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Wednesday, February 17, 2016



A troubadour is not a jester, but I was referring to one of the earliest scenes of "Francesca da Rimini" (recently shown at the Met), where there is this 'jester', whose function seems to bring, through, song, the gossip from the area. I will extract a bit of the libretto below.
Francesca's ladies in waiting are seen leaning over the loggia & coming down the stairs gazing curiously at a jester (giullare) who carries his viol hanging by his side & in his hand an old jerkin.

LADIES: O, here is the Jester in the court ! O Biancofiore, The Jester! he has come! Let's make the Jester sing. Hey, tell me, are you that Gianni?
JESTER: Sweet ladies.
LADIES: That Gianni who was coming from Bologna? Gian Figo? Are you Gordello who is coming- from Ferrara ?
JESTER: Dear ladies, have you, by chance, a little...
LADIES: What? A little bacon?
JESTER: Have you a little scarlet?
LADIES: Are you for jesting with us? We are ready. But who are you? that Gianni. Look what clothes he has! The doublet is at loggerheads with the hose. O, look at him. He has fled In nothing but his trousers. Look, look, the thing he is holding!  A little threadbare cloak.  No, no, it is a Romagna jerkin. Then you are Gordello, you are not Gian Figo. But no, he is a Jew. Sells fripperies and songs. What have you with you? Have you rags or ballads? You let the joke alone, then, Mona Berta. Let us see now if he knows how to sing. Come on then, jester, and sing us, if you can, a pretty song. Madonna Francesca knows a lovely one, beginning- this way: "Very mightily  Love holds me captive." Do you know the song?
JESTER: Yes, I will say it now, If you have a little scarlet.
LADIES: But what is it you want then, with your scarlet? We are waiting, we are waiting!
JES. I want you, if you will, to put a patch for me upon this jerkin. 
LADIESL What a mad idea, to patch Romagna woollen, and with scarlet.
JESTER: I pray you, if you have it, do for me this service. There is one tear here, in front, another on the elbow ; here it is. Have you two scraps?
LADIES: We will put it right for you If you will sing to us.
I know the histories of all the knights & all the knightly deeds of chivalry done in King Arthur's time
& specially I know of Messer Tristan & Messer Lancelot of the Lake,
and Messer Percival of the Grail, that took the blood of our lord Jesus Christ & of Galahad & of Gawain
& the rest.
I know them all. 
LADIES: Good luck, Jester, good luck! We will tell Madonna Francesca what you know,  She takes delight in them. Jester, she will reward you bountifully.
JESTER: She will give me the remainder.
LADIESL What remainder ?
JESTER: Why, the two scraps of scarlet. 
DONELLA: She will give you quite other gifts, the bountifullest gifts. Rejoice that she is marrying. Messer Guido marries her to a Malatesta. The wedding day is close at hand. Meanwhile, tell us a story: we are all ears.
They group themselves about the JESTER, leaning towards him. He begins.
How the fay Morgana sent to Arthur's Court
The shield foretelling the great love to be
Between good Tristan and the flower-like Iseult
And how Iseult and Tristan drank together
The draught of love that Iseult's mother, Lotta,
Had destined for her daughter and King Mark.
And how the draught of love, being perfect, brought
Both these two lovers to one single death.
The ladies stand listening. The JESTER preludes on the viol and sings.
Now when the dawn of day was nigh at hand King Mark of Cornwall and good Tristan rose...
THE VOICE OF OSTASIO (behind the scenes): Tell him, the Puglian thief, tell him, I say, that I will wash my hands and feet in his heart's blood.
LADIES: Messer Ostasio! Come away, come, come! They scatter , and rush up the stairs, with laughter and Sy and along the loggia.
JESTER: My jerkin, my good jerkin I I commend you,  My jerkin, and the scarlet!

LADIES: Come back at noon. It shall be ready.

SCENA II. Entra OSTASIO DA POLENTA per la grande porta del cortile in compagnia di SER TOLDO BERARDENGO. (OSTASIO DA POLENTA enters by the great door at the back accompanied by SER TOLDO BERARDENGO).

OSTASIO (afferrando il giullare sbigottito – [seizing the terrified jester]): Che fai qui, manigoldo? Con chi parlavi? Con le donne? Come sei venuto ? Rispondimi ! Sei tu di Messer Paolo Malatesta? Su, rispondi. (What are you doing 1 here, rascal? Whom were you talking with, the women? How Did you come here ? Answer me, I say. Are you From Messer Paolo Malatesta ? Now, Answer).

JESTER. Signor mio, voi mi serrate troppo. Ahi. (O sir, you are holding me too hard, ahi)

OSTASIO: Venuto sei con Messer Paolo? (Did you come here with Messer Paolo?)

JESTER. No, signor mio. (No, sir)

OSTASIO. Tu menti. (You lie)

JESTER. Si, signor mio.(Yes, sir)

OSTASIO. Parlavi con le donne. E che dicevi tu? Parlavi certo di Messer Paolo. Che dicevi? (You were talking with the women. What did you say? Something, no doubt, concerning Messer Paolo. What was it?)

JESTER. No,  no, signor mio, ma di Messer Tristano. (No, sir, nosir, only of Messer Tristan)

OSTASIO. Fosti tu mai dai Malatesti a Rimino? (Were you ever with the Malatesti at Rimino?)

JESTER. No, mai, signor mio. (No sir, never, sir)

OSTASIO. Dunque tu non conosci Messer Paolo il Bello. (Then you do not know Messer Paolo the Beautiful?)

JESTER: Per mala sorte mai non lo conobbi (Unluckily I do not know him, sir) (Exit)

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