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SCENE I. A Hall in the Duke's Palace.
Enter Duke, ÆGEON, Jailer, Officer, and other Attendants.
Egeon. PROCEED, Solinus, to procure my fall, And, by the doom of death, end woes and all. Duke. Merchant of Syracusa, plead no more; I am not partial, to infringe our laws.
The enmity and discord, which of late
Sprung from the rancorous outrage of your duke
To merchants, our well-dealing countrymen,-
Who, wanting gilders to redeem their lives,
Have sealed his rigorous statutes with their bloods,-
Excludes all pity from our threatening looks.
For, since the mortal and intestine jars
"Twixt thy seditious countrymen and us,
It hath in solemn synods been decreed,
Both by the Syracusans and ourselves,
To admit no traffic to our adverse towns;
If any, born at Ephesus, be seen
At any Syracusan marts and fairs,
Again, If any, Syracusan born,
Come to the bay of Ephesus, he dies,
His goods confiscate to the duke's dispose;
Unless a thousand marks be levied,
To quit the penalty and to ransom him.
Thy substance, valued at the highest rate,
Cannot amount unto a hundred marks;
Therefore by law thou art condemned to die.
Ege. Yet this my comfort; when your words are done,
My woes end likewise with the evening sun.
Duke. Well, Syracusan, say, in brief, the cause
Why thou departedst from thy native home;
And for what cause thou cam'st to Ephesus.
Ege. A heavier task could not have been imposed, Than I to speak my griefs unspeakable.
Yet, that the world may witness that my end
Was wrought by nature,' not by vile offence,
I'll utter what my sorrow gives me leave.
In Syracusa was I born; and wed
Unto a woman, happy but for me,
And by me too, had not our hap been bad.
With her I lived in joy; our wealth increased
By prosperous voyages I often made
To Epidamnum, till my factor's death;
And the great care of goods at random left,
Drew me from kind embracements of my spouse;
From whom my absence was not six months old,
Before herself (almost at fainting, under
The pleasing punishment that women bear)
Had made provision for her following me,
And soon, and safe, arrived where I was.
There she had not been long, but she became
A joyful mother of two goodly sons;
And, which was strange, the one so like the other,
As could not be distinguished but by names.
That very hour, and in the self-same inn,
A poor,3 mean woman was delivered
Of such a burden, male twins, both alike.
Those for their parents were exceeding poor-
I bought, and brought up to attend my sons.
1 i. e. natural affection.
2 The old copy reads he: the emendation is Malone's. The manner in which Steevens pointed this passage, gave to it a confused if not an absurd meaning.
3 The word poor was supplied by the editor of the second folio.
My wife, not meanly proud of two such boys,
Made daily motions for our home return;
Unwilling I agreed; alas; too soon!
We came aboard.
A league from Epidamnum had we sailed,
Before the always wind-obeying deep
Gave any tragic instance of our harm;
But longer did we not retain much hope;
For what obscured light the heavens did
Did but convey unto our fearful minds
A doubtful warrant of immediate death;
Which, though myself would gladly have embraced,
Yet the incessant weepings of my wife,
Weeping before, for what she saw must come,
And piteous plainings of the pretty babes,
That mourned for fashion, ignorant what to fear,
Forced me to seek delays for them and me.
And this it was,-for other means was none.-
The sailors sought for safety by our boat,
And left the ship, then sinking ripe, to us.
My wife, more careful for the latter-born,
Had fastened him unto a small, spare mast,
Such as seafaring men provide for storms;
To him one of the other twins was bound,
Whilst I had been like heedful of the other.
The children thus disposed, my wife and I,
Fixing our eyes on whom our care was fixed,
Fastened ourselves at either end the mast;
And floating straight, obedient to the stream,
Were carried towards Corinth, as we thought.
At length the sun, gazing upon the earth,
Dispersed those vapors that offended us;
And, by the benefit of his wished light,
The seas waxed calm, and we discovered
Two ships from far, making amain to us,
Of Corinth that, of Epidaurus this.
1 Instance appears to be used here for symptom or prognostic. Shakspeare uses this word with very great latitude.
But ere they came,-O, let me say no more!
Gather the sequel by that went before.
Duke. Nay, forward, old man; do not break off so; For we may pity, though not pardon thee.
Age. O, had the gods done so, I had not now
Worthily termed them merciless to us!
For ere the ships could meet by twice five leagues,
We were encountered by a mighty rock;
Which being violently borne upon,1
Our helpful ship was splitted in the midst,
So that, in this unjust divorce of us,
Fortune had left to both of us alike
What to delight in, what to sorrow for.
Her part, poor soul! seeming as burdened
With lesser weight, but not with lesser woe,
Was carried with more speed before the wind;
And in our sight they three were taken up
By fishermen of Corinth, as we thought.
At length, another ship had seized on us;
And, knowing whom it was their hap to save,
Gave healthful welcome to their shipwrecked guests;
And would have reft the fishers of their prey,
Had not their bark been very slow of sail,
And therefore homeward did they bend their course.
Thus you have heard me severed from my bliss;
That by misfortunes was my life prolonged,
To tell sad stories of my own mishaps.
Duke. And, for the sake of them thou sorrowest for,
Do me the favor to dilate at full
What hath befallen of them, and thee, till now.
Ege. My youngest boy, and yet my eldest care, At eighteen years became inquisitive
After his brother; and impórtuned me,
1 The first folio reads "borne up."
2 The second folio altered this to "helpful welcome;" but change was unnecessary.
3 It appears, from what goes before, that it was the eldest, and not the youngest. He says, "My wife, more careful of the latter-born," &c.
That his attendant (for1 his case was like,
Reft of his brother, but retained his name)
Might bear him company in the quest of him;
Whom whilst I labored of a love to see,
I hazarded the loss of whom I loved.
Five summers have I spent in farthest Greece,
Roaming clean through the bounds of Asia,
And, coasting homeward, came to Ephesus;
Hopeless to find, yet loath to leave unsought,
Or that, or any place that harbors men.
But here must end the story of my life;
And happy were I in my timely death,
Could all my travels warrant me they live.
Duke. Hapless Egeon, whom the fates have marked To bear the extremity of dire mishap! Now, trust me, were it not against our laws, Against my crown, my oath, my dignity, Which princes, would they, may not disannul, My soul should sue as advocate for thee. But, though thou art adjudged to the death, And passed sentence may not be recalled, But to our honor's great disparagement, Yet will I favor thee in what I can. Therefore, merchant, I'll limit thee this day, To seek thy help by beneficial help. Try all the friends thou hast in Ephesus; Beg thou, or borrow, to make up the sum, And live; if not, then thou art doomed to die.Jailer, take him to thy custody.
Ege. Hopeless and helpless doth Ægeon wend, But to procrastinate his lifeless end.
1 The first folio reads so, the second for.
2 The personal pronoun he is suppressed: such phraseology is not unfrequent in the writings of that age.
3 No, which is the reading of the first folio, was, anciently, often used for not. The second folio reads not.