David Bruce: John Ford’s THE LADY’S TRIAL: A Retelling — Act 4, Scene 3

— 4.3 —

Lord Auria, Lord Adurni, and Aurelio gathered together to talk about what had or had not happened when Lord Adurni was alone with Spinella, Lord Auria’s wife.

Each man had an agenda. Lord Auria wanted to clear his wife’s name. Lord Adurni wanted to avoid trouble with Lord Auria. Aurelio wanted to justify his actions to Lord Auria, and he wanted to remain friends with Lord Auria.

Of course, Lord Auria wanted to avoid trouble: Trouble would make it difficult to clear his wife’s name.

Lord Auria said to Lord Adurni, “You’re welcome, be assured you are; for proof, retrieve the boldness — as you please to term it — of visit to commands.”

There were two “visits to commands”: 1) Lord Auria had become powerful and had requested that Lord Adurni and Aurelio come to visit him. When a powerful man requests something, that request is often treated as a command. Another lord — that is, another powerful man — might object to this kind of request as “bold.” 2) Lord Adurni had requested that Spinella come to visit him, and when he was with her alone, he may have made his own “bold” request, whether of social intercourse or of sexual intercourse.

Lord Auria could avoid the charge of boldness by giving power to Lord Adurni — power such as having Aurelio leave the room.

Lord Auria, who wanted to keep the peace between him and Lord Adurni and to clear Spinella’s name was inviting Lord Adurni to retrieve — take back in some way — something such as a bad interpretation of what had happened during Spinella’s visit to him.

Lord Auria continued, “If this man’s presence isn’t useful, dismiss him.”

“This man” was Aurelio. If Lord Adurni wanted Aurelio to leave, Lord Auria would tell Aurelio to leave. This let Aurelio know that he was the least important man present.

Lord Adurni said, “It is important, if you don’t mind, my lord, that your friend witness how far my reputation stands engaged to noble reconcilement.”

He wanted to be reconciled to Lord Auria. With good reason, he believed that Lord Auria was angry at him.

Lord Adurni was also willing for Aurelio to be present.

Lord Auria said, “I observe no party here among us who can challenge a motion of such honor. No one here can object to friends being reconciled.”

This let Aurelio know that Lord Auria wanted to be reconciled to Lord Adurni.

Lord Adurni said, “Even if your looks could borrow clearer serenity and calmness than can the peace of a composed soul, yet I presume that report of my attempt, trained by a curiosity in youth for scattering clouds before them, has raised tempests that will at last break out.”

Lord Auria looked very calm, but even if Lord Auria could look calmer, which would be difficult, Lord Adurni worried that gossip about his attempt to do something not yet specified would have made Lord Auria angry and that his anger would eventually break out.

Some of what Lord Adurni had said was ambiguous.

This is one meaning:

I presume that report of my attempt at the seduction of your wife, which was a result of a trap I set because my youth made me want to acquire knowledge of what it would be like to have sex with her although such a desire for knowledge I ought not to have has had the result of gossip-scattering clouds that obscure clear serenity and calmness and the peace of a composed soul.

This is another meaning

I presume that Aurelio’s misleading report of my attempt at providing especially good hospitality, a report that was brought about because Aurelio, who was paying too much attention when keeping an eye on your wife and who was overly curious about what was happening between your wife and me behind closed doors, character traits that he apparently learned in youth, had the result of gossip-spreading clouds that obscure clear serenity and calmness and the peace of a composed soul.

These clouds in turn had formed storm clouds in Lord Auria’s mind.

When Lord Auria learned more about the attempt, not yet specified in words, Lord Auria’s storm clouds, now hidden, might entirely break out in violence.

Lord Auria said, “Those storm clouds are hidden now, most likely, in the darkness of your speech.”

The speech was dark in part because it was not clearly expressed. Also, the speech could very well be about seduction or attempted seduction.

Lord Adurni was feeling his way in the situation, deciding how best to proceed.

Aurelio said, “You may be plainer.”

He meant: You may speak more clearly and plainly.

But the word “plain,” when applied to non-material things such as power and justice, also means, according to theOxford English Dictionary, “full, complete, entire; perfect, absolute.”

Aurelio, therefore, was saying, “You may be more just.”

Lord Adurni replied, “I shall.”

He then said to Lord Auria, “My lord, that I intended wrong —”

Lord Auria said, “Ha! Wrong! To whom?”

Lord Adurni said, “To Auria, and as far as language could prevail, did —”

This conversation was dangerous. Lord Auria wanted to clear his wife’s name, not fight a duel with Lord Adurni. If Lord Adurni admitted to committing a certain type of wrong against Lord Auria, they would fight. Lord Auria wished to avoid a duel, but he was a brave and honorable man. If honor demanded that he fight, he would fight.

Lord Auria interrupted, “Take my advice, young lord, before thy tongue betray a secret concealed yet from the world.

“Hear and consider: In all my flight of vanity and giddiness, when the wings of my excess were scarcely fledged, when a bodily disturbance of youthful heat might have excused disorder and ambition, even then, and so from thence until now the down of softness is exchanged for plumes of confirmed and hardened age, I never dared pitch on any howsoever likely rest, where the presumption might be construed as the doing of wrong.”

Lord Auria was now a mature man, while Lord Adurni was a young man. Lord Auria was saying that ever since he was a young man and his youthful heat, or lust, might have excused some not-so-good behavior, even then, and up until now, he had avoided any kind of behavior and rest that could lead people to think that he was committing a sin.

One meaning of “to pitch” is “to thrust in,” as in driving a stake or nail into a solid body.

“Pitching behavior” can include sex.

The noun “rest” can mean a resting space for something. A penis can rest in a vagina during a pause between strenuous bouts of activity. Also, the bolt of a gate is slid into what this society called a “rest,” aka socket.

Rest can take place in bed after strenuous activity.

The words also continued the bird metaphor. The verb “pitch” can mean to “alight on the ground.” Birds can enjoy rest.

Lord Auria continued, “The word ‘wrong’ is hateful, and the sense wants pardon.”

Actions that are morally right do not want pardon: They don’t need it.

Lord Auria continued, “For, as I dared not wrong the meanest, so he who but only aimed by any boldness a wrong to me, would find I must not bear it: The one is as unmanly as the other.”

In other words: Be careful what you admit. If you admit the wrong thing, I will fight you. The wrong need not actually be accomplished, but only aimed at — intended.

He then said, “Now, continue without interruption.”

Lord Adurni said, “Stand, Aurelio, and justify thine accusation boldly. Spare me the needless use of my confession.”

This is intelligent. First let it clearly be said what you are accused of, and then respond to it. Otherwise, you may find yourself talking about wrongs you have not been accused of.

Lord Adurni continued, “And, having told no more than what thy jealousy possessed thee with, again before my face urge to thy friend — Auria — the breach of hospitality Lord Adurni trespassed in, and thou conceived, against Spinella.”

Here Lord Adurni was referring to two breaches of hospitality: the breach of hospitality that Lord Adurni trespassed in, and the breach of hospitality that Aurelio conceived in his imagination.

Lord Adurni could be thinking that his breach of hospitality was what Spinella had called it when speaking earlier to Malfato. Spinella had said about Lord Adurni: “He was in excess of entertainment; otherwise, he was not importunately wanton.”

The breach of hospitality that Aurelio had conceived in his imagination was actual or attempted seduction. Aurelio’s suspicion had led to his breaking into the room in which were Lord Adurni and Spinella, and this had in turn caused gossip and loss of reputation.

Lord Adurni then said, “Why, evidence grows faint if barely not supposed I’ll answer guilty.”

In other words, the only way that Aurelio can succeed in proving his accusation is if Lord Adurni were to plead guilty to it. If there is even a small chance that Lord Adurni will not plead guilty, then all the evidence that Aurelio has will grow faint. No confession, no conviction.

Aurelio asked, “Haven’t you come here to defy and threaten us?”

“No, Aurelio,” Lord Adurni said. “I have come here only to reply upon that brittle evidence to which thy cunning never shall rejoin — despite your cunning, you shall never make a satisfactory reply to my charge that your evidence is weak.

“I make my judge my jury.”

Aurelio had already judged Lord Adurni guilty of one thing, but Lord Adurni wanted him to be the jury and decide the answer to something else.

Lord Adurni identified that task for the jury: “Decide whether, with all the eagerness of spleen or a suspicious rage can plead, thou have driven the likelihood of scandal.”

Certainly, Aurelio’s breaking into the private chamber in which Lord Adurni and Spinella were alone had resulted in much scandal concerning Spinella.

Aurelio said, “Don’t doubt that I have delivered the honest truth, as much as I believe and justly witness.”

People can believe something that is false.

Lord Adurni said, “Those are weak foundations on which to raise a bulwark of reproach! And thus for that!

“My errand in coming here is not, in whining, truant-like submission, to cry, ‘I have offended; please, forgive me. I won’t do it any more.’

“Instead, my purpose is only to proclaim the power of virtue, whose commanding rule and power set bounds and checks on rebel bloods.

“The power of virtue restrains the habits of folly.

“By the use of example, the power of virtue teaches a rule to reformation.

“By the use of rewards, the power of virtue crowns worthy actions and gives invitations to honor.”

Aurelio said, “Honor and worthy actions best become their lips who practice both, and don’t lecture about them.”

Lord Auria said, “Peace! Peace, man!”

He wanted the two men to talk, not fight.

He then said, “I am silent.”

Lord Adurni said, “Some there are, and they are not few in number, who resolve no beauty can be chaste unless unattempted.”

This is a cynical view. It means that any beautiful woman will be unchaste when someone tries to commit adultery with her.

Lord Adurni might have said that some people believe that no beauty can be chaste unless attempted.

In this case, acquiring the virtue of chastity involves resisting one or more attempts at convincing the beauty to commit adultery and be unchaste.

Lord Adurni continued, “And, because the liberty of courtship flies from the wanton to the her who comes next, meeting oftentimes too many soon seduced, conclude all may be won by gifts, by service, or compliments of vows.”

A seducer will seduce a wanton woman and then move on to the next woman. The seducer will find many women who are easily seduced, and because he finds many women who are seduced with gifts, deeds, and words, he concludes that all women can be seduced with gifts, deeds, and words.

But does the seduction necessarily have to be immortal? The deeds could include courtship. In that case, the seduction would be to persuade the woman to marry the man and have chaste — moral — sex.

Lord Adurni continued, “And with this file I stood in rank; conquest secured my confidence.”

He was perhaps admitting openly to being a seducer and to having seduced many women. In that case, the conquest referred to was his conquest.

Or he was admitting openly to his belief that all women could be seduced — to either a moral seduction or an immoral seduction. In that case, the conquest referred to was not his conquest, but that of another man or men.

He continued, “Spinella — don’t be angry, Auria — was an object of study for fruition.”

“Fruition” means enjoyment. It could refer to 1) the enjoyment of having sex with Spinella, or 2) the enjoyment of finding out that at least one woman is chaste.

Lord Adurni had said only that Spinella was “an object of study,” not that he had actually attempted to seduce her.

He continued, “Here I angled, not doubting the deceit could find resistance.”

The word “deceit” can mean 1) lie, or 2) trick.

The word “doubting” can mean “fearing” in this society, or it can have its usual meaning.

If he did not doubt that the deceit could find resistance, he knew that the deceit could find resistance.

If he did not fear that the deceit could find resistance, he knew that the deceit could not find resistance.

Lord Adurni had either attempted to seduce Spinella, or he had set up a trick in order to prove that she was chaste.

Aurelio said, “After confession follows —”

Aurelio believed that Lord Adurni had just confessed to attempted seduction.

Lord Auria said, “Noise! Observe him.”

This meant: Don’t interrupt. Pay attention to Lord Adurni.

Lord Adurni had not actually confessed to seduction or attempted seduction.

Lord Adurni said, “Oh, strange! By all the comforts of my hopes, I found a woman good — a woman good!”

He did not say how he had found her good. Was it through her rejection of an attempted seduction, or was what might appear to be an attempted seduction only a trick to test her?

He continued, “Yet, as I wish belief, or desire an honorable reputation, so much majesty of humbleness and scorn appeared at once in fair, in chaste, in wise Spinella’s eyes that I grew dull in utterance, and one frown from her cooled every flame of sensual appetite—”

Lord Adurni paused, wondering whether he had said too much, but even when a man intends only to test a woman’s chastity, the man’s sensual appetite can be aroused

Lord Auria said, “Go on, sir, and do not stop.”

Lord Adurni said, “Without protests, I pleaded merely love.”

“Love” can mean 1) fondness and affection, or 2) sexual desire.

He continued, “I used no syllables except those a virgin might without a blush have listened to, and, not well equipped to resist, have pitied.”

Such syllables and such pity could be entirely innocent or could lead a virgin to bed.

Lord Adurni continued, “But she, ignoring my words, cried, ‘Come, Auria, come. Fight for thy wife at home!’”

He said to Aurelio, “Then in rushed you, sir. You talked in much fury, and then departed. As soon as you left, the lady vanished, and the rest left after her.”

Lord Auria said, “What happened next?”

Lord Adurni’s commission here had been to examine his fault and to make a judgment about it. His fault had been his behavior regarding Spinella.

Lord Adurni said, “My commission on my error, in execution whereof I have proved myself to be so exact in every point, that I renounce all memory, not to this one fault alone, but to my other greater and more irksome fault.”

He was saying that his fault was minor and not worth remembering.

The same applied to his “other greater and more irksome fault,” which was probably his affair with Levidolce, and other affairs. Indeed, having that fault known and remembered would hurt Levidolce. People would regard her as a wanton woman.

Of course, Spinella and Lord Auria wanted to restore Spinella’s reputation lest she be labeled a wanton woman.

Lord Adurni continued, “Now let any man who owns a name and is of good birth and who construes this testimony of mine the report of fear, of falsehood or imposture, tell me that I give myself the lie.”

He was giving Lord Auria and Aurelio the chance to object to what he had said. They did not have to object, but now was their opportunity to do so.

Lord Adurni believed what he had said: His faults were minor and ought not to be remembered.

If Lord Adurni were told to “give myself the lie,” he would be told that he was lying to himself. Being told that one was a liar was a serious offense and required the fighting of a duel.

Lord Adurni continued, “If he tells me that, I will clear the injury.”

He could do that by fighting and winning the duel.

He continued, “And man to man, or if such justice may prove doubtful, two to two, or three to three, or any way needed I will reprieve the opinion of my forfeit without blemish.”

“To reprieve” means “to redeem” or “to bring back.”

A “forfeit” is a misdeed.

Lord Adurni had talked about his misdeeds and had said that they were not serious enough to be remembered, and if anyone thought he had lied, he would get back the opinion that his misdeeds were not serious enough to be remembered.

He would win the duel, whether it was one against one, or two against two, or three against three, and by doing so, he would show himself innocent of lying.

Angry at the mention of dueling, Lord Auria said, “Who can you think I am? Did you expect so great a tameness and meekness that you find, Lord Adurni, that you can cast loud defiance? Say —”

His anger sprang from knowing that there was no need to talk about dueling. Talking about it made it more likely to happen.

Lord Auria had spoken up quickly, before Aurelio could speak up. Lord Auria did not want Lord Adurni and Aurelio to fight a duel.

Lord Adurni said, “I have robbed you of severity, Lord Auria, by my strict self-penance for the presumption.”

He believed that Lord Auria could wish, or could have wished, to fight a duel with him, but that his testimony had robbed him of that. Any duel would be fought between Lord Adurni and someone else.

Lord Adurni had mentioned a duel of two against two, or three against three. He had offered that in case people believed that a duel of one against one would make justice doubtful, as when one man was clearly superior to the other in dueling.

Lord Auria had recently distinguished himself in military matters.

Lord Auria said, “Surely, Italians hardly admit dispute in questions of this nature. The trick is new.”

In other words, no duel was needed here.

Lord Adurni said, “I find my absolution by vows of change from all ignoble practice.”

He was vowing to refrain from all ignoble practice. He would avoid doing evil. He was vowing to reform. This is something that both Lord Auria and Aurelio would approve of.

Lord Auria said, “Why, look, friend, I told you this before, but you would not be persuaded.”

Lord Auria had previously advised Lord Adurni to reform, but he had not reformed.

Walking apart from the others, Lord Auria said, “Let me think —”

He still wanted to achieve his objective: He wanted to clear Spinella’s name and reputation.

Aurelio said to Lord Adurni, “You do not yet deny that you solicited the lady to ill purpose. You haven’t denied that you attempted to seduce her.”

Lord Adurni avoided the question by saying, “I have already answered that. But it returned much quiet to my mind, perplexed with rare commotions.”

Lord Auria said to himself, “That’s the way. It overcomes all obstacles.”

He had decided on a course of action.

Overhearing, Aurelio said, “My lord?”

Lord Auria said, “Bah! I am thinking —

“You may continue to talk.”

He then continued to talk to himself, “If it takes, it is clear. And then — and then — and so — and so —”

Lord Adurni said, “You labor with curious engines — ingenious devices — surely.”

“Fine ones!” Lord Auria said, “I take you to be a man of credit; else —”

“Suspicion is needless,” Lord Adurni said. “You should know me better than that.”

“Yet you must not part from me, sir,” Lord Auria said.

“As for that, I am at your pleasure,” Lord Adurni said.

Lord Auria quoted what he had been told his wife had said: “‘Come, fight for thy wife at home, my Auria!’”

He then said, “Yes, we can fight, my Spinella, when thine honor relies upon a champion.”

He would be that champion.

Trelcatio entered the room.

Lord Auria asked, “What is it now?”

Trelcatio replied, “My lord, Castanna, along with her sister and Malfato, have just arrived.”

Lord Auria said to Trelcatio, “Don’t be loud. Escort them into the gallery.”

He then said, “Aurelio, friend, and Lord Adurni, lord, we three will sit in council, and piece together a heartfelt league of friendship among us, or scuffle harshly.”

THE LADY’S TRIAL

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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