CAST OF CHARACTERS
Philippo Caraffa, Duke of Pavia.
Roderico D’Avolos, Secretary to the Duke.
Fernando, Best friend of the Duke, and nephew ofPetruchio.
Ferentes, a wanton Courtier.
Roseilli, a young Nobleman. He is related to Petruchio and Fernando.
Paulo Baglione, Abbot of Monaco, and uncle of the Duchess Bianca.
Petruchio, Counselor of State, and uncle of Fernando. A Counselor of State is an advisor.
Nibrassa, Counselor of State.
Mauruccio, an old Buffoon.
Giacopo, Servant to Mauruccio.
Bianca, the Duchess of Pavia.
Fiormonda, the Duke’s Sister. Recently widowed. She is a Marquess.
Colona, Daughter of Petruchio, and lady-in-waiting to the Duchess Bianca.
Julia, Daughter of Nibrassa, and lady-in-waiting to Fiormonda.
Morona, a Widow. She is 46 years old.
Courtiers, Officers, Two Friars, Attendants, etc.
Pavia, in Lombardy, Italy.
In this culture, a man of higher rank would use words such as “thee,” “thy,” “thine,” and “thou” to refer to a servant. However, two close friends or a husband and wife could properly use “thee,” “thy,” “thine,” and “thou” to refer to each other.
The word “Sirrah” is a term usually used to address a man of lower social rank than the speaker. This was socially acceptable, but sometimes the speaker would use the word as an insult when speaking to a man whom he did not usually call “Sirrah.”
The name “Bianca” means “White.”
— 1.1 —
Roseilli, who was a young nobleman, and Roderico D’Avolos, who was secretary to the Duke of Pavia,talked together in a room in the Palace. Roderico D’Avolos had just told Roseilli that the Duke of Pavia was sending him into exile. Roseilli was a member of the House of Lesui — that is, he was a member of the Lesui family.
“Must I depart from the court?” Roseilli asked.
“Such was the Duke’s command,” Roderico D’Avolos replied.
“You’re secretary to the state and him. You are great in his counsels, wise, and, I think, honest,” Roseilli said.
“Great in his counsels” meant “trusted by him.” Secretaries knew their employer’s secrets.
Roseillicontinued, “Have you, in turning over old records, read about even one name descended of the House of Lesui who has been remiss in his loyalty? Has even one member of the House of Lesui been a traitor?”
“Never, my lord,” Roderico D’Avolos replied.
“Why, then, should I now, now when glorious peace triumphs in mutual interchange of pleasures, be wiped off, as if I were a useless moth — a parasite — from courtly ease?” Roseilli asked. “And to where must I go?”
“You have the whole world open before you,” Roderico D’Avolos replied.
“Why, then it is likely I’m banished!”
“That is not so,” Roderico D’Avolos replied.“My order is only to command you to go away from the court, within five hours to depart after notice is given to you, and not to live within thirty miles of the court, until it is thought appropriate and proper by his excellence the Duke to call you back. Now that I have warned you, my lord, it will be at your peril if you disobey. I shall inform the Duke of your discontent.”
Roderico D’Avolos exited.
“Do, crafty schemer, do,” Roseilli said to himself. “I scent the plot behind this disgrace. It is Fiormonda, she, the Duke’s sister, that haughty widow, whose commanding check and rebuff ruins my love.”
He had been wooing Fiormonda, but she had rebuffed him.
He continued, “Like foolish beasts, thus they find danger who prey too near the lions’ den.”
The foolish beasts were possibly Fiormonda and Roderico D’Avolos, who were finding a “danger” that did not exist: Roseilli was not a danger — he was in love. Or possibly they did find real danger — if Roseilli was wooing Fiormonda not out of love but as a way of increasing his social status.
Or, possibly, Roseilli himself was like a foolish beast. He had been trying to woo Fiormonda — she was either his “prey” or his prey.
Fernando and Petruchio entered the scene. Fernando was the Duke’s best friend, and Petruchio — Fernando’s uncle — was one of the Duke’s Counselors of State, or advisors.
“My noble lord, Roseilli!” Fernando said.
“Sir, the joy I should have welcomed you with is wrapped up and hidden in clouds of my disgrace,” Roseilli said. “Yet, honored sir, howsoever the frowns of great ones cast me down, my service and duty shall pay tribute in my lowness to your rising virtues that are winning you favor at court.”
“Sir, I know you are so well acquainted with your own virtues that you need not flatter mine,” Fernando said. “Trust me, my lord, I’ll be a suitor for you.”
By “suitor,” he meant “petitioner.” He was going to try to get the Duke to not exile Roseilli.
“And I’ll second my nephew’s suit with importunity,” Petruchio said. “I will eagerly back him up.”
“You are, my Lord Fernando, recently returned from travels,” Roseilli said. “Please advise me. Since the voice of most supreme authority commands my absence from the court, I am determined to spendsome time in learning languages abroad. Perhaps the change of air may change in me remembrance of my wrongs at home — perhaps I will forget these wrongs. Good sir, inform me. Let’s say I intend to live in Spain. What benefit of knowledge might I learn and treasure in my mind?”
“In truth, sir, I’ll freely tell you what I have found the truth to be,” Fernando said. “In Spain you waste experience and knowledge; it is a climate too hot to nourish scholarship and the arts. The nation is proud, and in their pride the Spanish citizens are unsociable. The courtis more inclined to glorify itself than to do a strange foreigner kindness and honor. If you intend to engage in transportation of merchandise like a merchant, it is a place that might greatly increase your profits, but as for me, I soon took a surfeit of it — I grew tired of it.”
“What about France?” Roseilli asked.
“I praise and love France more than I do Spain,” Fernando said. “You are, my lord, yourself much famed for horsemanship, and in France you shall have many opportunities to prove your skill. The French are surpassingly courtly, ripe of wit, and kind, but they are also extreme dissemblers, deceivers, and hypocrites. You shall have a Frenchman ducking — that is, bowing — lower than your knee, but at the same instant mocking even your shoelaces. To give the country its due, it is aparadise on Earth; and if you can ignore or dispraise your own skills and personal characteristics, while praising in others that wherein you yourself excel, you shall be much beloved there.”
Roseilli said, “Yet I thought I heard you and the Duchess, two nights ago, talking about an island thereabouts, called — let me think — it was —”
“England?” Fernando asked.
“Yes, that’s it,” Roseilli said. “Please, sir, you have been there. I thought I heard you praise it.”
“I’ll tell you what I found there: men as neat and refined and as courtly as the French, but in disposition quite opposite,” Fernando said. “Suppose that you, my lord, could be more excellent on horseback than you in fact are, if there — as there are many — were an Englishman who excelled you in your art as much as you do others, yet the English in their modesty will think their own is nothing compared with you, a foreigner. In their clothing they are not more foppish, fantastic, and extravagant than they are uncertain and fickle. They frequently wear clothing that is fashionable in countries other than their own. In short, no nation but itself can disparage their fair abundance of good things, manhood, and beauty.”
“My lord, you have much eased me,” Roseilli said. “I have made up my mind about where to travel.”
“And to where are you bent?” Fernando asked.
“My lord, I am bent for travel,” Roseilli replied. “I will make haste for England.”
“No, my lord, you must not,” Fernando said. “I have still some private conversation to impart to you for your good; at night I’ll meet you at my Lord Petruchio’s house. Until then stay hidden.”
“Does my kinsman dare to trust me?” Roseilli asked.
Roseilli was supposed to leave Pavia quickly. If he were caught in the vicinity after his deadline to leave, he would be in serious trouble, as would anyone who helped him stay in the vicinity. Anyone who helped shelter Roseilli in Pavia had to have confidence that Roseilli would be discreet.
“Dare I, my lord!” Petruchio — who was one of Roseilli’s kinsmen — said. “Yes, unless your crime were greater than a bold woman’s spleen and malice.”
Roseilli believed that Fiormonda was a bold woman whose spleen and malice had gotten him removed from the court. So, apparently, did Petruchio.
“The Duke’s near at hand,” Roseilli said, “and I must go away from here. My service and duty to your lordships.”
“Now, nephew, as I told you, since the Duke has held the reins of state in his own hand, he is much altered from the man he was before, as if he were transformed in his mind,” Petruchio said.
He hesitated and then continued, “Now, many flatter the Duke in his pleasures, among whom is foolish Ferentes, who is a man whose pride takes pride in nothing more than to delight his lust. And Ferentes — with grief I speak it — has, I fear, too much besotted my unhappy daughter, my poor Colona. For kindred’s sake, as you are noble and as you honor virtue, I ask you to persuade her to love and respect herself. A word from you may win her more than my entreaties or frowns.”
Colona — Petruchio’s daughter — loved Ferentes, a lecherous courtier. Petruchio, therefore, wanted Fernando to talk to Colona and attempt to convince her to show respect for herself and so stop loving Ferentes.
“Uncle, I’ll do my best,” Fernando said. “In the meantime, please tell me, whose mediation brought about the marriage between the Duke and Duchess — who was the agent?”
The Duke and Duchess had married just recently.
“The agents were his roving eye and her enchanting face, the only dower nature had ordained to advance her to her bride-bed,” Petruchio answered. “She was the daughter of a gentleman of Milan — no better — who was promoted to serve in the Duke of Milan’s court.”
Her father was a gentleman — he was of good birth but not especially high-ranking.
Petruchio continued, “In Milan she was greatly famed for her beauty. While she was passing recently from thence to Monaco to visit her uncle, Paul Baglione — the Abbot there — Lady Fortune, who is the Queen to such blind matches, presented her to the Duke’s eye, during her journey, as he was pursuing the deer while hunting. In short, my lord, he saw her, loved her, wooed her, won her, and married her. No counsel could prevent him from marrying her.”
“She is beautiful,” Fernando, who had seen her, said.
“She is,” Petruchio said, “and, to speak truthfully, I think she is truly noble in her disposition.”
“If, when I should choose, beauty and virtue were the dowry proposed, I should not care about parentage,” Fernando said. “Beauty and virtue are more important than a high-ranking birth.”
“The Duke is coming!” Petruchio said, looking around.
“Let’s break off our talk,” Fernando said.
He thought, Good angel of my soul, if you ever protect my truth and righteousness, do so now!
He was in love with a woman and did not want to reveal who she was: the new Duchess.
The Duke, Bianca (the new Duchess), Fiormonda (the Duke’s newly widowed sister), Nibrassa (a Counselor of State, or advisor), Ferentes (the lecherous courtier), Julia (Nibrassa’s daughter), and RodericoD’Avoloswalked over to Ferentes and Petruchio.
“Come, my Bianca, revel in my arms,” the Duke of Pavia said, “while I, wrapped in my admiration, view lilies and roses growing in thy cheeks.
“Fernando! Oh, thou are my best friend and are half myself! No joycould make my pleasure full without thy presence. I am a monarch of felicity and happiness. I am proud in a pair of jewels, rich and beautiful: I have a perfect friend and a wife above compare.”
“Sir, if a man so low in rank may hope, by virtue of loyal duty and devoted zeal, to hold a mutuality in friendship with one so mighty as the Duke of Pavia, my uttermost ambition is to climb to those merits that may give me the title of your servant,” Fernando said.
“The title of partner in my Dukedom, and partner in my heart, as freely as the privilege of blood has made them — my Dukedom and my heart — mine,” the Duke replied. “Philippo and Fernando shall be the same — without distinction made between us.”
Philippo was the Duke’s first name. His full name wasPhilippo Caraffa.
The Duke introduced his new wife to his best friend, “Look, Bianca, on this good man; in all respects to him be as to me: only the name of husband, and reverent observance of our bed, shall differentiate us in personal, individual bodies, but otherwise in soul we are all one.”
He was saying that he (Philippo) and Fernando shall be the same — with the exception that only Philippo shall be Bianca’s husband and share her bed.
“I shall regard the bosom-partner of my lord in the best of love,” Bianca said.
Fiormonda whispered, “Ferentes.”
He whispered back, “Madam?”
She whispered, “You are one who loves courtliness and courtly etiquette. Fernando has some skillful modulation of words. It would be no lost labor to stuff your table-books with his words — the man speaks wisely!”
Table-books were notebooks in which people could record such things as witticisms they had heard. Some people — such as Ferentes, perhaps — recorded assignations in them.
Ferentes whispered back, “I’m glad your highness is so pleasant and droll and filled with dry humor.”
The Duke of Pavia said out loud to Fiormonda, “Sister.”
She replied, “My lord and brother.”
“You are too silent,” the Duke of Pavia said. “Quicken and enliven your sad remembrance: Although the loss of your dead husband deserves more than careless neglect, yet it is a sin against the state of princes to exceed a mean in mourning for the dead.”
The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle advocated following a mean between extremes. Too much of something was usually bad, as was too little of something. The path of virtue lay in finding the mean between extremes. (An exception is adultery. You can never commit the right amount of adultery. Even once is an excess.)
The Duke felt that his sister was excessively mourning the death of her husband and so he was advising her to move past the death of her husband and begin living her life again.
“Should formality and etiquette, my lord, prevail above affection?” Fiormonda replied. “No, it cannot. You have yourself here a truly noble Duchess — she is virtuous at least — and should your grace now pay — which Heaven forbid! — the debt you owe to nature by dying, I dare presume she’d not so soon forget a prince who thus advanced and promoted her to a much higher social class.”
RodericoD’Avolos thought, Her speech is bitter and shrewd.
He recognized that the speech was not sympathetic. The speech said that rather than Bianca mourn the Duke’s death, when it should happen, because she loved him, she would mourn him because he had raised her social status to that of a Duchess.
In addition, Fiormonda had said that Bianca was “truly noble” but had qualified that by saying “she is virtuous at least” because Bianca’s birth was not in a truly noble family. She was the daughter of only a gentleman.
Fiormonda then asked Bianca, “Madam, could you soon forget a prince who thus advanced and promoted you to a much higher social class?”
“Sister-in-law, I should too much betray my weakness to give an opinion on a passion I never felt nor feared,” Bianca replied.
That passion — that strong emotion — is ingratitude.
“That is a modest answer,” Nibrassa said.
“If credit may be given to a face, my lord, I’ll undertake on her behalf that her words are trusty heralds to her mind,” Fernando said.
Fiormonda whispered to RodericoD’Avolos, “That was exceedingly good; the man will ‘undertake’! Observe his language, D’Avolos.”
By “undertake,” Fernando meant “affirm.” Fiormonda, however, was deliberately misunderstanding him to mean “take” in the sense of “to have sex with.” He would under-take Bianca — “take” her with her under him.
Fiormonda perhaps enjoyed deliberately misunderstanding words and endowing them with a bawdy meaning they were not intended to have. Or she may have been irritated by Fernando’s defense of Bianca: He was saying that Bianca’s words ought to be believed.
RodericoD’Avolos whispered back, “Lady, I do. It is a smooth and flattering praise.”
“Friend, in thy judgment I find proof of thy love, and I love thee better for thy judging of my love,” the Duke of Pavia said. “Although my gray-headed senate in the laws of strict opinion and severe formal discussion would tie and restrict the limits of our free affections — like superstitious Jews — to match with none but in a tribe of princes like ourselves —”
The senate had wanted the Duke to marry someone of his own social status and wealth. Instead, he had married “down” — he had married a woman who was not a member of a wealthy princely family.
The Duke continued, “— such gross-nurtured slaves force their wretched souls to crouch and bow down to profit. Indeed, for trashy money and possessions and wealth they dote on some crooked or misshapen form, hugging wise nature’s lame deformity and begetting creatures as ugly as themselves. But why should princes do so, princes who command the storehouse of the earth’s hidden minerals?”
He then said to his newly wedded wife, “No, my Bianca, thou are to me as dear as if thy dowry had been Europe’s riches. In thine eyes lies more than Europe’s riches are worth.
“Let us go on. They shall be strangers to my heart who envy thee and are malicious toward thee and thy fortunes.”
He then said, “Come, Fernando, my but divided self; what we have done we are only debtor to Heaven for. Let’s go!”
Fiormonda whispered to RodericoD’Avolos, “Now take thy opportunity at this time, or never, D’Avolos. Prevail, and I will raise thee high in grace.”
RodericoD’Avolos whispered back, “Madam, I will omit no craftiness or cunning that is needed to carry out my task.”
Fiormonda had given RodericoD’Avolos a task to accomplish, bribing him by promising him higher status at court. RodericoD’Avolos served the Duke of Pavia as secretary, but he was also secretly working for Fiormonda.
Everyone exited except RodericoD’Avolos, who called Fernando back: “My honored Lord Fernando!”
“Are you calling me, sir?” Fernando asked.
“Let me beseech your lordship to excuse me, in the nobleness of your wisdom, if I exceed good manners,” RodericoD’Avolossaid. “I am one, my lord, who in the admiration of your perfect virtues do so truly honor and reverence your merit that there is not a living creature who shall more faithfully strive to do you service in all offices of duty and vows of due respect.”
“Good sir, you bind me to you,” Fernando politely replied. “Is this all?”
“I ask earnestly that you listen a little longer,” RodericoD’Avolossaid. “My good lord, what I have to speak concerns your reputation and best fortune and prosperity.”
“What’s that!” Fernando said. “My reputation! Lay aside superfluous, unnecessary ceremonious formalities, and speak plainly. What is it you have to tell me?”
“I do consider myself the blessedest man alive, that I shall be the first who gives your lordship news of your perpetual comfort and happiness.”
“What do you mean?” Fernando asked.
“If singularbeauty, inimitablevirtues, honor, youth, and absolute goodness be a fortune, all those are at once offered to your particular choice,” RodericoD’Avolos replied.
“Without delays, tell me how?” Fernando asked. “In what way?”
“The great and gracious Lady Fiormonda loves you, infinitely loves you. But, my lord, as you have ever received favorably a servant to your pleasures, let it not be revealed that I gave you notice of this. Don’t tell anyone I told you this.”
“Surely, you are strangely out of tune, sir.”
Fernando wondered if RodericoD’Avolos was speaking the truth.
“Please just speak to her. Just be courtly-ceremonious with her, and use just once the language of affection. If I misreport anything besides what I know is true, let me never have a place in your good opinion.”
The word “misreport” could mean 1) “give a false or misleading account,” or 2) “slander.” Possibly, RodericoD’Avolos wanted Fernando to think that he had said, “If I misreport anything and say anything besides what I know is true, let me never have a place in your good opinion.”
He continued, “Oh, these women, my lord, are as brittle mettle as your glass is, as smooth, as slippery.”
The word “mettle” meant 1) character, and 2) substance.
Glass was regarded as brittle, and women were regarded as fickle.
“Slippery” meant 1) changeable, and 2) licentious.
RodericoD’Avolos continued,“Their very first substance was quicksands. Let them look never so demurely, one fillip chokes them — one fillip takes away their breath.”
According to legend, the Phoenicians discovered how to make glass by building a fire on sand and setting their cooking pots on natron, which is used in glass-making. Natron is hydrated sodium carbonate.
A “fillip” is either 1) a blow, or 2) a trifle.
RodericoD’Avolos continued,“My lord, she loves you — I know it. But I beseech your lordship not to reveal that I told you this; I would not for the world she should know that you know it by me.”
“I understand you, and to thank your care I will endeavor to repay it, and I vow that she never shall have report of your news by me or by my means,” Fernando said. “And, worthy sir, let me alike enjoin you not to speak a word saying that I know about her love. And as for me, my word shall be your surety that I’ll not as much as give her cause to think I ever heard it.”
Fernando seemed to have little interest in returning Fiormonda’s love.ForRodericoD’Avolos’ part in Fiormonda’s plotto be successful, Fernando had to acknowledge and return Fiormonda’s love. Therefore, RodericoD’Avolos contradicted what he had just said about not letting Fiormonda know what he had said.
RodericoD’Avolos said, “Nay, my lord, whatsoever I relate to you, you may talk with her about her love, if you please; for, rather than that silence should hinder you one step in making your way to such a fortune, I will expose myself to any rebuke for your sake, my good lord.”
“You shall not indeed, sir,” Fernando said. “I am still your friend, and I will prove to continue to be so. For the present I am forced to attend the Duke. May good hours befall you! I must leave you.”
“Gone already?”RodericoD’Avolos said to himself.“By God’s foot, I have marred everything! This is worse and worse; he’s as cold as hemlock.”
Socrates drank hemlock. As the poison killed him, his body grew cold, starting with his feet and moving upward. The story of his death is related in Plato’s Phaedo.
RodericoD’Avolos continued, “If her highness knows how I have gone to work, she’ll thank me scurvily: a pox on all dull, stupid brains! I took the wholly contrary course. There is a mystery in this slight carelessness of his; I must sift it, and I will find what it is. My God, I have fooled myself out of my wit! I have acted so foolishly that I can’t think straight! Well, I’ll choose some fitter opportunity to inveigle him, and until then I’ll flatter her by saying that he is a man overjoyed with the report.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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