Sforza. Act 2 Scenes 10 - curtain.

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


'Saving' the French at Genoa Sforza learns that his enemies lay siege to Bianca at Cremona. Bianca settles accounts with Fiammetta d'Este and plots a future for Sforza.

Submitted: January 13, 2018

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Submitted: January 13, 2018

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SCENE 10

(Louis camp. A wounded LOUIS limps to his throne. Holding a broken sword.)

Enter SFORZA.

SFORZA:- Highness. Piccinino is no more and Genoa asks that I give them terms.

LOUIS:- You live up to your reputation, the Duke of Milan appears and the battle is won.

SFORZA:- You were fighting two armies.

LOUIS:- But you won the battle. I will not forget that. I was equal to one, but surprised and outmatched by the other. You came to my aid just as my men were giving way  This is at least one general very happy to say he was rescued from disaster and disgrace. Though I suspect my father will not be too pleased, which, naturally, is a source of great comfort to me. I can always use the services of the best soldier in the world. And one day I will be a king.

SFORZA:- Your Highness flatters me.

LOUIS:- No, I do not think I do. I am a student of the affairs of Italy and have some experience in the military arts, so my opinion is not without merit.

SFORZA:- If ever I can be of service to you Highness.

LOUIS:- In the short term a king may not always have the freedom of action he would desire, but in the end he knows who is friends are.

SFORZA:- I think I understand your Highness.

LOUIS:- Yes, I think you do. Though you should know my father does not approve of you. He says you are a man of unlimited ambition.

SFORZA:- While some may consider humility and acceptance of ones position in life to be virtues, there can be no censure of an honest ambition that only seeks opportunity to advance the public good. Money, power and titles are but the vanities that play upon the weakness of the ambitious man. If a man does not constantly guard himself against such things, they will slowly consume the essence of what he is, leading to the inevitable ruin of his character.  We live in times that see so much that was once thought lost recovered from the debris of history. Each day we see new wonders wrought by the hand of man, of art, architecture and learning our age has no equal. But of all things our greatest achievement would be peace.

LOUIS:- You seek to impose a universal peace upon this earth and have all Italy live in divine harmony? To impose such terms you must become all-powerful. And like Christ in the wilderness you will be tempted before the end.

SFORZA:- I am not Christ.

LOUIS:- Then who will save you?

SFORZA:- I am more concerned with the here and now.  

LOUIS:- Then let us talk of the here and now. What of the army of Venice?

SFORZA:- I sent them a challenge to meet me on the plains of Monte Chiaro. In answer they sent two gauntlets and two javelins dipped in blood, but when I marched to the appointed place, I found an empty plain. They fear to face me in a pitched battle and so I will remain Duke of Milan no matter their desire.

LOUIS:- As I have said there is little I can offer you. I am an unloved prince, and as my many enemies say, a spider with a very small web. For I have little to do but wait around for my father to die, a state of affairs not conducive to an equable state of mind.

SFORZA:- I speak not as a Duke to a Prince of France,  but as one man to another. In the times ahead, whether your fortunes rise or fall, know that if you ever need my help against anyone, I will stand with you. (turns to leave)

 LOUIS:- Francesco.

SFORZA turns back.

As a Prince of France I am bound by the most solemn of oaths and the severest of constraints, but as Louis the man, I would say to my friend, ride as fast as you can for Cremona.

Lights Down.


SCENE11

(Cremona. Stage right, on the walls of the city stand ALESS and BIANCA who is dressed in a cloak.)

BIANCA:- The sky darkens. The Almighty is coming to judge us. How many of them are there?

ALESS:- Three armies, Venice, Alfonso and Malatesta. Our spies say they would be even more but the pope is ill in Rome and only part of the Papal army is here.

BIANCA:- Still more than enough for my poor city. How long will our provisions last?

ALESS:- They will breach the city walls long before then. I have sent messengers  to try to reach Francesco. But I doubt they will be able to clear the enemy lines.  

BIANCA:- Then it is up to us.

ALESS:- They are too many. There is no way to win.

BIANCA:- I know. But I will not meet my end by the hand of Malatesta in some dark place. I am Bianca, Duchess of Milan. If God wants me, he will find me on the battlefield fighting my enemies.

Enter stage left VENICE and ALFONSO.

Our enemy prepares, ready our army.

Exit BIANCA and ALESS.

ALFONSO:- Could you see?  Upon the walls, was it the witch?

VENICE:- I think it was.

ALFONSO:- It will not avail her to hide behind her city walls. The bombardment will begin as soon as I bring my canon up and then it is only a matter of time.
 
VENICE:- (nervous glance up)  I have never seen storm clouds gather so quickly. Already the light is failing. An omen?

 ALFONSO:- What is wrong with you?

VENICE:- The men are nervous. The stories about Malatesta and Sforza's daughter are spreading. They are saying that he is so tainted by sin it casts a shadow over the entire army.

ALFONSO:- 'They,' should know better. He was absolved by the pope personally

VENICE:- If he was absolved personally, then the sin must have been truly great. They are concerned they were not specifically named by the pope.

ALFONSO:- In God's name! You can't name everyone in an entire army.

VENICE:- Nevertheless.

ALFONSO:- If we find priest's to bless the men, will that suffice.

VENICE:- It might.

Enter MAL.

MAL:- What are we waiting for? Where are the canon? Why do we not attack?

VENICE:- We must bless the army.

MAL:- Bless the army. What is this madness? Majesty?

ALFONSO:- Some are nervous. It may be prudent to take a while to calm their fears.

MAL:- Calm their fears!

VENICE:- The difference between winning a battle and losing it often comes down to discipline. If the men believe that God is against them, they will  look to save themselves at the first sign of trouble.

MAL:- You mean they are scared of Sforza. He is only a man.

VENICE:- He is the Duke of Milan because God has willed it.  

MAL:- As his Holiness has said, he is Lucifer incarnate, and my lords, he is not here. Only the witch and the brother face us. Surely, my lord, the army of Venice can beat a mere woman. Enough of this nonsense. We waste time. If you are scared then I will issue a challenge and fight them by myself.

ALFONSO:- We are out of position and unprepared, at least wait until I can bring the majority of the guns to bear.

MAL:- I will not. I will finish this here and now. Issue the challenge.

ALFONSO:- (to VENICE) See if they will come to terms.

VENICE:- (advances across stage) I call to those within.

Enter BIANCA and ALESS on the Walls. BIANCA is still wearing cloak.  

To the lady Bianca Sforza, Duchess of Milan and lord of Cremona, greetings. Though we be on opposite sides, I have never ceased to have admiration and respect for you and the family Visconti. It is out of this love and respect that I bear you that I must most declare that we are four to every one of you. The odds, my lady, clearly favour us. I say this, not as some idle boast, but because I do not wish to see your army slaughtered, your city stormed or your person harmed in any way. I therefore offer terms with which you can save all with both honour and dignity.

BIANCA:- I give thanks to you my lord. Your words bring honour to both yourself and your city. Though we be opposite sides, in my heart I have always felt a kinship with the people of Venice for they have always shown me nothing but kindness and most loving consideration.  It is, as you say, true that we are constrained in number and your offer to come to terms, is most generous. But my lord, it is with regret, that I must refuse. For while the word of Venice is always true, there is one amongst you whose word is not.

Lights dimmer.

MAL:- You speak of me?

BIANCA:- I do. That man, in sight of God, swore the most sacred vows. You think me another Polissena, to meekly wait for my death. Tell us Malatesta what was the cause of her death? Did she finally say no to your perversions? 
 
Lights darker and thunder off.

MAL:- You bore me with your insults witch.

BIANCA:- Then perhaps I could entertain the rest of us with some rhyming couplets as to your manhood. No my lords, I will not place myself at the mercy of such an enemy to womankind.

VENICE:- Then madam send out your army and let the Almighty decide.

Thunder.

BIANCA:- My lord of Venice, do you not hear the gates of hell opening, Lucifer and his host is coming for Malatesta and any that stand with him. Look to your arms and stand if you can.

Exit ALESS AND BIANCA. MAL, ALFONSO and VENICE draw swords and wait. Thunder.

VENICE:- The heavens are opening.

Enter on stage ALESS and BIANCA who is dressed in white armour and carries a sword.
MAL:- What is this abomination?

VENICE:- What means this?  She wears the arms of a man?  My lords, can we with honour fight a woman?

MAL:- She will be burnt for this.

ALFONSO:- Madam, truly your sex will not save you.

ALESS:- My lords, you cannot stand against the armies of heaven and hell. Flee the field while you still can, for nothing else on this earth shall save you.

BIANCA looks to the sky.

VENICE:- What is she doing? (To BIANCA.) Why do you look to the sky?

ALESS:- The Almighty is coming to judge you.

 MAL:- My lord, steady yourself.  God does not send his host and she is no avenging angel. They are but words to bewitch and deceive.

VENICE:- Why does she not speak?

BIANCA looks at VENICE and raises her sword in the manner of a cross over him.

 What is she doing?

BIANCA:- (Words of excommunication)  Res sacrae, ritus, communio, crypta, potesta, praedia, sacra, forum, civilia jura.

Thunder and lighting.

VENICE:- We are damned.  

VENICE Flees.

MAL:- Very clever. But we are not so easily frightened. Majesty.

ALFONSO:- (points sword at ALESS) I wanted Francesco, but one dead Sforza is as good as another.

ALESS:- (raises sword in answer) My brother has never killed a king he will be jealous.

ALESS and ALFONSO fight (around MAL and BIANCA) then Exit fighting.
 

MAL:- Just us now witch.

Spot on MAL and BIANCA the rest of the stage is dark.
 

BIANCA:- All the light is going from the world. Lucifer is almost here.

MAL:- There is still time witch. You think you can stand against me?

MAL and BIANCA begin to fight, intermittent thunder.

Personal combat is won and lost in the training arena, fitness, poise, balance, movement, the slow accretion of skills built up over years of practice, until instinct and experience override conscious thought.

MAL'S blow is deflected.

BIANCA:- But it is all for nothing if the man has not learnt to master himself. (She  attacks.) A woman must cultivate patience, learning to wait for the mistake that all men make. And finally she must have it within her to look into the  man’s eyes and be able to deliver the killing blow.

BIANCA'S  blow is blocked and her sword is knocked out of her hand.

MAL:- Unfortunately being a woman your talent is inevitably inferior to your opinion of yourself.  

Enter SFORZA,  stage rear behind MAL.

BIANCA:- Then it is fortunate that my husband understands me. (Points to SFORZA.)

Thunder and lightning. Lights up. Revealing SFORZA in red armour.

Lucifer revealed.

MAL:- No. This cannot be!

BIANCA:- You are a dead man.

MAL:- No.

SFORZA:- (advances. Points to BIANCA'S armour) It is nice to see that you have putting my wedding present to some use.

BIANCA:- I confess at the time I would have preferred some jewellery.  

SFORZA:- (to MAL) Here I am. One blow and you could make yourself immortal. Why not give it a try?

MAL and SFORZA fight. MAL is wounded in leg, drops sword and falls to knees. He tries, but is unable to stand.

Do you ask for mercy?

MAL:- From you? Never!

SFORZA:- So be it. Federico!

Enter FEDERICO.

FEDERICO:- Here my lord.

SFORZA:- I give you Malatesta, abuse him as you will.

FEDERICO:- With pleasure my lord.

Exit FEDERICO dragging MAL.

BIANCA:- I was beginning to think you didn't love me any more.

SFORZA:- An impossibility, besides you seemed have everything covered.

BIANCA:- I think your brother could do with some help.

SFORZA:- I think not.

Enter ALESS.

ALESS:- The day is ours. Three entire armies are destroyed.  There is no other power in the whole of Italy that can  match us.  If we march now all Italy will surely fall. Think of it Francesco, one land, one king. Think of what you could achieve?

SFORZA:- King Francesco the first. It does have a certain ring to it, don't you think?

BIANCA:- It does, but there are some married ladies of my acquaintance who by chance also have husbands engaged in the profession of arms. They are of the opinion that these now peaceful times accord a perfect opportunity for their husbands to become better acquainted with their long suffering wives and children. This, they did argue, might take longer for some fathers than for others, depending, of course, upon the number of children involved. It fell to me to wonder aloud if by some chance that their husbands may have some thought of indulging their proclivities for violence in more southern regions, but I was assured that this could not be the case, for no loving and considerate husband would ever consent to consider such a most hateful and disharmonious act. For in his heart he would be ever mindful of the unhappiness and great burdens that have been endured in the past by his most loyal and loving of partners, and desirous to make such amends as might prove possible would instead, content himself after years of said disharmony, to spend his declining years in peace and tranquillity with those he did profess to love.

SFORZA:- (laughs)It was worth a thought. We will finish the families business at Lodi. Have all meet us there.

 Lights Down.


SCENE  12

(Lodi. ALFONSO, VENICE to one side, SFORZA, BIANCA, COSIMO to the other.)

VENICE:- Your terms, (with emphasis) Count Francesco?  

SFORZA:- Milan does not seek terms. It is for you to offer them.

VENICE:- We demand all our places be restored to us.

SFORZA:- And what else?

VENICE:- Cremona.

SFORZA:- (turns to BIANCA) And what says the Lord of Cremona?

BIANCA:- Cremona will not yield to the likes of him.

VENICE:- You will rue those words Madam when our army is at your gates.

BIANCA:- You tried once before and all the world knows you came second to a woman. I marvel that you did not die of the disgrace.

VENICE:- Cremona will be ours.

SFORZA:- Do you wish it so?

BIANCA:- I will burn Cremona to the ground before I yield it to Venice.

SFORZA:- You have your answer.

VENICE:- Cremona will comply or it is war.

BIANCA:- A man should know when he is beaten.  Come my lord, with what will you fight? If memory serves you lost the last war you started.

VENICE:- The resources of Venice are beyond imagining.

BIANCA:- But less than those of the King of France, for the moment my lord and husband keeps them upon a tight leash, but even his patience has a limit, you would do well to think upon it.

VENICE:- Is Venice to be lectured by a woman?

SFORZA:- The Duke of Milan has profited from the experience.

VENICE:- And what of Florence?
.
COSIMO:- Venice is a great and noble power, but like all things, her power is not infinite and is considered by those who make a study of such things to be judged inferior to that of Milan and Florence  combined.  Do not believe what your spies may tell you. Like all spies, they play you false. They take your money and tell you what you want to hear, otherwise you would cease payment. You have achieved little, you hold little, your resources exhaust themselves. Florence would ask why you continue to waste your strength against the greatest soldier of the age?

VENICE:- Duke Francesco, what do you require of us?

SFORZA:- All territory that was part of the Visconti inheritance to be restored. In addition, Bergamano, Brescia and Crema.

VENICE:- Your terms are outrageous.

BIANCA:- They are both just and lawful, as the heir of the Visconti all my husband seeks is the restoration of the lands that belonged to my father and reasonable compensation.

VENICE:- I will consult.

Exit VENICE.

COSIMO:- Ask for the impossible, aim for the probable and settle for what you can live with.

ALFONSO:- What will you leave them with?

SFORZA:- Crema, it's a nice place.

ALFONSO:- But not much for all the years of effort.

SFORZA:- They will learn to live with it.

ALFONSO:- I have always regarded you as an upstart adventurer who more by luck and chance has attained a success unjustified by either ability or talent; like your father, but with more polish.

SFORZA:- There are many who would agree with you.

ALFONSO:- But they grow less each year. So, Duke of Milan you remain.

SFORZA:- Milan has no perpetual enemies.

ALFONSO:- And what of the Duke of Milan personally?

SFORZA:- My father always said that a man should never dwell on the past; instead he should look to the future and all that it may offer. The future of the Sforza is in Milan and that is why I am willing to renounce, now and forever, all claims to fiefs in your Kingdom once held by my father and I.

ALFONSO:- I confess I have misjudged you Duke Francesco and I am not unmindful as to what your renunciation has cost you personally. It is said that a statesman must place his people above self, if that be correct, then you have the making of the greatest statesman of the age. Though our lands now be too distant for any cause of complaint to arise between us, there is one matter that we must consider.

SFORZA:- The French and how to keep them out of Italy, for once they are in, they will be the death of us all. The powers of Italy must unite together in a bond of eternal peace and so order the affairs of Italy between themselves that the French shall have no cause or opportunity to interfere.

ALFONSO:- So be it.

BIANCA:- Then I  propose we seal our agreement with a marriage. My daughter Ippolita to your grandson. We can talk about the details in private.

Exit ALFONSO and BIANCA.
SFORZA:- We have peace.

COSIMO:- You don't look very happy about it.

SFORZA:- The family firm has just gone out of business.  

COSIMO:- Here's to retirement.  I heard you could have been a king.

SFORZA:- I am content. Not even His Holiness will move me.

COSIMO:- Yes, I had heard he had written to you, begging for your aid.

SFORZA:- I told the pope I was not interested in his schemes.

COSIMO:- I heard that as well. He is unhappy which I feel may prove to be a terminal complaint, but never mind, the next pope will be a good man and he will forgive you.

SFORZA:- You seem very sure about that?

COSIMO:- I heard it in my prayers. There remains one matter between Florence and Milan.

SFORZA:- Genoa.  Long has this city been a source of disharmony between the states of Italy and I desire to remove said disharmony to the public good,

COSIMO:- The French, both King and son, will have opinions.

SFORZA:- I will write to them.

COSIMO:- You know how concerned Bianca and I become when you send letters out without our first having a chance to clarify any matters.

SFORZA:- I know what I want to say and I am capable of expressing myself plainly for all men to understand.

COSIMO:- That's what concerns us.

SFORZA:- I shall be writing to let the King know that I hold him in such honour and reverence as if he were my own father and lord.

COSIMO:- Not so bad.

SFORZA:- And that neither the prospect of advantage or loss to myself nor respect for the wishes of the King should induce me to relinquish the path I have taken.

COSIMO:- Written with finesse as always. Let me have a look at the final draft before you send it.

  Enter ALESS and FIA holding hands.

They seem to be getting on well. A wedding perhaps?

SFORZA:- A mistress who becomes a sister. Certainly a novelty.

COSIMO:- I am sure the Sforza will work something out in their own unique way.

Enter BIANCA carrying a cross and chain.
 

BIANCA:- A present from Alfonso he thought I might have a use for it.  He is preparing to leave and would like to see you before he goes.

SFORZA:- Come let us say farewell to a King.

Exit COSIMO, SFORZA and ALESS. FIA waves them off.

BIANCA:- (comes up behind her holding chain and cross. ) Alessandro's very handsome.

FIA:- Yes he is, isn't he.

BIANCA:- I'm almost jealous. It is good you helped him over the death of his wife. You were with her when she died?

FIA:- (still looking into the distance.) Yes.

BIANCA:- That's what I heard.

BIANCA strangles FIA with the cross and chain. FIA falls dead. BIANCA puts the cross on.
Enter SFORZA.

SFORZA:- What has happened here?

BIANCA:- The Almighty has, in his infinite grace and wisdom, called our dearest sister Fiammetta to him. It was the falling sickness. (Shakes head.) Her last words were to you, to remember what once was, and for what was to come she commanded that we live our lives, with love and hope. Beloved sister and friend, she was a most precious jewel and her loss is beyond estimation and comprehension. Of consolations, there are few, save that once she lived and for a brief moment we knew and loved her.

SFORZA:- The falling sickness?  She was well a few moments ago.

BIANCA:- It was very sudden.

SFORZA:- Did she suffer?

BIANCA:- Terribly.

SFORZA:- (long pause then places cloak over body) I suppose one learns to be philosophical about such things.

BIANCA:- Now that I have you all to myself. I feel we should do more together.

SFORZA:- Like the gardening?

BIANCA:- I was thinking something religious.

SFORZA:- If you want to become a nun I wouldn't stand in your way.

BIANCA:- I never doubted it. But I was think more on the lines of a building.

SFORZA:- A small chapel to set against my sins?

BIANCA:- I was thinking something larger.

SFORZA:- How large?

BIANCA:- A cathedral.

SFORZA:- Sounds expensive and I'm not sure my sins were ever that great.

BIANCA:- That depends on your point of view. It will give you something to do in your declining years.

SFORZA:- And keep me out of mischief?

BIANCA:- Which reminds me I have received a delegation from some of our leading citizens.

SFORZA:- Oh yes, and what do our good people want?

BIANCA:- They want to honour your ‘greatness’ a statue of the Duke on his horse has been the suggestion. Be assured my husband I will give the matter my person attention.

SFORZA:- When a prudent prince chooses a wife, he is under the most sincere obligation to choose a woman who is both virtuous and capable. For a prince to do otherwise, and choose a woman who is virtuous but not capable, will reveal much about his character. It will say to the world, the prince is so enamoured of what is commonly esteemed in a woman that he will abandon prudence and common sense leading to the inevitable diminishment of his estate. Whereas a woman who is capable, but not virtuous leaves a prince in peril, particularly if the wife is of the opinion she is more capable than her husband.

BIANCA:- And if a prince is so unfortunate that he chooses a woman neither capable nor virtuous?

SFORZA:- Then he gets what he deserves.

 BIANCA:- Then my loving husband give thanks to the Almighty that your wife is both virtuous and capable, so ordering your affairs and managing your household with prudence and diligence.

SFORZA:- Your loving words are a source of great comfort to me. I am confident that I will live a long life and die in my bed.

BIANCA:- I am the most loyal and compliant of wives, and I will dedicate the rest of my life to the comfort of my husband and the prosperity of his affairs. And I will make certain it is my bed you will die in.

CURTAIN.


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