David Bruce: John Ford’s THE FANCIES, CHASTE AND NOBLE: A Retelling — Act 1, Scene 2

— 1.2 —

Secco used a casting-bottle to sprinkle his hat and face with perfumed water, and he carried a little mirror on his belt. He was making himself smell and look good. Secco was Octavio’s barber, and the casting-bottle and mirror were tools of his trade.

Secco looked in the mirror and said, “Admirable! Incomparably admirable! To be the minion, the darling, the delight of love — it is a very tickling to the marrow, a kissing in the blood, a bosoming of the ecstasy, the rapture of virginity, the soul and paradise of perfection! Ah, it is pity of generation, Secco, that there are no more such men as you!”

Spadone, one of Octavio’s servants, entered the scene.

He loudly announced, “Oyez!”

This was an order to pay attention. It came from the French word for “Hear!”

Spadone, who was seeking Secco, continued, “If any man, woman, or beast, have found, stolen, or taken up a fine, very fine male barber, of the age of above or under eighteen, more or less —”

Secco interrupted, “Spadone, stop; what’s the noise?”

“Umph!” Spadone grunted. “Pay the crier. I have been almost lost myself in seeking you. Here’s a letter from —”

Secco interrupted, “From whom, whom, my dear Spadone? From whom?”

Spadone said, “Speak softly and fairly! If you are so short with me, I’ll return it from where it came, or find a new owner of the letter.”

He cried loudly, “Oyez!”

Secco said, “Speak quietly! Quietly! What do thou mean? Is it from the glory of beauty, the fairest of the fair? Be gentle to me; here’s a ducat — speak quietly, please.”

Spadone said, “Give me the ducat, and take the letter. It is from the party you mentioned.”

They exchanged items.

Spadone continued, “It is golden news — believe it.”

Secco said, “Honest Spadone! Divine Morosa!”

He began to read the letter silently.

Spadone said to himself, “Fairest of the fair, you said?

“So is an old rotten pampered mongrel, part-bawd, part-midwife. All the enamel is quite out of her mouth; not the stump of a tooth is left in her head to mumble — eat slowly — the curd of a posset.”

A posset is a medicinal drink that is made with hot milk curdled by an alcoholic liquor and spiced and/or sweetened.

Spadone said out loud, “Seignior, it is as I told you; all’s right.”

“Seignior” is an Italian word meaning “Mister.”

Secco replied, “Right, just as thou told me; all’s right.”

Spadone said, “To a very hair, Seignior mio.”

Miois an Italian word meaning “my” or “of mine.”

Secco said, “For which, Sirrah Spadone, I will make thee a man; a man, do thou hear? I say, a man.”

Spadone, who was rumored to be a eunuch, was insulted.

He said, “Thou are a prick-eared foist, a cittern-headed gewgaw, a knack, a snipper-snapper.”

A “foist” is a thief. A prick-eared thief is a good thief — that is, one who has not yet been caught. A crop-eared thief is a thief whose ears have been cropped — the tops have been cut off.

Citterns were stringed musical instruments, the headstock of which was often decorated with a carving of a grotesque face or head.

A gewgaw is a trifle.

A knack is a conman.

A snipper-snapper is a conceited young man.

Spadone said, “Twit me with the decrement of my pendants — loss of my testicles! Although I am made a gelding, and like a tame buck, have lost my dowsets, aka balls, and although I am more a monster than a cuckold with his horns seen, yet I scorn to be jeered at by any checker-approved barbarian of you all. Make me a man! I defy thee.”

Cuckolds were men with unfaithful wives. Cuckolds were supposed to have invisible horns growing out of their heads.

A checker was a checkerboard that served as the sign of a tavern. Spadone was saying that Secco frequented taverns, apparently to an excessive extent.

“Barbarian” was a play on “barber.”

Secco said, “How are you now, fellow, how are you now! Ripe for roaring indeed!”

As a person who delivered messages, Spadone frequently cried, “Oyez.”

“Indeed!” Spadone said. “Thou are worse: Thou are a dry shaver, a copper-basined suds-monger.”

No barber ought to be a dry shaver.

Secco said, “Nay, nay; by my mistress’ fair eyes, I meant no such thing.”

He was saying that he had been misunderstood. “I’ll make you a man” was not a reference to Spadone’s rumored lack of testicles.

Spadone said, “Eyes in thy belly! The reverend madam shall know how I have been treated. I will blow my nose in thy casting-bottle, break the teeth of thy combs, poison thy camphor-balls, slice thy towels with thine own razor, put tallow on thy tweezers, and pee urine in thy basin — make me a man!”

Secco said, “Hold on, take another ducat. As I love new clothes —”

Spadone interrupted, “Or cast aside old ones.”

Secco said, “Yes, or cast aside old ones, I intended no insult to you.”

Taking the money, Spadone said, “Good, we are pieced together again.”

By becoming friends again, they were pieced together and at peace with each other.

He continued, “Reputation, Seignior, is precious.”

“I know it is,” Secco replied.

“Old sores don’t want to be rubbed,” Spadone said.

Secco said, “In my opinion, they ought never to be rubbed.”

Spadone said, “The lady guardian, the ‘mother’ of the three Fancies, is resolved to draw with you in the wholesome yoke of matrimony quickly.”

The lady guardian was Secco’s beloved: Morosa. She was the guardian of the Fancies: three young and pretty women.

Secco replied, “She writes as much, and, Spadone, when we are married —”

Spadone interrupted, “You will go to bed, no doubt.”

Secco said, “We will revel in such variety of delights —”

Spadone interrupted, “— do miracles, and get babies.”

Since Morosa was an old woman, her becoming pregnant would be a miracle.

Secco continued, “— live so sumptuously —”

Spadone interrupted, “— in feather and old furs.”

Secco continued, “— feed so deliciously —”

Spadone interrupted, “— on pap and bull-beef.”

“Pap” is semi-liquid food, suitable for an old woman.

“Pap and bull-beef” can also be understood as Morosa’s breast and Secco’s penis.

Secco continued, “— enjoy the sweetness of our years —”

Spadone interrupted, “— eighteen and threescore with advantage.”

Secco was eighteen years old; Morosa was over sixty years old.

Secco continued, “— tumble and wallow in such abundance —”

Spadone interrupted, “— the pure crystal puddle of pleasures.”

Secco continued, “— that all the world would wonder.”

Spadone said, “A pox on them who envy you!”

Secco asked, “How are the beauties, my dainty knave? How do they live, wish, think, and dream, sirrah, ha!”

The beauties were the three Fancies.

Spadone said, “They fumble one with another on the skips and leaps of imagination between their legs; they do eat and sleep, play games, laugh, and lie down, as beauties ought to do. That’s all.”

One animal such as a horse will “leap” on another in order to have sex with it.

A “skip” is an act of passing from one thing to another. In sex, a little something passes from the man to the woman.

To “fumble” is to “use the fingers” awkwardly. This kind of fumbling appears to be mutual masturbation.

Secco said, “Commend me to my choicest, Morosa, and tell her the minute of her appointment shall be waited on; say to her that she shall find me a man at all points.”

“At all points” meant “at all times” and “at all appointments.”

An erect penis also points.

Spadone said, “Why, there’s another quarrel — you said ‘man’ once more, in spite of my nose!”

A long nose can be likened to a penis.

Nitido, Octavio’s page, entered the room and said, “Leave here, Secco, leave! My lord calls for you. He has a loose hair that has moved away from its fellows; a clip of your art is commanded.”

Secco the barber said, “I now fly there, Nitido.

“Spadone, remember me.”

Secco exited.

Nitido said, “Trudging between an old mule and a young calf, my nimble intelligencer?’

The old mule was Morosa, and the young calf was Secco. A mule is a woman: The Latin word muliermeans woman. A calf is a fool.

Nitido, however, stumbled while pronouncing a word, and he may have said “moyle” instead of “mule.” A moyle is a tumult. Perhaps he meant that Morosa was or would be a quarrelsome old woman.

Nitido then asked, “What, thou fatten apace on capon still?”

A capon is a castrated cock.

Insulted, Spadone said, “Yes, crimp.”

“Crimp” was a derogatory term. Possibly it was a portmanteau word combining “criminal” and “pimp.”

Spadone continued, referring to Nitido’s supposed occupation, “It is a gallant life to be an old lord’s pimp-whiskin.”

A whiskin is a pander. The old lord is Octavio.

Spadone continued, “But beware of the porter’s lodge for carrying tales out of the school.”

The porter’s lodge was where unruly servants were punished. Nitido could get in trouble if he told tales about Octavio’s supposed immoral sexual activities.

Nitido said, “What a terrible sight to a libbed — castrated — breech, aka crotch, is a sow-gelder!”

A sow-gelder spays sows. The word “geld” means to deprive of an important part.

Spadone replied, “Not so terrible a sight as is a cross-tree that never grows to a wag-halter page.”

A cross-tree that never grows is a gallows.

A “wag-halter page” is a witty page who is destined to hang by a noose from a gallows.

Nitido said, “Good! Witty rascal, thou are a Satyr, I admit, except that the nymphs need not fear the evidence of thy mortality.”

The nymphs are the three Fancies.

Human mortals are either male or female, but a castrated man lacks some evidence of being male.

Nitido continued, “Go, put on a clean bib, and spin among the nuns, sing them a bawdy song. All the children thou beget shall be christened in wassail-bowls, and turned into a college of men-midwives.”

Wassail-bowls are filled with wine or ale, not with holy water.

Nitido continued, “Farewell, nightmare!”

“Very, very well,” Spadone said. “If I die in thy debt for this, crack-rope, let me be buried in a coal-sack. I’ll fit you, ape’s-face! Look for it.”

A crack-rope is a rogue who is likely to die on a gallows.

An ape-face is ugly.

Nitido sang, “And still the urchin would, but could not do.”

An urchin is a boy.

A castrated man would — wants to — have sex but cannot.

“Do” means “have sex.”

Spadone said, “Mark the end of it, and laugh at last.”

Spadone intended to have the last laugh.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: The Anthropophobia Project — “Greensleeves (Piano)”


Song: “Greensleeves (Piano)” from the album GREENSLEEVES

Artist: The Anthropophobia Project

Artist Location: Vancouver, Washington

Info: The album includes three versions of “Greensleeves”: 1) “Greensleeves (featuring the Aquaerials),” 2) “Greensleeves (Piano),” and 3) “Greensleeves (Guitar).”

Price: Name Your Price (Includes FREE)

Genre: Instrumental, Easy Listening



The Anthropophobia Project at Bandcamp


David Bruce: The Coolest People in the Arts — Education, Fame, Fans


• Although Christian Johannsen was from Sweden, he went to Russia and became an influential teacher of ballet before the Revolution. He did not give much praise, and his highest praise when a student had learned something really well was, “Now you may do that in public” — that is, in performance.

• Vincent van Gogh once accepted three pupils, who paid him in tubes of paint. Unfortunately, his pupils disliked the technique that he taught him, telling him that he didn’t paint with the technique that academic painters used. Mr. van Gogh replied, “I scoff at your technique.”

• In talking about dance, choreographer Michel Fokine frequently used two Russian words: naslajdaitesand laska. According to impresario Sol Hurok, these words, freely translated, mean “do it as though you enjoyed yourself” and “caressingly.”


• This is a story that the great theater actor Joseph Jefferson used to tell on himself. He had a great success with the play Rip Van Winkle, and he was impressed with his own success and thought that every well-informed person knew about his success. After a performance, he went to the Fifth Avenue Hotel, where he was staying, and he got on an elevator with a man who had a grizzled beard. The man asked him, “Are you playing in town now, Mr. Jefferson?” Mr. Jefferson thought that the man must be a simpleton if the man did not know that Mr. Jefferson was currently a huge success in the play Rip Van Winkle. They talked briefly, and the man with the grizzled beard got out of the elevator. Mr. Jefferson then asked the elevator boy, “Who was that?” The elevator boy looked at Mr. Jefferson sadly because of Mr. Jefferson’s great ignorance and said, “Why, that is General Ulysses S. Grant.”

• In his later life, artist Pablo Picasso was so famous that he needed to take steps to get away from the people wanting to see or meet him. Once, he bought a house near Marseilles, but after remodeling the house and moving into it, he discovered that crowds of people gathered on a nearby hill to watch him through binoculars. Therefore, he never settled there permanently.


• Science fiction author Ray Bradbury ass happy to be famous. He pointed out, “To know you are loved everywhere you go — that’s wonderful.” One of his daughters, Alexandra, wanted him to use his influence to get her into a sold-out David Bowie concert in Los Angles, and he was willing. He got the telephone number of Mr. Bowie’s agent and called him to say that he wanted to buy some tickets. It turned out that Mr. Bowie was a fan of his writing and gave him the tickets and insisted on meeting him after the concert. So there Mr. Bradbury was, backstage, talking with Mr. Bowie and being swarmed by other fans of his writing: John Belushi, Ringo Starr, Bette Midler, and Neil Sedaka. Mr. Bradbury says, “My daughter was standing there, like, ‘You know, this is just my father.’” Another encounter, among many more, occurred when he was standing on a corner in Beverly Hills and Sidney Poitier drove by and yelled at him, “Mr. Bradbury, I’m Sidney Poitier and I love you.” One final story: During the time he was writing Fahrenheit 451, he was waiting for a bus at a stop. A young man came to the bus stop. He was carrying lots of books — science books. Mr. Bradbury asked him if he belonged to the UCLA science fiction club. The young man replied that he did, and Mr. Bradbury asked who were his favorite authors. They were Asimov, Clarke, Bradbury …” and Mr. Bradbury asked, “Oh! Do you like Bradbury?” The young man did: “Very much.” Mr. Bradbury asked, “Would you like to meet him?” Of course, the young man did, and Mr. Bradbury introduced himself. They continued talking, and it turned out that the young man lived in Pica de Via, Havana, Cuba, and that his last name was Hemingway. The young man was Ernest Hemingway’s son!


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved