Rappaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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In "Rappaccini's Daughter," who loves whom more deeply, Beatrice or Giovanni? 

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favoritethings eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Beatrice certainly loves Giovanni more than he has ever loved her. When he realizes that he has become imbued with the same poison as her, he actually wishes that his breath would "slay" her, though he knows it will not. Though he cannot rage at her initially, he treats her with a "sullen insensibility" that inspires her with the sense of a "gulf of blackness" having opened up between them. She confesses that she had been so "lonely" prior to his arrival, and then his rage does "[break] forth from his sullen gloom" and he speaks to her with "venomous scorn and anger." He cruelly calls her a "poisonous thing" and accuses her of "blast[ing]" him with poison, calling her hateful, ugly, "loathsome and deadly." He tells her that her very prayers "'taint the atmosphere with death.'"

She responds to him with a "grief [that] was beyond passion." She accepts his accusations about her poisonous physical nature, and she encourages him to leave and forget all about her. It becomes clear that the change in Giovanni's physical nature was her father's doing and not her own. When Giovanni speaks to her of the supposed antidote, she insists that she will drink but that he must "await the result." She obviously wishes to spare him, willing to sacrifice herself to do so; this is a most loving gesture and one he does not resist, showing that he cares for less for her life than she does for his.

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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It could be argued that Giovanni does not love Beatrice at all. Giovanni does not love and accept Beatrice as she is; he cannot look beyond the poisonous elements in her physical nature in order to recognize and embrace the goodness beyond. Moreover, he not only fails to accept her, he cruelly condemns and rejects an essential part of her being. He does not believe that Beatrice is worthy of his love unless a significant part of her is destroyed.

Giovanni loves the Beatrice he wants her to be, and he will live with her only outside the garden, her sustaining environment. Giovanni's blind selfishness is his defining characteristic.

Beatrice drinks the antidote to her poisonous nature at Giovanni's request, knowing that it will end her life. Her motivation for doing this could be interpreted in this way; she chose to die rather than live without Giovanni. However, it could be interpreted another way, a more significant one. Having loved him so deeply, Beatrice could not bear the disillusionment in realizing that it was Giovanni who was not worthy of love. Unlike Beatrice, his poisonous nature encompassed not only his body, but also his spirit.

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