room in the imperial palace. Before the lights come
up, music and noise can be heard, and when they come
up we see a small stage on the stage. On it are Caesonia
and Helicon. Seated with their backs to the audience
are the senators and young Scipio. Helicon and Caesonia
run the show like a combination of fairground, Nazi
rally, evangelical meeting and pagan ceremony.
Step up! Step up! One and all! Step up! Once more
a god walks the earth in the human form of our emperor
known as Caligula. Rise up, you mortals of common
clay and witness a holy miracle with your own eyes.
Through a favor reserved for the blessed reign of
Caligula, divine secrets will be revealed to all.
Come, gentlemen. Come and adore him -- and don't forget
your charitable donations. Today heaven and its mysteries
are on show, at a price to suit every bank account.
See Olympus naked! The whole intimate truth. Revelations
in high places! (Cymbals.)
Worship him! Throw your money to him. Quick, quick,
gentlemen. The show is about to begin. (Cymbals.)
A sensational reincarnation of truth. An epoch-making
production with breathtaking effects (light effects)
and music to lift the soul. (music) See
fate with your own eyes (over the music) --
a triumph of the will!
and Helicon pose. Costumed religious worshippers appear
and dance to the music -- around Caesonia and Helicon,
and occasionally abusing the worshipping patricians.
The music stops suddenly and two dancers draw aside
a curtain to reveal Caligula. He is beaming through
a female mask, blonde curls and golden breast cones.
(amiably) I'm Venus today.
Now for the adoration. Bow down. (All but Scipio
bend their heads.) And repeat after me the litany
Lady of pain and pleasure
SENATORS "Our Lady of pains and pleasures
"Born of the waves, bitter and bright with seafoam
SENATORS "Born of the waves, bitter and bright with
"Oh Queen, whose gifts are laughter and regrets
SENATORS "Oh Queen, whose gifts are laughter and regrets
"Teach us the indifference that revives love
SENATORS "Teach us the indifference that revives love
"Make known to us the truth about this world -- which
is that it has none
SENATORS "Make known to us the truth about this world
-- which is that it has none
"And grant us strength to live up to that unparalled
SENATORS "And grant us strength to live up to that
(after a short silence Caesonia begins again but
she goes faster as if in a trance, and the senators
can’t keep up -- they are only able to repeat
the last phrases) "Shower us with thy gifts, bestow
on us thine impartial cruelty. Rain upon our heads
thy harvests of flowers and murders
SENATORS "... thy harvests of flowers and murders
"Receive unto thee thy straying children. Receive
them in the bleak sanctuary of your heartless love.
Share with us thy misguided bliss, thy futile sorrows
and your raptures that lead nowhere
SENATORS ". . . your raptures that lead nowhere
(raising her voice, but slowing down) "O goddess,
so empty yet so passionate, inhuman yet so earthly,
make us drunk with the wine of thine equivalence,
and satisfy us forever in thy Hard! (cymbals)
Black! (drum) Heart! (drum and cymbals.
Caesonia accents the last with a bump and grind)
(He rings tiny finger cymbals. In a Gregorian-like
chant) Granted, my children, your prayers will
be fulfilled. (He rings the cymbals again and several
dancers supervised by Helicon hold out collection
pots. One by one the SENATORS make obeisance, deposit
their money and line up on the right. The last, in
his flurry, forgets to make an offering. Caligula
bounds to his feet.) Hey! Come here, my darling.
Worship's very well, but charity is better. Thank
you. That’s it. If the gods had no other income
than the love you mortals give them, they'd be as
poor as poor Caligula. Now, gentlemen, you may go,
and spread abroad the glad tidings of the miracle
you've been allowed to witness. You have really seen
Venus with your fleshly eyes, and Venus herself has
spoken to you. Go, most favored gentlemen. (The
SENATORS begin to move away.) As you leave, make
sure you exit to your left. Outside the door to your
right I have posted guards to assassinate you.
SENATORS file out hastily, in some disorder. The slaves
and musicians leave the stage. Scipio picks up one
of the collection pots and angrily tosses it to Helicon
(pointing a threatening finger at Scipio) Scipio,
you're still the little anarchist!
(to Caligula, who is moving from up centre) Playing
at blasphemy, now, Caius.
Blasphemy? What could that possibly mean?
After bloodying the earth you start spitting on heaven.
There’s a touch of bombast in this youngster.
(He sits leisurely.)
(Calming. Sitting) Careful, Scipio. People
are dying in Rome for much less.
Somebody should tell him the truth.
Well, Caligula. Here’s the one thing missing
in your Empire -- a bold young moralist. (Get's
(Stops and giving Scipio a curious glance) Do
you really believe in any god, Scipio?
Then why be so eager to sniff out blasphemy?
I can deny something without smearing it or depriving
others of the right to believe in it.
(Close to him) Very tolerant my dear Scipio,
how happy I am for you -- and even a touch envious.
Such modesty is the one emotion I may never feel.
You're jealous of the gods not me.
(Removes mask and breast cones and takes a slouching
stand next to Caesonia) With your permission,
I'd like that to be the great secret of my reign.
For someone who loves power there is something irritating
about the rivalry of the gods, and that's why I've
done away with them. I've proved to these imaginary
gods that, without previous training, a mere human,
if he applies himself, can practice their ridiculous
That’s what I meant by blasphemy, Caius.
No, no Scipio, it's clarity. We can become the equal
of a god by becoming as cruel as he is.
By playing the tyrant.
And what exactly is a tyrant?
A blind soul. (sits)
I'm not sure. A real tyrant is a person who sacrifices
an institution or a whole nation to ambition or some
ideal. I have no ideals, and there's no honors or
powers left for me to drool over. (Scipio sits
and Caligula comes over and sits next to him)
Do you know how many wars I've refused to embark on?
(bending over his feet and scrutinizing his toes)
Three. And do you know why I refused?
Because the reputation of Rome means nothing to you.
No. Because I respect human life.
More jokes Caius.
Or at least I respect it more than I respect military
ideals. But it's also true that I don't respect it
more than I respect my own life, and if I find killing
easy, it's because dying isn't hard for me. No, the
more I think about it, the surer I feel that I'm not
(with a shrug) What does it matter, since it
costs Rome as much as if you were one?
(with a hint of petulance) If you knew how
to count you'd realize that the smallest war undertaken
by a reasonable tyrant would cost a thousand times
more than all my eccentricities do.
A war has some sense behind it and to be understandable
makes up for a lot.
Fate can never be understood. That’s why I’ve
become fate. Taken on the stupid and incomprehensible
face of divinity. That’s what those Senators
were adoring a moment ago.
Blasphemy, vanity -- call it what you want Caius.
(Rising and crossing toward Caesonia) It's
art, Scipio! You people make the mistake of
not taking the drama seriously enough. If you did,
you’d know that any one can play lead in the
divine comedy and become a god. ( He does a mock
dance. Caesonia and Helicon applaud. He embraces Caesonia,
both laughing.) He just needs to harden his heart.
(Gets up and claps sarcastically) You have
done that successfully, Caius, but god-like qualities
are contagious. Some day a legion of human gods just
as ruthless as you will rise up and bathe your momentary
divinity in blood.
So much for your idealism, Scipio!
(peremptorily) Never mind Caesonia. You are
absolutely right, Scipio. I find it hard to picture
the event you speak of. But sometimes I dream of it
-- all those faces coming at me, convulsed with fear
and hatred. And I welcome them. For I see in them
the only god I have ever adored -- rebellious humanity.
(Irritably) Now leave me. Philosophy’s
a waste of time. (Scipio rises and exits) I
still have my toenails to paint. (Caesonia puts
paint pots and brushes next to him and then Caligula
brushes her off -- she exits) Helicon!
Are you getting on with your work?
I'm making progress. It takes time and patience. But
I'd like to have a word with you.
I might have patience, but I haven’t much time.
So you’ll have to hurry.
I said I'd do my best. But, first, I have something
to tell you.
(as if he has not heard) Mind you, I've had her
Yes .... yes, of course. But do you know there's a
plot on your life?
I really had her, too. Only two or three times,
to be sure. But, oh, I did have her.
I've been trying to tell you about it, only --
It was last summer. With all my gaping at her and
caressing her on the columns in the garden she had
eventually caught on.
Forget the trivialities, Caius. You have to hear this
(applying red polish to his toenails) This
polish is no good at all. But, to come back to the
moon -- it was a cloudless August night. (Helicon
looks sulkily away, and keeps silence.) In the
beginning she was coy. I was already in bed. Then
she began to rise, brighter and brighter, quicker
and quicker. The higher she rose, the lighter she
became till finally she was a milky white pool amidst
the multitudinous rustling of stars. She stepped over
the threshold and, slowly but surely, glided to my
bed, slipped in and bathed me in her smiles and dazzle.
Then she came in the warm night air -- gentle, weightless
and naked. -- No, this new polish is a failure ...
So you see, Helicon, I can say, without boasting,
that I've had her.
Now will you listen?
(ceasing to fiddle with his toes, and gazing at
him fixedly) All I
Helicon, is the moon. I know in advance what will
kill me. I haven't yet tasted everything that can
keep me alive. That's why I want the moon. And don’t
come back before you’ve captured her for me.
(gets up) Alright. . . . I'm going to tell
you anyway. There's a plot. Cherea is the leader.
This letter came into my hands. It will tell you the
essentials. I’m leaving it here. (He places
the letter on one of the seats and moves away.)
Where are you off to, Helicon?
(just before he exits) To get the moon for
is an uneasy cough from the rear. Caligula swings
round and sees the Old SENATOR.
OLD SENATOR (timidly) May I, Caius ... .
Come in! Come in! (Standing up and with mock eagerness.)
So, my pet, you've returned to have another look
OLD SENATOR Well . . . no. It's not quite that. It’s
. . . You know I'm very, very devoted to you -- and
my one desire is to end my days in peace.
Come to the point! Come to the point!
OLD SENATOR Ssh! (realizing that he's telling Caligula
to be quiet) Oh, sorry, Caius! I only wanted ...
. Well, it's . . . it's like this. (hurriedly)
It's terribly serious, that's what I meant to
No, it isn't serious.
OLD SENATOR What isn't, Caius?
But what are we talking about, darling?
OLD SENATOR (glancing nervously round the room)
I mean --
shuffles, then bursts out with it.) There's a
(Sits and resumes toe-nail painting) You see.
Just as I said, it isn't serious.
OLD SENATOR (Sits next to Caligula) Caius,
they intend to kill you.
(approaching him and grasping his shoulders) Do
you know why I can't believe you?
OLD SENATOR (raising an arm, as if to take an oath)
May God bear witness, Caius ...
Don't swear. I particularly ask you not to swear.
(Gently but firmly pressing him back. Sees his nails
and starts to paint them) Listen, instead. If
what you were saying were true, I should have to come
to the conclusion that you are breaking confidence
with your colleagues in Caligula’s advisory
committee, shouldn’t I?
OLD SENATOR (flustered) That is, Caius, considering
the deep affection I have for you --
(dabs gently a little paint on SENATOR's
nose) And I'd hate to come to that conclusion.
After all, I loathe cowardly traitors so much that
I could never resist having one put to death. But
I know the man you are, my valued friend. And certainly
you neither wish to play the traitor nor to die.
OLD SENATOR Certainly not, Caius. Most certainly not.
(Almost weeping, he bows his bald head to to look
at his painted nails)
(Hold the SENATOR's bald head at arms length and
measuring it with a judicious eye) So you see
I was right in refusing to believe you. You’re
not a coward are you? (Paints a comic face on his
OLD SENATOR Oh, no!
(Still painting) Nor a traitor?
OLD SENATOR I need hardly tell you that, Caius.
And consequently there is no plot, is there? This
was just a practical joke of yours?
OLD SENATOR (feebly, his face distorted with terror)
A joke, merely a joke.
(Pushing SENATOR's face down to continue
painting) Obviously, no one wants to kill me.
OLD SENATOR No one, of course not, not one.
(Takes SENATOR by the arm and assists him ) Then
I'll ask you to leave, sweetheart. A man with honor
is such an endangered species nowadays that I cannot
bear the sight of one too long. I want to be alone
to luxuriate in this unique experience. (For some
moments he gazes, without moving, at the letter. He
picks it up and reads it. Then, again, draws a deep
breath. Then calls offstage to a guard.)
Bring Cherea to me. (Then) Make sure you treat
him with all due respect. (Caligula crosses stage
and stands wearily as a shaft of moonlight envelops
him. He turns and poses as if he were surveying himself
in a mirror. He addresses his imaginary reflection.)
You were the fool who decided to be logical! Now
you’ll have to find out how far it can go. (Ironically)
If you were brought the moon, everything would
be different, wouldn’t it? What is impossible
would become possible, and in a flash -- a great transfiguration.
One night, perhaps Helicon will catch her sleeping
in a lake, and carry her here, trapped in a glistening
net, all slimy with weeds and water, like a pale bloated
fish drawn from the deep. Why not, Caligula? (He
casts a glance round the room.) Fewer and fewer
people round me. (Addressing the mirror, in a hoarse
voice.) Too many dead, too many dead. Even if
the moon were mine, I couldn’t retrace my way.
Even if those dead men were stirring again under the
sun's caress, the murders would not stay underground.
(Turns in pain from the mirror, then faces it again)
You must stick to the logic, Caligula –
go to the bitter end! (He comes back down and concealing
the letter in his cloak, sits. The shaft of moonlight
has disappeared. Cherea enters.)
You sent for me, Caius?
(Caligula is staring absently at the place where
the moonlight was.) Yes, Cherea.
Have you anything particular to tell me?
(with a hint of petulance) Are you sure my
presence is necessary?
Absolutely sure, Cherea. (Another silence. Then,
as if suddenly
himself) But excuse me, I'm absent-minded and
receiving you badly. Sit down and talk with me, like
two friends. I need some intelligent conversation.
(Cherea sits down. For the first time since the
play began, Caligula gives the impression of being
his natural self.) Do you think, Cherea, that
it's possible for two men of much the same temperament
at least once in their lives to talk to each other
with complete frankness -- as if they stood naked
and facing each other, washed free of the prejudices
of private interests, and of the lies by which they
Possible, yes, Caius. But I don't think you'd be capable
You're right. I simply wanted to know if you agreed
with me. So let's put our masks back on then and fall
back on our lies. Let’s talk like soldiers going
into combat -- covered up to the eyes, padding on
all the vital parts. Tell me, Cherea, why don't you
Because there's nothing likable about you, Caius.
Because such feelings aren’t subject to command.
Also, I see a family resemblance in you. And I can’t
like one of my own faces that I am trying to cover
up in me.
But why is it you hate me?
I don't hate you. I think you're cruel, vain and selfish.
But I can't hate you, because I don't think you are
happy. And I can't scorn you, because I know you are
Then why do you want to kill me?
I've already told you: because you are a constant
menace. I need to feel secure. Like most people. They
resent living in a world where the strangest thoughts
can become reality in the twinkling of an eye and
transfix their lives like a knife in the heart. I
feel the same way. I want to know where I stand, and
to stand secure.
Security and logic don't go together.
Quite true. My plan of life may not be logical, but
at least it's workable.
(intensely interested) Go on.
There's no more to say. It's only natural that you
should . . . disappear.
I see your point, and for most people, I grant you,
it's obvious. But you? You're intelligent and
a person either pays dearly for intelligence or represses
it. I am paying up. But why are you
both unwilling to repress it and unwilling to pay
up? You know better.
Because I'm ordinary. There are moments when I desire
the death of those I love, or lust after a woman forbidden
to me by friendship or family. Were logic everything,
I'd kill or seduce on such occasions. But you can’t
live that way.
So you believe in some higher ideal?
I believe some actions are better than others.
And I don't believe there's any reason
to choose between them.
I understand, Caius, and, to a point, agree with you.
That's why I don't hate you. Nevertheless, you stand
in our way and you must disappear.
So why risk your life by telling me this?
Because others will take my place, and because I don't
like to lie.
Do you think that it's possible for two men of much
the same temperament at least once in their lives
to open their hearts to each other?
Isn't that what we've just been doing.
Yes, Cherea. But you thought I was incapable of it.
I was wrong, Caius. I admit it, and I thank you. Now
I await your sentence.
My sentence? Ah, I see. (Producing the letter from
under his cloak.) Do you recognize this, Cherea?
I suspected you had a copy.
(stifles a scream, holding the letter up to his
face, moves away from Cherea. Passionately) You
knew I had it! So your frankness was a piece of play
acting. The two friends did not open their
hearts to each other. Oh well! At least we can stop
playing at sincerity, and resume living the way we
were. But first I ask you to make just one more effort
to swallow my insults and bad humor. Listen carefully,
Cherea. This is the only piece of evidence against
(moves to go) I'm leaving Caius. I'm sick and
tired of all these games. CALIGULA (in the same
tense, passionate voice) Just a minute. This letter
is the only evidence. Right?
Evidence? When have you needed evidence to send a
man to his death.
That's true. But for once I want to contradict myself.
It will harm no one, and it’s good to contradict
oneself occasionally. It relaxes a person. And I need
You're too subtle for me, Caius.
I forgot, Cherea. You are a healthy man. You
don't want to be an anything out of the ordinary man.
(Bursting into laughter) You want to live and
to be happy -- That's all! Nothing more!
Let's leave it at that.
A little patience, if you don't mind. I have evidence
and I choose to assume that I can't sentence you to
death without it. That's my idea . . . and my relaxation.
Well! See what becomes of evidence in the hands of
an Emperor. (He holds the letter to a torch. Cherea
approaches. The torch is between them. The letter
begins to burn.) You see, conspirator! It burns,
and as this proof disappears, a new innocence dawns
on your face again. What a handsome forehead you have,
Cherea! And innocence is so beautiful! Marvel at my
power. Even a god cannot restore innocence without
first punishing the culprit. But your emperor needs
only a torch flame to expiate your crime Consider
in that light, the wonderful reasoning you have just
given me. Your emperor longs for his rest. That's
his way of living and being happy.
stares, bewildered, at Caligula. He turns, but almost
backs out, unable to take his eyes off Caligula who
is still holding up an imaginary letter to the flame.
Caligula follows the receding figure with his gaze,
laughing and sobbing.