The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni
(I Promessi Sposi)

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Considered one of the most important novels ever written in the Italian language, "The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi)" is Alessandro Manzoni's 1827 historical novel, which details the terribly oppressive rule of the Spanish over Italy in the early 1600s. At the center of the novel is the story of two young lovers, Renzo and Lucia, whose marriage is forbidden by the local baron. Set against all odds Renzo and Lucia's love must struggle against the ravages of war, famine, and the plague. Manzoni's "The Betrothed" is an epic, historical Italian masterpiece.

About Alessandro Manzoni

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Born in Milan, the grandson on his mother's side of Cesare Beccaria, world-famous reformer of criminal jurisprudence, Manzoni first established himself as Italy's leading romantic poet, then as its second tragedian, after Vittorio Alfieri, and finally as its greatest novelist. Although he was raised as a Voltairian rationalist, his major writings date from his "return" to Roman Catholicism. Manzoni's lyric poems, which place him on a par with Petrarch and Leopardi, include his "Inni Sacri" (Sacred Hymns) (1822), and an ode on the death of Napoleon, "Cinque Maggio" (1821), which Goethe translated into German. Manzoni's historical tragedies, "The Count of Carmagnola" (1820) and "Adelchi" (1822), were influenced by Goethe and Shakespeare. His singular masterpiece, initially inspired by the novels of Sir Walter Scott, is "The Betrothed" (1825--27). It is a historical novel to be ranked with the major works of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, Ariosto, and Machiavelli, and which "has probably had more influence in Italy," as Lacy Collison-Morley said, "than any other novel in any other land." Manzoni painstakingly researched his novel's historical background, and while his plot and characters are fictional, they nonetheless reflect the mores and events of the years of Spanish rule of Lombardy from 1628 to 1630. "The Betrothed" does for modern Italy what Chaucer's tales and Shakespeare's historical plays did for England. Manzoni continued the tradition of literary-linguistic experimentation that began with Dante, while simultaneously providing Italy with a national equivalent of what Homer's epics proved to be for ancient Greece---at once, a source of artistic delight and of spiritual education in the broadest sense. Revising his work for its definitive edition of 1840--1842, Manzoni left his native Milan for Dante's Florence, in order to master a form of Italian that would be deeply rooted in the living, local dialect that had produced the greatest Italian masterpieces of the past, while being at the same time fully suited to serve as the "language of newspapers and practical books, of the school and general conversation" for a united modern Italy.
Published November 24, 1983 by Penguin. 722 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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