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By any name

I wrote this for the writing: fiction portion of a historical arts and sciences competition some years ago. I wasn’t sure at the time what that actually meant. How do you write fiction for a historical arts and sciences competition? As it turned out, most people decided it meant writing poetry about the past. Because I’m more than a little insane, I took a different approach.

My goal was to produce a piece of fiction in the style of a piece of Renaissance drama. Because I was only allowed to enter ten pages of writing, that’s all I did. But those ten pages, I think, are pretty damn good.  The judges must have thought so too, because the piece won and I received an on-the-spot proposition of marriage (which I believe is a universally acknowledged unit of measuring artistic success.)

For your entertainment I present to you the grand culmination of all my years at college studying Renaissance drama:

The Tragedie of Esilio

Dramatis Personae

The Duke of Milan

The Duchess, his wife

Favola, a Milanese nobleman, rival to Amaro and advisor to the Duke

Amaro, a prominent Milanese nobleman

Anna, his wife

Cantanto, their eldest son

Ironia, their eldest daughter

Esilio, their second son

Fidelia, their younger daughter and attendant to the Duchess

Two servants of Amaro’s household

Attivo, a young Milanese nobleman, friend to Esilio

Affetto, a nobleman of Florence

Giulia, his wife

Pietà, their daughter

2 huntsmen

various sundry servants, courtiers, townspeople, etc

The Scene

Milan, the Italian countryside, and Florence

Act First * Scene First
[A fencing salle in Milan]

Enter Attivo and Esilio, with rapiers.

   Good Attivo, by this light you are much

improv’d.  Let us try our hands again.  I

deem the pupil is set to o’ermaster

his teacher.
Attivo.                        Oh, I think not that, my friend.
Esil.       Lay on, then, and we will see what we may.
They spar.  After a closely contested bout, Esilio scores a touch.
Esil.       Well play’d, in truth.  In good time, you will have

the best of me.
Att.                                  Your praise does me too much

honor.  The name ‘Esilio’ is spoke

throughout all Milan with respect and dread.
Esil.       I thank you, but I say in plain truth: You

will be my match one day.  These many years

have I given you instruction, and now

I say you are as fit to lead this school

as any master here in fair Milan.

No words, dear friend. No words.

I pray God we

ne’er find ourselves lock’d corps à corps upon

the field of honor, for He never made

a youth more fit to wield a blade than fair


Come; you must join me.  This night

my family hosts revels to be had

at our estate.
Att.                                Go on, I will follow


[Exit Esilio.]

All is not well.

Though the summons

seem all benign, yet my heart misgives me.

I know not what to do or how to be.

Esilio has been a loyal friend

these many years. Fair in speech, beyond all

reproach in countenance and care of me.

Often have I thought myself by Fortune

too much bless’d in such a friend.

But something

now is out of joint.

Esilio’s lord father, Amaro,

and lord of all his estate, has some game

on foot which gives me pause.

Ever has he

spoke against our Duke in private, in the

fastness of his own abode.  But a change

in him I see of late, and not just I


The Duke, I know, fears some treason,

and asks me constant what I have to tell.

I know not how to answer his entreat.

Shall I forget my oath to lord and state,

that I may preserve Esilio’s life?

Or shall I betray friendship’s loyalty,

t’ensure my safety with the jealous Duke?

The one certainly will cost me my head,

the other only my immortal soul.

And yet Lord Amaro’s treason burns me.

Tonight I fear some darksome villany,

some coil that I would fain disown.

And if

I witness aught that can be told, the Duke

will have it of me though I will or no.

Like a sotted swain he haunts all my hours,

jealous of those I give t’Esilio.

With trinkets and fair words he seeks to woo

me to his side, and will not hear my ‘no’.

These revels at Amaro’s, which I for

friendship must attend perforce, may be no

more than a conspirator’s front, and give

the Duke ample fire to roast Amaro.

And so I go into a kind of Hell

and what I’ll learn pray ne’er be forc’d to tell.                  Exeunt.

* Scene Second *
[A room in the Duke’s palace]
Enter the Duke with servants, and Favola.  The Duke sits upon his throne and is waited upon.

.  Good Favola, bid these rustics away.

I have a thing to say to you alone.
Favola.  All leave us now.  His Grace is well supplied.
Exit all but the Duke and Favola.
Duke.     Do you know, loyal friend, what it is that

I would speak on?
Fav.                                      By God above, the which

did grant Your Grace the rule of all Milan,

I think I do.
Duke.                          Flattr’er, say on.
Fav.                                                       In all

things I obey, my lord.  Word has reach’d my

ear of late, and yours as well, I deem, of

Amaro and his plotting brood, enmesh’d

in treason’s web. To catch him at his game

I know Your Grace desires above all else.

This night, ‘tis known he fêtes his friends at home

with all opulence. Wisdom would it seem

in you to turn this to your advantage.

Draw the noose, if you can.
Duke.                                                   Thou speakst aright.

That I never can snare him when his hands

are red and guilt it plainly writ in him

disturbs my sleep and gives me pains.  I plan

before this night has pass’d and Luna hides

her face, to break the Lord Amaro and

achieve his full disgrace.  Will you assist

me in this cause?
Fav.                                    With all my heart, my lord.
Duke.     Excellent, i’faith.  And to this end, I

charge you in my name bring hence Attivo,

young Esilio’s dear friend.  Sure it is

if aught is known of treason plann’d tonight,

Attivo will be well inform’d.  And if

he will not sing for me, I’ll cut his strings,

by God.
Fav.                      His Grace is awesome in his wrath!
Duke.     Do as I say, brave Favola.  Return

again with prey in hand or not at all.
Fav.        I go, lord, with all my will to do thine.                   [Exit Favola.]
Duke.     ‘Sblood, what cock-fools and flattr’ing sycophants

I must endure, perforce!  This Favola,

this vicious cur, would bite my hand had he

his leash.  And so he sings the tune belike

to satisfy me best, in hope that I

might be lulled to sleep with both eyes shut.  But

I’ve caught his scent, and I know well ‘tis death

to turn my back upon a corner’d boar.

As well I cannot close my eye against

the threat of civil anarchy.  For it

is truth well-known by all, that in Milan

are many lords who crave my ducal throne.

If I allow one such with all the sway

of Lord Amaro to speak openly

against my rule, I had as well give o’er

my lordship and my manhood all at once

within a single casket.  No.  I must

be firm, and strike ere he would land his blow.

Whate’er he plans, before almost he thinks

on it, I must by God be in the know.
Enter the Duchess with her ladies, and Fidelia.
Duchess.  My lord, my dear, and master of my heart.

Surpris’d I am to see thee here, and glad.

I thought it sure to find thee out, for I

do hear this night of revels to be had.
Duke.     All have heard, it seems; yet invitation

have I none from Lord Amaro.
Duch.                                                     O, dear.

This is some trifling oversight, I deem.
Fidelia.  I fear I cannot speak my father’s mind.
Duke.    I had hope you might try.
Fid.                                              What means Your Grace?
Duch.    Indeed, what can my husband mean?  What cause

the glow’ring of thy brow?  Fidelia has

no more will to injure thee than malice

in her heart. But ever has she render’d

sweet and loving service to my poor self.

Lord, why do you frown?
Duke.                                                Seek not to protect

that which sits in plotting silence by your

very side.  Amaro seeks to best me.

Does it not seem evident his daughter

hovers in our midst to hear our secret

counsels, waiting like a hungry raven

for the moment of my fall?
Duch.                                                 What rubbish

and what offal. The power of your throne

has made you mad, if you see treason in

this girl.  I will defend her with my life.
Duke.     Speak not in haste, lest you should prove in league

with plotters and conspirators.  But peace:

I will ask whate’er I will.  I am lord,

and you my wife, whom God did frame for chaste

obedience. Tempt not my wrath with words

of wanton disrespect.
Duch.                                         Forgive me, lord.

I seek only to protect the justice

of your rule.
Duke.                         Out of turn speak once again,

and my justice will be swift.  [To Fidelia.]  Now answer

in a pleasing manner: What sedition

has your father spoke? What plan has he,

what scheming on his plate tonight?
Fid.                                                                   Your Grace,

if I had the knowledge that you seek, then

I could tell thee. But by whatever Saint

you like, I swear I do not know.
Duke.                                                        You lie.
Fid.        How shall I convince thee? [To the Duchess.]  O, my lady,

teach me what I ought to say to please him.
Duke.     If you refuse to speak, I shall be forc’d

to find another means of learning what

I seek.  And you, thou minion, baggage, stale,

thou shrewd contriver thou, for thy silence

thou shalt pay a noble sum.  Even to

thy life if I command it.  Guards! Take this

dissembling guilty creature from my sight.
Enter guards.  They seize Fidelia.
Fid.        [Aside.]  And thus am I to be repay’d, for love,

for loyalty, and filial duty

which by nature I am right to render.
Duch.    [Aside.] His jealous fancy has o’ermaster’d his

good noble reason, I am fear’d.
[Exit guards with Fidelia.]
Duke.                                           And so,

you would take her part against your loving

lord and master?                                                 [Exit the Duke.]
Duch.                                 Lord and master, aye, but

love of late has been as dry in thee as

sands that gust across the wide barbaric

land of Tunis.

Poor Fidelia.  I

pray God this storm will pass, and that the winds

die down before they blow the poor girl ill.

* Scene Third *
[A hallway in Amaro’s house]

Enter a servant preparing for the feast.

1st Servant.  [Calling.] Goats and monkeys!  Will you still be lagging?

Hang thee, sleeping ruffian!  The master waits

and still you tarry?
Enter another servant, carrying a large barrel of wine.
2nd Servant.                             I come, you fat chuff.

If you had strain’d yourself to help me, I

had been here sooner.
1st Serv.                                     Blow, endless windbag.

An’ you were not an idle sot, drinking

in the cellar, you had been here sooner.
2nd Serv.  Away with you.  Had you not a younger

man to do your work, it were never done.

But cease waggling of your tongue a moment

and tell me where I must bestow this cask.
1st Serv.  Much there is I could reply would better

suit my humor, but over there will do.
[The second servant places the barrel where he is directed.]
2nd Serv.  And so what think you of these revels?  Shall

we menials be like to find a chance

to pause a while from work and steal a dance?
1st Serv.  I think you should go back downstairs, and soak

your ugly head. The cask is like to be

the only one to kiss your lips tonight.
2nd Serv.  O, pish.
1st Serv.                  And now it comes to mind, we need

another barrel yet. Come on, to work.
2nd Serv.  I go, Caligula.  No need to shout.
[Exit servant two followed by servant one.]

Enter Cantanto and Ironia from another door.

Ironia.    I worry, Brother, and you cannot say

I have no cause.
Cantanto.                          I will not make the claim.

‘Tis known throughout Milan, nay, through all of

Italy, methinks! this revel is a

front, a poorly-veiled façade.  For Father

thinks himself a machiavel.  I’d rather

he proclaim his cause, and draw what loyal

devotées his power would allow.  These

behind-the-arras stratagems begin

to fade the wholesome colour of my soul.
Iro.         I hear thy honest lamentation, and

I echo it, betide. Though I would not

renounce my love and loyalty for all

the gold in Venice, yet I would that he

could find a means more noble, fitted to

his rank, to face the Duke, who is corrupt.
Cant.      But, alas! we know full well that Father

will not hear our pleas.  And Esilio

supports his cause and does his will, be it

madness or no.
Iro.                                   And Mother will not look

askance, nor offer word of discontent.
Cant.     We alone are in possession of our

senses, Sister. We must see that nothing

happens here tonight can cause the Duke to

wield the rod of justice.
Iro.                                                But you have said,

and said aright: Father will not hear us.
Cant.      We must be vigilant, and also pray:

That all be well, or we be granted sway.
[Exit Cantanto and Ironia.]
Enter servant one followed by servant two, carrying another barrel of wine.
1st Serv.  Quicken pace, you addlepate!  The hour grows

late, the guests will soon be on us!
2nd Serv.                                                         One can

only hope.
1st Serv.                     Guard thy tongue, miscreant bawd!  [Strikes the other servant.]
2ndServ.  Mercy, old white-bearded Satan!
1st Serv.                                                       Get thee

hence, there’s work yet to be done.
2nd Serv.                                                           I am gone.

Be still!  Thy ceaseless mewling drives me out,

like demons fleeing from a churchyard rout.
* Scene Fourth *
[A room in the Duke’s palace]

The Duke is sitting upon his throne.  Enter Favola leading Attivo in the custody of two guards.

Duke.     Good Favola, my loyal servant.  Hast

thou brought my guest to me so soon?
Fav.                                                                     E’en so,

Your Grace. Though my friend Attivo did not

seem belike to take my invitation. [Laughs.]
Att.         By what right, Your Grace, does this scraping slave

dare to lay his hands on me in public?

He wields your name in vain, I trust, like a

coward putting forth his shield in battle.
Duke.     Not in vain have you been summoned here to

speak with me. I did command it of him.
Att.         Had Your Grace but sent for me, I would have

come full willing. What cause this lack of faith,

this base treatment of a faithful subject?
Fav.       Faithful, ha!
Duke.                     Let us not play games with words,

concealing our true meaning when we both

full well know our true intent.
Att.                                                          I am lost,

Your Grace, and know not how to answer you.
Duke.     Then I will teach you what to say.  Tell me:

this coil tonight to which you have been call’d,

at Amaro’s home, summoned for your love

to his son Esilio – what means this

traitor to unfold before his loyal

friends?  What plan has he – as I know he has –

to send my state into unrest?  Tell me!
Att.         Think you, in truth, I am a traitor’s pet?

Can you believe such treason lives in me?
Duke.     I can believe it of Esilio,

and you are his student, his protégé.
Att.         He teaches me to wield a blade, Your Grace:

nothing more.
Duke.                             Nothing more, you say?  But who,

I pray you, does he say to wield your blade

Att.                         That he does not teach me.  Nor am

I a puppet, to be work’d by hands unseen

or retrograde to my own will.
Fav.                                                       Alas,

Your Grace, he does not say he has no word –

he only speaks in circles, seeking to

distract us with a trifling point.  And thus

he begs off having to divulge whate’er

he knows.
Duke.                       You see into the heart of things,

dear Favola.
Att.                              What have I ever done,

my lord, what sign given of a lack in

love to you, Your Grace, to give you cause to

doubt me thus? To question my devotion

and my constancy? But have I not done

always proper honor to your throne, your

rule?  I am your loyal subject and your

sword against your enemies, and ever

have I been.
Duke.                           Then speak to me, Attivo.

Tell me what I need to hear.
Att.                                                       I know no

more than you yourself.  Would you have me lie,

and tell you pleasing falsehoods, as this snake

beside me does?
Fav.                                    Your jealousy has rear’d

its green-eyed head, and does you no good turn.
Att.         What cause have I to envy such a piece

of Nature’s sale-work? If I wish’d to learn

the way a coward bears himself and moves

his lips, I could study it in you.
Fav.                                                          Ha!
Duke.     Peace, my friends.  This does not improve your lot,

my lad.
Att.                       But nothing will, it seems.  You have

already pass’d your judgment and laid down

your law.  In your eyes I am a traitor.
Duke.     You have yet to show me wrong, to tell me

something I can use to guard my power.

These protests of ‘I know not’ and the like

ring as false to me as brass.  I will hear

no more of them.
Att.                                       Then I cannot speak.
Fav.                                                                         Slave!

Still you will defy your lord?
Att.                                                        I offer

no defiance: only truth.
Duke.                                             My anger

grows hot like fire within me.  What, all mum?
Fav.       My lord, allow me to display my love

to thee.
Duke.                   Go on.
Fav.                                  Let me take this fleering

malkin from thy sight: and there by any

means I can, get from him what Your Grace has

need to know.
Att.                                  Torture?  O brave showing, you

shoulder-clapping devil.
Duke.                                              The choice is thine,

Attivo.  Will you stay and speak to me,

or must my servant have his way with you?
Att.         Let the whoreson do his worst: my answer

will not change.
Duke.                                 I am sorry then, my boy,

but I must protect my throne.
Fav.                                                       Thanks to thee,

my lord.  I swear I will not fail you.
[Exit guards with Attivo, Favola following behind.]
Duke.                                                                O,

God’s lid! Ev’ry hand is rais’d against me,

if young Attivo who has ever been

a loyal and upstanding child, will not

answer plain and speak against the treason

gath’ring nigh on the horizon.
[Offstage, a cry is heard as the torture begins.]
And now,

I must be made a monster to protect

what is mine by right. Why am I plagu’d

[Another cry is heard, more horrible than the first.]
And if I show him any mercy

now, I would be soft and my enemies

should know of it.
[The screaming is constant now and terrible.]
Attivo!  Why did you

defy me?

[A final, awful cry is heard; then the screaming stops suddenly.]

Enter Favola, holding Attivo’s severed left hand.

Fav.                         He will serve us now, my lord.

He swears he will say all that he might know,

concerning Lord Amaro and his plans.

Come hence and hear it.
[Exit Favola.]
Duke.                                               Not by choice, but by

necessity, this. I hope I can find

forgiveness after death, at Heaven’s gate,

for sure it is beyond a doubt I have

forever earn’d poor wrong’d Attivo’s hate.

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