Day 12The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
Chapter 9 (through p.151: “are also quite capable.”)
March 4, 2023 by Michael F. Moore
In this second part of the novel, the action shifts to two locations south of Lake Como. First, to Monza, where Lucia and her mother seek refuge in a convent. Manzoni has some fun with the convention of not giving the name of real places or persons in a fictional work:
“The author of the manuscript… does [not] disclose the name of the town where Fra Cristoforo had directed the two women. Indeed, he refuses to do so quite explicitly… But my diligent research discovered through other sources things that the author’s circumspection had sought to hide… By piecing together these bits of information we can deduce, without a doubt, that it was Monza. In the vast treasury of educated guesses, there may well be more subtle possibilities, but none, I believe, that are more certain. We could also, on the basis of sound conjecture, say the name of the family with which Lucia became entangled. But although it has been extinct for some time, I thought it best to keep their name inside my pen, to avoid wronging the departed and to leave something for the educated to investigate.”
As I explain in my note on the historical characters at the end of the book, the Nun of Monza was a real person, Virginia Maria de Leyva y Marino (p. 654). But let me not give away her story just yet.
“‘The Signora,’ he replied, ‘is a nun, but a nun unlike the others.’”
Quite the understatement.
“From her face, she looked to be about twenty-five. Her appearance created an initial impression of beauty, but a dejected, faded, and, I would almost say, disheveled beauty.”
The accompanying illustration is no match for the portrait that Manzoni paints with words. The director Luchino Visconti had considered making a two-film adaptation of I promessi sposi, and then narrowed his focus to the nun. He did a screen test with the actress he wanted, Sophia Loren:
The actress recently said that her one regret was that the film was never made.
“Please, Father Guardian, do not speak to me in riddles. You must know that we nuns prefer to hear every detail of a story.”
A comic note as we begin one of the novel’s most moving episodes.
“Silence! I know a thing or two about parents always answering on their children’s behalf!”
In this build up to the nun’s story, the author sprinkles clues as to what led to the Signora being such an odd character.