The Broken Heart, by John Ford



A room in Bassanes’ house.

Enter Bassanes, alone.

Bassanes.  Athens — to Athens I have sent, the nursery
Of Greece for learning and the fount of knowledge;
For here in Sparta there ’s not left amongst us
One wise man to direct; we ’re all turn’d madcaps.
’T is said Apollo is the god of herbs,
Then certainly he knows the virtue of ’em:
To Delphos I have sent too. If there can be
A help for nature, we are sure yet.

Enter Orgilus.

Orgilus.  Honour
Attend thy counsels ever!

Bassanes.  I beseech thee
With all my heart, let me go from thee quietly;
I will not aught to do with thee, of all men.
The doubles 2 of a hare, — or, in a morning,
Salutes from a splay-footed witch, — to drop
Three drops of blood at th’ nose just and no more, —
Croaking of ravens, or the screech of owls,
Are not so boding mischief as thy crossing
My private meditations. Shun me, prithee;
And if I cannot love thee heartily,
I’ll love thee as well as I can.

Orgilus.  Noble Bassanes,
Mistake me not.

Bassanes.  Phew! then we shall be troubled.
Thou wert ordain’d my plague — heaven make me thankful,
And give me patience too, heaven, I beseech thee.

Orgilus.  Accept a league of amity; for henceforth,
I vow, by my best genius, in a syllable,
Never to speak vexation. I will study
Service and friendship, with a zealous sorrow
For my past incivility towards ye.

Bassanes.  Hey-day, good words, good words! I must believe ’em,
And be a coxcomb for my labour.

Orgilus.  Use not
So hard a language; your misdoubt is causeless.
For instance, if you promise to put on
A constancy of patience, such a patience,
As chronicle or history ne’er mentioned,
As follows not example, but shall stand
A wonder and a theme for imitation,
The first, the index 3 pointing to a second,
I will acquaint ye with an unmatch’d secret,
Whose knowledge to your griefs shall set a period.

Bassanes.  Thou canst not, Orgilus; ’t is in the power
Of the gods only: yet, for satisfaction,
Because I note an earnest in thine utterance,
Unforc’d and naturally free, be resolute 4
The virgin-bays shall not withstand the lightning
With a more careless danger than my constancy
The full of thy relation. Could it move
Distraction in a senseless marble statue,
It should find me a rock: I do expect now
Some truth of unheard moment.

Orgilus.  To your patience
You must add privacy, as strong in silence
As mysteries lock’d-up in Jove’s own bosom.

Bassanes.  A skull hid in the earth a treble age
Shall sooner prate.

Orgilus.  Lastly, to such direction
As the severity of a glorious action
Deserves to lead your wisdom and your judgment,
You ought to yield obedience.

Bassanes.  With assurance
Of will and thankfulness.

Orgilus.  With manly courage
Please, then, to follow me.

Bassanes.  Where’er, I fear not.

Exeunt omnes.


A state-room in the palace.

Loud music. Enter Groneas and Hemophil, leading Euphranea; Christalla and Philema, leading Prophilus; Nearchus supporting Calantha; Crotolon and Amelus.
Cease loud music; all make a stand.

Calantha.  We miss our servant Ithocles and Orgilus;
On whom attend they?

Crotolon.  My son, gracious princess,
Whisper’d some new device, to which these revels
Should be but usher: wherein I conceive
Lord Ithocles and himself are actors.

Calantha.  A fair excuse for absence: as for Bassanes,
Delights to him are troublesome: Armostes
Is with the king?

Crotolon.  He is.

Calantha.  On to the dance! —
Dear cousin, hand you the bride; the bridegroom must be
Intrusted to my courtship, Be not jealous,
Euphranea; I shall scarcely prove a temptress. —
Fall to our dance.


Nearchus dances with Euphranea, Prophilus with Calantha, Christalla with Hemophil, Philema with Groneas.

They dance the first change; during which Armostes enters.

Armostes.  [in Calantha’S ear.] The king your father’s dead.

Calantha.  To the other change.

Armostes.  Is’t possible? [They dance again.]

Enter Bassanes.

Bassanes.  [whispers Calantha.] O, madam!
Penthea, poor Penthea’s starved.

Calantha.  Beshrew thee! —
Lead to the next.

Bassanes.  Amazement dulls my senses.
  [They dance again.]

[Enter Orgilus.]

Orgilus.  [whispers Calantha.] Brave Ithocles is murder’d, murder’d cruelly.

Calantha.  How dull this music sounds! Strike up more sprightly;
Our footings are not active like our heart,
Which treads the nimbler measure.

Orgilus.  I am thunderstruck.
[The last change. Cease music.]

Calantha.  So! let us breathe awhile. — Hath not this motion,
Rais’d fresher colour on your cheeks?

Nearchus.  Sweet princess,
A perfect purity of blood enamels
The beauty of your white.

Calantha.  We all look cheerfully;
And, cousin, ’t is, methinks, a rare presumption
In any who prefer our lawful pleasures
Before their own sour censure, t’ interrupt
The custom of this ceremony bluntly.

Nearchus.  None dares, lady.

Calantha.  Yes, yes; some hollow voice deliver’d to me
How that the king was dead.

Armostes.  The king is dead:
That fatal news was mine; for in mine arms
He breath’d his last, and with his crown bequeath’d ye
Your mother’s wedding ring; which here I tender.

Crotolon.  Most strange!

Calantha.  Peace crown his ashes! We are queen, then.

Nearchus.  Long live Calantha! Sparta’s sovereign queen!

All.  Long live the queen!

Calantha.  What whispered Bassanes?

Bassanes.  That my Penthea, miserable soul,
Was starv’d to death.

Calantha.  She’s happy; she hath finish’d
A long and painful progress. — A third murmur
Pierc’d mine unwilling ears.

Orgilus.  That Ithocles
Was murder’d; — rather butcher’d, had not bravery
Of an undaunted spirit, conquering terror,
Proclaim’d his last act triumph over ruin.

Armostes.  How! murder’d!

Calantha.  By whose hand?

Orgilus.  By mine; this weapon
Was instrument to my revenge: the reasons
Are just, and known; quit him of these, and then
Never liv’d gentleman of greater merit,
Hope or abiliment 1 to steer a kingdom.

Crotolon.  Fie, Orgilus!

Euphranea.  Fie, brother!

Calantha.  You have done it?

Bassanes.  How it was done let him report, the forfeit
Of whose allegiance to our laws doth covet
Rigour of justice; but that done it is,
Mine eyes have been an evidence of credit
Too sure to be convinc’d. 2 Armostes, rent not
Thine arteries with hearing the bare circumstances
Of these calamities; thou ’st lost a nephew,
A niece, and I a wife: continue man still;
Make me the pattern of digesting evils
Who can outlive my mighty ones, not shrinking
At such a pressure as would sink a soul
Into what’s most of death, the worst of horrors.
But I have seal’d a covenant with sadness,
And enter’d into bonds without condition,
To stand these tempests calmly; mark me, nobles,
I do not shed a tear, not for Penthea!
Excellent misery!

Calantha.  We begin our reign
With a first act of justice: thy confession,
Unhappy Orgilus, dooms thee a sentence;
But yet thy father’s or thy sister’s presence
Shall be excus’d. — Give, Crotolon, a blessing
To thy lost son; — Euphranea, take a farewell; —
And both be gone.

Crotolon.  [to Orgilus.] Confirm thee, noble sorrow
In worthy resolution!

Euphranea.  Could my tears speak,
My griefs were slight.

Orgilus.  All goodness dwell amongst ye!
Enjoy my sister, Prophilus: my vengeance
Aim’d never at thy prejudice.

Calantha.  Now withdraw.

Exeunt Crotolon, Prophilus, and Euphranea.

Bloody relater of thy stains in blood,
For that thou hast reported him, whose fortunes
And life by thee are both at once snatch’d from him,
With honourable mention, make thy choice
Of what death likes thee best; there’s all our bounty. —
But to excuse delays, let me, dear cousin,
Intreat you and these lords see execution
Instant before ye part.

Nearchus.  Your will commands us.

Orgilus.  One suit, just queen, my last: vouchsafe your clemency,
That by no common hand I be divided
From this my humble frailty.

Calantha.  To their wisdoms
Who are to be spectators of thine end
I make the reference. Those that are dead
Are dead; had they not now died, of necessity
They must have paid the debt they ow’d to nature
One time or other. — Use dispatch, my lords;
We’ll suddenly prepare our coronation.

Exeunt Calantha, Philema, and Christalla.

Armostes.  ’T is strange these tragedies should never touch on
Her female pity.

Bassanes.  She has a masculine spirit;
And wherefore should I pule, and, like a girl,
Put finger in the eye? Let’s be all toughness,
Without distinction betwixt sex and sex.

Nearchus.  Now, Orgilus, thy choice?

Orgilus.  To bleed to death.

Armostes.  The executioner?

Orgilus.  Myself, no surgeon;
I am well skill’d in letting blood. Bind fast
This arm, that so the pipes may from their conduits
Convey a full stream; here’s a skilful instrument. [Shows his dagger.]
Only I am a beggar to some charity
To speed me in this execution
By lending th’ other prick to th’ tother arm,
When this is bubbling life out.

Bassanes.  I am for ye;
It most concerns my art, my care, my credit. —
Quick, fillet both his arms.

Orgilus.  Gramercy, friendship!
Such courtesies are real which flow cheerfully
Without an expectation of requital.
Reach me a staff in this hand.
[They give him a staff.]
  — If a proneness
Or custom in my nature from my cradle
Had been inclin’d to fierce and eager bloodshed,
A coward guilt, hid in a coward quaking,
Would have betray’d fame to ignoble flight
And vagabond pursuit of dreadful safety:
But look upon my steadiness, and scorn not
The sickness of my fortune, which, since Bassanes
Was husband to Penthea, had lain bed-rid.
We trifle time in words:— thus I show cunning
In opening of a vein too full, too lively.
  [Pierces the vein with his dagger.]

Armostes.  Desperate courage!

Nearchus.  1 Honourable infamy!

Hemophil.  I tremble at the sight.

Groneas.  Would I were loose!

Bassanes.  It sparkles like a lusty wine new broacht;
The vessel must be sound from which it issues. —
Grasp hard this other stick — I’ll be as nimble —
But prithee, look not pale — have at ye! stretch out
Thine arm with vigour and [with] 2 unshook virtue. [Opens the vein.]
Good! O, I envy not a rival, fitted
To conquer in extremities. This pastime
Appears majestical; some high-tun’d poem
Hereafter shall deliver to posterity
The writer’s glory and his subject’s triumph.
How is ’t, man? Droop not yet.

Orgilus.  I feel no palsies.
On a pair-royal do I wait in death;
My sovereign, as his liegeman; on my mistress,
As a devoted servant; and on Ithocles,
As if no brave, yet no unworthy enemy.
Nor did I use an engine to entrap
His life, out of a slavish fear to combat
Youth, strength, or cunning; 3 but for that I durst not
Engage the goodness of a cause on fortune,
By which his name might have outfac’d my vengeance.
O, Tecnicus, inspir’d with Phoebus’ fire!
I call to mind thy augury, ’t was perfect;
Revenge proves its own executioner.
When feeble man is bending to his mother,
The dust ’a was first fram’d on, thus he totters.

Bassanes.  Life’s fountain is dri’d up.

Orgilus.  So falls the standard
Of my prerogative in being a creature!
A mist hangs o’er mine eyes, the sun’s bright splendour
Is clouded in an everlasting shadow;
Welcome, thou ice, that sitt’st about my heart
No heat can ever thaw thee. [Dies.]

Nearchus.  Speech hath left him.

Bassanes.  ’A has shook hands with time; his funeral urn
Shall be my charge: remove the bloodless body.
The coronation must require attendance;
That past, my few days can be but one mourn —


2 Q. doublers.

3 The index-hand.

4 Satisfied.

1 Capacity.

2 Confuted.

1 Q. Org.

2 Dyce’s suggestion. Q. omits.

3 Skill.


A temple.

An altar covered with white; two lights of virgin wax, during which music of recorders; enter four bearing Ithocles on a hearse, or in a chair, in a rich robe, with a crown on his head: place him on one side of the altar. After him enter Calantha in a white robe and crown’d; Euphranea, Philema, and Christalla, in white; Nearchus, Armostes, Crotolon, Prophilus, Amelus, Bassanes, Hemophil, and Groneas.

Calantha goes and kneels before the altar, the rest stand off, the women kneeling behind, the recorders cease during her devotions. Soft music. Calantha and the rest rise, doing obeisance to the altar.

Calantha.  Our orisons are heard; the gods are merciful. —
Now tell me, you whose loyalties pay tribute
To us your lawful sovereign, how unskilful
Your duties or obedience is to render
Subjection to the sceptre of a virgin,
Who have been ever fortunate in princes
Of masculine and stirring composition.
A woman has enough to govern wisely.
Her own demeanours, passions, and divisions.
A nation warlike and inur’d to practice
Of policy and labour cannot brook
A feminate authority: we therefore
Command your counsel, how you may advise us
In choosing of a husband whose abilities
Can better guide this kingdom.

Nearchus.  Royal lady,
Your law is in your will.

Armostes.  We have seen tokens
Of constancy too lately to mistrust it.

Crotolon.  Yet, if your highness settle on a choice
By your own judgment both allow’d and lik’d of,
Sparta may grow in power, and proceed
To an increasing height.

Calantha.  Hold you the same mind?

Bassanes.  Alas, great mistress, reason is so clouded
With the thick darkness of my infinite woes,
That I forecast nor dangers, hopes, or safety.
Give me some corner of the world to wear out
The remnant of the minutes I must number,
Where I may hear no sounds but sad complaints
Of virgins who have lost contracting partners;
Of husbands howling that their wives were ravisht
By some untimely fate; of friends divided
By churlish opposition; or of fathers
Weeping upon their children’s slaughtered carcases;
Or daughters groaning o’er their fathers’ hearses;
And I can dwell there, and with these keep consort
As musical as theirs. What can you look for
From an old, foolish, peevish, doting man
But craziness of age?

Calantha.  Cousin of Argos, —

Nearchus.  Madam?

Calantha.  Were I presently
To choose you for my lord, I’ll open freely
What articles I would propose to treat on
Before our marriage.

Nearchus.  Name them, virtuous lady.

Calantha.  I would presume you would retain the royalty
Of Sparta in her own bounds; then in Argos
Armostes might be viceroy; in Messene
Might Crotolon bear sway; and Bassanes —

Bassanes.  I, queen! alas, what I?

Calantha.  Be Sparta’s marshal.
The multitudes of high employments could not
But set a peace to private griefs. These gentlemen,
Groneas and Hemophil, with worthy pensions,
Should wait upon your person in your chamber. —
I would bestow Christalla on Amelus.
She’ll prove a constant wife; and Philema
Should into Vesta’s Temple.

Bassanes.  This is a testament!
It sounds not like conditions on a marriage.

Nearchus.  All this should be perform’d.

Calantha.  Lastly, for Prophilus,
He should be, cousin, solemnly invested
In all those honours, titles, and preferments
Which his dear friend and my neglected husband
Too short a time enjoy’d.

Prophilus.  I am unworthy
To live in your remembrance.

Euphranea.  Excellent lady!

Nearchus.  Madam, what means that word, “neglected husband”?

Calantha.  Forgive me:— now I turn to thee, thou shadow
Of my contracted lord! Bear witness all,
I put my mother’s wedding-ring upon
His finger; ’t was my father’s last bequest.
[Places a ring on the finger of Ithocles.]
Thus I new-marry him whose wife I am;
Death shall not separate us. O, my lords,
I but deceiv’d your eyes with antic gesture,
When one news straight came huddling on another
Of death! and death! and death! still I danced forward;
But it struck home, and here, and in an instant.
Be such mere women, who with shrieks and outcries
Can vow a present end to all their sorrows,
Yet live to [court] 1 new pleasures, and outlive them.
They are the silent griefs which cut the heartstrings;
Let me die smiling.

Nearchus.  ’T is a truth too ominous.

Calantha.  One kiss on these cold lips, my last!
  [Kisses Ithocles.] — Crack, crack! —
Argos now ’s Sparta’s king. — Command the voices
Which wait at th’ altar now to sing the song
I fitted for my end.

Nearchus.  Sirs, the song!


All.  Glories, pleasures, pomps, delights, and ease,
  Can but please
  Outward senses when the mind
  Is [or] 2 untroubled or by peace refin’d.
[1st Voice.] Crowns may flourish and decay,
  Beauties shine, but fade away.
[2nd Voice.] Youth may revel, yet it must
  Lie down in a bed of dust.
[3rd Voice.] Earthly honours flow and waste,
  Time alone doth change and last.
All. Sorrows mingled with contents prepare
  Rest for care;
  Love only reigns in death; though art
  Can find no comfort for a broken heart.

[Calantha dies.]

Armostes.  Look to the queen!

Bassanes.  Her heart is broke, indeed.
O, royal maid, would thou hadst mist this part!
Yet ’t was a brave one. I must weep to see
Her smile in death.

Armostes.  Wise Tecnicus! thus said he;
When youth is ripe, and age from time doth part,
The Lifeless Trunk shall wed the Broken Heart

Is here fulfill’d.

Nearchus.  I am your king.

All.  Long live
Nearchus, King of Sparta!

Nearchus.  Her last will
Shall never be digrest from: wait in order
Upon these faithful lovers, as becomes us. —
The counsels of the gods are never known
Till men can call th’ effects of them their own.


1 Q. vow.

2 Q. not.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:54