Places: The Betrothed

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: I promessi sposi, 1827; revised, 1840-1842 (English translation, 1828; revised, 1951)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Historical

Time of work: Seventeenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Milan

*Milan. Betrothed, TheNorthern Italian city that was a place of authoritarian rule and Spanish and Austrian domination during the seventeenth century, in which this novel is set. Milan experiences one crisis after another. When the young peasant hero Lorenzo becomes separated from his betrothed, Lucia, he enters Milan, initially unaware that it is experiencing a devastating famine. Price-fixing and tariffs on bread provoke rioting and disorder. A gullible countryman, Lorenzo gets caught up in the rioting and is arrested. After escaping from the city, he later returns to look for Lucia and finds Milan looted, barren, death-ridden, almost like a ghost town, Moreover, plague has hit the city so hard that Lorenzo finds its streets littered with dead bodies. Manzoni’s grim description of Milan is an accurate picture of its condition during the seventeenth century.


Village. Unnamed village, about one mile east of Lecco, near Lake Como, in which Lucia lives with her mother. In this village lies the source of all troubles that prevent Lucia and Lorenzo from marrying. They must first escape from the villainy of a local nobleman, Don Rodrigo. Lucia’s departure from her home village is painful to her because it contains all that she knows and loves in life. Don Rodrigo has Lucia captured and taken to a castle, where Lucia bemoans her separation from Lorenzo.

This village is a poignant locale because Lucia and Lorenzo are betrothed and are supposed to be married as planned, but the simple act of taking a marriage vow is thwarted and the lovers have to leave the place for safety elsewhere. This village is also a common theme concerning country people who are prone to gossip and rumors, as is often the nature of country and rustic ways of life. The lovers’ sudden departure in the middle of the night is a great cause for villagers to speculate and gossip from one ear to the other until the news reaches the nobleman. His wrath provokes an all-out scheme of capturing and separating Lorenzo and Lucia at all costs.


*Bergamo. Italian city about nine or ten miles from the River Adda. Lorenzo comes here under a false name and takes a labor job after fleeing from Milan. Eventually, he finds a way to communicate with Lucia.

Bibliography“Alessandro Manzoni.” In Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism. Vol. 29, edited by Laurie DiMauro. Detroit: Gale Research, 1991. Contains a brief biography, an overview of The Betrothed, and excerpts form the criticism of numerous Manzoni critics. Includes bibliographic citations. An excellent starting place.Barricelli, Gian Piero. Alessandro Manzoni. Boston: Twayne, 1976. The most thorough introduction to Manzoni in English. Provides a biography that focuses more on his life after his conversion to Catholicism in 1810 than on his life preceding the conversion. Examines his poetry and essays. Analysis of The Betrothed: its characters, styles, and themes.Chandler, S. B. Alessandro Manzoni: The Story of a Spiritual Quest. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1974. An insightful investigation of Manzoni’s works, showing how the works demonstrate Manzoni’s spiritual development and his movement toward a spiritual view of life.Matteo, Sante, and Larry Peer, eds. The Reasonable Romantic: Essays on Alessandro Manzoni. New York: Peter Lang, 1986. A collection of critical essays on the range of Manzoni’s works. Some of the essays are excerpted in Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism.Wall, Bernard. Alessandro Manzoni. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1954. Provides an overview of the life of Manzoni and his role as poet and dramatist before examining The Betrothed, its place in literature, and the controversies of Manzoni’s religion, of his use of the Italian language, and of the novel’s relationship to Romanticism. Sometimes criticized for its brevity.
Categories: Places