A Squeaky Clean Renaissance, Chapter Three: All the World's a Stage
A Squeaky Clean Renaissance Chapter the Third: All The World’s A Stage
“I have relied on Redcrosse twice already. I will trust this mission to noone but myself.”
“Has your Majesty ever considered the benefits of a theocracy?”“A theocracy. You make it sound so appealing.”
Despite having converted King Cecil the First to the JacobanChurch—a religious outlook with which he was in sympathy–Shepherdess Duessa felt she did not have sufficient influence overthe King.
Seduction had not worked, and after consulting the Royal Advisor,she had come to the conclusion that it never would work. Aftersome irritation—she had always found it effective before---sheconsidered her options. “There is more than one way to achieveinfluence and power. All for the glory of the Watcher, naturally.”
The King, still favorably impressed by the apparent austerity of theJacoban priestess, continued to hold court and to attempt to instillPuritanian values in his subjects.
“It does not matter that you have acquired your manners from observing yourlivestock. There is no possible excuse for placing your face directly in yourbowl and inhaling your food.”“But your Majesty, we haint got no forks yet.”“Then invent some. Good heavens, must I do everything?”And yet, his subjects began to observe that the King’s usual sleeplessconcentration on his royal duty was failing.
“Sire, I beg a boon from the Fools, Jesters, and Joculators Guild.There’s a rumor players are coming with their plays and the like.That’s a knock to our livelihood, Your Majesty, and—Sire? Sire?”
The King would admit to no difficulties, however, and continued his relentless driveto spread Peace, Rectitude, and Good Manners—Squeaky Cleanliness—and to bringabout the Renaissance to as many cultures as possible. Advorton was the next on thelist to be Improved, so he sent a challenge to a Tournament of Honor to theAdvortonian champion. While awaiting his arrival, he added to the meticulous noteshe claimed to be preserving for posterity, and then sought the advice of the physician.
“Master Robert, We require your assistance in fortifying Us for thetournament.”“A strengthening potion. Yes, I can do that. But if I may take the liberty,you will first require more general medical treatment. I would prefer tomake a full examination.”
But King Cecil had easily prevailed in a game of Kingball, and wasadamant that he was in excellent physical condition.
Master Robert had no alternative but to do as he was bid, but as a physician,he could not help but try again.“Here is the potion you asked me to make, Sire, but it would be better tofortify all the humors at once. Perhaps a precautionary bleeding?“No, thank you.”“Some purgatives?”“No.”
Shepherdess Duessa arrived prior to the tournament, and reminded the Kingthat an excellent wine had just arrived from Yacothia.“My Lord Proxy takes care to remember the tastes of his friends. I admire yourabstemiousness, Sire, but if the physician is concerned for your health—”“Not at all. An absurd notion.”“And yet, why not avail yourself of all possible aid? I supervised the shipmentpersonally.”
It seemed insulting—even impious—not to agree.
The physician was not pleased with what he found.“Sire, again, I do not want to give offence, but I must be blunt. My physic cando you limited good. Your iron constitution is not as it was. You mustisolate and eliminate the evil element entering your system. Otherwise, Icannot answer for the consequences. Otherwise, it will destroy you.”
Brushing aside the physician’s warnings, King Cecil began thefinal and potentially bloody challenge to the Advortonianchampion. Half the kingdom left its duties to attend, including ayoung bard, freshly arrived from a riverside city named Anyder.The crowd cheered as King Cecil seemed to prevail. Strict andparticular as he was, he was also their King.
Cheers turned to gasps as the King staggered, nearly fell, andalmost lost his sword.
The narrow escape only fueled his determination.
“At length, King Cecil swung his mighty blade,The onlookers, they answered with a roar;Sir Geoffrey shook his head from where he laid,And woozily he asked, ‘Where is the door?’”“And THAT is how the King defeated Sir Geoffrey the Inebriated.”The Bard Tarleton Somerset had found that some embroidery of thetruth paid.
In addition to performing on the lute, the cittern, the tabor and thefife, Tarleton ran the local tavern, the Valiant Titmouse. The tavernwasn’t a bad place to perform plays. There was a built-in audience,and the more ale they drank, the better the pay.
Since he also wrote every play performed in the tavern, he workedday and night to write, perform, and supervise the purchase of ale.
Concentration was not always easy, as urchins had free access to the tavernand often wandered upstairs to the room where Tarleton slept and wrote,screaming and picking fights. Still, he learned to do it, as he had no choice.Staying indoors was no hardship, as Tarleton was a very nervous person andprofoundly afraid of monsters and the dark.
King Cecil had granted permission for a Battle of the Bards, to beattended by poets from all the neighboring countries. Puritania, once acultural backwater, now seemed quite an attractive place for players whowanted a permanent establishment.Tarleton was torn. More and better plays would make the theater moreinteresting and popular, and yet competition might destroy his buddingcareer.
Tarleton first introduced himself to the only woman bard at histavern.“You wouldn’t be Anon., would you? Because Anon. is myabsolute favorite poet.”She shook her head. “Nope, sorry. My name’s Haley.”
“Is that so? Well, at least let me buy you a drink.”“Don’t mind if I do!” she said, taking a goblet of wine.Tarleton watched her anxiously.“Are you thinking of staying in Puritania after the competition?”he asked, half hoping and half dreading the answer.
“No,” Haley the Bard said with a smile. “I’m going back home. I’mjust starting to do well there, and I can’t afford to give up and start allover. You know how it is.”Tarleton did indeed know how it was. Reputation was everything to aplayer.
“I understand that you are very popular, Bard Maurice.Those heroic plays where the hero stands right in the middle of the stageand screams? Brilliant. I’m a huge fan.”“I was wondering if you’d consider a collaboration after the contest isover. Maybe I can toss in a little light comedy, a bit of romance, maybeanother hero who thinks aloud a lot? A bit with a dog? Something foreverybody.”
Bard Maurice did not approve of this idea.“Collaboration? A bard of my stature, collaborate with you? Mixin trash with my heroic drama? I would rather be stabbed in theeye.”
The bard Philaster, famed for his romantic dramas, also hadnothing to say to the idea of collaboration. Lovers took deathlessvows in his plays, usually dying in a large heap after making longspeeches, but Philaster had nothing to say to his mistress Fiona,either, and she sat in the tavern, looking awkward and alone.
Tarleton had spent his entire life amusing people, and heinstinctively made his way over to the sad woman and performed asmall conjuring trick.
It did not hurt that she was very beautiful, and many thoughtsoccurred to Tarleton simultaneously, most of them to do withmoney.
He drew her into a conversation.“Philaster—have you ever performed in any of his plays? Hespecializes in romance. I would have thought you would be a naturalfor that.”
She smiled, but shook her head.“Philaster says that boys are much more romantic. On stage, at anyrate.”Tarleton also noticed that she had a rich, carrying speaking voice: anexcellent quality for what he had in mind.
“There is a tide in the affairs of menThat, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”“Hmm. That’s not bad. I’ll have to use that in something.”“What an opportunity! It’s bold, it’s different, it’s—impossible if shedoesn’t agree to it.”
When the tavern was nearly quiet, he seized his chance.“Fiona—it’s Fiona, isn’t it?--Philaster really has never permitted you to perform?”She looked taken aback.“No, of course not. Everyone knows it’s against the law for women to act.”“It’s NOT,” Tarleton said emphatically. “It just isn’t done. Players aren’t afraid ofbeing put in the stocks. We’re afraid of thrown fruit. But I think,” he took a deepbreath, “it’s worth the risk. If you’ll agree.”Something must have conveyed to Fiona that Tarleton never took unnecessary risks.She agreed.
“Assist me, Wit,” he muttered later. “This will have to be completelydifferent. There will have to be enough for Fiona to do, but not too much,because she has not performed before. The audience needs time to get usedto the idea of a beautiful woman onstage, and to like the idea. And we’ve gotto avoid fruit.”
“Ladies and gentlemen all, for your entertainment and edification,we now present to you Donald the Twelfth and his Extremely Good LookingGirlfriend.”
The audience was stunned by Fiona’s beauty and by the lovescenes Tarleton had added to a run-of-the-mill history play. Theywept as Donald bade farewell to his Extremely Good LookingGirlfriend.
King Cecil, who was present, averted his eyes from the moreflamboyant love scenes, but otherwise he seemed pleased.
They ended the play to tumultuous applause. There could be no doubtthat Donald the Twelfth had won the competition, and that Fiona, thefirst actress in Puritania, had ensured its success.Flushed with happiness, Fiona ran off to tell Philaster that she loved thestage, and that if he would not write parts for her, she would stay inPuritania and be an actress here.A loud, unpleasant argument followed, which Tarleton did his best toignore.
After awarding Tarleton the prize for Best Play, King Cecil dismissedthe impertinent brewer who so often wandered into importantoccasions, and questioned Tarleton seriously.
The King, now alone with Tarleton, fixed him with a keen look.“You would not by any chance be exploiting a superficial physicalresemblance for the purposes of satire?” he asked sternly.
“Of course not, your Majesty. That would be in direct contraventionof your Star Chamber Decision 503, in which it is expressly forbiddento portray the monarch on the stage in any way, particularly for the purposes ofamusement.”“In that case, carry on. We must have theater if we are to have a Renaissance,after all.”
“Oh, WATCHER, I have looked into the Pit of Death. I will never, everdo that again.”
“HAH, Mistress Fortis.”“You wouldn’t cheat, would you?”“Oh, no. Lady Fortune is smiling on me today. In fact, I am as lucky as amultitude of ducks.”“How do you know that?”“I just do. If I weren’t, I would probably be in the stocks right now. So Imight as well bet my doublet and hose, because I will win. And I did.”
In the Castle, the conversation had reverted to the tournamentand tactfully made no mention of Donald the Twelfth.
“I was most impressed by your fighting skill, Your Majesty,especially as you were not trained to arms from your youth. I amkeen to aid you in the next quest to advance your mission.”
The King almost smiled a thin smile, then thought better of it.“Thank you, Sir Redcrosse. The next quests do not require your assistance,and We have already sent for a specialist.”“We intend to improve Puritania’s culture for the time being, and Weparticularly look forward to watching the two churches compete in themarketplace of the market. Do please assist Sister Una and ShepherdessDuessa as they ask, and attend to your business as always.”
And lo, Sir Redcrosse did exactly that.“More weight behind the cut! You fight like a girl!”“That’s because I AM a girl, you idiot!”
“Depart, varlet, from the King’s bathroom, or taste the wrath of my blade!”
Sister Una did her very best to compete in the marketplace of themarket. Competition was not in her nature, however. She couldonly persuade, one person at a time, and such a process was slow.
She looked out on the landscape of Puritania wistfully. She had hadsuch high hopes, and Brother Bonaventure would be sodisappointed.
Shaking her head, she went back inside the church. Prayer and work, shethought. Keeping the floors clean would clear her mind as well.
She scrubbed industriously, and the old habit of hard work did make her feelbetter. Perhaps it was as well that she did not know she was being watchedfrom the pews with quiet admiration.
Sister Una brought her blessings everywhere. She blessed the travelingmarket, hoping that perhaps here was the marketplace of the market KingCecil had been talking about.
She even blessed the bathwater, and was saddened that sometimes thePuritanians seemed to grow tired of Peace and Love and murmured ofAnnoyance and Irritation.
She continued to preach, sometimes to a nearly empty church. TarletonSomerset came a few times, though he said it was only to admire her speakingvoice. When she asked kindly if he wanted to join the church, he said no.“The Church has no love for the theater,” he said. “The Church would stopmy performing. It would put me out of business.”
“Friend,” she said gently, “you know that is not true. Have you not played as Ipreached? Did I stop you, or did I stop myself and admire your talent?”
“The Church has no love for the theater,” he repeated. “I can name you chapter andverse, and every ancient teacher who has said so. And besides,” he added hesitantly,“besides, Fiona now lives with me at the Valiant Titmouse.”“It isn’t at all what you think,” he added defiantly. “She left Philaster to become anactress. She left her native country. She had nowhere to go. But I know exactly whatthe Church would think. I know the word they use instead of ‘actress.’ Let theChurch be the Church, and the Theater be the Theater.”
Sister Una was much relieved when Sir Redcrosse offered to help her.“Do not thank me,” he said, smiling. “It is by the King’s orders, though I amhappy to be of assistance.”
“Nevertheless, I do thank you, friend,” she said. “The Peteran faithneeds your help. And you are a Peteran, though I would neverpresume on that.”Sir Redcrosse nodded.“Yes,” he said firmly. “I am a Peteran, and your first convert. I willnever forget.”
“I was her first convert, Mistress Fortis,” he said, some time later. “Her firstconvert. I know you are a Peteran. I have seen you there. You know whatshe has to say is good. Can you not come more frequently, even once, as afavor to me?”
“It gives her heart not to preach to the empty air.”
Mistress Fortis did come as Redcrosse had asked, as a favor to him,listening patiently as others talked through Sister Una’s sermon.
She stayed for herself, however, and was very happy to have come after all,as Sister Una’s prayers were so sincere and kindly that they would comfortnearly anyone, Peteran or not.
“Thank you, Brother,” she said later. “I was losing confidence. Mistress Fortiscomes more often and others have come.”“You may thank King Cecil,” he said diffidently, “as the idea was his.”“But the action was yours,” she replied, “and the Peteran Church rejoices in youand thanks you.”And then there was silence.
“Have you no more you wish to say to me, lady?”“Ought I?” she said innocently. “What can I answer, other than ‘thankyou?’”
Redcrosse sighed.“Nay, then I am answered, lady.” he said. “It was my pleasure to aid you.”
“The theater is very suspicious and contrary to the Watcher’s Will. Although it maybe countenanced by the benevolence of the prince, true Jacobans must shun it. Donot their women show themselves shamefully on the common stage like harlots? –and female virtue is frail.”
Brother Ambrose dutifully wrote the Shepherdess’ dictate down ina fair copy and stamped it.“By authority of Duessa, High Shepherdess.”“Imprimatur.”--“It may be printed”: Latin.
Happy as she was about the growing popularity of the Peteran Church, Una did notforget her friend Subdeacon Ambrose. He did not appear to be happy. She thoughtshe understood why.“I see, friend. Brother and sister in the Watcher though we are, we must be rivals.”“No, that’s not it at all,” Ambrose said, shaking his head.“Are you unhappy in your faith? Is it the Jacoban Church?”Ambrose looked startled. “What? I love the Jacoban Church. I was raised in it fromchildhood. It’s my home. It’s not the Church. It’s her.”
“It’s her,” he said quickly, in an undertone. “It’s all her. You have no idea how—howawful she is. Please be careful, Sister Una. She despises you.”“You must be mistaken, Ambrose,” Una said firmly. “Duessa is my sister. Whywould she despise me? I do not despise her.”Ambrose looked uncomfortable.“You have something she wants,” he said hesitantly. Then he pulled her into a quickbrotherly hug. “Please, please be careful, and do not tell anyone I said so.”
Duessa, the Shepherdess, was very displeased by the new success ofthe Peteran Church, and sought an audience with the King to tellhim so.
“Does your Majesty now support the Peteran Church? Are you not aJacoban? I can ask the Proxy to excommunicate you. I can have yourentire country placed under an interdict. Where do your loyalties lie?What leads this country? Who leads this country?”
The King met her eyes with an impassive gaze.“We were under the impression,” he said coolly, “that We did. That isOur head on the coins. The inscription clearly says ‘Cecilius RexPuritaniae.’ Matters spiritual We leave to you and to your sister in thecloth. Matters temporal are Ours.”
Duessa immediately recognized that she had gone much too far, andbegan to repair her mistake.“Forgive me, Your Majesty,” she said contritely. “The honor of mychurch is my honor, and I hope you do not suspect that. I merely grewconcerned that you had begun to favor the Peterans. You are still aJacoban, are you?”
“Naturally,” said the King, less austerely. “That will not alter. If yourconcern stems from your zeal for the Church, take Sir Redcrosse anduse him as you will.”“Thank you, Your Majesty. I shall.”
“What IS ailing Ermintrude, Bubbles? She is hungrier than ever and in a foulmood, even for a Pit Beast.”“I hardly likes to say, sir.”“Go on, Bubbles.”
“Worrl—she’s broody, sir, an’ no mistake. It be egg-layin’ season soon, an’ weain’t got no boy Pit Beasts. Only wizards got ‘em, see. They’s bitty little things,no bigger’n a lady’s lapdog. It do be sweet to watch ‘em a-courtin’ sir-- ‘ceptin’when the girl eats the boy.”
“There are boy and girl Pit Beasts? Good heavens.”Bubbles privately thought that Redcrosse probably wasn’t clear about boy andgirl humans, either, but said nothing.
Putting aside for the moment his confused thoughts on the subject of boyand girl Pit Beasts, Redcrosse went to the Jacoban Church and offered hisaid as the arm of the King.
The Shepherdess was clearly in great need of his assistance, and hischivalrous and faithful character came to the fore as he stepped forward toaid a lady and a servant to the Watcher.
“Redcrosse,” she breathed. “Thank the Watcher you have come. You see howthese heretics persecute the Church. How they persecute me.”“Heretics?” Redcrosse said, puzzled. “I do not understand the word.”“Heretics,” she explained. “They pick at things. At the fabric of belief, at thefabric of the Church. At me! I am so discouraged, and so frightened. TheProxy will surely punish me severely.”
She looked helpless and fragile, and Redcrosse wondered what color her hair must beunder the clerical headdress. Blond, like Sister Una? But no. He could see a stray lockof black hair underneath, almost as though it had been arranged there. And—and hewas to think of Una no more.“What am I to do to assist you?” he asked. “With these heretics?”“In Yacothia,” she replied, “generally they are slain. Burnt, or thrown to the Pit Beasts,if,” she added, “they admit to their crimes. But they may be exiled. I leave it to you,”she said demurely, “to do as you see fit, but they must not be allowed to continue toharm me.”
Redcrosse thought unhappily. She was a lady. She was very fair, and she served theWatcher purely. King Cecil had asked him to aid her in any way he could, and shemust be right, but still, he did not like this business.
“Septimus, is it not?”“Yes, sir.”“You know I must send you into exile. There is no help for it. The Shepherdesshas ordered it, and she serves the Watcher. And you are a heretic. Aren’t you?”The man gulped. “Yes,” he said softly. “I am.”
“The Shepherdess must be right, but. . .I have it. Go to my hermit. Trevisant. He raised me from an infant, and he iskind to all travelers. Go to him, due West.”The old man did not dare meet his eyes. “Thank you,” he whispered.“I will speak sharply to you now. Forgive me, friend. It does not come from myheart.”“I understand.”
“Begone, foul heretic! Take your unorthodox beliefs and depart from this purekingdom!”
“Remember. West through the forest. Follow the sun as she sets. TellTrevisant you were sent by Redcrosse George.”“Thank you.”
As Redcrosse carried out his unpleasant task, King Cecil arrived to inspect the JacobanCathedral.“Admirable,” he said at length. “I am not able to attend as often as I might wish. Is allwell, ---”“Ambrose,” said the Subdeacon, supplying the name. “Subdeacon, or plain Ambrose.Yes, I love serving the Church, and the Proxy.”“That is not precisely what I asked.”“I’m sorry, Sire. My Lady Shepherdess awaits you when you see fit.”
The High Shepherdess seemed very pleased to see the King again so soon.“Thank you for your support, your Majesty. We have added to thearchitectural detail over the narthex. One of the tiny figures nowresembles you. To the right, naturally.”“We see.”
“I cannot say how relieved I am that your Majesty has forgiven mybitter words. I did not mean them. May I make a peace offering?”“We would greatly prefer not—”“As a token of my true penitence, Sire. As a guest in my home, andas a son of the Church? I would take your refusal to drink greatly toheart.”
And caught in a web of his own courtesy and Good Manners, the Kinghad little choice.
“I have sent the heretic on his way, lady.”“Both of them?”“Both? . . .”“There were two. Surely I mentioned that. There is another in thetown square, boldly telling lies about me. I would be so grateful. Irely on you absolutely.”
What could Redcrosse do, when a lady, a woman of the Watcher,relied on him absolutely? What could he do, when she placed herhand on his arm and pleaded, eyes beseeching? He went forth tobehold the heretic.
He came across the heretic in the town square, talking to his squireChristopher.“I have not enjoyed a conversation so much since—what is yourname?”“It’s Bethany.”“Oh, no. It would have to be the only girl Christopher has looked at sinceFriotheswede died.”
“He’s very nice, isn’t he? I like him very much.”
“He is indeed very nice. He is my squire. I am Redcrosse. And I have been sent toarrest you as a heretic. You are a heretic, aren’t you?”“So what if I am?” the girl said hotly. “My grandmother taught me to go into thewoods and love Nature. I’m not going to stop! Are you taking me to be killed?”“No,” Redcrosse said pityingly. “I must send you away into exile, poor girl. But Icannot send you to Trevisant. I have it. Go South, through the Village. You will findone of my companions, Dame Britomartis. She will protect you until you arrive at theconvent of the Sisters of St. Bella Cygnus. Just for now,” he pleaded. “Perhaps it hasall been a terrible mistake. Perhaps you can return.”
“Begone, witch! Take yourself out of this fair kingdom! Tell all you meet thatwe will have none of your wicked ways!”“To the South. To the convent of St. Bella Cygnus. Tell the Sisters you were sent bythe adopted son of Trevisant—they will understand.”“Thank you. Please tell Christopher that I’m sorry.”Redcrosse did not know what he would tell his squire. He did not like tothink of it. Was it not enough to have one’s heart broken once?
“I have done as you asked, lady. I have done all that you asked. I hope I haveserved you and the Watcher well.”“You have. You have my thanks. I know it must have been difficult.”“You do?”“Of course. You are kind and chivalrous, and you have a great heart, and asorely wounded one, too, if I am any judge. I know your heart doubts andgrieves, and yet you did all I asked in the name of the Watcher and of KingCecil.”
“And not,” she whispered, “in their name alone, I hope.”Her warm breath tickled his ear, and she slid her hand into his.“I hope I may rely on you absolutely. I hope I may rely on you in difficult timesahead.”His mind began to cloud over.“Yes, of course.”“On your honor?”“Of course.”
“And may I show you,” she murmured, “how very grateful I am?”
Wherein ye shall read of most marvelous things:Of the Wizard Busyrane, and his occult assistance in the annexation ofBurdley and of Ticktop;Of an invasion of the kingdom by diabolical metal monstrosities;Of Nicola Michaletto, the assassin;Of a mighty duel fought by Sir Redcrosse;--and many another such wonderful events, if ye will but please to read.
Quests completed:Tournament of HonorRise of a PlaywrightCultural CrusadesInquisition
Puritania’s Culture Aspect is now at Level 10. Halfway there, if wecan keep it that way.
High Kingdom Culture gives you this amusing little buff, “Feeling Refined.”Note the pinky lifting figure drinking something—surely not tea. If that doesn’tprove that Cecil is spreading Good Manners throughout the Sim World, I don’tknow what would.You may also note that the Jacoban Attendant’s real name isn’t SubdeaconAmbrose, but “Christoper” [sic.] Because the game provides the usual repeatingEA names, I’ve got no problem with changing them to make them more uniqueand interesting. How many “Christoper”s does one Kingdom need?
Renaissance Fun Facts The theater section of this chapter is stuffed with Easter Eggs. Here are a few. What Tarleton says is absolutely true. Collaboration was common in Renaissance theater, and yes, Shakespeare did it, too.! It’s only recently (recently = 18th century or later) that we got hung up on who wrote what, especially in theater. A lot of Renaissance plays are by Anonymous, and as Virginia Woolf said, “for most of history, Anonymous was a woman.”! Speaking of women, it’s not true that it was illegal for women to act in Renaissance England. It Wasn’t Done, which isn’t the same thing. Sensible countries like Italy, France, and Spain figured out early that women in the cast were good box office. Once English playwrights caught on, they made sure to include lots of scenes where the female characters had to take off their clothes.
CreditsOpening picture: Sketch of the Swan Theatre, Johannes de Witt.Passages quoted from William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Julius Caesar, Twelfth Night, TomStoppard, Shakespeare in Love, and names mostly from Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene.Inspiration lifted from nearly every Medieval and Renaissance text that isn’t nailed down.Alarming wine fortifiers by ?Printer’s mark, Sacrobosco