I PROMESSI SPOSI by Alessandro Manzoni – Explanation and Summary

I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed) is a work written by Alessandro Manzoni and released for the first time in 1827 and it’s formed by 38 chapters. Manzoni, in order to give his work more depth and realism, he didn’t took the credit for its writing but only for the discovery of an ancient manuscript including real-life stories dating back to the 17th century when a great part of Italy was under Spanish rule.

The Betrothed by Manzoni in short


Don Abbondio and i Bravi 

The story begins with Don Abbondio, a priest who is supposed to celebrate a marriage between two young people in love, Renzo Tramaglino and Lucia Mondella, while he is taking his usual evening walk. While walking, he is stopped by i Bravi, two thugs at the service of a local lord, Don Rodrigo, who urge the priest to not celebrate the wedding. In fact, their lord who has placed a bet with his cousin which had Lucia as prize, therefore he wants to prevent the wedding. Don Abbondio accepts and starts finding excuses to justify his behavior to Renzo, but the man learns the truth.

Azzeccagarbugli and Fra Cristoforo 

Lucia’s mother, Agnese, suggests to contact Azzeccagarbugli, a lawyer who, in the beginning, is ready to help the young man but after discovering the involvement of Don Rodrigo in the matter, sends Renzo away.
The two young in love contact Fra Cristoforo, a kindhearted merchant’s son who never tolerated inequities and who, after killing a man in a duel, took the vows.
Fra Cristoforo goes to Don Rodrigo’s house to convince him to renounce his purposes but the squire won’t change his mind, so Fra Cristoforo threatens him by saying he will suffer the Divine Punishment. Enraged and scared Don Rodrigo sends him away in a bad manner.

The surprise wedding, the subterfuges and the escape 

Agnese suggests the idea of performing a surprise marriage, namely pronouncing their wedding vows in front of a priest and two witnesses, to make the union official. Unfortunately, the plan fails because Don Abbondio understands what’s happening and starts screaming. Meanwhile Don Rodrigo sends i bravi to Lucia’s house to kidnap her but she’s not there. The young couple, after discovering what happened, decide to leave with the help of Fra Cristoforo, who sends them to Milan and Monza.

In the convent in Monza 

Lucia is taken to a convent near Monza, run by the nun Gertrude, una noble woman who was forced by her father to take the vows but that later would give into Egidio’s attentions, a disreputable young man she establishes a torrid affair with, that also includes a murder. The nun agrees in accommodating Lucia in her monastery and the girl tells her story to the Mother Superior.

Riots in Milan

In Milan, there’s a popular upbringing, caused by the shocking rising price of bread and  Renzo is caught in the middle of the riots, risking to be arrested but he manages to sneak out and hide in his cousin’s house in Bergamo. Meanwhile count Attilio’s uncle manages to have Fra Cristoforo transferred to Rimini.

L’Innominato and the kidnapping of Lucia 

Don Rodrigo, after finding out Lucia’s location, asks for l’Innominato’s help, a very powerful and bloody lord who is renowned for having committed every kind of nefariousness, to kidnap Lucia. The kidnap is made possible also due to the help of Egidio. The young woman pleads to be freed by trying to convince l’Innominato to redeem himself. The following night Lucia will make a chastity vow to the Virgin Mary, so that she can be freed, while l’Innominato repents because of his remorse, by freeing Lucia a the following morning and by giving her a dowry.

The arrival of the Plague 

After several months the Plague arrives in Lombardy and later in Milan, causing the deaths of many. Don Rodrigo becomes ill and gets betrayed by the chief of the Bravi, Griso, who will find his demise because of the Plague. Even Renzo is infected but he recovers and looks for Lucia in the lazzaretto.

Reunion and Conclusion

It’s in the lazzaretto where everybody meets in the end. Renzo finds Lucia and Fra Cristoforo, who is infected, and the latter urges Renzo to renounce his desire for revenge towards Don Rodrigo, on the verge of death, and frees Lucia from her vow.
Once they’re back to their country, the young couple get married with Don Abbondio celebrating the marriage.  Finally husband and wife, the two of them have a daughter, named Maria as a sing of gratitude to Our Lady, and  later other children.

We really hope this summary might be useful to you to learn, or at least rehearse, quickly the story in the 38 chapters of i Promessi Sposi. In addition, we suggest you to watch our super-fun video-summary of the Divina Commedia by Dante Alighieri, to expand your knowledge of Italian Classics.

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