The Tidings Brought to Mary begins with a prologue, set late at night in the large barn at Combernon, the home of the Vercors family. At the back of the barn is a large, heavily bolted door, on which are painted figures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. Pierre de Craon enters on horseback. Then Violaine Vercors steps out from behind a pillar. Citing the unseemliness of their being alone together at that hour, Pierre urges her to leave, but she refuses, reminding him tauntingly of an earlier occasion when he attacked her with a knife but failed in his attempt on her virtue. Asking her forgiveness, Pierre insists that it was the only time he had ever acted in such a way, and it is clear that Violaine believes him, for she assures him that she has not betrayed his secret.
In the dialogue that follows, Pierre reveals the reason for his year-long absence from Combernon. The day after his attack on Violaine, he had discovered a sign of leprosy. Because his work building churches is so important, he has been permitted to continue, keeping his disease a secret but remaining distant from his workmen. He has come to Combernon to open the door which leads to Monsanvierge, the holy mountain above, where lives an order of nuns. It is Violaine who goes to the heavy door and turns the key for him. She tells Pierre that she will soon be married to the man she loves, Jacques Hury. Pierre admits his own love for her and his bitterness about his affliction, which makes him an outcast. In pity, Violaine kisses him; in the background, her sister, Mara Vercors, watches.
The first act is set in the Vercors kitchen. Anne Vercors is discussing his plans with his wife, Elisabeth Vercors. He wishes to give his daughter Violaine in marriage to Jacques Hury, the poor boy whom he has reared and whom he thinks of as a son. He also intends to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Even though Mara Vercors tells her mother that she loves Jacques desperately and threatens to kill herself if she cannot have...
(The entire section is 815 words.)