The Flight of Pasquetta

By Timothy Nelson

Characters:
Pasquetta Cavatia – wife of Romano Cavatia
Romano Cavatia – a Venetian manuscript illuminator and husband to Pasquetta.
Isabella – abused wife of Antonio C., Pasquetta’s sister-in-law.
A Muranesse woman – Isabella’s mysterious acquaintance.
Madame Borthola Peregrini – Pasquetta’s mother.
Abbess of St. Maffei
Abbess of St. Andrea
The boatman
Vito Della Costa – the Notary
The nun at St. Andrea

Act I
Scene I

Renaissance, Venice, Italy. A boat is crossing the straight to the is- land of Murano. Two cloaked figures, covered by a blanket, sit at the bow of the boat talking between themselves in hushed tones.

The merchant standing at the aft is guiding the boat by the rudder.

Isabella: Don’t fret over this affair. You’ll make the boatman suspicious that we’ve lied.

Pasquetta: I’m not sure he doesn’t already suspect. All the fuss you made about getting two blankets yet we share only the one. I told you we shouldn’t have left before the bleeding stopped. This blanket only helps my bottom slightly.

Isabella: Quit fussing. And for God’s sake keep your face covered a bit more; he’ll never be the wiser.

Pasquetta: Are we near the island yet?

Isabella: No, not yet. The fog is a bit too thick to see; I cannot tell.

Pasquetta: I’m scared Isabella. I’m hungry. I’m cold. Every bit of me shivers. I’m not sure if it’s the shock of Romano’s manner of passion or simply the chill night air.

Isabella: Shush! Do not mention names. The boatman’s ears may be as big as his nose. Oh! I see the dock lanterns now. It won’t be long.

Boatman: Murano is in sight, dear maidens. See the flicker of lights ahead? I hope you have warm beds to crawl into on the island.

Isabella: We do kind Sir. We do.

Pasquetta: [To Isabella softly] I surely hope. I’m bitterly soured by the day’s events. What was the name of your friend on Murano, anyway? I can’t remember if you told me.

Isabella: [Shushing Pasquetta again] Please. I told you no names. She has a name and the boatman doesn’t need to hear it.

[The boat docks]

Boatman: We’re all moored in my Ladies. Watch your step up to the dock. You seem a bit wobbly Miss. Here, I’ll help you directly.

Isabella: No need for handling Sir. I can help her just fine, if you please. Here is your fare. We bid your pardon now, Sir. Good night.

Boatman: Very well. I don’t mean to correct you, however, a good morning to you maidens as well.

{Exit the Boatman}

Pasquetta: Where are we to meet your friend? What was her name?

Isabella: Can you walk at this pace well enough?

Pasquetta: Well?

Isabella: Don’t worry! Only follow and try to attend the pace. I’ll deal with the details.

Scene II

A street in the urban district of Murano. Men are leaving from a large doorway at the end of the way.

Isabella: Here! Quickly, duck into this doorway.

Pasquetta: What? What is it?

Isabella: Just avoiding questions or trouble. Don’t worry.

{The street clears}

Pasquetta: How much further Isabella? I can’t take another step, and I’m still bleeding! Oh, I need to rest.

Isabella: Oh, umm, we’re close. Uh, yes, yes. Very close. Wait here on this step a bit. Stay quiet and out of sight. I’ll be back momentarily.

Pasquetta: But?

Isabella: Momentarily. I assure you.

{Isabella scurries down to the doorway at the end of the way. A light has been lit in one of the windows. Enter Muranese woman emptying a chamber pot out the window.}

Isabella: Madame! To the doorway, please? Madame!

Woman: What? What do you want?

Isabella: Please, to the door.

Woman: Go away, I’ve no openings.

Isabella: Please, quietly Madame, to the door; I’ll explain there. Oh, for the love of Saint Christopher. Please my lady? Refuge, please?

Scene III

In a small room in the woman’s house on Murano. It has a make shift bed, a tiny table and a flowerpot with a single flower in bloom.

{Pasquetta is alone in the room}

Pasquetta: [Speaking to the potted flower] I wish I felt as beautiful as you look little flower. The stings of my wounds are almost gone, but the midnight colors remain to remind me still. My lower flesh is still a bit sour. [Speaking to herself] Oh, Romano, why must your pleasure hold such rage? In the joust of passion my body bears your blows of rage, my flesh is torn by your member! Why does your heart hold such desires and vexations all at once? By what manner do I ignite your devils? I’m in a building full of people, yet I feel so alone. I’ve had no word from a single familiar face. Isabella is now elsewhere, and I still no word from my Mother. Should I return to you? What danger may await me there? For what would I repent to you of; for what transgressions? Oh, my dear, dark and handsome Romano. Dark suggestions are our true conspirators. They come disguised in friendly forms. Oh, Romano! My thoughts are so ambiguous. The week past has assuaged my aches and dulled my resolve. Lord, I beg of you, lend me guidance? I fear I may have unwittingly planted seeds of discontent within the soil of my marriage. My own actions! The crown of thorns that now pierces my brow, is it of my own making? Wounds of such nature are hard to heal.

[A knock comes at the door]

What’s that? The signal knocks. Come in.

{Enter Borthola}

Borthola: [To unseen figure in the hall] Thank you Madame. Please attend me near this door Paulus?

{The door closes; the Pasquetta and Borthola are left alone}

Pasquetta: Mother? Oh, what a joy to see you.

Borthola: How have you come to be here, in these accommodations? You’re not busy as these women are busy, I hope? Has Romano sold you to this?

Pasquetta: Oh, mother.

Borthola: Has his gambling brought you to this?

Pasquetta: Mother, I’ve run away. Isabella led me here to this house. I fled. Rather, I was carried on eagle’s wings in a daze during a pitch-black night, away from Romano’s vile love. On Saint Job’s night Isabella and I retreated into the mercy of God, here is where I found myself.

Borthola: [Moving closer to her daughter, the candle light reveals her bruised face] Oh, my Lord! That bastard did this to you? I knew it. I told your father he only sought the dowry.

Pasquetta: Father couldn’t have known. It didn’t start right away. I was too ashamed to let you know. I thought you suspected, but you never did.

Borthola: I was a fool! Bringing you food because I thought you looked thin, I thought that was all. I believed Romano merely had financial difficulties-but not this. This shall never do! You shouldn’t have come here Pasquetta.

Pasquetta: Maybe I was wrong to have come here?

Borthola: I agree. You should never have come here.

Pasquetta: I thought I should never have left home.

Borthola: No, you shouldn’t have left home. It would have been preferable to this.

Pasquetta: I was scared. I thought maybe if l came hear I’d figure out what I was doing wrong. What was I doing wrong to Romano, mother?

Borthola: I meant you should never have left your Father’s house. You were right to escape from Romano. This dishonor was for naught. Do you at least have your dowry?

Pasquetta: No. Not a single ducat.

Borthola: What about a procurator, or a lawyer?

Pasquetta: Yes. Isabella and retained one the days before we left. He asked many questions. We gave him what little money we had.

Borthola: Alright, alright. Let’s get you out of here. We’ll talk it over during the trip.

Pasquetta: Trip? Where am I going?

Borthola: I hope to a proper place, definitely away from here. Saint Maffei’s maybe. That’s here on the island. Yes, I’ll make the arrangements. Gather up what you have and we’ll be off. I’ll need to make further arrangements with your lawyer and get an ecclesiastical investigation started, I believe. We need to recover your dowry as well.

Pasquetta: I’m not to go back to Romano?

Borthola: By Jove, no! Dear silly girl, you are such a child yet.

Pasquetta: Will St. Maffei give us admittance with our case?

Borthola: Say not a word to a soul of your troubles to anyone until I instruct you. Also, think no more of Romano. He’s the devil! I’d better never see him again!

Scene IV

In front of St. Maffei. The Abbess and Borthola are awaiting Pasquetta.

Borthola: God’s grace is with you. Many thanks to you my dear Abbess for housing the girl.

Abbess: The girl? Right, but of course. Well, she views a bit beyond that description, my lady. Yet, still she is a well-mannered and darling creature. A tragedy for her to have been ravished by those drunken brutes that way.

Borthola: Which is why she desired to take refuge within the bosom of the lord’s house?

Abbess: Oh, here they come. So, you’ll be on to?

Borthola: Uh, on to the familial comforts of a distant kinsman in Ravenna. She’s eager to put the sight of this metropolitan memento quickly into the fading memory of oblivion dreams.

{Enter Pasquetta}

Abbess: Well, God’s blessing upon you my girl. Speedy travel; may the wings of angels carry you to better rest.

{Exit the Abbess}

Borthola: [Grabbing what little supplies they have with them and rushing Pasquetta to the door] Quickly load. We have a distance to trek and a moon to out run before we get to St. Andrea’s.

Pasquetta: To another convent for unhappy wives?

Borthola: Yes. We must begin to expose your situation before the legal institutions. I’ve arranged through your attorney that a notary be sent within a fortnight to St. Andrea Convent to collect your deposition needed by the Ecclesiastical Courts. You may talk there only to the Abbess of your story. Let no other person into your circle until the deposition is concluded. We must not risk loose lips to speed word of your whereabouts to Romano. Let’s be off.

Scene V

In an antechamber of St. Andrea’s Convent.

{Enter Pasquetta, Borthola and the Abbess}

Abbess: Your letter was very brief Madame Peregrini. It gave me little upon which to base consideration for your daughter’s admittance. The claims of your husband’s, uh … perverse means of pleasuring himself, however, led me to believe that Mother Church should offer shelter against any possible continued corruption of your flesh. You lawyer offered little more than judicial summaries, but no real passion was present in his pleas. I pray that what little help we at St. Andrea may extent will suffice to subsist the continuity of your body and soul.

Borthola: May the Lord Jesus touch you with long life and peaceful years for your holy aid. We ask for your patience. We do not seek to deceive you or conceal our intentions.

Abbess: I didn’t mean to suggest wrong.

Borthola: But that vile Romano! May he find his pleasure in dangers path.

Pasquetta: Yes, please hold no grievance regarding our intents dear Abbess. The lines were brief but true within the letter my mother dis- patched.

Abbess: Have no trepidations over my position. I have resolved to provide you aid Madame Peregrini. I also declare that we’ll admit no Romano Cavatia or henchman from his dispatch, should he be knowledgeable of your whereabouts.

Pasquetta: He is not, at least to our knowledge.

Borthola: Thank you Abbess. We wish only to secure Pasquetta’s most natural and holy rights as a Christian woman. We will speed an end to this difficult affair.

Abbess: Have you begun an Ecclesiastical investigation? I shall require that you do.

Borthola: Yes, Madame. Not long ago we requested such. We’ve arranged for a notary to depose Pasquetta here, with your permission, I beg? This was recommended by our lawyer Zan Jacomo Gradenigo. The notary will bear this ring as a means for you to secure his identification.

Abbess: Very well. Oh that’s a lovely intrigue.

Borthola: We’ll seek to settle financial matters once we secure the investigation supports from Romano Cavatia. We’re informed that that is the custom?

Abbess: Thank you. Madame Peregrini, you shall be secure and supported adequately within these walls.

Scene VI

Outside, below a balcony at St. Andrea’s Convent. Romano Cavatia is shouting to a Nun standing in the balcony.

Romano: Sister! By all holiness, you must bear her to me! I have gained word of her presence here at St. Andrea! You shall not hide my love from me! You shall not steal my heart and breathe away! I am told stealing is a sin!

Nun: I have no person to show you securely, Sir! Now go away!

Romano: I shall not! I shall climb this stone face to your nest! I will retrieve my bride!

{Enter the Abbess to the balcony}

God has rightly joined her to me!

Abbess: Loud fool! You are not welcome near this house of God! Leave!

{The nun attempts but fails to bar Pasquetta’s entry into the balcony}

Pasquetta: You louse! Pesky parasite! You proclaim your love in delicate words, but it is poisonous to me! Arh! Your love is strange! It has heights of promise but only sinks to depths of ungodly pain! You seek unnatural pleasure and provide presents of destruction! Beast!

Romano: I know I loose composure at time. I pray for repentance! Withdraw you grievance, I beg of you. Don’t do this dishonorable practice! It brings us low before the eyes of men!…uh … and God too.

Pasquetta: Damn you! Vile, despicable beast of Turkish nature! Angel of Light and Son of Sodomy! May you be off again to hell with all speed!

{Exit Pasquetta}

Abbess: May God have mercy on your soul. Be off, Sir. I beg of you.

Romano: Aahrr!

{Exit Romano in a fit of rage}

Scene VII

In the infirmary at St. Andrea’s Convent.

{Enter the abbess and a badly beaten man being aided by three Nuns}

Abbess: Bring him to this bed. Gently now, good, good. There now. Can you speak, Sir

Notary: What…auh… I think so. Yes. I’m very thirsty.

Abbess: Who are you?

Notary: I am Vito Della Costa. Secretary advising the Ecclesiastical Court, in Venice. I’ve by request of Zan Gradenigo [the man nearly faints, but is revived by a splash of water and a drink].

Abbess: What happened to you, Sir?

Notary: I was attacked: ambushed on the road here, just minutes away. Two men, they stopped my pony and coach, pulled me from my spire and beat me. Blindfolded, they questioned me as to my business near St. An- drea. I sternly refused to cooperate. Then there was a sudden pain in my head and darkness. When I awoke I stumbled to your door.

Abbess: Do you have a token of security you wish to present?

Notary: Alas, my Lady, I’ve also been robbed of just such a token; a modest ring, with a remarkable engraving. Yes?

Abbess: Rest, eat, and we’ll conduct your business at your bidding Sir.

{Exit the Abbess. The Nuns continue to care for the man’s wounds}

Scene VIII

In an antechamber at St. Andrea’s Convent.

{Enter Pasquetta to discover the Notary at a table}

Notary: Welcome Madame Peregrini.

Pasquettta: Hello. You have my sympathies for your encounter on the road, Sir. God grant you twice the health.

Notary: Thank you. Please be seated. With your permission we’ll get right to the business at hand? I have been assigned by the Ecclesiastical Court to depose you here. I require you to state your tale in our own ac- count. What is your intent along with all reasons for it?

Pasquetta: I am currently married to Romano Cavatia of St. Moise, in Venice. He is a manuscript illuminator by trade. I intend to separate from him by permission of the Church and the state.

Notary: Why?

Pasquetta: Well, Sir, I never wanted him-ever! My father preferred the union. I preferred the nunnery. My mother bade me to obey my father and the pleas of our relatives. My kinsmen vouched for his family honor and that of Romano.

Notary: Please, go on?

Pasquetta: At first it was fine. Although I had no love for him, I didn’t dis- like him either. Months passed and he began to speak more harshly to me. He gambled away our wealth, my clothes. It vexed him to loose. He would demand more of my things for the games. I tried to refuse but he’d beat me and take them anyway. I heard from neighbors about Romano’s infidelities. I wanted to disbelieve the reports, but I had to know. I inquired about the matter mildly. He grew angry and beat me. I inquired about the things he promised: dresses, pearls, rings and other things-nothing be- yond what a woman of my station should expect to be provided. He beat me again! That put an end to my loftier requests. Then, his income grew smaller. Adequate food was often scarce in the house. I was hungry! I made simple and contrite requests for only a bit more food. It vexed him severely. He beat me and proclaimed I was eat- ing too much already! I begged him to stop gambling for a while. I pleaded with him to pay down some debts and save a little money. He grew outraged, frightfully so! I told him I only wished to help him regain his honor before our neighbors. He swore to prove how honorable he was! He gagged me, beat me and had his pleasure with me…criminally! We didn’t talk after for a long while. I concealed the trouble as best I could. Every now and again my mother would visit briefly. She noticed me thinning and began to bring food. I assured her all else was well. I told her it was only a temporary difficulty, a slump in Romano’s wages. I believed then she suspected otherwise.

Notary: Was her suspicion why you ultimately departed from Romano? Pasquetta: No. It was other things.
Notary: Please tell?

Pasquetta: It grew worse, in all ways. He spoke to me as if I were an animal. I was denied all but air. Food, proper clothing, my dowry…{weeping]…Isabella, my sister-in-law, who I may add had been suffering at the hands of Romano’s brother Antonio in some similar ways, discovered Ro- mano’s cruelty and begged me to escape.

Notary: You sister-in-law persuaded you to abandon your marriage?

Pasquetta: No, Sir! Oh, pit of unfathomable flames, devour me! No. Ro- mano did! His sins grew too great for my body to bear. His lovemaking was peculiar from the start, but as his anger grew stronger, the beatings harsher, his passion grew painfully bizarre! Unnatural even! He began to demand acts of sodomy! If denied, he’d take it anyway.

Notary: From a Christian?

Pasquetta: Romano acted as no Christian should. He found that if he beat me first I was less uncooperative to the sin of Sodom which he de- sired. He left me in shame and injured my flesh. It was after just such an evening that I fled, seeking refuge on Murano with the aid of Isabella. Notary: What caused the attack that night?

Pasquetta: Uh, Well, he had discovered I had inquired about services from a lawyer.

Notary: Sir Gradenigo?

Pasquetta: Yes. I retained him tentatively.

Notary: For your dowry protection?

Pasquetta: It may have been mentioned, but not decidedly. It concerns my mother greatly now, however.

Notary: So from Murano?

Pasquetta: My mother arranged for the Ecclesiastical investigation, my security here and your services, Sir.

Notary: And Isabella?

Pasquetta: She had other arrangements. She went to stay with a friend, Andrea Castello. I heard from my mother two days ago that Antonio has abandoned her to become a soldier. I know nothing beyond that of her in- tentions, but I do know of mine.

Notary: What are they?

Pasquetta: To fly away. Just like a bird, far, far away from the life I’ve known; far from Venice entirely, dropping excrement on Romano as I go.