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Day 8

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

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

February 28, 2023 by Michael F. Moore

A couple of side notes as we begin week two:

A word about the Capuchins, aka, The Order of Friars Minor Capuchin. They were founded in 1525 to reform the Franciscan Order, which they felt had veered too far away from the life of solitude and penance exemplified by St. Francis of Assisi. (For a deeply moving portrait of Francis, see the film The Flowers of St. Francis, directed by Roberto Rossellini). The name “Capuchin” (Cappuccini, in Italian) is derived from their habit, which features a hood (cappuccio). The coffee drink cappuccino takes its name from the brown color of their habit. As does the capuchin monkey.

The city of Mantua, to the southeast of Milan, was one of Renaissance Italy’s most brilliant courts. Ruled by the Gonzaga family, in the fifteenth century it was home to the country’s most important humanist school, where the sons of Italy’s elite went to study. While Francesco II Gonzaga was off fighting battles (or held hostage by the Venetians), the city was ruled in his stead by his wife, Isabella d’Este, a leading figure in Renaissance politics and culture, and one of the most remarkable women in history. This sketch of her was done by Leonardo da Vinci:

Portrait of Isabella d'Este - by Leonardo da Vinci

The Gonzagas assembled one of Europe’s greatest art collections, which was sold to Charles I of England in 1627-1628, the period when the novel begins (see the Mantua Purchase). I was so disappointed in learning this upon my first visit to the city, when I had expected to find the fifteenth century intact.

One of the world’s first operas, Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1607), was commissioned by Vincenzo Gonzaga, and premiered at the Mantua Court.

Day 8

“The utterances of a powerful and evil man are both piercing and elusive. He’ll fret and fume at your suspicions of him at the same time as he confirms them. He’ll insult you and say he’s offended, ridicule you and consult your opinion, terrify and whine, be rude and irreproachable.”

A poet before he became a novelist, Manzoni uses oxymoron to depict the deep contradictions inside man (although the use of “man” to describe humanity might be old-fashioned and sexist, I sometimes prefer it when talking about bad guys).

“When two strong passions clash in a man’s heart, no one, not even the heart’s owner, can clearly distinguish one from the other, and say with certainty which of the two will prevail.”

Manzoni is often considered moderate, seeking a balance between extremes, but in a remark like this, all I see is his inner turmoil.

“Don Rodrigo, as we said, was pacing back and forth in the hall, making long strides between the walls from which generations of family portraits were hung.”

The dark room, the grim portraits staring down, the tyrant alone with his insecurities. I hear the strains of an opera coming on. Perhaps Re Filippo’s aria from Don Carlo?

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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