Day 19The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
March 11, 2023 by Michael F. Moore
“Then, like a mad man, gritting his teeth and furrowing his brow, he extended his arms and pointed his fists, as if that would keep the door shut… Well, what exactly he did no one knows, since he was alone, and history can only guess. A practice, luckily, to which history is accustomed.”
Ha! A leap from fiction to nonfiction in a single sentence. Manzoni drawing attention both to the illusions of fiction and the deceptions of historians.
The angry mob…
“Those who form the mass and almost the material of the uprising are an accidental mix of people who tend toward one extreme or the other, by more or less indefinite gradations: a little excited, a little cunning, a little inclined toward a certain form of justice (in their understanding of the word), and a little eager to see something horrible happen.”
Shades of the French Reign of Terror? I can think of no writer before Manzoni who so precisely described the mob mentality.
The Grand Chancellor Ferrer, forced to mingle with the hoi polloi:
“Old Ferrer looked out of one window and then the other with a humble face, filled with joy and affection, a face that he had always reserved for the times he found himself in the presence of King Philip IV, but was now forced to expend on this occasion.”
Page 226. And who should fall for him but Renzo.
“And to the officer who came up to him to offer his own personal salute, he said, accompanying his words with a gesture of his right hand, “beso a usted las manos,” whose true meaning the officer understood. Namely, “Thanks for nothing!” In reply, he saluted again and shrugged his shoulders. This would have been the perfect moment to say, “Cedant arma togae”—“Let arms yield to the toga”—but erudite quotations were the last thing on Ferrer’s mind. His words would have fallen on deaf ears, anyway, since the officer did not understand Latin.”
Another instance, following earlier exchanges between Don Abbondio and Renzo, and Padre Cristoforo and Fra Fazio, of Latin being wielded to assert power and status. Not to mention the irony of that first sentence.