Summary and Analysis: Act 2, Scenes 1-2

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 820

New Characters Richardetto: The husband of Hippolita, he is believed to be dead.

Hippolita: Richardetto’s wife and the former lover of Soranzo.

Philotis: Richardetto's niece, a good and moral girl.

Summary Giovanni and Annabella appear, with Giovanni telling her she is now his love and has won his heart. She...

(The entire section contains 820 words.)

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New Characters
Richardetto: The husband of Hippolita, he is believed to be dead.

Hippolita: Richardetto’s wife and the former lover of Soranzo.

Philotis: Richardetto's niece, a good and moral girl.

Summary
Giovanni and Annabella appear, with Giovanni telling her she is now his love and has won his heart. She says he has won her heart in return, and Giovanni jokingly remarks that the loss of Annabella’s virginity is no great issue. Brother and sister continue their amorous talk as Giovanni remarks that Annabella will be married to someone. He asks her to swear she will be faithful to him despite her marriage, and she swears to be faithful. Giovanni departs and Putana enters. She praises Annabella for her passage out of virginity and does not object to her incestuous relations with her brother. Annabella expresses her wish to have the relationship kept hidden. She takes a piece of needlework from Putana as Florio, Richardetto, and Philotis come in. Florio praises his daughter’s work and tells her he has brought in Richardetto, who has disguised himself as a doctor, to treat her for her recent sickness.

Richardetto comments on the reports of Annabella’s virtue and talents and says that Philotis can provide song and music for Annabella. Florio excuses himself and Annabella to have a private conversation, presumably about her marriage.

The scene shifts to Soranzo in his study, reading poems by the Neapolitan poet Sannazaro. Soranzo rhapsodizes over the pleasures of love and praises Annabella’s beauty. Vasques attempts to tell his master someone is approaching, but before he can do so, Hippolita comes in to deliver a speech to Soranzo. She denounces him for leaving her and abandoning his promise to marry her once her husband, Richardetto, died. Hippolita tells how she was brought to scandalous shame by this betrayal. She dismisses her rival, Annabella, as “Madam Merchant,” the daughter of a mere businessman, and therefore no equal for Hippolita’s nobility. Soranzo’s protests against her remarks are answered by her continued complaints.

Vasques steps into the dispute by begging both parties to restrain themselves. However, Hippolita continues to blame Soranzo for his misdeeds. Soranzo maintains that in breaking his vows to her, he preferred the obligations of morality to the obligations of his word. That is, he felt it was more ethical to break his vow than continue his relationship with her. His praise of her presumably dead husband contrasts with his denunciation of Hippolita, who he commands to leave him, repent, and die.

Vasques criticizes his master and asks to speak with Hippolita after she vows to exact vengeance on her ex-lover. Vasques asks Hippolita to calm herself, and the two commiserate over their struggles before, in an aside, Vasques reveals the fact that he only began talking to her to find out information useful to Soranzo. When Hippolita tells him she will “make thee lord of me and mine estate” if he helps her achieve her plot, Vasques agrees to this promise of marriage. The two depart talking about ways for Hippolita to gain her revenge.

Analysis
The continued wordplay of Annabella and Giovanni furthers the theme of artifice between the two. She fears weeping in earnest if she has to face the reality of her situation, so she avoids that reality. The two siblings, who have put each other into a very precarious position, are now forced to maintain absolute trust, yet they have already revealed their relationship to Putana. The interplay of trust and secrecy has begun, but Putana, who has already shown her superficial character, may not have the strength or guile to keep the secret. Richardetto, meanwhile, conceals the secret of his very identity. Florio adds to the theme of duplicity by withdrawing to secretly hold a conversation with his daughter. Everyone in this scene has a secret, and the audience knows this.

Soranzo’s reading and critique of love poetry adds a layer of self-consciousness to his behavior and character, and adds to Giovanni’s earlier attempt to describe Annabella’s allegedly extraordinary beauty. Like Giovanni, Soranzo resorts to poetic and fanciful language when describing the object of his desire. Hippolita’s intrusion on him and her tale of the suffering she has endured since his false promise to marry her could serve as a cautionary tale for Annabella, who, by engaging in incest, has embarked on an even more dangerous love affair. Hippolita's accusation of Soranzo's lies and duplicity, and the generally suspicious exchanges between the two of them, add to the sense of deceit that has been building in the play. Vasques’ own apparently straightforward, but somewhat bewildering, sympathy for Hippolita is perhaps explained by the rewards that will come to him if he carries out Hippolita’s plot. If so, this would reiterate the play’s emphasis on financial concerns, and the servant betraying his master suggests another form of secret betrayal.

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Summay and Analysis: Act 1, Scenes 2-3

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Summary and Analysis: Act 2, Scenes 3-6