Parisina Malatesta

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Giuseppe Bertini, Parisina, 1854

Laura Malatesta[1] (1404 – 21 May 1425), better known as Parisina Malatesta, was the daughter of Andrea Malatesta, lord of Cesena,[2] and his second wife, Lucrezia Ordelaffi.[3] She had an affair with her bastard stepson Ugo d'Este, and both were beheaded by her husband, Marquis Niccolò III d'Este of Ferrara.

After Edward Gibbon's mention of this story, Byron wrote the poem Parisina, that was followed by operas of the same name by Donizetti and Mascagni.

Biography[edit]

Parisina was few days old when her mother was poisoned by her father Cecco Ordelaffi[3] and grew up in the court of her uncle Carlo Malatesta in Rimini.[2]

She married Niccolò III d'Este, Marquis of Ferrara, in Ravenna in 1418, whose first wife Gigliola da Carrara died a few years before and was welcomed by a Ferrara ravaged by plague.[4] She resided in the tower of the Rigobello's in rooms under the library and reorganized her new home.[4] Parisina's dwelling was also the Delizia di Consandolo, built by Nicholò.[5]

During a trip in 1424 [6] in which she intended to visit her family, Parisina was accompanied according to her husband's wishes by Ugo d'Este, son of Nicholò and one of his lovers Stella de 'Tolomei. The two young people had an opportunity to get to know each other in Ravenna and became lovers. The relationship went on secretly also when they were back in Ferrara: the two lovers met in the delizie di Belfiore, Fossadalbero e Quartesana.[4]

Other sources report that to escape the plague of 1423 she took refuge in the castello di Fossadalbero accompanied by her stepson, and there the relationship started.[3]

Putting them under the surveillance of one of her maids,[3] Nicholas followed the lovers and discovered the affair. Then he locked them up in the castle's prison where both of them were beheaded.

In culture[edit]

Her tragic story has inspired writers and musicians. The Renaissance Italian author Matteo Bandello wrote the novel Ugo and Parisina.

Edward Gibbon told this story in his Miscellaneous Works, and George Byron wrote the poem Parisina in 1816. A libretto by Felice Romani after the English poem was set to music by Gaetano Donizetti in 1833 as Parisina. Pietro Mascagni composed a tragic opera Parisina based on the lyric tragedy written by Gabriele D'Annunzio in 1912 as another adaptation of Byron's poem.

There is also a lesser-known opera by Tomás Giribaldi (1878) and a tragedy by Antonio Somma.

Descendants[edit]

Parisina had twin daughters and a son:[6]

References[edit]