Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Florence. Italian center of art, philosophy, scholarship, and religious and political intrigue that made the city famous as the cradle of the Renaissance. Eliot’s novel is filled with allusions to Florence’s history, from 200 b.c.e. through the late fifteenth century; the stages of its growth parallel the psychological and moral growth of her fifteenth century heroine, Romola de’ Bardi. Eliot’s concern is for both the individual and the larger human community. Many of her Victorian readers who were interested in the contemporary Italian unification movement—the Risorgimento—would have noted contemporary parallels with the historical issues Eliot re-created as a milieu for Romola’s development.

Bardo’s library

Bardo’s library. Library of Romola’s father, Bardo de’ Bardi, a famous scholar. Filled with manuscripts and antiquaries, this colorless, rather cold room represents Bardo’s classical Stoic values: a noble integrity that demands justice and truth. Significantly, the competence in classical languages shown by Romola’s future husband, the young Greek adventurer Tito Melema, gets Tito admitted to Bardo’s presence in the library, where Romola first meets him. Both Bardo and Tito deride the evangelical Christian movement of Florentine religious leader Savonarola as fanatical. Tito’s later betrayal of Bardo and Romola by selling the library causes their first major marital rift....

(The entire section is 493 words.)