Melantius, a military hero, returns to Rhodes from the wars. There he finds himself involved in a difficult situation. The king, ostensibly to show his gratitude, has given the hand of Evadne, Melantius’s sister, to Amintor, a young courtier and a dear friend of Melantius. The difficulty lay in Amintor’s having already promised himself to Aspatia, daughter of Calianax, an old lord.
Preparations are being made for elaborate nuptial festivities. Aspatia grieves. In the royal banqueting hall, just before the presentation of the marriage masque, Melantius encounters Calianax, who insults him. The king’s entrance checks animosities. A masque follows, after which the king, wishing the wedded couple goodnight, asks Amintor to father a boy who will grow up to defend the kingdom.
As Evadne prepares to retire, Aspatia, who is present, cannot share the general enthusiastic anticipation of the marriage night, and she expresses her belief that she will soon be dead of a broken heart. Amintor, coming into the apartment, receives a kiss from Aspatia before she departs. He suffers momentary misgivings for having forsaken her, but he forgets her when he sees Evadne. His bride, as he soon discovers, does not appear to be interested in the consummation of their marriage. In fact, she tells Amintor that she hates him and will never share his bed. Threatened by Amintor, she finally confesses that she has already given herself to the king. Amintor is deeply injured when she reveals to him that the marriage is merely a means to make legitimate any children born of that affair. Determined to make the marriage seem normal, however, he sleeps in her bedchamber, on the floor.
Aspatia, meanwhile, returns to her home, where she warns her maids never to trust their hearts to men and recounts classical stories of women who, much to their distress, gave their hearts away. Old Calianax, always a coward at heart, vows to be valiant in avenging the slight to his daughter. The next morning Amintor, emerging from the bedchamber, encounters Melantius, whom he puzzles with ambiguous remarks about the virtues of the soldier’s family. Later, Amintor’s assumed manner arouses the king’s suspicions; in private he accuses Evadne of faithlessness. To prove her steadfastness to the king, Evadne provokes Amintor into revealing that the marriage has not been consummated. Amintor is overcome by the enormity of the way he has been treated, but he refuses to draw his sword on the king. Still, he vows to avenge the insult somehow.
Melantius, meanwhile, ponders Amintor’s peculiar behavior. Dismissing a foolish challenge from Calianax, he encounters Amintor, whom he persuades to unburden his heart of its troubles. When Amintor reveals that...
(The entire section is 1121 words.)