Egmont. Seest thou, Clara? Let me sit down! (He seats himself, she kneels on a footstool before him, rests her arms on his knees and looks up in his face.) That Egmont is a morose, cold, unbending Egmont, obliged to be upon his guard, to assume now this appearance and now that; harassed, misapprehended and perplexed, when the crowd esteem him light-hearted and gay; beloved by a people who do not know their own minds; honoured and extolled by the intractable multitude; surrounded by friends in whom he dares not confide; observed by men who are on the watch to supplant him; toiling and striving, often without an object, generally without a reward. O let me conceal how it fares with him, let me not speak of his feelings! But this Egmont, Clara, is calm, unreserved, happy, beloved and known by the best of hearts, which is also thoroughly known to him, and which he presses to his own with unbounded confidence and love. (He embraces her.) This is thy Egmont.
Clara. So let me die! The world has no joy after this!
Scene I.—A Street
Jetter. Hist! neighbour,—a word!
Carpenter. Go your way and be quiet.
Jetter. Only one word. Is there nothing new?
Carpenter. Nothing, except that we are anew forbidden to speak.
Carpenter. Step here, close to this house. Take heed! Immediately on his arrival, the Duke of Alva published a decree, by which two or three, found conversing together in the streets, are without trial, declared guilty of high treason.
Carpenter. To speak of state affairs is prohibited on pain of perpetual imprisonment.
Jetter. Alas for our liberty!
Carpenter. And no one, on pain of death, shall censure the measures of government.
Jetter. Alas, for our heads!
Carpenter. And fathers, Mothers, children, kindred, friends, and servants, are invited, by the promise of large rewards, to disclose what passes in the privacy of our homes, before an expressly appointed tribunal.
Jetter. Let us go home.
Carpenter. And the obedient are promised that they shall suffer no injury, either in person or estate.
Jetter. How gracious!—–I felt ill at ease the moment the duke entered the town. Since then, it has seemed to me, as though the heavens were covered with black crape, which hangs so low, that one must stoop down to avoid knocking one’s head against it.
Carpenter. And how do you like his soldiers? They are a different sort of crabs from those we have been used to.
Jetter. Faugh! It gives one the cramp at one’s heart to see such a troop march down the street. As straight as tapers, with fixed look, only one step, however many there may be; and when they stand sentinel, and you pass one of them, it seems as though he would look you through and through; and he looks so stiff and morose, that you fancy you see a task-master at every corner. They offend my sight. Our militia were merry fellows; they took liberties, stood their legs astride, their hats over their ears, they lived and let live; these fellows are like machines with a devil inside them.