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LUCRECE BORGIA is only in three acts. It begins at Venice. You are at Venice—it is Venice's gay time, and you see her carnival, her masked revels and there, on the terrace of the Barbarigo palace, are some young nobles—and at the bottom of this terrace flows the canal De la Zueca, on which, through the * darkness visible” of a Venetian night, you see pass the gondola, and the masquerade, and the musicians.
Twenty years have gone by since the death of Jean Borgia. The young nobles speak of that awful assassination, and of the body plunged into the Tiber, and perceived by a boatman, involuntary witness of the crime—and Comte de Belverana, supposed to be a Spanish seigneur, joins in the conversation, and seems indeed, to the surprise of the Venetians, better acquainted than any of them with the history of Italy. Öne young cavalier alone is inattentive, and even sleeps, while the rest pass their conjectures on the fate of the young boy, son of Lucrèce Borgia, by Jean Borgia—the Jean Borgia who had perished in the manner described--victim, as it was said, of the wrath and jealousy of his brother and his rival, Cæsar.
At last the Comte Belverana is left alone upon the stage with the young man who is still sleeping, and whose indifference to the conversation that had been going on has already been accounted for by his companions on the ground that, ignorant alike of his father and mother, he could not feel an interest in those family stories which then agitated Italy, and had more or less affected every one of themselves.
A masked lady enters and addresses the Spaniard by the name of “Gubetta." He reminds her of his disguise, and warns her also to be cautious
"If they don't know me,” says the lady, “caution is of little consequence-if they do, it is they who have cause to fear.” It is easy to see that Gubetta, or Comte Belverana, is an Italian bravo in the service of this dame, who now says that for the future she means to be all virtue and clemency, and that her only desire is to obtain the affections of the young man who is sleeping. Gubetta shrugs up his shoulders at what he seems to consider a very startling change of disposition, and thinks it better, under these circum-* stances, to leave his mistress and the sleeper together. Lucrèce, for the lady is no other, takes off her mask, and kisses the forehead of the youth ; but in doing so she has been seen by two strangers who had been watching her-one her husband,* the other a gentleman attached to his service, and of the same honourable profession as Gubetta. Gennaro (this is the name of the personage hitherto so quiescent) now awakes. He tells Lucrèce that he is a soldier of fortune, an orphan ignorant of his parents, and that he only lives to discover his mother, and to make himself worthy of her.
“ I mean my sword to be pure and holy as of an emperor. I've been offered any thing to enter the service of that infamous Lucrèce. I refused.”
“ Gennaro ! Gennaro!” says the lady, "you should pity the wicked; you know not their hearts.”
It is at this moment that the young nobles, with whose conversation the play commenced, come again on the scene.
* The Duke of Ferrara.
The same. Maffio Orsini, Jeppo Liveretto, Ascanio
Petrucci, Oloferno Vitellozzo, Don Apostolo Gazella. Nobles, ladies, pages carrying torches.
Maffio (a torch in his hand). Gennaro, dost thou wish to know the woman to whom thou art talking love ?
Dona LUCRECE (aside, under her mask). Just Heaven!
GENNARO. You are my friends—but I swear before God, that whoever touches the mask of this lady is a bold fellow! -The mask of a woman is as sacred as the face of a
Maffio. But first the woman must be a woman, Gennaro; not that we wish to insult this lady--we only wish to tell her our names. (Making a step towards Dona Lucrèce.) Madam, I am Maffio Orsini, brother to the Duke of Gravina, whom your bravoes strangled during the night while he was sleeping.
JEPPO. Madam, I am Jeppo Liveretto, nephew of Liveretto Vitelli, poniarded by your orders in the caves of the Vatican.
ASCANIO. Madam, I am Ascanio Petrucci, cousin of Pandolfo Petrucci, Lord of Sienna, whom you had assassinated in order to rob him more easily of his town.
OLOFERNO. Madam, my name is Oloferno Vitellozzo, nephew of Jago d'Appiani, whom you had poisoned at a fête, after having treacherously despoiled him of his good and lordly citadel of Piombino.
Don APOSTOLO. Madam, you had Don Francisco Gazella put to death upon the scaffold. Don Francisco Gazella was maternal uncle to Don Alphonso of Aragon, your third husband, killed by your order on the stairs of St. Peter. I am Don Apostolo Gazella, cousin of the one and son of the other.
Dona LUCRECE. O God!
GENNARO. Who is this woman?
Maffio. And now that we have told you our names, do you wish that we should tell you yours?
Dona LUCRECE. No-no, my lords-not before him!
Maffio (taking off her mask). Take off your mask, madam, so that one may see whether you can blush.
Don APOSTOLO. That woman, Gennaro, to whom you were whispering love, is a murderess and an adultress.
JEPPO. Incestuous in every degree-incestuous with her two brothers, one of whom slew the other for her love
OLOFERNO. A monster who would be incestuous with her children, if children she had; but Heaven refuses issue to such monsters.
Maffio (stretching out his arm).
GENNARO (pushing her back). Oh !
(She falls, having fainted at his feet.)
Soon after this, Maffio, Jeppo, Ascanio, Oloferno, Don A postolo, are sent by Venice on a pecial embassy to Ferrara, where Lucrèce Borgia holds her court, and Gennaro accompanies them, being the sworn brother in arms of Maffio d'Orsini.
The passions in action are—the affection of Lucrèce for Gennaro--the jealous indignation of the Duc de Ferrara against Gennaro, whom he supposes, from what he saw at the mask of Venice, to be a loverand the vengeance of Lucrèce, who has determined to punish the
Venetian nobles who had insulted her. Gennaro lays himself open to the duc's plans by the historical outrage of erasing the B from the front of the ducal palace, which left “orgia" engraved upon that part which Lucrèce inhabited.
The first act ends with a meeting between the two emissaries of the duc and the duchesse; the one seeking, as he supposes, a lover for Lucrèce, the other a victim for the duc. In the difficulty of reconciling the two missions, the bravoes decide by tossing up, whether Gennaro shall be adored or murdered. The duke's bravo gains.
The second act contains a most spirited scene between Lucrèce Borgia and her husband. Lucrèce having first passionately demanded vengeance on the person who had outraged her palace, as passionately