Sejanus: His Fall

Author: Ben Jonson

A State Room in the Palace.

Enter SABINUS and SILIUS, followed by LATIARIS.

Sab. Hail, Caius Silius!

Sil. Titius Sabinus, hail! You’re rarely met in court.

Sab. Therefore, well met.

Sil.’Tis true: indeed, this place is not our sphere.

No, Silius, we are no good inginers.
We want their fine arts, and their thriving use
Should make us graced, or favour’d of the times:
We have no shift of faces, no cleft tongues,
No soft and glutinous bodies, that can stick,
Like snails on painted walls; or, on our breasts,
Creep up, to fall from that proud height, to which
We did by slavery, not by service climb.
We are no guilty men, and then no great;
We have no place in court, office In state,
That we can say, we owe unto our crimes:
We burn with no black secrets, which can make
Us dear to the pale authors; or live fear’d
Of their still waking jealousies, to raise
Ourselves a fortune, by subverting theirs.
We stand not in the lines, that do advance
To that so courted point.

Enter SATRIUS and NATTA, at a distance.

But yonder lean
A pair that do.

Sab. [salutes Latiaris.] Good cousin Latiaris.---

Satrius Secundus, and Pinnarius Natta,
The great Sejanus’ clients: there be two,
Know more than honest counsels; whose close breasts,
Were they ripp’d up to light, it would be found
A poor and idle sin, to which their trunks
Had not been made fit organs. These can lie,
Flatter, and swear, forswear, deprave, inform,
Smile, and betray; make guilty men; then beg
The forfeit lives, to get their livings; cut
Men’s throats with whisperings; sell to gaping suitors
The empty smoke, that flies about the palace;
Laugh when their patron laughs; sweat when he sweats;
Be hot and cold with him; change every mood,
Habit, and garb, as often as he varies;
Observe him, as his watch observes his clock;
And, true, as turquoise in the dear lord’s ring,
Look well or ill with him: 6 ready to praise
His lordship, if he spit, or but p--- fair,
Have an indifferent stool, or break wind well;
Nothing can ’scape their catch.

Alas! these things
Deserve no note, conferr’d with other vile
And filthier flatteries, that corrupt the times;
When, not alone our gentries chief are fain
To make their safety from such sordid acts;
But all our consuls, and no little part
Of such as have been praetors, yea, the most
Of senators, that else not use their voices,
Start up in public senate and there strive
Who shall propound most abject things, and base.
So much, as oft Tuberous hath been heard,
Leaving the court, to cry, O race of men;
Prepared for servitude!---which shew’d that he.
Who least the public liberty could like,
As lothly brook’d their flat servility.

Well, all is worthy of us, were it more,
Who with our riots, pride, and civil hate,
Have so provok’d the justice of the gods:
We, that, within these fourscore years, were born
Free, equal lords of the triumphed world,
And knew no masters, but affections;
To which betraying first our liberties,
We since became the slaves to one man’s lusts;
And now to many: every minist’ring spy
That will accuse and swear, is lord of you,
Of me, of all our fortunes and our lives.
Our looks are call’d to question, and our words,
How innocent soever, are made crimes;
We shall not shortly dare to tell our dreams,
Or think, but ’twill be treason. Sab. Tyrants’ arts
Are to give flatterers grace; accusers, power;
That those may seem to kill whom they devour.


Now, good Cremutius Cordus

Cor. [salutes Sabinus] Hail to your lordship!

Nat. [whispers Latiaris.] Who’s that salutes your cousin?

’Tis one Cordus,
A gentleman of Rome: one that has writ
Annals of late, they say, and very well.

Nat. Annals! of what times?

I think of Pompey’s,
And Caius Caesar’s; and so down to these.

How stands he affected to the present state!
Is he or Drusian, or Germanic,
Or ours, or neutral?

Lat. I know him not so far.

Those times are somewhat queasy to be touch’d.
Have you or seen, or heard part of his work?

Lat. Not I; he means they shall be public shortly.

Nat. O, Cordus do you call him?

Lat. Ay. [Exeunt Natta and Satrius

But these our times
Are not the same, Arruntius.

Times! the men,
The men are not the same: ’tis we are base,
Poor, and degenerate from the exalted strain
Of our great fathers. Where is now the soul
Of god-like Cato? he, that durst be good,
When Caesar durst be evil; and had power,
As not to live his slave, to die his master?
Or where’s the constant Brutus, that being proof
Against all charm of benefits, did strike
So brave a blow into the monster’s heart
That sought unkindly to captive his country?
O, they are fled the light! Those mighty spirits
Lie raked up with their ashes in their urns,
And not a spark of their eternal fire
Glows in a present bosom. All’s but blaze,
Flashes and smoke, wherewith we labour so,
There’s nothing Roman in us; nothing good,
Gallant, or great: ’tis true that Cordus says,
"Brave Cassius was the last of all that race."

Drusus passes over the stage, attended by HATERIUS, etc.

Sab. Stand by! lord Drusus.

Hat. The emperor’s son! give place.

Sil. I like the prince well.

A riotous youth;
There’s little hope of him.

That fault his age
Will, as it grows, correct. Methinks he bears
Himself each day more nobly than other;
And wins no less on men’s affections,
Than doth his father lose. Believe me,
I love him; And chiefly for opposing to Sejanus.

And I, for gracing his young kinsmen so,
The sons of prince Germanicus: it shews
A gallant clearness in him, a straight mind,
That envies not, in them, their father’s name.

His name was, while he lived, above all envy;
And, being dead, without it. O, that man!
If there were seeds of the old virtue left,
They lived in him.

He had the fruits, Arruntius,
More than the seeds: Sabinus, and myself
Had means to know him within; and can report him.
We were his followers, he would call us friends;
He was a man most like to virtue; in all,
And every action, nearer to the gods,
Than men, in nature; of a body as fair
As was his mind; and no less reverend
In face, than fame: he could so use his state,
Tempering his greatness with his gravity,
As it avoided all self-love in him,
And spite in others. What his funerals lack’d
In images and pomp, they had supplied
With honourable sorrow, soldiers’ sadness,
A kind of silent mourning, such, as men,
Who know no tears, but from their captives, use
To shew in so great losses.

I thought once,
Considering their forms, age, manner of deaths,
The nearness of the places where they fell,
To have parallel’d him with great Alexander:
For both were of best feature, of high race,
Year’d but to thirty, and, in foreign lands,
By their own people alike made away.
Sab, I know not, for his death, how you might wrest it:
But, for his life, it did as much disdain
Comparison, with that voluptuous, rash,
Giddy, and drunken Macedon’s, as mine
Doth with my bondman’s. All the good in him,
His valour and his fortune, he made his;
But he had other touches of late Romans,
That more did speak him: Pompey’s dignity,
The innocence of Cato, Caesar’s spirit,
Wise Brutus’ temperance; and every virtue,
Which, parted unto others, gave them name,
Flow’d mix’d in him. He was the soul of goodness;
And all our praises of him are like streams
Drawn from a spring, that still rise full, and leave
The part remaining greatest.

I am sure
He was too great for us, and that they knew
Who did remove him hence.

When men grow fast
Honour’d and loved. there is a trick in state,
Which jealous princes never fail to use,
How to decline that growth, with fair pretext,
And honourable colours of employment,
Either by embassy, the war, or such,
To shift them forth into another air,
Where they may purge and lessen; so was he:
And had his seconds there, sent by Tiberius,
And his more subtile dam, to discontent him;
To breed and cherish mutinies; detract
His greatest actions; give audacious check
To his commands; and work to put him out
In open act of treason. All which snares
When his wise cares prevented, a fine poison
Was thought on, to mature their practices.

Enter SEJANUS talking to TERENTIUS,
followed by SATRlUS, NATTA, etc.

Cor. Here comes Sejanus.

Now observe the stoops,
The bendings, and the falls.

Arr. Most creeping base!

Sej. [to Natta.] I note them well: no more. Say you?

My lord,
There is a gentleman of Rome would buy-

Sej. How call you him you talk’d with?

Please your lordship,
It is Eudemus, the physician
to Livia, Drusus’ wife.

Sej. On with your suit. Would buy, you said-

Sat. A tribune’s place, my lord.

Sej. What will he give?

Sat. Fifty sestertia.

Sej. Livia’s physician, say you, is that fellow?

Sat. It is, my lord: Your lordship’s answer.

To what?

The place, my lord. ’Tis for a gentleman
Your lordship will well like of, when you see him;
And one, that you may make yours, by the grant.

Well, let him bring his money, and his name.

’Thank your lordship. He shall, my lord.

Come hither.
Know you this same Eudemus? is he learn’d?

Reputed so, my lord, and of deep practice.

Bring him in, to me, in the gallery;
And take you cause to leave us there together:
I would confer with him, about a grief---
On. [Exeunt Sejanus, Satrius, Terentius, etc.

So! yet another? yet? O desperate state
Of grovelling honour! seest thou this, O sun,
And do we see thee after? Methinks, day
Should lose his light, when men do lose their shames,
And for the empty circumstance of life,
Betray their cause of living.

Nothing so.
Sejanus can repair, if Jove should ruin.
He is now the court god; and well applied
With sacrifice of knees, of crooks, and cringes;
He will do more than all the house of heaven
Can, for a thousand hecatombs. ’Tis he
Makes us our day, or night; hell, and elysium
Are in his look: we talk of Rhadamanth,
Furies, and firebrands; but it is his frown
That is all these; where, on the adverse part,
His smile is more, than e’er yet poets feign’d
Of bliss, and shades, nectar---

A serving boy!
I knew him, at Caius’ trencher, when for hire
He prostituted his abused body
To that great gormond, fat Apicius;
And was the noted pathic of the time.

And, now, the second face of the whole world!
The partner of the empire, hath his image
Rear’d equal with Tiberius, born in ensigns;
Commands, disposes every dignity,
Centurions, tribunes, heads of provinces,
Praetors and consuls; all that heretofore
Rome’s general suffrage gave, is now his sale.
The gain, or rather spoil of all the earth,
One, and his house, receives.

He hath of late
Made him a strength too, strangely, by reducing
All the praetorian bands into one camp,
Which he commands: pretending that the soldiers,
By living loose and scatter’d, fell to riot;
And that if any sudden enterprise
Should be attempted, their united strength
Would be far more than sever’d; and their life
More strict, if from the city more removed.

Where, now, he builds what kind of forts he please,
Is heard to court the soldier by his name,
Woos, feasts the chiefest men of action,
Whose wants, not loves, compel them to be his.
And though he ne’er were liberal by kind,
Yet to his own dark ends, he’s most profuse,
Lavish, and letting fly, he cares not what
To his ambition.

Yet, hath he ambition?
Is there that step in state can make him higher,
Or more, or anything he is, but less?

Sil. Nothing but emperor.

The name Tiberius,
I hope, will keep, howe’er he hath foregone
The dignity and power.

Sil. Sure, while he lives.

And dead, it comes to Drusus.
Should he fail, To the brave issue of Germanicus;
And they are three: too many-ha? for him
To have a plot upon!

I do not know
The heart of his designs; but, sure, their face
Looks farther than the present.

By the gods,
If I could guess he had but such a thought,
My sword should cleave him down from head to heart,
But I would find it out: and with my hand
I’d hurl his panting brain about the air
In mites, as small as atomi, to undo
The knotted bed-

Sab. You are observ’d, Arruntius.

Arr. [turns to Natta, Terentius, etc.]
Death! I dare tell him so; and all his spies:
You, sir, I would, do you look? and you.

Sab. Forbear.


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Chicago: Ben Jonson, "Scene I.- A State Room in the Palace.," Sejanus: His Fall, ed. Schelling, Felix E. in Sejanus: His Fall (New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., 1910), Original Sources, accessed February 26, 2024,

MLA: Jonson, Ben. "Scene I.- A State Room in the Palace." Sejanus: His Fall, edited by Schelling, Felix E., in Sejanus: His Fall, Vol. 1, New York, E. P. Dutton & Co., 1910, Original Sources. 26 Feb. 2024.

Harvard: Jonson, B, 'Scene I.- A State Room in the Palace.' in Sejanus: His Fall, ed. . cited in 1910, Sejanus: His Fall, E. P. Dutton & Co., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 26 February 2024, from