Day 48The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
April 9, 2023 by Michael F. Moore
“A few impetuous drops drummed and bounced off the dry white road, raising a cloud of fine dust. A moment later, those drops became a shower, and before he could even reach the alley, the rain started coming down in torrents.”
Not only does the rain wash away the pain of the past two years, it also washes away the plague.
Renzo returns to Agnese with the happy news. But in a gesture we will all unfortunately recognize, he takes protective measures when they sit down to talk:
“I’ve just come from Milan and, as you’ll hear, I was in the plague up to my ears. Yes, I’ve changed my clothes, from head to toe, but it’s a nasty disease. It sticks to you, sometimes, like a curse.”
We learn the terrible fate of Sœur Gertrude:
“After much raging and struggling, she had repented and confessed. Her current life was a voluntary punishment so severe that no one could imagine anything worse, short of death.”
I wonder at the expression “voluntary punishment” (“supplizio volontario”).
And of the end met by Don Ferrante, a pedant to the end:
“His fretus—meaning, on the basis of these arguments—he took no precautions against the plague. He caught it and went to bed to die, like an operatic hero, blaming it on the stars.”
There’s a cruel irony to Manzoni’s use of Latin here, in a book that is constantly pointing to how language and literacy are used to deceive and oppress the lower classes. (Not to mention Don Ferrante’s library, which ends up at the kinds of book stalls one sees lining the Seine in Paris today.)