(2020) Paulo and Francesca

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Paolo Malatesta was a handsome man with a winning nature. He was also married with children.

Francesca da Polenta (later Francesca da Rimini) was the beautiful young daughter of Guido I, Lord of Ravenna and as such, she was a valuable diplomatic pawn in the power games of Italian noblemen of … (read more)

Paolo Malatesta was a handsome man with a winning nature. He was also married with children.

Francesca da Polenta (later Francesca da Rimini) was the beautiful young daughter of Guido I, Lord of Ravenna and as such, she was a valuable diplomatic pawn in the power games of Italian noblemen of the 13th century.

When Guido I eventually found it expedient to make peace with his enemy, Malatesta da Verucchio, Paolo's father, he decided to seal the deal by marrying his daughter, Francesca, off to one of Malatesta's sons as a cunning political tie. Unfortunately his choice of husband had to be Malatesta's eldest son, Giovanni (aka Gianciotto), who has been variously described as uncouth and deformed or crippled. Guido was perceptive enough to realise that his romantic young daughter would not welcome such a man as her husband so the handsome Paolo was invited to stand proxy for his brother at the wedding. Unfortunately it would appear that no-one told Francesca that Paolo was only the proxy.

Francesca had fallen instantly in love with the dashing Paolo and must have thought herself the luckiest girl in the world so we can only imagine her feelings of horror when she awoke on the morning after her wedding night to find herself lying beside the 'deformed' Giovanni instead. Presumably it had been possible for the brothers to switch places in the darkened bedroom and the innocent Francesca had been cruelly duped.

We can never know if Paolo really loved Francesca. In the time-honored way of the typical (?) Italian male it could be that his brother's wife represented a challenge he simply could not resist. But history tells us that they did indeed become lovers and that Francesca's husband, Giovanni, almost caught them in the act.

Whatever the truth of this love affair Giovanni did not stop to ask questions. It is recorded that he found his wife's bedroom door locked and demanded to be admitted. He had been told of the affair by his servant and was determined to catch the lovers in flagrante. Paolo leapt towards a trapdoor in the floor as Francesca went to open the door and make her excuses for locking it.

However as she went to unlock the bedroom door she omitted to check that Paolo had actually got clean away and closed the trapdoor behind him. Unfortunately his jacket had caught on the catch and he had been unable to free himself.

As soon as Giovanni came through the door he saw Paolo and ran at him with his rapier, despite the fact that it was his brother he was about to kill. Francesca in a frenzy to save her lover threw herself in front of Giovanni's sword and was fatally stabbed. Giovanni in his despair at inadvertently killing the woman he loved, withdrew his sword from her chest and then ran Paolo through with it, killing him instantly. It is said that the lovers were buried together.

Giovanni was never held accountable. Presumably such a crime of passion was thought excusable at that time. He had been cuckolded and had endured intolerable dishonour and his reaction was perhaps deemed acceptable; either that or he was too powerful to be prosecuted.

He went on to capture Pesaro and lived there as its highest official until he died in 1304 ... 19 years after he had murdered his wife and his brother.

But the love story of Paolo and Francesca was far from forgotten.The poet, Dante Alighieri, a contemporary of Paolo and Francesca, took their story and wove it into his famous poem, Divine Comedy. Although it is not know whether or not Dante actually knew them personally their tragedy had certainly caught his imagination.
In Canto V of the Inferno (Hell) section, Dante, accompanied by the Roman poet, Virgil, meets the spirits of Paolo and Francesca as they are swept about by eternal winds, punished forever for their sin of uncontrollable lust.

The original title for Rodin's famous sculpture 'The Kiss' was 'Francesca da Rimini' before he was persuaded to change its name. The subject matter of this brave piece made it controversial for many years as Rodin intended to show that women were not just passive subjects when it came to sexual relations. He wanted to show that women also had sexual desires but the prevailing prudish attitudes of the time meant that his statue was often concealed from view.

— Majority excerpt from “Paolo and Francesca—The Love Story That Inspired Rodin's 'The Kiss'” by Angie Jardine at owlcation.com


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Ξ 0.31245
($76.08)