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creases his passion; tho', in reality, she is from the first dazzled with the prospect of empire, and forgets Otho: She therefore joins with Anicetus in his design of ruining Agrippina, soon perceiving that it will be for her interest. Otho hearing that the Emperor had seen Poppaa, is much enraged; but not knowing that this interview was obtained thro' the treachery of Anicetus, is readily persuaded by him to see Agrippina in secret, and acquaint her with his fears that her son Nero would marry Poppæa. Agrippina, to support her own power, and to wean the Emperor from the love of Poppæa, gives Otho encouragement, and promises to
Anicetus secretly introduces Nero to, hear their dïscourse; who resolves immediately on his mother's death, and, by Anicetus's means, to destroy her by drowning. A solemn feast, in honour of their reconciliation, is to be made; after which she being to go by sea to Bauli, the ship is so contrived as to sink or crush her; she escapes by accident, and returns to Baiæ. In this interval, Otho has an interview with Poppæa; and being duped a second time by Anicetus and her, determines to fly with her into Greece, by means of a vessel which is to be furnished by Anicetus; but he, pretending to remove Poppæa on board in the night, conveys her to Nero's apartment: She there encourages and determines Nero to banish Otho, and finish the horrid deed he had attempted on his mother. Anicetus undertakes to execute his resolves; and, under pretence of a plot upon the Emperor's life, is sent with a guard to murder Agrippina, who is still at Baiæ in imminent fear, and irresolute how to conduct herself. The account of her death, and the Emperor's horror and fruitless remorse, finishes the drama.
I refer the reader to the 13th and 14th books of the
annals of Tacitus for the facts on which this story is founded : By turning to that author, he will easily see how far the poet thought it necessary to deviate from the truth of history. I shall only further observe, that as such a fable could not possibly admit of any good character, it is terror only and not pity that could be excited by this tragedy, had it been completed. Yet it was surely capable of exciting this passion in a supreme degree, if, what the critics tell us be true, that crimes, which illustrious persons commit, affect us from the very circumstance of their rank, because we unite with that our fears for the public weal.
ACT I.---SCENE I.
[Speaks as to Anicetus entering, The message needs no comment. Tell
your master, His mother shall obey him. Say you saw her Yielding due reverence to his high command: Alone, unguarded, and without a Lictor, As fits the daughter of Germanicus. Say, she retired to Antium ; there to tend Her houshold cares, a woman's best employment. What if you add, how she turn’d pale, and trembled; You think, you spied a tear stand in her eye, And would have drop'd, but that her pride restrain’d it? (Go! you can paint it well) 'twill profit you, And please the stripling. Yet ’twould dash his joy To hear the spirit of Britannicus Yet walks on earth; at least there are who know
Without a spell to raise, and bid it fire
And dost thou talk to me, to me, of danger,
'Tis like, thou hast forgot, when yet a stranger
To fame, or fortune; haply eyed at distance
Thro' various life I have pursued your steps,
I well remember too (for I was present)