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The Works of Aretino, Volume 1, translated into English by Samuel Putnam; pp. 61-112.

[Permission to use this text has been kindly granted by Dr. Hilary Putnam-- with profound thanks]



[La Cortigiana]



L’è pure sfacciata questa
tua Corte . . . . ella
parta la mitera,
e non se ne


Picture of a seated nude girl on a pedestal leaning against a tiger and petting its head, at her feet is a tonsured dwarf with a very long swor in his lap, by Marquis de Bayros.


Translator’s Note

LA CORTIGIANA is the second of Aretino’s Medusa works,” the other being, as we have seen, the RAGIONAMENTI. In both THE COURTEZAN and the DIALOGUES, the author flays relentlessly the vices of an age — his own. In the play, it is the court of Rome under the Medici Popes which is the target for Aretino’s annihilating satire, the victim of his merciless realism. It is to be remembered that Pietro had himself lived at court and knew whereof he wrote. He had fared none too luckily there, had been driven out once on account of his SONNETS and, in the end, barely escaped with his life. He never forgot nor forgave the attempted assassination by the papal favorite, Giberti. This accounts for his animus in the matter — Aretino was never without a bias — but the picture he gives us is, we are forced from the accounts of other writers to believe, hardly overdrawn.

THE COURTEZAN is surprising in its essential modernity. It has a certain apparent formlessness which is characteristic of some of the best drama, as well as fiction, of recent years. Indeed, it is almost cinematographic in spots. It is a series of pictures. Hutton speaks of the CORTIGIANA and the MARESCALCO as “probably the best Italian comedies before Goldoni.” This estimate is, likely, correct. The British biographer also speaks of THE COURTEZAN as “The first dramatic work in Italian which completely disregards the classic models of Plautus and Terence and sets life as the writer saw it, the life of his own time, on the stage.” At the very outset, in the closing lines of his PROLOGUE, we hear the author hurling defiance at the pedants and their rules: “For the chains that hold the mills on the river shall not bind the madmen of today . . . for we are living in another manner at Rome than that in which they lived at Athens.” A character shall not appear more than five times in a scene, the pedants, say. Mine shall come out as often as they choose, says Aretino. He practically abolishes the aside and is rather sparing of the soliloquy.


Perhaps, however, his most distinctly modern quality as a dramatist is one which our contemporary Maiden Aunts would call his “unpleasantness.” Mere ribaldry and hilarious smut were by no means novel; but there is in Aretino something more than this. He was “unpleasant” often, in theme and in detail, in the same sense in which our modern novelists and playwrights frequently are. Instances might be cited, but they abound in this play.

Something should be said with reference to the language employed in the translation of this drama. An attempt has been made to render it into the American, rather the English language. Something of the same thing was attempted with the DIALOGUES, but the effort has been more conscious in the present instance. With a writer so essentially and intensely modern as Aretino, there would seem to be little point in doing his work into the language of Shakespeare, the sixteenth century in England. For this reason, all the old properties and clichè’s of classic English drama have been avoided so far as possible, with the object of seeking, rather, the current and homely Americanism. Only a few words, such as “poltroon,” “knave,” etc. have been retained in order, while bringing out the modern spirit of the play, not to be false to the century in which it was written. It has seemed to the present translator that his task was to preserve here as nice as possible a balance. He wishes he might have succeeded better than he has. He has kept in mind, too, that writing “in American” does not mean, of necessity, writing in the idiom of Ring Lardner or George Ade. It is amazing to note how many of our contemporary Americanisms were current in the Cinquecento — an interesting philological article might be written on the subject — an in a great many instances, faithful and literal rendering of the Italian text called for an American slang phrase. In a number of instances, this has been indicated in the notes.

Finally, this play should serve as another bit of evidence as to the Italian origin of Shakespearean and pre-Shakespearean English comedy.


To The Great Cardinal of Trent

Of the miracles which are wrought by the goodness of God, the votive offerings which are made bear testimony; those which come from the valor of men are witnessed by the statues which are consecrated to these men; and of that love which the courtesy of Princes bears to those of good genius we are made certain by the works which are addressed to those Princes. And so, I address to you my COURTEZAN, which you should hold dear, for in it all the world shall be enlightened as to those merits which I honor here, you being at once a Cardinal and a Lord. Indeed, reading here of the life of Courts and of Lords, you should be proud of yourself for being so far removed from the manners of these; wherefore, rejoice to see yourself different from your fellows, in the same manner as would a young girl disporting with a female Saracen of an ugly disfavor, who imitates her in every action, so that in her every movement the Saraceness appears to be more beautiful and more gracious. And thus, all the many gentlemen who serve you, all the virtuous ones who celebrate you, and all the many Cavalieri who court you will end by knowing (hearing of the ways of others) of what quality is the man whom they adore, in the same manner in which you have come to know the diabolic Luther, against the malignancy of whom all the Christian faith which lives under the King of the Romans has made a shield of your goodness, whose good counsel in every royal action always makes the doubtful clear and the perilous secure. And just as you could not be ruled by the grace of a better King than Ferdinando, so his Majesty could not put himself into the hands of a better minister than the great and most reverend Trent. But if you are such as this, should I not hope that you will take with a generous hand the gift which I, who am so low of person, bring to a personage so lofty.




A Comedy in Five Acts


SANESE, His Groom
FURFANTE, Who Sells Stories
{ Parabolano’s Grooms} CAPPA
{Parabolano’s Chamberlains} VALERIO
ALVIGIA, a Procuress
GRILLO, Messer Maco’s Groom
TOGNA, Wife of Arcolano
BIAGINA, Signora Camilla’s Maid.



Recited by a Stranger and a Gentleman

STRAN.   This place appears to be the very mind of Antonio da Leva Magno, so beautiful is it and so loftily adorned. Surely, there must be going to be some great feast here. I shall ask this Gentleman about it, who is passing. Oh, Signor, can you tell me what is the reason for all these pompous preparations?

GENT.   They are for a comedy which is to be given here directly.

STRAN.   Who has composed it, the divine Marchesa di Pescara?

GENT.   No, for His immortal pen is engaged in placing his great consort among the gods.

STRAN.   Is it by the Signora Veronica da Correggio?

GENT.   No, it is not hers, for she employs her lofty genius in more glorious tasks.

STRAN.   Is it by Luigi Alamanni ?

GENT.   Luigi celebrates the merits of the Most Christian King, the daily bread of all virtue.

STRAN.   Is it by Ariosto?

GENT.   Alas, Ariosto has gone to Heaven, since he had no more need of glory on the earth.

STRAN.   Great loss has the world in such a man, who, in addition to his virtues, was kindness itself.

GENT.   It would have been well if he had been Sorrow herself.

STRAN.   Why?

GENT.   Because then he would never have died.

STRAN.   And that is no idle talk. But tell me, is this something by the most gentle Molza, or by Bembo, the father of the Muses, who should be the first of all to speak?


GENT.   It is the work neither of Bembo nor of Molza, for the one is writing the Istoria Veneziana and the other the praises of Ippolito de’ Medici.

STRAN.   It is by Guidiccione?

GENT.   No, for he would not bring his miraculous hand so low as to write such foolish things as these.

STRAN.   Then certainly it must be by Ricco, (1) one of whose very grave works was read to the Pope and the Emperor.

GENT.   It is not his, for he has now turned to more worthy pursuits.

STRAN.   It seems to me, it must be the work of some sheep, quae pars est; it may be that God is making the poets rain on us like the Lutherans; if the forest of Baccano were made of Laurels, there still would not be enough to crown the crucifiers of Petrarch, who, with their commentaries, make him say things which ten strokes of the lash would never have made him confess. And it is a good thing that Dante, who with his deviltries leaves the beasts behind, should now be put on the cross himself.

GENT.   Ha, ha, ha!

STRAN.   Perhaps it is by Giulio Camillo.

GENT.   He is not the author, for he is engaged in demonstrating to the King the great and miraculous invention of his genius. (2)

STRAN.   Is it by Tasso?

GENT.   Tasso is waiting to thank the Princes of Salerno for their courtesy. To tell you the truth, it is a composition of Pietro Aretino’s.

STRAN.   If I thought I should split with discomfort, I still should like to hear it; for I know certainly that I should hear things of the Prophets and Evangelists. 167 And perhaps it looks to someone in particular?

GENT.   He preaches the goodness of King FRANCIS with an incredible fervor.

STRAN.   And who does not praise His Majesty?

GENT.   Does he not praise also the Duke Alessandro, the Marchese del Vasto and Claudio Rangone, the gem of valor and of sense?

STRAN.   Three flowers do not make a garland.

GENT.   And the most liberal Massimino Stampa?

STRAN.   Do you find he speaks of any others?

GENT.   Lorena, Medici and Trent.

STRAN.   It is true he praises all these, but they deserve it. But why do you not say the Cardinal de’ Medici,the Cardinal de’ Lorena, and the Cardinal di Trento?

GENT.   In order not to assassinate their names with the word, Cardinal.

STRAN.   Oh, a pretty pass! Ha, ha, ha! Tell me, then, of what does he treat?

GENT.   He portrays two pieces of waggery at one time. In the first, Messer Maco Sanese appears upon the scene, who has come to Rome to satisfy a vow which his father had made to make a Cardinal of him; and having been given to understand that no once can become a Cardinal who does not first become a Courtier, he takes Maestro Andrea for his pedant, who believes himself to be the best master of making courtiers; and having been led by Maestro Andrea to take hot baths, he holds it for certain that hot baths are the best means of making courtiers; and at the end, ruined and repaired, he wants all Rome for himself, in the manner which shall be heard. And with Messer Maco there mingles a certain Signor Parabolano of Naples (one of those Acursii (3) and of the those Sarapichi (3), who, taken from the stirrups and the stalls, have been set up by a bold-faced Fortune to govern 168 the world); this fellow, having fallen in love with Livia, the wife of Luzio Romano, revealing his secret to no one, thinks everything is hidden, but he is overheard by Rosso, his favorite groom, and is betrayed by him; for the latter makes him think that the lady with whom he is in love is inflamed for him, and bringing him Alvigia, a procuress, he makes him believe that she is Livia’s nurse, and in place of Livia he causes him to consummate matrimony with the wife of Arcolano, a baker. The comedy will tell you the rest in due course for I do not rightly remember it all.

STRAN.   Where do such gentle jests take place?

GENT.   In Rome, where you are, don’t you see?

STRAN.   So this is Rome! Mercy on me, I would never have recognized it.

GENT.   I would remind you that she has just done purging her sins in the hands of the Spaniards, and she has come well out of it to be no worse off than she is. And now, let’s withdraw to one side, and if you see the characters come out more than five times in a Scene, do not laugh at it, for the chains that hold the mills on the river shall not bind the madmen of today. Moreover, do not marvel if the comic style is not here observed as is customary, for we are living in another manner at Rome than that in which they lived in Athens.

STRAN.   Who doubts it?

GENT.   Look, here’s Messer Maco. Ha, ha, ha!


(1) Agostino Ricci, the Lucchese, who at the age of ten wrote a comedy, I tre tiranni and then set himself to study medicine, becoming chief physician to the Pope.

(2) Reference is to Giulio Camillo Delminio and his Teatro.

(3) Papal “Ganymedes.”



(Enter Messer Maco and Sanese.)

MACO.   In short, Rome is the Coda Mundi.

SAN.   Capus, you mean to say.

MACO.   It’s all the same. And if I had not come here. . . .

SAN.   Your bread would be mouldy.

MACO.   I was saying that if I had not come here I never would have believed that there was any place more beautiful than Siena.

SAN.   Did I not tell you that Rome was Rome? At Sienna you have the guard with its braves, the university with its doctors, the fonte Branda, the fonte Becci, the Piazza with its crowds, the feast of mid-August, the carts with their candles, with the young kids, the fountains, the bull hunt, the race track and honey-cakes by the hundreds with the sweetbreads of Sienna.

MACO.   Yes, but you don’t say that it’s favored by the Emperor.

SAN.   You are not talking to the point.

MACO.   Be quiet. Look at that monkey up there in the window. Mona, oh Mona?

SAN.   Aren’t you ashamed of yourself to go through the street calling apes? You’re lucky if they do not take you for a madman, without knowing that you come from Sienna.

MACO.   Listen, there’s a parrot talking.

SAN.  That’s a woodpecker, Master.

MACO.  It’s a parrot, in spite of what you say.

SAN.   It is one of those animals of many colors that your grandfather used to buy for a parrot.


MACO.   But I showed the feathers to the goldsmith who works in brass, and he said that, by comparison, they were from a parrot right enough.

SAN.   You’re a beast, if you will pardon me, to believe a goldsmith.

MACO.   I’ll punish you.

SAN.   Don’t be angry.

MACO.   I will be angry, I will, I will. And if you do not show the proper respect for me, it will be bad for you.

SAN.   I do respect you.

MACO.   How much?

SAN.   A ducat’s worth.

MACO.   Do you know, I like you now.

(Enter Maestro Andrea)

AND.   Are you looking for a master?

MACO.   You know well enough that I am the master.

SAN.   Let me do the talking, for I understand the speech of Rome.

MACO.  Off with you.

AND.   Tell me, if you are looking for a place.

SAN.   Messer Maco, learned in libris, rich and of Sienna . . .

AND.   To the point. I tell you, I will give you five carlins a month, and you will have nothing else to do but curry four horses and two mules, carry water and wood for the kitchen, sweep the house, follow me at stirrup, and clean my clothes. The rest of the time, you can lead the life of Riley. (2)

MACO.  To tell you the truth, I have come here post haste to become. . .

SAN.   Become a Cardinal and hold an audience with . . .

MACO.  The King of France.

SAN.   Also the pope — didn’t I tell you to leave the talking to me?

AND.   Ha, ha, ha!

MACO.  What are you laughing at, Mister?

AND.   I am laughing at the idea of you seeking an audience. Don’t you know that you must first become a Courtier 171 and then a Cardinal? And I am the master to teach you the Courtier’s Art. I have been the making of the Monsignor de la Starta, the Most Reverend di Baccano, the Provost of Montemari, the Patriarch of Magliana and a thousand others. And I shall be pleased to make a courtier of your Lordship, too, for you have the air of one who will be an honor to his country.

MACO.  What do you say, Sanese?

SAN.   That’s all right with me, la, la, that goes with me, that goes.

MACO.   When can you lend me a hand?

AND.   Today, tomorrow, or whenever it is pleasing to your Lordship.

MACO.   Now suits me.

AND.   By your grace, I’ll go for the book which teaches how to become a Courtier, and I’ll return to your Lordship on the wing. Where are you stopping?

[At the same time]
SAN.   In the house of Ceccotto, the Genovese.

AND.   Speak one at a time, for speaking two at a time is not one of the precepts.

MACO.   This poltroon threw me off.

SAN.   I am not a poltroon. You know I was going to be a soldier, and you did not want me to run the risk.

AND.   Be at peace, for poltroon at Rome is the name of a feast day. I’m going now, but I shall be back right away.

MACO.   What is your name?

AND.   Maestro Andrea. I commend myself to your Highness.

MACO.   Farewell.

SAN.   Come back soon.

AND.   I’ll be with you in a jiffy.

(He goes out)

MACO.   Sic fata volunt.

SAN.   There you go again with your prophecies.

MACO.   What are you babbling about?


SAN.   I said your Highness. Didn’t you hear the Maestro say, “I commend myself to Your Highness?”

MACO.   I commend myself to Your Highness. With baretta in hand, è vero?

SAN.   Signor, si. Get yourself on your legs, pull down your vest, do some tall spitting, and you’re all O. K. (3). Strut! Fine, that’s fine!

(Enter Furfante, a newsboy)

FUR.   Stories! Stories! (4)

MACO.   Be quiet, what’s he crying there?

SAN.   He must be crazy.

FUR.   Stories! Fine Stories! the war on the Turks in Hungary, the preaching of Fra Martino, the council, stories! stories! the affair in England, the pomp of the Pope and the Emperor, the Circumcision of Via Vova, the sack of Rome, the siege of Florence, the fall of Marseilles, Stories! Stories! Stories!

MACO.   Run, fly, trot, Sanese. Here’s a giulio. Buy the one about the Courtiers, so that I can become a Courtier before the Maestro comes; but don’t you become a Courtier before I do, do you understand?

SAN.   The devil, no. Do you want the books, the orations or the sheets? (5) Hey there! Oh, you! oh you! I hope he breaks his neck! He’s turned the corner; I’ll run after him.

MACO.   Run, I tell you!

(Sanese goes out)

MACO.   Oh what a street! It’s like a cemetery. I see, up there in that window, a fine Signora. She must be the 173 Duchess of Rome. I feel that I am falling in love; if I am made Cardinal, if I become a Courtier, she’ll not get away from me. She’s looking at me; she’s admiring me; I’ll not let her slip out of my claws. There’s Sanese. Where is the oration, Sanese?

(Sanese comes in)

SAN.   Here it is, read the superscription.

MACO.   “The Life of the Turks, composed by the Bishop of Nocera.” Oh the devil take you! What do I care about the Turks? I feel like washing myself when I even talk about them. Take it away.

SAN.   I told him the one about the Courtier, and he gave me this one instead: “Give your Master, if you will, a dose of the syphilis from Stracino of Sienna.”

MACO.   What does he mean, syphilis? Am I a man to have a thing like that?

SAN.   Is it so bad a thing to have?

MACO.   Come on home, I’m going to murder you.

SAN.   I won’t stand for that, Master.

MACO.   Come on then, I’ll take it out on Grillo, and let you go.

(They go out. Rosso and Cappa come in)

ROSSO. Our master is the most gentle knave, the most excellent dolt, and the most venerable ass in all Italy. You have to speak to him by the points of the Moon.

CAPPA. Certainly, anyone who said that he was not a villain would be lying in his throat; and I have noticed one of his scurviest knaveries, when he says to servants who apply for a position: “You try me out for a month, and I will try you for a month; if I please you, you will remain, and if you do not please me, you will go.” At the end of the month he says: “You will not do for me.”

ROSSO. I understand the reason for that; he is well-served and does not have to pay a salary.

CAPPA. It is to laugh, and to curse God at the same time, 174 to see him leaning on two of his servants to have his shoes tied. If the strings are not of equal length and if they do not happen to match one another, his cries go up to Heaven.

ROSSO. And don’t forget the perfumed card which must always be borne between two silver plates upon occasion, and which must always be inspected by him first.

CAPPA. Ha, ha! I have to laugh at him in church. For every Ave Maria which the page who stands in front of him mutters, he sends up a Paternoster from the rosary which he holds in his hand; and in taking the holy water, the said page first kisses his hand; and then, dipping his hand in the water, the master sprinkles it over him on the point of his finger and makes the sign of the cross on his forehead with a most Spanish reverence.

ROSSO. Ha, ha! He reminds me of the quondam prior of Capua who, whenever he urinated, had one page to open his cod-piece and another to take out his nightingale. And when he combs his beard, a chamberlain must stand in front of him, mirror in hand; and if one hair happens to be out of line, the barber’s in a hard way.

CAPPA. Ha, Ha. Tell me, have you observed the stupidities he commits in cleaning his teeth after a meal?

ROSSO. As if I hadn’t observed them! I am amazed at the diligence he employs, and after he has spent three hours with the water and some time with the napkin, he uses his finger to brush them; of all the silly things I ever heard, he opens his mouth as wide as he can to show his white teeth, and the majestic way he struts is something not to be passed over in silence, or the way he pulls his beard or the lascivious glances he gives to others.

CAPPA. I think we ought to put a hatchet in his head some night, don’t you?


ROSSO. That we ought, so others like him would learn a lesson. But here’s Valerio. I doubt if he has heard us. Let’s withdraw to one side.

(They go out. Valerio comes in.)

VAL.   Aha, drunkards, traitors, gallows-birds, where have you fled? But I’ve heard you. A fine thing it is to treat a master the way you do! Go hang yourselves, go! As if Rosso had not been well-looked-after by the Signor. The clothes the master gives him every year are more than he is worth. But fellows like these must do and say the worst they can against the Lords who would favor them. Whoever becomes a Dove, the Falcon at once eats him.

(Flaminio comes in.)

FLAM . What quarrels are these you are holding with yourself?

VAL.   I am beside myself over the poltrooneries which I have just heard spoken of the Signor by Rosso and Cappa. And if it were not that I do not want to do so great a wrong to the gallows, which is waiting for them, I surely would give them what they deserve. And all this comes from treating them too well; for, make a servant the companion of your appetites , he at once becomes the master.

FLAM . Who doesn’t know that? But do you think there are no others besides Rosso? I have heard with my own ears, from one whom you know, certain obscure things of his master, who, because the latter in truth is such a man as must be nowadays, and because he is a Signor like the others, looks better after them than he does to himself. But why am I telling you all this? These Lords of the court no longer take for their service the virtuous and the noble, but the ignorant and the pleabeian.

VAL.   A gran maestro wants to do and say what he pleases without respect to anyone; he wants, in the house and in the bed, to have the food that is to his taste, 176 without being reproved for it, and when he does not happen to know what he wants, the only thing left for him to do is to beat, vituperate and abuse the one who serves him, a thing which he could not do with a virtuous man or with one who was well-born. A noble would rather beg than empty a urinal, or clean a thundermug; and a virtuous man would split before he would wink at the dishonorable desires which come to these Signori. And so let us make up our minds that he who would do well at court must come there deaf, blind, mute, asinine, a cow and a goat, I should say.

FLAM .This comes from the fact that the majority of the great ones are of obscure origin, and so cannot bear to look upon those who come of illustrious blood. They force themselves to bear arms and to find cognomens which will make them appear genteel.

VAL.   But who is more noble than the Signor Constantino, who was the despot of Lamorea and the Prince of Macedonia, and now is governor of Fano?

FLAM . Suppose we let this conversation go, since everything is in the hands of Fate. Tell me something; what do you think of a master who does nothing but sigh?

VAL.   I think he must be in love.

FLAM . It couldn’t be anything else. Let’s go walk toward Belvedere for an hour.

VAL.   Let’s go.

(They go out. Parabolano and Rosso come in.)

PAR  . Where do you come from?

ROSSO. From the Campo di Fiori.

PAR  . Who was with you.

ROSSO. Frappa, Squarcia, Tartaglia, and Targa; and I have read the cartello which Don Cirimonia di Moncada has sent to the Signor Lindezza di Valenza. Then I did the Via de la Pace, and I saw the Signora, who spoke of going to some vineyard or other; I was on the point 177 of giving a couple of dagger thrusts to the fellow I saw talking to her, but I restrained myself.

PAR  . Another flame is cooking in my heart now.

ROSSO. If I were a woman, I would bank my fire before I would give it to a Signor. Two days ago you were in spasms over her, and now you turn up your nose at her; in short, gentlemen don’t know what they want.

PAR  . Stop your chattering, take these ten scudi, buy all the lampreys you can find, and bring them to that gentleman, the Sanese, (6) who lodges in the house of Ceccotto.

ROSSO. What madness is this?

PAR  . Madness or wisdom I shall go there, for I cannot forget the honor that was done to me at his house in Sienna.

ROSSO. It would be better to give him a couple of whelps.

PAR  . Are dogs good to eat, you sheep?

ROSSO. Four artichokes would be a fine present.

PAR  . Where will you find artichokes at this time of the year.

ROSSO. Grow them.

PAR  . Go buy what I’ve told you to, and tell him to eat them for love of me, and that I shall come to call on him tomorrow, for today I am very busy at the palace.

ROSSO. Ten tortoises would not be displeasing to him; take my advice, master, in making presents to your friends.

PAR  . Are tortoises a gift to make to one of my equals, you beast? Hurry and bring him the lampreys, and don’t let me have more than twenty words out of you.

ROSSO. More than thirty I do not know. It is a cruel thing that I should not have been sent by the Sofi to the Pope as an Ambassador. I can hear myself saying, “Most serene, most reverend, most excellent, your Majesty, Holiness, Paternity, Magnificence, Omnipotence, 178 and Reverence, everything up to the Viro Domino;” and I should make a bow like this, and another like this.

PAR  . Altaria fumant. Help me off with my cloak and take it home. I am going to see the horses and the giardino.

(He goes out.)

ROSSO (holding the cloak of Parabolano). I’m going to see how I look in silk. Oh, what I would give for a mirror to see myself rigged out in these gallantries. The truth is, clothes make the page, and if those Signori were to go as poorly clothed as we do, they would look like monkeys or baboons. I am astonished they do not banish all mirrors so they would not have to see those big porters’ candles that they call faces. But I am a fine idiot not to make leva ejus with this cloak and the scudi that are in it. It is the greatest charity there is to rob a Lord. But we will go now and swindle this fisherman fellow; the Lord we will assassinate at our leisure. I see a fish-seller coming there. To me he has the air of a business man, but I think he’s a cold potato. (7)

(Enter the fisherman.)

This cloak is too tight for me. I’m used to going in a cappa and using gravity and force. This is not my style. What is it, Fisherman?

FISH . At your service.

ROSSO. Have you any other lampreys besides these?

FISH . The others have been taken by the steward of Fra Mariano, who’s giving a dinner to Moro, Brandino, Proto, Troia — and all the gluttons of the palace.

ROSSO. After this, before all these others, I want you to give me first choice. I am the steward of N. S., (7) and if you are a good fellow, the palace will do business with you.

FISH . I am your Lordship’s slave, in fact, not thought.

ROSSO. How much do you want for these?


FISH . Whatever is pleasing to your Lordship.

ROSSO. Speak out.

FISH . Ten ducats of carlins, more or less, at your Lordship’s pleasure.

ROSSO. Eight would be a very good price.

FISH . Does your Lordship want them for a gift? Don’t you see that I am a poor man and that I have a generous mind, in fact, not thought?

ROSSO. Earth does not degrade gold. But do you think my groom leads a mule? You shall see that he leads a genet which it takes almost four hours to saddle. May I die if I don’t chase you to the bordello.

FISH . Your Lordship will not be angry if I carry them home for him, and my bambolino shall stay here to watch the rest.

ROSSO. That suits me. By the body of . . . If I meet you in the town, I’ll give you something to remember . . . Off with you, my good fellow.

FISH . I am off.

ROSSO. Are you Colonese or Orsino?

FISH . I hold to a victorious name: Palle, Palle.

ROSSO. Of what country are you?

FISH . A Florentine, born at Porta Pinti, and I was the Landlord of a chiassolino, but I fell into disgrace.

ROSSO. Aha! What is your name?

FISH . Il Faccenda, (9) at your service, and I have three sisters in the Town, at the sign of the Walnut Tree, at the pleasure of your Lordship.

ROSSO. Have made for yourself a pair of stockings with my device.

FISH . I am grateful, indeed — in fact, not thought.

ROSSO. Old sport, the maestro di casa is at the gate of San Piero. I’ll have him pay you, although, to tell you the truth, he is very stingy with his scudi. Wait for me here, and I will see that you are taken care of.


FISH . Hurry up about it.

(Fisherman goes out.)

ROSSO. Go on! Keep faith with servants! I’d like to break your neck with a club, you thief, you big-breeches, you traitor!

(The sacristan of St. Peter’s comes in.)

Listen, father. That poor wretch you see there has a wife who is possessed, in the hostlery of the Moon, with ten spirits on her back; and so, I beseech your Reverence, for the love of God, take him and have him strapped to the colonna; and I would have your Lordship understand, the poor wretch is half silly and altogether balmy. (10)

SAC.   As soon as I have spoken a few words to my friend over there, I shall be very glad to be of service. Call him back.

ROSSO.Sire Faccenda!

(Fisherman comes in.)

FISH . Here I am. What is your Lordship’s command?

CAC.   As soon as I have spoken ten words to my friend over there, I shall do my duty with you. Wait here.

FISH . As your Lordship commands.

(Sacristan goes out.)

ROSSO. Here are five giulii. Take them as a deposit for the stockingmaker. I will see him in Rome and pay him the rest.

FISH . Your Lordship is too kind. Take the lampreys, since you are going to the palace.

ROSSO.All right, since I must play the groom and the groom the master. Addio.

FISH . Listen, listen, Signor Steward. What kind of stockings are specified in your coat of arms?

ROSSO. Specify what you will, it makes no difference. Sta’ bene.

(Rosso goes out.)

FISH . What a knave! He pays me eight scudi, and I would 181 have given them to him for four; he’s a good enough spenditore, (11), ha, ha! Just because he has a silk cloak, he things he’s a six-hundred fiorino nag. (12) But isn’t that Maestro ever going to stop his chatter? He is longer about it than a day without bread.

(Sacristan comes in.)

SAC.   Well?

FISH . Your servant.

SAC.   Pardon me if I have put you to any inconvenience.

FISH . What inconvenience? To serve you, I would even go to Paris.

SAC.   I want to comfort you.

FISH . If you want to do me a charity, there are other ways than going to the Sepulchre; for in fact, I have five bambolini.

SAC.   How many are there?

FISH . Ten.

SAC.   That is a good many.

FISH . It is surely a load in these times.

SAC.   They are not doing well, I take it?

FISH . No, Monsignor, lampreys are a light food.

SAC.   Poor man, you are mad.

FISH . How, mad? Ask the doctor.

SAC.   Do the spirits take you in the day-time or at night?

FISH . I have no fear of spirits, morning or night. Will your Lordship pay me, for I have business to do.

SAC.   Your father left you a curse, that’s certain.

FISH . It was curse enough to leave me a beggar.

SAC.   I must say for you the masses of St. Gregory.

FISH . What the devil have lampreys to do with the masses of St. Gregory? Pay me, if you will, or I shall have to post you in the Calendar.

SAC.   (calling) Take him! Take him, priests! Make the sign of the cross on him in adiutorium altissimi.


FISH.   Ah, poltroon!

SAC.   Et homo factus est.

FISH.   Ah, Sodomite!

SAC.   Aha! So you bite, do you?

FISH.   With my fists, you knave!

SAC.   Et in virtute tua salvum me fac. Acqua santa.

FISH.   Let me go, traitor! So I’m bewitched, am I? I’m bewitched?

SAC.   In ignem aeternum.

FISH.   Where are you dragging me, you turn-coat priest!

SAC.   I’ll get him out of you. Conculcabis leonem et draconem.

(The Sacristan drags him out. Parabolano comes in.)

PAR.   Neither horses nor gardens nor any other pleasure can draw from my heart the obstinacy of that pleasant thought which the image of Livia has sculptured in me; and I am come to such a point that food to me is poison, repose is pain, day is darkness, and the night, which ought to quiet my soul, afflicts me so that, hating myself, I would rather die than live in such a state. But here is Maestro Andrea; if he has seen me, I shall be put into a canzone; it will be better to betake myself to my house.

(He goes out. Maestro Andrea, with a book in his hand, and Rosso come in.)

AND.   Ha, ha! I’ve found some fine sport! Aha, here’s Rosso. How goes it, old fellow?

ROSSO. You’re laughing, and I’m laughing too. Ha, ha! A divine farce, a Fisherman, ha ha! I’ll tell it to you at my leisure. I’m in a hurry to take these lampreys home; but he who should have them shall have half, and the other half I propose to eat, myself, at the most Reverend tavern. Addio.

AND.   I commend myself to you.

(Rosso goes out.)

AND.   I wanted to be a master to Sanese, and here, I have passed myself off to him as a pedagogue, and I am bringing him this book which teaches the art of becoming a 183 Courtier. Ah, I must tell him that Augustus liked it. I ought to have taught it to my own father, rather than to a Sanese, if only my father had wanted to turn madman; what greater charity is there than to pay the horses for those who want to send their brains by post? It is a greater charity than it would be to cure a good part of the friars and priests. For as soon as the head becomes empty of brains, it is filled with states, grandeurs and treasuries, and such a one would not change his rank with a quondam dog-keeper of a Sarapica; he goes in to ecstasies when you agree with what he says, and a fellow like that would not deign to change places with the Medici. And if I end by refining the madness of this simpleton Sanese, he will be under more obligations to me than are the treasuries of syphilis to the wood of India. I can see him strutting now, and with what grace. By my faith, but I would like to put him in the catalogue of the blockheads so as to make a solemn commemoration of him to the praise and glory of — I won’t say of Sienna.

(Maco comes in.)

Salutations and consolations, etc.

MACO.   Good day and good year. And the book, where is it?

AND.   Here it is, at your Lordship’s pleasure.

MACO.   I shall die if you do not read me a lesson at once.

AND.   You are facetious.

MACO.   You are wrong to insult me.

AND.   Do you call it an insult to say you are facetious?

MACO.   Yes, for I was never facetious, neither I nor anyone else of my house. And so, begin.

AND.   The principal thing which a Courtier must know is how to blaspheme; he must be a gambler, invidious, a whore-chaser, a heretic, an adulator, a slanderer, an ingrate, ignorant and asinine; he must know how to cheat, how to play the nymph, and he must be at once active and patient.


MACO.   Easy, there easy! What do you mean, active and patient I don’t understand that cipher.

AND.   Man and wife can tell you.

MACO.   You may be right. But how does one become a heretic? That is what I would like to know.

AND.   Listen.

MACO.   I’m listening.

AND.   When anyone says to you in the Court there is goodness, discretion, love, or conscience, say, “I don’t believe it.”

MACO.   “I don’t believe it.”

AND.   When anyone would have you believe that it is a sin to break Lent, say, “That’s a joke.”

MACO.   “That’s a joke.”

AND.   And finally, when anyone speaks well to you of the Court, say, “You’re a liar.”

MACO.   It would be better if I were to say, “You lie by the throat.”

AND.   It would be more intelligible and briefer.

MACO.   Why do Courtiers blaspheme, Maestro?

AND.   In order to appear to be practical men, and on account of the cruelty of Acursio and the others who dispense the power of the Court, who, giving entree to poltroons and keeping the good servants in want, throw all Courtiers into such despair that they feel like renouncing their Baptism.

MACO.   How does one set about it to be ignorant?

AND.   By keeping yourself a buffalo.

MACO.   And invidious?

AND.   By bursting at the good fortune of others.

MACO.   How does one become an adulator?

AND.   By praising every piece of blockheadedness.

MACO.   How does one deceive?

AND.   By telling miracles.

MACO.   How does one play the nymph?

AND.   This every knavish he-whore of a Courtier can teach 185 you, who stands from one vespers to the other, like a pardoner cleaning vestments, and consumes hours before his mirror, in playing the game of the rich and greasing antique pates, in talking Tuscan, Petrarch in hand, with a “yes in faith,” with an “I swear to God,” and with an “I kiss your hand,” which appears to be the totum continens of the matter.

MACO.   How does one slander?

AND.   By speaking the truth, by speaking the truth.

MACO.   How does one become an ingrate?

AND.   By putting on a face as though you had never seen one who has done you a service.

MACO.   How does one become an ass?

AND.   Ask even the palace stairs. But this will be enough for the first lesson; in the second, we will treat of the art of Culiseo. (13)

MACO.   Wait. The art of Culiseo. What kind of a thing is that?

AND.   The treasure and the consolation of Rome.

MACO.   How do you mean?

AND.   I will tell you tomorrow; for now we are going to see Master Pasquino.

MACO.   Who is Master Pasquino?

AND.   One who has put a spoke in the wheels of the Signori and the Monsgnori.

MACO.   What art is his?

AND.   He works by turn at poetry.

MACO.   I also am a poet, both by letter and by the vulgate, and I know a fine epigram in my own praise.

MACO.   Who made it?

MACO.   A very worthy man.

AND.   Who is this very worthy man?

MACO.   I am he.

AND.   Aha! Recite it, for I want to hear it.

MACO.   (reciting).


Hanc tua Penelope musam meditaris avenam.
Nil mihi rescribas, nimium ne crede colori.
Cornua cum Lunae recubans sub tegmine fagi.
Tityre tu patulae lento tibi mittit Ulysses.

AND.   Get the hook! Get the hook! Thief! Thief!

MACO.   Why do you shout like that, wise man?

AND.   Because some heroic madman has stolen your verses.

MACO.   And who might that heroic madman be?

AND.   Oh, some valiant fellow at stealing his master’s thunder. (14) But go on.

MACO.   (reciting).

Arma virumque cano vacinia nigra leguntur.
Italiam fato numerum sine viribus uxor.
Omnia vincit amor nobis ut carmina dicunt.
Silvestrem tenui, et nos cedamus Amori.

AND.   You ought to have them printed and entitled after the humor of Bologna, and I will write the life of the author, my good fellow.

MACO.   Ago vobis gratia.

AND.   And now home, where everything shall be arranged; but where is the servant?

MACO.   Sanese is a poltroon, but Grillo is a worthy fellow; I want Grillo and not Sanese. Let us go in.

(They go out. The Fisher man comes in from the Colonna)

FISH.   Roma, doma. And I thought it was paradise! What cruelty is this? To a Florentine they do those things which I thought they would do only to a Sanese. I am mad, I am bursting; two hours they held me bound to the Colunna as one bewitched, with all the world around me, flaying me, pounding me, and striking at me. Who willed that I should have to beat the door, lose my lampreys and have them eaten by the cancer? I swear to God, I do not understand this Rome, I have not deceived anyone with my merchandise, but if I find 187 that sacristan and those crazy priests, body, body . . . blood . . . I’ll smash their noses, I’ll break their bones and tear out their eyes. Cursed be anyone, Rome, who loves you or believes in you. And I will say it in her despite, I had thought that the punishment which Christ had given her at the hands of the Spaniards would have made her a better women, but I find she is wickeder than ever.



1 No effort has been made to retain the original numerous scene divisions. The stage directions for the most part are the translator’s own.

2 menarvi la rilla

3 Tiratevi la persona in le gambe, acconciatevi la veste a dosso, sputate tondo, o bene. Passeggiate largo, bene, benissimo.

4 A le belle istorie, a le belle istorie. Later, it is merely istorie, istorie. This is nothing if not our “Extra!” This scene, indeed, is astonishingly modern. We see here modern journalism in the making. Reference is to the Pasquinades. See Hutton, pp. 35ff: “These verses were even then distributed in fly-sheets, it might seem precisely as the ‘istorie’ are cried and sold in La Cortigiana and as songs and verses are sold today on coloured single sheets of paper in Tuscany.”

5 Debbe esser pazzo.

6 Sanese: one of Sienna, from which city Maco comes; also the name of Maco’s servant.

7 zugo.

8 i. e., the Pope.

9 Business Man.

10 e tutto adombrato.

11 Steward [one who spends.]

12 A barbery horse which cost six-hundred fiorini d’oro. Hence, a presumptuous fellow, a braggart.

13 culo: rump.

in disfidare a le cannonate, etc.


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