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In five acts

Translation © 2017 Flora Kimmich, CC BY 4.0

Portrait of Octavius Piccolomini of Aragon (Ottavio Piccolomini). Engraving from Anselmus van Hulle, Les hommes illustres qui ont vécu dans le XVII. siècle (Amsterdam, 1717), Image in the public domain.


WALLENSTEIN, Duke of Friedland, imperial generalissimo in the Thirty Years’ War

OCTAVIO PICCOLOMINI, lieutenant general

MAX PICCOLOMINI, his son, colonel of a Cuirassier regiment

COUNT TERZKY, Wallenstein’s brother-in-law, chief of many regiments

ILLO, field marshal, Wallenstein’s confidant

ISOLANI, general of the Croats

BUTTLER, chief of a Dragoon regiment

TIEFENBACH, DON MARADAS, GOETZ, COLALTO generals under Wallenstein


WAR COUNSELOR von QUESTENBERG, Kaiser’s emissary

BAPTISTA SENI, astrologer

DUCHESS of FRIEDLAND, Wallenstein’s wife

THEKLA, Princess Friedland, their daughter

COUNTESS TERZKY, sister of the Duchess


WINE STEWARD of Count Terzky

PAGES and SERVANTS of Friedland



Act One

An old Gothic Chamber in the Town Hall of Pilsen, decorated with banners and other trappings of war

Scene One

Illo with Buttler and Isolani.

ILLO. You’re late in coming, but you’ve come. The long

Journey, Count Isolan, excuses your


ISOLANI. And we’re not coming empty-handed.

We heard at Donauwörth57 of Swedish transports

Passing nearby and carrying supplies—

A good six hundred wagons. My Croats

Attacked. We’ve brought them with us here.

ILLO. Well done!

A timely gift to feed this high assembly.58

BUTTLER. It’s lively here already, as I see.

ISOLANI. The churches too are packed with troops, (looking around) and in10

Town Hall you’ve made yourselves at home. Well, well!

A soldier finds solutions where he can.

ILLO. The chiefs of thirty regiments have come.

Terzky you’ll find here, Tiefenbach, Colalto,

And Götz, Maradas, Hinnersam, as well as

The Piccolomini, both father and son—

You’ll see old friends in number once again.

Gallas alone is missed, and Altringer.

BUTTLER. You needn’t wait for Gallas.

ILLO (starts). How so? Do you—

ISOLANI (interrupts). Max Piccolomini here? Bring me to him!20

I see him still—it’s been ten years since then—

At Dessau, where we fought with Mansfeld,59 how

He leapt his charger from the bridge and swam

The ripping Elbe to relieve the press

Around his father. Beardless he was then,

And now he is, I hear, a finished hero.

ILLO. Today yet you should see him. He’s escorting

The Duchess Friedland and the Princess from

Carinthia, expected before noon.60

BUTTLER. The Prince sends for his wife and daughter? Quite30

A company he’s convened here.

ISOLANI. I say, so much

The better. I expected only talk

Of marches, batteries and attacks. But look!

The Duke provides what’s fair to please our eyes.

ILLO (who has been lost in thought, to Buttler, whom he has taken aside).

How do you know Count Gallas isn’t coming?

BUTTLER (with meaning). Because he also tried to keep me back.61

ILLO (warmly). And you stood fast?

(Presses his hand.) Most excellent Buttler!

BUTTLER. Considering the favor I enjoy—

ILLO. Congratulations, Major General!

ISOLANI. The regiment the Prince just gave him, not so?40

What’s more, I hear, the one in which he rose

From simple rider? True enough! A spur

And model to his corps—a warrior

Who rises by his merits.62

BUTTLER. I’m embarrassed,

Not knowing if I may accept your praise.

The Kaiser has not yet confirmed—

ISOLANI. Accept!

Accept! The hand that placed you so is strong

Enough to keep you there in all despite

Of Kaiser and of ministers.

ILLO. If we all

Should have such scruples! The Kaiser gives us nothing.50

All we want, all we have comes from the Duke.

ISOLANI (to Illo). I haven’t told you, Brother. But the Prince

Has offered to content my creditors,

Himself to be my treasurer henceforth,

Make me an honest man. The third time now

This princely man has rescued me from ruin and

Restored my name.

ILLO. Could he but always do

As he would wish! He gave his soldiers land

And people. How Vienna doesn’t block

His arm and clip his wings back, where it can! Those 60

Fine new demands this Questenberg has brought!63

BUTLER. I’ve heard of these Imperial demands.

I hope the Duke will stand his ground.

ILLO. For sure

In matters of his rights, if not—his place.

BUTTLER (startled). You’ve heard something? You frighten me.

ISOLANI (together). We’d all

Be ruined!

ILLO. Leave off! Our man is coming there

With Lieutenant General Piccolomini.

BUTTLER (shaking his head with misgiving).

We shall not go from here the way we came.

Scene Two

As above. Octavio Piccolomini. Questenberg.

OCTAVIO (still at a distance). What? Still more guests? Admit it, Friend! It took

This war, its many tears, to bring into70

One camp so many heroes crowned with laurel.

QUESTENBERG. Into the camp of Friedland’s peerless army

Let no man come who would think ill of war.

His difficulties almost slipped my mind

At this high sense of order, his mark as

He destroys, at the greatness that he builds.

OCTAVIO. But look! Here two men worthy to complete

The ranks of heroes come: Count Isolan

And Colonel Buttler.64 All the arts of war

Stand now before us.80

(Presenting Buttler and Isolani.)

Strength and speed at once.

QUESTENBERG (to Octavio).

Quite. And between them, seasoned counsel, too.

OCTAVIO (presenting Questenberg).

Chamberlain Questenberg, Counselor of War.

We honor in this worthy guest the man

Who brings Imperial orders—soldiers’ friend

And patron.

(General silence.)

ILLO (approaching Questenberg).

Not for the first time, my Lord,

Have we the honor to receive you here

In camp.

QUESTENBERG. These banners have received me, true.

ILLO. Do you remember where? At Znaim, Moravia,

You came, sent by the Kaiser, to entreat

The Duke, beg him to take the regiment.6590

QUESTENBERG. Entreat, General? That far my orders did

Not go, nor did my wishes.

ILLO. Then to force,

If you prefer. I remember well. Tilly

Had been defeated on the Lech.66 Bavaria

Lay open to the enemy. Nothing

Kept him from penetrating to the heart

Of Austria. There you appeared, and with

You Werdenberg,67 besieging, threatening

Imperial displeasure, should the Prince not 100

Take pity at such disarray.

ISOLANI (joining in). It’s all

Too comprehensible, Counselor, to

Forget that mission at your present one.

QUESTENBERG. Why should I not? No contradiction here.

We had to drive the foe out of Bohemia

Then. Now we must protect it from its friends.

ILLO. A fine office! We’ve wrung Bohemia from

The Saxon with our blood;68 for thanks you come

To throw us out.

QUESTENBERG. This wretched land must now

Be freed of friend and foe alike or fall from110

One fire into another.

ILLO. Stuff and nonsense!

The peasant’s had a good year. He can spare—

QUESTENBERG. If you refer to flocks and pastures, then—

ISOLANI. War feeds on war.69 Destroy the peasant, and

The Kaiser gains that many able soldiers.

QUESTENBERG. And loses just so many subjects.


We’re all his subjects.

QUESTENBERG. A distinction, Count.

With industry some fill his coffers. Others

Busily empty them. The sword has made

The Kaiser poor. The plow’s to build his strength back.120

BUTTLER. The Kaiser wouldn’t be so poor if all those (he pauses)

Leeches weren’t sucking marrow from the land.

ISOLANI. It can’t be all that bad.

(He stands in front of Questenberg and stares at his uniform.)

I see they’ve yet

To strike all gold to coin.

QUESTENBERG. Praise be to God!

They’ve saved a bit from long Croatian fingers.

ILLO. Look! Slavata and Martinitz, on whom

The Kaiser lavishes his grace and favor—

Bane to all good Bohemians—they who feed

On loot from exiled citizens and batten

On general foulness, harvest sole amid130

A public wretchedness and mock the sorrow

Of the land with a king’s display—let them and

Their like defray the ruinous war that they

Alone have kindled.70

BUTTLER. Landed parasites,

Those lords who always have their feet beneath

The Kaiser’s table, ravening to snap

Up every benefice—they’d ration out

The bread of every soldier in the field

Before the foe and cancel his account.

ISOLANI. In life I’ll not forget: When I came to 140

Vienna seven years ago (it was

Our regiments’ remount I was arranging),

They dragged me from one antechamber to

Another, let me cool my heels among

The flunkies, and for hours. As if I’d come

To beg. At last they sent a Capuchin.

I thought that he was for my sins. But no.

It was with him I was supposed to bargain.

I went back empty-handed. Then the Prince got

Me in three days what cost me thirty in150


QUESTENBERG. Well I know. I found that entry

In the account. We’re paying for it still.

ILLO. A war’s a dirty, violent trade. Mild measures

Are not enough. One can’t always forbear.

To wait them out until they find the least

Among two dozen evils in Vienna

Will keep you waiting long. Wade right in,

Cost what it may. That’s better. People know

To patch it up and understand a hated

Compulsion better than a bitter choice.160

QUESTENBERG. That’s true. The Prince has spared us any choice.

ILLO. The Prince protects us like a father. We

Know what the Kaiser has in store for us.

QUESTENBERG. He has an equal heart for each estate,

Will not redeem one with another.


And sends us to be eaten in the desert,

Instead of all those precious sheep at home.

QUESTENBERG (mocking). It’s you draw the comparison, Count, not I.

ILLO. But were we that for which we’re held at Court,

It would be dangerous to give us freedom.170

QUESTENBERG (gravely). This freedom has been taken and not given.

It must be haltered, bridled, and restrained.

ILLO. Expect to find a horse you cannot manage.

QUESTENBERG. A better rider knows to handle it.

ILLO. It carries none but him by whom it’s tamed.

QUESTENBERG. When it’s once tamed, it’s managed by a child.

ILLO. A child, I well know, they’ve already found.71

QUESTENBERG. Your duty’s your concern, and not his name.

BUTTLER (who has stood to the side with Piccolomini, following the conversation attentively, comes forward).

Lord President, the Kaiser has at his

Command impressive troops in Germany,180

Full thirty thousand: sixteen thousand in

Silesia; then on Weser, Rhine, and Main

Ten regiments; in Swabia six and in

Bavaria twelve oppose the Swedes, to leave

Unmentioned garrisons to guard the strongholds

That keep our borders. All this army answers

To Friedland’s captains. Its commanders all

Were trained in one school, one milk fed them all,

One heart beats in their breasts. Yet all of them

Are strangers in these parts, his service their 190

Sole house and home. No zeal for country drives

Them. Thousands here were born abroad, like me.

Not for the Kaiser—fully half has come

From foreign service, changing sides and fighting

Indifferently for Double Eagle, Lion,

Or Lily.72 These an equal rein controls,

One man by equal love and fear molds all

To one force. Rapid as a thunderbolt and

Straight, his command runs from the farthest outpost

That hears the Baltic surf crash on its dunes200

Or looks on the rich valleys of the Etsch73

Clear to the watch that built its sentry box

Beneath the walls of the Imperial Palace.

QUESTENBERG. And the short sense of this long speech is what?

BUTTLER. That the respect, the love, the trust, all that

Makes us submit to Friedland, never can be

Transplanted to the next best man Vienna

Sends. We remember loyally just how

Command first came to rest in Friedland’s hands.

Was it Imperial Majesty bestowed210

On him a standing army? Merely went

In search of one equipped to lead its troops?

There was no army. Friedland had to raise

An army. He did not receive it. He

It was who gave it to the Kaiser. We

Did not receive our marshal from the Kaiser.

Not so, not so. From Wallenstein we got

The Kaiser in the first place as our master.74

He binds us to these banners, only he.

OCTAVIO (intervening). Please bear in mind, Counselor, that you’re among220

Warriors in camp. It’s boldness makes the soldier,

And freedom. Pluck in action, should it not

Speak pluckily as well? It is all one.

The boldness of this worthy officer (indicating Buttler),

Which has but chosen here its object wrong,

Salvaged, where only boldness could prevail—

A fearsome rising of the garrison—

The Kaiser’s capital city Prague.75

(Military music in the distance.)

ILLO. They’re in!

The Guard salutes. This signal tells us that

The Duchess is just entering at our gates.230

OCTAVIO (to Questenberg). Then my son Max is back. He went to fetch

Her from Carinthia and has brought her here.

ISOLANI (to Illo). Shall we go out to greet her right away?

ILLO. Quite so. We’ll go together. Colonel Buttler?

(To Octavio.) Remember we’re to meet this worthy lord

This morning yet before the Prince. Till then.

Scene Three

Octavio and Questenberg, who remain behind.

QUESTENBERG (with gestures of astonishment).

What I have had to hear, Lieutenant General!

What unabridged defiance, wild ideas!

If this should be the general spirit here—

OCTAVIO. You’ve heard three quarters of the army, Friend.240

QUESTENBERG. Disastrous! Where to find a second such

To keep an eye on this one? Illo here

Thinks even worse than how he talks, I wager.

Still less can Buttler hide his evil thoughts.

OCTAVIO. He’s touchy, over-proud, and nothing more.

I’ve not yet given up on him; I know

A way to righten his wrong-headedness.76

QUESTENBERG (pacing uneasily).

Oh, this is worse, far worse, my friend, than we

Had let ourselves imagine in Vienna.

We saw it but with courtiers’ eyes, blinded250

Before the brilliance of the throne, alas. This

Field marshal, though, we had not seen, not yet

Here in his camp, where he’s all-capable.

This is quite different!

There is no Kaiser here. The Prince is Kaiser!

The round through camp that I just made with you

Has altogether swept away my hopes.

OCTAVIO. You see now for yourself how dangerous is

The office that you bring me from the Court,

How perilous the role I must assume.77260

The least suspicion of the General will

Cost me my freedom or my very life

And only hastens his audacious plan.

QUESTENBERG. What were we thinking when we offered him

Our sword, bestowed such might on such a hand!

This badly guarded heart could not withstand such

Temptation! Why, a better man might have

Succumbed! I tell you, he’ll refuse his orders—

He can and will. Defiance such as his,

Unpunished, will expose us, prove us helpless.270

OCTAVIO. And do you believe that he has brought his wife

And daughter into camp for no good purpose,

Just when we’re massing here to launch a war?

His bringing these last guarantors of his

Good faith into safekeeping points us to

A looming danger: imminent revolt.

QUESTENBERG. Alas! And how shall we withstand the storm

That gathers over us from every quarter?

Our enemy upon our borders; worse,

The Danube his; advances on all sides;280

The fire bells tolling uproar through the land;

The peasants arming, every rank enflamed;

The army, from which we expected help,

Seduced, confused, all discipline abandoned,

Unmoored from Kaiser and from all the State.78

A reeling and uncertain army led by

A reeling and uncertain chief commander,

A terrible machine obeying blindly

The boldest and most desperate of men—

OCTAVIO. Let’s not lose courage at the outset, Friend.290

For speech is always cheekier than the deed,

And many a one who seems intent upon

The worst will find a heart within his breast

To hear the crime once called by its true name.79

Consider: undefended we are not.

Counts Altringer and Gallas, I assure you,

Keep faith with their small army, strengthen it

From day to day. He cannot take us by

Surprise. I have surrounded him with ears;

I’ll hear of his least step immediately—300

His own mouth tells me.

QUESTENBERG. Strange that he has not

Suspected any enemy beside him.

OCTAVIO. You should not believe that I used lies or flattery

To gain his favor, or half-truths to keep

His trust. And, while good sense and duty that

I owe the Kaiser led me to conceal

My heart, I’ve never shown him a false heart.80

QUESTENBERG. It’s heavenly disposition, manifestly.

OCTAVIO. I don’t know what it is—what binds him to me

And to my son so powerfully. We’ve310

Always been friends and brothers, brothers in arms.

Accustomedness, adventures shared alike

Allied us early on. Though I can name

The day that touched his heart, made his trust grow:

The morning before Lützen, when a dream

Had prompted me to seek him out and urge

That he accept a different horse for battle.

I found him far from camp, asleep beneath

A tree. I woke him, told him my misgivings.

He stared at me, then fell into my arms,320

Much moved, more than so small service could

Deserve. And since that day his trust pursues me

In just the same degree that mine flees him.81

QUESTENBERG. You’ve drawn your son into your confidence?


QUESTENBERG. What? Not warned him of what evil hands he’s


OCTAVIO. I must leave him to his innocence.

His open heart’s a stranger to deception.

Ignorance only can preserve in him

The peace of mind to make the Duke secure.

QUESTENBERG (troubled). My worthy friend! I have the best regard330

For Colonel Piccolomini, but if—


OCTAVIO. I must risk it. Still! He’s coming.

Scene Four

Max Piccolomini. Octavio Piccolomini. Questenberg.

MAX. And here he is in person. Welcome, Father!

(He embraces him. When he turns, he sees Questenberg and steps back coldly.)

You’re occupied, I see. I’ll not disturb you.

OCTAVIO. But Max! Look carefully. You know this guest.

Such an old friend deserves attentiveness and

Respect as bearer of the Kaiser’s orders.

MAX (perfunctory). Von Questenberg! Welcome, if good report

Has brought you to headquarters.

QUESTENBERG (seizes his hand). Oh, do not

Withhold your hand, Count Piccolomini.340

I take it not just for my sake, and no

Ordinary thing will I express by this.

(Taking both their hands.)

Octavio—Max Piccolomini!

Propitious names, names of good augury!

The fate of Austria shall never turn

While two such stars, so rich in blessing and

Protection, spread their light above its armies.

MAX. You’ve fallen out of role, Lord Counselor.

It’s not to praise us that you’re sent. You’re here

To blame and scold. And I wish to enjoy350

No preference not accorded others like me.

OCTAVIO (to Max). He comes from Court, where one is somewhat less

Contented with the Duke than we are here.

MAX. What new reproach do they now bring against him?

That he alone decides what he alone

Can grasp? Fine! He does well, and so it will

Remain. For never was he meant to trail

Another, willingly adjust his course.

It goes against his grain. He cannot do it.

His is a ruler’s spirit and put him in360

A ruler’s place. Our luck, that it is so.

For few indeed can rule themselves, can use

Their good sense sensibly. A boon for all,

When there is one who builds a center, draws

In many thousands, stands firm like a pillar

To be embraced with joy and confidence.

Just such is Wallenstein, and if the Court

Prefers another, only such a one

Can serve the army.

QUESTENBERG. Yes, indeed, the army!

MAX. And it’s a joy to see just how he rouses,370

Makes strong, enlivens everything about him,

How every strength emerges, every gift

Perceives itself more clearly in his presence!

He draws out the particular powers of each man

And fosters them, lets each remain himself

Entirely, seeing only that each keep

His station. Thus adroit, he well knows how

To make all men’s capacity his own.

QUESTENBERG. No one denies that he knows men, knows how to

Use them! Engrossed as ruler, he forgets380

The servant, as if born into his rank.

MAX. And is he not? With every necessary

Power he is, and also with the power

To execute the plan of Nature and for

His ruler’s talent win a ruler’s place.

QUESTENBERG. So it depends on his largesse in what

Consideration we are henceforth held?

MAX. So rare a man requires rare trust. One need

But give him room. He’ll set his goal himself.

QUESTENBERG. So he has proved.390

MAX. There you are! Everything

Alarms them that has any depth. They feel

At home uniquely with what’s flat and shallow.

OCTAVIO (to Questenberg). Surrender in good grace, my friend! Give over.

With this one here you never shall be done.

MAX. Hard pressed, they call for high intelligence,

And then take fright, should it present itself.

Uncommon things, the very greatest deeds

Are to take place like everyday events.

But in the field the moment is upon us.

There personal powers prevail, there one must see400

With one’s own eyes. A field marshal must have

Recourse to every grandness Nature holds.

So let him live in grand dimensions, consult

The living oracle of his mind, not dead

Books, ancient regulations, musty papers.82

OCTAVIO. Son, let us not despise our regulations,

However old and narrow. These are priceless

Fetters oppressed men bound on their oppressors’

Swift will. For willfulness is terrible.

The path of order, crooked though it be,410

Is no detour. The thunderbolt runs straight,

As does the cannonball. The shortest path

Brings it, destroying all about it, to

Its goal, which it destroys. My son, the road

A man must take, the good road, follows streams,

The easy course of valleys; it avoids

A corn field or a vineyard, it respects

The measured boundaries of property

And leads more slowly, surely to its goal.83

QUESTENBERG. Oh, listen to your father, listen to420

Him, who is both a hero and a man.

OCTAVIO. In you one hears the camp’s child speak. Fifteen years

Of war have raised you. Peace you’ve never seen.

There’re higher values, Son, than war-like ones;

In war itself the ultimate’s not war.

The great and rapid deeds of violence,

The moment’s blinding miracle beget

No happiness or strong, enduring calm.

A soldier builds his canvas town in haste,

A momentary buzz and bustle brings 430

The square to life. On roads and rivers goods

Go back and forth, a busy trade springs up.

Then one fine morning tents are struck, the horde

Moves on. Sown fields and plow land lie as still

As churchyards, trampled, ruined. And the year’s

Whole harvest has been lost.

MAX. Oh, let the Kaiser

Make peace, my father! Gladly I’d give all

This bloody laurel for one violet

In March, the fragrant pledge of earth renewed!

OCTAVIO. Why, Max! (Pause.) What has so affected you?440

MAX. I’ve never seen a peace? Indeed I have,

My father. I’ve just come, just now, from there.

My journey led through lands no war has touched.

Oh, Father, life has charms we’ve never known.

We’ve only cruised the barren coast of blooming

Life, like a tribe of pirates, packed into

An airless ship, that squanders all its days

In savage living on a savage sea

And knows of the great land the bays alone

Where it might risk a thievish landing. What450

Its inner valleys hide in treasure—none

Of all that could we see on our wild voyage.

OCTAVIO (attentive). And has this journey shown you all these things?

MAX. It gave me the first leisure of my life.

Tell me, what is the point of endless work, the

Hard labor that so robbed me of my youth

And left my heart a desert, starved my mind, which

No arts had gentled yet and none refined?

For this camp’s noisy churning, horses neighing,

The trumpet’s blast, our clockwork rounds of duty,460

Practice at arms, obedience to command—

They strip the heart out and they parch it dry.

This empty busyness, it has no soul. There’s

Another happiness, there’re other joys.

OCTAVIO. You have learned much on this short trip, my son.

MAX. Oh, happy day! At last a soldier can

Reenter life, return to humankind.

The flags unfurl in festive celebration.

To peaceful marches he sets out for home,

All hats and helmets are decked out with green,470

The last loot from the fields. Now city gates

Swing open freely, no petard need breach them.

The walls are thronged by peaceful citizens,

Who wave. From every tower bells announce

The tranquil evening of a bloody day.

From villages and cities cheering crowds

Come streaming out and joyfully slow the march.

The old man, glad he’s seen the day, extends

His hand to welcome his returning son.

A stranger, he reenters what is his,480

Long left behind. At his return the tree

That he’d last seen a slender sapling shades him.

A blushing girl comes out to meet him whom

He’d once left lying on her nurse’s breast.

A happy man to whom a door, to whom

Soft arms, embracing sweetly, also open.

QUESTENBERG (touched).

Alas, that you should speak of far off, far

Off times, not of tomorrow, not today.

MAX (rounds on him). Who but you in Vienna bears the fault?84

Let me confess it freely, Questenberg!490

When I caught sight of you just now, ill will

Made my spleen rise into my throat. It’s you

Who block the peace, it’s you and you alone.

It’s fighting men who must bring it about.

From you comes endless trouble for the Prince,

You stop his steps, you blacken him. And why?

Because Europe’s great Good concerns him more than

A foot or more or less of land for Austria.

You’re making him a rebel and God knows

What else, because he spares the Saxon, wants500

To cultivate our enemy’s trust. But that’s

The only path to lead us to a peace.

If we don’t stop this war within a war,

What hope have we of peace? So go, just go!

I hate you as I love the Good. I swear

Most solemnly, I’ll give my heart’s last blood,

Last drop of blood, for him, for Wallenstein,

Before I see you triumph at his fall. (Exit.)

Scene Five

Questenberg. Octavio Piccolomini.

QUESTENBERG. God help us! Can this be?

(Urgent and impatient.)

Are we to let him go this way? He’s mad!510

Not call him back? Not open instantly

His eyes?

OCTAVIO (rousing himself from deep thought).

He has just opened mine and made

Me see more than I like.

QUESTENBERG. May I ask what?

OCTAVIO. A pox upon this journey!

QUESTENBERG. What? How so?

OCTAVIO. But come. I’ll have to track this down, to see

With my own eyes—(Offers to lead him away.)

QUESTENBERG. But what? Where would you go?

OCTAVIO (urgent). To her!


OCTAVIO (correcting himself). To the Duke. I fear the worst.

I see a net cast over him, he’s not

Returned to me the man who went away.

QUESTENBERG. Explain—520

OCTAVIO. Could I not see it coming? Not

Abort this errand? Why did I not speak?

You’re right. I should have warned him. Too late now.

QUESTENBERG. Too late for what? These riddles baffle me.

OCTAVIO (more composed).

We’re going to the Duke. Come. It’s almost

The hour he named for audience. Do come!

A pox, a three-fold pox, upon this journey!

(He leads Questenberg away.)


Act Two

A large Room in the quarters of the Duke of Friedland

Scene One

Servants are arranging chairs and spreading carpets. The astrologer Seni enters, dressed in black, rather fantastically, after the fashion of an Italian scholar.85 He goes to the middle of the room and indicates the four cardinal points with the white staff that he carries.

SERVANT (going about with a censor).

Fall to! Get finished here. The Guard’s been called to

Attention! They’ll be coming any minute.

SECOND SERVANT. But why was the red room closed off? The one

That has a bay and where the light’s so good?530

FIRST SERVANT. Ask him, the mathematician there. He claims

That it’s unlucky.

SECOND SERVANT. Pooh! That’s nothing more

Than fooling people. Look, a room’s a room.

What’s all the fuss about a simple place?

SENI (with gravity).

My son, there’s nothing in the world lacks meaning.

For every earthly matter, time and place

Have overwhelming, capital importance.

THIRD SERVANT. Don’t take it up with him, Nathanael.

The Master, even, has to do his will.

SENI (counting the chairs).

Eleven. Evil number. Place twelve chairs.540

The zodiac has twelve signs, five and seven,

For only sacred numbers make up twelve.

SECOND SERVANT. And what’s the grudge you have against eleven?

SENI. Eleven, that is sinfulness, exceeds

The Ten Commandments.

SECOND SERVANT. Oh! And why is five

A sacred number?

SENI. That’s the human soul,

Composed of good and evil, just as five’s

Composed of odd and even, straight and crooked.


THIRD SERVANT. Leave him alone. I like to listen

When he talks—how it always makes you think.550


They’re coming. Quick! This way! Out by the side door.

(They leave in haste. Seni follows slowly.)

Scene Two

Wallenstein. The Duchess.

WALLENSTEIN. Well, Duchess? On your way you saw Vienna?

Appeared before the Queen of Hungary?86

DUCHESS. Before the Empress, too. Their Majesties

Admitted us to offer our respects.

WALLENSTEIN. How did they take it that I’ve summoned wife

And daughter to me in the field in winter?

DUCHESS. I did as you prescribed: observed that you

Had chosen for our daughter, wished to show her

To her betrothed before the next campaign.560

WALLENSTEIN. And did they speculate about my choice?

DUCHESS. They wanted it to be no foreigner,

To be no Lutheran whom you’d chosen for her.

WALLENSTEIN. And what is it you want, Elisabeth?

DUCHESS. You know your wish has always been my own.

WALLENSTEIN (after a pause).

Well, then. And how were you received at Court?

(The Duchess lowers her gaze and remains silent.)

Hide nothing from me. Tell me how it was.

DUCHESS. Alas, my husband, it’s not all the way

It used to be. There’s been a change—it’s different—

WALLENSTEIN. How so? Were you not treated with respect?570

DUCHESS. Respect? Oh, yes. Their mien was dignified and

Seemly. But stiff formality now took

The place of friendly, gracious condescension.

Their kindness toward me showed compassion more

Than favor. No, indeed. Duke Albrecht’s princely

Consort, Count Harrach’s noble daughter ought not,

Ought not, to’ve been received in such a fashion.

WALLENSTEIN. And they no doubt attacked my latest conduct?

DUCHESS. If they but had! I’m long accustomed to

Excusing you, to smoothing ruffled feathers.580

No, not a one attacked. They wrapped themselves

In solemn, leaden silence. This, alas, is

No ordinary misunderstanding, no

Mere passing sensitivity. Something

Disastrous, irretrievable has happened.

The Queen of Hungary once used to call

Me her dear aunt, embraced me when we parted.


DUCHESS (drying her tears, after a pause).

She still embraced me: I had taken

My leave of her, was almost at the door,

When she approached me quickly, as if she’d590

Forgot, and pressed me to her bosom, more pained

Than moved by tenderness.

WALLENSTEIN (taking her hand). Compose yourself!

With Eggenberg, with Lichtenstein, and with

Our other friends—how was it?87

DUCHESS (shaking her head). I saw none.

WALLENSTEIN. The Spanish Count Ambassador, who spoke

For me so warmly?

DUCHESS. Not a word for you.

WALLENSTEIN. These suns no longer shine for us. Henceforth

We’ll have to light our way with our own fire.

DUCHESS. Is it because, my Lord, is it because

Of what at Court they whisper, openly600

Recount abroad, what Father Lamormain88

Referred to—

WALLENSTEIN (quickly). Lamormain! What’s he been saying?

DUCHESS. That you’re accused of heedlessly transgressing

Your charge, of flagrant disregard of highest

Imperial orders. That the Spanish, that

The proud Bavarian duke complain of you,

And that a storm is gathering over you

More menacing by far than that which caused

Your fall at Regensburg.89 And that there’s talk—Oh!

I cannot say it—610

WALLENSTEIN (tense). There’s talk—

DUCHESS. Of a second—(She stops.)


DUCHESS. A dismissal more disgraceful

Than the first.

WALLENSTEIN. There’s talk?

(Pacing the room in agitation.) Oh, they’re forcing me,

They’re pushing me against my will into it.

DUCHESS (embracing him, pleading).

While there’s still time, my Lord—If it can be

Prevented by submission, willingness

To yield—Relent. Prevail on your proud heart.

It’s your superior, your Kaiser, that you yield to.

No longer let ill will and spite use poisonous

Construction to obscure your good intentions.

Stand up and use the conquering power of truth620

To shame those liars and those slanderers.

We have so few true friends. You know this.

Our swift good fortune has exposed us to

Men’s hatred. Where shall we then be, if now

The Kaiser turns away his favor from us?

Scene Three

Countess Terzky enters, leading Princess Thekla by the hand.90

COUNTESS. What, Sister? Speaking only of affairs,

And, I see, not of pleasant ones, before

He even has the pleasure of his child?

First moments should belong alone to pleasure.

Here, Father Friedland! I present your daughter.630

(Thekla approaches him shyly and is about to bend over his hand. He catches her in his arms and stands several moments lost in contemplation of her.)

WALLENSTEIN. This hope has blossomed for me. I shall take

That as a pledge of greater happiness.

DUCHESS. She was but a small child when you went out

To build a teeming army for the Kaiser.

And then when you returned from Pomerania,

Your daughter was in convent, until now.91

WALLENSTEIN. While in the field we sought to make her great,

To gain the highest earthly good for her,

Kind Mother Nature within quiet cloister

Walls did her part to give her godly goods640

And leads her now in beauty out to meet

Her brilliant fortunes and fulfill my hopes.

DUCHESS (to the Princess).

You hardly recognized your father here,

My child? You were just eight years old when last

You saw his face.92

THEKLA. Oh, yes, my mother, at

First glance. My father hasn’t aged. In him

I see the man I carried in my heart.

WALLENSTEIN (to the Duchess).

This charming child! A fine remark and what

Good sense. And I complained that Fate withheld

A son, an heir, to take my name and fortune,650

To carry forward my brief life in a

Proud line of princes. Rank ingratitude!

Upon this virginal young brow I’ll lay

The wreath of military life. Nothing’s lost

If it becomes a kingly crown that I

Can weave into this forehead’s lovely locks.

(He is holding her in his arms as Piccolomini enters.)93

Scene Four

Max Piccolomini and then Count Terzky.

COUNTESS. And here’s the paladin who shielded us.

WALLENSTEIN. I bid you welcome, Max. You’ve always brought

Me joy, and like the morning star you now

Lead in the sun, this true light of my life.660

MAX. General—

WALLENSTEIN. Till now it was the Kaiser who

Used my hand to reward you. But today

You’ve bound the grateful father, and this debt

Is Friedland’s own and his alone to settle.

MAX. My Prince, you lost no time in doing so.

I have been shamed, indeed it pains me. Scarce

Have I arrived, have I delivered mother

And daughter into your embraces than I

See led up from your stables as your gift

A four-in-hand magnificent in shining670

Harness to pay me off for all my trouble.

Oh yes! To pay me off. It was a mere

Office that I performed. And not the favor

I took it for, for which I came to thank

You from an overflowing heart. My service

Was not intended as my greatest joy!

(Terzky enters, bringing dispatches that the Duke opens immediately.)

COUNTESS (to Max). Is it your trouble he’s rewarding? He’s

Rewarding you his happiness. For you

Such delicacy is proper. It becomes

My brother always to prove large and princely.680

THEKLA. I, too, would have to doubt his love, for he first

Adorned me, then his father’s heart received me.

MAX. Yes, he must always give and make us happy.

(He takes the Duchess’s hand; with growing warmth.)

What don’t I have to thank him for! What do

I not pronounce in this sole name of Friedland!

Lifelong I shall be captive of this name,

From it will spring all joy and every hope.

Fast, as if in a fairy ring, fate holds me,

Enchanted, in the ambit of this name.

COUNTESS (who has been observing the Duke and sees that the letters have made him thoughtful).

Our brother wants to be alone. We’ll go.94690

WALLENSTEIN (turns, catches himself, and speaks cheerfully to the Duchess).

Once more, Princess, you’re welcome in the field.

You are the mistress of this court. You, Max,

Will once again take up your office, while

We here attend to matters of our master.

(Max Piccolomini offers the Duchess his arm; the Countess leads the Princess away.)

TERZKY (calls after him).

Remember to be present at assembly.

Scene Five

Wallenstein. Terzky.

WALLENSTEIN (deep in thought, aloud to himself.)

As she observed. Exactly so. Accords

With other notices quite perfectly.

So they’ve arrived at a decision in

Vienna, chosen a successor for me.

The King of Hungary, that Ferdinand,700

The Kaiser’s precious little son, he’s their

Savior, their rising star.95 They think they’re done

With us already, and like one dispatched

We’ve gotten our reward. No time to lose!

(He turns, notices Terzky, and gives him a letter.)

Count Altringer regrets, sends his excuses.

And Gallas.96 I don’t like this.

TERZKY. If you go

On doing nothing, they’ll all fall away.

WALLENSTEIN. This Altringer holds the Tirolean passes.

I’ll send him word to block the Spaniards coming

Up from Milan.97 Now! Old Sesin, that go-710

Between, he shows himself again. Has he

A message for us from Count Thurn?98

TERZKY. The Count

Would have you know: At Halberstadt at the

Convention these last days, he visited

The Swedish Chancellor, who says he’s had

Enough of you and wants to hear no more.99


TERZKY. He says you’re never serious,

You only want to gull the Swedes, ally

Yourself against them with the Saxons and

Then fob them off contemptibly with money.720

WALLENSTEIN. Aha! He thinks that I should give him German

Terrain as booty? Thinks that we’re no longer

The masters here on our own soil? Out with

Them, out, out! Who would have such neighbors? Out!

TERZKY. You would begrudge them a mere fleck of land?

It’s not been carved out from your own. If you

Win at this game, what care have you who loses?

WALLENSTEIN. Out with them! You don’t understand. No one

Shall say that I dismembered Germany,

Betrayed it faithlessly to strangers just730

To pocket my own portion. Nevermore!100

In me the Empire is to honor its

Protector. Proving princely and imperial,

I’ll seat myself among Imperial princes.

On my watch let no foreigner strike root here,

And least of all, those Goths, those wretched starvelings

Who look with hungry eyes upon this blessing,

German land. They’re to aid me in my plans

And not go fishing for their own advantage.

TERZKY. And with the Saxons you’ll proceed with greater740

Honor? They too are losing patience with

Your deviousness. Why all the masks? Even

Your friends have doubts, can’t make you out. Arnheim101

And Oxenstirn—it baffles everyone

How you hang fire. And in the end the blame

Comes back to me, since I transmit it all.

And I don’t have one scrap that’s in your hand.

WALLENSTEIN. I issue nothing written. You know that.

TERZKY. And how is one to know if you’re in earnest?

You give your solemn word and no deed follows.750

Admit it: All the things that you’ve agreed to—

They could have happened had you wanted just

To get the better of the foe, no more.

WALLENSTEIN (after a pause in which he fixes him).

And how would you know that I do not have

The better of him? Have the better of

The lot of you? Do you know me that well?

I don’t think I’ve shown you my deepest feelings.

The Kaiser, it is true, has done me wrong. If

I wanted, I could do him no small harm.

I like to know my power. Whether I760

Make use of it—of that you know no more than

The next one.

TERZKY. That’s the way you’ve always played.

Scene Six

Illo enters.

WALLENSTEIN. How is it out there? Have they been prepared?102

ILLO. You’ll find them in the mood you wanted. They know

The Kaiser’s terms and they’re beside themselves.


ILLO. Is yours with heart and soul

Since you restored his faro bank.103


You’re sure of Deodat and Tiefenbach?

ILLO. What Piccolomini does they’ll all do.

WALLENSTEIN. So I can risk it with them, do you think?770

ILLO. If you’re sure of both Piccolomini.

WALLENSTEIN. As of myself. They’ll not desert me. Never!

TERZKY. I wish you wouldn’t put that kind of trust

In that sly fox, that old Octavio.

WALLENSTEIN. Tell me about it, you. Look! Sixteen times

I’ve marched into the field with that old warhorse.

And furthermore, I have his horoscope.

Born under the same stars, the two of us.

In brief—(Breaks off.) Another matter altogether.

If you’ll vouch for the others—780

ILLO. They’re of one mind:

You cannot lay down your command. They’ll send

Someone, I hear.

WALLENSTEIN. If I’m to bind myself

To them, they’ll have to bind themselves to me.

ILLO. Assuredly.

WALLENSTEIN. I want their word of honor,

In writing, sworn, that they’re committed to

My service absolutely.

ILLO. And why not?

TERZKY. Absolute? They’ll reserve the Kaiser’s service,

The duty they owe Austria.

WALLENSTEIN (shaking his head). Absolutely.

No other way. No word about reserve.

ILLO. Something occurs to me. Is Terzky not790

To give a banquet here this evening?


Indeed. And all the generals are invited.

ILLO (to Wallenstein).

Say? Would you let me have a full free hand?

I’ll get the generals’ word for you exactly

The way you want it.

WALLENSTEIN. Get it me in writing.

How you get it is no affair of mine.

ILLO. And when I bring it to you, black on white,

That all the captains gathered here are pledged

Blindly to you—will you then double down

And boldly try your luck?800

WALLENSTEIN. Get me the writing!

ILLO. Consider! You can’t meet the Kaiser’s wishes:

You can’t reduce the army, can’t detach

Those regiments to meet the Spaniard—you’ll

Be letting go your forces for all time.104

Consider your alternative: You can’t

Defy the Kaiser’s order and command, go

On seeking pretexts, temporizing—you’ll

Be breaking with the Court in all good form.

Make up your mind! Will you anticipate

Him with deliberate action? Or, forever810

Hesitating, await the worst?

WALLENSTEIN. That’s what

One does before one fixes on the worst.

ILLO. Oh, seize the hour before it slips away.

The moment is so rare in life, the great

And weighty moment. Much must coincide

For a decision to be taken. But

The threads of fortune, opportunities,

Show singly, scattered. Only pressed together

Into a single instant can they form

The massy kernel of an outcome. See, then!820

How forcefully, how fatefully all things

Converge around you. All your captains of

The line, most excellent, have gathered here

About their princely leader. They await

Your signal only. Don’t let them disperse!

You’ll not convene them so united ever

Again in the whole course of this long war.

A high tide lifts a heavy ship from shore. In

The current of the crowd each courage grows.

You have them now—just for this moment. Soon830

The war will drive them hither, thither, and

The common spirit will dissolve into the

Small cares and interests of each one. A man

Who, swept along, forgets himself will sober

Up when he finds himself alone, know only

His feebleness, and pivot quickly, take

Instead the beaten path of common duty,

Intent to reach safe cover for himself.

WALLENSTEIN. It’s not yet time.

TERZKY. That’s what you always say.

When will it be time?840

WALLENSTEIN. When I say so.


You’re waiting for the astral hour. Meanwhile

The earthly hour escapes you. Believe me,

The stars of destiny lie in your heart.

Decisiveness, trust in yourself—this is your

Venus.105 Your sole disaster is your doubt.

WALLENSTEIN. That’s how you see these things. How often must

I say to you: At your birth, Jupiter,

The bright god, was descending. You’ve no lights

For secrets. You can only sift in the

Dark earth, unseeing, like the subterranean850

God whose pale leaden sheen attended you

At birth.106 It’s earthly, ordinary things

That you can see, connect with one another.

There you enjoy my confidence, my trust.

What works and weaves with secret meaning in

The depths of Nature—the angelic ladder

That reaches from this world of dust into

The world of stars, a thousand rungs on which

Celestial powers wander up and down—107

The circles within circles that embrace860

The central sun in ever closer union—

These things the unsealed eye alone perceives

Of Jove’s own children, brightly born and sparkling.108

(He takes a turn through the Hall, then stands still and continues.)

The heavenly constellations do not make

Just day and night, just spring and summer. Not

Just to the sower do they show the seasons

Of seed and harvest. No. The acts of men

No less sow destinies in the dark land

Of time to come, entrust them to Fate’s rule.

Here too one must inquire the sowing season,870

Seek out a favorable astral hour,

And search the planetary houses, lest

The foe of growth and of prosperity

Be hiding balefully deep in its corners.109

So give me time. And do what’s yours to do.

I cannot say yet what I want to do.

Relent, however, I shall not. Not I!

And they shall not remove me either. Count

On it.

CHAMBERLAIN (entering). My Lords the Generals.

WALLENSTEIN. Admit them.

TERZKY. Is it your wish to have all captains present?880

WALLENSTEIN. No need. Both Piccolomini, Buttler,

Forgatsch, Maradas, Deodat, Caraffa,110

And Isolani: they should be admitted.

(Terzky goes out with the Chamberlain.)


You’ve kept a watch on Questenberg meanwhile?

No secret conversations held with others?

ILLO. No. I put a sharp watch on him. He’s been

With no one but Octavio.111

Scene Seven

As above. Questenberg, both Piccolomini, Buttler, Isolani, Maradas, and three other Generals enter. At a gesture from Wallenstein, Questenberg seats himself directly opposite him; the others follow in order of rank. A momentary pause.

WALLENSTEIN. I’ve understood and weighed the substance of

Your mission, Questenberg, and taken a

Decision such as nothing more can alter.890

But it is meet that these commanders hear

The Kaiser’s dispositions from your mouth.

Be it your pleasure, therefore, to discharge

Your office here before these noble chiefs.

QUESTENBERG. I am prepared, but bid you bear in mind:

Imperial rule and worthiness express

Themselves through me, not my own hardihood.

WALLENSTEIN. Spare us the prelude.

QUESTENBERG. When His Majesty

The Kaiser gave his mighty armies in

The person of the Duke of Friedland a900

War-hardened, wreathed head, he confidently

And sovereignly expected rapid change

To his advantage on the battlefield.112

And the beginnings met his wishes well.

Bohemia had been swept clean of Saxons,

The Swedes stopped in their victories. These lands

Had paused to catch their breath just as the Duke

Of Friedland drew the scattered foe from all

The streams of Germany. He lured the Rhinegrave,

Prince Bernhard, Banner, Oxenstirn, and that910

Unvanquished king himself into a single

Rendezvous.113 Here at last before the walls

Of Nuremberg the bloody game of war

Should be decided.114

WALLENSTEIN. If you please, the point?

QUESTENBERG. New thinking heralded the new field marshal.

No more did blind rage wrestle with blind rage.

In well-defined encounters one now saw

Steadfastness stand up to audacity

And prudent art of war exhaust high courage.

In vain do they attempt to draw him. He digs920

Himself in ever deeper in his camp,

As if to found there an eternal house.115

The king in desperation calls for storm,

Forces onto a butcher block the troops

Whom hunger and disease are ravaging

In an encampment fetid with the dead.

Unstoppable, the king would storm his way

Through a breastwork of brush that guards a camp

Where death awaits him from a thousand muskets.

Attack and then resistance such as eye has 930

Not seen, until the tattered king retreats,

Not having gained an ell for all the slaughter.

WALLENSTEIN. You needn’t read us what the papers write

About a carnage we ourselves endured.

QUESTENBERG. It is my office and my mission to

Indict. It is my heart that dwells on praise.

In camp in Nuremberg the Swedish king lost

His fame, and then on Lützen’s plains his life.116

Who then was not amazed to see Duke Friedland

Flee to Bohemia from so great a day940

Like one who has been conquered, vanish from

The field, while the young hero of the House

Of Weimar breached Franconia unresisted,

Proceeded swiftly to the Danube, and

Appeared beneath the walls of Regensburg,

A feat to frighten all good Catholic Christians.117

Bavaria’s noble prince appealed for quick

Relief, pressed as he was. The Kaiser sends

Full seven riders bringing this request to

Duke Friedland, begs where he as master can950

Command. In vain. The Duke would hear just now

Only his cherished hatreds and resentments,

Ignores the common good and would indulge

His vengefulness on his old enemy.118

And thus falls Regensburg.

WALLENSTEIN. What era is this, Max?

MAX. He means Silesia.

WALLENSTEIN. Oh, so! But what could we be doing there?

MAX. Chasing the Swedes and Saxons out.

WALLENSTEIN. Quite right!

All that description makes a man forget

This wretched war.960

(To Questenberg.) Go on! Go on! Let’s hear it.

QUESTENBERG. Perhaps one could recover on the Oder

What had been lost so meanly on the Danube.

Astounding things were hoped for on this theater

When Friedland took the battlefield in person,

When Gustav’s rival found a—Thurn and an

Arnheim before him.119 Truly, they came close

Enough, but only to receive each other

As friends. All Germany groaned beneath the strain;

In Wallenstein’s encampment peace prevailed.120

WALLENSTEIN. Many a bloody battle’s fought for nothing,970

Because a young commander needs a win.

The proven captain has no need to show

The world that he knows how to gain a victory.

It profited me nothing to exploit

My luck against the likes of Arnheim. Much

Accrued to Germany by my moderation,

Had I been able to dissolve the league

That bound the Saxon and the Swede, at our cost.

QUESTENBERG. It didn’t work, and so hostilities

Resumed. But now the Prince redeemed his fame.980

The Swedish army dropped its arms at Steinau

Without a stroke.121 And Heaven’s justice there

Delivered straight to the avenger’s hands

That cursed war-torch, that inveterate

And proven troublemaker, Mattias Thurn.

He’d fallen into gracious hands indeed.

For punishment he got reward. The Prince

Released his Kaiser’s own archenemy,

Released him, sent him onward, bearing gifts.

WALLENSTEIN (laughs). I know, I know. You in Vienna had990

Already rented windows, balconies

From which to see him mount the hangman’s cart.

I might have lost that battle shamefully:

The unforgivable is ever to

Deny the Viennese a spectacle.

QUESTENBERG. Silesia had been liberated. All things

Now called the Duke to the relief of hard-pressed

Bavaria. And he indeed sets out:

At stately pace he marches through Bohemia

(Pause) by the longest route. Not even having1000

Once seen the enemy, he turns his army,

Goes into winter camp, oppresses thus

The Kaiser’s country with the Kaiser’s soldiers.122

WALLENSTEIN. The troops were in a hopeless state. They wanted

For everything, with winter coming on.

How does His Majesty see his troops? Are we

Not human, not subject to cold and damp,

Exposed to each and every mortal need?

The soldier’s is a truly cursed lot.

Where he approaches, all the world takes flight,1010

And where he leaves, they wish him every ill.

He must seize everything he hopes to get;

He’s offered nothing. Forced to take from each

And all, he is a universal horror.

These are my generals. Caraffa! Buttler!

Count Deodati! Tell him, please, how long

The soldiers’ pay has been withheld from them?

BUTTLER. There’s been no payment for a year.


Must have his sou—that’s where he gets his name.123

QUESTENBERG. The Duke of Friedland let himself be heard1020

In quite another vein nine years ago.

WALLENSTEIN. My fault, I know. That’s how I spoiled the Kaiser.

The Danish War:124 I raised an arm of forty

Or fifty thousand head that cost him not

One cent of his own money. That war ripped

Through Saxony and spread the terror of

His name clear to the sheerest Baltic islets.

Those were the days! The whole Imperium knew

No name as honored as my own, and Albrecht

Wallenstein was the third stone in his crown.1030

Then came the Regensburg Electors’ Congress.125

What means I’d used to fight the war was clear.

Was that my thanks for taking on myself

The people’s hatred? For laying on the princes

A war that only made the Kaiser great?

To then be sacrificed to their complaints!

I was removed from office.

QUESTENBERG. Your Grace knows

How little freedom he enjoyed at that

Unhappy Congress.

WALLENSTEIN. Death and destruction!

I had what could procure him freedom. No,1040

My Lord. Since it became me all that badly

To serve the throne at state expense, I’ve learned

To think quite differently about that State.

Look! This staff I have from the Kaiser, granted.

I wield it now as marshal of the Empire,

Now for the good of all, the common weal,

Not for the magnification of one man.

But to the point: What is required of me?

QUESTENBERG. His Majesty desires first that the army

Vacate Bohemia instantly.1050

WALLENSTEIN. At this time

Of year? And where then would they have us go?

QUESTENBERG. To meet the foe. His Majesty desires

That Regensburg be cleared by Easter, that

No Lutheran sermon more be preached in its

Cathedral, and no heresy and horror

Besmirch the celebration of the feast.

WALLENSTEIN. Can this be done, my generals?

ILLO. Cannot

Be done.

BUTTLER. Out of the question. Can’t be done.

QUESTENBERG. The Kaiser also has sent Colonel Suys126

An order to advance into Bavaria.1060


QUESTENBERG. He did his duty and advanced.

WALLENSTEIN. Advanced? And I, his chief, had given him

Explicit orders not to budge from where

He stood! Is that the state of my command?

That the obedience I am owed? Without which

No state of war is thinkable? You be

The judge, my generals: An officer

Who breaks his orders—what has he deserved?

ILLO. His death!

WALLENSTEIN (raises his voice at the prudent silence of the others.)

Count Piccolomini, what has he


MAX (after a long pause). According to the law, his death.

ISOLANI. His death!

BUTTLER. By military law, his death!

(Questenberg stands up, followed by Wallenstein. All stand.)

WALLENSTEIN. The law condemns him to it, and not I!

If I now pardon him, I do so out of

Deference to the respect I owe my Kaiser.

QUESTENBERG. In that case, I’ve no further business here.

WALLENSTEIN. I took command here only on condition.

The first was that no mortal man, not even

The very Kaiser himself, have a say

Disadvantageous to me with the army.

Where I must vouch for the result with both1080

My honor and my head, I must be master.

What made that Gustav irresistible,

Unvanquished in this world? That he was king

Among his army—that alone! A king,

However, one who is king, never yet

Was conquered, save by his own equal. Well!

Enough of this. The best is yet to come.

QUESTENBERG. The Cardinal-Infante vacates Milan127

In spring to lead a Spanish army from there

Through Germany into the Netherlands.1090

In order to ensure his safety on

The march, the Monarch wants eight regiments from

This army to accompany him on horseback.

WALLENSTEIN. I see, I see—eight regiments. Quite so!

Finely invented, Father Lamormain!

Were that thought not so devilish clever, one

Could call it wonderfully idiotic.

Eight thousand horses. Absolutely right.

I see it coming.

QUESTENBERG There’s no thought behind it.

Prudence requires and need demands the measure.1100

WALLENSTEIN. My Lord Ambassador, it should escape my

Notice that one has tired of suffering

My hand upon the hilt? That they have seized

This pretext, use the Spanish name to reduce

My numbers, bring in a new force not subject

To my command? You find me still too strong to

Displace me openly. My contract demands

That all Imperial forces answer to me

Where German is the language of the land.

Of Spanish soldiers and Infantes who1110

Go wandering through the realm as guests it makes

No mention. Now one silently evades

Its clauses, weakens me, makes me unuseful,

Till one can make short shrift of me. But why

The subterfuges, my Lord Counselor?

Out with it! That agreement with me chafes

His Majesty. He would be rid of me.

I shall do him that favor. Here I had

Made up my mind, my Lord, before you came.

(Growing unrest among the Generals.)

A shame about the captains of my lines.1120

I don’t see how they will recover what they’ve

Advanced, how they’ll collect their well-earned wage.

A new regime brings new men to the fore,

And old deserts are all too soon forgotten.

This army’s served by many foreign troops,

And if the man was brave and fought well, I

Would not inquire about his lineage or

His catechism. That will change now. Ah,

Well. That is no concern of mine. (He seats himself.)

MAX. Not possible

That it should come to that! The army, the1130

Whole army will rebel, rise up as one.

The Kaiser’s misinformed. It cannot be.

ISOLANI. Cannot! It all would go to rack and ruin.

WALLENSTEIN. That it most surely will: to rack and ruin,

Isolan—all we built up with such care.

That’s why at length a marshal will turn up,

An army also gather for the Kaiser

When they have heard the drumbeat start again.

MAX (going busily, passionately from one to the other, calming tempers).

Do hear me, Marshal; listen to me, Captains.

I beg you, Prince! Until we’ve met in council,1140

Spoken to you, take no decision. Come,

My friends. I truly hope we can repair it.

TERZKY. Come, please. We’ll find the others just outside.

(They adjourn.)

BUTTLER (to Questenberg). A word of caution, if you care to hear:

Do not appear in public for the moment.

Your golden key would not be sure protection.128

(Loud commotion outside.)

WALLENSTEIN. Good counsel, that. Octavio, you will be

My surety for the safety of our guest.

So, fare ye well, von Questenberg.

(As Questenberg is about to speak.) No, please.

Not one word more about this wretched business.1150

You did the duty that you owed. I know

How to distinguish the man from his office.

(As Questenberg is about to leave with Octavio, Götz, Tiefenbach, and Colalto press in, followed by other Captains.)

GOETZ. Where is the man, the one who’s come to tell—

TIEFENBACH (together).

What’s this? Are you preparing to lay down—

COLALTO (together). We want to live, we want to die with you.

WALLENSTEIN (with poise, indicating Illo).

The Marshal is acquainted with my wishes. (Exit.)

Act Three

A Room

Scene One

Illo and Terzky.

TERZKY. Tell me, how will you manage at the banquet

That I give late today for all the chiefs?

ILLO. Here’s my plan: We’ll compose a formula

In which we dedicate ourselves to serve1160

The Duke to the last drop of blood, but with

Respect of our sworn duties to the Kaiser.

That last proviso we set in a clause

Apart, and thus we salve our consciences.

This version we present before the meal.

No one will take exception to it. Listen

Now. After dinner, when the wine has closed

Their eyes and opened hearts, we circulate

For signature a version where that clause

Does not appear, where it has been suppressed.1170


Oh, come now! Do you think they’ll believe they’re bound by

An oath that we have tricked them into signing?

ILLO. Oh, we’ll still have them. Let them raise a hue

And cry. The Court will sooner credit their

Signature than their loudest protestations.

And so they’re traitors all the same, must be,

Must make a virtue of necessity.

TERZKY. Well, I’ll agree to anything as long

As we get action and move off the spot.

ILLO. It does not matter how far we get with1180

The generals. We need only to persuade

The Chief that they are his. He’ll act, proceed

On that assumption. Then they’re really his.

As he goes forward, they’ll be carried with him.

TERZKY. Sometimes I can’t begin to make him out.

He listens to the foe, has me write Thurn

And Arnheim, boldly rails against Sesina,

Discusses plans with us for hours on end.

Then when I think I have him: Hup! He’s gone,

Slips through my fingers, and it seems he cares1190

For nothing, only wants to stay in place.

ILLO. Him? Give up his old plans? I tell you he

Considers nothing else, awake, asleep,

Questions the planets day for day—

TERZKY. Did you know

He plans to watch the stars tonight, shut up in

The tower with the Doctor? The night’s supposed

To be important. They expect some great

Event, one long-awaited, to take place

Up there above.

ILLO. Were it down here below!

The generals are now all stirred up, can be1200

Induced to anything to keep their chief.

We have the chance to form a tight alliance

Against the Court, but innocent in name:

To keep him in command. In hot pursuit

One soon forgets how all began. I want

To stack the deck so that the Prince will find,

Will believe, them fit for any piece of daring.

Watch! Opportunity will draw him on.

When he’s once taken that great step, a step

Vienna can’t forgive, the very chain of 1210

Events will lead him on and further on.

Decision is what he finds hard. Impelled by

Necessity, he’ll find his strength and insight.

TERZKY. That’s what the foe is waiting for before

It leads its army to us.

ILLO. Come, then. We’ll

Advance our plan these next few days beyond

What it’s attained in years. When things once favor

Us here below—you’ll see—the stars above

Will look with favor on us, too. Let’s find

The chiefs. Strike while the iron is hot, I say.1220

TERZKY. Give me a moment. I’m expecting Countess

Terzky here. Don’t think we’ve been idle meanwhile.

If one cord breaks, another’s been prepared.

ILLO. Of course. Your lady smiles so craftily.

What’s this?

TERZKY. A secret. Quiet now. She’s coming.

(Exit Illo.)

Scene Two

Count and Countess Terzky, who enters from an adjacent room. A Servant, then Illo.

TERZKY. She’s coming, then? I can’t keep him much longer.

COUNTESS. She’ll be here right away. Just send him in.

TERZKY. I can’t be sure the Chief will thank us for this.

A point on which he’s never said a word,

As you well know. It’s you who have persuaded1230

Me. You must know just how far you can take it.

COUNTESS. I’ll answer for it. (Speaking to herself.)

No permission needed.129

Wordlessly, Brother, we each understand

The other. Can’t I guess the reason why your

Daughter’s brought here? Why he was sent to fetch her?

For this pretend engagement to a bride-

Groom known to no one may well fool another,

But I see through you. Since you can’t appear

To have a hand in such a game, it’s left

To my fine penetration. Well done! You’ll1240

Not have deceived yourself about your sister.

A SERVANT (entering). The Generals! (Exit.)

TERZKY (to the Countess). Try to stir up his desires,

Give him too much to think about, so that

At table he’ll not hesitate to sign.

COUNTESS. You go attend your guests. Just go and send him.

TERZKY. Because it all depends upon his signing.

COUNTESS. Off to your guests. Go!

ILLO (returning). Why so long here, Terzky?

The house is full and we’re all waiting for you.

TERZKY. Coming, coming.

(To the Countess.) But don’t keep him too long.

His father might suspect—1250

COUNTESS. Enough for now!

(Exeunt Terzky and Illo.)

Scene Three

Countess Terzky. Max Piccolomini.

MAX (hesitantly, in the doorway).

Aunt Terzky!130 May I?

(He walks into the middle of the room and looks around uneasily.)

She’s not here. Where is she?

COUNTESS. Is she perhaps behind the screen there in

The corner, hidden from you—

MAX. There are her gloves!

(He reaches for them, the Countess picks them up.)

Unkind, my aunt. Why would you so deny me—

I see it is your pleasure to torment me.

COUNTESS. What thanks for all my trouble!

MAX. If you knew

How I feel. Every moment since we’ve come,

To have to watch myself, weigh words and glances.

I am not used to that!

COUNTESS. Oh, you’ll get used

To many things, my charming friend. I must1260

Insist upon this test of your obedience.

On this condition only can I see

To everything and manage everywhere.

MAX. Where is she then? And why has she not come?

COUNTESS. You must leave everything to my arrangements.

Who has your interests more at heart than I do?

No one must know. Your father, too, must not,

Most surely not.

MAX. There is no need. For I’d

Betray to no one here the motions of my

Enraptured soul. Tell me, Aunt Terzky, are all1270

Things changed? Or is it only me? I find

Myself here among strangers, find no trace

Of my accustomed wishes and my pleasures.

Where’s it all gone? I once was quite content

In just this world. But now, how shallow it

All seems and how banal! My comrades I

Find insupportable, and my own father—

What ever have I now to say to him?

And duty, weapons—what a lot of tinsel.

It’s like one of the blessed dead returned1280

From realms of glory to the games of childhood,

Its interests, occupations, preferences, and

Friendships, to the whole wretched human race.

COUNTESS. I’d ask you nonetheless to cast a glance

Upon this ordinary world, where things of

No small importance are just now in train.

MAX. There’s something going on. I see it in

The swirl of strange activity around me.

And when they’re done, I too will hear about it.

Do you know where I’ve been today, Aunt Terzky?1290

No laughing. All the hurly-burly here

Became too much: the packs of pressing folk,

The tasteless jokes, eternal idle chit-chat.

It felt as if the walls were closing in.

I had to leave, to find a quiet place

For my full heart, seclusion for my joy.

Don’t smile, Countess. I was in church. I found

A cloister nearby called the Gates of Heaven,

Where I could be alone. The Virgin hung

Above the altar, badly painted but1300

The friend whom I was seeking at that moment.

How often have I seen her in her glory,

Ardor of worshippers but not for me. All

At once I understood devotion—and love.

COUNTESS. Enjoy your happiness, forget the world.

My friendship meanwhile watches for you, acts.

But you must be amenable to one

Who wants to show the way to happiness.

MAX. What’s taking her so long? Oh, golden days

Of travel: Every rising sun brought us1310

Together. Night alone divided us!

No hourglass ran, no timepiece struck our ear.

Time had arrested its eternal course.

Oh, one who has to count the hours has fallen

From paradise. For lovers, no clock strikes.

COUNTESS. And when did you disclose your heart to her?

MAX. This morning only did I dare to speak.

COUNTESS. This morning? After twenty days of journey?

MAX. Where you caught up with us, the hunting lodge

Between the camp and Nepomuk, last station1320

Along the way.131 We stood together in

A bay, our silent gaze on a bare field.

Before us we saw riding up the Dragoons

The Duke had sent as escort. Parting weighed

Upon my heart, and, trembling, I dared say:

This tells me, Mistress,132 I must part now from

My happiness. A little while and you

Will find your father, be surrounded by

New friends, and I’ll become a stranger to you,

Unnoticed in the crowd. “Speak with Aunt Terzky,”1330

She interrupted. Her voice shook, I saw

A glowing red suffuse her cheeks, and slowly

She raised her eyes, met mine, and I restrain

Myself no longer—

(The Princess appears in the doorway, observed by the Countess, but not by Piccolomini.)

take her in my arms, touch

Her lips with mine—a rustling at the door

Drove us apart. You entered, and the rest

Is known to you.

COUNTESS (after a pause, stealing a glance at Thekla).

Are you so undemanding or incurious

That you don’t ask now for my secret?

MAX. Yours?

COUNTESS. Well, yes. The way I came into the room,1340

Right after you left, how I found my niece,

How she in the first moment of surprise—

MAX (vividly). Well?

Scene Four

As above. Thekla entering quickly.

Don’t trouble, Aunt. That’s better said by me.

MAX (starting back).

Mistress! What have you let me say, Aunt Terzky?

THEKLA (to the Countess). Has he been here for long?

COUNTESS. Quite long. His time has just about run out.

And what’s kept you so long?

THEKLA. My mother wept so bitterly.133 I see

Her sorrow and can’t help my happiness.

MAX (lost in contemplating her).

I find the courage now to look at you.1350

I couldn’t then. The sheen of precious stones

Enclosing you obscured the one I love.134

THEKLA. Your eye saw me that way and not your heart.

MAX. When I found you this morning in the circle

Of family and in your father’s arms,

And saw myself a stranger in this group,

How much I wished to enter his embrace,

To call him father in that moment! But his

Forbidding eye demanded silent presence,

And all those diamonds frightened me, encircling1360

You like a studded wreath of stars. But why,

Then, must he put you under ban right at

Reception, deck an angel out straightway

For sacrifice, and lay upon this joyful

Young heart the mournful burden of its rank!

Love can address its suit to love, but such

Splendor admits approach by kings alone.135

THEKLA. No more about this masquerade. You see

How soon the burden is cast off again.

(To the Countess.)

But he’s not cheerful. Why should he not be?1370

It’s you, Aunt, who’ve made him so heavy-hearted!

For he was quite another on our journey!

So bright and calm! So eloquent! I’d like

To see you always so and never different.

MAX. There in your father’s arms you found yourself

In a new world that honors you, enchants

Your eye, if only by its very newness.

THEKLA. Yes, much enchants me here, I don’t deny it.136

I love the brightly bannered stage of war that

Renews in many ways a cherished image,1380

Connects to truth and to real life what had seemed

To be a lovely dream and nothing more.

MAX. It makes of my real happiness a dream.

I’ve lived these days upon an island in

The ether; it has now descended earthward.

This bridge that brings me back to my old life—

It separates me, bars me from my heaven.

THEKLA. It’s cheering to observe the play of life

When we hold fast a treasure in our heart,

And when I have observed it, I return1390

Contented to the better things I hold.

(Breaking off and playful.)

The new, unheard-of things I’ve seen in this

Short time! But all of this must pale before

The secret marvel that this castle holds.

COUNTESS (reflecting).

What would that be? For I am schooled in all

The darkest corners that this house encloses.

THEKLA (smiling). A way defended well by spirits and

Two griffins137 keeping watch before the gate—

COUNTESS (laughing). Oh, so! The astrologic tower. How

Could such a sanctuary, always closely1400

Guarded, have opened right away to you?

THEKLA. A little white-haired man with friendly face,

Who took a liking to me, opened for me.

MAX. That is the Duke’s astrologer, called Seni.

THEKLA. He asked me many things, my birth date, day

And month, and whether it was day or night.

COUNTESS. That was so he could cast your horoscope.

THEKLA. He also read my hand and shook his head,

Uncertain. It would seem the lines displeased him.

COUNTESS. How was it then inside that hall? I’ve seen1410

It always only very fleetingly.

THEKLA. It gave me an odd feeling, coming from

Bright day, to be so suddenly surrounded

By night, but faintly lit by a strange light.

Around me in a crescent stood six, seven138

Great statues representing kings; each carried

A scepter and, for crown, a star, and all

The light there seemed to come just from those stars.

My guide told me these were the planets and

They ruled our fate. That’s why one made them kings.1420

The last, a dark and glowering graybeard, with

A clouded yellow star-crown, this was Saturn;

Directly opposite, with ruddy sheen

And armed as if for battle, this was Mars;

And neither brings good fortune to mankind.

Beside him stood a woman of great beauty,

The star that shone above her head glowed softly;

I learned that this was Venus, star of pleasure.

Beside her on the left stood winged Mercury;

Precisely in the middle, bright as silver1430

And with the forehead of a king, there stood

Good-humored Jupiter, my father’s star,

And Sun and Moon attended at his side.

MAX. Oh, never will I scorn his belief in stars

And in the power of the spirit world.

It is not only human pride that fills our

Universe with mysterious, ghostly powers.

For loving hearts, too, common Nature seems

Too narrow. Deeper meaning can be found

In house tales told me in my childhood years1440

Than in the truths that life would have us learn.

The shining world of wonders only can

Answer the call of my delighted heart.

It opens its eternal spaces to me,

Extends to me a thousand bending boughs where

My reeling spirit rocks itself in bliss.

The fable is the home where love would live,

For love prefers the world of fairies, tokens,

Chooses to believe in gods because it’s god-like.

The ancient fable figures are no more.1450

That charming race has long since gone abroad;

The heart, however, needs a language; an old

Desire revives the ancient names. They now

Go wandering in the starry skies, who once

Would kindly walk beside us through our lives;

From there they smile down mildly upon lovers,

And every great thing comes from Jupiter,

From Venus every thing we know of beauty.

THEKLA. Is this the art of reading stars? Then I

Confess a faith so clear, so bright with gladness.1460

How comforting the thought that over us

Immeasurably a wreath of love made up

Of shining stars was woven at our birth.

COUNTESS. Heaven has not just roses, also thorns.

May they not spike the crown prepared for you!

What happy Venus has once woven is

Soon ripped apart by Mars, the sinister.

MAX. His gloomy reign will soon have run its course!

A blessing on the Prince’s earnest effort;

He’ll wind the olive branch into the laurel1391470

And make the grateful world a gift of peace.

For his great heart will then be surfeited;

He’s done enough to build and keep his fame,

Can now live for himself and for his loved ones.

And he’ll withdraw to his own holdings, to

His lovely residence at Gitschin or

At Reichenberg or Castle Friedland,140 where

The borders of his game reserve and forest

Extend up to the foothills of the mountains.

There he can freely follow his creative1480

Urges, as prince encourage every art,

Protect all glorious and deserving things,

Can build things, plant things, contemplate the heavens,

And if his daring powers will not rest,

Why, he can wrestle with the elements,

Rechannel rivers and explode a rock face,

Prepare the way for commerce and for gain.

Our ancient battle fortunes will become then

Long stories told in longer winter nights.141

COUNTESS. Let me advise you, Cousin, not to lay1490

Aside the sword blade all too prematurely.

For such a bride as this deserves most richly

That she be sued for, courted by the sword.

MAX. If she but could be won by weapons only!

COUNTESS. What was that? Did you hear? I thought I heard

Quarreling coming from the banquet hall. (She goes out.)

Scene Five

Thekla and Max Piccolomini.142

THEKLA (to Piccolomini as soon as the Countess has left the room).

Don’t trust them. They are playing games.143

MAX. They could—

THEKLA. Trust no one here but me. I saw at one glance:

They have a purpose.

MAX. Have a purpose? Which?

What do they gain by making hopes for us—1500

THEKLA. I do not know. But believe me, it is not their

Purpose to make us happy or unite us.

MAX. What need have we of these two Terzkys? Don’t

We have your mother? Can’t we put our trust

In her, confide like children in her kindness?

THEKLA. She loves you, values you above all others,

But never could she summon courage to

Withhold a secret such as ours from Father.

For her sake we must keep it from her.

MAX. Why

So secretive? Do you know what I’ll do?1510

I’ll throw myself upon your father’s mercy,

Let him decide my happiness. For he

Is truthful, forthright, hates all subterfuges,

He’s good and noble—

THEKLA. That is what you are!

MAX. You know him only now. But I have lived

In sight of him a full ten years. Is this

The first time he has done a deed that’s rare,

Unhoped for? That’s his way: surprise us like

A god. He must delight, amaze us always.

Who knows if he’s not waiting now to hear my1520

Avowal, yours, before uniting us?

Why no reply? And why the doubtful looks?

What do you have against your father?


Nothing. I only find him much too busy

To spare the time or have the leisure for

Reflecting on our happiness.

(Taking him tenderly by the hand.) Do listen!

Let us not believe excessively in others.

These Terzkys we’ll be grateful to for what

They’ve done, but trust them only just so far

As they’ve deserved. We’ll trust in our own hearts.1530

MAX. Oh, shall we ever find our happiness!

THEKLA. Have we not found it? Aren’t you mine? Am I

Not thine? My soul is full of highest courage,

Our love has given it to me. I ought

Not be so open, should conceal my heart:

Decorum wants it so. Where ever then

Should you know truth, if not from my own mouth?

We’ve found each other, hold each other fast,

Eternally. Please believe me: That’s far more

Than they have reckoned with. So let us keep1540

It safe, like sacred plunder, safe in our

Own hearts. It fell to us from Heaven’s heights,

And we’ll thank Heaven only for this gift.

It can work wonders for us both.

Scene Six

As above. Countess Terzky returns.

COUNTESS (urgent). My husband’s sending for you, says it’s high time.

To table!

(When they pay her no heed, she steps between them.)


THEKLA. But no. Not now.

We’ve hardly had a moment here.

COUNTESS. For you time passes quickly, Princess Niece.

MAX. No hurry, Aunt.

COUNTESS. Go! Your absence’s noticed.

Your father’s asked for you now more than once.1550

THEKLA. Well, well! His father!

COUNTESS. You know better, Niece.

THEKLA. What’s he to do in company like that?

That isn’t his society. They’re worthy,

Deserving men, but he’s too young for them,

He simply doesn’t fit in such surroundings.

COUNTESS. You’d rather keep him wholly for yourself?

THEKLA (vivid). Exactly right. Precisely what I want.

Just leave him here. And let their Lordships know—

COUNTESS. Why, have you lost your mind, my niece? You, Count,

Know full well what conditions we’ve agreed.1560

MAX. I must obey, Mistress. Farewell for now.

(Thekla turns away abruptly.)

You’ve no reply?

THEKLA (without looking at him).

None. Go, please.

MAX. Can I, when

You’re angry with me?

(He approaches her, their eyes meet, she stands a moment in silence, then throws herself into his arms; he clasps her tight.)

COUNTESS. Go! If someone should come!

I hear an uproar—strangers’ voices close by.

(Max tears himself away and goes, the Countess accompanies him. Thekla follows him with her eyes, wanders about the room, then pauses, lost in thought. A guitar lies on a table; she picks it up. After a melancholy prelude, she sings.)

Scene Seven

Thekla plays and sings.

Oak forest rustles and clouds rush o’er,

A maid is wandering the deep green shore,

The waves are breaking with might, with might,

And she sings aloud in the darkling night,

Her eye turned toward heaven above her.

My heart, it has died now, the world is bare.1570

It grants my wishes no more and nowhere.

Thou Blessed One, gather thy child to thee,

I’ve already tasted all earthly bounty,

For I have both lived and have loved here.

Scene Eight

The Countess, returning. Thekla.


What is this, Mistress Niece? For shame! You’ve thrown

Yourself at him. Fie! I should think you’d put

A rather better price upon your person.

THEKLA (getting to her feet).

Your meaning, Aunt?

COUNTESS. That you should not forget

Who you are and who he is. That, I dare say,

Has not occurred to either of you.1580

THEKLA. What, then?

COUNTESS. That you’re Prince Friedland’s daughter.

THEKLA. So? What else?

COUNTESS. Fine answer!

THEKLA. He was born what we’ve become.

He’s from an ancient Lombard house, his mother

Was born a princess.144

COUNTESS. Are you dreaming? Truly!

We’ll therefore bid him honor Europe’s rich-

Est heiress with his hand?

THEKLA. Unnecessary.

COUNTESS. Quite. One does well not to expose oneself.

THEKLA. His father loves him. Count Octavio

Will not oppose it—

COUNTESS. His father! His! And yours, my niece? Of him what?1590

THEKLA. I think it’s his you fear. It’s him—his father,

I mean—from whom you’re keeping it so secret.

COUNTESS (examines her searchingly).

Niece, you’re duplicitous.

THEKLA. Touchée, ma tante?145

Oh, don’t be angry.

COUNTESS. You think your game’s won.

Don’t laugh too soon.

THEKLA. Oh, please, Aunt, don’t be angry.

COUNTESS. We’ve not yet reached that point.

THEKLA. Yes. That I believe.

COUNTESS. Do you think he has squandered so important

A life on warlike labors, has forgone

All peaceful earthly pleasure, banished sleep

From camp, and filled his noble mind with cares1600

Just to unite the two of you in marriage?

To fetch you finally from your cloister only

To lead you then in triumph to the man

Who’s caught your eye? He could have had that cheaper.

This seed was not sown for your childish hand

To break the bloom and tuck it in your bosom!146

THEKLA. But something that he didn’t plant could still

Produce its very finest fruits for me.

If my benign good fortune aims to prepare

Life’s joys for me from his monstrous existence—1610

COUNTESS. You’re talking like a girl in love. Just look

Around. Remember where you are. For you’ve

Not come into a garden of delights,

These walls have not been festooned for a wedding,

Nor guests arrayed. The only brilliance here

Is that of weapons. Or did you think one had

Assembled thousands here to form the ranks

That flank your progress to the altar? Have you

Not seen your father’s forehead dark with thought?

Your mother’s eyes in tears? The fortunes of1620

Our house hang in the balance! Leave behind

Your girlish feelings, childish wishes. Prove

Yourself the child of your extraordinary

Father. A woman shouldn’t belong just to

Herself. For she attaches to the fate of

An other whom she best assumes with care

And carries in her heart with tender love.

THEKLA. That’s what I heard when I was in the cloister.

I had no wishes, thought of myself as

His daughter only, this great man’s. The fame1630

Of his exploits, which reached me, too, gave me

This feeling and none other: I was destined

To sacrifice myself to him in sorrow.

COUNTESS. This is your destiny. Submit with gladness.

I and your mother have set an example.

THEKLA. My destiny has shown the one to whom

I’ll sacrifice myself, whom I shall follow.

COUNTESS. Your heart, my child, and not your destiny.

THEKLA. The heart’s pull is the call of destiny.

I am his own. For he alone has given 1640

Me this new life that I live now. He has

A right to his creation. What was I

Before his love breathed life into my soul?

I’ll not think less of me than my beloved.

One who possesses priceless treasure, he

Is not to be despised. My happiness

Gives me new strength. With high earnestness

I contemplate an earnest life. I know now

That I belong to myself only. Firm will

Is mine now. I cannot be forced. And I1650

Can wager everything on highest goods.

COUNTESS. You would defy your father, should he have

Determined otherwise for you? You think

That you can force it from him? Know, my child,

His name is Friedland.

THEKLA. So, no less, is mine.

He is to meet his one true daughter in me.

COUNTESS. His Monarch and his Kaiser cannot force him,

And you, his daughter, think to do him battle?

THEKLA. What no one dares, his daughter dares to do.

COUNTESS. For that he’s not prepared, let me assure you.1660

He has surmounted every obstacle

And now should undertake his willful daughter?

Child! Child! You only know a smiling father,

Have never seen his eye in anger. Will

Your contradicting voice hold firm before him?

Alone, it’s easy to resolve great things,

Compose the purple passages, deck out

A dovish turn of mind in lion’s garb.

But you just try it. Go and meet his eye

Trained on you steadily and dare say, No.1670

You’ll melt before his presence, tender petal

Before a fiery all-consuming sun.

It’s not my wish to frighten you, my child.

I hope it will not come to that. Nor do

I know what he intends.147 It’s possible

His purposes will meet your wishes. But

He never can intend that you, the one

Proud daughter of his fortunes, conduct yourself

Like an infatuated little girl

And throw yourself away on one who, if1680

He is to gain the greatest prize, will have to

Purchase it by love’s highest sacrifice. (She goes off.)

Scene Nine

Thekla alone.

Thanks for the warning. It makes

A certainty of my misgivings. So

It’s true: We have no friends and no one here

Is loyal. We are left with one another.

Hard battles lie ahead. Thou god-like, Love, give

Us strength. Oh, she speaks truth. Unhappy are

The auguries attending this entente of

Our hearts. No theater of hope is this.1690

Dull armor only rattles here, and even

Our love makes entrance armored all in steel

And girded for a battle to the death.

An ominous spirit drifts here through the house,

Fate wants to make of us a speedy ending.

From safety and repose I have been roused,

A benign magic shields my soul by blinding.

Fate lures me forward by a heavenly wight,

I see it floating toward me, close, insistent.

It draws me forth from here with god-like might1700

Toward the abyss, and I cannot resist it.

(Distant table music.)

Oh, when a house is fated to the fire,

The heavens drive black clouds together, churning.

Swift lightning plunges, strikes the highest spire,

And crevasses gape open, flaming, burning.

The God of Pleasure, even, raging, wielding

Hot pitch, flings fire into the burning building! (She goes off.)

Act Four

A grand Hall, festively lit. In the center, upstage, an opulently laid table at which eight Generals are seated, among them, Octavio Piccolomini, Terzky, and Maradas. Two other tables, right and left and farther upstage, where six diners are seated, respectively. Downstage, a sideboard. The front of the stage is left free for the Pages and Servants who wait the tables. The whole room is in motion and marching musicians from Terzky’s regiment circle the tables. Before they have left the scene, Max Piccolomini enters. Terzky approaches him, carrying a sheet of paper; Isolani, equally, carrying a wine cup.

Scene One

Terzky. Isolani. Max Piccolomini.

ISOLANI. Ho, Brother! What a pleasure! Where’ve you been?

Quick! Take your place. Our Terzky’s sacrificed

His mother’s best reserve wines. It’s as if1710

These were the cellars of the Heidelberger’s

Castle.148 You’ve missed the best. Up there at table

They’re handing prince’s bonnets out: estates

Of Eggenberg, Slavata, Lichtenstein,

And Sternberg are on offer, all the great

Bohemian fiefs. Be quick and you’ll get something,

Too. March! And sit!

COLALTO and GOETZ (calling from the second table).

Count Piccolomini!

TERZKY. He’ll be there right away! Here, read this oath,

See if you like it, how it’s formulated.

We all have read it, everyone in turn,1720

And are prepared to put our name to it.

MAX (reads). “Ingratis servire nefas.”

ISOLANI. That sounds like Latin, Brother. What’s the German?

TERZKY. “No honest man would serve an ingrate.” Max?

MAX. “WHEREAS our most sovereign Marshal, his Grace, the Prince of Friedland, prompted by manifold offenses, intended to resign the Kaiser’s service, but, moved by our unanimous request, has promised to remain with the Army and not to leave us without consultation, we THEREFORE bind ourselves, separately and together, in lieu of oral oath, also to hold to him, in honor and in loyalty, to cleave to him irrespective of events, and to risk everything for him, to our last drop of blood, to the extent permitted by our Oath sworn to the Kaiser. (Isolani repeats these last words aloud.) We FURTHER declare anyone who deserts our common cause, in contravention of this Pledge, to be a traitor to our League whom we are obliged to penalize in his property and assets, his person and his life. IN WITNESS WHEREOF we hereby set our name.”149

TERZKY. Are you prepared to put your name to this?

ISOLANI. Why shouldn’t he? Why, every officer

Of honor can and must. Ho! Pen and ink here!

TERZKY. We’ll let that wait till after table.

ISOLANI (drawing Max after him). Come! Come!

(Both go to table.)

Scene Two

Terzky. Neumann.

TERZKY (signals Neumann, who is standing at the sideboard and comes with him to the front).

You have the copy, Neumann? Let me see.

It’s set so that one doesn’t see the difference?1730

NEUMANN. I copied line for line and nothing’s missing

Except the passage with the Kaiser’s oath,

Just as your Excellency ordered me.

TERZKY. Good! Lay it over there. Into the fire

With this. It’s done what we required of it.

(Neumann lays the Copy on the table and returns to the sideboard.)

Scene Three

Illo, coming from the back room. Terzky.

ILLO. Well? How’s it stand with Piccolomini?

TERZKY. I think, fine. He raised no objection to it.

ILLO. The only one whom I don’t really trust—

Him and his father. Keep an eye on both!

TERZKY. And at your table? Everybody’s keeping 1740


ILLO. All aglow! It looks as if we have them.

And as I told you, talk is now not just of

The Prince’s honor being saved. Since we’re all

Together here, says Montecuculi,

We ought to put conditions to the Kaiser

There in his own Vienna. Believe you me,

But for these Piccolomini, we could

Have spared ourselves here this whole sleight of hand.

TERZKY. What’s Buttler after? Shh!

Scene Four

Buttler joins them.

BUTTLER (coming from the second table). I’ll not disturb you.

I’ve understood you, Field Marshal, and wish1750

You luck. As far as I’m concerned, (conspiratorial) just count

On me.

ILLO (vividly). We can then?

BUTTLER. With or without clause.

All one to me. You understand? The Prince

Can put my loyalty to any test.

I am the Kaiser’s officer as long

As he should choose to be the Kaiser’s general,

And Friedland’s servant when he once elects to

Be his own master. Let him know these things.

TERZKY. You’ve chosen well. For you’ve not pledged yourself

To any miser, any Ferdinand.1760

BUTTLER (gravely). My good faith’s not on offer to the high-

Est bidder, Count. Six months ago, I’d not have

Advised you to exact of me what I

Now freely offer. To the Duke I bring

Myself together with my regiment. The

Example that I set will not, I think,

Be altogether without consequences.

ILLO. Who doesn’t know that Colonel Buttler is

A beacon and a model for the army!

BUTTLER. Indeed, Field Marshal? I do not regret then1770

The loyalty I’ve kept these forty years,

If my good name, so carefully preserved,

Can purchase for me in my sixtieth

A vengeance so complete, revenge so perfect.

Take no offense, my Lords, at what I say.

You needn’t be concerned with how you have me,

Nor should you think your game will bend my judgment,

Or wavering thoughts, a blood that’s quick to boil,

Or any other trivial cause will drive

The old man off his chosen path of honor.1780

It doesn’t weaken my resolve to know

Quite clearly what it is I’m parting from.150

ILLO. Then tell us openly how we should take you.

BUTTLER. For a good friend. You have my hand on this.

With all I have, I belong to you and yours.

The Prince has need not just of men—of money,

Too. In the course of serving him I’ve laid

Aside funds that I’ll lend him; he, if he

Survives me, will receive them: he’s my heir.

I am alone here in this world. I know not1790

The feeling binding man to wife and child;

My name dies with me, I am at an end.

ILLO. Your money there’s no need of. Such a heart

As yours outweighs a ton of gold and millions.

BUTTLER. I came from Ireland as a simple groom

To Prague, accompanying my master, whom

I buried. I rose by skill at war from stable

Duties to dignity and prominence,

The plaything, object, of capricious fortune.151

No less is Wallenstein a child of fortune;1800

I love a progress that resembles mine.

ILLO. Strong spirits are all kin to one another.

BUTTLER. We have arrived at a great moment; our

Times smile upon the brave and resolute.

The way small change will wander hand to hand,

A city and a citadel now switch

Their fleeting occupant. Grandsons of ancient

Houses take flight, new names, new coats of arms

Crop up. A northern people would presume

To settle German lands against our will.1810

The Prince of Weimar arms himself to found

A mighty principality. And Mansfeld

And Halberstadt lacked only longer life

To conquer vast possessions by the sword.

Among these men who is our Friedland’s equal?

No object stands so high that a strong man is

Not privileged to set his ladder there.152

TERZKY. That’s spoken like a man.

BUTTLER. Make sure of both

The Spaniard and Italian. I’ll take charge

Of Scottish Leslie. Time to join the party!1820

TERZKY. Holla! Steward! Bring out the best you have.

The time is right and all’s in perfect order.

(Each goes to his table.)

Scene Five

Wine Steward comes forward with Neumann. Servants go back and forth.

WINE STEWARD. Such fine wine! If my former mistress, his

Lamented Mama, saw all this wild living,

Would she turn over in her grave! Oh, yes,

Indeed! This noble house is slipping backward,

Sir. It has neither measure nor does it

Have purpose, and their ducal Graces, these

In-laws, will bring us poor reward, I wager.

NEUMANN. Which God forbid! It’s coming into flower. 1830

WINE STEWARD. You think? There’d be a lot to say about that.

SERVANT (approaching). More burgundy at table four.

WINE STEWARD. That makes

Seventy bottles opened here, Lieutenant.

SERVANT. It’s all because that German, Tiefenbach,

Is sitting there. (Goes off.)

WINE STEWARD (to Neumann again).

They want to climb too high.

They want to equal prince-electors, kings

In ostentation; where the Prince has dared

To go, the Count, my master, wants to follow.

(To the Servants.)

You’re standing there and listening? Get moving!

Go wait the tables, check the bottles. There!1840

Count Palffy has an empty glass before him!

SECOND SERVANT (approaches).

They’re asking for the giant wine cup, Steward,

The decorated, golden one, the one

That carries the Bohemian coat of arms.

You’d know which one he meant, his Lordship said.

WINE STEWARD. The one that Master Wilhelm fashioned for

King Friedrich, for the king’s own coronation,

The finest piece of booty got at Prague?153

SECOND SERVANT. Yes, that one. It’s to make the round among ’em.

WINE STEWARD (brings out the Wine Cup and rinses it, shaking his head).

Yet more to be reported to Vienna!1850

NEUMANN. Show me! It’s truly a magnificent piece!154

Heavily gilded and in high relief,

It’s worked to show the cleverest things with charm.

The first escutcheon—let me see it clearly:

A towering Amazon astride a horse,

She vaults a crozier and a bishop’s miter,

She holds aloft a hat upon a pike,

Beside a flag on which I see a chalice.

Can you tell me the meaning of all this?

WINE STEWARD. The mounted female figure you see is1860

Electoral freedom of Bohemia’s crown,

Shown by the round hat and wild horse she rides.

The ornament of mankind is a hat,

For one who cannot keep his hat before

A kaiser or a king is no free man.

NEUMANN. The meaning of the chalice on the flag?

WINE STEWARD. The chalice is religious freedom in

Bohemia as it was in former times.

Our fathers in the Hussite War acquired

This privilege in defiance of the Pope’s1870

Denial of the chalice to the laity.

The chalice is the prize of Utraquists,

Their dearest treasure, and has cost Bohemians

Their precious blood in many bitter battles.155

NEUMANN. What is the meaning of the scroll above them?

WINE STEWARD. The scroll you see there represents the Letter

Of Majesty we forced from Kaiser Rudolf,156

A cherished priceless parchment that assures

The new religion, like the old, a free

Disposal over bells and over hymnal.1880

But since the Graz man157 rules us, that has ended.

Since Prague, where Friedrich Palatine lost crown

And realm, our faith lacks chancel, altar, and

Our brothers emigrate. The Kaiser, though,

Himself cut up the Letter with his shears.

NEUMANN. All that you know? How you’re well-schooled in your

Land’s chronicles, Wine Steward!

WINE STEWARD. That’s because

My ancestors were Taborites and served

Under Prokop and Ziska,158 may they rest

In peace. And fought for a good cause. 1890

(To a Servant.) Remove it.

NEUMANN. First let me see the second small escutcheon:

Oh, yes! The Kaiser’s counselors, Slavata

And Martinitz,159 pushed headlong from a castle

Window. And here’s Count Thurn, who ordered it.

(Servant removes the Wine Cup.)

WINE STEWARD. Unspeakable, that day! The twenty-third

Of May, one thousand and six hundred eighteen.

Like yesterday, and the beginning of

Unending sorrow for my country. Since then,

For sixteen years, we’ve had no peace on earth.

OFFICERS (at the second table).

The Prince of Weimar!1900

(At the third and fourth tables.) Long live our Duke Bernhard!


FIRST SERVANT. Listen to that!

SECOND SERVANT (running up). You hear? They’re toasting Weimar!

THIRD SERVANT. An Austrian enemy!

FIRST SERVANT. And Lutheran!

SECOND SERVANT. Just now, when Deodat proposed to drink

Our Kaiser’s health, you could have heard a pin drop.

WINE STEWARD. A toast has many meanings. And a well

Conducted servant does not listen to such.

THIRD SERVANT (aside to the Fourth).

See to it, Johann: Let’s have plenty to

Pass on to Father Quiroga.160 For our

Good work. He’ll grant us plenty of indulgence.

FOURTH SERVANT. That’s why I’m always busy near that Illo’s1910

Table. He says the most amazing things.

(They go to the tables.)

WINE STEWARD (to Neumann).

Who is his Lordship there in black and with

The Cross, so deep in talking with Count Palffy?

NEUMANN. Another one they trust too much, a Spaniard,

Maradas is his name.

WINE STEWARD. It’s no good with

These Spaniards, let me tell you. All those Latins

Are no good.

NEUMANN. Now! Now! Shouldn’t talk that way,

Wine Steward. They’ve some of the finest generals

Among them, whom the Duke esteems the most.

(Terzky comes to fetch the Oath; a stir at the tables.)

WINE STEWARD (to the Servants).

The Lieutenant General’s on his feet. Look sharp!1920

They’re breaking up. Snap to and hold their chairs.

(The Servants hurry upstage. Some Guests come down to the front.)

Scene Six

Octavio Piccolomini comes downstage, in conversation with Maradas; they stand far forward, to one side of the proscenium. Max Piccolomini comes down opposite them, alone, lost in thought, abstracted. In the space between them, slightly upstage, Buttler, Isolani, Götz, Tiefenbach, and Colalto gather; Terzky joins them.

ISOLANI (while the Company is coming forward).

Night! Night, Colalto! Lieutenant General, night!

Or rather, I should say “Good morning” to you.

GOETZ (to Tiefenbach). Prost, Brother! Prost and blessings!

TIEFENBACH. That was a banquet for a king!

GOETZ. Madame

The Countess knows a thing or two. She got

It from the Countess Dowager, God rest

Her soul. And what a chatelaine she was!

ISOLANI (wanting to leave). Lights here! Lights here!

TERZKY (approaching Isolani with the Oath).

Wait, Brother! Just two minutes more. There’s something1930

To sign here still.

ISOLANI. Oh, I’ll sign anything

You like, Friend. Just spare me the reading of it.

TERZKY. Let me not trouble you. It is the oath

That you’ve already read. A pen stroke merely.

(Isolani passes the sheet to Octavio.)

As you see fit. Whoever’s next. No ranks here.

(Octavio skims the text with apparent indifference; Terzky observes him from a distance.)

GOETZ (to Terzky). Count, by your leave. My warmest compliments.

TERZKY. But what’s your hurry! Have a nightcap. (To the Servants.) Hey!

GOETZ. Not up to it.

TERZKY. A little gaming?

GOETZ. Pardon!

TIEFENBACH (seating himself).

Forgive me, Lords. It’s hard to stand so long.

TERZKY. Make yourself comfortable, my Lord Field Marshal!1940

TIEFENBACH. My head is clear, my stomach’s strong. My legs,

However, now refuse to do their job.

ISOLANI (indicating his corpulence).

You’ve made them carry far too great a load.

(Octavio has signed and returned the sheet to Terzky, who gives it to Isolani. He goes to the table to sign.)

TIEFENBACH. The war in Pomerania did it to me,

We had to go out there in ice and snow,

And I will not recover all my days.

GOETZ. Oh, yes. The Swede did not inquire the season.161

(Terzky passes the sheet to Don Maradas, who goes to the table to sign.)

OCTAVIO (approaching Buttler).162

These bacchanals, permit me to remark,

My Lord, do not agree much with you either.

I’d think that you prefer the uproar of1950

A battle to the rowdiness of feasting.

BUTTLER. I must confess, it’s not quite to my taste.

OCTAVIO (coming closer, confidentially).

And not to mine, I happily assure you.

I’m gratified, most honored Colonel Buttler,

To find that we are so well matched in thinking.

At most, a handful of good friends, about

A small round table, with a little glass

Of Tokay, open hearts and honest talk—

That’s what I love.

BUTTLER. And I, when’t can be done.

(The sheet reaches Buttler, who goes to the table to sign. The proscenium has emptied, leaving the two Piccolomini, each on a side.)

OCTAVIO (having silently observed his son from a distance, comes closer).

You were away for quite a while, my boy.1960

MAX (turns away, confused).

I—urgent business held me up so long.

OCTAVIO. And I observe that you are still not here.

MAX. You know a noisy party leaves me silent.

OCTAVIO (coming still closer).

I’m not to know what kept you for so long?

(Sly.) And even Terzky knows?

MAX. What does he know?

OCTAVIO (with meaning).

He was the only one who did not miss you.

ISOLANI (who has been watching from a distance, joins them).

Quite right! Surprise his baggage train, old father!

And strike against his quarters! This won’t do!

TERZKY (bringing the Oath).

All hands on deck? Has everybody signed?

OCTAVIO. They’ve signed.1970

TERZKY (calling). Say! Who has yet to sign the oath?

BUTTLER (to Terzky). Go take a count. It should be thirty names.

TERZKY. A cross is here.

TIEFENBACH. That cross is mine.

ISOLANI (to Terzky). He cannot write. His cross is always valid

And recognized alike by Jew and Christian.

OCTAVIO (pressing Max).

Let’s leave together, Colonel. It’s now late.

TERZKY. One Piccolomini alone has signed.

ISOLANI (indicating Max).

It’s this guest from the graveyard that you miss.163

He’s not been worth the candle this whole evening.

(Max takes the sheet from Terzky and stares into it blankly.)

Scene Seven

As above. Illo comes out of the back room, holding the golden Wine Cup. He is very excited. Götz and Buttler follow, trying to quiet him.

ILLO. Wha’d’y want? Leave me alone!

GOETZ and BUTTLER. Illo! No more!

ILLO (goes to Octavio and embraces him, drinking).

Octavio! This is for you! Let’s drown1980

All our bad feelings, toast our brotherhood!

I know you’ve never loved me, nor I you,

By God! But now we’ll let bygones be bygones.

I value you just endlessly, I am your

(kissing him repeatedly)

Best friend and, so that you all know, anyone

Who calls him a bad apple—he will have

To do with me!

TERZKY (aside). Shush! Have you lost your mind?

Remember, Illo, where you are!

ILLO (guileless). Why should I? They are all our closest friends.

(Looking about the whole room with a contented face.)

There’s not a rogue among them, to my pleasure.1990

TERZKY (urgently, to Buttler).

Just get him out of here. I beg you, Buttler!

(Buttler leads him to the bar.)

ISOLANI (to Max, who has been staring absently into the sheet).

Soon finished, Brother? Studied it enough?

MAX (as if coming out of a dream).

What’s wanted?

TERZKY and ISOLANI (together). That you put your name to it.

(Octavio, in the distance, looks across at him anxiously.)

MAX (returning the sheet).

We’ll let it wait till morning. Business matters.

I can’t address them now. Send it tomorrow.

TERZKY. Consider now—

ISOLANI. Wake up! Just sign it, what?

The youngest at the table, you! You’d not

Pretend to know more than the rest of us?

Look here! Your father’s signed and all the others.

TERZKY (to Octavio). Use your prestige. Explain—2000

OCTAVIO. My son’s of age.

ILLO (has set the Wine Cup on the bar).

What’s all the talk?

TERZKY. Won’t sign the oath. Refuses.

MAX. I said there’s time enough for this tomorrow.

ILLO. There isn’t time. We’ve signed it, all of us,

And so must you. You have to sign your name.

MAX. Sleep well, Illo.

ILLO. Hey! Not so fast! Oh, no!

The Prince is to find out just who his friends are.

(All the Company gathers around them.)

MAX. My sentiments are well known to the Prince

And to all others. Antics are not needed.

ILLO. The thanks, this, that the Prince gets for preferring

These Latins always to the rest of us!2010

TERZKY (deeply alarmed, to the Commanders pressing in).

The wine he’s drunk is talking. Please don’t listen.

ISOLANI (laughs). No wine invents. It only prattles freely.

ILLO. Who isn’t for me is against me. Oh,

These tender consciences! If by the back door,

By a short clause—

TERZKY (hastily). He’s mad! Pay no attention!

ILLO (shouting). By a short clause they cannot save themselves—

A clause? The devil take this cursed clause—

MAX (coming to attention, looks again into the sheet).

What is there here so highly dangerous?

You make me curious. What have I missed?

TERZKY (aside). Illo, what have you done? You’ve ruined us!2020

TIEFENBACH (to Colalto). I noticed. It read differently the first time.

GOETZ. I thought so, too.

ISOLANI. What’s that to me? Where others

Have put their name I’ll gladly put mine, too.

TIEFENBACH. Before the meal there was a reservation,

A clause about our service to the Kaiser.

BUTTLER (to the Commanders).

For shame, my Lords. Consider what’s in play here.

The question is: Are we to keep our General

Or shall we be obliged to let him go?

We can’t split hairs when so much is at stake.

ISOLANI (to one of the Generals).

When you received your regiment, the Prince did 2030

Not wrap himself in clauses, I dare say?

TERZKY (to Götz). And when you got to sell supplies that yield

You full one thousand pistols every year?

ILLO. They’re rascals, those who would make rogues of us!

You’re discontent? Then take it up with me!

TIEFENBACH. Now, now. They’re only talking.

MAX (has read the sheet, which he returns). Till tomorrow.

ILLO (stammering with rage, no longer master of himself, brandishing the

sheet in one hand, his sword in the other).

Sign, Judas!

ISOLANI. Fie, Illo!


Drop that sword!

MAX (having blocked his hand and disarmed him, to Count Terzky).

Get him to bed!

(He goes off. Illo, cursing and scolding, is restrained by certain Commanders as the Company breaks up.)


Act Five

A Room in Octavio Piccolomini’s quarters. Night.

Scene One

Octavio Piccolomini. Chamberlain lighting his way. Then Max Piccolomini.

OCTAVIO. Direct my son to me as soon as he

Comes in. What is the hour?

CHAMBERLAIN. It’s almost morning.164

OCTAVIO. Set down your lamp just here. We’ll not lie down2040

Tonight. But you may now retire to bed.

(Chamberlain goes off. Octavio moves about the room, reflecting. Max Piccolomini enters unobserved and watches him in silence for a moment.)

MAX. Are you annoyed with me, Octavio?

God knows, I didn’t start that ugly fight.

I saw that you had signed. What you approve

Is good enough for me. But still—you know—

I follow my own lights and no one else’s.

OCTAVIO (goes to him and embraces him).

And so you should, my boy. You’re better guided

So than by the example of your father.

MAX. Explain yourself more clearly.

OCTAVIO. Very gladly.

After what’s happened lately, you and I2050

Should keep no further secrets from each other.

(They sit down together.)

Max, tell me: What do you think of that oath

They circulated for our signature?

MAX. I see no danger in it. Just that I have

No love for things so formal and contrived.

OCTAVIO. You’d have no other grounds to have refused

The signature that they were pressing for?

MAX. This was a serious move. I was distracted.

It seemed to me to be not all that urgent.

OCTAVIO. Be frank, Max: Had you no suspicion—2060


Suspicion? What of? No, not in the least.

OCTAVIO. Then thank your angel, Piccolomini!

He pulled you back from the abyss, unknowing.

MAX. I don’t know what you mean.

OCTAVIO. Then hear it now:

They wanted you to give your name to a piece

Of treachery, you to repudiate

Your oath and duties with a single pen stroke.

MAX (on his feet). Octavio!

OCTAVIO. Stay seated. You have much

To hear from me tonight, young friend. You’ve lived

For years in an incomprehensible2070

Blindness. The blackest plot spins out before

Your eyes, a hellish power beclouds the good

Lights of your senses—I am forced to speak,

To rip the blindfold from your eyes.

MAX. Before

You do, consider carefully: If this

Is mere conjecture—and I fear it is

No more—spare me. I’m not prepared to hear

It quietly.

OCTAVIO. However grave your grounds

May be for fleeing these, my better lights,

Mine are more urgent yet for forcing them2080

Upon you. Mark! To your heart’s innocence

I could entrust you and to your good judgment,

Did I not sense, not see, a net being spread to

Ensnare that heart. The secret

(fixing his gaze on him) you are keeping

From me obliges me to tell you mine.

MAX (attempts to answer, cannot, and drops his gaze).

OCTAVIO (after a pause).

So hear me. They’re deceiving you, playing

Disgracefully with you and all of us.

The Duke is striking attitudes as if

To leave the army; all the while they’re taking

Measures to steal the army from the Kaiser2090

And lead it over to the enemy.

MAX. I know this Jesuitical tale. I never

Thought you’d be one to retail it to me.

OCTAVIO. The mouth from which you have it bears you witness:

This is no Jesuitical tale I tell you.

MAX. What kind of mad man do they think the Duke?

He could intend to try and lure away

Full thirty thousand proven troops, staunch soldiers,

Among them good one thousand noblemen?

Seduce them from their oath, their duty, honor,2100

Combine them for a piece of purest roguery?

OCTAVIO. He wishes nothing quite so base. What he

Would have of us bears a more harmless name:

He wants to make the realm a gift of peace.165

The Kaiser, though, abhors this sort of peace,

And he would undertake to force it on him!

He wants to pacify all parts and for

His trouble he proposes to keep back

Bohemia, which he occupies already.

MAX. Has he deserved, Octavio, that we—2110

We two—think so unworthily of him?

OCTAVIO. What we think here has no importance. None!

The matter itself speaks, gives clearest proofs.

You know how bad our standing is at Court,

My son. You have no inkling, though, of the

Intrigues, of the mendacity they’ve used

To sow a mutiny here in camp. The bonds

That bind the officer to sovereign, bind the

Soldier to civil life have been dissolved.

Released from law and duty, he now lies2120

Ensconced before the state that he should shield

And makes to turn his very sword against it.

It’s now gone so far that the Kaiser lives

In fear of his own army, he suspects

Treachery in his own citadel and city.

Why, he’s about to send his youngest heirs

To safety, not before the Swede, the Lutheran—

Oh, no! Before his own sworn troops and generals.

MAX. Enough! You frighten me, this shakes me. For

I know one often trembles at mere shadows.2130

But still—false fear can lead to true disaster.

OCTAVIO. This fear’s not false. A civil war has flared,

The most unnatural of all wars, if we

Do not go out, confront it swiftly, quell it.

Among the captains, many have been bought,

The loyalty of the subalterns wavers,

Regiments waver, garrisons are wavering.

Our strongholds have been put in strangers’ hands;

To Schafgotsch, that tenebrous figure, they’ve

Assigned the whole Silesian squad,166 to Terzky2140

Five regiments, both horse and foot, to Illo

And Kinsky, Buttler, Isolan, our best

Outfitted units.

MAX. Also to us two.

OCTAVIO. Because they think they have us and that they

Can tempt us with their glittering promises.

The principalities Glatz and Sagan are

My portion of these spoils, and I see all

Too clearly the hook on which they think they can

Catch you.

MAX. Oh, no! No! No! I tell you, No!

OCTAVIO. Open your eyes! Why did they order us2150

To Pilsen, do you think? To seek advice?

Since when has Friedland needed our advice?

We’re summoned here to sell ourselves to him,

If we refuse—to be his hostages.

That’s why Count Gallas kept himself away.

And you’d not see your father here if higher

Duty had not compelled his coming, too.

MAX. Never did he pretend we’d not been called here

For his sake. He admits he needs our help

To hold out long. He’s done so much for us2160

That we are duty-bound to do for him.

OCTAVIO. Do you know what it is that we’re to do?

That Illo’s drunkenness betrayed it all.

Remember what you saw and heard. Does that

Falsified oath, its crucial clause omitted,

Not show they’re binding us to nothing good?

MAX. That business with the oath last evening is

For me no more than yet another trick

Contrived by Illo. Such a race of meddlers

Will always drive it past the point. The Duke,2170

They see, has fallen out at Court. They think

They’ll fix it when they drive the breach beyond

Repair. The Duke, believe me, knows nothing of it.

OCTAVIO. It pains me to destroy a faith that you

Believe so well-founded. Here, though, there’s no sparing

You. You must act, take measures right away.

Therefore, I’ll tell you: Everything I’ve said—

Which you disbelieve—I have it from himself,

From his own proper mouth.

MAX (much aroused). Not possible!

OCTAVIO. From him I heard what I’d long since discovered2180

By other avenues that I had opened:

That he plans to go over to the Swede

And at the head of the united armies

Compel the Kaiser to—

MAX. He’s hot and rash.

The Court insulted him quite painfully

At a bad moment—that may be—and he

Forgot himself this one time, was too quick.

OCTAVIO. In cold blood he confessed these things to me,

And having misconstrued astonishment as

Fear, let me see the letters of the Swedes2190

And Saxons that raise hopes of certain aid.

MAX. It cannot be, can not be, can not be!

You see that it cannot! If you had shown

Him your repugnance, sure, he would have heard.

Or you’d not be alive and standing here.

OCTAVIO. It’s true: while I expressed my reservations

And warned him urgently and earnestly, I

Concealed my true repugnance and my deepest


MAX. You could be so false? My father’s

Not like that. I had doubts about your words2200

As you denounced him. Now you denounce yourself.

OCTAVIO. I had no wish to penetrate his secret.

MAX. His confidence deserved an honest answer.

OCTAVIO. He was not worthy of an honest answer.

MAX. And still less worthy was he of deception.

OCTAVIO. My dearest boy, it is no simple thing

To keep a childlike spotlessness in life

The way an inner voice tells us we must do.167

Embattled with the worst dishonesty,

No honest disposition can remain so.2210

The curse of the bad deed is that it hatches

Unending generations of bad deeds.

I split no hairs; I merely do what’s mine

To do. The Kaiser puts my conduct to me.

It would be better, could we follow our

Own heart. But one who does denies himself not

A few goals for the good. Our proper task is

Always to serve the Kaiser well, my son.

What our hearts say must be another matter.

MAX. Today I’m fated not to understand you. 2220

The Prince, you say, in honesty disclosed

An evil purpose. You claim you deceived

Him for a good one. Stop! I beg you. You’ll

Not get my friend. Don’t make me lose my father.

OCTAVIO (suppressing his feelings).

You’ve not heard everything, my boy. There’s more.

(After a pause.)

The Duke of Friedland has made preparation.

He trusts his stars. He plans to fall upon

Us by surprise, thinks the Bohemian crown

Already his. He errs. We, too, have taken

Measures. He’ll grasp his fate, prepared in secret.2230

MAX. Do nothing rash! Don’t act in haste, I beg you!

OCTAVIO. He‘s crept his dark way forward softly, softly,

And softly, slyly, vengeance has crept after.

It stands behind him now, concealed, unseen.

Just one false step, and he is overtaken.

You saw that Questenberg spent time with me;

His public mandate you’re acquainted with;

He had a secret one, for me alone.

MAX. Am I to know it?

OCTAVIO. Max! With this disclosure

I lay the fortunes of the realm, along with2240

Your father’s very life, into your hands.

You cherish Wallenstein, a band of honor

And love has fastened you to him since first youth.

You entertain the wish—oh, let me run

Ahead of your still hesitating trust—

The hope to belong to him more intimately


MAX. Father—

OCTAVIO. I have every confidence in

Your heart. But am I sure of your composure?

Have you the steel to come before this man

And give no sign, once I tell you his fate?2250

MAX. This scruple, after you’ve told me his guilt!

OCTAVIO (takes a paper from a casket and hands it to him).

MAX. What’s this? How—An Imperial letter patent—

OCTAVIO. Read it.

MAX (having cast a glance into the sheet).

The Prince condemned and outlawed!


It is.

MAX. But this is monstrous! A mistake!

OCTAVIO. Continue. Brace yourself.

MAX (reads on, then looks at his father, astonished).

What? You? You are—

OCTAVIO. Just for the interim. Until the King

Of Hungary can reach the army.168 Its

Supreme command has been transferred to me.

MAX. Do you think you can snatch this thing from him?

Not for a moment! Father, Father, they’ve2260

Imposed a fatal office on you. You

You’d undertake to execute this charge?

Disarm this mighty man among his army?

Surrounded there by loyal thousands? Never!

You’re lost! And all of us along with you!

OCTAVIO. What I must dare to do is known to me.

I stand in the Almighty’s hand; it will

Protect the pious Kaiser’s house with its

Great shield and sweep away the work of darkness.

The Kaiser still has loyal servants, here2270

In camp are trusty men enough who’ll take

The side of justice with élan. The loyal

Have all been warned, the rest are under watch.

I only wait for the first step, and then—

MAX. You’d move against him on suspicion merely?

OCTAVIO. Tyrannical measures aren’t the Kaiser’s way.

He’ll punish, not the wish, the deed alone.

The Prince still holds his fate in his two hands:

He leaves this crime unconsummated—then he’ll

Be quietly removed from his command2280

In favor of the Kaiser’s son and heir.

An honorable exile on his holdings

Will count as favor more than punishment.

At the first step he takes, however, we—

MAX. And what would you consider such a step?

He’ll never take it. You, though, could misjudge

(As you have done) a fully harmless one.

OCTAVIO. However culpable the Prince’s aims,

All steps that he has taken publicly

Were open to a mild construing. I2290

Intend to make no use of this sheet, short

Of a committed deed that proves high treason

Incontrovertibly, and so condemns him.

MAX. And who shall be the judge of this?

OCTAVIO. You shall.

MAX. Then we shall never need it! Since I have

Your word that you’ll not act before you have

Persuaded even me.

OCTAVIO. It’s possible?

You—knowing what you do—can still hold him

For innocent?

MAX (vivid). Your judgment can be wrong,

But not my heart. (More temperate.) A spirit such as his2300

Cannot be grasped like any other. Just

As he attaches his fate to the stars,

Just so does he resemble them in secret,

Eternally incomprehensible,

And marvelous rotation. Believe me, he

Is wronged. It all will reach solution yet,

And we shall see him rise, clean, pure, and shining,

Out of the depths of all this black suspicion.

OCTAVIO. We’ll see.

Scene Two

As above. The Chamberlain. Then a Courier.

OCTAVIO. Yes?2310

CHAMBERLAIN. There’s a courier at the door.

OCTAVIO. So early?

Who is it? Where’s he from?

CHAMBERLAIN. He wouldn’t say.

OCTAVIO. Admit him. Keep strict silence in this matter.

(The Chamberlain goes off. A Cornet enters.)

It’s you, Cornet? Count Gallas has sent you?

I’ll take his letter.

CORNET. I’ve an oral message.

Lieutenant General Gallas wouldn’t risk—

OCTAVIO. Let’s hear it, then.

CORNET. He bade me say—I may speak


OCTAVIO. My son is well informed.

CORNET. We have him.

OCTAVIO. Who’s meant here?

CORNET. It’s the go-between, Sesina.169

OCTAVIO (quickly). You have him?

CORNET. Since two days ago, in the

Bohemian Forest. Captain Mohrbrand caught him2320

At daybreak, on the way to Regensburg,

Carrying dispatches to the Swedish side.

OCTAVIO. And the dispatches?

CORNET. Were directed right

Away straight to Vienna, with the prisoner.

OCTAVIO. At last! At last! Extraordinary news!

That man contains a treasury of things

We want to know. Was much discovered on him?

CORNET. A good six packets sealed with Terzky arms.

OCTAVIO. None in the Prince’s hand?

CORNET. Not that I know.170

OCTAVIO. Sesina, then?2330

CORNET. Seemed very badly shaken

To hear that he’d be taken to Vienna.

Count Altring heartened him by saying he

Need only willingly confess to all.

OCTAVIO. Altringer’s with your master? I heard he

Was lying sick at Linz.

CORNET. For three days now

He’s been at Frauenberg with General Gallas.171

They’ve gathered sixteen squads together, all

Elite recruits, and bid me tell you they

Are waiting only to receive your orders.

OCTAVIO. In few days much can happen. When must you2340


CORNET. I, too, am to await your orders.

OCTAVIO. Remain till evening.

CORNET. Yes, sir. (About to go.)

OCTAVIO. No one’s seen you?

CORNET. No, not a soul. The Capuchins received me,

As always, by the wicket to the cloister.

OCTAVIO. Go, then, and get some rest. Keep yourself hidden.

I plan to make you ready before evening.

Affairs have reached the point of rapid change,

And sooner than the day that’s breaking now

Declines to dark a fatal lot must fall.

(Exit Cornet.)

Scene Three

Both Piccolomini.

OCTAVIO. What now, my boy? We’ll soon be clear on this,2350

Since everything—it’s known—went through Sesina.

MAX (who underwent an inner struggle during the whole previous scene, now resolutely).

I’ll look for light by quicker means. Farewell!

OCTAVIO. Where to? Don’t go!

MAX. The Prince.

OCTAVIO (startled). What did you say?

MAX (coming back). If you were thinking I would play a role in

This play of yours, you’ve got me badly wrong.

My way must travel straight. I can’t be true

In tongue and in my heart be false. Can’t let

Myself be trusted as a friend and salve

My conscience with the thought that he is on

His own, that I have never lied to him.2360

What someone takes me for, that I must be.

I’m going to the Duke. Today yet I’ll

Urge him to salvage his good name before

The world, to rip through your men’s artful web

By taking one straight honest step.

OCTAVIO. You’d do that?

MAX. I would. Don’t doubt it.

OCTAVIO. Then I’ve got you wrong

Indeed. I counted on a sober son

Who’d thank the saving hand that pulled him back

From the abyss. I find a blind man whom

Two pretty eyes have made a fool of, passion2370

Befogs, and whom broad daylight cannot heal.

Go ask him! Be so unconsidered as to

Betray your father’s secret and the Kaiser’s.

Oblige me to a noisy breach before

The time. Now, when a miracle has kept

My secret safe, has lulled sharp-eyed suspicion,

Let me see my own son, all wild and witless,

Pull down a painfully erected work

Of statecraft.

MAX. Statecraft! How I curse your statecraft!

You, with your statecraft, will yet drive him to2380

A step—Why, you, because you want him guilty,

Are capable of making him so. Oh,

This cannot end well. And, however it

Falls out, I sense a true disastrous turn

Approaching. For this regal man, in falling,

Will bring a world down in the aftermath.

And like a ship on the high seas that flames

Up suddenly and, bursting, flies apart,

Flinging its crew out between sea and sky,

Just so will he take all of us, attached2390

As we are to his fortunes, down with him.

You do as you see fit. However, grant

That I conduct myself in my own fashion.

No impure motive sully our relations.

Before the day is over, we shall know

If I must lose my father or my friend.

(As he goes off, the Curtain falls.)