— 5.2 —
Fernando, Nibrassa, and Petruchio talked together in Fernando’s apartment in the palace.
“May we believe your words, my lord?” Petruchio said to Fernando. “Speak and answer us, on your honor.”
“Let me die accursed if ever, through the progress of my life, I did as much as reap the benefit of any favor from her except a kiss,” Fernando said. “A better woman never blessed the earth.”
“Curse my heart, young lord, but I believe thee,” Nibrassa said. “Alas, kind lady, I would bet a lordship against a dozen clothes-laces that the jealous madman will in his fury offer her some violence.”
“If that is true,” Petruchio said to Fernando, “it would be better for you to keep a guard around you to defend you than for you to be guarded by guards on the Duke’s payroll who will allow the Duke to get his revenge; the Duke is extremely angry.”
“Passion of my body, my lord, if he would come in his odd fits to you, in the situation — unweaponed — you are, he might cut your throat before you could provide yourself with a weapon of defense,” Nibrassa said to Fernando. “Rather than it shall be so, wait, take my sword in your hand. It is not one of the sprucest swords, but it is a tough fox that will not fail his master, come what will come.”
In this society, “fox” was a name for a particular type of sword.
“Take it,” Nibrassa said. “I’ll be responsible for it, I will.”
He gave Fernando his sword.
He added, “In the meantime Petruchio and I will go back to the Duchess’ lodging.”
“This is well thought out,” Petruchio said. “And, despite all the Duke’s rage, rescue the virtuous lady.”
“Look after yourself, my lord!” Nibrassa said. “The Duke is coming.”
The Duke, carrying a sword in one hand and a bloody dagger in the other, entered the room.
He said, “Stand, and behold thy executioner, thou vainglorious traitor! I will keep no formal procedure of ceremonious law to try thy guilt. Look here, thy guilt is written on my dagger’s point, the bloody evidence of thy untruth, wherein thy conscience and the wrathful rod of Heaven’s scourge for lust at once condemn the verdict of thy flagrant villainies that loudly cry for redress.
“I see thou are armed. Prepare to fight. I crave no odds — no advantage — greater than is the justice of my cause. Fight, or I’ll kill thee.”
“Duke, I don’t fear thee,” Fernando said. “But first I ask thee, as thou are a prince, to tell me how thou have treated thy Duchess.”
“How!” the Duke said. “To add affliction to thy trembling ghost, look on my dagger’s crimson dye, and judge for yourself how I have treated her.”
“Not dead?” Fernando asked.
“Not dead!” the Duke said. “She is dead, yes, by my honor’s truth. Why, fool, do thou think I’ll hug and cherish my injuries? No, traitor! I’ll mix your souls together in your deaths, as you did both your bodies in her life.
“Have at thee! Let’s fight!”
“Stop,” Fernando said. “I yield my weapon up.”
He dropped his sword.
He then opened the front of his shirt and said, “Here, here’s my chest. As thou are a Duke, as thou honor goodness, if the chaste Bianca has been murdered, then murder me.”
“Faint-hearted coward, are thou so poor in spirit!” the Duke said. “Rise and fight, or by the glories of my house and name, I’ll kill thee basely.”
“Do but hear me say something first,” Fernando said. “Unfortunate Caraffa, thou have butchered an innocent, a wife as free from lust as any terms of artful speech can deify.”
“Pish, this is an old, stale dissimulation,” the Duke said. “You are lying. I’ll hear no more.”
“If ever I unshrined the altar of her purity, or tasted more of her love than what without restraint or blame a brother from a sister might,” Fernando said, “then put me on the rack and tear me to tiny pieces. I must confess I have too much abused thee. I did exceed in lawless courtship; it is too true, I did. But, by the honor that I owe to goodness, of any actual lewdness I am free.”
Fernando had kissed Bianca, but they had not had sex.
“That is false,” the Duke said, but he added, believing that Bianca had also spoken falsely, “As much in death in support of thee she spoke.”
“By yonder starry roof, by the sky, it is true,” Fernando said. “Oh, Duke! If thou could create another world like this, another like to that, and more, or more, thou would still be most wretched because of this: All the wealth of all those worlds could not redeem the loss of such a spotless, sinless wife. Glorious Bianca, reign in the triumph of thy martyrdom. Earth was unworthy of thee!”
“Now, on our lives, we both believe him,” Nibrassa and Petruchio said.
“Fernando, do thou dare to swear upon my sword to affirm that thy words are true?”
“I do dare,” Fernando said. “Look here.”
He kissed the sword.
The sword’s blade, guard, and hilt formed a cross and so was a suitable object for a Christian to swear on.
He continued, “It is not the fear of death that prompts my tongue, for I wish to die; and thou shall know, poor miserable Duke, that since she is dead, I’ll consider all life a hell.”
“Bianca chaste!” the Duke said.
“As chaste as virtue itself is good,” Fernando said.
“Chaste, chaste, and killed by me!” the Duke said, convinced. “To her I offer up as a sacrifice this remnant of my —”
He attempted to stab himself and cut short his remnant of life, but Fernandoprevented him.
“Stop!” Fernando said. “Be gentler to thyself.”
“Alas, my lord,” Petruchio said. “Is this a wise man’s manner of conduct?”
“To where now shall I run from the day to a place where no man, nor eye, nor eye of Heaven may see a dog as hateful as I am?” the Duke said. “Bianca chaste! If the fury of some hellish rage had not blinded all reason’s sight, I must have seen her innocence in her fearlessness to die. I beg your leave —”
He knelt, held up his hands in the position for making vows, and after briefly speaking quietly — no living person present heard him — rose.
He had made private vows.
“It is done,” he said.
He then said to Fernando, “Come, friend, now for her love, her love that praised thee in the pangs of death, I’ll hold thee dear.”
He added, “Lords, don’t worry about me. I am too wise to die yet.”
He then said, “Oh, Bianca!”
Roderico D’Avolos entered the room.
He said to the Duke, “The Lord Abbot of Monaco, sir, in his return from Rome, lodged last night late in the city, very privately; and hearing the report of your journey, intends only to visit your Duchess tomorrow.”
The Lord Abbot of Monaco had heard the official — but false — report that the Duke had left on a journey to heal his troubled mind.
The Duke replied to Roderico D’Avolos, “Slave, torture me no more!”
He then said to the others about Roderico D’Avolos, “Look closely at him, my lords! If you would choose a devil in the shape of man, an arch-arch-devil, there stands one.”
Roderico D’Avolos had made the Duke a jealous man — jealous enough to murder his chaste wife.
The Duke then said, “We’ll meet our uncle.
“Order immediately, Petruchio,that our Duchess be coffined. It is our will that she at once be interred, with all the speed and privacy you can manage, in the collegiate-church among Caraffa’s — my family’s — ancient tombs.”
A collegiate-church is a church that is self-governed by non-monastic priests.
The Duke continued, “Some three days from now, we’ll hold her funeral.”
He said about Roderico D’Avolos, “Damned villain! Bloody villain!”
He then moaned, “Oh, Bianca!”
Finally, he said this:
“No counsel from our cruel wills can win us.
“But ills once done, we bear our guilt within us.”
Everyone except Roderico D’Avolos exited.
He said after the others, “Good b’wi’ye!”
The phrase meant “May good be with all of you.”
He then repeated what the Duke had called him, “Arch-arch-devil!”
He then said, sarcastically, “Why, and this is how I am paid for my efforts. Here’s my bounty for good service! Curse my heart, but it is a very princely reward. Now I must say my prayers to thank God that I have lived to so ripe an age to have my head stricken off.
“I cannot tell; I don’t know. It may be the case that my Lady Fiormonda will stand up on my behalf to the Duke, but that’s just a single, feeble hope.
“A disgraced courtier oftener finds enemies to sink him when he is falling than friends to relieve him.”
A proverb stated, “In time of prosperity, friends will be plenty; in time of adversity, not one in twenty.”
He continued, “I must resolve to stand up to the danger and risk of all blows now. Come whatever may come, I will not die like a coward — and the world shall know it.”
— 5.3 —
In anotherapartment in the palace, Roseilli took off part of his disguise in front of Fiormonda. He took off enough for her to know who he was.
“Don’t be dumbstruck, madam,” Roseilli said. “Here you see the man whom your disdain has metamorphosed. Thus long has my identity been clouded in this disguise, led on by love; and in that love, despair.”
How had her disdain for his love metamorphosed him? Had it caused him to assume the disguise of a natural fool? Or, after he had assumed that disguise, had her disdain for his love changed his love for her to something different from love? Or was the disdain he was referring to her disdain for Bianca and Bernardo? Had that disdain changed his love for her to something different from love?
He continued, “If neither the sight of our distracted court nor pity of my bondage cannot amend the greatness of your scorn, yet let me know my final judgment from you. How will you treat my love for you?”
“This is a strange miracle!” Fiormonda said. “Roseilli, I must honor thee. Thy constancy and righteousness, like a crystal-clear mirror and paragon, presents my errors to my reason. Noble lord,you who better deserves a better fate, forgive me. If my heart can entertain another thought of love, it shall be thine.”
“Blessed, forever blessed be the words!” Roseilli said. “In death you have revived me and brought me back to life.”
Roderico D’Avolos entered the room, saw Roseilli, and thought, Whom have we here? Roseilli, the supposed fool? It is he. So then, brazen face, help me!
Roderico D’Avolos realized that when Roseilli was disguised as a natural fool, he must have heard him plotting. Now D’Avolos was calling on his ability as a dissembler to keep himself out of trouble.
He began, “My honorable lord—”
“Stay away, bloodthirsty man!” Roseilli interrupted. “Don’t come near me.”
Roderico D’Avolos said to Fiormonda, “Madam, I trust my service —”
She interrupted, “Fellow, learn a new way to live: The way to thrift in grace for thee is a repentant shrift. If you want to live in grace, you need to confess and repent your sins.”
“Ill has thy life been, worse will be thy end,” Roseilli said. “Men fleshed in and inured to blood seldom know to amend.”
A servant entered.
The servant said to Fiormonda, “His highness commends his love to you, and awaits your presence; he is ready to pass to the church, only staying for my Lord Abbot of Monaco to join him.”
Next the servant said, “In addition, his pleasure is that you, D’Avolos, do not attend this solemnity in the role of secretary, but you may be there as a private citizen.”
The servant then said to Fiormonda, “Does it please you to go?”
Everyone except Roderico D’Avolos exited.
“As a private citizen!” he said. “What can I do? This way they must come; and here I will stand, to fall among them in the rear.”
A solemn strain of soft music began.
A procession was walking to the churchyard where Bianca would be entombed.
Some attendants carrying torches walked at the head of the procession.
Next came two Friars.
Then came the mourning Duke.
After him came the Abbot of Monaco, Fiormonda, Colona, Julia, Roseilli, Petruchio, Nibrassa, and a few guards.
Fernando was not in the procession.
Roderico D’Avolos joined the procession at the rear.
When the procession reached the tomb, they all knelt.
The Duke went to the tomb, and placed his hand on it.
The music ceased.
“May peace and sweet rest sleep here!” the Duke said. “Let not the touch of this my impious hand profane the shrine of fairest purity, which hovers yet about those blessed bones entombed within.
“If in the bosom of this sacred tomb, Bianca, thy disturbed ghost wanders about because it is not at rest, then look! I offer up the sacrifice of bleeding tears, tears of anguish shed from a faithful spring,pouring the offerings of a mourning heart to thee, offended spirit! I confess I am Caraffa. I am he, that wretched man, that butcher, who, in my enraged passion, slaughtered the living body of innocence and beauty.
“Now I come to pay tribute to those wounds that I dug up, and reconcile the wrongs that my fury wrought and my contrition mourns. So chaste, so dear a wife has no man but I enjoyed, yet in the bloom and pride of all her years I untimely took her life.
“Enough! Set open the tomb so that I may take my last farewell and bury my griefs with her.”
The tomb was opened. Fernando, wearing a shroud, was inside, with only his face uncovered. He rose and said, “Stop! Who are thou who rudely presses into the confines of graves that ought to be left alone? Has death no privilege? Has death no immunity? Have thou, Caraffa, come to practice a kidnapping upon the dead?
“Inhuman tyrant! Whatever thou intend, know that this place is appointed for my inheritance. Here lies the monument of all my hopes.
“If eager lust had entrunked my conquered soul, I would not bury living joys in death — if eager lust was being satisfied in my soul that has been conquered by love, I would not now be burying living joys in this tomb.”
The word “entrunked” meant “entered my trunk” — that is, “entered my heart, aka my soul.”
If the Duke had died first, and Fernando and Bianca had married, then this tragedy would not have occurred.
Fernando continued, “Go, revel in thy palace, and be proud as you boast about thy notorious murders; let thy flattering, low-bowing parasites make thy act famous. Thou shall not come here.”
“Fernando, man of darkness, never until now, in the presence of these dread-inspiring sights, did I abhor thy friendship,” the Duke replied. “Thou have robbed my resolution of a glorious fame.”
The Duke called Fernando a “man of darkness” because 1) Fernando was literally in the darkness of a tomb, 2) Fernando was a man of death because he was ready to die in Bianca’s tomb, and 3) the Duke possibly regarded Fernando as a man of evil because he “robbed my resolution of a glorious fame.”
The Duke continued, “Come out of Bianca’s tomb, or by the thunder of my rage, I swear thou will die a death more fearful than the scourge of death can whip thee with.”
“The scourge of death!” Fernando said. “Poor Duke! Why, death is the target I shoot at. It is not threats — despite thy power, or the spite of hell — that shall tear away that honor from me. Let life-hugging — life-loving — slaves, whose hands are stained with blood and sin from butcheries like thine shake their souls with terror and be loath to die!
“Look! I am already clothed in robes that are suitable for the grave.
“I pity thy defiance.”
The Duke ordered, “Guards, lay hands on him and drag him out.”
“Yes, let them,” Fernando said. “Here’s my shield.”
A shield provides protection; Fernando held up something that would protect him from being dragged alive out of Bianca’s tomb.
He said, “Here’s a toast to victory!”
As the guards went to seize him, he drank a phial of quick-acting poison.
He said, “Now do thy worst.
“Farewell, Duke! For once and for all I have ran ahead of and outstripped thy plots. Not all the cunning, ingenious antidotes of the medical art can grant me another twelve minutes of my life. The poison works! It works already! Splendidly! Splendidly! Now, now I feel it tear each individual joint. Oh, royal poison! Trustworthy friend! Split, split both heart and gall asunder, you excellent bane and poison!”
In this society, gall was believed to be the source of bitterness.
Fernando continued, “Roseilli, love my memory.
“Well searched out, swift, nimble venom! Torture every vein of mine.
“I am coming to you, Bianca.
“Cruel torment, feast, feast on, do.
“Thus I … hot flames! … conclude my love — and seal it in my bosom!”
“This is a very desperate end to his life!” the Abbot of Monaco said.
The death was both violent, and the Abbot regarded it as despairing — in the Christian sense of being without hope of Paradise. Suicide is a major sin in Catholicism, but some people may regard love-suicide as an ennobling act.
“No one move!” the Duke said. “Whoever steps a foot steps to his utter ruin.
“And are thou gone, Fernando? Are thou gone?
“Thou were an unmatched friend; rest in thy fame.
“Sister, this is my testament: When I have finished my last days, lodge me, my wife, and this unequalled friend all in one tomb.
“Now to my vows.”
He meant the vows he had quietly made when he knelt after learning that his wife had not committed adultery and after he had been prevented from committing suicide.
He continued, “Never henceforth let any sorrowful tongue mention Bianca’s and Caraffa’s name, unless they let each letter in that tragic sound beget a sigh, and every sigh a tear. Children unborn, and widows whose lean cheeks are furrowed by age, shall weep whole nights, repeating just the story of our fates. While telling the end, closing up their tale, they must conclude with how, out of love for Bianca, Caraffa, in revenge of wrongs to her, thus on her altar sacrificed his life.”
He stabbed himself with the dagger that he had used to stab Bianca.
This was the fulfillment of his “resolution of a glorious fame.”
The Abbot of Monaco shouted, “Stop the Duke’s hand! Keep him from killing himself!”
“Save my brother!” Fiormonda shouted. “Save him!”
“Do!” the Duke said sarcastically. “Try to save me!
“I was too willing to strike home to be thwarted.
“Fools, why, could you dream I would outlive my outrageous act?
“Sprightly flood of blood, run out in rivers!
“Oh, I wish that these thick streams could collect, acquire strength, and make a standing pool, so that jealous husbands here might bathe in blood!”
Some people in this society believed that blood could have redemptive power. Perhaps the Duke was wishing that if husbands bathed in his blood, they would be cured of jealousy.
In Matthew 26:28 Jesus states, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (King James Version).
The Duke continued, “So! I grow sweetly empty; may all the pipes of life unvessel my life — may all my veins and all my arteries empty out of my body my blood and life.
“Now heavens, wipe out the writing of my sin in the Book of Life!”
Revelation 20:12 states, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (King James Version).
The Duke said, “Bianca, thus I creep to thee … to thee … to thee, Bi … an … ca.”
“He’s already dead, madam,” Roseilli said to Fiormonda.
Roderico D’Avolos thought, Here’s more than I could have hoped for! Here’s labor saved! I could bless the Destinies — the three Fates.
By “labor saved,” perhaps he meant that he didn’t have to kill the Duke himself, or perhaps he meant that he didn’t have to suffer any punishment for his ill deeds.
“I wishthat I had never seen this!” the Abbot of Monaco said.
Fiormonda said, “Since this is how things have befallen, my Lord Roseilli, in the true requital of your continued love, I here possess you of the Dukedom, and with it of me, in the presence of this holy abbot.”
The Abbot of Monaco held Roseilli’s hand and said to Fiormonda, “Then, lady, from my hand take your husband.”
He joined their hands together and said, “May you two long enjoy each to each other’s comfort and content!”
They were now legally married, and Roseilli was now legally ruler of Pavia.
All present cried, “Long live Roseilli!”
Using the majestic plural, Roseilli said, “First, we give thanks to Heaven. Next, lady, we give thanks to your love. Lastly, my lords, we give thanks to all. And we pray that our entrance into this position of prince may give fair hopes of our being worthy of our place.”
Then he said, “Our first work shall be justice.
“D’Avolos, stand forth.”
Roderico D’Avolos began, “My gracious lord —”
Roseilli interrupted, “No, graceless villain! I am no lord of thine.”
He then ordered, “Guards, take him hence. Convey him to the prison’s top. In chains hang him alive.
“Whoever gives a bit of bread to feed him dies.”
He said to Roderico D’Avolos, “Speak not a word against this judgment, I will be deaf to mercy.”
He ordered the guards, “Bear him hence!”
Unrepentant, Roderico D’Avolos said sarcastically, “Mercy, new Duke.”
In this situation and context, “mercy” meant “thanks.”
He added, “Here’s my comfort. I can take comfort in knowing that I make but one in the number of the tragedy of princes.”
The guards took him away.
Roseilli then said to Fiormonda, “Madam, a second responsibility is to perform your brother’s testament regarding his final wishes; we’ll build a tomb to those unhappy lovers, which shall tell the story of their fatal loves to all posterity.
“And now, then, as for you: From this time forth, I here dismiss the mutual comforts of our marriage-bed.”
Their marriage would not be consummated.
He continued, “Learn to live a new kind of life. My vows shall stand unmoved. And since your life has been so very intemperate, resolve in a timely fashion to make your peace with Heaven.”
He was giving her the same advice that she had given to Roderico D’Avolos.
“Oh, me!” Fiormonda said. “Is this your love for me?”
“It is your desert,” Roseilli said. “It is what you deserve. No persuasion shall remove sentence of punishment.”
“This sentence is fitting,” the Abbot of Monaco said to Fiormonda. “Purge moral weakness with repentance.”
“I embrace this sentence,” Fiormonda said. “Happy too late, since lust has made me foul, from this time forth I’ll dress my bride-bed in my soul. My bride-bed shall be spiritual.”
“Does it please you to walk, Lord Abbot?” Roseilli asked the Abbot of Monaco.
“Yes, set on,” the Abbot of Monaco replied. “No age has heard, and no historical chronicle can say, that ever here befell a sadder day.”
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
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