David Bruce: John Ford’s LOVE’S SACRIFICE: A Retelling — Act 3, Scene 2

— 3.2 —

The Duke, Bianca (walking arm in arm with Fernando), Fiormonda, Petruchio, Nibrassa, Ferentes, and Roderico D’Avolos walked into the stateroom in the palace.

“Roseilli will not come, then!” the Duke of Pavia said. “He will not! Well, his pride shall ruin him.

“Our letters tell us that the Duchess’ uncle — Paulo Baglione, the Abbot of Monaco — will be here tomorrow.

“Tomorrow, D’Avolos.”

“Tomorrow night, my lord,” Roderico D’Avolos said, “but he will not stay more than one day here, for his Holiness the Pope has commanded him to be at Rome the tenth of this month. The conclave of cardinals has resolved not to sit until Paulo Baglionehas come.”

The Duke said to Bianca, “Your uncle, sweetheart, at his next return must be saluted as a cardinal for we expect him to be promoted.”

He then said, “Ferentes, it is your responsibility to think about some theatrical device to entertain the abbot with delight.”

A device can be 1) a theatrical presentation, or 2) a plot or trick.

Fernando said,My lord, in honor to the court of Pavia I’ll join with you.

“Ferentes, not long ago I saw in Brussels, at my being there, the Duke of Brabant welcome the Archbishop of Mentz with a splendid entertainment, despite short notice, performed by knights and ladies of his court, in nature of an antic.”

Antics are theatrical performances in which performers wear grotesque masks and costumes.

He continued, “I thought that it — because I had never before seen women-antics, aka female performers — was for the newness strange, and much commended.”

In Pavia, women did not perform on stage. Males performed female roles.

“Now, my good Lord Fernando,” Bianca said, “further this in any way you can; it cannot but please my uncle.”

Fiormonda thought, If she entreats Fernando, it is ten to one the man is won beforehand. Fernando will do anything that Bianca asks him to do.

The Duke said to Fernando, “Friend, thou honor me. But can it be so speedily performed?”

“I’ll undertake it, if the ladies agree to perform as themselves — as ladies,” Fernando replied. “And we must have a fool, or such a one as can with skill well act like a fool.”

“I shall provide you with what you need,” Fiormonda said. “I have a natural idiot.”

“That is best of all, madam,” Fernando said. “Then nothing is lacking. You must be one of the performers, Ferentes.”

“With my best service and dexterity, my lord,” Ferentes replied.

Petruchio whispered, “This falls out happily, Nibrassa.”

He whispered back, “We could not wish it better. Heaven is an unbribed justice.”

Heaven is always just: It cannot be bribed. Indeed, Simony — the selling or buying of church offices or spiritual benefits — is a sin. If Simony is discovered to have played a role in the election of a modern-day Pope, that election is null and void.

The alert reader will notice that Petruchio and Nibrassa are both happy that Ferentes will play a part in the antic.

“We’ll meet our uncle-in-law with the solemn grace of religiously zealous ceremonial attendance, as is fitting for the church,” the Duke said. “See to it that all the choir will be ready, D’Avolos.”

“I have already made your highness’ pleasure known to them,” Roderico D’Avolos said.

“Your lip, my lord!” Bianca said to Fernando.

“Madam?” he replied.

“Perhaps your teeth have bled. Wipe the blood away with my handkerchief. Give it to me. I’ll do it myself.”

In this society and in this age, dental care was often lacking. Bleeding gums were common.

Wiping his mouth, she whispered to Fernando, “Tell me, shall I steal a kiss? Believe me, my lord, I long for a kiss.”

“Not for the world,” Fernando whispered to her.

Fiormonda said to herself, “Manifest and plainly evident impudence!”

Roderico D’Avolos said quietly, but loud enough to be heard, “Curse my heart, but that’s not so good.”

“Hmm, what it is that thou don’t like, D’Avolos?” the Duke asked.

“Nothing, my lord,” Roderico D’Avolos replied. “I was just hammering out and devising an idea of my own, which cannot, I find, in so short a time, thrive as a day’s practice.”

His excuse was that he was thinking of an idea for entertaining Bianca’s uncle, but his idea would have required more time than was available to practice and to be put in practice.

“Well put off, secretary,” Fiormonda whispered to Roderico D’Avolos. “That was a good way to evade the Duke’s question.”

“We are too serious,” the Duke said. “I think that the life of mirth should always be fed where we are: We should lead a mirthful life. Where’s Mauruccio?”

Ferentes answered, “If it please your highness, he’s recently grown so affectionately close to my Lady Marquess’ fool that I presume he is confident there are few wise men worthy of his society who are not as innocently harmless as that creature. It is almost impossible to separate them, and it is a question which of the two is the wiser man.”

“I wish that he were here!” the Duke said. “I have a kind of dullness and sluggishness and gloominess that hangs on me since my hunting, so that I feel as if it were a disposition to be sick. My head is always aching.”

“A cursedly ominous sign,” Roderico D’Avolos said. “I don’t like that either.”

The growing of a cuckold’s horns supposedly caused the cuckold’s head to ache.

“Again!” the Duke said. “What is it you don’t like?”

“I beg your highness to excuse me,” Roderico D’Avolos said. “I am so busy with this frivolous project and can bring it to no proper form that it almost confounds my capacity — it’s almost beyond my intellectual capacity.”

“My lord, you were best to try a game of cards,” Bianca said. “I and your friend Fernando, to pass away the time, will play against your highness and your sister.”

“The game’s too tedious,” the Duke said.

“It is a silly game,” Fiormonda said. “Your knave will heave the Queen out or your King. Besides, it is all based on luck.”

The “knave” would be Fernando. “Heave” can mean “swell” and, in thieves’ cant, “rob.” The Knave/Fernando would make the Queen/Duchess swell with pregnancy and rob the King/Duke of his Queen’s/Duchess’ chastity.

Mauruccio, Roseilli disguised as a natural fool, and Giacopoentered the stateroom.

“Bless thee, most excellent Duke!” Mauruccio said. “I here present thee as worthy and learned a gentleman as ever I — and yet I have lived threescore years — conversed with. Take it from me, I have tested him, and he is worthy to be a privy-counselor to the greatest Turk in Christendom; he has a most apparent and deep understanding. He is slow of speech, but he speaks to the purpose.”

He said to the disguised Roseilli, “Come forward, sir, and appear before his highness in your own proper elements.”

“In your own proper elements” meant “in your own true self” — something that the disguised Roseilli was not going to do.

“Will — tye — to da new toate sure la now,” the disguised Roseilli said.

“He is a very senseless gentleman,” Giacopo said, “and, may it please your highness, one who has a great deal of little wit, as they say.”

“Oh, sir, had you heard him, as I did, deliver whole histories in the Tangay tongue, you would swear there were not such a linguist who lived and spoke again,” Mauruccio said.

A tan-gay tongue is a tan brightly colored tongue; such a tongue — and such a language — does not exist.

He added, “And if I could just perfectly understand his language, I would be confident in less than two hours to distinguish the meaning of bird, beast, or fish as naturally as I myself speak Italian, my lord. Well, he has splendid qualities!”

The reader may now laugh, realizing that the words “as naturally as I myself speak Italian” were spoken on stage in John Ford’s time by a British actor who was, of course, speaking English.

“Now, please, question him, Mauruccio,” the Duke said.

“I will, my lord,” Mauruccio said.

He then said to the disguised Roseilli, “Tell me, rare scholar, which, in thy opinion, causes the strongest breath: garlic or onion.”

“Answer him, brother-fool,” Giacopo said. “Do, do. Speak thy mind, chuck, do.”

“Chuck” was another term of endearment; in this case, it was applied to a person Mauruccio considered a close friend.

“Have bid seen all da fine knack, and de, e, naghtye tat-tle of da kna-ve, dad la have so,” the disguised Roseilli said.

Possibly, he was saying, “I have seen all the fine tricks and [heard] the malicious talk of the knave, indeed I have.” If so, he was trying to give a warning to Fernando.

“We don’t understand him,” the Duke said.

“His answer is admirable, I say, Duke,” Mauruccio said. “Pay attention, oh, Duke, pay attention!

“What did I ask him, Giacopo?”

“What caused the strongest breath, garlic or onions, I take it, sir.”

“Right, right, by Mount Helicon! And his answer is that a knave has a stronger breath than any of them. This is wisdom — or I am an ass — in the highest; this is a direct figure — an unambiguous aphorism.

“Write it down, Giacopo.”

“How happy is that idiot whose ambition is only to eat and sleep, and shun the rod — that is, avoid punishment!” the Duke said. “Men who have more of wit, and use it illy, are fools in proof — they have proven that they are fools by using their intelligence in an ill way.”

“True, my lord, there’s many who think themselves most wise who are most fools,” Bianca said.

“Bitter, biting comments, if all were known, but —” Roderico D’Avolos said quietly, but loud enough to be heard.

“But what?” the Duke said. “Speak out — a plague on your muttering and grumbling! I heard you, sir. What is it?”

“Nothing, I say, to your highness pertinent or anything important,” Roderico D’Avolos said.

Readers may be forgiven for reading the sentence in this way: “Nothing I say to your highness [is] pertinent or anything important.”

“Well, sir, remember,” the Duke replied.

He then said, “Friend Fernando, you promised to study how to put on a good show for our uncle-in-law.

“I am not well in my mental temperament.

“Come, Bianca.

“Ferentes, attend our friend. You will be working with Fernando.”

Everyone exitedexcept Fernando, the disguised Roseilli, Ferentes, and Mauruccio.

“Ferentes, take Mauruccio in with you,” Fernandosaid. “He must be one of the performers.”

“Come, my lord, I shall need your help,” Ferentes said.

“I’ll stay behind a moment with the fool, and follow you two soon,” Fernando said.

“Yes, please do, my lord,” Mauruccio said.

Ferentes and Mauruccioexited.

“How thrive your hopes now, kinsman?” Fernando asked Roseilli.

“Are we safe?” Roseilli said. “Can we talk safely? Are we alone? Then let me cast myself beneath thy foot, my true, virtuous lord. Know, then, sir, her proud heart — I speak of Fiormonda — is fixed only on you in such extremes of violence and passion that, I fear, either she’ll enjoy you, or she’ll destroy you.”

Because Fiormonda believed that the disguised Roseilli was a natural idiot who could barely speak, she had spoken about her feelings in his hearing.

“On me, kinsman?” Fernando replied. “By all the joys I wish to taste, she is as far beneath my thought as I in soul am above her malice.”

“I observed just now a kind of dangerous design in a disjointed and incoherent phrase from D’Avolos,” Roseilli said.

He was referring to the quiet words that Roderico D’Avolos had said loud enough for the Duke to overhear.

He continued, “I don’t know his intent, but this I know: He has an active brain and he is an agent who knows all my lady’s — Fiormonda’s — secrets, and, my lord, you should pray to Heaven there has not anything befallen within the knowledge of his subtle skill and cunning to do you evil! If he finds a way to do evil to you, he will.”

“Bah!” Fernando said. “Should he or hell confront me in the course of my fate, I’d crush them into atoms.”

“I do admit you could,” Roseilli said. “In the meantime, my lord, be nearest to yourself.”

The proverb “Be nearest to yourself” meant “Be most concerned to look after yourself” and “Keep your secrets secret.”

He added, “You shall be soon informed of whatever I can learn. Here is all we fools can catch the wise in — to unknot, by privilege of coxcombs, what they plot.”

A proverb stated, “Fools set stools for wise men to stumble at.”

“Coxcombs” are fools’ hats. People tended to speak unguardedly in front of jesters and fools.

Because Roseilli seemed to be a natural fool, both Fiormonda and Rodrigo D’Avolos spoke freely about their feelings and plots in front of him.

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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