David Bruce: John Ford’s LOVE’S SACRIFICE: A Retelling — Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

TheDuke, Fiormonda, and Roderico D’Avolostalked together in an apartment in the palace.Fiormonda and Roderico D’Avolos were criticizing the Duke for not taking revenge against Bianca for her “adultery.”

“Arethou Caraffa?” Fiormonda asked the Duke, her brother. “Is there in thy veins one drop of blood that issued from the loins of Pavia’s ancient Dukes? Or do thou sit on the chair of state of great Lorenzo, our glorious father, and cannot blush to be so far beneath the spirit of heroic ancestors? Can thou possess a base, ignoble, slavish shame, which men far, far below the high, lofty region of thy social status not more abhor than study how to revenge? You call yourself an Italian! I could burst with rage to think I have a brother so made a fool of in patiently enduring a harlot’s lust.”

Roderico D’Avolos said, “She is one, my lord, who does so palpably, so blatantly make her adulteries a trophy to be displayed, while the poting-stick to her insatiable and more than goatish abomination jeers at and flouts your sleepy, and more than sleepy, complacency.”

A poting-stick was used to set the plaits of items of clothing such as ruffs after they were starched or was used to stir clothing as it boiled. The word “poting” meant “poking,” “crimping,” or “kicking.” A poting-stick can be said to resemble a stiff penis, and a stiff penis can be said to “poke.”

This culture regarded goats as lecherous animals.

In league with Fiormonda, Roderico D’Avolos was taunting the Duke for not getting revenge against his wife: Bianca. Because Fiormonda would protect Roderico D’Avolos, he could be very direct in his criticism.

“What is she but the sallow, sickly yellow-colored brat of some landless bankrupt?” Fiormonda said. “She has been taught to catch the easy fancies of young prodigal roisterers in snares of her stew-instructed art.”

People in this culture called brothels “stews.” A “stew-instructed art” is an art that was learned in a brothel.

She continued, “Here’s your ‘most virtuous’ Duchess! Here’s your ‘rare paragon of virtue’!”

“She is more base in the infiniteness of her lustfulness than depravity can infect,” Roderico D’Avolos said, “and she has been base enough to embrace and seduce your friend Fernando, too!

“Oh, insufferable! He is a ‘friend’! How of all men are you most unfortunate! You pour out your soul into the bosom of such a creature that regards it as a religion to make your own trust a key to open the passage to your own wife’s womb, to be drunk in the private acts of your bed!

“Think upon that, sir.”

Despite greatly criticizing the Duke, Roderico D’Avolos called him by the respectful words “you” and “sir” because the Duke much outranked him.

“Be gentle in your tortures, out of pity,” the Duke said. “For pity’s sake, I beg it.”

“Be a prince!” Fiormonda said. “It would have been better, Duke, if thou had been born a peasant. Now boys will sing thy scandal in the streets, sing ballads about thy infamy, get money by making plays and shows about thee, and invent some strangely disguised man-beast that may because of its horns resemble thee, and call it Pavia’s Duke.

Endless immortal plague!” the Duke complained.

“There’s the mischief, sir,” Roderico D’Avolos said. “In the meantime you shall be sure to have a bastard — of whom you did not so much as beget a little toe, a left ear, or half the far side of an upper lip — inherit both your throne and name. This would kill the soul of complete patience itself.”

“Stop!” the Duke said. “The ashen paleness of my cheek is now colored scarlet in ruddy flakes of wrath; it is like a dormant fire that has been stirred. And like some bearded meteor — like some comet with a tail — it shall suck up, with swiftest terror, all those dusky mists that overcloud compassion in our breast.”

People in this society thought that meteors and comets were formed by vapor sucked up from the earth.

The Duke’s anger, hot as a fire, would suck up and concentrate the dusky malevolent forces in his chest that overruled any compassion he might have felt. These dusky malevolent forces would then be directed toward getting revenge.

The Duke said, “You’ve roused a sleeping lion, whom no art and no fawning flattery shall reclaim, but blood.”

“Reclaim” meant 1) “subdue,” and/or 2) “call back from a mistaken course of action.”

He continued, “And sister and Roderico, thou two from whom I take the surfeit of my bane, from here on do not any more so eagerly endeavor to whet my dullness and make me eager for revenge.”

Alert readers will note that this is the first time we have heard the Duke call Roderico D’Avolos by his first name.

The “surfeit of my bane” meant 1) the “excess of my woe,” and/or 2) the “excessive dose of my poison.”

The Duke continued, “You shall see me, Caraffa, equal his — my — birth and act like a Duke, and be matchless in revenge.”

“Why, now I hear you speak in majesty,” Fiormonda said.

While criticizing the Duke, Fiormonda had been calling him “thou,” but now she used the respectful “you.”

“And it becomes my lord most princely,” Roderico D’Avolos said.

“Does it?” the Duke said. “Come hither, sister. Thou are near to me in nature, and as near to me in love. I love thee, yes — by yonder bright sky, I love thee dearly. But pay attention to me now: If any private grudge or female spleen, malice or envy, or such woman’s frailty, have spurred thee on to set my soul on fire without clear and certain proof of their adultery, then I vow, and vow again, by all our princely blood, that if thou had a double soul, or if the lives of fathers, mothers, children, or the hearts of all our tribe were in thine, I would rip open and expose with these fingernails that womb of bloody mischief where such a cursed plot as this was hatched.

“But, D’Avolos, as for thee — well, I’ll say no more; let’s get to work.

“To create a still stronger impression of my wife’s infidelity in my brain, you must produce an example to my eye both ready at hand and obvious … nay, you shall … or — ”

“Or what?” Fiormonda said. “You will be mad? Be rather wise. Think about Ferentes first, and think by whom the harmless youth was slaughtered. Had he lived, he would have told you tales. Fernando feared it and to prevent him from telling you about his affair — indeed, under the show of rare device — he most neatly cut him off.”

The “show of rare device” was 1) a show with the rare appearance of woman performers, and 2) a show with splendid and cunning trickery that ended with the death of Ferentes.

Fiormonda was falsely blaming Fernando for planning Ferentes’ death in order to keep Ferentes from telling the Duke about his “affair” with Bianca.

“Do you have eyes yet, Duke?” Fiormonda asked.

“This is shrewdly urged — it is piercing,” the Duke said.

The word “shrewdly” meant 1) maliciously, or 2) sharply.

“You shall not trouble yourself to arrange your looking on a sight that shall split your soul,” Fiormonda said. “I’ll undertake to do it myself. I will present you approximately two days from now with evidence of the affair of Bianca and Fernando. The delay is necessary because, tonight, you are in court.”

She wanted her brother to think this: With the Duke present in the court, Bianca and Fernando would be forced to avoid committing adultery and so evidence of their adultery would be impossible to get.

“That’s right,” Roderico D’Avolos said. “Would you desire, my lord, to see them exchange kisses, sucking one another’s lips, indeed, begetting an heir to the Dukedom, or practicing more than the very act of adultery itself? Give them but a little opportunity by a feigned absence —”

He wanted the Duke to pretend to be away from the court for a little while. That would give Bianca and Fernando an opportunity to engage in their “affair.”

Roderico D’Avolos continued, “— and you shall find them — I blush to speak doing what. I am mad when I think about it; you are most shamefully, most sinfully, most scornfully cornuted — that is, horned as a cuckold.”

“Do you make fun of me?” the Duke said. “As I am your prince, there’s some who shall roar with pain for this! Why, who am I to be thought or made so vile a thing?

“Stay, Madam Marquess.

“Ho, Roderico, you stay, too, sir.

“Bear witness that if ever I neglectfor one day, one hour, one minute to wear out my busy skull with laboring at creating a plot or planning a trick, until I have found a death more horrid than the bull of Phalaris or all the fabling poets’ dreaming whips —”

Phalaris was a cruel ruler of the city Agrigentum in Sicily. He commissioned Perillus to construct a hollow bull of metal to be used as an instrument of torture. The victim would be placed inside the bull, and then the bull would be heated. As the victim roasted, the victim screamed. Phalaris ordered that the bull be constructed in such a way that the screams of the victims would sound like the bellowing of a bull.

The mythological avenging spirits known as the Furies sometimes carried whips.

The Duke continued, “— if ever I take rest, or force a smilethat is not borrowed from a royal vengeance, before I know how and in which way to satisfy my fury and the wrong done to me —”

He said, “Kneel down.”

All three knelt. Fiormonda and Roderico D’Avolos were to be witnesses to the Duke’s vow of revenge.

The Duke continued, “—then let me die more wretched than despair, reproach, contempt, laughter at my expense, and poverty itself can make me!

“Let’s rise on all sides, friends.”

They all stood up together.

“Now all’s agreed,” the Duke said. “If the Moon is favorable, some who are safe shall bleed.”

Some phases of the Moon were regarded as favorable for medicinal blood-letting — but the blood-letting he had in mind was not medicinal.

Bianca, Fernando, and Morona entered the room.

Bianca said, “My lord the Duke —”

“Bianca!” the Duke said. “How is it with you? How is it with you, Bianca?

“What, Fernando!

“Come, shall we shake hands, sirs?”

In this society, “sir” could be used to refer to a woman as well as a man.

The three shook hands.

The Duke said, “Indeed, this is kindly done. Here are three as one. Welcome, dear wife and sweet friend!”

Roderico D’Avolos whispered to Fiormonda, “I do not like this now; it shows scurvily to me.”

He was worried because the Duke seemed to be treating Bianca and Fernando kindly.

Bianca said to the Duke, “My lord, we have a request; your friend and I —”

The Duke thought, She puts my friend before herself — ‘your friend and I’ — most kindly still.

She continued, “— must join —”

She meant “enjoin” — that is, urge the Duke to answer positively to a request.

“What! ‘Must’!” the Duke said.

He associated the word “join” with the phrase “join together,” which reminded him of sex. Of course, Bianca and Fernando were joining together in enjoining — entreating — the Duke for a favor.

“My lord —” Bianca said.

“Must join, you say,” the Duke interrupted.

She continued, “— that you will please to set Mauruccio at liberty. This gentlewoman — Morona — here has, by agreement made between the two of them, obtained him for her husband. My good lord, let me entreat you — I dare pledge my honor that he’s innocent of any willful fault.”

“Your honor, madam!” the Duke said, angry at the reference to something he thought she lacked. “Now I say ‘bah’ to you — to engage your honor for so slight a cause! Honor’s a precious jewel, I can tell you. Indeed, it is, Bianca. Bah!”

Despite his hidden anger, he gave everyone the impression that he was mildly reproving Bianca because no urging was needed for him to free Mauruccio — why, of course he would free him.

“D’Avolos, bring Mauruccio here to us.”

“I shall, my lord,” Roderico D’Avolos said.

He exited to carry out this order.

“I humbly thank your grace,” Morona said.

“And, royal sir,” Ferentes said, “since Julia and Colona, the chief actors in Ferentes’ tragic end, were through their ladies’ mediation freed by your gracious pardon, I, out of pity, took pity on and attended to this widow’s friendless misery for whose reprieve I shall, in my humblest duty to you, be ever thankful.”

Julia served Fiormonda, and Colona served Bianca. Both Fiormonda and Bianca had asked for and received mercy from the Duke for Julia and Colona. Now Fernando was asking for mercy for Morona. Fernando and Bianca were also both asking for mercy for Mauruccio.

Roderico D’Avolos returned, accompanied by Mauruccio, who was wearing rags, and Giacopo, who was weeping.

Mauruccio said to Giacopo, “Come, my learned counsel, do not loudly weep. If I must hang, why, then, lament therefore. You may both rejoice, and, no doubt, be great to serve your prince the Duke, when I am turned into worms’-food. I fear my lands and all I have has been begged.”

He was afraid that because he was in prison, a court of law had given his possessions into the custody of someone else. “To beg a person” meant to petition the Court of Wards for the custody of a person, with the result that the person would become a ward whose assets were controlled by another person.

He continued, “Else, woe is me, why should I be so ragged?”

“Come on, sir,” Roderico D’Avolos said to Mauruccio, “the Duke is waiting for you.”

Mauruccio was still able to rhyme:

“Oh, how my stomach does begin to puke,

“When I do hear that single word, the Duke!”

“You, sir, look on that woman,” the Duke said to Mauruccio. “Are you pleased, if we remit your body from the jail, to take her for your wife?”

“On that condition, prince, I will, with all my heart,” Mauruccio said.

Morona said, “Yes, I assure your grace that he is content to marry me.”

“Why, foolish man, have thou so soon forgotten the public shame of her abused womb, her being mother to a bastard’s birth?” the Duke said. “Or can thou but imagine she will be true to thy bed who to herself was false?”

He was criticizing Mauruccio much as Fiormonda and Roderico D’Avolos had criticized him.

“Phew, sir, do not stand upon that,” Giacopo said to Mauruccio. “That’s a matter of nothing, you know.”

The word “stand” can mean “have an erection.” “Nothing” is “no thing.” A “thing” is a penis, and “no thing” is a vagina.

Giacopo continued, “Ignore Morona’s faults, sir.”

Mauruccio said to the Duke, “Nay, if it shall please your good grace, if it comes to that, I don’t care about adultery. As good men as I have lain in foul sheets, I am sure; the linen has not been much the worse for the wearing a little. I will have her with all my heart.”

“And you shall,” the Duke said.

He ordered, “Fernando, thou shall have the grace to join their hands; put them together, friend.”

Bianca said to Fernando, “Yes, do, my lord. You bring the bridegroom hither; I’ll give the bride myself.”

Roderico D’Avolos thought, Here’s evidence to cause jealousy as good as drink to the dropsy; she will share any disgrace with him. I could not wish it better.

He regarded the giving away of the groom and the bride by Fernando and Bianca as being additional “evidence” of their “adultery”; however, he also thought that the “evidence” was not needed because the Duke was already jealous. It was like giving liquid to someone who was already suffering from dropsy — an illness that caused one’s body to retain liquid and swell up.

“So be it,” the Duke said. “Well, do it.”

Fernando said, “Here, Mauruccio; give me your hand.”

Fernando and Bianca joined the handsof Mauruccio and Morona.

Fernando then said, “Live long as a happy couple!”

“It is enough,” the Duke said.

This ceremony was enough for Morona and Mauruccio to be legally engaged, although such betrothal ceremonies were usually followed by a church marriage. The help of Fernando and Bianca as they assisted in the ceremony werealso enough “evidence” to cause the Duke to feel additional jealousy.

The Duke added, “Now know our pleasure henceforth. It is our will that if ever thou, Mauruccio, or thy wife, Morona, should be seen within a dozen miles of the court, we will recall our mercy. No begging or entreaty shall get thee an additional minute of thy life. We’ll allow no servile slavery of lust to breathe near us. Now get out, and get yourselves away from the court.

“Bianca, come with me.”

The Duke thought, Oh, my cleft soul!

TheDuke and Biancaexited.

“What’s that?” Mauruccio said. “I must come no more near the court?”

“Oh, pitiful!” Giacopo said. “Not come near the court, sir!”

“Not by a dozen miles, indeed, sir,” Roderico D’Avolos said. “Your only course, I can advise you, is to journey to Naples, and set up a house of carnality. There are very fair and well-frequented suburbs that are a good location for a brothel, and you need not fear the contagion of any pestilent disease, for the worst is very proper, fitting, and suitable to the place.”

“It is a strange sentence,” Fernando said.

“It is, and sudden, too,” Fiormonda said, “and not without some mystery.”

The sentence of exile on pain of death was harsh, but the Duke was harsh in his condemnation of Morona’s sexual immorality and in his condemnation of what he thought was Mauruccio’s weakness in his good treatment of her because he — the Duke — feared that his wife, Bianca, had been sexually immoral.

“Will you go, sir?” Roderico D’Avolos asked Mauruccio.

“Not near the court!” Mauruccio said.

“What does it matter, sweetheart?” Morona said. “Fear nothing, love; you shall have a new change of apparel, good diet, wholesome attention, and we will live like pigeons — like lovebirds — my lord.”

“Will thou forsake me, Giacopo?” Mauruccio asked.

“I forsake you!” Giacopo said. “No, not as long as I have a whole ear on my head, come what will come.”

Some criminals were punished by having their ears cropped. Such punishment was unlikely for Giacopo, who was not a criminal — but Mauruccio was being punished for a murder he had had nothing to do with.

“Mauruccio, you did once proffer true love to me, but since you are more thriftier sped — more successfully married — here, take this gold for old affection’s sake,” Fiormonda said. “Spend it for my sake.”

Fiormonda gave money to Mauruccio.

“Madam, you act nobly,” Fernando said.

He got some money out and added, “And that’s for me, Mauruccio.”

Fernando gave money to Mauruccio.

“Will you go, sir?” Roderico D’Avolos asked Mauruccio.

“Yes, I will go,” he replied.

He then said, “And I humbly thank your lordship and ladyship.

“Pavia, sweet Pavia, farewell!

“Come, wife.

“Come, Giacopo.

“Now is the time that we away must lag [go away slowly],

“And march in pomp with baggage and with bag.

“Oh, poor Mauruccio! What have thou misdone,

“To end thy life when life was new begun?”

His life at the court was ending, but his life as a newly married man was beginning.

He continued, “Adieu to all; for lords and ladies see

“My woeful plight and squires of low degree!”

Squires are attendants.

“Leave, leave, sirs!” Roderico D’Avolos said.

Everyone exceptFiormonda and Fernandoexited.

Fiormonda said, “My Lord Fernando —”


“Did you notice my brother’s odd mental disturbances? You were accustomed to be his bosom buddy and know his plans and secrets. I am sure that you know the reason for his mental disturbances.”

“Not I, truly,” Fernando replied.

“Is it possible that you don’t know? What would you say, my lord, if he, out of some melancholy spleen, provoked by some thanks-grubbing parasite, should now prove to be jealous? I seriously think this may be the truth.”

“What, madam! Jealous?”

“Yes,” Fiormonda said, “for just observe, a prince whose eye is chooser to his heart is seldom steady in the arenas of love, unless the party he loves matches his rank in equal portion or in friends.”

In other words, an upper-class man who marries a woman because of her looks will seldom be faithful to her unless she is his equal in social status as shown by her dowry and his equal in friends and supporters.

“I never yet, out of rumor or else by authoritative discussion, have observed the nature of irrational jealousy, if not in him,” Fiormonda said. “If the Duke is not now jealous, then I don’t know what jealousy is. Yet I swear on my conscience now that he has no reason to be jealous.”

“Reason, madam!” Fernando said. “By this light, I’ll pledge my soul against a useless rush that he has no reason to be jealous.”

Rushes were used to cover floors.

Fernando was so sure that the Duke had no reason to be jealous that he would bet his most valuable possession — his soul — against something completely worthless. Fernando was completely sure that Bianca had not committed adultery.

“I never thought her less,” Fiormonda said.

This may sound as if Fiormonda never thought Bianca to be less than completely faithful, but Fiormonda was saying that she never thought Bianca to be less than a rush — less than completely worthless.

Fiormonda continued, “Yet, trust me, sir. No merit can be greater than your praise, at which I strangely wonder, how a man vowed, as you told me, to a single life, should so much deify the saints from whom you have disclaimed devotion — renounced love.”

“Madam, it is true,” Fernando said. “From them I have renounced love, but from their virtues never. I have never renounced the virtues of the saints.”

Fernando had told Fiormonda that he had vowed to live life as a single man, but many religious saints advocate marriage and children. Despite being single, Fernando — and the saints — could and did praise marriage and ethical sex.

Possibly, the “saints” they were talking about were women. Fiormonda was pretending to be surprised that Fernando, having said that he had vowed to live life as a single man, would so strenuously support Bianca. Fernando was replying that although he vowed to live life as a single man, he nevertheless recognized the virtues of chaste women.

Chaste women are those women who do not engage in immoral sex.

“You are too wise, Fernando,” Fiormonda said.

He was too wise to admit some things to her, and so she now spoke plainly: “To be plain, you are in love. No, don’t recoil, man, you are in love. Bianca is the target of your love. Why do you blush? She is, I know she is.”

“The target of my aim!” he said.

“Yes, yours,” Fiormonda said. “I trust I talk no news, no gossip. You know that what I say is true. Fernando, know that thou are running to thy ruin, if in time thou do not wisely shun that Circe’s enchantment.”

Circe was an enchantress who appeared in Homer’s Odyssey. She turned his men into swine until he forced her to turn them back into men. He stayed with her and slept with her for a year before resuming his journey home to the island of Ithaca and his wife, Penelope.

Fiormonda continued, “Unkindest man! I have too long concealed my hidden flames, when constantly in silent signs I courted thee for love, without consideration for youth or state — our ages and social ranks — and yet thou are unkind to me because you do not return my love. Fernando, leave that sorceress, if not for love of me, for pity of thyself.”

“Injurious woman, I defy thy lust,” Fernando said. “Your subtle prying and searching shall not creep into the secrets of an unsoiled and innocent heart. You are my prince’s sister, or else your malice would have ranted itself to death. But as for me — let all my fate witness what I say — I detest your fury or affection. I can’t care about either your anger toward me or your love for me. Judge the rest for yourself — think of what else I could say.”

He exited.

“What, gone!” Fiormonda said. “Well, go on thy way. I see that the more I humble my firm love, the more he shuns both it and me. He has made that so plain! Since it is too late to hope that he will love me, then change, peevish passion, to contempt! Whatever rages in my blood I feel, fool, he shall know I was not born to kneel.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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John Ford’s Love’s Sacrifice: A Retelling



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