A monologue from the play by Jean Racine
NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from The Dramatic Works of Jean Racine. Trans. Robert Bruce Boswell. London: George Bell and Sons, 1911.
I know ’tis not the custom of our sultans,
Who in their pride stoop not to such constraints,
Nor hold the laws of marriage made for them.
‘Mid all the fair who vie for their caresses,
They sometimes deign to choose a favour’d mistress:
But, still a slave, with no security
But beauty’s charms, she shares her master’s couch,
And, without shaking off the servile yoke,
Must bear a son ere she be named sultana.
Like none before him, Amurath has will’d
This honour to bestow for love alone.
Mine is the title, mine the pow’r as well,
And in my hands his brother’s life he left.
But in his ardour Amurath ne’er promised
Prospect of marriage, other gifts to crown:
And I, whose sole ambition was for this,
Have all his other benefits forgotten.
Yet what avails it to excuse my conduct?
‘Tis Bajazet that from my memory wipes
The past; more happy, ‘spite of his misfortunes,
Than Amurath, for he has learn’d to please me,
Perhaps without the wish; guards, women, vizier,
All have been bribed for him, and in my heart
He reigns supreme. Thanks to my love, right well
I use the pow’r his brother gave me o’er him.
His feet have all but reach’d the Sultan’s throne,
There needs but one step more, for that I wait.
In spite of all my love, if he to-day
Refuses to be bound to me by marriage,
And dares to plead an odious privilege;
If he for me, who have done all for him,
Will not do all I ask, that very moment,
Regardless of my love and of my ruin,
I give him up, and let the wretch return
To that unhappy plight in which I found him.
This is the issue Bajazet must settle,
His weal, or woe depends upon his answer.
I do not wish that you to-day should lend
Your voice to serve as my interpreter;
Nay, his own mouth and countenance before me
Shall all his heart reveal, and leave no shade
Of doubt; brought hither secretly, must he
All unprepared before mine eyes appear.
Farewell. This meeting o’er, you shall know all.