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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Benvenuto Cellini (1500–1571)

A Compulsory Marriage at Sword’s Point

From The “Autobiography

ONE of those busy personages who delight in spreading mischief came to inform me that Paolo Micceri had taken a house for his new lady and her mother, and that he made use of the most injurious and contemptuous expressions regarding me, to wit:

“Poor Benvenuto! he paid the piper while I danced; and now he goes about boasting of the exploit. He thinks I am afraid of him—I, who can wear a sword and dagger as well as he. But I would have him to know my weapons are as keen as his. I, too, am a Florentine, and come of the Micceri, a much better house than the Cellini any time of day.”

In short, the vile informer painted the things in such colors to my disadvantage that it fired my whole blood. I was in a fever of the most dangerous kind. And feeling it must kill me unless it found vent, I had recourse to my usual means on such occasions. I called to my workman, Chioccia, to accompany me, and told another to follow me with my horse. On reaching the wretch’s house, finding the door half open, I entered abruptly in. There he sat with his precious “lady-love,” his boasted sword and dagger beside him, in the very act of jesting with the elder woman upon my affairs. To slam the door, draw my sword and present the point to his throat, was the work of a moment, giving him no time to think of defending himself:

“Vile poltroon, recommend thy soul to God! Thou art a dead man!”

In the excess of his terror he cried out thrice, in a feeble voice, “Mama! mama! mama! Help, help, help!”

At this ludicrous appeal, so like a girl’s, and the ridiculous manner in which it was uttered, though I had a mind to kill, I lost half my rage and could not forbear laughing. Turning to Chioccia, however, I bade him make fast the door; for I was resolved to inflict the same punishment upon all three. Still with my sword-point at his throat, and pricking him a little now and then, I terrified him with the most desperate threats, and finding that he made no defense, was rather at a loss how to proceed. It was too poor a revenge—it was nothing—when suddenly it came into my head to make it effectual, and compel him to espouse the girl upon the spot.

“Up! Off with that ring on thy finger, villain!” I cried. “Marry her this instant, and then I shall have my full revenge.”

“Anything—anything you like, provided you will not kill me,” he eagerly answered.

Removing my sword a little:

“Now, then,” I said, “put on the ring.”

He did so, trembling all the time.

“This is not enough. Go and bring me two notaries to draw up the contract.” Then, addressing the girl and her mother in French:

“While the notaries and witnesses are coming, I will give you a word of advice. The first of you that I know to utter a word about my affairs, I will kill you—all three. So remember.”

I afterward said in Italian to Paolo:

“If you offer the slightest opposition to the least thing I choose to propose, I will cut you up into mince-meat with this good sword.”

“It is enough,” he interrupted in alarm, “that you will not kill me. I will do whatever you wish.”

So this singular contract was duly drawn out and signed. My rage and fever were gone. I paid the notaries, and went home.