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Excerpt from Carlo Goldoni's
The War (La Guerra)

I first started this translation during the heady period in 1966 when Peter Brook was besieging everyone at the RSC for possible contributions to his grand production on the meaning of war, which finally turned out later that year to be the production known as "US." At that time we were all supposed to think in grand epic terms about this theme, and my main contribution, aside from expressing a certain skepticism, was this play, which I had discovered in printed form during my time in Italy and had researched at theBritish Museum and in Berlin. I called it an adaptation at the time and hoped it could form one element of what Brook might be looking for later on, with further layers being added as we worked on it. None of this happened, and comparing it with the original today, I have the impression that my main strategy of adaptation lay in cutting or shortening a few overlong speeches and changing some of the Italian names, unpronounceable even by skilled English actors, into more speakable ones. I am still not altogether happy with the translation as a whole and have made a few changes in what follows, but I suppose I could come up with a fully usable American version in less than a month, if anyone were interested. Then as now, to the best of my knowledge, no other English translation of this play is in existence.

Click Here to See the Brief Report
Prepared for the Royal Shakespeare Company

(Enter three soldiers, carrying a lamb, some chickens, a wineskin, and other looted goods.)

FIRST SOLDIER: Lucky they called a truce when they did.

SECOND SOLDIER: Yeah, we would have killed them.

THIRD SOLDIER: Sure, we were only getting started.

FIRST: It was pretty good for a while—then they all ran back to the camp.

THIRD: I was all set to go after them when they raised that white flag.

SECOND: They're nothing but a bunch of cowards.

FIRST: Anyway, that wasn't a real attack, so I went and assaulted a hen house.

SECOND: Yeah, and I took this lamb prisoner.

THIRD: And I found this wineskin, and I slit its gullet.

SECOND: Boy, if they hadn't surrendered, we'd have ripped them to shreds.

THIRD: All the better for us: at least we can rest up a little during the truce.

FIRST: Let's find some wood and get a fire going.

SECOND: Who's gonna be cook?

FIRST: Hey, that's your job. Today we eat.

ALL THREE: That's right! Yeah, we eat! Yeah, let's eat!

(they are about to go offstage. Enter Lisetta, a pretty peasant girl carrying a basket of food)

THIRD: Hey, look what's coming here.

FIRST: She looks like she has some stuff we can use.

SECOND: Quick, let's hide everything.

(they do so, then lie in wait for Lisetta, pouncing on her when she draws near. They try to take away her basket, but she manages to hold onto it.)

LISETTA: You stay away from my basket.

THIRD: It's okay. We were just joking.

LISETTA: Stop it, I said, leave me alone.

FIRST: Just come with us, gorgeous—we know how to make you happy.

LISETTA: What's that supposed to mean? I may be a peasant girl, but I know how to behave myself.

SECOND: Just show us what's in your basket.

LISETTA: You leave my basket alone!

THIRD: What have you got in there? If you have something to sell, we'll buy it from you.

LISETTA: I have nothing I would sell to you.

FIRST: Don't you think we can pay? Look, we've got money. What's in that basket?

LISETTA: Oh, alright, I'll let you see. Some cheese, half a dozen eggs, and a few apples.

SECOND: How much do you want for the cheese?

LISETTA: One piastre.

THIRD: One piastre! How much are the eggs then?

LISETTA: I'll give you all six for two piastres.

SECOND: I'll show you what I'll give you for this cheese: the reeking bottom of the Pope's ass.

LISETTA: Give me back my cheese.

FIRST: (to Second) Hey, shame on you—don't tell me you were trying to cheat a poor little peasant girl.

SECOND: So how's that your business?

FIRST: It sure as hell is my business, piddle face.

SECOND: Yeah, who are you calling piddle face, turd head?

FIRST: I'm calling you piddle face, crotch rot. And I am not a turd head.

(he reaches for his dagger—they pretend to be about to fight. Lisetta watches, and while she is off-guard, the third soldier seizes her basket. All three run off laughing, taking the basket with them.)

LISETTA: (weeping) My eggs! My cheese! Now what will I do? They've stolen everything. What will my mother say? Why did they do it?

(Enter Count Claudio with some soldiers. He sees Lisetta and stops.)

COUNT: Oh, you poor thing. What ever can be the matter?

LISETTA: They took my basket. All my cheese and eggs. (weeping)

COUNT: Oh, don't tell me. But who could possibly have done such a thing?

LISETTA: The soldiers.

COUNT: The soldiers? But how could soldiers do something like that?

LISETTA: (weeping) There they are, don't you see, they're running away. I'll find them. I won't stop until I find them. Look, now they're laughing at me...

COUNT: Now don't you cry—I'm sure there's something I can do for you.

LISETTA: Oh, my mother is sure to beat me...oh...

COUNT: (to his soldiers) Hurry up, follow them. I have to help this poor little girl.

(the soldiers leave.)

COUNT: The General has ordered that any soldier caught stealing during the truce shall be severely punished.

LISETTA: But what about me? (weeping) What will I do about my eggs and cheese?

COUNT: Just quiet down. I'll be happy to do something for you if you'll do something for me. How much were the things worth?

LISETTA: Six piastres. No, eight.

COUNT: And you're crying over eight piastres?

LISETTA: I'm crying because my mother is going to beat me.

COUNT: Oh stop it, here's some money for you. It's more than eight piastres. It's a whole florin. You can stop crying—she won't beat you now.

LISETTA: Oh, how do I know it's really a florin?

COUNT: (holding the coin away from her) Now don't tell me you think that I'm going to cheat you.

LISETTA: It's just that I'm afraid. I don't really trust people—I'm afraid of everyone.

COUNT: But I'm an officer, a member of the nobility.

LISETTA: Yes, I believe you. Just let me have a look at it.

COUNT: Oh, go ahead. Now are you satisfied? (she takes it)

LISETTA: Those soldiers frightened me terribly. Aren't you going to give me something for that too?

COUNT: Oh, yes, that's something else. Didn't they leave
you with anything?

LISETTA: Only one or two pieces of fruit.

(she takes two apples out of her pocket)

COUNT: And how much are they?

LISETTA: Four piastres.

COUNT: Oh, alright, here you are—four piastres.

LISETTA: You mean you'll buy them?

COUNT: Yes, but I want them brought to my quarters.

LISETTA: Oh no—there's no chance of that.

COUNT: And why isn't there?

LISETTA: I would never go to an officer's quarters.

COUNT: And why wouldn't you?

LISETTA: No—I don't want that to happen to me.

COUNT: Want what to happen to you?

LISETTA: (crying) That awful thing that happened to mother...

COUNT: What happened to your mother?

LISETTA: (crying) I don't know. I don't even want to think about it, and I don't want to come to your quarters.

COUNT: If that's how you feel, you can keep your apples.

LISETTA: I want my four piastres.

COUNT: Forget about them.

LISETTA: (weeping) Oh, what a horrible man. He promises me four piastres, and now he won't give me anything.

COUNT: Listen, I know your kind of girl. You're just playing innocent, but I know what you're up to.

LISETTA: You promised you'd pay. I sold them to you. Alright, here, you can have them. I don't care whether you pay or not.

(weeping, she throws the fruit onto the ground)

COUNT: Stop it, I never said I wouldn't pay you. How much do you want—I'll give you your four piastres, even five or six. I just want you to be nice to me. I'll give you anything you ask.

LISETTA: (weeping stops: pleasant again) Oh—I thought I was being nice.

COUNT: That's better. Tell me, do you have a name.

LISETTA: Yes—Lisetta.

COUNT: And you have a mother.

LISETTA: Yes, and she beats me...

(starts to cry, stops suddenly)

COUNT: What about your father?

LISETTA: Oh, my father—he died two years ago. It was the war, that's what killed him. He used to work cutting wood for all those officers, all those men just like you. He worked so hard cutting all that wood that he died. (crying again) Why won't you give me something for my poor dead father too?

COUNT: Look—I've already told you, I'll give you anything you want. All you have to do is stop crying.

LISETTA: How much will you give me if I stop crying?

COUNT: I'll give you six piastres.

LISETTA: How much if I laugh?

COUNT: If you laugh, I'll give you a florin.

LISETTA: (laughing) Alright, go ahead, give me the florin.

COUNT: I will—as soon as you come to my quarters.

LISETTA: No, I want my florin. Or are you just playing with me again?

COUNT: (drawing close to her) Lisetta...

LISETTA: Oh, leave me alone...

COUNT: Here you are—a freshly minted florin.

LISETTA: (laughing) A whole florin?

COUNT: Just for you.

LISETTA: (laughing) Well, why don't you give it to me?

COUNT: I will—as soon as you come to my quarters.

LISETTA: My mother warned me I should never let a gentleman show me his quarters.

(Enter Orlando, a bearded, one-legged soldier, laughing and singing)


It never lasts long,
The love of a soldier,
He'll find him another,
And sing you this song—
It never lasts long,
The love of a soldier.

What a beautiful battle that was. I've never been so happy in my life. If only it had lasted longer. (to the Count) You've got the right idea, Count. Now's the time for a pretty girl.

COUNT: This girl is driving me out of my mind.

ORLANDO: What's she doing to you?

COUNT: One moment she's crying, the next moment she's laughing. She keeps taking my money, and then she won't come to my quarters.

ORLANDO: (leaping around on his one leg) She won't come, won't she, we'll see about that soon enough. Let's see what she says when I ask her. I bet she'll come see me quick enough.

LISETTA: (leaping around like him) Oh no, I won't come see any of you.

ORLANDO: (holding his crutch up menacingly) Making fun of me, are you, you little tease?

LISETTA: You stay away from me, I really hate you...

(weeping again, she draws close to the Count)

COUNT: Don't scare her like that. My god, I just finished calming her down...

ORLANDO: Don't believe a single word she tells you—I know what a little devil she is underneath. (to Lisetta) Don't I now?

LISETTA: (mocking his manner) No, you don't. You know nothing of the sort.

ORLANDO: Oh yes I do. Listen—I'm not cripple where it counts.

COUNT: Come here, Lisetta. Don't pay any attention to him.

LISETTA: When will you give me my money?

COUNT: Later...when we're alone.

LISETTA: (weeping) You don't mean it. You're lying. You're just trying to trick me.

ORLANDO: (to Count) Watch out she doesn't trick you.

LISETTA: But I'm only a poor peasant girl. I can't come to your quarters without my mother. If I told her you gave me a florin, she might be willing to bring me.

(shows she is about to stop crying)

ORLANDO: What a little bitch! Did you hear that? She knows more about it than we do. She'll eat up all our florins and a lot more besides.

LISETTA: I don't know what he's talking about.

(starts weeping even more loudly)

COUNT: Oh well, I don't want to make a pretty girl miserable just for the sake of a florin. Here—we'll soon see if you're cheating me.

ORLANDO: You mustn't give it to her. I won't let you.

(runs between Lisetta and the Count)

LISETTA: (to Orlando) You keep out of this!

COUNT: Here—I'll throw it to you. (he reaches out his hand towards Lisetta)

ORLANDO: (trying to stop him) No, I won't let you.

LISETTA: (to Orlando) I hope it's not just your leg next time.

(she gives Orlando a shove, throwing him to the ground, then takes the coin and runs away.)

ORLANDO: Oh god, help me! (to the Count, who helps him up) Did you see where she kicked me?

COUNT: Just where you deserved.

ORLANDO: You didn't give her the money, did you?

COUNT: And why shouldn't I have?

ORLANDO: Oh no, I told you not to. Why didn't you listen to me? My god, you're not just careless with money, you're positively stupid too.

COUNT: You dare to say this to me!

ORLANDO: Yes, I do. I've taken the most beautiful girls in the world, and I've never had to spend a penny on them. And you go throwing money around like that! You empty-handed whorehound!

COUNT: Watch your language, Orlando.

ORLANDO: Even today, as crippled as I am, I can still make them all run after me, all the women I want, one after the other. I really have to laugh—just look at you, you're both a drunkard and a coward!

COUNT: You be careful what you're saying, you ill-mannered mongrel!

ORLANDO: (leaping about) You think you can call me that, do you?

COUNT: Yes, I can, and if it weren't for your condition, I'd teach you some manners soon enough!

ORLANDO: Don't imagine I'm afraid of you! I'll fight you, I'll fight you any day!

COUNT: I refuse to fight with a cripple.

ORLANDO: Don't think I can't fight with my hands. I choose pistols.

COUNT: Very good—pistols. A fight to the death. We'll settle it another time. (goes off)

ORLANDO: Who does he think he's frightening? I've fought twenty-seven duels! I'm a soldier and a man of honor! (shouting after him) I'm your man, even with one leg missing, I'm your man! Oh well, what does it really matter...? (singing)

It never lasts long,
The love of a soldier,
He'll find him another,
And sing you this song—
It never lasts long,
The love of a soldier.

(he goes off)

This play excerpt is Copyright © 1966
& 2000 by Alexander Gross. It may be
reproduced for individuals and for
educational purposes only. It may
not be used for any commercial (i.e.,
money-making) purpose without
written permission from the author.
All Rights Reserved.

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