But what do my enemies matter? They have...

Now We Are Pope: Frederick Rolfe in Venice

Frederick Rolfe

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But what do my enemies matter? They have got fat while I have starved, but have they brought me to my knees? No, I am still here. It is they who have fallen by the wayside. They failed to understand they were dealing with an extraordinary man, a man who would not plane his prominences down to fit the world’s narrow grooves. A man who always has been, always will be, better than them.

(Eyes drawn back to picture of St Sebastian) I have many enemies, but what I need, Zildo, is a Friend. The Divine Friend. The Friend whose beauty shines from body and soul. Whose soul responds to mine. The body certainly has its pleasures, Zildo, but they are nothing compared to the pleasures of the soul. It is true that when I was young I indulged my body, but I steered clear of passionate liaisons that burned too bright and too brief. Nicholson was not the only boy who longed for my affection but offered too little in return.

As I grew older, many strangers appeared like deceiving shadows in the morning mist. John Holden, a wondrous beauty. We could, we should, have been flint and steel but he stole my papers and threatened my life. Haddon. He was burdened with a wife and children, but he offered me his loyalty until death. He was another who stole my writings but not my heart. Douglas, Caliban, both claimed me as their soulmates and both proved false when they could not bend me to their will.

(Anger again drives him up from the chair and roll another cigarette to calm down. His head suddenly jerks up.) A woman, Zildo? Why should I want a woman? A woman’s form nauseates, all vapid bunchiness and vacuous patchworkiness. Women are for the dull and mindless, not for men of genius, men whose vision encompasses the world and beyond. Yet women never cease to plague and pester me, particularly here in Venice.

Only one woman, Zildo, has ever understood me. Caroline, Duchess of Sforza-Cesarini. My patron, my benefactress. She bestowed my title, the Baron Corvo of Rome. She supported my talent. Yet even she in the end abandoned me. Never, ever trust a woman.

Foreman, Martin. Now We Are Pope: Frederick Rolfe in Venice, Arbery Publications, 2012, pp 21-23.

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