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Ways of refined provokingness to wreak it. Antonio knows these fools you saw but now, And fools have foolish friendships, and bad leagues
For getting a little power, not natural to them,
Take every brutish shape it can devise
Make gross the name of mother, call it fool, Out of their laugh'd-at betters. Be it as it Pander, slave, coward, or whatsoever op
Ago. I've known you weaker, madam, But never feeble enough to want the strength
Of contest and perverseness. Oh, men too! Men may be weak, even from the magnanimity
Of strength itself; and women can take poor Advantages, that were in men but cowardice. Gin. (Aside) Dear Heaven! what humblest doubts of our self-knowledge Should we not feel, when tyranny can talk thus ?
Ago. Can you pretend, madam, with your surpassing
Candour and heavenly kindness, that you
Of some great answer, terrible as its wrong, And it shall be as nothing to this miserable, Mean, meek-voiced, most malignant lie of lies,
This angel-mimicking non-provocation From one too cold to enrage, and weak to tread on!
You never loved me once-You loved me not
Never did-no-not when before the altar, With a mean coldness, a worldly-minded coldness
And lie on your lips, you took me for your husband,
Thinking to have a house, a purse, a liberty, By, but not for, the man you scorn'd to love!
Gin. I scorn'd you not and knew not what scorn was
Being scarcely past a child, and knowing nothing
But trusting thoughts and innocent daily habits.
Oh, could you trust yourself—But why repeat
What still is thus repeated day by day, Still ending with the question, Why repeat?" [Rising and moving about. You make the blood at last mount to my brain,
And tax me past endurance. done,
What have I
Good God! what have I done, that I am thus
At the mercy of a mystery of tyranny, Which from its victim demands every
virtue, And brings it none ?
day, When duty's done. may.
So cheer we as we
[Exeunt; the music continuing. There is something too absolutely painful in this scene, though it could not be helped, since such is the character the dramatist has chosen to draw in Agolanti; but it is a scene of great power-and the name of Ginevra is felt at the close to be falling in among those endeared to our heart, by the meek endurance of unmerited suffering, that serves to bring out from the concealment of its calm the strength of their native virtue. Framed by gracious nature with all holiest affections-not one of them all may she be permitted to enjoy all of them interdicted to her even as an orphan; and the sweeter humanities frowned upon as sins against duty to him who is her deliberate destroyer. And what though she knows that she is pitied? Pity can sooth sorrow that but disturbs or abates a happiness that is still, in spite of sorrow, felt to be happiness indeed-such happiness as can be beneath the skies; but when all in the heart is sorrow, sorrow without hope, what can pity do but turn away and weep!
But how fares it with Agolanti ?
And then they set on to vex, tease, ruffle, fret, and banter him in a style that may be consistent with the manners of Italy during the Pontificate of Leo the Tenth, but which on the score of nature, as she shows herself in this our island, we cannot stomach. Colonna, an absolute stranger, tells him bluffly, that there is a vile talk all over the town of his jealousy and cruelty-that "The theme is constant, both in court and market-place,
That you're a very tyrant ;"
while Da Riva scoffingly pretends that 'tis all a foolish fiction, and that they laughed the absurdity out of countenance; but that they had no sooner done so, than twenty absurd grave faces were seen going about, big with wonder, and that to laugh them all down was beyond the power of human cachinnation. All this, and much more in his own house-to a noble Florentine
"With a bold brow, large brain, and liberal hand."
True, they are indignant and disgusted with his brutal conduct to Ginevra, the beloved of their friend Antonio, and they care not how insultingly they behave to the wicked tyrant, who is murdering her by inches ; for our own parts we are only sorry they did not cudgel him to death. But how can Agolanti stand all this? Why did he not try to kick them down stairs? So far from entertaining that idea, even for a moment, he absolutely makes an apology to them,
"Pardon me-I'm distracted-I'm not myself,"
-begs them to believe that the stories abroad of his cruelty to his wife are exaggerations-a lie of Giulio's
example, the Strozzi, the Baldi, the Rossi, the Brunelleschi, &c.
This mean gossip makes us blush, not for Italian nobility but for human nature; and we hang down our head. Manhood gentlemanhood — have rights, privileges, and immunities, which cannot be seen rudely broken in upon and tamely surrendered without shame; and he who submits to such violation in his own person, is felt to be without sex. The usages of society, when founded on permanent principles in humanity, are almost as sacred as a regard to the highest moral law-for they are essential; and if set at nought, civilized men would relapse into savages, or become beasts.
"Patient merit of the unworthy takes many slights, and heeds them not, nor thereby is degraded; but "impatient demerit of the worthy takes" no insults without retort or revenge. However, this is clear, that between man and wife, from the principle of "non-intrusion
there are few dissenters. All Christians are orthodox on that articleand kicking, in all cases, is the creed --not in theory only, but in practice, from count to coalheaver.
This unseemly and unnatural scene is closed by Colonna handing Agolanti a letter from Antonio, which he has all along had in his pocket, and on the strength of which poet and soldier have been so complimentary to his conjugal virtues. It runs thus:
If Signor Agolanti values his wife's peace and life, he will meet the writer of this letter instantly, who will wait for him, an hour from the receipt of it, in the wood near the gate, by the roadside leading to Cortona.-ANTONIO RONDINELLI." Agolanti now knows, for the first time, that his agreeable visiters are friends of the man he most fears, and thinks he smells a league--a conspiracy. Well may he exclaim-" This beats all boldness; but he wears a sword, and accepts the appointment. An ugly customer is waiting for him in the wood.
"Rond. My bosom is so full, my heart wants air;
It fears even want of utterance; fears the
For very loathing; fears his horrible sight, His lawless claim of lawfulness; and feels Shame at his poisonous want of shame and manhood."
The meeting at first is manly and gentlemanly; and the altercation is conducted throughout with great force and spirit. It is dramatic; and must be effective in representation. The case is for a time well argued on both sides; and as An tonio believes Ginevra to be dying, and desires but to save her life, he possesses a privilege that assuredly could in nowise belong to Da Riva and Colonna; and, sympathizing with his grief and his indignation, we are carried along with his remonstrances, and even with his objurgations; and though somewhat disturbed by his want of judgment, we more than pardon his zeal, impassioned as he is, in a righteous cause. The parties become exasperated past all bearing, and assail one another with every epithet of scorn and rage-eavesdropper-consulting doctor-beggar-impostorcoward-hands are on hilts, and the men are in attitude for the duello.
But let us consider with ourselves what may be said in defence of this scene. Antonio is in the right, Ago lanti is in the wrong; and that is a great matter. The one is a good, the other is a bad man; and that is every thing. Both by birth are gentlemen ; but Antonio is one of the aristocracy of nature-Agolanti a plebeian of the lowest grade. The husband has not an inch of firm ground for his big toe -the lover stands with both feet planted on a rock. Wanting presence of mind promptly to repel the first affront, and shut his accuser's mouth with his fist or sword- hilt-if not with the rapier's point sent home to the heart-the husband, once involved in a war of words, has no chance either at out or in fighting—his blows, however dexterously delivered, hit but his antagonist's brisket; but he receives on the kidneys and on the jugular, till finally losing all temper, wild and exposed, he drops his guard, gives his head-the punishment then becomes terrible, and it would have been high time, had they been present, for his friends to take him out of the ring.
Or shall we say, rather, that holding possession to be nine points of the law, Agolanti came to the spot to enjoy Antonio's misery in his reproaches the merciless husband to scorn the pitiful lover—and that not till he began to find the tables turning, Idid he discover himself to be in the
wrong box? As for any fear about his wife's life, nothing of the sort brought him there-he could not brook, base as he was, to be so bullied by these gents.-his resolution was, once for all, to put down such annoyances; so he went to the wood without trepidation, and faced Antonio boldly—but boldness in a bad cause will not carry a man through-indignities not counted upon he cannot avert, and ineffectually returns--and he protracts a "flytin," in which he had expected to be victor, for some time after he must have been conscious that he was fast experiencing a disgraceful defeat.
But what shall we say of the part played by Antonio in all this? With every allowance for his exasperated feelings, he ought to have been more considerate. For the sake of Ginevra, was it wise-or was it not foolish-to seek to win Agolanti to reflect on the fate of his poor wife, to treat her with some humanity, and to call in medical aid, by goading him to madness till he absolutely roared like a bull? We do not demand of him that he should have been as calm as a Quaker: but he had the strongest reasons a man could have for preserving perfect self-possession. The good that might possibly be done to Ginevra, we must think, should have actuated and controlled him in a conference with her lord and master, of his own seeking, and for that sole end; whereas he is really as selfish in his own way as that cruel egöist, and in the indulgence of his own hate, is not false, but, what is almost as bad, forgetful- ceases to plead the cause of the sufferer from rage towards the criminal, and does all in his power to send the monster back to his villa, in a tempest of fury, to wreak his vengence on his dying wife.
And what is the argument on which Antonio mainly insists to induce Agolanti to be not so barbarous to Ginevra ?
Rond. Mark me, impostor. Let that saint be worse
By one hair's-breadth of sickness, and you take
No step to show that you would have prevented it,
And every soul in Florence, from the beggar Up to the princely sacredness now coming, Shall be loud on you, and loathe you. Boys
shall follow you, Plucking your shuddering skirts; women forego,
groans pay her,
Shall turn from the last agony in your throat,
And count her wages!
The unhappy man had been pretty plainly told of something like this before by Riva and Colonna. True that Agolanti is throughout represented very sensitive to public opinion; and an appeal might have been earnestly and judiciously made to such disposition, not perhaps without avail, in behalf of his victim: But so far from enlisting this worthless but not weak ally, by a bribe, on the side of pity, Antonio turns it against the sufferer. His threats of exposure are so cutting and contumelious, that no man of woman born could feel them whistling about his ears without flinging them off in defiance; and Agolanti was just the man, and Antonio must have known it, to take shelter from the images of shame conjured up to appal him, in a more devilish determination of the will to adhere to his cruelty, with him at once an inveterate habit and a hungry passion.
Enter Servants in disorder.
What of her!
Ago. (uncovering.) Infamy thou, to treat thus ruffianly
A mute-struck sorrow.
Rond. O God! to hear him talk! To hear him talk and know that he has slain her!
Bear witness you-you of his household
That knew him best, and what a poison he
He has slain her. What you all fear'd would be, has come,
And the mild thread that held her heart is broken.
Ago. (going off with the Servants.) Pietro, I say, and Giotto! away! away! [Exit with Servants.
Rond. Ay, ay; to justice with him! Whither with me? [Exeunt opposite.
This is all excellent.
Antonio receive the sudden blow, Agolanti and Neither of them is overwhelmed ; for each according to his own nature. the one, in his selfishness, has no deep feeling, and the other had familiarized his heart with fears of Ginevra's death. Grief and anger are not incompatible -bear witness Hamlet and Laertes
throttling one another in Ophelia's
grave. So Antonio rages against Agolanti, even while his heart must be ready to die within him at Ginevra's death-and hateful to his eyes is the living body of him who natural that he should look with loathmade her a corpse. Therefore it was murderer, not uncovered at the sound ing and abhorrence on the head of the of that passing bell. The wretch had pretended to be pious-had assumed the show of religion of which he could have had no sense; and, while formal in the worship of God, had been efficient in the murder of his fairest creature. "Irreverent infamy!" was therefore, from Antonio's wounded spirit at such a sight, a holy outcry, and he was justified in praying, even to the saints, that it might wring from the hard heart of the hypocrite a few black drops of blood.
So is Agolanti's deprecation characteristic of the man. Doubtless he was conscience-stricken at his servant's
words; but his soul was incapable of a sacred anguish, and he was mute not for her sake but his Had it been otherwise, he who had all his life observed the ceremonial of the Church, had infallibly uncovered his head at the passing bell. Love and religion, when both sincere, obey