Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 987
Modern Relationships In many of her plays, Ginzburg explores the experiences of women in modern relationships and modern marriage. In The Advertisement, Teresa describes the course of her relationship with Lorenzo, which develops in a very nontraditional way that is characteristic of the 1960s when Italian culture was becoming increasingly...
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In many of her plays, Ginzburg explores the experiences of women in modern relationships and modern marriage. In The Advertisement, Teresa describes the course of her relationship with Lorenzo, which develops in a very nontraditional way that is characteristic of the 1960s when Italian culture was becoming increasingly modernized and secularized. Soon after they meet, Teresa and Lorenzo go to bed together, and they stay in bed for three days straight. When they meet again six months later, they move in together, although they are not married.
Teresa and Lorenzo eventually marry but only because they think Teresa is pregnant. After they are married, however, it turns out that she is not pregnant. Although it is not mentioned directly, there is some implication that Teresa may have lied to Lorenzo about being pregnant to get him to marry her. However, The Advertisement was written three years before birth control became readily available in Italy, so it is believable that Teresa may genuinely have thought she was pregnant.
Though their lifestyle and their relationship are very nontraditional, Teresa and Lorenzo continue to harbor traditional expectations of marriage. They both accuse one another of not fulfilling their traditional marital roles. Teresa says that Lorenzo ‘‘was always telling me what I ought to have been like, how happy he’d have been if I’d been a wife,’’ while she herself ‘‘did nothing but tell him how I’d have liked him to be a husband.’’
After five years of marriage, they separate. Although Lorenzo has no intention of reconciling with Teresa, they are unable to get divorced because divorce was not legal in Italy until 1970. Their options are either to obtain a ‘‘legal separation’’ or to have the marriage annulled. Lorenzo’s mother wants him to get a legal separation ‘‘with guilt’’ so that he will not have to pay her alimony. But Lorenzo opts for a separation ‘‘by mutual consent.’’ He helps Teresa find a place to live and continues to provide her with financial support, although she claims he does not give her enough money.
When Elena tells Teresa that she is in love with Lorenzo, Teresa offers to have her marriage to Lorenzo annulled so that he and Elena can marry one another. Although there was no legal divorce in Italy at this time, the Roman Catholic Church had a provision for marital annulment, but the criteria for annulment was relatively strict. The Advertisement was written just a few years before many of the traditional marriage laws in Italy dictated by the Catholic Church were either liberalized or abolished in favor of laws more in keeping with modern secular lifestyles.
In The Advertisement, Ginzburg explores the themes of modern relationships and modern marriage at a pivotal moment in Italian history when women and men were caught between modern lifestyles and traditional expectations as well as traditional laws about marital relationships.
The character of Teresa in The Advertisement is a case study in obsessive love. Teresa knows early on that her love for Lorenzo is irrational, and yet she feels she cannot help loving him. After they first meet, they go to bed together almost immediately. Although she has been with many men before and is quite popular, Teresa is in love for the first time in her life. Lorenzo then completely disappears without explanation. When he runs into her again by chance, six months later, he acts as if nothing unusual had happened between them. Although she knows that Lorenzo is lying to her about why he disappeared, Teresa begs him to become involved with her once again.
Throughout five years of unstable and tempestuous marriage, Teresa is so completely consumed by her love for Lorenzo that she believes herself to be happy in a relationship that sounds intolerable. Lorenzo is extremely critical and controlling of Teresa. Yet she always does what he wants her to do because, as she tells Elena, ‘‘he was able to bully me because I loved him.’’ Teresa adds that she lost her sense of self in submitting to his will, explaining that she obeyed him because ‘‘I no longer had a will of my own left.’’ In addition, Lorenzo was often cold and indifferent toward her, forgetting to come home any time he ran into a friend and often leaving her alone for days at a time, supposedly to go visit his mother. Eventually, they engage in violent quarrels. It is unclear from Teresa’s description if Lorenzo was the primary aggressor in these fights, although it seems as if he may have been. Teresa describes fights in which he would slap and punch her and she would bite and scratch him, even injuring him with a pair of scissors on one occasion.
After five years of marriage, Teresa has an affair with Lorenzo’s dearest childhood friend, Mario. Upon discovering them in bed together, Lorenzo immediately leaves Teresa. He later claims that he left her, not because of the affair, but because he no longer loved her. In fact, he says that he had stopped loving her long before this. After this incident, Teresa begs Lorenzo to come back to her, but he refuses. Even after Elena informs her that she and Lorenzo are in love, Teresa admits that she will always love him and that she would be willing to take him back under any conditions whatsoever.
Teresa’s obsessive love for Lorenzo is so extreme and irrational that she even bought herself a pistol before they were separated, thinking that she would kill him one day. Her obsessive love culminates in the irrational decision to shoot and kill Elena out of jealousy. Teresa even states beforehand that she knows Lorenzo will never want her back, and yet Lorenzo is the first person she calls after killing Elena, as if she believes that somehow this act of violence will bring him back to her.