Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 431
Back in Agazzie’s study, Laudisi is reading a book when Police Commissioner Centuri arrives with the news that he has proof at last. Laudisi reads it and announces that it proves nothing, then proposes that the commissioner make up something more ‘‘precise,’’ for the sake of peace in the town. Centuri refuses, not realizing that his findings are equally uncertain. A witness has stated that he thinks that the ‘‘Frola woman’’ was in a sanitorium. Not knowing which Frola woman is meant makes the evidence valueless. Laudisi now hits upon a foolproof solution—to interview the wife. Sirelli, with growing skepticism, suggests that an interview will work only if the prefect himself conducts the interview. The commissioner goes off to arrange it. Everyone feels certain that the truth is at hand, but Laudisi spoils their hope by casting doubt on the existence of the wife; after all, no one has ever seen her!
The prefect arrives. Although trustful of Ponza (his secretary), he agrees to conduct the interview. As a formality, he asks Ponza’s permission first. But Ponza surprises him by offering his resignation before the words are barely out of the prefect’s mouth. The Prefect offers assurances of his trust, adding that he is performing the interview only to assure the others. Ponza refuses ‘‘to submit to such an indignity.’’ His anxiety and protests succeed in making the prefect skeptical. Finally, Ponza relents and goes to get his wife. He plans to keep his mother-in-law out of the way himself, during the interview.
Unfortunately, Signora Frola comes to visit just at the wrong moment. She wants to say goodbye, for she plans to leave town. Agazzi tells her that her son-in-law is about to arrive. She begs the townspeople to stop tormenting her family, and begins to weep. As the prefect tries to console her, a woman dressed in deep mourning, her face concealed by a thick veil, appears at the door. Signora Frola shrieks, ‘‘Lena!’’ and Ponza dashes into the room shrieking ‘‘No! Julia!’’ He is too late to stop Signora Frola from grasping the woman in an embrace, just the event he had wanted to avoid. The veiled woman dismisses them both coldly, and they depart arm in arm, weeping. The final twist to the plot comes when the veiled woman proclaims to the group that she is both ‘‘the daughter of Signora Frola and the second wife of Signor Ponza’’ but for herself, ‘‘nobody.’’ She exits, and the curtain falls on Laudisi, saying ‘‘you have the truth! But are you satisfied?’’ He laughs ironically.
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