To see a commentary note, click on a blue square. To see the Latin text, click on a green square.

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

CLOTH-CLAD, SILK-CLAD two Prologues
GERARDUS, VIRGINIUS old men
FLAMINIUS young man
FABRITIUS Virginius’ young son
LAELIA disguised daughter of Virginius, going under the name of Fabius
ISABELLA Gerardus’ daughter
SPELA Gerardus’ servant
PETRUS pedagogue
SCATISSA servant of Virginius
CRIVELUS servant of Flaminius
STRAGALCIUS servant of Fabricius
BRULIO, MARCUS AURELIUS innkeepers
CLEMENS nurse
PACQUETTA Isabella’s maid
FINETTA the nurse’s daughter
NUNS, INNKEEPERS’ SERVANTS non-speaking roles

TWO PROLOGUES
CLOTH-CLAD AND SILK-CLAD

CLOTH. What’s your business now?
SILK. What’s yours, indeed?
CLOTH. Mine? I’m the Prologue. I come to relate the play’s argument.
SILK. You stand in the presence of these leading men wearing that costume?
CLOTH. You dimwit, this wool of our forefathers is now held in great esteem among our leading men.
SILK. So how many coins I’ve squandered!
CLOTH. But do you want to know why it’s worth your expense?
SILK. Gladly.
CLOTH. Listen. Cloth and silk are like the heavenly poles: when one’s upraised the other’s cast down. Ursa Major is near Aries, you set sail for the Antipodes.
SILK. Since you advise me so amicably, I’ll do it.
CLOTH. Most illustrious lords, —
SILK. — Masters Regent and Non-Regent—
CLOTH. There are many lovers in this play: —
SILK. — an old man loves an old man’s daughter, she loves a young man, he loves another girl, she loves somebody else, —
CLOTH. — and nobody save one is getting what he wants.
SILK. Laelia alone is enjoying her amours, she from whose name the title of this play is taken.
CLOTH. And yet everybody is happy with what he gets; as long as —
SILK. — you should likewise be happy with what you get, —
BOTH — the poet gets what he wants.

ACT I, SCENE i
GERARDUS, VIRGINIUS

GER. Come now, Virginius, if it pleases you in your heart to assist me in reality as with your good words, and if this future marriage is to your liking, let these fetters which love has cast upon me (scarcely to my liking) no longer evilly impede me in my misery. Grant me your assistance, I beg you, hasten your aid, since delay is the greatest evil in love. And why, pray, is your expression somewhat troubled? Is your mind hindering you, or is Fortune hindering your mind? A friend’s shyness in the presence of a friend is unseemly. I am scarcely unaware of the loss you suffered at Rome, and there is no reason for you as one man to feel shame in this common calamity. If your estate is not what it was, speak according to what it is. Your money does not suffice for your daughter’s dowry? You’ve no furniture for her? You have no plate at home, or the other stuff they bring out at weddings? You’re still silent? As if I’m accustomed to neglect the setbacks of an ordinary friend, let alone those of a man who’s in the highest place with me! Thanks be to the gods, I have ten old friends in the world, good men all, take them for your use. I’ll take care that you won’t lack whatever else you’re lacking, as long as you satisfy the desire which grips my mind. The springtime of my life has departed, Virginius, so it will please me to snatch at the moments of the brief time left to me. As much time as has fled is lost, nor is there any hope for me to be fruitful still. But, lest this importunity of mine strike you as strange, I tell you, Virginius, my life’s business is so thrown into a commotion. I have passed many of these nights sleepless, unless out of love I am perhaps unaware whether I am awake or asleep. And today I awoke before the dawn itself, and attended the morning Mass with fervor, so that my affair might succeed according to my wish. But perhaps you have changed your mind, since you regard my years to be unsuitable for your daughter. Do I divine the truth? Don’t keep me in the dark. If need be, I can turn my mind to somebody else while there’s time, and the families which would gladly have me for a son-in-law are neither lowly nor few in number. But, may Venus love me, how I would prefer yours!
VIR. As far as it’s in my power, none of these things you imagine, Gerardus, prevents this thing from being done immediately as you wish, that you marry my daughter whom you desire. It’s true that the city suffered a terrible catastrophe and I lost many goods, along with my neighbors. But what torments me the most, Gerard, I have lost my son Fabricius, my only son. But, though all my wealth might be perished and turned to dust, yet along with my wealth I have not lost my good word, which merchants must always safeguard. Nor am I such a harsh parent that I should consent to give my daughter against her will to a man with whom she would spend her life. I am giving what I can, what I promised is at your disposal. If she should agree, this will please me all the more. If she should refuse, is a father to compel his daughter? As far as I am concerned she can roll her life’s dice for herself.
GER. Indeed I don’t think that the good faith of merchants is a trifling thing, and in this age of the world, I am aware, it is lavishly honored with words. But from deeds I see how little it is actually venerated. Nor do I say this, Virginius, because I suspect your own faith, but it goes ill for me that I am put off from day to day, and you don’t seem such a worthless father that you can’t make decisions about your own girl.
VIR. Let me tell you, these past days, as you know, I had occasion to go to Bologna, where my partners and I could settle accounts. I didn’t think it fit to leave the maiden at home, lest in my absence there be some chance of her getting in trouble. So I sent her hence to St. Crescentia’s. In that convent I have a sister named Camilla, and I gave her my daughter for safekeeping. Yesterday I returned home, and she’s unaware of this unless one of my servants, whom I sent to fetch her, has told her. I’m sure she won’t delay as soon as she finds out.
GER. I suppose you know for certain that she’s in the convent, and not elsewhere?
VIR. Why shouldn’t I know for certain, and what’s this interrogation? Or where else would she be?
GER. Listen. I didn’t ask this rashly. Because of some private affairs that chanced to arise there at that time, I chanced to be in St. Crescentia’s convent, and when I asked everybody about your daughter I didn’t hear a thing. Indeed, I received the answer that she wasn’t there all. And, lest you think this to be groundless, this was the nuns’ response.
VIR. I’d have believed them, by Hercules. That breed is clever. These women want to make my daughter a nun, so that when I’m dead they might all together be my heirs. Indeed how foolishly these thick-headed women imagine this! As if I were so old that I couldn’t marry a wife and sire a fine pair of sons!
GER. You an old man! Perhaps they think the same thing about me. But I tell them that my tool springs up, especially when I pee in the morning, so that it didn’t do so any more when I was twenty years old. And those gallant magnificoes who strut around the city in the Guelph manner, jetting in a hat with a whole shell-shaped peacock’s tail and enormous long swords, so that they’re a terror to the dogs, in what thing befitting a man do they surpass me but in respect to those elegancies, because they’re strong in their feet? And indeed I’m stronger in my feet than before.
VIR. You have good spirits. [Aside.] This man, if his strength should equal —
GER. [Overhearing.] Ask Laelia this after the first night I sleep with her.
VIR. May Venus give you good fortune in this! By mark you, her age requires moderation, and I feel you should employ it lest her initiation be too harsh, and remember my daughter’s tender years.
GER. How old is she?
VIR. When Rome was sacked, and she was taken captive with me, she completed her thirteenth year.
GER. Good gods, a ripe age! I wouldn’t want her any younger or any older. And if she were brought to my household, all the linen I have, all the collars, the bracelets, the golden necklaces, decked out in these how she’d walk about surpassing the other women!
VIR. That’s good, may this prosper for the both of you!
GER. But you, continue the business you began.
VIR. I’ll do so. What’s been said about the dowry has been said.
GER. You have doubts? As if I should want to recede from my promises!
VIR. That’s enough, go. [Exit Gerardus. Enter Clemens.]

ACT I, SCENE ii
CLEMENS THE NURSE, VIRGINIUS

CLE. I don’t know what good or ill I should expect to day, my chickens were making such an unusual racket. St. Crescentia! I believe I’m going to get a heap of eggs, or perhaps a gleaning of evils. But assuredly this omen is never without a meaning.
VIR. Why is it that she’s speaking to herself in solitude?
CLE. And something else has happened to me which I just as little understand in what spirit it should be taken. But silly me, putting faith in divinations, which Father Confessor has so often forbidden!
VIR. What are you doing? Why are you talking to yourself?
CLE. Greetings, Virginius. How early you’ve come outdoors today! I came to your house at daybreak to meet you, but nobody was inside. Now you’re at hand opportunely.
VIR. You wanted to meet me, indeed, or you wanted a bushel of wheat or a quart of oil? I know what your business with me is, namely that you always carry something away.
CLE. Certainly! But, ah, what do you have for me to carry away? [To the audience.] If this man spends a penny, suddenly he’s wildly generous.
VIR. What else were you going to say?
CLE. That cat of mine I lost came home today.
VIR. What then?
CLE. As soon as he came back he caught a mouse in the pantry.
VIR. What then?
CLE. While he was playing with the mouse —
VIR. What happened?
CLE. He completely overturned a cask of vintage wine which a Franciscan friar, who employs me as a laundress, had given me.
VIR. I see where everything’s headed, namely that I should make good your cat’s misdeed.
CLE. It’s true, since you say so.
VIR. See how I’m a correct prophet! But enough of your drollery. What’s happening concerning my daughter Laelia?
CLE. Ah the unlucky girl! Better if she had never been born!
VIR. Why?
CLE. Why, you ask? There’s a rumor that she’s Gerard’s intended, that an agreement has been made between you, and the wedding is at hand.
VIR. The rumor’s not an empty one.
CLE. Hmm, it’s not? Why, I’ll wire her jaws shut before she’s handed over alive to such a skinflint.
VIR. Why so, nurse? He’ll treat her like his daughter.
CLE. I guess so. From a husband, Virginius, this is no favor. New brides prefer to be treated like wives, not like daughters.
VIR You are supposing, nurse, that other women are like yourself. But Gerardus won’t be lacking in that department.
CLE. How so? A fifty year-old gaffer will do this?
VIR. How much younger am I? You can estimate his powers on the basis of my own.
CLE. Virginius, I acknowledge that you are a practised wrestler. Nevertheless, I don’t agree that Gerardus should have Laelia.
VIR. But understand the reasons that move me: what I have done has been done with good counsel. Gerardus is an honorable citizen, born in an honorable estate, who has as much wealth and credit as any other man in this city, and, as matters stand, it is his kindness to condescend to marrying my daughter. Furthermore, he has accepted the conditions I wished. For, though he is missing, there was no forgetfulness of my son Fabricius. If he should return within four years, Gerardus only demands two hundred florins. If not, a thousand. The demand is fair, this deed is such a blessing for myself and my family.
CLE. May this deed be no such bane for yourself and your family!
VIR. Dismiss these thoughts. But when did you see her?
CLE. Me? More or less two weeks ago.
VIR. I’m afraid lest the nuns convince her to become a religious.
CLE. Indeed that’s to be guarded against.
VIR. So you go to her straightway and bid her come home as soon as possible.
CLE. I’ll make the effort. But, Virginius, give me a sesterce to buy a bundle of wood.
VIR. A sesterce again, you insatiable woman? Do this, and wood will be taken care of for you.
CLE. But first I want to hear Mass.

ACT I, SCENE iii
LAELIA dressed as a boy, CLEMENS THE NURSE

LAE. What women ever lived bolder than I am, or more self-confident, I who have learned a young man’s ways and walk about this city unattended? What shall I do now if a debauchee should confront me and drag me somewhere, into a brothel or an alley, wishing to make trial of whether I am a woman or a boy? By heavens, I’m a bird that deserves to fall into a net! Yet love compels me, and the injury of my friend who woke me last night against my will. Flaminius is the cause of this, and my bad luck that I’m head-over-heels in love with a man who hates me. He ignores and neglects me, I serve him. And would that even this servitude weren’t unfair to me! For, that nothing be lacking for my unhappiness, he employs my aid in shifting his love to another, the only thing of value to me. I feed my eyes on that which is the source of my ill, I feed the fire with which I am burned the more. What shall I do? Love is love’s food, I, hungry, am compelled to give it to others. My only solace is that he speaks to me kindly, yet he does not speak to Laelia save unwittingly. But at least I cheat my mind with this shadow of pleasure. But what kind of hope is this? I can’t say concealed for long, nor is pleasure’s shadow left to me. A cloud of evil overhangs me on every side. Flaminius has made up his mind to linger in the city. Here I can’t remain concealed. How much infamy will cling to my name when I’m recognized! They’ll put my name in rhymes, and everybody will hear Laelia’s name sung as a reproach. [Enter Clemens.] But this woman who’s appeared is my nurse, if I’m not mistaken. Some better goddess has taken pity on me, nobody could have come more opportunely, from her I may take counsel on matters of life or death. At first I’ll pretend, so that I may see if she happens to recognize me in this costume.
CLE. Flaminius, as it seems, has returned home. His door is open. If Laelia were to know this, I know the little girl would come flying hither. But who’s that saucy boy who so often mockingly hovers before me in the street? Who are you, boy, who goes out of your way to obstruct mine? Impudent boy, get going, I say, unless you want me to push you away.
LAE. Good morning, nurse.
CLE. Give them a good morning who gave you a good night.
LAE. But I’ll give you one.
CLE. If you annoy me, rascal, you’ll suffer a misfortune.
LAE. Perhaps you’re waiting here for Brother Sibulus or some confessor to whom you may entrust your secrets?
CLE. Rogue, what does it matter to you where I’ve come from or where I’m going? What do I have to do with that Brother Sibulus? What confessor are you talking about?
LAE. Don’t get angry, nurse.
CLE. [To herself.] May St. Crescentia love me, I think I recognize this boy. The more I look at him, the more I remember. [Aloud.] Tell me, boy, how you know me or what’s the reason you’re so curious about my affairs? Come, remove this covering so that I might look at you a moment.
LAE. Are you any surer?
CLE. If you hide your face, how can I be surer?
LAE. So come closer.
CLE. Where?
LAE. Here on the right. Don’t you recognize me?
CLE. Can you be Laelia? Good heavens, I’m ruined, it’s she. What’s this get-up, Laelia, I say? What’s the reason you’re going about to your own destruction, my daughter?
LAE. You aren’t acting prudently, nurse. Speak more softly, unless you wish me, who am safe, to be destroyed by yourself.
CLE. Am I seeing you? Good Lord, aren’t you ashamed? Or have you become a worldly woman?
LAE. How could I not be worldly woman? Do you know any women outside this world? Unless there are such, I consider you worldly too.
CLE. So has your chastity been violated?
LAE. No indeed, as far as I can remember my life well. Once I was a captive, about which time you should ask the Spaniards, in whose power I then was.
CLE. Is this the piety you owe your father? Is this the duty you pay to me in exchange for the effort I spent in raising you? I can hardly restrain myself from flying at your face, you wicked girl. Hasten inside, lest I see you any more in that costume.
LAE. Wait a bit.
CLE. Aren’t you ashamed to be seen dressed this way in our city?
LAE. There are many who flit about the city every day dressed in this fashion.
CLE. They are depraved.
LAE. Can’t there be one upright women among so many depraved ones?
CLE. But I am very eager to learn the reason, without any shilly-shallying you couldn’t keep yourself in the convent? And next why you went out in this manner. Would not your father put you to death if he found this out?
LAE. If he were to kill me, would this be a great harm to me, whom a weariness with life has already seized?
CLE. This girl gives any answer at all rather than what I want.
LAE. I’ll explain the whole matter to you, as long as you aren’t angry, nurse.
CLE. Go on.
LAE. First come here, lest some stranger overhear what I say.
CLE. Speak quickly.
LAE. Do you remember, when I was at Modena (after my father quit Rome having lost his goods). how a certain Flaminius frequented our house? And when he first cast his eyes on me, first they fell on me as if by accident, and a little while later more steadily, then he began to stare at me. And, wherever he turned his eyes, he couldn’t keep from always rolling them in my direction, elsewhere darting, but always fixed towards me. Finally, as if angry at his eyes because they were giving him some trouble, he shut them up behind his eyelids as if they were imprisoned, and raised up his face, very troubled. These were signs of love in a young man (as you taught me in my innocence, nurse), and while I was suspended in doubt, uncertain whether to believe this, at that very moment he gave a sigh. You said this was a most certain indication. Hence I began to take pity on the young man, to give back like for like, to look at him in turn. At length sighs escaped me of their own will. I fancied this was a cooling for the unwonted heat which I felt around my heart. Afterwards there invaded my heart such an ardent desire that I could barely go without his presence. Then I wondered what it was, you said it was love, and now I know it, to my great harm.
CLE. But I’m not learning anything now that I didn’t know already. Won’t you make it brief?
LAE. Father returned to Rome (as it is free of its enemies) to learn some news of my brother. He sent me to a convent, and meanwhile Flaminius, forgetful of my location, set his mind on Gerardus’ daughter. But old man Gerardus asked my father for me as his wife. Which may the gods prevent!
CLE. But why should they prevent what your father has already decreed, Laelia? Will you appeal from your father to the gods? Or do you hope they will be more propitious to yourself than to Gerardus, on whom they have heaped so many good things?
LAE. I scarcely know, nurse. But this I know more certainly than certainty, whatever will become of me, the old man will never take me for a wife.
CLE. You say so, you stubborn girl? I haven’t yet heard the rest, about your costume or your custom of running away from the convent.
LAE. Now you’ll hear. Time, which extinguished other things and the love of ungrateful Flaminius, being unfair to me, made my love all the greater. I concealed it as best I could, but love’s a fire, the more you try to allay it, the hotter it bursts forth. At length my face, revealing the sorrow pent up in my mind, rendered me suspect to one of the nuns. She volunteered to assist me with her advice, and to invent a way in which I might at least reduce my heart’s ardent yearning. After we considered many devices, we finally agreed on this one, of which she recounted more than one precedent in my ear, that with a false costume I deceive Flaminius eyes: and if he looked me over, what if he would accept me as his serving-boy?
CLE. Woe is me, now I see whence this evil has been born!
LAE. Lest anything be lacking, she added practical help to her advice. She offered me these clothes, which she herself had used for a similar deception. I put them on, and straightway marched to Flaminius’ house. Coming out, he saw me standing before his door, he asked what I wanted, who I was, and where I was from.
CLE. What about you? St. Crescentia, didn’t you immediately fall to the ground dead with shame and fear?
LAE. No, instead I was strengthened by love and hope. I frankly replied that Rome was my native land, but that poverty, that stepmother, had driven me from my paternal city, so I m7ight seek a livelihood elsewhere. Next he studied me. I was afraid lest he’d recognize me, so much did he swivel around his eyes in every direction. Finally he asked me if I’d like to remain with him. He added he’d treat me as a citizen, not to my disadvantage. Then, I being shy, there’s no doubt what I answered.
CLE. Shades of the Saints! How my heart palpitates, how my breast wells up when I hear these things? But, silly girl, what advantage has befallen you from this foolishness?
LAE. What advantage, you ask? Those whom no yearning oppresses are always harsher to those who do yearn. To see one’s friend, to touch him, to walk around at his side, to hear his secrets, to learn his habits, don’t these things bring any advantage to a lover?
CLE. Very much so. But how welcome to him are the duties you have performed?
LAE. Oh nurse, if those I performed while wearing my proper clothing were as welcome to him as these are, I’d say that the gods have displayed all their power in so great a blessing.
CLE. Really, by Hercules? But where do you sleep, Laelia?
LAE. By myself, in his dressing-room.
CLE. What if sometime he were to command you to sleep with him?
LAE. Nurse, it is an act of imprudence to summon a distant evil by empty imagination alone, it’s as if you were to say “What if the sky falls?” I would prefer to avert a present evil with present counsel.
CLE. Well said, by Hercules, and wisely! You’ll turn aside men’s snide remarks, I know, with which you’ll deservedly be slandered when these things become public knowledge.
LAE. You must see that this does not happen, I beg you, my nurse. For now all my life’s hope is pinned on you.
CLE. But what should I do?
LAE. Tell Father I’ve gone away with my sister Roverinda, and will return in three days. Pray that he doesn’t summon me before that, so I don’t inflict a delay on my love.
CLE. What’s the reason for these things?
LAE. I’ll tell you, nurse. My master, now captured with love for Gerardus’ daughter Isabella, is always sending me to her with letters and gifts. She, thinking me to be a boy, entirely dotes on me. I do not accept her love, unless she abandons Flaminius. Three days will suffice for me to bring this about. For if Flaminius is once estranged from her, then there’ll be a more ample opportunity for my hopes to make their attempt.
CLE. I tell you, your father is already summoning you, by means of myself, I’ll not tolerate it that you remain here dressed in this fashion for a minute. Get out of this net as quickly as you can, unless you want me to tell your father all these things, starting at the beginning.
LAE. If you should do this, nurse, today you’d see me for the last time. [She pretends to hear Flaminius.] Master! My master’s calling me, await me at your house in an hour. Nurse, when you address me, call me Fabius d’Alberine, this is the name I’ve bestowed upon myself.
CLE. Splendid.
LAE. I’m coming, Master. Nurse, good-bye. [Exit.]
CLE. The clever girl, she sees Gerardus coming and pretends to have heard her master. What am I to do now? Are these things to be told to her father? I’m deciding nothing until I speak with her again.

ACT I, SCENE iv
OLD MAN GERARDUS, SPELA THE SERVANT, CLEMENS THE NURSE

GER. If Virginius stands by his promises, how I know how to render myself royally in the refinement of my physique and in my attire. First I’ll fetch a barber, then a tailor, then a confectioner, then the tailor some more. I’ll be dressed up magnificently. How does this please you, Spela?
SPE. I’ll tell you what pleases me if you give me something, me, who have expended all this effort of mine on you for a trifle: even if you marry her there’s no hope you’ll ever gain anything.
GER. Why not, if I marry her?
SPE. Because she’ll quickly make you a citizen of Acheron.
GER. You clown, to you think I’m more arid than tree-bark, that I have nothing that would gratify a wife? But behold, here’s the nurse.
SPE. Keep quiet while I ask her about Laelia.
CLE. [To herself.] This is a fine flower for a maid to pick — rotten, filthy, slimy, muddy, and ancient! No wonder a pretty little girl would rush into your embrace! But I’ll hurry along and gull the gentleman, as he deserves.
GER. I’ve a hundred thousand florins and the like number of Philips.
SPE. But the Phillips would suit me better, for I’ve the years left to use them.
GER. What would you think, Spela, if I were to hide for a while beneath her skin?
SPE. She, who has borne so many knights?
CLE. Are you saying, rascal, that I’ve borne knights? I know what it is. You are jealous, since you’re a
servant, that you can’t become a knight.
SPE. Yes indeed, for I’m as deserving as those men who were your knights.
GER. Silence, fool. I didn’t speak for that reason.
SPE. So for what other?
GER. You don’t know? Then how many times I would have kissed my Laelia, my sweet, milk-white, delightful Laelia, my honeyed, sugared, rosewatered Laelia!
SPE. Oho, Master, Master, let’s go inside as soon as possible. Master, I say, why are you standing there? Ill done!
GER. What deed, Spela.
SPE. What, my sweet, milk-white, delightful master, my honeyed, sugared, rosewatered master? You’ve taken a fever.
GER. Are you sane or are you swindling me, you whipping-stock? Heavens, I’ve never enjoyed better health.
SPE. I tell you, you’ve taken a fever. I’ll prove this is true with these shoulders. [He takes Gerardus by the shoulders and starts spinning him around.] Now do you believe me?
GER. Me in a fever? How do you know this, Spela?
SPE. How could you not know this? Don’t you feel the dizziness in your head?
GER. What’s that?
SPE. I’ll show you. Do you see what’s in front of your eyes?
GER. I see Virginius’ house.
SPE. Thanks be to the gods, your sight is sound. Now turn yourself. Again, what do you see?
GER. The church of St. Crescentia.
SPE. But where’s Virginius’ house? How your memory is failing you!
GER. It’s behind my back.
SPE. Turn yourself a bit more. Now do you see them both?
GER. I see them.
SPE. Just now you only saw one of them?
GER. That’s so.
SPE. You see, when you’ve been turned around you don’t see. This is manifest dizziness.
CLE. Now I am seeing a rascally
servant and an ancient dizzard.
GER. This fever is not at all troublesome, Spela, it has no pain.
CLE. Therefore you have no feeling. But let me take your pulse. Aesculapius, how it pounds! Vulcan doesn’t pound his anvil any more vigorously. A quotidian fever’s coming on for sure. Don’t you feel the spirit’s zipping up and down in your brain’s observation-room?
GER. Are you trifling with me, you scoundrel? Me have observation rooms in my brain! But I’ll find one on your back, sufficiently large that my whips may zip around much more cheerfully. Ah, my Laelia, can any fever invade me when I am thinking of you, my light, my eyes, my darling?
SPE. What, you evil thing, can this evil be if it is not a fever? It’s a fever, either in the head or lower down, for an old man to scream “my light, my eyes, my darling!”
GER. You arch-thief, to you continue mocking your master. These things come from love and, Clemens, I even greatly adore you, because you’ve been close to my Laelia so often. Let me kiss your eyes, my pleasure. Pray let me love you. My happy day!
SPE. Oho, this is no fever, now it’s madness.
GER. Why this interruption, or this intrusion into my counsel?
SPE. In the same way then I intruded then, I shall extrude myself.
GER. But, my Clemens —
CLE. Go away, Gerardus, I forbid old men access to my kips.
GER. What, do I seem an old man?
SPE. What, you call Master an old man, he who has not yet lost a kiss, or, I should say, a tooth?
CLE. Forgive me, Gerardus, nor take what I said seriously. Indeed, a woman would have to be blind to adjudge you elderly.
GER. Rather tell that to my Laelia, so that you don’t waste your effort.
CLE. Would you were in such good grace with the Duke of Ferrara, Gerardus, as you are with your Laelia!
GER. Then I’d be a knight, wouldn’t I, Clemens?
CLE. For on account of you she spends few tranquil nights, she longs for you, she prays for life for you.
SPE. Perhaps for a nice short one.
GER. Heavens, she reciprocates with me!
CLE. Indeed, you seem to me to neglect her.
GER. I?
SPE. Keep quiet or I’ll flee from here, nurse.
CLE. Why will you do that, Spela?
SPE. I know that if you add a word, my master will finally go crazy. Then “my light, my eyes, my darling.”
CLE. Go away, silly.
GER. But you, I’ll —
SPE. You’ll not make me a farthing richer.
CLE. If you value her as much as you seem to, Gerardus, why do you not marry her soon, but put off the day?
GER. This putting-off is not mine, but her father Virginius’. For if it were up to me, I’d marry her before this evening.
CLE. Lovingly said! I’ll tell this all to Laelia, so make her more willing than Willingness herself. But, Gerardus, if it were just for me to be wiser than you, I’d give you some helpful advice. Get rid of those furs you wear every day, they hardly suit a lover.
SPE. Oho, you’ll lead my master to fight in furrin lands? Don’t do it, master.
GER. Do you persist in being the most bothersome of all men? Do you think I imitate the camp in my attire?
SPE. Forgive me, Master, Hercules, I forgot. Now I know what she means, that you should skin yourself lest Laelia see your wrinkles. Want me to sharpen a knife? What an elegant deed this will be!
GER. But I’ll shut your mouth for you, you impudent man, if I take up a club. But, nurse, since you advise me amicably, I’ll do what you want. I’ll make it so you see me in different attire within two days. But in what quarter of the city should I await my Laelia’s return from the convent?
CLE. Most conveniently by the east gate. Right now I’m going to fetch her.
GER. What if you take me as your companion, lest the long journey give you tedium? We can pass the time between us with witty conversation.
CLE. How could that be, Gerardus? Then what would people think?
GER. Oh Laelia, my life’s feast!
SPE. Oh you demented beast!
GER. My hope, my joy, so beautiful!
SPE. You toadstool, you fool, so unsuitable!
GER. My joy, how it balloons!
SPE. You’ll be wearing horns quite soon.
GER. Oh Clemens, so full of wit!
SPE. You vessel full of shit!
GER. Farewell, nurse, my life’s support, I commend to you my Laelia, you commend me to her.
CLE. I would remember even if you should not admonish me. [Exit.]
GER. Come hither, Spela, because I must enter upon love’s highway.
SPE. And at the best time, indeed. But whither are you hastening?
GER. Here’s a
denarius.
SPE. I’m grateful, Master. And indeed the more unexpectedly this coin is, the more welcome it comes.
GER. Gallows-bait, go to the apothecary, I tell you, to buy me scented unguent.
SPE. To the apothecary? Indeed, now I’m going to have an elegant master.
GER. Why are you standing there? See how soon you’ll get a whipping unless you go away immediately.
SPE. I’m going. [Exeunt.]

ACT I, SCENE v
GERARDUSSERVANT SPELA, VIRGINIUSSERVANT SCATISSA

SPE. If anyone’s interested in seeing all trifles, nonsense, inane deliriums, all stupidity, folly, dementia collected together in a single sack, let him set forth my master’s head in plain view. When he’s at home, now he combs himself and smooths his wrinkled face in a mirror; now, with a sword buckled to his side, he composes his face in a ferocious expression, and furrows his brow with feigned severity; now he strums a lute as discordant as he himself is. A screech-owl sings no sweeter. Meanwhile I’m very afraid for my teeth, when they set themselves against the buffetings of laughter. But let these things be done quietly, lest anybody think that my master has been enchanted in the normal way, like other lunatics. For, since he’s more learnedly crazy than a Master of Arts, he daily practises his love-rhymes:
“There is no woman
Such as my Laelia,
As light as a locust.
When she eats, sleeps, lives,
Runs, sings, chatters, laughs,
She is wholly beautiful.”
He also writes love-letters, speaks love-utterance, now he even emits a store-bought odor by means of lovers’ pastilles, so that it should be a wonder if there was anything other than what has to do with love in such a hateful corpse. [Enter Scatissa.] But I see Scatissa. Now, as I divine, he has come here from the convent.
SCA. I proclaim to one and all that henceforth nobody count fraud as a fault in servants or cooks, tillers or millers, for fraud has even penetrated to our sacred institutions, nor our are nuns less fraudulent than those for whom it is accounted a fault. Truly, I saw this today with my very own eyes. Like the common people, I previously imagined that they wore out their knees counting out prayers upon prayers with their beads, on the behalf of the souls of the benefactors from whom they have received their goods. Indeed they pray constantly, but they pray that devils will break the legs of the people by whom they were brought to the convent, where there is no freedom to live as they wish.
SPE. I want to savor his discourse a moment.
SCA. When I knocked on the door, I was immediately admitted into a chamber where perhaps a hundred little nuns were praying in a bunch, sufficiently pretty, more than sufficiently saucy. I asked where Laelia was. Then a “tee-hee tee-hee” came from some corner, another gave me the finger, another made a face, and finally all of them jeered at me as if they the were looking at a shaven calf’s head.
SPE. I’ll go to meet him. Greetings, Scatissa. I know you’re bringing some welcome news to impart to me.
SCA. May the gods damn you and your stupid master!
SPE. Keep your blessings for yourself and your master, if you wish, I have no need of them. But tell me, friend, whence have you come?
SCA. From the convent of St. Crescentia.
SPE. But what about Laelia? Is she coming home?
SCA. Will she come home? I wonder what Furies are hounding your master that he imagines he’ll ever get her for a wife.
SPE. Why so? Does she refuse?
SCA. What then? Do you think your master is worthy of having such a catch drop into his mouth?
SPE. No, by Hercules, I don’t think so, but what does she say?
SCA. Nothing at all to me, for indeed I didn’t see her. I’m of the opinion those little sorceresses conspired among themselves so that I wouldn’t see her.
SPE. It’s a wonder they didn’t address such a fine fellow amicably.
SCA. Oh, amicably enough, for one inquired if I’d like to be her husband, another if I’d be her lover sometime. Then, as if they were going to give me an answer about Laelia, one said she was at her prayers, another that she was combing her hair, a third that she was confessing her sins in the booth, and one inquisitive little mouse came up and asked in my hear if my father had any sons besides myself. Finally, when they were mocking me, I wasted my effort.
SPE. What if you had boldly marched in and said that if she were within you were going to see Laelia, even if it were against their will?
SCA. With the same effort I’d have handed myself over for butchery. Me trust nuns? But my master’s waiting for me. Farewell, Spela. [Exit.]
SPE. But my route is to the apothecary to carry out the stupid old man’s instruction.

Go to Act II