Francesca da Rimini
Francesca da Rimini or Francesca da Polenta (1255–ca. 1285) was the daughter of Guido da Polenta, lord of Ravenna. She was a historical contemporary of Dante Alighieri, who portrayed her as a character in the Divine Comedy.
Life and death
Daughter of Guido I da Polenta of Ravenna, Francesca was wedded in or around 1275 to the brave, yet crippled Giovanni Malatesta (also called Gianciotto; "Giovanni the Lame"), son of Malatesta da Verucchio, lord of Rimini. The marriage was a political one; Guido had been at war with the Malatesta family, and the marriage of his daughter to Giovanni was a way to solidify the peace that had been negotiated between the Malatesta and the Polenta families. While in Rimini, she fell in love with Giovanni’s younger (and still hale) brother, Paolo. Though Paolo too was married, they managed to carry on an affair for some ten years, until Giovanni ultimately surprised them in Francesca’s bedroom sometime between 1283 and 1286, killing them both.
In the years following Dante's portrayal of Francesca, legends about Francesca began to crop up. Chief among them was one put forth by poet Giovanni Boccaccio in his commentary on The Divine Comedy, Esposizioni sopra la Comedia di Dante; he stated that Francesca had been tricked into marrying Giovanni through the use of Paolo as a proxy. Guido, fearing that Francesca would never agree to marry the crippled Giovanni, had supposedly sent for the much more handsome Paolo in Giovanni's stead. It wasn't until the morning after the wedding that Francesca discovered the deception. This version of events, however, is very likely a fabrication. It would have been nearly impossible for Francesca not to know who both Giovanni and Paolo were, and to whom Paolo was already married, given the dealings the brothers had had with Ravenna and Francesca's family. It is also important to note that Boccaccio was born in 1313, some 27 years after Francesca’s death. And while many Dante commentators after Boccaccio echoed his version of events, none before him mentioned anything similar.
In the first volume of The Divine Comedy, Dante and Virgil meet Francesca and her lover Paolo in the second circle of hell, reserved for the lustful. Here, the couple is trapped in an eternal whirlwind, doomed to be forever swept through the air just as they allowed themselves to be swept away by their passions. Dante calls out to the lovers, who are compelled to briefly pause before him, and he speaks with Francesca. She obliquely states a few of the details of her life and her death, and Dante, apparently familiar with her story, correctly identifies her by name. He asks her what led to her and Paolo’s damnation, and Francesca’s story strikes such a chord within Dante that he faints out of pity.
In the 19th century the story of Paolo and Francesca inspired numerous theatrical, operatic and symphonic adaptations:
Theatre and opera
- Silvio Pellico, Francesca da Rimini. (1818). Tragedy.
- Feliciano Strepponi, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Padua, (1823).
- Paolo Carlini, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Naples,(1825).
- Saverio Mercadante, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Madrid, (1828).
- Gaetano Quilici, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Lucca, (1829).
- Pietro Generali, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Venice, (1829).
- Giuseppe Staffa, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Naples, (1831).
- Fournier-Gorre, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Livorno, (1832).
- Francesco Morlacchi, Francesca da Rimini. Opera (1836), unperformed.
- Antonio Tamburini, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Rimini, (1836).
- Emanuele Borgatta, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Genoa, (1837).
- Gioacchino Maglioni, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Genoa, (1840).
- Eugene Nordal, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Linz, (1840, posth.)
- Salvatore Papparlado, Francesca da Rimini. Opera; Genoa, (1840), not performed.
- George Henry Boker, Francesca da Rimini. (1853). Play.
- Jan Neruda, Francesca di Rimini. (1860). Play.
- Hermann Goetz, Francesca von Rimini, incomplete opera, (1875–77, overture and act 3 completed by Ernst Frank)
- Gabriele d'Annunzio, Francesca da Rimini. Tragedy written (1901) for d'Annunzio's mistress, Eleonora Duse.
- Stephen Phillips, Paolo and Francesca. Play (1902).
- Francis Marion Crawford, Francesca da Rimini. (1902). Play.
- Marcel Schwob, Francesca da Rimini. Play (1903), translation of Crawford.
- Sergei Rachmaninoff, Francesca da Rimini. Opera (1906).
- Luigi Mancinelli, Francesca da Rimini. Opera in 1 act, (1907).
- Emil Ábrányi, Paolo és Francesca (3 acts, libretto after Dante by Emil Ábrányi, Sr.), Opera (1912).
- Franco Leoni, Francesca da Rimini. Opera (1914), based on Crawford's play.
- Primo Riccitelli, Francesca da Rimini. Opera
- Riccardo Zandonai, Francesca da Rimini. Libretto by Tito Ricordi, based on D'Annunzio; Opera (1914).
- Nino Berrini, Francesca da Rimini. Play (1924).
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Francesca da Rimini. Symphonic Poem (1876).
- Arthur Foote, Symphonic Prologue Francesca da Rimini, Op.24 (1890).
- Antonio Bazzini, Symphonic Poem Francesca da Rimini, Op.77 (Berlin, 1889/90).
- Paul von Klenau, Symphonic Poem Francesca da Rimini, (1913 - rev.1919).
- Mediaeval Baebes, The Circle Of The Lustful from The Rose album (2002)
- Olga Gorelli, Paolo e Francesca from Hausmusik. 20th Century Chamber Music for the Home album. A guitar duo.
- Gioachino Rossini, Francesca da Rimini ("Faro' come colui che piange e dice") (1848).
- Joseph Anton Koch, Paolo and Francesca Surprised by Gianciotto (1805–10). Watercolor, Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen.
- Marie-Philippe Coupin de la Couperie, The Tragic Love of Francesca da Rimini (1812). Oil on canvas, Napoleon Museum, Arenberg
- Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Paolo and Francesca (1819). Oil on canvas. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Angers, France.
- Ary Scheffer, Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta appraised by Dante and Virgil (1835). Oil on canvas. Wallace Collection, London.
- Ary Scheffer, Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta appraised by Dante and Virgil (1855). Oil on canvas. Louvre, Paris.
- Gustave Doré, Francesca da Rimini (illustration to Dante's Inferno, 1857).
- Alexandre Cabanel, The Death of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta (1870). Oil on canvas. Musée d'Orsay, Paris.
- George Frederic Watts, Paolo and Francesca. Oil on canvas (1872-1884 (?)), Private collection.
- Auguste Rodin, The Kiss. Marble sculpture (1888), Musée Rodin, Paris.
Joseph Anton Koch, Paolo and Francesca Surprised by Gianciotto (1805-10).
Alexandre Cabanel, Mort de Francesca da Rimini et de Paolo Malatesta, ca. 1870.
Marie-Philippe Coupin de la Couperie, The Tragic Love of Francesca da Rimini, 1812
- Alighieri, Dante (2003). The Divine Comedy. New York: New American Library. p. 52. Translation and commentary by John Ciardi.
- Alighieri, Dante (2000). The Inferno. New York: Anchor Books. pp. 106–107. Translation and commentary by Robert and Jean Hollander.
- Barolini, Teodolinda (January 2000). "Dante and Francesca da Rimini: Realpolitik, Romance, Gender". Speculum 75 (1): 3.
- Barolini, Teodolinda (January 2000). "Dante and Francesca da Rimini: Realpolitik, Romance, Gender". Speculum 75 (1): 16.
- Produced by Sir George Alexander at the St. James' Theatre beginning 6 March 1902. Mason, p. 237. See William Calin, "Dante on the Edwardian Stage: Stephen Phillips's Paolo and Francesca." In: Medievalism in the Modern World. Essays in Honour of Leslie J. Workman, ed. Richard Utz and Tom Shippey (Turnhout: Brepols, 1998), pp. 255-61.
- Mason, A. E. W. (1935). Sir George Alexander & The St. James' Theatre. Reissued 1969, New York: Benjamin Blom.
- Hollander, Robert and Jean (2000). The Inferno. Anchor Books. ISBN 0-385-49698-2.
- Singleton, Charles S. (1970). The Divine Comedy, Inferno/Commentary. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-01895-2.
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- World of Dante Multimedia website that includes gallery of images of the Paolo and Francesca episode.
- WisdomPortal Includes images of related artworks.
- The Story of Rimini Google Books edition of Leigh Hunt's poem.