(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Somewhere in the Bohemian countryside there lived a nobleman, Acasto, who had served the emperor well before his retirement from military service and the life of the court. In his household were his twin sons, Castalio and Polydore, and his daughter Serina, as well as a young noblewoman, Monimia, who had been left as his ward upon the death of her parents. It was Acasto’s purpose to keep his sons at home, for he had seen enough of the intrigues and disappointments of court life. The two sons, however, restless and unoccupied, had both fallen in love with Monimia.

Previously they had been close friends and sharers of each other’s secrets, but now their love for the same woman came between them. Castalio, whose weakness was an excessive scrupulousness, made the great mistake of minimizing his passion for Monimia when talking with his brother; he claimed that he had no desire for marriage and that he would not object to watching Polydore press his own suit. This conversation was repeated to Monimia by a page. Since she genuinely loved Castalio, she misunderstood his attitude and really believed that his love had cooled. Thus it was that Castalio, in his desire to be fair with Polydore, allowed him and Monimia to be alone together under circumstances which allowed the less scrupulous Polydore to make dishonorable proposals to her.

A short time later Chamont, Monimia’s brother, returned from the wars in which he had been engaged for many years. In his first interview with his sister, he told her of a strange and ill-omened dream he had had: a vision of Monimia surrendering herself to two lovers. Further, on his journey to Acasto’s estates, he had been warned by an old crone to hasten in order to protect his sister’s honor. Although Monimia convinced him that she really loved Castalio and that his intentions were thoroughly honorable, her brother nevertheless warned her against Castalio and all men and made her promise to treat her lover coldly, so as to try him. But when she and Castalio met, they smoothed out their misunderstandings, and the course of true love seemed again to be running smoothly.

Almost immediately the household was thrown into confusion by the sudden illness of Acasto, who had been entertaining his friends at a feast. Thinking that he was about to die, the old nobleman assembled his family and told of his plans to divide his estate among...

(The entire section is 979 words.)