A monologue from the play by Victor Hugo

NOTE: This translation by I.G. Burnham was first published in 1896 by Rittenhouse Press, Philadelphia. It is now a public domain work and may be performed without royalties.

THE KING: Thou art reputed to have been a monster of intrigue. So art thou still. 'T is said that women, pretty women too, in former days did foolish things for thee. Thy origin, midst lackeys, aye, and clowns, thy low, base, slippery beginnings suit my whim. No one can say with certainty, not even thine own self, who was thy father. I do admire thee for that thou dost so cunningly hide thy identity while living in the public eye. The cormorant's nest, the hole where lurks the basilisk, are the fit starting-points of a life like thine, erratic, wandering, enslaved. I have made thee count and marquis, grandee of Castile; a mass of worthless dignities, well-earned but ill-gotten. To act by cunning, or at need by force, is easy for thee; thou wouldst hold thine own with a whole council, aye, or turn them out of doors e'en though the devil were among them. Thou canst be bold, and yet lose not thy subtlety. Though made to crawl, thou dost defy the tempest. If need be thou wouldst risk thy life for some rash stroke, and, old as thou art, wouldst draw thy sword therefor. Thou givest evil counsel, but dost not follow it. It is thy faculty to be of nothing innocent, of nothing guilty, and I esteem thee capable of anything, even of loving. 'T is common rumor that thou didst rise from serving-man to bandit, from bandit to courtier. For my own part, I laugh as I look on thy maneuvering. It pleases me to see thee twine thyself about the serpents. Thy schemes, which thou dost quietly, and with a pensive air, concoct, a sort of floating web that loses itself in the darkness, thy wit, thy talents, thy good fortune, and the mire wherein thou wallowest, all tend to make of thee a creature strange to contemplate, a shuddering, ungrateful thing, whose services I love to have at my command.