Leantio, a Florentine merchant’s clerk, marries Bianca, a beautiful and well-born Venetian, and brings her to his mother’s house. On her arrival there, she responds graciously to his mother’s words of welcome and speaks of her love for Leantio. He, in turn, informs his mother of Bianca’s luxurious background and of his inability to equal it. He explains also that Bianca is a great prize who must be kept hidden from other men’s eyes. His mother fears that Bianca will be discontented with her new and poorer home.
In a richer house, Livia entertains her brother Fabricio, the father of Isabella, and Guardiano, the uncle of a rich and foolish boy called the Ward. They discuss the proposed marriage between the Ward and Isabella. Livia, protesting against loveless marriages, lectures Fabricio on man’s unfaithfulness and woman’s obedience and declares that she will never remarry. When Isabella is sent for, Fabricio declares that her uncle Hippolito will surely follow her in her married state because they are as inseparable as links in a chain. Isabella’s ideals, especially her ideas on marriage, are in marked contrast to the Ward’s foolishness and vulgarity. She dreads marriage to him and regards it as slavery. This is her explanation to Livia, who sends Hippolito to comfort her. At that time, Isabella’s conscious feelings toward her uncle are those of deep friendship. Unaware at the time of any sexual attraction toward him, she is horrified and sadly leaves him when he tells her he loves her as a man loves his wife.
When Leantio finally leaves Bianca at his mother’s house and returns to his work, Bianca weeps bitterly. She is distracted from her grief by the noise and excitement of the annual religious procession to the cathedral. Deeply impressed by the noble bearing of the duke of Florence, Bianca is sure that he notices her as she watches him passing by.
Meanwhile, Hippolito tells Livia of his love for Isabella and of her reaction, and Livia promises to procure Isabella as his mistress. When Isabella confides her unhappiness to Livia, her aunt takes the opportunity to tell her that Hippolito is not her uncle, that she is in fact the child of Fabricio’s wife by a Spanish nobleman. She insists, however, that Isabella keep this matter a secret, because Fabricio and Hippolito are ignorant of it. Thus...
(The entire section is 963 words.)