Short summary - The Millions of Naples - Eduardo De Filippo

Italy literature summaries - 2023

Short summary - The Millions of Naples
Eduardo De Filippo

The action takes place in 1942, at the end of the second year of the war in Italy. The Iovine family, consisting of fifty-year-old Gennaro Iovine, his wife Amalia, a beautiful thirty-seven-year-old woman, their children, the eldest Maria Rosaria and Amedeo and the youngest Rita, lives in a small, dirty and smoky apartment on the ground floor. During the fascist regime, they subsist on the money received from the operation of the "underground coffee house", which they maintain in their apartment, and on income from the sale of products on the black market.

Amedeo, a young man in his twenties, works for a gas company, while his sister Maria Rosaria helps her mother at home. In the morning, when Amedeo is getting ready for work, indignant at his father, who ate his portion of pasta, loud screams are heard on the street: this is Amalia Jovine scolding her neighbor Donna Vicenza, who decided to create competition for her and also opened a coffee shop in the house opposite, and takes for a cup of coffee half a mile cheaper. The first visitors come to Amalia's coffee shop: Errico Handsome and Peppe Jack. These are two drivers, idle due to the ban on the use of motor vehicles. The appearance of Errico Handsome justifies his nickname - he is handsome, handsome in the spirit of the Neapolitan street, he is about thirty-five years old, he is of a strong physique, he smiles willingly and good-naturedly, but always with the air of a patron. He comes across as a handsome swindler. Peppe Jack is more vulgar and not so cunning, but stronger, he can lift the car with one shoulder, for which he was given the nickname Jack. He listens and thinks more. Behind them enters Don Ricardo. This is a wealthy employee, an accountant. He carries himself modestly, but with dignity. All respectfully respond to his greeting. He came to buy from Amalia some food for his sick wife and children. Due to lack of money, he has to part with his wife's gold earring, which is set with a diamond.

Don Gennaro is surprised that they have food in their house that cannot be obtained with ration cards. He is against the fact that in his family someone was engaged in speculation. Amalia, however, replies that she has nothing from the resale, but simply renders a service to Errico Handsome, who leaves a batch of goods with her. So recently, he brought a large amount of products, including cheese, sugar, flour, lard and two centners of coffee, which Amalia poured into the bottom mattress. A frightened Amedeo runs in, who has already managed to go to work with his friend Federico, and reports that Donna Vicenza, an hour after the quarrel with Amalia, decided to set up a competitor and inform the carabinieri on her. Her threats were also heard by Donna Adelaide, Amalia's neighbor, who now retells Donna Vicenza's speech in full detail.

The Jovine family, however, does not panic, but begins to carry out a pre-prepared plan, the purpose of which is to mislead the carabinieri. Don Gennaro goes to bed and pretends to be dead. The rest pretend to be deeply grieving relatives, and two young people even dress up as nuns. Soon the foreman of the Carabinieri Chappa enters with his two assistants. This is a man in his fifties. He knows his business; life and service hardened his soul. He is well aware that in certain cases, especially in Naples, you need to pretend that you don’t notice “something”. He ironically notes that too many dead people have recently divorced in Naples. Straight epidemic! Then, turning to an official tone, he invites everyone to stop the masquerade. He asks the "dead man" to stand up and threatens to put handcuffs on him otherwise. No one wants to give up first and stop the draw. Chappa does not risk touching the "dead man", but promises that he will leave only when the dead man is taken away.

From afar, a siren signal is heard, announcing an enemy air raid. Chappa's aides flee to the hideout, with some of the company gathered in the room following them. Then Chappa, admiring the restraint of Donna Gennaro, promises him that if he gets up, he will neither arrest him nor search him. Gennaro stands up and the foreman, pleased that he was right, keeps his word. Then, to the sincere admiration of those present, the generous foreman Chappa leaves.

The next events of the play take place after the landing of the Anglo-American troops. Donna Amalia's room shines with cleanliness and luxury. Amalia herself has also become completely different: she is smart, hung with jewelry and looks younger. She is preparing for Errico Handsome's birthday, which will be celebrated in the evening at her coffee shop. From the busy traffic in the alley, it seems that "freedom" has come and food supplies are sold in abundance.

Don Gennaro disappeared a year and a half ago after one of the air raids. Since then, nothing has been heard of him.

Maria Rosaria is followed by two friends with whom she is going to go on a date in the evening. The girls meet with American soldiers and are sure that they will marry them when their lovers collect all the documents necessary for the wedding. The possibility that young people will leave for America without them does not frighten the girls; from their glances and omissions it is clear that the girls have already crossed a certain, unacceptable line in relations with their lovers, they are leaving.

Errico appears in the coffee shop. Now he is an arch-millionaire and dressed chic. The fact that he is the idol of the women of the quarter is well known to him and flatters his vanity. He does business with Amalia, but he also likes her as a woman. He wants to talk to her about something important, but someone constantly interferes with them. Don Riccardo enters the room, he has lost weight, turned pale, is poorly dressed, he looks miserable. He lost his job a few months ago and is now barely making ends meet. Before he had two apartments and a house. He was forced to sell the apartments (Amaliya bought them), and mortgage the house (she also gave him the money as a pledge with the right to redeem within six months). The ransom deadline has passed, but Riccardo asks Amalia to make concessions and extend it. She treats him ruthlessly and harshly, reminding him of the times when he and his family used expensive stores, and her children ate pea-husk stew. Riccardo is humiliated and, muttering something, leaves. Handsome once again tries to convince Amalia to become his lover. Amalia is not indifferent to Handsome, but she cannot give in to her desire. Three days ago she had received a letter addressed to Gennaro from a man who had been with him all last year. Gennaro must return. Their conversation is interrupted by Federico, who suddenly appeared from the street, and then Amedeo.

Maria Rosaria sadly returns from a failed date: her lover has already left for America. She confesses to her mother that she has committed an irreparable offense; mother arranges a scandal for her daughter and beats her. Don Gennaro appears on the threshold of the house, followed by a whole crowd of shocked neighbors. He was in a concentration camp, fled, traveled all over Europe and is now glad that he returned home and sees his relatives. During the birthday celebration, no one wants to hear about what Gennaro had to endure, and he, under the pretext of being tired, goes to Ritucci's room.

The next day, a doctor is called to the girl, who says that if one medicine is not available, the girl will die. No one can get this medicine. Not even on the black market. Amalia is desperate. Upon learning that Jovina needs to save the child, Riccardo comes to the coffee shop, who accidentally turned out to have the right medicine, and gives it to Amalia for free. Riccardo's behavior and words make her think about her heartless behavior towards him. Gennaro exacerbates her torment, calling her pursuit of big money, jewels, insane.

Amedeo, who contacted Peppe Jack and helped him steal cars, comes to his senses, listening to the words of his father, and happily avoids prison, although the foreman Chalpa was waiting for him at the crime scene. Maria Rosaria, who confessed her sin to her father, is forgiven by Gennaro. Amalia, he also relieves the soul and inspires faith that she is. still be able to become a decent person.