewell!
OCTAVIO. Where to? Don’t go!
MAX. The Prince.
OCTAVIO (startled). What did you say?
MAX (coming back). If you were thinking I would play a role in
This play of yours, you’ve got me badly wrong.
My way must travel straight. I can’t be true
In tongue and in my heart be false. Can’t let
Myself be trusted as a friend and salve
My conscience with the thought that he is on
His own, that I have never lied to him. [2360]
What someone takes me for, that I must be.
I’m going to the Duke. Today yet I’ll
Urge him to salvage his good name before
The world, to rip through your men’s artful web
By taking one straight honest step.
OCTAVIO. You’d do that?
MAX. I would. Don’t doubt it.
OCTAVIO. Then I’ve got you wrong
Indeed. I counted on a sober son
Who’d thank the saving hand that pulled him back
From the abyss. I find a blind man whom
Two pretty eyes have made a fool of, passion [2370]
Befogs, and whom broad daylight cannot heal.
Go ask him! Be so unconsidered as to
Betray your father’s secret and the Kaiser’s.
Oblige me to a noisy breach before
The time. Now, when a miracle has kept
My secret safe, has lulled sharp-eyed suspicion,
Let me see my own son, all wild and witless,
Pull down a painfully erected work
Of statecraft.
MAX. Statecraft! How I curse your statecraft!
You, with your statecraft, will yet drive him to [2380]
A step—Why, you, because you want him guilty,
Are capable of making him so. Oh,
This cannot end well. And, however it
Falls out, I sense a true disastrous turn
Approaching. For this regal man, in falling,
Will bring a world down in the aftermath.
And like a ship on the high seas that flames
Up suddenly and, bursting, flies apart,
Flinging its crew out between sea and sky,
Just so will he take all of us, attached [2390]
As we are to his fortunes, down with him.
You do as you see fit. However, grant
That I conduct myself in my own fashion.
No impure motive sully our relations.
Before the day is over, we shall know
If I must lose my father or my friend.

(As he goes off, the Curtain falls.)


164 Wallenstein, at the very outset of Death, tells Seni that day is breaking.

165 See Max on Wallenstein’s wish for peace, Act I, scene 4, at line 489.

166 Johann Ulrich, Baron Schaffgotsch (1595–1635), of Bohemian-Silesian nobility.

167 The philosophical difference between father and son Piccolomini. It first emerges Act I, scene 4, at line 406, in Questenberg’s presence.

168 The Kaiser’s eldest surviving son, later Ferdinand III. See Wallenstein’s misgivings, Act II, scene 5, at line 700.

169 First mentioned Act II, scene 5, line 710.

170 See Act II, scene 5, at line 748.

171 Gallas’s absence—and Altringer’s whereabouts—has been a subject since Act I, scene 1, line 18.


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