On a lovely spring day in the middle of the fourteenth century, Ignez de Castro feels especially happy as she walks in her garden in Portugal. Although she is an illegitimate daughter of a famous Galician noble, she wins the love of Prince Pedro, son of Alfonso IV of Portugal; at last she feels sure the world is about to learn that he loves her, too. Theirs is a star-crossed love. Pedro’s father, trying his best to destroy his son’s love for a woman unsuitable to rule Portugal, compelled his heir to marry the Princess Constanza of Castile. Ignez confides to her nurse, however, that fate was on the side of true love. The birth of Constanza’s son, heir to the crown of Portugal, cost his mother her life. At last Pedro is free. He carried out his father’s command by ensuring a continuation of the dynasty. Now he is coming back to the woman he really loves. Surely King Alfonso will now relent. The beauty of the day seems an omen, and Ignez is weeping with joy as she waits for her lover to appear.
The old nurse is less sure, however, that her mistress’s tears are an omen of joy; they might be a foreboding of tragedy. She begs Ignez not to count on happiness until everything is settled. Ignez, hearing Pedro approaching, will listen to no warnings.
The prince greets her with an assurance that all will go well. To himself, however, he wonders why he is not loved by the common people of Portugal and why his father is so incensed by his sincere love for Ignez. Nevertheless, he is confident, like Ignez, that their four children will move the stern old king to pity. Pedro hopes for the royal acceptance of the love between them and a state wedding to show King Alfonso’s recognition of his grandchildren.
Pedro’s secretary tries to disillusion him. In spite of the nobility of her famous father, the irregularity of Ignez’s birth is cause enough for King Alfonso’s repeated orders that Pedro must put her out of his mind. The secretary begs Pedro, for...
(The entire section is 811 words.)