Shelves: literature , italian-lit When I began this novel, I was not sure whether I would complete it. The reason: I began it in the wrong time, that is, when I had many other responsibilities. So it could never have served as a gap filler in the days. Also, a thick volume would entail many days in such a tight schedule. I was sure to be discouraged.
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We should stay far away from each other, but can we bear to? Only beasts and gods can live outside the city, solitary like Polyphemos, observes Aristotle. Many thanks then to Glenn Arbery for reminding us, recently in these pages, of some of the great books set in plague times, and suggesting that their study might sustain us in somewhat similar times, of pan-virus and panic, today.
Set in Lombardy, not this past winter, but in the 17th century, it covers the whole horror of that plague, in whose deadly grip all suffered, many dying, many failing in virtue, and some showing as bright as a human soul ever has.
All of their experiences ask us, how would we do? No book shows how little we care to find out the truth, how little we know ourselves, how even less we know others, how rumor, prejudice, and illusion, rule our world.
At bottom, at home, safe in our bed, we are just as frightened, as in the plague, panicked, fleeing, lost in the mob, we would become furious, even murderous; and yet Manzoni understands everyone, feels for each of us, even to the most evil of us extends an understanding animated by love, as God must, we hope, do for us, and rejoices in how virtuous, despite our trembling, we can become.
The turning of meekness itself, in the person of Gertrude, gradually into confirmed evil, is truly unique, not equaled even by the rapid transformation of confident Othello into the suspicious murderer of his beloved wife.
We can barely believe it is happening, that resolute Gertrude is going to yield, agree to take the veil, but we cannot doubt it, only be astonished, and then horrified at what she then does, turning trembling Lucia over to thugs sent by the Unnamed. If this can happen, then a Hitler, a Stalin, a Mao might repent. Portraying evil is not easy. Hearing of Federigo Cardinal Borromeo, so strong and so loving, it is impossible not to want to go visit him now, just as the Unnameable does, seized by mortal thoughts, sick of his life, stirred to hope, and welcomed by Borromeo.
How finely Manzoni discriminates among the good, setting out the ladder of them, from the hearty Agnese, the heroic but ever struggling Fr. Cristoforo, and on to superlative Cardinal Borromeo, who makes doing great good seem effortless, and it almost is, for it springs from love. How good and the cause of good in other men. Can there be a Christian Prince? The existence of this good Cardinal, Federigo, refutes all those, such as Machiavelli, who holds that no statesman could be a saint, and also all those, such as Tolstoy, who claim no saint could be a statesman.
Notable too are the discrimination of vices; from the evil of the Unnamed which shines with what one must admit is greatness; on to the ordinary thuggishness of Don Roderigo, and finally to all the habitual weaklings; whose evil effects can, nevertheless, be considerable. The daily cowardice of the Vicar, Fr. The range of virtue and of vice should instruct us, but it can be provoking. A great work is bound to disappoint almost all readers, including the good. Just as many contemporary clerics were offended by the trembling Don Abbandio as many contemporary patriots were offended by the goodness of Cardinal Borromeo.
A good journal, thought Charles Peguy, ought to offend a portion of its regular readers, and a different portion each issue. Maybe one must choose, one way this time, next time another. And if as it seems both, how do they go together? Need help dying well? This is the book. For love in time of plague. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Notes:  No pestilence is without some relief; generations of mothers, nay centuries of them, are relieved that now we children are washing our hands, as they tirelessly admonished us to.
At the hostel in Verona, I found the young keeper had come to love it in school. All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published.
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Love in Time of Plague: Manzoni’s “The Betrothed”
In the early 19th century, there was still controversy as to what form the standard literary language of Italy should take. Chapters 1—8: Flight from the village[ edit ] A view of the Lake Como , chapter 1, engraving by Francesco Gonin — Renzo and Lucia, a couple living in a village in Lombardy , near Lecco , on Lake Como , are planning to wed on 8 November The parish priest, don Abbondio, is walking home on the eve of the wedding when he is accosted by two " bravi " thugs who warn him not to perform the marriage, because the local baron Don Rodrigo has forbidden it. An argument ensues and Renzo succeeds in extracting from the priest the name of Don Rodrigo. It turns out that Don Rodrigo has his eye on Lucia and that he had a bet about her with his cousin Count Attilio. Azzeccagarbugli" Dr. Azzeccagarbugli is at first sympathetic: thinking Renzo is actually the perpetrator, he shows Renzo a recent edict on the subject of priests who refuse to perform marriage, but when he hears the name of Don Rodrigo, he panics and drives Renzo away.
We should stay far away from each other, but can we bear to? Only beasts and gods can live outside the city, solitary like Polyphemos, observes Aristotle. Many thanks then to Glenn Arbery for reminding us, recently in these pages, of some of the great books set in plague times, and suggesting that their study might sustain us in somewhat similar times, of pan-virus and panic, today. Set in Lombardy, not this past winter, but in the 17th century, it covers the whole horror of that plague, in whose deadly grip all suffered, many dying, many failing in virtue, and some showing as bright as a human soul ever has. All of their experiences ask us, how would we do? No book shows how little we care to find out the truth, how little we know ourselves, how even less we know others, how rumor, prejudice, and illusion, rule our world.
I PROMESSI SPOSI by Alessandro Manzoni – Explanation and Summary