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concerning Lorenzino

     A five-act play, first performed at the Théâtre Français on 24 February 1842, This tragedy is loosely based on a historical incident, the assassination of Duc Alessandro de Medici of Florence in 1537 by his cousin, Lorenzo, and probably inspired by a previous play based on the same incident, "Lorenzaccio," by Alfred de Musset.
     In Dumas' fiction, Duc Alessandro, the ruler of Florence, has made himself obnoxious to the population by his practice of abducting and seducing or raping the wives and daughters of the leading citizens. Lorenzino, slightly built and possibly a physical coward, has made himself indispensable to Alessandro by assisting in his debauchery. As the play opens, two minions are standing guard outside the house of the Marquis Cibo, while Alessandro and Lorenzino visit with the Marquise. The husband returns unexpectedly, and we successively meet Lorenzino, who emerges to toss Alessandro's armor down a well, the mortally wounded marquis, the blood-stained Duc Alessandro, and the republican revolutionaries Philippe Strozzi and Michel, who have clandestinely returned to Florence to overthrow the Duc. Michel has a personal reason to hate the Duc, as Alessandro raped his sister, who has just died.
     Alessandro next takes an interest in the beautiful Luiza, daughter of the supposedly exiled Strozzi, and we learn, fiancée of Lorenzino. Lorenzino agrees to procure his fiancée for Alessandro, betrays her father to the Duc, and promises Luiza that they can flee together and marry if she just does exactly as she is told. Lorenzino conveys Luiza to his house, invites the Duc, and then with the help of Michel, murders him. However, Luiza, thinking herself betrayed by Lorenzino, swallows poison, and dies in Lorenzino's arms.
     The character of Lorenzino foreshadows in many respects that of Chicot the Jester in La Dame de Monsoreau. Both are men who have abandoned their honor in order to play the buffoon so that they might better achieve their ultimate objective of revenge. Lorenzino is also a staunch republican, and the root of his quarrel with Alessandro is with the tyrant rather than the rapist.
     In history, Duc Alessandro de Medici (1510-1537), the illegitimate son of Lorenzo de Medici, was imposed on Florence in 1529 by Pope Clement VII after the city had been reduced by siege. Lorenzino (1514-1548) was a member of a junior branch of the de Medici, and was a writer and playwright of considerable reputation. The murder took place at Lorenzino's house, the promised woman (who was never present) was the young wife of the elderly Leonardo Ginori. Michel and Luiza are Dumas' creations. After the murder, Lorenzino who had his finger bitten off in the struggle, immediately fled to Bologna to await the revolution, which did not occur. Lorenzino subsequently wrote an "apologia" in which he claimed (dubiously) to be motivated by republican sentiments. Lorenzino was himself murdered in Venice in 1548.
     When Dumas made Strozzi, Michel, and Lorenzino into Republican heroes (and hence sympathetic to an audience that he would hope shared his republican sympathies), he was, of course, projecting the values of the French revolution (liberté, egalité, and fraternité) backward into a time before they were invented. The republicans of the Italian renaissance upheld the rights of a narrow urban commercial oligarchy within a particular city, and would not have recognized the existence of any wider definition of "liberté," and they would have thought "egalité" and "fraternité" absurd if not pernicious.


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