number of senators are gathered in the imperial palace.
Nervous. They’ve obviously been there for a
while. Typical politicians -- they are self-interested
and speak in cliches.
OLD SENATOR Nothing last night, nothing this morning.
Nothing for three days.
OLD SENATOR Messages go out, messages come in. And
always the same answer -- "Nothing."
We've combed the whole countryside. There's nothing
more to be done.
Except wait. There's no point rushing to meet trouble
halfway. Perhaps he'll return as abruptly as he left.
OLD SENATOR I saw him leave the palace. He had a strange
look about him. OCTAVIUS So did I. In fact, I asked
him if anything was wrong.
Did he answer?
One word -- "Nothing."
short silence. Helicon (a liberated slave) enters.
He is eating.
(nervously) It's all very disturbing.
Come on now! Someone his age always takes it hard.
OLD SENATOR True, but everything works out in the
long run. For one girl dead, there’s a dozen
living ones. The woods are full of trees and the trees
are full of birds.
Where did you get the idea that love has anything
to do with it?
What else could it be?
Indigestion, perhaps. Or pure disgust at having to
see you lot every day. If you could change your looks
from time to time, he might find it easier to put
up with all of you. But the menu never changes --
always the same old choice between sour rhubarb and
SENATOR I prefer to think it all started with love.
Because that’s a sickness which spares no one,
whether he be intelligent or an idiot.
Fortunately grief doesn’t last forever. Are
you capable of suffering for more than a year?
No one could.
Life would he intolerable.
I lost my wife last year and at first I was in quite
a state. Even now I feel a pang of grief at times.
Still, life must go on.
OLD SENATOR Time heals all wounds. Nature has a way
of arranging things. (a senator wheezes)
(Patting him on the back) Sometimes wonder
if Nature is always so perfect.
(younger than the other senators, but a respected
Well. . . ?
(sarcastically) Be calm Cherea, be calm. Let’s
keep up appearances. We, after all, are the Roman
Worrying won't mend matters - and it's lunchtime.
Everything was going too smoothly. This emperor was
just too perfect.
He was just what we wanted: conscientious and inexperienced
enough to take our advice.
He may go right on being the emperor we’ve known.
He loved Drusilla but she was his sister after all.
Sleeping with her was one thing. Still, to put all
Rome in a turmoil because the girl has died is going
too far. Let’s hope his condition is only temporary.
I don't like the look of it. His running away looks
bad to me.
OLD SENATOR Yes, where there's smoke there’s
The interests of the State should prevent him from
letting incest take on tragic proportions. These things
happen, but quietly.
Incest always makes a little noise. The bed squeaks.
Still, you can’t be sure that Drusilla is the
cause of all this trouble.
(younger than Caligula, one of his proteges) enters.
Cherea goes toward him.
Still nothing. Some peasants think they saw him last
night not far from Rome, but there was heavy rain.
(Scipio follows Cherea back to the senators)
Has it really been three days, Scipio?
Yes . . . I was there, following along with him. He
went up to Drusilla's body. Stroked it with two fingers,
and seemed lost in thought for a long while. Then
he turned around and calmly walked out. Since then
everyone’s been searching for him.
He was too fond of bad poetry.
That’s typical ...
Of his age, perhaps, but not of his rank. An emperor
with artistic and intellectual inclinations is a contradiction
We've had one or two, of course. But there’s
misfits in every family. The others had the sense
to remain good bureaucrats.
Things ran efficiently.
OLD SENATOR Shoemaker stick to your trade.
What can we do, Cherea?
We can only wait. If he doesn't come back we’ll
find someone else. There’s no lack of leadership
in this room.
looks at Lucius and smirks – maybe a discreet
Suppose he comes back with the wrong attitude?
He's still a boy; we'll make him listen to reason.
(laughing) And if not, I once wrote a treatise
on the coup d’etat.
Perhaps I'll look that up. But I'd much prefer to
be left to my own books.
I beg your pardon ... (Goes out.)
We must have offended him.
OLD SENATOR Young people always stick up for each
Scipio is much too easily offended -- (Scipio returns
Caligula has just been seen in the gardens
leave the room. The stage is empty for a moment. Then
Caligula enters stealthily. His legs are caked with
mud, his clothes dirty; his hair is wet, his look
distraught. He brings his hand to his mouth several
times. Then he approaches a mirror, stopping abruptly
when he catches sight of his reflected self. After
muttering some unintelligible words, he sits, letting
his arms hang limp between his knees. Helicon enters.
On seeing Caligula, he stops and contemplates him
in silence. Caligula turns and sees him. A short silence.
(across the stage) Good morning, Caius.
(in quite an ordinary tone) Good morning, Helicon.
(a short silence)
You seem tired.
I've walked a lot.
Yes, you were away for quite a while. (another
It was hard to find.
What I wanted.
And what did you want?
(in the same matter-of-fact tone) The moon.
I wanted the moon.
I see . . . (Another silence. Helicon approaches
Caligula.) What for?
Well . . . it's one of the things I haven't got.
Right. And now everything is taken care of?
No. I couldn't get it.
Yes, that's why I'm tired. (Pauses. Then) You
probably think I'm insane …
You know I never think. I’m much too intelligent
... But I'm not insane. In fact I've never been so
lucid. It’s just that I suddenly felt a desire
for the impossible. (Pauses.) Things as they
are don’t strike me as satisfactory.
That’s a widespread opinion.
I suppose it is. But I didn't know it before. Now
I know. (Still in the same matter-of-fact tone.)
The world as it is is unbearable. That's why I
need the moon, or happiness, or immortality, or something
that may sound insane, but would help correct this
That sounds fine. But no one could ever act on it.
(rising to his feet, but still with perfect calmness)
You know nothing about it. It's because no one
dares to be logical and carry it through to
its conclusion that nothing is ever achieved. (He
studies Helicon's face.) I can see what you're
thinking. What a fuss over the death of a woman! No,
that's not it. I do recall that a few days ago a woman
I loved died. But love is a side issue. Her death
is no more than the symbol of a truth that makes the
moon necessary to me. A childishly simple and obvious
truth, a little stupid even, but hard to discover
and harder to bear.
And what is this truth you've discovered, Caius?
(his eyes averted, in a toneless voice) People
die. And they are not happy.
(after a short pause) That's a truth we manage
to live with Caligula. It doesn't prevent most Romans
from enjoying their lunch.
(suddenly throws Helicon down violently) That's
because everyone around me is living a lie, and I
want people to live with the truth. Remember, Helicon,
I have the means of forcing them to live with the
truth. They are deprived of knowledge and need a teacher
who knows what he's talking about.
Don't take offense, Caius ... but shouldn’t
you have some rest. Everything else can wait.
(Sitting down. His voice is gentle again.)
I can't rest, Helicon.
If I sleep, who will give me the moon?
(after a short silence) That's true.
(hearing voices he rises again with an effort)
Don't say a word Helicon and forget you've seen
(looking back, as he moves toward the door)
And, could you help me from now on.
I've no reason not to do so, Caius. But I know very
few things, and few things interest me. In what way
can I help you?
In achieving the impossible.
goes out. Scipio and Caesonia (Caligula’s beautiful
Have you seen him, Helicon?
Tell me, Helicon. Are you sure he didn't confide anything
to you before he went away?
I don’t share his secrets. I'm merely his public.
But, if you'll excuse me, I'm late for lunch. (Exit
(sits wearily) One of the guards saw him go
by. But all Rome sees Caligula everywhere, while Caligula
sees nothing but his own idea.
How can I tell, Scipio?
Perhaps. He did love her. And it's a cruel thing to
see someone die today when you held her in your arms
(timidly) And you . . . ?
Oh, I'm the trusted mistress. That's my role.
Caesonia, we have to help him.
You love him too?
I don't know what it is. He encourages me with words
that would sound ridiculous coming out of anyone else's
mouth. "Life isn't easy, Scipio, but art or the love
one inspires in others is all the consolation we need."
He once told me that making others suffer was the
only human crime. Ironic, isn't it? An emperor trying
to be a just man.
(rising) He's just a child. (She goes to
the mirror and scans herself.) My body is the
only god I've ever known, and now I pray to this god
of mine that Caius may be brought back to me.
enters. On seeing Caesonia and Scipio he hesitates,
and takes a backward step. At the same moment several
men enter from the opposite side of the room: senators
and the Intendant of the palace. They stop short when
they see Caligula. Caesonia turns. She and Scipio
hurry toward Caligula, who checks them with a gesture.
(in a rather quavering voice) We . . . we've
been looking for
(in a changed, harsh tone) So I see.
We . . . I mean
(roughly) What do you want?
We were worried, Caesar.
(going toward him) Why were you worried?
Well . . er . . . (He has an inspiration.) Well,
it's the Treasury Board -- as you know, there are
points that must be settled in connection with the
(bursting into laughter) Ah, yes. The Treasury.
That's right. The Treasury's of prime importance.
(still laughing, to Caesonia) Don't you agree,
No, Caligula. The budget is just a means to
That just shows your ignorance! Of course, I do believe
in equality! (To the bewildered intendant)
Surely your attacks of arthritis are no less significant
than the grandeur of Rome. (Not letting anyone
get in a word edgeways) Still, I'm extremely interested
in fiscal integrity ... . Yes, that's something I
can apply my mind to right away. And, to begin with
. . . Now listen well, Intendant.
We are listening, sir.
senators come forward.
You're our loyal subjects, are you not?
(in a reproachful tone) Oh, Caesar.
Well, I’ve just devised a strategic plan. We're
going to reform our whole economic system. In two
moves. Drastic and abrupt. I’ll have to explain
... in private. (All patricians but the intendant
leave. Caligula collects himself and then assumes
a statesman-like pose with his arm around Caesonia’s
waist. Then, full of efficient energy) First
phase: Every senator. Everyone in the Empire who has
any capital, small or large it's all the same thing,
is ordered to disinherit his children and make a new
will leaving his money to the State.
I'm not finished! Second phase: As the need arises,
we shall announce the death of those individuals,
following the order of a list drawn up arbitrarily.
On occasion we may modify that order. Again, arbitrarily.
(an insight) By lottery perhaps. And the Treasury
shall inherit their money.
(freeing herself) What's come over you?
(imperturbably Of course the order of the executions
is not of the slightest importance. (precisely)
Or, rather, all these executions have an equal importance;
from which it follows that none has any importance.
Indeed, if you think about it, it is no more immoral
to rob citizens directly, than to slip indirect taxes
into the prices of the commodities they cannot do
without. Governing amounts to robbing, as everyone
knows. But there are different ways of going about
it. As for me, I shall rob openly. That will be a
change from you penny pinching politicians. (harshly
to the Intendant, who has been trying to speak) This
new economic policy will be proclaimed immediately
and you are to ensure it's carried out. The wills
are to be signed by residents in the capital this
evening; within a month at the latest by persons in
the provinces. Now, you don’t have time to waste.
Caesar, you don’t seem to realize . . .
Listen carefully, idiot. If a balanced budget has
paramount importance, human life has none. That is
self-evident. You of all people should admit the logic
of my plan. Since money is the only thing that counts,
you must cease to set any value on your life. I have
resolved to be logical, and inasmuch as I have the
power, you will see what logic will cost you! I shall
eliminate contradictions and contradictors. If necessary,
I'll begin with you.
Caesar, my good will can be relied on, that I swear.
And I can guarantee mine too. Just see how ready I
am to adopt your point of view, and consider the Treasury
as an object of capital importance. You should be
grateful to me for playing your game and with your
own cards. (He pauses, before continuing in
a flat, unemotional tone.) In any case, there
is a touch of genius -- or should I say, common-sense
-- in the simplicity of my plan, which clinches the
matter. I give you three seconds in which to make
yourself invisible. One...
Two ... (the Indendant hurries out.)
Is this really you, Caligula? Was that supposed to
be some kind of a joke?
Not exactly, Caesonia. Let's say it was a seminar
in public administration.
But this isn’t possible Caligula.
That's the point!
What do you mean?
I mean, I’m concerned with the impossible, or
rather with making possible the impossible.
That’s nothing more than the pastime of a lunatic.
No, Scipio. It’s the vocation of an emperor.
(He lets himself sit down, wearily) I've finally
understood the uses of power. It gives the impossible
a chance. From now on my freedom will not be limited
(sadly) I doubt if this discovery of yours
will make us any happier.
Perhaps not. But it might make us more profound. (Cherea
I've just heard of your return. I trust your health
is all it should be. CALIGULA My health thanks you.
(A pause. Then, abruptly) Now, go away Cherea.
I don't want to see you.
I'm bewildered Caius.
Don't be. I don't like intellectuals. They talk in
order not to hear themselves. If they listened to
themselves, they would know that they are nothing
and then they couldn't talk. Therefore, I'm dismissing
you. I hate liars.
If we lie, it's often without knowing it. I plead
Lying is always guilty. And your kind of deception
is unforgiveable. It gives people a pumped-up sense
Since this world is the only one we have, why not
plead its cause?
No plea is necessary. The verdict's given: humanity
has no special place in this world and whoever realizes
that wins his freedom. (rising) You are not
free. I alone am free. Rejoice, for you finally have
an emperor to teach you freedom. Go away, Cherea,
and you, too, Scipio. Go and spread the good news
to all Romans.
go out. Caligula has turned away, hiding his eyes.
You're crying. But what's really changed in your life?
You may have loved Drusilla, but you loved others,
myself included, at the same time. Surely that wasn't
enough to set you roaming the countryside for three
days and nights and bring you back with this . . .
this cruel look on your face?
(turning round to her) Why drag Drusilla into
this? Can’t you imagine a person shedding for
anything other than love?
I'm sorry, Caius. I was only trying to understand.
Men cry because the world's all wrong. (She starts
to embrace him.) No, Caesonia. (She draws back.)
But stay beside me.
Whatever you want. (Sits down.) I'm no baby.
I know that life's sometimes a sad business. But why
deliberately set out to make it worse?
You can't understand. But that doesn’t matter.
Perhaps I'll find a way out. Only I feel the stirrings
of nameless creatures within me, forcing their way
up into the light - and I'm helpless against them.
(He moves closer to her, but doesn’t see
her) I knew people felt anguish, but I didn't
know what the word meant. Like everyone else I imagined
it was the soul that suffered. But it's my body that's
in pain. Everywhere. In my chest, in my legs and arms.
Even my skin is raw, my head is buzzing, I feel like
vomiting. But worst of all is this grotesque taste
in my mouth. Not blood, nor death, nor fever, but
a mixture of all three. All I have to do is to stir
my tongue for everything to become black and for human
beings to revolt me.
What you need is a good, long sleep. And stop thinking.
Our thoughts run crazy when we’re exhausted.
I'll lie with you. When you wake, you'll find the
world's got back its flavor. Then you must use your
power for loving better what there is still to love.
For the possible, too, deserves to be given
What use is my power, Caesonia, if I can't have the
sun set in the east, if I can't eliminate suffering
and keep human beings from dying? If I can’t
change the order of the world, it doesn’t matter
whether I sleep or stay awake.
(sharply, impatiently) But that's insanity.
It's wanting to be a god on earth, and no matter how
those flabby politicians represent you to the masses
So I'm mad to want a kingdom where the impossible
(pressing, almost cutting him off) You can't
prevent the sky from being the sky, or a fresh young
face from aging, or a man's heart from growing cold.
(with rising excitement) I want . . . I want
to drown the sky in the sea, to see the beauty in
ugliness, to wring a laugh from pain.
(facing him with an imploring gesture) There's
good and evil, high and low, justice and injustice.
I can assure you that will never change.
(in the same tone) It's my will to change that.
I shall give this age the gift of equality. And when
everything is leveled out, when the impossible has
come to earth and the moon is in my hands -- then,
perhaps, the world will be truly transformed, then
perhaps there will be no more death and men will be
(with a cry) And what about love? You'll level
that out too?
Living, Caesonia, is the opposite of loving! (He
grips her shoulders and shakes her.) I've learned
the truth about life -- and now I invite you to the
most gorgeous of shows, a sight for gods to gloat
on, a whole world put on trial. But for that I must
have a crowd -- spectators, victims, criminals, hundreds
and thousands of them. (He rushes to the gong and
hammers it once) Let the accused come forward.
I want my criminals, and they all are criminals. (Strikes
the gong again) Bring in the condemned men. I
must have my public. Judges, witnesses, accused --
all sentenced to death without a hearing. Yes, Caesonia,
I'll show them something they have never seen before,
the one free man in the Roman Empire. (To the clangor
of the gong the palace has been gradually filling
with approaching people. Caligula poses with Caesonia
on the floor beneath him) And you, Caesonia, shall
obey me. You must stand by me to the end. It will
be marvelous, you'll see. Swear to stand by me, Caesonia.
I needn't swear. You know I love you.
You'll do everything I tell you.
Everything, anything Caligula -- but please, stop.
You will be cruel.
Cold and ruthless.
And you will suffer, too.
Yes, yes ... no, please, . . . I'm going as mad you!
(Some senators enter, followed by members of the
palace staff. All look bewildered and perturbed. Caligula
bangs the gong for the last time, raises his mallet,
swings round and summons them in a shrill, half-crazy
Come here. All of you. Nearer. Nearer still. (He
is quivering with impatience.) Your Emperor commands
you to come nearer. (They come forward, pale with
terror.) Quickly. And you, Caesonia, come beside
me. (He takes her hand, leads her to the mirror,
and with a sudden wild sweep of his mallet smashes
the mirror. Everyone recoils. The whole set is covered
with reflected images of the cracked mirror. Caligula
laughs) All gone. You see, my dear? An end of
memories; no more masks. Nothing, nobody left. Nobody?
No, that's not true. Look, Caesonia. Come here, all
of you, and look. (He plants himself in
front of the mirror and takes the pose of a crazy
(staring, horrified, at the mirror) Caligula!
(His gaze steadies abruptly and then turns slowly
to the crowd/audience. They are as shocked as Caesonia.
When he speaks his voice has a new, proud ardor.)
Yes . . . Caligula.