Short summary - Rodogune
The preface to the author's text is a fragment from the book of the Greek historian Appian of Alexandria (2nd century) "The Syrian Wars". The events described in the play date back to the middle of the 2nd century. BC e., when the kingdom of the Seleucids was attacked by the Parthians. The background of the dynastic conflict is set forth in a conversation between Timagen (educator of the twin princes Antiochus and Seleucus) and his sister Laonica (confidante of Queen Cleopatra). Timagen knows about the events in Syria by hearsay, since the queen mother ordered him to shelter both sons in Memphis immediately after the alleged death of her husband Demetrius and the rebellion raised by the usurper Tryphon. Laonica remained in Seleucia and witnessed how the people dissatisfied with the woman's rule demanded that the queen enter into a new marriage. Cleopatra married her brother-in-law Antiochus, and together they defeated Tryphon. Then Antiochus, wishing to avenge his brother, attacked the Parthians, but soon fell in battle. At the same time, it became known that Demetrius was alive and in captivity. Stung by the betrayal of Cleopatra, he plotted to marry the sister of the Parthian king Phraates Rodogun and to take back the Syrian throne by force. Cleopatra was able to repulse her enemies: Demetrius was killed - according to rumors, by the queen herself, and Rodoguna was in prison. Phraates threw an innumerable army against Syria, however, fearing for his sister's life, he agreed to make peace on the condition that Cleopatra would cede the throne to the eldest of his sons, who would have to marry Rodogun. Both brothers fell in love at first sight with the captive Parthian princess. One of them will receive a royal title and the hand of Rodogun - this significant event will put an end to long troubles. The conversation is interrupted with the appearance of Prince Antiochus. He hopes for his lucky star and at the same time does not want to deprive Seleucus. Having made a choice in favor of love, Antiochus asks Timagen to talk with his brother: let him reign, abandoning Rodogun. It turns out that Seleucus also wants to cede the throne in exchange for the princess. The twins swear to each other in eternal friendship - there will be no hatred between them. They made a too hasty decision: Rodogune should reign together with his older brother, whose name his mother will call.
The alarmed Rodoguna shares his doubts with Laonika: Queen Cleopatra will never give up the throne, as well as from revenge. The wedding day is fraught with another threat - Rodogun is afraid of a marriage with an unloved one. Only one of the princes is dear to her - a living portrait of her father. She does not allow Laonica to name her name: passion can betray itself with a blush, and the royal family must hide their feelings. Whoever heaven chooses her husband, she will be true to her duty.
Rodoguna's fears are not in vain - Cleopatra is full of anger. The queen does not want to give up the power, which she got at too high a price, besides, she has to crown her hated rival with the crown, who stole Demetrius from her. She openly shares her plans with the faithful Laonica: the throne will be given to the one of the sons who avenge their mother. Cleopatra tells Antiochus and Seleucus about the bitter fate of their father, who was killed by the villainess Rodoguna. The birthright must be earned - the elder will be indicated by the death of the Parthian princess.
Dazed brothers realize that their mother is offering them a crown at the cost of a crime. Antiochus still hopes to awaken good feelings in Cleopatra, but Seleucus does not believe in this: the mother loves only herself - there is no place in her heart for sons. He proposes to turn to Rodogun - let her chosen one become the king. The Parthian princess, warned by Laonica, tells the twins about the bitter fate of their father, who was killed by the villainess Cleopatra. Love must be conquered - her husband will be the one who avenges Demetrius. Dejected Seleucus tells his brother that he is giving up the throne and Rodogun - bloodthirsty women have discouraged him from both reigning and loving. But Antiochus is still convinced that the mother and beloved will not be able to resist crying pleas.
Appearing to Rodogun, Antiochus surrenders himself into her hands - if the princess is burning with a thirst for revenge, let him kill him and make her brother happy. Rodoguna can no longer hide his secret - her heart belongs to Antiochus. Now she does not demand to kill Cleopatra, but the agreement remains unbreakable: despite her love for Antiochus, she will marry the elder - the king. Inspired by success, Antiochus hurries to his mother. Cleopatra meets him harshly - while he hesitated and hesitated, Seleucus managed to take revenge. Antiochus admits that both of them are in love with Rodoguna and are not able to raise a hand on her: if his mother considers him a traitor, let him order him to commit suicide - he will submit to her without hesitation. Cleopatra is broken by the tears of her son: the gods are supportive of Antiochus - he is destined to receive the power and the princess. The immensely happy Antiochus leaves, and Cleopatra tells Laonica to call Seleucus.Only left alone, the queen gives vent to anger: she still wants revenge and taunts her son, who so easily swallowed the hypocritical bait.
Cleopatra tells Seleucus that he is the eldest and that he rightfully belongs to the throne, which Antiochus and Rodogun want to seize. Seleucus refuses to take revenge: in this terrible world, nothing seduces him anymore - let others be happy, and he can only wait for death. Cleopatra realizes that she has lost both sons - the accursed Rodogun bewitched them, like Demetrius had done before. Let them follow their father, but Seleucus will die first, otherwise she will inevitably be exposed. The long-awaited moment of the wedding celebration is coming. Cleopatra's chair is below the throne, which means her transition to a subordinate position. The queen congratulates her "lovely children", and Antiochus and Rodoguna sincerely thank her. In the hands of Cleopatra a goblet with poisoned wine, from which the bride and groom are to sip. At that moment, when Antiochus raises the cup to his lips, Timagen bursts into the hall with the terrible news: Seleucus was found in the park alley with a bloody wound in his chest. Cleopatra suggests that the unfortunate man committed suicide, but Timagen denies this: before his death, the prince managed to convey to his brother that the blow was inflicted "with a dear hand, with his own hand." Cleopatra immediately blames Seleucus on Rodogun for the murder, and she blames Cleopatra for the murder. Antiochus is in painful meditation: "dear hand" points to the beloved, "dear hand" - to the mother. Like Seleucus, the king is experiencing a moment of hopeless despair - having decided to surrender to the will of fate, he again raises the goblet to his lips, but Rodogun demands to test the wine brought by Cleopatra on the servant. The queen indignantly declares that she will prove her complete innocence. After taking a sip, she passes the goblet to her son, but the poison acts too quickly. Rodoguna triumphantly points out to Antiochus how pale and staggered his mother. The dying Cleopatra curses the young spouses: may their union be filled with disgust, jealousy and quarrels - may the gods give them the same respectful and obedient sons as Antiochus. Then the queen asks Laonik to take her away and thereby save her from the last humiliation - she does not want to fall at the feet of Rodoguna. Antiochus is filled with deep sorrow: the life and death of his mother equally frighten him - the future is fraught with terrible troubles. The wedding celebration is over, and now you need to proceed to the funeral rite. Perhaps heaven will nevertheless turn out to be favorable to the unfortunate kingdom.