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William Shakespeare

Savonarola

A Tragedy By L Brown

ACT I
SCENE: A Room in the Monastery of San Marco, Florence
TIME: 1490, A.D. A summer morning

Enter the SACRISTAN and a FRIAR.
SACR.
Savonarola looks more grim to-day
Than ever. Should I speak my mind, I'd say
That he was fashioning some new great scourge
To flay the backs of men.
FRI.
'Tis even so.
Brother Filippo saw him stand last night
In solitary vigil till the dawn
Lept o'er the Arno, and his face was such
As men may wear in Purgatory - nay,
E'en in the inmost core of Hell's own fires.
SACR.
I often wonder if some woman's face,
Seen at some rout in his old worldling days,
Haunts him e'en now, e'en here, and urges him
To fierier fury 'gainst the Florentines.
FRI.
Savonarola love-sick! Ha, ha, ha!
Love-sick? He, love-sick? 'Tis a goodly jest!
The confirm'd misogyn a ladies' man!
Thou must have eaten of some strange red herb
That takes the reason captive. I will swear
Savonarola never yet hath seen
A woman but he spurn'd her. Hist! He comes.
[Enter SAVONAROLA, rapt in thought.]
Give thee good morrow, Brother.
SACR.
And therewith
A multitude of morrows equal-good
Till thou, by Heaven's grace, hast wrought the work
Nearest thine heart.
SAV.
I thank thee, Brother, yet
I thank thee not, for that my thankfulness
(An such there be) gives thanks to Heaven alone.
FRI . [To SACR.]
'Tis a right answer he hath given thee.
Had Sav'narola spoken less than thus,
Methinks me, the less Sav'narola he.
As when the snow lies on yon Apennines,
White as the hem of Mary Mother's robe,
And insusceptible to the sun's rays,
Being harder to the touch than temper'd steel,
E'en so this great gaunt monk white-visaged
Upstands to Heaven and to Heav'n devotes
The scarped thoughts that crown the upper slopes
Of his abrupt and austere nature.
SACR. Aye.
[Enter LUCREZIA BORGIA, ST. FRANCIS oF ASSISI, and LEONARDO DA VINCI. LUC. is thickly veiled.]
ST. FRAN
This is the place.
LUC. [Pointing at SAV.]
And this the man! [Aside.] And I -
By the hot blood that courses i' my veins
I swear it ineluctably - the woman!
SAV.
Who is this wanton?
[LUC. throws back her hood, revealing her face. SAV. starts back, gazing at her.]
ST. FRAN.
Hush, Sir! 'Tis my little sister
The poisoner, right well-belov'd by all
Whom she as yet hath spared. Hither she came
Mounted upon another little sister of mine -
A mare, caparison'd in goodly wise.
She - I refer now to Lucrezia -
Desireth to have word of thee anent
Some matter that befrets her.
SAV. [To LUC.]
Hence! Begone!
Savonarola will not tempted be
By face of woman e'en tho' 't be, tho' 'tis,
Surpassing fair. All hope abandon therefore.
I charge thee: Vade retro, Satanas.
LEONARDO
Sirrah, thou speakst in haste, as is the way
Of monkish men. The beauty of Lucrezia
Commends, not discommends, her to the eyes
Of keener thinkers than I take thee for.
I am an artist and an engineer,
Giv'n o'er to subtile dreams of what shall be
On this our planet. I foresee a day
When men shall skim the earth i' certain chairs
Not drawn by horses but sped on by oil
Or other matter, and shall thread the sky
Birdlike.
LUC.
It may be as thou sayest, friend,
Or may be not. [To SAV.] As touching this our errand,
I crave of thee, Sir Monk, an audience
Instanter.
FRI. Lo! Here Alighieri comes.
I had methought me he was still at Parma.
[Enter DANTE.]
ST. FRAN. [To DAN.]
How fares my little sister Beatrice?
DAN.
She died, alack, last sennight.
ST. FRAN.
Did she so?
If the condolences of men avail
Thee aught, take mine.
DAN.
They are of no avail.
SAV. [To LUC.]
I do refuse thee audience.
LUC.
Then why
Didst thou not say so promptly when I ask'd it?
SAV.
Full well thou knowst that I was interrupted
By Alighieri's entry.
[Noise without. Enter Guelfs and Ghibellines fighting.]
What is this?
LUC.
I did not think that in this cloister'd spot
There would be so much doing. I had look'd
To find Savonarola all alone
And tempt him in his uneventful cell.
Instead o' which - Spurn'd am I? I am I.
There was a time, Sir, look to 't! O damnation!
What is 't? Anon then! These my toys, my gauds,
That in the cradle - aye, 't my mother's breast -
I puled and lisped at, - 'Tis impossible,
Tho', faith, 'tis not so, forasmuch as 'tis.
And I a daughter of the Borgias! -
Or so they told me. Liars! Flatterers!
Currying lick-spoons! Where's the Hell of 't then?
'Tis time that I were going. Farewell, Monk,
But I'll avenge me ere the sun has sunk.
[Exeunt LUC., ST. FRAN., and LEONARDO, followed by DAN. SAV., having watched LUC. out of sight, sinks to his knees, sobbing. FRI. and SACR. watch him in amazement. Guelfs and Ghibellines continue fighting as the Curtain falls.]

Max Beerbohm




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