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Thursday, April 25, 2013


I have been reading Manzoni's 1840 novel, I promessi sposi. In chapter vi, the cappuccino friar Cristoforo asks the sexual harasser Rodrigo to let the two young lovers alone. He first states his case and concludes by saying, "... your conscience and your honor." Rodrigo responds: if you want to talk about my conscience, when I come to the monastery to confess to you. [which will never happen, of course] As for my honor, I alone am in charge of that. Cristoro goes on... There is a rhetorical battle. Rodrigo finally says, Lucia can come to my house and I can offer her my "protection." At this point, the friar explodes and tells off don Rodrigo, who then kicks him out of the house, saying he is lucky not to be beaten with a stick. On the way out, Rodrigo's aged servant tells Cristoforo that he has something else to tell him. They arrange to meet at the monastery the next day.

Meanwhile, a plan is hatched among Agnese, Lucia, and Renzo: there is another valid way of performing a marriage. If a man and a woman, in front of two witnesses, tell a priest that they are man and wife, then the marriage is valid. Renzo goes to find a friend, Tonio, to be their witness. In exchange he will pay Tonio the money to pay the debt he owes the priest. They will trick father Abbondio to come and perform the marriage agsint his will.

At this point, the action is flowing fast. The central conflict is an obvious one, between Renzo and Lucia and Rodrigo. The most powerful ally is Cristoforo, with Abbondio being the anti-helper.

I can't say it's a masterpiece. It is an ok novel, that's all, though important for Italian literature I'm sure. My comprehension level is high. If I understood more it would probably be dull for me. The characters are fairly flat so far, with the exception of Cristoforo. The combination of worldliness and clerical devotion si somewhat interesting.

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