Short summary - Demofonte - Pietro Metastasio

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - Demofonte
Pietro Metastasio

Dircea begs her father Matusius not to rebel against the law, which requires the annual sacrifice of a young maiden from a noble family to Apollo. The name of the victim determines the lot. Only the royal daughters are spared from the terrible duty, and even then because they were sent by their father outside the country. But Matussy believes that he, a subject, is equal in paternity to the king, and in fairness the king must either return his daughters to their homeland and thereby set an example of strict observance of the sacred laws, or free everyone else from their implementation. Dircea believes that the rulers are above the laws, Matusius does not agree with her, he does not want to tremble with fear for his daughter - or let Demophon tremble like the others!

Demophon summons his son Timantus to the palace. He leaves the military camp and hurries to the call. Timant is in a secret marriage with Dircea. If their secret is revealed, Dircei will face death for daring to marry the heir to the throne. Timant rejoices at the meeting with Dircea and asks her about their son Olint. Dircea says that the boy is like two drops of water like his father. Meanwhile, the time for the annual sacrifice is approaching. It will soon become known which of the young maidens is doomed to the slaughter. The king repeatedly asked the oracle when Apollo would have mercy and stop demanding human sacrifices, but the answer was short and obscure: “The wrath of the gods will subside when an innocent usurper learns the truth about himself.” Dircea is afraid of the upcoming lot. She is not afraid of death, but Apollo demands the blood of an innocent maiden, and if Dircea silently goes to the slaughter, she will anger God, and if she reveals the secret, she will anger the king. Timant and Dircea decide to confess everything to Demophon: after all, the king has issued a law, the king can cancel it.

Demophon announces to Timant that he intends to marry him to the Phrygian princess Creusa. He sent his youngest son Kerinth after her, and the ship should arrive soon. Demofont could not find a bride worthy of Timant for a long time. For this, he forgot the long-standing enmity between the Thracian and Phrygian kings. Timant expresses bewilderment: why does his wife have to be of royal blood? Demophon insists on the need to honor the covenants of the ancestors. He sends Timant to meet his bride. Left alone, Timant asks the great gods to protect Dircea and protect their marriage.

The Phrygian princess arrives in Thrace. During the journey, Kerinth managed to fall in love with Creusa. Left alone with Creusa, Timant persuades her to refuse marriage to him. Creusa is offended. She asks Kerinth to avenge her and kill Timant. As a reward, she promises him her heart, hand and crown. Seeing that Kerinth turns pale, Creusa calls him a coward, she despises a lover who speaks of love, but is not able to stand up for the honor of his beloved with a weapon in his hands. In the anger of Kreus, Kerinth seems even more beautiful.

Matusios decides to take Dircea away from Thrace. Dircea assumes that her father found out about her marriage to Timant. She is unable to leave her husband and son. Timant declares to Matusius that he will not let Dircea go, and then it turns out that Matusius does not know about their marriage and therefore cannot understand by what right Timant interferes in their affairs. Matusius tells that Demophon was angry with him because he, a subject, dared to compare himself with the king, and as a punishment for his obstinacy ordered to sacrifice Dircea, without waiting for the lot. Timant persuades Matusy not to worry: the king is quick-witted, after the first outburst of anger he will certainly cool down and cancel his order. The head of the guard, Adrastus, grabs Dircea. Timant prays to the gods to give him courage and promises Matusia to save Dircea.

Creusa asks Demophon to let her go home to Phrygia. Demophon thinks that Timant scared Creusa with his rudeness and impoliteness, because he grew up among warriors and was not accustomed to tenderness. But Kreusa says she shouldn't be denied. Demofont, believing that the princess's suspiciousness is to blame, promises her that Timant will become her husband today. Creusa decides: let Timant obey the will of his father and offer her his hand, and she will amuse her pride and refuse him. Creusa reminds Demophon: he is a father and a boy, which means that he knows what the will of the father and the punishment of the king are.

Timant begs Demophon to spare the daughter of the unfortunate Matusius, but Demophon does not want to listen to anything: he is busy preparing for the wedding. Timant says that he has an overwhelming disgust for Kreusa. He again begs his father to spare Dircea and confesses that he loves her. Demophon promises to save Dircea's life if Timant obeys his will and marries Creusa. Timant replies that he cannot do this. Demophon says: "Prince, up to now I have spoken to you as a father, do not force me to remind you that I am a king." Timant equally respects the will of his father and the will of the king, but cannot fulfill it. He understands that he is guilty and deserves punishment.

Demophon complains that everyone insults him: a proud princess, an obstinate subject, an impudent son. Realizing that Timant will not obey him while Dircea is alive, he gives the order to immediately lead Dircea to the slaughter. The common good is more important than the life of an individual: so a gardener cuts a useless branch so that the tree grows better. If he had kept it, the tree might have died.

Timant tells Matusy that Demophon was deaf to his pleas. Now the only hope for salvation is flight. Matusius must equip the ship, and in the meantime Timant will deceive the guards and kidnap Dircea. Matusy admires the nobility of Timant and marvels at his dissimilarity with his father.

Timant is firm in his determination to escape: his wife and son are more precious to him than the crown and wealth. But now he sees Dircea in a white dress and a flower crown being led to the slaughter. Dircea convinces Timant not to try to save her: he will not help her anyway and will only destroy himself. Timant is furious. Now he will stop at no one and nothing, he is ready to put the palace, temple, priests to fire and sword.

Dircea prays to the gods for Timant's life. She turns to Creusa with a request for intercession. Dircea says that she is innocently condemned to death, but she asks not for herself, but for Timant, who is threatened with death because of her. Creusa is amazed: on the verge of death, Dircea thinks not of herself, but of Timant. Dircea asks not to ask her about anything: if she could tell Creusa all her misfortunes, the princess's heart would break with pity. Creusa admires Dircea's beauty. If the daughter Matusia was able to touch even her, then there is nothing strange in the fact that Timant loves her. Creusa struggles to hold back her tears. It hurts her to think that she is the cause of the suffering of lovers. She asks Kerinth to humble the gays of Timant and keep him from reckless actions, and she herself goes to Demofont to ask for Dircea. Kerinth admires Creusa's generosity and again tells her about his love. Hope for reciprocity awakens in his heart. It is very difficult for Creusa to pretend to be harsh, Kerinth is dear to her, but she knows that she must become the wife of the heir to the throne. She regrets that vain pride makes her a slave and forces her to suppress her feelings.

Timant and his friends seize the temple of Apollo, knock over the altars, extinguish the sacrificial fire. Demofont appears, Timant does not let him near Dircea. Demophon orders the guards not to touch Timant, he wants to see what filial insolence can reach. Demophon drops his weapon. Timant can kill him and offer his unworthy beloved hand, still smoking from the blood of his father. Timant falls at the feet of Demophon and gives him his sword. His crime is great and there is no forgiveness for him. Demophon feels that his heart trembles, but takes control of himself and orders the guards to put Timant in chains. Timant obediently puts his hands up. Demophon orders to slaughter Dircea right now, in his presence. Timant cannot save his beloved, but asks his father to have mercy on her. He reveals to Demophon that Dircea cannot be sacrificed to Apollo, for God requires the blood of an innocent maiden, and Dircea is a wife and mother. The sacrifice is postponed: another victim must be found. Dircea and Timant are trying to save each other, each is ready to take all the blame. Demophon orders the spouses to be separated, but they ask permission to be together at the last hour. Demophon promises that they will die together. The couple say goodbye.

The head of the guard, Adrastus, conveys to Timant Dircea's last request: she wants Timant to marry Kreus after her death. Timant angrily refuses: he will not live without Dircea. Kerinth appears. He brings good news: Demophon relented, he returns his father's love, wife, son, freedom, life to Timant, and all this happened thanks to the intercession of Creusa! Cerinth tells how he brought Dircea and Olynthus to Demophon, and the king embraced the boy with tears in his eyes. Timant advises Kerinth to offer his hand to Creusa, then Demophon will not have to blush for breaking his word given to the Phrygian king. Kerinth replies that she loves Creusa, but does not hope to become her husband, for she will give her hand only to the heir to the throne. Timant renounces his rights as heir. He owes his life to Cerinth and, giving him the throne, gives only a part of what he owes.

At this time, Matusius learns that Dircea is not his daughter, but Timant's sister. Matusia's wife, before her death, handed her husband a letter and made him swear that he would read it only if Dircea was in danger. As Matusius prepared to flee, he remembered the letter and read it. It was written by the hand of the late queen, who certified that Dircea was the king's daughter. The queen wrote that in the palace temple, in a place where no one except the king has access, another letter was hidden: it explains the reason why Dircea ended up in the house of Matusius. Matusy expects that Timant will be delighted, and does not understand why he turns pale and trembles ... Left alone, Timant indulges in despair: it turns out that he married his own sister. Now it is clear to him what brought the wrath of the gods on him. He regrets that Kreusa saved him from death.

Demophon comes to embrace Timant. He pulls away, ashamed to raise his eyes to his father. Timantne wants to see Olint, drives Dircea away. He wants to retire to the desert and asks everyone to forget about him. Demophon is in alarm, he is afraid that his son has not been damaged in his mind.

Kerinth convinces Timant that he is not guilty of anything, because his crime is involuntary. Timant says he wants to die. Matusy appears and announces to Timant that he is his father. Dircea reveals that she is not his sister. Timant thinks that, wanting to console him, they are deceiving him. Demophon relates that when a daughter was born to the queen and a son was born to his wife Matusias, the mothers exchanged their children so that the throne would have an heir. When Cerinth was born, the queen realized that she had deprived her own son of the throne. Seeing how Demophon loves Timant, she did not dare to reveal the secret to him, but before her death she wrote two letters, one she gave to her confidante, Matusia's wife, and the other she hid in the temple. Demophon tells Creusa that he promised her his son and heir to the throne as a husband and is now happy that he can keep his word without resorting to cruelty: Kerinth is his son and heir to the throne. Creusa accepts Kerinth's offer. Kerinth asks the princess if she loves him. Kreusa asks that her consent be considered an answer. Here only Timant realizes that he is the innocent usurper, about whom the oracle spoke. Finally, the Thracians are spared the annual sacrifice. Timant falls at the king's feet. Demophon says she still loves him. Until now they have loved each other out of duty, from now on they will love each other out of choice, and this love is even stronger.

The choir sings that joy is stronger when it comes to a heart dejected by misfortune. But is the world perfect, where in order to fully enjoy it, it is necessary to go through suffering?