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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 422

La Regenta (the magistrate’s wife) is the history of three years in the life of Vetusta, a small city in northwestern Spain, the fictional counterpart of Leopoldo Alas’ native Oviedo. The narrative begins with an event that will become the focus of the novel. Ana Ozores, a beautiful, cultured woman married to the ex-magistrate of the city, Victor Quintanar, makes her confession to Fermin de Pas, the priest who has just been assigned to her as spiritual guide. Ana reveals her frustration with her husband, who cannot give her a child, and her attraction to Alvaro Mesias, a handsome bachelor who has a reputation in the city as a ladies’ man.

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As the novel progresses, Ana develops a dependence on Fermin as her savior from her sexual frustration and her unfulfilled longing for a child. Fermin tries to help Ana control her desires, which conflict with her strong sense of duty and responsibility to her husband. In the process of performing his priestly duties, however, Fermin falls in love with her. Victor spends his evenings in his bedroom, reciting passages from seventeenth century Spanish plays, imagining himself in the role of the betrayed husband who avenges his honor by killing his wife and her lover. Alvaro, meanwhile, becomes aware of Ana’s attraction to him and pursues her, at first discreetly, then more openly.

The members of the prominent social circle in which Victor and Ana move become aware of the competitive struggle for Ana’s attention waged by Fermin and Alvaro. As they begin to take sides, the impending crisis of Ana’s downfall becomes a topic of general conversation, and Ana finally succumbs to Alvaro’s advances. Victor, still unaware of his wife’s infidelity, fires Ana’s maid, Petra, because he is afraid that she will reveal that he has flirted with her. To get revenge, Petra tells Fermin that Ana is having an affair with Alvaro. In a fit of jealousy, Fermin persuades Petra to set Victor’s alarm clock ahead an hour so that he will wake up for his daily hunting trip in time to see Alvaro leaving Ana’s bedroom.

When Victor realizes that, like the heroes of the Spanish dramas, he has been deceived, he challenges Alvaro to a duel. In spite of Frigilis’ attempts to get Alvaro to leave town, thus averting a tragedy, the duel takes place and Victor is killed. Alvaro flees Vetusta, leaving Ana widowed and disgraced, banished from society by the Vetustans and from the Church by Fermin.

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