Sforza. Act 2 Scenes 7 - 9

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

Sforza defeats Venice and turns on the republic of Milan. While he makes himself Duke his enemies plan for a last throw of the dice at Cremona.

Submitted: January 13, 2018

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Submitted: January 13, 2018




(Field of Caravaggio. MICH and VENICE in armour stand watching a battle.)

VENICE:- What is happening? Do we have him yet? Why is there no news?
MICH:- Be patient.
VENICE:- Patient! Do you know how much this army is costing us per day? Venice expects, no demands, results.
MICH:- The impatience of Venice cost it a fleet at Casalmaggoire when my dear nephew blew it out of the water with his canon.
VENICE:- His actions were contrary to the natural practice of war.
MICH:- Yes, he does seem to make a habit of being perverse. Perhaps it would be wise to learn from him?
VENICE:- Enough! Commit the reserves.
MICH:- That would be a mistake.
VENICE:- Commit the reserves, that is an order general.
MICH:- So be it.
VENICE:- What is happening? A banner. Sforza.
MICH:- What are you doing nephew? I don’t understand. They are circling behind the pikemen. Where are you going?
VENICE:- Sforza has made a mistake. See Marcellus is advancing. We have them. Even the great Sforza must lose a battle. So ends his imperial pretensions and as for the Ambrosian Republic thus ends an aberration of nature. The people of Venice salute you general. General are you listening?
MICH:- Clever. They are counter-attacking. Sforza’s leading the attack personally. There! He has come behind Marcellus and taken Braghiello in the flank.
VENICE:- Send more men.
MICH:- There no more men. You committed the reserves. Will they stand? No. Look to the left of the line. His cavalry are leaving Marcellus alone and going to take our men in the rear. It is over.
VENICE:- Over?
MICH:- The day is lost.
VENICE:- It can't be lost. We were winning a moment ago?
MICH:- He was waiting for you to commit the reserves too early.
VENICE:- What is wrong with you all he is just a man?
MICH:- He has become more than a man, he has become a legend. The men won’t fight a legend. I suggest you save yourself while you still can.
VENICE:- We expected great things from you General. Venice will hold you to account for this day.
Exit VENICE. MICH draws sword. Off-stage shouts of 'Uncle!'.
MICH:- My end announces itself. It is time to make such an end that a man may make.
Enter SFORZA, in armour, sword drawn.
SFORZA:- Uncle.
MICH:- Like Alexander you surpass your father.
SFORZA:- I thank you for the flattery but it is not necessary. Your life is quite safe.
MICH:- It is no flattery to say you are the better man.
SFORZA:- It was closer than it will read. I think your reserves were sent in sooner than you would have liked. The result –
MICH:- Would have been the same.
SFORZA:- It does not have to end like this.
MICH:- Yes it does, Venice will not forgive. I will not end my days like Carmagnola.
SFORZA:- Venice will honour any request I make.
MICH:- No. Like the Romans of old, this old soldier knows when the end has come. Your father would have been proud.
Salute with swords – Exit left MICH, Enter right FEDERICO.
SFORZA:- Such is the ingratitude of employers. Report.
FEDERICO:- The Venetian camp has been taken. The men are amusing themselves with the bag and baggage.
SFORZA:- Prisoners?
FEDERICO Over ten thousand cavalry, at least three thousand foot and canon of all types.It is the most complete victory in all of Italy. Venice is broken.
SFORZA:- If only words could make it so. It will take them time but Venice will buy a new army and hire a commander to lead it. There will be one more battle before the end.
FEDERICO:- You should know that Piccinino is saying your glory is down to him in holding Marcellus.
SFORZA:- If it keeps him happy let him have the glory. I will inspect what we have.
Exit SFORZA, FEDERICO, Enter PERSICCO and PICC opposite.
PICC:- They are gone. What news?
PERSICCO:- Already the news spreads like unpleasant rash. He is the hero of the people.
PICC:- He owes the victory to others.
PERSICCO:- So I will stress in my reports but the common people will see victory and the name of Sforza as one and the same.
PICC:- And the Committee?
PERSICCO:- They are not fooled. They know him for what he is, the new Caesar, and like Caesar he seeks to destroy the republic.
PICC:- Then we should strike first.
PERSICCO:- Patience my friend, patience. Already peace offers have been made to Venice. With peace will we have security from Sforza’s tyranny, but he must not be allowed to move on Brescia, if he is able to carry the war onto Venetian territory the Senate will never accept our proposals.
PICC:- It won't work. He will move on Brescia.
PERSICCO:- I will argue otherwise.
PICC:- It will not be enough.
PERSICCO:- That is why you must arrange with the other captains to divide his forces so that Sforza does not have the men to carry through his designs.
SFORZA:- Bring in the prisoner.
Enter ALESS with VENICE.
VENICE:- What is the meaning of this? How dare you. I am Venice.
FEDERICO:- You have a somewhat reduced estate.
ALESS:- Minus an entire army.
VENICE:- We have others.
FEDERICO:- We will beat those as well.
SFORZA:- Is Bianca here?
ALESS:- Talking to the camp guards.
VENICE:- (falls to knees) My Lord!!
SFORZA:- Bianca does have that affect on some people. What will she do with you? Pull out your tongue to stop you spreading falsehood or simply rack you? My lord Ambassador be of good cheer. One does not hurt a friend. We are friends?
SFORZA:- Good. Well my friends, Quo Vadis?
ALESS:- Brescia, carry the war to Venice.
FEDERICO:- Brescia, they haven’t an army who will stand against us.
PICC:- I disagree, Lodi and Bergamo. We should consolidate the republic’s gains.
SFORZA:- (to PERSICCO) Ambassador what is your suggestion?
PERSICCO:- Suggestion? I fear you misunderstand general. The republic still commands you to Lodi.
SFORZA:- It commands me?
PERSICCO:- Yes. As Captain General you are responsible to the republic’s Council.
SFORZA:- Which granted me unlimited powers to wage this war as I saw fit?
PERSICCO:- Times change.
SFORZA:- You do not want me to go to Brescia. Why?
PERSICCO:- The Council regards it as waste of time.
SFORZA:- If I should not go to Lodi?
PERSICCO:- You have no choice. (Takes out letter.) This is an order from the Council, your extraordinary powers are revoked and you are ordered to Lodi.
SFORZA:- Ordered?
PICC:- They have the right. They are our employers and we must do their bidding.
SFORZA:- And if I refuse?
PERSICCO:- I am instructed to say that if you waste time with Brescia your supplies and subsides will be cut off.
ALESS:- This is an outrage.
SFORZA:- I agree it is unhelpful but Piccinino is correct, under the contract they have the right.
FEDERICO:- Stuff the contract, tear it up and march on Milan.
ALESS:- At the very least withdraw; there is Venice or the pope.
SFORZA:- No they have dealt fairly with me I will deal fairly with them.
PERSICCO:- Can I tell the Council you will go Lodi?
Enter BIANCA bearing letter.
SFORZA:- You appear somewhat unhappy and may I ask if that unhappiness is about to engulf anyone in particular?
BIANCA:- He, (pointing at PERISCCO), is playing you false.
SFORZA:- How so?
BIANCA:- This letter, (flourishes the letter), was found on the floor by a soldier in the camp. It bears the seal of the Ambrosian Republic.
PERSICCO:- Such a letter could not just be found in the camp.
SFORZA:- You suggest my wife stole it from your tent?
PERSICCO:- (pause.) No. But if it bears the seal, and if its genuine then it is the property of the republic.
SFORZA:- It was found in my camp.
PERSICCO:- As the Ambassador of the Republic it belongs to me.
SFORZA:- You claim it? Very well. And what does it say?
PERSICCO:- It is diplomatic correspondence.
BIANCA:- Surely you have no secrets from the republic’s Captain General?
FEDERICO:- My lady, the contents.
BIANCA:- The Committee has betrayed the army and the people of Milan. They have instructed Brescia to hold out while they make peace proposals to Venice.
PERSICCO:- I can explain.
BIANCA:- Silence!
VENICE:- If I may, such a proposal would appear to be contrary to good faith. Venice may be many things, but it honours its obligations. We did, after all, go to war to protect your marriage portion. We could help again, subject to the Senate’s ratification, the position of Captain General of all our forces would appear to be vacant.
ALESS:- Most generous particularly as you don’t have an army at the moment.
VENICE:- I think we have moved beyond that.
PICC:- We should not do anything out of anger; I could go to Milan to intercede.
BIANCA:- My lord and husband, there can be no room for misunderstanding. All pretence has been dropped. You must claim the Dukedom. Honour and prudence demands it.
VENICE:- It is true, I am an interested party here, but Venice does value her friends. You are known as a man who keeps his word and if you will honour our territory, Venice will pay you thirteen thousand florins a month until Milan be conquered.
BIANCA:- In the name of Sforza, as Duke?
BIANCA:- And he will keep all the cities and territories that belonged to my father at the time of his death.
VENICE:- Agreed.
PICC:- My lord, if you turn against Milan no one will trust you and all will fear you as they feared the Duke. All will unite in common purpose against you.
FEDERICO:- Claim the Dukedom, it is yours by right. History demands it.
PICC:- If you would speak to the Committee, if you explained the situation.
SFORZA:- There is nothing I could say that would move them. Nor do I wish to try. A trust is a most sacred thing and once it has been broken it can never be restored. I must content myself in the knowledge that the Committee is not Milan. It is only a faction, a faction that is consumed by jealousy and the desire for personal gain. They are my enemy and I am theirs. The Sforza have spilt blood for Milan, I personally have had three horses killed from under me. But it is not enough. I have honoured all treaties and commitments. But it is still not enough. They play me false and at every turn they intrigue against me to do my wife and children harm. There is nothing more base then men who seek to advance their position at the expense of those incapable of defending themselves. How should a husband and father protect his family? Prudence requires that I act. By their utter wont of faith and reckless aggrandisement of their own pecuniary interests both contrary and hazardous to the safety and security to the people of Milan so have the Committee driven me to this extremity. Save for my family, I have no greater love than the people of Milan. And it is because of the love I bear them that I have no other alternative. I, Francesco Sforza, husband to Bianca Visconti, lawful successor to Duke Filippo Maria Visconti, hereby renounce all previous alliances and allegiances and claim by right the Dukedom of Milan.
PERSICCO:- The republic will not be dictated to in this manner.
BIANCA:- The republic is an abomination before God and man, even Florence and Venice disown you. My husband claims the Duchy by right of inheritance. He is the lawful heir of my father. You owe to your Duke your loyalty and your obedience. Bow down before your lord and beg for his forgiveness while you still can.
PERSICCO:- We have our allies.
SFORZA:- You stake everything on your alliance with Venice. You think the good ambassador here will betray me once he is free? Well then my friend mark this. Did Rome tolerate Carthage? I have committed my cause to the justice of the Almighty and God has rendered his verdict on the battlefield. It is madness to oppose the will of God further. And if in gross error you should imperil your immortal souls, who profits from our further suffering? My friend, you are not surrendering to Sforza, instead you are welcoming your lawful Duke and Duchess. For we are the elect of God and through divine favour we will bring peace and prosperity.
SFORZA:- Then I swear, if you do not surrender, nothing short of an extraordinary interposition by the Almighty shall save you from my hand.
Lights Down.

(Alfonso's chamber. ALFONSO and FIA are studying a pair of scales.)

ALFONSO:- (places a weight on the scales) These were smuggled out of a church in Novara before Sforza stormed the place. They say the priests used to weigh men's souls, sin on one side, their donations on the other. What news?
FIA:- Novara, Romagnano, Tortona, Allesandria, all fallen. It is also becoming difficult to obtain reliable reports from within Milan itself. I fear the Revolution is consuming its young. Riots, arson, and outright murder are now so common place that they become to be regarded as legitimate means of political discourse.
ALFONSO:- All this because of a silly letter. What of Carlo Gonzago? I heard that he was the new Captain General.
FIA:- For a moment he was, I am told he even stood before the cross and swore the most sacred oath to defend the republic to the death. He then marched out and surrendered his army to Sforza. There is no one of consequence left to oppose him.
ALFONSO:- Then the republic is finished and Milan will have a new Duke. Do you have news of my man?
FIA:- Sforza decided to entertain William of Monteferrat in Pavia and then forgot to tell him he could leave.
ALFONSO:- Another ghost of Pavia, that city seems to be gaining something of reputation.
FIA:- You have another close to Sforza?
ALFONSO:- If I had, do you think I would tell you?
FIA:- You might, it would depend on what you wanted from me.
ALFONSO:- I will give it some thought. For the moment your price?
FIA:- Alessandro Sforza. He lives?
ALFONSO:- He lives. As Sforza's ambassador the pope wanted his name upon a document and so thought it best to place him under lock and key until he agreed to sign.
FIA:- He will be allowed to escape?
ALFONSO:- It could be arranged, if only you had something to trade?
FIA:- Florence is exhausted with the campaigns with you and despite remaining upon his side Cosimo will no longer supply Sforza with money.
ALFONSO:- You are certain of this?
FIA:- I saw the letter myself.
ALFONSO:- He let you see the letter?
FIA:- Yes. You doubt my word?
ALFONSO:- It is not your word that I doubt. Return to Florence and keep on eye on Cosimo.
Exit FIA, Enter VENICE.
Greetings my lord.
VENICE:- Was that not Fiammetta d'Este?
ALFONSO:- It was.
VENICE:- You play with fire my lord.
ALFONSO:- Do not worry, she will come to a bad end, probably at the hands of someone more determined than she. In the meantime?
VENICE:- We have Marcellus in Sforza's camp. The Senate becomes more alarmed with each report. If Sforza becomes Duke they fear they will face an opponent far more dangerous than the Duke ever was. They wanted to hire Malatesta as Captain General but he has refused.
ALFONSO:- I think they under-estimate how the shade of Sforza's daughter haunts him. Such is his fear of falling within reach of his vengeance that he will sit upon his hands and refuse to risk either his army or his own skin.
VENICE:- It is as some suspect. But Sforza has no actual proof that his daughter died by Malatesta's hand as revenge for Pesaro.
ALFONSO:- No, but I am reliably informed such proof exists.
VENICE:- Then might sufficient motivation be applied to Malatesta?
ALFONSO:- It can be arranged but it will take time.
VENICE:- Such is the will of God. Who will supply the motivation? The d'Este, I presume?
ALFONSO:- As always. I fear this payment will be costly. It seems there is destined to be another ghost of Pavia.
VENICE:- And you ask of us?
ALFONSO:- Alessandro Sforza is to be allowed to escape.
VENICE:- His Holiness will not like that. He is particularly looking forward to settling matters with that particular Sforza.
ALFONSO:- Speak of the devil. Holiness!
Enter POPE. ALFONSO and VENICE who kneel.
POPE:- I hear we make progress against Lucifer and his abominable clan. The brother under lock and key and our good son Carlo Gonzago marches against him. God is truly just.
ALFONSO:- The reports were somewhat optimistic.
POPE:- Will no man keep faith with me!! (coughs) If I give my last breath to see Lucifer humbled, then I shall go to my grave content.
ALFONSO:- Your Holiness is unwell?
POPE:- Don't sound so surprised. I know you are both bribing the College of Cardinals to ensure the election of your favourite candidate. Yet it may surprise you to learn that Cosimo Medici is outspending you both, quite significantly. Come now my lord Alfonso, you did not think the resources of Florence had been so exhausted by your little campaigns against them?
ALFONSO:- It would seem someone has not been keeping faith with me and she will pay dearly for that.
POPE:- That is no concern of mine. What is of concern is whether we can bring down Lucifer once and for all.
ALFONSO:- We must see the world as it is, not how we would like it to be. We cannot stop Sforza becoming Duke of Milan, what we can do is make sure he does not enjoy it for long.
POPE:- Another campaign?
ALFONSO:- One battle.
POPE:- And where will Armageddon be fought?
ALFONSO:- Cremona. When we know Bianca and the rest of them are there.
POPE:- Not Milan?
ALFONSO:- We could never take the city. Instead we will pay Genoa to declare against the French.
VENICE:- That is dangerous, the Dauphin Louis openly admires Sforza, it is believed they even correspond.
ALFONSO:- Precisely, in the hope of meeting his hero he will personally march against the city and when he gets there he will find a second army under Piccinino waiting for him.
VENICE:- And Sforza will march to his aid. It will be the end of Piccinino but we must all make sacrifices.
ALFONSO:- It's all in the timing. We will attack Cremona with the combined armies of Venice and your Holiness under Malatesta and that of Naples under my personal command. Sforza's claim to Milan is through Bianca, kill her and the children and there is nothing.
POPE:- There are rumours concerning the death of Malatesta's wife, Lucifer's bastard daughter. My army will not fight for him for fear that such a man would lead them to ruin and eternal damnation.
ALFONSO:- Your Holiness could absolve him of all sins, such as they may be.
POPE:- And why should I do that?
ALFONSO:- I will pay for the Papal army on its most holy crusade.
POPE:- That won't be enough. They're a superstitious lot.
ALFONSO:- There will be a sign from God that Lucifer is to be cast down again.
POPE:- Truly?
VENICE:- We guarantee it.
POPE:- You have my blessing my sons.
Lights Down

(SFORZA sits on the throne of Milan COSIMO watches PERSICCO kneel, kiss SFORZA'S ring and Exit)

COSIMO:- I wager that hurt. So how fares the newly minted Duke of Milan?
SFORZA:- In truth, it is harder than I thought. But I have the consolation of knowing that I am no tyrant. I am proud to say I rule because the common people desire it so.
COSIMO:- And are they grateful for all that you do?
SFORZA:- Those that the plague does not claim come out to cheer me on the streets then go home again and complain about the cost.
COSIMO:- A practically minded people just like their ruler. If you didn’t want to know what the people thought you shouldn’t have asked them in the first place.
SFORZA:- That's exactly what Bianca said, but I continue to believe that there are inherent possibilities in the good people of Milan
COSIMO:- Francesco, these experiments in democracy will never find favour with serious politicians. Your belief in the potential of the common people is erroneous and will inevitably lead you astray. If a man has no stake in the state it will be of no concern to him whether the outcome of a decision is good or ill. Whereas those who have at the their command, land, property, manufactures and other moveables, have an interest so closely bound with the prosperity of a state that they will inevitably act in accordance with the common good. Speaking of the fair Bianca?
SFORZA:- She is at her weapons training with Federico. She really is becoming quite good.
COSIMO:- She will need to be. We must face difficult facts. Not even Visconti could survive against two enemies at the same time, and you, old friend, face at least four.
SFORZA:- I am not Visconti. I know there is pressure in Florence for you to abandon the Sforza. There will also be guilt about the loss of a sister republic? Destroyed, they will say, by my hand.
COSIMO:- And there is increasing pressure for me to continue. Someone is spending a lot of money with the right people.
SFORZA:- Changing the subject, Bianca has heard rumours about Florentine merchants being expelled from Venetian territory.
COSIMO:- She has been busy.
SFORZA:- You know how it is, women and their gossip.
COSIMO:- I do indeed. Venice thought their power would compel neutrality. They were wrong. But you must face the unpleasant truth that you need the French.
SFORZA:- If the French come it will be to the ruin of us all. At the very least it will draw the Emperor in and Italy would then become a battleground for the great powers. To the ruination of us all.
COSIMO:- Better to be their friends then their enemies. How is the Emperor?
SFORZA:- Unhappy, he is still refusing to write to me.
COSIMO:- Ally with the French King.
SFORZA:- His army is a walking disaster. As for his son Louis, he is brilliance and malice entwined together. Our only long term hope is for the states of Italy to ally together in a bond of perpetual peace. United we can keep the foreigners out and with universal peace who knows what we can achieve?
COSIMO:- A noble dream, but a dream nevertheless.
SFORZA:- One which you still share or you would not be here.
COSIMO:- True, but I also live in the real world. The French are coming, either now or in the future, it is better to be their friend than their enemy.
SFORZA:- How do we fare?
BIANCA:- My agents deal with the suspect and the discontented. No one will escape me.
SFORZA:- As always I trust your judgement in such things.
BIANCA:- Naturally. What are you two up to?
SFORZA:- He wants to ally with the French.
BIANCA:- Do we have a choice?
COSIMO:- That is a particularly fine dress you are wearing, Florentine. Expensive?
BIANCA:- You have no idea.
COSIMO:- Oh, I think I have. (To SFORZA.) Alfonso hates you.
SFORZA:- I know we've had our differences. But as he has taken my land in Naples and Ancona, what cause the complaint?
COSIMO:- That you still breathe. We will talk more later.
SFORZA:- He's worried.
BIANCA:- He's not the only one.
SFORZA:- What do the ambassadors say?
BIANCA:- They say the plague is God's vengeance for your many blasphemies.
SFORZA:- I have lived too long and seen too much of the papacy to have much faith in God. Which is, no doubt, another blasphemy. The plague?
BIANCA:- My agents think it has a more human origin.
SFORZA:- I'm afraid knowing it to be so will not help us.
BIANCA:- They are coming and they mean to destroy us. They would have to kill our children.
SFORZA:- I do not think killing children would bother them.
BIANCA:- Neither do I.
SFORZA:- There is still time to run?
BIANCA:- I am both Visconti and Sforza and neither runs. But they are getting closer.
SFORZA:- It is only light and noise.
BIANCA:- Piccinino is against us.
SFORZA:- Perhaps I should have offered him my daughter Drusinia as he wanted.
BIANCA:- It is hard to keep track of all your children, is she the one with the squint?
SFORZA:- My daughter does not have a squint!
BIANCA:- Of course not, she’s from good stock, mostly. And Drusinia thinks about all this?
SFORZA:- Does it matter?
BIANCA:- The attitude of a most loving father, how well I remember it. And like father you have a talent for making enemies. I sometimes think that God loves you as much as I do, there can be no other explanation as to why you have survived so long.
SFORZA:- I will not be a beast amongst men.
BIANCA:- If men come to write books about our age it will be the beasts they choose. I suppose Cosimo thinks I am bribing the great and the good of Florence.
SFORZA:- It is the natural conclusion.
BIANCA:- Which you did nothing to contradict. You bribe Florence with its own money. I marvel how the honest man that you are can come up with such a scheme.
SFORZA:- Such was the benefit of being educated with the d'Este.
BIANCA:- I really see no alternative, but to ask for an increase in my allowance from the treasury, it’s the only way I can see of overcoming the burden of having so infamous a husband.
SFORZA:- Unfortunately, the Treasury is empty.
BIANCA:- Florence would not have cost that much? Francesco. You know how I abhor loose ends.
SFORZA:- I do my sweet.
BIANCA:- Cosimo will not be pleased when he finds out the truth. Do we foresee an end to a friendship made in heaven?
SFORZA:- Cosimo is my adviser, confidant and friend. He has maintained faith when all others deserted. He is my higher; better self, free of error, absurdity and pretension. If example is the school to mankind, let the world know of his life and profit by it.
BIANCA:- So we are not going to kill him then?
SFORZA:- No. No!
BIANCA:- Then where is our money going?
SFORZA:- Genoa.
BIANCA:- You empty the treasury to bribe Genoa? I see, you outbid other interested parties! The French move against them, they in turn request help from our enemies and when the issue is in doubt the Sforza ride to the rescue of the French, secure in the knowledge that Genoa will not fight you. You save Genoa from the French and the French from our enemies and everyone loves you for it.
SFORZA:- Except the French King.
BIANCA:- I don't suppose you will lose much sleep over that. I can see that there is some merit of being educated with the d'Este, perhaps we should place one of our children with them?
SFORZA:- No need my love. That one I learned from your father.
BIANCA:- I foresee only one problem Can we win?
SFORZA:- You doubt it?
BIANCA:- I want to hear you say it.
SFORZA:- We will win, for the flesh and blood that was once Francesco Sforza no longer exists. I am ‘Sforza’ the legend that has grown greater than any living man, and I will break them all. Does that satisfy?
BIANCA:- I never doubted it for a moment. While you're playing soldiers I think I will take the children for a little holiday in Cremona.
Lights Down.

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