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The second scene is laid outside the Malatesta Castle, in a lane divided by a wall from the garden, and to this point Paolo is drawn like a homing pigeon. On to the garden Francesca's window looks; if he die, it must be near her: more than that
• At least I must behold her before death,
And go straight from her face into the grave.' So through the postern he passes into the garden. Quick on his heels come two couriers, rousing the household with urgent news for Giovanni, and while they still seek the Prince himself enters, treading the same straight way from Pulci's house to his bride's chamber. By torchlight he reads the message : * Pesaro is risen; not a moment is to • be lost.' Another messenger; San Arcangelo is ready to break out. What should detain him now? He has no more to fear: his hidden foe is dead or dying, and so he hastens out to mount and ride, while Paolo wanders in the dark garden; and thither the scene shifts. It is the still hour between night and day, and Francesca, sleepless with the new torment in her blood, wanders out into the coolness, and with her Nita bearing a lamp. She sets it in the arbour, and leaves her mistress to read herself into quiet. As Francesca begins to read Paolo enters, and from this prelude they pass into a scene which is the emotional centre of the play, a scene where Mr. Phillips, borrowing from Dante, makes what he borrows his own. One cannot quote the whole, and it must not be mutilated; but it tells how in the simplest and most natural way the speech between them—the strange thrilling speech where every word has its echo, where the true speech is that which is not spoken -turns upon the book she holds, and they speak of the story and those 'famous and unlucky names' of Lancelot and Guinevere. And from the answering melody of their own words they pass to another antiphony, where he reads till his voice breaks, and she takes up the reading; but her eyes fill and swim, and he once more reads, till at the close —the disiato riso-words fail, and they kiss.
Two days pass before the next act. Giovanni returns stained and triumphant from his descent on Pesaro, but looking in the eyes of men at the gate for some tidings that are kept back. They huddle together before his fierce gaze and questioning, but no word can be drawn from them. He cannot understand. ('Lies he so quiet that none has ' found him ? ') and he sends for Lucrezia. “What news at
home?' he asks, and she answers, “Paolo is returned.' For an instant he is struck dumb; then he masters himself. Paolo has crept back like a thief into the house,' and he will be wary of this creeping thing:'
Oh, I have no emotion now, no blood.
A blade! a knife! no more.' Yet he will not “rashly kill.' But how to take them in each other's embrace, and 'stab them there enfolded and entwined'? The woman's cunning prompts him. Let him give out that this is only a moment's pause in the war, that the camp calls him back; then, leaving the lovers in this fancied security, watch, take, and kill. And he acts accordingly; Francesca, sent for, enters. He tells her he must be gone again, and commends her to Paolo, but in words where his bitterness pierces through:
Loyal he is to me, loyal and true.
And has the art long hours to entertain.'
Come here, Francesca, kiss me-yet not so;
“ 'Tis not so long ago I was a child,' she cries, then seizing him, implores him not to leave her; there are terrors in the house, dreadful faces of the dead who smile'-she dare not be alone. He bids her-relenting as it should seem for an instant—take some one to sleep with her, Lucrezia or Nita ; yet she clings to him; but he shakes her off, and the two women are left alone. Then suddenly the plot takes a new turn, quite unlooked for, yet quite natural and harmonious with the opening. Francesca bids Lucrezia lie with her that night, and the older woman consents cunningly, but goes about her insidious purpose. Francesca is lonely; why not seek company ? Paolo, too, seems sick for companionship. But the hunted thing turns :
Oh, wliy so eager ?
and with a flash of divination she appeals to the motherlonging of the childless woman :
'I have no mother : let me be your child
(Lucrezia softly touches Francesca's hair.)
Ah, Francesca! You
I could have wished her hair had been this colour.' So the hunter is now the defender; but the meshes are woven and must be undone. Giovanni must be found, and from that moment Lucrezia leaves her newly discovered love and goes to seek and to turn aside the slayer. So, striving to combat fate, she works with it, for Francesca is left alone. Night is drawing on; she paces in her chamber, and her unrest is evident even to Nita, so plain that the maid offers her own coarse counsel. Why should Francesca fret? it is so easy for a woman to humour an old man, and yet to take her pleasure. Francesca answers her:
O Nita, when we women sin, 'tis not
We sway, and rock, and suffer ere we fall.' But as she speaks a knock comes at the door. Paolo asks entrance. He is sent away; yet the girl's unrest grows every moment. She bids her maid talk to keep her thoughts moving, but as the maid chatters her mistress starts—a step is heard in the garden, 'a sad step, and it goeth to and fro.' Then his voice comes, and at last he gains admission. Nita goes as he enters, and there follows a second love scene, the climax and completion of the first. Love, no longer tremulous, is now confessed the master. For a moment Francesca struggles, but she is overborne :
* Franc. Kiss me and leave me, Paolo, tc-night.
One watches quietly.
I know not; perhaps the quiet face
Paolo. I'll struggle now no more.
Have I not fought
Franc. You fill me with a glorious vastness. What !
Paolo. Remember how when first we met we stood
Franc. Thy armour glimmered in a gloom of grien.
Did I not know thy voice ?
And in that kiss our souls
Franc. Kiss me again! I smile at what may chance. Since one must mangle, there is the fragment; few will be willing, of those who love poetry, to leave the rest unread.
The lovers pass together behind the curtains. Scarcely are they gone before Nita returns, and, after her, Lucrezia, desperate with a vain search. She has hunted every corner, but Giovanni is subtly hidden. And now, where is Francesca ? She wrings the truth out of the maid, and rushes to the curtains, but as she reaches them a hand parts their folds : in the one place where Lucrezia has not sought, the place to which the lovers were inevitably drawn, Giovanni waited. Ho speaks at first in a strange calm ; he and Lucrezia gaze into each other's eyes, but his are inscrutable. But she goes to take his hand, and there is blood on it:
Giov. 'Tis not my blood.
“O, then" is all. (As in a frenzy) And now their love that was so secret close Shall be proclaimed. Tullio, Carlo, Biagi ! They shall be married before all men. Nita !
Rouse up the house and bring in lights, lights, lights !
The nuptial tapers ? Rouse up all the house ! (All this while servants and others, half.dressed, are continually
rushing in with lights and torches. They stand whispering.) Giovanni bids the bodies be brought out with ceremony, as for a wedding; the old blind nurse comes in, feeling a crowd about her, and a crowd of others than the living. Then the litter is borne in, and Lucrezia sobs, but Giovanni stills her :
"Break not out in lamentation. (A pause
The servants set down the litier.) Lucr. (Going to litter.) I have borne one child, and
she has died in youth ! Giov. (Going to litter.) Not easily have we three come to this — We three who now are dead. Unwillingly They loved, unwillingly I slew them. Now I kiss them on the forehead quietly. (He bends over the bodies, and kisses them on the forehead. He
She takes away my strength.
(The bodies are reverently covered over.) That is the end, tragic, heartrending, but solemn and harmonious, to which the whole stream of the action tends. The analysis we have given is designed to show how everything is subordinated to the developement of the plot, and that the fate moves relentlessly, with motion back and forward like that of waves, but advancing irresistibly as a tide to its appointed conclusion. There are no redundancies ; the temptation to eloquence, even to lyrical poetry, is everywhere severely repressed, yet in every scene there is poetry, and in almost all there is great poetry. Since the Cenci' no drama at all approaching it in the essential qualities of passion and beauty has been written, and this is, what the Cenci’ is not, an acting play.
That brings us to the last word we have to say. After the appearance of Marpessa’ and the other poems, Mr. George Alexander, knowing that Mr. Phillips had been at one time an actor, commissioned him to write a play. What Mr. Alexander expected it is not possible to say; but if he expected anything a tenth part as good as what he has got, he was a