David Bruce: John Ford’s THE LADY’S TRIAL: A Retelling — Act 5, Scene 1

— 5.1 —

Martino, Benazzi, and Levidolce talked together in a room in Martino’s house. Benazzi and Levidolce had entered Martino’s house, and Martino had no idea who Benazzi was: He thought that Benazzi was a bandit and that he and Levidolce had come to rob and murder him. Benazzi still dressed like and looked like a bandit, and so Martino did not recognize him.

Martino said, “Ruffian, get out of my house! Thou have come to rob me.

“Police! Help!

“My house is haunted by a vulgar pack of thieves, harlots, murderers, rogues, and vagabonds!

“I foster and care for a decoy here, and she trolls on her ragged customer to cut my throat for pillage.”

The decoy was Levidolce, whom he had reared and whom he thought had lured him into a trap in which he would be murdered and robbed.

“To troll” can mean 1) “to move the tongue nimbly,” or 2) “to move with a rolling action.”

Martino was saying that Levidolce had urged the bandit to rob him, and he was implying that she had moved sexually in bed with the bandit.

The ragged customer was Benazzi.

In this society, “customer” could mean companion, but Martino was now and would continue to insult Levidolce by both implying and openly stating that she was a whore.

“Good sir, hear me,” Levidolce said.

Benazzi said, “Hear or not hear — let him rave his lungs out!

“While this woman has abode under this roof, I will justify myself as her bedfellow in despite of denial — in despite: Those are my words.”

“Monstrous!” Martino said to Benazzi. “What, sirrah, do I keep a bawdy-house? Do I keep a hospital for panders?”

He then said to Levidolce, “Oh, thou monster! Thou she-confusion! Thou female bringer of ruin and destruction! Have you grown so unrestrained that, from a private wanton, thou proclaim thyself a baggage for all gamesters, lords or gentlemen, strangers or home-spun yeomen, footposts, pages, roarers, or hangmen?”

“Roarers” were roaring boys who drank and fought.

She had had an affair with Lord Adurni; now Martino was accusing her of being a prostitute who would sleep with anyone.

Martino then said, “Hey! Set up shop, and then cry, ‘This market is open, go to it, and welcome!’”

“This is my husband,” Levidolce said.

“Husband!” Martino said.

Benazzi said, “I am her natural husband. I have married her, and what’s your verdict on the match, signor?”

“Husband, and married her!” Martino said.

“Indeed, it is the truth,” Levidolce said.

To Martino, it seemed as if his great-niece had married a bandit.

Martino said sarcastically, “A proper joining! A fine marriage! May God give you joy, great mistress. Your fortunes are advanced, indeed, are they? What jointure is assured, please tell me? Some three thousand each year in oaths and vermin? A fair advancement!”

A jointure is an estate for a wife to live on if her husband dies.

Martino continued, “Was there ever such a tattered rag of man’s flesh patched up for copesmate to my great-niece’s daughter!”

A copesmate is 1) a marriage partner, 2) a partner in cheating and swindling, 3) a paramour, and/or 4) an enemy.

Levidolce said, “Sir, for my mother’s name forbear this anger: Even if I have yoked myself beneath your wishes, my choice is still a lawful one, and I will live as truly chaste to his bosom as ever my faith has bound me.”

Not convinced, Martino said, “A sweet couple!”

“We are a sweet couple,” Benazzi said.

He had been a soldier, and as such, he had protected people such as Martino; he regarded himself as a worthy husband for Levidolce.

Benazzi said, “As for my own part, although my outside appears shabby, I have wrestled with death, Signor Martino, in order to preserve your sleeps, and such as you are, untroubled.

“A soldier is a mockery in peacetime, a very town bull for laughter.”

The unemployed soldiers are treated like town fools and are laughed at. A “bull” is a ludicrous jest.

“Curmudgeons lay their baits for traps to prey on unthrifts and landed babies.”

“Unthrifts” are people who do not thrive, and “landed babies” are needy soldiers who have landed on the shores of Britain after fighting overseas. Many returned soldiers are vulnerable and dependent and so they are metaphorical babies.

Benazzi continued, “Let the wars rattle about your ears once, and the security of a soldier is very honorable among you then! That day may shine again. So let’s get on to my business.”

Martino said, “A soldier! Thou a soldier! I do believe thou are lousy; that’s a pretty sign, I grant.”

“Lousy” means “lice-ridden.” Staying lice-free is difficult for soldiers fighting during wars, as it is for bandits living rough in wooded areas.

Martino continued, “You are a villainous, poor banditorather, one who can man a whore, and speak the cant of thieves and beggars, and pick a pocket, walk softly after a man wearing a cloak or hat so you can steal it, and in the dark use a pistol to shoot a straggler for a quarter-ducat.”

A quarter-ducat is a very small amount of money.

Martino continued, “A soldier! Yes — he looks as if he lacks the spirit of a herring or a tumbler.”

Herrings are smoked, and one meaning of the verb “smoke” is to be angry or to fume.

A tumbler is 1) a species of hound that was used to catch rabbits, or 2) a person who lures someone into the hands of swindlers.

Benazzi said, “Let age and dotage rage together!

“Levidolce, thou are mine. On what conditions thou are mine, the world shall soon witness. Since our hands joined in betrothal, I have not yet exercised my right to the possession of thy bed; nor until I have carried out thy injunction to me do I intend to exercise my right.”

Levidolce had asked him to do something for her, and he had agreed. After he had done it, he would consummate their new marriage.

Benazzi said to her, “Kiss me quickly and resolutely! Good!”

He then said to Martino, “Adieu, signor!”

Levidolce said, “Dear, for love’s sake, stay.”

Benazzi replied, “Don’t ask me to stay.”

He exited, leaving Martino and Levidolce alone together.

Martino said, “Ah, thou — but what? I don’t know what to call thee. I would eagerly smother grief, but it must come out. My heart is broken. Thou have for many a day been at a loss, and now thou are lost forever — lost, lost, without recovery.”

Levidolce said, “With your pardon, let me restrain and hold back your sorrows.”

Martino replied, “It is impossible. Despair of rising up to honest reputation turns all the courses wild, and this last action will roar thy infamy and bad reputation.”

“This last action” was a bad marriage — a marriage to a bandit. He believed that she had married the bandit because she believed that she had lost her good reputation and could marry no one better.

He hesitated and then asked, “Then you are certainly married, indeed, to this newcomer?”

“Yes,” Levidolce said, “and herein every hope is brought to life that long has lain in deadness; I have once more wedded Benazzi, my divorced husband.”

“Benazzi!” Martino said. “This man is Benazzi?”

Levidolce said, “No odd disguise could guard him from discovery: I recognized him. This man is he, the choice of my ambition; may heaven keep me always thankful for such a bounty!

“So far he dreams not of this deceit — I have kept secret my recognition of him.

“But let me die in speaking, if I don’t believe that my success is happier than any earthly blessing.

“Oh, sweet great-uncle, rejoice with me! I am a faithful convert, and I will use love and true obedience to redeem the stains of a foul name. “

Martino said, “The force of passion shows me to be a child again.”

He was crying from happiness. Levidolce had remarried her former husband whom she had divorced, and she had vowed to reform.

He continued, “Do, Levidolce, perform thy resolutions; once those are performed, I have been only steward for your welfare. You shall have all between you.”

Levidolce and Benazzi would get all of his wealth.

Levidolce said, “Join with me, sir. Our plot requires much speed; we must be earnest. I’ll tell you what conditions threaten danger unless you intervene. Let us hasten, for fear we come too late.”

Levidolce had something big planned.

Martino said, “Since thou intend to reform and acquire a virtuous honesty, I am thy supporter in anything you want me to do, witty Levidolce, my great-niece, my witty great-niece.”

“Witty” means “intelligent.”

Levidolce said, “Let’s waste no time, sir.”

***

Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

***

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