History of Western Theatre: 17th Century to Now/Italian Romantic

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Romantic Italian drama is capably represented by Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873) with "Adelchi" (Adalgis, 1822), based on the life of Adalgis (?-788), son of the king of Lombardy, at war with Charlemagne. A second tragedy, "Il Conte di Carmagnola" (The count of Carmagnola, 1819), is based on the life of Francesco Bussone, count of Carmagnola (ca 1382-1432) during the times when Francesco Foscari (1373-1457) was the doge of Venice.

Noted comedies include "Il nuovo ricco" (The new rich, 1809) by Alberto Nota (1775-1847) and "Lo scultore e il cieco" (The sculptor and the blind man, 1816) by Camillo Federici (1749-1802).

Alessandro Manzoni wrote two of the best tragedies of the Romantic period. Painting by Francesco Hayez (1791–1882)


"Adalgis". Time: 8th century. Place: Lombardy, Italy.

"Adalgis" text at ?

Adalgis is dying, to his father's despair

Charlemagne, king of the Franks, repudiates his wife, Hermangard, daughter of Desiderius, king of Lombardy. Hermangard is received sadly back to her father and her brother, Adalgis, but prefers to retire in a monastery. Desiderius receives Charlemagne's message to take the ground King Pepin of the Franks once gave and hand it over to Pope Hadrian, for Charlemagne is a "champion of God, called by God, it is to God he consecrates his arm, and it is with regret he would turn it against those who connive with iniquity," declares Albin, one of his military leaders. The Lombard kings refuse, but Charlemagne is unable to attack them efficiently. "Nature itself prepared our enemy's camp," says Charlemagne, for, to his people, the Alps are "a school of terror". Yet many Italians wish for Charlemagne's victory. Nevertheless, Charlemagne's son, Martino, finds a passage through these mountains. Another of Charlemagne's leaders, Ekhart, is ordered to follow a guide conducting the troops towards the Lombard camp. Once the Franks are rid of, Adalgis is confident to head towards Rome, "to pile up ruins on ruins", but, thanks to their guide, the Franks surprise the Lombards by attacking them from an unsuspected direction, so that Desiderius is forced to flee to Pavia and Adalgis to Verona. Meanwhile, Hermangard learns that Hildegard is Charlemagne's new wife. She becomes delirious, thinks she sees Charlemagne before her, and encourages him to chase the new wife away. She dies raving. Fearing the emperor, the city of Pavia has treacherously opened her portal to him, so that Desiderius is dragged along as a captive. Giselbert, duke of Verona, announces to Adilgis that their army prefers to give up. But Adalgis is invited by the emperor of Greece to take shelter in Byzantium, and hopes by such means to convey some hope for his imprisoned father. Meanwhile, Desiderius begs Charlemagne not to attack Verona, but is refused. In the conflict, Adalgis is injured and carried dying to his father. He says that he should not regret the loss of his kingdom, for on this earth "all that remains is either to do evil or be subject to it". Charlemagne promises to treat him honorably. "I lie in chains to weep for you," says Desiderius.

"The count of Carmagnola"[edit]

"The count of Carmagnola". Time: 15th century. Place: Venice and fields of battle, Italy.

"The count of Carmagnola" text at ?

Portrait of Francesco Foscari, doge of Venice, by Lazzaro Bastiani (1430–1512)

Francesco Foscari, doge of Venice, presents before the senate the choice of either accepting the terms of peace offered by Filippo, duke of Milan, or to declare war against him. The duke recently attempted to assassinate the count of Carmagnola, a mercenary soldier once favored by him. Carmagnola speaks against the overtures of peace, so is the doge. Otherwise, "it would be the first time that the lion of St Mark languishes, sleeping at the sound of flattering words," he declares. Although Marino, one of the Council of Ten, is suspicious of the mercenary soldier as to his loyalty to the state, the senate votes to declare war against Milan with Carmagnola as head of their army. In the Milanese camp, opinions are divided as to whether they should fight on a field of battle chosen by Carmagnola or bide their time. Malatesti, head of the duke's army, decides to fight at the present moment with the troops at the height of their strength. "Let us choose what promises glory the most," declares Malatesti. But Carmagnola is victorious. Against the advice of the senate, he refuses to pursue the defeated, liberating instead hundreds of prisoners. Angry at this, Marino challenges a senator, Marco, for being alone to defend Carmagnola. Marino wants Marco's promise on paper that he will not warn Carmagnola about his danger, who is to return to Venice at once and perhaps find clemency. Otherwise, he is condermned to death as a traitor. Despite grave misgivings, Marco signs the paper. "Remind yourself you hold two lives in your hand," says Marino. Marco leaves to fight the Moors. Before the Council of Ten, the doge asks Carmagnola whether they should pursue the war. He answers positively, provided their general possesses complete power and is not interfered with. This answer supports their worst suspicions. He is arrested. A secret tribunal tries and condemns him to death.

"The new rich"[edit]

"The new rich". Time: 1810s. Place: Italy .

"The new rich" text at ?

Now that he is rich from the heritage money gained from his dead uncle, Gepido, a former blacksmith, no longer wants a mere village girl, Agnese, to marry his wealthy son, Luigi. As approved by his counsellor, Costanzo, Gepido forces Luigi to engage in dancing and fencing lessons. Although Costanzo owes Gepido money, the latter wants him to forget the debt. Costanzo insists he wants to to pay him back, yet in the meantime time asks him for another loan. In view of their mutual confidence in each other, he tears up the bond stipulating the amount of the previous debt. When faced with Agnese who ardently wishes to marry him, Luigi dithers and is unable to face up to his father, who offers the girl dowry money to get rid of her. He arranges instead with the high-bred Clotilda to marry off his son with her niece, Isabella. Although Isabella considers father and son as "firescreen Barbary apes", she dismisses her former lover, Faustino, from further consideration and is willing to submit to her aunt's wishes. However, she is affronted when Agnese returns to claim back her lover, which Costanzo promises to settle for the happiness of all. Gepido wants to prepare the wedding already. He specifies to Clotilda he has no family member to invite for the wedding at the moment Bernardo, his cousin and Agnese's uncle, barges in. Despite owing his cousin money, Gepido dismisses him off-handedly. Bernardo has no choice but to recommend Agnese that they leave. Gepido favors Clotilda and ideally seeks a double wedding. He offers her an expensive ring while using Costanzo as the messenger. Costanzo also eyes the woman favorably, and so offers her the ring as if it were his own gift, to Clotilda's contentment. When sounding Isabella as to the marriage plan, he discovers her to be willing provided certain terms are met. "I want a coach, domestics for my particular service, theatre seats for all performances, it goes without saying, society people of my own choice, complete liberty," she specifies. Costanzio agrees but suggests that she should offer her future husband a gift for the betrothal. She asks Faustino for a box she once gave him as a gift, which he relunctantly yields, though swearing to her his undying love. The angry Luigi discovers Faustino at Isabella's feet, which Costanzio explains by annoucing Faustino as a poet and merely her speech tutor. Luigi is overjoyed when Isabella offers him the box. A supper is prepared in celebration to the signing of the wedding contract. Assured that Clotilda knows the ring came from him, Gepido is glad to learn that she prizes the gift all the more so in consideration of the man who gave it. When village girls enter dancing, Agnese is discovered among them. As Gepido prepares to remove her from their presence, a judge and notary enter with news that papers of the dead uncle's testament have been found, revealing that important sums have been left to Agnese and Bernardo but none at all for Gepido, except for that required for him to be kept in a hospital. As a result, Luigi returns to Agnese and Isabella to Faustino. Moreover, Gepido discovers Costanzo's treachery in regard to the ring he offered Clotilda and his unwillingness even to acknowledge the money he owes him. Bernardo offers a disconsolate Gepido a room in his house.

"The sculptor and the blind man"[edit]

"The sculptor and the blind man". Time: 1810s. Place: Austria .

"The sculptor and the blind man" text at ?

Emperor Sigismund enters disguised as a soldier in an inn, greeted by Count Stemberg. Sigismund asks for a horse to continue his journey but is unable to find any. Stemberg offers lodging or horse, but the disguised emperor refuses, unwilling to bother him. He asks Stemberg, however, to introduce him to the local high society. Their talk is interrupted by Edward. Hearing that Sigismund is in the emperor's retinue, Edward wishes to plead for his help regarding his marriage prospects. They agree to meet later at Sigismund's inn. When Sigismund hears of a meeting of the local society, he asks to be present, but is refused by the president, Baron Neimann because his rank is not high enough. However, Countess Valsingher disagrees and decides to lead him herself to the meeting along with Stemberg. They are greeted coldly by the members, taking Baroness Stolen's lead of ignoring his presence. Stemberg receives a letter revealing Sigismund's real identity. His reaction confirms the countess' suspicion. Sigismund next visits the house of an honorable sculptor, Egidius. He is surprised to learn that Egidius' fortunes are far less than he imagined. Once two statues of his were sold at one third their original value. Egidius' daughter appears and sees Edward, her husband, forced to remain in hiding because their marriage is disapproved of by his father, Neimann, who has vowed to annul the marriage contract. The anxieties of the couple are mitigated by Sigismund's assurances. Sigismund next wishes to meet Egidius' brother, Ferdinand, also fallen on hard times. Sigismund knew him as a professor in natural sciences at the university. Since then he has become blind and his indemnity was prevented by jealous colleagues. When the emperor's expected arrival is discussed, Ferdinand describes his physical attributes, so that everyone recognizes that the officer is the emperor in disguise. As promised, he welcomes the countess' two sons. The nobles arrive to see the emperor but do not recognize him. Naimann is astounded to find Edward with Louise. At last the nobles are mortified to discover that the officer they ignored is the emperor himself, who assures Edward that he will remain as Louise's husband .