Summary and Analysis: Act 4, Scenes 1-2

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 639

Summary
Nearly all the characters have gathered for the wedding banquet. The Friar begins the banquet by blessing Soranzo and Annabella, and Soranzo receives this blessing while expressing thanks that he was not killed by Grimaldi. He proposes a toast, but Giovanni reveals in an aside that it is unbearable for him to see Annabella married to Soranzo. Soranzo drinks to the happiness of himself and Annabella, but Giovanni refuses the wine Soranzo offers him, and Annabella tells Soranzo not to insist that Giovanni drink.

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Some maidens of Parma enter to perform a masque, or brief theatrical performance, to celebrate the marriage, and Hippolita enters with them. She unmasks herself and reveals that she has organized the masque. Hippolita goes on to assure Soranzo and Annabella that she has no designs on Annabella’s new husband, and she blesses their new marriage. Vasques gives Hippolita a cup of wine to drink. The cup is poisoned, but Vasques tells her to “fear nothing.” After she drinks, he tells her she has been poisoned and fallen victim to her own treachery and adds that he will not marry her.

Vasques explains Hippolita’s plot to the assembled party and curses her. In her death throes, Hippolita curses Soranzo and Annabella as well as the fruit of their union. Soranzo praises Vasques for his loyalty in poisoning Hippolita, and the Friar comments on the ominous consequences of Hippolita’s demise for the new marriage. Richardetto has now learned the identity of Hippolita's lover, Soranzo, but Soranzo still does not know that Richardetto was Hippolita's husband. All exit.

Richardetto and Philotis emerge on stage, with Richardetto commenting on Hippolita’s sad demise and the likelihood that Soranzo too will die. He tells Philotis that dispute has already come into the marriage with Annabella and advises her to become a nun and retreat to Cremona, a nearby Italian city, rather than pursue “worldly courses” such as marriage. Philotis accepts this advice and departs along with Richardetto.

Analysis
The gracious ceremonial words of the Friar, Soranzo, and Hippolita at the wedding feast ignore the roles all three have played in helping set the scene for what in all likelihood will be a tragic ending to the play. Giovanni’s unsettling aside and his decline of Soranzo’s offer of wine, on the other hand, forcefully suggest to readers that the tragedy is starting to unfold. Vasques furthers this spirit by lying to Hippolita even as he poisons her and tells her his presumably real thoughts only once she is on the way to death. His public denunciation of Hippolita glorifies himself while satisfying Richardetto’s secret desire to punish his wife for her adultery. She, meanwhile, reveals her true self in her dying words. The play’s deceptions are beginning to be unraveled, and the suggestion is that those who seek vengeance or betrayal, instead of loyalty or love, will receive harsh justice.

Richardetto ironically proclaims her death “the end of lust and pride” even as he is driven by his own lust to kill Soranzo and preserve his own pride. The Friar’s simple closing comment on the scene's ominous implications for Annabella and Soranzo is somewhat obvious, but will likely be accurate. Its accuracy is backed up by Richardetto’s revelation of the troubles between the couple. It may be his reflection on his own marital woes with Hippolita that drives him to suggest that Philotis retreat to a nunnery rather than pursue marriage.

An apparently chastened Philotis proves only too ready to take up this suggestion. Her retreat from the sexual sphere she would have inhabited with Bergetto contrasts with Putana’s lustful mind, as well as Hippolita and Annabella’s relationships with multiple men. Given this, Hippolita’s demise seems to suggest that Annabella will meet with a similarly gruesome death.

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Summary and Analysis: Act 3, Scenes 6-9

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Summary and Analysis: Act 4, Scene 3