Hernani by Victor Hugo

Persons in the Drama


A Mountaineer

Charles V. of Spain

A Page

Don Ricardo


Don Ruy Gomez


Doņa Sol


Date of action, 1519.

Act I

SceneKing Charles and some of his noblemen are creeping into the courtyard of the palace of Don Ruy Gomez de Silva at Saragossa. It is midnight, and the palace is dark, save for a dim light coming from a balcony window.

The King: Here will I wait till Doņa Sol comes down.
Guard every entrance. And if Hernani
Attempts to fight you need not kill the man.
Brigand although he is, he shall go free,
If I can win his lady.

Don Ricardo: Shoot the hawk
If you would keep the dove. The mountaineer
Is a most desperate outlaw.

The King: Let him live.
If I were not so passionately in love
With Doņa Sol I would help Hernani
To rescue her from her old guardian.
To think that Don Ruy Gomez should have kept
So beautiful a girl a prisoner,
And tried to marry her! Had Hernani
Eloped with her before I fell in love
I would have praised his courage.

[The balcony window opens, and as the noblemen retire, Doņa Sol comes down.

Doņa Sol: Hernani!

The King (holding her): Sweet Doņa Sol.

Doņa Sol: Oh, where is Hernani?

The King: I am the king, King Charles. I worship you,
And I will make you happy.

Doņa Sol: Hernani!
Help! Help me, Hernani! [She tries to escape.

The King: I am your king!
I love you, Doņa Sol. Come, you shall be
A duchess.

Doņa Sol: No.

The King: Princess.

Doņa Sol: No.

The King: Queen of Spain!
Yes; I will marry you if you will come.

Doņa Sol: I cannot; I love Hernani.

The King: That brigand is not worthy of you. A throne
Is waiting. If you will not come with me,
My men must carry you away by force.

[While he is talking Hernani appears.

Hernani: King Charles, you are a coward and a cur!

Doņa Sol (clasping him): Save me!

Hernani: I will, my love.

The King: Where are my men?

Hernani: In my hands. I have sixty followers
Waiting out there. And now a word with you.
Your father killed my father; you have stolen
My lands and titles from me; and I vowed
To kill you.

The King: Titles? Lands? Who are you, then?

Hernani: But meeting Doņa Sol, I lost all thought
Of vengeance. Now I come to rescue her,
And find you in my path again—a wretch
Using his strength against a helpless girl.
Quick! Draw your sword, and prove you are a man!

The King: I am your king. I shall not fight with you.
Strike if you want to murder me.

Hernani: You think
I hold with the divinity of kings?
Now, will you fight?

[Striking him with the flat of his sword.

The King: I will not. Murder me,
You bandit, as you murder every man
That you desire to rob! Cross swords with you?
A common thief? No; get to your trade.
Creep round; assassinate me from behind!

[King Charles fixes his fierce, hawk-like eyes on the young brigand. Hernani recoils, lowers his sword; then, moved beyond himself by the strength of character  displayed by The King, he breaks his blade on the pavement.

Hernani: Be off, then.

The King: Very well, sir. I shall set
A price upon your head, and hound you down.

Hernani: I cannot kill you now, with Doņa Sol
Looking at us. But I will keep my vow
When next we meet.

The King: Never shall you obtain
Mercy, respite, or pardon at my hands.

[He departs.

Doņa Sol: Now let us fly.

Hernani: No; I must go alone.
It means death! Did you see King Charles's face?
It means death. Oh, my love, my sweet, true love!
You would have shared with me the wild, rough life
I lead up in the mountains: the green couch
Beneath the trees, the water from the brook.
But now I shall be hunted down and killed.
You must not come. Good-bye.

Doņa Sol: Oh, Hernani!
Will you leave me like this?

Hernani: No, I will stay!
Fold your arms closely round me, love, and rest
Your dear head on my shoulder. Let us talk
In whispers, as we used to, when I came
At night beneath your window. Do you still
Remember our first meeting?

[There is a clash of bells.

Doņa Sol: Hernani,
It is the tocsin!

Hernani: No; our wedding-bells.

[Shouts are heard. Lights appear in all the windows.
The noise of the bells grows louder. A mountaineer
runs in, with his sword drawn.

The Mountaineer: The streets are filled with soldiers.

Doņa Sol: Save yourself!
Here is a side gate.

The Crowd (out in the street): Bring the brigand out!

Hernani: One kiss, then, and farewell.

Doņa Sol (embracing him): It is our first.

Hernani: And it may be our last. Farewell, my love!

Act II

SceneDon Ruy Gomez, an old, grey-haired, but superb-looking man, is standing in the hall of his castle in the Aragon mountains.

Don Ruy Gomez: Only an hour, and then she is my wife!
I have been jealous and unjust, and used
Some violence. But now she is my bride
She shall know how a man can love.

[A Page enters.

Page: My lord,
There is a pilgrim at the gate, who craves
For shelter.

Don Ruy Gomez: Let him in. On this glad day
Give friend or stranger welcome. Is there news
Of Hernani?

Page: King Charles has routed him
And killed him, so they say.

Don Ruy Gomez: Thank Heaven for that!
My cup of happiness is full. Run, boy!
Bid Doņa Sol put on her wedding-gown,
And as you go admit my pilgrim guest.

[The Page retires.

Would I could let the whole world see my joy!

[Hernani enters, disguised as a pilgrim.

Hernani: To you, my lord, all peace and happiness!

Don Ruy Gomez: And peace and happiness to you, my guest!
Where are you bound for?

Hernani: For Our Lady's shrine.

[Doņa Sol enters, arrayed in a wedding-dress.

Don Ruy Gomez: Here is the lady at whose shrine I pray.
My dearest bride! Where is your coronet?
You have forgotten it, and all the gems
I gave you as a wedding gift.

Hernani (in a wild, loud voice): What man
Wishes to gain ten thousand golden crowns?
This is the price set upon Hernani.

[Everyone is amazed. Tearing off his pilgrim robe, he
shows himself in the dress of a mountaineer.

I am Hernani.

Doņa Sol: Ah! he is not dead!

Hernani: Ten thousand crowns for me!

Don Ruy Gomez: The sum is great.
I am not sure of all my men.

Hernani: Which one
Will sell me to King Charles? Will you? Will you?

[The retainers move away from him. Doņa Sol makes an imploring gesture; she is speechless with fear.

Don Ruy Gomez: My friend, you are my guest, and I will slay
The man that dare lay hands on you. I come
Of noble race. And were you Hernani
Or Satan, I would keep the sacred law
Of hospitality. My honour is
A thing I prize above all else on earth,
And King Charles shall not stain it while I live!
Come, men, and arm, and close the castle gate.

[He goes out, followed by all his retainers. Doņa Sol remains, her face white with anguish. Hernani  glares at her.

Hernani: So he has bought you, this old wealthy man!
Bought you outright!
Oh, God, how false and vain
All women are!

Doņa Sol: When I refused the throne
Offered me by King Charles, was I then false?
Is this an ornament vain women wear
Upon their wedding day?

[She takes a dagger from her bosom.

Oh, Hernani,
They told me you were killed! I have been dressed
For marriage, but against the bridal night
I kept this dagger.

Hernani: Slay me with it, love!
I am unworthy of you! Blind and mad
Was I to doubt the sweetest, bravest soul
That ever walked in beauty on this earth.

Doņa Sol (clasping him in her arms): My hero and my lover, and my lord,
Love me, and love me always!

Hernani: Unto death.

[As he embraces her, Don Ruy Gomez enters.

Don Ruy Gomez: Judas!

Hernani: Yes. Draw your sword and take my life.
But spare your bride, for she is innocent.
I came to carry her away, but she
Refused to follow me.

Doņa Sol: It is not true.
I love him. Slay us both, or pardon us!

Don Ruy Gomez: You love him, Doņa Sol? Then he must die.

[There is a sound of trumpets outside. A Page enters.

The Page: His Majesty King Charles is at the gate,
With all his army.

Don Ruy Gomez: Open to the king!

Doņa Sol: Nothing can save him now!

[Don Ruy Gomez presses a spring in the wall, and a door opens into a hiding-place.

Don Ruy Gomez (to Hernani): Here you are safe.

Hernani: Surrender me! I am a prisoner now,
And not a guest.

[He enters the hiding-place. Don Ruy Gomez closes it.

The Page: His Majesty, the King!

[King Charles enters, followed by his soldiers. Doņa Sol covers herself hastily in her bridal veil.

The King (to the soldiers): Seize all the keys, and guard the gates!
(To Don Ruy Gomez) My lord,
I hear that you are sheltering my foe,
The brigand Hernani.

Don Ruy Gomez: Sire, that is true.

The King: I want his head—or yours.

Don Ruy Gomez: He is my guest.
I come of men who are not used to sell
The head of any guest, even to their king.

The King: Why, man, he is your rival! You resolved
To help me hunt him down. You gave your word.

Don Ruy Gomez: But now he is my guest.

The King: He shall be found,
Though every stone in all your castle walls
Fall ere I find him.

Don Ruy Gomez: Raze my castle, then;
I cannot play the traitor.

The King: Well, two heads
Are better, some men say, than one. My lord,
I must have yours as well as Hernani's.
Arrest this man!

[As the soldiers come forward, Doņa Sol throws up her veil and strides up hastily to King Charles.

Doņa Sol: You are a wicked and cruel king!

The King: What? Doņa Sol? (In a whisper)
It is my love for you
That stirs in me this passion. You alone
Can calm it. (To Don Ruy Gomez)
Until you deliver up
Hernani, I shall keep your lovely ward
As hostage.

Doņa Sol (taking the dagger, and hiding it again in
her bosom
): It will save him! I must go!

[She goes up to King Charles and he leads her out.

Don Ruy Gomez runs to the wall to press the spring. Doņa Sol turns as she passes through the door, and stops him by a wild glance. He waits, with heaving breast, till the hall is empty, and then lets Hernani out.

Don Ruy Gomez: The king is gone. Here are two swords. Now fight.

Hernani: No! You have saved me! No. I cannot fight.
My life belongs to you. But ere I die
Let me see Doņa Sol.

Don Ruy Gomez: Did you not hear
What happened? Till I give you up, King Charles
Holds her as hostage.

Hernani: Fool! He loves her.

Don Ruy Gomez: Quick!
Call up my men! To horse! Pursue the king!

Hernani: Leave it to me. I will avenge us both.
My way is best—a dagger in the dark.
Let us go forth on foot and track him down.

Don Ruy Gomez: And when your rival dies?

Hernani (taking a horn from his belt): Then claim your debt!
My life belongs to you. At any time
You wish to take it, sound upon this horn,
And I will kill myself.

Don Ruy Gomez: Your hand on it!


SceneCharles of Spain, who has just been elected Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, is kneeling by the tomb of Charlemagne in the underground vault at Aix-la-Chapelle.

Charles: O mighty architect of Christendom,
Inspire me now to carry on thy work!
Ah, let me with the lightning of thy sword
Smite the rebellious people down, and make
Their kings my footstool! Warrior of God!
Give me the power to subjugate and weld
The warring races in a hierarchy
Of Christian government throughout the world!

[The tramp of many feet is heard.

Here my assassins come! Oh, let me creep,
Thou mighty spirit, into thy great tomb!
Counsel me from thy ashes; speak to me;
Instruct me how to rule with a strong hand,
And punish these wild men as they deserve!

[He hides in the tomb: the Conspirators enter.

Their Leader: Since Charles of Spain aims at a tyranny,
We, whom he threatens with his power, must use
The only weapon of defence still left—
Assassination! Here, before the tomb
Of Charlemagne, let us decide by lot
On whom the noble task shall fall to strike
The tyrant down.

[The Conspirators write their names on pieces of parchment, and throw them into an urn. They kneel down in silent prayer. Then their leader draws one of the names.

The Conspirators: Who is it?

Their Leader: Hernani.

Hernani: I have won! I hold thee now at last!

Don Ruy Gomez: No, I must strike the blow!
Take back your life,
Take Doņa Sol, but let me strike the blow!

[He offers Hernani the horn.

Hernani: No! I have more than you have to avenge.

Their Leader: Don Ruy Gomez de Silva, you shall strike
The second blow if the first fail. And now
Let us all swear to strike and die in turn,
Until Charles falls.

The Conspirators: We swear!

Charles (coming out of the tomb): You are dead men.

[The great vault is lighted up by torches, and a band of soldiers who have been hiding behind the pillars surround the Conspirators.

Charles (to a soldier): Bring in the lady. (To Hernani)
What is your true name?

Hernani: I will reveal it now that I must die.
Don Juan of Aragon, Duke of Segorbe,
Duke of Cardona, Marquis of Monroy,
Count Albatera, and Viscount of Gor,
And lord of scores of towns and villages
Whose names I have forgotten. You, no doubt,
Remember all of them, Charles of Castile,
For they belong to you now.

[The soldier returns with Doņa Sol. She throws herself at the emperor's feet.

Doņa Sol: Pardon him!

Charles: Rise, Duchess of Segorbe and Cardona.
Marquise of Monroy—and your other names, Don Juan?

Hernani: Who is speaking thus—the king?

Charles: No. It is the emperor. He is a man
Different from the king (turning to the astonished Conspirators); and he will win
Your loyalty, my friends, and your good aid,
 If God in His great mercy will but guide
His erring feet along the pathway trod
By Charlemagne. Don Juan of Aragon,
Forgive me, and receive now from my hands
A wife full worthy of you, Doņa Sol.

[The two lovers kneel at his feet. Taking from his neck the Golden Fleece, he puts it on Hernani.

The Spectators: Long live the emperor.

Don Ruy Gomez: I have the horn.

Act IV

SceneA terrace by the palace of Aragon. It is midnight, and the guests are departing from the marriage feast of Hernani and Doņa Sol.

Doņa Sol: At last, my husband, we are left alone.
How glad I am the feast and noise is done—
Are over.

Hernani: I, too, am weary of the loud, wild joy.
Happiness is a deep and quiet thing,
As deep and grave and quiet as true love.

Doņa Sol: Yes, happiness and love are like a strain
Of calm and lovely music. Hernani,
Listen! (The sound of a mountain horn floats on the air.)
It is some mountaineer that plays
Upon your silver horn. [Hernani staggers back.

Hernani: The tiger comes!
The old, grey tiger! Look! In the shadows there!

Doņa Sol: What is it frightens you?

[The horn sounds again.

Hernani: He wants my blood! I cannot!

[Don Ruy Gomez enters, playing on the horn like a madman.

Don Ruy Gomez: So you have not kept your word.
"My life belongs to you. At any time
You wish to take it, sound upon this horn
And I will kill myself." You are forsworn!

Hernani: I have no weapon on me.

Don Ruy Gomez (offering a dagger and a phial):
Which of these
Do you prefer?

Hernani: The poison.

Doņa Sol: Are you mad?

Hernani: He saved my life at Aragon. I gave
My word of honour I would kill myself
When he desired.

[He raises the phial to his lips, but his wife wrests it from him.

Doņa Sol (to her guardian): Why do you desire
To kill my husband?

Don Ruy Gomez: I have sworn no man
Shall marry you but me. I keep my oath!

[With a wild gesture Doņa Sol drinks half of the poison, and hands Hernani the rest.

Doņa Sol: You are two cruel men. Drink, Hernani,
And let us go to sleep!

Hernani (emptying the phial): Kiss me, my sweet.
It is our bridal night.

Doņa Sol (falling beside him on the ground): Fold me, my love,
Close in your arms. [They die.

Don Ruy Gomez: Oh, I am a lost soul!

[He kills himself.