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The Betrothed

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  7,010 ratings  ·  526 reviews
“The great plague novel.” —The New Yorker

Set in Lombardy during the Spanish occupation of the late 1620s, The Betrothed tells the story of two young lovers, Renzo and Lucia, prevented from marrying by the petty tyrant Don Rodrigo, who desires Lucia for himself. Forced to flee, they are then cruelly separated, and must face many dangers including plague, famine and imprison
Paperback, 720 pages
Published November 24th 1983 by Penguin Classics (first published 1840)
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Giovanni As an Italian, i have of course read the book on my own and later at school. It is a fundamental book to understand Italian history, culture, and the …moreAs an Italian, i have of course read the book on my own and later at school. It is a fundamental book to understand Italian history, culture, and the internal forces that move our society: religion, foreigner dominations, the heritage of our long feudal period and the strong opposition to liberal politics. Manzoni efforts to make this political book (and to convey his political opinions) into a popular story to be read by the millions have been perhaps successful in the 19th and the 20th century, but I understand it is very difficult to follow in the dawn of 21st century. Try this: read the story as a "Name of the rose" (Eco was a very found reader and commenter of the novel) where you should find the secrets of the Italian society – and of course read first the Eco’s book, if you have not done so yet. For example, if you read in the first pages of a coward priest, who chooses to serve the strong rather than to defend the weak, compare it with the analogous descriptions of the Name of the Rose, or listen to some of the discussions around the social role of the Church fueled by pope Francesco. What do you discover? That Franciscans have been so important in the middle age, and Saint Francesco ideology is still important today, and that the relation between power and oppressed classes were an important issue in the Italian unification.(less)
Erika If you speak the language, there are plenty in Italian, since it's required reading in schools. You could try this one:…moreIf you speak the language, there are plenty in Italian, since it's required reading in schools. You could try this one:
I'm afraid I don't know any non-Italian sources, but it's considered the greatest Italian novel of all times, so maybe you could search for Italian literature textbooks in your own language. (less)

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Bill Kerwin
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing

Manzoni's historical novel The Betrothed--although not much read today in the English-speaking world--is considered by many Italians to be the greatest novel written in their language. It is indeed a great novel. Manzoni, building on the simple romantic story of an engaged couple whose scheduled wedding is prevented by the designs of a lustful noble, creates a rich, many-shaded portrait of life in the vicinity of Milan in the early 17th Century, featuring war, famine, plague and riot, great crim
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fergus by: Guiseppe Verdi - his favourite!
Shelves: literature, christian
Want a wonderfully old-fashioned, lovingly human, and seemingly never-ending long romance full of humour, pathos and endearingly-living-and-breathing characters - with swordplay ‘n chivalry crammed cheek and jowl with free-wheeling high adventure - to curl up with in your free hours of discreet distancing from diseased public spaces?

As carefully wrought as a Cellini centrepiece of fine crafted gold, this book - the Great Italian Novel - follows the trials of two star-crossed lovers in a vivid an
Lorenzo Berardi
This novel is hated by many generations of Italians.

Poor Alessandro Manzoni! He's not to blame for the bad reputation of his book. The moronic Italian educational system is the only guilt of the assassination of I Promessi Sposi in most of its readers.

Just consider this: in Italy we study this novel at primary school, at secondary school and at high school. Every single time restarting from its beginning. Therefore it's pretty obvious that I Promessi Sposi becomes one of the worst nightmares of
Dhanaraj Rajan
Jul 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I began this novel, I was not sure whether I would complete it. The reason: I began it in the wrong time, that is, when I had many other responsibilities. So it could never have served as a gap filler in the days. Also, a thick volume would entail many days in such a tight schedule. I was sure to be discouraged. But as the book came in the package and as I began to read it I was immediately fascinated by the characters and the place described. I gave it a try and now I have completed the bo ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it
This Italian classic (1842!) presents a widely drawn out story line, sometimes interrupted for a long parenthese on other characters or historical descriptions, followed by a lot of action scenes. Remarkable is the psychological depth, especially because this was written before the great, 19th century classics of world literature.

There is an outspokenly anticlerical setup, connected with the Italian politics of that time: the parish priest Don Abbondio is really made fun of, but at the reverse
If you are not Italian or a literature major, you may not be familiar with Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed; I wasn’t. And if you aren’t a determined reader, you might give up on its dense description of seventeen century customs and rigorous lifestyle from a nineteenth century reunification* perspective.

It was an unduly harsh time for Italian peasantry. Cycles of plagues, grueling poverty, starvation existence on unreliable crops, nothing even resembling government ‘assistance’ except more i
May 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: in-italian
An all-time masterpiece of Italian literature. We Italians all study it at school and of course, get bored to tears by it, unless we find some time to actually read and re-read it for our own interest and pleasure - perhaps years after graduation day!. That's when we can truly appreciate the wit, the humour, the historical and psychological insight, the language (it's a pity it cannot be conveyed in translations). The plot is quite simple and you surely have heard of it... if you watch soap oper ...more
Katia N
Mar 23, 2020 rated it liked it
With all going on in the world, it took me a long time to read this novel. It is an Italian classics, which according to the introduction, is not much loved but the Italian children. Allegedly, they are studying it at least 3 times during their school years.

I've started it a few weeks ago. And during these few weeks it has become unexpectedly and eery topical. The last part described an epidemic of plague in Milan in 1630. It seems that not much has changed in the human reaction on the coming th
Oct 13, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Whitey Bulger
Shelves: own, fiction
If you can get through the first 100 pages of The Betrothed, which are entirely plot, extremely operatic, and full of bumbling intrigues, I suspect you will ultimately find it rewarding. It concerns two young peasants from a village near Lake Como in 1628, Lorenzo and Lucia, who are engaged. But a local scoundrel, the wealthy and tyrannical Don Rodrigo, has taken a shine to Lucia and has his ruffians threaten the priest who is supposed to conduct the wedding, so the wedding is foiled, and Lucia ...more
Feb 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: italy
Manzoni is a spell-binding magus of a story-teller. He excels at intricate, insightful stories for a substantial cast besides Renzo and Lucia -- the Unamed one, the nun of Monza, Father Christoforo. Manzoni has a keen eye for humanity that makes his characters real and endlessly relevant. He has an admirable faith in the power of goodness that left me both wondering if goodness can be that powerful but also ashamed to have any doubt. Manzoni also has a real sense of the unlovely sides of humanit ...more
Historical novel set in Italy during the 1600's. It's a long novel that may appeal to some, it just wasn't my cup of tea. There's a bit of everything on offer here, skullduggery, star crossed lovers, treachery, pestilence and plague.

Couldn't say in all honesty that the main characters appealed to me neither Lucy or Renzo. Lucy was a bit of a striking violet for my reading taste.

Still it was listed on the Guardian 1000 list and I'm glad that I took the chance to read, it just wasn't a story that
Oct 31, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 19th-century
A marvelous read! There are quite a few asides to fill us in on the history of the time the story is set. Most are interesting, a few go on too long for my taste, but not enough to knock even half a star off my rating. The book is loaded with great quotes.

". . . we all know that traditions, unless someone lends them a hand, never give you the full story."
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio-books
I really enjoyed this novel that the children are reading for school. I purchased the audiobook version with an Audible credit because it is an expensive audiobook, but it was worth joining audible for this book! The reader was fantastic: his Spanish name pronunciation, his Italian, and his English (of course) were spot on and enjoyable; his amusement when the story was amusing; his seriousness when serious were all excellent. I listened to most at 1.25 speed, and it was easy to follow.

The plot
Dec 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
What a book! On the first level simply a long, somewhat rambling historical novel about Milan and its surroundings in the seventeenth century, written two hundred years later, the book — virtually Manzoni’s only extended prose work — admirably integrates historical scholarship, personal observation of character and place, and political philosophy.

The “promised spouses” (the Italian formula for “affianced”) of the title, Renzo and Lucia, are peasants living in a village on Lake Como, near Lecco.
Nov 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I was first drawn to this book after hearing the Verdi requiem. Who could possibly have inspired such transcendant music? I discovered that the book played a, if not the vital role in uniting Italy under one dialect. So I went into it with some trepidation. Could it live up to its reputation? For me it most certainly did, but in fact not because it was a "classic" but because it turned out to be a rollicking good read, that entertained and informed. The interjections of history were fine by me b ...more
Lady Mayfair
I did not fall in love with this one, even though it takes the reader on a epic journey: set in northern Italy in 1628, during the oppressive years of direct Spanish rule. It is also noted for the extraordinary description of the famine and plague that struck Milan around 1630 as well as cultural titbits of the time.

We are introduced to a myriad of fascinating historical characters, from Federico Borromeo, Archbishop of Milan, Giuseppe Ripamonti and most intriguing of them all: Sister Virginia M
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
This is part history and part fiction. The setting is Milan (Italy) sometime in the 17th century. It is said to be universally recognized as the greatest of all Italian novels and is often compared to Tolstoy's "War and Peace." It is also very, very long and contains a lot: a love story, tragedy, suspense, humor, history, war, politics, business, religion, superstition, philosophy, famine, food riots, plague, etc.

Remember my review of the Indian behemoth, "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth? A chara
Jan 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The Betrothed is rightfully rated as a treasure in World Literature. Both a wonderful story and a historical documentary set in the vicinity of Milan between 1628-1631, the story line is that of star crossed lovers; but oh the obstacles they faced! I picked it up because I recently discovered that my ancestors survived the 1630 Plague of Milan. But the story of the Great Plague (footnoted with Manzoni's research of contemporary accounts) is only one section of this incredibly rich novel. I thoro ...more

Before concluding a marriage, we are required to search closely that there be no obstacles.

Those who injure others are guilty, not only of the evils they commit, but also of the effects produced by these evils on the characters of the injured persons.

"Surely, there's justice in the world." So true is it that, under the influence of great misfortune, men no longer know what they say.

Free download available at Project Gutenberg.

Thanks to Karen for having recommended this book.
Apr 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A long, thick, slow, deep masterpiece.
Christy W
Aug 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A local wealthy and jealous tyrant/bully starts a maelstrom of events by interfering with a young couple’s wedding plans. Having been separated early on, they endure famine, poverty, riots and plague to potentially reunite. This story was loaded with a menagerie of characters who could be described as provocative, cunning, moral and just - a spectacular rendition of good and evil. Conflicts between others and within the individual are exhibited well throughout the story. Every action has a react ...more
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Alessandro Manzoni’s The Betrothed is regarded as a classic of Italian literature and was described on the cover of my edition as ‘the original historical novel’. As a bit of an Italophile who likes historical fiction, I was eager to read this book.

It tells the tale of Renzo and Lucia, two Italian peasants, who are prevented from marrying by increasingly troublesome circumstances: their priest’s refusal to wed them, Lucia’s abduction, Renzo’s arrest, the invasion of foreign troops and an outbrea
Carol Bakker
Whew! It took me a while to engage (har har) but I'm glad I read it. Back when I have had time to process. ...more
Feb 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
As part and parcel of every italian student background, I was first forced to read this book in high school. But I didn't deeply appreciated it since I read it again and again after school. Somehow ironic and dramatic, perfect photography of author's time (although set a couple of century before). Characters are unforgettable. Written in the best italian possible (for me).
I now put it in my top ten favorite books.
Simon Mcleish
Mar 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Originally published on my blog here in September 1998.

The Bethrothed is probably the most famous work of Italian literature not by Dante Alighieri or Petrarch. The introduction to this Penguin Classics edition compares its influence on Italian culture to an English scene where Charles Dickens wrote only one novel and Henry Fielding and William Makepeace Thackeray had never existed. Its revision by Manzoni into the Tuscan dialect was a major turning point in the establishment of that dialect as
Michael Gruber
Oct 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book, which, shame to say, I had never heard of before, on the recommendation of the Pope, whose favorite novel it is. I had never done this before, but then we never had a Pope who recommended novels before. The Betrothed, or I Promessi Sposi, is a book on the magnificent scale of War and Peace or Moby Dick, and is regarded by cultured Italians as an equivalent achievement. As in many 19th century European novels, the authorial voice dominates the telling of the story, but Mazzoni h ...more
Robert Wechsler
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: italian-lit
[1834 translation] I wax nostalgic at the thought that a British geologist could come to America to learn Indian languages, get a charter for the first steam railroad, and translate both Cicero and this great Italian novel of the early nineteenth century. Not only is the uncredited translation by George William Featherstonhaugh excellent, but a digital version of it is free online at Project Gutenberg.

I chose to read this novel because I had just made plans to go to Lake Como later this year, an
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Wow, this is an amazing book. It is also very involved. I love all of Manzoni's depictions of human nature through his characters and thought he had some good insights as well. The story line is beautiful and so good and moral. This book is so much more, though. It also delves into much of Italian history and since this was my first ever introduction to Italian history, it was a lot to digest, but also extremely interesting. Apparently the Italians study this book all through their school years, ...more
Gina Johnson
Oct 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! It tells the tale of a poor young couple in Italy that face many obstacles to their marriage. The depth of insight into the human condition and character is fabulous.
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
An interesting, entertaining, enjoyable historical fiction novel set in Northern Italy in the late 1620s. The story is about the difficulties Renzo and Lucia face in getting married. The gangster, Don Rodrigo takes a liking to Lucia and decides to stop the marriage. He threatens to punish the priest engaged to perform the marriage ceremony if the priest allows the ceremony to go ahead. This leads to Renzo and Lucia fleeing their village, having to go separate ways to ensure they are not caught b ...more
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Reading 1001: The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni 1 5 Jan 30, 2021 02:43PM  

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Alessandro Francesco Tommaso Manzoni was an Italian poet and novelist. He is famous for the novel The Betrothed (Italian: I Promessi Sposi) (1840), generally ranked among the masterpieces of world literature. The novel is also a symbol of the Italian Risorgimento, both for its patriotic message and because it was a fundamental milestone in the development of the modern, unified Italian language.

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