Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: Laurence Twine
Editors: Tom Bishop, Andrew Forsberg
Not Peer Reviewed

Twine: The Pattern of Painful Adventures (Modern)


33The First Chapter

34How Antiochus committed incest with his own daughter, and beheaded such as sued unto her for marriage if they could not resolve his questions.

35THE most famous and mighty King Antiochus, which builded the goodly city of Antiochia in Syria, and called it after his own name, as the chiefest seat of all his dominions and most principal place of his abode, begat upon his wife one daughter, a most excellent and beautiful young lady. Who in process of years growing up as well in ripeness of age as perfection of beauty, many princes and noblemen resorted unto her for entreaty of marriage, offering inestimable riches in jointure. Howbeit the king her father, evermore requiring deliberation upon whom rather than other to bestow his daughter, perceived eftsoons an unlawful concupiscence to boil within his breast, which he augmented with an outrageous flame of cruelty sparkling in his heart, so that he began to burn with the love of his own child more than it was beseeming for a father. Thus being wrapped in the toil of blind desire, he sustained within himself a fierce conflict, wherein madness put modesty to flight and he wholly yielded himself unto love.

36Wherefore not long after on a certain day he came into his daughter's chamber, and, bidding all that were there for to depart as though he had had some secret matter to confer with her, the furious rage of lust pricking him forward thereunto, he violently forced her -- though, seely maiden, she withstood him long to her power -- and threw away all regard of his own honesty and unloosed the knot of her virginity. Now, when he was departed, and she, being alone, devised within herself what it were best for her to do, suddenly her nurse entered in, and, perceiving her face all be-blubbered with tears, "What is the matter, dear child and madam," quoth she, "that you sit thus sorrowfully?" "O, beloved nurse," answered the lady, "even now two noble names were lost within this chamber." "How so?" said the nurse. "Because," quoth she, "before marriage through wicked villainy I am most shamefully defiled." And when the nurse had heard these words and, looking about more diligently, perceived indeed what was done, being enraged with sorrow and anger and almost distract of her wits, "Alas, what wretch or rather infernal fiend," quoth she, "durst thus presumptuously defile the bed of a princess?" "Ungodliness hath done this deed," quoth the lady. "Why then do you not tell it the king your father?" said the nurse. "Ah nurse," answered the lady, "where is my father? For if you well understood the matter, the name of father is lost in me, so that I can have no remedy now but death only." But the nurse now by a few words perceiving the whole tale and weighing that the young lady gave inkling of remedy by death, which she much feared, began to assuage her grief with comfortable words and to withdraw her mind from that mischievous purpose. Wherein she prevailed so effectually in short time that she appeased the fresh bleeding of the green wound, howbeit the scar continued long time, as deeply struck within her tender heart, before it could be thoroughly cured.

37In the mean season, while this wicked father showeth the countenance of a loving sire abroad in the eyes of all his people, notwithstanding, within doors and in his mind he rejoiceth that he hath played the part of an husband with his daughter, which false resemblance of hateful marriage, to the intent he might always enjoy, he invented a strange device of wickedness to drive away all suitors that should resort unto her by propounding certain questions, the effect and law whereof was thus published in writing: Whoso findeth out the solution of my question, shall have my daughter to wife, but who so faileth, shall lose his head.

38Now, when Fame had blown abroad the possibility to obtain this lady, such was the singular report of her surpassing beauty, that many kings and men of great nobility repaired thither. And if haply any through skill or learning had found out the solution of the king's question, notwithstanding, he was beheaded as though he had answered nothing to the purpose: and his head was set up at the gate to terrify others that should come, who beholding there the present image of death, might advise them from essaying any such danger. These outrages practised Antiochus, to the end he might continue in filthy incest with his daughter.