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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
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Sancho the Brave

By Lope de Vega (1562–1635)

  • From the ‘Estrella de Sevilla’: Translation of Mary Jane Christie Serrano
  • [The King of Castile sees Estrella, called for her beauty the Star of Seville, during a visit which he makes to that city, and becomes enamored of her. He summons her brother, Busto Tabera, to the palace, and offers to confer on him various dignities and honors; which Tabera’s independence of spirit, and later his suspicions of the King’s motives, make him slow to accept. The same night the King, with the connivance of a slave-girl, obtains entrance to Tabera’s house during the latter’s absence; but is surprised at the moment of his entrance by Tabera, who returns unexpectedly. Tabera challenges the King; and dissatisfied with his answers, draws upon him. The King, to avoid fighting, reveals himself; but Tabera refuses to credit his word, and the King is compelled to draw in self-defense. The noise brings the servants, with lights, to the scene; and in the confusion the King escapes.
  • Irritated and humiliated by what has passed, the King sends for Sancho Ortiz, and requires him to avenge his outraged honor on a man who has been guilty of the crime of lèse-majesté, and whose name is written in a folded paper which he hands Ortiz. At the same time the King hands Ortiz another paper, relieving him of responsibility for the deed. This paper Ortiz destroys, saying that honorable men require no bond to hold them to their plighted word. On opening the other paper, after leaving the King, Sancho finds to his dismay that the name written in it is that of Tabera, his dearest friend, and the brother of Estrella, to whom he is betrothed. After a cruel struggle with himself, he provokes a quarrel with Tabera and kills him. Estrella petitions the King to deliver up to her for punishment the slayer of her brother. The King grants her prayer, hoping meantime to save Sancho’s life without disclosing his own instrumentality in Tabera’s death. Estrella goes veiled to the prison, and with the King’s ring which he has given her, obtains Sancho’s release. Leading him out of the prison, she shows him a horse which she has provided for him, and tells him to mount it and escape. Sancho refuses, and asks her to unveil herself. She does so, and attempts to shake his resolution, which is however only the more confirmed when he sees who his liberator is. Sancho returns to the prison and Estrella to her house. The play ends with the scenes given.]

  • Present:A Servant, the King; afterwards the Alcaldes

    SERVANT—My lord,

    The two Alcaldes on your Highness wait.

    King—Bid them with their wands of office enter.[Exit Servant.]

    King—The promise that to Sancho Ortiz I gave,

    If in my power it lie will I fulfill;

    But of my part in this most cruel deed

    Repented truly, letting no hint escape.

    Enter the two Alcaldes
    Don Pedro—Great King, the crime being fully proved,

    The law demands the sentence.
    King—Pronounce it.

    Only, being fathers of the country,

    I charge you see to it that it be just.

    And clemency than justice is ofttimes

    More wise. Sancho Ortiz is of Seville

    A magistrate, if he who at his sword

    Met death a magistrate of Seville was.

    Mercy the one demands, if the other justice.

    Farfan—Alcaldes are we of Seville, my lord;

    In us you have reposed your confidence,

    In us your honor have reposed. These wands

    Do represent your Highness; and if false

    In aught they prove to their most sacred trust,

    They do yourself offend. Straight they do look

    To heaven, whence they derive their powers;

    But bending to the corrupt desires of men

    They turn from their high source away.

    King—Thus they should bend, but only thus;—nor would I

    That, in the sentence, law shall serve the ends

    Of justice.
    Don Pedro—My lord, your Highness is for us

    Justice and law; and on your judgments hang

    Our welfare. Bid him live and he shall live;

    For from the King’s decree is no appeal.

    Kings are by God appointed; God from the brow

    Of Saul the sovereign crown doth take, to place it

    On that of lowly David.
    King—Go; find what the sentence is,

    What the defense, and let Ortiz be led

    Forth to the punishment the law ordains.[Exit Farfan.]

    Don Pedro de Guzman, a word with you

    Don Pedro—What are your Highness’s commands?

    King—The death of Sancho, friend Don Pedro,

    Will not restore the man he killed to life;

    And thus, ’twere my desire, a punishment

    Less harsh imposing, that to Gibraltar

    Or to Granada we should banish him,

    Where in my service fighting he may find

    A voluntary death. What say you?
    Don Pedro—This:

    That I am called Don Pedro de Guzman,

    And hold myself, my liege, at your command.

    My life, my fortune, and my sword are yours.

    King—A close embrace, Don Pedro de Guzman.

    Nor less from your true heart did I expect.

    Go now, and God be with you; send me hither

    Presently Farfan de Ribera.[Aside.]Thus

    Flattery doth level mountains.[Exit Don Pedro.]

    Enter Farfan
    Farfan—My lord,

    Your orders I await.
    King—It troubled me,

    Farfan de Ribera, that Sancho Ortiz

    Should die; but milder counsels now prevail,—

    That death be changed to banishment, which is

    Indeed a death prolonged, a living death.

    Your voice alone is wanting to confirm

    The sentence.
    Farfan—Command Farfan de Ribera,

    My lord, something of weightier import;

    Nor doubt but that my loyalty no doubt

    Shall hold from serving you in all things.

    Do you prove yourself Ribera, adorned

    With all the virtues of an earlier day,

    Your constant, true companions. Go, and God

    Be with you.[Exit Farfan.]The business was well managed.

    Sancho Ortiz from death escapes: my pledge

    Is thus redeemed; and none doth aught suspect.

    As general of some frontier shall he go;

    With which at once I banish and reward him.

    Enter Alcaldes
    Don Pedro—The sentence now, great King, is signed

    And only waits your Highness’s approval.

    King—Doubtless the sentence such as I desired

    That it should be, such noble lords have made it.

    Farfan—’Tis such as doth our loyalty approve.

    King[reads]—“We do decree, and so pronounce the sentence,

    That Sancho Ortiz be in the public square

    Beheaded.”—Is this the sentence, caitiffs,

    That you have signed! Thus, caitiffs, to your King

    Your pledge you keep. God’s death!
    Farfan—The pledge he gives

    The least of us is ready, as you have proof,

    My lord, descended from the judgment seat,

    With his life to redeem; but seated there,

    No human power, nor earth and heaven combined,

    Can make him from the right one jot to swerve

    In word or deed.
    Don Pedro—As vassals our obedience

    You command: as judges your authority

    Extends not over us; to conscience only

    Our fealty, as such, being due. In this

    Its rights the council of Seville will know

    How to maintain.
    King—’Tis well. Enough. You all

    Do shame me.

    Enter Don Arias, Estrella
    Don Arias—Estrella is here.
    King—What course

    To take, Don Arias? What counselest thou,

    In this so great perplexity?

    Enter the Warden with Don Sancho
    Warden—My lord,

    Sancho Ortiz here waits your pleasure.
    Don Sancho—Great King,

    Wherefore with death dost thou not end my woes?

    Wherefore, the rigor of the law applying,

    My cruel sufferings dost thou not end?

    Busto Tabera at my hand met death:

    Let death be my award; let him who slays

    Be slain. Show mercy, meting justice.

    What warrant hadst thou for Tabera’s death?

    Don Sancho—A paper.
    King—Signed by whom?
    Don Sancho—That would the paper

    Most clearly tell, did it speak; but papers torn

    Confusèd accents utter. All I know

    Is, that I slew the man I held most dear,

    For that I so had pledged my word. But here

    Estrella at thy feet the sentence waits

    To death that dooms me,—vengeance all too slight.

    King—Estrella, with a noble of my house,

    A gallant youth, and in Castile a prince

    And powerful lord, we have betrothèd you;

    And in return the favor of Sancho’s pardon

    We ask, which ’tis not just that you deny.

    Estrella—If that I am betrothed, my sovereign liege,

    Let Sancho Ortiz go free; nor execute

    My vengeance.
    Don Sancho—Thy pardon thou dost grant me, then,

    For that his Highness has betrothed thee?

    Therefore it is I pardon thee.
    Don Sancho—And thus

    Thou art avenged for my offense?
    Estrella—And satisfied.

    Don Sancho—I accept my life, that so thy hopes attain

    Fulfillment; although to die were sweeter.

    King—You are free.
    Farfan—This to Seville is an offense,

    My lord. Sancho Ortiz must die.
    King[to Don Arias]—What now

    To do? These people humiliate me,

    And put me to confusion.
    Don Arias—Speak.

    I to the law will answer for Tabera’s death,

    For I did cause it; I did command the deed.

    To exonerate Sancho this suffices.

    Don Sancho—For this exoneration only did

    My honor wait. The King commanded me

    To kill him. So barbarous a deed I’d not

    Committed, had he not commanded it.

    King—He speaks the truth.
    Farfan—Seville is satisfied,

    For since thou didst command the deed,

    Doubtless he gave thee cause.
    King—Amazed the Sevillian

    Nobleness of soul I contemplate.
    Don Sancho—I

    To fulfill the sentence of my banishment,

    When thou another promise dost fulfill

    Thou gavest me, will depart.
    King—I will fulfill it.

    Don Sancho—The boon I asked, that thou for bride shouldst give me

    The maid that I should name.
    King—The boon is granted

    Don Sancho—The hand of Doña Estrella then I claim;

    And here a suppliant at her feet I crave

    Pardon for my offense.
    Estrella—Sancho Ortiz,

    I am another’s now.
    Don Sancho—Another’s!

    Don Sancho—Then is the sentence of my death pronounced!

    King—Estrella, I have given my royal word,

    And should fulfill it. What answerest thou?

    Estrella—That as thou willest so be it. I am his.

    Don Sancho—And I am hers.
    King—What wants there further, then?

    Don Sancho—Accord.
    Estrella—And this there could not be between us,

    Living together.
    Don Sancho—’Tis true; and therefore

    I do absolve thee from thy promise.

    From thine I do absolve thee. The slayer

    To see forever of my brother, in bed,

    At board, must needs afflict me.

    Sancho—And me, to be forever with the sister

    Of him I slew unjustly, holding him dear

    As my own soul.
    Estrella—So then we are free?
    Don Sancho—Yes.

    Estrella—Then fare thee well.
    Don Sancho—Farewell.
    Estrella—My lord, the man

    Who slew my brother, though I do adore him,

    Can never be my husband.[Exit.]
    Don Sancho—Nor I, my lord,

    Because I adore her, do count it just

    Her husband that I should be.[Exit.]