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.
be customary, my brother Cesare, whom everyone now calls the slaughterer.” The pope’s response came immediately. No longer than it took for a courier with two changes of horses to bring her this missive, with the following message: “Lucrezia, although you refuse to believe the things I say, I’m doing everything within my power to prove to you how much I love you. But it is rather complicated and challenging to achieve my intent. And therefore, in order to be successful, I will need your direct
passionate art lovers to be kept away during their visit. They would be alone and undisturbed. Lucrezia accepted his invitation and there they met, in front of a painting of dancing fauns and nymphs. There was a comfortable bench and they sat on it, side by side, and after a somewhat uncomfortable hug the conversation began. It was the pontiff who spoke first: “Daughter of mine, first of all I should confess that in everything that has happened, the Borgia family has won great benefits. For all
guilty look, and Lucrezia went on: “It matters little, my lord. If you only knew for how many years I’ve been listening to this vicious backbiting . . .” “But why did you not defend yourself? It almost seems as if you are confirming this horrendous gossip!” “It wouldn’t have done any good, my liege, these stories have been repeated so many times that by now it’s as if they’d taken the place of the truth. And after all, your son wouldn’t have believed me, as upset and brokenhearted as he is. And
you’ve been released, matters could shift to your advantage, but for now you’re only endangering your neck.” “But why on earth would you do all this? From what I had heard before I was arrested, it’s not as if . . . how to put this . . . Not as if your relationship with Lucrezia was going great guns . . . ” “No, it’s true, the powder seems to be damp, but I am still deeply fond of your sister. She’s an extraordinary woman. Are you aware of what she has managed to do to defend the lands that
a small, faint voice. “I also know that the puppet master behind this affair is your cousin Adriana. I’d guessed immediately that he’d found himself another girlfriend and that, most of all, this time, he’d had his fill of me.” And she in turn burst into tears. We mentioned at the beginning that the most notable episodes in the lives of the Borgias—and in particular those involving Rodrigo’s uncle Callixtus III, Rodrigo himself, and his warrior son and cardinal, Cesare—failed to arouse anything