Plays of Roswitha (1923)/Callimachus

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For other versions of this work, see Callimachus (Hrotsvitha).
The Plays of Roswitha  (1923)  by Hrotsvitha, translated by Christabel Gertrude Marshall



The resurrection of Drusiana and Callimachus.

Callimachus cherishes a guilty passion for Drusiana, not only while she is alive but after she has died in the Lord. He dies from the bite of a serpent, but, thanks to the prayers of Saint John the Apostle, he is restored to life, together with Drusiana, and is born again in Christ.





CALLIMACHUS. My friends, a word with you.

FRIENDS. We are at your service as long as you please.

CALLIMACHUS. I should prefer to speak with you apart from the crowd.

FRIENDS. What pleases you, pleases us.

CALLIMACHUS. Then we will go to some quieter place where no one will interrupt us.

FRIENDS. Just as you like.


CALLIMACHUS. For a long time now I have been in great trouble. I hope that by confiding in you I shall find relief.

FRIENDS. When a man tells his friends of his sufferings it is only fair that they should try to share them.

CALLIMACHUS. I would to heaven that you could lighten this load upon my heart!

FRIENDS. Well, tell us precisely what is wrong. We will grieve with you, if we must. If not, we can do our best to distract your mind.


FRIENDS. What do you love?

CALLIMACHUS. A thing of beauty, a thing of grace!

FRIENDS. That is too vague! How can we tell from this what is the object of your love?


FRIENDS. Ah, now you say "woman" we all understand!

CALLIMACHUS. By woman, I mean a woman.

FRIENDS. Clearer still! But it is impossible to give an opinion on a subject until the subject is defined. So name the woman.


FRIENDS. What? The wife of Prince Andronicus?


FRIENDS. Nothing can come of that. She has been baptized.

CALLIMACHUS. What do I care, if I can win her love?

FRIENDS. You cannot.

CALLIMACHUS. What makes you say so?

FRIENDS. You are crying for the moon.

CALLIMACHUS. Am I the first to do so? Have I not the example of many others to encourage me?

FRIENDS. Now listen. This woman you sigh for is a follower of the holy Apostle John, and has devoted herself entirely to God. They say she will not even go to the bed of Andronicus although he is a devout Christian. Is it likely that she will listen to you?

CALLIMACHUS. I came to you for consolation, and instead you drive me to despair!

FRIENDS. We should be poor friends if we consoled and flattered you at the expense of the truth.

CALLIMACHUS. Since you refuse to advise me, I will go to her and pour out my soul in words that would melt a heart of stone!

FRIENDS. Fool! it is hopeless!

CALLIMACHUS. I defy the stars!

FRIENDS. We shall see.


CALLIMACHUS. Drusiana, listen to me! Drusiana, my deepest heart's love!

DRUSIANA. Your words amaze me, Callimachus. What can you want of me?

CALLIMACHUS. You are amazed?

DRUSIANA. I am astounded.

CALLIMACHUS. First I want to speak of love!

DRUSIANA. Love! What love?

CALLIMACHUS. That love with which I love you above all created things.

DRUSIANA. Why should you love me? You are not of my kin. There is no legal bond between us.

CALLIMACHUS. It is your beauty.

DRUSIANA. My beauty?


DRUSIANA. What is my beauty to you?

CALLIMACHUS. But little now—it is that which tortures me—but I hope that it may be much before long.

DRUSIANA. Not a word more. Leave me at once, for it is a sin to listen to you now that I understand your devilish meaning.

CALLIMACHUS. My Drusiana, do not kill me with your looks. Do not drive away one who worships you, but give back love for love.

DRUSIANA. Wicked, insidious words! They fall on deaf ears. Your love disgusts me. Understand I despise you!

CALLIMACHUS. You cannot make me angry, because I know that you would own my passion moves you if you were not ashamed.

DRUSIANA. It moves me to indignation, nothing else.

CALLIMACHUS. That feeling will not last.

DRUSIANA. I shall not change, be sure of that.

CALLIMACHUS. I would not be too sure.

DRUSIANA. You frantic, foolish man! Do not deceive yourself! Why delude yourself with vain hopes? What madness leads you to think that I shall yield? I have renounced even what is lawful—my husband's bed!

CALLIMACHUS. I call heaven and earth to witness that if you do not yield I will never rest from the fight for you. I will be as cunning as the serpent. I will use all my skill and strength to trap you.


DRUSIANA. O Lord Jesus, what use is my vow of chastity? My beauty has all the same made this man love me. Pity my fears, O Lord. Pity the grief which has seized me. I know not what to do. If I tell anyone what has happened, there will be disorder in the city on my account; if I keep silence, only Thy grace can protect me from falling into the net spread for me. O Christ, take me to Thyself. Let me die swiftly. Save me from being the ruin of a soul!

ANDRONICUS. Drusiana, Drusiana! Christ, what blow has fallen on me! Drusiana is dead. Run one of you and fetch the holy man John.


JOHN. Why do you weep, my son?

ANDRONICUS. Oh, horrible! O Lord, that life should suddenly become so hateful!

JOHN. What troubles you?

ANDRONICUS. Drusiana, your disciple, Drusiana—

JOHN. She has passed from the sight of men?

ANDRONICUS. Yes. And I am desolate.

JOHN. It is not right to mourn so bitterly for those whose souls we know rejoice in peace.

ANDRONICUS. God knows I do not doubt that her soul is in eternal joy, and that her incorrupt body will rise again. What grieves me so sorely is that in my presence just now she prayed for death. She begged she might die.

JOHN. You know her reason?

ANDRONICUS. I know it, and will tell you when I am less sick with grief.

JOHN. Come. We must celebrate the funeral rites with proper ceremony.

ANDRONICUS. There is a marble tomb near here in which the body shall be laid, and our steward Fortunatus shall guard her grave.

JOHN. It is right that she should be interred with honour. God rest her soul in peace.


CALLIMACHUS. Fortunatus, Fortunatus, what is to become of me? Death itself cannot quench my love for Drusiana!

FORTUNATUS. Poor wretch!

CALLIMACHUS. I shall die if you do not help me.

FORTUNATUS. How can I help you?

CALLIMACHUS. In this. You can let me look on her, dead.

FORTUNATUS. Up to now the body is sound and whole, I reckon because it was not wasted with disease. As you know she was taken in a moment by a fever.

CALLIMACHUS. Oh, how happy I should be if I might see for myself.

FORTUNATUS. If you are willing to pay me well, you can do what you like.

CALLIMACHUS. Here, take all I have with me, and be sure that I will give you more, much more, later.

FORTUNATUS. Quick, then! We'll go to the tomb.

CALLIMACHUS. You cannot go quickly enough for me.


FORTUNATUS. There lies the body. The face is not like the face of a corpse. The limbs show no sign of decay. You can take her to your heart.

CALLIMACHUS. O Drusiana, Drusiana, I worshipped you with my whole soul! I yearned from my very bowels to embrace you! And you repulsed me, and thwarted my desire. Now you are in my power, now I can wound you with my kisses, and pour out my love on you.

FORTUNATUS. Take care! A monstrous serpent! It is coming towards us!

CALLIMACHUS. A curse on me! And on you, Fortunatus, who led me on and urged me to this infamy. Wretch, may you die from the serpent's bite! Terror and remorse are killing me.


JOHN. Come, Andronicus, let us go to Drusiana's tomb, and commend her soul to Christ in prayer.

ANDRONICUS. It is like your holiness not to forget one who trusted in you.

JOHN. Behold! The invisible God appears to us, made visible in the form of a beautiful youth.

ANDRONICUS (To the Spectators). Tremble.[1]

JOHN. Lord Jesus, why hast Thou deigned to manifest Thyself to Thy servants in this place?

GOD. To raise Drusiana from the dead, and with her him who lies outside her tomb, have I come, that in them My Name may be glorified.

ANDRONICUS. How swiftly He was caught up again into heaven!

JOHN. I cannot altogether understand what this means.

ANDRONICUS. Let us go on to the tomb. It may be that there what is now obscure will become clear.


JOHN. In Christ's name, what miracle is this? The sepulchre is open, and Drusiana's body has been cast forth. And near it lie two other corpses enlaced in a serpent's coils.

ANDRONICUS. I begin to understand. This is Callimachus, who while he lived was consumed with an unholy passion for Drusiana. It troubled her greatly and her distress brought on a fever. She prayed that she might die.

JOHN. Such was her love of chastity.

ANDRONICUS. After her death the wretched man, crazed with love, and stung by the defeat of his wicked plan, was still more inflamed by desire.

JOHN. Pitiable creature!

ANDRONICUS. I have no doubt that he bribed this unworthy servant to give him the opportunity for committing a detestable crime.

JOHN. It is not to be believed!

ANDRONICUS. But death struck both of them down before the deed was accomplished.

JOHN. They met their deserts.

ANDRONICUS. What astonishes me most is that the Divine Voice should have promised the resurrection of him who planned the crime, and not of him who was only an accomplice. Maybe it is because the one, blinded by the passion of the flesh, knew not what he did, while the other sinned of deliberate malice.

JOHN. With what wonderful exactness the Supreme Judge examines the deeds of men! How even the scales in which He weighs the merits of each individual man! None can understand, none explain. Human wisdom cannot grasp the subtlety of the divine judgment.

ANDRONICUS. So we should be content to marvel at it, as it is not in our power to attain a precise knowledge of the causes of things.

JOHN. Often the sequel teaches us to understand better.

ANDRONICUS. Then, blessed John, do now what you were told to do. Raise Callimachus to life, and the knot of our perplexity may be untied.

JOHN. First I must invoke the name of Christ to drive away the serpent. Then Callimachus shall be raised.

ANDRONICUS. You are right; else the venom of the creature might do him fresh injury.

JOHN. Hence, savage monster! Away from this man, for now he is to serve Christ.

ANDRONICUS. Although the beast has no reason, it heeds your command.

JOHN. Not through my power, but through Christ's, it obeys me.

ANDRONICUS. Look! As swift as thought it has vanished!

JOHN. O God, the world cannot contain nor the mind of man comprehend the wonders of Thy incalculable unity, Thou Who alone art what Thou art! O Thou Who by mingling different elements canst create man, and by separating those elements again canst dissolve him, grant that the spirit and the body of this Callimachus may be joined once more, and that he may rise again wholly as he was, so that all looking on him may praise Thee, Who alone canst work miracles!

ANDRONICUS. Look! The breath of life stirs in him again, but he does not move.

JOHN. Calhmachus! In the name of Christ, arise, and confess your sin! Do not keep back the smallest grain of the truth.

CALLIMACHUS. I cannot deny that I came here for an evil purpose, but the pangs of love consumed me. I was beside myself.

JOHN. What mad folly possessed you? That you should dare think of such a shameful outrage to the chaste dead!

CALLIMACHUS. Yes, I was mad; but this knave Fortunatus led me on.

JOHN. And now, most miserable man, confess! Were you so vile as to do what you desired?

CALLIMACHUS. No! I could think of it, but I could not do it.

JOHN. What prevented you?

CALLIMACHUS. I had hardly touched the lifeless body—I had hardly drawn aside the shroud, when that fellow there, who has been the spark to my fire, died from the serpent's poison.

ANDRONICUS. A good riddance!

CALLIMACHUS. At the same moment there appeared to me a young man, beautiful yet terrible, who reverently covered the corpse again. From his flaming face and breast burning coals flew out, and one of them, falling on me, touched my face. I heard a voice say, "Callimachus, die to live!" It was then I breathed my last.

JOHN. Oh, heavenly grace! God delights not in the damnation of the wicked.

CALLIMACHUS. You have heard the dreadful tale of my temptation. I beg you not to delay the merciful remedy.

JOHN. I will not delay it.

CALLIMACHUS. I am overwhelmed by the thought of my abominable crime. I repent with my whole heart, and bewail my sin.

JOHN. That is but right, for a great fault must be atoned for by a great repentance.

CALLIMACHUS. Oh, if I could lay bare my heart and show you the bitter anguish I suffer, you would pity me!

JOHN. Not so. Rather does your suffering fill me with joy, for I know that it will be your salvation.

CALLIMACHUS. I loathe the delights of the flesh, and all the sins of my past life.

JOHN. That is well.

CALLIMACHUS. I truly repent my foul deed.

JOHN. Again that is well.

CALLIMACHUS. I am filled with such remorse that I have no desire to live unless I can be born again in Christ and changed.

JOHN. I do not doubt that heavenly grace is at work in you.

CALLIMACHUS. Oh, hasten then to help a man in dire need! Give me some comfort! Help me to throw off the grief which crushes me! Show me how a Pagan may change into a Christian, a fornicator into a chaste man! Oh, set my feet on the way of truth! Teach me to live mindful of the divine promises!

JOHN. Now blessed be the only Son of God, Who made Himself partaker of our frailty, and showed you mercy, my son Callimachus, by striking you down with the death which has brought you to the true life. So has He saved the creature He made in His own image from the death of the soul.

ANDRONICUS. Most strange, most wonderful miracle!

JOHN. O Christ, redemption of the world, and sinners' atonement, I have no words to praise Thee! The sweetness of Thy compassion amazes me. Now Thou dost win the sinner with gentleness, now Thou dost chastise him with just severity, and callest on him to do penance.

ANDRONICUS. Glory to His divine goodness!

JOHN. Who would have presumed to hope that a man like this, intent on a wicked deed when death overtook him, would be raised to life again, and given the chance of making reparation! Blessed be Thy name for ever and ever, O Thou Who alone canst do these wondrous things!

ANDRONICUS. Holy John, give me some comfort too. The love I bear my dead wife will not let me rest until I have seen her also called back from the dead.

JOHN. Drusiana, our Lord Jesus Christ calls you back to life!

DRUSIANA. Glory and praise to Thee, O Lord, Who hast made me live again!

CALLIMACHUS. Thanks be to that merciful power, my Drusiana, through which you, who left this life in such sorrow, rise again in joy!

DRUSIANA. Venerable father John, you have restored to life Callimachus, who loved me sinfully. Should you not also raise from the dead the man who betrayed my buried body?

CALLIMACHUS. Apostle of Christ, do not believe it! Will you release from the fetters of death this evil creature, this traitor, who led me away and persuaded me to venture on that horrible deed?

JOHN. You should not wish to deprive him of divine mercy, my son.

CALLIMACHUS. He tried to ruin me! He is not worthy of resurrection!

JOHN. We are taught by our faith that man must forgive his fellow-man if he would be forgiven by God.

ANDRONICUS. That is true.

JOHN. Remember that when the only Son of God, the Virgin's first-born, the one man born without a stain, came into this world, He found us all bowed under the heavy weight of sin.

ANDRONICUS. True again.

JOHN. And though not one of us was guildess, He deprived no one of His mercy, but offered Himself for all, and for all laid down His life in love.

ANDRONICUS. Had the Innocent One not been slain, none of us would have been saved.

JOHN. He cannot rejoice in the damnation of those whom He bought with His blood.

ANDRONICUS. To Him be praise!

JOHN. This is why we must not grudge the grace of God to anyone. It is no merit of ours if it abounds in ourselves.

CALLIMACHUS. Your rebuke makes me ashamed.

JOHN. Yet it is not for me to oppose you. Drusiana, inspired by God Himself shall raise this man.

DRUSIANA. Divine Essence without material form, Who hast made man in Thine own image and breathed into this clay the spirit of life, bring back the vital heat to the body of Fortunatus, that our triple resurrection may glorify the adorable Trinity.

JOHN. Amen.

DRUSIANA. Fortunatus, awake, and in the name of Christ burst the bonds of death.

FORTUNATUS. Who wakes me? Who takes my hand? Who calls me back to life?

JOHN. Drusiana.

FORTUNATUS. How can that be? Only a few days since she died.

JOHN. Yes, but now, through the power of Christ, she lives again.

FORTUNATUS. And is that Callimachus who stands there? By his sober and pious look one would think he is no longer dying of love for his Drusiana!

JOHN. All that is changed. Now he loves and serves Christ.


JOHN. It is true.

FORTUNATUS. If it is as you say, if Drusiana has restored me to life and Callimachus believes in Christ, I reject life and choose death. I would rather not exist than see them swelling with grace and virtue!

JOHN. Oh, incredible envy of the devil! Oh, malice of the old serpent, who since he made our first parents taste death has never ceased to writhe at the glory of the righteous! Oh, Fortunatus, brimful of Satan's bitter gall, how much do you resemble the rotten tree that, bearing only bad fruit, must be cut down and cast into the fire! To the fire you must go, where, deprived of the society of those who fear God, you will be tormented without respite for ever.

ANDRONICUS. Look! Oh, look! His wounds have opened again. He has been taken at his word. He is dying.

JOHN. Let him die and go down to hell, who through envious spite rejected the gift of life.

ANDRONICUS. A terrible fate.

JOHN. Nothing is more terrible than envy, nothing more evil than pride.

ANDRONICUS. Both are vile.

JOHN. The man who is the victim of one is the victim of the other, for they have no separate existence.

ANDRONICUS. Please explain.

JOHN. The proud are envious, and the envious are proud. A jealous man cannot endure to hear others praised, and seeks to belittle those who are more perfect. He disdains to take a lower place, and arrogantly seeks to be put above his equals.

ANDRONICUS. That is clear.

JOHN. This wretched man's pride was wounded. He could not endure the humiliation of recognizing his inferiority to these two in whom he could not deny God had made more grace to shine.

ANDRONICUS. I understand now why his resurrection was not spoken of. It was known he would die again.

JOHN. He deserved to die twice, for to his crime of profaning the sacred grave entrusted to him, he added hatred and envy of those who had been restored to life.

ANDRONICUS. The wretched creature is dead now.

JOHN. Come, let us go—Satan must have his own. This day shall be kept as a festival in thanksgiving for the wonderful conversion of Callimachus. Men shall long speak of it, and of his resurrection from the dead, and of Drusiana, on whom his love brought misery. Let us give thanks to God, that just and penetrating Judge Who alone can search the heart and reins and reward or punish fairly. To Him alone be honour, strength, glory, praise, and blessing, world without end. Amen.

  1. This admonition to "spectators" is in the MS. and seems inexplicable if Roswitha wrote her plays to be read, not performed.