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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1079

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...

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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 to his daughter’s disdain, and Smeraldina announces the arrival of Beatrice-as-Federigo. Beatrice asks for time alone with Clarice to win her over, and the old man reluctantly obliges. Despite Clarice’s insults and rebuttals, Beatrice eventually reveals that she is a woman and swears Clarice to absolute secrecy (even from Silvio). Pantalone returns, sees the two getting along, and vows to accelerate the wedding plans.

The second act opens in the courtyard outside Pantalone’s home as Dr. Lombardi tries to convince his hotheaded son to let him talk to Pantalone. Silvio agrees and retreats just as Pantalone enters. Dr. Lombardi lectures Pantalone on his obligation to Silvio and attempts to steamroll him into reuniting Silvio and Clarice. When Pantalone refuses, Dr. Lombardi insults him and his daughter and leaves. Silvio enters, and challenges Pantalone to a duel. When Pantalone cries for help, Beatrice enters and duels with Silvio. On the verge of killing Silvio, Beatrice is interrupted by the pleas of Clarice, who runs on and places herself in between them. Beatrice relents and leaves, but Silvio still rejects Clarice for colluding with Beatrice. Clarice threatens to kill herself in despair only to be stopped by Smeraldina, who rushes on in time to stop her. Smeraldina lectures them both for their foolish behavior, but Silvio vows to kill Beatrice/Federigo.

Act Two, Scene Two takes place in a room inside Brighella’s inn. When both Beatrice and Florindo return at the same time, a harried Truffaldino is forced to wait on them both. Though both are seated in dining rooms right across the hall from each other, Truffaldino manages to maintain his double identity. He involves the harried waiters in his scheme and ends the scene by eating a stolen pudding.

In the third scene of Act Two, a nervous Smeraldina attempts to deliver a secret message from Clarice to Beatrice. When Truffaldino comes out of the inn, the two court each other and fall in love. They open Clarice’s letter and attempt to read it despite their illiteracy. Beatrice and Pantalone catch them and Beatrice beats Truffaldino for insubordination. When Florindo finds him moments later, he beats him again for the insult of allowing himself to have been beaten by someone else.

The third act opens in the hall outside Beatrice and Florindo’s rooms in Brighella’s inn. Truffaldino attempts to air out both of his master’s trunks of clothing, but mixes up their contents in the process. When both Beatrice and Florindo discover items belonging to the other, Truffaldino says that the other is dead to cover his tracks. Separately, both Beatrice and Florindo vow to commit suicide. In her vow, Beatrice reveals herself to be a woman, much to Pantalone and Truffaldino’s surprise.

In Act Three, Scene Two, Pantalone runs into Dr. Lombardi outside the inn and attempts to explain the Beatrice/Federigo mix-up. When Dr. Lombardi storms off without listening, Pantalone instead informs Silvio, who rejoices at the chance to reunite with Clarice.

In the third scene of Act Three, Beatrice and Florindo run out of their rooms with daggers in their hands while Brighella and one of his waiters attempt to stop them from killing themselves. The two are reunited and decide to help untangle the misunderstanding between Silvio and Clarice.

In the last scene of the play, Silvio comes to Pantalone’s house to beg Clarice to take him back. After a suitable amount of groveling, she forgives him to the delight of Pantalone and Dr. Lombardi. Beatrice and Florindo beg Pantalone’s forgiveness, and the old man witnesses their marriage contract. Truffaldino declares his love to Smeraldina, but is forced to reveal his double service amidst the confusion about which servant should marry Smeraldina. In his final monologue, Truffaldino brags of his accomplishments and asks for everyone’s forgiveness.

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