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  • Title: Certain Tragical Discourses (Modern)
  • Editor: Jessica Slights

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    Author: Geoffrey Fenton
    Editor: Jessica Slights
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    Certain Tragical Discourses (Modern)

    1From Geoffrey Fenton, Certain Tragical Discourses (1567)

    [Geoffrey Fenton's Certain Tragical Discourses is a 1567 English translation of a collection of short prose tales written by Italian author Matteo Bandello and published in 1554. Working closely with French translations of the tales made by François de Belleforest and Pierre Boaisteau, Fenton added his own rhetorical turns and moral interventions to Bandello's stories, and offered them to an eager Elizabethan reading public, along with the suggestion that they be read not merely as entertainment, but rather as moral exempla illustrating in some cases virtuous conduct to be emulated, and in others immoral actions and their calamitous effects. Shakespeare could have had access to the tales in all three versions, and appears to have drawn on them in developing several of his plays, including Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing. The fourth tale or "discourse" in Fenton's collection, excerpted here, tells the story of an Albanian captain so overcome by jealousy that he violently murders his wife. There are a number of interesting similarities between this tale and Shakespeare's Othello, and Fenton's moralizing digressions about the obligations of marriage offer a fascinating perspective on the relationship of literary fiction to real life.]

    The argument

    It may seem to some that delight in the report of other menʼs faults, with respect rather to take occasion of sinister exclamation than be warned by their evils to eschew the like harms in themselves, that I have been too prodigal in noting the doings and lives of diverse ladies and gentlewomen declining by misfortune from the path of virtue and honor, only to stir up cause of reproach and leave argument to confirm their fond opinion. Albeit, as their error appeareth sufficiently in the integrity of my meaning, so I hope the indifferent sort will give another judgment of my intent, the rather for that I have preferred these discourses both for the profit of the present glory of them that be past, and instruction of such as be to come. Seeing which all, they discover more cause of rebuke and vices more heinous in men than any we find committed by women. And albeit the history last recited hath set forth in lively colors the fury and mad disposition of a woman forced by disloyalty, yet if a man may any way excuse sin, it may in some sort be dispensed withal, or at least with more reason than the tyrannous execution following, committed by a man without occasion, where a certain jealousy sprung of an unjust mislike—as she thought—is ready to cover the fault of Pandora. For what is he so ignorant in the passions of love that will not confess that jealousy is an evil exceeding all the torments of the world, supplanting oftentimes both wit and reason in the most wise that be, specially when appeareth the like treason that Pandora persuaded herself to receive him that forsook her. But for the other, how can he be acquitted from an humor of a frantic man, who, without any cause of offence in the world, commits cruel execution upon his innocent wife, no less fair and furnished in all perfections than chaste and virtuous without comparison? Neither is jealousy the cause of murder considering that the opinion is no sooner conceived than there followeth, as it were, a distrust of the party that thinks to receive the wrong with an indifferent desire to them both to stand upon their guard in sort like two enemies working the mutual destruction the one of the other. Whereof, leaving the judgment to them that be of good stomach to digest all kinds of meats or can carry a brain to buckle with the fumes of every broth that is offered them, I have here to expose unto you a miserable accident happening in our time, which shall serve as a bloody scaffold or theater wherein are presented such as play no parts but in mortal and furious tragedies.

    An Albanian captain, being at the point to die, killed his wife because no man should enjoy her beauty after his death.

    During the siege and miserable sack of Modone, a city of the Moors confining upon the Sea Peloponnese not far from the Strait of Isthmian, by the which the Venetians convey their great traffic and trade of merchandise, Baia-Zeth, the emperor of the Turks and great-grandfather to Sultan Solyman who this day governeth the state of the Orient, used so many sorts of inordinate cruelties in the persecution of those wretches whom fate, with extreme force of his war, had not only abandoned from the soil of their ancient and natural bode, but also, as people full of desolation and void of succor every way, forced them to crave harbor of the limitrophal towns adjoining their country, to shroud their weary bodies bleeding still with the wounds of their late war, and overcome besides with the violence of hunger and cold, two common enemies that never fail to follow the camp of misery. And, as in a general calamity every man hath his fortune, so, amongst the unhappy crew of these fugitives and creatures full of care, there was one gentleman no less noble by descent than worthily renowned by the glory of his own acts, who, accounting it a chief and principal virtue to withstand the malice of fortune with magnanimity of mind, thought it not also the office of a noble heart to yield to the sentence of adversity or give any place to the injury of present time, considering that in every distress fortune beareth the greatest sway, whose malice is neither of perpetuity nor yet to be feared of such as have their hearts armed with assurance in virtue. For as she is no less uncertain of herself than her doings full of mutability, so, according to the advice of the philosopher, she is to be used with such indifference of all estates that we need neither laugh when she smiles, nor fear when she threats; neither hath she any to follow the chariot of her victory but the caitiff or coward, and such as are denied the assistance and benefit of true virtue. This gentleman, whom my author termeth by the name of Pierro Barzo, weary even now with drawing the heavy yoke of hard exile, left the rest of his countrymen and companions of care complaining their mutual miseries together, and retired to the rich and populous city of Mantua, where his civil government and prudent behavior, accompanied with a singular dexterity in exploits of arms and other exercises of chivalry, arguing the unfeigned nobleness of his mind, gave such a show of his virtue that he was not only in short time entertained of the marquis and governor there, but also made general of the whole army of footmen; where, enjoying thus the benefit of his virtue, who commonly yields no less success to such as embrace her with true imitation and tread the path of her lore with semblable sincerity of mind, he had there with him at the same instant his wife, being also of Modone, derived of no less nobility than he, and nothing inferior in all gifts of nature and ornaments of virtue, for, touching her beauty, seeming of such wonderful perfection that it was thought nature was driven to the end of her wits in framing a piece of so great excellency, they doubted not to give her thereby the title of the fair Helen of Greece. Neither was she less meritorious for her virtues being blessed therewith so plentifully at the hands of the Almighty, that it was doubted to the writers of that time whether God or nature deserved the greatest praise in forming so perfect a creature. If this were a consolation and singular contentment of the poor Modonese, weighing erst in the balance of his unhappy fortune, denied anymore to enjoy the freedom of his country, driven by force from the ancient succors and solace of his friends, wandering in woods and desert places unknown, and, that which worse is, left only to the mercy of hunger and cold, with expectation to fall eftsoons into the hands of his enemies, and now to be taken from the malice of all these miseries and restored to a place of abode, richesse, and entertainment sufficient for sustentation, to bear office and authority amongst the best, and rampired besides within the assured good will and opinion of the chief governor of a country. I appeal to the opinions of those who erst have changed their miserable condition or state of adversity with the benefit and goodness of the like fortune, or if again he had cause to rejoice and make sacrifice to his fortune that had given him a wife noted to be the odd image of the world for beauty, behavior, courtesy, and upright dealing, constant without cause or argument of dishonesty, and, that which is the chiefest ornament and decoration of the beauty of a woman, to be of disposition ready to obey her husband, yielding him sovereignty with a dutiful obedience, with other virtues that made her an admiration to the whole multitude, and her life a spectacle to the ladies of our age to behold and imitate the like virtues—I leave it to the judgment of that small number of happy men, who, by a special grace from above, are ordained to enjoy the benefit of so rare and precious a gift. This couple, thus rejoicing the return of happy life, resigned with all their tears of ancient dole and embraced the gift of present time with intent to spend the remainder of their years in mutual consolation and contentment of mind. Wherein they were assisted with a second blessing of God, who, for the increase of their new comfort, sent them a daughter who in beauty, virtue, and all other gifts of grace did nothing degenerate from the pattern and mold from whence she was derived, whereof she gave great shows as nature seemed to increase her years and confirm her in discretion.

    5But what assurance is there in the pleasure of people, seeing the world itself is appointed his date, which he cannot pass; or why should we repose a perpetuity in our worldly affairs, seeing that both their continuance and confidence ends with the length of time? And fortune, who is always jealous of the ease of man and not content to let us live long in quiet, is always laying her ambush, devising how to interrupt our felicity; and, as she is blind of herself and less certainty in her doings, so she forgets not to discover her conspiracies when we least think of her and invade us when we account us most sure of her friendship. Whereof she gave a manifest declaration in the person of this fair lady from whom she took her dear husband in the flower of his years, and she not yet confirmed in age and discretion able to bear and withstand the ordinary assaults of the world, which she found also of more uneasy toleration, as well for the fervent zeal and affiance which law of kind did bind her to bear to her late spouse and loyal husband, as also for that she saw herself left amongst the hands of strangers, far from her parents and friends, void of refuge in her own country, and without a head to defend her from the malice of men, which commonly rageth with more extremity against weak and desolate widows and poor fatherless orphans than against them that are able to withstand their malice and repress their violence with equal power. And albeit she was left to her own liberty to live as she list, as you have heard, and not yet feeling the burden of twenty winters, an age fit to engender suspicion of the evil disposed, yet having no less care to prevent the malice of slander than to keep in entire the small revenue left unto her by her husband, she took order with her domestical affairs according to her present fortune; and so, dismissing her ordinary train of servants, retired to a brother of hers which dwelt also in the same town, where, after the funerals of her dead husband were performed with sufficient tears and duties appertaining, she qualifieth somewhat her dole for him that was dead with the daily view of her young daughter, the lively image of her father, sometime also exercising the endeavor of the needle—a recreation most convenient for widows and all honest matrons—never being seen abroad but of holy and great festival days, when she went in devout manner to the church to hear the divine service of God. Being unhappily espied, for all that, of an Albanian captain, a noble gentleman thereabout, having for the credit of his virtue and valiantness in arms, the charge of certain troops of horsemen, who, glancing at unawares upon the glistering beams of her beauty, became so desirous eftsoons to encounter the same, that, with the often view of her stately personage and general fame of her many virtues, he became so in love with her that, for speedy ease of his present grief, he was driven to put his request upon terms, making first his sighs and sad countenance, his solitary complexion of face often given to change his dolorous state and pitiful regards of the eye when he was in her company, forced now and then to abandon the same because he could not keep him from tears, his often greeting her with salutations in amorous order, courting her now and then with letters, ditties, and presents of great price, with a thousand other vain importunities which love doth imagine to animate his soldiers, his chiefest ministers to bewray his intent and solicit his cause. Whereof the effect returned no less frustrate than the device itself ought to seem vain in the eye of all wise men, for she whose heart could not be erst pierced with the malice of her former fortune, nor be brought to stoop to the lure of adversity, thought it a great fault to let love or folly make any breach where so many hot assaults and causes of despair had been valiantly resisted and utterly repulsed; for proof whereof, being wholly wed as yet to the remembrance of her dead husband, she would neither admit his clients nor give audience to his ambassadors, but dismissed both the one and the other with semblable hope, which brought the captain in such case that it seemed to him a harder matter to compass the good will of his lady than to govern an army or plant a battery with the advantage of the ground and place. Neither was he able to withdraw his affection or mortify the fire newly burst out to flame because the remembrance of her beauty, the often view of her virtue enlarged by the general fame of all men, together with the nobleness of her race enrolled in the records of antiquity, presented a more desire in him with care to obtain her, and aggravated his grief in being repulsed of that which his heart had already vowed to honor till the extreme date of his days; neither had he the face eftsoons to attempt her of himself, and much less to desist from the pursuit of his desire, but, being at the point to incur the hazard of despair, behold love preferred a new and most sure mean, willing him to crave the assistance of her brother, who, being his dear friend and companion in arms in the service of divers princes afore time, he made no less account of his furtherance than if he had already gotten his friendship. Wherefore, delaying no moment of time, but plying the wax whilst the water was warm, he accosted the young man at a convenient time and roved at him in this short sort: “It is, my dear friend and companion, a virtuous disposition to be ready in well doing and easy to assist honest requests, which to your nature hath been always no less peculiar than to me now a courage in so honest a case to crave your aid; neither can the virtue of true friendship more lively appear, or the office of assured friends more amply be discerned than in making the grief of the one common to both, and bear the gift of time and fortune indifferently with mutual affection and like zeal on both parts. Wherein, for my part, I would I had as good mean to make declaration of my true heart towards you, as of long time I have vowed to be yours to the uttermost of my power, and you no less desire to do me good than your diligence and assistance of friendship is most able to stand me instead in my present case of no less importance than the very safeguard of my life.”

    Which last words made the Modonese reply with like frank offer of mind, protesting unto him by the faith of a soldier that if ever he felt any motion in himself to do him the least good of the world, his desire was double to requite it proffering herewith, for a further show of his good meaning and declaration of faith, to rack his power on his behalf so far forth as either life, living, or honor would bear him; but, he whose desire tended not to things impossible, nor sought to maintain war against the heavens, reposing much for himself in the offer of his friend, thought the conquest was half won when he had promised his assistance, and, because there lacked nothing but to utter his grief, he told him that the thing he desired would bring advancement to them both. "And because," saith he, "I will clear the doubt which seems to trouble you, you shall understand that the beauty, gifts of grace, and other honest parts in your sister have so enchanted my senses, that, having already lost the use of my former liberty, I cannot eftsoons be restored without the speedy assistance of her good will; neither have I other power of myself or consolation in my present extremity than such as is derived of the hope which I have hereafter to enjoy her as my lawful wife. For otherwise, I am as void of foul meaning to work her dishonor for the fervent love I bear her, as free from intent to procure so great a spot of infamy to the house which nourished you both in so great honor. And to be plain with you, the glimmering glances of her twinkling eyes, together with a princely majesty which nature hath lent her above the rest of the dames of our days, hath made my heart more assaultable and apt to admit parley than either the noise of the cannon or terror of the enemy, how great soever they have appeared, have heretofor feared me; which makes me think that there is either some celestial or divine mystery shrouded under the veil of her beauty making me thereby yield her honor in hope of preferment, or else, by the angry consent of my cursed destinies, it is she that is appointed to pay the interest of my former liberty in transforming my ancient quiet into a thousand annoys of uneasy toleration. And albeit I have hitherto reserved the maidenhead of my affection and lived no less free from the amorous delights or desires of women, yet being now overtaken and tied in the chains of true affection, I had rather become captive and yield myself prisoner in the pursuit of so fair a lady than to have the honor of the greatest victory that ever happened to captain by prowess, or policy, or dint of cruel sword of his valiant soldiers. Wherefore, as your authority with your sister is rather to command than entreat, and by the friendship which hath remained indissoluble between us from the beginning, never giving place to any peril whatsoever it were, I conjure you, and as my last request beseech you, to aid me herein so far forth as your diligence may seem to work my desire to effect.”

    Whereunto the Modonese replied with great thanks for the honor he offered him and his sister, whom he half promised already to frame according to his expectation, promising himself a great good hap not only in entering into alliance with so noble a gentleman, but also that he should be the worker of the same. Whereupon, embracing each other, the one glad to see so happy a success like to follow his business, the other no less joyful to have so fit a mean to manifest his friendship towards his friend, departed with semblable contentment, the one to his lodging with a thousand hammers in his head till he saw the effect of his drift, the other with no less grief of mind till he had performed the expectation of his charge. Wherein, he began immediately to practice with his sister, whom he found of a contrary opinion, excusing herself with the care she had of her daughter, whom she said she would neither leave alone nor commit herself to the order and government of strangers at whose hands there is as great doubt of good entreaty as small help or hope of amendment being once made their vassal and subject by law of marriage.

    “Besides, sir,” saith she, not without some tears, “it is not yet a year since I lost him whom, if I loved by awe being alive, I ought with no less duty to honor after his death. Neither could I avoid the just murmur and ordinary suspicion of the peoples; yet I should seem more hasty to yield my affection to another than ready to perform my duty and ceremonies of dole to him that is dead, and that within the year afore the funeral be fully ended. The widowʼs life is also pure of itself, bound to no care nor controlment of any, and so acceptable before God that the apostle doubteth not to account her among the number of the religious if, after she have once tasted of marriage and restored again to her liberty, she content herself with the first clog or burden of bondage, living after in imitation of true virtue. Besides, the holy man Saint Augustine disuadeth all widows eftsoons to marry, advising them to mortify such motions as the flesh is apt to stir up, and nourish by contemplation, and prayer, and true sincerity of life, saying further that they are accounted afore God amongst the number of chaste and pure virgins. And because it may be peradventure the opinion of some that the burden of widowhood is grievous and almost intolerable unto me, presuming the same rather by the greenness of my youth not yet confirmed in ripeness of years and discretion than upon any good or assured ground to justify their opinion, I assure you, I feel myself so plentifully assisted with the spirit of grace that I doubt no more to withstand all temptations and vain assaults, which the wicked instigations of the flesh may hereafter minister unto me, than heretofore in tender years, when nature denied any such motion to stir in me, I lived free and void of such provocation. And for end, good brother, my heart, divining diversely of the success of this marriage, threateneth a further mischief to fall upon me, and too late a repentance for you that is the unfortunate causer of the same.”

    Here, her brother, knowing it a fault in all women to hear themselves well spoken of, and yet a chief mean to win them to feed their humor with flattering praise, began to join with her in commendation of her honesty, affirming her chaste conversation to be no less meritorious since she was widow than her pure virginity generally allowed and praised of all men afore she was married. “Which is the chiefest cause,” said he, “that the captain desireth in honest sort to possess you.”

    10But touching any sinister success that might follow this sacred league of lawful matrimony, as she seemed to predestinate within herself, he ministered persuasions to the contrary, alleging the same to be a superstitious folly attributed to the ancients of old time, to calculate their good or ill success by the tunes or charm of birds, or sometime by the sudden encounter of beasts or such men as they looked not for, arguing the same to be such absolute signs of ill luck, yet commonly they would refrain from their affairs as the day.

    "And touching the murmur and suspicion of the people whose tongues although they be naturally tipped with the metal of slander, yet ought you as little,” saith he, “fear their malice as care for their grudge, considering your act is no less acceptable afore God than tolerable by the positive laws of man. Neither can they but judge well of your doings, and like better of your choice, saying you are wooed with great importunities and won by one that is of your own quality and nothing inferior to you in virtue or nobleness of race. But if you stick of any ceremonies which you have yet to perform to him that is dead, your error is greater than you may justify, and your wisdom less than is necessary in such a case; neither is the voice of the multitude in that respect of such continuance, but time can take it away and a wonder lasteth not forever. And for my part, I hope you will confer my present meaning in this matter with the long experienced faith and affection which heretofore you have noted in me. Besides, I could not avoid the imputation of a monster and enemy to nature if I should not be as careful of your quiet as of my own life, praying you for end, and, as my last request, to repose yourself wholly upon my faith, and friendship, and fidelity of him who honoreth you with no less than his life and all that he hath.”

    Wherewith he so much prevailed over his obedient sister that she, being unhappily overcome with his vehement importunities, condescended very willingly to his unfortunate request, which after became the peremptory destruction of the poor widow, leaving too late and miserable a repentance to her brother. Albeit, afore I proceed to the ceremonies of her unfortunate marriage, I thought good to tell unto you in this place the opinion of mine author touching the divination of the spirit of man, who, saith he, albeit by a secret instinct and virtue of the mind, is able sometimes to presage that will fall, and the soulbeing divine of itselfdoth also prognosticate diversely of the future chances and changes of things, yet the bodybeing the house or harborer of the mind, framed of the substance of clay, or a thing of more corruptiondoth so prevail and overcome the qualities and gifts of the mind, in casting a mist of darkness afore our understanding that the soul is not only barred to expose the fruits of revelation, but also it is not believed when she prognosticates a troth. Neither is it in the power of man to shun or shrink from that which the foreknowledge of the highest hath already determined upon us, and much less to prevent or withstand the sentence of him whose doom is as certain as himself is truth. Wherein, because I am sufficiently satisfied by the authorities of diverse histories, as well sacred as profane, I will not stand here to enlarge the proof with copy of examples, but refer you to the reading of the sequel of this woeful lady who although her fate was revealed unto her afore, yet was she denied to shun the destiny and sharp judgment which the heavens were resolved to thunder upon her.

    But now to our purpose: the agreement thus made between the fair Greek lady and Don Spado, the valiant captain, there lacked nothing for consummation of the marriage but the assistance of the rites and ancient ceremonies appointed by order of holy church, which the captain forgot not to procure with all expedition of time; and for the more honor and decoration of the feast he had there the presence of the Marquis of Mantua, being there not so much for the honor of the bridegroom, as to testify to the open face of the world the earnest affection he bore to her first husband, Barzo, whom he accounted no less dear unto him for credit and trust than the nearest friend of his blood.

    But now this Albanian, enjoying thus the fruits of his desire, could not so well bridle his present pleasure, nor conceal the singular contentment he conceived by the encounter of his new mistress, but, in public show, began to prate of his present felicity, arguing the same to be of greater moment than if he had been frankly restored to the title and dignity of a kingdom, giving Fortune also her peculiar thanks, that had kept this good turn in store for him, saying yet she could not have honored him with a greater preferment than to put him into the possession of her who was without a second in all Europe. But as in everything excess is hurtful, bringing with it a double discommodity—I mean both a surfeit to the stomach by the pleasure we delight in, and a jealous loathing of the thing we chiefly love and hold most dear—so the extreme and superfluity of hot love of this fond husband towards his wife began within the very month of the marriage to convert itself into a contrary disposition, not much unlike the loving rage of the she-ape towards her young ones, who, as the poets do affirm, doth use to choose among her whelps one whom she loves best, and, keeping it always in her arms, doth cherish and loll it in such rude sort that ere she is ware she breaketh the bones and smothereth it to death, killing by this means with overmuch love the thing which yet would live if it were not for the excess of her affection. In like sort this Albanian, doting without discretion upon the desire of his new lady, and rather drowned beastly in the superfluity of her love than weighing rightly the merit and virtue of true affection, entered into such terms of fervent jealousy, the every flea that wasteth afore her made him sweat at the brows with the suspicion he had of her beauty. Wherein he suffereth himself to be so much subject and overcome with the rage of this folly that, according to the jealous humor of the Italian, he thought every man that looked in her face went about to graft horns in his forehead. O small discretion and less wisdom in one that ought with the shape and form to merit the name and virtue of a man! What sudden change and alteration of fortune seems now to assail this valiant captain, who earst loved loyally within the compass of reason, and now, doting without discretion, thinketh himself one of the forked ministers of Cornwall.

    15And, albeit I must confess unto you that the more rare and precious a thing is of itself, the more diligence and regard ought we to use to preserve and keep it in good estate; yet a wise and chaste woman being one of the rarest things of the world and special gift of God, ought not to be kept in the mew, nor guarded with curious and continual watch, and much less attended upon with the jealous eyes of Argus,. For like as she that weigheth her honor and life in indifferent balance, not meaning to exchange the one but with the loss of the other, is not easily corrupted by any sugared train of flattering love, so the restraint of the liberty of women, together with a distrust proceeding of none occasion, is the chiefest mean to seduce her that else hath vowed an honest and integrity of life even until the end of her natural days. And in vain goeth he about to make his wife honest that either locks her in his chamber or fills his house full of spies to note her doings, considering the just cause he gives her hereby to be revenged of the distrust he hath of her without occasion, seeing withal the nature of some women is to enlarge their liberty that is abridged them in doing the thing they are forbidden, more in despite of the distrust of their foolish husbands than for any appetite or expectation of other contentment to themselves. Neither hath this foolish humor of jealousy so much power to enter into the heart of the virtuous and wise man, who neither will give his wife such cause to abuse herself towards him, nor suspect her without great occasion, nor yet give judgment of any evil in her without a sure ground and manifest proof. And yet is he of such government for the correction of such a fault that he had rather cloak and digest it with wisdom than make publication with open punishment in the eye of the slanderous world, by which rare patience and secret dissimulation, he doth not only choke the mouth of the slanderer, burying the fault with the forgetfulness of the fact, but also reclaims her to an assured honesty and faith hereafter, that earst had abused him by negligence and ill fortune. But he which pens his wife in the highest vault of his house, or tieth a bell at her sleeve because he may hear whether she goeth, or when he takes a long journey paints a lamb of her belly to know if she play false in his absence, these slights, I say, do not only deceive him that deviseth them, but also gives him for his travail the true title of cuckold. In like sort, what greater sign or argument can a man give of his own folly than to believe that to be true which is but doubtful, and, yielding rashly to the resolution and sentence of his own conceits, thinks his wife as light of the fear and apt to deceive him as he is ready to admit sinister suspicion, which proceeds but of an imperfection in himself, judging the disposition of another by his own complexion, which was one of the greatest faults in this valiant Albanian who, fearing even now that which he need not to doubt, began to stand in awe of his own shadow, persuading himself that his wife was no less liberal of her love towards others than to him, and that the benefit of her beauty was common to strangers as to himself. Albeit the good lady, espying well enough the grief of her husband, was not idle for her part to study the means to please him, and also to frame her life in such wise every way that her chaste and discrete government towards him might not only remove the veil of his late suspicion, but also take away the thick mist of frantic jealousy that put him in such disquiet and made him so far exceed the limits and bonds of discretion. Albeit her honest endeavor herein received a contrary effect, and, as one born under a crabbed constellation, or ordained rather to bear the malice of a froward destiny, she could not devise a remedy for his disease nor any herb to purge his suspicious humor; but the more she sought to prefer a show of sincerity and honesty of life, the more grew the fury and rage of his perverse fancy, thinking the company and fellowship of his wife to be as indifferent to others as peculiar to himself.

    What life were like to the married manʼs state or pleasures semblable to the joys of the bed if either the one or the other might be dispensed with all from the fury of frantic jealousy, or amongst a thousand inconveniences which only the married man doth find? What greater mischief may be more for the dissolution of the mutual tranquility of them both than where the one loves unfeignedly and the other is doubtful without cause but the ease and quiet of men are of so small a moment, and their common pleasures so interlarded with an ordinary mishap, that there is as small hold of the one slipping away with the shortness of time as undoubted assurance to have the other a common guest and haunt us in all our doings, not leaving us till he hath seen us laid in the pit and long bed of rest. Whereof I have here presented you a little proof in the picture and person of this selly Albanian, who, beginning, as you have heard, to enter into some terms of jealousy with his wife with whom notwithstanding he had consumed certain months in such pleasures as marriage doth allow, began to grow more fervent in that fury than either his cause did require or wisdom ought to suffer. Wherewith, setting abroach the vessel of that poison, forgot not for his first endeavor to dog the doings of his wife with secret spies in every corner, to abridge her liberty in going abroad and bar the access of any to come to her, keeping, notwithstanding, no less watch and ward about her chamber than the good soldier upon his trench or circumspect captain upon the walls of his fortress, which brought the selly lady into such sorrow that the state of the caitiff and slave of the galley bound to his oar with a chain of unreasonable bigness, or he that by hard sentence of the law doth lie miserably in the bottom of a prison all the days of his life seemed of more easy regard than the hard condition of her present state. Albeit true virtue hath such operation and effect of herself that how grievously soever the world doth persecute her, or seek to crucify her with the malice of men, yet can they not so keep her under by any force they can devise, but certain streams and sparks will burst out now and then, and show herself at last, as she is able, to withstand the violence of any mortal affliction. Whereof an effect appears here in the sequel of this Greek lady, who, noting the disposition of her husband overcharged with a mad humor of wrong conceits, gave judgment immediately of his disease, and, being not able utterly to expulse his new fever, studied by her endeavor to infer a moderation of his passion. Wherein, for her part, she forgot not to make patience her chiefest defense against the foolish assaults of his willful follies, not only requiting his extraordinary rage and fits of fury with a dutiful humility and obedience of a wife, but also ceased not to love him no less than her honor and duty bound her thereunto, hoping, with the assistance of some convenient time and her discreet behavior towards him, both to take away the disease, and mortify the cause of his evil. She seemed neither to reprehend his fault openly, nor with other terms than argued her great humility, and, for herself, how evil soever he entreated her, she gave an outward show of thankful contentment, and, when it was his pleasure to shut her close in a chamber as a bird in the cage, she refused not his sentence, but, embracing the gift of her present fortune, took such consolation as the hard condition of her case would admit, giving God thanks for his visitation and craving with like intercession to have her husband restored to the use of his former wits. Albeit all these dutiful shows of obedience and patient digesting of his unnatural discourtesies, together with a rare and ready disposition in her to frame herself wholly to the appetite of his will, prevailed no more to enlarge her liberty or redeem her from the servile yoke of close imprisonment than to reclaim his haggard mind to the understanding of reason or restore the trance of his frantic humor, raging the more, as it seemed, by the incredible constancy he noted in this mirror of modesty, obedience, wisdom, and chastity, whose example in them all deserves certainly to be graven in pillars of eternity and hung up in tables of gold in every palace and place of estate to the end that you ladies of our time may learn, by imitation of her order and government, to attain to the like perfection of virtue, which she left as a special pattern to you all. To the end also that if any of you, by like misfortune, do fall into the danger of semblable accidents, you may learn here the order of your government, in the like affairs, and also to suppress the rage of jealousy rather by virtue than force, which commonly is the foundation of scandal and slander, divorcement and violation of marriage, whereupon doth consequently ensue civil dissensions and utter subversion of houses of antiquity. But now to the place of our history:

    This frantic Albanian and jealous captain, being one of the train of the Lord James Trivulso, a great favorer of the faction of Gebalino in Italy, and at that time governor of the Duchy of Milan under the French king Louis, the third of that name, whether it were to make a further proof of the patience of his wife, or by absence to mortify and forget his fond opinion conceived without cause, retired upon a sudden to Newcastle, the court and ordinary place of abode of the said Lord Trivulso. Which, albeit, was of hard digestion to the lady for a time; yet, being not unacquainted with such chances, and no prentice in the practice of her husband, retired to her ancient patience and contentment by force, dissimuling with a new grief and secret sorrow this new discourtesy to the end that her waspish husband should take no exceptions to her in any respect, but find her in this, as the former storms, bent wholly to obey the appetite of his will and not to mislike with that which he finds necessary to be done.

    This Trivulso had not spent many months in France but there was commenced information against him to the king that he was revolted from the French and become friend to the Switzers, and sworn to their seigneurie and faction. Wherewith, immediately fame, the common carrier of tales, filled all ears of Milan and the province thereabout with this further addition: that the king for that cause had sent him headless to his grave. Albeit, as fame is rather a messenger of lies than a treasure of truth, and rather to be heard than believed, so this brute, being not true in the last, did import a certain credit in the first, for Trivulso, not liking to live in the displeasure of his prince, abandoned his charge and came into Lombardy, where, being summoned by the messenger of death, gave place to nature and died, who being the only master and maintainer of the Albanian captain whilst he lived, could not easily be forgotten of him after his death. For after his departure was past the general doubt of the people, and each voice resolved that he was laid in his grave, Don Captain Spado, resolved wholly into tears, seemed here to pass the mystery of a new trance, which, with the fresh remembrance of his ancient harm and green wound of unworthy jealousy bleeding yet in his mind, brought him in that case that he neither desired to live, nor doubted to die, and yet in despair of them both his solace of the day was converted into tears, and the hours of the night went away in visions and hollow dreams. He loathed the company of his friends, and hated the things that should sustain nature. Neither was he contented with the present, nor cared for the chance of future time. Which sudden alteration in strange manner, drive his careful wife into no less astonishment than she had cause, and, being ignorant of the occasion, she was also void of consolation, which doubled her grief, till time opened her at last a mean to communicate familiarly with him in this sort:

    “Alas, sir,” saith she, “to what end serve these pining conceits, forcing a general debility thorough all your parts? Or why do you languish in grief without discovering the cause of your sorrow to such as hold your health no less dear than the sweet and pleasant taste of their own life? From whence comes this often change of complexion, accompanied with a disposition of melancholic dumps arguing your inward and fretting care of mind? Why stay you not in time the source of your scorching sighs, that have already drained your body of his wholesome humors appointed by nature to give suck to the entrails and inward parts of you? And to what end serveth this whole river of tears, flowing by such abundance from your watery eyes almost worn away with weeping? Is your grief grown great by continuance of time, or have you conceived some mislike of new? If your house be out of order in any sort, or that want of duty or diligence in me procureth your grudge, declare the cause, to the end the fault may be reformed in me, and you restored to your ancient order of quiet, and we both enjoy a mutual tranquility as appertaineth.”

    20But he that labored of another disease than is incident commonly to men of good government absolved her of all faults or other mislikes he found in the state of his house, or other his affaires committed to her order, and less lack of her diligence to make declaration of her duty to the uttermost. “But alas,” saith he, with a deep sigh derived of the fretting dolor of his mind, and doubled twice or thrice within his stomach afore he could utter it, "what cause of comfort or consolation hath he to live in this world from whom the malice of destiny hath taken the chiefest pillar of his life? Or to what end serveth the fruition or interest of longer years in this vale of unquietness, when the body abhorreth already the long date of his abode here? Or why should not this soma, or mass of corruption which I received of the world, be dismissed to earth, and my soul have leave to pass into the other world, to shun this double passion of present torment which I feel by the death of my dear friend? Ah, my dear lady and loyal wife, my grief is so great that I die to tell you the cause, and yet the very remembrance presents me with treble torments. Wherein, I must confess unto you that since the death of the late Lord John Trivulso, I have had so little desire to live that all my felicity is in thinking to die. Neither can there be anything in the world more acceptable to me than death, whose hour and time, if they were as certain as himself, is most sure to come in the end, I could somewhat satisfy the great desire I have to die, and moderate the rage of my passion in thinking of the shortness of the doom that should give end to my dying ghost and unruly sorrows together. Besides weighing the infinite miseries of our time, accompanying us ever from the womb of conception, with the rest and repose which dead men do find, and knowing withal how much I am in the debt of him that is dead, I cannot wish a more acceptable thing than the speedy approach and end of my days, to the end that, being denied the view of his presence here, I may follow him in the other world, where, participating indifferently such good and evil as falleth to his share, I may witness with what dutiful zeal and affectioned heart I sought to honor and serve him in all respects.” But the lady that saw as far into the disease of her husband as his physician into his urine, knowing well enough that he did not languish so much for the desire of him that was dead as the ticklish humor of jealousy troubled him, was content to admit his cholers, how fine so ever they were, as well to prefer her duty to the uttermost, as also to avoid imputation or cause of suspicion on her part, wherewith, entering into terms of persuasion, she added also this kind of consolation following:

    “More do I grieve, sir,” saith she, “with the small care you seem to take of yourself than the terms of your disease do trouble me, considering the same proceeds of so slender occasion, that the very remembrance of so great an oversight ought to remove the force and cause of your accident. Admit your grief were great indeed, and your disease of no less importance, yet ought you so to bridle this willful rage and desire to die that, in eschewing to prevent the will and set hour of the Lord, you seek not to further your fatal end by using unnatural force against yourself, making your beastly will the bloody sacrifice of your body, whereby you shall be sure to leave to the remainder of your house a crown of infamy in the judgment of the world to come, and put your soul in hazard of grace afore the throne of justice above. You know, sir, I am sure, that in this transitory and painful pilgrimage there is nothing more certain than death, whom albeit we are forbidden to fear, yet ought we to make a certain account of his coming. Neither is it any other thing, according to the scripture, than the minister and messenger of God, executing his infallible will upon us wretches, sparing neither age, condition, nor state. It is he that gives end to our misery here, and safe conduit to pass into the other world, and as soon as we have taken possession of the house of rest he shooteth the gates of all annoy against us, feeding us, as it were, with a sweet slumber or pleasant sleep until the last summons of general resurrection. So that, sir, methinks they are of the happy sort, whom the great God vouchsafeth to call to his kingdom, exchanging the toils and manifold cares incident to the creatures of this world, with the pleasures of his paradise and place of repose that never hath end. And touching your devotion to him that was dead, with vain desire to visit his ghost in the other world, persuading the same to proceed of a debt and dutiful desire you have to make yet a further declaration of your unfeigned mind towards him, I assure you, sir, I am more sorry to see you subject to so great a folly than I fear or expect the effect of your dream, for as it seems but a riddle, proceeding of the vehemence of your sickness. So I hope you will direct the sequel by sage advice, converting the circumstance into air without further remembrance of so foolish a matter. Wherein also I hope you will suffer the words of the scripture to direct you, who, allowing small ceremonies to the dead, forbids us to yield any debt or duty at all to such as be already passed out of the world, and much less to sacrifice ourselves for their sakes upon their tombs, according to the superstitious order of the barbarians in old time, remaining at this day in no less use among the people of the west world, but rather to have their virtues in due veneration and treading in the steps of their examples, to imitate their order with like integrity of life.

    “And for my part,” saith she, dyeing her garments with the drops of her watery eyes, “proving too late what it is to lose a husband, and to forget him whom both the law of God and nature hath given me as a second part of myself, to live with mutual contentment until the dissolution of our sacred bond by the heavy hand of God, am thus far resolved in myself, protesting to perform no less by him that liveth, that if the fury of your passion prevail above your resistance or your disease grow to such extreme terms that death will not be otherwise answered, but that you must yield to his summons and die, I will not live to lament the loss of my second husband, nor use other dole in the funeral of your corpse than to accompany it to the grave in a sheet or shroud of like attire. For your eyes shall no sooner close their lids or lose the light of this world than these hands shall be ready to perform the effect of my promise, and the bell that giveth warning of your last hour shall not cease his doleful knell till he have published with like sound the semblable end of your dear and loving wife.” Whose simple and frank offer here, opening a most convenient occasion for her willful husband to disclose the true cause of his disease, prevailed so much over his doubtful and wavering mind that dismissing even then his former dissimulation, he embraced her, not without such abundance of tears and unruly sighs that for the time they took away the use of his tongue. Albeit, being delivered of his trance and restored to the benefit of his speech, he disclosed unto her the true cause and circumstance of his grief in this sort:

    “Albeit since the time of my sickness,” saith he, “you have seen what distress and desolation have passed me with fits of strange and diverse disposition, marveling no less, I am sure, from what fountain have flowed the symptoms of so rare a passion, wherein also your continual presence and view of my weak state is sufficiently able to record the whole discourse of my disease. Yet are you neither partaker of my pain nor privy to the principal causes of so strange an evil; neither have I been so hardy to discover them unto you because I have been hitherto doubtful of that whereof your last words have fully absolved me. And now, being weakened with the weariness of time and sickness, in such sort as nature hath rid her hands of me and given me over to the order of death, who is to spare me no longer, but to utter these last words unto you, I account it a special felicity in my hard fortune that, in the opening of the true causes of my grief, I may close and seal up the last and extreme term of my life. And, because I will clear in few words the mystery which seems to amaze you, you shall note that there be three only ministers and occasions of my disease, whereof the first, and of least importance, is for the death of my late lord and master, Don John Trivulso, whereof you are not ignorant. The second, exceeding the first in greatness of grief and force against me, is to think that the rigor of my destinies and violence of sickness, yielding me into the hands of death, will dissolve and break by that means the league of long and loyal love which from the beginning my heart hath vowed unto you. But the third and last, of a more strange quality than either of the rest, is to think that when I am dead and by time worn out of your mind, another shall enjoy the sweet and pleasant benefit of that divine beauty of yours, which ought to serve but for the diet of the gods. The simple view whereof seems able, if it were possible, to make me suffer the martyrdom of two deaths.”

    Whereunto she replied with persuasions to drive him from his fond device, proffering herself eftsoons to die for company. Wherein—calling the majesty of the highest to witness—she protested again that if he would not be reclaimed from his desire to die within a very short moment of time, she would be as ready to yield death his tribute as he. All which she inferred, I think, rather to feed the time than of intent to perform the effect of her offer, having the like opinion of her husband whom she thought always to have such power to repress the evil spirit that possessed him that he would not become the unnatural murderer of himself, and much less execute the like rage on her.

    25But, alas, the unfortunate lady brewed here the broth of her own bane, and spun the thread of her own destruction. For falling now unhappily into the malice of her destiny, thinking nothing less than of the secret ambush of mortal treason her husband had laid for her, went unhappily to bed with him the same night. Where, for his part, preferring in his face a show of feigned contentment and consolation to the eye, he forced a further quiet of mind by the joy he imagined in the act he meant to do, but chiefly for that he had devised how the innocent lady, through the rage of his villainy, should be forced to an effect of her promise. For the speedy execution whereof, they had not been long in bed together, but he rose from her, feigning a desire to perform the necessity of nature in the closet or chamber of secrets; his errand indeed being to fetch his dagger, which, without making her privy, he conveyed under the bolster of his bed, beginning even then to prefer a preamble afore the part he meant to play, for, falling from his former complaints of sickness, he retired into terms of extreme frenzy and madness, braying out such groans and sighs of hideous disposition, with howling, crying, and foaming at the mouth, like one possessed with an evil spirit, that who had seen his often change of color and complexion in his face, his ghastly regards arguing intents of desperation, and his eyes, flaming with fury, sunk into his head, with the order of his passion every way, might easily have judged the desire of his heart to be of no small importance, and the thing he went about neither common nor commendable. Wherein he was assisted with three enemies of diverse dispositions: love, jealousy, and death, the least of the which is sufficient of himself to make a man chafe in his harness and take away the courage of his heart in the midst of the combat; for the one presented a certain fear by reason of the horror of the act, the other sued, as it were, for an abstinence—or at least a moderation—of the cruelty he had commenced against his innocent wife, but the third, being the beginner of all and exceeding the rest in power, would not dismiss him from the stage till he had played the uttermost act of his malicious tragedy.

    Mark here, good ladies, the desolation of this unfortunate gentlewoman and dispose yourselves to tears on the behalf of her distress. Wherein certainly you have no less reason to help to bewail her wretched chance than just occasion to join in general exclamation against the detestable act of her tyrannous husband, who, disclaiming even now his former state and condition of a man, retires into the habit of a monster and cruel enemy to nature, and, in converting the virtue of his former love and remembrance of the sundry pleasures he had heretofore received of his dear and loving wife into present rage and unnatural fury far exceeding the savage and brutish manner of the tiger, lion, or leopards bred in the deserts of Africa—the common nurse of monsters and creatures cruel without reason—whetting his teeth for the terrible suggestion of the devil, who at the instant put into his hand the dagger. Wherewith, after he had embraced and kissed her in such sort as Judas kissed our Lord the same night he betrayed him, he saluted her with ten or twelve estockados, one in the neck of another, in diverse parts of her body, renewing the conflict with no less number of blows in her head and arms, and, because no part should escape free from the stroke of his malice, he visited her white and tender legs with no less rage and fury than the rest. Wherewith, beholding in her diverse undoubted arguments of death, began the like war with himself, using the same mean and ministers with his own hands, imbrued yet with the blood of his innocent wife, showing, notwithstanding this horrible part and act of despair, diverse and sundry signs of special gladness and pleasure in his face. Wherein he continued till the last and extreme gasp of life, chiefly for that he saw him accompanied to death with her whom he was not able to leave behind him alive, and who, being overcharged, as you have heard, with the number of wounds, the violence whereof, prevailing far above the resistance of life, did press her so much with the hasty approach of death that the want of breath abridged her secret shrift and confession to God, with less leisure to yield her innocent soul with humble prayer into the hands of her redeemer, and commend the forgiveness of her sins to the benefit of his mercy. Only she had respite, with great ado to speak, to give order that her body might be laid in the tomb of her first husband, Seigneur Barzo.

    But the cursed and execrable Albanian, so wholly possessed with the devil that the gift of grace was denied him, abhorred to the last minute of his life the remembrance of repentance, for laughing, as it were, at the foulness of the fact even until life left him senseless and void of breath, he commended his carcass to the greedy jaws of ravenous wolves, serving also as a fit prey for the venomous serpents and other creeping worms of the earth, and his soul to the reprobate society of Judas and Cain, with other of the infernal crew.

    The worthy end of this wicked wretch argueth the just reward of the evil disposed and such as are unhappily dropped out of the favor of God, the ordinary success of those enterprises that are begun without the consent of wisdom or reason, but chiefly the effects and fortune of such as, blinded with the veil of their own will and dimmed with the mist of folly, do repose so much for themselves in the opinion of their own wit that, detesting good counsel and the advice of the wise, do credit only the conceit of their own fancy, which, as a blind guide, doth lead them into infinite miseries and labyrinth of endless annoy, where there is no dispense of their folly but loss of liberty, perpetual infamy, and sometime punishment by untimely death. Which, as they be worthy rewards for such as dote so much in their own wisdom that they account the same able of itself to comprehend the whole globe or compass the world, so the wise man afore he entereth into any enterprise of weight, being careful for the convey of the same, doth not only compare the end with the beginning and cast the sequel and circumstance every way, but also, entering as it were into himself, he makes a view of that which is in him, and for his better assistance he will not refuse the advice of his friends by which means he is sure to reap the reward of his travel with treble contentment, and seldom is he punished with too late a repentance. Herewith also the example of the wise mariner doth in like sort advise us, who, coming by fortune or violence of weather upon an unknown coast, doth straightaway sound and try the depth of the river by his plummet and line; neither will he let fall his anchor unless he be sure of the firmness of the ground, which, if it do fail him, yet is he to withstand the malice of danger by keeping the channel which yields him water enough.

    So, if this wretched Albanian had made a view of himself and his forces afore he became subject to the humor of jealous suspicion, or if he had given correction to his fault in time and suffered reason to suppress the rage of his folly afore he was grown to terms of madness, he had enjoyed his lady at pleasure, lived yet in quiet, and prevented the foul note of infamy wherewith the gates and posterns of his house will be painted till the extreme date of the world, and eschewed the peril of damnable despair in killing himself, with like violation and bloody slaughter of his innocent lady, whose death, with the strangeness in execution, being once known to the multitude, it is to be wondered what general dole and desolation were in all parts of the city, how all estates and degrees of people spared no sorts of tears, nor other dolorous tunes, bewailing her misfortune, with several grudges at the malice of her destinies that in such cruel manner took from amongst them the person of her whose virtues and other ornaments of God and nature served as a special mirror or looking glass to all ages. Wherein certainly they had great reason, for a lady or gentlewoman equal with her in conversation every wayI mean chaste without argument of dishonesty, devout and yet hating superstition, bountiful without wasteful prodigality, wise without vain vaunting, so obedient towards her husband as was necessary, and, lastly, lacking the furniture of no good virtue—cannot be too much honored in her life nor worthily renowned after her death, as well for the such rare gifts are no less meritorious for the virtues that be in them than that they serve as special allurements to provoke young ladies and gentlewomen, desirous of like glory, to imitate the example and virtues of them whose due fame is able to exceed the length of time and live after death; who hath no power but over our corrupt soma or mass of flesh, being barred to meddle with the felicity of the mind, to whom only the title of perpetuity is due without exception. And as her life and death import several virtues and deserve semblable commendation, the one for that she never made show of mislike what wrong soever he wrought her, the other in that she failed not to honor him till the last hour of his life, so may you also discern therein two several examples: the one to warn the light and harebrained husbands not easily or for small occasions to enter into suspicion with their wives, whom they ought to love and honor no less than themselves; the other to present unto the ladies of our time the due reward of wisdom, obedience, and chastity, which be the things that make this Greek live after her death, being worthily invested with the wreathes of honor among all the ladies of that country.