Open Manslaughter and Bold Bawdry
|So, ever since Simplicius' post about the New Holzknecht Project -- which I approve of deeply -- I've had to ask myself: but what can those of us who don't read so many plays do? How can we contribute?|
I'm not sure this is contributing in any immediately productive way, but for today, I want to provide, for the contemplation and edification of the greater early modern blog world, a few passages from my current reading: a fifteenth-century continental romance called "Tirant lo Blanc" -- which, as I've just discovered through the magic of Google, they have apparently just made into a movie.
Somewhat endearingly, the publishers of this book insist on using a line about it from "Don Quixote" -- "I swear to you, my friend, it's the best book of its kind in the world" -- as a straightforward piece of advertising copy. The book seems to have caught Cervantes's eye for the name of one, minor character, Kyrieleison de Montalban. Perhaps a distant relative of Ricardo.
In any case, these are the passages to which I wish to direct your attention.
First: picture, at the Byzantine court, a wedding; that night, after the happily wed couple have retired to their room, a small crowd, including the emperor and various ladies and knights, assembles outside the door to hear what they can hear. I guess we all know there wasn't much privacy in the early modern period. At any rate, they hear ... nothing. Which shocks and appalls one lady-in-waiting -- unambiguously named Pleasure-of-my-life -- who calls out: "Lady bride, why are you silent? Has the battle's pain and fury ended? May you feel it in your heels! Could you not utter that delightful 'Aaah!' once more, for truly, nothing is sweeter than a maiden's cries. I can tell by your silence that our constable has shot his bolt, but much good may it do you if he fails to reload! The emperor himself is here, as he feared you were in pain."
Always good to know the emperor is listening on your wedding night. Anyway, this emperor is so amused that he promply announces that, if he weren't already married, he would instantly propose to Pleasure-of-my-life. At this point, who should show up but the empress. Pleasure-of-my-life immediately says, "Die quickly, my lady, for my lord the emperor has sworn that were he unmarried, he would propose to me. Therefore offend me no longer but die as soon as you can." The empress has a couple of things to say about that, then turns to the emperor and says, "And as for you, idiot, what do you want another wife for? Your weapon is better for slapping than stabbing, and remember: no damsel was ever killed by a slap."
This passage also includes hijinks involving five kittens, which I won't trouble you with.
So there you have "Bold Bawdry." I'm following Ascham's comments about romance, here, which get quoted a lot, but which you can also find quoted in this article by Clare Kinney.
As for open manslaughter -- well, there's a lot of it, but most of it isn't so interesting. I will leave you with what seems to me about the most ignominious death in the book. At least, so far.
Tirant has captured a proud Genoese renegade, the Duke of Andrea. The emperor reads out a sentence declaring that all renegades will be publically stripped of their titles and humiliated. And so:
"When the Duke of Andrea saw such infamy heaped upon himself and his comrades, his gallbladder burst and he choked to death on his own bile."