The Traitor Summary (James Shirley)

James Shirley


(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

The reign of Alexander, the young Duke of Florence, began in a cloud of conspiracy, for his cousin Lorenzo had played the role of the loyal kinsman to seat the duke and was now playing the villain to unseat him, under the pretext of establishing a republic. For this purpose he appealed through pressures and persuasion to Cosmo, beloved of Oriana, to give over his suit in favor of Pisano, who had become enamored of the girl through the influence of his servant Petruchio, secretly in the hire of Lorenzo. Pisano, in turn, was to break his engagement to Amidea so that the duke might have her later for his lustful purposes.

From a man exiled at Lorenzo’s request, the duke received a message which told of the prince’s treachery. Confronted with this evidence, Lorenzo denied everything and cleverly reinstated himself and even strengthened his plot by recounting the examples of his loyalty to his kinsman. Restored to favor, Lorenzo undertook to procure the beautiful Amidea for the duke. By design, he attempted to accomplish his purpose through the offices of her brother, the hot-headed Sciarrha.

Sciarrha, reacting as Lorenzo had expected, renounced the duke and, acting on hints from Lorenzo, agreed to murder his ruler in Amidea’s chamber that night. Sciarrha, in the presence of his brother Florio, tested his sister’s chastity by advocating the assignation. She rejected his proposal, however, and her other brother threatened Sciarrha’s life should such degradation be visited upon them. Her devotion to virtue and Florio’s threat to murder Sciarrha were greeted with great elation, but before a pact could be made Pisano arrived to declare that Amidea was no longer paramount in his affections, and that he was in love with and desired to marry another. This news was withheld from Sciarrha for fear that he would embark on a reckless course of revenge harmful to them all.

Meanwhile, Cosmo’s attempts to place his friend Pisano in Oriana’s affection proved unsuccessful. In spite of her mother’s pleadings, Oriana remained, for the time being, loyal to Cosmo.

The plans for the assignation which was supposed to end in murder were well laid. In order to arouse the populace, Depazzi, picked because of his political innocence, was to spread the news of the ruler’s death even before the murder. Lorenzo would then quiet the citizens and the uneasy nobles by consenting to act as interim ruler until the state could be delivered from tyranny...

(The entire section is 1014 words.)