The Mistress of the Inn

by Carlo Goldoni

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1130

A Florentine innkeeper dies and leaves his young and pretty daughter, Mirandolina, mistress of his inn. The young woman runs the hostelry with much success, for she is as shrewd as she is pretty. On his deathbed, her father had made her promise to marry Fabricius, a faithful young serving-man in the inn. She promised her father to obey his wishes, but after his death she made excuses for not marrying. She tells Fabricius that she is not yet ready to settle down to married life, although she loves him very much. Actually, Mirandolina likes to have men fall in love with her, and she does her best to make fools of them in every way possible. She takes all and gives nothing.

A short time after her father’s death, two noblemen staying at her inn fall in love with her. One is the Marquis di Forlipopoli, a destitute man who, despite his lack of money, is excessively proud of his empty title. The other love-smitten lodger is the Count d’Albafiorita, a wealthy man who boasts of his money. The two men are constantly at odds with each other, each feeling that Mirandolina should prefer him to his rival. In private she laughs at both of them.

The count gives Mirandolina expensive diamond brooches and earrings, and he also spends a great deal of money as a patron of the inn. The marquis, having no money to spend, tries to impress Mirandolina with his influence in high places and offers her his protection. Occasionally, he gives Mirandolina small gifts, which he openly states are much better than the count’s expensive presents because little gifts are in better taste.

Pleased at the attentions of the count, the marquis, and her faithful Fabricius, Mirandolina is somewhat taken aback when a new guest arrives, the Cavalier di Ripafratta, who professes to be a woman-hater. When he receives a letter telling him of a beautiful girl with a great dowry who wishes to marry him, he becomes disgusted and angry and throws away the letter. Although his attitude toward Mirandolina is almost boorish, Mirandolina nevertheless seems much taken with a man who is immune to her charms. More than a little piqued by his attitude, she vows to make him fall in love with her.

When the cavalier demands better linens, Mirandolina goes to his room and, engaging him in conversation, strikes up a friendship of sorts. She tells him that she admires him for being truly a man and able to put aside all thoughts of love. The cavalier, struck by her pose, says that he is pleased to know such a forthright woman, and that he desires her friendship.

Mirandolina follows up her initial victory by cooking extra dishes for the cavalier and serving them to him in his room with her own hands, much to the displeasure of her other two admirers. The marquis is of much greater rank and the count is far more wealthy than the cavalier. Mirandolina’s strategy has immediate success. Within twenty-four hours, the cavalier finds himself in love with the woman who serves him so well and is so agreeable to his ways of thinking.

The cavalier, however, is much disturbed by his newfound love and vows that he will leave for Leghorn immediately. He believes that out of Mirandolina’s sight he will soon forget her. He orders his servant to pack for his departure, then Mirandolina learns of his plans. She herself goes to present his bill and has little trouble in beguiling him to stay a little longer. At the end of the interview,...

(This entire section contains 1130 words.)

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during which the cavalier professes his love, Mirandolina faints. The marquis and the count run into the room to see what has happened. The cavalier, furious at them for discovering Mirandolina in his room, throws the bottle of restorative at them. The marquis vows to have satisfaction, but when the cavalier accepts his challenge the marquis shows his cowardice by refusing to fight a duel.

The cavalier, now almost beside himself with love, sends a solid gold flask to Mirandolina, who refuses to accept it and throws it into a basket of clothes to be ironed. Fabricius, seeing the flask, gets jealous. He is also displeased by the offhanded treatment he has been receiving from the woman who had promised to marry him. Mirandolina finally appeases him by saying that women always treat worst those whom they love best.

Later in the day, while Mirandolina is busy ironing the linen, the cavalier comes to her and asks why she had rejected his suit. He refuses to believe that she had been playing a game with him, just as she had been doing with the count and the marquis. He becomes all the more angry because Fabricius continually interrupts the interview, bringing in hot flatirons for Mirandolina to use on the linen. After a lengthy argument, during which the cavalier becomes furious and refuses to let Fabricius bring in the irons, Mirandolina leaves the room.

The marquis thereupon enters and begins to taunt the cavalier for having fallen victim to the innkeeper’s charms. The cavalier storms out of the room. Looking about, the marquis, very much embarrassed for money, sees the gold flask. Intending to sell it, he picks it up and puts it in his pocket. At that moment, the count enters and the two begin to congratulate themselves on Mirandolina’s success in making a fool of their latest rival. They cannot help remembering, however, that she has done things for him that she has not done for them: cooked special foods, provided new bed linen, and visited with him in his room. Finally, having come to the conclusion that they are as foolish as the cavalier, they resolve to pay their bills and leave the inn.

While Mirandolina is bidding them goodbye, the cavalier pushes his way into the room and tries to force a duel upon the count. When he seizes the marquis’ sword, however, and attempts to pull it from the scabbard, he finds only the handle. Mirandolina tries to calm him and to send all three away. She bluntly tells the cavalier that she has simply used her wiles to make him love her because he had boasted of being a woman-hater. Then, announcing that she had promised her father to marry Fabricius, she takes the serving-man by the hand and announces her betrothal to him. The cavalier leaves angrily, but the count and the marquis receive the news more gracefully. The count gives the newly betrothed couple a hundred pounds, and the marquis, poor as he is, gives them six pounds. Both men leave the inn wiser in the ways of women than they were when they arrived.