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Penshurst Palace Literature: “Love’s Victory”

How do Musella and Philisses react when their love is threatened by an arranged marriage between Musella and Rustic? Read this extract to find out.
The characters of Musella and Phillisses hold hands in the forest
© Stephanie Hodgson-Wright

In this article, we will read Act 5 Scene 1 of Love’s Victory to find out how Musella and Philisses react when their love is threatened by an arranged marriage.

The scene is taken from a manuscript copy of the play written by Lady Mary Wroth in her own hand. The manuscript is HM600 and is in The Huntington Library in California.

Lady Mary Wroth has wonderfully neat handwriting but her meaning is sometimes difficult to untangle. In this transcript, I have modernised the spelling and punctuation in order to make it easier for a first time reader.

You can download a copy of the document and ‘Notes for Reading’ to guide you through the extract and what to look out for.




O eyes that day can see, and cannot mend
What my joys poison; must my wretched end
Proceed from love? And yet my true love crossed,
Neglected for base gain, and all worth lost
For riches? Then ’tis time for good to die, [5]
When wealth must wed us to all misery.
If you will but stoutly tell your mother
You hate him, and will match with any other,
She cannot, nor will go about to cross
Your liking, so to bring your endless loss. [10]
Alas, I have urged her, till she with tears
Did vow and grieve she could not mend my state,
Agreed on by my father’s will, which bears
Sway in her breast, and duty in me: Fate
Must have her courses, while most wretched I [15]
Wish but so good a fate as now to die.
Wish not such ill which all we suffer must,
But take some hope, the Gods are not unjust.
My mind doth give me yet you shall be blessed,
And seldom do I fail; then quiet rest. [20]
Rest quiet? (O heavens!) Have you ever known
The pains of Love, and been by him o’erthrown,
To give this counsel, and advise your friend
T’impossibilities? Why, to what end
Speak you thus idly? Can it e’er be thought [25]
That quiet, or least rest, can now be brought
To me while dear Philisses thus is crossed,
Who missing, all my happiness is lost?
You have not missed, nor lost him yet.
I must,
And that’s enough. Did I my blessings trust [30]
In your kind breasts, you fatal sisters? Now
By your decree to be bestowed? And bow
To base unworthy riches? O! my heart,
That breaks not, but can suffer all this smart.
Have patience.
I can not, nor I will not. [35]
Patient be? Ay me, and bear this ill lot?
No; I will grieve in spite of grief, and mourn
To make those mad who now to pleasure turn.
My dear Musella, what is it doth grieve
Your heart thus much? Tell me, and still believe [40]
While you complain, I must tormented be;
Your sighs, and tears (alas) do bleed in me.
I know it, ’tis your loss I thus lament.
I must be married; would my days were spent.
To Rustic. My mother so commands, [45]
Who I must yield to, being in her hands.
But will you marry? Or show love to me,
Or her obey, and make me wretched be.
Alas Philisses, will you this doubt make?
I would my life to pleasure you forsake. [50]
Hath not my firmness hitherto made known
My faith and love? Which yet should more be shown
If I might govern but my mother’s will;
Yet this last question e’en my heart doth kill.
Grieve not my dearest, I speak but for love; [55]
Then let not love your trouble so far move.
You weep not, that it wounds not hapless me,
Nor sigh, but in me all those sorrows be:
You never cry, but groans most truly show
From deepest of my heart I feel your woe. [60]
Then heap not now more sorrows on my heart
By these dear tears, which taste of endless smart;
No grief can be which I have not sustained,
And must, for now despair hath conquest gained.
Yet let your love in me still steady rest, [65]
And in that I sufficiently am blessed.
But must you marry?
Alas my dear, I must.
I hear, and see my end. O Love unjust,
Ungrateful, and forgetful of the good
From us received, by whom thy fame hath stood, [70]
Thy honour been maintained, thy name adored
Which by all others with disgrace was stored.
Is this the great reward we must receive
For all my service? Will you thus deceive
Our hopes, and joys?
Yet shall I one thing crave. [75]
Ask my poor life; all else long since I gave.
That will I ask, and yours requite with mine,
For mine can not be, if not joined to thine.
Go with me to the temple, and there we
Will bind our lives, or else our lives make free. [80]
To die for you, a new life I should gain,
But to die with thee were eternal pain.
So you will promise me that you will live
I willingly will go, and my life give.
You may be happy.
Happy without thee? [85]
Let me be rather wretched, and thine be.
Without thee no life can be, nor least joy,
Nor thought but how a sad end to enjoy.
But promise me yourself you will not harm
As you love me.
Let me impose that charm [90]
Likewise on you.
Content, I am agreed.
Let’s go alone, :** no company we need.
Simeana, she shall go, and so may tell
The good or heavy chance that us befell.
With all my heart.
But what will you two do? [95]
Both die, and me, poor maiden, quite undo?

You can read a published edition of The Huntington Manuscript by Marta Straznicky in “Women’s Household Drama,” ed. Marta Straznicky and Sara Mueller, The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series, 66, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, vol. 544 (Toronto: Iter Press, 2018).

The first authorised edition of the longer Penshurst Manuscript of the play, edited by Alison Findlay, Philip Sidney and Michael G. Brennan will be published by the Revels Plays series (Manchester University Press, 2020).

© Alison Findlay Lancaster University
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Penshurst Place and the Sidney Family of Writers

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