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...
(The entire section is 1130 words.)