Short summary - The Charterhouse of Parma - Stendhal - Marie-Henri Beyle

French literature summaries - 2021

Short summary - The Charterhouse of Parma
Stendhal - Marie-Henri Beyle

Fabrizio, the youngest son of the Marquis Valserra del Dongo, spends his childhood in the family castle of Grianta, built in the 15th century over the beautiful Lake Como. He has two sisters and an older brother, who is surprisingly similar to his father in everything. The Marquis is rich, but stingy, his wife and daughters live almost in poverty. Against the will of the Marquis, his sister Gina, one of the most beautiful women in Italy, is marrying an impoverished nobleman, Count Pietranera, a participant in the Napoleonic campaigns. After the death of the count in a duel, the countess comes to Grianta. Fabrizio grew up before her eyes. The seventeen-year-old boy is very handsome - his tall stature, slender stature and a cheerful smile make him irresistible. He was fascinated by Napoleon from childhood and, having learned about the landing of the emperor in the Bay of Juan, secretly, under an assumed name, went to France to fight in the Napoleonic army.
In the first French town, Fabrizio's appearance and accent seem suspicious and he is arrested. On the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, the jailer's wife helps him escape. He finds himself on the battlefield, but in the confusion of the battle he does not recognize either Marshal Ney or the emperor himself. The canteen explains to him that the battle is lost and advises him to return home. He follows her advice. Gina's servant is waiting for him in Geneva. He reports that the older brother reported on Fabrizio and now the police are looking for him as a conspirator.
Pietranera's mother and Countess take Fabrizio to Milan. There they hope to find high patrons for him. But the case was given a course, the denunciation was sent to Vienna, and Fabrice faces imprisonment in the Spielberg Castle - the most terrible prison in Europe. He is forced to go into voluntary exile.
Gina remains in Milan. Once at the Opera, she is introduced to Count Mosca della Rovere Sorezana - Minister of War, Minister of Police and Finance of the famous Prince of Parma Ranuntius Ernest IV. The count, although not young, is not stupid, smart, witty and not arrogant. He arouses a keen interest in Gina, and he falls in love with her without memory. Unfortunately, he is not divorced from his wife, but for the sake of Gina he is ready to retire and live where she wishes. However, there is another plan: the old duke of Sanseverina dreams of a sash, a fictitious marriage with the duke, to whom Mosca promises the order, will allow Gina to live in Parma and be presented to the court.
Soon the Duchess of Sanseverina amazes the Parma court with her beauty, friendliness and clarity of mind. Her house is the nicest in town.
At the Parma court, there are two constantly warring parties, the party of extreme royalists in power is led by Count Mosca, and the opposition party of liberals is led by the rich and intriguing Marquis Raversi. The prince himself, since becoming an unlimited monarch, has been in constant fear. And having executed two liberals at the instigation of the chief fiscal Rassi, he simply went mad. The tremendous influence of Count Mosca is explained by the fact that thanks to his diplomatic dexterity, the prince does not have to blush for his cowardice unworthy of a man, fiscal Rassi is in the favorites only because, "protecting the prince", he constantly seeks and finds conspirators. As soon as he notices that the prince's fears are weakening, he hastily uncovers some new chimerical conspiracy, the participants of which are waiting for the Parma fortress, known throughout Italy. The huge fortress tower, one hundred and eighty feet high, is visible from afar.
The Duchess likes her new life, she feels tender affection for the count, the court world amuses her. But the fate of Fabrizio does not give her rest. The count believes that the military career that Fabrizio strives for is impossible for a young man who fought in the troops of Napoleon. But he promises in time to make him Archbishop of Parma, if he wishes to become a prelate.
The Duchess, with the consent of Fabrice, sends him to study theology at the Theological Academy of Naples.
In Naples, Fabrizio, who does not at all lead the lean life of a seminarian, acquires the reputation of a diligent, but somewhat windy youth. He is very handsome, a special charm has appeared in his appearance. Of course, he enjoys success with women, but none of his mistresses play any role in his life.
Three years later, Fabrizio passes the exams, earns the right to be called "Monsignor" and finally goes to Parma.
The Duchess is happy, Fabrizio lives in the Sanseverin Palace and they both rejoice like children. But gradually anxiety seizes Fabrice's soul. He guesses the penchant that the Duchess has for him. But he is sure that he is not capable of serious love, never in his life was there a woman with whom a date would be more pleasant for him than a ride on a thoroughbred horse. Fabrizio realizes that by allowing himself intimacy with the duchess, he will surely lose his only friend. Having told her "I love you", he will lie, because he does not know what love is.
Once, walking around the city and absorbed in these thoughts, Fabrizio enters the theater and sees there a charming actress who also bears his last name. Her name is Marietta Walserra. The girl falls in love with Fabrizio, but in the theater she has a patron, the actor Gilletti. Once he was a Napoleonic soldier, he is brave, strong and threatens to be killed by a monsignor. Accidentally meeting Fabrizio outside the city, Gilletti attacks him and stabs him several times with his sword. Defending himself, Fabrizio kills the villain. Now he cannot return to Parma. Lucky for him, he meets Lodovico, the Duchess's former coachman, who helps him escape. Fabrizio moves from city to city and finally stops in Bologna. Here he meets Marietta and instantly forgets all his sorrows. He has no idea what is happening in Parma.
And in Parma, the question is quite seriously discussed: whether the death of the comedian Gilletti will entail the fall of the right-wing ministry and its head, Count Mosca.
The prince, wanting to humiliate the duchess, who behaves too independently, orders Rassi to start a trial against Fabrizio Valserra del Dongo. If Fabrice is convicted, he faces execution or hard labor.
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Having learned about the impending verdict in absentia, the Duchess decides to take an extreme step. She puts on her travel suit and drives to the palace. The prince has no doubts that she will come. He expects this proud beauty to cry for mercy in tears. But the prince is wrong. Never before had he seen the duchess so light, amiable, lively. She came to say goodbye and to thank for the favor the prince had shown her for five years. The prince is amazed and humiliated. He is afraid that, having left Parma, this witty woman will talk everywhere about dishonorable judges and night fears of her ruler. He must stop the duchess. And he agrees to sign the document dictated by her, in which he promises not to confirm the sentence passed by Fabrizio. But the prince feels deeply offended and the next morning orders to send out an order to arrest the nobleman del Dongo as soon as he appears in his domain.
The Marquise Raversi traps Fabrizio by arranging a date on behalf of the Duchess in a place near Parma. Before Fabrizio has time to enter the Kingdom of Parma, he is seized and in shackles taken to the Parma fortress.
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commandant of the fortress, General Fabio Conti, belonging to the clique of the Marquise of Raversi, accepts a new prisoner. When Fabrizio is taken to the prison, he meets the General's daughter Clelia Conti in the courtyard of the fortress. The charm of her face, radiant with pure beauty, amazes Fabrizio. Going up to his cell, he thinks only of her.
Fabrizio's camera is located in the Farnese tower just opposite the commandant's palace. Looking out the window, Fabrizio sees an aviary with birdcages. During the day, Clelia comes here to feed her pets. She involuntarily lifts her eyes to Fabrizio's window and the looks of the young people meet. Clelia is beautiful with an extraordinary, rare beauty. But she is timid, shy and very godly.
The window of Fabrizio's cell is closed with wooden shutters so that the prisoner can only see the sky. But he manages to cut through the shutter some semblance of a window, and communication with Clelia becomes the main joy of his life.
They speak using the alphabet, Fabrizio draws letters in charcoal on the palm of his hand. He writes long letters in which he tells Clelia about his love and, at nightfall, lowers them down on a rope.
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During the three months that Fabrizio spends in prison, having no connection with the outside world, he has grown thin and pale, but he has never felt so happy.
Clelia is tormented by remorse, she realizes that by helping the Fabrizio, she is betraying her father. But she must save Fabrizio, whose life is constantly in danger.
The prince tells Rassi that as long as Fabrice is alive, he will not feel sovereign. He cannot expel the duchess from Parma, but it is unbearable for him to see her at court - it seems to him that this woman is challenging him. Fabrizio must die.
The duchess's hatred of the prince is boundless, but she can entrust her revenge to only one person. The disgraced poet, an ardent republican Ferrante Palla is ready to fulfill her will. He is secretly in love with the Duchess and has his own accounts with the monarch.
Knowing from Count Mosca what fate awaits Fabrice, the Duchess prepares an escape. She manages to send him the plan of the fortress and the ropes. But Gina does not suspect that the prisoner does not at all strive for freedom - life without Clelia would be an unbearable torment for him.
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Meanwhile, the canon of the prison church, Don Cesare, is seeking permission for Fabrizio to take a daily walk. Fabrizio begs Clelia to come to the prison chapel. The lovers meet, but Clelia does not want to listen to love confessions. She orders Fabrizio to flee - every moment he spends in the fortress can cost him his life. Clelia makes a vow to Madonna: if Fabrizio manages to escape, she will never see him again, submit to the will of her father and marry at his choice.
Escape succeeds, Fabrizio descends from a dizzying height and loses consciousness below. The Duchess takes him to Switzerland, they secretly live in Lugano. But Fabrizio does not share Gina's joy. And she herself does not recognize in this depressed, self-absorbed person her cheerful and frivolous nephew. She guesses that the reason for his constant sadness is the separation from Clelia. The Duchess no longer loves Fabrizio, as she did before, but this guess hurts her.
A servant of Count Mosca arrives in Lugano with the news: the prince died unexpectedly, and in Parma there is an uprising led by Ferrante Palla.
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count suppresses the uprising and the son of the late prince, young Ernest V, ascends the throne. Now the fugitives can return to Parma.
But the sentence has not been overturned. Fabrizio is awaiting a judicial review of the case, but for now he should be in prison. Without waiting for an official order, he voluntarily returns to the fortress, to his former cell. It is impossible to describe the horror of Clelia when she sees Fabrice again in the camera window. Her father considers Fabrice's escape a personal insult and swears that he will not release him alive this time. General Conti does not hide his intentions from Clelia. She knows that the dinner that Fabrizio is carrying is poisoned. Pushing away the jailers, she runs into his cell and knocks over the table, on which there is already dinner. At this moment, Clelia is so beautiful that Fabrizio cannot fight himself. He meets no resistance. After the verdict was canceled, Fabrizio became the chief vicar under the Archbishop of Parma Landriani, and after his death he himself received the rank of archbishop. His sermons are very moving and very successful. But he is deeply unhappy. Clelia is keeping her vow. Obeying the will of her father, she marries the Marquis Crescenzi, the richest man in Parma, but does not stop loving Fabrizio. Her only refuge is the hope of Madonna's help.
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Fabrizio is desperate. He has changed a lot, emaciated, his eyes seem huge on his haggard face. Clelia realizes how cruel she is. She allows Fabrizio to come to her secretly, but she should not see him. Therefore, all their dates take place in complete darkness. This continues for three years. During this time, Clelia had a son, little Sandrino. Fabrizio adores the child and wants him to live with him. But officially the boy's father is the Marquis Crescenzi. Therefore, the child must be kidnapped, and then the rumor about his death should be spread. This plan succeeds, but the baby soon dies. Following him, without enduring the loss, Clelia also dies. Fabrizio is close to committing suicide. He renounces the rank of archbishop and retired to the Parma monastery.
The Duchess of Sanseverina marries Count Mosca and leaves Parma for good. All external circumstances develop happily for her, but when, after spending only a year in the monastery, Fabrizio, adored by her, dies, she was able to survive him for a very short time.