David Bruce: John Ford’s THE FANCIES, CHASTE AND NOBLE: A Retelling — Act 5, Scene 2

— 5.2 —

Castamela and the three Fancies — Clarella, Floria, and Silvia — spoke together in another room in the palace.

Castamela said, “You have discoursed to me a lovely story. My heart dances to the music; it would be a sin if I would in any tittle stand distrustful, where such a people, such as you are, innocent even by the authority of your years and language, inform a truth.

“Oh, say it over again!

“You are, you say, three daughters of one mother. That mother was the only sister to the Marquis Octavio, whose responsibility has, since her death, being left a ‘widow,’ here in this place provided your education.”

In this society, the word “widow” could mean “widower.” Octavio was figuratively a widower since he had assumed responsibility for these children whose mother — his sister — had died; that is, he resembled a widow or widower. Therefore, he had raised and educated his nieces.

Castamela asked, “Is that so?”

Clarella said, “It is even so; and howsoever gossip may wander loosely in some scandal against our privacies, yet we have lacked no graceful means fit for our births and qualities, to educate us up into a virtuous knowledge of what and who we ought to be.”

Floria said, “Our uncle has often told us how it more concerned him, before he showed us to the world, to render our youths and our demeanors in each action tested and approved by his experience, than allow us to too early adventure on the follies of the age, which because of easy temptations is deadly.”

Silvia said, “In good deed, la, we mean no harm.”

Castamela said, “Deceit must lack a shelter under a roof that’s covering to souls so white as breathe beneath it, such as these souls of yours are. My happiness shares largely in this blessing, and I must thank the direction of the providence that led me hither.”

Clarella said, “Aptly have you named its providence; for always in chaste loves such majesty has power. Our kinsman Troylo-Savelli was herein his own agent; he will prove — believe him, lady — in every way as constant and loyal as he is noble. We can bail him from the cruelty of misunderstanding.”

Floria said, “You will find his tongue only a just secretary to his heart.”

Castamela said, “Dear creatures, the female guardian, Morosa, now and then, it seems, makes bold to talk.”

Clarella said, “She has waited on us from all our cradles, and she will prate sometimes oddly; however, she means only entertainment. I am unwilling that our household should break up, but I must obey his wisdom under whose command we live. Sever our companies I’m sure we shall not. This is still a pretty and quiet life.”

Morosa and Secco entered the room. Secco was wearing his barber’s apron and carried his barber’s equipment: a basin of water, scissors, comb, towels, razor, etc.

Secco said, “Chuck, duckling, honey, mouse, monkey, all and everything, I am thine forever and only. I will never offend again, as I hope to shave cleanly, and get honor by it. Heartily I ask for thy forgiveness; be gracious to thine own flesh and blood, and kiss me home.”

Morosa said, “Look you provoke us no more, for this time you shall find mercy. Was it that hedgehog that set thy brains a-crowing? Be quits with him, but do not hurt the great male-baby.”

The hedgehog was Spadone; the great male-baby was Nitido.

Secco replied, “Enough. I am wise, and I will be merry.”

He then said to Castamela and the three Fancies, “Make haste, beauties; the caroches will quickly receive you. A night of pleasure is at hand; pray for good husbands for each of you, so that they may trim you skillfully, dainty ones, and let me alone to trim them.”

Two meanings of “trim you” are “make you pregnant” and “have sex with you.” Another meaning is relevant to barbers.

Morosa said, “Loving hearts, be quick as soon as you can; time runs apace.”

Some of her words had a bawdy meaning. “Be quick as soon as you can” can mean “Be pregnant as soon as you can.” She seemed to be advocatingcarpe diem.

She continued, “What you must do, do nimbly, and give your minds to it. Young bloods stand fumbling!”

Again, she seemed to be advocating that the young ladies have sex. Young men stand — have an erection — and masturbate.

She continued, “Bah, go! Be ready, for shame, beforehand.

“Husband, stand to thy equipment, husband, like a man of mettle.”

A husband can stand — have an erection — like a man of metal.

Morosa said, “Go, go, go!”

She exited with Castamela and the three Fancies.

Secco said aloud, “Will you come away, loiterers? Shall I wait all day? Am I your servant, do you think?”

Spadone and Nitido entered the room. Spadone was ready to get a haircut and a shave.

Spadone said, “Here I am, and I am ready. What a loud mouthing thou make! I have just scoured my hands and curried my head to save time. Honest Secco! Neat Secco! Precious barbarian! Now thou look like a worshipful, honorable puller of teeth.”

This was another duty of barbers in society.

He added, “I wish that I might see thee on horseback in the pomp once!”

As a barber, Secco might ride in a procession of the city companies of trades and callings.

Secco said, “A chair! A chair! Quick! Quick!”

Nitido said, “Here’s a chair, a chair-politic — an ingenious chair — my fine boy. Sit thee down in triumph, and rise as one of the Nine Worthies.”

The Nine Worthies were nine great men: three from the Bible, three from classical times, and three from romances. The three from the Bible were Joshua, King David, and Judas Maccabaeus. The three from classical times were Hector of Troy, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar. The three from romances were King Arthur, Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, and Godfrey of Bouillon.

Nitido continued, “Thou shall be a sweet youth soon, sirrah.”

Spadone sat down in the chair and said, “So go to work with a grace now. I cannot but highly be in love with the fashion of gentry, which is never complete until the snip-snap of dexterity has mowed-off the excrements of slovenry.”

In this society, hairs were called “excrements.”

As he massaged Spadone’s scalp, Secco said about Spadone’s use of words, “Very commodiously delivered, I say.”

Nitido said to Secco, “Nay, the thing under your fingers is a whelp of the wits, I can assure you.”

A whelp is a puppy. Used to refer to an adult man, the term is contemptuous.

Spadone objected, “I a whelp of the wits! No, no, I cannot bark impudently and ignorantly enough. Oh, if a man of this barber’s art had now and then sovereignty over fair ladies, you would tickle their upper and their lower lips, you’d so smouch and belaver their chops!”

To “smouch” means to “kiss loudly.” To “lave” means to “wash.” A person’s chops are that person’s mouth.

Secco said, “We light on some offices for ladies, too, as opportunity serves.”

Nitido said, “Yes; frizzle or powder their hair, pluck their eyebrows, set a layer of powder on their cheeks, keep secrets, and tell gossip; that’s all.”

Secco told Spadone, “Shut quickly both your eyes. The ingredients to the composition of this ball are most odorous camphor, pure soap of Venice, oil of sweet-almonds, with the spirit of alum. They will search and smart shrewdly, if you don’t keep the shop-windows of your head closed.”

Spadone shut his eyes while Secco smeared his whole face.

Spadone said, “Gossip! That’s well remembered: That’s part of your trade, too — please do not rub so roughly — and how goes the tattle of the town? What novelties are stirring, ha?”

Secco said, “They are strange, and scarcely to be believed. A gelding was lately seen to leap on an old mare in the equine sexual position; and an old man of one hundred and twelve stood in a white sheet for getting a wench of fifteen pregnant here hard by — that is, nearby. Most admirable and portentous!”

Spadone said, “I’ll never believe it; it is impossible.”

“It is most certain,” Nitido said. “Some doctor-farriers are of opinion that the mare may cast a foal that the master of their hall concludes, in spite of all jockeys and their familiar friends, will carry every race before him without spur or switch.”

Farriers trim and shoe the hooves of horses.

Spadone said, “Oh, splendid! A man might venture — gamble — ten or twenty to one safely then, and never be in danger of the cheat.”

He then said, “This water, I think, is none of the sweetest; it’s camphor and soap of Venice, did you say?”

“With a little Grecum album for mundification,” Secco replied.

“Mundification” is “the act of cleaning a wound.”

Nitido said, “Grecum album is a kind of white perfumed powder, which plain country-people, I believe, call dog-musk.”

Musk need not smell particularly pleasant.

“Dog-musk!” Spadone said. “A pox on the dog-musk! What! Do thou mean to bleach my nose, thou who give such twitches to it? Set me at liberty as soon as thou can, gentle Secco.”

The audience may wonder whether Spadone’s arms are restrained in the ingenious chair.

Secco said, “I need only pare off a little superfluous down from your chin, and all’s done.”

Spadone said, “Pish, there’s no need for that; finish, I entreat thee.”

“Have patience, man,” Nitido said. “It is for Secco’s credit to be neat.”

Spadone said, “What is that thing that is so cold at my throat and scrubs so hard?”

Secco said, “A kind of steel instrument called a razor, a sharp and keen tool. It has a certain virtue of cutting a throat, if a man should please to give his mind to it.

“Hold up your muzzle, Seignior.”

Secco and Nitido were and had been using canine terminology to refer to Spadone.

Secco continued, “When did you last talk bawdily to my wife? Tell me, for your own good, Seignior, I advise you.”

Spadone said, “I talk bawdily to thy wife! Hang bawdry!

“Good man, now, mind thy business and be careful, lest thy hand slip.”

Nitido said, “Give him kind words, you were best, on account of a trifle that I know.”

Secco said, “Confess, or I shall mar your grace in whiffing tobacco, or the squirting of sweet wines down your gullet.”

He was ready and willing to cut Spadone’s throat and make it difficult for Spadone to smoke tobacco or to drink wine. That was the trifle that Nitido knew.

Secco added, “You have been offering to play the gelding we told you of, I suppose.”

He was referring to the gelding horse that had leaped on an old mare.

“Speak the truth; move the semicircle of your countenance to my left-hand side.”

The semicircles of a face are the eyebrows.

Secco had either shaved one of Spadone’s eyebrows off or had covered it with “soap.”

Secco continued, “Out with the truth: Would you have had a sexual leap on my wife?”

Nitido said, “Spadone, thou are in a lamentable pickle. Have a good heart, and pray if thou can. I pity thee.”

Spadone said, “I profess and vow, friend Secco, that I know no leaps, I.”

“Lecherously goatish, and a eunuch!” Secco said. “This cut, and then —”

One meaning of “cut” is “vulva.”

Spadone said, “Confound thee, thy leaps and thy cuts! I am no eunuch, you finical — affected — ass. I am no eunuch, but at all points I am as well provided as any man in Italy, and thy wife could have told thee that. This is your conspiracy! To thrust my head into a brazen tub of kitchen-lye, hoodwink — blind — my eyes in mud-soap, and then attempt to cut my throat in the dark, like a coward! I may live to be revenged on both of you.”

Nitido said, “Oh, scurvy! Thou are angry. Feel, man, whether thy weason — windpipe — is not cracked first.”

Secco said, “You must fiddle my brains into a jealousy, rub my temples with saffron, and burnish — polish — my forehead with the juice of yellows!”

In this society, yellow is the color of jealousy.

He then asked, “Have I fitted you now, sir? Have I given you a fit?”

Morosa entered the room.

Spadone said, “All’s whole yet, I hope.”

He meant that he hoped his throat had not been cut, and perhaps that his sexual equipment was still whole.

Morosa said, “Yes, sirrah, all is whole yet; but if thou ever speak treason against my sweeting and me once more, thou shall find a rogue-y, vile bargain of it.”

She then said to her husband, “Dear, this was handled like one of spirit and discretion.”

She added, “Nitido has paged it trimly, too.

“No wording and talking, but get ready and attend at court.”

Secco said to Spadone, “Now that we know thou are a man, we forget what has passed, and we are fellows and friends again.”

Nitido said, “Wipe your face clean, and take heed of — beware of — a razor.”

Morosa, Secco, and Nitido exited.

Spadone said, “My fear put me into a sweat; I cannot help it. I am glad I still have my throat for my own, and I must either laugh to be sociable or be laughed at.”




Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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