A monologue from the play by Lord Byron

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  • NOTE: This monologue is reprinted from Lord Byron: Six Plays. Lord Byron. Los Angeles: Black Box Press, 2007.
  • ANGIOLINA: Sage Benintende, now chief Judge of Venice,
    I speak to thee in answer to yon Signor.
    Inform the ribald Steno, that his words
    Ne'er weighed in mind with Loredano's daughter,
    Further than to create a moment's pity
    For such as he is: would that others had
    Despised him as I pity! I prefer
    My honour to a thousand lives, could such
    Be multiplied in mine, but would not have
    A single life of others lost for that
    Which nothing human can impugn—the sense
    Of Virtue, looking not to what is called
    A good name for reward, but to itself.
    To me the scorner's words were as the wind
    Unto the rock: but as there are—alas!
    Spirits more sensitive, on which such things
    Light as the Whirlwind on the waters; souls
    To whom Dishonour's shadow is a substance
    More terrible than Death, here and hereafter;
    Men whose vice is to start at Vice's scoffing,
    And who, though proof against all blandishments
    Of pleasure, and all pangs of Pain, are feeble
    When the proud name on which they pinnacled
    Their hopes is breathed on, jealous as the eagle
    Of her high aiery; let what we now
    Behold, and feel, and suffer, be a lesson
    To wretches how they tamper in their spleen
    With beings of a higher order. Insects
    Have made the lion mad ere now; a shaft
    I' the heel o'erthrew the bravest of the brave;
    A wife's Dishonour was the bane of Troy;
    A wife's Dishonour unkinged Rome for ever;
    An injured husband brought the Gauls to Clusium,
    And thence to Rome, which perished for a time;
    An obscene gesture cost Caligula
    His life, while Earth yet bore his cruelties;
    A virgin's wrong made Spain a Moorish province;
    And Steno's lie, couched in two worthless lines,
    Hath decimated Venice, put in peril
    A Senate which hath stood eight hundred years,
    Discrowned a Prince, cut off his crownless head,
    And forged new fetters for a groaning people!
    Let the poor wretch, like to the courtesan
    Who fired Persepolis, be proud of this,
    If it so please him—'twere a pride fit for him!
    But let him not insult the last hours of
    Him, who, whate'er he now is, was a Hero,
    By the intrusion of his very prayers;
    Nothing of good can come from such a source,
    Nor would we aught with him, nor now, nor ever:
    We leave him to himself, that lowest depth
    Of human baseness. Pardon is for men,
    And not for reptiles—we have none for Steno,
    And no resentment: things like him must sting,
    And higher beings suffer; 'tis the charter
    Of Life. The man who dies by the adder's fang
    May have the crawler crushed, but feels no anger:
    'Twas the worm's nature; and some men are worms
    In soul, more than the living things of tombs.