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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 250

The impulsive young Fabrizio del Dongo, longing for a life of adventure outside his wealthy Italian family’s palatial home, is caught up in the romance surrounding Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquest of Europe—to which his family is steadfastly opposed. Changing his name to join the French forces, he has numerous misadventures that place him in the Battle of Waterloo; after escaping, he makes his way back to Italy. His doting Aunt Gina has become involved with Parma’s prime minister, Count Mosca; together they become Fabrizio’s patrons and enroll him in seminary to prepare him for a career in the Church hierarchy.

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Fabrizio goes along with the plan, but his romantic nature leads to infatuation with several young women, which lands him in trouble. After a budding romance with Marietta, an actress, is quashed by her protector, Giletti, Fabrizio ends up killing him. While he initially escapes, soon he is convicted and sent to prison. Through a series of complicated machinations set in motion by Aunt Gina, not only does Fabrizio escape, but the prince responsible for his conviction is also murdered.

At last, Fabrizio can take his place as a Church official, even becoming an archbishop—a position that does not prevent him from falling in love once more. While it seems this time that his happiness will be less ephemeral, his lover Clelia and their infant soon die. Now disillusioned of his worldly ambitions, the brokenhearted man retreats to a monastic life in Parma’s charterhouse.


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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 975

Early in the nineteenth century, Fabrizio, son of the marchese del Dongo, grows up at his father’s magnificent villa at Grianta on Lake Como. His father is a miserly fanatic who hates Napoleon and the French; his mother is a long-suffering creature cowed by her domineering husband. In his boyhood, Fabrizio is happiest when he leaves Grianta and visits his aunt, Gina Pietranera, at her home in Milan. Gina looks upon her handsome nephew as if he were her son.

When he is nearly seventeen years old, Fabrizio determines to join Napoleon. Both his aunt and his mother are shocked, but the boy stands firm. Fabrizio’s father is too stingy to allow Fabrizio’s mother or his aunt to give Fabrizio any money for his journey, but Gina sews some small diamonds in his coat. Under a false passport, Fabrizio makes his way to Paris as a seller of astrological instruments.

Following one of Napoleon’s battalions out of Paris, Fabrizio is arrested and thrown into jail as a spy. His enthusiastic admiration for the emperor and his bad French are marks against him. Released from jail by the kindhearted wife of the turnkey, Fabrizio presses on, anxious to get into the fighting. Mounted on a horse he buys from a good-natured camp follower, he rides by accident into a group of hussars around Marshall Ney at the Battle of Waterloo. When a general’s horse is shot, the hussars lift Fabrizio from the saddle, and the general commandeers his horse. Afoot, Fabrizio falls in with a band of French infantrymen and, in the retreat from Waterloo, kills a Prussian officer. Happy at being a real soldier, he throws down his gun and escapes.

Meanwhile, at home, Gina succumbs to the romantic advances of Count Mosca, prime minister of Parma. They make a convenient arrangement. Old Duke Sanseverina badly wants a diplomatic post. In return for Mosca’s favor in giving him the post, he agrees to marry Gina and set her up as the duchess of Sanseverina. Then the duke leaves the country for good, and Mosca becomes Gina’s accepted lover. It is a good thing for Fabrizio that his aunt has some influence. When he returns to Grianta, the gendarmes come to arrest him on a false passport charge. He is taken to Milan in his...

(The entire section contains 1225 words.)

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