Based on two novels by Robert Graves adapted by Jack Pulman, the Emperor Claudius tells the intriguing story of the imperial family of the first Roman emperors from Augustus Caesar to Claudius himself.
Roman Emperor Claudius (r. 41-54) records his memoirs from the reigns of Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, and his own as those in the imperial families struggle for power while they try to govern.
Aged Claudius (Derek Jacobi) is writing the strange history of his life. He feels the presence of those who have died. He believes it was prophesied by the Sybil. He looks for spies and hopes to cheat them. He says he went to Cumae to see the Sybil many years ago, and she consented to see him.
The Sybil speaks to him for Apollo and predicts that he will be given a gift everyone wants but he.
Claudius uses a trunk to store his writings so that people in the future will be able to read the truth he recorded. He begins the history of his family and his life. He says Marcus Agrippa hated Marcellus.
Augustus (Brian Blessed) enjoys entertainment while drinking, and he rewards the talent. He tells Marcus Agrippa (John Paul) that he likes to eat sparingly. He orders Thallus to bring in the cake so that his family can see it. Augustus has hired the greatest orator of their time, Aristarchus of Athens, to speak on the seventh anniversary of the battle of Actium. Young Marcellus (Christopher Guard) complains that it will be boring like last year. Agrippa says it was an important battle but asks Marcellus to give his opinion. The cake is a replica of a ship, and Marcellus notes which one is Agrippa. Livia (Sian Phillips) asks her husband Augustus to bring in the Greek. He consents and has the cake taken out. He says he writes a prose poem.
Aristarchus (Carleton Hobbs) comes in and stands on a little platform. A Roman introduces him with a strong voice and tells the orator that he was an actor. Livia asks them to discuss their personal problems on their own time. Aristarchus says it is a day to drink and dance. He tells how Queen Cleopatra and Mark Antony brought their ships to Actium. Agrippa commanded the Roman ships.
Claudius describes Agrippa who serves Augustus who became emperor and married Livia, and she rules him while he rules the world. Octavia (Angela Morant) is the sister of Augustus and mother of Marcellus. Next to him is his wife Julia (Frances White), the only daughter of Augustus. Claudius says that Augustus is preferring Marcellus over Agrippa, and Agrippa knows it.
Aristarchus describes how Antony chased Cleopatra to the gates of heaven. Augustus says it was wonderful, but he says the battle was much different. He says he used poetic license. Marcellus says that it was not much of a battle. He studied it and says he was not impressed. Agrippa tells him to talk to him after he has actually done something instead of just studied it. Agrippa goes out, and Augustus goes after him.
Claudius says that Livia was always scheming. Claudius himself had not yet been born.
While Livia is writing, a servant comes in and tells her that Caesar wants to see her at once with Agrippa. She tells Tiberius (George Baker) to come with her but remain outside.
Augustus asks Agrippa why he wants to leave Rome. Agrippa says he could do more good by ruling Syria. Augustus tells Livia that Agrippa wants to leave Rome. Augustus asks if it is because he appointed Marcellus city magistrate. Agrippa admits that is another reason why he does not need him there. Agrippa says Augustus is the greatest friend he ever had, and Augustus says he shares that. Augustus asks if there is conflict between the followers of Marcellus and Agrippa who says he has no followers nor any bad feelings toward Marcellus. Agrippa says if he really needs him in Rome, he could stay. Augustus asks when he would leave, and Agrippa says in a few days. Augustus gives his consent and hugs his old friend, saying goodbye. Agrippa goes out.
Augustus asks Livia who Agrippa thinks he is. She says he thinks he is his successor, but Augustus says he is too old. She says they can’t do without Agrippa and suggests that he call him back after four or five months. He says no; he knows what he is doing. She asks him to see her son and calls in Tiberius who is dressed as a soldier. Augustus says that Tiberius is going to join their troops in Germany and that they need good generals. He would like to know what is going on there because it helps him make up his mind about things. He wishes him good luck and goes out. Tiberius tells Livia he could have saved himself the trouble. She says they all can’t be lovable, but at least he could try. He says it is his nature, and he can’t change it. He wonders why she did not put her hopes on his brother. She says she would have if he did not share the idiotic hopes of reviving the republic. She says she took the auspices when Tiberius was born, and they were very favorable. He refers to this as her “chicken story,” and she reviews it again. She saw that Augustus or Antony would rule. So she divorced his father and married Augustus and waited. She implies he needs to be patient. She says he has the best chance of being the next emperor. She tells him to kiss her and leave, and he does so. She says he can be relied on in the less imaginative arts.
Livia is talking with Antonia (Margaret Tyzack), the daughter of Octavia about her sewing, and Augustus calls Antonia who goes out. Livia tells Octavia that Antonia is very pretty and looks like her father. Octavia says it was no great pleasure being Mark Antony’s wife. Marcellus and his wife Julia come in, and he asks his mother Octavia if she is feeling all right. She complains about the noise at night. Augustus brings in a pear off his tree, and he urges Livia to eat more of them. Augustus talks with Marcellus about the games, and the boy gives his ideas for a battle. Augustus asks who will pay for it all. They go out, and the women talk. Octavia and Antonia go out. Julia heard there was opposition to Marcellus in the Senate, and Livia says it was only some friends of Agrippa. Julia asks Livia why they still put up with the farce of the Senate. Livia says that Augustus likes to keep to the forms because the Romans like to believe they govern themselves. They agree that Marcellus is very popular. Livia mentions that Julia has not had any children yet, and Julia notes that Livia has had no children by Augustus in twenty years. They both say they are happy with their husbands. Julia says few marriages are happy these days, but she thinks Tiberius is happy with Vipsania. Livia agrees and recalls that Julia and Tiberius liked each other when they were growing up.
Augustus and Livia take their seats in a private room at the games, and he complains that Livia is reading petitions. He says his great uncle Julius used to do it, and people do not like it. Marcellus arrives, and Augustus welcomes him and extends his hand as a gesture for him to proceed into the stadium. Marcellus does so and is greeted with loud cheering. Augustus says he told them that he is popular.
Marcellus raises his hand and says, “Let the games begin.”
Augustus asks Livia if she is all right. She says she has a headache. He says that Marcellus is a huge success. He is going back to the games, but she declines. He says he is going away to the east for four or five months. She asks if he will see Agrippa. He says no because he never got further than Lesbos. He says he can let him stew. He goes back to the games.
Livia receives letters and learns that none are from the Emperor. One letter came for Marcellus. She wants to see him, but the messenger says that he is in bed because of a chill. He says his wife and mother went away.
Marcellus is being treated by a doctor, and Livia comes in and kisses him. He says he has been worse. Livia says she will prepare something for him so that nothing will happen to him. She says she will stay in the next room and will prepare food for him. She tells him not to pay attention to the physician Musa. He says it is good of her, and she says goodness has nothing to do with it.
Musa (Renu Setna) examines Marcellus, and he knocks and tells Livia that he is getting worse. He says they should inform his wife and mother. She says they have to get worse before they get better. Musa says he keeps nothing down, and he is bringing up green slime. Livia opens the door and says she never saw that. She asks if it is a good sign.
Livia comes in to a room and greets her son Tiberius with a kiss. She says she had to call him back. She says Marcellus may die, and she has been nursing him. Tiberius did not think she would care if he lived or died. He hopes their prayers will be heard. Livia asks him what he thinks about Julia. He says he is happily married, and Julia does not interest him. He says he won’t divorce Vipsania because she means more to him than anyone. Livia asks if he still loves his mother. They hear a scream, and Julia comes in screaming that he is dead. Livia holds her arms and tells her to control herself. She slaps her, and Julia cries. Livia tells Tiberius to take care of Julia, and he sits by her.
Livia asks Musa if he is sure that he is dead. Musa says he did everything, but it must have been food poisoning. Octavia hears this and looks at Livia. Musa says there should be an inquest. Livia says no because they know he died of food poisoning as he said.
Livia goes back and tells Tiberius to take Julia to her room and comfort her. She will inform his wife where he is. They go out. Livia dictates a letter to Augustus.
Augustus is reading the letter from Livia explaining the death of Marcellus.
Claudius says Romans rioted and demanded a return of the republic.
Tiberius reports to Livia about the disturbances. She tells him to go talk to them, but he does not. She says she is not afraid of the rabble and goes out.
Livia tries to talk to the mob in the street but insults them and tells them to go home. They throw garbage at her.
Livia comes back in, and Tiberius wishes she would behave like a normal woman. She says they should get Agrippa back because he speaks their language. She tells Tiberius to order the guards into the streets.
Augustus welcomes Agrippa with a hug and asks about his journey. Agrippa says they were not always together. He says often the young man insulted him, and Augustus says he was like a son to him. Agrippa says he is sorry that he is dead even though he was not a friend to him. Augustus says he needs his friend Agrippa back in Rome. Agrippa says he heard things are bad there now. Augustus says there has been a little trouble, and he needs his strong arm. Agrippa agrees to go back and asks for a closer family tie. He says he is not getting along with his wife. He says Julia is young and will remarry. He asks if she could marry him. Augustus agrees to it, and they laugh.
Livia tells Augustus that he never should have agreed to let Agrippa marry Julia, and they argue about it. He asks why she opposes it, and she says it gives him more than he deserves.
Claudius says she got her way in the end, and he continues writing.
Old Claudius writes how his grandmother Livia was patient. Agrippa married Julia, but after nine years he died from poison given him by Livia. Tiberius divorced his wife and married Julia.
Tiberius is being trained in physical fitness, and he wrestles with his brother Drusus (Ian Ogilvy). Tiberius says he was fair to his soldiers, but Drusus tells him what his men said about him. They said his drills were like battles, and his battles were like drills. Drusus says he won some victories too. Tiberius says his legions were the best and will not be seen again. He says he cursed and flogged them, but the officers as well as the men. Drusus says he will take the field, but Tiberius says that Augustus will not let him. He uses him as his messenger boy. Tiberius complains that they made him marry Julia.
Julia and Antonia are getting massages and are talking. Antonia says that Tiberius never wanted to divorce Vipsania, and Julia makes fun of how thin Vipsania is. Antonia wonders why he was not glad to see the back of her, and Julia suggests that he liked the back of her but does not go into details. Julia asks how anyone could hate her boys whom she says are sweet. Julia says that Livia insisted. She says that Livia had to wait because of how Augustus felt about Agrippa. Julia dismisses the masseuses and tells Antonia that Livia probably killed Marcellus. Julia says that Antonia is so innocent. She says she is not and that she should ask Drusus. Julia says that Antonia’s husband is very attractive. Julia says she only covers herself up when she is there with Antonia who does not approve of nakedness. Julia laughs.
Drusus washes the back of Tiberius who then scrapes the back of Drusus. Tiberius says he hates himself sometimes, and he asks Drusus about inside darkness. Drusus says he could match him. Tiberius says the children of Augustus are either sweet or sour, and it is true of them. Drusus asks about their mother, and Tiberius says that a snake bit her once. Tiberius asks Drusus if the monarchy will survive Augustus, and Drusus says that Rome will be a republic again. Tiberius says that then he did it all for nothing. Drusus says his brother is ambitious. Tiberius says he really misses Vipsania. Drusus says it is done, and Tiberius says he must forget her. Tiberius feels close to his brother, and they promise to protect each other. Tiberius says something could happen to Drusus who says no one is guaranteed the time.
Augustus is playing a military board game with the boys Lucius (Russell Lewis) and Gaius (Earl Rhodes). Augustus makes sure they follow the rules. A servant tells Augustus that Drusus is there to say goodbye. Augustus invites the boys to say goodbye to the man who commands their legions in Germany. Augustus embraces Drusus and lets the boys asks Drusus strategic questions. They talk about invading Britain, and Drusus says there is little of value there, and they make poor slaves. Augustus advises Drusus to read Julius Caesar’s commentaries on Britain. The boys go out, and Augustus talks with Drusus. Augustus asks if he has said goodbye to his mother Livia. Augustus says it is a difficult job to rule an empire. He says it has been twenty years since Antony died. Augustus says if Antony had been a good husband to his sister, things would have been different. Augustus says the father of Drusus wanted the republic as Drusus does, and he wronged him by taking Livia from him. Augustus says they are a family and work together for the greater good of Rome. They talk about his brother Tiberius who wants to leave Rome. Augustus says he needs him there. Livia comes in and asks Drusus if he read the dispatches from Germany. Augustus says that when agreements are broken, the punishments must be severe. Livia wants a temple built in the name of Augustus, but he says no. Drusus says they no longer have kings in Rome and asks if they are to have gods. Augustus blesses Drusus and goes out. Livia tells her son not to encourage Augustus to step down from office. Drusus asks if she wants them to become like eastern potentates; but she says Rome will never be a republic again. He disagrees, and he says a mother cannot love all her children. He kisses her and goes out.
In a dark room Vipsania tells Tiberius he should not have come there and asks him not to make trouble for her. He says he won’t. She says it is dangerous. He asks to look at her and opens a window. She begs him to go away, and he asks if she is getting married again. She says yes. He shakes her and threatens to kill her, shouting that she is his wife. She says he divorced her. He asks if she loves him, and she asks if he loves his wife. He says no; he hates her. He asks why she must marry again, and she says she must end his coming to see her. She says his mother’s spies are everywhere. She says he is married to the daughter of Augustus, and he cannot treat her as if she was no one. He tells her not to marry again, and she asks if she is supposed to spend the rest of her life alone. He says she won’t be alone. She says he divorced her, and he says they made him do it. She says they could not have made her. He comes to her and cries in her lap. He suggests they die together by opening their veins. He says he is lost in darkness. She says he will come through it.
Livia talks about the deification of Augustus and says she cannot let his modesty prevent it. The senator says there will be some opposition in the Senate, but she says she will handle the Senate.
Augustus is castigating Tiberius for being seen visiting his former wife. He says he must treat his daughter with respect. Livia comes in, and Augustus says he has seen Vipsania again. Augustus warns him not to make his family a laughing stock, or he will have him out. He warns him what happened to Mark Antony. Tiberius asks him to let him go away from Rome. Livia says he does not mean it. Livia says a man may see his former wife occasionally. Augustus says he and she never did it in secret. Livia says this was not secret because she knew about it. She says he complains he has too much to think about and not enough time to think about it. Augustus admits he was hasty and says he felt he had cause. He realizes that Tiberius and Julia are not well matched. He says they have to set an example, and Livia agrees with that. Augustus tells Tiberius not to sulk and talks to him man to man. He asks him to play fair with him, and Tiberius nods. Augustus says he hates family rows. An imperial messenger arrives from Germany with a message from Drusus. Tiberius takes it and reads it aloud. Drusus says he has a slight head wound. He found corruption, and Tiberius hesitates. He says it is not worth reading. Livia puts out her hand, and Tiberius hands her the letter. She continues the reading which says that Drusus feels the corruption is the result of the supreme power of Augustus. He asks if they could persuade or compel him to retire. He would do this but for the influence of their mother Livia. Augustus says he feels strongly, but he is wrong. Then he says maybe he is right; maybe he should retire. Tiberius says he spoke of giddiness at the end. Augustus says that is it; he is a little deranged. Augustus says he will call him back, and Livia agrees with that. She says she will send her doctor to take care of him.
Drusus has been wounded and is carried into his tent. His leg is crushed and a mess. They plan to wash it. The officer says that Livia sent her doctor, and he will arrive soon. He gives Drusus a letter from Caesar, and he reads it. Antonia comes in and asks what happened. Drusus says he has been invited back to Rome. Drusus feels pain and tells the officer to get out. The officer says he will not go far on that leg.
Augustus has a letter and says it was a simple fall. Tiberius says they can be bad. Livia says it is an excuse for not coming home. She says he has the western army at his back. Tiberius says he must go to his brother. Augustus says he will make a sacrifice and prayers. Augustus tells him to take their love. Tiberius goes out. Augustus says the Senate voted to make him a god in Palmyra. They will put a statue of him in the temple, and people will bring offerings and asks him to cure gout. He asks how he could do that.
Antonia asks Drusus what he wants. He asks her to bring their child. Tiberius comes in, and Antonia embraces him before going out. Tiberius asks the officer what it is, and he says it is gangrene. He says Livia’s physician Musa took over the case. Tiberius asks Musa what happened to his skill. Musa says he came too late, and Tiberius throws him out. Tiberius speaks to Drusus who says that Livia read the letter. Tiberius says she was there when he got it. Drusus says Livia is cruel. Tiberius cries as he realizes he has died. Antonia comes in with the baby Claudius and says he did not wait.
Old Claudius says that he should not have died, but somebody blundered. Two servants bring in a meal for Claudius. He stops writing and sits at the table. He watches the servant taste the food and say it is good. Claudius tells him which part to taste and how to swallow the wine before he starts eating and drinking. Claudius asks if he ever read his history of the Etruscans. He says he started it but could not get into it. Claudius says he knows very well who would like to poison him. The man does not like the Greek cook and would like to have him replaced. He asks Claudius about his current work and how far he has got. Claudius says he is up to the death of his father. He says that was a tragedy for them all, especially for his uncle Tiberius who was never the same again.
The royal family has dined together, and Augustus tells the sons of Agrippa to go to bed. Gaius and Lucius help Augustus to his bed first. Augustus says that Julia and Antonia have drunk too much wine. He says Rome cannot afford such a loss. He hopes these boys will be as noble and virtuous as Drusus was. He says mourning is not the Roman way. He goes out, and Antonia asks if it has been only one year. Tiberius tells Livia that sleeping Livia is a pretty sight. He says he must leave Rome, but Livia says he must be patient. He says she lost Augustus to those two boys. She threatens to wash her hands of Tiberius, and he says he did that to his brother. Livia goes out, and Julia wakes up and finds all but Tiberius gone. She says she had a beautiful dream, and she asks Tiberius to sleep with her tonight. He pushes her away and calls her a drunk, fat cow. She says she is fat where a woman should be, not skinny like a boy. She says she will send him a boy she had herself. She says he reminds her of his ex-wife. Tiberius slaps her.
Augustus tells Julia that he will not let her divorce Tiberius. He says she has had three husbands already. She says the first two died, and that is not her fault. He says it was careless, and they quarrel. She asks how she is to live and goes out. Augustus says he cannot even rule his own family. He says the boys are their one hope. In three or four years they will start to take off some of his burden. Livia holds them and says they have a long way to go. She promises that they will take good care of them. Augustus likes the picture of her with her arms on the shoulders of the boys.
Old Claudius is searching for something among his papers and finds it in his sleeve. Livia writes to Tiberius that the answer of Augustus is no; he must stay in exile.
Old Thrasyllus (Kevin Stoney) tells Tiberius that his astrological influences are good. Tiberius says that Livia promised to work for his return. Thrasyllus tells Tiberius that Augustus took the death of Gaius very hard. He is going to appoint Lucius to command the army in Spain. Tiberius tells him to finish the horoscope. He asks why they all hate him.
On a porch Julia is talking to Antonia and says she has to behave herself when the children are around. Antonia says one needs to be a good judge of character. Julia says she used to choose the good-looking male slaves. The little girl Pina complains to Julia about the boy Germanicus, and Antonia tells her son that he must not be so rough. They go off to play, and Julia says they will be getting married soon. Antonia wonders who will marry her boy Claudius. Julia asks her if she ever wondered whether the death of Drusus had something to do with Livia because of the physician she sent. Antonia says she should not accuse someone of poisoning without proof. Lucius (Simon MacCorkindale) appears and says he is going to Spain. Julia introduces the old Domitius (Esmond Knight) to her sons Lucius and Postumus (Alister Kerr). Julia says goodbye to Plautius (Darien Angadi). The children play, and the boy Claudius (Ashley Knight) catches a wolf club. Julia asks Domitius what it means. He lets the children stay and tells them all that the wolf cub is Rome. He sees it is shivering with fear. He says Rome will be wretched one day, but Claudius alone will protect it. The girl Livilla (Katharine Levy) says she hopes she will be dead by then.
Livia asks Plautius if he is having her daughter-in-law Julia. She asks if he would do as much for her and says she is Caesar’s wife. She realizes that he finds her repulsive because she is so old. She says she may be able to do something for him. She asks him how long he has known Julia and if Lucius knew he was plowing his mother. Plautius says he may have guessed. Livia asks him what Lucius means to him. He says he is his best friend. She offers to help him, and he asks what he must do in exchange. She asks for a catalog of Julia’s activities with names and places. She says he may go far if he keeps his head. He does not need to include his name for the moment.
Augustus carries a bust of his late grandson Gaius and puts it down. Praxis (Alan Thompson) says the representatives of the noble order of knights are there. He goes outside to address them on the marriage laws. He holds the hand of Claudius and tells them they should get married. He points to Claudius and says he is a child. He asks them where he came from and urges them to have children. He says that is all he has to say to them and dismisses them. Augustus asks the boy his name, and he says he is Claudius. Livia tells the boy to get back to his lessons. She says the boy should have been exposed at birth. Augustus says they don’t do that anymore. She complains he twitches and stammers. Livia asks her husband to bring Tiberius back to Rome. Augustus says he will never forgive him for what he did to Julia. He says Julia was not in the wrong. He asks her if she approves of marrying Agrippina and Germanicus, and she says yes. She says they should betroth Castor to Livilla also. He asks who is going to marry Claudius, and she says she will find someone.
A man plays flute while Julia is kissing a man. Plautius is watching.
Julia tells Antonia that her father asked her to see his personal physician who told her not to eat so much. Claudius comes in with the boy Herod (Michael Clements), and he says Herod has been put in his class. Herod asks if she was married to Agrippa, and he says his name is Herod Agrippa. Herod also knows who Antonia is, and she invites him to visit them any time. Herod thanks them for receiving him so courteously and leaves with Claudius. Julia says she will miss his friend.
Livia looks at the list Plautius gave her. She asks who Gershon is, and he says he is an African slave in the house. He says there are one or two more slaves, but most are good Romans. She says he did well, and she asks if he has qualms about betraying his friend’s mother. He says it is a matter of state. Livia says she will not tell Augustus; she must find someone else to tell him. She says she may have another assignment for him that is not so pleasurable.
Livia tells Lucius that he knew about his mother. He says he thought Augustus closed his eyes to it. Livia says he could have come to her, but now it is too late to save either of them. He admits he should have told him. Livia says he aided and abetted her in procuring men for her. He says no. She asks if he denies introducing his friend Plautius to her. She says this will be a blow to Augustus because his son connived with her and supplied her with lovers. Lucius asks what he can do, and she says he can do nothing. She regrets that she has to expose the corruption in his family. Lucius asks her to let him expose Julia in order to redeem himself, and she gives him the list.
Augustus has the list and looks at the 21 men lined up before him. He asks several if they slept with his daughter, and they say yes. One says only once, and another says, “Not slept, Caesar.” He shouts if there is any man in Rome who has not slept with his daughter. He tells Lucius he is proud of him for telling him. Then Augustus cries and says she must be left all alone until she dies because she is not fit for human company.
Julia is pounding on a door and begging her father to let her talk to him. She cries and does not want to be alone. Inside Augustus is holding his ears.
Outside Julia asks him for another chance and begs. She sees Livia and says it is her doing so that he will bring her son back to Rome. Julia says she has two sons who come before her son. She says when her father dies, she won’t be needed any more. She advises Livia to die on the funeral pyre with him.
Livia finds Augustus on the porch, and he says he is cursed. He cries on her shoulder as she embraces him. She asks him how she has felt all these years. She says he must let her son come home. They need him there in Rome. She says it was Julia’s wickedness that drove him away. He says he drove her to it, and he will never bring him back. Claudius has heard this.
Tiberius is looking at a chart on a table, and Thrasyllus arrives and says there is a ship in the harbor. Tiberius says he is examining the old man’s horoscope. He has decided if the ship does not bring good news, he is going to have Thrasyllus thrown off a cliff. Thrasyllus says that is funny and asks him what it says. Tiberius says it confirms his worst fears for his safety. Thrasyllus says there is good news on the boat. Tiberius calls Sentor (Roy Stewart) to take Thrasyllus on the path to the cliff. Sentor says the dispatches are coming. A Roman messenger brings a letter for Tiberius who sits and reads it. He says Lucius is dead and that he is to return to Rome. He and Thrasyllus both laugh happily, and the messenger says that Rome is drowned in grief. Tiberius asks what happened, and the messenger says it was a boating accident when Lucius and Plautius were going to Spain. He asks why they are laughing, and Tiberius says it is nervous laughter. The messenger says the boat overturned. Plautius swam for two miles with his friend, but his friend was dead when he got to shore. Tiberius says that Gaius and Lucius died within eighteen months and their mother in between. Tiberius says they will join his ship on its return to Rome. Tiberius tells Thrasyllus that he never lost faith in him.
Tiberius comes in, and Augustus says he will let bygones be bygones. He says his two grandsons are dead, and people want him to bring his daughter back. He says she is not his daughter anymore. He says they will talk later. There is trouble in Germany, and he has his son as a hostage and swore he would execute him; but he is a likable chap. Augustus goes out, and Livia says that likable chap is now the king. Tiberius says his mind is going. Livia tells Tiberius that they will talk, and he say yes.
Claudius asks a boy what is wrong, and he says nothing. Herod says Caesar has adopted him into his family, but the boy says he also has adopted his stepfather too, and they both can’t succeed him. The boy says he is frightened. He wants his mama and his brothers. He asks where they are.
Old Claudius remembers his youth.
The poet Horace (Norman Shelley) is reciting for Augustus, Livia, Tiberius, Germanicus, Livilla, Postumus, Antonia, and young Claudius. Augustus praises him and drinks wine. He asks for a copy of his book and says he has a present for him, a gold statue he found. He asks Praxis to get it for him and tells him to come again some time. Claudius knocks over a cup, and Livia says she knew he would do it. Claudius kisses Livia. Augustus asks Postumus about how the troops are shaping up. Augustus says goodnight to him, Domitia, Livilla, and Claudius, and they go out. Livia asks Augustus what they are going to do with Claudius—whether he is to sit in his box at the games or not. He says he will invite him for dinner a few times. A messenger comes in and tells Caesar there has been a terrible disaster in Germany. A dirty soldier salutes Caesar and says he was with the 19th legion, but it and the 17th and the 18th no longer exist. He says the entire army was massacred in a forest. Survivors were hunted down and killed. Tiberius asks what happened to Varus, and the soldier says he killed himself when he realized what happened. Augustus sends for Germanicus and Postumus. The soldier shows them on a map where they were caught on a punitive expedition. Augustus asks if he sent three legions on a punitive expedition. The soldier says not at first. They suffered from defeats and raids. Tiberius asks what happened to the loyal Germans, and he says they betrayed them. He says the commander ignored the warnings. He did not send out advance guards. It started raining, and they were stuck in the mud. Germanicus comes in, and Tiberius says the armies on the Rhine have all been destroyed. Germanicus asks the soldier how he escaped. He says only Cassius Chaerea kept his head, and they cut their way out. He says they put the prisoners in wicker cages and burned them alive.
Praxis tells Livia that he cannot find Postumus. He says he was seen walking toward Livilla’s apartments.
Tiberius, Germanicus, and Augustus discuss what to do about Germany.
Two historians Pollio and Livy ask for a book. They sit down and ask Claudius what he is reading. He says they are the two greatest historians. Pollio asks which he would rather read. Claudius says he would read Livy for beauty of language, and for interpretation of facts he would read Pollio. Livy says he pleases neither of them, but Pollio says he may make a good historian. Claudius tells them where the book they want is, and he corrects them about the author. Livy says he had better be right. Livy goes out, and Pollio laughs and asks Claudius if he likes history. Claudius says he does. Pollio asks if he is the half-wit. Claudius says his family is ashamed of him because of his twitches and stammering. Claudius says he cannot stop it. He is reading his history of the civil war because he is working on the history of his father. Pollio says they were poisoned because they believed in the republic. Claudius is shocked, and Pollio tells him they won’t let him finish his history. He advises him to exaggerate his stutter and his limp and play the fool so that he will survive.
Augustus is talking with Postumus and says they are fortunate because they were born in Rome. He asks him if he understands the dedication it took to maintain it. They sit down. Augustus says they have to provide. He says he has heard complaints about him and that he is rude and bad-tempered. Livia says he is a rake. He was not in his room when he sent for him. He says they must set an example. Postumus asks why his inheritance is being withheld. Augustus says he is all he has left. He wants Postumus to follow him, but Postumus says his stepfather may not agree. Augustus says he never liked Tiberius. Livia hears this and walks away.
Livia has sent for Livilla who asks how her grandmother is. Livia asks her why she lets Postumus into her room at night. She will not treat her like a fool. She has had her watched and her mother Julia too. She says Julia was sent to a small island and has been there for seven years. Livilla says she did not mean it and says she will never see him again. She cries and falls at the feet of Livia who pats her head. She says she was always a naughty little girl. Livilla asks her not to tell Augustus. She tells her to dry her tears and says she is beautiful. Livia says she was beautiful too once. Livilla says she was the most beautiful woman in the world. Livilla says she is not in love with Postumus. She says he always wanted her, and she won’t do it again. Livia talks to her as a grown woman. Many years ago they were afraid of civil war, and she is afraid that may happen again. She says only a single hand on the helm can keep the ship on course. The question is whose hand it will be. She says rivalry may plunge them into civil war again. She says there is doubt in the mind of Augustus. She says her object must become Livilla’s. She asks if she wants her husband to become emperor. Livilla says yes. Livia says that only if Tiberius becomes emperor will her son Castor become emperor. Livilla asks about Postumus, and Livia says they always come back to him.
Augustus tells Praxis that Tiberius says nothing. Livia comes in, and Augustus says the Germans got his eagles. He accuses Tiberius of playing a childish game. Augustus says he will send Postumus with an army to make sure. Livia questions the wisdom of that because Postumus is unproved. He says he has been training recruits; but he will never learn if he never does anything. Livia says that Postumus is unpredictable. Tiberius would take him as a criticism or as a spy. She suggests he send Germanicus to avoid friction between the commanders. Augustus agrees he will send Germanicus. Livia tells him that he was reading a history by Claudius she found in his room. She wants to know if Claudius is to sit at the games. Livia says that she and Antonia will pay for the games. He asks when Claudius is going to get married. She says they have been betrothed for six years. Augustus asks what she is like, and she says she has not seen her for six years. He asks why she is so bad-tempered, and she says he is too and should have a long rest. She goes out.
Claudius appears in the imperial box, and the crowd cheers him. He sits down, and Antonia tells him not to sit in the imperial seats. He gets up and joins Herod in the seats behind. She tells him his nose is running. Herod tells them to look at the crowd which is waiting to see the blood running. Claudius asks him not to spoil it. Herod never ceases to wonder at these spectacles. Claudius says it is religious. He says Herod is a Jew and does not understand these things.
Gladiators are getting ready, and Livia comes in and speaks to them. She says these games are being played in memory of her son Drusus. She says they are all scum, but they have a chance to prove that they are more than that. She says those who survive may win their freedom. She wants a good show and tells them not to kiss in the ring and pussy-foot around. She says she knows every trick, like using pig’s blood in a bladder. She says the games have been degraded by professional tricks to stay alive. She says there will be a decent burial for the dead and rewards for the living. If they do not fight well, she will break up their union and send them to the mines.
Augustus and Livia enter the stadium as people cheer. They sit in the imperial seats, and Claudius falls over backwards. Augustus says it happened to him once. He gives a hand signal, and they watch the fighting. Claudius gasps, and Herod tells him to calm down. Livia says that Drusus would have loved this. Augustus asks Herod to bet him, but Herod says it is against his religion. Augustus asks how many gods they have, and Herod says they have only one. Herod takes the bet. Livilla shouts to finish him, and Claudius faints and is carried out. Postumus is given a message, and Herod says he will see him home. Postumus comes in and smiles at Livilla but leaves with his wife.
Postumus meets secretly with Livilla and kisses her. He asks where her husband is, and she says he is out. He picks her up and puts her on the bed. He kisses her body and fondles her breasts. He lies on her and kisses her. Suddenly Livilla shouts murder and falls on the floor with him. Two soldiers come in, and she says he tried to rape her.
Augustus with a dagger is questioning Postumus who says she could have got his dagger any time. Augustus asks what reason she would have to accuse him. Postumus tells him to ask Livia who hates him. He explains how his father Agrippa, Marcellus, Lucius, and Drusus were all killed by Livia. Augustus is shocked and asks if he is a raving lunatic. Augustus says he is very clever, and he will be moved by his insanity to put him away somewhere. Postumus laughs and says it is incredible. He is considered mad even if he mentions it. He says Livia is the mad woman, and she will destroy them all before she is finished. Augustus holds the knife on his neck and says he could kill him now. He says that is too easy for him. He will suffer like his mother suffers on a rock somewhere. He will stay there until he rots. He calls a guard and tells him to take him away and keep him under arrest. They come in and take Postumus out. Augustus helps Livilla stand up and says he is unclean, not her.
Claudius is eating and writing. Postumus comes in and says they are searching for him. He tells Claudius to listen.
Castor comes in and tells Augustus they are searching for him. Augustus tells him to take his wife Livilla home, and they go out.
Postumus tells Claudius that he wanted him to know the truth. Claudius tells him to stay alive. Postumus says he is sorry he will miss his wedding. Claudius says he embarrasses them all. Postumus looks out the door and tells Claudius to go on playing the idiot. Claudius says Pollio told him the same thing. Postumus says they are not the only ones who know what is going on there. Postumus goes out. Claudius hears shouting by Augustus.
Augustus and Livia come into a room and bow before a veiled woman before they sit on their thrones. Claudius comes in and bows to the spectators and the imperial family and then sits by his bride. They hold hands. An old man comes in and has the two stand up. People laugh because she is so much taller than Claudius. Livia says she kept on growing.
Old Claudius remembers these things. He is drunk and falls off his couch. Two servants help him stand up and help him out.
Old Claudius is writing. Two servants comes in with a basket of documents he looks at and finds one about Augustus Caesar. He has them leave and reads the will of Augustus.
Emperor Augustus in the Senate receives a message from an officer who says his legions have returned from the Rhine with captives. The senators cheer.
Young Claudius talks with his brother Germanicus (David Robb) about their family, and he asks him what the campaign in Germany was like. Germanicus asks about Postumus. Claudius says Livia reads everyone’s letters so that she knows everything. Claudius says that Postumus came to him in his room and told him that Livilla invited him into her room and accused him of trying to rape her. Claudius says he believed him. Postumus said that Livia put her up to it. Claudius tells Germanicus what Postumus thinks of Livia. He said that Livia killed his mother, his two brothers and possibly his father Agrippa. He believes that she poisoned Julia’s first husband Marcellus and was responsible for their father’s death. She poisoned their grandfather so that Tiberius will succeed Augustus. Postumus believes she is mad. Germanicus asks for proof and asks if he told Augustus. Claudius says he must hear it from Germanicus, and he says okay.
Augustus whistles while pruning his plants. Livia says he will ruin the garden, and he asks how long they have been married and says she knows nothing about gardening. She says he never talks to anyone anymore, and he says she bullies people. She asks if he is going to Corsica, and he says very soon. She says he tells her nothing, but he says she learns everything anyway. She asks why he is going there. He says they are losing business. She says he hates traveling, but he says it does not bother him. She asks if she will stop anywhere, and she says he will be passing by his grandfather’s place of exile. He advises her to eat fruit so that she will not age so fast. She asks if he wants her to go with him. He says Germanicus is going with him.
Livia accuses Livilla of talking to Augustus, but she swears it was not her. Livia says Livilla is tired of her husband. Livia asks who else knows, and Livilla says Castor knows. Livia says he would keep it to himself. She says it could have been Claudius. Livia says they will wait and see.
Roman soldiers come into a small room where Postumus is living. They are followed by the disguised Augustus. Postumus speaks angrily to him and then apologizes. Augustus is left alone with Postumus who asks why he came. Augustus admits he wounded him, and he deserves his rage. Augustus cries and says he made mistakes. Postumus is angry after being alone for four years. Postumus tells him to go away and die and leave him alone. Postumus says at first he thought the soldiers came to finish him off. He says he would have died for his father but to die like a dog is bad. They both say they thought of each other but differently. Postumus says Livia lied to him, and Augustus says that Claudius told him the truth. Augustus says he is there to made amends, but first he has to get the Senate to reverse its decree against him. Augustus says he has to wait until Tiberius is out of Rome. Postumus warns him to worry more about Livia. Augustus says he has lived with her so long, it is not easy.
Livia receives the chief Vestal, Camilla Pulchra, (Carol Gillies) who says Livia looks well. Livia envies her serenity and wishes she could have become a vestal. Camilla says Rome would have been the loser. Livia says she came to her to get the Senate to rebuild the house of the Vestals. She says Augustus likes to surprise him, and she thinks he set aside money for this in his will. She asks if he recently altered his will. Camilla says he did. Livia asks who came to witness it, and Camilla says it was Fabius Maximus. Livia wishes they could take it out and look at it, and they laugh. Camilla says it has his seal on it. Livia says she has the use of his seal. Camilla says she would be breaking her vows, but Livia says it would be a good cause. Livia says if they found that was not that change, she would find the money for the Vestals herself.
A physician is attending to Augustus who writhes in pain. He takes some medicine. The physician warns him that it is the ulcer again; he has been working too hard, and he should eat only milk products and eggs, rest, and get fresh air. In another room Livia can hear Augustus moaning as she drinks wine.
Augustus tells an old friend how an eagle circled his head and settled on the A of Agrippa’s name. He says his time has come, and he will be succeeded by the son of Agrippa, Postumus. He says the next day lightening melted the C off his name Caesar. C means 100, and Livia went to an augur. She told him that it means he will die in a hundred days. His friend asks why it could not mean weeks or months or that he will live to be one hundred. Augustus says maybe she went to the wrong augur, and he laughs.
In the garden Claudius asks Livia about the health of Augustus, and she says he is improving. She asks if he has written a book about changes in religion during the reign of Augustus and if he is going to give a public reading of it. She says he must not do that. He says it was not his idea; but Germanicus suggested it before he left. She will not have him doing it. She says if his head does not stop twitching, she will have it off. Claudius goes away, and Tiberius comes over and says her grandson could wreck the empire by strolling through it. Tiberius asks if Augustus is improving. He asks if she is drinking because he nearly died or because he didn’t. She says he has altered his will. He asks in whose favor and suggests Germanicus. She says he got it wrong. He changed his heir to Postumus. Tiberius asks why he changed it, and she denies she knows why. She says she must change it back if he is to be emperor. Tiberius tells her not to do it on his account, and he goes into an angry tirade against Augustus. He says he can retire again and says he is sick of it. She asks when he is leaving, and she advises him not to travel quickly in case something happens to Augustus.
At night Augustus talks with Claudius who says he cured himself by eating very little except fruit he picks and milk from a cow. He says he is going on a holiday to Capri and Nola. He likes the garden of Claudius and says he has never been there before. He asks Claudius if he bears him any ill will, and Claudius asks why he should. Augustus says Claudius gives the impression he is a fool, but he knows he is not a fool. Germanicus told him about Claudius. He said Claudius is loyal to his friends, to Rome, and to the truth. Claudius says his brother worships Augustus who says Germanicus is a fine man even if he is a republican. Augustus says he is a bit of a republican too, but he never retired. He says Germanicus told him everything. Augustus says he altered his will and that not even Livia knows what he did. He tells Claudius they can talk again when he comes back.
Augustus and others are gambling, and Augustus gives more money to a loser. Augustus wins again and laughs and tells the losers to pay up. Augustus stops and says he feels sick. He doubles over in pain and staggers a few steps and vomits over a wall. He tells them to take him to his room, and two men help him walk after he looks at Livia.
In his bed Augustus says he will not eat any food he has not picked from the garden. He will not eat anything touched by human hands, not even Livia’s.
The physician tells Livia what Augustus said, and he says he will have to stay there in Nola for a few days. He goes out, and Livia looks at the fruit by her couch. She picks up a fig and looks at the figs on a tree.
Livia asks Augustus if he is feeling better. She says a delegation from Rome is waiting to see him. She says he made himself worse with the figs. She says she only came to look after him. People might think she is trying to poison him. She says she summoned Tiberius, and he will be there soon. She says she will do whatever he wants him to do. She realizes that they did not always see things eye to eye. She says he often favored one over another. She says he should have listened to her more. She says she has been right more often than he was. She says all she wanted was for him and Rome. She never did anything for her family. She says she is a Claudian, though he may forget that. She closes his eyes, realizing he died. Tiberius comes in and asks how he is. She says Augustus is dead, and Tiberius says the earth will shake. She says she will go see the senators and consuls from Rome. She tells him to stay with him until she returns. She warns him not to touch the figs.
Livia tells the senators that Augustus fell into a deep sleep, and she tells them to come back tomorrow. She will post bulletins on the door. They leave, and she summons Sejanus (Patrick Stewart) and asks him if he knows why he is there. He says he does, and she tells him to leave at once.
Three soldiers come into the room of Postumus with Sejanus who stabs Postumus to death and says they will bury him at sea.
A man asks the friend of Augustus if he is Fabius Maximus, and he says he is. Then the man stabs him in the stomach.
In the Senate on the imperial throne Tiberius orders the will to be read. A senator reads the last will of Augustus Caesar that states that Tiberius is to be his heir for two-thirds of his estate. Livia is his second heir.
Claudius comes to see Livia and offers his condolences. She asks if he was in the Senate. He says he was on the steps, and she says she is not allowed in either. He says they read the will. Livia says that is what they think. She asks what they have done. He says they asked Tiberius to take his place, and he refused. She bets they asked him again. He says they did, and he accepted. He says they are debating whether to make Augustus a god. Claudius explains that when the C is removed from Caesar, that leaves “aesar” which means god in Etruscan. She asks him to send a note to Tiberius so that they will have more arguments. She says Augustus is a god, and she will be one too. She insults Claudius as a fool and says he can go. She laughs.
Old Claudius holds the will of Augustus in his hand, and he says the wicked Livia stole it. He tells her to stop laughing.
Old Claudius empties a chamber pot in a toilet and sits on the toilet, thinking he should not eat so much at night. He thinks about where he is in his history. He says Tiberius did not want the power. He says he was a filthy brute, and all power corrupts. Only Germanicus could have kept him in check, but Tiberius sent him to command in Syria.
A scream is heard, and Germanicus lies dead in his bed. His sister Agrippina (Fiona Walker) comes in and orders his body displayed in the marketplace of Antioch so that people can see the marks of poison and witchcraft on his body. She says to tell Rome that Germanicus is dead. Now nothing stands between Rome and her imperial destiny.
Agrippina marches in the funeral procession and holds up the urn with his ashes. She tells Castor to take it to Rome, and she tells him to defend his children and avenge his death. He takes the urn, and they embrace. She calls her four grandchildren and embraces her son Claudius who is crying. She asks where Livia is and is told she is in mourning. Agrippina says the people lined the roads in lamentation. She asks why his grandmother has not come out to greet them. She says they will journey on to Rome.
Tiberius gets up from his desk and asks Sejanus why they admired him so much. Livia comes in and says he ruled for forty years and was admired by everyone. Tiberius says the troops on the Rhine would have Germanicus emperor, but Livia says he believed in the republic. Tiberius says he is not loved like Augustus was. Sejanus says everyone dead is loved, but Livia warns him not to count on that. Livia says she learned that Tiberius’s son Castor and his sister Agrippina are planning to prosecute Piso and Plancina on charges of murder and treason. Sejanus says they have no proof, but she says they could tell a pretty story. She says Sejanus has been telling many stories in the last five years. Sejanus says that his information indicates that Piso is in Illyria on his way to Rome. Tiberius says he won’t have him tried, but Livia says it is better to have him tried and cleared than have him living under a cloud. Tiberius says Piso can live under cloud, but Livia says she was thinking of Tiberius. He asks her if she has ever thought that it is her they hate, not him. She says anything that has occurred to him has already occurred to her; that is her affliction.
Antonia (Margaret Tyzack), the mother of Germanicus, tells Agrippina she could suspect Piso but not Tiberius. Agrippina asks then why did he appoint Piso governor of Syria. She apologizes to Castor for accusing his father, but he says she should say it. A senator says he has instructed the prosecutors to prepare charges against Piso and Plancina on treason and murder. Herod Agrippa (James Faulkner) ask if there is proof of this, and Agrippina says there was witchery too. Agrippina describes how Germanicus fell ill and suspected that Plancina was poisoning his food because he had dismissed her husband Piso. Agrippina says she began preparing all his food herself. He complained of a smell of death in the house and suspected Plancina of witchcraft. She says his name appeared each day with one less letter. He felt doomed and relied on a talisman that disappeared. The child Caligula (Robert Morgan) coughs, and Agrippina asks why he is out of bed. He says he had a bad dream. Caligula says he would like to sleep with his sister Drusilla. Antonia takes him back to his own room. Claudius asks about the trial. The senator says that they have the witness Martina, a notorious poisoner. Claudius says she was brought to Rome, and they need a place for her to hide. Sejanus and his men will be looking for her. Herod suggests the house of his merchant friend. Castor asks for permission to try the case in the courts. Claudius says Tiberius could fix a trial in the courts; but a trial in the Senate would be better because his father Tiberius will be on trial too. They agree on that.
Tiberius tells Piso (Stratford Johns) that he could not oppose a trial in the Senate because he had no grounds. Piso’s wife Plancina (Irene Hamilton) says they have nothing to be ashamed of. Tiberius says they are being charged with treason too, and he advises him to prepare his defense well. Piso says he had disagreements with Germanicus. Plancina says Germanicus and Agrippina snubbed them. They resented how they were treated. Piso says he has nothing to fear. A servant comes in and says the commander of the guard has an urgent report to make, and Tiberius tells them to wait there and goes out. Piso and Plancina whisper to each other and are worried. Piso shows her documents he has in their own handwriting. She says they have the imperial seal and cannot be read in public, but he says they can be read in the Senate. Tiberius comes back in and asks them who Martina is. Plancina says they knew her slightly. Tiberius says she is known as a poisoner in the provinces. Piso says he is not afraid of her if she speaks the truth. He says the others might persuade her to say something, and Tiberius says they will find her first.
Herod and Claudius ask the merchant Gershom (George Pravda) for the use of his house. He objects to soldiers being there, and Claudius pays him. Gershom says it violates Jewish law, but Herod says this is Roman law.
In the Senate on the imperial throne Tiberius announces that the case against Piso will be heard. The prosecutor says they will prove treason because he raised a rebellion in a province.
Claudius is reading when Caligula runs in and knocks him down, saying he hates him. Antonia comes in and says he was discovered and that the child is a monster. She says he calls anything German he does not like. She found him naked in bed with Drusilla, and she is going to lock him up in the cellar. Claudius says he will talk to him; but she says he needs a whipping, not a lecture. She tells Claudius he should have died instead of Germanicus because he is of no use to anyone. She goes out, and Claudius tells Caligula that he should not play games like that with his sister. Caligula asks why it is wicked, and Claudius tells him he cannot play with his sister or marry her. He says they are disgusting. Herod and Agrippina come in, and Herod says that Martina has disappeared. Agrippina says they overpowered the guard. Claudius asks if it was Sejanus and says why Antonia is upset with Caligula. Agrippina takes her son Caligula out and says he has been through enough already.
Piso tells the Senate he heard about the death of Germanicus when he was on the island of Kos. He came back to Rome to complain about his dismissal. He says they accused of making sacrifices in celebration, and he says it was for the birth of a grandson. He is asked why he returned to Syria, and the prosecutor says Germanicus ordered him to leave Syria. He knew where her loyalties were and puts documents on a table. He says he does not need to read them. Senators shout, and Tiberius calls for order. The prosecutor says the senators have the right to read them, but Piso says they have the imperial seal. Piso says they are not produced as evidence. A senator moves that they be placed in evidence, and the prosecutor seconds it. Tiberius rules that there is not precedent for making letters under the seal of Augustus public, and he denies the motion.
Piso comes home with senators and asks them to leave. He asks Plancina what is the matter. He says it went very well. She says the Emperor will never forgive him. He says he had to give them a trial, but they will not be convicted. She asks about the death of Germanicus, and he says it was her idea. He says it was a bonus for them. She says he is blaming her now. A servant tells them that Sejanus is there, and Piso invites him in. Sejanus tells him that he has placed guards around the house because of a large crowd in an ugly mood. Sejanus says the Emperor suggested it for their safety. Piso says they are pleased, and he asks if their witness disappeared. Sejanus says she has. Sejanus says Tiberius wants the letters so that they won’t get stolen. Piso says he was going to send them over, and he gets them and hands them to Sejanus. Piso says to tell him that he is grateful for what the Emperor wrote. Sejanus says he will be safe and goes out.
Sejanus tells Tiberius he must sacrifice them because the people are smashing Piso’s statues. Tiberius asks what they are saying about him, and Sejanus says they believe that Piso had his approval for everything they did. They are praising Agrippina as the only true descendant of Augustus. Sejanus says that Piso expects Tiberius to save him; but he must not. Agrippina and two women are at the door, and she tells Tiberius that they came to tell him that they hold him responsible for her husband’s death and that he took away their witness; but it will not avail him because justice is emperor over all. Tiberius asks if she is upset because she is not queen. She says the people are crying for vengeance, and he must give it to them. They walk past him. Tiberius asks Sejanus where Martina is, and he says they don’t know. Tiberius asks Sejanus how they will get a conviction if they don’t find her; he orders him to find her.
While dining Livia asks Martina (Patsy Byrne) about what she uses for poisoning. Livia shows that she knows antidotes. She asks Martina what she used on Germanicus, and Martina says they used Belladonna because it is tasteless. Livia says she used witchcraft too, but Martina does not agree. She says that Livia’s grandson was more superstitious than anyone, and she frightened him to death. Livia asks how she gained access to that house. Martina tells how she came to tutor Caligula and taught him the death game. Livia realizes that she got the strange child to poison his own father. Suddenly Martina says she feels a pain, and she looks at Livia suspiciously. Livia asks if she wanted to get rid of her, whether she would do it herself. Livia eats something from Martina’s plate.
In the Senate the trial continues. A senator says the prosecution has no case without the witness, but Tiberius declines to dismiss the case. Plancina’s lawyer asks that her case be separated from her husband’s case.
Piso asks Plancina why she is doing this to him. He asks her if she wants him to die, and she says they have made up their minds. The Emperor has abandoned him to the mob, and nothing can save him now. She says she will go to Livia who stands by her friends. Piso sits down, and Plancina says they must save the honor of their family and children. She suggests that if he takes his life now, their family’s honor could be preserved. He refuses to end his life himself, and he tells her to tell Livia that he has another letter in her name and his without the seal. He will read it in the Senate tomorrow unless he has assurances of his acquittal.
Livia tells a shocked Tiberius that Piso has a letter and will read it unless they do something about it. Tiberius asks her if she wrote a letter in her name and his without using the seal. She says he was away, and he does not let her use the seal. He asks who is emperor here. She says she had the free use of Augustus’s seal, and he says he is not Augustus. She says if he were Augustus, this situation would never have arisen. Tiberius says he will go mad. He tells her to stay out of his affairs, and she says he would not be emperor if it were not for her. She says she has plenty of letters of what Augustus thought of him, and she would circulate them if she had to. She says she does not want that letter read in the Senate. He asks if he should give his assurances that they will be acquitted; but she says they should be acquitted. He says it is her letter, and if it is read, he will say he had nothing to do with it and that she was mentally incompetent from old age; she can tell Plancina there will be no deal. She calls him spineless and mean-spirited.
Livia goes to Plancina and says he will not acquit Piso because there is too much feeling against him. Plancina asks about herself, and Livia says she was more successful there. Livia says that in exchange for the letter Tiberius will allow Piso to take his own life rather than be executed, and she will see that Plancina is spared and that her family will not suffer. Plancina asks what if her husband refuses. Livia says she must persuade him to do it by appealing to his honor which is very effective with men. Plancina asks what guarantee she has. Livia says she has Martina, but Tiberius does not know that. It would be hard to convict her without that witness; but if the letter is read, she will have to produce Martina.
Plancina tells Piso that Tiberius won’t help them. Piso says he will read the letter, but she pleads that their family not be ruined. She says they can die together as they lived together. He asks if she would die with him, and she says she could not live without him and kisses him. She says they will leave the letter for Livia, who will help their family after they are gone. Piso says they did their duty, but there is no gratitude nor honor anymore. He says he is done with Rome. He asks how they should do it and suggests opening a vein. They will find them lying together. He pulls out his dagger and starts to cut his left wrist. He says they are bluffing; but she calls him a coward and will show him how a Roman should die. He tries to stop her, and she stabs him in the stomach. He falls to the floor, and she takes the letter and goes out.
Caligula is burning documents.
At a banquet Agrippina says Piso is dead, but Plancina went free; she asks if that is justice. Claudius says it is better than none. Agrippina says Piso is dead because Tiberius hated him. She worries about her boys Nero, Drusus, and Caligula. Castor says that Sejanus plays on his father’s fears. Herod smells something burning. A servant comes in and says Caligula set fire to the house, and they all run out.
Old Caligula stamps out a little fire in his toilet room.
At a banquet Lollia (Isabel Dean) says she will perform after the dancer. She tells her husband Titus (Edward Jewesbury) that she loves him very much. She reminds him that a week ago they attended a dinner at the palace of Tiberius who was fascinated by their daughter Camilla. She says that the next day she was summoned to the Emperor, and Lollia went with her. They went into a room decorated with erotic art and beastliness. Titus asks why she is telling their friends this, and she says they were all invited because they are important people in Rome. She says Tiberius showed her the paintings and talked about them. When Lollia objected he was trying to corrupt a young girl, he asked what about an old one. Titus gets up, and she stops him with a word. She says Tiberius clapped his hands, and a naked slave came in with wine. Tiberius stroked the slave, and Camilla burst into tears and begged to leave. Lollia says Tiberius pretended to be upset and complained that she had led him on at the dinner. He told Lollia to go home. Titus says that is enough, but she shouts she will finish. She holds up a large knife and says that if she had had that with her then, she would have used it on him. She asked for a moment alone with him, and she offered herself in her daughter’s place. She tells her husband that he accepted. Lollia says she took Camilla to the gate and warned her not to tell anyone, and then she returned. Once again Titus tries to stop her. She says to prostitute herself to protect her daughter was nothing. In that room she was subjected to filthy acts and bestial obscenities with him and slaves of both sexes that made mere prostitution seem a blessing. Agrippina goes to her and tells her that she must forget this because she saved her husband and her daughter. Lollia says that is impossible. She says she cannot live with the memory of what he did to her nor can she share her husband’s bed nor have his arms around her. She wishes she could cut it from her mind, and then she stabs herself twice in the stomach and falls. Titus goes to her.
Emperor Tiberius is carried in a chair through the streets, and old Livia on another sedan chair talks to her son, but he refuses to answer in the street why he refused the ambassadors of Spain permission to erect a temple to her.
In his palace Tiberius is with Sejanus and asks the astrologer Thrasyllus (Kevin Stoney) to cast his mother’s horoscope so that he will know how much longer he has to put up with her. Thrasyllus says that without the exact time of her birth, he can only make a rough estimate. Sejanus suggests that Tiberius give her the horoscope as a gift in order to find out the time. Tiberius says she would like that, and she has admired him ever since he predicted that she would outlive her husband. Thrasyllus realized that she had every intention of doing so. He says she is a Leo, and bad times are ahead for Leos. He says he will go see her and goes out. Tiberius says he wished he had stayed in Rhodes, and Sejanus says that someone must govern. Tiberius is grateful that he has Sejanus as his eyes and ears and to relieve some of his burdens. They sit down to work, and Sejanus says the reports are from his agents about people who have been saying vicious and treasonable things. Tiberius says they have had more treason trials in the last two years than in the previous ten years. Sejanus shows him one he should look at. Tiberius is surprised that it is Silius Caecina, corps commander on the Upper Rhine. Sejanus says he said that if his regiments had joined the mutiny, Tiberius would not be emperor now. Sejanus says he is implying that Tiberius owes his position to him. Tiberius says he must have been bragging after having too much wine after dinner. Sejanus says he thinks there may be more to it, and Tiberius asks what he means. Sejanus notes that he said that the regiments who did mutiny were the ones that had been under the command of Tiberius, but he says maybe he said it as a compliment to Agrippina because her regiments remained loyal. A soldier comes in and announces the entrance of Caligula (John Hurt) who tells his uncle Tiberius that he brought him a present. He hands him a scroll of erotic pictures he says is 200 years old. Tiberius thanks him, and Caligula says he would like to borrow it some time.
Sejanus is walking with Senator Varro (Aubrey Richards) and asks him if there is enough evidence to charge Silius Caecina with treason in the Senate for insulting the Emperor. Sejanus asks why not, and he says that blasphemies against Augustus were found to be treasonable; but there is no precedent for any against Tiberius. The Emperor’s son Castor is introduced and comes in, and Sejanus greets him. Castor tells Sejanus that he is not his friend, and he demands to see Tiberius. Sejanus approves, and he is allowed in. Sejanus orders Varro to prosecute Silius Caecina; but the senator says he has a great war record, and he is a friend of Agrippina. Sejanus asks if he wants him to find someone else, and Varro agrees to do it.
Castor tells Tiberius that Germanicus was never his enemy, but Tiberius does not agree and says he has proof. Also his widow is still conspiring against him. Castor asks if the proof is from Sejanus, and Tiberius says yes. Tiberius says he, unlike his son, keeps him informed of what is going on in Rome. Castor tells his father to open his eyes. He says that Sejanus is using him, and he knows nothing but what Sejanus wants him to know. Tiberius says he is his partner, and Castor says he will soon be his colleague; but he warns him that Sejanus has an appetite for power unknown to them. Tiberius says he envies him, but Castor says he is working for himself. His statue is in Pompey’s theater and in many places in Rome. Castor says Sejanus is building a prison there. Tiberius asks his son to make his report on the coastal defenses. Tiberius walks out, and Castor leaves scrolls on the table, seeing the pornographic book.
Castor tells Livilla that Tiberius cares only about treason trials and pornographic books like the one Caligula gave him. She says those two get along, and Castor says Caligula makes him shudder. Livilla asks him if he quarreled with his father. He says they argued over Sejanus who is so ambitious. She asks if he is exaggerating, and he says no. Castor thinks he wants to replace his father who seeks his advice on everything. Castor is drinking wine and yawns, and she tells him to go to sleep. Their daughter Helen comes in to say good night and kisses them. Castor asks Livilla to stay with him tonight, and she says he will sleep better alone.
Sejanus asks Livilla if Castor is asleep, and she assures him he is. He kisses her, and they lie down on the bed together and kiss. She asks what they are going to do, and he says they are going to make love for the last time. She says she could not bear it, but he says it is too risky and asks her to be sensible. She doubts that he really loves her, and he says he loves her too much to expose her to a charge of adultery. He asks her not to tempt him and kisses her. She says they could drug his wine like they did tonight; but he says he may become suspicious and that its effect may wear off. Then she might kill him accidentally. She asks if a large dose would kill him and that she cannot live without Sejanus whom she wants in her bed every night. She says it is a small step from making him sleep for one night to death. He asks if she is sure the doses will never be detected, and she says yes. He says he could divorce his wife, and they could get married. He would like to have her all to himself. She would have no more lovers and would have to behave. She asks what would happen if she didn’t. He says he will lock her in a room with no clothes and visit her several times a day or have his guards stand in for him. He says she would be forced by him.
In the marketplace Claudius sees Castor and Herod Agrippa and shows them his invitation to dine with Livia on her birthday. Herod advises him to take his own wine. Claudius is scared and says she rarely invites him. He says the last time she spoke to him was when Caligula burned the house down. Herod remembers that and says his family are lunatics. Claudius suggests he go back to Judea, but Herod says he prefers the lunatics he knows. Claudius says he has to buy a present for Livia. Castor suggests a small sculpture, but Claudius does not know who it is. Castor says it is a replica of the Sejanus statue, and Herod agrees they are very popular now. Claudius does not want it and tells Castor he is not looking well. Castor says he has not been feeling well since he returned. Claudius says he invited his sister Livilla to a public reading of his work, but she did not come. Castor calls Claudius a divine fool and says he is nervous. Herod says Livia should make him nervous, and he agrees that Castor does not look well.
Castor sees Silius Caecina (Peter Williams) being escorted by soldiers and a senator and tells them to halt. Silius says he is being arrested, and the senator says it is for treason. Silius says it seems he has insulted Castor’s father, but he does not remember it. Castor tells Varro it must be a joke, but Varro disagrees and says he is on state business and may not be interfered with even by the Emperor’s son. Castor steps aside.
Tiberius makes an offering at the altar of Augustus and prays to him. Agrippina comes in and says he sacrifices to Augustus, but he persecutes his grandchildren. Tiberius says Augustus persecuted his own grandchildren. She says she is not referring to her brother Postumus but to herself. He has banished or charged with treason all her friends. He degraded and humiliated Lollia, and now he has arrested Silius Caecina. He thinks she wants to be queen, and he defends the charges against those who speak against the Emperor as undermining the state. She says she is not ambitious and is tired. Since Germanicus died, she has not known what to do. She only wants to be left alone, and she asks him to be good to her children. He asks if he has not done that. She admits he is kind to Caligula, but he does not care about Nero and Drusus. He asks that they not fight each other all the time. He says her children are guiltless of any crime, and he will consider them friends; but he will never forget what she made him do to Piso. He turns to go, and she looks at Sejanus.
Claudius is announced and tells his grandmother Livia happy birthday, kissing her and giving her a vase from India. She says it is too bad they never got that far where they could have picked up so many things cheaply. Claudius accepts a bowl of wine and drinks it in front of her and has it refilled and finishes it again. Caligula asks his uncle if he is staking everything on one throw, and Livia tells him to shut up. She tells Claudius that she appreciates his confidence in her. He says she has received many fine presents. She says Thrasyllus has drawn her a detailed horoscope for her birthday. She says it is a present from Tiberius who really wants to know how much longer she is going to live. She knows her son. Claudius asks if he found out, and Livia says she will die next year some time. Thrasyllus says he will tell him nothing, and Livia says he is a liar like all good astrologers. She dismisses him, and he says she may live another ten years. She says astrologers are insecure and want to be loved. She asks Caligula what he is grinning at and says he is a monster. She asks Claudius if he knows that his nephew is a monster. Claudius says he is too young to be called that, but Livia says he started very young. She searched his room one time and found a green talisman that confirmed a story she already knew. Claudius asks if it was the one his brother wore, and she says yes. Caligula asks her if it is safe to tell Claudius his secret, or is she going to poison him too. Livia says he is quite safe. She tells the monster that Claudius has sworn to protect his brother’s children, and so he will never harm him. She says that Thrasyllus prophesied that Claudius will avenge the death of Caligula; so he should not harm him. Caligula says he did not like that prophecy. Livia tells him to kiss her and go. Caligula kisses her on the mouth and goes out.
She says her body fascinates him because it is so old. Claudius asks her why she allows him such familiarity. She says because it pleases him and because he will be the next emperor. Claudius drools, and she says he does not believe her. He asks about Castor and Caligula’s two older brothers. She says that Castor is ill, and Thrasyllus said he won’t recover. He also told her that Tiberius will choose Caligula to succeed him. Claudius asks why, and she says it is his vanity because he wants to be loved after his death if not before. Claudius says he can achieve that by having someone worse following him. Livia says he is the biggest fool in the family. She had thought that Claudius was the fool, but now she realizes that was wrong. He says she has not invited him to tell him this. He asks if she is dead, what difference it makes to her. She says she wants to be a goddess, and that is why he is there. Thrasyllus said she will be, but she says he is not sure. Claudius asks why she wants that. She asks if he believes that souls who sin suffer eternal torment, and he agrees. She says the immortal gods are free of fearing any punishment. He agrees with that and cites Jove who married his own sister. Livia admits she has done many terrible things as any ruler does; but she always put the good of the empire first. She asks who saved them from having another civil war. She says that Augustus would have done so by his favoring one man over another. He was foolish, and she had to remove them one by one. She knows he suspected. She tolerates Caligula because he has sworn, if she keeps his secret, he will make her a goddess as soon as he becomes emperor. She asks Claudius to do all he can to see that it happens. If she is not made a goddess, she will be in hell suffering torments year after year. She starts to cry, and Claudius goes to her and says he will do what he can on one condition. He says he wants to know the truth as a historian. When people die, only pieces of paper that tells lies are left. She says he wants to know the truth and calls it a small condition.
He asks her who killed Marcellus, and she says she did because the empire needed Agrippa. Then later she poisoned Agrippa because she knew that his wife was in love with Tiberius. If Tiberius married her, Augustus would make him emperor; but Tiberius botched that. Claudius asks how Julia’s sons by Agrippa died. She says she had Gaius poisoned in Syria. Lucius was drowned in a boating accident arranged by his friend Plautius. Claudius asks about Postumus and admits he liked him. Livia says she had to get rid of Postumus because he was a threat to Tiberius. Claudius asks about his father who was her son and his own brother Germanicus. He asks if she poisoned them, and she say no. She says his father died of his wound, and Plancina poisoned Germanicus without instructions from her. However, she wanted them both killed because they both were infected with the infantile belief in republicanism. Claudius says he was too, and she says he did not count. He says if he has the opportunity, he will restore the republic. She says that then he is a fool. He asks if she poisoned her husband Augustus, and she admits she did by smearing poison on figs on the tree. He asks how she could do that after living with him for so long. She says that was the hardest thing she ever had to do. She says he has made her tired and tells him to go away. She gives him a scroll of Sibylline verses to read that were rejected from the official book. He asks why, and she says it prophesies that he will become emperor. He laughs and kisses her. She tells him not to forget his promise. He says if he can become emperor, she can be the queen of heaven.
Claudius is announced and comes in to see ill Castor, but Sejanus says he wants to talk to him. He asks Claudius if he knows his wife is pregnant, and he says no. Claudius asks how he knows and says it has nothing to do with him because they have not even spoken for a long time. Sejanus asks if he is going to divorce her, and he asks why. Sejanus says his uncle will expect him to divorce her. Claudius agrees to divorce her, and Sejanus asks whom he will marry. Claudius says he likes living alone and would rather not marry again. Sejanus says he would like him to marry his sister Aelia who will leave him alone. Claudius asks if she would want to marry a lame fool like him; but Sejanus says he is the Emperor’s nephew, and it would be a good alliance for his family. Sejanus says the Emperor has given his consent, and Claudius says he will obey.
Livilla whispers that Castor is dying. She and Sejanus are watching him, and he puts his hand on her breast. Castor opens his eyes and closes them again.
Herod Agrippa tells Antonia, Agrippina, and Claudius that he sent his sympathies to Tiberius on the death of his son, but he sent word he did not want to see him again. Claudius asks if he is going back to Judea, and Herod says he will go to Edom whence came his grandfather Herod the Great. He says that Antonia’s father Antony made him king of the Jews. Herod tells how his grandfather murdered most of his sons. Antonia urges Herod to marry, and he says Jews marry their own kind. Agrippina asks Claudius about his marriage, and Antonia says he is already married. Agrippina says he is getting divorced to marry the sister of Sejanus, and stammering Claudius says his wife is having a baby that is not his. He is following the advice he got from Sejanus. Antonia calls that the most wicked thing she ever heard. She calls him a great fool, and Claudius asks what difference it makes because he won’t be seeing her either. Agrippina agrees he is fool and asks if he can see the ambition that drives Sejanus. By this marriage he becomes allied with the royal family. Then he may marry Livilla. Antonia asks what he has to do with Livilla when he is married and has two children. Agrippina asks her what kind of world she thinks they are living in. She is upset because Castor is dead, and Silius Caecina committed suicide even before the trial ended. Her friends are vanishing, and she asks when it will end. She accuses Claudius of betraying them. Antonia asks why he agreed to it, and he says that he asked him. She calls him a blockhead, but Herod says he is not; they are the blockheads. He says Claudius knows how to sway and bend, and he is still here.
Claudius remembers how they are all gone. He says Livia is dying. Antonia tells Claudius that Livia is dying and wants to see him.
Caligula tells Livia he heard she was dying, and she tells him not to forget his promise to make her a goddess. He asks her what makes her think that a smelly, old woman like her could become a goddess. He says he does not need her anymore, and his secret will die with her. She will stew in hell forever. He tells her that Thrasyllus told Tiberius that one who is to die soon will become the greatest god ever known. No temple in the entire Roman world will be dedicated to anyone but him. He says that one is him. He will look down on her suffering the torments of hell and will say to leave her there. He kisses her and says goodbye to her.
Claudius asks Livia how she is and tells her not to cry. She says Caligula was there and told her he would not make her a goddess. Claudius says he will see that he does. She says she deserves to be a goddess, and he promises her she will. She tells him to go on playing the fool. She asks him to stay with her until she goes and put a coin in her mouth to pay the ferryman for the journey. She dies, and he closes her eyes and puts a coin between her lips. He wishes her a safe journey.
Old Claudius is working on his history. After Livia died, Tiberius let Sejanus run the empire and retired to Capri. Sejanus arrested Agrippina and her oldest son Nero. He divorced his wife Apicata and became Livilla’s lover, hoping to marry her. Sejanus had taken his children, and Apicata came to his mother Antonia to ask her to help her get them back.
Apicata (Kate Lansbury) asks Antonia to persuade her daughter Livilla, but Antonia says she despises Livilla and her lover Sejanus. She also despises Apicata for having married him knowing what he was, and now she complains about him. Antonia says they all disgust her. In Rome honor, service, and duty mean nothing anymore. She says they destroyed Rome with their greedy ambition and petty selfishness. She tells her not to come crying to her. Apicata says she does not care about Rome, but she wants her children. If Antonia will not help her get them, she will tell her that her daughter killed Castor with poison supplied by Sejanus. She says those two want a kingly crown. She asks her what will become of her family name if she goes to Tiberius with this story. Antonia asks what proof she has, and Apicata says slaves will talk freely of what they saw and heard. Antonia asks why she did not tell the Emperor before, and she says because Sejanus controlled his mail and his visitors. She says that to go to Tiberius will cost her life, and that is her last resort. Tiberius reads the wills of those who leave things to him, and Sejanus cannot prevent that. If necessary she will do that. Without her children her life is nothing. She says Antonia can guard her family name and let the lovers have their kingdom, but she must get her children back for her. Apicata goes out, and Claudius says she certainly loves her children. Antonia asks him if he believes her, and he says no; she is demented. Claudius says that Livilla connived at the banishment of Postumus and other dreadful things. Antonia asks why she was not told this. Claudius says it was a secret that only he knows. He thinks Livia made her do it. Antonia asks why it was a secret from her and not from him, and he says it is a long story.
Helen is crying and is complaining that she can’t marry Nero, and her mother Livilla says they will find someone else for her to marry. A woman is working on Livilla’s hair. Antonia comes in and tells Helen not to be so selfish. She sends Helen out so that she can talk with Livilla. Antonia asks her if she is planning to marry Sejanus. She says he has asked her to marry him, and she accepted because she is tired of living alone. Antonia lets her live there, but she does not keep track of her comings and goings. Livilla says she is still a young woman. She says Castor died five years ago, and she can’t expect her to live like a Vestal. Antonia does not care who she goes to bed with, but she says marriage is different. Livilla says she is in love with him and he with her. Antonia says that he is using her. Livilla gets up and says she does not want to talk about it. Antonia says she is a fool if she thinks that Tiberius will agree to it. She asks what will happen to his children if she marries him. Livilla does not care about his children. Antonia says that Apicata wants them to live with her. Livilla realizes she talked with Apicata, and Antonia asks Livilla to persuade Sejanus to let her have the children. Livilla says he would not do that because he likes them. Antonia says he stopped her seeing them. Livilla asks what is that to her. Antonia says one day it may mean a lot, and she goes out.
On his porch Tiberius tells Sejanus that he cannot let him marry Livilla. Sejanus asks what his reasons are, and Tiberius says he would have to raise him to the most exalted rank. Sejanus says he never wanted that. Tiberius knows that but says he would have no choice. He says that a faction in Rome would demand that he hold a high office. Tiberius says that some say that he has risen high even without rank. By envying Sejanus they criticize Tiberius. Sejanus says he is saying that he has too many friends and too many enemies, but he made them in his service. Tiberius knows that and realizes he is disappointed. He proposes that he marry Helen since her marriage with Nero was called off. Tiberius says he would welcome such an alliance with his family. He asks who has come to see him. Sejanus shows him the list he made. Tiberius says he will see Agrippina but not Nero. Sejanus goes out, and Tiberius asks Thrasyllus if he was wise to refuse to let Sejanus marry Livilla. He says it was wise, and he deserves Helen. Tiberius says he lets Sejanus become the target of people’s envy and hate instead of himself.
Soldiers bring in Agrippina in handcuffs. Tiberius says she looks like a Greek tragedy, and she says he looks like a Roman farce. He says that her tongue has cost her, but she says it is not her tongue but their love for her and her family. He says she has used that love against him. She says that Germanicus could have led the armies of Rhine against him, but he was too noble. He says her words make his task easier. She says he never had trouble being vindictive. She asks if he is so senile that he is blind to his own interests. He says he is not blind to her interests. She says he is old and will die soon and asks where can he find a successor except from the sons of Germanicus. He says he has a grandson, and she says Gemellus is a child. Rome is not Egypt and must be governed by men, not children. He says he will make his own arrangements. She laughs and says Sejanus will make them. He rules in Rome, and Tiberius will know it when the last of her boys is dead. He says she looks beautiful when she is angry, and he is sorry to have to send her away. He is going to send her to the island of Pandateria where her mother Julia spent so many years in exile. She will inherit her kingdom and be queen there. He is sending Nero to Ponza that is even smaller. If she is lonely, he could call on her. She says he is blood-soaked mud. He gets up and shouts for a vine branch because she needs flogging. Soldiers come and take her to a pillar, tearing down the back of her dress. Tiberius is given vines and whips her bare back.
Sejanus appears and tells men to leave their names with his secretary, and he says their requests will be considered. He goes into a bedroom and is greeted by his little son and daughter who welcome him back. His son asks why they can’t see mother again, and he says he told them not to ask that anymore. The girl says she misses her too, and he says they made him angry. Livilla comes in, and Sejanus sends the children out. She asks him if he asked Tiberius, and Sejanus says he refused. She asks why, and he says she is too exalted for him. She says they must marry; they have planned and waited for it. He says that Tiberius would not be content for Sejanus to stay in his low rank and that it would foster jealousies. She says he must try again; but he says it may have been a mistake because it made him suspicious. She says he knows she has the right to marry again. They could marry anyway, but he says that could be dangerous. She says she wants to be married and that he promised her marriage. She asks if he has changed his mind and if it suits him living the way they do. She says she wants to be together, and the old goat will not stop them. Sejanus says that Tiberius suggested that he could marry her daughter Helen. Livilla becomes furious and says she will kill him. He grabs her arms to keep her from scratching him and tells her to stop it. She says he would like to be in bed with mother and daughter. She falls on the bed. He says they should be practical. She tells him not to touch her. He says Helen means nothing to him but marrying her would give him a link to the imperial family, and that solves their problem. He says they would live together. She asks if Helen would agree to that, and he says she will do what she is told. He says it will be as if the marriage never happened. She says he will service them both like a stallion, and he tells her not to talk like that. He says everything is going as they planned. Agrippina and Nero have been banished. He will do the same to Drusus, and then Tiberius will have no one left but Caligula and him. He says they have waited a long time, and he is nothing without her. He asks her to let him persuade Helen. He asks Livilla to trust him.
In the Senate a senator says the Emperor has written from Capri again demanding another arrest. Now it is Drusus, but no documents were produced. He only asks their consent. He says he will read a document before he signs it, and he walks out. A senator asks that the question be put for the exile of Drusus, and most senators vote aye.
Soldiers lock up Drusus who says the letters were forged. He asks to see Sejanus and is closed in. The guard is told that he is not to be fed.
Outside Caligula talks to Claudius who says that his brother Drusus has been arrested. He warns Caligula that he is in great danger from Tiberius. Caligula laughs and says he has invited him to Capri. Caligula says it will be great fun from the stories he has heard about girls running around the garden naked like wood nymphs. Claudius asks what he will say to him about his mother and two brothers. Caligula does not know what he would say, but he admits it worries him and says he has to watch his step these days. Claudius tells him to speak for them. Caligula says he will ask about his mother, but he does not care about Drusus and Nero. He says that Claudia does not like his sister Livilla; but Caligula says he loves his sisters. Claudius says he knows. Claudius says he depresses him and goes away.
Claudius comes home, and a servant tells him that his wife Aelia is there. Aelia (Liane Aukin) comes in and says she heard he was back in Rome and asks why he did not come to see her. He asks what for and says they are not exactly husband and wife. She says it is for his advantage to be seen with her. She says he is not any woman’s ideal husband. She came to see his sister Livilla and wanted him to know that she is alive and well. She asks how he is and says he does not look well. He says it has been trying times since he got there. She says he should be grateful that he is married to her and has her brother’s protection. He says he has just finished writing the history of Carthage. He welcomes his mother Antonia and says Aelia has called on them. Aelia says she really came to see Livilla and notes that Claudius makes no effort to see her. She says the arrangement suits them both. Antonia says that those who are married live apart, and those who aren’t live together. She suggests they abolish marriage. Aelia excuses herself and goes out. Antonia asks Claudius why she wants to see Livilla. Claudius wonders if Sejanus sent her to find out how Helen is. Antonia asks if he is now courting her granddaughter. He says that Sejanus is not seeing Livilla anymore. Antonia asks what is wrong with Helen. The doctors don’t know what it is, but she has been in bed for a week.
Livilla gives Aelia a letter for Sejanus and tells her to have him destroy it after he has read it. Aelia asks how Helen is, but Livilla says nothing and says he should be more anxious about her. Aelia says he still cares for her. Livilla says he promised to marry her, and she will not stand by and let him marry her daughter. Aelia says Tiberius wants it. Livilla gets angry and says Tiberius will not live forever. She asks her to tell her brother that he belongs to her. Aelia says he has not forgotten her. Livilla says he is managing without seeing her, and Aelia says men are different. Livilla starts crying and says it is driving her to despair because she can’t bear the separation. Aelia says it is only for a little while and for the sake of appearances.
Claudius enters a room where men are copying his history, and he complains about the elephants used as decorations. The man in charge says elephants are out, and tells them to start over without using them. Claudius says he needs a copy today and says he will take one with elephants. Asinius Gallus comes in and asks Claudius if he read his essay on Cicero and Pollio.
Gallus and Claudius walk together, and Claudius says that Cicero was a much better orator. Macro (John Rhys-Davies) tells Asinius Gallus that he has a warrant signed by the Emperor for his arrest. He asks on what charge, and Macro says for inciting enmity between the Emperor and Sejanus. He asks if it is a joke, and soldiers take him away.
Sejanus orders Gallus to sign a confession that he conspired with Drusus to subvert the armies of the Rhine. Gallus says Sejanus wrote it and can sign it. A soldier slaps him. Sejanus tells him to sign it, or they will make him. Gallus says he will sign nothing for them to produce after he is dead. He tells him to bring him to trial or murder him and take the consequences. Sejanus says no trial is needed to prove his guilt. Gallus says he is acting like a small-town corrupt policeman which is what he is and what he should have stayed. He says his career has been a revelation to him how a small mind allied with great ambition could destroy a country of clever men. He has seen how frail civilization can be before a gust of bad breath. A soldier slaps him twice. Gallus says Sejanus is not really the destroyer but the putrefaction that spreads after death. Two soldiers hit him several times, making his face bloody. Gallus says that Sejanus is proof that mankind needs its sense of smell. Sejanus holds up the pen, but Gallus faints. Sejanus says to bring him around, and they will start again.
Claudius comes home and tells Antonia that they arrested Gallus. She hands him a paper and tells him to read it. He says it is Livilla’s writing. She tells him to read them. She says they poisoned Castor. Apicata was right. There are drafts of letters she wrote to Sejanus. She says Sejanus and Livilla are both wicked. She realizes that Livilla is poisoning Helen because she is obsessed with Sejanus and will do anything to get him. She says Tiberius must be told. She asks what he wrote, and he says his history of Carthage is finished. She tells him to ask Sejanus if he can go to see Tiberius because he wants to ask his consent to dedicate the work to him. The papers can be pasted in the scroll with a letter of hers, and he must tell Tiberius to read that one first. He says he does not want to send him the one with the elephants, and she calls him stupid. She says Tiberius would never read his history unless it had pictures of naked women, and then he would only look at the pictures.
Claudius is waiting, and Caligula is surprised to see him. Tiberius comes out and tells the servants to leave. He asks Claudius if he knows what is in the scroll, and he says his mother is a noble woman. Tiberius says he has learned that his son was poisoned by his wife. Caligula says that he always knew that Livilla was no good. He says she did it with Sejanus, and now they are plotting against him. Caligula says people are despicable. Tiberius asks how he can arrest him when he controls the guard, 4,000 men who are more loyal to him than to Tiberius. He says Castor warned him, and he would not listen to him. Claudius asks if there is no man of integrity that he can trust, and Tiberius says he does not know of any. Caligula says that is a terrible comment on our times. Caligula suggests that he find a man of ambition, a dog to eat a dog. Tiberius asks if he knows of such a person. Caligula says he knows Macro, his second in command who is very popular with the troops. Claudius says he arrested Gallus. Tiberius asks if he is loyal to Sejanus. Caligula says he is; but he can’t move up if Sejanus is there, and he is very ambitious. Tiberius asks Caligula if he knows Macro personally, and he say no; but he slept with his wife several times. Tiberius asks if that is considered an introduction to the husband. Caligula says he knows about that because he is ambitious. Tiberius says he will make Caligula his successor. He says Rome deserves him, and he will nurse him like a viper in its bosom. Caligula asks if that is a joke. Tiberius says that Sejanus must not suspect anything. He will go to Rome and ask him to meet him on the Senate steps. Caligula asks about his friends, and Tiberius says that they will draw up a long list during dinner. He says the city will be purged, and he takes Caligula into the house with him.
Macro comes to the steps of the Senate and tells Sejanus that the Emperor sent him with a message for the Senate. Sejanus asks where the Emperor is, and Macro says he is waiting outside the city. Sejanus walks down the steps and privately asks Macro why Tiberius did not send for him. Macro asks if he would ask him to deliver this which he believes will make him protector of the city and his successor. Sejanus smiles and tells him to deliver it, and he promises Macro his command.
Macro comes out and calls the captain of the guard and gives him a message with the Emperor’s seal. The captain leads those guards away, and other guards replace them.
In the Senate the document from Tiberius is read aloud. Sejanus was honored and trusted, but a conspiracy has been discovered that he is planning to assassinate the Emperor and take over the state. Some senators leave the Senate. Tiberius orders the arrest of Sejanus and those with him. The senator asks if the Senate should follow the Emperor’s advice, and they shout, “Aye.” Two men escort Sejanus out of the Senate, and he is arrested by soldiers under Macro.
Macro tells a soldier that the children of Sejanus are on the list and must be killed. The soldier says the girl is a virgin, and Macro tells him to make sure she is not when she is killed.
Macro tells Sejanus that his children have gone before him along with many others. Two soldiers stab Sejanus with their swords.
Livilla is shouting to her father to let her out. Outside the door Antonia can hear her. Claudius asks her how long she is going to leave her in there. Antonio says until she dies. Claudius asks how she can do that to her daughter. She says she will not move from her door until they find her dead. Claudius cries and sits down. Aelia comes in and asks Claudius to help her because they are killing everyone, especially his relatives. She asks him to save her. She says they even murdered his children. She holds onto Claudius, and he manages to get away from her.
Old Claudius is remembering this and writes that his alliance with the Sejanus family might have cost him his life had it not been for his mother. He was allowed to divorce Aelia, and he returned her entire dowry.
Old Claudius says he will tell everything and hide nothing in his history. He writes that in the last five years of Emperor Tiberius he remained at Capri occupied with his perversions. Then he died of a massive stroke. He had named Caligula as his heir with the boy Gemellus as second heir.
Macro tells Caligula that Tiberius is dead, and Caligula has him take the ring off of the hand of Tiberius and give it to him. He puts it on and says they should tell the world there is a new emperor. Macro bows to him, and they go out.
Caligula tells the senators and other gentlemen that Tiberius is dead. He says that before he died, Tiberius took off his ring and gave it to him, saying that he dies in peace knowing that Caligula rules for him. Caligula says he fell to his knees and wept. Caligula says he stands before them as their emperor, and he salutes Rome. A servant comes in shouting that Tiberius is alive again, and he wants his ring back. Macro says there must be some mistake by this slave. He tells the slave to keep quiet. Macro, the slave, and Caligula go out. Macro goes in, and Tiberius is standing up and says he wants his supper. Macro puts him on the bed, takes a pillow, and suffocates him to death. Caligula sees this, and Macro says he knew he was dead. Caligula tells Macro he will not forget this.
Caligula goes back to the senators and tells them that Tiberius is definitely dead. He says they will take his corpse back to Rome. They hail the new Caesar, and a senator acclaims the son of Germanicus as the dawn of a new age. He says the Senate should vote him supreme power, and they chant, “Hail Caesar!”
Herod Agrippa is visiting with Claudius and his mother Antonia who is glad to see him. He sees that her grandson Gemellus is growing. Claudius tells the boy that eating too much pastry clogs his chest. He talks back, and Antonia says he gives himself airs since Tiberius died and made him second to Caligula. He says he rules in Rome. She says he is much too young. The boy says eating too much pastry is no worse than drinking too much wine, and he looks at Claudius. Gemellus goes out, and Claudius stammers in response to the insult. Antonia says that Livilla ignored him, and she does not regret having caused her death.
Emperor Caligula is holding court and says he likes all the titles they conferred upon him as does his sister Drusilla (Beth Morris). He kisses her hand and says he will use all of them. He notes that the consulship of Lentulus (Jon Laurimore) is up and asks if they have chosen a new consul. Lentulus says that the Senate begs Caligula to be consul and to choose his own colleague. Caligula accepts, and as his first act he orders all criminal records collected by Sejanus to be burned in the marketplace. Those there applaud. In memory of his mother Agrippina he proclaims a new festival of horse racing and sword fighting. The month of September is changed to Germanicus in honor of his father. He says he has a headache and ends the audience. Drusilla helps him and says she will soothe it for him. Caligula sees Claudius come in with Gemellus, and he tells Lentulus that the other consul will be his uncle Claudius. Caligula says they will rule together, and Claudius says he has forgotten all the rules and principles. Caligula tells him that does not matter. He asks why the boy clears his throat so much, and Claudius says he has a cough and is taking cough medicine. Caligula asks Claudius if that is his own hair and wishes he had as much. He tells Claudius that he has arranged for him to live in the palace with his family. Caligula tells him to have two statues made of his late brothers Drusus and Nero and to set them up in the marketplace. He says there is plenty of money because Tiberius left 27 million gold pieces. Claudius asks how much is left, and Caligula asks Lentulus who says only between 8 and 9 because he had many debts. Caligula gets angry and says he left him to pay them, and he wishes he had killed him when he had the chance. He complains of his headache, and Drusilla tells him to come to her room and kisses him. Caligula wants to explain how he could have killed Tiberius. He was shocked by his depravity on the island of Capri. He thought he should use a knife to take over his duty. He decided he would avenge the deaths of his relatives, and he went to Tiberius with his dagger; but a divine voice told him to stop. He looked for the source of the voice, and he felt the presence of the divine Augustus. He asks if he should avenge their relatives. He says that Augustus answered that he does not need to do that. The Furies will avenge them, and he will suffer eternal agony. He threw aside the dagger. Caligula stands up and asks for help as he holds his head and falls, asking for the pain to stop.
Claudius is instructing a sculptor to start the work on the marble statues.
Caligula is sleeping, and Drusilla is holding his hand. Macro leaves the room and goes out and tells senators that the Emperor is in a coma. They are to go home. Lentulus tells Macro that he is offering his life in place of the Emperor’s to avoid a calamity.
Drusilla comes to Claudius and tells him he is awake and wants him to come at once. He will kill him if he does not say what he wants him to say; but she does not know what he wants him to say, and he tried to kill her. She says he made her swear over and over that she loves him. She tells him to go, and she cries.
Claudius comes to Caligula and hails him, and he hopes that he is better. Caligula says he was not ill. He has undergone a metamorphosis like a birth. Claudius asks about the glorious change. Caligula asks if it is obvious, and Claudius says he has become a god. Claudius kneels down and worships him, saying he was blind. He says his face shines. Caligula asks for a mirror, and Claudius brings him one. Caligula says he always knew it. He says he stopped a mutiny when he was a child. Caligula says he is better than Mercury because by the age of ten he had already killed his father. Claudius did not know that, bows down, and asks why he did that. Caligula says his father tried to discipline him, and so he frightened him to death. He says he also killed his adopted father Tiberius, and Jove never did that. Jove only slept with one of his sisters, but Caligula says he slept with all three of his sisters. He says Martina told him it was a wise thing for a god to do. He used to visit her every day when his parents were in Egypt. She taught him that Zeus is better than Jove who is a mere copy. He asks if Zeus married his sister. Claudius says her name was Hera, but the child he had was by Metis. The child would have replaced him; so he swallowed the child whole, and Athena sprang from his head. Caligula says he did not believe the stories, but he sees they are true. He says that Drusilla is divine too, and he will announce it when he proclaims his own divinity. Claudius asks if he can retire and sacrifice to him at once. Caligula put his hand on his head and tells him to go in peace. He was thinking of killing him, but he changed his mind. He tells him to send Drusilla to him, and Claudius goes out bowing.
Claudius tells Drusilla that he wants to see and says he has become a god, and she is one too. She goes out. Herod asks which god, and Claudius laughs and says he thinks he is Zeus. Claudius says when they discover he is mad, they will have the republic back. He tells Herod this is good news.
Macro says the Emperor is coming and tells the aristocrats there that he has been transformed into a god. A couple men laugh and stop. Macro says those who do not believe it are fools. He says the Emperor does not want any public announcements. He wants them to behave normally, and Macro says he is still the same, lovable young man. He has retained his mortal form, and his sister Drusilla has become a goddess. Macro goes out, and Lentulus expounds on the reasonableness of someone becoming a god during their lifetime. Macro announces the Emperor, and Caligula comes in with Drusilla. Lentulus says it was a miracle that Caligula survived. Caligula says his prayer offered his life in place of the Emperor’s. Lentulus admits that he did. Caligula asks what he is going to do about it. If they both remain alive, he will be guilty of perjury. He tells him not to wait too long. Caligula says they will now walk through the marketplace to show themselves to the people of Rome. Caligula asks Herod to walk with him so that he can talk to him.
Antonia asks Claudius and Herod if there is no one man enough in Rome to strike him down. Claudius says there are always guards, and he never killed anyone before. Herod says he will recover his senses, or he will die. Antonia asks Claudius if he could poison his food, but he says he is not an assassin. Antonia says that the married brother and sister will rot in hell for it. Claudius is sorry for Drusilla and says she plays up to him. Antonia says she would kill herself first. Claudius says that Caligula sent Macro to make sure that Lentulus opened his veins. Antonia says he deserved it, and they all deserve it. She says Germanicus was the last of the Romans. Herod says it will be good to get away from Rome. Claudius says the antics that go on in the palace at night are incredible. Herod asks if there is anything left in the privy purse, and Claudius says not much. He gave a charioteer 20,000 gold pieces for winning a race. Herod says that when the money runs out, they had better watch out. She goes out. Claudius says they have a mad emperor and asks Herod how it could happen. Herod says the tree of the Claudians bears sweet and bad fruit.
Caligula walks with Drusilla in the temple of Jove, and he says this is their house. He laughs at the statue of Jove, and they call him an inferior god. Caligula says he is not important in this temple, and he tells him to address him as Zeus. He says he is nothing, and he says Drusilla is Hera. She says that in this temple she will bear the child of Zeus. He asks if it is his, and he kneels before her. He picks her up and has her tell a statue what it is like to be loved by Zeus. She does so.
Claudius berates the sculptor for having only one of the sculptures ready so far. They threaten to sue each other.
Claudius speaks to Caligula who asks if he can hear Gemellus coughing. Caligula says he can hear very well. Caligula says he was coughing all through dinner, and he could hear him in the palace. Claudius tries to tell him about the statues, and Caligula says none of the statues in Rome look like him. He orders him to collect all the important statues in Rome and replace their heads with one of him, and he can put Hera’s head on the statue of Venus. She is sleeping there, and he says she is pregnant with his child. He asks if his son will rule the universe. Claudius says the statues of his two brothers will not be ready in time. Caligula becomes furious and takes a knife to cut his throat; but Macro comes in with the head of Gemellus and says he cured his cough. Claudius is upset and goes out. Caligula shouts after him that he is not consul anymore but is dismissed. He will find somebody else. He tells Macro to take the horrible head away, and he goes out. Caligula asks Drusilla to wake up. He says not even the child of Zeus can be greater than Zeus.
Claudius and Herod come in, and Claudius tells Antonia that there were not many people at the funeral. She asks what they expected after Caligula denounced him to the Senate as a traitor. Claudius asks how people can believe such nonsense. Antonia says she wants to speak to Claudius alone, and Herod goes out. She tells Claudius that she is going to join his father. She is going to kill herself to get away from this place. She says he does not have to pretend that he will miss her. Claudius says of course he will miss her; she is his mother. She says she has never been very loving toward him. She says he was always a great disappointment to her, and he starts crying. She tells him to keep his tears to himself. She has made up her mind. She saw her son and her three grandsons killed. Her granddaughters are degenerate. She says she should have died after killing Drusilla. He asks her to wait a while because Caligula cannot last long. She agrees and believes Claudius will survive him. She considers it good manners to know when to leave. She says her affairs are in order. She tells him to pay her debts and be good to her slaves who have been very loyal. She is going to do it at Antium. He is to come there in five hours but wait until Briseis declares her dead. She counts on him to supervise her last rites and to cut off her hand because it will be suicide. She does not want him to forget it. She tells him not to muddle the valedictory. She says he may kiss her, and he sobs and bows. She kisses his head and leaves.
Claudius is alone, and Briseis (Anne Dyson) comes in and tells him that his mother is dead, and he can go in. He asks if she cried out, and she says she called upon his father Drusus at the end asking him to forgive her. She says she took her out of the bath and laid her out. She tells him not to be sad because she wanted to go. She was brave, the daughter of Mark Antony and Octavia. She cut off her hand for separate burial. He asks why she did it, and she says she asked her to do it.
Drusilla is calling Zeusy. Claudius is there and tells her she missed her grandmother’s funeral. She says gods don’t attend funerals, and he says she is drunk. She asks if he has seen her husband, and he asks if she means her brother. She says Hera is with child by Zeus. He asks her why she plays up to him. She asks why he does. He plays the clown, and she plays the goddess. She says they are all afraid. She says he is afraid of what is in her womb, that his son will be more powerful than he is. Claudius walks away, and she calls Zeusy.
Drusilla goes into another room and suddenly sees Caligula with golden hair and a beard. She says it is magnificent, though it will tickle. She asks why he is hiding in there. He says he has altered his room to make it look like Olympus. He has a chariot and offers her more wine. He drinks and says he loves her more than anything in the world. He will show her how she will be drawn up into Olympus. He has her stand on the bed and puts her wrists in golden bracelets above. He promises there will be no pain. He has her stripped naked and stabs her belly as she screams.
Outside the door Claudius knocks and shouts for them to open the door. Caligula comes out with blood in his mouth and tells him not to go in there. Claudius looks in and is horrified.
Old Claudius has received a letter from Herod in Jerusalem, and he reads it to Calpurnia (Jo Rowbottom) who is sewing. Herod as a friend has sent him a present and tells him to make proper use of it. He opens the box and finds four dice. He rolls them, and they come up sixes. She says the dice are crooked, and he laughs. Briseis comes in and shows Claudius a parchment she got from the door of the temple of Castor. She says he is advertising for a brothel in the palace. Briseis goes out, and Calpurnia asks who will serve in it. Claudius says his relatives, senators, and their wives. She asks if he wants him there, and Claudius says he is to take the money at the door. Briseis says that even Calpurnia would not serve in the palace, and that is her profession. Claudius gets angry and says that is not her profession anymore. Briseis has gone out. Calpurnia says that is her profession, and she is not ashamed of it. Claudius says he will not serve in his brothel.
Claudius sits at a table and takes gold pieces as people come into the palace which is filled with people enjoying sexual pleasures, talking, eating, or dancing. Sabinus (Bruce Purchase) tells Claudius his wife recently gave birth, but he says there are no exceptions. He paid his fee and is to go in. Sabinus asks his wife if she wants her child left without a mother and makes her go in. A woman joins Sabinus and says his wife is pretty and will make a fortune. Marcus Vinicius (Norman Eshley), the Emperor’s brother-in-law, sees them and leads the wife in. She tries to resist him. Claudius goes in and grabs Marcus and chucks him out for creating a disturbance. He orders a soldier to make sure he leaves the premises. Claudius then gets the wife and tells her to go home and that he will tell the Emperor he threw her out for indecent behavior. Caesonia (Freda Dowie), an older wife of Caligula, tells Claudius he is a good man. She says they have to help the Emperor. She says he is sick and needs good people around him. Claudius says he has killed them all. He asks why she is there in her condition. She says he told her to come. Claudius admits that he has to serve him too. He says there are no lions among them anymore. A woman on a table is having her dress stripped off her.
Claudius tries to help a woman on the floor. Caligula comes in and calls him Vulcan. Claudius plays the role, and Caligula says he will be Vulcan henceforth. Caligula says he is Ulysses returning home to witness the shame and degradation of his household. He asks the soldier Cassius Chaerea (Sam Dastor) if he ever saw a sadder or more degrading sight. Cassius asks if he should arrest them, and Caligula says to indulge them a while longer. Then they will flush the sewage into the Tiber. He says Jove must cleanse himself in battle. He has sworn to fight a war that will annihilate the Germans, and he will bring back booty to Rome to fill her coffers. He orders Cassius to raise detachments and levies. He goes to forge war and temper a new spirit of Rome that will last a thousand years.
Caesonia has given birth to her baby, and Claudius comes in and gives her a bell. Caesonia asks about Calpurnia, and Claudius says she is fine and that he is going to see the Emperor in Germany. She asks why he is going to Germany, and he says that Caligula informed the Senate that he has discovered a conspiracy against him in the army of the Rhine; six corps commanders and the commander Gaetulicus have been executed. She asks if he thinks there was a conspiracy. He asks who knows, but he knows that Gaetulicus was a man of great loyalty. She asks why he is going. He has to go to congratulate him on suppressing the mutiny. He says the only lions left in Rome are in the arena. He has to strip Livia’s apartments of all their valuables and send them to him by road because he has a quarrel with Neptune. He wants to auction them to the provincials. He is auctioning everything. She asks why he chose her as a wife when she is ten years older than he and not pretty. Claudius says maybe she alone truly loves him. She cries and admits that she does love him, though she can’t explain it. She knows he does terrible things. She says he is more afraid than any of them.
Caligula in his tent is looking at the rain, and he tells Cassius that he has just reprimanded the river god for trying to drown them. Cassius tells him that his uncle is there with Marcus Vinicius and Asprenas. Caligula tells him to let them in. Claudius and the other two come in and hail Caesar. Caligula asks them where his carts are with the valuables. Claudius says they are coming by road and will be there in a few days. Claudius says they came by water. Caligula orders him thrown into the river, and soldiers take Claudius out. Caligula makes the other two bow down. Caligula rants and asks what plots are going on. He says he should have had his throat cut. Caligula says he is quarreling with Neptune. He wonders if they plotted with him. He asks them what they said to him. Asprenas says they can’t talk to a god, and Marcus says he would not plot with them. Caligula says he will kill them anyway. Marcus pleads, and Caligula raises the sword but sees muddy Claudius come back in. He tells what happened to him in Homeric terms. Caligula is entertained and laughs. He says if the next two lines are apt, they are saved; otherwise he will cut their throats. Claudius thinks and recites a line about Jove. Caligula says that Claudius saved them. Caligula tosses his sword to Cassius who asks for the watchword for tonight. Caligula says it is “Give us a kiss.” Cassius said it could have happened just now to you or to me; but it will happen one day.
Caligula drinks and asks Claudius if he likes the watchword, and they laugh at the joke. Caligula says that Cassius is a cry-baby. He had him torture Gaeticulus to death because he said nothing, and Cassius wept. He asks Claudius how many hours a night he sleeps, and Claudius says eight or nine. Caligula says he sleeps barely three, and he asks if he thinks he is mad. Claudius says the idea never passed his mind. He says he stands for the sanity of the whole world. Caligula asks why there is galloping inside his head and why he sleeps so little. Claudius says it is a mortal disguise. A god is not used to a physical body. He says undisguised gods do not sleep at all. Caligula asks why he did not think of that if he is a god. Caligula says it is hard being a god, and he tells Claudius that he is that all-powerful god prophesied by the Jews. He says it is prophesied that he will die young, hated by his own people. Claudius does not believe that. Caligula says he wants Claudius to come on the expedition after the carts arrive. They will cross the Rhine, defeat the Germans, and then march to the sea where he will battle Neptune. He tells him to leave because he has a headache.
Emperor Caligula has returned to Rome and thought the streets would be lined with cheering crowds, but he found the streets empty and no triumphs awarded. He is greeted only by stay-at-home senators. He says he has returned with the sword in his hand. A senator says he ordered no triumphs, and Caligula says he was leaving it up to them; he was being humble. He says they celebrated the battle of Actium. He has them show the booty they gathered from Neptune, and they pour seashells from trunks. An old senator says they built a new temple to him. He says that will not save them and has them all kneel down and bow their heads. He will sever their heads. Claudius intervenes and tells him not to spoil his memorable homecoming with the spilling of blood. Caesonia says he should think of his little daughter, and Caligula says her soft words appeased his wrath. He tells the senators to go. Marcus Vinicius praised Caligula and mentions his grandfather Agrippa, but Caligula says he is no longer his friend. Marcus asks Claudius what he did wrong, and Claudius explains that Agrippa was of low birth and not someone who produces descendants who are gods. Cassius tells him he is now an enemy.
Claudius hears knocking and looks out the window. Cassius says he is wanted at the palace.
Claudius, Marcus Vinicius, and Asprenas have been waiting for two hours. They see lights coming and clasp hands. Caligula appears suddenly dressed as a woman and dances during a song. A soldier dances with him. The soldier departs, and Caligula discovers two lovers. They sing that they worship him each day. Claudius and the other two applaud, and Claudius praises him. Caligula asks Claudius what he thought of the girl, and he says she was beautiful. The Emperor calls in Messalina (Sheila White), and he says he is going to marry her to Claudius. Caligula laughs and tells Cassius that the watchword is “Bottoms up.”
Claudius tells Messalina he is sorry. She asks if he wants to marry her, and he says he is so much older. She says she would be happy to marry him. She would be safe with him and asks if he could ever love her. He says he loves her already, and she kisses him. She says she must go home and get ready for the wedding tomorrow. He stammers a goodbye.
Claudius arrives with his family and friends, and Messalina welcomes them. He sits next to her. Caligula stands up, and his white horse comes in as a senator.
Cassius tells Marcus Vinicius and Asprenas they have to kill him, and he asks for their help. They agree. Cassius says they will do it at the final games tomorrow as he is leaving in a covered way. Cassius says that he and Sabinus will be waiting outside. Marcus Vinicius will be in the imperial box, and on the way out he must keep Caligula separate from the German guards. Cassius says they will call upon the Senate to restore the republic. He says they will kill the entire imperial family including Claudius and his new wife. Marcus says no; he does not want that. Sabinus says none of the assassins would be safe afterward; but Marcus says it must be Caligula alone or not at all. Cassius and the others agree. They stand up, and Cassius says, “Liberty and the republic.” Sabinus tells Cassius he does not like it because it is dangerous to leave the others alive; but Cassius says he will see to it.
At the arena in the imperial box Caligula is frustrated that he lost all his money and says he is not playing anymore. Claudius offers to loan him some, and Caligula says he hates running up debts. So Claudius gives him half of his, and Caligula accepts it. Caligula accuses Marcus Vinicius of using fixed dice. Claudius tells Caligula to try his dice. They have to decide about a gladiator, and Claudius says the crowd wants him spared; but Caligula turns his thumb down, and people boo. Caligula rolls the dice and says “By Jove.” He thanks Claudius and wins again. Caligula wins again and raises the stakes.
Cassius tells Sabinus that he placed guards at both ends. He dismissed the palace guards. Cassius says he will strike the first blow.
Caligula asks what favor he could grant Claudius who thanks him for the happiness he has with his wife. Caligula says it was meant to be a joke. Claudius says he is glad to be a source of his merriment. Caligula asks Marcus where he is going, and he says he has to relieve himself. Caligula asks Claudius why Marcus is nervous.
Marcus goes to Cassius and says he does not want to eat. Cassius says he will go in and kill him. Marcus says he can tell him his Greek ballet has arrived, and Cassius tells him to get him out there.
Marcus goes back and tells Caligula that his Greek ballet is waiting outside to greet him. Caligula tells him to bring in the girls. Marcus says they have prepared a dance for him at the rear. Caligula goes out and says he may let them dance with him.
Caligula enters the tunnel, and two soldiers close the door. Cassius says the watchword is “Liberty,” and he cuts Caligula’s neck with his sword. He falls, and Sabinus stabs him. They run off as some soldiers and Claudius come into the tunnel. Claudius says they let them kill the Emperor, and he orders the soldiers to go after them.
Cassius and his two soldiers enter the palace. A soldier kills her baby while Cassius is killing Caesonia.
Claudius returns to the palace and hears men coming. Soldiers come in and take valuables before the Germans come. A soldier finds Claudius and says he is an assassin. Claudius says he had nothing to do with it. The officer in charge says it is the Emperor’s uncle Claudius. An officer suggests they could have Claudius for an emperor, and they laugh at him. German soldiers come in, and the Roman soldier explains that Claudius is their new emperor. He tells them to put him down. They put a crown on his head, and he says he does not want to be an emperor. They shout, “Long live the Emperor” and march around with him.
Senator Silanus (Lyndon Brook) is recognized and speaks in the Senate and asks them to return again to the sanity of the republic. Senators cheer. A messenger comes in and speaks to the presiding senator who announces that the Praetorian Guards have proclaimed Claudius emperor. The senators laugh.
A guard asks Claudius if he wants wine and helps himself to some. The guard says he is not their prisoner but their emperor. Claudius says that he has told him many times that he does not want to be emperor. An officer of the guards comes in and says, “Hail Caesar!” Claudius tells him not to call him that. The officer tells the other guard to leave them and then says that he knew his brother Germanicus on the Rhine years ago. When Augustus died, they tried to make Germanicus emperor; but he did not want it either. Claudius says his brother believed in the republic. The officer puts a crown on the head of Claudius and says that the imperial family can afford to have those sentiments, but he rose through the ranks. He has 4,000 men who need an emperor in order to keep their jobs. He reminds him what could happen if they were in the streets with nothing to do. An officer knocks and says that someone claiming to be the King of Bashan wants to see Claudius who says he knows him. King Herod Agrippa comes in, and the officer puts the crown back on the head of Claudius. The officers go out, and Claudius talks with his friend Herod who advises him he must not give up his power to the Senate because it would be a signal for civil war. Also as soon as he gives up his power, he will be killed. Claudius asks why since he believes in the republic. Herod says he is a danger to the assassins who have already killed Caesonia and the child. Claudius is surprised, and Herod says they will kill the entire imperial family. Claudius asks about Messalina. Herod says that she is safe. He tells Claudius he must put aside his ancient prejudices and accept the reality. The officer brings in two senators and says they were almost killed crossing the camp. Claudius says their persons are inviolable, and the officer says he didn’t know they were coming. A senator calls him Caesar and says they invite him to attend the house because they want to know his intentions. An officer says Claudius is remaining there, and they could throw the two senators into the Tiber. The other officer says if he is to go to the Senate, he will be accompanied by 4,000 guards. Claudius sends his compliments to the Senate and says he is temporarily unable to honor their request. He orders the guards to give them safe conduct back to the city. The officer bows, and they go out. Herod tells Claudius that he has to make up his mind to be emperor at least for a while.
Claudius, Messalina, and Herod enter a large room followed by many guards. Claudius says he understands that the senators do not want another emperor. He sympathizes with them because he does not want to be an emperor; but it seems that he has been chosen to be one. He asks them to sympathize with him. A senator steps forward and says his appointment is unconstitutional. Claudius says he agrees, but 4,000 Praetorian Guards do not. He says the senators created the Praetorian Guards in the reign of Augustus. Another senator says that it is against the constitution for anyone but the senate to appoint an emperor. Claudius says it is also unlawful to murder an emperor. He tells Marcus that if he had not done that, they would not be in this absurd situation. A third senator says he is not fit to be emperor, and Claudius agrees but says his nephew wasn’t either. The senator asks what difference there is between them. Claudius says Caligula would not have agreed, and by now his head would be on the floor for saying that. A senator says he cannot hear or speak properly, and he has no experience in government. Claudius adds the rumor that he is half-witted. His sits down and tells them that he is hard of hearing but not for want of listening. He also has a speech impediment, but he asks if it is more important what a person says than how long he takes to say it. He admits he has little experience in government, but he asks if they have more. He has lived with the imperial family ever since they spinelessly handed power over to them. He has observed its working more closely than any of them. He notes that he has survived with half his wits while thousands have died with all of theirs intact. He tells the senators that he will do nothing unconstitutional. He will appear before their next meeting, and they can confirm him as emperor or not; but if not, they must explain their reasons to the guards. He asks them to leave his house except Marcus Vinicius and Asprenas, and he asks them to bring in Cassius Chaerea and Gaius Sabinus. The senators go out, and the officers bring in Cassius Chaerea. An officer says that Sabinus has killed himself, and all the officers involved in the conspiracy have been arrested. Claudius stands up and tells Cassius that he does not condemn him for having killed his nephew; but he also murdered Caesonia and the child, and he tried to murder him and his wife who had never done him any harm. Cassius says he did it for the republic and would do it again. Claudius says he did it because of his own injuries. He heard that they had agreed to kill only Caligula, but he took it upon himself to kill them all. Cassius does not deny it and says that his appearance there proves that only his death would have insured the return of the republic. Claudius says he must condemn him for the murder of Caesonia and the child, and he orders him taken away. Cassius congratulates him on his passing his first death sentence, and while guards are taking him out, he asks how many more he will kill before he is killed. Claudius says the investigation into this case is closed, and the two senators bow and go out.
Claudius shows his new baby to the people who shout, “Hail Caesar!” They come back in, and Messalina tells Claudius that he does not need to show him every time he comes to see her. Claudius sits on her bed and says he is so much in love with her. She says the same and kisses him. She says she has given him to a nurse to be fed. She asks if she has been helping him in governing, and he agrees that she has. He says he was amazed at how much she knew. She asks if she is helping as much as Livia helped Augustus and says she wants to be like her. She would not be content just to be the mother of his children. She says she will love them because they are his. She wants to work with him and relieve him of some of the petty burdens. He asks if breast-feeding their child would prevent this. She asks how he would feel if he had to leave a meeting with the Senate to breast feed a child four or five times a day. He says he barely has time to feed himself, and he agrees. He leaves her to rest, and she advises him to rest too. She says he has not stopped for a year. He says he will find work for her to do and goes out. Messalina tells her mother Domitia (Moira Redmond) that she knew he would not be angry. Domitia asks why she should bother herself with state matters which is not a woman’s place. Domitia asks if she intends to have any more children, and Messalina says no. Domitia asks if her husband knows that. Domitia asks how she will prevent it, and she says she does not have to give in to her husband, especially one so old. She asks Domitia if she thought of marrying again, and she asks if she wants to get rid of her. Messalina says no; she hopes she and her husband would continue to live in the palace. Domitia says no one wants her, and Messalina asks if she is fond of Silanus. Messalina remembers him well when he came to the house often. Domitia says he went back to Spain, and she has no plans to go there.
Herod tells Claudius that Livia would be pleased that she is a goddess at last. Claudius says he never dreamed he would be able to keep his promise. The Senate granted his request this morning. Messalina says she would like to be in heaven when she arrives. Herod calls her romantic, and Claudius says he is a lucky man. Claudius says she is pregnant again. Herod says he will send a gift to the child, and Claudius asks him to change his mind and stay. Herod says he no longer needs him, and Claudius asks who will advise him on borrowing money or the corn market. Herod says he has advisors for that. Claudius asks Messalina to persuade him; but she says he has his own kingdoms to govern, and Claudius has given him even more. Claudius admits he should not be selfish. Messalina says his chief advisors are freedman and that it would be good to find a nobleman to replace Herod upon whom he could rely. Claudius asks if she is thinking of someone, and she recommends Appius Silanus. He says he is governing Spain, and she says he has much experience and is wasted there. Herod says he has republican sentiments and that he spoke against Claudius in the Senate after the assassination. Claudius says that Augustus never inquired into people’s political beliefs, and he says he will do the same. He is not sure that Silanus would want to live in the palace. Herod has a feeling that Messalina is ahead of them. She suggests that he would marry her mother which would give him a connection to the imperial family. He jokes that she has become a matchmaker and says it is a good idea. Herod says he is ceasing to give advice on anything from today. Messalina says goodbye to Herod and goes out. Claudius asks Herod if he is not the most fortunate of men. Herod says it is fools luck. Herod reminds him of when he first came to Rome. Claudius says he has been thinking of writing a book about his family. Herod says he knows everything. Claudius wants to write all the details and tell the truth for those who died. He feels fortunate, and says those more deserving were killed. His three greatest friends have been Postumus, Germanicus, and Herod. His friend gives him one more piece of advice, and that is that he should trust no one, not even his most intimate friend nor his wife.
Messalina gives birth and asks if it is a boy or a girl.
Claudius tells Pallas (Bernard Hepton) and Narcissus (John Cater) they should get engineers to survey a new winter harbor to see how much it would cost. A messenger knocks and says his child is born. Claudius learns it is a girl and says his prayers have been answered. He goes out. Narcissus says that it will cost ten million, and Pallas says the more it costs the less chance it will be built. Narcissus asks he if he is saying they should exaggerate the costs. Pallas reminds him they both have investments in corn. If more corn is landed in winter, the price will be lower; that worries Pallas. Narcissus says that is selfish of him, but Pallas argues that if more people want the price of corn to be low, that adds up to more selfishness. Narcissus calls that sophistry, and Pallas says the costs will remove the philosophical considerations.
Messalina kisses sleeping Claudius, and he wakes up. She says he works too hard and asks what his doctor says. She says he should leave more things to other people. He says Herod sent him a Greek doctor, and she asks if that is wise. They talk about their daughter, and they talk discuss love as frankness, kindness, and understanding. She wants to be frank and asks if he would let her sleep in her own bedroom. He asks if she no longer loves him. She loves him but does not want to risk another pregnancy. He says he would never force himself upon her. She says they would feel bad if she had to refuse him in the night. He asks how long the separation would last. She says not long and asks to try it. She hints she might slip into his room. Pallas comes in and says Silanus has arrived. Messalina says she is leaving, and he can come in. Claudius says he will have the servants arranged the change, and she asks to move into a room near her mother. Silanus comes in, and she says she is glad he is here and will tell her mother. Silanus says he would like to see her mother.
The physician gives his report to Claudius and says his food is not properly digested. Claudius says they had a wedding yesterday of Silanus and his mother-in-law, and he ate too much. The physician advises him to get up from the table while he is still hungry and not stop breaking wind. He says he works too hard. He should have his advisors read to him. He will send his own masseurs to him and will give him medicine. Claudius asks about the prayers, and the Greek tells him he believes in the herb bryony and will let Claudius choose the prayers.
Messalina meets with Silanus who thanks her for arranging his marriage to her mother. She tells him to sit next to her, and she says she loves him and always has. She has never gone to sleep without thinking of him. She burns for him, and now he is here. Silanus says he does not understand. She says she arranged this to have him near her. He says these are the fantasies of a young girl that should be put aside when we grow up. She says she will not put these aside. He asks if his marriage to her mother was a farce so that she could sleep with him. Messalina says her mother is not important. He asks about her husband, and she asks if she would arrange this without the consent of Claudius. She says they sleep apart at his wish. She does not mind because she abhors his sexual practices. He asks why he wants to sleep apart, and she says because he wants to practice these with the wives of senators. She says he wants her kept amused and wants Silanus to do it. Silanus is angry and says then he can tell him that himself. She calls him a simpleton and says he will deny it. She tells Silanus that she is disappointed in him. She says everything is arranged. He admits he is a simpleton and says he should have realized how degenerate emperors are. He says he has a granddaughter nearly her age. He admits he is amorous, but he would not touch her despite her beauty with a ten-foot pole. She slaps him and says he forgets that she is the Emperor’s wife. She slaps him again and says she only has to tear her clothes and raise her voice to have him executed. She is in a rage and gives him one week to come to her on his knees, or she will tell her husband that he refused her and so will have insulted him. She says Claudius has become very vain, but he says she is wasting her time. He has lived too long to become a bed-time toy of a 17-year-old girl. He says her threats are wasted on him. She says they will see. He says Rome will see how one can straighten one’s back and hold up one’s head when the will is there. He bows to her and goes out.
Claudius has found a plan for rebuilding the harbor and informs them that it was made during the reign of Julius Caesar. He says it is like the one Tortius (George Little) has produced. He asks Silanus to look at it and asks if he is ill. Silanus says no. Claudius says that the estimate was it would take four years and cost four million gold pieces, but the estimates presented to him are that it would take ten years and cost fifteen million. Narcissus says those estimates are ninety years old and that prices of materials have risen; but Claudius says they rose only by a quarter. He asks how they explain his engineer’s estimate and looks at Tortius. Claudius explains that he underestimated the amount of earth that men can move in a day. Tortius says he does not understand, and Claudius says that his surveyors have been taking bribes from the corn factors. Tortius says he does not know why they should, and Claudius says it is to keep up the price of corn. Silanus agrees with him. Claudius says they will proceed based on the old estimates. Pallas asks where the money will come from, and Claudius says the corn factors will loan them a million if he agrees not to investigate charges of bribing his officials. He dismisses them and says they will visit the harbor tomorrow.
Silanus remains and asks Claudius for a word alone. Claudius invites him to come and look at the plans. He says the plans of the divine Julius are remarkably good, but they left out one thing. While he is looking at the plans, Silanus pulls out a dagger and tries to stab him. Claudius manages to deflect it with his arm. They struggle as he shouts for help and then runs out of the room. At the door three guards come in and throw Silanus on the floor. Claudius tells them to wait and orders Silanus to get up. Pallas notices that Claudius is wounded on the arm, and Narcissus goes for the doctor. Claudius asks Silanus why. The officer asks Caesar to let him make him talk. Silanus calls him a tyrant, and Claudius asks what harm he ever did to him. He brought him back from Spain and made him a minister and connected him to his family by marriage. Silanus says he did that to put him in bed with his wife and serve her like a bull. Claudius asks what he means. Silanus says they are all the same; the emperors go from vices timidly concealed to vices openly displayed. He says it is sure as decay following death. Claudius orders them to fetch Messalina and her mother. Silanus says they have seen this play before, but Claudius demands that he explain that calumny against his wife and her mother. If he does not explain it to his satisfaction, he will die for this attempt on his life.
Messalina goes to her mother and asks what is the matter. Domitia says that Silanus tried to kill the Emperor. Messalina asks why he would do such a thing, and Domitia says they don’t know. She asks if Messalina could tell her. Messalina says she would not plot to kill her own husband. She they do not have time to discuss it now, and she must support everything she says. Domitia says she will not incriminate her husband. Messalina calls her a fool and asks if she thinks she brought him back from Spain for her. She says she loves him, and Domitia calls her monstrous. They hear knocking, and Messalina tells her that she must say to Claudius what she tells him; if she does not, she will say she was part of it all. Messalina answers the door.
Messalina tries to comfort Claudius who says he is all right. He has her go to Silanus and demands that he repeat to her what he said to him. Silanus says he wants to finish this, and Claudius tells him to repeat it. Silanus asks if he should tell her what he told him. Claudius insists that he repeat it. Silanus tells Messalina that he told him what she told him, that she arranged for him to come here so that she could be his mistress, so that she could be amused while Claudius took his perverted pleasures elsewhere. Then he decided to kill Claudius to end this plague of emperors for the good of Rome. Messalina asks Silanus how could he. She turns to Claudius and says Silanus is sick for love of her. She says she should have told him, but she thought the madness would pass. She says he apparently has loved her ever since she was a little girl. She says she had no idea. She says he has been pestering her and pleading with her day and night, and sometimes he was angry and violent. She thinks he may believe what he told Claudius that she had arranged his marriage for their convenience. She turns back to Silanus and calls him a deluded man and asks how he could think there could be anyone dearer to her than her husband. She turns back to Claudius and says he came to her today and was so violent that she said she would come to him and have him sent away. She says then he threatened to kill him, but she never thought he would do so. Silanus calls her performance beautifully played and says it should be enshrined in drama. Claudius goes to Domitia and asks if this is true, and she says yes. She says his passion for her daughter has turned his wits. Claudius goes back to Silanus and asks if he has anything to say. Silanus says that what he did he would do again. Claudius says he leaves him no choice. Messalina shouts no and comes to Claudius and says she could not bear for him to die because of his love for her. She begs him to banish him so that he may live. Pallas says he must die because by punishing an attempted assassination with banishment would encourage others. Claudius says she has a soft heart even after all those lies he told about her. He says the heart cannot rule the head in these matters. Claudius sentences Silanus to die as he had sentenced him. As he is taken out, Silanus says he hopes that Claudius and the she-wolf will rot in hell. Claudius dismisses the others and says he is tired.
Messalina and the actor Mnester (Nicolas Amer) are naked, and he says he has a performance to give. She says he has to perform for her and tells him not to be insolent, slapping him. He says she should not hit his face because he is an actor. She says that is all he is. She does not know why she puts up with him. He says she does because she is bored. He urges her to go Britain with the Emperor because of the men there. She says she should have been actor and asks what she has. He says she has her lovers. She says when she makes love, she reaches for something that men never dream of. He asks what that is. She does not know but says it is there always out of reach. Sometimes she feels like she could take on all of Rome in a night and be no worse in the morning. He asks why she does not do that. She says he will mock her once too often, and she starts to get out of bed. Mnester says they could stage the greatest night of love the world has ever seen. In a tournament of sex they could invited the Guild of Prostitutes to provide a champion to compete with her. He asks who would last the longest and laughs. She laughs too and says no one could compete with her. He asks about the Sicilian woman Scylla; she should not underestimate her. They say she boards a ship at Ostia, has the whole crew, and then walks off steadier than any of them. She asks if he is serious, and he asks why not. He marvels at the spectacle they would make. He sees two tidal waves of male passion dashing their fury against two timeless rocks of love. He asks who would be the first to yield or break; it would be unprecedented. He says it would send the universe reeling. She asks if he thinks she would win; but he asks who can tell. Mnester says the Sicilian woman is formidable, but she says she is more so. They laugh again. She knows why she puts up with him and tells him to bring on his Sicilian.
Pallas tells Narcissus that they took 8,000 prisoners and found nearly 5,000 corpses. Caractacus has left Colchester and fled to the west, and Aulus with the ninth cavalry is pursuing him. Narcissus asks about Roman losses, and Pallas says they are insignificant, only 380 killed and 600 wounded. He says Britain is almost subdued, and the Emperor is going home. Narcissus says that solves their problem. Pallas agrees that they do not have to decide what to write to him about Messalina, but what they are going to tell him when he gets back is another question. Narcissus says they will have the same problem as before he left.
Mnester is performing for Messalina and others. They laugh and applaud, and she hugs him. A man announces Scylla (Charlotte Howard), a member of the Guild of Prostitutes, and Mnester introduces himself as an actor and says most people have heard of him. Scylla says she is a whore, and everyone has heard of her. He introduces the Emperor’s wife Messalina to her, and she bows and says she is honored. Messalina thanks her for accepting her challenge. Scylla says she is professional and works for money. She gladly leaves the honor to Messalina. She asks the Greek if he would defend his honor for nothing. Mnester says Scylla is there for the honor, and asks if she would expect to be paid in this company. Scylla says she is different in that she is not a snob. Messalina agrees to pay her three gold pieces a head, win or lose. Scylla accepts, and they begin the games.
An officer tells Pallas about the sex competition going on in the palace, and he asks if he has discussed it with anyone else. The soldier says he told his superior Rufrius . The officer thinks he should inform the Emperor by a letter, but Pallas does not think he could put that in a letter. The officer gets angry and says he can. Pallas says he has been foolish, and the soldier grabs him and asks if he is threatening him. Pallas says no, but he asks if he knows that Rufrius is in Messalina’s inner circle of friends. He suspects she has probably applied to the Emperor for a warrant for his execution. He says that emperors away from the capital are suspicious of conspiracies and will sign anything. He thinks the warrant may already have been signed and may be on its way to Rome. The officer insists he must help him and grabs him again. Pallas says he will decide when to tell the Emperor because he has learned to tread carefully in a burning building. The officer asks what he is to do, and Pallas tells him he is dead and should get buried.
Mnester says the queen is dead; long live the queen. Scylla is limping and says she is inhuman. She asks for her money, and Mnester holds it out. She grabs the bag of gold coins and shouts “Amateurs!” as she leaves.
Emperor Claudius returns to the Senate and is applauded. He says they have re-established Britain as a province of Rome 108 years after Julius Caesar left it not well secured. He says their enemy Caractacus was in full flight when he left.
Old Claudius is writing his history and thinks that he gladly would have traded the triumph they gave him to avoid the tragedy that was about to unfold. Before he left, Governor Marsus Vibius (Manning Wilson) of Syria told him that his friend Herod Agrippa was fortifying Jerusalem. He asks Marsus for more information, and he tells Claudius that he learned Herod was organizing a secret meeting with neighboring kings to plot a revolt against Rome. Claudius asks why and says that before he left, he got a letter from Herod’s uncle Antipas who said he was convinced that Herod had come to believe that he is the Jewish Messiah that was prophesied. Marsus says others have thought they were, including Caligula. Claudius says he fulfilled many of the predictions, but he did not die in the year predicted by the astrologer Thrasyllus. Claudius says Thrasyllus was never wrong about dates. Claudius says that he predicted the Messiah would die the same year as Livia died. Claudius says that Herod is a Jew and would not believe in Thrasyllus. Marsus asks what difference it makes if he is planning a revolt. Claudius says Herod is his dearest friend; if he has become his enemy, he wants to know why. Claudius asks how much he knows about this Messiah. He replies very little, but he has Jewish agents in Jerusalem and can find out. Messalina comes in, and Claudius tells her what they were talking about. Marsus goes out. She asks Claudius if he is worried. She sits in his lap, and he says he missed her so much. He was glad when she wrote him about the Quintus Justus affair; he was glad she was there to take care of it. She asks if she could slip into his room tonight; but she does not want to find Calpurnia in her place. She says she would like to have her arms around him and does not want to embarrass him. He tells her to come tonight and kisses her. She tells him to be alone. She asks for one thing. She wants him to speak to Mnester because he has been mean to her. She says to tell him that when she asks him to do something, he is not to make a fuss. He kisses her hands and embraces her as they walk.
Claudius tells Mnester to obey Messalina in anything she asks.
Old Claudius writes that he played the fool for Messalina who had fallen in love with the consul elect Gaius Silius, the most handsome man in Rome. She asked Mnester to bring Silius to see her. Mnester had refused from respect for the wife of Silius. So she complained to Claudius who like a fool secured what she wanted. He writes that at first she talked to him about politics. Tiberius had executed his father, and she told him that Claudius was even more corrupt than Tiberius. He comforted her, and soon he was making love to her. Claudius wrote that he was as much her slave as he was.
Marsus gives Claudius more information about the Messiah and explains he is a king who is to redeem Israel of all its sins. Their greatest living scholar Philo wrote that he must be descended from King David and be born in Bethlehem. Claudius asks in what year. Marsus says opinions differ. Claudius asks if there have been any recent candidates, and Marsus says the latest died about fifteen years ago. Claudius asks who he was, and he says his name was Joshua bar-Joseph from Galilee who had a large following and preached by the lake; he was called Jesus by the Greeks. Claudius asks if he was born in Bethlehem. Marsus says it is not known because there was a scandal about his birth because his mother had been seduced by a Greek. Pallas asks what happened to him. Marsus says he tried to form a new religion out of Judaism, but he lacked the authority. Then he identified himself as the Messiah, and he was executed as a heretic. Claudius asks if he knows what King Herod thought of this. Marsus says that he recently executed one of his followers named James, and he is looking for Simon. He says it is a cult. Pallas says that he knows Claudius is interested in strange religions, but he asks what this has to do with the possible revolt. Claudius says that Herod’s mother gave birth to him in the village of Bethlehem. Claudius does not doubt that Herod and others believe him to be this Messiah. He says his intentions are clear that he wants to free the East from the dominion of Rome. He intends to go to war. If they do not act quickly, he could seize the Eastern part of the empire, and they could lose Egypt. His friend has become his enemy.
Domitia has servants why they are taking down a sculpture of a head. Messalina says she is giving it to Silius because he wants it. Domitia says the Emperor gave her that as a gift and asks what she will do if he comes there. Messalina says he does not come there; if he does, she will tell him she moved it. Domitia asks if she has lost her senses and says that she has lavished that man with gifts from the palace; she has lost her discretion. Messalina admits that she is in love, but her mother warns her that this time she is imperiling her life. Messalina disagrees. Domitia says that all Rome knows that she visits him at his home and takes him gifts. Messalina says he is divorcing his wife. Her mother says he can’t marry her and asks why he is divorcing her. Messalina says because she can’t stand the thought that he is sleeping with his wife when he is not with her.
Claudius is drinking wine and thinks how the slaves are laughing at him still after all these years. He remembers what Herod told him about not trusting anyone.
Marsus tells Claudius that Herod Agrippa is dead. Claudius asks him what happened. Marsus says he went to Caesarea to celebrate the birthday of Claudius who adds that he went there to meet with his alliance of kings. Marsus says they were going to submit to Herod there. Claudius asks if Herod believed himself to be the Messiah. Marsus says yes; he had revealed himself to the high priest, and how he was going to present himself to the nation. He appeared in an amphitheater in shining clothes, and the audience called him king and recognized him as divine. Claudius asks if the Jews believed that God told them to have no other gods. Marsus says that Herod had forgotten that and when the ram’s horn was about to be sounded, an owl flew into the arena and perched on the throne. Claudius says that Herod believed that an owl was an evil omen for him. Marsus says he groaned and said he was ill, and they carried him out. The festival was over, and he died within five days. The kings and the crowds went home. Claudius asks who is the Messiah, and Marsus says the Jews may have to wait longer.
Claudius reads a letter from dying Herod asking him to forgive him and again warning him to trust no one. Claudius feels alone, having lost all his best friends. He turned to Messalina who persuaded him to let her use his seal. He writes that she had become bored with her affair with Silius who was afraid that they would be discovered.
Silius (Stuart Wilson) has asked Messalina to divorce Claudius and marry him, and he asks if she would not rather be his wife than his mistress. She says she would but asks how they could do it and survive. Silius says sooner or later they will be found out and will not be prepared. She says no; it is safer to stay as they are and wait until he dies of old age. He says he is tired of waiting. She is tired of waiting too, but she says they should keep to their long-term plan. He says only innocent people can afford long-term plans. She considers herself innocent, but he says they are guilty of adultery, of promiscuity, of taking bribes, and of judicial murder. He tells her to stop deluding herself with childish notions because they are guilty. He loves her, and she is everything to him. He says guilt requires daring. He is ready to marry her and adopt her children. Her power will continue. They will have no peace of mind until they end the farce. She asks what will happen if they marry. He says they have powerful friends. He says if they marry, all Rome will see that Claudius is abandoned and held in contempt. They will declare the republic restored, and people will rally to their cause. She asks when, and he says tomorrow. She says she is going with him to Ostia to examine the new harbor works. She thinks and says she will let him go there alone by saying she has a headache. While he is there, they can marry in Rome. She says by the time he returns to the city, it will belong to them.
Claudius recalls how he went down to Ostia. By the time he got there, they were married. He says they felt themselves secure, and only he did not know about it.
Narcissus tells Pallas they have said nothing; but this is different because it puts the life of the Emperor and theirs in danger. Pallas asks if she has divorced him, and Narcissus says yes; she sent a freedman to his chamber there with the decree. Pallas says he wasn’t there to receive it and asks if she is bigamous. Narcissus says her marriage declares to Rome that Claudius is too old and stupid to govern Rome anymore. She has married the consul elect as a sign that they intend to have the Senate restore the republic. Because Messalina is known for her determination to get her own way, the Senate may take the hint and put them both at the head of it. Pallas says he must be told, and he asks how. He says he won’t believe anything said against her. From the moment they tell him, time is against them. Narcissus says they must keep her away from him so that she never gets a hearing. Pallas asks who should tell him. Narcissus suggests the prostitute Calpurnia because he trusts her more than anyone.
Claudius comes into the home of Calpurnia (Jo Rowbottom) and asks why he was given a note warning of grave danger and to go to her house. He says she alarmed him, and the ram he sacrificed in the temple was the most unpropitious animal he had ever seen. He asks why she is trembling and asks what is the matter. She kneels before him and cries. He has her sit down next to him. She will tell him but believes he will have her tortured and flogged. He says she is making him angry. She asks if he still trusts her, and he says in his life he has trusted his mother, Messalina, and herself. She says Messalina has just married Silius, and the wedding party in Rome is still going on. He asks if she is mad or wicked or both. She says everyone in Rome knows, and she is in bed with Silius who is her lover. She thought he knew, and everyone thought he knew. She says Narcissus took her to the wedding party today. She describes the decorations and the celebration. Claudius refuses to believe her. She runs out, and Pallas comes in and says every word is true. Narcissus enters and asks Claudius when he has been willing to hear of her excesses. Claudius shouts, and Pallas says that her adulteries are numberless. Pallas tells about how when he was in Britain she competed with a prostitute to see who could wear out more lovers in a day, and half of Rome saw it. Narcissus tells him that if he doubts, he need only go to the house of Silius where he will find his most expensive furniture and even imperial slaves; but he says that is nothing. Calpurnia comes back in. Narcissus asks Claudius if he knows that he is divorced. The nation and the Senate have witnessed her wedding to Silius. He must act now, or her new husband will control Rome. Claudius is in shock. Calpurnia says he must act quickly, or they will all be condemned to death. Pallas says they must return to Rome and arrest them all immediately. Claudius asks if he is still Emperor. Narcissus says some officers of the guard may have been seduced, but most of them are devoted to him. Claudius agrees and orders them to go back to Rome and arrest them all.
At the wedding celebration Silius carries Messalina who is drunk and hugs another man. Mnester reports that a cloud of Claudius is coming there, and he makes a joke. Silius and Messalina go to him and ask what he sees now. Mnester says he sees a troop of guards climbing the hill toward them. Silius tells him to give them wine. Mnester reports that they have all drawn their swords. A woman comes running into the party and says the guards are coming to arrest them all. She tells them to run, and they do.
Pallas and Narcissus come to the officer in charge who tells them the Emperor is in his study, and they have arrested two hundred people. Silius was taken in the marketplace, but Messalina has not been found. Pallas says she is not to be allowed to see the Emperor without consulting him. Messalina comes in and asks where her husband is. Narcissus blocks her in the doorway and says he does not wish to see her. She looks around and tells the Greek to get out of her way and asks how dare he keep her from seeing her husband. He asks her which husband and calls her a whore. She screams for him to get out of her way and tries to hit him until a guard grabs her arms. She shouts to Claudius, and Domitia tells Narcissus that she is the Emperor’s wife and the mother of his children. Narcissus asks if he is their father. He shows her a list of her adulteries in the hundreds. Pallas pulls Narcissus away as he asks Domitia if she calls Messalina a mother. He orders the guards to take her home and let her wait there. They take her out.
Claudius is drinking wine, and Pallas reports that arrests have been made all over the city; fortunately most of the guards proved loyal. Claudius calls her a poor woman, and he wonders what caused her to do such things. He says she must have been very unhappy. Pallas tells him he must sign the charge sheets, and Claudius cooperates. The drunk Emperor puts his head on the table, and Pallas tells him to sleep and save himself for Rome.
Narcissus hands the warrant for her execution to the officer Geta, but Pallas tells him to offer her the dagger first. Narcissus disagrees; but Pallas says if she takes her own life, they will not have to show the Emperor the warrant in the morning. The guards go out.
Messalina is instructing her young son to take the letter to his father without showing it to anyone else. She says when he reads it, he will forgive their mother. She tells her son and daughter to hurry, and they go out. She tells her mother that he must see her. Domitia asks how could she. Messalina asks her mother to do something and asks to see him on her own. They hear the door, and Messalina says he is coming to see her. She runs to the door and opens it. She sees guards and asks what they want. Geta says her life by her husband’s orders, and he carries the warrant. She says her husband would not do that. He tells her to read it, and it has his signature. She takes the warrant. He offers her a dagger if she wants it; then her head is to be cut off and put on a spear. She runs to another door, and another guard pushes her back into the room. She screams not her head, and her mother holds her head and says her life is done. She advises her to take the dagger and use it. Domitia puts the dagger in her hands. Messalina says no; he would not do that. Domitia tells her to use it quickly. Messalina is not able to stab herself. A guard holds her head up by her hair while another uses his sword to cut through her neck.
Pallas and Narcissus come in and bow before sitting Claudius who says he will see his wife now. Pallas says she was executed last night by his order, and he shows him the warrant he signed. Narcissus reports that the temple in Colchester, which was to be dedicated to Augustus, has been dedicated to him instead. Pallas says that Aulus Plautius wrote that they are happy to worship Claudius as their god. He regretted making the decision without consulting him, but he is sure it is politically correct. He says it is known as the temple of the god Claudius. Pallas and Narcissus bow and leave the room. Claudius cries silently.
Nero (Christopher Biggins) asks Agrippinilla (Barbara Young) if Claudius is dead. She says yes, and they say he is emperor. She advises not announcing it yet because they must find his will. They go into his room and see manuscripts lying around. He lights lamps, and they search. She reads where Claudius wrote that he would write no more. She finds his history that begins with the death of his wife Messalina. He wrote that the frog pond wanted a king, and they sent old king log.
Claudius says that he was too benevolent because he reconciled the world to monarchy again. By dulling the blade of tyranny he caused errors and disorder, but by sharpening that blade he might bring about violent remedies. He hopes that all the poisons lurking in the mud of the pond will hatch out.
Pallas asks Claudius if the female dancer pleased him; but Pallas and Narcissus agree she is beautiful and discuss her. She is married to the drummer and is a shrew, and so Pallas envies him his nights but not his days. Narcissus tells Claudius that even vagabonds and gypsies value marriage and family. Pallas asks Claudius if something is the matter. Pallas and Narcissus try to persuade Claudius into marrying again so that his children will have a mother. Pallas says that despite three failures his fourth marriage could be a triumph. Narcissus recommends Lollia Paulina, but Pallas laughs and asks if he is mad. Pallas calls her the stupidest woman in Rome who only cares about jewelry. Pallas says he needs a woman able to help him. Pallas recommends Agrippinilla, but Narcissus says she is the Emperor’s niece and that the Senate would never allow it. Pallas says that a hundred years ago first cousins could not marry, but now it is common. He says the Senate will agree. Pallas says she is very intelligent. She is the daughter of Germanicus and would bring with her Nero, the grandson of Germanicus whom he says is very worthy. Narcissus says that Claudius loathes Nero, and he says that his mother is the most corrupt woman in Rome. Even her brother Caligula said so. Pallas gets angry and says his friendship is at an end. Pallas tells Claudius that his niece is the finest woman in Rome, both good-looking and intelligent. Narcissus complains that it would be Messalina with brains, a terrible combination. Narcissus pleads with Claudius that it would be incestuous and would bring ruin and destruction on Rome. Claudius says to let the poisons lurking in the mud hatch out. Claudius tells Pallas that he will marry his niece and to bring her to him, and he walks out.
Pallas goes to Agrippinilla and tells her that Claudius has agreed, and he wants to see her. He says it was easy. She asks what he said and if there was no opposition, and he says only from Narcissus. He tells her that Claudius said nothing about her being his niece. Pallas does not look forward to having her in his bed, and he is beginning to regret it already. He admits he was reluctant to suggest her, but she says it did not stop him. She says his ambition always was stronger than his passion, but he says his passion was never wanting. She says in her case they are well combined. Pallas says his regrets are increasing. She feels she hurt him and says she will make it up to him, and she kisses him. He asks her to do so now, but she says he is waiting for her. She tells him to hurry because she imagines his passion is burning too, and at his age the flames do not last long.
Claudius hears a knock, and Agrippinilla comes in. She asks if he wants to marry again and if he chose her. He asks if she would like to marry him. She kneels before her uncle and says he has made her the happiest woman in the world. He says he thought he might, and she asks how he could have known that she liked him and respected him so much. He says he guessed it. She says she will be a good wife to him. She says she will be a mother to Britannicus and Octavia as she is to her own son Nero. She says she is still capable of bearing children, and he is a vigorous man with firm flesh. She promises him that he will have more sons and more love than he ever had. He takes her hand and asks if she is worried that she will be committing incest, but he realizes that she has done that before with her brother Caligula. She says they all did things during his mad reign that they otherwise would not have done. He says that is true, but some did them more willingly. She says the incest is only technical, and it does not disturb her. She asks if it bothers him and gets up to go. He says he is only teasing her and tells her not to be offended. He says the incest issue is only academic because he is not interested in her body but in her mind. He is marrying her for her head, not for her heart. She says that suits her because he is not a lover one dreams of. He will not discuss her dreams on a full stomach. He says he is marrying her because he is tired of ruling alone. An Emperor’s wife can do things that no one else can do. He needs a woman with a mind and asks if that appeals to her. She says it does, and she warns him if he gives her power, she will use it. He says that is why he is giving it to her. She goes out.
Outside the door she sees Pallas and says they are to be married. She asks why because he does not want to share his bed. He wants her to help him rule, and she says there is something odd. She asks what he said when he suggested her, and he says he said something about the poisons in the mud hatching out. She says his mind may be going. Pallas says he may not last long after his marriage; but she says no because they must keep him alive until her son comes of age.
Emperor Claudius tells the Senate that seven years ago he began the conquest of the island of Britain. Now it has been completed with the capture of the leader Caractacus (Peter Bowles) who is brought before the Senate which sentenced him to death. Caractacus warns them that if they use the sword, they must be prepared to carry it every day and sleep with it at night. His courage and dignity won over senators who granted him a pension and allowed him to live in Rome.
Agrippinilla and Nero are reading the end of the history where Claudius wrote that he had been married to her for five years and that she turned out to be loathsome as did her son. His mother has plans for him, and Claudius wrote that he had his own plans.
Nero plays the lyre for Claudius and his mother who asks Britannicus (Graham Seed) why he does not play; but he says he is not interested in music. She would like them to play duets. She reminds him not to call him Lucius Domitius because he has adopted the name of Nero. She asks him to apologize because she believes he does it deliberately. Nero says it is not necessary, and Britannicus says he will not apologize. She tells Claudius to insist that he apologize, and the drunk Claudius tells him to do so. He says Nero is sensitive. Britannicus complains that his father takes his side all the time. He refuses, and Claudius threatens to punish him. He asks what he will do and asks if he will execute him as he did his mother. He says he detests them all and runs out. Nero says he is sorry that he caused that. He asks Octavia (Cheryl Johnson) to go with him to pacify her brother. She says that Nero is kind, and he says there is too little kindness in the world. They bow to the Emperor and leave together. Agrippinilla asks Claudius if he notices how fond they are of each other. She says Nero adores her. She stops a servant from giving Claudius more wine and says she wants to talk about something. He says the answer is yes and asks if she is going to ask him to marry his daughter Octavia to her son. She asks if he wants to discuss it, and he says they will be well matched. She says that Nero thinks of him as his father. Once again before she makes the request, he tells her the answer is yes again. She gets angry and tells him to let her have her say first and criticizes his drinking. He says he thought she was going to ask him to adopt Nero as his son making him joint heir with Britannicus. She says it was but wishes he would let her finish first. He says it saves a lot of unnecessary discussion. He gets up and says it shows the success of their marriage that he can read her mind so quickly. He says it saves time. He says goodnight and stumbles on his way out, falling down. Four young servants pick him up and carry him out.
Narcissus tells Claudius that he should have consulted him. Narcissus says he never would have approved it. Claudius says that is why he did not. Narcissus asks if he is his principal advisor on matters of state, and Claudius admits that he is. Narcissus asks if she makes a move without consulting Pallas. He asks Claudius if he knows that Pallas and Agrippinilla are lovers. Claudius says he knows that and that he has switched his interest from him to her. Narcissus asks why he did it and that he has signed his death warrant because she has got everything she wanted out of her marriage to him. She no longer needs him. Claudius says he will die soon anyway. Barbillus read his horoscope and told him. Narcissus says he has numbered his own days by what he has done. He asks why he did not consider Britannicus, and Claudius insists he thought especially of him. Narcissus says he has hurt him in the past, and this will hurt him more. Claudius realizes that. Narcissus says he has numbered the days of Britannicus too. Narcissus says when Claudius is gone, they will not let Britannicus nor himself live. Claudius stands up and says Nero is destined to rule after him, not Britannicus. He says it has been foretold, and nothing can alter it. Narcissus asks who foretold this, and Claudius says the sybil. Narcissus says that Agrippinilla will rule through Nero as Livia ruled through Tiberius; but Claudius says that Nero will kill his mother, also predicted by the sybil. Narcissus says he heard of no such prophecies. Claudius says no one but he has, and he shows him a scroll. Narcissus looks at it and asks where he got it. Claudius says Livia just before her death gave it to him at her birthday party. She found it among the papers of Augustus. Claudius says he won’t be able to understand the archaic language. Augustus did not understand it, but Livia did. Claudius says it prophesied the reign of Caligula and his own reign. Narcissus asks if that is why he married Agrippinilla. Claudius says yes because all his life he has wanted to see the republic restored. He let himself be made an emperor; but he made the mistake of ruling wisely and justly, and in doing so he reconciled people to the monarchy. Now he intends to destroy it. He says Nero will destroy it because he is as mad as his nephew Caligula. He says all the Caesars are mad. When they are gone, the people will end monarchies and return to the sanity of the republic. He says the Britannicus will restore the republic. Claudius says he has a plan to save him, and he relies on Narcissus to make the arrangements. Narcissus asks him to tell him what to do. Claudius asks him to let him rest for an hour and then come to his bedroom to continue their talk. Narcissus says it grieves him to see how much he hurt Britannicus. Claudius admits that he killed his mother and that he has been a lesser father to him since then. He says he is tired and not well.
Agrippinilla tells Pallas they must do it now; but he says it will not be easy because Narcissus watches him carefully. Pallas says all the food Claudius eats is tasted by someone first. She says they need to get advice. He suggests the woman Locusta who is very skilled. He says he will go see her, and she tells him to go soon. She says Claudius is unpredictable. He prefers her son to his in everything, and she does not understand it. She says he could change his mind any time. Pallas agrees that it is very strange and thinks he may be playing a game, but he cannot guess what it is. She is worried and remembers that before Tiberius struck down Sejanus, he had raised him up very high. Pallas has another worry and asks her how sure she is of her son. She says he may leave her son to her. He says now he is married. He admits she had a great influence on him, but he is no longer a child. He asks when he is emperor, who will control him. They hear a knock, and Nero comes in. Pallas says he is going. As he goes, Nero says he does not like that Greek. She says “that Greek” runs this empire. Nero asks her if she has to receive him in her bedroom. She asks what is the matter with him, and he says nothing. She asks why he is not in bed and asks where is Octavia. He says she locked herself in her bedroom and won’t let him in. She asks if they quarreled, and he says yes. She asks why he does not sleep alone. He says he does not feel like it and sits down. He says she won’t lock him out when he is emperor. She nor anyone else will tell him what to do then. He will do what he wants. She sits on the bed next to Nero and says it was naughty of Octavia to lock him out; she does not understand how he feels. Agrippinilla offers to find a pretty house-girl for him and send her to him. He asks if Pallas is her lover, and she denies it. He says he will not allow it when he is emperor. She kisses Nero and says she will not see him there again. She cuddles next to him and calls him her poor baby locked out of his wife’s room, the emperor-elect. She says she is only his wife and does not feel for him like a mother does. She takes his hand and kisses it, saying she would not let him be unhappy. She says never and lies back on the bed while holding his hand.
Emperor Claudius tells the Senate that they are seeing him there for the last time. This is his farewell speech. He is old and not well. He says they no longer need his presence and wonders if they ever did. He says the soldiers made him emperor even though he did not want it. He believes it was a mistake. Soon he will retired behind the final curtain that the gods draw over all of us in the end. He will not be sorry to see that curtain. A senator shouts that he may live forever as Caesar. He says he has no wish to even if he could. He can only guess at what they will say about him when he is gone. He hopes it won’t be as cutting as what they said to him while he was here, though not to his face. He says what is said of us while we are alive is not always what history says. He says history will have its say as it always does. He has done something about that, though it does not concern them. He has known many great people during his life, and one day they will live again. He says Rome will be delivered up again, and she will be seen for what she really was. He hears the crowd cheering and sees imperial figures in his imagination. Augustus tells him he did well. Livia says he always was a fool. Antonia tells him his nose is still running. Tiberius goes ahead of Caligula and tells him to wait his turn. Two senators are leaning over Claudius waving their hands in front of his face, and one asks if a doctor should be brought. Tiberius says it wasn’t worth it, and Caligula says he was not the Messiah after all. The cheering fades away, and Claudius sees the two senators looking at him. He stands up and slowly walks limping out of the Senate.
Narcissus and Britannicus come in to see Claudius, who tells Narcissus to leave them and that he will send for him. Claudius tells Britannicus he has something very important to tell him, and no one must know of it. He sent for him at this late hour so that no one in the palace would know that they were talking. He says he is going to alter his will in favor of Nero, and he wants to explain why he is doing that. Britannicus asks why he suddenly needs to explain after all the favors he has given Nero without telling him anything. He says he is not a child and is not blind. He knows how he has preferred to Nero. Claudius says it was for a reason. Britannicus says he has never loved him, and he has shown the world what he thinks of him. He says he will never forgive him for it. He killed his mother, and he will not forgive that either. Claudius tells him to listen to him. He admits it, but after he learned what his mother had done, he could not love him. He tells him to understand and be a man and understand a father’s weaknesses. Claudius says he does not believe that Britannicus is his son but that he is Caligula’s son. He says it does not matter because he does not have his nature. He is only explaining why he did not love him as a son. Britannicus asks if it was his fault and complains he was punished. He asks if a child chooses his parents. Claudius tells him not to cry. Britannicus wants to go, but Claudius calls him back. Britannicus sobs and kneels down with his face in the Emperor’s lap. Claudius tells him to listen carefully. First, no matter whose son he was, now he considers him his son, and he loves him more than anyone in the world. Second, Nero is to be emperor and will try to kill him like Caligula killed Gemellus. That is why he has treated him as he has, to keep him out of the public eye. Claudius says he has a plan to save him. He says that Narcissus has arranged it through Caractacus. The world has become completely Roman, and there is no place to flee except to the farthest part in Britain. He says Nero will not be able to reach him there. He will go with some British in a disguise only known to the son of Caractacus and Queen Cartimandua, and he will stay at her court. She will send him off to the north where she has friends and where he will wait. Claudius says that Nero is mad and will destroy the empire. His excesses will lead to the return of the republic, and Britannicus will come back to restore it. The republic will live again. Britannicus stands up and says no. He will not do it because it is not honorable. He asks if a Claudian like himself would paint his face blue and hide among the barbarians. Claudius says there is no shame, but Britannicus says he won’t do it. He is not afraid of Nero because he is a coward; he can protect himself. He believes he can match Nero in whatever he does; he does not believe in the republic because no one does except Claudius. He tells Claudius that he is old and out of touch. Britannicus says he wants his chance to rule Rome as it should be ruled. He asks Claudius to give him that chance if he loves him. Claudius says he should have known that would be his answer. He says he has done all he could and says he will have his wish. He prays that the gods will protect him. Claudius tells him that maybe he will confound the prophecies. Britannicus laughs and goes out.
The history of Claudius is coming to an end. He says he told the truth for remote posterity. He asks death to draw the final curtain because he is so tired. Agrippinilla rips up the scroll and says so much for posterity. She tells Nero that the rest of the history must be there. He finds them and says they must have taken years to write. She says to burn them, and he laughs at all that work. She says they must find the will. Nero burns a paper and says what a pretty thing a fire is.
Britannicus looks at the body and asks if they murdered Claudius. Narcissus says they poisoned him, and Britannicus asks how they did it. He asks Narcissus why he did not protect him, and he says they were clever. Several times he stopped them from tampering with his food. He built a wall around him they could not breach. Narcissus explains how she did it by poisoning part of her own food. When Claudius asked for more mushrooms, she offered him hers. He saw her use a fork to put a mushroom in his mouth. Narcissus believed he was in danger and that Claudius knew it as well. He didn’t care because he welcomed it. He died that night alone. Narcissus says he knocked on his door after dinner, but he sent him away. He believes that Claudius did not want anyone to see him die. Narcissus tells Britannicus that he must go away, or they will kill him. Britannicus says he will stay and that he has put on his manly gown. He says he can take care of himself, and he pities his father because he never could. Narcissus says he did not do badly, and they go out.
Claudius hears the sybil telling him that the poison all hatched out. Claudius says they think he is dead; but she says he is as dead as anyone can be. He realizes you can’t survive them all. She says it is time for him to go, and he asks her to wait. He asks what will happen to Britannicus, and she says that Nero will kill him. Agrippinilla will kill Narcissus, and then Nero will kill her. He says it is depressing how familiar it is. He asks about the empire. She says it will go on as Livia predicted; but Nero will be the last Claudian. She says most of the emperors will not be bad. She says they burned his book. They both laugh, and she says it was lucky that he made a copy and buried it. She says it is time to go, and he can’t put it off. She says it is a short step to the boat and a short pull across the river. Then he will dream a different story altogether. She says farewell to Emperor Claudius.
This highly acclaimed drama is a fictional interpretation of the family lives of the Claudian emperors from Augustus through Claudius which were recorded by Suetonius. The republic governed by the Senate had lost its power during the civil war that made Julius Caesar dictator. After another civil war Octavian Caesar became Augustus, and by then the republic was dead. Rome was then ruled by the vagaries of the emperors and their advisors enforced by the Praetorian Guard. Because they had tremendous power, the emperors and their families could stray very far from ordinary morality. The great power also motivated the ambitious to be extraordinarily ruthless. Augustus was considered a fairly reasonable emperor, but Livia got her son Tiberius to succeed him, and he and Caligula were obsessed with sexual perversions. Nero after the death of Seneca was also an insane emperor, but in between Caligula and Nero the historian Claudius proved to be a fairly good emperor. This series presents his perspective on this imperial history.