David Bruce: THE TAMING OF A SHREW: A RETELLING — Acts 3-4

CHAPTER 3

— 3.1 —

Sander and two or three serving-men talked together in a room in Ferando’s house.

“Come, sirs,” Sander said, “provide all things as fast as you can, for my master’s nearby and my new mistress and all, and he sent me before him to see that all things would be ready for his arrival.”

“Welcome home, Sander!” Tom, a serving-man, said. “Sirrah, how does our new mistress look? They say she’s a plaguey, vexatious shrew.”

“Aye, she is,” Sander said, “and that you shall find, I can tell you, if you don’t please her well. Why, my master hassuch extraordinary trouble with her, and he himself is like a madman.”

“Why, Sander, what does he say?” Will, another serving-man, asked.

“Why, I’ll tell you what,” Sander said. “When they went to church to be married, he put on an old jacket and a pair of canvas breeches that went down to the small of his leg just above the ankle and a red cap on his head, and he looked so comic that you will burst yourself with laughing when you see him. He’s dressed even as good as a fool as far as I’m concerned.”

Fashionable breeches — pants — of the time reached only to the knees. Canvas was an inexpensive material worn by the lower classes; a person of Ferando’s social status would be expected to wear expensive material such as velvet.

Sander continued, “And then, when they were going to dinner, he made me saddle the horse, and away he came, and never stayed for dinner, and therefore you had best get supper ready for when they come, for they are nearby, I am sure, by this time.”

“By God’s wounds,” Tom said. “See! They have come already.”

Ferando and Kate entered the scene.

“Now welcome, Kate!” Ferando said.

He shouted for the serving-men, “Where’s these villains?

“Here! What! Supper is not yet upon the table, nor has the table been set! Nothing has been done at all?

“Where’s that villain that I sent before me?”

“Now, adsum, sir,” Sander said, using the Latin word for “I am here.”

“Come here, you villain,” Ferando said. “I’ll cut off your nose, you rogue! Help me off with my boots.”

To the other servants, he said with mock-courtesy, “Will it please you to lay the tablecloth on the table?”

He yelled about Sander, “By God’s wounds, the villain hurts my foot!”

Then he ordered him, “Pull easily, I say!”

He yelled, “Yet again he hurts my foot!”

He then stood up and beat all his servants.

The serving-men got busy and covered the table with the tablecloth and brought in the food.

Ferando looked at the food and yelled, “By God’s wounds! Burnt and scorched! Who made this food?”

Will said, “Indeed, John the cook.”

Ferando threw down the table and food and all, and he beat the serving-men.

“Go, you villains!” Ferando yelled. “Bring me such food? Out of my sight, I say, and carry the food away!

“Come, Kate, we’ll have other food provided.”

He then asked Sander, “Is there a fire in my chamber, sir?”

“Aye, indeed,” Sander said.

Ferando and Kate exited.

The serving-men ate all the food.

“By God’s wounds,” Tom said, “I think, on my conscience, that my master’s become a madman since he was married.”

“I laughed at what a blow he gave Sander for pulling off his boots,” Will said.

Unseen, Ferando entered the room again.

“I hurt his foot on purpose, man,” Sander said, unaware that his master could hear him.

“Did you, indeed, you damned villain?” Ferando said.

He beat all his serving-men and made them flee the room.

He then addressed you, the readers of this book:

“This irritable mood I must hold awhile in order to bridle and restrain my headstrong wife with curbs of hunger, lack of ease, and want of sleep. Neither sleep nor food shall she enjoy tonight.

“I’ll mew her up as men do mew their hawks: I’ll lock her in her room as men lock up hawks in their cages. And I’ll make her gently come to the lure of food as hawks are taught to come.”

The lure was a long cord at the end of which were attached meat and feathers (added to make the meat look like a small bird).

Ferando continued, “Even if she were as stubborn or as full of strength as were the Thracian horses Alcides — Hercules — tamed, the horses that King Egeus fed with the flesh of men, yet would I pull her down and make her come as hungry hawks fly to their lure in order to feed.”

Actually, it was King Diomedes who owned the human-flesh-eating horses Hercules was required to bring to King Eurystheus in one of his famous labors.

— 3.2 —

Aurelius and his servant, Valeria, talked together on a street in Athens.

“Valeria, listen carefully,” Aurelius said. “I have a lovely love, as bright as is the crystalline heaven, as fair as is the Milky Way of Jove, as chaste as Phoebe — aka Diana, virgin goddess of the hunt — in her summer sports, as soft and tender as the azure — bluish — down that encircles Cythereä’s silver doves.”

Diana was the goddess of the hunt, but she was also the goddess of the Moon. In her guise as goddess of the Moon, she was known as Phoebe.

Venus, goddess of love, was born on the coast of the island of Cythera and so she was also known as Cythereä. Doves were sacred to her.

Aurelius continued, “I mean to make her my lovely bride, and in her bed to breathe the sweet content that I, as you know, for a long time have aimed at.

“Now, Valeria, it rests in you to help me to accomplish this so that I might gain my love. Your part you may perform easily if the merchant whom you told me of will, as he said he would, go to Alfonso’s house, and say that he is my father, and also will pretend to pass over certain deeds of land to me so that I thereby may gain my heart’s desire. I will pay the merchant for doing this.”

“Fear not, my Lord,” Valeria said. “I’ll fetch him right away to you, for he’ll do anything that you command. But tell me, my Lord, is Ferando married?”

“He is,” Aurelius said, “and Polidor shortly shall be wed, and he intends to tame his wife before long.”

“He says so,” Valeria said, doubtfully.

“Indeed, he’s gone to the taming school,” Aurelius said.

“The taming school?” Valeria said. “Why, is there such a place?”

“Aye, and Ferando is the master of the school,” Aurelius said.

“That’s splendid,” Valeria said, “but what method of taming does he use?”

“Indeed, I don’t know, but he uses some odd device or other,” Aurelius said. “But come, Valeria, I long to see the man, the merchant, whom we must use to accomplish our plotted goals, so that I may tell him what we have to do.”

“Then come, my Lord,” Valeria said, “and I will bring you to him immediately.”

“Agreed,” Aurelius said. “So then, let’s go.”

They exited.

— 3.3 —

Sander and his mistress, Kate, talked together in a room in Ferando’s country house.

In this society, a mistress was a female house of household.

“Come, mistress,” Sander said.

“Sander, please, help me to some food,” Kate said. “I am so faint that I can scarcely stand.”

“Aye, by the Virgin Mary, mistress,” Sander said, “but you know my master has given me a standing order that you must eat nothing but that which he himself gives you.”

“Why, man, your master need never know it!” Kate said.

“You say true, indeed,” Sander said. “Why, look, mistress, what do you say to a piece of beef and mustard now?”

“Why, I say it is excellent food,” Kate said. “Can you help me to some?”

“Aye, I could help you to some, but I fear that the mustard is too choleric for you,” Sander said.

Mustard was thought to make people chloric: irritable and angry. Kate, of course, already possessed both of these characteristics.

Sander then asked, “But what do you say to a sheep’s head and garlic?”

“Why, anything,” Kate said. “I don’t care what kind of food it is.”

“Aye, but the garlic, I fear, will make your breath stink, and then my master will beat me for letting you eat it,” Sander said. “But what do you say to a fat capon?”

A capon is a fattened castrated rooster.

“That’s food for a king,” Kate said. “Sweet Sander, help me to some of it.”

“No, by our lady the Virgin Mary, if it’s food for a king, then it is too expensive for us,” Sander said. “We must not meddle with the king’s food.”

“Damn you, villain, do you mock me?” Kate yelled. “Take that for your sauciness.”

She beat him.

“By God’s wounds, are you so light-fingered that you are always ready to beat someone?” Sander said. “May a plague fall upon you! I’ll keep you fasting for it these next two days!”

“I tell you, villain, I’ll tear the flesh off your face and eat it, if you prattle to me like this!” Kate said.

“Here comes my master,” Sander said. “Now he’ll beat you.”

Ferando entered the room with a piece of food upon his dagger’s point. Polidor came with him.

“See here, Kate, I have provided food for you,” Ferando said. “Here, take it. What, isn’t it worthy of thanks?”

Kate refused to take the food.

Ferando said to Sander, “Go, Sirrah, take it away again.”

Sander took the food, no doubt intending to eat it as soon as he was separated from Ferando.

Ferando said to Kate, “You shall be thankful for the next food you have.”

Changing her mind about refusing the food, Kate said, “Why, I thank you for it.”

“Nay, now it is not worth a pin,” Ferando said.

He ordered Sander, “Go, Sirrah, and take it away, I say.”

“Yes, sir, I’ll carry it away,” Sander said. “Master, let her have none, for she can fight, as hungry as she is.”

“Please, sir, let it stand, for I’ll eat some with her myself,” Polidor said.

“Well, Sirrah, set it down again,” Ferando said to Sander.

“Nay, nay, I ask you to let him take it away,” Kate said. “I’ll never be beholden to you for your food. I tell you flatly here to your teeth that you shall not keep me nor feed me as you wish, for I will go home again to my father’s house.”

“Aye, when you’re meek and gentle, but not before,” Ferando said. “I know your stomach — your pride — has not yet come down. Therefore, it is no marvel that you cannot eat. And I will go to your father’s house.

“Come, Polidor, let us go in again.

“And, Kate, come in with us! I know before long that you and I shall lovingly agree.”

They exited.

— 3.4 —

Aurelius, Valeria, and Phylotus the merchant talked together in the street in front of Alfonso’s house. Phylotus the merchant had agreed to pretend to be Aurelius’ father. Valeria was well dressed because he was wearing some of Aurelius’ clothing.

“Now, Signior Phylotus,” Aurelius said, “we will go to Alfonso’s house. Be sure you say the things I told you concerning the man who dwells in Sestos, whose son I said I was, for you do very much resemble him. And fear not, you may be bold to speak your mind and adlib.”

“I assure you, sir, that you need not worry,” Phylotus the merchant said. “I’ll act so cunningly and cleverly in the cause that you shall soon enjoy your heart’s delight.”

“Thanks, sweet Phylotus,” Aurelius said. “Stay here, and I will go and fetch him here right away.”

He and Valeria walked away a short distance, and Aurelius called, “Ho, Signior Alfonso, I request a word with you.”

Alfonso came out of his house.

“Who’s there?” Alfonso said. “What, Aurelius, what’s the matter? Why do you stand so like a stranger at the door?”

“My father, sir, has newly come to town,” Aurelius said, “and I have brought him here to speak with you concerning those matters that I told you of, and he can confirm the truth of everything I have said to you.”

Looking at Phylotus the merchant, Alfonso asked, “Is this your father?”

Phylotus the merchant walked over to them.

Alfonso said, “You are welcome, sir.”

“Thanks, Alfonso, for that’s your name, I guess,” Phylotus the merchant said. “I understand that my son has set his mind on and directed his liking to your daughter’s love. And because he is my only son, and I gladly wish that he should do well, I tell you, sir, I do not mislike his choice.

“If you agree to give him your consent, he shall have wealth to maintain his high standard of living. Three hundred pounds a year I will give to him and to his heirs, and if he and your daughter join and knit themselves in holy wedlock, I will freely give him a thousand large ingots of pure gold, and twice as many bars of silver plate, and immediately I will confirm in writing what I have said in words.”

“Trust me, I must commend your liberal and generous mind,” Alfonso said, “and here I give him freely my consent. As for my daughter, I think he knows her mind: She returns his love. And I will enlarge her dowry for your sake; and celebrate with joy your nuptial rites.”

Looking at Valeria, Alfonso then asked, “But is this gentleman from Sestos, too?”

Alfonso had seen Valeria before when he was Kate’s music tutor, but Valeria was in disguise then, and so Alfonso did not now recognize the very well-dressed Valeria.

“He is the Duke of Sestos’ thrice-renowned son, who for the love his honor bears to me has thus accompanied me to this place,” Aurelius said.

Of course, Aurelius himself was the Duke of Sestos’ son, but he was now pretending to be the son of a merchant of Sestos.

“You are to blame because you did not tell me earlier who he is,” Alfonso said to Aurelius.

The son of a Duke is a very important person. If Alfonso had known that this man was the son of a Duke, he would have shown him respect earlier.

Aurelius then said to Valeria, who was pretending to be the son of a Duke, “Your honor would have been here in place with me. I would have done my duty to your honor.”

“Thanks, good Alfonso,” Valeria said, “but I came to see when these marriage rites would be performed. If in these nuptials you deign to honor thus the prince of Sestos’ friend, he shall remain a lasting friend to you.

“What does Aurelius’ father say?”

“I humbly thank your honor, my good Lord,” Phylotus the merchant said, “and before we part, before your honor here,articles of such content shall be drawn between our houses and posterities — families and descendants — inviolate and pure on either part.

“With all my heart,” Alfonso said, “and if your honor is pleased to walk along with us to my house, we will confirm these leagues of lasting love.”

“Come then, Aurelius,” Valeria said. “I will go with you.”

They exited.

— 3.5 —

Ferando, Kate, and Sander talked together in a room in Ferando’s country house.

“Master, the haberdasher has brought my mistress home her cap here,” Sander said.

The haberdasher, who dealt in hats and caps, entered the room.

“Come here, Sirrah!” Ferando said. “What have you there?”

“A velvet cap, sir, if it please you,” the haberdasher replied.

“Who ordered it?” Ferando asked. “Did you, Kate?”

“What if I did?” Kate replied.

She ordered the haberdasher, “Come here, Sirrah. Give me the cap! I’ll see if it will fit me.”

She tried on the velvet cap.

“Oh, monstrous,” Ferando said. “Why, it does not become you. Let me see it, Kate!”

He snatched it from her head and gave it to the haberdasher, saying, “Here, Sirrah, take it away from here! This cap is quite out of fashion!”

“The fashion is good enough,” Kate said. “Perhaps you mean to make a fool of me.”

Of course, she meant that Ferando was trying to make a fool of her, but he deliberately misunderstood her.

He said, “Why, true, the haberdasher means to make a fool of you by having you put on such a tiny cap!

“Sirrah, begone with it!”

The haberdasher exited, holding the velvet cap.

A tailor holding a gown entered the room.

Sander said, “Here is the tailor, too, with my mistress’ gown.”

“Let me see it, tailor!” Ferando said. “What, with cuts and jags! By God’s wounds, you villain, you have spoiled the gown!”

The dress had long cuts in it. Depending on the owner’s preference, colored strips of cloth would be sewn into the cuts, or the cuts would be deliberately left in the dress so that the colored slip underneath the dress would be seen through the cuts.

“Why, sir, I made it as your serving-man Sander gave me instructions,” the tailor said. “You may read the note here.”

“Come here, Sirrah tailor!” Ferando said. “Read the note.”

“Item, a fair round-compassed cape,” the tailor read out loud.

The hem of the bottom of the cape formed a circle.

“Aye, that’s correct,” Sander said.

“And a large trunk sleeve,” the tailor read out loud.

This kind of sleeve was baggy above the elbow and close-fitting below the elbow.

“That’s a lie, master!” Sander said. “I said two trunk sleeves.”

“Well, sir, continue!” Ferando said to the tailor.

“Item, a loose-bodied gown,” the tailor said.

A loose-bodied gown is baggy, but Sander misunderstood or pretended to misunderstand “loose-bodied,” taking it in the sense that the wearer of the gown — Kate — had a loose body (that is, she was a prostitute).

“Master, if ever I said loose body’s gown, sew me in a seam and beat me to death with a ball of brown thread!” Sander said.

If Sander could be sewn into a seam, the dress was baggy, indeed.

“I made it as the note instructed me,” the tailor said.

Sander said to the tailor, “I say the note lies in its throat, and you, too, if you say it.”

“Nay, nay, never be so hot and angry, Sirrah,” the tailor said, “for I don’t fear you.”

Tailors were supposed to be cowardly, but this tailor apparently was not cowardly.

“Do you hear, tailor?” Sander said. “You have braved many men. Don’t brave me. You’ve faced many men.”

“Braved” can mean “defied, stood up to,” or it can mean “splendidly dressed.”

“Faced” can mean “threatened,” or it can mean “trimmed.”

“Well, sir,” the tailor said.

“Don’t face me!” Sander said. “I’ll be neither faced nor braved at your hands, I can tell you!”

“Come, come, I like the fashion of it well enough,” Kate said. “Here’s more trouble than is necessary. I’ll have it, I will.”

She then said to Ferando, “And if you do not like it, hide your eyes. I think I shall have nothing if I had to get it from you.”

Ferando said to the tailor, “Go, I say, and take it up for your master’s use.”

Sander again deliberately misunderstood some words. By “take it up for your master’s use,” Ferando meant for the tailor to take the gown to his master for the master to do whatever he wanted with it. Sander pretended that the words meant to lift up the skirt of the gown in order to have sex with the woman wearing the gown.

“By God’s wounds, villain, not for your life!” Sander said. “Don’t touch it! By God’s wounds, villain, take up my mistress’ gown to his master’s use!”

“Well, sir, what’s your conceit of it?” Ferando asked Sander. “What do you mean?”

“I have a deeper conceit in it than you think,” Sander said. “Take up my mistress’ gown to his master’s use!”

“Tailor, come here,” Ferando said. “For this time take it away from here, and I’ll content you for your pains. Take it away, but I will pay you for it.”

“I thank you, sir,” the tailor said.

The tailor exited, carrying the gown.

“Come, Kate, we now will go and see your father’s house, even in these honest but mean articles of clothing,” Ferando said.

Kate had apparently ordered the articles of clothing for her sisters’ weddings.

Ferando continued, “Our purses shall be rich and our garments plain to protect our bodies from the winter rage, and that’s enough. Why should we care for more?

“Your sisters, Kate, tomorrow must be wed, and I have promised them you would be there. The morning is well started; let’s hasten away. It will be nine o’clock before we come there.”

“Nine o’clock?” Kate said. “Why, it is already past two in the afternoon by all the clocks in the town!”

“I say it is only nine o’clock in the morning,” Ferando said.

“I say it is two o’clock in the afternoon,” Kate said.

“It shall be nine then before we go to your father’s,” Ferando said. “Come back again — we will not go today. Nothing but crossing of me still! I’ll have you say as I do before you go.”

They exited.

— 3.6 —

Polidor and Emelia, as well as Aurelius and Philema, talked together in a room in Alfonso’s house.

Polidor said to his beloved, “Fair Emelia, summer’s Sun-bright queen, brighter of hue than is the burning clime — the torrid zone — where Phoebus the Sun-god in the bright equator sits, creating gold and precious minerals.

“What would Emelia do, if I were forced to leave fair Athens and to wander the world?”

She replied, “Should you attempt to scale the seat of Jove, mounting the subtle airy regions, or be snatched up as formerly was Ganymede, love would give wings to my swift desires, and prompt my thoughts that I would follow you,or fall and perish as did Icarus.”

Alfonso’s daughters were educated. They knew much mythology.

The giants Otus and Ephialtes tried to scale Mount Olympus and make war against the gods. Their plan was to pile mountains on top of Mount Olympus; however, the Olympian gods defeated them and piled the mountains on top of Otus and Ephialtes.

Ganymede was a beautiful human boy whom Jupiter, aka Jove, King of the gods, kidnapped and made his cupbearer.

Icarus was the son of Daedalus, who designed the labyrinth at Crete to house the Minotaur, the half-bull, half-human man-eating monster. After Daedalus and his son were imprisoned on the island of Crete, Daedalus designed wings made of feathers and wax so that he and his son could fly over the sea to freedom. The wings worked, but Icarus flew too close to the Sun, the heat of which melted the wax, causing the feathers to molt. Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.

Aurelius said, “Sweetly answered, fair Emelia!”

He then said to his beloved, “But would Philema say as much to me, if I should ask a question now of you? What if the Duke of Sestos’ only son” — whom Valeria was pretending to be; the disguised Aurelius himself was the Duke of Sestos’ only son — “who came with me to your father’s house, would seek to get Philema’s love from me and make you duchess of that stately town. Wouldn’t you then forsake me for his love?”

“Not for great Neptune, no, nor Jove himself, will Philema leave Aurelius’ love,” Philema answered. Even if he could make me empress of the world, or make me queen and guide of the heavens, yet I would not exchange your love for his.

“Your company is poor Philema’s Heaven, and without you Heaven would be Hell to me.”

Emelia and Philema now began a kind of contest with each proclaiming what they would do for their individual loves.

Emelia said, “And should my love, as once did Hercules, attempt to pass the burning vaults of Hell, I would with piteous looks and pleasing words, as once Orpheus did with his harmony and the ravishing sound of his melodious harp, entreat grim Pluto, god of the Land of the Dead, and from him obtain permission for you to go and safely return to the Land of the Living again.”

Many ancient heroes entered Hell and safely returned again.

In one of his famous labors, Hercules entered Hell and carried away Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog. He also entered Hell and rescued Theseus.

Orpheus mourned the death of Eurydice, his wife, so much that he went to the Land of the Dead in an attempt to bring her back to the Land of the Living. To get past Cerberus, the three-headed guard dog of Hell, he played his lute and sang. Cerberus, put under a spell by the music, fell asleep. Orpheus appeared before Pluto, the ruler of the Land of the Dead, and Proserpina, Pluto’s queen, and he played sad music for them. Pluto agreed to let Eurydice return to the Land of the Living on one condition: Orpheus had to walk in front of her and not look at her until both he and his wife were in the Land of the Living. Orpheus led her up out of the Land of the Dead, but he was so eager to see her again that as soon as he stepped into the Land of the Living he turned around and looked at her. Unfortunately, Eurydice was still one step away from the Land of the Living. She said to him, “Farewell” — and disappeared.

Philema said, “And should my love, as formerly Leander did, attempt to swim the raging Hellespont for Hero’s love, no towers of brass would hold me back, but I would follow you through those raging floods with my locks of hair all disheveled and my breast all bare. With bended knees on the shore of Abydos, where Leander lived, I would with smoky sighs and brinish tears importune Neptune and the watery gods to send a guard of silver-scaled dolphins with sounding Tritons to be our convoy, and to transport us safely to the shore, while I would hang about your lovely neck,redoubling kiss on kiss upon your cheeks, and with our pastime still the swelling waves.”

Leander was the lover of the woman named Hero, a priestess of Venus. Leander swam across the Hellespont each night to visit her. She lit a lamp each night to guide his way across the narrow sea. One night, the winds blew out Hero’s lamp, and Leander drowned. When Hero saw her lover’s dead body, she committed suicide.

Danaë was a woman whom a tower could not keep away from a god who desired her. Danaë’s father, Acrisius, heard a prophecy that her son would kill him, so he kept her shut away from men in a tower so that she would not become pregnant. Zeus, however, came to her in the form of golden rain and made her pregnant. Her father put her and her son, whose name was Perseus, in a chest and threw it into the sea. It washed ashore on an island. Much later, Perseus participated in athletic games and accidentally killed an old man with a wild throw of a javelin. That old man was Acrisius.

Tritons are minor sea-gods. They sound — blow — horns to calm rough seas.

Arion was captured by pirates. He played his cithera, a stringed musical instrument, and dolphins gathered around the pirate ship to hear the music. Arion then jumped into the sea, and a dolphin carried him on its back safely to shore.

Emelia said, “Should Polidor, as great Achilles did, only employ himself to follow arms and be a warrior, similar to the warlike Amazonian queen Penthesilea, Hector’s paramour, who foiled the bloody Pyrrhus, murderous Greek, I’ll thrust myself among the thickest throngs, and with my utmost force assist my love. I will go to battle with you and fight at your side.”

Emelia got some things wrong in her allusions to mythology. Yes, Achilles was the greatest warrior in the Trojan War, but it was he, not Hector, who fell in love with Penthesilea. Also, Penthesilea did not foil Pyrrhus, Achilles’ son. Penthesilea died in the Trojan War, but Pyrrhus survived.

Philema said, “Let Aeolus, god of the winds, storm, but let Aurelius be mild and quiet.

“Let Neptune, god of the sea, swell, but let Aurelius be calm and pleased.

“I don’t care, whatever may happen: Let Fates and Fortune do the worst they can. I don’t pay attention to them; they don’t disagree with me, as long as my love and I do well agree.”

Aurelius said, “Sweet Philema, you are beauty’s mine and source of all beauty, from where the Sun exhales its glorious shine, and clads the heaven in your reflected rays!

“And now, my dearest love, the time draws near that Hymen, god of marriage, mounted in his saffron robe, must with his torches wait upon your wedding train, as Helen’s brothers wait upon the horned crescent Moon.”

In other words, it was time for Philema to get ready for the wedding that was soon to occur.

Helen’s brothers are Castor and Pollux, who were turned into the constellation Gemini. At times, the constellation Gemini rises in the mid-northern latitudes with the Moon.

Aurelius continued, “Now, Juno, goddess of marriage, to your number I shall add the fairest bride whom any merchant ever had.”

Polidor said, “Come, fair Emelia, the priest has gone, and at the church your father and the rest wait to see our marriage rites performed and see knit in sight of Heaven this Gordian knot that the teeth of fretting time may never untwist.”

In a wedding ceremony, two people are knit — tied — together. The bond between Polidor and Emelia would be as tightly tied as the Gordian knot — a knot so intricate that people thought that it was impossible to untie. (Alexander the Great ‘untied’ the Gordian knot by cutting it in two with his sword.)

Polidor continued, “Then come, fair love, and celebrate with me this day’s content and sweet ceremony.”

They exited.

Sly asked, “Sim, must they be married now?”

The Lord replied, “Aye, my Lord.”

 

CHAPTER 4

— 4.1 —

Ferando, Kate, and Sander entered the scene.

“Look, Sim, the fool has come again now,” Sly said.

He was referring to Sander.

“Sirrah, go fetch our horses and bring them to the back gate right away,” Ferando ordered.

“I will, sir, I promise you,” Sander said.

He exited.

“Come, Kate,” Ferando said. “The Moon shines clearly tonight, I think.”

“The Moon?” Kate said. “Why, husband, you are deceived — it is the Sun!”

“Yet again?” Ferando said. “Come back again. It shall be the Moon before we go to your father’s.”

“Why, I’ll say as you say,” Kate said. “It is the Moon.”

“Jesus save the glorious Moon!” Ferando said.

“Jesus save the glorious Moon!” Kate said.

“I am glad, Kate, that your stomach — your pride — has come down,” Ferando said. “I know well that you know it is the Sun, but I tested you to see if you would speak and contradict me now, as you have done before. And trust me, Kate, had you not called it the Moon, we would have gone back again as surely as death.

“But wait, who is coming here?”

The Duke of Sestos, who was alone, entered the scene.

He said to himself, “Thus all alone from Sestos have I come. I left my princely court and noble train to come to Athens, and in this disguise, to see what course of life my son Aurelius takes.

“But wait, here’s someone, it may be, who travels there.”

He said, “Good sir, can you direct me the way to Athens?”

Ferando said to the Duke of Sestos, who was NOT disguised as a female, “Fair lovely maiden, young and affable, you are more clear of hue and far more beautiful than precious sardonyx or purple amethysts, or glistening hyacinth! You are more amiable by far than is the plain where glistening Cepheus in silver bowers gazes upon the giant Andromeda!”

Cepheus and Andromeda are constellations. Andromeda is a much larger constellation than Cepheus.

Like many constellations, Andromeda and Cepheus have a basis in mythology. Cepheus was a King of Ethiopia in Greek mythology, and Andromeda was his daughter. Cepheus offended the Nereids — sea-goddesses — by claiming that Andromeda was more beautiful than they were. They complained to Neptune, god of the sea, and he sent a sea-monster to devastate Cepheus’ kingdom. Perseus, traveling while mounted on his winged horse Pegasus, saw and fell in love with Andromeda and killed the sea-monster.

Ferando then said, “Sweet Kate, entertain this lovely woman.”

“I think the man is mad,” the Duke of Sestos said. “He calls me a woman.”

Kate said, “Fair lovely lady, bright and crystalline, beauteous and stately as the eye-trained bird — the peacock, which has eyes in its train of feathers — as glorious as the dew-washed morning, within whose eyes the morning takes her dawning beams, and golden summer sleeps upon your cheeks, wrap up your radiating light and heat in some cloud, lest your beauty make this stately town uninhabitable like the burning zone of the equator with the sweet reflections of your lovely face!”

“What! Is she mad, too?” the Duke of Sestos said to himself. “Or is my shape so transformed that both of them convince me that I am a woman? But they are mad, surely, and therefore I’ll be gone, and leave their company for fear of harm, and hasten to Athens to seek my son.”

The Duke of Sestos exited.

Ferando said, “Why, so, Kate; this was done in a friendly way by you, and kindly, too. Why, thus must we two live: one mind, one heart, and one happiness for both for us!

“And glad he is, I am sure, that he has gone. But come, sweet Kate, for we will go after him and this time we will convince him that he is a man again.”

They exited.

— 4.2 —

Alfonso, Phylotus the merchant, Valeria, Polidor, Emelia, Aurelius, and Philema spoke together on a street in Athens. Polidor and Emilia were just married, as were Aurelius and Philema.

“Come, lovely sons,” Alfonso said. “Your marriage rites have been performed, so let’s hurry home to see what celebratory food and drink we have. I wonder that Ferando and his wife have not come to see this great celebration.”

“It’s no marvel if Ferando is away,” Polidor said. “His wife, Kate, I think, has so troubled his wits that he remains at home to keep them warm. Forward wedlock, as the proverb says, had brought him to his nightcap long ago.”

The word “forward” means “eager” or “well-advanced.”

A proverb of the time stated, “Age and wedlock bring a man to his nightcap.” In other words: Old men and married men prefer to stay at home and go to bed rather than to go out and carouse all night.

Phylotus the merchant, who was pretending to be Aurelius’ father, said, “But, Polidor, let my son and you take heed that Ferando not say before long as much to you.

“And now, Alfonso, the more to show my love to you, if to Sestos you send your ships, I myself will load them with Arabian silks, rich African spices, arras, counter-points, musk, cassia, sweet-smelling ambergris, pearl, coral, crystal, jet lignite, and ivory to celebrate the favors you have given to my son and the friendly love that you have shown to him.”

Arras are wall hangings, and counter-points are quilts.

Cassia is an aromatic shrub, and ambergris is an aromatic secretion of the sperm whale that is used in the fragrance industry. Cassia cinnamon is widely consumed, and ambergris can be worth thousands of dollars an ounce.

The Duke of Sestos entered the scene and listened without being noticed.

Valeria, who was pretending to be the Duke of Sestos’ son, and whom the Duke recognized because Valeria was one of his serving-men, said, “And in order to honor him and this fair bride, I’ll yearly send you from my father’s court several chests of refined sugar, ten barrels of Tunisian wine, sweetmeats, and sweet-smelling substances to celebrate and observe this day. And your merchants shall trade custom-free and by so doing increase the profits of your land, sending you gold for brass, silver for lead, and cases of silk for packs of wool and cloth to bind this friendship and confirm this league.”

The Duke of Sestos spoke up: “I am glad, sir, that you would be so frank. Have you become the Duke of Sestos’ son,and do you revel with my treasure in this town? Base villain, that thus you dishonor me!”

Valeria thought, By God’s wounds, it is the Duke! What shall I do?

He decided to brave it out: “Dishonor you? Why, do you know what you are saying?”

“Here’s no villain!” the Duke of Sestos said sarcastically. “He will not know me now!”

He then said to Aurelius, “But what do you say? Have you forgotten me, too?”

Phylotus, who was pretending to be Aurelius’ merchant father (not the Duke), said, “Why, sir, are you acquainted with my son?”

“With your son?” the Duke of Sestos said. “No, trust me, if he is yours.”

He then spoke again to Aurelius, his son: “Please tell me, sir, who am I?”

Aurelius knelt in supplication to his father and said, “Pardon me, father! Humbly on my knees, I entreat your grace to hear me speak.”

“Peace, villain!” the angry Duke of Sestos said.

Referring to Valeria and Phylotus the merchant, he said, “Lay hands on them, and send them to prison immediately.”

Valeria and Phylotus the merchant ran away.

Sly said, “I say that we’ll have no sending to prison.”

The Lord replied, “My Lord, this is just a play; they’re only doing this in jest.”

“I tell you, Sim, we’ll have no sending to prison, that’s for sure,” Sly said. “Why, Sim, am not I Don Christo Vary?”

He had made up a fancy name for himself. “Don” is a Spanish title. “Christo” refers to Christ. “Vary” can refer to “variation.” He was certainly a variation when compared to a real Spanish Christian Lord.

Sly continued, “Therefore, I say, they shall not go to prison.”

“They shall not go to prison, my Lord,” the real Lord said. “They have run away.”

“Have they run away, Sim?” Sly said. “That’s well. Then give us some more drink, and let the actors play again.”

“Here, my Lord!” the real Lord said, filling his cup.

Sly drank and then fell asleep.

The Duke of Sestos said to his son, “Ah, treacherous boy, who dared presume to get married without your father’s permission!

“I swear by fair Cynthia’s burning rays, by Merops’ head, and by the seven-mouthed Nile River, that if I had but known about this, before you had wedded her, then this angry sword of mine would have ripped your hateful chest even if the world’s immortal soul resided in your breast and it would have hewed you into pieces smaller than the sands of the Libyan desert.”

Cynthia is a name for the Moon-goddess.

Merops was the husband of Clymene, who gave birth to Phaëthon, whose father was the Sun-god. Phaëthon went to his father, the god Apollo, and asked to be allowed to drive the Sun-chariot across the sky and bring light to the world. But Phaëthon, doomed youth, was unable to control the stallions, and they ran wildly away with the Sun-chariot, wreaking havoc and destruction upon Humankind and the world. The King of the gods, Jupiter, saved Humankind and the world by throwing a thunderbolt at Phaëthon and killing him.

The Duke of Sestos continued criticizing his son, who was hanging his head in shame, “Turn your face toward me, oh, cruel, impious boy!”

He then said, “Alfonso, I did not think you would presume to match your daughter with my princely house and never make me acquainted with the fact.”

Alfonso said, “My Lord, by the heavens I swear to your grace, I knew none other but that Valeria, your serving-man, had been the Duke of Sestos’ noble son. Nor did my daughter, I dare swear for her. We truly believed that Valeria was the son of the Duke of Sestos.”

Referring to Valeria, who was supposed to keep Aurelius out of trouble, the Duke of Sestos said, “That damned villain who has deluded me, whom I sent to be a guide to my son! Oh, that my furious force could cleave the earth, so that I might muster battalions of Hellish fiends to rack his heart and tear his impious soul. The ceaseless turning of the celestial orbs does not kindle greater flames in flitting air than does the passionate anguish of my raging breast.”

This society believed in Ptolemaic astronomy, in which the planets, stars, and Sun were embedded in crystalline celestial orbs or spheres that rotated around the Earth.

Aurelius now mentioned some near-impossible tasks, including the killing of the Hydra, that he would be willing to perform if his father would forgive him once they were accomplished.

Hercules’ second labor was killing the Lernaean Hydra. In accomplishing this labor, Hercules had the help of a nephew named Iolaus. The Hydra of Lerna had nine heads, the middle of which was immortal. Hercules and Iolaus traveled to Lerna and found the Hydra’s lair. Hercules forced the Hydra to leave its lair by shooting flaming arrows into the lair. Hercules fought the Hydra, but he discovered that each time a mortal head was cut off, two more heads grew in its place. Hera gave Hercules even more trouble by sending an enormous crab to fight him, but Hercules crushed the crab. Hercules then got help from Iolaus. Each time Hercules cut off one of the Hydra’s mortal heads, Iolaus cauterized it with a torch, thus preventing more heads from growing. Hercules then cut off the immortal head and placed it under a boulder. The blood of the Hydra was poisonous, and before leaving, Hercules dipped the heads of his arrows into the Hydra’s blood.

Aurelius, repentant, said, “Then let my death, sweet father, end your grief. For I it is who thus have wrought your woes. So then be revenged on me, for here I swear that these others are innocent of what I did. Oh, if I had the charge to cut off the Hydra’s head, to make the topless Alps a level field, to kill untamed monsters with my sword, to travail daily in the hottest Sun, and to watch in winter when the nights are cold, I would with gladness undertake them all and think the pain is only pleasure that I felt, as long as my noble father at my return would forget and pardon my offence!”

Philema, Aurelius’ wife, knelt before the Duke of Sestos and said, “Let me entreat your grace upon my knees to pardon your son and let my death discharge the heavy wrath your grace has vowed against him.”

Polidor, Aurelius’ friend, knelt before the Duke of Sestos and said, “My good Lord, let us entreat your grace to purge your stomach of this melancholy: Taint not your princely mind with grief, my Lord, but pardon and forgive these lovers’ faults, who kneeling before you now crave your gracious favor here.”

Emelia said, “Great prince of Sestos, let a woman’s words entreat a pardon in your Lordly breast, both for your princely son, and us, my Lord.”

The Duke of Sestos, forgiving his son, said, “Aurelius, stand up. I pardon you. I see that virtue will have enemies, and Lady Fortune will be thwarting honor always.”

He then said to Philema, “And you, fair virgin, too, I am content to accept you for my daughter-in-law, since the wedding is done, and I will see that you are treated like a member of the royal family in Sestos’ court.”

“Thanks, my good Lord,” Philema said, “and I no longer live than I obey and honor you in everything.”

Alfonso said, “Let me give thanks to your royal grace for this great honor done to me and mine. If your grace will walk into my house, I will, in the humblest manner I can, show the eternal service I do owe your grace.”

“Thanks, good Alfonso,” the Duke of Sestos said, “but I came alone, and not as befits the Sestian Duke. Nor would I have it known within the town that I was here without my train of attendants. As I came alone, so will I go, and leave my son to celebrate his feast.

“Before long I’ll come again to you and do him honor as befits the son of mighty Jerobel, Duke of Sestos, until the time when I’ll leave you.”

He then said, “Farewell, Aurelius!”

“Not yet, my Lord,” Aurelius said. “I’ll accompany you to your ship.”

The actors exited.

The Lord noticed that Sly was asleep, and he called for some serving-men: “Who’s within there?

“Come here, sirs, my Lord’s asleep again. Go and pick him gently up, and put his own apparel on him again, and lay him in the place where we found him, near the alehouse. But see that you don’t wake him for any reason.”

“It shall be done, my Lord,” the boy-servant said.

The boy-servant then said to the serving-men, “Come, help to carry him away from here.”

They all exited with the serving-men carrying Sly.

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