Short summary - Nicomède - Pierre Corneille

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Nicomède
Pierre Corneille

Two of his sons arrive at the court of King Prusius of Bithynia. Nicomedes, the son of his first marriage, left the army, at the head of which he won numerous victories, putting more than one kingdom at the feet of his father; he was tricked into the capital by his stepmother, Arsinoe. The son of Prusius and Arsinoe, Attalus, returned to his homeland from Rome, where he lived as a hostage from the age of four; Through the efforts of the Roman ambassador Flaminius Attalus was released to his parents for agreeing to hand over to the republic its worst enemy, Hannibal, but the Romans never enjoyed the spectacle of a captive Carthaginian, for he chose to take poison. The queen, as is often the case with second wives, completely subordinated the aged Prusius to her influence. It was at her will that Prusius, to please Rome, deprived Hannibal of her patronage, but now she weaves intrigues, wanting to make her son Attalus the heir to the throne instead of Nicomedes, and also upset the marriage of her stepson with the Armenian queen Laodike.

Flaminius supports Arsinoe in her intrigues, because in the interests of Rome, on the one hand, to elevate Attalus, who received Roman education and Roman citizenship, to the throne of Bithynia, and not the proud and independent, glorified in Nicomedes' campaigns, and on the other hand, to prevent the strengthening of Bithynia at the expense of a dynastic union with Armenia.

Until now, the half-brothers did not know each other and for the first time meet in the presence of Laodice, with whom they both are in love, but she reciprocates only Nicomedes. This first meeting almost ended in a quarrel. Arsinic friction between the brothers only plays into the hands, because in accordance with her plans, one of them must be crushed, the other, on the contrary, elevated. The queen is confident that with the help of the Romans, Attal will easily take over the throne of his father; that before marrying Laodike, it is more difficult, but nevertheless she sees a way to destroy Nicomedes and force the Armenian queen to enter into an unwanted marriage.

Tsar Prusius has recently been seriously alarmed by the unparalleled rise of Nicomedes: the conqueror of Pontus, Cappadocia and the country of the Galatians enjoys power, fame and popular love more than those that ever fell to the lot of his father. As the lessons of history suggest to Prusius, such heroes are often bored with the title of subject, and then, having desired the royal dignity, they do not spare the sovereigns. The head of Prusius' bodyguards, Araspus, convinces the king that his fears would be justified if it were about someone else, while the honor and nobility of Nicomedes are beyond doubt. Arasp's arguments do not completely dispel Prusius' concerns, and he decides to try, acting with extreme caution, to send Nicomedes into honorable exile.

When Nicomedes comes to his father in order to tell about his victories, Prusius meets him very coldly and reproaches that he left the army entrusted to him. The king refuses to answer Nicomedes' respectful request to allow him to accompany Laodike, who is leaving for his homeland. The conversation between father and son is interrupted by the appearance of the Roman ambassador Flaminius, who, on behalf of the republic, demands that Prusius appoint Attalus as his heir. Prusius orders Nicomedes to give an answer to the ambassador, and he decisively rejects his demand, exposing Rome's plans to weaken Bithynia, which, under a king like Attalus, together with the newly acquired lands, will lose all its greatness.

In addition to the difference in aspirations, the enmity separating them also prevents Flaminius and Nicomedes from reaching an agreement: Father Flaminius in the battle at Lake Trasimene fell at the hands of Hannibal, the teacher of Nicomedes, highly respected by him. Flaminius nevertheless makes a concession: Nicomedes will rule Bithynia, but on the condition that Attal will marry Laodice and ascend the Armenian throne. Nicomedes and this time replies to Flaminius with a decisive refusal.

Prusius is no stranger to nobility, and although Laodike is in his power, he does not consider it possible to commit violence against the royal person. Therefore, since Rome is pleased with the marriage of Attalus and Laodice, let Flaminius go to the Armenian princess and, on behalf of the republic, propose to her the son of Arsinoe as her husband.

Flaminius's plan was not destined to come true - on the way to the gallery, Nycomed fled with the help of an unknown friend. The prince goes out to the crowd, and the rebellious people immediately calms down. In the consciousness of his own strength, he appears before the frightened households and the Roman ambassador, but he does not even think of revenge - everyone who wanted evil to him can be justified: the stepmother was guided by blind love for his son, the father - passion for Arsinoe, Flaminius - the desire to respect the interests of his family countries. Nicomedes forgives everyone, but for Attalus he promises to conquer any of the neighboring kingdoms that Arsinoe likes.

Nicomedes touched the heart of his stepmother, and she sincerely promises to love him from now on like her own son. Immediately, by the way, it turns out that Attal was the friend who helped Nicomedes escape.

Prusius has no choice but to order the sacrifices in order to ask the gods to grant Bithynia a lasting peace with Rome.