Act One

[Prologue]

 

ARLECCHINO

Welcome, all, to an eve of joyous entertainment. For this too-short time, put aside your troubles and woes, lighten your hearts, uplift your heads, cross your limbs, and digest both the culinary wonders of which you have sumptuously partaken and the wonders yet to be dished up by our players.

 

Yes, there will be dark times here upon our stage, with weeping and gnashing of teeth, but we promise you a happy ending in which all eyes will but sparkle with delight and all teeth be employed only in the broadest of smiles.

 

Now, let me set the scene. The time is now, 1504, the place here, Florence, before the famed Palazzo Vecchio, the home of our justly famous banker family, the Medici, for thanks to them – and most especially the Magnificent Lorenzo, lamentably gone from us this dozen years – art and culture flower here beyond all other towns. Witness the works both artistic and scientific of Master Leonardo Da Vinci [recently returned from his sojourn in Milan], the monumental sculpture just completed by Master Michelangelo, and the youthful promise of the glowing Raphael.

 

[players strut and bow across the stage as introduced].

And who are our players? See first the handsome Giovanni, from Rome, that amorous traveler who hungers ever for adventure, both military and romantic. With him blunders his ever-faithful servant, Arlecchino [bows], who hungers ever for — food. Amongst the townsfolk we find the fulsome Dottore Gratiano, hoarder of ducats, dispenser of pronouncements, and all-around — ass. Also, his wife, Bianca, as hidebound as a miserÕs luggage. More central to our story, their daughter, Maria, thanks to her mother, completely ignorant of the world – most especially of men. At her heels trots her maid, Columbina, full of laughter, advice, tender solicitude – and wily stratagems.

Further servants to the Dottore are the young and rambunctious Quidli and Quodli, who should be leashed like unruly dogs but, alas, run free. Lastly, but by no means least, the Smithkorsitti Tumblers, here to provide distraction.

 

Is all now clear? [waits for audience reply]. Good, then let us begin. And recall, when all is said and done, that we actors live by your grace. At our conclusion, feel free to drop a ducat or two in the cap that will pass among you.[He disappears.]

Scene One

[We hear the moon song offstage. After a few bars, Giovanni and Arlecchino enter.]

 

GIOVANNI

[surveying the plaza]

Well, here at last in Florence!

 

ARLECCHINO

What do you mean? SheÕs sitting right there!

 

GIOVANNI

No, I donÕt mean the Duchess Florence,  I mean Florence, the city, this city, the most wondrous city in all the land. Such an exhausting trip!

 

ARLECCHINO

[dropping his huge burden of luggage and junk with a great clatter]

It would be less exhausting if we rode horses.

 

GIOVANNI

[looking amazed]

What need have I of a horse? I have you, dear beast of burden! [slaps him on the back] But we must find a place to settle ourselves. Let me check how our funds are holding out. [GIOVANNI opens his purse, sees nothing in it, holds it upside down and shakes it. All to no avail. There is no money!]And I must see if they have need of a valiant soldier, such as I, who can protect lodging, innkeepers, goods and guests, in return for a modest lodging and sustenance.  But I have no idea which way to turn.

[both spin slowly in a circle to get the lay of the land.]

 

[Q & Q run through]

 

[Enter DOTTORE and BIANCA. DOTTORE looks at the travelers in amazement]

DOTTORE

Dear wife, look, we have been visited by dervishes from Arabia. Mirabele dictu! Quid pro quo! Will they ever stop spinning?

 

[ARLECCHINO grabs his head, dizzy, and falls in a heap]

 

GIOVANNI

Why are you always falling down?

 

ARLECCHINO

You would rather I fall up? If I had a bite to eat it might be easier to remain upright.

 

GIOVANNI

You have eaten so much during our journey I am astonished you have anything left to carry. [alarmed] You have not eaten our clothing?

 

ARLECCHINO

Of course not. It has not been washed.

 

DOTTORE

Honored Sir, it appears you are of the military persuasion. Might you be Sir Sullivan Stanzalot?

 

GIOVANNI

No, sir, though I have heard of his prowess.

 

DOTTORE

[clearing his throat] Ahem. You appear to have just arrived in this most debatably glandular of all cities. May I introduce myself? I am Dottore Gratiano, a physician of some — of much — remuneration. Celebrated, I should note, for balderdacious and multifarious inexplicability — [BIANCA tugs his sleeve] And this is my wife, Bianca. [she curtsies] Most days, she says but little.

 

BIANCA

[aside] As though I could get a word in edgewise.

 

DOTTORE

What is the nature of your prevarication? Have you come to eviscerate with friends or family?

 

GIOVANNI

No. Although I have a letter of introduction to His Excellency Pantalone.

 

DOTTORE

What, you are not related to Duchess Vivian? Can that be possible?

 

GIOVANNI

Alas, no. I have not the pleasure of knowing the gentle lady. Good Dottore, we have come for adventure and the joys of high culture. Could you be so kind as to guide us to a place of lodging?

 

DOTTORE

In what measure would you perspire to refine your bodies, that is to say, in what form of hostility would you denigrate to repose?

 

ARLECCHINO

We just want to lie down. And eat! Anywhere that has food and a mat.

 

GIOVANNI

Must you be insolent? [ARLECCHINO nods his head in an aside] Kind sir, simply direct us to the nearest mission of refuge and we will be most happy. And, also to the place of military recruitment.

 

ARLECCHINO

And in the meantime, is there nowhere to sit down?

 

DOTTORE

Luck plods upon you, travelers. For just this week, the most mucilaginous Master Leonardo has unveiled his latest invention: Behold, the folding chair! [pulls one out from behind a pillar, still folded]

GIOVANNI

How does it work?

 

DOTTORE

You place it upon the fundament, so, and merely unlimber the limbs.

 

GIOVANNI

Amazing!

 

ARLECCHINO

Incredible! [takes chair from DOTTORE]You can fold itÉ.unfold itÉ.fold it againÉunfold it yet again—this could provide a nightÕs entertainment?

 

GIOVANNI

Either put that away or sit on it. [ARLECCHINO sits. GIOVANNI and DOTTORE converse stage right]

 

[Enter MARIA and COLUMBINA, followed by Q and Q]

 

COLUMBINA

I wish the mistress would not instruct us always to trail behind.

 

MARIA

Mother makes sure that I can come to no harm at the hands of a MAN.

 

COLUMBINA

It isnÕt his hands you should worry about.

 

MARIA

[shrinking back] Oh look. It is a MAN. And one I have not seen before. Shield me! [ducks behind COLUMBINA. Q and Q pantomime and exaggerate MARIA and GIOVANNIÕS  reactions]

 

GIOVANNI

[turning to ARLECCHINO] Who was that? That vision of a woman who disappeared behind that servant?

 

ARLECCHINO

I donÕt know. I was fastened upon the one in front. And that basket she carries. Bread? Cheese perhaps?

 

BIANCA

Oh, my pure one. YouÕre here already. I must protect you. [runs toward MARIA]

 

MARIA

[peers around COLUMBINA with wonder and suppressed delight] He doesnÕt look quite as evil as I was told.

 

BIANCA

Hide your eyes. [claps her hand over MARIAÕs eyes.]

 

GIOVANNI

Florence has most odd traditions. [MARIA pries her motherÕs fingers apart enough to peek]. Ah, such glorious, if somewhat shuttered, orbs. Arlecchino, I must find a way to know her better.

 

ARLECCHINO

And I, that bread basket. [starts toward COLUMBINA. BIANCA  takes MARIA and COLUMBINA off stage while MARIA struggles to see. Q and Q follow them off, still pantomiming. ARLECCHINO follows.]

 

GIOVANNI

Arlecchino! Wait here whilst I visit the recruiter. When I return a soldier, her parents shall see my prowess and accept me eagerly. [as he turns to leave, Q and Q snip the tail of his shirt and his purse. ARLECCHINO sees the purse and picks it up. GIOVANNI exits but returns immediately to give ARLECCHINO a fruit roll tied with a ribbon and instructions while ARLECCHINO tries to give GIOVANNI back his purse.] Oh yes, and Arlecchino, keep this parchment safe. It is our introduction to His Exellency Pantalone. It is possible it would be damaged in the event I must demonstrate my prowess. [GIOVANNI exits]

 

[while DOTTORE speaks, ARLECCHINO looks after GIOVANNI holding his purse in one hand and the parchment in the other. Finally he shrugs and puts the purse in his doublet. He lies down on the luggage]

 

DOTTORE

[declaiming wildly to no one in particular] God bless these travelers who deposit their disingenuities herewith to benefit the coffers of Florence. Let us redundicate the taxes to which they will be undomesticated: First, the funicular tax for not-yet-existing railways. Then the birdquibble tax for the alightment of feathers on the roadway. Third, the tax tax, which all must pay for the privilege of paying taxes. Next, the mainsail and seafomenting tax to support square-rigged hosiers and petty ungulates. Fifth, the tick-tock tax on clocks, watches, clock watchers and cloak welpers. Certainly we cannot forget the fumicide tax to cover offensive odors of feet and forelocks. And, finally, the distillation tax to press money from those who have evaded or eviscerated all other taxes. Altogether, that comes to a stuperbilious agglutination of monetary munificence passing through my hands [with some no doubt adhering by accidental contrivance]. Ah, I can andisparate the acquiescence even now. Oh, I persevere! Wife! Bianca!

 

BIANCA

[entering with Columbina and Maria] What do you wish? DonÕt stand in the piazza and bellow. If you must make that noise, come do it in the privacy of our own home.

 

DOTTORE

Wife, I faint with heat. Primadonna employ your fan to calcify my streaming brain.

 

BIANCA

Yes, I can see. Maria, Columbina come help. [They arrange themselves around Dottore and fan.Dottore begins to sing WinterÕs Over, and Maria, Bianca and Columbina join in.

[At the songÕs end, Quidli distracts DOTTORE while Quodli snips his purse. It drops on the floor at which point Quidli throws a coin offstage. DOTTORE rushes off after the coin with Q  & Q following.]

 

ARLECCHINO

[On stage alone with GiovanniÕs document in his hand] Oh, my belly! It cramps with emptiness. Teased with a basket that must contain delicacies since it was carried by such a delicious woman, my belly cries for food. Food. FOOD! [Speaking to his belly] What is it my precious? Oh, I know, it has been at least 5 minutes since you received your last infusion of sustenance. [Stroking his belly] Do not fear my little one, more will come! I, Arlecchino, swear it! Oh, oh, donÕt cry, my darling. You must be brave. Just a few more minutes and we will have food. [To the audience] Actually, itÕs probably more like a few more hours, if I know my master. [Back to his belly] No, no my love, it wonÕt be hours, I mean, my master will bring us flowers to grace our meal and nasturtiums are so tasty. WhatÕs that my dumpling? No, I donÕt have any food in my hand. No, no, thatÕs a parchment of my masterÕs. ItÕs very important! Well youÕre right, it does look sort of like a roulade. [He smells it.] Actually, it smells rather good. I wonder—-[He takes a little nibble.] Mmmm, thatÕs not bad. No! What am I doing? I canÕt eat my masterÕs letter! But if I take just a little off the edges, that couldnÕt hurt anything, could it? [He takes off the ribbon and nibbles more.] Oh, this is soo good! Who would have thought that letters could fill your belly as well as your mind. [He eats more.] Arlecchino! Stop! What are you doing? This is your masterÕs letter! [He looks at whatÕs left of the letter.] You naughty belly! Look what you made me do! IÕve eaten the signature off! My master will be angry! HeÕll probably beat me! WhatÕs that, you bad belly? You think I might as well eat the rest since IÕve already eaten the most important part? YouÕre right. What good is an introduction without a signature? ItÕs like bread without butter or strawberries with no cream or....[He gobbles the rest of the letter and belches. He begins to sing.]

He stretches and lies down on the baggage to sleep but notices the DottoreÕs purse.]  WhatÕs this? It looks like a purse. Oh, it is! And so heavy! Surely there canÕt be that much money in it. [He opens it and looks in.] There is! Look at all these coins! [He pours them into his hand.] IÕm a wealthy man! [He sniffs the purse.] Mmm, smells delectable! This purse is made of calfÕs leather! That would make an excellent stew! I am doubly blessed—money and food. What my dear? Quite right! IÕll put the coins in my masterÕs purse and save this one for our next al fresco meal. [He puts the DottoreÕs purse in his doublet and the coins in GiovanniÕs purse.] Arlecchino, you are the man! [He goes to sleep with GIOVANNIÕS purse in his hand.]

 

[Q and Q run across the stage. Enter MARIA and COLUMBINA.]

 

MARIA            

Are you sure this is the right thing to do? You know mama always says the street is dangerous.

 

COLUMBINA

My dear, you canÕt stay a little girl forever you know. Look at you! YouÕre 23 years old! High time for you to be married and have your own family.

 

MARIA            

Mama says next year is time enough.

 

COLUMBINA              

DonÕt you remember that she said that last year, and the year before, and the year before that? Every year since you were 16! I distinctly remember because there was that lovely dÕMedici boy at your party, and I thought, ŌHow nice, sheÕs going to get her first kiss on her 16th birthday.Ķ Then your mama came in the room and that was the end of the party!

 

MARIA            

He was sweet, wasnÕt he?

 

COLUMBINA              

Yes, and he slipped away. WhatÕs important right now is that you have to start meeting some men! ItÕs fine to be innocent, but you need a little exposure or youÕll simply dry up and fade away like a puddle in the August sun!

 

MARIA            

Oh that wouldnÕt be good at all. Do you think IÕm starting to dry up already? [She peers anxiously in her mirror]

 

COLUMBINA              

No, you look fine!

 

MARIA            

I think I see a spot on my chin! Oh, Columbina, what will I do? I have a spot on my chin! [She begins to weep.]

 

COLUMBINA              

[Looking at her chin.] ThereÕs no spot on your chin, Maria. Your chin is quite lovely.

 

MARIA            

[Looking frantically in the mirror.] IÕm sure thereÕs a spot beginning on my chin. Look there! ThatÕs a spot if I ever saw one!

 

COLUMBINA              

[Taking charge.] Maria. Calm yourself. Your eyes will get all red and swollen—you donÕt want that, do you? Now, give me the mirror. ThatÕs a good girl. Hold your head up. Let me look. Oh, my goodness! [She takes something off of MariaÕs chin.] Look, a tiny rose petal got stuck on your chin, thatÕs all! Look! [She holds the mirror up so MARIA can see.]

 

MARIA            

There isnÕt a spot there now! YouÕre right! It must have gotten on me when I smelled the flowers in that new bouquet. What a silly I am! [She gets the mirror back from COLUMBINA and checks herself out carefully.]

COLUMBINA              

Your mama doesnÕt realize that youÕre all grown up now and need a life of your own. If you donÕt start meeting some men and getting some experience, youÕre likely to run off with the first one that gives you a wink, and that I donÕt want to see!

 

MARIA            

I understand itÕs for my own good, but how do I meet one?

 

COLUMBINA              

First you find some men to look at. Look everywhere every time you go out. Look out the windows of your house. Look, look, look!

 

MARIA            

Mama always tells me to keep my eyes cast down.

 

COLUMBINA              

ThatÕs what IÕm telling you! You canÕt pay attention to what your mama says about men any more!

 

MARIA            

I donÕt know....

 

COLUMBINA             

If your mama took you up on a cliff and told you to close your eyes and walk, would you do that?

 

MARIA            

Well.........

 

COLUMBINA              

Never mind, donÕt answer that!

 

MARIA            

But...

 

COLUMBINA              

Listen, your mama had a mama, didnÕt she?

MARIA            

[Confused.] Yes.

 

COLUMBINA              

And your mama got married and had you, didnÕt she?

 

MARIA            

Yes, but.....

 

COLUMBINA              

So your mama had to meet some men in order to find one who wanted to marry her.

 

MARIA            

No, she married papa!

 

COLUMBINA              

Trust me, Maria, your mama did not always know your papa. She had to meet him.

 

MARIA            

Really?

 

COLUMBINA              

Really.

 

MARIA            

You know, thatÕs something thatÕs been bothering me for a long time. I mean, whereÕs the papa for me? I mean, I know my papa, but heÕs my mamaÕs papa. So whereÕs mine? I mean......

 

COLUMBINA              

Exactly!

 

[enter GIOVANNI, MARIA squeals and hides behind COLUMBINA. ARLECCHINO wakes, takes in the women, straightens his clothes and approaches COLUMBINA.]

 

GIOVANNI

Who are those smirking, ignorant sons of donkeys to reject such a soldier of established bravery as I?

 

GIOVANNI

Turn me down! Those louts will come to regret it when this town reels before invasion and they have no true heroes to relieve it.  [struts about like a peacock, tossing his head and long hair. MARIAÕs eyes widen in devotion as she watches]

 

ARLECCHINO

[aside to COLUMBINA]. It is true, Few have fought as fiercely as he these last years. Just before we departed, in single-handed combat he bested a braggart of 10 years experience.

 

COLUMBINA

How thrilling! Beat a man with 10 years in the military.

 

ARLECCHINO

No, no, it was a 10 year old boy with a wooden sword. A close match, but my master won the day.

 

GIOVANNI

Enough of your silly prattle. [DOTTORE and BIANCA enter followed by Q & Q. BIANCA sees COLUMBINA and MARIA and rushes to protect MARIA. During the next scene, she attempts to get MARIA offstage, but MARIA and COLUMBINA resist.]

 

DOTTORE

Ha! You have recombined to process upon the esplanade!

 

GIOVANNI

Good Dottore! I rejoice to see you again.

 

DOTTORE

Valorous sir! You have traveled the world and have seen many wonders. I beg your permission to relegate an inquiry quid pro quo but yet numinous upon declaration.

GIOVANNI

Kind sir! You have no need for permission . I gladly share my knowledge and expertise with one such as you! [DOTTORE, GIOVANNI and ARLECCHINO move to one side of the stage and converse quietly. Q and Q go to the luggage and immediately begin to go through it. During the next scene they pull out odd items and hold them up for ridicule]

 

 

BIANCA

Ah, my dear, so close you came to calamity.

 

MARIA

Is that his name?

 

BIANCA

How often have I warned you of the wiles of MEN?

 

MARIA

Let me think. Twice every morning, once in the afternoon, and three times before we retire. And a full hour both before and after Sunday Mass.

 

BIANCA

ThereÕs never enough time! Remember: Men are grasping, groping, begrudging, besotted, blindered, blundering, benumbing, boring, burrowing, harrowing horrors who would snatch from you that one thing irreplaceable that you own. [COLUMBINA rolls her eyes and shakes her head during tirade]

 

MARIA

They would take from me my Leonardo decoder ring?

 

BIANCA

You know nothing!

 

MARIA

Of course not. IÕve never been anywhere and IÕve never done anything!

 

BIANCA

Never mind dear. LetÕs go home and see how those lovely little birds are coming with their nest.

 

[BIANCA, MARIA AND COLUMBINA  exit]

 

GIOVANNI

So you see sir, the Spanish steel must be considered the best, regardless of our desire to patronize our countrymen. But it grows late, and we must now away to find our lodging.

 

DOTTORE

Come, let me evenesce your journey.

 

GIOVANNI

What kindness you exhibit toward a wayfaring stranger! I accept your offer with pleasure. [to Q and Q] You two, look after our goods and I will reward you well. [He feels for his purse, but it is gone.] My purse! Where has it gone? Some cutpurse has been busy. Ah, let me but find that knave with my purse and he will suffer! [He notices his purse in ARLECCHINOÕS hand and snatches it. ARLECCHINO tries in vain to tell his master he did not steal it throughout the following.] Lump! Donkey-eared dung-monger! Puling Milanese son of a putrescent hippopotamus! How did you get this and what was your plan? How much more harm will you do me? You must needs eat so heartily that you empty my purse, and now you steal the purse itself! [GIOVANNI grabs ARLECCHINOÕS slapstick and one hand] Now, I swear by all thatÕs holy you will receive the thrashing of your life! Fifty strokes I will give you. One! [He draws back the slapstick to hit him, but ARLECCHINO slips to the floor on his knees.] Up! Up! [ARLECCHINO reluctantly gets up and winds his arm around GIOVANNIÕS  body as GIOVANNI prepares to hit him.]Now where was I? Oh yes, fifty strokes and I was at three, or was it thirteen? Who cares? Twenty-two! Oh, you ignorant nincompoop! Unwind yourself! [ARLECCHINO does] Now then! LetÕs see, was I at seventeen or thirty-six? Pasta fazool! Twenty-nine! [GIOVANNI again raises the slapstick but notices a bird in the sky] Is that...? Can it be? I swear I just saw a peregrine falcon!

 

DOTTORE

It is somewhat unusual, but they have been sighted in our fair city.

 

GIOVANNI

 [letting go of ARLECCHINO and absently giving him back the slapstick] My father gave me a falcon when I was nine to teach me the ways of combat. It was most instructive, but I still havenÕt mastered the part where you rise high in the air before falling on the enemy and grasping him in your talons. Arlecchino! Why are you standing there? Let us go!

 

DOTTORE

Nature is the instructress of us all. How apprehensive I am to cogitate upon the intricate strata of  behemoth coruscations. My ancestor, too, indicated those subterranean repasts for my beneficence. Although I persimmoned until my craven involuted, ibid., op. cit. and ad infinitum.

 

[DOTTORE, GIOVANNI and ARLECCHINO exit as DOTTORE continues to talk. Q and Q start chasing each other with something from GIOVANNIÕS baggage and exit.]

 

END OF SCENE I

 

Intermission

 

ARLECCHINO

So, we leave you on the edge of the precipice – Will the lovers draw together? Will the parents force them apart? Will I get my next meal? Ha! You shall see soon enough. But meanwhile, we bring you the nimble feet of dancing master Fernando Marricone and his charming partner, Lady Florence.

 

[They dance.]

 

Thank you Master Fernando and Lady Florence. Your grace carries us gracefully along the avenues of dream and magic! Now, just returned from their tour of Tuscany and the Apennines, the merriment and world-renowned acrobatic spectacle of the Smithkorsitti Tumblers!  All eyes watch as they enter, the Smithkorsitti Tumblers!

 

[They tumble.]

Following such gravity-defying feats, I fear our entertainment cannot bound so high, however,  I and the rest of the cast of The Tattered Tale of Love return to put your hearts and minds at ease with the resolution of our humble play.

Scene Two

 

[enter GIOVANNI and ARLECCHINO]

 

ARLECCHINO

That massive statue yonder, have you ever seen the like?

 

GIOVANNI

They say it is master MichelangeloÕs new David.

 

ARLECCHINO

Is that itÕs name? I thought maybe Dick. Or Peter. [ARLECCHINO kicks a brooch lying on the ground] Oh ho! WhatÕs this? [ARLECCHINO picks up the brooch and studies it]

 

GIOVANNI

Arlecchino, drop it! DonÕt eat food thatÕs been on the ground!

 

ARLECCHINO

Master! ItÕs not food! ItÕs.....itÕs.....oh, heaven, itÕs....

 

GIOVANNI

What have you found? Let me see. [both are awestruck at the brooch. GIOVANNI takes it reverently from ARLECCHINO] When pawned, this bauble will keep us in bread and lodging for months, maybe years—even with your appetite! I will hide it in my doublet for safekeeping. [they both stare where GIOVANNI has hidden the brooch. ] Ah, but glorious as it is, it cannot compare with my incomparable Maria. How I long to gladden my eyes with her sylph-like form, my ears with the dulcet tones of her voice, my hand with the velvet touch of her little hand, my nose with the delicate delight of her perfume, my lips with the .....Ah, mercy! I burn with love! If I cannot have her, I will expire! Arlecchino, where has she gone? Where have they all gone?

 

ARLECCHINO

With a little luck, to the bakerÕs. Or the butcherÕs.

GIOVANNI

If you stomach told you to bathe in molten lead, you would leap feet first into the crucible.

 

ARLECCHINO

[patting his belly] My sweet darling! Not before IÕd had a pastry.

 

GIOVANNI

[pulling ARLECCHINO close] Listen: Here is what I would have you do. Go to the house of the Dottore and search out the daughterÕs maid. See if a secret meeting can be arranged between the daughter and me, away from that harridan mother. Go, quickly.

 

[ARLECCHINO shambles off]

 

GIOVANNI

Such loveliness has not been before me sinceÉ.the last time such loveliness was before me. Will she be mine? Ah, the pain of ignorance! Already it chafes and itches. Should I know her for yet another hour, it would grow to the constant pricking of a needle. After a day, like bowel cramps. After two days, like a kidney stone! Perhaps I should rethink my ardorÉ.

 

ARLECCHINO

[slides back on stage]One thing, master — where does this Dottore live?

 

GIOVANNI

Blast! How should I know? Ask about. [ARLECCHINO scurries off] Her eyes are like pimentoed olives — though not of those colors, thanks be. Her feet are like — well, I could not see them inside her shoes. Her hands are like — grappling hooks, the way they held to her maidÕs skirt, and they have hooked my heart. Her hair is like — a well-fashioned wig, now that I think upon it.

 

ARLECCHINO

[sidling on with some trepidation] Umm, master, when exactly would you like this meeting to take place?

GIOVANNI

As soon as possible, you ninny. I die of love. It has already progressed from my kidneys to my spleen. Go! [ARLECCHINO trots off like a whipped horse] Such suspense, and I at the mercy of a simpleton who inhales vittles as a whirlpool inhales the sea, leaving me adrift like a rudderless frigate in a gale which the gods direct at my unprotected, wind-tossed dot upon the waves. Or something like that.

 

ARLECCHINO

[peering around the corner of the scenery] Er, where were you thinking that –

 

GIOVANNI

[running full-tilt toward him]Boob! Nitwit! Monkey-faced maladroit miscreant! [they dash off stage]

 

[Q and Q run across the stage. Enter COLUMBINA]

 

COLUMBINA

My lady finds this handsome newcomer appealing, but the nonsense stuffed into her by her mother leaves her wracked with fear. The only true healing nostrum is to meet him face to face, and I have taken it upon myself to arrange such. But now he and his lively attendant have both forsaken the plaza. Ah dear, there is no end to the confusion.

 

[ARLECCHINO careens across the stage and pulls up panting, leaning against the wall]

 

ARLECCHINO

For a man with so little experience of battle, my master can take on a fearsome aspect when agitated. [sees COLUMBINA] Ah, most welcome sight! I am exhausted and weakened with thirst. Have you a bit of water. Or wine? And perhaps a muffin or two?

 

COLUMBINA

I am no serving wench. I have come on my mistressÕs business.

ARLECCHINO

And I on my masterÕs. [both show sudden realization] Methinks our needs may overlap. [Q and Q enter and do a number while they hold an animated conversation off to the side. ARLECCHINO keeps trying to peek under the cover of her basket. They make happy agreement and COLUMBINA exits with Q and Q as GIOVANNI enters]

 

ARLECCHINO

Good news, my master. All is arranged.

 

GIOVANNI

And what is the arrangement? [aside] Though I fear to ask.

 

ARLECCHINO

All too simple. Columbina goes to fetch her mistress and bring her, post haste, to this very spot.

 

GIOVANNI

And you achieved this without falling down, consuming two meals or asking which end of a sword to grasp?

 

ARLECCHINO

[aggrieved] That you should have such low opinion of your humble servant.

 

GIOVANNI

That you should have such humble abilities and low intelligence. But look, they come. Let us retreat for a bit that I look not too anxious.

 

[they hide behind a pillar. Q and Q run across the stage. Enter MARIA and COLUMBINA]

 

MARIA

They have not yet arrived. Good! I am severely affrighted of meeting this MAN.

COLUMBINA

What is it that so terrifies you?

 

MARIA

My mother has said – well, I cannot understand all that she speaks, but it would seem what a man most desires is to remove his clothing and attempt to place a snake in my cupboard! What if I should be bitten by his reptile?

 

COLUMBINA

It might be you would find that you shared the flavor equally. Ah, what a welter of absurdities fill your head.

 

MARIA

And then there is this thing called marriage, in which a woman becomes fixedly joined to a MAN, like a leg to a table. [mimes surface and attached leg] I should be pressed upon and forever dragged from place to place, and when something were given to my husband, he would hold it upon his surface and I would see nothing of it.

 

COLUMBINA

Now that has truth in it. But enough of this. Let me relay to you the ten points of successful womanhood.

 

MARIA

Yes, do. [she pulls a tablet from her skirt and busily writes down the advice]

 

COLUMBINA

First, face all furniture to the east that the sun may shine upon it.

Next, cover not your bed with straw, for it will draw fleas.

Third, see that the cook drops no twigs in the porridge, for they stick between your teeth.

Fourth, on Saturday evenings, sit before the window and sing of France. It will soothe the nerves.

Fifth, walk through your dwelling twice a day, that you always recall which door leads where.

Sixth, eat with your mouth closed, that your food not tumble out.

Seventh, buy only linen cloth, for the flax plant has no mean intentions.

Eighth, run not downhill, that you not fall flat on your face.

Ninth, pray for rain on Thursday, except when the season is damp.

Last, and most important, laugh not while drinking ale, for it will blow unpleasantly out your nose.

 

MARIA

Such distilled wisdom!

 

[enter GIOVANNI and ARLECCHINO, as though they had just arrived. behind them, Q and Q sneak in and exaggeratedly pantomime what follows]

 

MARIA

That MAN again. [half swoons into COLUMBINAÕs arms]

 

COLUMBINA

He is the reason that we have come here, remember? [MARIA does her best to stand up]

 

GIOVANNI

[dropping to one knee and kissing her hand] Mistress of my heart!

 

ARLECCHINO

[copying GIOVANNIÕs gesture before COLUMBINA] Key to my pantry!

 

GIOVANNI

All that I have is yours!

 

ARLECCHINO

All that you have is mine!

 

GIOVANNI

May we go through life always together!

ARLECCHINO

Breakfast, dinner and supper!

 

GIOVANNI

[stands up and kicks ARLECCHINO erect] Enough, varlet! [He sings.]

GIOVANNI

My lady, I beg for your answer! Will you be mine or must I crawl off to expire in some lonely ditch?

 

MARIA

Is that what MEN do? It would explain the odors that drift from the countryside.

[Q and Q run through. Enter DOTTORE and BIANCA]

 

DOTTORE

What is the meaning of this prolificuity?

 

ARLECCHINO

[aside] Good question.

 

BIANCA

[to MARIA] What have you been doing?

 

MARIA

Speaking with this MAN.

 

BIANCA

Horror!

 

MARIA

Actually, it hasnÕt been all that bad.

 

DOTTORE

Extrapolate yourself, mellifluous rascal! Wherefore dare you congratulate in secret aspiration? [Dottorethreatens Giovanni with his book.]

 

GIOVANNI

Sirrah! Do not threaten me! As a military man, it is my duty to respond in kind.

 

DOTTORE

[Striking Giovanni with his book] Respond! Requiescent in pace, fetid dromedary! How dare you besmirch my daughter with your celery attendance? [Giovanni draws his sword and they fight. Bianca watches closely and when an opening presents itself, she strikes Giovanni on the head with her fan. Dottore follows suit with his book. Giovanni falls.]

 

MARIA

[screams] Daddy! Mommy! What have you done? YouÕve hurt him! How could you? [she kneels by GiovanniÕs side while Arlecchino flaps a cloth over him. Giovanni slowly recovers.]

 

GIOVANNI

Sir Dottore, I beg of you, listen not to my voice, but to my heart. [DOTTORE pulls out stethoscope] What I ask, in the full purity of my intention, is your daughterÕs hand in marriage.

 

[BIANCA faints. while DOTTORE speaks, MARIA repeats mime of table surface and attached leg]

 

DOTTORE

By the pustules of the saints, you would elongate me with preposterates of rendition for my daughter? You, a punyless ragamutton from that dung of infelicity, Rome? Am I to dower upon you a showery? I will not have it. Reject yourself from my sight, else I shall be farced to repatriate my honor!

 

ARLECCHINO

[aside] And he just might.

 

BIANCA

[now upright, to COLUMBINA] What am I to do? For more than two decades I have protected my daughter and her virtue, like a lioness protects her cub. I have sheltered her from the world, stayed guard before the den. Now a MAN threatens to enter and wrest her from me.

 

COLUMBINA

Fear not, for also like the lioness who guards her kill, your strength will yet ward off all who would nibble. Your daughter and her virtue shall remain inviolate, even as they steam in the heat of the noonday sun. [COLUMBINA wrinkles her nose and holds a handkerchief to her face]

 

BIANCA

That is a most unfortunate image. What would you have me do?

 

COLUMBINA

Allow her to ripen like a fruit, not decay like carrion.

 

BIANCA

Give her leave to marry that MAN?

 

COLUMBINA

Is marriage so evil for a woman?

 

DOTTORE

[to GIOVANNI, gesturing wildly] What deputations have you to reticulate in your favor?

 

COLUMBINA

Perhaps I should rephrase. Are all marriages so evil for a woman? [COLUMBINA looks pointedly at ARLECCHINO. She gestures for him to talk to GIOVANNI. ARLECCHINO looks puzzled.] Arlecchino, remember what I told you! [ARLECCHINO suddenly remembers and whispers in his masterÕs ear.]

 

GIOVANNI

Sir Dottore, my family in Rome is not a poor one. I look ragged only from my travels. [reaches into his pouch] See, I have here [suddenly realizes he has nothing] 10-ducat pieces and coins of silver. [GIOVANNI starts to open the purse, but thinks better of it, and hefts the purse in his hand. It clinks. To the audience.] What is this? It sounds like there is money in it! [to DOTTORE] Excuse me. [GIOVANNI turns away from DOTTORE and inspects the inside of his purse. He then returns to DOTTORE and grandly begins to pour the money into his own hand and then gives three coins to DOTTORE,  coin by coin] You need provide no sumptuous dowry, I can pay my way. [accidentally drops a coin and DOTTORE chases it across the stage, returns beaming and hugs GIOVANNI]

 

BIANCA

I remain not fully convinced.

 

COLUMBINA

That bespeaks an open mind. And once it be pried all the way ajar, there is no telling what may enter.

 

BIANCA

Meaning?

 

COLUMBINA

That your husbandÕs blessing should serve as canopy for you both.

 

BIANCA

You confound me.

 

COLUMBINA

[aside] Which, of course, was my intention.

 

ARLECCHINO

I never know whatÕs going on, except at supper time.

 

COLUMBINA

[to GIOVANNI] Do not forget the wife! [to BIANCA] And Madam, think on the joys of grandchildren, who will toddle on the strings of your heart, fill your villa with chortles of glee and gladden your old age with the glow of youth and vigor.

 

GIOVANNI

[leaping to BIANCAÕS side and kneeling] Glorious lady! How I bless and revere you for your wisdom in keeping your jewel untarnished! [GIOVANNI takes BIANCAÕS hand] It requires no wit to understand why Maria possesses such grace and beauty. She is my sun, but you, oh shining one, are my moon—lighting up the dark recesses of my soul and giving me hope for the future. [GIOVANNI kisses her hand] Madam, do not believe that you are losing your daughter, but know that you are gaining a son—me!—a brave and courteous worshipper who desires nothing more than to give you honor. [GIOVANNI rises, takes the brooch out of his doublet, and presents it to her.] Please accept this small token of my esteem which I acquired only this day in hopes that it would please you.

 

BIANCA

Good sir, your fair speech has warmed my coldest fears. And this masterpiece of the jewelerÕs art will serve to keep the flame alive. [aside to COLUMBINA] Look, Columbina, how like it is the brooch I lost this morning! He must have studied me indeed to choose a piece that so truly matches my likes! [to GIOVANNI] I give my blessing for your betrothal to my daughter, Maria, and with it my hope that you will condescend to share our modest dwelling in days to come.

 

[Q and Q reenter in wedding attire to take their place in the tableau that forms as DOTTORE speaks.]

 

DOTTORE

My dearest young fiend, you have enlivered our day. By questing in the forest of our good graces, you have trumpeted all previous predilections. Let it be so, that you, intorpid traveler, and my daughter shall joust in holy matrimoney. Sound the reviles! [to GIOVANNI] And as I find myself temporarily insoilent, an additional small forthcoming would help the celebracing. [holds out his hand for money]

 

MARIA

Hold a moment!

 

GIOVANNI, DOTTORE and BIANCA

What??

 

MARIA

You give my hand away as though it were not attached to my body.

DOTTORE

But we have determined. And all to your best detriment! No shally-shullying at this late date.

 

BIANCA

Are we not all agreed that this is a fine young man—or as a fine as he can be, being a MAN?

 

MARIA

True, he has a determined chin and cute little kneecaps under his striking hose, but could it not be possible that other men possess as great or greater charms?

 

DOTTORE

Prepustulous!

 

GIOVANNI

My love burns. You cannot quench its fires with cruel, sogging words.

 

MARIA

Oh, bank your ardor for a bit, sir traveler. It merely occurs to me that there is more to the world than the inside of my dwelling—or even Florence itself.

 

COLUMBINA

[aside] A fast learner, this one—perhaps too rapid. She awakens to morning so quickly she may destroy the nightÕs dream. [to MARIA] My lady, think upon it: 23 years can quickly become 24, then a quarter of a century. Soon lines begin to radiate from formerly unblemished eyes. Would you wish to shrivel while still in search of your ideal?

 

MARIA

Shrivel?! No, no, I must remain solid and fully padded! Oh, I do not know my mind.

 

ARLECCHINO

I do not know if this vacillating play will ever reach its climax.

COLUMBINA

Here is a man who worships the very ground beneath your feet. [ARLECCHINO brushes dirt off his shoes] Accept the wealth of his love and the equal treasure of your parentsÕ approval.

 

MARIA

That is a rather amazing confluence of good fortune. [taps her chin and considers] Why not? A man in hand is worth two on the road. Errant knight, you have won my heart—for the time being. I trust you will know how to keep it.

qGIOVANNI

Dearest one, all I have and all I will be, they are yours. {He makes an extravagant gesture toward Maria.]

 

ARLECCHINO

[aside] That should be enough to fill a peasantÕs bowl.

 

[MARIA sings.]

DOTTORE slaps GIOVANNI on the back. BIANCA embraces MARIA]

 

COLUMBINA

Come together, all. It is time to rejoice!

 

[the following all happens at the same time while they sing the revised canon.

 

BIANCA brings out a long scroll of admonitions and pantomimes its reading  to MARIA

COLUMBINA brings out a huge basket to ARLECCHINO who shovels in food with one hand and pats her fanny with the other

GIOVANNI turns his pockets inside out to give DOTTORE all that he has

Q and Q sneak behind the celebrants and snip off bits of their clothing

All join hands in a dance led by Dance Master Fernando Marricone, while Q and Q take large hats through the audience for donations

cast bows at end of short dance

 

ARLECCHINO

[steps forward] Our play is done, but not so the entertainment. Master Fernando beckons. Join us now in a circle dance, as you have joined us in our comedy. No audience could have been more delightful, and no time more well spent than ours. Let our feet toast the glories of Florence and its immortal art. Master Fernando!