Borachio: Clothes Make The Man

By John Lombard

Borachio’s family owned a vineyard in the south of Italy. His family was prosperous, and his early youth filled with good tutors, country life, and a doting family that spoiled him. However his father was soft of heart and head, and unwise investments coupled with excessive charity slowly reduced the family’s circumstances: first went the tutors, then the house, until finally the family could not afford even new clothes for their pampered son.

 

Rather than being educated for law or the priesthood, Borachio now worked the vines with his father so the family could scrape by. Borachio believed in his own brilliance, and resented his father for the softness that he believed had robbed him of his education and future.

 

When Borachio was a child he would often play with Vanessa, the daughter of the Mayor.

 

Vanessa promised that one day when they were both grown-ups they would marry, and that Borachio would then become Mayor. Borachio suspected that this was not how it worked, but even then knew when he was on to a good thing.

 

However with his family’s loss of wealth came a loss of friends, and the newly blossomed Vanessa had no interest in the shabby young man who doted on her, all childish oaths forgotten.

 

The turning point for Borachio came during the grape harvest of his fourteenth year, when his father dropped dead under the harsh sun. The family could not tend the vines alone, and the sale of the struggling vineyard would not support the family beyond a year.

 

However recruiters were then passing through the town to find soldiers to join one of the endless skirmishes between the feuding Dons. The pay would help Borachio’s family survive. It would also purchase Borachio’s freedom. Borachio enlisted.

 

Determined to enjoy the reward of war with none of the risk, Borachio became an aide-de-camp away from the front lines. He learned how to make himself useful to powerful men - usually by doing the grubby tasks that large villains demand of the small.

 

Borachio rose in rank as he grew into a man - successful enough, but always one step behind those who won their honours in combat. He was marked by his selfishness and dishonesty, and those who discovered his secret nature inevitably learned to shun him. But by then Borachio had always moved on to a new master - and a new harvest.

 

He did not visit his hometown again until after his mother’s death. After years of military life he now dressed the part of the dapper cavalier, even if he had never seen combat. The naive people he had left behind saw only the glory of his uniform, not the honours that had eluded him. His sisters were as devoted as ever, worshipful of the brother who had kept them from poverty. Neither of them would ever marry.

 

Vanessa was the great disappointment. To Borachio she had always been his great ideal, the woman he longed for when ensconced in the beds of others. She had not married well, and was not as beautiful as he remembered. But worse than that, it was so easy to seduce her. Like so many others, all it took was a sharp uniform and some insincere promises.

 

He left the next morning. He didn’t bother to say goodbye.

 

After that, Borachio became embroiled in the Messina conflict. He changed masters once again, gambling on the wily and ruthless Don John. Among his lovers he courted Margaret, who of course knew that she had a rake in hand but was vain enough to trust him when he claimed to have reformed for her.

 

But for Borachio time was running out - he was no longer a boy, and in his prime had not achieved the wealth and success he believed he was entitled to. Worse, Don John had been the loser in the conflict, although something had been salvaged in an uneasy truce.

 

True, he had not had the opportunities of the bombastic Benedick or that simpering toady Claudio - yet another young fool to achieve the preferment he knew he deserved. But he trusted his cunning. If life had taught him anything, it was that the great mass of men were fools who naively trusted the seeming truths of the world.

Of these, he was the master.