Internet Shakespeare Editions

About this text

  • Title: Der bestrafte Brudermord (Fratricide Punished)
  • Author: Anonymous
  • Editor: David Bevington
  • General textual editors: James D. Mardock, Eric Rasmussen
  • Associate textual editor: Donald Bailey
  • Coordinating editor: Michael Best
  • Associate coordinating editor: Janelle Jenstad

  • Copyright David Bevington. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: Anonymous
    Editor: David Bevington
    Not Peer Reviewed

    Der bestrafte Brudermord (Fratricide Punished)

    Actors, Charles, the principal.
    May the gods bestow on Your Highness many blessings, happiness, and health!
    I thank you, my friend. What do you desire?
    Pardon, Your Highness, but we are strangers, High-German actors, and we wanted the honor of acting at his Majesty's wedding. But Fortune turned her back on us, and contrary winds their face towards us. We therefore beseech Your Highness to allow us to act a story, that our long journey be not all in vain.
    Were you not some few years ago at the University at Wittenberg? It seems to me I have seen you act before.
    Yes, Your Highness, we are the same actors.
    Have you the whole of the same company still?
    We are not quite so numerous, because some students took engagements in Hamburg. Nevertheless we are numerous enough for many merry comedies and tragedies.
    Could you give us a play tonight?
    Yes, Your Highness, we are numerous enough, and well rehearsed.
    Have you still the three actresses with you? They used to play well.
    No, only two; one stayed behind with her husband at the court of Saxony.
    You acted good comedies that time when you were at Wittenberg. But you had some fellows in your company, who had good clothes, but dirty shirts; others who had boots but no spurs.
    Your Highness, it is often hard to procure everything; maybe they thought they would not need to ride.
    Still it is better to have everything correct. But list, a little longer, and excuse me, for you do not often hear directly what judgments the spectators pass on you. There were also a few who wore silk stockings and white shoes, but had on their heads black hats full of feathers, nearly as many below as on the top; I think they must have gone to bed in them instead of nightcaps. Now that is bad, yet it may easily be reformed. Moreover you may tell some of them, that when they have to act a royal or a princely personage, they should not make such eyes whenever they pay a compliment to a lady. Neither should they walk so many Spanish pavans or put on such airs. A man of rank laughs at such things. Natural ease is best. He who plays a king must in the play fancy himself a king; and he who plays a peasant, must fancy himself a peasant.
    Your Highness, I accept Your Highness's reproof with the deepest respect and will endeavour to do better in future.
    I am a great lover of your art, and hold it not wrong, since by it one can, as in a mirror,2 see one's failings. Hear me now; you once acted a piece in Wittenberg about a King Pyr, Pyr — Pyr something.
    Ah, it was perhaps about the great King Pyrrhus?
    Methinks it was, but I am not quite sure.
    Perhaps Your Highness would name some persons in it, or give me some idea of the matter.
    It was about one brother murdering the other in the garden.
    It will be the same piece. Did not the king's brother pour poison into the king's ear?
    True, true, the same story; could you play that piece tonight?
    Oh yes, we can do that easily enough, for there are few characters in the play.
    Then go, prepare the stage in the great hall: whatever wood you may require, you can get from the master-builder; if you want anything from the armoury or if you have not dresses enough, make known your wants to the master of the robes or the steward; we wish you to be provided with everything.
    I thank Your Highness most humbly for your favor. We shall hasten to get ready. Farewell.
    These actors come most opportunely for me. Horatio, pay good heed to the king; if he grow pale or alter favor, then most surely has he done the deed, for play actors with their feigned fables often hit the target of truth. Listen, I'll tell you a fine tale. In Germany, at Strasburg, there was once a remarkable case in which a wife murdered her husband with an awl through the heart. Afterwards she and her paramour buried the man under the threshold. This deed remained hid nine whole years, till at last it chanced that some actors came that way, and played a tragedy of like import. The woman who was present at the play with her husband began to cry aloud (her conscience being touched) 'Alas! this hits at me, for thus did I murder my innocent husband. She tore her hair, ran straight out of the theatre to the judge, freely confessed the murder, and when it was proved true, in deep repentance for her sins she received the holy unction from the priest, gave her body in true contrition to the executioner, and recommended her soul to God. Oh that my uncle-father would thus take it to heart if he has committed this crime! Come Horatio, let us go and wait upon the King; but pray note all things exactly, for I must dissemble.
    Your Highness, I shall make my eyes keep a sharp look-out.