The revised play was licensed by the Master of the Revels on May 6, 1631, and was premiered the next day, May 7, by the King's Men. (If the play was intended for the winter season, it was meant for the Blackfriars Theatre. The troupe's summer season at the Globe Theatre is thought to have begun in May, and the play may have been staged there instead.)
Scholars and critics have remarked on the play's debt to the political thought of Niccolò Machiavelli, and have observed a close relationship between Massinger's play and John Ford's Perkin Warbeck, though it is uncertain which play preceded the other.
The manuscript is annotated with notes by Edward Knight, the company's prompter, to allow its use as the promptbook that guided performances of the play. Knight added notes like "2 Chairs set out," "Table ready and 6 chairs to sett out," and "All the swords ready" as reminders of needed props. Near the end of the MS., Knight wrote,
In Act IV, Knight placed a cue for music:
Henry Wilson was one of the company's regular musicians.
In the notes, two men have to stand ready to raise Joseph Taylor up through the stage's trap door when Antiochus is released from his dungeon in Act IV, scene 1. In the last scene of Act IV, Antiochus enters with "his head shaved in the habit of a Slave" — which leads to the question of how the actor's transition from haired to hairless was done.
The casting details in the MS. are not always clear or consistent, but the main role assignments in the original production are evident:
|1st Merchant||John Honyman|
|2nd Merchant||William Penn|
|3rd Merchant||Curtis Greville|
The middle portion of the opening scene is illegible in the damaged MS. (pages 3-4), but the action is comprehensible: Antiochus's three servants, Chrysalus, Geta, and Syrus, decide to betray their master. They abscond with his gold; Chrysalus leaves a taunting message addressed to "the no king Antiochus" and signed "no more thy servant but superior, Chrysalus." Antiochus is wounded in spirit by the betrayal, but determined to carry on.
The second scene introduces the king's chief antagonist, the Roman Titus Flaminius. (The character is based on a Roman politician and general of the relevant period; but the real Titus Quinctius Flaminius died in 174 BC.) The scene is set in Carthage, and shows three merchants from Asia Minor complaining to Berecinthius, the "archflamen" or high priest of the goddess Cybele, about their mistreatment in a maritime dispute with Rome. Flaminius is the Roman ambassador, a powerful figure in a Carthage defeated in the Second Punic War; the merchants and Berecinthius bring their complaints to him, but Flaminius dismisses them with arrogance and contempt. The Roman leaves and Antiochus presents himself, and his former subjects the Merchants recognize him instantly. They and the anti-Roman Berecinthius offer the king protection and support.
Flaminius quickly learns of Antiochus's arrival. The three false servants, Chrysalus and company, come to him to inform on their ex-master; Flaminius accepts their information and ruthlessly has them put to death. Antiochus and Flaminius both appear before the Carthaginian Senate; Faminius accuses Antiochus of being a fraud, and demands the Carthaginians surrender him to Rome. Antiochus establishes his identity, with documents and through his eloquence and the majesty of his bearing. The Senators are not bold enough to give Antiochus direct help; but they allow him to leave the city and avoid the tentacles of Flaminius and Rome.
The scene shifts to Bithynia in Asia Minor (in the Sebastian play, Florence). Antiochus (along with the Merchants and Berecinthius) has come seeking support at the court of king Prusias. He is fondly remembered and warmly welcomed. Flaminius, passionate to subdue the king, has pursued him to Bithynia; Flaminius subverts Prusias's tutor and favorite Philoxenus, and with threats of war intimidates Prusias into surrendering Antiochus. Prusias yields, to the disgust of his Queen. Berecinthius and the First Merchant also fall into Flaminius's custody, though the other two Merchants escape.
Flaminius now confronts the problem of what to do with the king. He persists in the fiction that the man is an impostor, though he himself knows that Antiochus is genuine. He has the king imprisoned for three days without food, then offers him a halter and a dagger; but Antiochus rejects suicide. Flaminius offers the king another choice: he can subsist on bread and water, or he can enjoy good food and comfortable conditions — if he admits he's a fraud. Antiochus is tempted to reject even the prison fare, but concludes that his cause would not be served by slow starvation. Finally, the Roman tries to tempt the king with a beautiful young courtesan. Through his three trials, Antiochus behaves with courage, discipline, and dignity.
The last Act opens with Marcellus, the Roman proconsul of Sicily, and his wife Cornelia (in the Sebastian play, they were the Duke and Duchess of Medina Sedonia). Learning that Antiochus is being transported through the island on his way to confinement in the galleys, the two Romans, old friends of the king, arrange an interview. Marcellus is powerful, and Flaminius cannot refuse him, though he plainly dislikes the business. Antiochus once again shows his kingly behavior, and his old friends recognize him and commiserate with his fall in fortune. Cornelia is particularly moved. An angry Flaminius threatens punishment for treason — but Marcellus outdoes him. The Second and Third Merchants have provided evidence of Flaminius's corrupt practices at Carthage; Marcellus has the man arrested and sent back to Rome. Marcellus can do nothing for the king, as Antiochus recognizes in his closing speech:
Prison fare: Ecuador. (prison conditions in Ecuador; new constitution makes provisions for prisoners held at least one year without trial to be released; reforms to justice system needed)(Brief Article)
Sep 12, 1998; QUITO SINCE August 10th, when Ecuador's new constitution took effect, its prisons have been in turmoil. Inmates held for months...