The Pope's Daughter
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Lucrezia Borgia is one of the most vilified figures in modern history. The daughter of a notorious pope, she was twice betrothed before the age of eleven and thrice married—one husband was forced to declare himself impotent and thereby unfit and another was murdered by Lucrezia’s own brother, Cesar Borgia. She is cast in the role of murderess, temptress, incestuous lover, loose woman, femme fatale par excellence.
But there is always more than one version of a story.
Lucrezia Borgia is the only woman in history to serve as the head of the Catholic Church. She successfully administered several of the Renaissance Italy’s most thriving cities, founded one of the world’s first credit unions, and was a generous patron of the arts. She was mother to a prince and to a cardinal. She was a devoted wife to the Prince of Ferrara, and the lover of the poet Pietro Bembo. She was a child of the renaissance and in many ways the world’s first modern woman.
Dario Fo, Nobel laureate and one of Italy’s most beloved writers, reveals Lucrezia’s humanity, her passion for life, her compassion for others, and her skill at navigating around her family’s evildoings. The Borgias are unrivalled for the range and magnitude of their political machinations and opportunism. Fo’s brilliance rests in his rendering their story as a shocking mirror image of the uses and abuses of power in our own time. Lucrezia herself becomes a model for how to survive and rise above those abuses.
da Verona, a man of great learning and extraordinary skill as a teacher. Not long after that, the young man went to Bologna to study the law. The course of studies required for this degree was expected to take seven years. We should not assume that he plunged headfirst into the codices, enriching himself with nuggets of rhetoric and theology. The young man immediately won a great reputation among his classmates as a likable and respected individual. Rodrigo was an energetic student, handsome to
into loud tears. All the guests gathered around her. Strozzi bent over her and asked: “Madame, what’s wrong?” Lucrezia looked up, dried her eyes with her handkerchief, and tried to reply but found she could not utter a word. One young man politely moved the guests away, begging them: “Please, let her get some air. I heard about it on the way over here. It was inevitable that this massacre should take place.” “What massacre are you talking about? Will you tell us what’s happened?” Another of
fell, seized the host and tumbled with him to the floor. But the one who seemed to feel worst and who vomited in continuation was Cesare. The servants tried to help him by giving him large quantities of milk to drink. The immediate verdict was: “This was poison.” The pope and his son were immediately taken back to the Vatican. The disease that had struck the two Borgias was kept strictly secret, and the same was true for the bishops and the other noble guests. Only scattered information managed
of a pope on the road to recovery, but said that Cesare was already dead as a doornail. Instead, on the night of August 18, 1503, thirteen days after that fateful dinner, Alexander VI finally died after a long, drawn-out agony. As soon as Cesare, who lay in bed in a room directly above his father’s, heard the news, he hurried downstairs and, at the sight of his father’s lifeless body, burst into angry tears. He soon managed to regain control of himself and shouted to his men: “Run, take away the
contrade, or quarters, of Siena, the city of the Palio. When she was still quite young, she joined the community of the Mantellate. At this point, she had an encounter more or less similar to that of St. Francis. She happened to provide succor to a leper, and from there it became clear to her that the path she should follow was to devote herself to the poor and sick. During the numerous epidemics, the issue of giving care to the sick became a stark struggle. Catherine managed to involve a