Short summary - Cinna - Cinna, ou la clémence d’Auguste - Pierre Corneille

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - Cinna - Cinna, ou la clémence d’Auguste
Pierre Corneille

Emilia possesses a passionate desire to avenge Augustus for the death of her father, Kai Torania, the educator of the future emperor, who was executed by him during the triumvirate. In the role of the executor of revenge, she sees her lover, Cinna; no matter how painful it is for Emilia to realize that by raising her hand against the almighty Augustus, Cinna is endangering her precious life for her, yet duty is above all. to evade the call of duty is the greatest shame, the one who fulfills his duty is worthy of the highest honor. Therefore, even dearly loving Cinna, Emilia is ready to give him her hand only when the hated tyrant is killed by him.
Emilia's confidante, Fulvia, tries to dissuade her friend from a dangerous plan, reminds with what honors and respect Augustus surrounded Emilia, thus atoning for the old guilt. But Emilia stands her ground: only death can atone for Caesar's crime. Then Fulvia speaks of the danger awaiting Cinna on the path of revenge, and that even without Cinna among the Romans, Augustus does not count enemies who yearn for the death of the emperor; so is it not better to leave the reprisal against the tyrant to one of them? But no, Emilia will consider the debt of vengeance unfulfilled if August is killed by someone else.
Tsinnoy has drawn up a whole conspiracy against the emperor.In a close circle of conspirators, all as one burn with hatred for the tyrant, who paved his way to the Roman throne with corpses, all as one yearn for the death of a man who, for the sake of his own elevation, plunged the country into the abyss of fratricidal massacre, betrayal, betrayal and denunciations. Tomorrow is the decisive day, on which the tyrant fighters decided to either rid Rome of Augustus, or lay down their heads themselves. As soon as Cinna has time to tell Emilia about the plans of the conspirators, the freedman Evander comes to him with the news that Augustus demands him, Cinna, and the second leader of the conspiracy - Maxim. Cinna is embarrassed by the invitation of the emperor, which, however, does not mean that the conspiracy has been discovered - Augustus counts both himself and Maximus among his closest friends and often invites for advice.
When Cinna and Maximus appear to Augustus, the emperor asks everyone else to leave, and he turns to two friends with an unexpected speech: he is burdened with power, the ascent to which he once reveled in, but now carries him only a heavy burden of worries, universal hatred and constant fear of violent death. Augustus invites Tsinna and Maximus to accept the rule of Rome from his hands and decide for themselves whether their home country should be a republic or an empire.
Friends meet the Emperor's proposal in different ways. Cinna convinces Augustus that the imperial power came to him by the right of valor and strength, that under him Rome reached an unprecedented prosperity; if power is in the hands of the people, of a senseless crowd, and the country will once again be mired in strife, the greatness of Rome will inevitably come to an end. He is sure that the only correct decision for August is to keep the throne. As for death by the hand of murderers, it is better to die as the ruler of the world than to drag out the existence of an ordinary citizen or citizen.
Maxim, in turn, with all his heart would have welcomed the abdication of Augustus and the establishment of the republic: the Romans have been famous for their love of freedom since ancient times, and, no matter how legitimate the power of the emperor, they will always see, even in the wisest ruler, primarily a tyrant.
After listening to both, Augustus, to whom the welfare of Rome is incomparably dearer than his own peace, accepts the arguments of Cinna and does not relinquish the imperial crown. He appoints Maximus governor in Sicily, while keeping Cinna with him and giving him Emilia as his wife.
Maxim is at a loss why the leader of the conspirators suddenly became a friend of tyranny, but Cinna explains to him why he urged Augustus not to leave the throne: firstly, freedom is not freedom when it is taken from the hands of a tyrant, and secondly, the emperor cannot be allowed to do so just retire - he must atone for his evil deeds by death. Cinna did not betray the cause of the conspirators - he would take revenge at all costs. Maximus laments to his freedman Euforbus that Rome did not receive liberty only at the whim of Cinna, who was in love with Emilia; now Maxim will have to commit a crime for the benefit of a happy rival - it turns out that he has long loved Emilia, but she does not reciprocate. The cunning Euphorbus offers Maxim the surest, in his opinion, means not to stain his hands in the blood of Augustus, and to get Emilia - you need to inform the emperor about the conspiracy, all the participants of which, except Cinna, allegedly repented and pray for forgiveness.
Meanwhile, Cinna, touched by the greatness of Augustus's soul, loses his former resolve - he realizes that he has a choice: to betray the sovereign or his beloved; whether he kills Augustus or not - in both cases, he will commit treason. Cinna still cherishes the hope that Emilia will release him from the oath, but the girl is adamant - since she vowed to take revenge on Augustus, she will achieve his death at any cost, even at the cost of her own life, which is no longer sweet to her, since she cannot unite her with her lover -the perjurer. As for the fact that Augustus magnanimously handed it over to Zinna, accepting such gifts means subservience to tyranny.
Emilia's speeches force Cinna to make a choice - no matter how hard it is for him, he will keep his promise and end Augustus.
The freedman Euphorbus presented the whole matter to Augustus in such a way that, they say, Maxim sincerely repented of his evil intent against the person of the emperor, and Cinna, on the contrary, persists himself and prevents other conspirators from admitting their guilt. The measure of Maxim's repentance is so great that in despair he rushed to the Tiber and, as Evphorbus believes, ended his days in its stormy waters.
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August is deeply struck by Zinna's betrayal and is burning with a thirst for revenge, but, on the other hand, how much blood can you shed? Hundreds of murders have not yet secured the emperor, and new executions are unlikely to provide him with a calm rule in a country where opponents of tyranny will never leave. So is it not nobler to humbly meet death at the hands of the conspirators than to continue to reign under the sword of Damocles?
Behind such reflections, Augustus is caught by his loving wife Livia. She asks him to heed her women's advice: not to shed the blood of the conspirators this time, but to have mercy on them, for mercy to the defeated enemies is a valor for the ruler no less than the ability to decisively deal with them. Livia's words touched the soul of Augustus, little by little he was inclined to keep Cinna alive. The freedmen Evander and Euphorbus have already been captured, and Augustus urgently summons Cinna to his council. Emilia understands - all this means that the conspiracy has been discovered, and mortal danger looms over her and over Cinna. But then Maxim comes to Emilia and starts an inappropriate conversation about his passion, offering to run on the ship with him, Maxim, since Cinna is already in August's hands and there is nothing you can do to help him. Not only is Emilia completely indifferent to Maxim, but how carefully prepared the escape makes her suspect that it was Maxim who betrayed the conspirators to the tyrant.
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Maxim's treacherous plan collapsed. Now he curses Euforbes and himself with terrible words, not understanding how he, a noble Roman, could commit low crimes on the advice of a freedman, who forever preserved, despite the freedom granted to him, the most slavish soul.
Augustus summons Cinna to him and, ordering him not to interrupt, reminds the failed conspirator of all those blessings and honors with which the emperor surrounded the ungrateful descendant of Pompey, and then explains to him in detail the plot of the conspiracy, tells who should have stood where when to strike ... August appeals not only to Cinna's feelings, but also to his mind, explains that even with the success of the conspirators, the Romans would not want to have Cinna emperor, for there are many men in the city with whom he can in no way be equal to either the glory of his ancestors or personal prowess.
Cinna does not deny anything, he is ready to suffer punishment, but in his replies there is not even a shadow of remorse. Remorse is not heard in the words of Emilia, when she, having appeared before Augustus, calls herself the real head and inspirer of the conspiracy. Cinna counters that it was not Emilia who seduced him into malicious intent, but he himself hatched plans for revenge long before he knew her.
Augustus and Emilia exhortations to leave anger, asks to remember how he raised it in order to atone for the murder of his father, of which he is not guilty so much as fate, whose plaything is often kings. But Cinna and Emilia are relentless and determined to meet the hour of death together.
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Unlike them, Maxim deeply repents of the triple betrayal - he betrayed the sovereign, his conspiratorial friends, wanted to destroy the alliance of Cinna and Emilia - and asks to put him and Euforb to death.
But August this time is in no hurry to send enemies to execution; he surpasses all conceivable limits of generosity - he forgives everyone, blesses the marriage of Cinna and Emilia, and grants Cinna consular power. With wise generosity, the emperor softens the hearts hardened against him and finds in the person of the former conspirators the most faithful friends and companions.