Last Updated on August 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 838
When Don Abbondio is preparing to marry Lucia and Lorenzo, he is visited by men who warn him against performing the ceremony. Alessandro Manzoni makes it clear that the nobleman who sent the thugs to warn the priest, Don Roderick, is a man who shouldn't be disobeyed, because the priest...
(The entire section contains 838 words.)
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When Don Abbondio is preparing to marry Lucia and Lorenzo, he is visited by men who warn him against performing the ceremony. Alessandro Manzoni makes it clear that the nobleman who sent the thugs to warn the priest, Don Roderick, is a man who shouldn't be disobeyed, because the priest responds in fear. Even though he doesn't know Don Roderick except in passing, news of the man's cruelty has reached him. Manzoni writes,
"Oh! suggested to you, who understand Latin!" exclaimed the bravo, laughing; "it is for you to manage the matter. But, above all, be careful not to say a word concerning the hint that has been given you for your good; for if you do, ehem!—you understand—the consequences would be the same as if you performed the marriage ceremony. But say, what answer are we to carry in your name to the most illustrious Signor Don Roderick?"
"Speak more clearly, Signor Curate."
"That I am disposed, ever disposed, to obedience." And as he spoke the words he was not very certain himself whether he gave a promise, or only uttered an ordinary compliment. The bravoes took, or appeared to take them, in the more serious sense.
Lucia and Lorenzo come to realize that Don Roderick made a bet that he could take Lucia as his lover before she was with anyone else. She doesn't want to be with him, but the young couple are peasants who don't have a lot of options with regard to standing against a nobleman. So, they flee the city and find refuge in separate places.
Lucia ends up in the clutches of a man referred to as The Unknown. He owes Don Roderigo a favor and decides to assist him in finding Lucia. However, he's struck by Lucia's goodness and grace. She touches his heart, and he decides that he can't turn her in. He says,
"I will save her; yes, I will save her. As soon as the day breaks, I will fly to her, and say, Go, go in peace. But my promise! Ay, who is Don Roderick that I should hold sacred a promise made to him?" With the perplexity of a man to whom a superior addresses unexpectedly an embarrassing question, the Unknown endeavoured to reply to this his own, or, rather, that was whispered by this new principle, that had of a sudden sprung up so awfully in his soul, to pass judgment upon him. He wondered how he could have resolved to engage himself to inflict suffering, without any motive of hatred or fear, on an unfortunate being whom he did not know, only to render a service to this man. He could not find any excuse for it; he could not even imagine how he had been led to do it. The hasty determination had been the impulse of a mind obedient to its habitual feelings, the consequence of a thousand previous deeds; and from an examination of the motives which had led him to commit a single deed, he was led to the retrospection of his whole life.
Ultimately, The Unknown changes his life and goes to a church to find someone to grant him forgiveness. The goodness of Lucia is such that it changes his entire character and makes him act against the promise he made Roderigo. This is another way that Lucia's belief that God looks after the oppressed as long as they do no evil is confirmed throughout the book.
Near the end, Lucia promises the Virgin that she will never marry as long as she escapes from the people who mean her harm. She does and falls victim to illness. When Lorenzo finds her and is prepared to marry her, she tells him of his vow. When he tells the friar, the man comes to his aid, saying,
"Sin, my child," said the father, "sin, to recur to the church, and to ask her minister to use the authority which he has received from her, and which she receives from God! I bless him that he has given me, unworthy that I am, the power to speak in his name, and to restore to you your vow. If you ask me to absolve you from it, I shall not hesitate to do so; and I even hope you will."
"Then—then—I ask it," said Lucy, with a modest confidence.
The friar beckoned to Renzo, who was watching the progress of the dialogue with the deepest solicitude, to approach, and said aloud to Lucy, "With the authority I hold from the church, I declare you absolved from your vow, and liberate you from all the obligations you may have contracted by it."
The reader may imagine the feelings of Renzo at these words. His eyes expressed the warmth of his gratitude to him who had uttered them; but they sought in vain for Lucy's.
Once she accepts that she isn't bound by her vow, the young couple are able to marry and live happily together.