Colombe’s Birthday
Robert Browning
Novels
1:47 h
Level 8
Colombe's Birthday is a play written by Robert Browning. In 1843, he was approached by William Macready's rival Charles Kean to write a play for him. Browning took up the offer and finished the play in 1844. Colombe has been Duchess of Juliers and Cleves for a year. It is her birthday and the anniversary of her coronation to the Duchy. Prince Berthold, the claimant to the throne, arrives and attempts to take over the Duchy as its rightful heir. The poor advocate of Cleves (Valance) tells Colombe the problems occurring in the city, but stands by her when Berthold attempts to take her throne. When called upon, however, Valance admits that Berthhold has the stronger claim. The prince suggests marriage as the solution, but does not pretend to love Colombe. Valance offers her his love instead, describing how it is better to have love than power, and she agrees. In choosing this, she relinquishes the Duchy's throne to Berthold.

Colombe’s Birthday

A Play

by
Robert Browning


“Ivy and violet, what do ye here
With blossom and shoot in the warm spring-weather,
Hiding the arms of Monchenci and Vere?”
Hanmer.

NO ONE LOVES AND HONORS BARRY CORNWALL MORE THAN DOES
ROBERT BROWNING;
WHO, HAVING NOTHING BETTER THAN THIS PLAY
TO GIVE HIM IN PROOF OF IT, MUSY SAY SO.


Browning was stimulated by the enthusiastic reception of A Blot in the ‘Scutcheon to write another play for the stage, but for some reason it was not performed for ten years or so. It was printed in 1844 as No. VI. of Bells and Pomegranates. Mr. Gosse in his Personalia says: —

“I have before me at the present moment acopy of the first edition, marked for acting by the author, who has written: ‘I made the alterations in this copy to suit some — I forget what — projected stage representation; not that of Miss Faucit, which was carried into effect long afterward.’ The stage directions are numerous and minute, showing the science which the dramatist had gained since he first essayed to put his creations on the boards.

“Some of the suggestions are characteristic enough. For instance: ‘Unless a very good Valence is found, this extremely fine speech, [in Act IV. where Valence describes Berthold to Colombe], perhaps the jewel of the play, is to be left out.’ In the present editions the verses run otherwise.”

The play has recently [1895] been rearranged in three acts and brought again on the stage.

PERSONS

Colombe of Ravestein, Duchess of Juliers and Cleves.
Sabyne, Adolf, her Attendants.
Guibert, Gaucelme, Maufroy, Clugnet, Courtiers.
Valence, Advocate of Cleves.
Prince Berthold, Claimant of the Duchy.
Melchior, his Confidant.

Place, The Palace at Juliers.

Time, 16 — .


Act I

Morning. Scene. A corridor leading to the Audience-chamber.

Gaucelme, Clugnet, Maufroy and other Courtiers, round Guibert who is silently reading a paper: as he drops it at the end —