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“I mean iny sword to be
and holy as that of an emperor. I've been offered any thing to enter the service of that infamous Lucrèce. I refused.”
“Gennaro! Gennaro!” says the lady, "you should pity the wicked; you know not their hearts."
It is at this moment that the young nobles with whose conversation the play commenced come again on the scene.
ACT I. SCENE V. The same. Mafio Orsini, Jeppo Liveretto, Ascanio Petrucci, Oloferno Vi
tellozzo, Don Apostolo Gazella, Nobles, Ladies, pages carrying torches. Maffio (a torch in his hand). Gennaro, dost thou wish to know the woman to whom thou art talking love?
Dona Lucrèce (aside, under her mask). Just leaven!
Gennaro. You are my friends—but I swear before God, that whoever touches the mask of this lady is a bold fellow!—The mask of a woman is as sacred as the face of a man.
Maffio. But first the woman must be a woman, Gennaro; not that we wish to insult this lady-we only wish to tell her our names. (Making a step towards Dona Lucrèce.) Madam, I am Maffio Orsini, brother to the Duke of Gravina, whom your bravos strangled during the night while he was sleeping.
Jeppo. Madam, 1 am Jeppo Liveretto, nephew of Liveretto Vitelli, poniarded by your orders in the cellars of the Vatican.
Ascanio. Madam, I am Ascanio Petrucci, cousin of Pandolfo Petrucci, Lord of Sienna, whom you had assassinated in order to rob him more easily of his town.
Oloferno. Madam, my name is Oloferno Vitellozzo, nephew of Jago d’Appiani, whom you had poisoned at a fête, after baving treacherously despoiled him of his good and lordly citadel of Piombino.
Don Apostolo. Madam, you had Don Francisco Gazella put to death upon the scaffold. Don Francisco Gazella was maternal uncle to Don Alphonso of Aragon, your third husband, killed by your order on the stairs of St. Peter's. I am Don Apostolo Gazella, cousin of the one and son of the other.
Dona Lucrèce. O God !
Maffio. And now that we have told you our names, do you wish that we should tell you yours?
Dona Lucrèce. No—no, my lords—not before him !
Maffio (taking off her mask). Take off your mask, madam, so that one may see whether you can blush.
Don Apostolo. That woman, Gennaro, to whom you were whispering tove, is a murderess and an adultress.
Jeppo. Incestuous in every degree-incestuous with her two brothers, one of whom slew the other for her love.
Dona Lucrèce. Pity!
Oloferno. A monster, who would be incestuous with her children, if children she had; but Heaven refuses issue to such creatures.
Dona Lucrèce. Enough ! enough!
Lucrèce (dragging herself to the knees of Gennaro). Listen not, my Gennaro
Maffio (stretching out his arm). It's—Lucrèce Borgia !
(She falls, having fainted at his feet.)
Soon after this, Maffio, Jeppo, Ascanio, Oloferno, Don Apostolo, are sent by Venice on a special embassy to Ferrara, where Lucrèce Borgia holds her court, and Gennaro accompanies them, being the sworn brother in arms of Maffio D'Orsini.
The passions in action are—the affection of Lucrèce for Gennaro—the jealous indignation of the Duke of Ferrara against Gennaro, whom he supposes, from what he saw at the mask of Venice, to be a lover—and the vengeance of Lucrèce, who has determined to punish the young Venetian nobles who had insulted her.
Gennaro lays himself open to the Duke's plans by the historịcal outrage of erasing the B from the front of the ducal palace, which left 'orgia' engraved upon that part which Lucrèce inhabited.
The first act ends with a meeting between the two emissaries of the Duke and the Duchess, the one seeking, as he supposes, a lover for Lucrèce, the other a victim for the Duke. In the difficulty of reconciling the two missions, the bravos decide, by tossing up, whether Gennaro shall be adored or murdered. The Duke's bravo gains.
The second act contains a most spirited scene between Lucrèce Borgia and her husband. Lucrèce, having first passionately demanded vengeance on the person who had outraged her palace, as passionately demands the offender's pardon, on discovering the insult to have been offered her by the young Gennaro. The Duke, however, more and more confirmed in his jealousy, persits in his determination that death shall be inflicted on the culprit, and only allows his wife to choose whether her supposed paramour shall be stabbed or poisoned :
on Lucrèce preferring the latter, the famous Borgia poison is administered to Gennaro, who, however, believes himself pardoned—and the Duke then, quitting the room, tells his wife that he gives her her lover's last quarter of an hour.
Lucrèce, on finding herself alone with Gennaro, offers him an antidote for the poison that he has taken—and there is a fine moment where he doubts whether the Duke de Ferrara has really poisoned him, or whether it is Lucrèce herself who wishes to do so. Finally, however, he swallows the antidote, and is warned by Lucrèce to quit Ferrara without delay.
But I pass by the second act, which, however, is fully worthy of the reader's attention, in order to arrive at the third act, which closes the play, opening with the insult given to Dona Lucrèce, at the masked ball in Venice, by the vengeance she takes for that insult at a supper at Ferrara. The five young Venetian noblemen have been invited by Lucrèce's order to an entertainment at the Negroni Palace, and Gennaro, whom she supposes distant from Ferrara, accompanies them thither.
Oloferno (his glass in his hand). What wine like that of Xerès ?-Xerès of Frontera is a city of Paradise ?
Maffio (his glass in his hand). The wine that we drink, Jeppo, is better than any of your stories.
Ascanio. Jeppo has the misfortune to be a great teller of tales when he has drunk a little.
Don Apostolo. The other day it was at Venice, at his serene highness's the Doge Barbarigo's : to-day it is at Ferrara, at the divine Princess Negroni's.
Jeppo. The other day it was a mournful tale ; to-day it's a merry one.
Maffio. A merry tale, Jeppo !-How happened it that Don Siliceo, a fine cavalier not more than thirty, after having gambled away his patrimony, married that rich Marquesa Calpurnia, who has counted forty-eight springs, to say the least of it? By the body of Bacchus, do you call that a gay story?
Gubetta. It's sad and tritema man ruined, who marries a woman in ruins ; one sees it every day.
(He turns to the table. Some get up and come to the front of the scene
during the continuance of the orgie.) The Princess Negroni (to Maffio, pointing to Gennaro). You seem, D'Orsini, to have but a melancholy friend there.
Maffio. He is always so, madam. You must pardon me for having brought Irim without an invitation; he is my brother in arms—he saved my life in an assault at Rimini; I received a thrust intended for him in the attack of the bridge of Vicenza : we never quit one another. A gipsy predicted we should die the same day,
The Negroni (smiling). Did the gipsy say that it was to be in the night, or the morning?
Maffio. He said that it should be in the morning.
The Negroni. Your Bohemian did not know what he was saying. And you are friends with that young man ?
Maffio. As much as one man can be with another.
(He puts his arm round her waist.)
(She escapes.) Gubetta. (approaching Maffio).-Your business goes on well with the princess.
Maffio. She always says “No” to me.
Jeppo ('coming up to Maffio).-What do you think of the Princess Negroni ?
Maffio. She is adorable ! Between ourselves, she begins to work upon my heart most furiously.
Jeppo. And ker supper?
Jeppo ( to Gubetta).-Monsieur de Belverana, you would hardly think that Maffio was afraid of supping at the princess's ?
Gubetta. Afraid !-why?
Jeppo ( in a whisper to Maffio), What I like in this Belverana is, his thorough hatred of the Borgias.
Maffio ( in a whisper). True, he never misses an occasion of sending them to the devil with a most particular grace. Nevertheless, my dear Jeppo
Jeppo. Well ?
The reader will observe that it is not my fault if the Count Orsini and the Princess Negroni bebave a little too much like a young Oxonian and a Dover chambermaid.
Maffio. I have watched this pretended Spaniard from the beginning of the supper; he bas drunk nothing but water.
Jeppo. What! at your suspicions again, my good friend Maffio! The effect of your wine is strangely monotonous !
Maffio. Perhaps so; I am stupid.
Gubettă (retiring, and looking at Maffio from head to foot;). Do you know, Monsieur Maffio, that you are built to live ninety years, and that you are just like my grandfather, who did live to those years and was called, like myself, Gil-Basilio-Fernan-Ireno-Felipe-Frasco Frasquito Comte de Belverana ?
Jeppo (in a whisper to Maffio). I hope you do not now doubt of his being a Spaniard— he has at least twenty Christian names! What a litany, Monsieur de Belverana !
Gubetta. Alas! our parents have the habit of giving us more names at our baptism than crowns at our marriage. But what are they, laughing at down there ?—(Aside.)- Those women must have same pretext to get away-what's to be done ?-( He returns and sits down to table.)
Oloferno. ( drinking). By Hercules, 1 never passed a more delicious evening! Ladies, taste this wine; it's softer than Lacryma Christi, more generous than the wine of Cyprus! Here, this is the wine of Syracuse, my seigneurs !
Gubetta (eating). Oloferno's drunk, it seems.
Oloferno. Ladies, I must tell you some verses that I have just made. I wish I were more of a poet than I am, in order that I might celebrate such admirable women !
Gubetta. And I wish I were more rich than I am, in order to present my friends with just such other women.
Oloferno. Nothing is so agreeable as to sing the praise of a good supper and a beautiful woman!
Gubetta. Except to kiss the one and eat the other.
Oloferno, Yes, I wish I were a poet; I would raise myself to heaven-I wish I had two wings !
Gubetta. Of a pheasant in my plate.
Gubetta. By the devil, Monsieur Marquis Oloferno Vitellozzo, I dispense you from telling your sonnet! Leave us to drink.
Oloferno. You dispense me from my sonnet ?
Gubetta. As I dispense the dogs from biting me, the pope from blessing me, and the people in the street from pelting me.
Oloferno. By God's head, I believe, little Spanish gentleman, that you mean to insult me!
Gubetta. I don't insult you, colossus of an Italian; I don't choose to listen to your sonnet-nothing more. My throat thirsts more after the Syracusan wine than my ears after poetry.
Oloferno. Your ears, you Spanish rascal-I'll nail them to your heels! Gubetta. You are a foolish beast! Fie! did one ever hear of such a lout,
* Rather singular language in a Princess's palace, and addressed to her and her friends!