To paraphrase the note from the translator, The Celebrated Crimes of Alexandre Dumas père was not written for children. The novelist has spared no language - has minced no words - to describe violent scenes of violent times. In particular, the torture of Beatrice Cenci at the hands of the authorities of Rome is given in brutal and clinical detail, sparing nothing. In this, the second of the series, Dumas tells the frankly horrifying story of the tragic sons and daughers of Francesco Cenci. More beast than man in Dumas' portrait, Francesco hated them all with extraordinary cruelty and exploited them all diabolically; in particular, he sexually exploited his two daughters, especially Beatrice, both at the same time and often in the same bed as his wife Lucrezia (no relation to the famouse Borgia princess of the same name.) When, finally, his family turned on him and had him murdered, it looked for a while as though they might get away with it, but their fortunes were not that fortunate. The authorities, from Pope Clement VI on down, took bloody and terrible vengeance upon them. In what is arguably the first battered-woman defence, the crimes of the father meant nothing; the crimes of the women, everything. Never one to allow a mere fact to stand in the way of a good story, Dumas seems to restrain himself more than usual here, though he does occasionally portray a scene from the point of view of the proverbial fly on the wall. Again, as the translator notes, "The careful, mature reader, for whom the books are intended, will recognize, and allow for, this fact." We're listening to Dumas here, not Tuchman or Toynbee. Enjoy!
Public Domain (P)2014 Robert Bethune
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