Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 628
Aragon is in a state of siege because the usurper king, lately dead, refused to acknowledge and reward the services of the Moors in gaining the kingdom for him. Queen Leonora, promised on her father’s deathbed to Duke Bertran, regrets this alliance as well as the fact that she holds in a dungeon the deposed King Sancho, a righteous and beloved ruler. Bertran’s forces were routed three times by the Moors before Torrismond, supposed son of Raymond, one of the leading nobles, rallied the scattered Christians and saved the kingdom from the infidels.
Young Lorenzo, a valiant colonel in Torrismond’s army, brings news of the victory and confides to his friends his desire to celebrate with the first prostitute available. He boasts that he robbed his Moorish victims of gold and jewels. Elvira, the young wife of a jealous old moneylender named Gomez, makes advances to the handsome soldier, but her husband immediately thwarts plans for the assignation that was put in motion by Friar Dominic.
Upon his triumphal return, Torrismond offends Bertran by openly ridiculing him for ineptness. He also naïvely declares his love for the queen, who, in turn, is smitten with love for the young hero. Bertran vows vengeance and agrees to her suggestion to kill King Sancho because he thinks that will hasten the marriage. Leonora makes the suggestion with the intention of thereby making Torrismond her king-husband. Torrismond, however, remains loyal to the old king and to Raymond.
Despite all efforts to the contrary, clandestine love prevails in the palace, though not in Gomez’s mansion. Friar Dominic, ghostly father to Elvira, makes a series of arrangements for the young wife and her hopeful gallant to meet, but each meeting is discovered by the near-cuckolded husband. Bertran, too, does his best to keep Leonora and Torrismond apart by testing the reaction of the populace to the supposed murder of King Sancho.
Raymond, incensed by such intrigues, admits that in the troublesome days of the Moorish invasion King Sancho entrusted to him his son Torrismond. Raymond urges Torrismond to take over the kingdom and to avenge the old king’s death by deposing or by killing the usurpers. Torn between his love for Leonora and his filial duty to his foster father and real father, Torrismond is unable to commit so bloody a deed. He declares his belief that Leonora’s repentance and his own attempt to thwart the regicide settled that score. After learning Torrismond’s decision, Raymond, though he is moved to compassion over his adopted son’s predicament, departs to rouse the citizens.
The intrigue involving Elvira and Lorenzo comes to nothing; no amount of bribery, blackmail, or disguise can bring the two together, despite the fact that Friar Dominic is a master of trickery and knavery. The friar is finally exposed when Lorenzo’s father reveals that Elvira is his daughter, married to Gomez the usurer in order to prevent her suffering a worse fate in those troubled times. Thus the affection Elvira and Lorenzo feel for each other is based on the family relationship of brother and sister.
To this double discovery of the true parentage of Torrismond and Elvira comes a third: King Sancho is not dead. Bertran, suspicious of the queen’s motives and aware of the people’s loyalty to the old king, merely spread the rumor of King Sancho’s death. Knowing also that the queen is devoted to Torrismond rather than to himself, Bertran begs forgiveness for his part in the many sad events that occurred in the kingdom. Leonora, much relieved, wishes only for King Sancho’s permission for her marriage to his son. Torrismond assures her that the good king, quick to forgive, will grant such a boon.