PIETRO ARETINO - THE CLOTH MERCHANT AND THE CATS (1534)
THE MASTERS OF LOVE
From the Ragionamenti of Aretino (1534–36) (also called Dialogues of the Divine Pietro Aretino) by Pietro Aretino (1492 – 1556), Italian author, playwright, poet, satirist and blackmailer, who was influential on contemporary art and politics and developed modern literary pornography.]
We begin the third and final day of the capricious Ragionamenti of Aretino in which prostitutes in Rome reveal to each other the moral failings of many important men of their city. In this excerpt Nanna tells Antonia about a cloth merchant.
Antonia. - He had only what he deserved, the mad master.
Nanna.-Let's come to the story of the pussies.
Nanna.-I owed twenty-five ducats to a cloth merchant, and as I did not entertain the project of paying them, I took the path of fooling him. What did I do? I had two very beautiful pussies; Seeing him come to my window for his money, I say to my servant: "Give me one of the pussies and take the other; as soon as my groom arrives, I will shout: I want you to strangle it! You will pretend to not want to do that, and I will act as if I were strangling the one I am holding." The words were hardly spoken when there he was on top.
Antonia.- Didn’t he knock at the door first?
Nanna.-No, he found it open. As soon as he appeared, I cried: "Strangle her; Strangle her! "My servant, almost with tears in her eyes, begs me to pardon her and promises me that she will never again eat the dinner. I seemed to be furious and, grabbing mine by the throat, I said, "You, you will not do it again." My creditor (he was here for his expense), at the sight of the pussies was moved with compassion, he asked me to give them to him. "Truly, yes!" I said to him. "By grace, Signora," said he, "confide them to me for a week; then I'll help you kill them, if you do not want to give them to me as present or forgive them." Speaking thus, he takes my cat, though I make a little resistance, then takes the other from the hands of the servant, gives them to his clerk, who followed behind him, and told him to take them home once the girl had put them in a bag. "Take care," said I, "to have them brought back to me within a week; I want to massacre them, thieves!" He promises this to me and asks me for the twenty-five ducats; I swear to him to take them to him in ten days, and he is very happy. Ten days, fifteen days pass; he returns to ask for the ducats; I had them in a handkerchief, and, shaking them very hard, I said to him, "Very willingly; but first I want to see my pussies again." -"What! your pussies? replied he; they escaped by the roofs as soon as they were released into the house." When I learn this (I knew it in advance), I make a mother-in-law's face and say to him," Make sure you find my cats otherwise they will cost you more than your wretched twenty-five ducats; my pussies are promised; my cats must be taken to Barbary; yes, my pussies, my dear sir, shall be brought to me here, yes, they shall be brought here to me." The poor man, who, leaning on the sill of the window and who, at my shouting at him, saw the crowd gathering in the street, without making any more claims, tumbled down the stairs (this was the wisest), exclaiming: "Let’s go! Trust a whore!”
Antonia.-Nanna, I want to tell you something that goes through my head.
Nanna.-Tell it to me.
Antonia.-The kindness of this piping about pussies is so gracious that your love of her means you will be forgiven for four things that incur excommunication.
Nanna.- You think so?
Antonia.-I would bet my soul against a pistachio.