Last modified on 22 February 2014, at 20:33

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

Romantic Italian drama is capably represented by Alessandro Manzoni (1785-1873) with "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 of Francesco Foscari (1373-1457), doge of Venice.

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.