*Rome. Great Italian city in which the primary palace of the Cenci family is built. Outwardly, the palace reflects the grandeur of Rome at the end of the Renaissance. Its accommodations are sumptuous, and it is a scene of great pomp and pageantry. However, the palace is home to Count Francesco Cenci, a decadent and selfish tyrant determined to break the spirit of everyone in his family, in particular his strong-willed daughter Beatrice. Cenci flourishes in Rome, which suggests the city is tainted with the spiritual corruption he represents.
This is revealed by Cenci’s relationship with the Vatican, seat of the papal government. Shelley depicts the Vatican, which represents both the religious and political character of the city, as corrupt and hypocritical because its accepts the bribes Cenci pays to avoid prosecution of murders.
Beatrice’s perceptions of the city are the most telling. She knows that she can easily find assassins with no regard for life who will murder her father. When her mother begs the pope’s legate not to return them to Rome to be tried for Francesco’s murder, Beatrice soothes her with this mocking appraisal: “There as here/ Our innocence is as an armed heel/ To trample accusation.” Beatrice knows full well that this idealized Rome does not exist and that they are likely to be executed for a type of crime for which Francesco regularly bought absolution.
Castle Petrella. Castle in the Apennine mountains outside Rome that presents Beatrice and her family with a refuge beyond Rome’s influences, where Francesco can be more easily killed. Its setting in the wilds expresses the savagery of the murder committed on its premises and the extremes to which Francesco has driven his family.