David Bruce: John Ford’s THE FANCIES, CHASTE AND NOBLE: A Retelling — Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

Livio and Castamela spoke together in an apartment in the palace. Castamela believed that her brother had sold her to Octavio in return for a good job and material prosperity.

Livio said, “Please, be serious.”

Castamela replied, “Please, don’t interrupt the paradise of my becharming thoughts, which mount my knowledge to the sphere I move in, above this useless tattle.”

She was deliberately tormenting her brother by making him believe that she had fallen for Octavio and would or had become one of his Fancies. She wanted her brother to think that she was no longer chaste; he would feel guilty because he had brought her to Octavio’s palace.

“Tattle, sister!” Livio said. “Do you know to whom you are saying this?”

Castamela replied, “To the gentleman of my lord’s horse, newly stepped into the office! It is a good position, sir, if you can be thankful. Bear yourself with humility in it, so that negligence, or pride of your preferment, will not overpower the grace you hold in Octavio’s esteem. Such fortunes do not drop down every day. Respect the favor that raised you to this fortune.”

Livio said, “Thou are mistaken, surely, about which person thou are speaking with.”

Castamela said, “I am talking to a strange and idle person.”

Livio said, “Is it possible? Why, you are turned a mistress, a mistress of the trim.”

According to Livio, Castamela had become a very well-dressed, but haughty and proud lady.

Livio also was afraid that she had become one of Octavio’s Fancies.

He continued, “Curse me, lady, you keep a stately deportment, but it does not become you.

“Our father’s daughter, if I am not greatly mistaken, delighted in a softer, humbler sweetness, not in a hey-de-gay of scurvy gallantry.

“You do not carry it off like a thing of the fashion. You ape the humor faintly.”

She was not born to act this way.

Castamela quoted Octavio: “Love, dear maiden, is only desire of beauty, and it is proper for beauty to desire to be beloved.”

“This is fine entertainment!” Livio said sarcastically. “You will not mind me; will you yet hear me, madam?”

Castamela again quoted Octavio: “Thou shall not wish for any good additional thing that may adorn thy excellent qualities to praise them, which bounty can withhold.”

She then added, “I know I shall not.”

Livio said, “And so you applauded and accepted the bargain! The idea of it tickles your contemplation! It has come out now: A woman’s tongue, I see, at some time or another, will prove her traitor.”

Livio’s last words were ambiguous and could mean that a woman’s tongue 1) will prove to be a traitor to her, or 2) will prove that she is a traitor.

He continued, “This was all I sifted, and here I have found thee wretched.”

He had made trial of her, and he had sifted her to separate the fine parts from the coarse parts, but all he had found was wretched.

Castamela said, “We shall flourish. We shall feed high on the hog from henceforth, man, and no more shall we be straitened within the limits of an empty patience, nor will we tire our feeble eyes with only gazing on greatness, which enjoys the sway of pleasures.

“Instead, we ourselves shall be the objects of the envy of those to whom a service would have seemed ambition.”

The service — job position — might be being the chief provisor of Octavio’s horse.

Castamela continued, “It was thy cunning, Livio; I applaud it.

“Fear nothing; I’ll be successful in thy projects.

“Lack? Misery? May all such lack as think about it! Our footing shall stand firm.”

She was pretending to rejoice at trading her chastity for the material prosperity of her brother and herself.

Livio said, “You are very witty. Why, Castamela, are you doing this to me? You are very obviously putting on a counterfeit act. I am too well acquainted with thy condition, sister.

“If the Marquis has uttered one unchaste, one wanton syllable, provoking thy contempt, not all the flatteries of his assurance to our hopes of rising in society can, or shall, enslave our souls.”

Castamela said, “Indeed, that is not the case, sir. You are beside the point, most gentle Seignior!

“I’ll be no more your ward, no longer chambered nor mewed-up and confined to the chain of your devotion.

“Trust me, I must not, will not, dare not. Surely I cannot, for my promise has been passed; and the suffering of former trials has too strongly armed me.

“You may take this for my answer.”

She was saying that she was quite happy to be nice to Octavio in return for advancement in society for herself and for her brother, Livio.

Livio said, “Are you in such earnest! Has goodness quite left thee? Fool, thou are wandering in dangerous fogs, which will corrupt the purity of every noble virtue that has dwelt within thee.

“Come home again, home, Castamela, sister, home to thine own innocence; and rather than yield thy reputation up to the witchcraft of an abused confidence and trust, be courted by Romanello.”

Castamela said, “Romanello!”

Livio asked, “Do thou scorn the name? Thy thoughts, I find, then, are changed; they are rebels to all that’s honest, rebels to all that’s truth and honor.”

Castamela said, “So they have changed, sir, and in good time!”

Livio said, “Thou have fallen suddenly into a pleurisy — an excess — of faithless impudence. A whorish itch — a leprosy of raging lust — infects thy blood, and thou are mad to prostitute the glory of thy virgin-dowry basely for common sale.

“This foulness must be purged, or thy disease will rankle and grow into a pestilence that can even taint the very air around thee.

“But I shall study and find the medicine that can cure thee.”

Castamela replied, “Learn good manners. I take it that you are saucy.”

“Saucy!” Livio said. “You are a strumpet in thy desires! It is in my power to cut off the twist thy life is spun by.”

He was angry enough to say that he could kill her. In mythology, the three Fates spun the thread of life, measured it, and then cut it when it was time for a person to die.

Castamela said, “Phew! You rave now. But if you have not destroyed all your reason, know that I will use my freedom.

“You, truly and indeed, for a change of fresh apparel, and the pocketing of some well-looking ducats, were contented, surpassingly pleased — yes, by the Virgin Mary, you were; recognize it — to expose me to the danger now you rail at!

“You brought me, nay, forced me hither, without having a question of what might follow.

“Here you find the result, and I don’t distrust that it was the appointment of some succeeding fate that more concerned me than widowed virginity.”

According to Castamela, her brother preferred that she become a concubine than live to old age as a virgin as long as he gained materially from it.

Livio said, “You’re a gallant; you are one of my old lord’s Fancies. Peevish, foolish girl, was it ever heard that youth could dote on sickness, a gray beard, a wrinkled face, a dried-up marrow, a toothless head, a — but this is only a merriment, merely only a trial.

“Romanello loves thee. He hasn’t abundance and wealth, that is true, yet he cannot be in needy poverty.”

Apparently, he had friends who would help him. Or Livio wanted to believe that Romanello had friends who would help him.

Livio added, “Return with me, and I will leave these fortunes, good maiden, of gentle nature.”

He was willing to give up his position and higher social standing in order to protect his sister and her reputation.

Castamela continued to plague him: “By my hopes, I never placed affection on that gentleman, although he deserved well. I have told him often my resolution.”

She was claiming never to have liked Romanello, at least enough to marry him.

Livio asked, “Will you go away from here, and trust to my care of settling you a peace?”

He would arrange a marriage for her.

Castamela said, “No, surely. Such treaty may break off.”

Livio said, “Then off be it broken! I’ll do what thou shall rue.”

“You cannot, Livio,” Castamela said.

“You are so confident!” Livio said. “Young mistress of mine, I’ll do it.”

Livio exited.

Troylo-Savelli entered the room.

Troylo-Savelli said, “Incomparable maiden!”

Castamela said, “You have been counselor to a strange dialogue.”

She either knew or could guess that Troylo-Savelli had overheard the conversation between her and her brother. Since a counselor is an advisor, he may even have advised her on what to say to her brother.

Troylo-Savelli said, “If there is constancy in professing a virtuous nature, you are secure, as the effects — the results — shall witness.”

She had professed to Octavio that she had a virtuous nature. To her brother, she had pretended not to have a virtuous nature.

Castamela replied, “Be noble; I am credulous and wanting to believe you.

“My language has prejudiced my heart; I and my brother have never parted at such distance, yet I glory in the fair race he runs. But I fear the violence of his disorder.”

She was happy that her brother was so desirous of protecting her reputation, but she was afraid of what his anger might make him do.

Troylo-Savelli said, “A little time shall quit him.”

The word “quit” can mean “set free.”

According to Troylo-Savelli, a little time would free Livio from his anger.

Hearing some others coming, they retired to a corner where they were somewhat hidden.

Secco entered the room. He had tied a garter to Nitido’s neck and was leading him with it in one hand; he had a rod — a whip — in the other.

Following them were Morosa and the three Fancies: Silvia, Floria, and Clarella.

Following them was Spadone, who was laughing.

Secco said, “The young whelp is mad; I must slice the worm out of his breech. I have noosed his neck in the collar; and I will at once turn dog-doctor.”

The “worm” was a small ligament in a dog’s throat. People in this society believed that cutting it would prevent rabies.

Secco continued, “Stand back from me, or you’ll find me terrible and furious.”

Nitido begged, “Ladies, good ladies, dear Madam Morosa!”

“Honest Secco!” Floria said.

“What was the cause of this?” Silvia asked. “What wrong has he done to thee?”

Clarella asked, “Why do thou frighten us so, and why are thou so peremptory where we are present, fellow?”

Morosa said, “Honey-bird, spouse, cat-a-mountain! Ah, the child, the pretty poor child, the sweet-faced child!”

Spadone said, “That very word halters the earwig — the parasite.”

Morosa’s referring to Nitido using kind epithets would only make Secco angry: Secco thought that Nitido had been cuckolding him.

Secco said, “Leave, I say, or I shall lay bare all the naked truth to your faces; his fore-parts have been too lusty, and his posteriors must do penance for it.”

He was going to whip Nitido’s buttocks.

Secco ordered Nitido, “Untruss, whiskin, untruss!”

He was going to whip Nitido’s bare buttocks.

A whiskin is a pander.

Secco ordered, “Leave, burrs!”

He said to his wife, “Leave, mare-hag moil! Avaunt! Leave! Thy turn comes next. Avaunt! The horns of my rage are advanced; go away from here, or I shall gore you!”

Spadone advised, “Lash him soundly; let the little ape show his tricks now.”

Nitido begged, “Help, or I shall be throttled!”

Morosa said to him, “Yes, I will help thee, pretty heart; if my tongue cannot prevail, my fingernails shall.”

She then said to her husband, Secco, “Barbarous-minded man, let him go, or I shall use my talons.”

Morosa and Secco fought.

Spadone said, “Well played, dog! Well played, bear! Sa! Sa! Sa! Go at it! Go at it!”

“Sa!” was a hunting cry that hunters used to encourage their dogs.

Secco yelled, “Fury, whore, bawd, my wife and the devil!”

Morosa yelled, “Toss-pot, stinkard, pander, my husband and a rascal!”

Spadone sang:

Scold, coxcomb, baggage, cuckold!

Crabbed age and youth

Cannot jump together;

One is like good luck,

The other is like foul weather.

Troylo-Savelli said to Castamela, “Let us fall in with them now.”

He stepped forward with Castamela.

He said, “What uncivil rudeness dares offer a disturbance to this company? Peace and delights dwell here, not brawls and outrage.”

He then said to Secco, “Sirrah, be sure you show some reasons why you so forget your duty; quickly show it, or I shall tame your choler: What’s the reason for your anger?”

Suddenly becoming aware of Troylo-Savelli’s presence, Spadone said to himself, “Hmm, what’s that? What’s that? Is he there, with a vengeance? I then begin to dwindle.”

He needed to take care to stay out of trouble.

He thought of the refrain of an old song:

Oh, oh, the fit, the fit;

The fit’s upon me

Now, now, now, now.

Secco said, “The reason for my anger shall be revealed. First, then, all Christian people, Jews and infidels, he’s and she’s, know by these presents that I am a beast; see what I say, I say a very beast.”

He was saying that he was a horned beast: a cuckold.

Troylo-Savelli said, “It is granted: You are a beast.”

Secco said, “Go to it, then. I am a horned beast, a goodly tall horned beast; in pure verity, a cuckold. Nay, I will tickle their trangdidos — beat their backsides.”

Morosa said, “Ah, thou base fellow! I wish that thou would confess it if it were true that thou are a cuckold, but it is not true. Thou lie, and thou lie loudly.”

Troylo-Savelli said, “Have patience, Morosa.”

He then said to Secco, “You are, you say, a cuckold?”

Secco replied, “I’ll justify my words — I scorn to eat them: This sucking ferret has been wriggling in my old cony-burrow.”

A cony-burrow is a rabbit-hole, but it is also slang for a vagina.

He was accusing Nitido of sleeping with his wife, Morosa.

Morosa said to her husband, “The boy, the babe, the infant! I spit at thee.”

Castamela said, “Bah, Secco, bah!”

Secco said, “Appear, Spadone! My proofs are pregnant and grossly obvious; truth is the truth; I must and I will be divorced. Speak, Spadone, and exalt thy voice.”

“Who? I speak?” Spadone said. “Alas, I cannot speak, I.”

Nitido began speaking, “As I hope to live to be a man —”

Secco interrupted, “Damn the prick of thy weason-pipe!”

The prick of Nitido’s weason-pipe was the tongue of his throat.

Secco continued, “Where only two lie in a bed, you must be bodkin, bitch-baby, must you?”

A bodkin is a third person wedged into a space where there is room for only two people; in this case, the space is Secco and Morosa’s bed.

Secco asked, “Spadone, am I a cuckold or not a cuckold?”

Spadone was the person who had been misleading Secco into believing that he was a cuckold. As would become clear later, Spadone was doing this to get revenge on Nitido for teasing him about being a eunuch.

Spadone said, “Why, you know I am an ignorant, unable trifle in such business, an oaf, a simple alcatote, an innocent.”

An alcatote is a silly person.

Secco said, “Nay, nay, nay, that doesn’t matter; this ramkin — young ram — has tupped my old rotten carrion-mutton. Nitido has had sex with my wife, Morosa.”

Insulted at being called an old rotten carrion-mutton, Morosa said to Secco, “You are rotten in thy mouth, thy guts, and thy garbage!”

In this context, “garbage” meant an animal’s entrails.

Secco said, “Spadone, speak aloud what I am.”

“I do not know,” Spadone replied.

Secco asked, “What have thou seen them doing together, doing?”

The word “do” can mean “have sex.”

“Nothing,” Spadone said.

Morosa asked Secco, “Are thy mad brains in thy head now, thou jealous bedlam — thou lunatic?”

Secco asked Spadone, “Didn’t thou, from time to time, tell me as much?”

“Never,” Spadone replied.

Secco said, “Hoy-day! Ladies and Seignior, I am being abused. They have agreed to scorn, jeer, and run me out of my wits, with their voluntary consent. This gelded hobet-a-hoy is a corrupted pander, the page a milk-livered dildo, my wife a confessed whore, and I myself an arrant cuckold.”

A “hobbadehoy” is a clumsy youth; the term was applied to Spadone, who was a young man chronologically, yet he was a boy due to being a eunuch.

 A “dildo” is a foolish, inept boy; the term was applied to Nitido, the page.

Spadone said, “Truly, Secco, for the ancient good woman I dare swear point-blank; and the boy, surely, I always said, was to any man’s thinking a very chrisome — innocent — in the thing you know. That’s my opinion clearly.”

Previously, he had done all he could to make Secco think that he was being cuckolded — while maintaining plausible deniability.

Clarella said to Secco, “What a wise goose-cap have thou showed thyself!”

Still convinced that he was a horned cuckold, Secco said to Morosa, “Here in my forehead it sticks, and stick it shall. Law I will have: I will never more tumble in sheets with thee, I will father no misbegotten child of thine; the court shall trounce thee, the city cashier thee, diseases devour thee, and the Spittle confound thee.”

The Spittle is a hospital for the poor.

Secco exited.

“The man has dreamed himself into a lunacy,” Castamela said.

“Alas, poor Nitido!” Silvia said.

“Truly, I am innocent,” Nitido said.

“By the Virgin Mary, thou are; so thou are,” Morosa said. “The world says how virtuously I have carried my good name in every part about me these threescore years and odd; and at last to slip with a child!

“There are men, men enough, tough and lusty, I hope, if one would give their mind to the iniquity of the flesh, but this is the life I have led with Secco for a while, since when he lies by me as cold as a dry stone.”

Troylo-Savelli said, “This, ladies, is only a fit of novelty. All will be reconciled.

“I fear, Spadone, that your hand is in this here, however much you deny it.”

Spadone said, “I deny it faithfully, in truth, indeed.”

Troylo-Savelli said, “Well, well, enough.

“Morosa, be less troubled. This little disagreement is evidence of love, which will prove lasting. If Secco did not love you, he would not be so upset at thinking he has been cuckolded.

“Beauties, I attend you.”

Everyone except Spadone and Nitido exited.

Spadone said, “Youngling, a word, youngling. Haven’t you escaped the lash handsomely? Thank me for it.”

Nitido said, “I fear thy roguery, and I shall find it.”

“Is it possible?” Spadone said. “Give me thy little fist; we are friends. Have a care henceforth; remember this while you live.”

He sang the words that Nitido had sang to him while teasing him about being a eunuch: “And still the urchin would, but could not do.”

He then said, “Pretty knave, and so forth; come, let’s have a truce on all hands.”

Nitido said, “Curse your fool’s head; this was a jest in earnest.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


Buy the Paperback


Buy in Other Formats, Including PDF


Buy Kindle


This entry was posted in Retelling and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s