A new character makes his entrance: Cardinal Federigo Borromeo, the embodiment of good.
The backstory of this historical figure demands no embellishment or fictionalizing:
“At this point in our story, I cannot resist lingering for a moment, like a sad and weary wayfarer who has traveled through an arid and wild landscape, and stops to kill a little time lying in the grassy shade of a nice tree near a freshwater spring… I absolutely must say a few words about this character, but if any of you would rather not hear them, and instead prefer to continue on with the story, you are welcome to skip to the next chapter.”
Will you take Manzoni up on this offer, or pause to learn about the archbishop?
“The way one lives is the proof of principles professed in words.”
He rescues a girl destined, against her will, to become a nun. Did he offer the same indulgence, the same understanding, to poor Gertrude? We will soon find out.
After this sea of praise, a caveat, and a footnote (by me):
“We should not overlook, however, his strong conviction and long practice of ideas that many would find rather strange and baseless nowadays. I say this even to those who are eager to justify them. Anyone who wishes to defend him tends to argue, most commonly, that these beliefs were errors of his time rather than his own. This argument might be valid, in some cases, after a detailed examination of the facts, but it is meaningless if people adopt it randomly and out of context, as they usually do. And since I do not wish to solve complicated questions with simple answers, or prolong a single episode, I will forgo explaining it. All I will say is that we cannot expect perfection, even in the most admirable of men; if we do, we might as well write a eulogy.”
Manzoni is reluctant to tarnish this hero, but historical rigor demands that he must admit his faults.
Thank you for reading APS Together. We are reading The Betrothed with the translator Michael Moore. Subscribe to receive his daily notes.
As if I could skip ahead! I loved meeting Federigo and think he's an interesting contrast w Gertrude!
What a tongue-in-cheek chapter! The contrast between the Nameless One and the Cardinal is like night and day, evil and good, devil and saint. And yet...”All I will say is that we cannot expect perfection, even in the most admirable of men; if we do, we might as well write an eulogy.” Makes me wonder about the Cardinal. What skeletons might be hiding in his past?
Also, quite funny how the Nameless One, on his way to see the Cardinal, arms himself--pistols, dagger, carbine--like he’s going to wage war. Which in a sense he is--a war for his soul.
I love how the introduction of each new character is like another strand in the web the narrator is deftly spinning and pulling together: “So rather than gossiping about this man, let us pick up our story where we left off, so we can see him in action, following the guidance of our author.” So tempted to continue reading.