(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Alsemero, after glimpsing Beatrice at church, expresses to himself the hope that he can gain her hand in marriage. Outside, in the street, his musings are interrupted by Jasperino. To the latter’s surprise, he learns that Alsemero, whose enthusiasm for travel is common knowledge, is reluctant to undertake a projected voyage to Malta. While they are talking, Beatrice enters, accompanied by Diaphanta, and the four talk in friendly fashion. The mood of Beatrice changes to anger, however, with the arrival of De Flores, her father’s servant, to whom she has a seemingly unconquerable aversion. She makes no effort to hide her feelings from De Flores, who, nevertheless, remains unabashed and continues to follow her about.

Vermandero, Beatrice’s father, passes by and meets Alsemero for the first time. He is pleased to learn that the young man is the son of an old friend of his, a battle companion now dead. To Alsemero he gives an invitation to visit the castle of which Vermandero is governor. The invitation is eagerly accepted, but Alsemero’s pleasure turns to dismay when he learns of Vermandero’s determination to wed Beatrice to Alonzo De Piracquo within the next seven days. As they start for the castle, Beatrice drops one of her gloves. In disdain she throws its mate after it rather than accept the glove from the hands of De Flores, who picks it up and offers it to her.

Meanwhile, in another part of Alicante, Alibius is giving instructions to his servant Lollio. Alibius, a doctor, makes Lollio promise to keep an eye on Isabella, the former’s much younger wife. The doctor’s establishment, which includes facilities for the care of madmen and fools, soon increases with the arrival of a new patient. Antonio, enamored of Isabella, chooses to pose as an idiot so that he can be near her. Lollio interrogates Antonio in an effort to establish his degree of stupidity, but Antonio cleverly parries the servant’s questions.

With the help of Jasperino and Diaphanta, Beatrice and Alsemero communicate with each other and arrange a secret meeting. De Flores, coming to announce the arrival of Beatrice’s suitor, Alonzo, is cruelly railed at, but he equably prolongs the interview to be in Beatrice’s presence. His doggedness arouses in her a vague presentiment of evil, which is quickly dismissed when she rallies herself to face Alonzo. He and her father reluctantly agree to her request for a three-day postponement of the wedding. Her behavior prompts Alonzo’s brother, Tomaso, to utter the warning that Beatrice is not in love, but Alonzo shrugs off any intimation that the marriage is not wise.

Beatrice and Alsemero confess their mutual affection. Beatrice, however, refuses her lover’s offer to engage Alonzo in a duel because she fears that his...

(The entire section is 1139 words.)