Yes, more than I can say. Indeed, I look upon you as a
frightful monster, a cruel, furious monster, whose approach is to be
feared; as a monster to be avoided everywhere. My heart suffers
incredible grief at the sight of you; it is a torture that
overpowers me; I do not know anything under Heaven so frightful,
horrible and odious, that I could not better endure than you.
Alas! Do these words really come from your mouth?
I have many more in my heart; I only regret I cannot find words
to express all I feel.
Ah! What has my heart done to you, Alcmene, that I should be
looked upon as such a monster?
Oh! Just Heaven! He can ask that? Is it not enough to drive me mad?
No; I do not wish either to see or to hear anything of you.
Have you really the heart to treat me thus? Is this the tender
love which I heard yesterday was to last so long?
No, no, it is not; your base insults have ordained it
otherwise. That passionate and tender love does not exist any
longer; you have cruelly killed it in my heart by a hundred keen
wounds. In its place stands an inflexible wrath, a lively
resentment, an invincible indignation, the despair of a heart justly
incensed, which resolves to hate you for this grievous injury, as
much as it was willing to love you; that is to say to hate as much as possible.
Alas! Your love must have had but little strength, if it can be
killed by so slight a matter! Can a jest divorce us? Is there any
need to be so roused at a trifle?
Ah! It is just that which offends me: that which my anger
cannot pardon. I should have felt less wounded by the justifiable
transports of a fit of jealousy. Jealousy makes impressions the
force of which oftentimes carries us beyond our control; at such
times the most discreet mind, no doubt, finds it difficult enough to
answer for its deeds. The violence of a heart which may have been
deluded has, in its very delusion, a peace-offering for an aggrieved
soul, and the love that gave birth to its fears, furnishes, in spite
of all its violence, at least some reasons to urge as excuse.
Outbursts such as these ever have love as an excuse against anger:
for love gave birth to them, and we can easily pardon what we cannot control.
But to fly into uncontrollable fury, in gaiety of heart, and so
causelessly and keenly to wound the tenderness and honour of a heart
that dearly loves you, ah! It is too cruel a blow: my grief can
never forget it.
Yes, you are right, Alcmene; I admit it. This action is
unquestionably an odious crime; I do not pretend to justify it
longer: yet allow my heart to defend itself in your eyes, and let it
reveal to you who is to blame for this insulting fury. To tell you
frankly, it is the husband Alcmene, who has done this wrong; it is
the husband whom you must blame. The lover has no share in this
churlish anger: his heart is not capable of offending you. He has
too much respect and affection for you ever to think of it; had he
been guilty of the crime of doing aught that could wound you, he
would pierce himself with a hundred stabs before your eyes. But the
husband has cast aside that humble submission which should always be
yours; by his harsh deeds, the husband has made himself known; he
thought the rights of marriage allowed him everything. Yes, it is he
no doubt who is guilty towards you; he only has ill-treated your
lovely person. Hate, detest the husband; I consent to it; I yield
him to your mercy; but, Alcmene, spare the lover from the anger
which such an offence gives you; do not let him suffer;
differentiate between him and the guilty one; and, finally, in order
to be just, do not punish him for what he has not done.
Oh! All these subtleties are but frivolous excuses; such
language only annoys incensed minds. In vain do you use these
ridiculous prevarications. I do not make any distinction in him who
offends me; everything in him becomes the object of my anger, the
lover and the husband are alike confounded in its just violence.
Both occupy my thoughts; both are painted in the same colours by my
wounded heart. Both are guilty; both have offended me; and both are
odious to me.
Well! Then, since you wish it, I must charge myself with the
offence. Yes, you are right, when you sacrifice me as a guilty
victim to your resentment. Anger towards me sways you; it is but too
just, and all the terrible wrath you show causes me to suffer only
lawful torments. It is right you should shun my presence, and in
your anger threaten to flee from me everywhere. I must be a
detestable object to you; you are right in thinking ill of me. My
crime in being offensive in your charming eyes surpasses every
horror; it is a crime that offends men and Gods; in short, as
punishment for my insolence I deserve that your hatred should vent
its utmost upon me. I beg your forgiveness, I beg it upon my knees,
I beg it for the sake of the most lively passion, of the tenderest
love for you, which has ever been kindled in a human breast. If,
charming Alcmene, your heart refuses me the pardon which I have the
audacity to seek, then shall a well-aimed stroke put an end to my
life, and release me from the harsh severity of a penalty which I
can no longer bear. Yes, this state of things drives me to despair.
Do not think, Alcmene, that, enamoured as I am of your celestial
charms, I can live a day under your wrath. Even these moments' agony
is barbarously prolonged and my sad heart sinks under their mortal
blows. The cruel wounds of a thousand vultures are not comparable in
any way to my lively grief. Alcmene, you have but to tell me I need
not hope for pardon: and immediately this sword, by a happy thrust,
shall pierce the heart of a miserable wretch before your eyes. This
heart, this traitorous heart, too deserving of death, since it has
offended an adorable being, will be happy if, in descending into the
place of shades, my death appeases your anger, and, after this
wretched day, it leaves in your soul no impression of hatred in
remembering my love! This is all I ask as a sovereign favour.
I make every effort to do so, and it annoys me to feel that all
your insults do not yet carry my vengeance so far as yield to it.
But why this violence, since I offer to kill myself to satisfy
your revenge? Pronounce the sentence and immediately I will obey.
It is impossible to wish for another's death if hatred be absent.
I cannot live unless you abandon the wrath that overwhelms me,
and unless you grant me the favour of a pardon which I beg at your
feet. Decide to do one or the other quickly: to punish, or to absolve.
Alas! The only resolution I can take is but too clearly
apparent. My heart has too plainly betrayed me, for me to wish to
maintain this anger: is it not to say we pardon, when we say we cannot hate?
Ah, charming Alcmene, overwhelmed with delight I must...
Go, Sosie, make haste; a sweet joy fills my soul. See what
officers of the army you can find, and ask them to dine with me.
(Softly aside.) Mercury can fill his post, while he is away from here.