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Rated: E · Script/Play · History · #2159207
Sforza and the Duke come to terms.
SCENE  2

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

SFORZA.           
Don’t be shy.

FIA.           
I have heard no woman is safe from you?

SFORZA.           
I’ve never had any complaints.

FIA.           
I’ve heard that as well.

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

FIA.           
Too fickle. Is what I have heard.

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

FIA.           
I am Fiammetta d'Este.

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

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

SFORZA.           
Lucia?

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

SFORZA.           
Your name would forever be on my lips.

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

SFORZA.           
You are here for a reason?

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

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

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

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

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

SFORZA.           
At the end his wounds did prove fatal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SFORZA.           
Show me parchment where it is so writ?

FIA.           
A priest would say the good book.

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

FIA.           
And you?

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

FIA.           
(clapping) You play the villain well.

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

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

SFORZA.           
You offer money?

FIA.           
The republics offer whatever is necessary.

SFORZA.           
Do they? And you?

FIA.           
I would be your agent.

SFORZA.           
You think I need representation.

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

SFORZA.           
Help?

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

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

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

SFORZA.           
And you would do all this for a fee?

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

SFORZA.           
What are your talents?

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

SFORZA.           
You are ambitious.

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

SFORZA.           
You should be careful what you wish for.

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

SFORZA.           
My brother Alessandro.

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

  SFORZA kisses her hand.

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

  Exit FIA. Enter ALESS.

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

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

ALESS.           
Whose?

SFORZA.           
Mine I believe.

ALESS.           
May all your conquests be as swift.

SFORZA.           
Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  Enter PERSICCO.

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

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

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

SFORZA.           
I am pleased.

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

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

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

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

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

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

ALFONSO. 
(To PICC) Sforza and the brother.

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

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

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

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

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

  ALFONSO walks round SFORZA who ignores him.

SFORZA.           
I feel quite at home already.

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

SFORZA.           
The Queen did the family that honour.

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

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

ALFONSO.           
The pope himself sold it to me.

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

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


  Enter VISCONTI (who sits), VENICE, COSIMO, CAR.

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

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

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

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

COSIMO.           
Including making peace?

VISCONTI.           
I have given my word! Do we not live under a treaty of perpetual peace?

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

VISCONTI.           
Is this not capable of resolution?

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

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

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

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

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

VISCONTI.           
You demanded, there's a difference.

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

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

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

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

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

VISCONTI.           
I haven't touched them!

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

  Exit CAR

VISCONTI. 
What says the republics?

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

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

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

SFORZA.           
Here my lord.

VISCONTI.             
Behold, Ares incarnate.

ALFONSO laughs, VISCONTI looks up sharply. All step away from ALFONSO.
         
Out!

Exit ALESS, PERSICCO, PICC, ALFONSO.

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

SFORZA.           
Some.

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

SFORZA.           
Only to those who believe them.

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

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

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

SFORZA.           
My lord flatters.

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

SFORZA.           
I do.

VISCONTI.           
Surely Venice would pay more?

SFORZA.           
It would.

VISCONTI.           
It has offered?

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

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

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

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

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

VISCONTI.           
Speaking of the d'Este family?

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

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

SFORZA.           
I will bear that in mind.

VISCONTI.           
You are very careful Sforza.

SFORZA.           
I prefer prudent my lord.

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

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

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

SFORZA.           
Someone will cut off his head.

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

SFORZA.           
I will need more men.

VISCONTI.           
I will give you Piccinino.

SFORZA.           
I'd rather have just the men.

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

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

         Lights Down.
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