The Serpent Lady

By Carlo Gozzi   

Translated by Daniel Smith and Valentina Denzel    

Volume 5, Issue 3 (Spring 2015)

Theatre historians tend to know Carlo Gozzi’s plays primarily because of his conflict with the playwright Carlo Goldoni in eighteenth-century Venice. While Goldoni favored a more regularized, literary comedy, Gozzi wanted to continue the use of masks and improvisation, telling old stories in old ways. The Serpent Lady is a commedia dell’arte fairy tale, like nine other fairy-tale plays (fiabe teatrali) created by Gozzi in collaboration with the Sacchi troupe. In many ways the fiabe are plays about the magic of theatre. The Serpent Lady tells the story of Cherestani, the Fairy Queen, and her mortal husband Farruscad. They must overcome numerous magical obstacles in order to be together. At its core, The Serpent Lady is a story about how love can conquer not only death, but immortality. Farruscad and Cherestani must place their faith in each other, despite advisors who try to keep them apart. While love is initially a force that weakens Farruscad, he ultimately approaches love in a new way that leads him to greater maturity.

This collaborative translation was developed for a production of The Serpent Lady at Michigan State University in March 2014. When I had proposed to direct one of Gozzi’s theatrical fairy tales, I chose La donna serpente after reading English translations by John DiGaetani (The Snake Lady) and by Albert Bermel and Ted Emery (The Serpent Woman), both to be found in anthologies of Gozzi’s work.[1] One major reason for deciding to create a new translation for this project was to allow for the possibility of improvisation in the production. The published Italian text notes that many scenes are intended to be performed all’improvisatto, but the existing English translations struggle to convey this improvisational quality.

Working on a new version of the text afforded the opportunity for a fruitful collaboration with Valentina Denzel, a colleague in Romance and Classical Studies. Our process was to translate scene-by-scene, trading off via email as each of us completed a new scene. As a native speaker of Italian and a specialist in the early modern period, Valentina frequently corrected my errors in comprehension. As a theatre artist and native speaker of English, I was able to focus on polishing the text in the target language. We scheduled three workshop readings of the work in progress during the fall semester so that we could hear the translation. These readings were attended by members of the design team, so the scenic, lighting, and costume designer were able to engage with the developing script early in their design process. Valentina also came to several rehearsals to share her linguistic and cultural knowledge of eighteenth-century Venice. Both of us found this to be a productive collaborative model, one that might be preferable to the practice of a linguistic expert handing a “literal translation” to a playwright for adapting.

Gozzi’s fiabe present several unique translation challenges. First, eighteenth-century Italian dialects are complex. While some of Gozzi’s characters are fairly comprehensible with knowledge of contemporary Italian, Pantalone in particular speaks a Venetian dialect that poses serious difficulties for the translator. We made productive use of a Venetian-Italian dictionary based on the works of Gozzi’s enemy Carlo Goldoni.[2] A second important aspect of Gozzi’s published plays is their status as recording performances that were improvised to some degree; some scenes of La donna serpente are written in narrative form as scenarios, rather than in dialogue. In our version, most such scenes include the note “written to be improvised.” This improvisational quality means that some scenes were devised in rehearsal, and the resulting script contains ad-libs by the actors, especially those who played the masked characters Truffaldino, Brighella, Tartaglia, and Pantalone. Anyone who wishes to stage this version would be welcome to explore a similar improvisational approach to the text. Liberal cutting of the script is also encouraged, particularly in the early going, as much of the exposition is repetitive.

Taking on the dual roles of director and co-translator meant that I was thinking specifically about production choices while preparing the script, and that I was willing to make changes to the text based on what was happening in rehearsal. The most significant directorial intervention in the translation was the addition of a Chorus of Fairies. Textual and practical considerations informed this choice. In the original, the fairy Zemina appears in the first scene and then does not return, though several scenes indicate that Cherestani has multiple fairies or soldiers with her. I wanted to give Zemina more to do, both to make this a more significant role for the actress and to help tie up the loose ends of the narrative. The Italian text also contains vivid and entertaining stage directions; introducing the Fairies as narrators allowed some of those stage directions to be heard by the audience. Because several of these stage directions call for thunder to be seen, lightning to be heard, and an earthquake to be felt, we decided to give the Fairies quasi-Italian names based on those natural phenomena (Tuonara, Fulmina, and Terramota).

Adding these three fairies created additional roles for women in the production, an important consideration given the casting pool in the MSU Department of Theatre. I also decided to cast women in the vast majority of other roles; only the role of Farruscad was played by a male actor. Gender is an inevitable theme in this play. Indeed, Gozzi is often accused of misogyny because of his cruel female characters (and because of the awful things he says about his mother in his Memoirs). Casting an ensemble of sixteen women and one man represented an effort to challenge traditional gender roles and to practice resistant reading. For the women who played male masked roles, the exaggerated performance of gender was a significant aspect of the characters they created. After casting a woman as Togrul, Farruscad’s chief minister, we decided that this character should be played as a woman. This meant that Togrul and Canzade would be understood as lesbians by other characters and by the audience.

Working with a new translation allowed us to mine the improvisational spirit of the play, and to bring contemporary humor to a piece that inhabits the world of fairy tales. In attempting to translate Gozzi’s topicality and theatrical parody, we found our own contemporary and historical equivalents. For instance, Truffaldino sometimes awakened Brighella by shouting “Taco Bell now serves breakfast,” and their ritual of summoning food referred to other brand-name items such as Cosmic Brownies. As a director, I made the discovery that the beginning of Act II worked well as a parody of Greek tragedy. As co-translator/adaptor, I made the decision to write the Fairies’ introductory narration of this scene in a meter reminiscent of classical verse.

Translation for the stage is always a collaborative endeavor, because theatre is inherently collaborative.[3] My experience as co-translator and director of The Serpent Lady offers an unusual and exciting model for collaborative process in creating a new translation. Valentina Denzel’s expertise in the source language and culture, along with my abilities in the target language and theatre production, allowed us to produce a draft to bring into rehearsals and production meetings. The script presented here also incorporates contributions by the design team and by the ensemble of actors.

Daniel Smith

Carlo Gozzi was born in Venice in 1720. He is best known for his literary quarrel with Carlo Goldoni, and for his ten fiabe teatrali (theatrical fairy tales), including The Love of Three Oranges (1761), The King Stag (1762), Turandot (1762), and The Green Bird (1765). Gozzi wrote the fiabe for the commedia dell’arte troupe of Antonio Sacchi, and the plays are full of topical references and parodies of his rivals Goldoni and Chiari. The fiabe later inspired a number of opera adaptations, and have been successfully staged by such contemporary directors as Andrei Serban and Julie Taymor. In addition to the fiabe, Gozzi wrote several other plays and a lengthy set of memoirs in which he has nothing nice to say about anyone.

Daniel Smith is a dramaturg, translator, and theatre historian with research interests in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French theatre. He is currently Assistant Professor of Theatre Studies at Michigan State University. After studying French Literature at the University of Notre Dame, Dan earned degrees in Theatre from the University of Massachusetts Amherst (MFA) and Northwestern University (PhD). As a dramaturg, he worked at numerous theatres in Chicago, and served as Associate Artistic Director/Resident Dramaturg of Caffeine Theatre from 2010-2012. Dan has done annotated literal translations of Molière for playwright Constance Congdon (The Imaginary Invalid) and director Zeljko Djukic (Don Juan). His translations of short plays by Grandval were produced by Infamous Commonwealth Theatre, and his English-language versions of musical libretti were published in bilingual French/English children’s books by Editions Télémaque. His translation of Marivaux’s Love in Disguise was published in The Mercurian.

Valentina Denzel is an Assistant Professor of French Literature (17th and 18th century) in the Department of Romance and Classical Studies at Michigan State University. Her fields of interest are: Italian and French Literature (15th – 18th century), Queer and Gender Studies, Narratology, Possible World Theory, Relation between fiction and reality, Querelle des femmes. She has published several articles in this field of research. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in French literature and language. She is a member of several national and international organizations (RSA, MLA, SIEFAR, EFIGIES, RING, SFLGC).

 

 

THE SERPENT LADY

 

The Serpent Lady was first presented by Michigan State University Department of Theatre in March 2014. It was directed by Daniel Smith, with a scenic design by Elspeth Williams, costume design by Stephanie Eubank, lighting design by Hernando Claros, dramaturgy and sound design by Jenna Jo Pawlicki, and fight direction by Lydia Hiller. The technical director was Jon Little. The cast was as follows:

 

The Fairies:

Cherestani, Fairy Queen of Eldorado: Adia Alli

Farzana, the Fire Fairy: Jalyn Greene

Zemina, the Wind Fairy: Christi Thibodeau

Tuonara, the Thunder Fairy: Katherine Schooler

Fulmina, the Lighting Fairy: Jenna Jo Pawlicki

Terramota, the Earthquake Fairy: Marley Boone

The Actors:

Farruscad, King of Teflis: Casey James

Pantalone: Carolyn Conover

Truffaldino: Lydia Hiller

Togrul, the Vizier: Lyndsay Manson

Brighella, Togrul’s servant: Kara O’Connor

Tartaglia, a minister: Paige Conway

Bedredino, son of Farruscad and Cherestani: Brittany Ann Nicol

Rezia, daughter of Farruscad and Cherestani: Tara Marier

Canzade, Farruscad’s sister: Kendall Kotcher

Smeraldina, Canzade’s maid: Erika Clauson

Badur, a traitorous minister: Laura Chall

Voice of Geonca, the Necromancer: Brittany Ann Nicol

 

In this production, scenes were announced by the Fairies, who also served as a Greek chorus in Teflis and created all magical effects, including playing the Bull and the Giant.

 

CHARACTERS AND SETTING

FARRUSCAD, King of Teflis.

CHERESTANÌ, Fairy, Queen of Eldorado, his wife

CANZADE, Sister of Farruscad, Warrior woman, in love with

TOGRUL, Vizier, Faithful Minister

BADUR, another minister (traitorous)

REZIA and BEDREDINO, Children; Twin son and daughter of Farruscad and Cherestanì.

SMERALDINA, Canzade’s maid, Warrior Woman

PANTALONE, Tutor of Farruscad

TRUFFALDINO, Hunter at Farruscad’s court

TARTAGLIA, low-level minister

BRIGHELLA, servant of the Vizier Togrul

FARZANA

ZEMINA, Fairies

Voice of GEONCA, Necromancer, friend of Farruscad

A BULL

A GIANT

 

The action takes place partly in an unknown desert near Eldorado, and partly in and around the city of Teflis.

 

List of Scenes[4]

Act I, scene 1: Farzana and Zemina discuss Cherestani’s desire to become mortal.[5]

Act I, scene 2: Truffaldino and Brighella are reunited after eight years apart.

Act I, scene 3: Farruscad writes a poem to his beloved. Pantalone mocks him.

Act I, scene 4: Togrul and Tartaglia find Pantalone after a long journey.

Act I, scene 5: A Woman’s Voice speaks to Farruscad. A table of food appears and disappears.

Act I, scene 6: Farruscad sleeps. Truffaldino and Brighella arrive with food.

Act I, scene 7: Apparition of Checsaia the Priest.

Act I, scene 8: Apparition of Atalmuc, Farruscad’s father.

Act I, scene 9: Farruscad soliloquizes.

Act I, scene 10: Cherestani’s palace appears.

Act I, scene 11: Farzana reminds Cherestani of her political duties.

Act I, scene 12: Brighella and Truffaldino wake up.

Act I, scene 13: Pantalone and Tartaglia wake up.

Act I, scene 14: Farruscad notices that Cherestani’s predictions are coming true.

Act I, scene 15: Rezia and Bedredino arrive, borne by the wind.

Act I, scene 16: Cherestani tests Farruscad.

Intermission

Act II, scene 1: Smeraldina returns from battle

Act II, scene 2: Canzade returns from Battle

Act II, scene 3: Farruscad and Togrul arrive in Teflis

Act II, scene 4: Badur returns from his quest for provisions. Farruscad curses his wife.

Act II, scene 5: Cherestani explains herself

Act II, scene 6: Cherestani transforms into a serpent

Act II, scene 7: Farruscad flees from Pantalone

Act II, scene 8: Tartaglia brings good news

Act II, scene 9: Farzana convinces Farruscad to go to his demise

Act II, scene 10: Pantalone and Tartaglia bring amazing news

Act II, scene 11: Truffaldino tries to sell newspapers

Act II, scene 12: Pantalone and Tartaglia search for Farruscad

Act II, scene 13: Farruscad is not found

Act II, scene 14: Geonca’s voice explains where to find Farruscad

Act II, scene 15: Farzana and Farruscad arrive at the place of his trials

Act II, scene 16: Farruscad fights a bull

Act II, scene 17: Farzana charges Farruscad with his second task

Act II, scene 18: Farruscad fights a giant

Act II, scene 19: Farzana announces the third task; Farruscad kisses a serpent

Act II, scene 20: Cherestani embraces Farruscad

Act II, scene 21: They live happily ever after

 

ACT I, SCENE 1

In the woods, near Eldorado.

FARZANA and ZEMINA

ZEMINA

(With a sad voice)

Tell me Farzana, why aren’t you crying?

FARZANA

You tell me, what is there to cry about, Zemina darling?

ZEMINA

Oh, my friend, have you forgotten? When Cherestani, favored Fairy, daughter of Abdelazin, the King of Eldorado, a mortal man, and of the beautiful fairy Zebdon, Cherestani, our dearest companion, beloved of Farruscad, wanted to get married, and instead of remaining immortal, like us, to become mortal, like her husband? And that our King, Demogorgon, angrily told her to cease and desist, but that…

FARZANA

Yes, Zemina, I know that Demogorgon swore that if she could make it through the second day of the Rising of the Dog Star, at the moment of sunset, during the current year, without being cursed by her husband, that she would become mortal, like him, because that is what she wants.

ZEMINA

Oh, God! Tomorrow at the break of dawn the day will start in a fatal way for us. We will lose Cherestani just twenty-five years into the age of her beautiful flower, the most beloved fairy, the most cherished, the most beautiful among us. We will lose, Farzana, the most perfect ornament of our company. You know how agreeable she is. He will never forsake her.

FARZANA

Don’t you know how many seemingly awful and unheard-of things Demogorgon will require Cherestani to do to Farruscad tomorrow, unseen and without the luxury of explaining herself? Remember, he has forbidden her to reveal herself for eight years, and during the fatal day tomorrow she may not explain her secrets. Believe me, no, tomorrow will not end without her being cursed by her husband. Cherestani will remain our companion.

ZEMINA

But you know that Farruscad must swear never to curse her, and then break his promise, in order for her to remain a fairy.

FARZANA

Don’t worry. He will swear, and break his promise, and will curse her. And she will be ours.

ZEMINA

He won’t swear.

FARZANA

Yes, he will.

ZEMINA

If he does swear, he will not break his promise.

FARZANA

No, Zemina. He will forsake her. She will be ours.

ZEMINA

You are heartless! But what about the horrible sentence that will befall her for two hundred years? If her husband curses her tomorrow, beautiful Cherestani will be turned into a hideous, abominable snake.

FARZANA

Well, I know that, but what difference does it make? Her mad request deserves some punishment. The two hundred years will pass, and her darling husband will die, and in just two hundred years we’ll have Cherestani back with us.

ZEMINA

But her husband might free her from this condemnation, and then the fairy will be mortal and we will have lost her.

FARZANA

You are dreaming. He will lose his life. The deed has been entrusted to me. I have been given the task of guarding our condemned companion, and tomorrow it is up to me to ensure the death of her husband, who poses the only threat to her immortality.

ZEMINA

But what about Geonca the Necromancer, Farruscad’s friend? Aren’t you afraid of him?

FARZANA

No. I am not afraid of him. We should go. It is dishonorable to assault the audience with these boring details of things that should remain unspoken. And above all, we must stop talking about our secrets because talking about it too much will weaken the effect of our magic.

ZEMINA

Oh, heavens! Before I bore those who are the most important to us, I would rather see Cherestani die along with Farruscad.

(Exit Zemina and Farzana)

 

ACT I, SCENE 2

Truffaldino and Brighella are reunited after eight years apart.

Change of scene, which now represents a horrible desert with many rocks in the background; some rocks serve as seats.

BRIGHELLA, TRUFFALDINO

These two characters come together and embrace. This scene is written to be improvised.

BRIGHELLA

Truffaldino! What are you doing here in this desert? And what news is there of Prince Farruscad?

TRUFFALDINO

(As if telling a fairy tale to children)

Once upon a time, eight years ago today, as you already know, my dear sir, on the [eighteenth of March],[6] Prince Farruscad; Pantalone, his preceptor; myself; and many hunters left the City of Teflis to go hunting. When the hunters arrived at a forest, far from the city, they found a female deer as white as snow. The deer was completely covered by golden chains, flowers, and jewels placed around her neck, rings on her hoofs, diamonds on her head etc. Oh, my dear sir, it was the most beautiful thing… the most beautiful thing that one can see with two eyes… And so, my dear sir, Prince Farruscad instantly fell in love with her, and followed her. Pantalone ran after the Prince. I, Truffaldino ran after Pantalone, and we ran and ran, and walked and walked, etc. until the deer reached a riverbank. The Prince followed the deer, and they were this close to catching the deer by her tail, but then the deer jumped into the river, and was not seen again.

BRIGHELLA

Maybe she drowned.

TRUFFALDINO

No. You must not interrupt. This is a story of the highest importance. “And so, my dear Sir, the Prince, desperate, yearning for the deer whom he was in love with, had his men fish in the river the whole day long, hoping to find her dead or alive. “And they fished and they fished and they fished and they fished, but all in vain. Then… a wonder! A voice is coming out of the river, and you can hear her calling and saying: (Fairies join🙂 “Farruscad, follow me.” The Prince, being out of his senses, could not control himself, and threw himself head over heels into the river. Desperate, Pantalone, holding his beard with one hand, jumped after his master: I, Truffaldino wanted to jump after Pantalone, but was too afraid to get wet. And while I, Truffaldino, was looking into the river, I saw a table full of food, and so my loyalty towards my master made me jump into the abyss. Then, oh wonder! In the depths of the river, I did not see the table anymore, but I found that the deer was changed into a princess surrounded by an entourage of young ladies–the most beautiful thing, the most beautiful thing, that you can see with two eyes! The prince was on his knees before the princess. And Pantalone was standing there like an imbecile. And the Prince was saying: “Tell me who you are, exceptional beauty. Have pity on this sad heart, which never before has experienced such a fierce fire.”

And the princess replied: “Do not try to find out who I am. The moment will come when you will know everything. I like your yearning for the madness of love, and if your heart is strong enough to endure the most terrible things, I will accept you as my husband, and my right hand will be yours.”

The Prince wanted to marry her, even if the world tumbled down. Pantalone was shouting, trying to dissuade him, but they walked into a palace with diamond columns, doors made out of rubies, golden beams, etc. And in spite of Pantalone, the wedding was celebrated and nine months later, the princess gave birth to a boy and a girl, the most beautiful creatures, my friend, the most beautiful creatures that one can see with two eyes. The boy’s name was Bedredino, and the girl’s Rezia, and they are now seven years old. At the palace, everybody ate, drank and slept well, and happily made love to the young court ladies. Pantalone was always suffering, since he did not know the country nor the princess. The prince continued asking: “Tell me who you are, beautiful lady.” And the Princess replied, “Do not try to find out who I am. The moment will come, when you will find out everything. May your heart be strong enough to endure the most terrible things. Alas: unfortunately there will come an atrocious moment for me, and for you, my beloved husband.”

Always secrets, always hidden things! Then three days ago, the curious Prince tried to open the Princess’s writing desk, hoping to find one of her letters, and to find out her name revealed by the writing. The Princess caught him in the act, she was furious and, while she was weeping, reproached him for his disobedience, she let out a cry, and stamped with one foot on the floor… and, O wonder! She disappeared with her children, the court ladies, and the palace, and we were left behind in this horrible desert, as you can plainly see.

BRIGHELLA

I don’t believe a word of this fairy tale you just told me.

TRUFFALDINO

It is true, I swear! Look around you at this magical desert. Speaking of which, how did you get into the desert?

BRIGHELLA

I did not get here by myself, but together with the vizier Togrul, and Tartaglia, loyal ministers of Prince Farruscad. The old king, Atalmuk, Farruscad’s father, has died after eight long years of affliction, because he had no news about his son. Morgone, the ugly Saracen king and a giant, intends to marry Canzade, Farruscad’s sister. He longs for the crown, and he has assaulted the kingdom, besieged the city of Teflis. Togrul, the vizier, who is in love with Canzade, went to the cavern of Geonca, the magician, to find the whereabouts of Prince Farruscad in this time full of calamities. Geonca told him to go to Mount Olympus, where he would find a hole, and if he climbed into the hole, he would find the prince. He told Togrul some secrets, for example, he gave her a patch to put on her upper stomach, so that for two months she would not suffer hunger or thirst, since the journey into the hole was a long one and we would not be able to find anything to eat or drink. Togrul, Tartaglia and I, equipped with patches on our upper stomachs, arrived at Mount Olimpus, where we found the hole. We climbed down with our burning torches. We climbed down forty million, seven thousand, two hundred and forty steps, and then we arrived here in this desert.

TRUFFALDINO

Forty million, seven thousand, two hundred and forty steps? Unbelievable! And where are Togrul and Tartaglia now?

BRIGHELLA

I left them nearby under a tree to rest. And where are the Prince and Pantalone?

TRUFFALDINO

They wandered off through the desert, because the prince was yearning for the princess. But we have been gathering each night in this clearing to have supper and to rest.

BRIGHELLA

What do you eat, and where do you sleep in this desert? All I can see are rocks and dry twigs.

TRUFFALDINO

Some tents appeared after the beautiful palace had disappeared, so we sleep under those. And we eat very well, plenty of food appears if we just ask. But you cannot see who brings it. I think it’s the devil!

BRIGHELLA

I don’t believe it! Oh, I am beginning to feels like the patch on my stomach is losing its power. After two months, my virtuous behavior is gone. I am weak, and cannot resist any longer.

TRUFFALDINO

You should follow me. Have no doubt about anything.

BRIGHELLA

We have to save Togrul and Tartaglia too.

TRUFFALDINO

All in good time. You should follow me, my good sir, and I will tell you more awe-inspiring stories. Once upon a time… (They leave while TRUFFALDINO is telling him some more stories)

 

ACT I, SCENE 3

Farruscad writes a poem to his beloved. Pantalone mocks him.

FARRUSCAD

(Entering restlessly)

Every step I take is in vain. My friend, will I see my dear wife Cherestani nevermore?

PANTALONE

My head aches; my brain is boiled. My dear Highness, if we stay in the sun all day our kidneys will heat up, we could catch an evil disease, like pneumonia. And there are no doctors here, neither generalists nor specialists. We are going to die out here, like beasts! Dear boy, dear boy, you must give up on this love of yours.

FARRUSCAD

How can I forget, my friend, so much love, so much tenderness, so many kindnesses and caresses? Ah, dear Pantalone, all is lost! I shall have no peace.

PANTALONE

Now the love and tenderness and caresses and sighs of whom? Of whom?

FARRUSCAD

Of a great, generous, noble soul; of the most beautiful and dear Princess that the sun has ever seen, or whose light illuminated the earth.

PANTALONE

(Aside)

Of a wicked witch, whose entire face can change at will, when she wishes to please him. Who must be four or five hundred years old![7]

FARRUSCAD

(Trance-like, on one side)

Oh, lovely hair… where are you? I have lost you!

PANTALONE

(Hearing, from the other side; aside)

Cursed cheating pumpkinhead with four wormy hairs on top, unmask yourself for charity’s sake!

FARRUSCAD

Eyes! Shining stars, where have you gone?

PANTALONE

(Aside)

Sunken eyes, like the eyes of Gonella’s horse, full of wildness, show yourselves!

FARRUSCAD

Mouth of glowing rubies and white pearls, no longer do I see you! Who has taken you away?

PANTALONE

(Aside)

Bleeding gums with four bolts of lightning for teeth, kitchen-sink lips, with the black mouth of a squid. Show yourselves… in hell!

FARRUSCAD

Cheeks of roses and lilies, who has stolen you away?

PANTALONE

(Aside)

Cheeks of a cod, blown up like a turnip, and cheeks by which this boy will be disgraced, because of his obsession!

FARRUSCAD

Ah, delicious breasts of my beloved, with your curdled milk, where are you hiding?

PANTALONE

(Aside) Or bags of dirty leather, hanging butchered meat, reveal yourself to our mind’s eye so we can vomit, you nasty witch! Bleah. (To FARRUSCAD, new tactic): Your Highness, my dear boy, do you remember the wicked trick played by the witch Dilnovaz on the King of Tibet?

FARRUSCAD

(Confused)

What trick? The King of Tibet? What are you talking about?

PANTALONE

Well! The witch Dilnovaz, who was three hundred years old, by virtue of an enchanted ring that she wore on her little finger, changed herself into the form of the Queen, the King of Tibet’s wife, who was a young thing of about twenty, and then she had the strength to drive the true queen from her bed and take her place there as an imposter queen! How long could she keep up this charade? Since this witch was a criminal of the first rank, one day the King caught her in flagrante delicto with a… how can I say?… a thing of the devil. He could not hold back, and he drew his sword. As fate would have it, he cut off her little finger, where she wore the enchanted ring that caused her to look young and beautiful. And so he saw her in her true form as a toothless hag, with a beard and so many wrinkles she looked like a hundred pieces of beef. These are all true facts, Your Highness, I’m not making up fairy tales for children. The King had the grace to seek his wife, who was begging for alms in the streets, singing the famous lines, “I am the wife of a King, and yet I am not. I am a Princess, and yet I am not.” I would wager that Cherestani is also a witch, just like Dilnovaz.  If only we could find her enchanted ring!

FARRUSCAD

Say no more. How can this be true of Cherestani, my wife who has borne me two children? My lost children! My soul! My blood! (Cries.)

PANTALONE

Of course your children have also touched my own heart. What a boy, that Bedredino! So lively and sprited, sure to make a great fortune one day. And the girl, Rezia! It feels like I can see them scampering around, calling me grandfather. No use thinking about it; it feels like a punch in the guts. (Crying) But, Your Highness, we must keep calm and carry on. After all, their mother is a witch. We must rip them out of our hearts.

FARRUSCAD

Ah, Pantalone, I myself was the traitor! I disobeyed my wife. She had forbidden me to try to find out who she was until eight years and one day had passed. I tried to find out before that time. I was disobedient. I curse my curiosity!

PANTALONE

What kind of a misdemeanor is that?  Does a man no longer have the right to know who his wife is? To tell you the truth, I was always suspicious of that prohibition. It made it hard for me to stomach your marriage. Go figure! A marriage to a doe. A deer. A female deer. Good heavens! It’s a wonder you didn’t become a deer. Thank heaven we are free from this witch! Let’s be on our way! Any path will do to get us out of hell! Let’s go find poor old Atalmuc, your father. Who knows how many tears he has shed for you? Who knows if he is even still alive?  Poor wretch! Who knows if he is even still King? And what about your enemy, the wicked king Morgon, who wants to marry Canzade, your sister? But here you are: a king without a kingdom, a beggar, a miserable low-life beggar, husband of a witch, a devil, an ogre, a bolt of lightning that could destroy you.

FARRUSCAD

Quiet, Pantalone. I will die before I abandon this region, I swear it. I have dreamed of seeing my beloved wife. She seems to be just ahead. Humble forgiveness I ask my father if he lives, and if he is dead I ask his pardon. I will wander in these woods forever, calling her name. (He does:) Cherestani!

 

ACT 1, SCENE 4

TOGRUL, TARTAGLIA, and PANTALONE

TARTAGLIA

(Coming out of the background, he sees Pantalone; happily🙂

Mister Togrul, Togrul, Mister Vizier!

TOGRUL

(Coming on stage)

What is happening Tartaglia?

TARTAGLIA

Pantalone, Pantalone, don’t you see him?

TOGRUL

Can this be true? Oh Heavens, I thank you… I thank you. Tartaglia, we have found Farruscad.

PANTALONE

(He sees them from a far distance)

Togrul… Tarta… I am so thirsty… is this a mirage?

TARTAGLIA

(Running)

O my dear Pantalone.

TOGRUL

(He embraces him)

Oh my dear friend, how relieved I am to have found you again!

PANTALONE

Sorry… Tartaglia, excuse me… My heart feels so tight… Oh my God… (He is fainting, TARTAGLIA supports him)

TARTAGLIA

Mister Togrul, the old guy is kicking the bucket, and he still has not told us where the Prince is. Pantalone, tell us, where is Prince Farruscad? And then we will let you die in peace.

TOGRUL

My friend, Pantalone–

PANTALONE

(Coming back to his senses)

My Lord Vizier, how did you get into this desert?

TOGRUL

That is a long story. But first, tell me, where is my king Farruscad? We have no more time to lose.

PANTALONE

He is here, safe and sound, but lost. He got himself into trouble. Big, big trouble, I will tell you everything. But how did you get to this otherworldly desert?

TOGRUL

I got here with the help of our friend Geonca, the magician, accompanied by Tartaglia, and Brighella, my servant. Geonca told me a lot of secrets in order for me to bring back home my prince from this unknown place. Where is he?

PANTALONE

Geonca may know a few parlor tricks, but he will not know any secret to get the Prince out of this misery. Oh vinegar! What else do you want?

TARTAGLIA

Well now tell me, where is he, where is he, you phlegmatic old man, stop exasperating us.

TOGRUL

Every lost moment, Pantalone, has its most cruel consequences.

PANTALONE

Of course, he is not very far away. He strolls around and then comes back to me, but no pleading, or even tears, will bring him out of here, that much is certain. As I already said, he has these deep secrets…

TOGRUL

Never mind. Let’s go, Pantalone, let’s go. (He leaves)

PANTALONE

And he retires directly at the riverbank… Should I go with him? Tell me, Tartaglia, didn’t he say that Brighella is also there? Where is Brighella?

TARTAGLIA

Yes of course, Brighella must be somewhere nearby.

PANTALONE

By the cob without leaves! If the Prince sees him, we are in trouble. What secrets does the Vizier have, dear brother?

TARTAGLIA

 Oh, they are quite unbelievable… just listen. (He whispers in his ear)

 PANTALONE

Leapin’ lizards! Well that gives us something to hope for! I have a plan: Hide in some place nearby. If you see the Prince, don’t let him see you. If you find Brighella, for heaven’s sake, stay perfectly still, if you can, so the Prince cannot see you, and don’t say a word. Then go directly to the riverbank. Oh, let heaven help us, that the Prince has not seen him and that we can drag him out of his misery. (he leaves)

TARTAGLIA

Hey, hey, Pantalone, what about the food? O splendid! They leave me here with the patch on my stomach. It would keep me from being hungry for two months. Now fifty-nine days have passed, and five hours, I will survive a few more hours, but then I will drop dead. Still this patch has great power! How many poor people could use it? Fathers would come back home to find their starving and crying family, and “boom”–a piece of patch on everybody’s tummy, would be the perfect remedy. Think of how many actors, and how many poets could benefit from this—those starving artist types. Well, I’d love to stay and chat, but now I must hide. (He hides)

 

ACT I, SCENE 5

A woman’s voice speaks to Farruscad.

FARRUSCAD

(Entering)

I seek in vain, I waste my breath in vain, in this desert of pain, because of the cruel disdain of my Cherestani, who is deaf to my pain, which is destroying my brain. I was disobedient; but I humbly beg your pardon. Cherestani, my bride, Cherestani, only for a moment let me see you again. Let me imprint one kiss on my beloved children, then take my life, and I will be content.

TARTAGLIA

(In back)

That is Prince Farruscad… without a doubt it is he. Oh, what joy! I cannot hold it back. I want to hug him and squeeze him! (Takes a few joyful steps, then stops) But, Tartaglia, what are you doing? Burst with love, but do not deviate from the orders you were given! (Hides again. A small table full of food appears.)

ZEMINA

A small table of food appears… magically.

FARRUSCAD

(Seeing the table.)

No, I will not eat this food. I am going to die of starvation and sorrow. What tyranny is this, to want me to remain alive, and make me want to die of anguish every moment, and, not dying, suffer a thousand deaths.

TARTAGLIA

(Behind)

That table wasn’t there. Who put it there? I’m dying of hunger. If only I could secretly take some food. (He furtively approaches the table.)

VOICE

(From inside)

Farruscad, take food, and nourish yourself.

TARTAGLIA

(Afraid)

What voice is this? Where the hell have they left me? (Runs and hides on the other side.)

FARRUSCAD

Voice, you are not actually my wife. Cruel Voice, I am resolved to die, if my children, if my beloved wife, I cannot see again.

VOICE

No, you will not die. Disobedient one, learn how much it costs if you do not obey your wife.

FULMINA

The small table of food disappears… magically.

(TARTAGLIA tries again to approach the table to get some food. The table has disappeared. Frightened, Tartaglia flees to hide on the opposite side.)

FARRUSCAD

(To VOICE)

Voice, tell me, what can I do to make peace with Cherestani, whom I have offended? I will do anything. (He pauses to listen to the voice, which does not respond.) Oh, you have stopped answering me. I am unworthy, abandoned, desperate, lonely, here with no companion. Everyone leaves me. And my ministers enjoy themselves with food and wine. Only Farruscad, restless, angry, with a thousand reasons for anxiety, flagellates himself, weighted down. Ah, but it is unfair of me to condemn those who do not feel passion. I only want to die; I don’t want food. (Sits on a stone and puts his face on one hand, in an attitude of sleep, then falls asleep.)

TARTAGLIA

(In the back)

My head is spinning like a wheel of fireworks! I have seen and heard tremendous things! (Notices FARRUSCAD) It seems to me the Prince is sleeping!

 

ACT 1, SCENE 6

Truffaldino and Brighella arrive with food.

TRUFFALDINO and BRIGHELLA with different sorts of food and TARTAGLIA; again, this scene is written to be improvised.

TRUFFALDINO

But my dear Sir, where are Togrul and Tartaglia?

TARTAGLIA

(Desperately indicates a certain side and tells him to be quiet)

SHHHHHHH!

BRIGHELLA

(To TRUFFALDINO)

Look, there’s Tartaglia!

TRUFFALDINO

(Loudly)

I haven’t seen you in eight years!

TARTAGLIA

(Desperately points at the prince who is asleep. Enchanted, they look at each other, and after a short and funny scene with lazzi and silent acrobatics, monosyllables and surprises, they all walk inside to eat.)[8]

 

ACT I, SCENE 7

The Fairies Narrate: Pantalone will enter without his usual mask. He wears the robes of a priest. The whole is designed so that the Priest can transform back into Pantalone. The audience should not recognize Pantalone when he is disguised as the Priest.[9]

 PANTALONE

Farruscad, wake up!

FARRUSCAD

(Getting up)

Alas! Whose voice is this?

PANTALONE

It is the voice of Checsaia, the solitary priest, to whom Heaven has granted the light and the grace to see all, and to succor those who are obedient to Heaven and not to Hell.

FARRUSCAD

Ah, Checsaia, the delight of Heaven! I know well, Checsaia, that you have come here to rescue me. Tell me, holy one, you who sees everything. Have pity, and instruct me where to find my children, and whither has gone Cherestani, my wife.

PANTALONE

Silence, wicked one! Name not she who is despised by Heaven! I come to liberate you from this horrible, filthy sorceress. Yes, I have come here to tear you away from the hand of this barbaric, iniquitous, new Circe. Ah, how! Ah, how much you will have to suffer, foolish boy, awakening blind as her prey, to purge the guilt of your contracted union with her.

FARRUSCAD

What? Checsaia, what are you telling me? No, no, what you are telling me cannot be possible.

PANTALONE

Silence, beast. You are no man. Look around you. All the animals you see, all the trees, all the hard rocks in this valley, once were men like you. The greedy, lustful, wicked witch took them as her lovers. Once they had quenched her insatiable desires, one by one she turned them into beasts, into plants, into stones, and confined them here, where no one hears their moans.

FARRUSCAD

(Scared)

Oh God! What am I hearing now?

PANTALONE

(As before)

Shake it off! Or from now on this will be your destiny. From human form to frightful dragon you will change, with flames shooting out of your eyes, and disgusting, poisonous drool dripping from your hideous mouth, and a trailing, scaly belly. Deformed and dirty, you will travel through the desert, drying up the grass and the land wherever you pass. With hideous screams you will frighten yourself as you bewail your misfortune.

 FARRUSCAD

(More frightened)

O misery! What should I do?

PANTALONE

(As before)

Follow me!

FARRUSCAD

Alas, Checsaia! Must I leave my children behind? No, I don’t have the heart for that.

PANTALONE

Shame on you. Follow me! You must lose the memory of your children, children of a filthy love, children of the abyss. Take my hand. (PANTALONE turns upstage and the FAIRIES remove his priestly robe, put on his mask, and hand him his cane.)

FARRUSCAD

Yes, holy light, I will follow you. (Holds out his hand to the priest. The priest has turned back into PANTALONE, who, without recognizing that he has been transformed, says the following lines in his own voice.)

PANTALONE

This is how I like you. Obedient, Farruscad, you show yourself. Wise reflection and a healthy beverage will make you forget Cherestani and your children, abominable fruit that I will not miss.

FARRUSCAD

(After a gesture of surprise about the transformation)

What? What do I see? (Moving away; Aside:) The person I thought was Checsaia is really… Pantalone?[10]

PANTALONE

(Follows, as above)

What? Fool, do you repent? Have you changed your mind?

FARRUSCAD

Insolence! You dare so much with your Lord?

PANTALONE

(Looking around)

Alas and alack! What did I say? Even with the best secrets, we can’t get him away from this conniving witch.

FARRUSCAD (Transported)

Cherestanì, you still love me! You still want me to wait for you here. But what do I see now? It’s a miracle!

 

ACT 1, SCENE 8

The Fairies Narrate: Togrul is transformed into an old king. She appears as Atalmuc, Farruscad’s father. The order of the previous scene is to be followed. The audience is not supposed to know that the ghost is actually Togrul.

TOGRUL

It is a wonder that this abhorred witch has so much power that any good-hearted intention is in vain and even changes priests into suspect ministers. (FARRUSCAD will be ecstatic and motionless, when he sees the figure of his father.) Nothing is hidden to me. You should know, my son that the person who appeared to you as Pantalone, is in reality Checsaia, the priest. You should not be led astray by his transformation nor by his flight, because what you saw was the work of your witch.

FARRUSCAD

(Confused)

Father… My dear father… Here, in this desert… (He runs to embrace him)

TOGRUL

I am thy father’s spirit. I was your father, now I am his untouchable shadow. (With a weeping voice) This is what the sorrow over a lost son has done to me. I cried for eight years, and finally, my tired body has given into the anxieties, now it is lying mute in a small grave, reduced to cold ashes. This is your fault.

FARRUSCAD

Oh, my dear father! It was the most beautiful woman that mortal eyes ever have looked upon, that held me here. She is my wife. She gave me two children. Father, she disappeared three days ago, and…

TOGRUL

Tell me no more. I should detest you. My son, leave this isolated and wicked place, full of ugliness and vice…

FARRUSCAD

My father… I adored you, if I respect your shadow, this is the proof, that I will give you. I will follow my father, wherever you want to, ridden by regrets, suffering, and confusion. Cherestani, you stay here. Oh God! You know, what strength is necessary to Farruscad in order to do this.

TOGRUL

Son, I am proud of you. I will precede you, follow me. (He starts walking, and changes from Atalmuc to Togrul)

FARRUSCAD

(Surprised)

Togrul, Vizier! Here in this place! Under the guise of my father!

TOGRUL

(In his own voice, arrogant)

Prince, this witch is too powerful, and in vain I am trying to show my loyalty and in vain I suffer.

FARRUSCAD

How decadent and how daring!

TOGRUL

(With grandeur)

Your unhappy father is dead. The kingdom is attacked and ruined by Morgon. The fields, the houses, the holy temples are plundered. Fire and weapons destroy everything. Rapes, weeping, ruins and blood shed, are the trophies of a blinded Prince, who lives buried in indolence by the wicked manipulations of a hideous witch, hated by the eternal gods, filthy, and detested by Heaven.

FARRUSCAD

Do not tell me anymore, Togrul. That is enough, stop.

TOGRUL

(Bold)

What should I be afraid of? Of someone who has become useless to himself? A coward who abandons his people? Leaving his most beloved to barbarous massacres? I alone… I alone had the courage to follow Geonca’s advice, who promised me, that if Farruscad was to reappear in this kingdom, his kingdom would be miraculously saved! I alone… I alone left my beloved, leading a handful of astonished people who are in danger, I alone could save my king and preserve his kingdom. Farruscad, I know how to get you out of here. (Kneels down)

FARRUSCAD

Togrul, speak no more. Leave me. Go back to the tents over there, and rest. It is night already. I want to be alone for a while. Let me think about my misery. I promise to be with you by dawn, and I will follow you, wherever you want to take me.

TOGRUL

Do not let us lose more time.

FARRUSCAD

Let me be. Go and rest. I promise that shortly I will be with you.

TOGRUL

I obey you, Sir. (Leaves)

 

ACT I, SCENE 9

Farruscad soliloquizes

FARRUSCAD

(Alone)

Oh, what torment! Oh, what an agitated mind! So I will have to leave behind my children and my wife. Ah, what wife and what children? It is better for me to escape without any further reflection. I am horrified by a thousand suspicions, a thousand anxieties, a thousand passions of love. Here you were, dear Cherestani, and here I disobeyed you. Now you have disappeared with our children and with our home of delight and joy. Ah, what delight? What joy is there now? Diabolical illusions! My father, my kingdom, my subjects I have lost, my sweet sister, beloved Canzade. I will come to your aid, and I will leave this cold, cruel, hard, infernal place.[11] (In the act of leaving) But what weakness, and what sudden sleep overwhelms me, and grabs hold of me? I cannot go… I cannot stop… I want to…but I can’t! (Sits on a stone) This unexpected, prodigious sleep… wants something from me. (Falls asleep)

 

ACT 1, SCENE 10

The Fairies Narrate: While Farruscad is sleeping, the desert is transformed into a garden. And the rest of the scenery is transformed into a wonderful and shining palace. All this will be accompanied by the sound of a soft symphony that will change into a loud and boisterous music.[12] Hearing all this loud music, Farruscad will wake up astonished.

FARRUSCAD

(Looking around)

I am astonished! What beautiful sound! (He sees the palace; he gets up with excitement) Ah, this is the home of my beloved wife. Oh, sweet dream! If this is a dream, I beg you to never end. (He runs towards the palace, from where CHERESTANI, richly dressed, will come out, with majesty. She will be followed by her ladies in waiting. FARRUSCAD follows them with urgency) Cherestani… Cherestani…

CHERESTANI

(With noble dignified melancholy)

You cruel man! You wanted to leave and forget about your wife.

FARRUSCAD

Please let me explain… my ministers…

CHERESTANI

 Yes, they arrived to drag you away from my love with powerful magic, made useless however by my own powers.

FARRUSCAD

Please let me explain… my father…

CHERESTANI

Yes, he died because of his sorrow over his lost son, Farruscad.

FARRUSCAD

Please let me explain… My kingdom…

CHERESTANI

Is bleeding, tormented by fire and iron. Your sister is in danger. Ah, Farruscad, I love you, you love me. I know how much I love you. I know how deep my sorrows are, that I am the reason for so many massacres. But I have to follow the orders of the stars, of my cruel fate. I am forced to appear as a tyrant because I love you too much. I am condemned to be treated like a witch, a deformed being hiding under false beauty, and this all because of love, the most fervid love that binds me to your person… (She is crying)

FARRUSCAD

Please don’t cry. If you love me so much, why did you leave me?

CHERESTANI

Because you did not obey my orders. You tried to find out who I am.

FARRUSCAD

You love me so much and do not want to forgive me for wanting to know who you are? Whose daughter are you? Where do you come from? Which country? Tell me.

CHERESTANI

You barbarian! I cannot tell you. How hurtful is your curiosity to me! Your love for me is not blind enough. I know that you are suspicious, that any moment you let yourself be influenced by others against me, because you do not know who I am, where I come from, who my parents are. That is what offends my love. You cruel man! Your curiosity, this tyrant of yours, will unfortunately be satisfied by tomorrow morning, since my verdict, that I myself wanted because of my excessive love for Farruscad, tomorrow will be accomplished. I know, that you are not constant enough to endure what you will witness tomorrow at dawn; and Cherestani, your spouse, will die. The new sun will rise blood red, the air will be gloomy, the earth will tremble, there will be no shelter anymore for Farruscad, He will know, who I am, and then, regretful, he will cry, because of his wife’s misery, but he will cry in vain, and I alone will be damned (She is crying)

FARRUSCAD

No, my beloved, do not cry… (To Audience:) Have you ever seen such beauty in such distress?

CHERESTANI

I cannot tell you more. By my excessive love, I have become your torment, and my anguish. Farruscad, I beg you, endure in peace what you will see in the new morning, a morning that will be terrible for me. Do not try to find out the reason for what you will behold. Never ask. Believe me, everything happens for a reason. But most of all, never curse your wife, because of what you will see. Oh, I know too well that I am asking something impossible of you. (She is crying)

FARRUSCAD

(Shaken)

How many secrets, how much terror you are revealing to me! I do not understand any longer… I am desperate.

CHERESTANI

(Taking him with fervor by one hand)

Please tell me, tomorrow at dawn, will you be able to face what happens?

FARRUSCAD

I will face everything, even if I risk my life.

CHERESTANI

Ah, you deceive me once again; I know, you will not be able to face it. Please tell me… tell me… Will you, cruel man, curse me, for what you will witness tomorrow?

FARRUSCAD

I would rather kill myself with a sword.

CHERESTANI

(With urgency)

Swear it… (In agitation) Ah no. Don’t swear it, Farruscad. You would commit perjury, and your oath is fatal to me.

FARRUSCAD

 I swear it by the holiest gods in heaven.

CHERESTANI

(Shaken, moving away from him)

You barbarian! O God! That oath is fatal, and yet, I had to make those lips swear it… The verdict is fulfilled, that horrible fate. Farruscad, my whole life depends now on your constancy and your courage. But I am already lost, your love is not strong enough to avenge me. (Takes him by his hand again) Beloved husband, I must leave you.

FARRUSCAD

No… why, you ungrateful woman?… Please, do not leave me. My children, tell me, where are they?

CHERESTANI

You will see them at the dawn of light. Have no doubt about it. If only you were blind, so you could not see them!

FARRUSCAD

Blind! What!… Oh God!

 

ACT 1, SCENE 11

FARZANA, followed by maidens, FARRUSCAD, CHERESTANI

FARZANA

Cherestaní…

CHERESTANI

Yes, my father is dead. This is the beginning of my misfortunes. Oh, my poor father! (Cries)

FARZANA

Now your name rings out on every shore. The frenzied people cry out, “Cherestani, Cherestani!” They want you for their queen. The Kingdom, the throne, is ready for you. Your troubled subjects are asking for Cherestani. You must delay no longer.

CHERESTANI

Farruscad, I must leave you. You have heard part of who I am, but not all. Unknown to the world is my kingdom; but more than double the size of your kingdom of Teflis. You should rest if you can, until the new day, and then you must have patience, and heart. Ah, your wife’s anguish is far greater than your own. (Enters the palace with Farzana.)

FARRUSCAD

(Following)

I am coming… I am coming… I want to die with you! Do not flee from me! (As he is about to enter the palace there is thunder, lightning, and an earthquake. FULMINA and TUONARA chase him away.) Alas, ministers, listen to these marvels! Listen! (Exit)

 

ACT 1, SCENE 12

Brighella and Truffaldino wake up.

The theatre depicts the usual desert. BRIGHELLA and TRUFFALDINO. Written to be improvised.

TRUFFALDINO

Brighella, I heard a big noise last night, while I was half awake and half asleep. Did you hear anything?

BRIGHELLA

No, the food and my favorite wine made me sleep profoundly; I bless the day I arrived in this place, where there is so much in abundance. You know, even if the food comes from hell, it tastes delicious, so in the end that doesn’t bother me.[13]

TRUFFALDINO

I enjoy this solitude and desert air. Shall we have breakfast together?

BRIGHELLA

Yes, the air is perfect and will help with our digestion.

(They perform a ritual of summoning the food.)

TRUFFALDINO

Are you there, devil? It’s me, Truffaldino. And Brighella. (To BRIGHELLA:) What sort of food should we ask the devil to bring us?

BRIGHELLA

I want a nice snack with gravy, etc.

TRUFFALDINO

Well, I want a snack that reminds me of a Venetian courtesan, etc.

(When they have finished listing food items they want.)

TRUFFALDINO

Hugs and kisses, Tru and Bri. (They exit.)

 

ACT I, SCENE 13

PANTOLONE and TARTAGLIA enter, scared of the earthquake they heard that night.

Scene written to be improvised.

TARTAGLIA

I heard it raining and I stuck my hand outside, and I couldn’t see the raindrops, but the rain was ink!

PANTALONE

How strange and frightening!

TARTAGLIA

All night long I heard owls hooting.

PANTALONE

I heard dogs barking!

TARTAGLIA

Take comfort in the fact that I have ascertained from Togrul the Vizier that, at the rising of the sun, the Prince will be ready to leave this diabolical land.

PANTALONE

Look, in the east! The sun is rising blood red! Oh, I am afraid.

TARTAGLIA

I am afraid, too! Dead trees, mountains that move, rivers flowing with purple water, and all kinds of evil omens… I want to leave!

PANTALONE

So do I, but we cannot abandon the Prince![14]

 

ACT 1, SCENE 14

Farruscad notices that Cherestani’s predictions are coming true.

TOGRUL

Nothing from what you told me so far, my lord, should make you change your mind, on the contrary, it should convince you even more to leave as soon as possible.

FARRUSCAD

Togrul, yes, I am so horribly confused and tormented that I do not have any force. I am bound to imminent misfortunes. I know that I am going to suffer.

“The new sun will rise blood” That is what she said to me, and here is the blood red sun.

“The air will be gloomy, and the earth will tremble.” And the earth did tremble, and the air is dark and gloomy.

“This will no longer be home to Farruscad.”

I know that this will happen too, I will have to follow you.

But most of all… oh what horrible words, they tear my heart apart! Listen!

“You will know who I am, and then, regretful, you will cry in vain your wife’s misery, and I alone will have to suffer and face the consequences.”

TOGRUL

This is black magic, cruelty, deceit, and you must flee it at once. You swore that you would leave, remember? This magician prefers Morgon your enemy. Through the most twisted ways she seeks to ruin your kingdom and your person. Wake up!

PANTALONE

(To TARTAGLIA)

I feel almost compassionate to see this poor boy reduced to being a sort of idiot. Go and help him, since I feel so weak that I cannot do anything else but cry.

TARTAGLIA

(To PANTALONE)

There are three of us here. Truffaldino and Brighella should be nearby. The five of us could tie him down and take him away.

FARRUSCAD

(Talking to himself)

“Farruscad, I beg you to suffer what you will behold in the new morning! Do not try to find out the reason of what you will see! Never ask! Believe me, everything happens for a reason. At the new morning, you will see your children, but oh were you only blind so that you would not see them.” (To the other bystanders) Friends… Who can tell me what I will have to suffer?

 

ACT I, SCENE 15

FULMINA: After lightning is seen

TUONARA: And thunder is heard.

FULMINA AND TUONARA: Bedredino and Rezia arrive

ZEMINA: Borne by the wind.

PANTALONE (Cheerful)

Suffering succotash![15] You raise my spirits, oh my darlings! (Runs to embrace them) Darlings, darlings, darlings… you won’t escape from me again, you little rascals.

FARRUSCAD

Children, my children! Your mother spoke truly when she said I would see you again. (BEDREDINO and REZIA kiss FARRUSCAD’s hands)

TOGRUL

(To TARTAGLIA)

What beautiful children! This is a good omen. I am beside myself.

TARTAGLIA

Well, turn me to stone! How the hell did these little bed-wetters get here?

FARRUSCAD

Rezia, my daughter, tell me, where is your mother?

REZIA

Father, our mother is… Bedredino, do you know where she was?

BEDREDINO

She was, father, in a palace bright and large, crowned Queen, amidst the sound of a thousand musical instruments, and so many shouts of happy voices that it hurt my head. But I could not tell what city it was.

REZIA

We were, father, Bedredino and I, in a beautiful room with a hundred servants. Oh, if only you could have seen!

FARRUSCAD

How did you get here?

BEDREDINO

Rezia, do you know?

REZIA

I know just what you know. I believe it was a wind, that led us here in a heartbeat.

PANTALONE

(To TOGRUL and TARTAGLIA)

Do you hear the stories they make up? A wind, a wind!

FARRUSCAD

What did your mother say to you? What did she say before your departure?

REZIA

Our mother came to visit us in our room. She looked at us carefully, and sighed. She sat down in a chair, and began to cry bitter tears. We ran to her and took her hands and kissed them. She cried even more. One arm she wrapped around Bedredino’s neck, and the other around my own. With abandon she kissed our faces. Oh God, there was so much crying we were all bathed in tears. I was the first, and I cried with her, and then Bedredino cried, too, didn’t you? We were all crying without knowing why.

FARRUSCAD

Oh, Heavens! What is going to happen? What did she say?

BEDREDINO

It’s scary. Go to your father, she said, oh miserable ones! I feel faint. Unhappy children, oh, if only I had not given birth to you! Oh how much you will have to suffer! Oh, how cruel your mother will be toward you! And how cruel she will be toward herself! Go before me! Go to my husband, your father, and I will be there soon. Tell him how much I cried over you. With that said, an unseen force in the air carried us away, and we arrived here full of fright. (Cries)

REZIA

Ah, Bedredino. You are crying, and for your sake I will cry myself. I cannot hold back. Ah, dear father, have pity and save us from the misery that is coming from above.

TOGRUL

Farruscad, my lord, why stay here? What are you waiting for? Save your children, and let us get out of this desert.

FARRUSCAD

We wait here for the end of my disgrace. I do not want to disobey my wife.

PANTALONE

(Resolute)

Tartaglia, lend a hand. You take the boy and I’ll take the girl. Come on, you little dickhead, did you fall asleep or what? (Goes to take REZIA )

(There is another earthquake. CHERESTANI appears, crowned Queen, followed by guards and ladies-in-waiting. All are frightened.)

 

ACT 1, SCENE 16

CHERESTANI, guards and ladies-in-waiting and characters from previous scene.

PANTALONE

Here she is, here she is, for Artemis’ sake, this witch! It is too late now! (He goes back to his place)

TARTAGLIA

Oh, butterscotch! (He goes back to his place)

CHERESTANI

Do not move. You cannot save these children from their mysterious fate, decreed at birth.

TOGRUL

(To himself)

What beauty! What majesty! Now I finally understand my lord.

CHERESTANI

My dear children, my flesh and blood.

REZIA

(Takes her by the hand, imploring)

Mother, what torments you?

CHERESTANI

(Still crying)

My little souls… what I do not want… I want… I have to want it… that, what I should not long for… I cry for you… for me… for your father (she embraces and kisses them, crying)

FARRUSCAD

Cherestani, stop keeping your secrets from me. Why are you crying? What is going to happen to my children? Kill me at least with one blow, but do not torment me any longer.

CHERESTANI

Farruscad, remember what you swore. You are not keeping your word any longer. Never ask the reason of what you will behold. Keep always quiet. Please, never forsake me. If you can keep up with this today, if you will be courageous, believe me, you will be happy. What you will behold arises out of my love for you. I cannot tell you more. Keep quiet. Look. And bear it all. Know that I am torturing myself more than I am torturing you. From here on the torment begins (Crying) how much I suffer! Oh Children! (At the end of the theatre appears an abyss where a big flame is coming out, CHERESTANI turns to the Fairies and she continues to speak with majesty) Fairies, throw my children into these horrible and burning flames, have no pity! (She covers her face so that she does not have to watch)

REZIA

Father, help us!

BEDREDINO

Father, Father… Oh God! (Both children try to escape, the soldiers run after them)

TOGRUL

What cruelty! This should not happen. (He draws his sword, but is suddenly bewitched)

PANTALONE

What you will behold arises out of my love for you! Stop, stop, you shitheads! (He draws his sword, but all of a sudden he is bewitched)

TARTAGLIA

Let me do it, Pantalone. (He is bewitched, like the others. TUONARA and TERRAMOTA re-enter, carrying two puppets that resemble the children. They throw them into the burning abyss. You can hear children shouting and crying from within. The abyss shuts down)

PANTALONE

Oh that witch, that witch! What sort of mother is that? My poor children! (Cries)

TARTAGLIA

Oh archers, archers, you should also roast that mother the witch, fry her, fry her.

TOGRUL

I am beside myself. Please, let us flee.

FARRUSCAD

(To CHERESTANI)

You cruel…

CHERESTANI

Quiet, remember what you swore. I ask forgiveness for my tyranny. The most cruel pain your wife has to face is approaching. Farruscad, leave this place. This place is not your home anymore. Go back to your kingdom. An unknown force will lift you up, do not be afraid. You will have to face terrible miseries, but know that my misfortunes are even bigger. We will meet again, but maybe… oh you barbarian, because of your fault you might behold your wife a last time in her agreeable appearance. You will not have enough love and faith in me, you perjurer. Because of your extreme cowardice I will be for centuries to myself and to all living beings a miserable, horrible and disgusting object. (Lightning and thunder, CHERESTANI disappears with her suite. The others stay, afraid and dumbfounded)

PANTALONE

What more does she want? If we stay here any longer will she burn us too?

TARTAGLIA

If they do not cut my legs, I will certainly not stop running.

TOGRUL

Wake up, my Lord, what are you waiting for?

FARRUSCAD

(Shaking himself)

Oh infernal place! Oh my lost children! Torment, why don’t you kill me? Friends, let us go to the hill. I forsake myself, not my wife. Let us get away from here; help, to the hill, to the hill (He leaves with TOGRUL who follows him)

TARTAGLIA

To the hill. Run, Pantalone, there is the witch (He leaves)

PANTALONE

She will not touch me, you will see. (Leaves)

 

ACT I, SCENE 16

Written to be improvised

TRUFFALDINO and BRIGHELLA come out in horror. They asked for the usual food, but instead they got toads, scorpions, and snakes. They reflect that the country has changed. They do not see their companions. Then the companions are discovered in back. They follow, shouting.[16]

END OF ACT I

 

ACT II, SCENE 1.

The theatre changes, and a room in the palace of Teflis is seen. SMERALDINA and CANZADE are armed and dressed as Amazons. The Fairies act as a parody of a Greek Chorus. They frequently echo statements made by Canzade.

FARZANA

Act II

FAIRIES

Scene 1.

Eight years and half a day have passed

Since Cherestani married Farruscad.

Her husband now returns to his sad kingdom

Teflis, defended by women warriors.

Now enter Smeraldina with a sword.

SMERALDINA

(With a scimitar in her hand)

My heart trembles. I would swear those devils are still chasing me. I am certain I killed at least five hundred. But there is still a sea of them.[17] Oh God, I do not see my mistress appearing. My Canzade, adored Princess! Ah, you always want to share in the action. Always proud, always a life full of peril. Imagine, with only a thousand soldiers, to take the field of battle against a hundred thousand Moorish soldiers, who have no mercy!  Who knows what tragedy has befallen the poor thing! If Morgone has made her prisoner, then farewell Canzade! He is such a dreadful giant that his head would break a pillar! Just imagine, if only Canzade is still alive!
ACT II, SCENE 2

FAIRIES

Act II, scene 2. Canzade is still alive.

CANZADE

(With a scimitar in her hand)

Oh Smeraldina, we are lost.

SMERALDINA

Oh my dear child… Thank heavens…! How did you save yourself? What happened on the battlefield? Where did you run off?

CANZADE

Rage, furor, despair were driving me. So hard did I spur my horse that I got to the center of the troops of the enemy. I made my way with my sword, throwing back to earth corpses of horses and knights, dead and wounded. Here, blinded by rage with a disdainful voice, I called the name of the barbaric Morgon, with the sole desire to die or to cut off his horrible head, he who is the source of every evil. I saw the giant, and with disdain I hit him in his flanks and in the front. This ferocious enemy tried in vain to hit me with his cudgel that he was desperately swinging through the air. My horse jumped quickly in the air, and he could not hit me. He was already roaring like a lion, wounded, bloody, enraged. When all of a sudden a torrent of his soldiers arrived, and I was surrounded by so many swords and arrows that I thought I would die. Morgon, who loves me, even though he was wounded and furious, was threatening everyone who wanted to hurt me. He wanted me alive as his prisoner. Then I realized that I had acted madly and without reason, and that everything was in vain. I spurred my horse, and broke through insurmountable circles of enemies. I arrived to the bridge, squeezing my spurs and slashing my sword. Uncountable storms of enemies arrived in chaos at the bridge. I felt my horse, wounded, collapse under me. In despair I lifted my sword against the bridge and with several strokes, I cut through a strong chain and watched my enemies sink into the river.

SMERALDINA

You make me tremble out of fear. I wanted to save my life, and I cried here by myself, as if I was dead. Thank heavens you are still alive.

CANZADE

You will not see me alive for very long. The angry Morgon prepares the battlefield, and wants to take the city by today. There is no hope, we will not be able to defend ourselves. My lover, Togrul, has vanished. My brother is probably already dead. Soon Canzade will be the prey of the barbaric, horrible and ferocious Morgon. But before he can take me, I will kill myself with this scimitar.

SMERALDINA

(Looking)

My lady… Ah what do I see! Here is your brother. Here is the vizier Togrul. Hurray, hurray.

 

ACT II, SCENE 3

FARRUSCAD and TOGRUL, along with the characters from the previous scene.

CANZADE

Farruscad, Vizier, what heavenly hand has brought you here? Ah, your arrival is late! (Cries)

TOGRUL

Rejoice, Princess.

FARRUSCAD

Sister, do not add to my pain the remorse caused by your tears. Ah, this palace… Everything awakens the memory of my father, who died because of me. Everything and everyone reproaches me. I feel myself dying. (Cries)

SMERALDINA

My Lord Togrul: What news of Tartaglia? Of Brighella? Old Pantalone, and Truffaldino, are they dead?

TOGRUL

No, they are alive, in different rooms, telling the ministers about the news of their trips.

SMERALDINA

Oh, I want to hear them, too! Truffaldino lives! What a joyous occasion!

TOGRUL

Farruscad, Princess, we must not waste time on vain lamentations. We have problems to solve.[18]

FARRUSCAD

Tell me, my sister, beloved Canzade, tell me in what state is the city. Tell me the story.

CANZADE

The city is lost. Already the final assault of ferocious Morgon is approaching. There is no more defense. Almost all the soldiers are dead. After the cruel siege, half of the languishing citizens were already dead of starvation and hunger. Lacking food, our horses became food, and our dogs and domestic animals became food. What more? I am horrified. The dead became food to the living and father ate son, and son ate father, and their wives became gluttonous and with unholy jaws of hunger, devoured this abominable meal with pride. Weeping, wailing, and cursing through desolate houses, and through the streets, could be heard to fall on your head. Count down your life, and my life, and a few of your faithful, who will continue to breathe for a little while longer, and then all is lost.

TOGRUL

Farruscad, what did I tell you?

FARRUSCAD

Ah, quiet. Do not add to my anguish. I feel that I will destroy myself. My loyal subjects, my father, ask no other vengeance from Heaven. I am punished. (Cries)

CANZADE

Brother, I will not suffer to see you desperate and afflicted. We have one last hope. The minister Badur promised he would rescue the city. By an unknown route of many miles, he went to provide food for the oppressed city. Maybe these provisions will reach the citizens. Then with your strength, and with my beloved Togrul, we can repel these Moors. May Badur return soon! By Heaven, I hope he arrives with the provisions he is carrying.

TOGRUL

I am no longer in despair. This is what Geonca the Necromancer promised me: that upon the arrival of Farruscad in the kingdom, the kingdom would be saved in some mysterious way. This is the mysterious way!

FARRUSCAD

(Looking inside)

Isn’t that Badur? I recognize him. Badur, tell us, are we dead or alive?

 

ACT II, SCENE 4

BADUR, two soldiers and characters from the previous scene. The two soldiers are carrying bottles of liquor.[19]

BADUR

(Surprised)

You my lord, here!

FARRUSCAD

Yes, and do not ask further. Tell me rather if you bring food or if I have to kill myself. Tell me… Tell me…

BADUR

 I can only tell you news of death and of unheard stories.

CANZADE

Alas! What will happen to us! Tell me, did you not bring any food to Teflis?

BADUR

I was carrying it, but, O heavens, what did I see! It seems impossible what happened to me.

TOGRUL

Tell us, what are you waiting for?

FARRUSCAD

Come on, tell us! And bring my miserable life to an end.

BADUR

I was bringing to Teflis wagonloads of meat, crops and wine. I was stealthily walking along the river Kura, when I was attacked by a huge troop of soldiers. They were not Morgon’s men, but barbaric people that I did not know, they were wearing fancy clothes made of gold and splendid jewels, and at their head was a queen that was more beautiful than any other woman. She was shouting to her men: “My soldiers, destroy all the food and everybody who resists my orders.” They attacked us in a heartbeat, and the few men I had could provide little defense. This cruel woman had all the meat, crops, wine, bread, and everything that I had brought to the port with such difficulties, she had everything thrown into the river. Then she stepped in front of me, and with disdain she said: Go to Farruscad, my spouse, and tell him, that this is my work. And all of a sudden she disappeared with all her men. I had a hundred soldiers and 98 of them were violently killed. With these two I could barely escape, and out of all the food I had, my Lord, I could only save these liquors (shows the bottles) that might give you some courage, all the rest is lost.

TOGRUL

Barbaric sorceress! She took every hope to save our lives and our kingdom. Ah, I told you that this infamous witch was helping king Morgon with her magic and that all these secrets had the goal of taking away your father, your reign, your subjects, any refuge, and in the end your life.

CANZADE

What a wife! … What barbaric behavior! Ah, we are already dead, my brother.

FARRUSCAD

(In despair)

Quiet you all. Do not torment me. Only now I begin to see and it is too late; there is no escape left. This heartless woman sent me here, and she wanted me to see with my own eyes my misery and that I should die out of anger and of despair. I am blind with rage. I lost my father… I lost my children… And in what a horrible way! I lost my kingdom, my life, and because of my fault, innocent people are dying. Heavens… How!… How can you tolerate so many crimes? “And suffer, and be quiet, and never forsake me”? What more shall I suffer, you perverse woman? Let the place where I saw you first be forsaken, I forsake you, you infernal and infamous bitch!

 

ACT II, SCENE 5

After flashes of lightning, and thunder, and an earthquake, CHERESTANI appears.

CHERESTANI

(Furious)

Wicked one! Oh God, what have you done? I am lost! (Cries)

CANZADE

What do I see?

TOGRUL

(To CANZADE)

This is the wicked witch, your brother’s bride, the cause of all our miseries.

BADUR

My Lord, this is the one who attacked me.

FARRUSCAD

(Impetuously)

Give me back my father, give me back my kingdom, give me back my children, you evil witch; make restitution for my slaughtered subjects. Your spells, cruel one, have taken everything away from me.

CHERESTANI

Liar! Ingrate! All you had to do was suffer my betrayal, and then everything would be over and you would be happy. Know, cruel one…Oh, God! Give me your strength, so that I can explain myself. Give me one moment of time to declare the secrets I kept silent, to declare my innocence. Let not this memorable love be taken from me without an explanation. And then, forsaking myself, I yield to my fate. (Cries)

FARRUSCAD

 Typical mystery; wicked one, what will you say?

CHERESTANI

Know, traitor, that I was born of a mortal man and an immortal fairy. I was born to be immortal for always, to be a Fairy Queen. Eldorado is my happy kingdom, unknown to the world. But I was not comfortable being a Fairy; and the law treated me harshly. We fairies are sometimes changed into animals for a time, never to die, but always subject to the cruel misfortunes of mortals below, until the end of centuries, until infinity. I fell in love with you. Fatal moment! I accepted you as my husband. A desire welled up in me to become mortal, like you, to accept the same fate as you, and to die with you, to be able to follow you even into death. I asked for this blessing from the King, our Monarch.  Angry, cursing, he granted my desire, but with a harsh decree: “Go,” he said to me, “You are mortal, if for eight years and one day, your husband does not forsake you. But I condemn you to do on that last day such apparently atrocious deeds that Farruscad’s curse is put to the test. If he curses you, you will be covered with horrid scales, and your body will become a monstrous serpent. In that state you will be locked for two hundred years…” You barbarian! You traitor! You cursed me. I feel the change coming upon me. We will not meet again.

FARRUSCAD

I have lost my kingdom! I am near death. This is only apparently atrocious?

CHERESTANI

Fear not for your kingdom, or for your life. I had reasons for what I did, and I told you so, but I spoke in vain. (Pointing out BADUR) This one is a traitor. The supplies were poisoned. He is in league with your besieging enemy. I destroyed the supplies. Now you know the reason.

BADUR

(Aside)

Ah, I am lost. (To CHERESTANI) Wicked sorceress! (To FARRUSCAD) My Lord, no, it isn’t true!

CHERESTANI

Shut up, traitor. Drink up some of those leftovers you were bringing, villain. We will see the truth.

BADUR

(Desperate)

My Lord… Unfortunately, it is true… I am discovered.[20] From that poison… from ignominious death… I know how to kill myself with my own hand![21] (Draws a dagger; stabs himself, and falls among the scenery)

CANZADE

What things I see! Togrul, tell me…[22]

TOGRUL

I am beside myself. Let us wait and see what happens next.

FARRUSCAD

(Enraged)

Ah, I would not… Togrul, Canzade, I’m trembling… Tell me, Cherestani, was the burning of our children an apparition, or was it true?

CHERESTANI

The children had their birth purged from them in the glowing flames you saw, to make them entirely yours, so that they can share your mortal fate. (Looks inside.) Here are your children, made mortal, and your own. Coward! I alone must now miserably abandon you, to take the shape of a horrible serpent, to lose my children, and to no longer be yours. (Cries bitterly)

 

ACT II, SCENE 6

BEDREDINO, REZIA, accompanied by two soldiers, and characters from previous scene

FARRUSCAD

(Very emotional)

Children… My children… Ah, please do not let the rest of your predictions come true… Cherestani… my wife… Oh what misery awaits me!

CANZADE

Vizier!

TOGRUL

 Canzade!

CHERESTANI

(Very agitated)

Here, I feel… Oh Heavens! Cruel! I feel… Cold ice streaming though my bones… Oh god… I am changing… Oh what disgust! Oh what horror! What punishment… Farruscad, I am leaving you. You could still free me today. Ah, but I do not dare to hope… You would need too much courage. No, do not risk your life for me. Your life is dear to me even though you are far away. Today I can still do some wonders. And these will be for you and your kingdom. Accept the last signs of my love for you. Oh God… Vizier… Canzade… Children… hide… Oh, do not watch your mother’s misery… run away. I am ashamed, I do not want you to watch it. (To FARRUSCAD) You, cruel one, you should be the only one to watch, you were the only one who wanted his wife to become a serpent… Here she is a serpent… watch and be happy. (She transforms into a horrible and long serpent from the neck downwards to the rest of her body and falls to the ground)

BEDREDINO

Mother, oh my mother…

REZIA

Where is my mother?

FARRUSCAD

Stop… Oh God!… Forgive me… oh my wife (He runs to embrace her)

CHERESTANI

I am not your wife any longer. Run away, you perjurer.[23] (CHERESTANI disappears.)

CANZADE

Brother…

TOGRUL

My Lord…

BEDREDINO

My father…

REZIA

Dear father…

FARRUSCAD

(In despair)

Get away from me. Nobody should come close to a desperate man. Earth, you are hiding my beloved wife, receive Farruscad, the unfaithful perjurer. (He leaves furious)

CANZADE

(Takes the children by their hands)

Vizier, my niece and nephew, let us follow your father. (They leave)

 

ACT II, SCENE 7

Farruscad flees from Pantalone

FARRUSCAD

(Enters, fleeing those who want to comfort him)

PANTALONE

Majesty, Heaven knows how much remorse, how many heart palpitations I am feeling. Yes, you were right, you were right. But what is there to do? King Morgon has launched a fierce attack on the city. Togrul and your sister, poor dears, are planning the defense, but sorrowful and dejected because they do not see you. Be courageous, show yourself on the city walls! And then you will see how much courage would swell up in the chests of your servants at your appearance! One will be worth a hundred, and we will hunt down these Moorish shitheads. And we will give that gentleman such a baroque battle, that he will flee in fright like a flock of seagulls.

 

ACT II, SCENE 8

Tartaglia brings good news

TARTAGLIA

(Entering, happy)

Your majesty, your majesty, a wonder, a wonder has happened! All of a sudden, without knowing how, all the shops, all the restaurants, all the butchers’ shops of the city were full of meat, bread, wine, oil, of soups, of delicious food, cheese, fruit, and even…tea and crumpets![24]

PANTALONE

Is this true, Tartaglia?

TARTAGLIA

Well, of course! I would not tell our Majesty your sorts of fables and fairy tales.

FARRUSCAD

That just increases my sorrow and my remorse. Here I realize now the effect of her last words that she spoke in her extreme misery. “I still can accomplish a few miracles today. These I will do for your sake and for your kingdom. Accept these last signs of my love. Oh God!” What cruel memory…! Get away… Go. I do not want to see anybody anymore. And most of all I hate myself.

TARTAGLIA

(Whispering to PANTALONE)

Pantalone, distance will heal every deep wound. He will get over it. Let’s not leave the princess and Togrul by themselves. They are both getting ready to defend the city.

PANTALONE

Indeed, it is a sign of cowardice to stay here and scratch one’s belly while all the others are getting armed. No, war is a good action for a Venetian. We will send for some servants that will watch over him, because I do not want anything to happen to him, and let us cut off some 50 heads of these clownish Moors. We are not a lot, are we, Tartaglia?

TARTAGLIA

Oh, just ten against ten thousand, but never mind, I feel so strong and superior. It is better to die in battle, than to die of hunger. (They leave)

 

ACT II, SCENE 9

Farzana convinces Farruscad to go to his demise.

FARRUSCAD

(To himself)

She also said to me: “You could liberate me even today. Oh, I dare not hope. You lack the courage. No, do not risk your life for me. This life of yours is so dear to me even when you are so far away from me.” Speaking gently, she tore up my heart. Cherestani, Cherestani, how can I save you? I care not for this life. And much sweeter is death, than this life. Ah, if you can, if you do not despise me, give me a sign. Show me how to leave this world and come to your rescue, or die. Have mercy on me! (Cries)

FARZANA

(To herself)

Leading him to death means there is no more danger, that he has no more chance to save her. His death will bring her back to us. Now that everyone else is occupied with the battle, and he is alone here, I can lead him unseen to certain death. (Comes forward) You, free your wife? You don’t have the heart. You’re too much of a coward.

FARRUSCAD

Farzana!… I know you as a companion to my wife. Ah, where is she now? Tell me, what must I do to liberate her?

FARZANA

You, liberate her? Inconstant man, soft as a woman. So much beauty, so many blessings lost because of cowardice! You have the heart to release her? More is needed than your arm and your heart to release her.

FARRUSCAD

Do not insult me further. Put me to the test! I run willingly to death. What are we waiting for?

FARZANA

Give me your hand.

FARRUSCAD

Here is my hand. Wherever you want, take me. I shall go with you. (Gives his right hand to FARZANA, and with a prodigious flash of light they both disappear)

 

ACT II, SCENE 10

Pantalone and Tartaglia bring amazing news.

PANTALONE

Majesty… Majesty, a miracle… we won,[25] we are happy… But where is he?

TARTAGLIA

He should be here. Here is where we left him not long ago.

PANTALONE

Ah, didn’t I tell you, that we should not leave him by himself? Now that everybody is happy, we will see, Tartaglia, that a big disgrace is about to happen. He was outside of himself, so in love with his serpent wife. I am sure he did such stupid bestiality to kill himself. I am positive.

TARTAGLIA

What bestiality? Me too, I have a serpent wife too, and I am suffering.

PANTALONE

Tartaglia, this is not the time to make stupid jokes.

TARTAGLIA

Let’s go and look for him, Pantalone. This palace is more than a mile long. He must be hiding in one of these rooms in the south wing from where the hot and dry winds of Africa blow. (Leaves)

PANTALONE

Well, let us walk to where the south wind blows, but I myself am rather afraid that he went with his head downwards out of a window eastwards where the winds from the Orient blow. (Leaves)

 

ACT II, SCENE 11

Truffaldino tries to sell newspapers

TRUFFALDINO enters wearing a short cloak and a raggedy hat, with a stack of printed newspapers in his hand; followed by BRIGHELLA. Scene written to be partially improvised.

TRUFFALDINO

(Imitating newspaper vendors)

Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Up-to-the-minute, exclusive, and authentic stories! See the latest news of the bloody combat, today the [18th of March] in our beloved city of Teflis. Hear how the great giant Morgon stormed with two million Moors into the city of Teflis! Hear, how bravely and valiantly the city, and the fortress, with only four hundred soldiers, defended itself, and the great slaughter that was made of those barbarian dogs. Hear how the city was in terrible danger, and the fortress as well. Hear, how unexpectedly and prodigiously, with the permission of Heaven, the river flooded, the River Kura, and inundated the camp of the barbarian dogs! Hear about the great slaughter, how it has spared no one, along with a count of the numbers of the dead. Be one of the first to read the true, authentic, and exclusive story for the low, low price of one penny! Extra! Extra!

BRIGHELLA

(Interrupts)

Will you go scream at the palace?

TRUFFALDINO

(Continuing sales pitch)

News of the battle and the miraculous victory!

BRIGHELLA

How can you possibly write down and print up an event that just happened, not even an hour ago?

TRUFFALDINO

When it comes to making money, writers and printers are like lightning.[26]

BRIGHELLA

In this city, you will only sell a few copies. People here already know about the success! I recommend you go to Venice and shout your head off at everyone who passes by. That will sell more copies.

TRUFFALDINO

No, to sell a newspaper in Venice I would have to make the report thirty times more exciting than the double of this success.

BRIGHELLA

You are crazy. Do you know where the Prince is?

 

ACT II, SCENE 12

Add Tartaglia and Pantalone.

TARTAGLIA and PANTALONE enter, desperate.

PANTALONE

Have you seen the Prince?

TARTAGLIA

We can’t find the Prince.

BRIGHELLA

I don’t know anything. I was just asking Truffaldino.

TRUFFALDINO

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

(They make a scene of confusion and clamor.)[27]

 

ACT II, SCENE 13

CANZADE, TOGRUL, SMERELDINA and previous characters

CANZADE

Where is my brother?

TARTAGLIA

Dear Princess, a big disgrace has happened! He was in this very room. We went to the battle. And he was gone. We looked for him in the South wing, but he is not there.

PANTALONE

This is how things are. He was desperate, and the desperate ones always…play nasty tricks on people.

CANZADE

What are you telling me? Oh, how unhappy I am!

TOGRUL

What horrible news!

SMERALDINA

Oh God!

 

ACT II, SCENE 14

GEONCA’S Voice and Previous Characters

VOICE OF GEONCA

You miserable ones, what are you waiting for? Listen to Geonca’s voice and obey. Togrul, Canzade, servants, Farruscad is near the mountain. A fairy and bitter enemy dragged him there to kill him. Go there with his children, try to move him, so that he stops being proud and comes back to his senses. Run, run to rescue him. It might already be too late to help him. With the help of my voice I will try to rescue the Prince before you even get there.

CANZADE

Vizier, did you hear that?

TOGRUL

Let us go there right away and do as we were told. (He leaves with CANZADE)

SMERALDINA

I run to fetch his children! I am coming, too. (Leaves)

PANTALONE

For heaven’s sake, let us help this man, whose marriage is a catastrophe! Servants, Tartaglia, come with me! (Leaves)

TARTAGLIA

I hope that you are following me, because I cannot stand your foolish faults, you old and snotty man. (Leaves)

BRIGHELLA

So, there is no happy end in sight. Let us go and see how this terrible catastrophe comes to an end. (Leaves)

TRUFFALDINO

He who leaves the borders of his country, will witness things beyond belief. Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Up-to-the-minute, exclusive, and authentic stories! (Leaves, continuing his sales pitch.)

 

ACT II, SCENE 15

FARRUSCAD and FARZANA

FULMINA Narrates: The scene changes to an open field. We see a mountain and at the foot of the mountain is a tomb; And next to the tomb, there is a column; and attached to the column is a drum, or similar percussion instrument.

TUONARA Narrates: Farruscad prepares to fight.

FARZANA

This is the spot. Now we will see how much your tongue resembles the feelings in your heart.

FARRUSCAD

To what end do you continue to harass a desperate man? I would like to have a thousand wives, to sacrifice them all for my wife. But what must I do in this field? I see only a solitary tomb. Must I battle with the dead? Ah, tell me how I can die; keep me no longer, Farzana, in hell.

FARZANA

(Aside)

Let us not delay his destruction. (To FARRUSCAD) If you so crave death, take your sword and beat the gong. At its rumble you will be comforted. This life of yours matters little, but if you are victorious, she will be released, mortal, and yours.

FARRUSCAD

All I must do is beat the gong! Well then, what more do I await? It beats, and Death comes. (He beats the gong with the end of his sword; the rumble of the gong is accompanied by a rumble of thunder and a blaze of lightning. The stage goes dark. FARRUSCAD continues.) Let the earth tremble! Let the sun go dark! Let lightning bolts from heaven hunt me down! I will not fear!

 

ACT II, SCENE 16

Farruscad fights a Bull[28]

Enter a raging bull, which spews fire from its mouth, horns, and tail, and which attacks FARRUSCAD.

FARRUSCAD

Proud animal, if you think I am frightened of you, you are greatly deceived. (The scene lights up, and a long battle follows. The flaming bull charges FARRUSCAD) Ah, the cruel beast is impenetrable!

VOICE OF GEONCA

Fear not, Farruscad, and take heart! You must try to sever the animal’s right horn, or the fighting of your sword is in vain.

FARRUSCAD

Friendly voice, I thank you, and I will obey your advice. (He fights with the animal, severing the right horn; the Bull bellows and falls and disappears.) Have I won, or is there more to do? Merciful voice, tell me, who are you? And tell me, to free my wife, what else must I do?

VOICE

I am Geonca. There is still more to do to achieve victory. Have courage. Know that, if you lose courage, to inevitable Death you will be subject. Take heart; resist; defend your life.

 

ACT II, SCENE 17

FARANZA and FARRUSCAD

FARZANA

(Entering the scene)

What happened? Who is helping him?

FARRUSCAD

Farzana, now tell me, what else is there to do for me, so that I can see my wife Cherestani in her former state and embrace her again?

FARZANA

Give up on that vain hope of yours. Nothing have you achieved so far. Beat the drum again and defeat the object that will come out of it. And still little will you have achieved, if you win the battle. You young and petty man, you will not have the courage to bring this challenge to an end. (Exits)

FARRUSCAD

If courage is all I need, she will be disappointed. May all the infernal creatures come out. (He runs to the drum and beats it again. The stage gets dark and there is an earthquake) Earth, go and tremble. Heaven, continue to thunder. I will not leave this place. (The stage gets light again)

 

ACT II, SCENE 18

Farruscad fights a Giant.[29]

GIANT

You will not escape, No, because you will leave your head on this field, and next to your head will lie your body, it will be a feast for the crows and the wild animals. (He gets ready to fight)

FARRUSCAD

It is more likely that this will happen to you, cruel and deformed man, you are a bigger feast for the crows than me. Heaven, help me. (They fight, after various blows FARRUSCAD cuts off one of the giant’s arms, the arm falls to the ground together with his sword. FARRUSCAD continues) Go on and fight, if you can. Save your life, I want nothing else from you. (The giant bends down and picks up his arm, he puts it back onto its place, and gets ready to fight again)

GIANT

You want nothing else? Well, I want to fight against you. (He violently attacks FARRUSCAD)

FARRUSCAD

This is absolutely incredible! But I will not lose courage. (They fight, after various blows he cuts off one of the giant’s legs)

GIANT

Oh miserable me! You won… I am dying.

FARRUSCAD

Go and die, you cruel man, you are bleeding dry. (The giant picks up his leg and puts it back onto its place)

GIANT

You poor little fool! You will die! You will die! You are so young and foolish. You will die. (He gets ready to fight)

FARRUSCAD

What strange adventure is this! Oh Geonca, how can I save myself and win? Good Lord, he is not answering me. Strength do not leave me, otherwise I am lost. (The violent battle continues) This is your end, you horrible and diabolical monster, go into the abyss, where you came from. (The giant is fumbling for his head and puts it back on his neck)

GIANT

(Laughing)

Ha ha ha ha, you fool, you beheaded me at last!

FARRUSCAD

Oh miserable me! What will I do? Geonca… my friend, strength is lacking, and in the end I will lose. (He gets ready for another fight)

VOICE OF GEONCA

If you can, cut off his head.

FARRUSCAD

I just did!

VOICE OF GEONCA

Cut off his left ear and you will be free.

GIANT

(Attacking FARRUSCAD)

Die, you buffoon, it is time you die.

FARRUSCAD

Strength and courage, do as Geonca has told you. Resist the beast. (He throws away his shield and desperately fights with his sword in both hands. He beheads the giant again, and picks up his head. While FARRUSCAD tries to cut off his left ear, the GIANT is fumbling on the ground and looking for it. FARRUSCAD cuts off the ear and the giant’s body falls to the ground)

FARRUSCAD

(Throwing away the head)

Put it on again, if you can and come back to life. How grateful I am, Geonca, for your help! I certainly would have died if it was not for you.[30]

 

ACT II, SCENE 19

FARANZA, FARRUSCAD and the VOICE OF GEONCA

FARZANA

(Aside)

He is still alive! And the Giant is vanquished? Who can be helping him? Ah, surely Geonca is behind this. Zemina was right when she warned me to fear him. My beloved Cherestani, we will lose you forever.  Farruscad will dissolve your immortality, and make you his own. I will try to ward him off.

FARRUSCAD

Now then, Farzana, where is Cherestani? What more must I do?

FARZANA

Worthy champion, how much pity I feel for you! Ah, Farruscad, give up on completing this quest! What you have done so far is almost nothing. Believe in my most sincere words: Leave this place and save yourself.

FARRUSCAD

What? Leave this place? My commitment is to let go of my life, or to free my wife from her punishment.

You keep your promise. Either death shall have me, or my wife shall be freed. What is left for me to achieve this?

FARZANA

The remaining task is too great for you. Leave; that is enough. Do not wish to try your hand at something so tremendous.

FARRUSCAD

Farzana, these words scatter to the wind. I want to finish this quest, or die here.

FARZANA

Bold one, on point. Now you will not need your weapons, but we will see if you are able to win and get what you want… Place your hand on this tomb (Indicates to tomb at the back of the stage). Solemnly swear that you will kiss with your mouth whatever object appears at the opening of the tomb.

FARRUSCAD

(Runs, and with noble frankness, places his hand on the tomb)

Here is my hand. I solemnly swear that with my lips I will kiss on the mouth any object that comes out of the tomb.

FARZANA

Fool! Strike the gong once more.

FARRUSCAD

Do you want nothing more? Here I strike the gong. (Strikes it; the stage goes dark. The lid of the tomb opens. It lights up the stage.)

FARZANA

Approach the tomb! And with your lips imprint upon the object you see, a kiss on the mouth.

FARRUSCAD

Must I be afraid to liberate my wife by placing my lips to the sucking maw of a cold corpse? It takes more than that to frighten a desperate lover! This task is a weak one. You shall see. (Runs to the tomb and positions his face to give the promised kiss. From the tomb emerges, at the level of his chest, a snake with an ugly head. The snake opens its mouth, showing fangs, and approaches the face of FARRUSCAD, who jumps back in fright and draws his sword) Alas! Miserable me! What treachery! (Makes as if to harm the snake; the snake retreats into the tomb)

FARZANA

Wicked one, what are you doing? Before you had to conquer with the sword, and you did. But now the battle must be fought with kisses. Do you lack heart? Didn’t I tell you that the last task would be the most difficult one? Follow your promise, if it gives you courage. (Aside) Fear, take hold of him, so that he will not have the heart.

FARRUSCAD

Yes, I have the heart. Disgust, abandon me! (Runs again to the tomb with resolution; approaches with his face; the snake comes out of the aperture, opening its horrible mouth. FARRUSCAD recoils; the serpent hides. FARRUSCAD tries to kiss the snake, but increasingly chattering teeth make him recoil) Oh, God! What frost stops me cold? Ah, what a diabolical adventure! Wait, wasn’t my wife turned into a snake? Could this vile, horrible monster be Cherestani? (Approaches, and stops) But perhaps this Fairy deceives me, and wants me to expose my head to these horrible jaws, so that it will be crushed, and after so many battles won, I run defenseless into the arms of Death. What new form of battle is this? (Remains in thought.)

FARZANA

(Aside)

Fear, follow and oppress him, so that he will leave this place and fail in this task.

FARRUSCAD

(Resolute)

Well, let us die after all. Perhaps such a kiss, which I abhor, will break the spell. (Approaches the tomb. The serpent fiercely approaches his face. FARRUSCAD recedes; the serpent hides.) Oh, cruel luck, you could not expose me to a more barbaric ordeal! Oh, voice of Geonca, why are you silent? Why will you not help me in this extremity? Ah, this sword at last, which has conquered everything, let it now break even the tomb and kill the snake. (Moves to hit the tomb)

 VOICE

Stop, careless one, or weep forever. Farzana, now you have no hope of keeping Cherestani. Go to your Congress; tell them that she is mortal, and that Farruscad has rescued her. Son, do not be disgusted; kiss the serpent. The serpent is your wife, kiss her on the mouth. Do not fear its bite; this is the spell. Remember me; the deed is done.

FARZANA

(Desperate)

Ah, cruel fate! Ah, cursed voice! My companions, Cherestani is lost. (Runs off crying, along with sounds of women ululating.)

FARRUSCAD

Close your eyes. Conquer your disgust. Sweet Cherestani, I am no longer afraid. In vain my dear, you try to scare me. (Approaches the tomb impetuously. The serpent comes out, as before. After some gestures of disgust and resolution, FARRUSCAD kisses the snake. The stage goes dark, followed by the usual lightning, and thunder, and earthquake. The tomb changes into a magnificent triumphal chariot, on which is seen CHERESTANI, dressed richly, as a Queen. Lights up.)

 

ACT II, SCENE 2O

CHERESTANI and FARRUSCAD

She embraces FARRUSCAD

CHERESTANI

Farruscad, my husband, I am so happy! And so grateful!

FARRUSCAD

My darling, now I will never lose you again. I have paid the price for my mistakes.

 

FINAL SCENE

CANZADE, REZIA, BEDREDINO, TOGRUL, PANTALONE, TARTAGLIA, BRIGHELLA, TRUFFALDINO, SMERALDINA, and the characters from the previous scene

CANZADE

Here we are, my brother! We come to your defense. But what do I see!

FARRUSCAD

This is my bride. My sister, embrace your sister-in-law. My children… my children… I am so happy! I want you to share my happiness with me today. (Everybody embraces everybody with delight and astonishment)

TOGRUL

My lord, tell me…

FARRUSCAD

No, this is not the right moment. I will tell you everything later. Cherestani, I am so happy that I am beside myself. You will decide on our future, and everybody will be happy and live happily ever after.

CHERESTANI

Yes, I will take care of everything. You will come with me, and our children, and the Fairies to the vast kingdom of Eldorado, that is hidden to the rest of the world, and there you will be king. Togrul, you will marry Canzade, and rule Teflis. Tartaglia and Pantalone will come with us. Truffaldino will marry Smeraldina. Brighella will marry someone else and he will receive rich gifts and treasures.

FARZANA

(Entering)[31]

But who will tell me how you can expose these noble souls to such boring fairy tales for little children?

BADUR

Yeah?

CHERESTANI

Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Cherestani will restore amends.[32]

FAIRIES

And they lived happily ever after.

TERRAMOTA

Even the villains?

FAIRIES

Even the villains.

ALL

The end.

End of Play

[1] John Louis DiGaetani, Carlo Gozzi: Translations of The Love of Three Oranges, Turandot, and The Snake Lady. (New York: Greenwood Press, 1988); Carlo Gozzi, Five Tales for the Theatre, ed. and trans. Albert Bermel and Ted Emery (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989).

[2] Gianfranco Folena, Vocabolario del Veneziano di Carlo Goldoni (Roma: Istituto della Enciclopedia italiana, 1993).

[3] This idea has been discussed previously in The Mercurian, notably in Vol. 2, no. 2 and in the discussions from the Theatrical Translation as Creative Process Conference.

[4] Gozzi’s play is in three acts. It made sense to condense it to two in order to have only one intermission. In Gozzi’s original, Act I ends after scene 11, so Act II would begin with Brighella and Truffaldino waking up. Our Act II, scene 7 is Gozzi’s Act III, scene 1.

[5] These scene titles are not in Gozzi’s text, but are an intervention by the translator and adaptors. Some were recited aloud by the Fairy Chorus, as indicated. They could also take on a Brechtian function as projections or placards.

[6] TRUFFALDINO says today’s date.

[7] In the Italian, PANTALONE continues: “O, magic ring of Angelica, where are you? You, who opened the eyes of Ruggiero to show him that the beautiful Alcina was a deformed old woman. We need your magic to expose Cherestani!” This was cut.

[8] In our production, TARTAGLIA’s improvisation usually involved tricking TRUFFALDINO into doing the hokey-pokey, or some equally ridiculous dance.

[9] Gozzi’s stage directions suggest that PANTALONE’s voice is supplied by someone offstage, but we chose to have PANTALONE disguise his voice.

[10] FARRUSCAD improvised “Panties” instead of “Pantalone” here.

[11] I know the Italian doesn’t say “cold,” but cold and cruel pair well in English.

[12] In our production, the Fairies performed an a capella version of the opening of “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” with TERRAMOTA as a the tympani.

[13] The Italian text suggests that they have a lengthy discussion of the habits of people in the city, with lots of references to commedia dell’arte.

[14] The scene ends with “They wanted to leave, but they did not want to abandon the Prince.” I split this up so each one expresses part of it.

[15] Lit. “Suffering, what suffering?” but I like the cartoony quality of this.

[16] In our production, they came in with a big plastic cockroach and tossed it back and forth for a while, then into the audience. Then TRUFFALDINO said, “Give that back. It’s a prop.” They also usually said “Scorpions, snakes, and toads. Oh, my!” One of them would then say “Where are our friends?” PANTALONE and TARTAGLIA would then call to them to come “To the hill,” and PANTALONE would announce intermission.

[17] Lit. “They are a sea.”

[18] Al minor mal si pensi.—“Let us think through our problems” might be closer, but I like Togrul sounding more action-oriented.

[19] In our production, FARZANA and TERRAMOTA played the two soldiers.

[20] FAIRIES: You are discovered.

[21] FAIRIES: Kill yourself.

[22] TUONARA (mocking): Tell me.

[23] In our production, the Fairies said this line as “She is not your wife any longer,” to help cover Cherestani’s disappearance.

[24] In our production, TARTAGLIA was played as a foppish British servant. It would be possible to change the list of food to reflect other interpretations of this character.

[25] Pantalone does not say “we won” in the original. This was added for clarification.

[26] In our productions, TRUFFALDINO pointed to FULMINA and she said “Lightning.”

[27] In our production, the other three characters knocked BRIGHELLA over on their lines. This led to a fight that ended with PANTALONE throwing TRUFFALDINO over his shoulder and carrying him offstage, until they ran into CANZADE on their way out.

[28] TERRAMOTA narrates this scene title and plays the Bull.

[29] FULMINA and TUONARA narrate this title and play the GIANT.

[30] The Italian text includes a note here: “All the scenes of marvels and illusion in this popular third act were excellently performed by the Sacchi comic troupe.”

[31] The arrival of FARZANA, and most of the lines that follow, are not in Gozzi’s original. The ending of Gozzi’s play is more ambivalent than the unreservedly happy ending presented here.

[32] The Italian is: “And who can pity us and hold out their hands to beg for forgiveness or for a feast?”

 

© 2014 by Daniel Smith and Valentina Denzel

Contact Information:

Daniel Smith

Michigan State University

Department of Theatre

542 Auditorium Road #113

East Lansing, MI 48824

517-884-7789

Smit2030@msu.edu

One thought on “The Serpent Lady

  1. Pingback: Editor’s Note 5.3 | The Mercurian

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