Sforza. Act 2 Scenes 4 - 6

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


As Venice attacks, the Duke turns to Bianca for help. While Sforza fights for Milan, the Duke dies and much to Bianca's disgust Milan becomes a republic.

Submitted: January 13, 2018

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Submitted: January 13, 2018

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SCENE 4

(Milan –  PERSICCO is looking for the something. Enter PICC)

PICC:- Have you found it yet?

PERSICCO:- No.

PICC:- Without an official seal the document will not be valid.

PERSICCO:- I know! This is Bianca's doing. She's been preparing for this for years. And now she moves before the armies of Venice advance on the city.  

PICC:- And the Duke? There are stories?

PERSICCO:- All true. He's gone mad, he haunts the corridors of the castle constantly crying ‘where is Sforza, why does he not come?'

PICC:- The Visconti are no more, there is only Sforza.

PERSICCO:- What do you propose?

PICC:- Anyone but Sforza.

PERSICCO:- Without a valid will there is no one but Sforza.

PICC:- Then let it be no one man.

PERSICCO:- A republic. Would the Bracceschi  support such a creation?

PICC:- If it stops Sforza, we would.

PERSICCO:- There would be support in the city for a republic.

PICC:- But you must be prepared to come to terms with Venice before her army reaches the gates. Whatever price they ask, you must be prepared to pay it.

PERSICCO:- The Duke approaches.

Enter VISCONTI.

PICC:- I have no desire to pay my respects to a walking corpse.

Exit PICC.

VISCONTI:- Was that not Piccinino?

PERSICCO:- No my lord, merely a messenger.

Exit PERSICCO.

VISCONTI:- Did I dismiss him? Am I not the Duke? How little they now fear me.

Enter BIANCA - hooded.

Is this the end? Has an angel come to deliver divine judgement?

BIANCA:- (lowers hood) Time has not been kind to you father.

VISCONTI:- No, it has not. I confess I had greater expectations of these days.

BIANCA:- We must all learn to live with disappointment father.

VISCONTI:- That is true. I expected Sforza.

BIANCA:- He is not coming.

VISCONTI:- After all I have done for him? I raised him up - .

BIANCA:- And cast him down again into the pit of Mortara.

VISCONTI:- I let him out.

BIANCA:- Two years later.

VISCONTI:- He was a better man for it.

BIANCA:- He views it differently.

VISCONTI:- I helped him set up on his own account in Ancona.

BIANCA:- And then tried to put him out of business.

VISCONTI:- He made war upon me. Me! His father! Can a man have a more faithless son-in-law?

BIANCA:- A war which you started father, you censure him for being the better general? You have broken the most solemn oaths, deceived him in the most cruellest ways, and in the extreme, made an unjust war against him.

VISCONTI:- My son does not trust me?

BIANCA:- He trusts that you will act according to your nature.

VISCONTI:- It is not so simple. Not so simple. You would not understand.

BIANCA:- Because I am a woman?

VISCONTI:- You are my only child, I have always wanted the best for you.

BIANCA:- I want Francesco.

VISCONTI:- That is not the same thing. You are my daughter.

BIANCA:- I am his wife.

VISCONTIYou turn against your own father and for what?

BIANCA:- I guard the interests of my husband.

VISCONTI:- Is that all? You put the knife in with particular ferocity, there is more?

BIANCA:- Cremona is mine! You dare try to take it from me!

VISCONTI:- Spoken like a true Visconti.

BIANCA:- I am a Sforza.

VISCONTI:- In name only, you will always be more mine than his. Bianca.

BIANCA:- Father?

VISCONTI:- You never visit!

BIANCA:- We have been busy father.

VISCONTI:- Excuses, surely you could have spared a few days, it is not too much to ask for. All I get is the occasional letter drafted by some secretary.

BIANCA:- Oh father, you will have to do better than that.

VISCONTI:- Very Well. How is my grandson?

BIANCA:- You think now to ask? He is well.

VISCONTI:- This is not my fault!  Not my fault!

BIANCA:- You broke the terms of the treaty.

VISCONTI:- The Visconti have always broken treaties why should this one be so different?

BIANCA:- You have mortally offended the greatest soldier of the age. Without him Venice believes you are finished. Venice does not make war upon Milan, it makes war upon you.

VISCONTI:- What can I offer Venice?

BIANCA:- Nothing father, they want your head. Nothing else will satisfy.

VISCONTI:- Your grandfather should have destroyed them all when he had the chance. Well? What does your lord and husband want?

BIANCA:- To be Captain General and a payment.

VISCONTI:- A suitably large one, no doubt, what else?

BIANCA:- Power of government throughout the Duchy.

VISCONTI:- That makes him Duke, in all but name. Agreed. We could have done this by messenger, why did you come?

BIANCA:- They said you had gone mad, I came to look you in the eye and know the truth of it.

VISCONTI:- You still care? Now that you have seen me what do you think? Am I mad?

BIANCA:- No father. You wear madness like a cloak to guard you against the world. While you are thought mad you are safe.

VISCONTI:- Safe?

BIANCA:- From the condottiere, they believe you finished. If you listen carefully you will hear their voices.

VISCONTI:- And what do they say?

BIANCA:- That you are dying and will not publicly name a successor. They have the desperation of falling men who will do anything to stop Francesco becoming Duke. And they are prepared to move the minute you stop breathing.

VISCONTI:- Sforza's spies tell you this?

BIANCA:- I have no need of my husband’s help in this.

VISCONTIYou have your own sources? How clever you are.

BIANCA:- All that I am I learnt at your knee father.

VISCONTI:- How I remember those times.

BIANCA:- Do you?

VISCONTI:- You doubt it?

BIANCA:- You have always been hard to read father.

VISCONTI:- I am both father and prince, and as a prince you are never alone.

BIANCA:- Did you ever consider for a moment, that for a child, it would be confusing to know which was which?

VISCONTI:- I never heard you complain.

BIANCA:- One learns very quickly not to complain to the Duke of Milan.

VISCONTI:- I would have listened.

BIANCA:- As you did to your first wife before you executed her?

VISCONTI:- Her arguments lacked merit. Besides I would never harm you. I will not deny that I have made mistakes. What parent does not?  All I have ever done has been for you and the children that I knew would follow. Look at me Bianca, the cares of the Dukedom have broken me. (Kneels and holds out hands.) Bianca!

BIANCA:- Oh father! (Rushes to embrace him.) I will call to Francesco.

VISCONTI:- Call? He is here?

BIANCA:- Francesco!

Enter SFORZA and ALESS who is dressed in black, he places a restraining hand on SFORZA'S shoulder.

ALESS:- He will never keep his word, you can’t trust him.

SFORZA:- No.

ALESS:- You’re doing it for Bianca.

SFORZA:- There are worse reasons.

VISCONTI:- My son!

SFORZA:- My lord

VISCONTI:- My lord Alessandro. In the miracle of life there is also death. I am truly sorry for the loss of your wife. Your son?

ALESS:- He was delivered safely thanks to the lady Fiammetta.

BIANCA:- Come Alessandro you can help me retrieve some family property.

Exit BIANCA and ALESS.

VISCONTI:- I remember that you once knelt in my presence.

SFORZA:- A distant memory.

VISCONTI:- Each memory is like a piece of a mosaic with its own particular shape and colour. You spend your life trying to fit the pieces together without ever really knowing what the picture is supposed to look like. And it's only at the end can you look back and see the significance of any particular piece.

SFORZA:- And what does your new insight tell you?

VISCONTI:- You have committed sin.

SFORZA:- Many times. Did you have in mind any particular one?

VISCONTI:- You love Milan more than any living person, even Bianca. Milan has dominated your every thought, every word and every deed. I see that clearly now. Tell me when did you first fall in love with your mistress?

SFORZA:- From the first day I saw her bathed in the grace of the Almighty.

VISCONTI:- I pity my poor daughter.

SFORZA:- Bianca is the living embodiment of Milan.

VISCONTI:- How very convenient. Tell me what does it profit a man to sell his soul?

SFORZA:- You ask this after Cremona?  To you its loss was like the loss of a limb, to lose it to me simply compounded the injury. How to recover the city? The idea gnawed through your very soul until hate combined with opportunity to displace prudence and faith. Your move against the city violated the treaty with Venice and they saw the opportunity to nail you to the cross once and for all.

VISCONTI:- You overflow with compassion

SFORZA:- As a man and husband there is compassion, as a general there can be none. You are a dead man and it is just that it is so.

VISCONTI:- A little harsh after all I have an agreement with Bianca.

SFORZA:- Much good it will do you. We both know the agreement has to be with me. And  I value Cosimo’s friendship above yours. A true friend in the sea of politics is such a rarity as to be a gift from the Almighty. A man should think long and hard before he is tempted to do harm to one such as that.

VISCONTI:- But you have thought of it. You just don't trust my word do you? Francesco my boy you do me an injustice. A prince’s word should not be given lightly, and if given, the prince should be precise in what promises he makes. Am I to be blamed if you misunderstood?

SFORZA:- You are a master of twisting and turning the meaning of words to whatever meaning you desire at the time. I have seen you create ambiguity and confusion out of the simplest matters. I doubt there is a single lawyer in the whole of the country that could pin you down upon a contractual point.

VISCONTI:- In politics that is a skill at a premium. Whatever my faults, which are no doubt numerous and manifest, I have maintained myself against the world for over thirty five years bending even the strongest of the age to my will.  A ruler does not survive that passage of time without some degree of compromise to his conscience. For all your censure general, I am the Duke of Milan. Should you ever sit in my seat you might find matters that once seemed so clear and simple are not so.

SFORZA:- What you have done, defines you, the wrongs you have done will be as how others remember  you. You have spent your life preserving the balance, supporting first one state, and then as it grows in power, switching your support to its enemies to bring it back down again. As it was with states so it was with men, never for one moment letting any one of them dominate the pack. But has there been any point to it all? You kept the state together for all those years and all that is achieved is the struggle was for what will follow your death. The evils of his your father’s day will be revisited.

VISCONTI:- And if you confound your enemies and then, if by some miracle you hold back the tide that is the French, what will you do?

SFORZA:- Bring peace.

VISCONTIYou poor deluded fool. War is a natural state of being We've been killing each other before the birth of Christ and we will still be doing it at the Second Coming.

SFORZA:- Label me as you like. There are inherent possibilities in a free and prosperous people.

VISCONTI:- You dislike labels, then let us look to the essence?

SFORZA:- You are fear. You are a prisoner of your own fears.  For many years you could could not see beyond the contradiction of your position. You needed the condottiere to fight your wars, but you feared them for what they had done to Milan in the past and might do again in the future. Over time I believe I became the embodiment of that fear and need.

VISCONTI:- If I am fear, you are ambition. You are a slave to it. You want Milan, you want to be the Duke and you are driven to murder anyone who stands in your way.

SFORZA:- I have murdered no one.

VISCONTI:- The chroniclers of the age will scarce believe how many of your prisoners met with unhappy accidents. I pity you. One day you will realise there is no purpose to it all. You will become Sisyphus. It does not matter who is Duke or even if there is a Duke. The city will continue, life will continue, men will rise and fall, only to be replaced by other men.

SFORZA:- Then abdicate and live out a happy retirement in my city. No? You have spent your life fighting to be first amongst men, but now find yourself a humble player upon a stage. All that remains is for you to conceive an end that will be your defiance of the world.  If you had to fight for the Visconti inheritance then so can I.

VISCONTI:- It is not so monstrous a calumny to say Visconti and Sforza are not so different.

SFORZA:- Do you compare me with yourself or with your father?

VISCONTI:- He would have loved you like a son. You are alike in so many ways.

SFORZA:- Is that why you hate me?

VISCONTI:- In part. You are the noble hero, virtue personified,  the common people worship the very ground you walk on, even your enemies confess to admiration. Me? I impress no one, having neither a pleasing aspect nor skill at arms. I was born to play the villain so I became the best I could be. They respected my position and feared my power, true I was never loved. But at least I have the consolation that when people look back at these times I will be remembered. They will say I was magnificent, whereas for all your undoubted talents and suppressed piety general, you will be a mere footnote. A faithless condottiere who got lucky.

SFORZA:- As long as I am the last one standing I don't care. But you are in error, you are loved, by one.  Bianca. She loves you still, she's just not blind to your faults.

VISCONTI:- In every fairy tale there is both monster and heroine. The once and future Duke of Milan bound together by the love of a woman. She will be a formidable Duchess and then what will you do I wonder?

SFORZA:- I will love her for herself.

VISCONTI:- And out of love what will you do now?

SFORZA:- I will honour whatever terms you agreed with her.  Upon one condition.

VISCONTI:- Which is?

SFORZA:- One of my men is to be in your presence at all times.

VISCONTI:- A spy? I would have thought you more subtle.

SFORZA:- My concern is that if you should die in my absence from Milan no one but them will have access to your personal seal. Do you agree?

VISCONTI:- I agree. Take your army to Cotignola then wait for my further instructions.  As for everything else, the monster would say to the hero, take it if you can.

Lights Down.

 

SCENE 5

(Sforza's camp before Milan. SFORZA hands a ring to ALESS who examines it.)

ALESS:- He is dead then.

SFORZA:- And all is chaos in Milan.

ALESS:- Alfonso's produced a will and says its all his. But it is all for nought,  for the people have proclaimed the Ambrosian Republic. They even have a committee with Persicco at its head. He's told everyone all will be well once they had dealt with the viper in their midst.

SFORZA:- It leaves little to the imagination to wonder whom he might have in mind.

ALESS:- How is Bianca taking it?

SFORZA:- Badly. But I have always believed that you must live in the times as they are and not as you may wish them to be, to do otherwise, is to create a state of affairs where illusion and wishful thinking cloud right action and common sense.  

ALESS:- By Christ its hot. A man could go mad in this heat. I will get some water.

Exit ALESS, Enter BIANCA.

BIANCA:- Why do we stand here? Through me you are Duke. There is no better claim.

SFORZA:- I do not deny that I am an ambitious man, but what is to be the cost of that ambition, a war against our own people?

BIANCA:- You expect the mob to lay down palms before your horse? To safeguard that which we love we must first be prepared to hurt it. We are kept from our home by petty clerks and would-be tyrants. You know the Committee is an abomination contrary to the natural order.  If history teaches us anything, it teaches that revolutions consume their young creating instead a state more unjust and more oppressive than that which it sought to displace. If you do nothing, you spare the few to your ambition, but condemn the many to untold suffering and in the end it will be for nothing. The Committee and the Sforza are natural enemies it will only be a matter of time before one moves against the other. Give the order or you throw it all away.

SFORZA:- When the tide of events is against you there is nothing to be gained by fighting it. The Ambrosian Republic is unloved and without funds. We must be patient. It is simply a matter of time.

BIANCA:- That sounds like Cosimo talking?

SFORZA:- As you read all my correspondence you already know the answer to that.

BIANCA:- It's the only way I know what you are plotting.

SFORZA:- The republic’s only hope is peace. They will send ambassadors to Venice and beg for it, to which the Senate will no doubt smile politely.  When your enemy is prostrate before you, why allow him to rise? Venice sees the opportunity to take everything. This leaves the Committee with a problem, the republic has to fight, but its citizens will not, that leaves the condottiere in Milan, but if they are given final authority what will stop them from taking over the republic?

BIANCA:- Just as they did after the death of grandfather.  So that leaves you.

SFORZA:- The Committee will send someone to talk.

Enter ALESS with cups.

ALESS:- We have visitors.

Enter PERSICCO and PICC.

PERSICCO:- Count Francesco. We require you to renounce your claim to the lands and properties of the republic.

SFORZA:- There is nothing to renounce, the Duke’s will left everything to Alfonso. As for anything else, the people have spoken and I am their humble servant and will do their bidding.

PICC:- You say you are subordinate to the people and not to the Committee?

PERSICCO:- We will not quibble over details. In the end the will of the people and that of the Committee are one. You give your word you will faithfully serve the people of Milan?

SFORZA:- I do.

PERSICCO:- There remains the matter of your coat of arms.

SFORZA:- I am happy with my coat of arms.

PERSICCO:- You misunderstand, it has the viper in it.

SFORZA:- The viper was quartered with my arms to honour the Duke’s daughter, my wife. I do not see how the people can object, or is the Committee afraid of painted symbols?

PERSICCO:- No.

SFORZA:- Then that item is settled.

PERSICCO:- Very well. The Committee consents to offer you the position of Captain General of the army of the Ambrosian Republic.

SFORZA:- Upon what terms?

PERSICCO:- Similar to those offered by the last of the Visconti.

BIANCA:- You mean Duke Filippo Maria Visconti. My father.

SFORZA:- How do the terms differ?

PICC:- You may not accept any surrender, gift or gratitude of any city in your own name.

SFORZA:- And in return what do you ask of me?

PICC:- That you defend the republic against its enemies.

SFORZA:- Very well. I agree.

Exit PERSICCO and PICC.

ALESS:- It is hard not to laugh at the irony; they would pay you to defend them against their enemies of which they account you the greatest.

SFORZA:- Who says life is not absurd. Prepare the army. We march for Piacenza.

Exit ALESS.

BIANCA:- The coat of arms?

SFORZA:- They link Visconti and the glories of Milan’s  past with the name of Sforza.

BIANCA:- You are thinking ahead?

SFORZA:- When I have won the war how will the Committee stop the people proclaiming me Duke of Milan?

BIANCA:- You realise this alliance is at best a marriage of incompatible partners and that even the best of marriages can fail when one of the partners is unfaithful?

SFORZA:- You still want me to march on Milan?

BIANCA:- It is inevitable. I know that your caution and prudence will, in the end, lead us to prevail against our enemies, but I confess, it is hard to resist the urge to strike them down immediately. You have heard what they are doing to the Visconti properties in Milan? Father is scarce in his grave before they plunder his memory.  Each day there is news of some new insult.  But I will not forget what they do nor will I ever forgive. You will write to Cosimo?

SFORZA:- Knowing Cosimo he will have anticipated their offer and his reply will already be on its way. Speak of the devil.

Enter FIA.

Is this business or pleasure?

FIA:- Call it, the pleasure of business. I have been commissioned to represent the city of Pavia and it is upon their behalf I that I  am to say that you are the foremost general of your age and yet skill in war is tempered by a wisdom and mercy that transcends that of ordinary men. Your virtue is the reason that Fortune will never have cause to regret her favour towards you. Pavia is a sister to Milan, not a subject, if Milan is intent on the folly that is the republic, Pavia would rather surrender to Venice than follow into error. Pavia was loyal to the Duke and the family Visconti, never to Milan itself. Of all men, not only are you the most beloved by the people, you are the true heir of the Visconti. That is why, my lord, the city offers itself to you, personally and to none other.

SFORZA:- I thank you for your kind words. The people of Pavia are well known for both their learning and their generosity of spirit. Whatever else is said about me in the days to come they should know this to be true, the people of Pavia will forever hold a special place in my heart.

FIA:- The people of Pavia do not ask for a decision, all they ask is that you visit them.

SFORZA:- There is no one who could not visit Pavia and not be a better man for it.

Exit FIA

SFORZA:- Was this Cosimo or were you thinking ahead?

BIANCA:- I do not understand my husband?

SFORZA:- Pavia. You know I can't turn down the offer of the city, the arsenal alone could equip at least two armies. But if I don't the Committee will never trust me. Already you're trying to seduce me into being unfaithful to the alliance.

BIANCA:- Me? A mere woman? Having led such a sheltered life at the court of my father what would I know of such things?

Lights Down.


SCENE 6

(Piancenza. A backdrop of a burning city. SFORZA and FEDERICO stand watching the fires)

SFORZA:- There is nothing heroic about capturing a city. A general should think well before he turns his men loose upon a city, for once they are of the leash they cease to be men and become instead ravenous beasts. If I ever think of myself as a great man say the word 'Piacenza' to me, and I will remember this day. And I will also remember God was nowhere to be found.  

FEDERICO:- You had no choice. We had no money. You had to storm the city or risk the army fading away. Besides, you did all that any man could do. You even placed guards on the monasteries and the hospitals and used them as places of refuge for the women and children.

SFORZA:- You think anyone will thank me for that. I thank God that we can now end this at Caravaggio.

Enter ALESS.

 ALESS:- They say there is an orgy of celebration in Milan. Persicco has turned up.

FEDERICONo doubt to show his appreciation.

Enter PERSICCO.

PERSICCO:- You were ordered to lay siege to the city not to storm it. You are the great serpent at the bosom of Milan, you think nothing of the republic, you think nothing of the people, you think only of yourself, every thought, word and deed is directed to increasing your own fortune. You are a most faithless servant. And this we will no longer tolerate. You will immediately curb your ambitions and submit yourself to the will of your masters. The Committee is the embodiment of the people, when we speak, we speak as the people of Milan. There is no higher authority save God himself. Henceforth, you will allow yourself to be guided by our superior knowledge and experience and so conduct your affairs as to be in harmony with our desires. You will proceed forthwith to Lodi.

SFORZA:- My lord, you seem to be under the misapprehension that is peculiar to all politicians seeming to believe that if you say a thing slowly and often enough I will inevitably conclude you must have been right all along. Do not be deceived into thinking mere possession of office somehow confers a superior skill and expertise. You think I do not know about your secret meeting with Venice? It is perverse of you to believe that Venice would relinquish its gains.

Exit SFORZA followed by ALESS and FEDERICO.

PERSICCO:- Sforza? Sforza! Where are you going?


Lights Down.

 


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