The first scene of The Servant of Two Masters opens in the Venetian home of Pantalone as his daughter, Clarice is about to become betrothed. Her fiancé is Silvio, the son of Dr. Lombardi, an old friend of Pantalone. The young couple’s wedding contract is witnessed by one of Pantalone’s servants and Brighella, the local innkeeper. Before finalizing the plans for their children’s union, Pantalone informs Dr. Lombardi that Clarice had previously been engaged to Federigo Rasponi, one of Pantalone’s business correspondents. Pantalone reveals that Federigo was killed in a duel, thus freeing Clarice to wed Silvio. Brighella mentions that he knew Federigo as well as his sister, who had a penchant for wearing men’s clothes. Just as the contract is about to be finalized, a servant named Truffaldino arrives with the news that his master, Federigo Rasponi, would like to be seen. Truffaldino flirts with Pantalone’s maid, Smeraldina, but Pantalone dismisses him and assures the group that it must be a mistake. An angry Truffaldino returns, assuming that Pantalone meant to trick him by saying his master was dead. Pantalone throws him out, but moments later Beatrice Rasponi enters disguised as her brother. Brighella recognizes Beatrice, but promises not to reveal her secret. As Federigo, she reclaims Clarice as her bride-to-be, and Clarice, Silvio and Dr. Lombardi leave in a huff. When a likewise bewildered Pantalone is called away, Beatrice explains to Brighella that her lover, Florindo Aretusi, killed her brother in a duel and fled. She followed him to Venice in men’s clothes hoping to reunite with him.
In the second scene of Act One, the action shifts to the street outside Brighella’s inn. Truffaldino complains of his master’s absence and his insatiable hunger. When Florindo Aretusi arrives, Truffaldino agrees to be his servant and helps him get settled at the inn. When Beatrice (still dressed as Federigo) arrives a few minutes later, Truffaldino vows to continue serving her and laments that he now has two masters (but twice the salary). Truffaldino then mixes up his masters’ mail and Florindo discovers that Beatrice is in town looking for him. In an extended bit of comic business, Truffaldino attempts to reseal the letter with chewed-up bread. When Silvio arrives asking to duel Truffaldino’s master, Truffaldino mistakenly sends Florindo out to see him. Florindo now believes Federigo is still alive, and fears for both himself and Beatrice.
In Act One, Scene Three, back at Pantalone’s house, Clarice attempts to convince her father that he should allow her to marry Silvio, her true love. Pantalone refuses, much...
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