Scene I.—Palace of the Regent
Margaret of Parma
Regent. I might have expected it. Ha! when we live immersed in anxiety and toil, we imagine that we achieve the utmost that is possible; while he, who, from a distance, looks on and commands, believes that he requires only the possible. O ye kings! I had not thought it could have galled me thus. It is so sweet to reign!—and to abdicate? I know not how my father could do so; but I will also.
Machiavel appears in the back-ground
Regent. Approach, Machiavel. I am thinking over this letter from my brother.
Machiavel. May I know what it contains?
Regent. As much tender consideration for me as anxiety for his states. He extols the firmness, the industry, the fidelity, with which I have hitherto watched over the interests of his Majesty in these provinces. He condoles with me that the unbridled people occasion me so much trouble. He is so thoroughly convinced of the depth of my views, so extraordinarily satisfied with the prudence of my conduct, that I must almost say the letter is too politely written for a king—certainly for a brother.
Machiavel. It is not the first time that he has testified to you his just satisfaction.
Regent. But the first time that it is a mere rhetorical figure.
Machiavel. I do not understand you.
Regent. You soon will.—For after this preamble he is of opinion that without soldiers, without a small army indeed,—–I shall always cut a sorry figure here! We did wrong, he says, to withdraw our troops from the provinces at the remonstrance of the inhabitants; a garrison, he thinks, which shall press upon the neck of the burgher, will prevent him, by its weight, from making any lofty spring.
Machiavel. It would irritate the public mind to the last degree.
Regent. The king thinks, however, do you hear?—he thinks that a clever general, one who never listens to reason, will be able to deal promptly with all parties;—people and nobles, citizens and peasants; he therefore sends, with a powerful army, the Duke of Alva.
Regent. You are surprised.
Machiavel. You say, he sends, he asks doubtless whether he should send.
Regent. The king asks not, he sends.
Machiavel. You will then have an experienced warrior in your service.
Regent. In my service? Speak out, Machiavel.
Machiavel. I would not anticipate you.
Regent. And I would I could dissimulate. It wounds me —wounds me to the quick. I had rather my brother would speak his mind than attach his signature to formal epistles drawn up by a Secretary of state.
Machiavel. Can they not comprehend?—
Regent. I know them both within and without. They would fain make a clean sweep; and since they cannot set about it themselves, they give their confidence to any one who comes with a besom in his hand. Oh, it seems to me as if I saw the king and his council worked upon this tapestry.