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That fools and cowards might sit safe in power,
And lord it uncontrolled above their betters.
Faf. Then honesty is but a notion ?
Pier. Nothing else ;
Like wit, much talked of, not to be defined :
He that pretends to most, too, has least share in't.
'Tis a ragged virtue.—Honesty! no more on't.
Faf. Sure, thou art honest !
Pier. So, indeed, men think me;
But they're mistaken, Jaffier : I'm a rogue
As well as they ;
A fine, gay, bold-faced villain, as thou seest me.
I pay my debts, when they're contracted ;
I steal from no man; would not cut a throat
To gain admission to a great man's purse,
Or a whore's bed; I'd not betray my friend
To get his place or fortune; I scorn to flatter
A blown-up fool above me, or crush the wretch beneath me;
Yet, Jaffier, for all this I'm a villain.
Faf. A villain !
Pier. Yes, a most notorious villain ;
To see the sufferings of my
And own myself a man: to see our senators
Cheat the deluded people with a show
Of liberty, which yet they ne'er must taste of.
They say, by them our hands are free from fetters ;
Yet whom they please they lay in basest bonds;
Bring whom thcy please to infamy and sorrow;
Drive us, like wrecks, down the rough tide of power,
Whilst no hold's left to save us from destruction.
All that bear this are villains, and I one,
Not to rouse up at the great call of Nature,
And check the growth of these domestic spoilers,
That make us slaves, and tell us, 'tis our charter.
Jaf. I think no safety can be here for virtue,
And grieve, my friend, as much as thou, to live
In such a wretched state as this of Venice,
Where all agree to spoil the public good,
And villains fatten with the brave man's labours.
Pier. We've neither safety, unity, nor peace,
For the foundation's lost of common good;
Justice is lame, as well as blind, amongst us;
The laws (corrupted to their ends that make 'em)
Serve but for instruments of some new tyranny,
That every day starts up, t' enslave us deeper.
Now, could this glorious cause but find out friends
To do it right, O Jaffier ! then might'st thou
Not wear these seals of woe upon thy face;
The proud Priuli should be taught humanity,
And learn to value such a son as thou art.
I dare not speak, but my heart bleeds this moment.
Faf. Cursed be the cause, though I thy friend be part
Let me partake the troubles of thy bosom,
For I am used to misery, and perhaps
May find a way to sweeten ’t to thy spirit.
Pier. Too soon 'twill reach thy knowledge --
Jaf. Then from thee
Let it proceed. There's virtue in thy friendship,
Would make the saddest tale of sorrow pleasing,
Strengthen my constancy, and welcome ruin.
Pier. Then thou art ruined !
Faf. That I long since knew;
I and ill fortune have been long acquainted.
very moment by thy doors,
And found them guarded by a troop of villains ;
The sons of public rapine were destroying.
They told me, by the sentence of the law,
They had commission to seize all thy fortune :
Nay, more,—Priuli's cruel hand had signed it.
Here stood a ruffian with a horrid face,
Lording it o'er a pile of massy plate,
Tumbled into a heap for public sale ;
There was another, making villanous jests
At thy undoing: he had ta'en possession
Of all thy ancient, most domestic ornaments,
Rich hangings intermixed and wrought with gold;
The very bed, which on thy wedding-night
Received thee to the arms of Belvidera,
The scene of all thy joys, was violated
By the coarse hands of filthy dungeon villains,
And thrown amongst the common lumber.
Faf. Now, thank Heaven-
Pier. Thank Heaven! for what?
Faf. That I am not worth a ducat.
Pier. Curse thy dull stars, and the worse fate of Venice !
Where brothers, friends, and fathers, all are false;
Where there's no truth, no trust; where Innocence
Stoops under vile Oppression, and Vice lords it !
Hadst thou but seen, as I did, how at last
Thy beauteous Belvidera, like a wretch
That's doomed to banishment, came weeping forth,
Shining through tears, like April suns in showers,
That labour to o’ercome the cloud that loads 'em;
Whilst two young virgins, on whose arms she leaned,
and at her grief grew sad,
As if they catched the sorrows that fell from her.
Even the lewd rabble, that were gathered round
To see the sight, stood mute when they beheld her:
Governed their roaring throats, and grumbled pity.
I could have hugged the greasy rogues: they pleased me.
Faf. I thank thee for this story; from my soul ;
Since now I know the worst that can befall me.
Ah, Pierre! I have a heart that could have borne
The roughest wrong my fortune could have done me;
But when I think what Belvidera feels,
The bitterness her tender spirit tastes of,
I own myself a coward: bear my weakness,
If, throwing thus my arms about thy neck,
I play the boy, and blubber in thy bosom :
Oh! I shall drown thee with my sorrows.
First burn and level Venice to thy ruin !
What! starve like beggars' brats, in frosty weather,
Under a hedge, and whine ourselves to death ?
Thou or thy cause shall never want assistance,
Whilst I have blood or fortune fit to serve thee:
Command my heart, thou’rt every way its master.
Jaf. No, there's a secret pride in bravely dying.
Pier. Rats die in holes and corners, dogs run mad; Man knows a braver remedy for sorrow : Revenge, the attribute of gods; they stamped it, With their great image, on our natures.
Consider well the cause, that calls
And, if thou’rt base enough, die then. Remember,
Thy Belvidera suffers ; Belvidera !
Die-damn first- -What! be decently interred
In a churchyard, and mingle thy brave dust
With stinking rogues, that rot in winding-sheets,
Surfeit-slain fools, the common dung o'th' soil !
Pier. Well said : out with’t, swear a little-
Faf. Swear! By sea and air, by earth, by heaven and
I will revenge my Belvidera's tears.
Hark, thee, my friend ! Priuli-is--a senator,
Pier. A dog!
Pier. Shoot him!
Faf. With all my heart.
No more; where shall we meet at night?
Pier. I'll tell thee:
On the Rialto, every night at twelve,
I take my evening's walk of meditation;
There we two will meet, and talk of precious
Pier. At twelve.
Faf. At any hour; my plagues
Will keep me waking.
[Exit Purrre. Tell me why, good Heaven, Thou mad'st me what I am, with all the spirit, Aspiring thoughts, and elegant desires, That fill the happiest man? Ah, rather, why Didst thou not form me sordid as my fate, Base-minded, dull, and fit to carry burdens ? Why have I sense to know the curse that's on me? Is this just dealing, Nature ?-Belvidera !
Enter BelvideRA. Poor Belvidera !