— 2.1 —
Sophronos and Aretus talked together in an apartment in the palace. Sophronos was Prince Palador’s counselor, and Aretus was Prince Palador’s tutor. A tutor manages the affairs of a person who is incapable of doing so himself. Aretus may also have been Prince Palador’s academic tutor. Both Sophronos and Aretus were managing the affairs of Cyprus because Prince Palador was suffering from melancholy.
Sophronos complained, “Our commonwealth is sick. It is more than time that we should wake its head — the prince — who sleeps in the dull lethargy of vanished safety and security.
“The common people murmur, and the nobles grieve. The court is now turned grotesque and grows wild, while all the neighboring nations stand gazing and watch for a suitable opportunity to wreak their justly conceived fury to avenge such injuries as the late prince, our living master’s father, committed against laws of truth or honor.
“Intelligence comes flying in on all sides, while the unsteady multitude presume that you, Aretus, and I engross, because of our private ambition, the affairs of government, which I, for my part, groan under and am weary of.”
“Sophronos,” Aretus said, “I am also as zealous to shake off my gay state-fetters, and so I have thought of a speedy remedy, and to that end, as I have told you, I have been working with Corax, the prince’s chief physician.”
“You should have done this sooner, Aretus. You were his tutor, and so you could best discern Prince Palador’s dispositions in order to shape them rightly.”
“Passions of a violent nature are most easily reclaimed by degrees,” Aretus said. “There’s something hidden that concerns his distemper, which we’ll now find out.”
Prince Palador was suffering from a mental disturbance, but the reason why was hidden.
Several people entered the room: Corax, Rhetias, Pelias, Cuculus, and Grilla.
Aretus said, “You have come at the exact time for your appointment. Welcome, gentlemen!
“Have you won over Rhetias, Corax?”
“Most sincerely,” Corax said. “He will help.”
“May God save you, nobilities!” Cuculus said.
Sophronos and Aretus outranked courtiers such as Cuculus and Pelias.
Cuculus continued, “Do your lordships take notice of my page? It is a fashion of the newest edition, spick and span new, without example.”
A page is a personal attendant.
He then ordered Grilla, “Do your honor, housewife.”
By “housewife,” he meant “girl.”
As Grilla curtsied twice, once each to Sophronos and to Aretus, she said, “There’s a curtsy for you, and a curtsy for you.”
“It is excellent,” Sophronos said. “We all must follow fashion, and entertain she-pages.”
“It will be courtly,” Aretus said.
“I think so,” Cuculus said. “I hope the historical chronicles will praise me one day for a headpiece —”
He meant this: I hope the historical chronicles will praise me one day by saying I am an intelligent man, a brain.
“Headpiece,” however, had two relevant meanings: 1) brain, or 2) skull (not including the brain).
Using the second meaning, Rhetias interrupted, “— of woodcock, without brains in it!”
Woodcocks were proverbially stupid birds.
Rhetias continued, “Barbers shall wear you on their citterns.”
Barbershops contained stringed musical instruments called citterns that customers could play as they waited for service. These citterns resembled a lute and were sometimes decorated with a carving of a grotesque head.
Rhetias continued, “Hucksters will set you out in gingerbread.”
People would sell gingerbread men that resembled Cuculus.
“May the Devil take you!” an angry Cuculus said.
He did not want to be mocked, especially in front of nobilities.
He continued, “I say nothing to you now; can’t you leave me alone and let me be quiet?”
Loyal to Cuculus, Grilla said to Rhetias, “You’re too perstreperous, saucebox.”
Grilla meant that he was too noisy.
“Good girl!” Cuculus said. “If we begin to puff once —”
“To puff” means to puff out air as in saying the word “pooh” in a contemptuous tone. More broadly, it meant to speak scornfully or behave scornfully. This was not the place for such talk or behavior.
Pelias said, “Please, hold your tongue; the lords are in the presence.”
Nobilities were present, and they were present in the room in which Prince Palador received visitors: the presence chamber.
“Mum, butterfly!” Rhetias replied. “Quiet!”
A butterfly is a foppish courtier.
Seeing Prince Palador, Pelias said, “The prince! Stand and keep quiet.”
“Oh, the prince!” Cuculus said.
He said to Grilla, “Wench, you shall see the prince now.”
Soft music played, and Prince Palador, holding a book, approached the group.
“Sir!” Sophronos said.
“Gracious sir!” Aretus said.
“Why is there all this company?” Prince Palador asked.
Shocked, Corax said to Prince Palador, “A book! Is this the early exercise I prescribed for you? Instead of pursuing health, which all men covet, you pursue disease.
“Where’s your great horse, your hounds, your set at tennis, your game of balloon-ball, the practice of your dancing, your throwing of the hammer, or your learning how to toss a pike?
“All changed into a sonnet!
“Please, sir, grant me free liberty to leave the court. It infects me with the sloth of sleep and excess. In the university I have employments that add profit and report to my profession; here I am lost, and because of your willful dullness I am regarded as a man of neither skill nor honesty.
“You may command my head.”
If he wished to, Prince Palador could order an executioner to behead Corax.
Corax continued, “Take it — do!
“It would be better for me to lose my head than to lose my wits, and live in the insane asylum of Bedlam.
“You will force me to live there. I’m almost mad already.”
“I believe it,” Prince Palador said.
Sophronos said, “Letters have come from Crete that demand a speedy restitution of such ships as by your father were long since detained. If the ships are not speedily returned, the letters threaten defiance.”
Aretus said, “These near parts of Syria that unite are now mustering their friends, and by intelligence we learn for certain that the Syrian leader will pretend an ancient interest of tribute intermitted.”
The island of Cyprus lay close to Syria, whose leader was now claiming that Cyprus owed long-due tribute that it had not paid.
Sophronos said, “Throughout your land your subjects mutter strangely, and they imagine more than they dare to speak publicly.”
“And yet they talk only oddly about you,” Corax said.
“Hang them, the mongrels!” Cuculus said.
Courtiers often seek favor through siding with their prince.
“About me!” Prince Palador said. “My subjects talk about me!”
“Yes, and scurvily,” Corax said. “And they think worse things, prince, than they speak.”
“I’ll borrow the patience to listen to these wrongs for a little time,” Prince Palador said. “And from the few of you who are here present I will conceive what is the general opinion about me.”
Corax thought, I see! Now he’s nettled.
Prince Palador said, “By all your loves I command you to let me know, without fear or flattery, your thoughts about me and how I am interpreted by you. Speak out boldly.”
Sophronos said, “For my part, sir, I will be plain and brief.
“I think you are of nature mild and easy, not willingly provoked, but yet headstrong in any passion that misleads your judgment.
“I think that you are too indulgent in acting on such impulses as spring out of your own inclinations.
“I think that you are too old to be reformed, and yet too young to take fitting counsel from yourself concerning what is most amiss.”
“I see!” Prince Palador said.
He then asked Aretus, “Tutor, what is your opinion?”
“I think you dote — with pardon let me say it — too much upon your pleasures, and these pleasures are so wrapped up in self-love that you covet no other change of fortune.
“You want to be still what your birth makes you, but you are loath to toil in such affairs of state as break your sleeps.”
In other words, he would rather sleep than tend to his duties as ruler of Cyprus.
Corax said, “I think you want to be by the world reputed a man complete in every point, but you are in manners and in effect indeed a child — a boy, a very boy.”
Pelias said, “May it please your grace, I think you contain within yourself the great elixir, soul, and quintessence of all divine perfections. You are the glory of mankind, and the only strict example for earthly monarchs to regulate their lives by.
“You are time’s miracle, fame’s pride.
“In knowledge, intelligence, sweetness, discourse, weapons, arts —”
Recognizing flattery when he heard it, Prince Palador said, “You are a courtier.”
Cuculus said, “But he is not a courtier of the ancient fashion, if it pleases your highness.
“It is I who am that. It is I who am the credit of the court, noble prince; and if you would, by proclamation or letters patent that confer power on me, create me overseer of all the tailors in your dominions, then the golden days — the Golden Age — would appear again.
“Bread would be cheaper, fools would have more intelligence, knaves would have more honesty, and beggars would have more money.”
Grilla began, “I think now —”
“Peace, you squall!” Cuculus said.
A squall is a small and/or insignificant person.
Servants — and in this society especially young, female servants — ought not to evaluate a prince, at least to his face.
Prince Palador said to Rhetias, “You have not spoken yet.”
“Hang him!” Cuculus said. “He’ll do nothing but vehemently criticize and complain.”
“Most abominable,” Grilla said. “Out upon him! Abolish him!”
“Leave, Cuculus,” Corax said quietly. “Follow the lords.”
“Stay close, page, stay close behind me,” Cuculus said to Grilla. “Don’t let yourself be seen.”
Corax had arranged previously for everyone to exit quietly without the prince’s knowledge so that Rhetias could be alone with Prince Palador.
Everyone quietly exited except Prince Palador and Rhetias.
Prince Palador said, “You are taking somewhat a long time to think.”
“I do not think at all,” Rhetias replied.
“Am I not worthy of your thought?” Prince Palador asked.
“You are worthy of my pity, but not my reprehension,” Rhetias replied.
“Pity!” Prince Palador said.
“Yes, for I pity such to whom I owe service, who exchange their happiness for a misery,” Rhetias said.
“Is it a misery to be a prince?” Prince Palador asked.
“Princes who forget their sovereignty, and yield to affected passion, are weary of command,” Rhetias said. “You had a father, sir.”
“He was your sovereign, while he lived, but what about him?” Prince Palador asked.
“Nothing,” Rhetias said. “I only dared to name him; that’s all.”
Using the royal plural, Prince Palador said, “We order you, by the duty that you owe us, to be plain in what you mean to speak. You know something that we must know. You are free to speak freely. Our ears are open.”
“Oh, sir,” Rhetias said, “I had rather hold a wolf by the ears than stroke a lion; the greater danger is the last.”
Holding a wolf by the ears is dangerous, but being in a position where you can anger a king is worse.
“This is mere trifling,” Prince Palador said.
He looked around and said, “Ha! Has everyone stolen away?”
He then said, “We are alone. You have an honest look; you have a tongue, I hope, that is not oiled with flattery. Be open; speak openly.
“Although it is true that in my younger days, when I was a child, I often have heard the name of my father, Agenor, more traduced than I could then observe and completely understand what I was hearing, yet I protest that I never had a friend, a certain friend, who would inform me thoroughly of such errors as often are incident to princes.”
“All this may be,” Rhetias said. “I have seen a man so curious in feeling the edge of a keen knife that he has cut his fingers. My flesh is not of proof — of proven strength — against the metal I am to handle; my flesh is tenderer than the other.”
Rhetias was very aware that speaking openly could anger the prince, and he was very aware that angering a prince is dangerous.
“I see, then, that I must court and persuade you,” Prince Palador said. “Take the word of a just prince who tells you now that for anything you speak I have more than a pardon — I have thanks and respect.”
Rhetias replied, “I will remind you of an old tale that somewhat concerns you.
“Meleander, the great but unfortunate statesman, was by your father entreated to arrange a match between you and his eldest daughter, the Lady Eroclea. You were both near of an age to be married. I presume you remember a marriage contract, and I presume that you cannot forget her.”
“Eroclea was a lovely beauty,” Prince Palador said. “Please, continue!”
“Eroclea was brought to court,” Rhetias said. “She was courted by your father not for you, Prince Palador, as was learned, but to be made a prey to some less noble design. With your permission, I have forgotten the rest.”
Prince Palador’s father wanted to make Eroclea his concubine, thereby taking away her virtue and chastity. Rhetias did not want to say anything that would anger the prince.
“Good man, call it back again into your memory,” Prince Palador said. “Otherwise, if I lose the remainder of the story, then I am lost, too.”
“You persuade me to remember the rest of the story as if you were casting a charm — a spell — on me,” Rhetias said. “In brief, a kidnapping of Eroclea by some bad agents was attempted, but the Lord Meleander her father rescued her, and she was conveyed away.
“Meleander was accused of treason, his land was seized, and he himself became mentally disturbed and confined to the castle, where he still lives.
“What would have ensued is unknown, for your father shortly afterward died.”
“But what became of fair Eroclea?” Palador asked.
“She has never since been heard of,” Rhetias said.
“No hope lives, then, of ever, ever seeing her again?” Prince Palador asked.
“Sir, I was afraid I would anger you,” Rhetias said.
The prince was showing emotion.
Rhetias continued, “This was, as I said, an old tale.
“I have now a new one, which may perhaps season the first with a more delightful relish.”
“I am prepared to hear your new tale,” Prince Palador said. “Say whatever you please.”
“My Lord Meleander falling in status, on whose favor my fortunes relied, I furnished myself for travel,” Rhetias said, “and I bent my course to Athens; there a pretty incident, after a while, came to my knowledge.”
“My ear is open to you,” Prince Palador said. “I am listening.”
“A young lady engaged to a noble gentleman, as the lady we last mentioned — Eroclea — and your highness were, being hindered by their arguing parents, stole away from her home, and was conveyed disguised as a ship-boy in a merchant ship from the country where she lived, to Corinth first and afterwards to Athens, where in much solitariness she lived, like a youth, almost two years, courted by all for acquaintance, but friend to none by familiarity.”
“Was she wearing the clothing of a man?” Prince Palador asked.
“She lived as a handsome young man until, her sweetheart’s father having died a year before or more, she received notice of it within the last three months or less, and with much joy returned home, and, as the report in Athens stated, enjoyed the happiness for which she had been long an exile.
“Now, noble sir, if you did love the Lady Eroclea, why may not such safety and fate direct her as directed the other? It is not impossible.”
It was not impossible that the Lady Eroclea could return to Cyprus.
“IfI did love her, Rhetias!” Prince Palador said. “Yes, I did love her.
“Give me your hand.”
They shook hands.
Prince Palador continued, “As you served Meleander, and as you are still true to these hands, henceforth serve me.”
Rhetias was true to these hands: his hand and Prince Palador’s hand. He was true to himself and to his prince.
“My duty and my obedience are my bond, but I have been too bold,” Rhetias said.
“Forget the sadder story of my father,” Prince Palador said, “and only, Rhetias, learn to read and understand me well. For I must always thank you. You have unlocked a tongue that was vowed to silence; for requital, open the clothing over my chest, Rhetias.”
“What do you mean?” Rhetias asked.
“I intend to tie you to an oath of secrecy,” Prince Palador said.
Rhetias began to unbutton Prince Palador’s shirt, but he was slow and awkward at performing such an action on the clothing of a prince.
“Unfasten the buttons, man,” Prince Palador said. “You do it weakly.”
After Rhetias had unfastened the buttons and opened the shirt, Prince Palador asked, “What do you find there?”
“A picture in an ornament hung around your neck,” Rhetias said.
“Look closely at the picture.”
“I am … yes … let me observe it,” Rhetias said, “The picture is hers, the lady’s.”
“Whose?” Palador asked.
“Eroclea’s,” Rhetias said.
“It is the picture of her who was once Eroclea,” Palador said.
His way of expressing this acknowledged that Eroclea could well be dead.
Palador continued, “For her sake I have advanced Sophronos to the helm of government. For her sake I will restore Meleander’s honors to him. I will, for her sake, beg friendship from you, Rhetias.
“Oh, be faithful, and let no politically minded lord learn from your bosom my griefs. I know you were told to sift me for information, but be not too secure.”
Prince Palador had revealed a secret to Rhetias: a secret that he, Prince Palador, did not want to be revealed. Therefore, he was telling Rhetias to be careful and not let any other lord know what he had learned. Palador’s words “be not too secure” meant 1) don’t be overly confident in your ability to keep a secret, and 2) know that as your prince I can hurt you if you betray my secret.
“I am your creature,” Rhetias said.
This meant: I am your devoted subject.
Prince Palador ordered, “Continue still your discontented fashion. Humor the lords, as they would humor me.
“I’ll not live in your debt.”
This meant: You will be rewarded.
He then said, “We are discovered. Someone is coming.”
Amethus, Menaphon, Thamasta, Kala, and Parthenophill entered the scene.
Amethus said, “May honor and health always serve the prince!
“Sir, I am bold — with your permission — to present to your highness my friend Menaphon, who has returned from travel.”
“Humbly on my knees I kiss your gracious hand,” Menaphon said as he kissed Prince Palador’s hand.
“It is our duty to love the virtuous,” Prince Palador said.
“If my prayers or service have any value, I vow them to be yours forever,” Menaphon said.
“I have a fist for you, too, stripling,” Rhetias said, meaning his hand.
He continued, “You have started up prettily — grown — since I last saw you. Have you learned any intelligence abroad? Can you tell news and swear lies with a grace, like a true traveller?”
Travellers were known for telling tall tales about their travels.
Looking at Parthenophill, Rhetias asked, “What new ouzel is this?”
An ouzel is a blackbird. Parthenophill had dark hair.
Thamasta said to Prince Palador, “Your highness shall do right to your own judgment in taking more than common notice of this stranger, an Athenian who is named Parthenophill. He is one who, if my opinion does not flatter me too grossly, deserves a dear respect for the fashion of his mind.”
“Your commendations, sweet cousin, speak nobly of him,” Palador said.
“May all the supernatural powers that guard just thrones double their guards round about your sacred excellence!” Parthenophill said to Prince Palador.
Prince Palador asked Menaphon, “What fortune led this youth to Cyprus?”
“My persuasions convinced him to come here,” Menaphon replied.
Amethus said to Prince Palador, “And if your highness would be pleased to hear the entrance into their first acquaintance, you will say —”
Thamasta interrupted, “— that it was the newest, sweetest, prettiest accidental meeting that ever delighted your attention. I can tell the story of their meeting, sir.”
“Some other time,” Prince Palador said.
Although he had been told the name earlier, he asked, “What is his name?”
“Parthenophill,” Thamasta answered.
“Parthenophill!” Prince Palador said. “We shall arrange time to take more notice of him.”
Prince Palador exited.
“His usual melancholy still pursues the prince,” Menaphon said.
“I told you so,” Amethus said.
“You must not wonder at it,” Thamasta said to Parthenophill.
“I do not, lady,” Parthenophill replied.
“Shall we go to the castle?” Amethus asked his sister.
“We will accompany you both and render any needed service,” Menaphon said.
“We” referred to Menaphon and Parthenophill.
“All three of us will,” Rhetias said. “I’ll go, too.”
He whispered to Amethus, “Listen in your ear, gallant; I’ll keep the old madman — Meleander — busy by talking to him, while you gabble to Cleophila, his daughter. My thumb’s upon my lips; I’ll say not a word about this.”
“I need not fear that you will reveal anything you should not, Rhetias,” Amethus whispered.
A chance to talk alone to Cleophila necessitated a change in plan. He would tell his sister that he and his male companions would wander the city, giving the impression that they would not go to the castle.
Amethus said out loud, “Sister, expect us soon. Today we will wander the city.”
“Well, I shall expect you soon,” Thamasta said.
She then whispered to Kala, “Kala!”
Here was a chance for Kala to talk to Parthenophill.
Knowing what Thamasta wanted, Kala replied, “Trust me!”
Rhetias said, “Troop on! Love, love, what a wonder you are!”
Everyone exited except for Kala and Parthenophill, whom Kala grabbed by the sleeve and stopped.
“May I not be offensive, sir?” Kala asked. “May I take the liberty of talking to you?”
“What is your pleasure?” Parthenophill said. “What do you want? Yet, please, be brief.”
“Then, briefly, good man, tell me this: Do you have a mistress or a wife?” Kala said.
“Mistress” meant a woman he loved but was not married to; it did not imply a woman with whom Parthenophill was having sexual relations.
“I’ve neither,” Parthenophill answered.
“Did you ever love in earnest any fair lady whom you wished to make your own?” Kala asked.
“No, not any, truly,” Parthenophill answered.
Kala said, “I will not be inquisitive and ask to know who your friends or what your means are, nor do I care to hope to know those things.
“But suppose that a dowry were thrown down before your choice of woman, a woman of beauty, noble birth, and sincere affection.
“How gladly would you entertain it?
“Young man, I do not tempt you idly.”
It sounded as if Kala were proposing to him.
Parthenophill replied, “I shall thank you, when my unsettled thoughts can make me sensible of what it is to be happy.
“As for the present I am your debtor, and fair gentlewoman, please give me permission as yet to study ignorance, for my weak brains don’t conceive what concerns me.”
In other words, Parthenophill was not sure what was going on: Why was this woman proposing to him?
Beginning to leave, Parthenophill said to Kala, “Some other time.”
Coming in as Parthenophill was beginning to leave, Thamasta said, “Am I interrupting your parley, your private conversation, and is that why you are departing?
“Surely, my serving-woman loves you.
“Can she speak well, Parthenophill?”
“Yes, madam,” Parthenophill replied. “She can hold a discreetly chaste conversation. She has much won my trust, and in few but pithy words, she has much moved my thankfulness.
“You are her lady. Your goodness aims, I know, at her preferment. Therefore, I may be bold to make a true confession: If I ever desire to thrive in a woman’s favor, Kala is the first whom my ambition shall bend to.”
“Indeed!” Thamasta said. “But say a nobler love should interpose. Suppose a nobler woman should love you.”
Parthenophill replied, “Where real worth and constancy first settle a hearty truth, there greatness cannot shake it; nor shall it shake mine. Yet I am but an infant in that interpretation of Kala’s actions and words, which must give clear light to Kala’s merit.”
Parthenophill had already pledged this: If I ever desire to thrive in a woman’s favor, Kala is the first whom my ambition shall bend to. As long as Kala had real worth and constancy, Parthenophill would not go back on this pledge. Parthenophill, however, did not know Kala well, and so he did not know if in fact Kala had real worth and constancy.
He continued, “Riper hours hereafter must teach me how to grow rich in deserts.”
In other words, Parthenophill needed to grow older and become wiser. That experience and knowledge would let him know what he deserved. That could be Kala, or it could be Thamasta. Or it could be someone else.
Parthenophill then said, “Madam, my duty waits on you.”
That was a way of saying that it was his duty to serve her.
“Come here,” Thamasta said to Kala. “He said, ‘If ever henceforth I desire to thrive in woman’s favor, Kala is the first whom my ambition shall bend to.’ That’s what he said!”
Thamasta was jealous of Kala.
“Those are the very words he spoke,” Kala admitted.
“Those very words curse you, unfaithful creature, to your grave,” Thamasta said. “You wooed him for yourself!”
“You said I should,” Kala replied.
“My name was never mentioned?” Thamasta asked.
“Madam, no,” Kala said. “We had not come to that.”
Thamasta said, “Not come to that!
“Are you a rival fit to cross my fate?
“Now poverty and a reputation for unchasteness, the waiting-woman’s wages, will be your payment, you false, faithless, wanton beast!
“I’ll spoil your plans for marriage.There’s not a page, a groom, no, not a citizenwhoshall be cast away upon you, Kala. I’ll keep you in my service all your lifetime,without hope of a husband or a suitor.”
“Truly, I have not deserved this cruelty,” Kala said.
“Parthenophill shall learn, if he respectsmy birth, the danger of a foolish neglect. He shall learn that he ought not to reject a woman as highly born as I am.”
“Are you so quick to anger?” Kala said. “Well, I may chance to cross your peevishness. Now, although I never intended for the young man to be mine, yet, if he should love me, I’ll have him, or I’ll run away with him, and let her do her worst then!
“What! We’re all only flesh and blood; the same thing that will do my lady good will please her serving-woman, too.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
Buy the Paperback
SOMETIMES FREE EBOOK
Dante’s Inferno: A Discussion Guide
SOMETIMES FREE EBOOK
John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce
SOMETIMES FREE EBOOK
William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure: A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce
SOMETIMES FREE EBOOK
Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist: A Retelling
PS: I like online reviews.
SHAKESPEARE: 38 PLAYS
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE’S COMPLETE PLAYS: RETELLINGS
THE TROJAN WAR: 4 Epic Poems (Iliad, Posthomerica, Odyssey, Aeneid)