GRACCHUS in a Nutshell

We are in Rome in the late Roman Republic. The year is 121 BC. The ranks of the Roman Mob have swelled with the impoverished, destabilizing the Republic. Our hero, Gaius Gracchus, a Roman Tribune, is supposed to protect the people, but has become a lush and a ne’er-do-well estranged from his wife. The ghost of Gaius’s older brother, Tiberius, visits the Tribune and remonstrates with him. Tiberius Paulus, the son of the Tribune, reports to his father a nightmare of being lost in Rome while the city is consumed in flames. Gaius’s mother, Cornelia, laments the fortunes of the illustrious House of the Gracchi. She tells Gaius of rumors that his rival and political enemy, Senator Publius Argenteus, has been making overtures toward the Tribune’s wife, Licinia. Infuriated by this, and remembering his brother, Gaius vows to meet the challenge of his adversary, which he does the next day in a tumultuous Senate debate. Subsequently, Licinia is seduced by Publius. A philosopher and Marcus Prudens, Gaius’s friend and political ally in the Senate, try and restrain the Tribune’s newfound political ambition, to no avail.

Terrified by the divine consequences of her fall, Licinia visits the Sybil who offers an ominous but enigmatic prophecy. Marcus betrays to Publius the Tribune’s plans to march on the Senate, with the Mob in tow, in order to demand agrarian reform and poor relief. On the family farm, Gaius and Licinia manage to reconcile after a griveous start to their meeting. Fearing the worse, Licinia pleads with Gaius not to return to Rome. He will not be stopped. But they agree to renew their marriage vows in the Temple of Diana, a plebeian sanctuary on the Aventine. Back in Rome, the Tribune rallies the Mob and pounds on the great doors of the Senate. Publius comes out with an array of Senators and guards and declares Gracchus persona non grata et maledicta. Rioting breaks out and Rome is ablaze. Gaius repairs to the Temple. Licinia arrives. They begin their vows, but Marcus arrives with Publius and a detail of the urban cohort led by its captain. Publius intends to arrest Gaius and attempts to abduct Licinia in the process. Gaius rushes Publius and is impaled on the Senator’s sword. Licinia holds her dying husband. Publius is arrested by the captain for violating tribunicial sanctity and finally executed. Marcus exits and will hang himself. Alone in the Temple, Gaius’s wife takes her own life with the sword that killed the Tribune. Before the Temple of Concord in the Roman Forum, the bodies of Gaius and Licinia rest on a pyre. Cornelia gives the funeral oration, social harmony has been restored, and Tiberius Paulus lights the fire. Curtain.