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Don Carlos Infante of Spain

Friedrich Schiller

Act Three

Texte intégral

The King’s bedroom

Scene One

  • 67 These are items from the Queen’s casket and place the scene in the early morning hours after Eboli’ (...)

1Two lights burn on a night table. In the background, Pages on their knees, fast asleep. The King, half undressed to the waist, stands at the table, one arm braced on a chair, in an attitude of reflection. A medallion lies before him and some papers.67

2KING. She’s always been excitable—that’s clear.
I couldn’t give her love, but did she miss it?
It’s proven: She is false.
(He makes a motion that brings him to himself and looks about, startled.)
Where was I? Is
[2060] No one awake here but the King? What’s this?
The candles all burnt down and not yet day?
I’ve lost the night. It belongs to you now, Nature.
A king has no time to retrieve lost sleep.
Now I’m awake; let it be day.
(He puts out the candles and opens a curtain. As he walks up and down, he notices the sleeping boys and stops to consider them; then he pulls the bell.)
Too, in my anteroom, perhaps?

Scene Two

3The King. Count Lerma.

4LERMA (startled on seeing the King). Why, is
Your Majesty not well?

5KING. Fire in the left
Wing. You heard the alarm?

6LERMA. No, Majesty.

7KING. No? I’d have only dreamt it? That’s not chance.
The Queen, I believe, sleeps in that wing?

8LERMA. She does,
[2070] Your Majesty.

9KING. The dream has frightened me.
In future let the Watch be doubled there.
You hear? At nightfall. But in secret. I’ll
Not have it that—Do you examine me?

10LERMA. I see a burning eye that longs for sleep.
Dare I remind Your Majesty how precious
Your life? Of subjects who will note the trace
Of sleepless nights with deep misgiving? Only
An hour or two of troubled sleep—

  • 68 The King is remembering the night just past.

11KING (with wild eyes). Of sleep?
Sleep I shall find in my Escorial. Kings
[2080] Who sleep will lose their crowns and husbands lose
Their wives. No, that is a slander. Was is not
A woman told me that?
68 Her name is slander.
The crime’s unproven till a man has said it.
(To the Pages, who have woken up.)
Call for Duke Alba!
(They go out.)
One step closer, Count.
It’s true?
(He stands before the Count and fixes him.)
One heartbeat’s worth of certainty!
Your oath! It’s true? I am deceived?

12LERMA. My great,
My best of Kings—

13KING (stepping back). Oh, king and king again!
No better answer than an empty echo?
I strike this rock, want water for my fever,
[2090] And get but glowing gold.

14LERMA. If what were true,
My King?

15KING. Oh, nothing, nothing. Leave me. Go.
(The Count is about to go. The King calls him back.)
You’re married? Father? Yes?

16LERMA. Yes, Majesty.

17KING. You’re married and would dare to watch the night
Through for your master? Silver-gray and not
Ashamed to believe your wife is honest? Oh,
Go home. You’ll find her in the incestuous arms of
Your son. Just believe your King and go. You’re startled?
You look at me with meaning, since my hair, too,
Is gray? Bethink yourself. No queen will smirch
[2100] Her honor. You’re lost if—

18LERMA (heated). Who doubts? Who can?
In all my King’s estates, who’d dare to stain
This virtue by suspicion? She, the best of—

19KING. The best? And your best, too? She has warm friends
About me here, or so it seems to me.
That must be costly. More, I’d thought, than she
Can give. You are dismissed. Admit the Duke.

20LERMA. I hear him in the anteroom. (About to go.)

21KING (more mildly). Count! What you
Remarked just now is true—true after all.
My head’s aglow with sleeplessness. Forget
[2110] What I said in a waking dream. You hear?
Forget it. I’m your Very Gracious King.

22(He offers his hand for Lerma’s kiss; Lerma opens to the Duke and goes off.)

Scene Three

23The King and Duke Alba

  • 69 Alba is uncertain of the result of his conspiracy with Domingo to send Eboli to the King.

24ALBA (approaching the King uncertainly).69
An order so surprising for me at This unaccustomed hour, my Liege?
(Taken aback on observing the King more closely.)
What a sight!

25KING (has sat down and picked up the medallion on the table.
He regards the Duke silently).
It’s true? I have no faithful servants?

26ALBA (stops short, shamed). How’s that?

27KING. I’m mortally insulted. They know it and
No one who warns me!

28ALBA (with a look of astonishment).
Insult that intends
My King and it escaped my notice?

29KING (showing him the letters). This hand
Is known to you?

30ALBA. It is Don Carlos’ hand.
(Pause in which the King observes him sharply.)

31KING. You can’t yet guess what’s here? You warned me of his
[2120] Ambition? Was ambition all I had
To fear of him?

32ALBA. Ambition is a big—
A broad word. It means many, many things.

33KING. You’ve nothing more specific to disclose?

34ALBA (after a silence, with a closed face).
It is the realm Your Majesty laid on
My vigilance, the realm to which I owe my
Most secret knowledge and my insight. What I
Presume or believe, know otherwise, is mine
Alone. For slave or vassal these things are
Inviolate, may be withheld from all
[2130] The kings on earth. Not everything that I see
Clearly is ripe to tell my King. Would he be
Contented, I bid him not question me
As master.

35KING (giving him the letters).

36ALBA (reads and, alarmed, turns to the King).
What madman played this in-
To my King’s hands?

37KING. Aha! I see you know
Who is intended here? And yet I know
The name has been suppressed.

38ALBA (starting back, caught). I was too hasty.

39KING. You know?

40ALBA (after hesitating). I’ve let it slip. My lord commands;
There’s no retreat. It’s true: I know this person.

41KING (getting to his feet, very aroused).
Help me invent a new death, god of vengeance!
[2140] So clear, notorious, and public, this
Collusion; one sees it at first glance. Too much!
I didn’t know. Not I! I am the last
Man in my Kingdom to find out.

42ALBA (throwing himself at the King’s feet). Yes, I
Admit my guilt, my Gracious King, shamed by
A timid cleverness that counseled silence
Where my King’s honor, justice, truth demanded
Loudly enough my speaking. Since all others
Fall silent and the magic spell of beauty
Binds all men’s tongues, let it be dared: I’ll speak.
[2150] For well I know that a son’s flattering avowals,
A wife’s seductive charms, her tears—

43KING (swift and emphatic). Stand up.
You have my royal word. Stand up. Speak freely.

44ALBA (standing). Your Majesty perhaps remembers in
The garden at Aranjuez: you found
The Queen abandoned by her Ladies, all
Alone, distraught in a far bower.

45KING. Ha!
What’s coming? Yes?

46ALBA. The Marquise Mondekar
Was banned because she quickly, generously
Came forward to protect her mistress. Now
[2160] We’re told the Marquise did no more than she was
Ordered: the Prince had been there.

47KING (incensed). Been there? Well, then—

48ALBA. A man’s tread in the sand was found between
The bower and a grotto, there a hand-
Kerchief he’d lost—a gardener met him just
Exactly as Your Majesty reached the bower.

49KING (emerging from dark reflections).
And she shed tears at my displeasure! Shamed me
Before my Court! Before myself! I stood
Like one convicted by her virtue—
(Long silence. He sits down and covers his face.)
Duke Alba. You are quite right. That could lead me
[2170] To something terrible. You’ll let me be
Alone a moment.

50ALBA. That does not decide
The case, my King.

  • 70 Elisabeth of Valois had been married to Philip II by Alba’s proxy and then brought to Madrid.

51KING (reaching for the papers). And this does not? And this?
And this as well? And how these things all prove
One thing? It’s clear as day. I’ve always known it.
The crime began as I received her from
Your hands here in Madrid.
70 I see her still,
Gazing, white as a ghost, at my gray head,
At my gray hair. There it began, this falseness!

  • 71 Alba is contrasting a marriage for political reasons and a love match.

52ALBA. Don Carlos lost a bride when he acquired his
[2180] Young mother. They had shared their dreams and wishes,
Reached understanding in fiery feelings their
New status now forbade. But shyness such as
Attends a first confession—that was past.
Seduction spoke more plainly in shared pictures
Of things they could recall without offense.
Akin by harmony of thought and years,
Enraged by one compulsion forced on both,
They gave themselves to passion the more boldly.
But politics took precedence on preference:
[2190] Are we to believe, Your Majesty, that she
Conceded to the State such primacy?
And mastered lust that she might test more closely
Decisions that your Cabinet had taken?
She had expected love and she received—
A diadem.

  • 72 The Queen’s concealing Carlos’s presence was indeed magnanimity—a truth the King does not recognize

53KING (injured and bitter).
Distinctions you make—wisely,
Duke. I admire your eloquence. And thank you.
(Getting to his feet, cold and proud.)
You’re right. The Queen was much in error to
Conceal such letters from me, to make secret
The Prince’s presence in the garden. It was
[2200] False magnanimity.72 I’ll find meet punishment.
(He pulls the bell.)
Who else is in the antechamber? I’ve
No further need of you, Duke Alba. You
May go.

54ALBA. I’d have offended once again,
Your Majesty, by eagerness to serve?

55KING (to an entering Page).
Send for Domingo.
(The Page goes off.)
I forgive you that for
Almost two minutes you’d have made
me fear a
Crime that can be committed against

56(Alba goes off.)

Scene Four

57The King. Domingo.

58KING (walks up and down, collecting himself).

59DOMINGO (enters a few minutes after the Duke’s departure, approaches
the King, and regards him in solemn silence).
How happily astonished I am to see
Your Majesty so resolute and calm.

60[2210] KING. Astonished—

61DOMINGO. Providence be thanked, my fear
Was quite without foundation! I may hope now.

62KING. Your fear? Your fear of what?

63DOMINGO. Your Majesty,
I’ll not conceal: I know already of
A secret—

64KING (menacing). Have I expressed a wish to share
It with you? Who dared anticipate me so,
Unbidden? By my honor, rash enough!

  • 73 A half-truth, at best. See Act III, scenes 10–12.

65DOMINGO. My Liege, the place, occasion of my learning,
The seal on what I learned exonerate me.
It was confided at confession,
73 confided
[2220] As a misdeed that burdens the confessor’s
Sensitive conscience, which now seeks Heaven’s mercy.
Too late the Princess rues a deed that she
Has reason to expect will have the gravest
Consequence for her Queen.

  • 74 Philip’s appealing to Domingo for truth shows just how friendless and exposed he is at his own cour (...)

66KING. Does she indeed?
How good of her—You have guessed rightly why
I had you called: You’re to conduct me out of
A labyrinth, one that blind eagerness
Has flung me into. I expect truth of you.
What should I believe and what decide? I charge
[2230] Your office to speak truth.74

67DOMINGO. Sire, even if
My station laid upon me no sweet duty
To spare, I’d still entreat Your Majesty,
Entreat you for your peace of mind, to halt
At what you know and to abandon searching
A secret that can bring no happiness.
What is already known can be forgiven.
Just one word from the King—the Queen has never
Strayed. Royal will confers both happiness
And virtue, and alone the King’s unwavering
[2240] Tranquility strikes down the whisperings
That slander can indulge in.

68KING. Whisperings?
Concerning me? Among my subjects?

69DOMINGO. Lies!
Damnable lies! My word of honor, Sire.
But there are cases where the people’s belief
Becomes no less important than the truth,
Unproved as ever it may be.

70KING. By God!
And it would be perhaps just here—

71DOMINGO. Good name
Is the most precious single good for which
The Queen competes with burghers’ wives.

72KING. For which,
[2250] I hope, we have no grounds to tremble?
(He gazes at Domingo doubtfully. A silence.)
I am to get bad news from you. Delay
No longer. I can read it there in your
Funereal face. So out with it, whatever
It is, and torment me no longer! What
Is it they believe?

73DOMINGO. The people, Sire, may err.
Most certainly, they err. And what they say
Ought not to shock the King. But
that they dare
To say such things—

74KING. What things? Must I ask you
At endless length for bitter medicine?

75[2260] DOMINGO. The people think back on the month that brought
Your Majesty so close to death. They learned
Thirty weeks after that of the successful

76(The King stands up and pulls the bell. Duke Alba enters.)

77DOMINGO (startled). I’m astonished, Sire!
(going toward the Duke). Toledo!
You are a man. Protect me from this priest.

78DOMINGO (exchanging uneasy glances with Duke Alba).
If we’d known in advance the messenger
Would have to bear the punishment—

79KING. Bastard, you say?
I was, you say, not yet returned from death’s door
Just when she knew herself with child? That was,
If I am not mistaken, when you praised
[2270] Our good Saint Dominic in every church
For miracles he’d wrought on me? What was
A miracle then now is one no longer?
Or then or now you lied to me. Which is it?
Oh, I see through you. If your plot had been
Ripe then, the saint had lost his fame.

80ALBA. Our plot!

81KING. You
Two come together in such harmony,
Such unexampled harmony, sameness of
Intention, and have not agreed among
Yourselves? You would persuade me so? Me? I
[2280] Should not have noticed with what eagerness
And greed you stoop upon your quarry? How
You feast upon my pain and bursts of anger?
I should not see the way the Duke burns hot
To intercept the favor given my son?
And how this pious man here armed his many
Petty resentments with my giant’s rage?
I am the bow, you seem to think, that one
May bend at pleasure?
I still have a will,
And if I am to entertain a doubt,
[2290] I’ll start with you.

82ALBA. Our loyalty did not
Expect quite this construction.

83KING. Loyalty!
Loyalty warns us of impending crimes,
Vengeance of those already long committed.
Just tell me: What has all your eagerness
To serve then gained me? If what you claim is true,
What choice have I but separation? And
The sad triumph of vengeance? Oh, no.
You, you
Tell me, you merely fear; you offer me
Surmises, leave me hanging on the brink
[2300] Of Hell, and scatter.

84DOMINGO. Can proof be adduced In absence of eye witnesses?

85KING (after a long pause; turned to Domingo; solemnly).
I shall Convene the Grandees of my Kingdom, myself sit In judgment. You come forward there before The world—if you have courage—name her an Adulteress. She shall die the death—no mercy— She and the Prince. But! Take note! Should she clear Her name, then you shall die. You’ll honor truth By such a sacrifice? Make up your minds!
Or not? Do you fall silent? Liars’ courage.

86ALBA (who has stood at a distance; now cold and calm).
[2310] I’ll do so.

87KING (wheels around and stares at the Duke).
That is bold! But I recall
You’ve risked your life in battle for far less,
Risked it, like throwing dice, to win fame’s rubbish.
What is your life to you? I’ll not stake royal
Blood on a madman with no higher hope
Than to give up a trivial life sublimely.
Your offer is contemptible. Go! Await
My further orders in the presence chamber.

88(They both go off.)

Scene Five

  • 75 The soliloquy that follows is the hinge of the play.

89The King alone75

  • 76 Egmont led the Spanish cavalry in Spain’s victory over France at Saint Quentin.
  • 77 Philip’s tragedy is that his search for truth about his slandered wife will lead him to fall into a (...)

90KING. Give me a man now, kindly Providence.
Much have you given. Now give me a man.
[2320] You—you who are alone and singular,
For your eyes see and test the hidden things,
I bid you send me a good friend, for I
Cannot know all, like you. The aides you have
Accorded me—you know what they amount to.
What they are worth, that they have meant to me.
Their feeble vices, hedged about, have served
My purposes, as your storms cleanse the world.
It’s truth I need. Uncovering its source
In all the rubble error pitches up
[2330] Is not the lot of kings. Give me the rare
Man with pure open heart, clear mind, sharp eyes
Who’ll help me find it. I heap up
The lots; among the thousands fluttering about
A lofty sun let me find
(He opens a casket and takes out a writing tablet, which he leafs through.)
Mere names.
Mere names stand here, not even the deserts
That brought them here. Forgetful gratitude!
This other tablet though shows the offense
Recorded each time with precision. Vengeance
Requires such aids to memory?
(Continuing to read.)
Count Egmont?
[2340] What is he doing here? Saint Quentin is long
76 I toss him in among the dead.
(He erases the name, writes it on the other tablet, goes on reading.)
The Marquis Posa? Posa? Posa? Can scarce
Remember anything about the man!
Twice underlined: I meant him for great things!
This man kept from my presence until now?
Escaped the notice of his royal debtor?
In all the ambit of my States, by God,
The only one who has no need of me!
If he were greedy or ambitious, he’d
[2350] Have shown himself before my throne long since.
Risk it with such an odd one? A man who
Can live without me will have truth for me.

91(He goes off.)

92The presence chamber

Scene Six

93Don Carlos in conversation with the Prince of Parma. Dukes Alba, Feria, and Medina Sidonia. Count Lerma and other Grandees carrying papers. All waiting for the King.

94MEDINA SIDONIA (conspicuously avoided by all present, turns to Duke Alba, who is walking up and down, solitary and self-absorbed).
You’ve spoken to our Liege, Duke Alba—How
Did you find him disposed?

95ALBA Extremely badly
For you and for the news you bring

  • 78 The destruction of the invincible Spanish armada actually took place much later (1588).

Of all the English battery was less hard
On me than standing here upon these tiles.
(Carlos, who has noticed him sympathetically, approaches and presses his hand.)
My best thanks for this generous gesture, Prince.
You see how they avoid me. Surely my

Undoing’s been decided.

97CARLOS. Hope for the best of My father’s mercy and your blamelessness, friend.

98MEDINA SIDONIA. I lost a fleet for him like none seen on the
High seas. What’s such a head as this against
Seventy sunk galleons? But five sons, Prince, hopeful
As you—it breaks my heart—

Scene Seven

99The King enters, in his robes. As above.

100All remove their hats. They step back on both sides and form a semicircle before the King. General silence.

  • 79 Philip’s half-sister Margaret was married to Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma. Historically, she was (...)

101KING (with a fleeting look about the circle). Cover yourselves!
(Don Carlos and the Prince of Parma approach first to kiss the King’s hand. He turns to Parma in friendly fashion, ignoring his son.)
Your mother, Nephew,
79 would know how we like
You in Madrid.

102PARMA. Let her not ask before my
First battle’s been decided.

103KING. Be content.
Your turn will come when this branch fails.
(Turning to Duke Feria.) What have
[2370] You brought for me?

  • 80 Calatrava was a prestigious knightly order of which the King was grand master.

104FERIA (dropping to one knee). The Knight-Commander of
The Calatrava Order died this morning.
His Cross returns to you.

105KING (taking the medal and surveying the circle before him).
To bear it after him?
Who is most worthy
(He signals Alba, who drops to one knee before him,
and hangs the cross around his neck.)
Duke Alba, you are
My foremost field commander. Be no
My favor then will never fail you.
(He notices Duke Medina Sidonia.) Here is
My admiral!

106MEDINA SIDONIA (approaches uncertainly and kneels before the King, his head down).
This, great King, is all I bring back
Of Spanish youth and the Armada.

107KING (after a long silence). God
Stands over me. I sent them against men,
Not storms and reefs. Be welcome in Madrid.
(He extends his hand to be kissed.)
[2380] My thanks that you’ve preserved this worthy servant
For me! My Grandees, it is thus I know him;
It’s thus I wish that he be known to you.
(He signals Medina Sidonia to stand and cover himself, then turns to the others.)
What else is there?
(To Don Carlos and the Prince of Parma.)
My thanks to you, my Princes.
(They go off. The other Grandees approach and extend
petitions, kneeling. The King looks through them fleetingly
and passes them to Duke Alba.)
Present these in my study. Is this all?
(No one responds.)
How is it then that among all my Grandees
No Marquis Posa shows himself? I know
Full well that he has served me with distinction.
Is he perhaps no longer with us? Why
Does he not come?

  • 81 The day of public audience.

108LERMA. The Knight is just returned
[2390] From travels through all Europe. He awaits but
The Public Day
81 to kneel before his King.

  • 82 Alba relates an incident in the Turkish siege of Saint Elmo, stronghold of the Knights of Malta, 15 (...)

109ALBA. The Marquis Posa? Right! That is the bold
Maltese, esteemed King, whose romantic exploit
Lives on in reputation.
82 When at the
Grand Master’s levy, the knights returned to Malta,
Besieged by Soliman, there vanished, too,
From Alcala an eighteen-year-old youth.
Unsummoned, he came to Valette. “They
A cross for me,” he said, “and now I’ll
earn it.”
[2400] And he was one among those forty knights
Who held the castle at Saint Elmo at
High noon against three storms by Ulucciali,
Mustafa, Hassem, and Piali. When
The castle falls at last, and all the knights
Around him, he throws himself into the sea
And comes, the lone survivor, to Valette.
After two months the enemy vacates
The island, and the knight comes back, completes
The studies he has interrupted.

110FERIA. And
[2410] This Marquis was the one discovered the
Conspiracy in Catalonia. He
By his great skills was able to preserve for
The Crown its most important province.

111KING. I am
Amazed. What kind of man is this to’ve done
Such things and found among the three I ask
Not one who speaks of him with envy? Quite sure,
He has a most unusual character
Or none at all. For wonder, purely, I
Must see him.
(To Duke Alba.)
After Mass has ended bring
[2420] Him to me in my private study.
(The Duke goes off. The King calls Feria.)
You’ll take
My place today before the Privy Council.
(He goes off.)
FERIA. Our master is most gracious.

112MEDINA SIDONIA. Rather say
He is a god. That’s what he was for me.

113FERIA. How you deserve your great good fortune! I
Am happy for you, Admiral.

114A GRANDEE. So am I.

115A SECOND. And I am, too.

116A THIRD. My heart beats high for you.
Such a deserving general!

117THE FIRST. Why, the King
Was hardly gracious toward you, merely just.

118LERMA (leaving, to Medina Sidonia).
How rich two words have made you of a sudden!

119(All go off.)

120The King’s private study

Scene Eight

121Marquis Posa and Duke Alba

122MARQUIS (entering).
[2430] It’s me he wants? Me? That’s not possible.
You have the name wrong. What can he then want
Of me?

123ALBA. He wants to get to know you.

124MARQUIS. That’s
Mere curiosity. So much for these lost
Moments. Life runs its course so quickly.

125ALBA. I
Deliver you to your good stars. The King
Is in your hands. Avail yourself now of this
Moment as best you can, and blame yourself
If it is lost.
(He goes off.)

Scene Nine

126The Marquis alone

127Well said, Duke. One must use

128The moment that will come but once. In truth,
[2440] This courtier teaches me a useful lesson—
If not in his sense useful, then in mine.
(He walks up and down.)
What is it brings me here? Perversity
Of moody chance, and nothing more perhaps,
Would let me see my image in
these mirrors?
Would seize on me, one of a million and
The most improbable? Was that which could
Revive me in the memory of the King?
Mere chance? Might it not have been more? Much more?
For what is chance if not the unhewn stone
[2450] That takes on life beneath the sculptor’s hand?
It’s Providence provides a chance. It’s man
Must furnish it with form. Well, then: Whatever
The King may want with me, it’s all the same.
I know what’s up to me—me—with the King,
And if it be a flare of truth, no more
Than that, flung boldly into that despot’s soul—
How fruitful in the hand of Providence!
What seemed mere whimsy could turn out to be
Most purposeful and well thought out. Could be
[2460] Or not. All one! I’ll act in this conviction.

129(He walks up and down, then pauses calmly before a painting. The King appears in an adjacent room, gives a few orders, and enters. Unnoticed, he pauses on the threshold to observe the Marquis.)

Scene Ten

130The King and Marquis Posa

131The Marquis notices the King and approaches. He bends one knee and stands again, giving no sign of confusion.

132KING (with a look of astonishment).
Already come before me?


134KING. You made
Yourself deserving of the Crown. Why then
Evade my thanks? There’re many men who crowd
My memory. There’s but One knows all. It was
Your place to seek the notice of your King.
Why did you not?

135MARQUIS. I’ve been but two days in
The Kingdom, Sire.

136KING. I’m of no mind to stand
Indebted to my subjects. Beg a favor
Of me.

137MARQUIS. I have protection of the laws.

138[2470] KING. So does the murderer.

139MARQUIS. And all the more
An honest citizen. I am content, Sire.

140KING (to himself). Much confidence and courage here, by God!
That was to be expected. Proud is how
I like my Spaniards. Even if the cup
Spills over, I quite like it.
(To the Marquis.) You have left
My service, as I hear.

141MARQUIS. To make way for
A better man, I’ve gone into retirement.

142KING. That I regret. How great a loss for my
State when such heads make holiday. Perhaps
[2480] You fear to miss the sphere that’s worthy of
Your gifts?
MARQUIS. Oh, no! I’m certain one who knows
Men’s souls, who’s practiced, seasoned in these things,
Sees at first glance what I am good for, what not.
I’m humbly grateful for the grace bestowed on
Me by Your Majesty’s high estimate,
(He stops.)

143KING. Do you hesitate?

144MARQUIS. I am—I must
Confess, Sire—not prepared, not right away,
To clothe what I have thought as citizen of
This world in words such as become your subject.
[2490] For at the time I settled with the Crown, Sire,
I thought myself released from any need
To give it grounds for taking such a step.

145KING. So feeble are your grounds? Are you afraid
To risk—

146MARQUIS. If I gain time t’exploit them fully—
My life at least, Sire. But if you deny me
This favor, I’ll set forth a fuller truth.
I’m left to choose between the King’s displeasure
And his contempt. If I’m to be forced to
Decide, I’d rather see myself dismissed here
[2500] For a miscreant than a fool.

147KING (expectantly). And so?

148MARQUIS. I am not one to serve a prince.
(The King regards him with astonishment.)
I’ll not
Deceive the buyer, Sire. For if you think
Me worthy of employment, you will want
Of me deeds previously decided solely.
You’ll want my arm, my courage in the field,
And my good head in council. Not the deeds
Themselves, approval they find at the Throne
Would be the purpose of my deeds. For me,
However, virtue is its own reward.
[2510] The happiness the King creates with my hand
I’d make myself; I’d choose, myself take pleasure
In what becomes mere duty in king’s service.
Is this your disposition, Sire? Can you
Endure a foreign worker in your workshop?
Am I to be the chisel, no more, there
Where I could be the sculptor? I love all
Humanity. In monarchies I may
Love no one but myself.

149KING. An admirable
Fire. You can do much good. Just how can be
[2520] Indifferent to the wise and patriotic.
Choose for yourself a post in all my Kingdoms
That lets you satisfy these noble urgings.

150MARQUIS. I find none.

151KING. How’s that?

152MARQUIS. What Your Majesty
Gives men by my hand—is that happiness?
Is that the happiness that my pure love
Would grant mankind?
This happiness would make
Majesty tremble. No! Crown politics
Made a new happiness, a happiness
it is rich enough yet to distribute,
Made in men’s hearts new needs and urgings that let
Themselves be stilled by just this happiness.
And it lets truth be struck in its own coin,
Such truth as it is able to endure,
And throws away the stamps that don’t match this one.
What serves the Crown—is that enough for me?
May brother-love be used to harm one’s brother?
I’d find him happy when he may not think?
I’m not the one to choose, Sire, to distribute
Such happiness as
you stamp us. I must
[2540] Decline to circulate such coin as this.
I am not one to serve a prince.

153KING (somewhat hasty). You are
A Protestant.

  • 83 Posa’s reply to the King’s question about his confession is open to more than one interpretation.

154MARQUIS (after reflecting).
Your faith, my Liege, is mine.
(After a pause.)
I’ve not made myself clear. That’s what I feared.
You see my hand expose the secrets kept
By Majesty. Who guarantees I’ll still
Revere what I have ceased to fear? I seem
A threat, for I reflect upon myself.
I’m not, my King. My wishes perish here.
(His hand on his breast.)
This rage to renovate, so laughable
[2550] Because it seals the chains that it would break,
Will never warm
my blood. The century
Is not yet ripe for my ideal. I live
A citizen of centuries yet to come.
Can a mere painting spoil your peace? You can
Erase it with one breath.

155KING. Am I the first
To know you from this side?

156MARQUIS. From this one—Yes!

157KING (stands up, takes a few steps, and pauses before the Marquis.
To himself).
At least this tone is new! No use for flattery.
A man of parts scorns imitation. Now an
Approach the other way. Why not? Surprise
[2560] Prepares good fortune.
(To the Marquis.) If you understand
It thus, then fine. I shall address myself
To a new service to the Crown—to one
For gifted minds.

158MARQUIS. I note, my King, how small,
How lowly you think human dignity—to
Hear even in the speech of a free man
Just artful flattery, and I think I know what
Gives you the right to. Men have forced this on you.
They’ve given up their nobleness, have freely
Descended to this lower level, flee
[2570] In fear before the ghost of inner greatness,
Pleased to be poor and to festoon their chains
With timid wisdom, thinking it a virtue
To carry them politely. It was thus
The world came down to you, and thus it was
Transmitted to the King, your noble father.
Thus maimed, what claim had men on honor from you?

159KING. There’s truth in what you say.

160MARQUIS. A pity though!
When you received man from his Maker’s hand
And changed him into your own handiwork,
[2580] Then gave yourself to this new-molded creature
As god—you overlooked one thing: that you
Yourself stayed human, from the hand of God.
you suffered still and still desired.
You are in need of sympathy, but to a
God one can only sacrifice or tremble,
Or raise a prayer! Regrettable, unnatural
Exchange! Now you’ve reduced man to a mere stringed
Instrument, who’ll sing harmony with you?

161KING. (By God, he grips me in my soul!)

162MARQUIS. To you
[2590] This forfeiture means nothing. You, instead, are
Unique, one of a kind—that is the price
You pay for being God. The worse were it
Not so, if for the trampled happiness
Of millions you’d won nothing! But what if
The freedom you’ve destroyed were the one thing
That’s fit to realize your wishes? Sire,
I ask you to dismiss me. For my subject
Has overcome me and my heart is full,
The urge too strong, as I stand here before
[2600] The one to whom I would disclose it.

163(Count Lerma enters and speaks softly with the King, who then signals him to go and remains seated as before.)

164KING (to the Marquis when Lerma has gone off). Go on!

165MARQUIS (after a silence).
I feel, my Liege, how great the honor—

166KING. Finish!
There’s more you want to say to me.

167MARQUIS. My King,
I’ve just arrived from Flanders and Brabant—
So many rich and blooming provinces!
A strong, great people, also a good people—
God-like, I thought, to be this people’s father!
But then I came upon men’s charred remains—
(He falls silent, gazing at the King, who tries to return his gaze but looks down instead.)
You’re right. You
must. And that you can do what you
Have seen you must, filled me with wonder. It’s a
[2610] Pity, though, that the victim, soaked in blood,
Is little suited to begin a hymn
In praise of who performed the sacrifice!
That men, mere men, not higher beings, write
World history! Gentler centuries to come
Will push aside King Philip’s times and usher
In milder forms of wisdom. Civic contentment
Will go about at one with princely greatness,
The stingy State not throw away its children,
And human, too, will be necessity.

168[2620] KING. When, do you think, would these so human centuries
Appear, if I had trembled at the curse
Of this one? Look about here in my Spain.
Civic contentment blooms in cloudless peace here.
This quiet I would grant to all the Flemings.

  • 84 As examples of cruel tyrants.

169MARQUIS (quickly).
The quiet of a graveyard! You would hope
To end what you’ve begun? Would hope to stop change
Now ripe and due in Christendom? To stop
The spring that now renews the world? Alone in
you’d throw yourself against the wheel
[2630] Of universal destiny in full turn?
Throw your mere human arm into its spokes?
You’ll not succeed! Already thousands have fled
Your countries, poor and happy. Citizens lost
To Spain for their confession were your noblest.
With open arms Elizabeth receives them,
The arts of our land blossom there—for Britain.
Granada lies deserted by its busy
New Christians, and all Europe laughs to see
Its old foe bleed from self-inflicted wounds.
(The King is moved; the Marquis notices and moves closer.)
[2640] You want to plant for all eternity,
And you sow death? So forced an enterprise
Will not survive its author’s spirit. You’ve
Built everything for thanklessness; in vain
You’ve struggled with unyielding Nature and
In vain you’ve sacrificed a great king’s life
Upon designs that only can destroy.
Mankind is more than you have believed of it.
For it will break the bonds of its long sleep,
Demand return of its most sacred rights,
[2650] And toss your name among the Neros and
Busiris.84 That—pains me, for you were good.

170KING. Just who has made you all that sure of this?

171MARQUIS (very fiery).
Yes, by almighty God. Yes, I repeat:
Return to us what you have taken! And,
Magnanimous, becoming to the strong, let
Men’s happiness stream from your horn of plenty.
Minds are maturing in your universe!
Return to us what you have taken. Become
Among a myriad of kings, a king.
(He approaches the King boldly, with a steady, fiery gaze.)
[2660] Oh, if I could but have the eloquence
Of all the thousands who have part in this great
Moment, to flame the spark that I see flashing
In your eyes! Oh, abandon the unnatural
Idolatry that crushes us. Become
A model of the True and Lasting. Never
Was mortal, god-like, so free to use so much.
All Europe’s kings revere the Spanish name.
Put yourself in the van of Europe’s kings.
One pen stroke and the world is made anew. Grant
[2670] Us freedom of thought—
(Throwing himself at the King’s feet.)

172KING (surprised, his face turned away from, then toward the Marquis).
Curious enthusiast!
But—stand up—I—

173MARQUIS. Just look about in His
Grand Nature. Freedom is its basis. And
How rich it is through freedom! He, the great
Creator, puts a worm into a dewdrop,
Lets willfulness disport itself in dead
Wastes of decay. But
your creation, how
Poor and how narrow! Rustling of a leaf
Alarms the lord of Christendom. How
Must tremble before every virtue.
He, not
[2680] To spoil a charming show of freedom, would
Let evil’s grisly army rather rage
In all his universe. Of Him, the artist,
We never are aware: He wraps himself
In His eternal laws.
These a free thinker
Sees, not Him. Wherefore God? says he. The world’s
Enough. No Christian’s devotion can do Him
More honor than free thinkers’ blasphemy.

174KING. And you would undertake to imitate this
Exalted pattern in my mortal states?

175MARQUIS. You,
[2690] You can, who else? Commit your ruling power
That’s prospered but to serve the Throne to your
Own people’s happiness, restore mankind’s
Lost nobleness. Let citizens become
Again what they once were: the Crown’s first purpose,
Bound by no duty but their brothers’ same rights.
When man, restored to himself, feels his worth,
When freedom’s virtues, proud, sublime, grow strong,
When you have made your realm the happiest, then, Sire,
Your duty is to conquer all the world.

176KING (after a great silence).
[2700] I’ve let you finish speaking. Unlike others’,
I understand full well, is this man’s vision,
Nor would I force on you a faulty standard.
I am the first to whom you say these things;
I believe it since I know it’s so. Now for
This reticence, for keeping silent until
This day convictions like these, framed in fire,
For modest prudence such as yours, young man,
I shall forget that I have heard them, how I
Heard them. Stand up. I would disprove this hasty
[2710] Youngster as an old man and not as King—would
Because I would. I find that even poison
Becomes benign in goodly natures. But
Beware my Inquisition. I’d regret—

177MARQUIS. Really? You would regret it?

178KING (lost in contemplating him). Never have I
Seen such a man. Oh, no, Marquis! You do
Me too much honor. I would not be Nero.
I’ll not be that, will not be that toward you.
Not every happiness should wither under
Me. You yourself—
you, under my gaze, should go
[2720] On being human.

179MARQUIS (quickly). And my fellow citizens?
Oh, not for me, Sire, not for
my cause have
I pleaded. And your subjects, Sire?

180KING. If you
Are so sure how the time to come will judge me,
We’ll let it see in you just how I dealt
men when I found one.

181MARQUIS. Let the most just
Of kings not be at once the most unjust.
In Flanders there are thousands better far
Than me. And
you— may I confess it— you
Perhaps see freedom now in softer image?

182KING (with milder seriousness).
[2730] No more of this, young man. I know that you’ll
Think differently, once you know men as I do.
I don’t want to have seen you for the last time.
How shall I bind you to me?

183MARQUIS. Let me be
Just as I am. What would I be to you, Sire,
If you could bribe me, too?

184KING. I’ll not endure
Such pride. From this day on you’re in my service.
No protest! I would have it so.
(A pause.) But then,
Was it not truth I wanted? Here I find
Yet more. You’ve found me out here on my throne,
[2740] Marquis, and not yet in my house?
(The Marquis seems to hesitate.)
I know.
But even were I the unhappiest of
All fathers, could I not be happy as
A husband?

185MARQUIS. A son full of promise, the
Most lovable of consorts—if these things
Give mortals right to such a name, you are
The happiest in both.

186KING (darkly). No, I am not!
And that I’m not I’ve never felt more deeply
Than now.
(He regards the Marquis sorrowfully.)

187MARQUIS. The Prince thinks nobly, he is good.
I’ve never found him otherwise.

188KING. But I have.
[2750] What he has taken from me no crown can
Make good. So virtuous a queen!

189MARQUIS. Who’d dare,
My Liege?

190KING. The world! Its slander! I myself!
I have here evidence that damns her; there’s more
That makes me fear the worst. And yet it’s hard, hard
For me to believe
one thing. Who will accuse her?
she dishonor herself so, then how
Much more am I entitled to conclude
An Eboli is slandering her. The priest—
Does he not hate my son and her, too? And
[2760] Do I not know that Alba’s hatching vengeance?
My wife’s worth more than the whole lot of them.

191MARQUIS. And something lives in woman’s soul, Sire, that
Is pure beyond appearances and slander—
They call it woman’s virtue.

192KING. That I say, too.
To sink as low as one accuses her
Is costly. Easily as they hope to
Persuade me, sacred bonds of honor do
Not break. Marquis, you know men. Such a man
I’ve long lacked. You are good and cheerful and know
[2770] Men, too. It’s thus that I have chosen you—

193MARQUIS (surprised and shocked).
Me, Sire?

194KING. You stood before your master and
Requested nothing for yourself. That’s new
To me. You will be just; no passion will
Obscure your gaze. Gain access to my son,
Explore the Queen’s heart. I’ll send you a warrant
To see her privately. Now leave me.
(He pulls the bell.)

one hope answered? This then is the finest
Day in my life.

196KING (extending his hand to be kissed).
In mine it is no lost one.
(The Marquis stands up and goes off. Count Lerma enters.)
Henceforth the Knight’s admitted unannounced.


67 These are items from the Queen’s casket and place the scene in the early morning hours after Eboli’s visit to the King.

68 The King is remembering the night just past.

69 Alba is uncertain of the result of his conspiracy with Domingo to send Eboli to the King.

70 Elisabeth of Valois had been married to Philip II by Alba’s proxy and then brought to Madrid.

71 Alba is contrasting a marriage for political reasons and a love match.

72 The Queen’s concealing Carlos’s presence was indeed magnanimity—a truth the King does not recognize.

73 A half-truth, at best. See Act III, scenes 10–12.

74 Philip’s appealing to Domingo for truth shows just how friendless and exposed he is at his own court.

75 The soliloquy that follows is the hinge of the play.

76 Egmont led the Spanish cavalry in Spain’s victory over France at Saint Quentin.

77 Philip’s tragedy is that his search for truth about his slandered wife will lead him to fall into another trap.

78 The destruction of the invincible Spanish armada actually took place much later (1588).

79 Philip’s half-sister Margaret was married to Ottavio Farnese, Duke of Parma. Historically, she was governor general of the Spanish Netherlands, 1559–1567. Alba succeeded her.

80 Calatrava was a prestigious knightly order of which the King was grand master.

81 The day of public audience.

82 Alba relates an incident in the Turkish siege of Saint Elmo, stronghold of the Knights of Malta, 1565. La Valette is the grand master of the order. Soliman is the Turkish sultan, Piali one of the commanders of the Turkish fleet, Ulucciali a corsair, Mustafa the commander of the Turkish army, and Hassem, king of Algiers. The German for Posa’s “romantic” exploit is schwärmerisch: effervescent, enthusiastic, spirited, vaporous, slightly mad. The word was used commonly in Schiller’s time to describe a certain personality type, usually a young woman, sometimes a young man.

83 Posa’s reply to the King’s question about his confession is open to more than one interpretation.

84 As examples of cruel tyrants.

Table des illustrations

Légende Elisabeth of Valois. Steel engraving by Moritz Lämmel from a drawing by Arthur von Ramberg. Friedrich Pecht, Schiller-Galerie (Leipzig, 1859),​wiki/​File:Arthur_von_Ramberg_gez,_Schiller-Galerie,_Friedrich_von_Schiller,_Sammelbild,_Stahlstich_um_1859,_Elisabeth_von_Valois_aus_Don_Carlos,_M_Lämmel_Carl_Karl_Moritz_Lemmel.jpg
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