Read ACT I: SCENE I of Representative Plays by American Dramatists: 1856-1911: Francesca da Rimini, free online book, by George Henry Boker, on ReadCentral.com.

SCENE I. Rimini. The Garden of the Palace. PAOLO and a number of noblemen are discovered, seated under an arbour, surrounded by René, and other troubadours, attendants, &c.

PAOLO. I prithee, René, charm our ears again
With the same song you sang me yesterday.
Here are fresh listeners.

René. Really, my good lord,
My voice is out of joint. A grievous cold

[Coughs.

PAOLO. A very grievous, but convenient cold,
Which always racks you when you would not sing.

René. O, no, my lord! Besides, I hoped to hear
My ditty warbled into fairer ears,
By your own lips; to better purpose, too.

[The NOBLEMEN all laugh.

FIRST NOBLEMAN. René has hit it. Music runs to waste
In ears like ours.

SECOND NOBLEMAN. Nay, nay; chaunt on, sweet Count.

PAOLO. [Coughing.] Alack! you hear, I’ve caught poor Rene’s cough.

FIRST NOBLEMAN. That would not be, if we wore petticoats.

[The others laugh.

PAOLO. O, fie!

FIRST NOBLEMAN. So runs the scandal to our ears.

SECOND NOBLEMAN. Confirmed by all our other senses, Count.

FIRST NOBLEMAN. Witnessed by many a doleful sigh, poured out By many a breaking heart in Rimini.

SECOND NOBLEMAN. Poor girls!

FIRST NOBLEMAN.[Mimicking a lady.] Sweet Count! sweet
Count Paolo! O!
Plant early violets upon my grave!
Thus go a thousand voices to one tune.

[The others laugh.

PAOLO. ’Ods mercy! gentlemen, you do me wrong.

FIRST NOBLEMAN. And by how many hundred, more or less?

PAOLO. Ah! rogues, you’d shift your sins upon my shoulders.

SECOND NOBLEMAN. You’d bear them stoutly.

FIRST NOBLEMAN. It were vain to give Drops to god Neptune. You’re the sea of love That swallows all things.

SECOND NOBLEMAN. We the little fish
That meanly scull about within your depths.

PAOLO. Goon, goon! Talk yourselves fairly out.
[PEPE laughs without.
But, hark! here comes the fool! Fit company
For this most noble company of wits!

[Enter PEPE, laughing violently.]

Why do you laugh?

PEPE. I’m laughing at the world.
It has laughed long enough at me; and so
I’ll turn the tables. Ho! ho! ho! I’ve heard
A better joke of Uncle Malatesta’s
Than any I e’er uttered. [Laughing.

ALL. Tell it, fool.

PEPE. Why, do you know upon my life, the best
And most original idea on earth:
A joke to put in practice, too. By Jove!
I’ll bet my wit ’gainst the stupidity
Of the best gentleman among you all,
You cannot guess it.

ALL. Tell us, tell us, fool.

PEPE. Guess it, guess it, fools.

PAOLO Come, disclose, disclose!

PEPE. He has a match afoot.

ALL. A match!

PEPE. A marriage.

ALL. Who? who?

PEPE. A marriage in his family.

ALL. But, who?

PEPE. Ah! there’s the point.

ALL. Paolo?

PEPE. No.

FIRST NOBLEMAN. The others are well wived. Shall we turn Turks?

PEPE. Why, there’s the summit of his joke, good sirs.
By all the sacred symbols of my art
By cap and bauble, by my tinkling bell
He means to marry Lanciotto!
[Laughs violently.

ALL. [Laughing.] Ho!

PAOLO. Peace! peace! What tongue dare echo yon fool’s laugh?
Nay, never raise your hands in wonderment:
I’ll strike the dearest friend among ye all
Beneath my feet, as if he were a slave,
Who dares insult my brother with a laugh!

PEPE. By Jove! ye’re sad enough. Here’s mirth’s quick cure!
Pretty Paolo has a heavy fist, I warn you, sirs. Ho! ho! I trapped them all;
[Laughing.]
Now I’ll go mar old Malatesta’s message. [Aside.
[Exit.

PAOLO. Shame on ye, sirs! I have mistaken you.
I thought I harboured better friends. Poor fops,
Who’ve slept in down and satin all your years,
Within the circle Lanciotto charmed
Round Rimini with his most potent sword!
Fellows whose brows would melt beneath a casque,
Whose hands would fray to grasp a brand’s rough hilt,
Who ne’er launched more than braggart threats at foes!
Girlish companions of luxurious girls!
Danglers round troubadours and wine-cups! Men
Whose best parts are their clothes! bundles of silk,
Scented like summer! rag-men, nothing more!
Creatures as generous as monkeys brave
As hunted hares courteous as grinning apes
Grateful as serpents useful as lap-dogs
[During this, the NOBLEMEN, _&c., steal off._]
Ha!
I am alone at last! So let me be,
Till Lanciotto fill the vacant room
Of these mean knaves, whose friendship is but breath. [Exit.