Lodovico the malcontent

Like Flamineo, Lodovico is presented as a malcontent, a familiar figure on the English stage at this time (see Religious/philosophical context > The Renaissance in England > Jacobean melancholy). Such roles voiced the discontent familiar to a contemporary audience facing economic instability (see Social/political context > Reign of James I > The problems of James I's reign > Dashed social and economic expectations).

Lodovico is introduced in Act 1 scene 1 as a character very dissatisfied with his lot in life. He has been sentenced to banishment as a punishment for murder, but he is blind to the justice of this and thinks the punishment too harsh. He thinks bitterly that his enemies have plotted against him and he that is suffering at the hands of fate:

‘Fortune's a right whore:
If she give ought, she deals it in small parcels,
That she may take it away all at one swoop.
This ‘tis to have great enemies,
(Act 1 scene 1)

As a Count he shows particular resentment towards the more powerful Duke Brachiano, whose own immorality (seeking to seduce Vittoria) appears to go unpunished. His resentment of Vittoria is based on the fact that she ‘might have got my pardon / For one kiss to the Duke.' (Act 1 sc 1)

As a malcontent he is a character who can readily be used in the plots that abound in the play, since he is always ready to settle old scores.

Lodovico the lover

The virtue that ennobles Lodovico is his unreciprocated love for Isabella, wife of Brachiano and sister of Francisco:

  • In Act 2 sc 1 we discover Lodovico has gone to Isabella in Padua to ask for her help after his banishment
  • Shown through the arts of the Conjuror (Act 2 sc 2), Lodovico is in attendance on Isabella and expresses sorrow when her death is discovered
  • Lodovico confesses his feeling for Isabella to Monticelso:
‘Sir I did love Brachiano's Duchess dearly;
Or rather I pursued her with hot lust,
Though she ne'er knew on't.'
(Act 4 scene 3)

Lodovico the avenger

Lodovico's most prominent role in the play is as an avenger. He gets involved in the conspiracies to take revenge on Brachiano, Vittoria and Flamineo because of his devotion to Isabella, after she is murdered at the instigation of Brachiano:

  • Francisco is able to use Lodovico's devotion to his sister to enlist him in the conspiracy:
‘You have ta'en the sacrament to prosecute
Th'intended murder.' (Act 4 scene 3)
  • Although Monticelso manages to persuade Lodovico that revenge is ‘damnable', Francisco tricks him into thinking that Monticelso has tried to bribe him. This strengthens the wavering Count's resolve: ‘Now to th'act of blood;' (Act 4 sc 3)

Moral descent

Once Lodovico has rejected the moral guidance of the Pope, his course becomes not only more violent but also he appears to relish this change:

  • Lodovico goes to Brachiano's court in disguise, determined to pursue vengeance. He first poisons Brachiano and then strangles him
  • He then continues to conspire with Francisco to take revenge on Vittoria and Flamineo
  • As Lodovico and his fellow conspirators prepare to kill Vittoria and Flamineo they call Isabella's name. He revels in the fact that he is killing them for vengeance:
‘Nought grieves but that you are too few to feed
The famine of our vengeance.' (Act 5 scene 6)
  • At the end of the play when he is captured by Giovanni, he is completely unrepentant:
‘I do glory yet
That I can call this act mine own:' (Act 5 scene 6)

As both malcontent and avenger, Lodovico fulfils two of the most prominent roles in seventeenth century revenge tragedy.

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