Sforza. Act 1 Scenes 1-3

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A Play - Scenes 1-3 . Francesco Sforza is the new superstar of the age and has been hired by the Duke of Milan, but the Duke's daughter, Bianca, is far from happy.

Submitted: January 10, 2018

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Submitted: January 10, 2018

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 CHARACTERS

SFORZA:  Francesco Sforza, the new superstar of the mercenary world and a womaniser. Wants to be Duke of Milan.

VISCONTI:  Filippo Maria Visconti. Duke of Milan. Politically brilliant, completely untrustworthy.

BIANCA: His illegitimate daughter, wants to rule in Milan after her father one way or the other.

FIA: Fiammetta d'Este. A would-be political fixer.

COSIMO: Cosimo Medici. Banker. Sometime ruler in Florence.

ALESS: Alessandro Sfroza. Sforza's brother and fixer.

ALFONSO: Wants to be King of Naples, despises Sforza.

PIC: Niccolo Piccinino. The second best soldier in Italy.

VENICE: The ambassador of Venice.

POPE: A prince more temporal than spiritual.

PERSICCO: A Visconti functionary.

CAR: Francesco Bussone da Carmagnola. The leading soldier of the age and once Visconti's Captain General

FEDERICO: Federico Montefeltro. The best of the next generation of mercenary captains who idolise Sforza.

MAL: Sigismond Malatesta. Treacherous to the core

LOUIS: The Dauphin of France. An avid follower of Sforza's exploits.

MICH: Micheletto Attendolo. A mercenary captain and Sforza's uncle.

 

Time The play begins in the late 1420s and ends with the peace of Lodi in 1454.

 

ACT  ISCENE 1

(Milan 1420s. Bianca's chamber. VISCONTI is writing at a desk, BIANCA is looking out of the window, sounds of a military procession passing below.)

BIANCA:- God himself would take offence to see such naked ambition being so prominently displayed. From rough country camp to fine city linen can anyone own a swifter horse? Father, it is absurd.

VISCONTI:- Naturally, but that is in the nature of all things and knowing it to be so really doesn't help in deciding what to do.

BIANCA:- He enters our city with his entire army! Fortune clearly favours him. He is some five and twenty yet he is counted the 'wonder of the age'.

VISCONTI:- He must be the third this month. As Duke of Milan I attract them like moths to a flame. I see the desire in their eyes, to step out of the shadows, be minted in coin, and sculpted in marble. But they might as well shout into the wind, ‘know me for once I walked the earth.’ Daughter, we prostitute ourselves for our ambition, the greater the office, the greater the violation.

BIANCA:- But does the mob usually cry out with the hero's name.  

VISCONTI:- (hesitates in writing). No, that is new. But should I take a man’s life because the mob cries 'Sforza?'  I will not hurt him for that. Even tyrants have their limits.

BIANCA:- You executed Morosini for a trifle.

VISCONTI:- The stars did not favour him.

BIANCA:- He was the court astrologer.

VISCONTI:- An occupational hazard.

BIANCA:- Look, now tailors, carpenters and every other sort of base person are filling the streets. Tell me father, why are the common people  so impressed by such things?

VISCONTI:- It is because they see only the cloak and never the reality and those few who do, I kill, exile or promote. If you were a man you would know that.

BIANCA:- If I were a man I would be heir to the Visconti inheritance in more than name.

VISCONTI:- Bianca, how many times must we have this? My child you need a bath in the cold water of reality. A woman cannot rule Milan. You would never survive. I cite the disaster that Queen Joanna has wrought upon Naples. Only Sforza kept the throne from our good friend Alfonso.

BIANCA:- So mine is a life to be lived by proxy, wife, mother, mistress.  And the family's salvation you place in the hands of the condottiere?

VISCONTI:- The condottiere are simply mercenaries hired by contract to fight for their employers.

BIANCA:- Not so. Sforza is one of a new breed of men that have taken violence, treachery and betrayal and raised them to an art form. Neither love nor loyalty binds him to either place or cause. He fights first for one state then another, but in the end mostly for himself. Once, such as he, wanted gold and jewels now they take fiefs and titles; they are more a danger to their employers than each other.

VISCONTI:- How so?

BIANCA:- Their banners compete with the ivy.

VISCONTI:- Are you suggesting that I should employ better gardeners? Bianca, you exaggerate, he will be but one amongst many, the Lord Piccinino for one.

BIANCA:- Piccinino! He is twice the age and half the achievement. You forget Sforza has defeated the great Braccio who stood next only to Carmagnola, our former general. The one you raised above all the others.

VISCONTI:- You need not remind me of that! He will be here within the hour. As for Sforza, Fortune does seem to favour him. Yet it is a comfort to know that Fortune can raise a man so high that he might touch eternity with his finger tips and then in the passing of a grain of sand cast him down again into the darkness. Remember, he is but a man, two arms, two legs, and a head upon a body.  

BIANCA:- He is more like some force of nature and twice as dangerous. See how he plays the mob with the skill of a master. He lets the moment linger in the air and then.

Roar of the crowd is heard.

By each life he advances a step and fools love him for it. Such a man could conquer the whole of Italy.

VISCONTI:- Many have tried. All have failed, undone by ambition.

BIANCA:- Father he is dangerous! Kill him and have done with it. It is for the good of the state.

VISCONTI:- It is for the good of the state that I cannot. I can neither harm him nor turn him loose, lest our enemies employ him.

BIANCA:- Then how will you make acceptable payment to an unlimited ambition?

VISCONTI:- I will find a way.

BIANCA:- And for the now?

VISCONTI:- I have asked Fiammetta to entertain him until it is time for the audience.

BIANCA:- And how is the family whore?

VISCONTI:- Bianca! That is ungracious, she treats you like a sister.

BIANCA:- She assumes a familiarity that is not hers to assume. In the end I fear it will be the death of her.

VISCONTI:- Enough! Before you vex me more there is another matter for us to discuss. I have had reports you've been flirting with the French ambassador again. Purely in the spirit of being the concerned father that I am, might one enquire if you consider that such an experience to be entirely appropriate for a future Duchess of Milan?

BIANCA:- As the dutiful daughter that I am, I must answer that for a future Duchess of Milan, it is an entirely appropriate experience.

VISCONTI:- A father should not be deceived into believing that there are no drawbacks to having clever children. (Holds up documents.)  These documents for instance?

BIANCA:- The people of Milan want to honour your greatness, a statue of the Duke on his horse has been the suggestion.

VISCONTI:- Why do they want to do that?

BIANCA:- (quietly) It's what you do to relatives that have lived too long.

VISCONTI:- What's that?

BIANCA:- I said they want to honour you. You would only have to sit long enough for the artist to model you in clay.

VISCONTI:- I confess there something about this enterprise of yours that troubles me. Are you plotting something Bianca?

BIANCA:- Of course father, it's what high-born ladies do these days, either that or their needle work.

Lights Down


SCENE  2

(Audience chamber. SFORZA is looking at the empty ducal throne. Enter a shy FIA.)

SFORZA:- Don’t be shy.

FIA:- I have heard no woman is safe fron you?

SFORZA:- I’ve never had any complaints.

FIA:- I’ve heard that as well.

SFORZA:- It is true I like women and they like me, but you may be assured my lady that I am faithful to all my mistresses.

FIA:- Too fickle. Is what I have heard.

SFORZA:- Too fickle? This from a woman? I am Count Francesco Sforza and I am as constant as the sun.

FIA:- I am Fiammetta d'Este.

SFORZA:- d'Este? A name I know well.

FIA:-I am told you are familiar with many of my female relations. Cousin Lucia for one?

SFORZA:- Lucia?

FIA:- Men, how soon they forget. One moment complete adoration, the next you stand a distant second to their favourite horse.

SFORZA:- Your name would forever be on my lips.

FIA:- As you kiss another, such is the blasphemy of a man’s love.

SFORZA:- You are here for a reason?

FIA:- The Duke would know of your abilities and your secrets. And I would know the character of the man I will be sleeping with tonight.

SFORZA:- For you, I stand on my reputation. For the Duke, I would say that most of my life has been spent up to my neck in trouble or standing on the edge of the abyss. I am by nature and profession, a soldier, a proper one, unlike the effete princes who practice the noble profession only when they have need to redecorate their palaces. I have mud on my boots and I make no apology for it. As for my secrets? I want to be the best. Is that all the Duke wants to know?

FIA:- (laughs)  As if that would ever satisfy the Duke. But you do have friends in Florence and Venice and they wish to talk to you.

SFORZA:- It pleases me to be so popular, but I think there is more?

FIA:- It is a common desire to want to be on the winning side particularly after your  recent success against the legendary Braccio. Tell me, did he really die of his wounds or was there more to it?

SFORZA:- At the end his wounds did prove fatal.

FIA:- What now? Many think you could conquer the world, if you set you mind to it.

SFORZA:- I’m flattered but I am thinking now of an estate of more modest proportions, something for my retirement,  (looks round) something urban. There is still more I think?

FIA:- You are the coming man and one has a certain reputation to keep up.

SFORZA:- I should warn you, an association with me and you will have no reputation.

FIA:- What a delicious prospect. In life, if one cannot be good, one must be magnificently bad. But, how does one become bad? Is it part of an inheritance like the silver or a thing learned? If so, who should be the teacher? I am curious. Some say you have never lost a battle, others that you have a devil's talent to dance between the plots and intrigues that bubble up from the earth. May one ask what is the secret of your success?

SFORZA:- I had a good education. Some of it amongst the d'Este. How is Uncle Niccolo by the way?

FIA:- He sends his love. But I am still curious, are you a good man or thoroughly bad. But then perhaps all is written and we are but actors upon a stage?

SFORZA:- Show me parchment where it is so writ?

FIA:- A priest would say the good book.

SFORZA:- You don’t strike me as the type that bends a knee and professes her love of God. Tell me, would you pay for your sins in instalments? A gift here, a token there and redeem in eternity.

FIA:- And you?

SFORZA:- I’ll not build some monument to my sins. Would ever a priest cure a common cold I would have more faith. I’ll not spend my life bowing and scraping to some ornament!

FIA:- (clapping) You play the villain well.

SFORZA:- (bows) I am, but a humble player upon a stage.

FIA:- You are more than you say, but probably less than you think. And yet you could be so much more with the proper financing.

SFORZA:- You offer money?

FIA:- The republics offer whatever is necessary.

SFORZA:- Do they? And you?

FIA:- I would be your agent.

SFORZA:- You think I need representation.

FIA:- With a talent like yours you could go far. With a little help that is.

SFORZA:- Help?

FIA:- I would represent you in your contract negotiations with the republics.

SFORZA:- I have no contract nor do I desire one.

FIA:- Not yet but the wheel ever turns. And it has to be admitted the Duke is not the most benevolent of employers. If you doubt, ask Carmagnola.

SFORZA:- And you would do all this for a fee?

FIA:- (laughs) Of course, what else would I be wanting?

SFORZA:- What are your talents?

FIA:- I know the trivium and quadrivium and I dance to perfection.

SFORZA:- You are ambitious.

FIA:- Who has the greater ambition the man who reaches above his station or the woman who desires to be more than shadow? I want to wake up each morning and not know how the day will end. I want adventure.

SFORZA:- You should be careful what you wish for.

FIA:- I am very careful Count Francesco, that is something that you will learn about me. And now I would learn who is that handsome young man approaching.

SFORZA:- My brother Alessandro.
FIA:- I will remember the name. For the moment I must leave. The Duke doesn't let me attend his audiences. For some reason I don't think the Duke trusts me.  

SFORZA kisses her hand.

Remember Count Francesco, in Milan, nothing is ever what it seems.

Exit FIA. Enter ALESS.

ALESS:- I think I am in love. Who is she?

SFORZA:- Fiammetta d'Este, and she is someone's mistress.

ALESS:- Whose?

SFORZA:- Mine I believe.

ALESS:- May all your conquests be as swift.

SFORZA:- Amen.

ALESS:- I have met with the ambassadors of the republics. They both want a relationship for the long term.

SFORZA:- A man with an army is always popular. The key is how to agree to one without offending the other. What did they say?

ALESS:- Florence is represented by Cosimo Medici, who says any lasting friendship must be built upon mutual trust and confidence. He was very flattering about father.  He's clever without being patronising and he was honest about Zagonara.

SFORZA:- An army of ten thousand destroyed, but the fact that only three men actually died in the battle only adds to the humiliation of Florence. Wounded pride is a dangerous motive for war;  Florence wants revenge. And Venice?

ALESS:- An odious man, he put it more bluntly. Can you afford to turn down the friendship of Venice? Their friendship is not lightly offered and seldom twice.

SFORZA:- Florence is too parochial and will only ever fall under the dominion of one of their own, while Venice is always of the opinion, that there is no other opinion but hers. But as for Milan here, this is not a state, it’s a collection of territories that’s held together only by the strength of character of the Duke.

ALESS:- Who is without a male heir and you are a Count, would it be too great a step?

SFORZA:- If wishes could make it so. True, there are certainly opportunities, but we must not get ahead of ourselves. For the moment we will listen and commit ourselves to nothing.

Enter PERSICCO.

PERSICCO:- Count Francesco, I see the stories were right, you are impressive for one so young. And now the conqueror of the great Braccio. Though I fear this will make you unpopular with his many students and followers here in Milan.

SFORZA:- I had heard the Bracceschi were numerous in Milan. Piccinino for one.

PERSICCO:- Do not worry, it is the Duke's opinion that matters. And he likes you.

SFORZA:- I am pleased.

PERSICCO:- I have also heard him say that you are most noble in your bearing and countenance.

SFORZA:- Noble? I have not the birth for it.

PERSICCO:- These days a man’s worth is judged by his actions. Speaking of actions?

SFORZA:- The Duke need not concern himself any more with that particular matter.

PERSICCO:- He will be pleased. I think I now recall something else the Duke mentioned in passing, what was it, ah yes, that  illegitimacy is no bar to a successful union. I cannot quite recall the details, perhaps he will mention it later. But first a matter of court protocol.

SFORZA, PERSICCO and ALESS move to corner of stage and talk quietly.  Enter PICC and ALFONSO.

ALFONSO:- (To PICC) Sforza and the brother.

PICC:- So the murderer has concluded his entry into the city? The second coming would have been a lesser production. And all at your expense.

ALFONSO:-My dear Piccinino we both have accounts to settle with Sforza, but for him I would be King in Naples and you would count Braccio amongst the living.

PICC:-Then we must make sure that the spectacle of Sforza's fall shall be the talk of the age. (To SFORZA.) Count Francesco! You are well?

SFORZA:- (Breaking from group) My lord Piccinino! Everyone seems concerned with my health I am touched.

PICC:- It is the favourite topic of conversation amongst us all.

ALFONSO walks round SFORZA who ignores him.

SFORZA:- I feel quite at home already.

ALFONSO:- Francesco Attendolo, or since the so called Queen of Naples has commanded you change your name, Francesco Sforza.

SFORZA:- The Queen did the family that honour.

ALFONSO:- 'Sforza'. A name some say based upon your father's stubbornness when arguing over the division of spoils.

SFORZA:- I too have heard this story and regard it to be little more than a base lie, and to any that repeat it, I would hold no longer a friend. But for a would-be King of Naples you do have a nice suit.

ALFONSO:- The pope himself sold it to me.

SFORZA:-Then it’s a mystery how the height of fashion can bear to be seen with so threadbare a cousin?

ALFONSO:- One makes allowances for the company one is forced to keep.


Enter VISCONTI who sits, VENICE, COSIMO, CAR.

VENICE:- (to VISCONTI.) My lord you should beware of the desire to take what belongs to others and of making unjust war, for in making such gross error God will undoubtedly destroy you. Be mindful of our warning or you set in motion a train of events that will inevitably lead to the utter ruin of your house.

VISCONTI:- All financed by Florence, no doubt?  (To COSIMO.) Venice will extend her boundaries while you foot the bill and gain precisely nothing. I marvel at your short-sightedness. My lords, when my father died I was imprisoned in Pavia,  helpless, as the condottiere ripped the state apart. These wounds go very deep. I have dedicated a lifetime trying to recover the legal property of my house. Would not any of you have done the same?

COSIMO:- A valid point. But was not the reconquest of the Visconti inheritance complete after you regained Genoa?

VISCONTI:-When faced by two hostile powers a father must do everything to protect his daughter.

COSIMO:- Including making peace?
VISCONTI:- I have given my word! Do we not live under a treaty of perpetual peace?

COSIMO:- The third by name. If a man breaks his word but promises to keep it in the future, should he be trusted?

VISCONTI:- Is this not capable of resolution?

COSIMO:- My lord, never under-estimate the impact of personal animosity in the affairs of great states. We like to think that the great powers so conduct their affairs like the movement of the heavens, with order and reason, but it is seldom so. Often we see the shifting of alliances, sudden reversals of fortune and outright catastrophes befalling a nation for the simple reason that one man sees it as an offence to God that another is still walking the earth.

VISCONTI:- Speaking of another, Venice should not be hounded into some precipitate decision like chased game by a faithless servant.

VENICE:- You speak of the man under our protection, the man you tried to poison, the man whose wife and children you still hold.

VISCONTI(To CAR) I loved you like a brother. I gave you everything, gold beyond measure, palaces beyond count, an entire city, my God we are even related by marriage.  

CAR:- And took it all away again. All I did was ask to see you.

VISCONTI:- You demanded, there's a difference.

CAR:- My lords, if anyone should know the mind of the Duke, it is I. Here  before you is a man of unlimited ambition and wanton cruelty, of falsehood and deceit he has no equal. For many years I have been  privy to his covert plans and complex stratagems, all feeding the insatiable desire for the territory of others.

VISCONTI:- I ask you, is there anything more bitter than a former friend?

CAR:- He speaks of friends? He has none. He glories in disquiet and perpetual disharmony.  His court is the perfect balance of intrigue and jealousy, where each man is played off against the other, and all are watched.

VISCONTI:- In an age when rulers seldom die natural deaths some might consider that an achievement.

CAR:- He is both monster and tyrant. I warn you there is no limit to his cruelty and calculation. Was I not forced flee to for my life leaving wife and children in his murderous hands. I ask you can a worse fate befall any father?

VISCONTI:- I haven't touched them!
CAR:- He says Venice should not be  'hounded into some precipitate decision like chased game.' To the powers and condottiere here gathered I say this:- remember my example, else find the armies of Milan pounding at your gates. Though I had once been accounted amongst the greatest of the land I now of humble estate, but that is of no consequence set against the security and prosperity of my adopted home. Whatever I am, and whatever I possess, I pledge all to the service of the Republic of Venice for there can be no compact with one such as he.

Exit CAR
 
VISCONTI:- What says the republics?

VENICE:- I speak for both. Carmagnola’s speech has laid before you the character and malice of  Filippo Visconti. I warn you all, his power is not so great. War is necessary, for we see an  enemy unrelenting, aspiring to the sovereignty of all Italy. In order to establish an everlasting peace we will embark upon this war and trample into the dust the common foe of all free thinking citizens.

Exit VENICE, COSIMO pauses to look at SFORZA, then Exit.

VISCONTI:- That went as well as expected. What a sea of glum faces. Sforza?

SFORZA:- Here my lord.

VISCONTI:-Behold, Ares incarnate.

ALFONSO laughs, VISCONTI looks up sharply. All step away from ALFONSO.
Out!
Exit ALESS, PERSICCO, PICC, ALFONSO.

They are a contrary lot. Well, you will have heard stories about me?

SFORZA:- Some.

VISCONTI:- It could hardly be otherwise. It is a wonder that some learned man have not proved that my look turns the tide. Do such things matter I wonder?

SFORZA:- Only to those who believe them.

VISCONTI:- What manner of a man are you I wonder? Tell me, you are besieging a city, but have run out of money, do you withdraw and look for easier prey, or do you turn over the city to be sacked? Which is the greater crime, spare the city and risk the desertion of your army or unleash your troops and face eternal condemnation for all misery and depravity that follows?  Does the end justify the means?

SFORZA:- That is the wrong question; the end never justifies the means it merely makes it easier to live with yourself. The real question is whether you can become the man who can kill without compunction and then having become that man, can you control what lies within you?

VISCONTI:- The reports were right, your talent has depth, which makes a change.

SFORZA:- My lord flatters.

VISCONTI:- Don’t be coy with me Sforza.  Renown only lasts a finite amount of time especially if you fail to measure yourself against the remaining condottiere. You are here to advance the interests of your house and measure yourself against the best of the pack, that much is plain. And you believe you can do that in my service?

SFORZA:- I do.

VISCONTI:- Surely Venice would pay more?

SFORZA:- It would.

VISCONTI:- It has offered?

SFORZA:- Not yet, but they will. As my lord already knows.

VISCONTI:- Ah, I see you have met Fiammetta d’Este, did she charm you?

SFORZA:- She tried. She wishes to be the keeper of other people’s secrets.

VISCONTI:- She really is a wonderful creature, but like all the d’Este, completely untrustworthy, but you know this already, being educated among them.

SFORZA:- That and learning to sleep with a knife under my pillow.

VISCONTI:- Speaking of the d'Este family?

SFORZA:- The young man you refer to was struck by the hand of God. Several times from behind.

VISCONTIYoung ladies these days do form the most unsuitable of attachments. Whatever is a loving father to do? It is a constant worry.

SFORZA:- I will bear that in mind.

VISCONTI:- You are very careful Sforza.

SFORZA:- I prefer prudent my lord.

VISCONTI:- And is it prudent for the man who destroyed Braccio to be in Milan? Being here will upset people.

SFORZA:- Was that not your Lordship’s intention? You believe I can beat Carmagnola. It is why you hired me. You will first make an attempt to lure him back to your service.  If you are successful you will use my presence as a check on both his ambition and his contract rate. If he should be so foolish as to refuse your most generous offer, I will be used against him. You will then use the other condottiere to act as a check on any ambitions you assume I may have.

VISCONTI:- And if the good Carmaganola is undecided as to which side he prefers?

SFORZA:- Someone will cut off his head.

VISCONTI:- Very well, you are hired. Defeat Carmagnola and I will be suitable grateful.

SFORZA:- I will need more men.

VISCONTI:- I will give you Piccinino.

SFORZA:- I'd rather have just the men.

VISCONTI:- You will have what the Duke of Milan gives you! And I warn you, we are defined by our actions Count Francesco, and it is through our failures that others perceive us. If you fail, those failure will be seen as mine. And for that there are always consequences. You disappoint me at you peril.  

SFORZA:- If I fail you my lord it will not be because of the arbitrary nature of the world, nor by wont of effort, rather it will be by the design of others.

 Lights Down.


SCENE3

(Chamber of Sforza. SFORZA sits at a table drinking. In his bed FIA awakes)

FIA:- What is the hour?

SFORZA:- For some of us, it is already too late my little butterfly.

FIA:- You are in a melancholy mood, did I displease you?

SFORZA:- You did your family proud.

FIA:- Then come back to bed, I promise to talk of sweet nothings.

SFORZA:- Such talk is seldom so cheap. First, I would talk of the lady Bianca.

FIA:- Already she loves me like an older sister.  

SFORZA:- In some families that is hardly a recommendation.  Does she talk about me?

FIA:- You? There is something of an age difference.

SFORZA:- Do such things matter?

FIA:- When you are that young, three months can render you ancient, you don’t have feelings do you?

SFORZA:- Merely thinking ahead. Her thoughts?

FIA:- Oh my poor love, she thinks of nothing but the death of my cousin Antonio d'Este. You know the handsome one with -

SFORZA:- I know the one.

FIA:- Was it really necessary?

SFORZA:- The Duke thought it necessary, so it seemed prudent that the young man became acquainted with the next world at the earliest opportunity. Beyond that I scare gave him a thought.

FIA:- Unlike Bianca. She has many thoughts and they all turn to you. She holds you had a hand in his death, a whole body in fact. You will have no salvation upon that front. She wants her revenge.

SFORZA:- She is that serious? I had heard it was a mere flirtation.

FIA:- You know what young girls are like. Everything at that age is a matter of life and death. Now come back to bed.

SFORZA:- I swear by the Almighty, I did not desire his death.

FIA:- The Duke says you are a prudent man and I've noticed prudent men always seem to be very specific in the oaths they swear.

SFORZA:- She’s her father’s daughter. She will have asked you do something for her?

FIA:- Well, since you've decided to let your side of the bed go cold. (Pulls letter from underneath pillow) A tangible in my lady’s hand, (sniffs letter) ah, the scent of treachery, your intended contracts with the d’Este for a death. Yours in fact. May one ask what this is worth to you, my lord?

SFORZA:- Should principle deal with treachery?

FIA:- Principle! You have no principles; you merely remember you had them, in time, even this memory will cease to trouble you.

SFORZA:- Behold a wonder of Aristotle, a butterfly with the feet of an elephant.  Tread softly.

FIA:- For speaking true? It is in the nature of greatness that it consumes the humanity of those that it raises to the heights of good fortune. You are no different.

SFORZA:- You cast me like bronze, the villain of the age?

FIA:- Who remembers the saint?  Now I would claim rights in a bargain.

SFORZA:- You speak of rights? Human rights are a myth, fine principles and flowery phrases on scraped parchment. In practice they mean nothing. Does every citizen come into the world with a guarantee of right? Does every citizen come into the world with a guarantee of worth? Is every citizen worth the guarantee? Or do some revoke their guarantees? If so, what right under broken contract then?  

FIA:- You seek nobility and virtue? Our lives are spent in the shadow of Sodom and Gomorrah dreaming of past debaucheries and hoping our creditors will pay for new ones. These days a man is judged by the cut of his cloth and the depth of his pockets.

SFORZA:- In this world of yours, when a man has bartered his soul, what will he become?

FIA:- Successful.

SFORZA:- Then why shower you affection upon me?

FIA:- (spreads herself out on the bed) Mighty Hercules,

SFORZA:- So I am the lover of the age? You honey the words.

FIA:- (giving up the act)  Very well, you have certain skills.

SFORZA:- By virtue of chance and circumstance, I kill people, high and low, I’m very democratic, and if Fortune should smile upon me once more, I will kill more.

FIA:- And you do it so well. Usually. Your last campaign against Carmagnola was conducted in so desultory a fashion that to hear of it is to believe that it was conducted by another man altogether. You know it is so, that is why you are so angry.

SFORZA:- The Duke's court is a nest of vipers, it is a mystery how any man survives long enough to fight a battle. If it had not been for Piccinino I would have defeated Carmagnola. I thought his fear of the Duke would outweigh his hatred of me. It may prove a fatal mistake. At least I was saved from complete destruction by our host in this fair city.

FIA:- And how is the Duchess tonight?

SFORZA:- She was well the last time I saw her.

FIA:- Have you slept with her yet?

SFORZA:- You esteem me so little that you think I sleep with every woman I may meet?

FIA:- You were planning on debauching a child a few minutes ago.

SFORZA:- That’s politics.

FIA:- Is that what it is called these days? Despite your proclivities and recent failures I suppose you could still be useful.

SFORZA:- The protector of Ferrara or just yours?

FIA:- Don’t flatter yourself. Uncle Niccolo would merely require the occasional service.

SFORZA:- And you?

FIA:- Think of me as a loving sister.

SFORZA:- The ease with which one gains relatives it’s a pity one cannot shed them as fast.

FIA:- In the end I’m sure you’ll try. Cosimo Medici is here and would speak with you.

SFORZA:- I heard he is somewhat ill-fated at the moment.

FIA:- The situation in Florence will change again. Will you not consider it?

SFORZA:- Do I have that luxury? I presume the Duke's men are coming for me?

FIA:- Yes.

SFORZA:- How many?

FIA:- Does it matter? The charge will be treason. Join the Medici, and like Carmagnola you salvage something. In time, who knows?

A knock on chamber door is heard.

SFORZA:- They are early?

FIA:- Not that early, it will be Cosimo, don't worry, you will like him. Trust me.
 
SFORZA:- That is hardly a recommendation.

FIA  opens door.  Enter COSIMO with a book.

FIA:- Count Francesco, may I introduce Cosimo de Medici.

COSIMO:- Call me Cosimo. Forgive the lateness of the hour but I sometimes find people are reluctant to meet me because of my profession. For some people coming face-to-face with their banker is much like meeting their priest. It reminds them of their misdeeds. Fiammetta here has been singing your praises for some time and now that I meet you I see I stand poorly in comparison.

FIA:- My dear Cosimo, in all truth, physically you are no beauty, and as for your voice.

COSIMO:- It does not please?

FIA:- You sing not with the angels my love.

COSIMO:- Well that’s a relief.

FIA:- I will leave you boys to become acquainted.

Exit FIA

COSIMO:- I see you two have become close.

SFORZA:- She is a d’Este, we are never going to be that close. And call me Francesco.

COSIMO:- Then I think you should find yourself a good woman.

SFORZA:- Is there such a creature or do you have someone in mind?

COSIMO:- From her letters there is someone who has you very much in her mind. But that is a matter for later. A present from Rome. (Hands over book.) Aristotle. It's the latest translation.

SFORZA:- From Rome?

COSIMO:- The pope would be you friend.

SFORZA:- Father used to say the papacy was a cesspit of vice and simony and that was on a good day. The pope would seem a friend to any that can profit him and then having squeezed them dry, would turn against them.

COSIMO:- The pope would offer you the world. If you would help against Alfonso.

SFORZA:- Some might argue that he should not concern himself with such worldly matters.

COSIMO:- Well, I promised him I would try. Nevertheless keep the book. Florence well remembers your father, we know talent when we see it, we even awarded him a pension I believe. Most condottiere find service with us to be most congenial, true we seldom achieve anything but at least our failures are honourable. In some respects Florence is a reflection of the divine, and thus too fine a city for the Almighty to let it fall to a man's ambition. No matter how talented the man may be. If you take my meaning?

SFORZA:- I believe I do.

COSIMO:- Then my dear Francesco you will be wondering what my intentions are?

SFORZA:- It had crossed my mind you would be asking for something.

COSIMO:- I ask nothing of you that you would not freely give. (Laughs at a disbelieving SFORZA.) Francesco, over the years my profession has brought me into contact with many different men and you do not strike me as one who can be bought.

SFORZA:- I am a condottiere; by definition I can be bought.

COSIMO:- A contradiction I grant you, the first of many I think.

SFORZA:- I believe you esteem me too highly.

COSIMO:- Even in defeat your father’s credit was good, as now is yours. As a banker I make a study of such things.

SFORZA:- I am, but a simple soldier, said by many to be little more than a peasant.

COSIMO:- You should hear the names people call me. If only we bankers ran the world life would be so much easier. But for now we speak of you. You are a soldier who dreams of peace, a second contradiction.

SFORZA:- Peace would be bad for the family business.

COSIMO:- But your business is to become Duke of Milan, after all someone has to be. You know I can help, and also that I may prove willing. I am not the only one making enquiries.

SFORZA:- Suppose all you say is true. Why gamble your florins on me,  the odds are against?

COSIMO:- Because if all you desire be possible, then I believe you are the man to achieve it. And I admit it would be nice to be on the winning side for once.

SFORZA:- As I am somewhat pressed for time, let us come to terms.

COSIMO:- In the short term. Do not run, that was Carmagnola's mistake. Stay and face the wrath of the Duke. Your many relatives and my money will keep you army loyal and a loyal army will keep you alive. The Duke will keep you under lock and key until he has need of you again.

SFORZA:- In the long term?

COSIMO:- If you wish to be the Duke of Milan you will have to come to terms with the lady Bianca.  

Lights Down

 


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