(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Jaffeir, formerly the servant of Priuli, a senator of Venice, secretly woos and marries Belvidera, Priuli’s daughter. For three years the couple live comfortably and blissfully, despite the father’s antagonism; then Jaffeir loses his fortune. When he goes to ask Priuli for aid, in the name of Belvidera, the old senator refuses to help in any way, and he swears that his ungrateful daughter and her equally ungrateful husband will have to make their way as best they can. Jaffeir, after reminding Priuli that it is he who saved Belvidera from a shipwreck after which she fell in love with him, leaves the senator’s home in a most unhappy frame of mind.

Soon afterward Jaffeir meets Pierre, a friend who gave long and faithful, though unrewarded, service to Venice. Pierre, sympathizing with Jaffeir, offers him the means of getting revenge on Priuli and striking, as he put it, a blow for liberty against the bad government of the senate. Jaffeir agrees to meet Pierre that night and to become a member of the band of conspirators. When he arrives home, Jaffeir is also comforted by Belvidera, who claims that she is rich as long as she has his love, no matter how little fortune they possess.

Meanwhile Pierre goes to visit Aquilina, a courtesan whom he loves. He is extremely incensed with the woman because she gave herself for money to old Antonio, a senator. Antonio’s theft of his mistress makes Pierre more eager than ever for revenge. He makes Aquilina, who loves him, swear to extract all the information she can from Antonio and pass it on to the conspirators, who are meeting that night in Aquilina’s house.

When midnight comes, Jaffeir is sadly bewailing his fate on the Rialto. There Pierre meets him and conducts him to the conspirators’ meeting place. Because the plotters are unwilling to take Jaffeir into their number, he brings Belvidera and offers her as hostage for his honesty. The leader of the plotters, Renault, and the Spanish ambassador, who also have a hand in the plot to ruin the government, accept her as hostage. She is to be killed if Jaffeir fails them in any way.

The next day Jaffeir’s hopes for revenge and his confidence in his fellow conspirators are shaken when he learns that Renault offered violence to Belvidera and was driven off only by her screams. Belvidera swears that she will bear anything, if only she knows why she was offered as a hostage. Jaffeir, seeing her predicament, and thinking it only...

(The entire section is 1008 words.)