Sforza. Act 1 Scenes 7-9

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

Sforza goes to the 'aid' of the pope who tries to have him killed. In the meantime the Duke tries to cause trouble between Venice and Sforza.

Submitted: January 12, 2018

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Submitted: January 12, 2018




(Vatican. POPE is sitting on throne. COSIMO hands over a report. FIA stands to side)

POPE:- Twenty three days. Twenty three days!! The whole of our province of Ancona put to fire and sword. This is Visconti's doing. And he swore eternal friendship!

COSIMO:- There were reports -.

POPE:- False and malicious!

COSIMO:- That your Holiness was secretly supporting Venice.

POPE:- Not true. (Pause.) How did he find out?

COSIMO:- It was inevitable that someone would tell him. As was the Duke's desire to retaliate.

POPE:- But you ask too much.

COSIMO:- Holiness. Let us live in the real world. Sforza holds Ancona in fact but not in title, whereas Your Holiness may wish him elsewhere have not the power to make it so. This represents ground for a compromise. Purely in the spirit of Christian unity, if you were to say, legitimise his occupation of Ancona by creating him Marquis of Ancona and Captain General of the papal army.

POPE:- Give him my army as well!

COSIMO:- Before he destroys the rest of it.

POPE:- My other advisers have different proposals, Baldassar da Offida is one.

COSIMO:- I know the name and what he does. Holiness, it is those politicians who are so enamoured of their position that they believe mere possession of office somehow confers skill and expertise that often leads a state to the very brink of ruin.

POPE:- Is there no other way?


POPE:- Very well.

COSIMO:- Francesco!

Enter SFORZA who kneels before the POPE. POPE places his hand above SFORZA'S head but can't bring himself to bless him.

POPE:- No. I will not yield one inch to this bastard son of Lucifer! The Sforza are a plague upon the earth.  There can be no compromise with one such as this.

SFORZA rises and turns to leave.

COSIMO:- Wait. Holiness! A word.

Whispered conversation between COSIMO and POPE, the occasional  'no' and 'never' is heard.

POPE:- Sforza.

SFORZA:- Yes Holiness?

POPE:- Explain yourself.

SFORZA:- Your loyal subjects begged for my help, and as a good Christian I could not in all conscience refuse them.

POPE:- You issued a manifesto that you would free the March of Ancona from my rule?

SFORZA:- From an unjust rule in your name.

POPE:- You refused my subjects permission to pay their taxes direct to the Holy See.

SFORZA:- Direct to dishonest tax gatherers operating in your name Holiness.

POPE:- And kept the money for yourself.

SFORZA:- Purely for administrative purposes.

POPE:- How very convenient, yet you made war against my legate. Explain!

SFORZA:- He was deceiving you. The tax records and the amounts sent to the Holy See do not correspond.

POPE:- You can prove this? I heard the tax records were lost.

SFORZA:- Burnt by the legate, but clearly no innocent man would act in such manner.

POPE:- And you have done all this with no thought of yourself or your own ambitions?

SFORZA:- There are no other considerations.

POPE:- (looks to COSIMO who shakes head) Count Francesco our lands are riven by faction, pillaged and plundered by the godless condottiere Fortebraccio and Piccinino, and by other false servants of the church. I am an old man and in poor health, yet in God’s infinite wisdom it has fallen to me to defend our Holy Mother Church in these perilous times.

SFORZA:- Holiness, I have heard of your distress and the ruin of your lands and I consider it my most Christian duty to offer my sword and place it at your service.

POPE:- My son, God has called you to us and it is his will that you will be our standard bearer and Captain General. I charge you to rid our lands of the enemies of Christ.

SFORZA:- Before God and under the banner of Christ I accept it as my sacred duty to preserve the hegemony of St. Peter. I will not fail you.

POPE:- Then my most worthy and Christian son go forth with our blessing and our prayers on your holy work.


POPE:- Is our most Christian daughter,Fiammetta d'Este, amongst us?

FIA:- Here Holiness. (Kneels before POPE.)  I am yours to command.

POPE:- Baldassar da Offida?

FIA:- He waits with his men.

POPE:- He has my blessing. What news from Milan?

FIA:- The Duke commanded Genoa send its fleet against Naples.  Alfonso was crushed and is being taken in chains to Milan.

POPE:- Which makes our most noble friend all powerful. So it is as we had heard. We had best come to terms with the Duke's man. I want you to give this letter to Piccinino. (hands over letter) I will explain the details.

Lights Down


(Sforza's chamber. Enter SFORZA and ALESS.)

SFORZA:- He tried to kill me! And would have succeeded but for Cosimo's warning.  After all I have done for him! How many of them do we have?

ALESS:- All of them.

SFORZA:- There leader?

ALESS:- One Baldassar da Offida employed by the pope by way of the d'Este. He sends you a letter.  (Hands over letter.)

SFORZA:- (reads)  'My lord there is no man to whom the pope bears more ill will than he does to you. For God’s sake do not trust him for he will always do you evil when he can.’  

ALESS:- I think he tries to save himself.

SFORZA:- But I do believe the warning was well meant. Not that it will do him much good.

ALESS:- I will see to it.

SFORZA:- At every turn we are frustrated.  With Fortebraccio no longer walking the earth, only Piccinino now remains and what happens? The Duke decides that all the parties should now negotiate a truce and uses the d’Este as honest brokers, which means that woman will not be far behind.

Enter FIA.

FIA:- What sort of greeting is that? Anyone would think you are not pleased to see me.

SFORZA:- I am not. The d’Este are a plague upon the earth.

FIA:- Uncle Niccolo been upsetting you again?

SFORZA:- Every time I stand on the threshold of victory I find it stolen from me.

FIA:- You can’t expect the Duke to risk everything on one grand battle. If he loses Piccinino, who will protect him from you?

SFORZA:- Does he fear me that much?

FIA:- He fears everyone and everything. That is probably why he has lasted so long. Is it true that Fortebraccio is dead?

ALESS:- It is common knowledge that he died of his wounds. There seems no reason to contradict. Why?

FIA:- Just curious that both Braccio and his nephew died of their wounds. I never knew being a soldier was so dangerous.

SFORZA:- God moves in mysterious ways.

FIA:- I hear you are a father again? That must make Bianca happy.

SFORZA:- The world knows I am celibate.

FIA:- An immaculate conception, must be the Sforza spirit I keep hearing about. I will try and remember to keep my legs crossed. Speaking of children, how is Bianca?

SFORZA:- She writes she is well.

FIA:- She writes? Unaided?

SFORZA:- Are you jealous of her?

FIA:- Of a mere child? My dear Francesco there is simply no comparison, would you like me to prove it to you later?

SFORZA:- That is something to look forward to.

FIA:- Unlike your wedding, it will never happen. The Duke knows that once it does you won’t need him.  He will try to marry her to someone else.

SFORZA:- I understand the Duke more than I am given credit for. He will not betray me.

FIA:- All I ask is that you keep an open mind. Congratulations on Bologna by the way, everyone is talking about it. What now?

SFORZA:- Now you can tell me about Baldassar da Offida.

FIA:- I am unfamiliar with the name.

ALESS:- He was familiar with yours.

FIA:- Was? I heard he still lived?

ALESS:- It appears there was an unfortunate accident. While asleep in his prison cell a loose brick fell from the ceiling and killed him outright.

FIA:- That was very (pause) unfortunate.

SFORZA:- But at least I have his written confession (flourishes letter) and your name figures prominently.

FIA:- How can I make amends?

SFORZA:- I don't know but I am sure you will try.
FIA:- I also I have a letter. (Produces a letter.) From the pope to Piccinino, he berates him for not attacking you with sufficient vigour. (Hands it over.)  Do we return to our previous level of intimacy dear Francesco?

SFORZA:- (reads) We do. Until later.

Exit ALESS and FIA. SFORZA paces up and down reading the letter.

COSIMO:- You are well?

SFORZA:- They failed if that's what you mean?

COSIMO:- You're angry.

SFORZA:- With justification. When the elect of the Almighty behaves thus, what hope is there for the rest of us? And there is this. (hands over letter)

COSIMO:- (reads)  Interesting but consigned by events to history.

SFORZA:- How so?

COSIMO:- The Duke has switched sides and now supports Alfonso against Genoa. It must have been some conversation they had. Genoa is angry and has declared themselves in revolt against the Duke and appealed to Florence and Venice. And so we have another war. To his credit the pope will try to negotiate peace by appealing to the Duke’s  better nature, why he thinks he has one is somewhat of a mystery to me. And then there's you.

SFORZA:- I cannot afford to offend Venice and yet every direct move against the Duchy, every city taken, every man killed, reduces the value of Visconti inheritance. To become Duke and survive, I must have the support of the people and a mostly intact Duchy. Otherwise, I will face enemies within and without and have few resources to call upon. I know it as plain as day and the Duke knows I know it.  

COSIMO:- So how will you square the circle?

SFORZA:- By keeping my word to the Duke not to fight north of the Po.

COSIMO:- My friend, your strategy does have a certain magnificent stupidity, it's quite endearing in a way. And yet part of me suspects you might outlive us all. What will you do now?

SFORZA:- I will continue God's holy work and trust that his earthly representative is suitably grateful.

Enter POPE quickly.

POPE:- You live!! Praise be to God! Truly, you are his instrument.

SFORZA:- (kneels) I am the church's most obedient servant.

POPE:- Then I shall not detain you. (Blesses him.)  May God preserve you my most beloved son.


I cannot do this. His very presence is an offence to God. Once Piccinino returns to the Duke's service there will be no constraint on him. It is only a matter of time before he puts the rest of the Papal States to the sword. They may be unruly, but they are mine.  
COSIMO:- There may be a way of encouraging him to seek his Fortune north of the Po.

POPE:- How so?

COSIMO:- You could propose to negotiate a peace between the Duke and Genoa.

POPE:- I could make a public appeal to the Duke. There would be much credit.

COSIMO:- If, by some chance, the Duke should fail to respond, it would only be natural for you to support Genoa and the republics with a contribution of say thirty thousand florins.

POPE:- Money? There is none.

COSIMO:- I was thinking of a making a personal gift, of say fifty thousand  florins to the Holy See, that would leave twenty thousand to support your Holiness in your most Christian works.

POPE:- And what else?

COSIMO:- You propose Sforza be made Captain General of the combined army.

POPE:- All of it? Genoa, both republics, the papacy and his own men? That makes him very powerful. Too powerful. I will not.

COSIMO:- Your Holiness may like to read a document that came into Sforza's possession. (Hands over letter.)

 POPE:- (reads letter) This is regrettable.

COSIMO:- It is capable of explanation to Sforza.

POPE:- It is? And would that explanation be satisfactory?

COSIMO:- It might be, if it were accompanied by a general proclamation in his support.

POPE:- As God wills.  I shall expect the first payment by the end of the day.

Lights Down


(Camp of Sforza. VENICE and SFORZA are facing each other.) 

VENICE:- Janus! You proclaim your loyalty, take our money and then do precisely nothing. You are revealed for what you really are. A false friend! Another Carmagnola!

SFORZA:- Do not presume to lecture me on my obligations to Venice. It is you who promise and do not deliver. Shall I ask the clerk to tally how much Venice is in arrears? We do your bidding and what do we get in return? Nothing.

VENICE:- You will be paid.

SFORZA:- When?

VENICE:- When you go north of the Po.

SFORZA:- You have already been informed of my answer.

VENICE:- Because you gave your word to the Duke?

SFORZA:- Some believe that a man's word is little more that an artificial construct, more of an idealised form of conduct which presumes no real world impediments. And where such impediments do exist, a breach only deserves censure where there is malice. But others believe that when you give it, you are pledging the very essence of who you are, and you break it at peril of your immortal soul.

VENICE:- What of your word to the republic?

SFORZA:- My word to the Duke pre-dates my word to the republic.

VENICE:- It is treachery.

SFORZA:- Not so. I gave my word on condition that I would not be asked to go north of the Po. You knew this.

VENICE:- The Senate will be looking for a new commander.

SFORZA:- Another one? After Carmagnola you begin to get a reputation. I believe we are done.


You heard?

ALESS:- I think the whole camp heard, I wouldn’t go to Venice any time soon.

SFORZA:- They will calm down. As father always told us, never get emotional about business. Particularly when you dance with Fortune upon a knife edge.  At least the Duke has written to me, he says all outstanding matters are concluded and therefore proposes a general peace, he also wants the wedding to take place as soon as we can make arrangements in Ancona. I have asked Cosimo to join us here.

ALESS:- As you always like to ask him for money in person.

SFORZA:- Something like that.

COSIMO:- Have you heard yet?

SFORZA:- Peace and there's my wedding to be arranged.

COSIMO:- Not so, one moment a peace, the next, Venice stands as if in water up to her throat and is almost ruined.

SFORZA:- How so?

COSIMO:- The Duke ignored the usual forms and has attacked without warning. Verona awoke to a blockade, while Brescia was overrun before anyone knew what had happened. I have ridden night and day. From all over, follows news of Venetian defeats. The Senate begs for your help before Piccinino takes the city.

SFORZA:- And the Duke?

COSIMO:- He has no need of a wedding. You have to choose sides and quickly.

SFORZA:- I have dealt honourably with the Duke, but he had taken this for a sign of weakness. Well if friendship be spurned then it is a time for fear. Inform Venice I will save them but I am to be recognised as the Duke’s lawful successor, married or not.

EXIT COSIMO and ALESS, SFORZA tears down the emblem of the Duke, draws his sword.

I swear that I will hunt down the Duke's generals and destroy them one by one.

Enter FIA behind SFORZA.

And as for Piccinino -

FIA:- Were you talking to yourself? In truth you grow more like the Duke each day.

SFORZA:- I have been expecting you.

FIA:- How did you know I would come?

SFORZA:- Somehow you have heard my army must cross the Po. Now comes the offer.

FIA:- But what makes you think I have an offer?

SFORZA:- The Duke will have anticipated this possibility.

FIA:- You’re so clever it is what I like about you.

SFORZA:- Not my boyish good looks?

FIA:- They went a few years ago I hadn’t the heart to tell you.

SFORZA:- Well my love?

FIA:- Deep breath, Bianca is to be married to Lionel d’Este. (Pause.) You don’t seem surprised?

SFORZA:- That the Visconti are plotting something is hardly news. Intrigue to the Visconti is like poetry to other families, something to be worked at until it becomes aesthetically pleasing.  

FIA:- Bianca is in Ferrara as we speak.

SFORZA:- I am not surprised.

FIA:- Really? And it doesn’t bother you? Francesco, she really is there.

SFORZA:- I don’t doubt she’s there, I don’t doubt she’s being offered, it’s just not going to happen. The Duke would never really go through with it and even if I were wrong in this, dear Uncle Niccolo would never agree to the match.

FIA:- Because of what you would do to Ferrara if he did. Uncle Niccolo has already guessed as much. Nevertheless the Duke is willing to make concessions.

SFORZA:- Of that I have no doubt.

FIA:- The Duke believes that it is time you were married.

SFORZA:- I have heard that before.

FIA:- Boundaries as per the start of the war.

SFORZA:- Why should Venice agree?

FIA:- Venice survives, everyone else gets peace.

SFORZA:- And what else?

FIA:- Besides the bride you get an unassailable claim to an intact inheritance.

SFORZA:- I already have all that in writing.

FIA:- He really means it this time.

SFORZA:- Some might believe that the Duke is trying to detach me from my loyalty to the republics. He seeks to create suspicion in their eyes; he would have them believe that I am playing them false like Carmagnola. And when they have me in their power. No more Sforza.

FIA:- You always did have a tendency to over-complicate matters. Do you agree?

SFORZA:- With modification. Visconti will propose that I act as arbiter.

FIA:- And the arbiter gets to draft the treaty. But why?

SFORZA:- The execution of the marriage contract will be the first term of the treaty.

FIA:- No ones going to like that.

SFORZA:- I don't expect they will

FIA:- Agreed. I wonder who is going to tell Piccinino that he has just lost the war? Is there anything else?

SFORZA:- I will take a copy of the  proposals to Venice.

FIA:- You’re more careful than you used to be.

SFORZA:- I have further to fall.

Lights Down.

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