Act 5 scene 1


The wedding procession of Brachiano and Vittoria passes over the stage, leaving Flamineo in conversation with Hortensio, one of Brachiano's guards. Flamineo explains he is happy about the marriage and also impressed with some new arrivals at court who have come to serve Brachiano. (He does not realise that they are Francisco, disguised as Mulinassar the Moor, with Lodovico, Antonelli and Gasparo, disguised as ex-military monks.)

Brachiano enters with ‘Mulinassar' and the ‘monks', offering them rewards and allowing them to leave their swords in his chapel. He invites them all to his wedding celebrations, in particular the barriers, a military tournament. Brachiano departs with his attendants (including Flamineo), leaving his disguised enemies on stage. The conspirators embrace and vow to carry out their plan to ingeniously poison Brachiano, though they would rather openly confront him.

All leave except ‘Mulinassar' who stands to one side, as Flamineo enters with Marcello and Zanche (Vittoria's Moorish maid). Marcello criticises Flamineo for consorting with Zanche, who leaves having noted a fellow ‘Moor'. Flamineo now talks to ‘Mulinassar', who is modest but criticises the privileges of the nobility and the corruption of the court.

Various courtiers return including Hortensio and Zanche. Flamineo confides in Hortensio that he loves Zanche but she is a risk as she knows too much, and although he has promised marriage, he won't carry it through. Zanche then comes and reminds him of his promise to marry her and he says he didn't mean it.

However, when (the briefly appearing) Cornelia and Marcello start abusing Zanche, Flamineo defends her, quarrelling with his brother. Marcello challenges Flamineo to fight and they leave agreeing to this.

Zanche is left alone and when ‘Mulinassar' enters, she tells him that she loves him. He demurs until Zanche hints she might return with significant information.


A passage over the stage: The wedding procession of Brachiano and Vittoria is another of the impressive processions in the play. It includes members of Vittoria's family and others, probably nobles and maybe the ambassadors. This underlines the increased status of the lovers on marriage. The public ceremony then gives way to private conversation.

MoorConfirms me happy: There is dramatic irony in Flamineo expressing contentment at last, given that the plot to destroy his master's marriage is in hand.

the Moor: The Moor is Francisco in disguise. This is part of his plan to take revenge on Brachiano and Vittoria. Using disguise and subterfuge is typical of a Machiavellian villain.

order of Capuchins: The Capuchin monks are a disguise for Lodovico and Gasparo, as their dress would include long, pointed hoods. The dubious career of the supposed monks would make them suspicious characters, particularly with the convenient information that they wear armour under their monk's garments.

Some wars ... Duke of Florence: This reference to the wars is ironic as the Moor is Francisco and so is supposedly seeking to help Brachiano against himself.

Glories ... nor light: This is ironic as Flamineo is the ultimate courtier and so here appears to be criticising his own life and ambitions.

a barriers: The boundaries for a fighting tournament.

poison'd … the pommel: An attempt was made on the life of Queen Elizabeth in 1598 using this method. The conspirators' conversation displays their own blood-lust.

this devil: It was believed that there was an association between evil and darkness, here displayed as racist abuse toward Zanche

I shall never flatter him ... weather equally: here Francisco is criticising the nobility and the hierarchical organisation of society. Again this is an example of irony because here Francisco is criticising himself and obviously does not believe it. This is also true of his speeches beginning That's the misery of peace and Right; you shall see in the country.

Give me a fair room hung with arras: An arras is a wall tapestry, which could be used to hide behind in order to eavesdrop. The courtier Flamineo is saying he prefers politics and conspiracy to direct action. All this is contrasted with the persona of the Moor who is supposed to be a soldier and a man of action, although in reality, being Francisco he is just as much of a conspirator.

sparrows .. Lord of heaven: Francisco turns on its head the teaching of Jesus that even sparrows are precious to God, so his children certainly will be Matthew 10:29-31.

a new upstart: Another oblique comment on the social mobility of James I's court.

Aesop had a foolish dog ... better diners: The essential meaning of this is that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; only a fool gives up what he has for what he desires.

Westphalia bacon: As salty food leads to thirstiness, sex leads to false promises and drunkenness.

haggard … stews … clapp'd: Cornelia hits Zanche, incensed that someone she regards as a loose woman (haggard) fit for the brothel (stews) is soliciting her son. Violence in court was strictly punished.

slaught'red sons of Oedipus: Flamineo's insult that Marcello may be illegitimate prompts memories of the feud between Polynices and Eteocles, who killed each other and were burnt together, but even then their flames remained divided.

fowl .. foul: Francisco's final couplet puns on the two homonyms fowl and foul.

Investigating Act 5 scene 1

  • How is Francisco's revenge to be achieved?
  • How is disguise used in the scene?
    • What evidence is there that it is successful in deceiving Brachiano and his followers?
  • Look back at the exchange between Flamineo and Francisco about court life.
    • What view of the court is presented here?
  • How are the conflicting moral viewpoints in Vittoria's family further demonstrated in this scene?

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