Texto utilizado para esta edición digital:
Accademia degli Intronati. All Deceived! (Gli Ingannati). Translated by Richard Andrews. EMOTHE, 2017.
- Tronch Pérez, Jesus (Artelope)
GLI INGANNATI / THE DECEIVED
I. HISTORY AND CONTEXT
I.1 FIRST PERFORMANCE
The Accademia degli Intronati was one of the first literary academies of Renaissance Italy. It was founded in the city state of Siena (where it still survives) around the year 1525, at a time when the Italian peninsula was being fought over by the French on one side and the German and Spanish troops of the Emperor Charles V on the other. The word intronato is used colloquially of people who are rendered deaf and stupid by incessant clangour (it has nothing to do with the English ‘enthroned’, which would be intronizzato). So the self-deprecatory title of the Academy (the ‘Deaf and Daft’) was explained in its statutes as indicating that the roar of battle and war had bemused and deafened the academicians, leading them to retire from public affairs and concentrate exclusively on literary culture. They adopted as their emblem the zucca, the gourd or pumpkin which Tuscan peasants would hollow out into a container for pounding and storing salt. A pair of crossed pestles, for pounding, appeared above the gourd with the Latin motto Meliora latent (‘The best things lie hidden’). The self-deprecation was thus presented as a deliberate camouflage: the humble gourd concealed the essential nutrient which was proverbially connected with intelligence. To this day in Italy a person can be said to have ‘salt in his gourd’ (sale in zucca) if he or she is less of a fool than appears at first sight. Although this has not been followed up by Italian critics, such a combination of foolish appearance and hidden paradoxical wisdom might suggest parallels with the Fool Societies (Sociétés Joyeuses) which existed in this period in France and northern Europe. However, the more obvious function of the Intronati was to provide a social and cultural focus for the Sienese ruling class, which would cut across and attempt to ignore the complex political divisions by which that class was riven.
The Intronati, like members of other Italian academies, adopted heavily jocular nicknames like Il Bizzarro (‘Bizarre’), L’Addolorato (‘Grief-stricken’), or Lo Sfacciato (‘Cheeky’), and they developed that elaborate ritualized constitution which seems to emerge in so many all-male clubs. (In this sense it might be arguable that there was an input, eventually, from academies into the Freemasonry movement.) But the Academy eventually became known for its social evenings, to which the womenfolk were invited, and at which sophisticated games of literary wit were invented and played. For a while the ‘Sienese evening’ (veglia senese) was a type of structured entertainment or party recognized and followed in other Italian centres: the fact that women were involved in such social-intellectual gatherings was still striking at that time. But before this happened, the Academy had also built itself a reputation in the theatrical field, and Gli ingannati was the first of its plays to be published and widely imitated.
On the night of Epiphany (‘Twelfth Night’, by coincidence?), in the year 1532 (‘1531’ Sienese style, since their year began in the spring), the academicians staged a kind of pageant or masque of a kind common enough as court entertainment. It was symbolic rather than realistically dramatic, and addressed explicitly to the ladies in the audience, those to whom the academicians claimed to have devoted all their literary talents in vain. Despairing of amorous sympathy and encouragement, they explained, they now proposed to renounce love entirely, and to pursue intellectual acheivement on their own with no more courtly dedications. Each member of the Academy in turn, thirty men in all, stepped up to a pagan altar dedicated to Minerva and burned upon it some symbol of his former attachment—such as a handkerchief soaked in tears, a lock of hair, a portrait—reciting some verses composed for the occasion. The ashes of these tokens were scattered, and a final recitation reproached the ladies for their ingratitude, hinting at the same time that it might not be too late for them and their admirers to change their minds.
This charade was obviously light-hearted, and it is probable that the device of presenting a comedy to the same ladies as an apology and peace offering had been planned all along. All the early editions of the play print the text of the Epiphany pageant first, and the volumes are entitled Il Sacrificio degli Intronati, rather than Gli Ingannati which is the title of the comedy alone. (An anastatic copy of the first edition has been reprinted, edited by Nerida Newbigin, Forni, Bologna 1984.) The Prologue to the comedy conveys perfectly the spirit of the whole enterprise, in its regular prods of sexual innuendo directed at the women in the audience. It aims at a level of cheerful titillation permissible at Carnival time, but never steps over the bounds of a fictional game acceptable in sophisticated society. If we can take literally the remark of the character Scatizza (‘Stoke’) in Act I Scene 6, the comedy was actually performed on the last night of Carnival, a night on which Italians still normally expect to let their hair down a little before the onset of Lent. Although the Saturnalian spirit is not the only tone which the play contains, the festive setting of this performance must have been crucial in dictating the audience’s mood and its reception of the comedy. (And performances of this translation have confirmed that the play’s potentially more romantic and emotional elements tend in practice to collapse, at least for modern actors and audiences, in the face of a more pantomime spirit.)
Gli Ingannati, then, was offered to the ladies of Siena as a jocular apology for a jocular affront. It was presented, according to the Prologue, by the academy as a whole, and the academy always afterwards claimed collective responsibility for its authorship. The play was a successful one, and many people have found it hard to accept that it could have been written by a committee (even though there is now considerable evidence of other Intronati plays having multiple authorship). Moreover, some of the political attitudes casually concealed in it might be easier to interpret if they could be ascribed to an author whose views are already known from other sources. In 1977, Professor Giovanni Aquilecchia argued for a dual authorship, attributing the comedy to a collaboration between Francesco Maria Molza (1489-1544) and Claudio Tolomei (1492-1555). Molza was from Modena, where the play is set; Tolomei was Sienese, though at this time politically suspect. Most scholars, however, following the major study of Sienese theatre by Daniele Seragnoli (1980), accept that the comedy was indeed composed collectively, with a crucial co-ordinating role being played by the humanist scholar Alessandro Piccolomini (1508‑79).
I.2 HISTORICAL CONTEXT OF THE COMEDY: THE SACK OF ROME
An attempt in 1526 by Pope Clement VII to instal a government in Siena more friendly to him was a small move in a wide-ranging and increasingly desperate international strategy. Clement was the second of the Medici Popes, and thus presided over a clan which had dominated Rome and Florence since 1513. Siena, squeezed between Florence and the Papal State, could hardly fail to be nervous of a dynasty which controlled both territories at once; and in the great power struggles which oppressed Italy, the little city republic was always forced into whichever camp was in opposition to the Pope. Clement had formed a League of Italian states to side with France against the Empire. The chaotic oligarchical government of Siena had more to fear from Clement than from Charles V, so it was prepared to pay discreetly for Imperial protection, to supply the Emperor’s troops as they moved down towards Rome, to keep pro-Medici citizens like Claudio Tolomei formally in exile, and to shelter the Pope’s enemies.
The Italian League armies were incompetently led, and in two minds about their aims. In the summer of 1527, the Emperor’s German and Spanish troops reached the walls of Rome. They had been undernourished and unpaid for months, and were feeling bloodthirsty and exasperated: moreover some of the Germans in the service of the Holy Roman Emperor were Lutherans who saw Rome as the abode of Antichrist. They found it ludicrously easy to breach the walls, and embarked on a sack which staggered Europe, during which thousands of people were slaughtered, tortured, raped, or held to ransom several times over. The Pope and a few lucky aristocrats, with their dependants and guests, sat in their fortress-like palaces helpless and barely secure, while the bloody tide flowed uncontrollably through the streets around them.
The political and cultural trauma caused by the Sack of Rome was far reaching. It pointed forward to the loss of political independence in most of the Italian peninsula, and some see it as marking the end of the Renaissance. On a simpler level, the event was a severe shock to many individual Italians, even to those who had backed the Imperial cause. Rome had been a cosmopolitan commercial and artistic centre, so inhabitants of every town in Italy would have known somebody who suffered. During the months that followed, the survivors would have crawled back to all these towns, penniless after paying extortionate ransoms, and bearing news of those who would not return at all. The plot of Gli Ingannati uses this devastation as a starting point: old Virginio has been impoverished by the Sack, his daughter Lelia was held and (it is hinted) raped by Spaniards, his son Fabrizio captured by a different body of soldiers and removed to an unknown fate. None of this would seem inherently unlikely to an audience of 1532. They were used, it is true, to the purely fictional convention of a family separated by war or brigandage and then reunited at the end of the story—such stories were used in ancient Roman comedy, and this play makes as much fun as any other of the implausible coincidences involved in the format. But there is an underlying bite in setting the action so firmly in the ‘here and now’, and relating the fiction to a real traumatic fact. The political discomfort of being in the Imperial alliance is worked out in farce: the most clown-like figure of the comedy, and the one who gets the least sympathy, is the Spanish soldier, representative of the occupying forces (allied or hostile, it made very little difference) who were becoming wearisomely familiar in most Italian towns. (Another Sienese play, unpublished at the time, is much franker about the atrocities committed by Spanish ‘allies’ against local peasants.)
One would not want to exaggerate the historical and political content (or indeed the realism) of Gli Ingannati. Its main plot concerns the private, amorous and family affairs of its characters, in strict accordance with what was prescribed for the comic genre. Its central narrative format was exploited for Shakespeare’s more romantically individualistic Twelfth Night, among other derivations, and its political references are so fleeting and unspecific that scholars are not entirely sure which side it is on. But it was written for a particular audience on a particular occasion, and the current worries and recent memories of that audience in 1532 must have played some part in the way it was first received.
I.3 A PIONEERING TEXT
The central plot of Gli Ingannati, with its mistaken identities, amorous errors and rediscoveries, will not seem very new in style to readers of English Renaissance drama, and its links with Twelfth Night will make it appear even more familiar. The play seems to fit comfortably into what later became a European tradition of comedy lasting through to 1800 or so. It is all the more important to stress, therefore, that most of the more recognizable elements in the play are actually appearing for the first time on the Italian stage. These elements had certainly been uncommon, so far, in the new genre of five-act ‘regular’ comedy, with a fixed urban setting and unity of time, which Humanist-trained writers had been trying to establish since the first decade of the century. Most of the important innovations revolve in the end round the figure of Lelia, and the whole notion of an active sympathetic heroine.
Earlier attempts at Italian ‘regular’ comedy (by dramatists such as Ariosto, Machiavelli, Bibbiena and Aretino) had been strongly influenced in one particular by the models of Roman comedy (Plautus and Terence) which they were trying to revive. Roman comedy gives little development to female characters, unless they can be depicted as gross caricatures—either giggling sexually experienced whores, or older women mocked for their ugliness and grotesquerie. In particular young female characters, however central to the plot, were prevented by Roman social propriety from appearing on stage at all if the story was going to leave them in the end respectably married and socially unblemished. (The most striking example of this is perhaps Terence’s Hecyra.) This means that Roman comedy is always short on sympathetic women characters, and on the female point of view. This is quite unlike what we now expect from European comedy in the Renaissance and after—if anything, the heroines of Shakespeare, Molière, Marivaux, Goldsmith, Beaumarchais and Mozart tend to have the upper hand over the male characters in terms of sympathy, maturity, and moral coherence.
The first original Italian comedies produced according to classical formats tended to follow the Roman custom. They would be influenced by three factors. Firstly, their own sense of social propriety was similar to that of the Romans—young girls of good family were in some way ‘stained’ by coming too much into public view. Secondly, and because of this, it was simply unrealistic to represent such girls as coming into the public street—and mimetic realism in social behaviour on stage was one of the important elements which the classical mode of comedy was trying to foster. One very simple move was needed in order to investigate female characters more realistically: the staging of scenes indoors, rather than in the street. But in Italy this practice is not to be found until well into the seventeenth century (in imitation, perhaps, of innovations introduced by Molière). Thirdly, and again as in ancient Rome, all actors in this amateur gentlemanly context were male; and it may have been felt that boys could not sustain female roles very easily. (We are not dealing here, as in Elizabethan England, with professional apprentices or highly trained schoolboys, but with lads who possibly acted once or twice in their lives.)
As a result of these points, the plays of Ariosto, Machiavelli and Aretino are short on female characters and viewpoint, and in some cases can be judged as seriously misogynistic even by the standards of the time. The one important exception is Calandra by Bernardo Dovizi da Bibbiena, first produced in Urbino in 1513. Here there is a heroine called Santilla who, like Lelia in our present play, is circulating in male disguise and getting confused with her male twin. However, Santilla is not a heroine in love, and not trying to prove herself in relation to the supreme female virtue (in the eyes of a Renaissance aristocrat), namely sexual fidelity. This is where the Intronati of Siena made an important and lasting innovation in the patterns of classical comedy. The motif of a ‘constant’ heroine trying to reunite herself with husband, lover or family in the face of separation or misunderstanding was not a new one. It had long been developed in the medieval short story or novella, and was established in Boccaccio’s Decameron, which had already been adopted as a source for comic stage plots. Sienese dramatists had actually used it before, early in the sixteenth century, in plays which were more medieval in structure and ignored the classical unities. It was bound to appear sooner or later in the new commedia erudita: in point of fact it was the Intronati who, in Gli Ingannati, used it there for the first time, and opened the way to a more sympathetic investigation of the character and predicament of a young heroine. By doing so they were sowing seeds not just for the single play which is Twelfth Night, but for the main stream of European comedy over subsequent centuries. One has to note that the active roles played also by Pasquella the servant and Clemenzia the nurse mean that in the end, in this story, astute women gain the upper hand over male characters who are either obtuse or confused.
As a spin-off from this full presentation of an amorous heroine, Gli Ingannati also presented Italian audiences with the first ever love scenes on stage within a classical format. The carefully chosen rhetorical speeches of Flamminio and Lelia, in Act V Scene 3, are thus not yet ‘conventional’ in stage terms, because there was no convention; though they build heavily on established patterns used in dialogue from non-dramatic fiction. Astonishingly, they are preceded in Act II Scene 6 by the happily scandalous scene between Lelia and Isabella, in which kisses are exchanged between two girls (in the story) portrayed by two boy actors (in reality, in 1532). This is a surprising level of titillation and sexual ambiguity, perhaps then only permissible at Carnival time before a strictly private audience.
The innovation is compounded further by the clear invitation in this text to have the roles of both twins played by the same actor (or actress, as modern productions may now prefer). Bibbiena’s Calandra did not choose to do this: it put the twins on stage together more than once. Gli Ingannati carefully avoids any meeting between them, and produces some rather disconnected concluding scenes as a result, rather than the full family reunion which one would normally expect. This puts the roles of Lelia and Fabrizio in a fascinatingly ambiguous light (not least for the person who has to play them); and it has a range of possible effects on the tone of the whole play, which has to be explored anew in each production. It is certainly the first time in modern theatre in which a decision taken purely in respect of stage production would have had such an overwhelming and decisive effect on the ultimate nature of the verbal script.
I.4 THE AFTERLIFE OF GLI INGANNATI
We have mentioned how Gli Ingannati was quietly revolutionary in introducing an active female protagonist, whose feelings and motivation are taken seriously for at least some of the time. In fact this play can be seen as the single most influential Italian comedy of the sixteenth century, both within Italy and abroad.
With regard to later Italian comedies, critics have sometimes been distracted by the existence of two plays entitled Gli Inganni (‘The Deceits’ rather than ‘The Deceived’—by Niccolò Secchi, 1562; and Curzio Gonzaga, 1592). In fact both of these recall their Sienese predecessor more in the wording of their titles than in the details of their plots. Elsewhere, though, the influence is widespread: tropes from Gli ingannati recur in a number of printed scripts, and also in scenarios for commedia dell’arte improvisation. Heroines in male disguise became popular in themselves, and were a speciality of the star actress Isabella Andreini (1562‑1604). The idea of using such a disguise in order to track down a lost lover, or to recapture a recalcitrant one, was taken up in European comedy as late as the eighteenth century: it can be seen in Marivaux (La fausse suivante, 1724) and in Goldoni (La donna di garbo, 1743; Il servitore di due padroni, 1745, published 1753). The device might or might not be combined with mistakes regarding a twin brother; alternatively the theme of twins of different sexes could be pursued in its own right, in an otherwise different narrative context. All kinds of variants and permutations on these narremes can be identified in seven of the forty comic scenarios which Flamminio Scala published in 1611.
The influence of this comedy, however indirect, on Shakepeare’s Twelfth Night is now generally accepted: the pattern of misdirected and mistaken love between Orsino, Olivia, Viola (‘Cesario’) and Sebastian, reflects precisely that between Flamminio, Isabella, Lelia (‘Fabio’) and Fabrizio. Less well known, perhaps, is the fact that an early translation of the play into French—Charles Étienne’s Les abusez, as early as 1543—was one of the first examples of French humanist comedy, and the first French theatre script to be written in prose.
II. THE PLAY
In the 1530s, stage scenery for classical comedy was settling down to standardized norms: the rules laid down by Sebastiano Serlio in 1545 were probably just descriptions of what was being done anyway. The backcloth would (if the company could afford it) be carefully painted by a professional to depict a convincing perspective view down the streets and over the rooftops of a typical Italian city. It is just possible that this could recognizably represent Modena, where this play is set, but a generalized urban background would have been quite acceptable. In the middle ground of the stage, four houses would probably be represented, two on each side. This might be done by flat wings, or by three-dimensional two-sided structures; but it was necessary for the houses to be ‘practicable’, so that actors could walk in and out of them and appear at an upper window. The area occupied by the houses would be relatively shallow, from front of stage to back, and perspective foreshortening would blend them into a continuous picture with the backcloth. The main acting area would be bare, representing a street or square. It was usually wider than it was deep, a fact which facilitated scenes where characters were allegedly out of earshot of one another.
A modern production would vary this scheme according to taste, resources, and the shape of the stage. But certain features are essential: there must be some representation of Gherardo’s house, Clemenzia’s house, and the Osteria del Matto (Fool’s Cap Inn). One might also want to represent the Osteria dello Specchio (Looking-Glass Inn) — in fact, by my interpretation, this would be advisable—and Flamminio’s house—less crucial, but Clemenzia can see his front door in Act I Scene 3.
I would argue firmly (against the late Bruce Penman, in his Penguin translation) that Virginio’s house is not on stage. It is never needed for entrances or exits; and in Act III Scene 7, by insisting that his ‘daughter’ should be taken straight to Gherardo’s house, Virginio uses the excuse that his own house is too far away, and that they would attract too much attention while getting there.
II.2 THE TRANSLATION
Gli Ingannati has no pretensions to poetry, and its fluid vernacular dialogue manages to avoid the literary stiffness of many Italian comedies of the period. Some of the longer speeches in the first two acts have a more formal rhetorical structure, but this tends to disappear as the play moves on. The present translation aims at producing a version which could be performed on stage to a modern audience, and which is neither better nor worse than the original. I have tried to produce laughs and pathos (if any) at all the same places as the original, and to conform to a standard of British English colloquial and scurrilous diction suitable for pantomime and farce. (This last condition inevitably implies that for performance in America, and perhaps Australia, some re-writing would be legitimate.) While wanting a modern translation, rather than a spoof sixteenth-century one, I have avoided (at least for most of the time) references to things or concepts which would be anachronistic.
Jokes in general have been treated fairly ruthlessly, the single aim being to make an audience laugh at every point of the original text where a laugh seems expected, and for roughly the same reason (pun, irony, exaggeration, insult, or whatever). Where a pun is untranslatable, I have looked for another one which arises equally well, or equally badly, out of the dialogue. The language of the Spanish soldier, which in the original is actually Spanish with a few Italianizing distortions, is represented here by a caricature Spanish distortion of English. This was a risky and possibly limiting approach, and an individual performer may prefer to tone it down. Most of the names of the male low-life characters are comically meaningful, so I have translated those as well—the only echo in this text of what might have been done in an English Elizabethan version.
One point perhaps needs emphasizing: like all other published Italian comedies of the period, the original text of this play contains no stage directions whatsoever, other than the list of characters who will speak in the coming scene. (Non-speaking characters were, by convention, not listed, even though dialogue then sometimes indicated their presence.) It follows that everything in this text which appears in italics and between brackets is an addition of my own, with no textual status.
The Intronati academicians were amateurs writing for amateurs, and tended in places to be a little prolix. A modern production is bound to make cuts; but as with any revival of an old play, these have to be dictated by the preferences, or the interpretative slant, of any single presentation. It was in any case important, on historical grounds, to translate everything which was there: there has been a previous history of selective rather than complete translations of this comedy, starting with the French one of 1543. My own recommendation would be not to omit any complete scene, but to prune carefully within scenes to tighten up the rhythm.
II.3 PRODUCTION NOTES
Any play text has to take its chance with a modern audience and modern interpreters, and neither a scholar nor (least of all) a translator has the right to impose a unitary view of how it should be performed. The following remarks, which may seem prescriptive here and there, should be treated as information to which one can respond selectively at will, or which one can ignore altogether. They concern points which in my view are implicit in the text as first composed, and which, if accepted, would have a practical outcome in performance.
Since Lelia and her twin brother Fabrizio are never allowed to meet on stage, one must conclude that the two parts were to be played by the same person. It is unlikely, otherwise, that the authors would have omitted a touching reunion between the two, which is such a regular feature of other plays involving family separation. Instead, and possibly for the first time in Italian theatre, it was decided to try out a combination of superficial realism and acting virtuosity, such has been regularly exploited ever since in farces involving physical doubles. A modern production might decide or not to follow suit; but to do so might help to reconcile the audience to the relative scrappiness, however modified, of the concluding scenes.
As a play written for a private occasion, this text makes allusions to the time and context of its first performance (the last night of Carnival 1532); to the Academy which is both performing and watching it; and to personalities and issues with which that audience was familiar. This attitude of winking across the footlights is foregrounded without any ambiguity in the Prologue, and implicit from time to time thereafter. It is perfectly easy, of course, to cut out all the references to historical personages, to cut the Prologue altogether, and to present the text as an ‘open’ dramatic fiction for an unspecified public. However, experience suggests that a club atmosphere of solidarity between performers and spectators does underly the script to some extent, and there may be something to be gained (at least in suitable performing spaces) from acknowledging and exploiting such allusions, when they can be made comprehensible.
This consideration arises particularly in the case of Act III, Scenes 1 and 2, which have more in them than meets the eye and play a pivotal part in the structure. They seem at first to be a piece of leisurely local colour: the contest for customers between the two innkeepers is fun, and good theatre if well played, but it seems to be a digression from the main narrative. However, there are two levels of discourse implicit in this scene, underneath the surface one.
In the first place, references to the citizens of various different Italian towns (Florence, Venice, Piacenza, etc. and the cardinals from Rome) are all designed to appeal not only to the general prejudices of the Sienese audience, but also probably to their views on current political alignments in 1532. The Duke of Amalfi was a senior member of the Academy, and probably sitting in the place of honour in the audience, so there is a level of allusion here which may be more specific than we can ever recuperate. (When this text was performed for Siena University in 1991, it became natural to replace him with the Rector who was present on the first night.)
More important, though, is the fact that in Act III Scene 2 these comments, decipherable or not, are offered in a symbolic framework which would have been reinforced by staging and properties. The Looking-Glass Inn and the Fool’s Cap are not just two rival commercial establishments in a fictionally transformed Modena: they are also symbolic Houses, as in medieval or Tudor drama, representing Prudence and Folly (‘The Mirror of Prudence teaches us to know ourselves’, says Master Peter). The Pedant is tempted by his sexual weakness to choose Folly rather than Prudence, and in effect the whole cast of the play eventually lines up under the sign of the Fool’s Cap. Squint invites the audience to come and join them there for the final celebratory meal. This tendency is made explicit just at the moment when the actor/actress playing Lelia has appeared on stage for the first time in her/his new role as Lelia’s twin brother. Carnival is a time for disguises, for transvestism, for a holiday from common sense. It seems to me that the play ultimately surrenders to this mood, and it probably makes more sense to stress it from the the beginning, and make the Fool’s bauble one of the main visual symbols.
There were over-strict conventions, in the early part of the sixteenth century in Italy, about what one was allowed to publish in the written text of a play. The complete absence of stage directions can sometimes give the impression that the plays must be all talk and no action: certain characters may have a pitifully small number of words to speak, and seem to be supernumerary. After a while, the reader of these texts comes to realize that this impression is sometimes (not always) misleading. In our present case, the part of Clemenzia’s daughter can easily be expanded to become a mute, mischievous and inconvenient witness to any or all of the goings-on, and she can have established a firm relationship with the audience long before she actually makes her single speech in Act V Scene 5. (There is less potential for plausibly developing the role of Isabella, much though a modern actress might like to do so: an unmarried girl of her class would have been kept firmly indoors.) The script suggests that Spela (‘Pluck’) and Scatizza (‘Stoke’) are on stage with their masters during the central scenes of mistaken identity with Fabrizio in Act III: their presence can then provide some mute ‘business’ with the puzzled Fabrizio, while the two old gentlemen are pursuing their own bewildered dialogue. And in Act V Scene 1, the comic assault on Gherardo’s house need not fade out so anti-climactically as the dialogue suggests. It can easily culminate in an explosion of slapstick violence with no dialogue at all, before things calm down again. More speculatively, the frustrated Spaniard Lilias might become gratuitously involved in the mayhem. He has motivation of his own for assaulting Gherardo’s house, to get at Pasquella: his presence may be confusing and unwelcome to Virginio’s party. His ignominious rout from the stage (perhaps entirely at the hands of the women characters?) is arguably a necessary element in one of the earliest and most topical revivals of the old but exploitable figure of the Braggart Soldier.
List of Characters, in order of appearance
|GHERARDO Foiani, an old merchant of Modena|
|VIRGINIO Bellenzini, his friend and contemporary|
|CLEMENZIA, nurse to Virginio’s children|
|LELIA, Virginio’s daughter, calling herself ‘Fabio’|
|PLUCK, (Spela), Gherardo’s manservant|
|STOKE, (Scatizza), Virginio’s manservant|
|FLAMMINIO Carandini, a young gentleman in love|
|PASQUELLA, maidservant to Gherardo and Isabella|
|ISABELLA, Gherardo’s daughter|
|LILIAS, (Giglio), a Spanish soldier|
|SIFTER, (Crivello), Flamminio’s manservant|
|MASTER PETER, (Messer Piero), a Pedant, tutor to Fabrizio|
|FABRIZIO, Virginio’s son, identical twin to Lelia|
|SQUINT, (Stragualcia), Fabrizio’s manservant|
|EASY, (L’Agiato), landlord/landlady of the Looking Glass Inn|
|WHISK, (Frulla), landlord/landlady of the Fool’s Cap Inn|
|A YOUNG GIRL, (cittina), Clemenzia’s daughter|
Production note: All the evidence suggests that the parts of Lelia and Fabrizio should be played by the same person; but that the audience should not anticipate this until Fabrizio’s first appearance in Act III.
Well, I shall put you out of your bewilderment. These Deaf and Daft Academicians (and you can believe me, because I’ve been listening to them) are now regretting very much that they got themselves into this whole crazy affair. They are worried that in future you are going to take it out on them every time they approach you. And so they have sent me before you on their behalf, as ambassador, orator, agent, proxy, or poet, or whatever title slips in most easily. I’m fully equipped with my credentials, all in the proper form. So you’d better take my word for it, or I might have to show them to you. They’ve sent me out to make peace and patch things up with you, if you are willing: because, to tell the truth, without you to encourage them, all their efforts are cold and sluggish, and liable to shrink away to nothing unless you provide some remedy. So forgive them please, ladies, and lend a hand! It’s in your own interests, when all is said and done. You’re well acquainted with these gentlemen’s characters; and you know that if you’ll only look on them with a kindly eye, then they’ll be like putty in your hands — they’ll let you (but only you, no one else) do or say what you please, tease and torment them with words and with deeds, always take the lead and come out on top in every one of your transactions. So what do you say? Are you willing? Will you forgive them, or not? ... No answer. Well, they say that silence means consent.
Now to show how eager they are to please you and make peace, they have put together a whole comedy in just a few days, and today they want to put it on for you, if you are prepared to watch it. So now you know the reason for this set, and what I’m doing out in front of it like this. I understand that they have entitled the play All Deceived—not because they have ever been deceived by you, far from it, you have never deceived them for a moment because you know them too well (although you have always pressed them very hard, and they haven’t always been able to steer clear of your efforts). No, the title comes from the fact that by the end of the play there is hardly a single character in the story who hasn’t been deceived at some point. (Mind you, the way I’ve got it in for you ladies, there are some kinds of deceits which I wish to God you might be deceived by more often, especially if I could be the deceiver: I wouldn’t even care if the tables were turned, and you ended up on top.)
The story of this play is a new one, coming from no other source than the Academy’s own busy pumpkin head, the one out of which they drew all your fortunes by lot on Twelfth Night. That was when you thought that our Deaf and Daft brothers were teasing you so sharply over your unwillingness to come clean, and you said they all had foul tongues. But I don’t think you had ever got a proper taste of their tongues: if you had, you wouldn’t talk that way, you’d defend them instead, and take their part like good friends whenever the need arose.
No doubt there will be some who will say that this whole show is a bit of a dog’s breakfast. But such people don't even deserve an answer, because however it may be, the Academy’s one concern is to please you. They think they can do this easily enough, especially if one or two of you are pregnant, and have acquired a sudden taste for strange things, like ground charcoal, wool-grease, brick-dust, cement chips, and shows like the one you are about to see. Whether the men in the audience like it or not doesn’t matter, because the Deaf and Daft Academy have arranged things so that no man will be able to see or hear the play unless he is blind. So if there is some smart-arsed critic among you, who is determined to find fault with us and wants to make sure he sees and hears the play, he’ll have to put his eyes out first, otherwise he won’t take it in. You may be wondering how blind men can watch a play—and yet it’s true, and if you’ll pay attention, I’ll prove it to you right now.
Everything that is beautiful in this world of ours is undoubtedly now to be found in Siena; and all the beauty of Siena is at present gathered in this hall. There can be no argument about this: I can’t believe that any woman who has stayed away is anywhere near beautiful, because she was afraid to be compared with the rest of you. This being so, how can you expect those men to sit and watch plays on a stage? What interest are they going to take in anything we say or do up here, if you are there in front of them? Is there any finer show or pageant, any more splendid and delightful sight than you? Of course not. And that is the proof that no man is going to watch or listen to this play unless he is blind, however much you may have thought that I was talking twaddle. But you ladies are going to see and hear it perfectly, because we have never yet found you so susceptible to our charms that you fall into ecstasy just from looking at us. And all those rosy-cheeked young dandies out there haven’t a chance: it’s no use them thinking that their neat little beards, or their thigh-hugging boots, or their bows and flourishes and sighs that you can hear from here to Fonte Becci, are going to turn your attention from us to them. If they do think so, they are deceived, and so they are stealing the title of our comedy. It could just be that a certain Spaniard whom you’ll see come on stage might break the train of your imagination and interrupt the thread of the story. But let me give you a tip—don’t bother too much about him, because you can’t speak his language anyway, and you’ll never get on together. Just pay attention to the others, who are all Italians: if you do that, you won’t miss anything that’s said and all will be well.
But since I see that the men are already lost in contemplation of you, and don’t hear what I’m saying, let me have a quick word with you ladies in private, joking apart. How long are you going to remain so unresponsive? Are these poor Academicians always to do nothing but complain of you? Will it always be the same story, that after the labours they endure for your sakes, and the care they take in singing your praises, you won’t stoop to do them a single favour, not once? In God’s name, come down off your pedestals, call them to you, one by one, and listen to what they say and what they want of you. What they are asking is a mere trifle; and with the rich abundance that you possess, you could bestow it on the whole town, let alone just on them, without any wear and tear. Tell me now, just what do you suppose they want from you? Your benevolent favour, that’s all. They want you to take note of their various talents, the large ones along with the small, and say ‘I like this’, and ‘I don’t like that’, so that the ones who can’t please you can turn their thoughts elsewhere and follow some other activity. But it really is too bad that you should keep tantalizing them, and never make up your minds to pronounce that little word ‘yes’. Do you know what I think? One day you might find that they have had enough and given up—you mark my words, I know what I’m talking about. You could lose them altogether before you knew it, and then there would be no way of making up to them again and putting things right. You would be sorry, but it would be too late. Nobody can hold out for ever, you know. Think about it.
Oh yes, by the way, don’t expect any more information about the plot, because the fellow who was going to administer the Argument is not prepared. You’ll have to do without, this time. I can just tell you that the city you see before you is Modena, on this occasion at least, and most of the people in the story are Modenese citizens. So if they don’t always speak the language perfectly, it’s not surprising, because they haven’t learned it properly yet. For the rest, you’re sharp enough to take in all the subject-matter as it comes. There are two lessons above all to be learned from this story: how much depends on chance and good luck, in matters of love; and the value, in such affairs, of long patience aided by good advice. This will all be demonstrated to you by two shrewd young girls; and if you can profit by their example, then you ought to be grateful to us. As for the men, if they get no pleasure out of what we have to offer, they can still thank us for giving them at least four hours at a stretch in which to feast their eyes on your celestial beauties.
But since I can see two old men coming on, I’d better be off, hard though it is to tear myself away from such a pretty sight. I shall be back later for another look. Take care, everyone.
And there’s her nurse coming now, which will save me the trouble of sending for her so she can bring Lelia home.
Come on, Pluck, I must go and smarten myself up. From now on I must dress differently to please my bride.
Lilias’s pronunciation: A double ‘h’ is used to represent a guttural ‘ch’ sound, as in Scottish ‘loch’ or the first sound of Spanish junta, gente. An accent on a vowel indicates a stressed syllable; and a dieresis over an ‘e’ (‘possethiónës’) shows that it is pronounced as a separate syllable.
I don’t know what I’m going to do. On the one hand I’m having the time of my life, bamboozling that silly wench into thinking I’m a man; on the other hand, I’m getting into a mess, and I don’t know how to get out of it. She’s got as far as kissing now, and she’ll try to go further when she gets the chance; and that will expose my weak point, and the whole trick will fall apart. I must get to Clemenzia and ask her what I ought to do next. But there’s Flamminio coming.
two Servants: These are not mentioned in the stage direction. But someone (in the plural) will be asked to guard Fabrizio in Scene 7. It makes most sense that those people should be Pluck and Stoke.
What do you think I am? Here, a few sweetbreads, a slice of sausage.... Go on, professor, drink up.
[Production experience suggests that this is a good moment for a scene of fairly extensive slapstick violence and mayhem, involving as many characters as possible.]