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  • A Crime of Honour: Crippled John and Handsome Paolo
    Paolo and Francesca's Love Story...
    Page 1 of 3

    by Marzia Volpones

    Prologue

    Love, that denial takes from none beloved,
    Caught me with pleasing him so passing well,
    That, as thou seest, he yet deserts me not.

    Amor, ch'a nullo amato amar perdona,
    Mi prese del costui piacer sì forte
    Che, come vedi, ancor non m'abbandona.

    Thus Francesca of Rimini, floating with their arms wrapped around one another in a tight embrace. "Alas! How many sweet thoughts, how much desire, led them to this unhappy pass" exclaimed Dante.

    Could a kiss of love lead to such a fatal end?

    Down to the south of Rimini, rises the rocky and rugged promontory of Gabicce whose steep slopes plunge deeply into the Adriatic Sea marking the furthest border of the Malatesta Seignory with the Le Marche region. This spur of rock rounds down gently as it gradually stretches inland to slope up again fiercely on the opposite sheen green hill where vineyards and olive groves grow.

    Clinging up on the hilltop of this rugged crag: there it stands: Gradara Castle. Seven hundred meters of sturdy towers, the imposing profile, the nearby Gabicce promontory, provide a rocky barrier and an impenetrable fortress for the House of Malatesta against its fiercest enemy: the Montefeltros.

    Protected by secure walls, the castle breathes the sea breezes and the last mists of the plain where the voices and the music re-echo, where the colours fade and the manners of the great Courts of the North: Malatesta, Este, and Da Polenta.

    Even more protected and safer was or seemed to be Francesca's chamber and life.

    But more than in any other Malatesta castle, though, the cruel and courtly wind of Chivalry still blows, bringing remembrance of its reckless, fearless Lord: Giovanni Malatesta of Rimini, the Malatestan heir.

    John Malatesta nicknamed Gianciotto lo Storpio (Crippled John) was a brave soldier, an astute state man, but lame, uncouth and ugly.

    He was illustrious, powerful, and extremely wealthy. He could have any mistress he wanted, but how heavily his deformity should have weighed upon him and on his soul!

    He'd rather hear the clanging sound of the armours in the daylight, the trodden of the horseshoes on the battlefields, the fiercely shouting of his soldiers rising from the valley around Gradara castle.

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