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Last Updated on June 8, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 315

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The Charterhouse of Parma is a novel about a young Fabrizio del Dongo, son of a nobleman who grows up on Lake Como in the lake district of Italy. He decides he wants to become a soldier in the French army and so travels north with a false passport, and the only only money that he has are the diamonds that Gina, his aunt, gave to him.

He is apprehended once, but his charms allow him to be released, despite his imperfect French. He finds himself fighting in the famous Battle of Waterloo, with only a horse he purchased en route. A general whose horse has fallen takes Fabrizio’s, and, while on foot, Fabrizio kills a Prussian soldier. The novel then follows his aunt,Gina (his father’s sister), as she accepts the advances of Count Mosca. This young Count convinces Gina to marry a wealthy man whose prolonged absence as a politician allows her to carry on with Mosca in the court of the Prince of Parma. Fabrizio encounters a girl, Clelia, and her father who are traveling to Milan when he is arrested on false passport charges. Fabrizio gives them a ride, when, after their arrest, they are compelled to walk. Gina sends Fabrizio to a theological seminar in Naples, but this calling is not enough to distract him from falling for an actress, Marietta. In an accident of mistaken intentions, Fabrizio kills Marietta and escapes from Parma. Nevertheless, he is apprehended and sentenced to imprisonment in Parma’s Farnese Tower. Gina finally sneaks him out, but the jailer’s daughter, Clelia, becomes Fabrizio’s new love interest. Back in Parma, Fabrizio is appointed archbishop and is a popular preacher. Clelia takes a wealthy husband, but eventually takes Fabrizio as a lover and has his child. Both soon die, and Fabrizio lives a quiet, retired life at the titular Charterhouse of Parma.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 710

Fabrizio del Dongo

Fabrizio del Dongo (fah-BREE-zeeoh), an Italian nobleman destined to become an archbishop in the family tradition. A romantic youth, devotedly attached to Napoleonic ideals, the sixteen-year-old adventurer abandons the security of wealth and position to engage in the Battle of Waterloo under an assumed name, with the papers and uniform of a deceased hussar, and in complete ignorance of the ways of war and the world. This episode leads him gradually into deceptions of a higher order, an education he does not want, and an ecclesiastical post for which he is unfitted. Gentle and considerate in private friendships and devoted to humanitarian principles, he nevertheless resorts to intrigue and even murder to attain his ends in the Italian court at Parma. Never really in love until the romantic hopelessness of an affair makes him act in an unorthodox way, Fabrizio gains and loses patronage and affection. He spends his declining years in quiet meditation in the Charterhouse of Parma, a monastery.

Clelia Conti

Clelia Conti (KLEHL-lee-ah KOHN-tee), the beautiful daughter of a traitor count. As a girl, Clelia sets her heart on the handsome and chivalrous young soldier lately home from France. Although she takes a vow never to set eyes on the man who becomes her father’s prisoner after his arrest for murder, she finally takes him as her lover in spite of her marriage vows to a marchese whom she cannot love. Clelia is one of the two great beauties of the Parmese court, both enamoured of the young monsignor. She dies soon after the death of the child fathered by Fabrizio, now an archbishop.

Gina Pietranera

Gina Pietranera (pee-eh-trah-NAY-rah), the duchess of Sanseverina, the mistress and later wife of Count Mosca, and the aunt and benefactress of Fabrizio del Dongo. Widowed before she is thirty, the unorthodox and spirited beauty becomes the chief ornament of the court of the prince of Parma. Taking part in political intrigue, Gina effects the escape of her nephew, the discomfiture of the prince, and the devotion of her lover. Though greatly attracted to her nephew, she never pleads the cause of what the whole court assumes to be an established fact, a menáge. Capable of acting under the whim of a moment, Gina is also able to act with cool precision and great foresight.

Count Mosca

Count Mosca (MOHS-kah), Gina’s lover, a prime minister under two heads of state, and the jealous friend of Fabrizio. the count, against all reason, successfully wooes the penniless Gina, finds her a husband who needs a court accomplice and preferment, and then gives up his portfolio in order to live as her husband in penury. He is an inspired Machiavelli, a generous nobleman, and a clear-headed cynic.

Father Blanés

Father Blanés (blan-EHS), a priest-astrologer and a friend of Fabrizio. This ghostly cleric, the surrogate father of the impressionable young mystic whose real father early disowned him, proves to be the awakener of spiritual qualities as well as churchly ambitions in his protégé.


Ludovico (lew-doh-VEE-koh), the trusted servant of the duchess and the great friend and protector of Fabrizio. Valorous and canny, Ludovico protects the headstrong and amorous young man from many intrigues and aids the imaginative poet, Ferrante, who supervised his eventual escape from prison.

Marietta Valsera

Marietta Valsera (mah-ree-EH-tah vahl-SEH-rah), the actress whose jealous lover is killed by Fabrizio. A young and not very talented performer, Marietta unconsciously leads her admirer into an ambush. She redeems herself by protecting her lover’s identity even at her own peril. For Fabrizio, she personifies conquest and no more.


Fausta, a beautiful and famous soprano who inspires Fabrizio to imaginative and romantic heights.

Count Conti

Count Conti, the treacherous militia officer and keeper of the prison where Fabrizio is confined. He acquiesces in a plot on the life of his political prisoner.


Rassi (RAHS-see), a plebian but brilliant lawyer of the Parmese court who sells preferment among the nobility to his best advantage.


Giletti (jee-LEHT-tee), Marietta Valsera’s rascally protector and lover. Jealous of Fabrizio, he attacks the young man and is killed during the scuffle. His death creates a scandal that leads to Fabrizio’s arrest when the young cleric returns to Parma.