Act I. - Scene I.


MYCETES. Brother Cosroe, I find myself agriev'd; Yet insufficient to express the same, For it requires a great and thundering speech: Good brother, tell the cause unto my lords; I know you have a better wit than I.

COSROE. Unhappy Persia,--that in former age Hast been the seat of mighty conquerors, That, in their prowess and their policies, Have triumph'd over Afric,<5> and the bounds Of Europe where the sun dares scarce appear For freezing meteors and congealed cold,-- Now to be rul'd and govern'd by a man At whose birth-day Cynthia with Saturn join'd, And Jove, the Sun, and Mercury denied To shed their<6> influence in his fickle brain! Now Turks and Tartars shake their swords at thee, Meaning to mangle all thy provinces.

MYCETES. Brother, I see your meaning well enough, And through<7> your planets I perceive you think I am not wise enough to be a king: But I refer me to my noblemen, That know my wit, and can be witnesses. I might command you to be slain for this,-- Meander, might I not?

MEANDER. Not for so small a fault, my sovereign lord.

MYCETES. I mean it not, but yet I know I might.-- Yet live; yea, live; Mycetes wills it so.-- Meander, thou, my faithful counsellor, Declare the cause of my conceived grief, Which is, God knows, about that Tamburlaine, That, like a fox in midst of harvest-time, Doth prey upon my flocks of passengers; And, as I hear, doth mean to pull my plumes: Therefore 'tis good and meet for to be wise.

MEANDER. Oft have I heard your majesty complain Of Tamburlaine, that sturdy Scythian thief, That robs your merchants of Persepolis Trading by land unto the Western Isles, And in your confines with his lawless train Daily commits incivil<8> outrages, Hoping (misled by dreaming prophecies) To reign in Asia, and with barbarous arms To make himself the monarch of the East: But, ere he march in Asia, or display His vagrant ensign in the Persian fields, Your grace hath taken order by Theridamas, Charg'd with a thousand horse, to apprehend And bring him captive to your highness' throne.

MYCETES. Full true thou speak'st, and like thyself, my lord, Whom I may term a Damon for thy love: Therefore 'tis best, if so it like you all, To send my thousand horse incontinent<9> To apprehend that paltry Scythian. How like you this, my honourable lords? Is it not a kingly resolution?

COSROE. It cannot choose, because it comes from you.

MYCETES. Then hear thy charge, valiant Theridamas, The chiefest<10> captain of Mycetes' host, The hope of Persia, and the very legs Whereon our state doth lean as on a staff, That holds us up and foils our neighbour foes: Thou shalt be leader of this thousand horse, Whose foaming gall with rage and high disdain Have sworn the death of wicked Tamburlaine. Go frowning forth; but come thou smiling home, As did Sir Paris with the Grecian dame: Return with speed; time passeth swift away; Our life is frail, and we may die to-day.

THERIDAMAS. Before the moon renew her borrow'd light, Doubt not, my lord and gracious sovereign, But Tamburlaine and that Tartarian rout<11> Shall either perish by our warlike hands, Or plead for mercy at your highness' feet.

MYCETES. Go, stout Theridamas; thy words are swords, And with thy looks thou conquerest all thy foes. I long to see thee back return from thence, That I may view these milk-white steeds of mine All loaden with the heads of killed men, And, from their knees even to their hoofs below, Besmear'd with blood that makes a dainty show.

THERIDAMAS. Then now, my lord, I humbly take my leave.

MYCETES. Theridamas, farewell ten thousand times. [Exit THERIDAMAS.] Ah, Menaphon, why stay'st thou thus behind, When other men press<12> forward for renown? Go, Menaphon, go into Scythia, And foot by foot follow Theridamas.

COSROE. Nay, pray you,<13> let him stay; a greater [task] Fits Menaphon than warring with a thief: Create him pro-rex of all<14> Africa, That he may win the Babylonians' hearts, Which will revolt from Persian government, Unless they have a wiser king than you.

MYCETES. Unless they have a wiser king than you! These are his words; Meander, set them down.

COSROE. And add this to them,--that all Asia Lament to see the folly of their king.

MYCETES. Well, here I swear by this my royal seat--

COSROE. You may do well to kiss it, then.

MYCETES. Emboss'd with silk as best beseems my state, To be reveng'd for these contemptuous words! O, where is duty and allegiance now? Fled to the Caspian or the Ocean main? What shall I call thee? brother? no, a foe; Monster of nature, shame unto thy stock, That dar'st presume thy sovereign for to mock!-- Meander, come: I am abus'd, Meander. [Exeunt all except COSROE and MENAPHON.]

MENAPHON. How now, my lord! what, mated<15> and amaz'd To hear the king thus threaten like himself!

COSROE. Ah, Menaphon, I pass not<16> for his threats! The plot is laid by Persian noblemen And captains of the Median garrisons To crown me emperor of Asia: But this it is that doth excruciate The very substance of my vexed soul, To see our neighbours, that were wont to quake And tremble at the Persian monarch's name, Now sit and laugh our regiment<17> to scorn; And that which might resolve<18> me into tears, Men from the farthest equinoctial line Have swarm'd in troops into the Eastern India, Lading their ships<19> with gold and precious stones, And made their spoils from all our provinces.

MENAPHON. This should entreat your highness to rejoice, Since Fortune gives you opportunity To gain the title of a conqueror By curing of this maimed empery. Afric and Europe bordering on your land, And continent to your dominions, How easily may you, with a mighty host, Pass<20> into Graecia, as did Cyrus once, And cause them to withdraw their forces home, Lest you<21> subdue the pride of Christendom! [Trumpet within.]

COSROE. But, Menaphon, what means this trumpet's sound?

MENAPHON. Behold, my lord, Ortygius and the rest Bringing the crown to make you emperor!

Re-enter ORTYGIUS and CENEUS,<22> with others, bearing a crown.

ORTYGIUS. Magnificent and mighty prince Cosroe, We, in the name of other Persian states<23> And commons of this mighty monarchy, Present thee with th' imperial diadem.

CENEUS. The warlike soldiers and the gentlemen, That heretofore have fill'd Persepolis With Afric captains taken in the field, Whose ransom made them march in coats of gold, With costly jewels hanging at their ears, And shining stones upon their lofty crests, Now living idle in the walled towns, Wanting both pay and martial discipline, Begin in troops to threaten civil war, And openly exclaim against their<24> king: Therefore, to stay all sudden mutinies, We will invest your highness emperor; Whereat the soldiers will conceive more joy Than did the Macedonians at the spoil Of great Darius and his wealthy host.

COSROE. Well, since I see the state of Persia droop And languish in my brother's government, I willingly receive th' imperial crown, And vow to wear it for my country's good, In spite of them shall malice my estate.

ORTYGIUS. And, in assurance of desir'd success, We here do crown thee monarch of the East<;> Emperor of Asia and Persia;<25> Great lord of Media and Armenia; Duke of Africa and Albania, Mesopotamia and of Parthia, East India and the late-discover'd isles; Chief lord of all the wide vast Euxine Sea, And of the ever-raging<26> Caspian Lake.

ALL.<27> Long live Cosroe, mighty emperor!

COSROE. And Jove may<28> never let me longer live Than I may seek to gratify your love, And cause the soldiers that thus honour me To triumph over many provinces! By whose desires of discipline in arms I doubt not shortly but to reign sole king, And with the army of Theridamas (Whither we presently will fly, my lords,) To rest secure against my brother's force.

ORTYGIUS. We knew,<29> my lord, before we brought the crown, Intending your investion so near The residence of your despised brother, The lords<30> would not be too exasperate To injury<31> or suppress your worthy title; Or, if they would, there are in readiness Ten thousand horse to carry you from hence, In spite of all suspected enemies.

COSROE. I know it well, my lord, and thank you all.

ORTYGIUS. Sound up the trumpets, then. [Trumpets sounded.]

ALL.<32> God save the king! [Exeunt.]