Act Two, Caligula by Albert Camus

Scipio: How I loathe you! And how I pity you!

Caligula [angrily]: Enough, I tell you.

Scipio: And how horrible a loneliness like yours must be!

Caligula [ in a rush of anger, gripping the boy by the collar, and shaking him]: Loneliness! What do you know of it? Only the loneliness of poets and weaklings. You prate of loneliness, but you don’t realise that one is never alone. Always we are attended by the same load of the future and the past. Those we have killed are always with us. But they are no great trouble. It’s those we have loved, those who loved us and whom we did not love; regrets, desires, bitterness and sweetness, whores and gods, the gang celestial! Always, always with us! [He releases Scipio and moves back to his former place.] Alone! Ah, if only in this loneliness, this ghoul-haunted wilderness of mine, I could know, but for a moment, real solitude, real silence, the throbbing stillness of a tree! [Sitting down, in an access of fatigue.] Solitude? No, Scipio, mine is full of gnashings of teeth, hideous with jarring sounds and voices. And when I am with the women I make mine and darkness falls on us and I think, now my body’s had its fill, that I can feel myself my own at last, poised between death and life – ah, then my solitude is fouled by the stale smell of pleasure from the woman sprawling at my side.

[A long silence. CALIGULA seems weary and despondent. Scipio moves behind him and approaches hesitantly. He slowly stretches out a hand towards him, from behind, and lays it on his shoulder. Without looking around, CALIGULA places his hand on Scipio’s.]

Scipio: all men have a secret solace. It helps them endure, and they turn to it when life has wearied them beyond enduring.

Caligula: Yes, Scipio.

Scipio: Have you nothing of the kind in your life, no refuge, no mood that makes the tears well up, no consolation?

Caligula: yes, I have something of the kind.

Scipio: What is it?

Caligula [very quietly]: Scorn.


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