— 2.1 —
In a room in Mauruccio’s house, Mauruccio was looking in a mirror and trimming his beard. Giacopo, his servant, was brushing him. Mauruccio was an old man who was in love.
“Beard, be confined to neatness so that no hair may bristle up to prick my mistress’ lip, more rude than the bristles of a porcupine,” Mauruccio said.“Giacopo!”
“Am I all sweet behind?”
Readers may be forgiven for thinking that Maurucciowas asking if his bottom smelled sweet, aka pleasant, but this is what he meant: Does my clothing look good from behind?
Deliberately misunderstanding whatMauruccio had said, Giacopo replied, “I don’t have the nose of a poultry seller, but your apparel sits about you most debonairly.”
Poultry sellers could tell how recently poultry had been slaughtered by smelling their carcasses.
“But, Giacopo, with what grace do my words proceed out of my mouth? Have I a countenance that will inspire romantic passion? Is there harmony in my voice? Can thou perceive, as it were, a handsomeness of shape in my very breath as it is formed into syllables, Giacopo?”
The Duke, Bianca, Fiormonda, Fernando, some courtiers, and some attendantsentered a balcony and spied unseen on Mauruccio and Giacopo.
“Yes, indeed, sir, I do feel a savor as pleasant as” — he thought, a glister-pipe— “calamus, or civet.”
A glister-pipe was used for administering enemas.
Calamus was a pleasant-smelling plant, and civet was a musky perfume.
“Observe him, and be silent,” the Duke said.
“Hold thou the mirror, Giacopo, and closely observe with what exceeding comeliness I could court the Lady Marquess Fiormonda, if push comes to shove,” Mauruccio said.
The idiom “when push comes to shove” means “when it’s urgently time for action.”
“Sister, you are the target of his love,” the Duke said to his sister, Fiormonda.
She replied, “He is a subject fitto be the stale of laughter — the object of ridicule!”
One meaning of a “stale” is a “lover whose devotion is laughed at by rivals.”
“That’s your music,” Bianca said. In other words, Fiormonda enjoyed hearing others laughed at.
Looking at himself in the mirror, Mauruccio practiced his courtly manners: “Thus I reverse my pace, and thus stalking in courtly gait, I advance one, two, and three. Good! I kiss my hand, make my congee, aka formal bow, settle my countenance and personal bearing, and thus begin.
“Hold up the mirror higher, Giacopo.”
“This high, sir?” Giacopo said, raising the mirror.
“That’s good; now closely observe me,” Mauruccio said.
He then recited a poem of his own creation, strongly stressing some syllables:
“Most excellent Marquéss, most fair la-dý,
“Let not old age or hairs that are sil-vér
“Disparage my desire; for it may be
“I am than other green youth nimble-ér.
“Since I am your gracé’s servánt so true,
“Great lady, then, love me for my vir-túe.”
Pleased with his love poem, he said, “Oh, Giacopo, Petrarch was a dunce, Dante a jig-maker, Sanazzar a goose and simpleton, and Ariosto a puckfist compared to me!”
These men are all Italian poets. Petrarch wrote love sonnets, Dante wrote The Divine Comedy, Jacopo Sannazaro wrote the humanist classic Arcadia, and Ludovico Ariosto wrote the romance epic Orlando Furioso.
The term “puckfist” means “empty boaster” and perhaps comes from the puffball fungus.
Mauruccio then said, “I tell thee, Giacopo, I am rapt with poetic fury and inspiration, and I have been for these six nights together drunk with the pure liquor of Helicon.”
Mount Helicon is the mountain that is the home of the Nine Muses, including Erato, Muse of love poetry.
“I think no less, sir,” Giacopo said, “for you look as wild, and talk as idly, as if you had not slept these nine years.”
“What do you think of this speech, sister?” the Duke asked.
“Sir, I think in princes’ courts no one, whatever their age or greatness, but must tolerate the fool,” Fiormonda replied. “In me it would be folly to scorn what people of greater social status than I have been tolerating.”
Princes do tolerate a Fool: a professional jester. They don’t always tolerate a fool. Mauruccio was a fool.
Bianca began, “Oh, but you are too general —”
Fiormonda interrupted and completed Bianca’s sentence, “— afool! I thank your highness: The wit of many women who have thought themselves much better was actually much worse.”
A proverb of the time stated, “It is better to be a fool than a knave.”
“You constantly mistake and misinterpret what I say,” Bianca said.
“Silence!” the Duke ordered. “Watch the rest of what is happening below.”
“God-a’mercy, brains!” Mauruccio said. “Giacopo, I have it.”
“God-a’mercy” literally means “God of mercy” or “May God have mercy” and figuratively means “Thanks.”
“Have what, my lord?” Giacopo asked.
“An idea, Giacopo, and a fine one — get down on thy knees, Giacopo, and worship my wit. Give me both thy ears. This is my idea: I will have my picture depicted most composituously on a square canvas of some two foot long, from the crown of the head to the waist downward, no further.”
By “composituously,” he meant “with good composition,” or “harmoniously.”
“Then you’ll look like a dwarf, sir, being cut off by the middle,” Giacopo said.
“Don’t speak, but instead wonder at the idea that follows,” Mauruccio said. “In my bosom, on my left side, I will have a leaf of blood-red crimson velvet — as if it were part of my upper garment — open; which being opened, Giacopo — now pay attention! — I will have a clear and most transparent crystal mirror in the form of a heart. Singular-admirable!”
A “leaf” is 1) a “petal,” or 2) a “flap.”
He continued, “When I have fashioned this, I will, as some excellent outlandish piece of workmanship, bestow it on the most fair and illustrious Lady Fiormonda.”
By “outlandish,” he probably meant “seemingly foreign.” Readers may have a different definition in mind.
“But now, sir, tell me your idea,” Giacopo said.
“Stupidity and ignorance, prate no more! Blockhead, don’t thou understand yet? Why, she will use the crystal mirror in the painting instead of a looking-glass, and so she shall no oftener powder her hair, paint her cheeks with cosmetics, cleanse her teeth, or conform the hairs of her eyebrows, but having occasion to use this glass — which for the rareness and richness of it she will hourly do — but she shall as often gaze on my picture, remember me, and behold the excellence of her excellency’s beauty in the prospective and mirror, as it were, in my heart.”
The word “prospective” at this time could mean “perspective,” as in a painting. In addition, a prospective glass was a mirror in which one could see distant events and things. By looking in the heart-shaped mirror, Fiormonda could see what was in Mauruccio’s heart.
“Aye, indeed, sir, this is something,” Giacopo said.
Everyone in the balcony above except Fiormonda laughed.
Bianca said, “My sister-in-law has gone in anger.”
“Who’s that who’s laughing?” Mauruccio said. “Search with thine eyes, Giacopo.”
Mauruccio’s eyes were bad.
“Oh, my lord, my lord, you have gotten an everlasting fame!” Giacopo said. “The Duke’s grace, and the Duchess’ grace, and my Lord Fernando’s grace, with all the rabble of courtiers, have heard every word. Look where they stand! Now you shall be made a count for your wit, and I will be made a lord for my counsel.”
Mauruccio would be made a count for his wit or more likely be made to account for his lack of wit.
“Beshrew the chance!” the Duke said. “Curse our bad luck! We have been spotted.”
Mauruccio said, “Pity — oh, my wisdom! I must speak to them.”
He then said, “Oh, most great Duke, and most renowned Duchess! Excuse my apprehension, which is not much.”
He had failed to apprehend the Duke’s and the others’ presence. Readers may be excused for thinking of a different kind of apprehension, which Mauruccio had not much of.
Mauruccio then said, “It is love, my lord — that’s all the hurt you see. Angelica herself does plead for me.”
Angelica is a character in Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furiosoand in Robert Greene’s play adaptation The History of Orlando Furioso.
In the play’s first scene, Orlando and four other princes vie for Angelica’s hand in marriage. The four other princes speak and end their speeches with “I love, my Lord. Let that suffice for me.” Orlando, speaking last, says, “I love, my Lord. Angelica herself shall speak [plead] for me.” She then chooses him to be her husband. Unfortunately,Angelicaelopes with a Moor and causes Orlando to go mad.
“We pardon you, most wise and learned lord,” the Duke said. “And, so that we may all glorify your wit, we entreat your wisdom’s company today to grace our table with your grave discourse.What says your mighty eloquence to our invitation to a meal?”
The Duke was gently mocking Mauruccio, although Mauruccio could not tell that.
“Giacopo, help me,” Mauruccio said. “His grace has disconcerted me, and I don’t know what to answer in the proper form.”
“My God, tell him you’ll come,” Giacopo said.
“Yes, I will come, my lord the Duke, I will,” Mauruccio said.
“We take your word, and we wish your honor health,” the Duke said.
He then said to his companions, “Let’s go, then!”
He added, “Come, Bianca, we have found a remedy for melancholy — mirth and ease.”
TheDuke exited, followed by all but Bianca and Fernando.
“I’ll see the jolly lover and his mirror take leave of one another,” Bianca said.
Mauruccio asked, “Are they gone?”
“Oh, my lord,” Giacopo said. “I now smell news. I think I know what will happen.”
“What news, Giacopo?”
“The Duke has a liking towards you and wants to show favor to you, and so you shall be able to arrange a marriage with his sister the widow quickly.”
“She is mine, Giacopo!” Mauruccio said. “She is mine! Bring forward the mirror, Giacopo, so that I may practice, as I pass, how to walk with a portly grace like a Marquis, to which degree I am now a-climbing.Thus do we march to honor’s haven of bliss, to ride in triumph through Persepolis.”
He was quoting part of a line from Christopher Marlowe’s Tamburlaine the Great, Part I, Act II, Scene 5: “And ride in triumph through Persepolis.”
Giacopo exited, walking backward with the mirror, followed by Mauruccio practicing walking with a courtly grace like a Marquis and bowing.
When they had exited, Bianca said, “Now, as I live, here’s laughter worthy our presence! I would not lose such an entertaining fool.”
She started to exit, but Fernando said, “Madam —”
“Are you talking to me, my lord?” Bianca asked.
“Please just hear the story of a castaway in love,” Fernando said. “And, oh, let not the passage of a jest make slight and insignificant a more serious subject, who has located all his happiness in your diviner eyes!”
Bianca began, “My lord, the time —”
“The time!” Fernando interrupted. “Yet hear me speak, for I must speak or burst. I have a soul so anchored down with cares in seas of woe that passion and the vows I owe to you have changed me into a lean walking skeleton. Sweet princess of my life —”
Bianca interrupted, “Stop, or I shall —”
Fernando interrupted, “Yet, as you honor virtue, do not freeze my hopes to more discomfort and grief than as yet my fears suggest; no beauty so adorns the composition of a noble mind as pity — pity adorns a noble mind more than physical beauty does. Hear me out.”
“No more!” Bianca said. “I refrain from telling you what you are, and I must confess I almost hate my judgment because it once thought that goodness dwelt in you. Remember now, this is the third time your treacherous tongue has pleaded treason to my ear and reputation. Yet, because of the friendship between my lord and you, I have not voiced your follies. But if you dare to speak to me about love a fourth time, you shall rue your lust. There is no better advice than this: Learn and love yourself — learn to look after your own best interest.”
“Gone!” Fernando, now alone, said. “Oh, my sorrows! How I am undone and ruined! Not speak again? No, no, in her chaste breast virtue and resolution have taken from her all female weakness. I have pleaded and pleaded, knelt, wept, and begged, but tears and vows and words move her no more than summer winds move a rock.
“I must resolve to check this rage of blood and restrain my violent passion and my desire: She is all icy to my fires, yet even that ice inflames in me desires.”
Fire symbolizes sexual passion, while ice symbolizes chastity.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
Buy the Paperback: John Ford’s Love’s Sacrifice: A Retelling
John Ford’s Love’s Sacrifice: A Retelling
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
THE TROJAN WAR
SHAKESPEARE: 38 PLAYS
CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE’S COMPLETE PLAYS: RETELLINGS
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.