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  • Title: The Arcadia (Selection)
  • Editors: Michael Best, Sarah Milligan

  • Copyright Michael Best and Sarah Milligan. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Sir Philip Sidney
    Editors: Michael Best, Sarah Milligan
    Not Peer Reviewed

    The Arcadia (Selection)

    Book 2, Chapter 15

    [Argument, or summary]

    (1)Plangus--his parentage.(2)His trick of youth,(3)espied,(4)and turned over by, and to his old father.(5)An inveigling woman's arts.(6)A guilty stepmother's devilish practices against Plangus.(7)Her minister's false informations.(8)Plangus's perplexities.(9)His father's jealousies. The queen's complots(10)to feed the one's suspicion,(11)and work the other's overthrow.(12)Plangus taken;(13)delivered, flieth,(14)is pursued with old hate and new treason,(15)yet must he serve abroad, while a new heir is made at home.

    1. The father of this Prince Plangus as yet lives, and is King of Iberia, a man, if the judgement of Plangus may be accepted, of no wicked nature, nor willingly doing evil, without himself mistake the evil, seeing it disguised under some form of goodness. This prince, being married at the first to a princess, who both from her ancestors and in herself was worthy of him, by her had this son, Plangus. Not long after whose birth, the queen, as though she had performed the message for which she was sent into the world, returned again unto her maker. The king, sealing up all thoughts of love under the image of her memory, remained a widower many years after recompensing the grief of that disjoining from her, in conjoining in himself both a fatherly and a motherly care toward her only child, Plangus, who, being grown to man's age as our own eyes may judge, could not but fertilely requite his father's fatherly education.

    2. This prince, while yet the errors in his nature were excused by the greenness of his youth, which took all the fault upon itself, loved a private man's wife of the principal city of that kingdom; if that may be called love which he rather did take into himself willingly than by which he was taken forcibly. It sufficeth that the young man persuaded himself he loved her, she being a woman beautiful enough, if it be possible that the outside only can justly entitle a beauty. But finding such a chase as only fled to be caught, the young prince brought his affection with her to that point which ought to engrave remorse in her heart, and to paint shame upon her face. And so possessed he his desire without any interruption, he constantly favoring her and she thinking that the enameling of a prince's name might hide the spots of a broken wedlock. But as I have seen one that was sick of a sleeping disease could not be made wake, but with pinching of him so out of his sinful sleep, his mind, unworthy so to be lost, was not to be called to itself but by a sharp accident.

    153. It fell out, that his many-times leaving of the court, in undue times, began to be noted, and, as prince's ears be manifold, from one to another came unto the king, who, careful of his only son, sought, and found by his spies (the necessary evil servants to a king) what it was whereby he was from his better delights so diverted.

    4. Whereupon the king, to give his fault the greater blow, used such means, by disguising himself, that he found them, her husband being absent, in her house together, which he did to make him the more feelingly ashamed of it. And that way he took, laying threatenings upon her, and upon him reproaches. But the poor young prince, deceived with that young opinion that if it be ever lawful to lie it is for one's lover, employed all his wit to bring his father to a better opinion. And because he might bend him from that, as he counted it, crooked conceit of her, he wrested him, as much as he could possibly to the other side, not sticking with prodigal protestations to set forth her chastity, not denying his own attempts, but thereby the more extolling her virtue. His sophistry prevailed, his father believed; and so believed that ere long, though he were already stepped into the winter of his age, he found himself warm in those desires which were in his son far more excusable. To be short, he gave himself over unto it; and, because he would avoid the odious comparison of a young rival, sent away his son with an army to the subduing of a province lately rebelled against him, which he knew could not be a less work than of three or four years. Wherein he behaved him so worthily, as even to this country the fame thereof came long before his own coming; while yet his father had a speedier success, but in a far unnobler conquest. For while Plangus was away, the old man, growing only in age and affection, followed his suit with all means of unhonest servants, large promises, and each thing else that might help to countervail his own unloveliness.

    5. And she, whose husband about that time died, forgetting the absent Plangus, or at least not hoping of him to obtain so aspiring a purpose, left no art unused which might keep the line from breaking whereat the fish was already taken; not drawing him violently, but letting him play himself upon the hook which he had greedily swallowed. For, accompanying her mourning with a doleful countenance, yet neither forgetting handsomeness in her mourning garments nor sweetness in her doleful countenance, her words were ever seasoned with sighs, and any favor she showed bathed in tears, that affection might see cause of pity, and pity might persuade cause of affection. And being grown skillful in his humors, she was no less skillful in applying his humors, never suffering his fear to fall to a despair, nor his hope to hasten to an assurance. She was content he should think that she loved him; and a certain stolen look should sometimes (as though it were against her will) bewray it. But if thereupon he grew bold, he straight was encountered with a mask of virtue. And that which seemeth most impossible unto me, for as near as I can I repeat it as Plangus told it, she could not only sigh when she would as all can do, and weep when she would, as (they say) some can do, but, being most impudent in her heart, she could, when she would, teach her cheeks blushing, and make shamefastness the cloak of shamelessness. In sum, to leave out many particularities which he recited, she did not only use so the spur that his desire ran on, but so the bit that it ran on even in such a career as she would have it; that within a while the king, seeing with no other eyes but such as she gave him, and thinking no other thoughts but such as she taught him, having at the first liberal measure of favors then shortened of them when most his desire was inflamed, he saw no other way but marriage to satisfy his longing and her mind, as he thought, loving, but chastely loving. So that by the time Plangus returned from being notably victorious of the rebels, he found his father not only married, but already a father of a son and a daughter by this woman. Which though Plangus, as he had every way just cause, was grieved at, yet did his grief never bring forth either condemning of her, or repining at his father.

    6. But she, who besides she was grown a mother and a stepmother did read in his eyes her own fault and made his conscience her guiltiness, thought still that his presence carried her condemnation. So much the more as that she, unchastely attempting his wonted fancies, found, for the reverence of his father's bed, a bitter refusal, which breeding rather spite than shame in her, or if it were a shame, a shame not of the fault but of the repulse, she did not only, as hating him, thirst for a revenge, but, as fearing harm from him, endeavored to do harm unto him. Therefore did she try the uttermost of her wicked wit how to overthrow him in the foundation of his strength, which was in the favor of his father; which, because she saw strong both in nature and desert, it required the more cunning how to undermine it. And therefore, shunning the ordinary trade of hireling sycophants, she made her praises of him to be accusations, and her advancing him to be his ruin. For first with words, nearer admiration than liking, she would extoll his excellencies, the goodliness of his shape, the power of his wit, the valiantness of his courage, the fortunateness of his successes, so as the father might find in her a singular love towards him; nay, she shunned not to kindle some few sparks of jealousy in him. Thus having gotten an opinion in his father that she was far from meaning mischief to the son, then fell she to praise him with no less vehemency of affection, but with much more cunning of malice. For then she sets forth the liberty of his mind, the high flying of his thoughts, the fitness in him to bear rule, the singular love the subjects bore him; that it was doubtful, whether his wit were greater in winning their favors, or his courage in employing their favors; that he was not born to live a subject-life, each action of his bearing in it majesty, such a kingly entertainment, such a kingly magnificence, such a kingly heart for enterprises; especially remembering those virtues, which in a successor are no more honored by the subjects than suspected of the princes. Then would she, by putting of objections, bring in objections to her husband's head, already infected with suspicion. "Nay," would she say, "I dare take it upon my death that he is no such son as many of like might have been, who loved greatness so well as to build their greatness upon their father's ruin. Indeed ambition, like love, can abide no lingering, and ever urgeth on his own successes, hating nothing but what may stop them. But the gods forbid we should ever once dream of any such thing in him, who perhaps might be content that you and the world should know what he can do. But the more power he hath to hurt, the more admirable is his praise that he will not hurt." Then ever remembering to strengthen the suspicion of his estate with private jealousy of her love, doing him excessive honor when he was in presence and repeating his pretty speeches and graces in his absence. Besides, causing him to be employed in all such dangerous matters, as either he should perish in them, or if he prevailed they should increase his glory which she made a weapon to wound him, until she found that suspicion began already to speak for itself, and that her husband's ears were grown hungry of rumors, and his eyes prying into every accident.

    7. Then took she help to her of a servant near about her husband, whom she knew to be of a hasty ambition, and such a one who, wanting true sufficiency to raise him, would make a ladder of any mischief. Him she useth to deal more plainly in alleging causes of jealousy, making him know the fittest times when her husband already was stirred that way. And so they two, with divers ways, nourished one humor, like musicians that, singing divers parts, make one music. He sometime with fearful countenance would desire the king to look to himself for that all the court and city were full of whisperings and expectation of some sudden change, upon what ground himself knew not. Another time he would counsel the king to make much of his son and hold his favor, for that it was too late now to keep him under. Now seeming to fear himself because, he said, Plangus loved none of them that were great about his father. Lastly, breaking with him directly, making a sorrowful countenance and an humble gesture bear false witness for his true meaning, that he found not only soldiery, but people weary of his government, and all their affections bent upon Plangus. Both he and the queen concurring in strange dreams and each thing else that in a mind already perplexed might breed astonishment, so that within a while all Plangus's actions began to be translated into the language of suspicion.

    208. Which though Plangus found, yet could he not avoid, even contraries being driven to draw one yoke of argument. If he were magnificent, he spent much with an aspiring intent; if he spared, he heaped much with an aspiring intent; if he spake courteously, he angled the people's hearts; if he were silent, he mused upon some dangerous plot. In sum, if he could have turned himself to as many forms as Proteus, every form should have been made hideous.

    9. But so it fell out that a mere trifle gave the occasion of further proceeding. The king, one morning, going to a vineyard that lay along the hill where his castle stood, he saw a vine-laborer that, finding a bough broken, took a branch of the same bough for want of another thing, and tied it about the place broken. The king asking the fellow what he did, "Marry," said he, "I make the son bind the father." This word, finding the king already superstitious through suspicion, amazed him straight, as a presage of his own fortune. So that, returning, and breaking with his wife how much he misdoubted his estate, she made such gainsaying answers, as while they strove to be overcome. But even while the doubts most boiled she thus nourished them.

    10. She underhand dealt with the principal men of that country, that at the great Parliament which was then to be held they should in the name of all the estates persuade the king, being now stepped deeply into old age, to make Plangus his associate in government with him, assuring them that not only she would join with them, but that the father himself would take it kindly; charging them not to acquaint Plangus withal for that perhaps it might be harmful unto him if the king should find that he were a party. They (who thought they might do it, not only willingly because they loved him, and truly because such indeed was the mind of the people, but safely because she who ruled the king was agreed thereto) accomplished her counsel, she indeed keeping promise of vehement persuading the same, which the more she and they did the more she knew her husband would fear and hate the cause of his fear. Plangus found this, and humbly protested against such desire, or will, to accept. But the more he protested the more his father thought he dissembled, accenting his integrity to be but a cunning face of falsehood, and therefore delaying the desire of his subjects, [he] attended some fit occasion to lay hands upon his son, which his wife thus brought to pass.

    11. She caused that same minister of hers to go unto Plangus and, enabling his words with great show of faith and endearing them with desire of secrecy, to tell him that he found his ruin conspired by his stepmother, with certain of the noble men of that country, the king himself giving his consent, and that few days should pass before the putting it in practice, with all discovering the very truth indeed, with what cunning his stepmother had proceeded. This agreeing with Plangus his own opinion made him give him the better credit, yet not so far as to fly out of his country (according to the naughty fellow's persuasion) but to attend and to see further. Whereupon the fellow, by the direction of his mistress, told him one day that the same night, about one of the clock, the king had appointed to have his wife and those noble men together to deliberate of their manner of proceeding against Plangus; and therefore offered him that if himself would agree, he would bring him into a place where he should hear all that passed, and so have the more reason both to himself and to the world to seek his safety. The poor Plangus, being subject to that only disadvantage of honest hearts, credulity, was persuaded by him, and, arming himself because of his late going, was closely conveyed into the place appointed. In the mean time, his stepmother making all her gestures cunningly counterfeit a miserable affliction, she lay almost groveling on the floor of her chamber, not suffering anybody to comfort her, until they, calling for her husband, and he [held off with long inquiry, at length she told him, even almost crying out every word, that she was weary of her life since she was brought to that plunge either to conceal her husband's murder or accuse her son, who had ever been more dear than a son unto her. Then with many interruptions and exclamations she told him that her son Plangus, soliciting her in the old affection between them, had besought her to put her helping hand to the death of the king, assuring her that though all the laws in the world were against it he would marry her when he were king.

    12. She had not fully said thus much, with many pitiful digressions, when in comes the same fellow that brought Plangus, and running himself out of breath, fell at the king's feet, beseeching him to save himself for that there was a man with sword drawn in the next room. The king, affrighted, went out and called his guard, who, entering the place, found indeed Plangus with his sword in his hand, but not naked, but standing suspiciously enough to one already suspicious. The king, thinking he had put up his sword because of the noise, never took leisure to hear his answer but made him prisoner, meaning the next morning to put him to death in the market place.

    2513. But the day had no sooner opened the eyes and ears of his friends and followers, but that there was a little army of them who came and by force delivered him, although numbers on the other side, abused with the fine framing of their report, took arms for the king. But Plangus, though he might have used the force of his friends to revenge his wrong and get the crown, yet the natural love of his father and hate to make their suspicion seem just, caused him rather to choose a voluntary exile than to make his father's death the purchase of his life. And therefore went he to Tiridates, whose mother was his father's sister, living in his court eleven or twelve years, ever hoping by his intercession and his own desert to recover his father's grace. At the end of which time the war of Erona happened, which my sister, with the cause thereof, discoursed unto you.

    14. But his father had so deeply engraved the suspicion in his heart that he thought his flight rather to proceed of a fearful guiltiness than of an humble faithfulness, and therefore continued his hate, with such vehemency that he did ever hate his nephew Tiridates, and afterwards his niece Artaxia, because in their court he received countenance, leaving no means unattempted of destroying his son; among other, employing that wicked servant of his, who undertook to empoison him. But his cunning disguised him not so well but that the watchful servants of Plangus did discover him. Whereupon the wretch was taken, and, before his well-deserved execution, by torture forced to confess the particularities of this, which in general I have told you.

    15. Which confession authentically set down, though Tiridates with solemn embassage sent it to the king, wrought no effect. For the king, having put the reins of the government into his wife's hand, never did so much as read it but sent it straight by her to be considered. So as they rather heaped more hatred upon Plangus for the death of their servant. And now finding that his absence and their reports had much diminished the wavering people's affection towards Plangus, with advancing fit persons for faction and granting great immunities to the commons, they prevailed so far as to cause the son of the second wife, called Palladius, to be proclaimed successor, and Plangus quite excluded. . . .