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Day 4

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

Chapter 3

February 24, 2023 by Michael F. Moore

Manzoni is very elliptical when it comes to sexual matters. His reluctance to describe Don Rodrigo’s harassment of Lucia corresponds to her own decision not to tell anyone, except for her confessor. We learn about her through her thoughts, her inner life, rather than anything she says aloud. Padre Cristoforo’s advice to her? “He told me to get married as quickly as we could, and in the meantime to stay home and pray to God.” You could say it was another era, but it still sounds kind of… cringe.

Professor Argle-Bargle. In Italian, Azzecca-Garbugli, an oxymoron meaning to get something right (azzeccare) and to muddle something (ingarbugliare). Translating nicknames is tricky but sometimes, as in this case, unavoidable. I found a solution entirely by accident, and from an unlikely source. In the late Justice Scalia’s dissent from the Supreme Court majority’s ruling outlawing the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and thus paving the way for same-sex marriage, he dismissed his colleague’s arguments as “legalistic argle-bargle.” There I had it: a compound word beginning with an “A” sounding vaguely foreign and meaning nonsense. Turns out that Scalia’s father was a professor and translator of Italian, although I do wish the son had used his considerable linguistic acumen for less hateful ends.

We see the justice system turned upside down in the figure of these “poor animals.” This image has entered into Italian speech as “non fare come icapponi di Renzo,” don’t act like Renzo’s capons. In other words, don’t go getting mixed up in a desperate situation. It’s useless.

I’ll leave it to the reader to imagine what the journey must have been like for those poor animals, tied together and carried upside down by their claws, by a man who, in the grips of so many passions, had a gesture to accompany each thought agitating his mind… Through it all, they kept pecking at one another, as is too often the case with fellows in misfortune.

This comic episode, pivoting on the assumption that Renzo needs protection from the law rather than through it, is followed by another one, when Fra Galdino stops by the cottage of Agnese and Lucia to beg for chestnuts. In my mind he’s an Irish character, a born story-teller, who can’t bring himself to simply ask for chestnuts without offering a little entertainment as payment. And then we find out that Lucia has come up with her own plan to escape the predations of Don Rodrigo.

Daily Reading

A Preview

A Preview

Day 1

Introduction & Chapter 1 (through pg. 13: "were still around.")

Day 2

Chapter 1 (to end)

Day 3

Chapter 2

Day 4

Chapter 3

Day 5

Chapter 4

Day 6

Chapter 5

Day 7

Chapter 6

Day 8

Chapter 7 (through p.108: “respective ranks.”)

Day 9

Chapter 7 (to end)

Day 10

Chapter 8 (through p.130: “the others filed behind him.”)

Day 11

Chapter 8 (to end)

Day 12

Chapter 9 (through p.151: “are also quite capable.”)

Day 13

Chapter 9 (to end)

Day 14

Chapter 10 (through p.174: “her closest relatives.”)

Day 15

Chapter 10 (to end)

Day 16

Chapter 11 (through p.193: “keep track of it.")

Day 17

Chapter 11 (to end)

Day 18

Chapter 12

Day 19

Chapter 13

Day 20

Chapter 14

Day 21

Chapter 15

Day 22

Chapter 16

Day 23

Chapter 17

Day 24

Chapter 18

Day 25

Chapter 19

Day 26

Chapter 20

Day 27

Chapter 21

Day 28

Chapter 22

Day 29

Chapter 23

Day 30

Chapter 24 (through p.396: “as soon as you’re ready.”)

Day 31

Chapter 24 (to end)

Day 32

Chapter 25

Day 33

Chapter 26

Day 34

Chapter 27

Day 35

Chapter 28 (through p.467: “their hands from hunger.”)

Day 36

Chapter 28 (to end)

Day 37

Chapter 29

Day 38

Chapter 30

Day 39

Chapter 31

Day 40

Chapter 32 (through p.534: “purpose of the conflict.”)

Day 41

Chapter 32 (to end)

Day 42

Chapter 33 (through p.554: “treatise on political economy.”)

Day 43

Chapter 33 (to end)

Day 44

Chapter 34 (through p.574: “the living were left.”)

Day 45

Chapter 34 (to end)

Day 46

Chapter 35

Day 47

Chapter 36

Day 48

Chapter 37

Day 49

Chapter 38

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