The Complete Poetical Works of Lord Byron

By George Gordon Byron | Go to book overview

tragedy, I. have at least transferred into our language an historical fact worthy of commemoration.

It is now four years that I have meditated this work; and before I had sufficiently examined the records, I was rather disposed to have made it turn on a jealousy in Faliero. But, perceiving no foundation for this in historical truth, and aware that jealousy is an exhausted passion in the drama, I have given it a more historical form. I was, besides, well advised by the late Matthew Lewis on that point, in talking with him of my intention at Venice in 1817. 'If you make him jealous,' said he, 'recollect that you have to contend with established writers, to say nothing of Shakspeare and an exhausted subject; -- stick to the old fiery Doge's natural character, which will bear you out, if properly drawn; and make your plot as regular as you can.' Sir William Drummond gave me nearly the same counsel. How far I have followed these instructions, or whether they have availed me, is not for me to decide. I have had no view to the stage; in its present state it is, perhaps, not a very exalted object of ambition; besides, I have been too much behind the scenes to have thought it so at any time. And I cannot conceive any man of irritable feeling putting himself at the mercies of an audience. The sneering reader, and the loud critic, and the tart review, are scattered and distant calamities; but the trampling of an intelligent or of an ignorant audience on a production which, be it good or bad, has been a mental labour to the writer, is a palpable and immediate grievance, heightened by a man's doubt of their competency to judge, and his certainty of his own imprudence in electing them his judges. Were I capable of writing a play which could be deemed stage-worthy, success would give me no pleasure, and failure great pain. It is for this reason that, even during the time of being one of the committee of one of the theatres, I never made the attempt, and never will. But surely there is dramatic power somewhere, where Joanna Baillie, and Millman, and John Wilson exist. The City of the Plague and the Fall of Jerusalem are full of the best matériel for tragedy that has been since Horace Walpole, except passages of Ethwald and De Montfort. It is the fashion to underrate Horace Walpole; firstly, because he was a nobleman, and, secondly, because he was a gentleman; but, to say nothing of the composition of his incomparable letters, and of the Castle of Otranto, he is the 'Ultimus Romanorum,' the author of the Mysterious Mother, a tragedy of the highest order, and not a puling love-play. He is the father of the first romance and of the last tragedy in oar language, and surely worthy of a higher place than any living writer, be he who he may.

In speaking of the drama Marino Faliero, I forgot to mention, that the desire of preserving, though still too remote, a nearer approach to unity than the irregularity, which is the reproach of the English theatrical compositions, permits, has induced me to represent the conspiracy as already formed, and the Doge acceding to it; whereas, in fact, it was of his own preparation and that of Israel Bertuccio. The other characters (except that of the Duchess), incidents, and almost the time, which was wonderfully short for such a design in real life, are strictly historical, except that all the consultations took place in the palace. Had I followed this, the unity would have been better preserved; but I wished to produce the Doge in the full assembly of the conspirators, instead of monotonously placing him always in dialogue with the same individuals. For the real facts, I refer to the Appendix.


DRAMATIS PERSONÆ

MEN
MARINO FAMIZRO, Doge of Venice.
BERTUCCIO FALIBRO, Nephew of the Doge.
LIONI, a Patrician and Senator.
BENINTENDE, Chief of the Council of Ten.
MICHEL STENO, One of the Three Capi of the Forty.
ISRARL BERTUCCIO, Chief of
      the Arsenal,
Conspirators.
PHILIP CALENDARO,
DAGOLINO,
BERTRAM,
Signor of the Night ('Signore di Notte'), one of the
      Officers belonging to the Republic.
First Citizen.
Second Citizen.
Third Citizen.
VINCENZO, Officers belonging to the Ducal Palace.
PIETRO,
BATTISTA,
Secretary of the Council of Ten.
Guards, Conspirators, Citizens, The Council of Ten,
      The Giunta, etc., etc.

WOMEN

ANGIOLINA, Wife to the Doge. MARIANNA, her Friend.

Female Attendants, etc.

Scene, VENICE -- in the year 1355.


ACT I

SCENE I

An Antechamber in the Ducal Palace.

PIETRO speaks, in entering, to BATTISTA.

Pie. Is not the messenger return'd?

Bat. Not yet; I have sent frequently, as you commanded, But still the Signory is deep in council, And long debate on Steno's accusation.

-499-

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