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A New and Complete Translation

Essay 66

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 [†] 18 December 1767[66.1]

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 The third act begins with a long monologue by the Queen, who summons all the ingenuity of love to find the Earl innocent.[66.2] No “perhaps” is spared in trying to avoid believing that he could be either her murderer or Blanca’s lover. She goes to extremes in particular with her suppositions against Blanca; she dwells on this point at length, and not quite as tenderly and properly as we might wish or as she would on our own stage.[*][66.3]

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 The Duke and Chancellor enter: the former, to express his joy over the successful preservation of her life; the latter, to present to her a new piece of evidence that speaks against Essex. His name is on the pistol that was taken from his hand, it belongs to him, and the person to whom it belongs undoubtedly also planned to use it.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Yet nothing seems to damn Essex more incontrovertibly than what follows next. Cosme intended to leave for Scotland at dawn with the aforementioned letter and was restrained.[66.4] His trip looks very much like flight, and such a flight leads to the supposition that he could have taken part in his master’s crime. He is thus brought before the Chancellor, and the Queen orders that he be interrogated in her presence. You can readily guess the tone Cosme uses to defend himself. He knows nothing, and when he is asked where he intended to go, he does hesitate to tell the truth. He shows the letter that the Earl ordered him to deliver to another Earl in Scotland, and we know what that letter contains. It is read aloud, and Cosme is more than a little shocked when he hears what its purpose was. But he is even more astonished by the letter’s end, where the message-bearer is named a confidant to whom Roberto can safely give his answer. “What do I hear?” Cosme exclaims. “I, a confidant? Heaven forbid! I am no confidant, I never have been one, and never will be either. – Do I look like a confidant? I would like to know what my master saw in me to take me for one. I, a confidant? I, for whom the least secret is a burden? I know, for example, that Blanca and my master love each other and that they are secretly married to each other. This has burdened my heart for a long time, and now I will say it just so that you, good gentlemen, see precisely what kind of confidant I am. It is a shame that it is not actually something important; I would tell that just as well.”[†][66.5] This news pains the Queen no less than the realization of the Earl’s treachery revealed by the misfortunate letter. The Duke believes he must now break his silence and no longer hide from the Queen what he accidentally overheard in Blanca’s room. The Chancellor insists upon punishment for the traitor, and as soon as the Queen is alone, both injured majesty and wounded love provoke her to condemn the Earl to death.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Now the poet brings us to the Earl, in prison. The Chancellor comes and informs him that the Parliament has declared him guilty and sentenced him to death, a sentence that is to be executed the next morning. The Earl protests his innocence.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 CHANCELLOR: Your innocence, Milord, I would gladly believe; but there is so much evidence against you! – Did you not write the letter to Roberto? Is that not your signature?

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 ESSEX: I admit it is.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 CHANCELLOR: Did the Duke of Alanzon not expressly hear you, in Blanca’s room, plot the Queen’s death?

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 ESSEX: He did indeed hear what he heard.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 CHANCELLOR: Did the Queen not see a pistol in your hand when she woke? Does the pistol with your name engraved on it not belong to you?

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 ESSEX: I cannot deny it.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 CHANCELLOR: Then you are guilty.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 ESSEX: That, I deny.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 CHANCELLOR: Well then, how did you come to write the letter to Roberto?

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 ESSEX: I do not know.

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 CHANCELLOR: How did it come to be that the Duke heard the traitorous resolution from your very own mouth?

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 ESSEX: Because heaven wanted it so.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 CHANCELLOR: How did it come to pass that the murderous weapon was found in your hands?

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 ESSEX: Because I am very unfortunate.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 CHANCELLOR: If this is all misfortune and not guilt, then truly, friend, fate is playing a cruel trick on you. You will have to pay for it with your head.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 ESSEX: This is terrible.[‡] [66.6]

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 “Does your Honor happen to know,” asks Cosme, who is present, “whether they are planning to hang me as well?” The Chancellor answers no, because his master has vindicated him sufficiently. The Earl beseeches the Chancellor to allow him to speak to Blanca one more time before his death. The Chancellor regrets that, as judge, he must deny him this request, because it has been decided to have his execution occur as secretly as possible, out of fear of the many co-conspirators he might have among not only the nobility but also the populace. He urges him to prepare himself for death and leaves. The Earl only wished to speak to Blanca one more time in order to exhort her to abandon her plan. Because he may not do so verbally, he will do it in writing. Love and honor oblige him to sacrifice his life for her; he will implore her not to let this sacrifice, which is on every lover’s lips but has only become reality for him, be in vain. It is night; he sits down to write and orders Cosme to deliver to Blanca, immediately after his death, the letter that he will give him later. Cosme leaves in order to get some sleep in the meanwhile.


23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 [*]     No pudo ser que mintiera
Blanca en lo que me contó
de gozarla el Conde? no,
que Blanca no lo fingiera:
No pudo haberla gozado
sin estar enamorado?
y quando tierno y rendido
entónces la haya querido,
no puede haberla olvidado?
No le viéron mis antojos
entre acogimientos sabios,
muy callando con los labios,
muy bachiller con los ojos,
quando al decir sus enojos
yo su despecho reñí?

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 [†]     Qué escucho? señores mios,
dos mil demonios me lleven
si yo confidente soy,
si lo he sido, ó si lo fuere,
ni tengo intencion de serlo.
[…] Tengo yo
cara de ser confidente?
Yo no sé qué ha visto en mí
mi amo, para tenerme
en esta opinion, y á fe,
que me holgara de que fuese
cosa de mas importancia
un secretillo muy leve,
que rabio ya por decirlo:
que es, que el Conde á Blanca quiere,
que están casados los dos
en secreto […]

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 [‡] COND: Solo el descargo que tengo
es el de estar inocente.
SEN: Aunque yo quiera creerlo,
no me dexan los indicios;
y advertid, que ya no es tiempo
de dilacion, que mañana
habeis de morir.
COND:                       Yo muero
inocente.
SEN:                Pues decid,
no escribisteis á Roberto
esta carta? Aquesta firma
no es la vuestra?
COND:                       No lo niego.
SEN: El gran Duque de Alanzon
no os oyó en el aposento
de Blanca trazar la muerte
de la Reyna?
COND:                       Aqueso es cierto.
SEN: Quando despertó la Reyna,
no os halló, Conde, á vos mesmo
con la pistola en la mano?
Y la pistola, pues vemos,
vuestro nombre allí grabado,
no es vuestra?
COND:                       Yo os lo concedo.
SEN: Luego vos estais culpado?
COND: Eso solamento niego.
SEN: Pues cómo escribisteis, Conde,
la carta al traidor Roberto?
COND: No lo sé.
SEN:                            Pues cómo el Duque,
que escuchó vuestros intentos,
os convence en la traicion?
COND: Porque así lo quiso el Cielo.
SEN: Cómo, hallado en vuestra mano,
os culpa el vil instrumento?
COND: Porque tengo poca dicha […]
SEN: Pues sabed, que si es desdicha
y no culpa, en tanto aprieto
os pone vuestra fortuna,
Conde amigo, que supuesto
que no dais otro descargo,
en fe de indicios tan ciertos,
mañana vuestra cabeza
ha de pagar –

  • 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0
  • [†] Text in blue indicates passages ommitted by Zimmern in her 1890 translation.
  • [66.1] Actually published in early 1768.
  • [66.2] In [54], Lessing begins his analysis of The Unhappy Favourite: or, The Earl of Essex (1682) by John Banks; here Lessing continues, from [60], his extended synopsis and discussion of a “Spanish Essex” (Antonio Coello’s Dar la vida por su Dama, 1633). See [60.2].
  • [66.3] For the quotation in Lessing’s footnote, see Coello 23.
  • [66.4] An apparently treasonous letter written by Essex; actually intended to trap traitors plotting against the queen. See [61].
  • [66.5] See Coello 24.
  • [66.6] Ibid. 26. The final line belongs to Cosme, rather than Essex.
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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/hamburg/essay-66/