or.The Miscreant Mishandled



I recently read, in a biography of Truman Capote [p. 496], how the writer, who dearly loved an anecdote, had once put one on paper, describing how another writer, Gore Vidal, finding himself among the guests at a reception in the Kennedy White House, had indulged in such unseemly talk - and refused to retract a word of it - that he had been physically ejected from the building by Robert Kennedy, the President's brother and Attorney General and Arthur Schlesinger jr., his biographer.

Gore Vidal loudly insisted that this whole episode was a creation of his former friend's disorderly imagination, And I believe general opinion in literary circles has tended to agree with him.

What then was my surprise to discover, in Harvard's Widener Library a couple of sheets of paper, which had apparently been used as a page-marker in the Prayer Book of a 17th century divine, on which I discovered fragments of a verse play. In a hand-writing which I have been assured by one expert is that of John Webster. The opinion of this expert has been vigorously contradicted by others. Scientific tests currently being conducted will soon settle the question of authenticity once and for all.

At any rate, here are the pages in question [the spelling and punctuation have been on occasion modernized]:



or, The Miscreant Mishandled


The persons in the play:


Giovanni Medici, Duke of Florence

Count Roberto Medici, brother to Giovanni

Arturo Slesingerio, an Archbishop

Edgaruvero, chief of the Carabinieri

Razzivillo, a Prince

Gorvidalio, a miscreant Lord

Sangiancano, a condottiere

Onassio, a merchant of Venice

Serving men, jesters, jugglers, Senators, Ambassadors, poets


Giacolina, wife to Giovanni

Leona , sister to Giacolina and wife to Razzivillo

Giuditta, a celebrated Venetian courtesan, in the pay of Sangiancano

Marilina, a captive Moorish princess disguised as a milkmaid

Waiting-women, bawds, weird sisters


 Act IV Scene ii

[A Reception Chamber opening into a Banqueting Hall]

(Enter Duke Giovanni, surrounded by dignitaries, courtiers, servingmen and guards)

(Enter Marilina singing with arms out-thrust to Giovanni:)


Marilina:   Joyous natal day to thee

Ruler of proud Tuscany

Happy happy Medici

Joyous natal day to thee

(Exit Marilina)



Gorvidalio:         Whence comes this wench? The honorable state

Of Duke demands, meseems, a higher standard.                    Could I have not, Giovanni, more fitly                                   Brought with me a band of brawny boys

That late have broke the windows of the Bank

Of Florence, manfully defending their

Forefoundingfathers' hardwon rights

To freely speechify and burn the effigy

Of thy hound Uvero?. Their lusty throats

Could raise a paean for a martyred hero

Like Aronburro that would singe our ears                                                Now reddening with shame at all this mewling

Directed at an unschooled blundering boy


Archbishop:        Vidalio I expostulate with thee

Exulcerate these efflorences of

Thy inky bile and diversivolent

Concatenations . Give cogitation here.

Exulcerate I say, exulcerate!


Gorvidalio: Exulcerate thyself, my reverend sir,

         That might have hymned the deeds of heroes

But rather plucks a tuneless lyre

With panegyrics to a callow youth


Roberto:    Avaunt thou caitiff knave that durst

Such venom vomit on the noble head

Of him who ever shall remain

My noblest brother of them all.


Gorvidalio:   Durst I? Aye.

      Or as the ostrich said when it voided two eggs upon the bald pate of Aeschylus the tragedian and there emitted two chattering chicks, I durst what I durst, I burst what I burst.

Weep and wail, say I, Let Truth Prevail.


Roberto:    Dare, reverend father, I presume to have 

Thy sanctified permission for the act

Which Honor, Duty, Faith and Family

Tradition all combine to mandate me

To take?


Archbishop:                       More than permission, good my lord.   

The temporalities of this our age

Require our deeds shall thunder even more

Toniturentitistically than

Our words. So up my lord. And Heave!


Roberto:    And Ho!


(They hoist Gorvidalio by the scruff of his neck-scarf  and the seat of his breeches and throw him through the window out into the gutter of the Via Pensilvania)


The voice of Gorvidalio:                     I'll grill your livers, fry your hides!


Serving man: Methinks he squealeth like a pig.


Archbishop:                                                  'Tis so.


Roberto: The banquet waits within. Go gullets, fill,

      Grow, bellies, round till breeches burst. Go, go.        


[Exeunt omnes, rejoicing]



(Re-enter Marilina beating a drum)


Marilina (singing):

Joyous natal day to thee

Ruler of proud Tuscany

Happy happy Medici

Joyous natal day to thee


[Exit Marilina]