Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
For instance, the novel opens with a scene in which English travelers in Naples are touring a darkened Catholic church. There they see an assassin who has been given sanctuary inside the building. This opening scene prepares the reader for the other religious institutions encountered in the novel and demonstrates that her novel is hardly a sociological study but rather an English fantasy of Italian vice and Catholic corruption.
The dark Abbey of San Stefano serves another purpose, that of illustrating the sublimity of the natural landscape. The incarcerated heroine is sometimes permitted to wander through the abbey, and frequently looks out on the landscape, expatiating on its beauties. She looks out on the mountainside and is spiritually reenergized. In turn, the sublimity of the landscape enables this character to endure the hardships she suffers.
*Southern Italy. In this novel, a region of striking natural beauties: towering mountains and sheer cliffs, glowing moonlit nights, glimmering lakes, and sheltering forests. For much of the novel, the central characters flee through this landscape, sometimes meeting rural inhabitants, sometimes dodging religious pilgrims, but always aware of the landscape through which they pass. In part, this landscape serves to illustrate the beauty of the natural world and to explain the inherent virtue of the rural people. For instance, the young hero and heroine come across an aged shepherd who provides them with the best food and drink he has and who shelters them from pursuers. As the novel suggests, this character’s kindness results in part from such beautiful surroundings. In fact, throughout most of Radcliffe’s novels, and this one in particular, danger is almost never to be feared in such surroundings. Danger only comes to the characters in this novel when they take shelter in towns and cities.
*Naples. Major city in southern Italy, sketchily described in the novel as a town of villas, churches, and beachside huts. Radcliffe’s Naples is populated almost entirely by three sorts of people: a closed circle of rich and overbearing noblemen and-women, oppressive clergy, and happy albeit poor fishermen. Naples is barely described otherwise. The villas frequently have surrounding walls and central gardens and are tastefully decorated, the churches are decorated with statuary and vividly colored murals, and the huts of the fishermen are appropriately shabby. This representation of Naples illustrates Radcliffe’s contention of the inequities of Italian society, which is dominated by nobles and clergy and is oppressive to the less fortunate. In Naples, a poor woman falls in love with a young nobleman, and the setting furthers the difficulties of this relationship. The young people are isolated within this environment and are well aware that those with power are all too eager to split their relationship apart.