(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

On the day before he is to perform the marriage ceremony for Lorenzo and Lucia, two young peasants, Don Abbondio, parish priest at Lecco, is warned by two armed henchmen of Don Rodrigo, a tyrannical noble, not to marry the pair. In fear for his life, Don Abbondio refuses to perform the marriage when asked to do so by the young couple. When they try to trick him into being present while they exchange vows, he dashes away into hiding.

The reason for the warning given to the priest is that Don Rodrigo wishes to seduce Lucia. He is not in love with the young woman, but he wagered his cousin that he can have her for his enjoyment while she is still a virgin. Toward this end, he sends a crew of his henchmen to abduct the girl from her home. Appearing at Lucia’s home, they are frightened away by the tumult aroused when the priest causes the alarm to be sounded by tolling the church bell.

Frightened, Lucia seeks aid from a saintly Capuchin, Fra Cristoforo, who gives her, her mother, and Lorenzo temporary haven within the walls of the monastery while he makes arrangements for the safety of all three, away from the wrath and wickedness of Don Rodrigo. He sends the girl to seek sanctuary with a Capuchin chapter at Monza, along with her mother. He sends Lorenzo to another monastery in Milan.

Arriving at Monza, Lucia is put under the care of a nun who belongs to a noble family that placed her in the convent rather than pay a dowry. The nun is a headstrong woman and, in some ways, wicked, but the Capuchins think Lucia will be safe under her care. Lucia remains hidden for some weeks.

Don Rodrigo initiates a search for her until his henchmen discover her place of refuge. Fearing that he can never take her from the sanctuary, Don Rodrigo enlists the aid of a powerful noble called the Un-named. The Un-named, grateful for past services by Don Rodrigo, agrees to aid his vassal in abducting the woman and in teaching a harsh lesson to peasants who think they can defy the nobility.

The Un-named learns that one of his men living near the convent is to murder a nun who displeased the woman to whom the Capuchins sent Lucia. As a result of the murder committed for her benefit, the nun is forced to enter into the scheme and send Lucia out of the convent. Once out of the sanctuary, Lucia is kidnapped by the Un-named’s men and taken in a coach to his mountain retreat.

Meanwhile, Lorenzo fails to reach the Capuchin monastery in Milan. Upon his arrival in the city, he finds the populace...

(The entire section is 1033 words.)