Guide Written by Michael J. Cummings...©
of Work and Year of Publication
Daughteru0094 is a short story with Gothic overtones. It first appeared in
the United States Democratic Review (Volume 15, Issue 78)
in December 1844. In 1846, it appeared in a Hawthorne collection of stories
and sketches, Mosses From an Old Manse., published in New York by
Wiley and Putnam. (Hawthorne lived in an "old manse" in Concord, Mass.,
from 1842 to 1845.)
action takes place in the nineteenth century in Padua, a major city in
northern Italy. Most of the scenes are set in a garden cultivated by Dr.
Giacomo Rappaccini and his daughter, Beatrice, and in an apartment with
a view onto the garden. The occupant of the apartment is Giovanni Guasconti,
a medical student at the University of Padua. Other scenes take place on
the streets of Padua and at the university, where Guasconti meets a professor
of medicine. The university, founded in 1222, maintains Europe's oldest
botanical garden, established in 1545.
Dr. Giacomo Rappaccini
(pronunciation: JAHK uh mo Rahp uh CHEE ne): Renowned but sinister Padua
physician who cultivates highly poisonous plants in his garden with the
help of his daughter. He then attempts to extract medical cures from the
Guasconti (pronunciation: Joh VAHN e Gwa SKOHN te): Handsome Neapolitan
student enrolled in the medical curriculum at the University of Padua.
He lives in an apartment overlooking Rappaccini's garden and makes the
acquaintance of the doctor's daughter, whose beauty and mysterious powers
Daughter of Dr. Rappaccini. Over the years, her father has exposed her
to toxins in his plants and flowers as part of his experimentation. As
a result, she becomes poisonous like the flowers, capable of killing an
insect or an animal merely by breathing on it. However, she herself is
immune to the effects of the toxins. She lives a life of isolation in the
doctor's house and garden.
Dr. Pietro Baglioni
(pronunciation: PYET ro Bal YOHN e): Professor of medicine at the University
of Padua to whom Giovanni Guasconti reports with a letter of introduction
from his father, a friend of the professor. Baglioni and Dr. Rappaccini
are professional rivals and bitter enemies, one striving to outdo the other
in medical achievements.
Old Lisabetta (pronunciation:
Leez uh BET uh): Housekeeper in the mansion where Giovanni Guasconti rents
an apartment. She shows Giovanni through corridors that lead to a secret
entrance to Dr. Rappaccini's garden.
Michael J. Cummings...©
beginning his medical studies at the University of Padua in northern Italy,
a young man from southern Italy takes an apartment on an upper floor of
an old mansion that once belonged to a family of nobles. He recalls that
one member of the family was among the lost souls whom Dante depicted in
the Inferno of his Divine Comedy.
This recollection, together with the dreariness of the chamber and the
uneasiness the young man feels at being away from home, occasions a heavy
sigh from him.
name is Giovanni Guasconti, a resident of Naples. His good looks have won
him the admiration of Lisabetta, an old woman who is trying to give his
room a livable atmosphere. Upon hearing his sigh, she suggests that he
look out the window at the bright sunshine. When he does so, he notices
a well-kept garden that Lisabetta says belongs to a neighbor, the famous
physician Giacomo Rappaccini, who cultivates the plants in the garden to
make medicines. His daughter helps him tend it. After completing her chores,
contemplating the garden, Giovanni notices the crumbling remains of a marble
fountain in the middle of the garden, water cheerfully burbling from it.
Surrounding it are plants and flowers, some in urns bearing carvings and
some in ordinary pots. One shrub in a marble vase in the fountain pool
displays beautiful purple blossoms. Another thriving plant has wound itself
up and around a statue of Vertumnus. A tall man
appearsu0097u0093emaciated, sallow, and sickly looking, dressed in a scholar's
black garb.u0094 He examines the plants closely but does not smell them or
touch them except to remove dead leaves with thick protective gloves. It
is as if they are evil. When he examines the shrub with purple blossoms,
he wears a mask covering his nostrils and mouth. Then he draws back from
it and calls for his daughter, Beatrice.
beautiful young woman comes out, more striking than the most radiant of
the flowers. Speaking of the shrub, Rappaccini tells tells Beatrice, u0093[S]hattered
as I am, my life might pay the penalty of approaching it so closely as
circumstances demand. Henceforth, this plant must be consigned to your
sole charge.u0094 Gladly accepting the task, Beatrice speaks to the flower,
calling it a u0093sisteru0094 that she will care for tenderly. In return, the flower
is to allow Beatrice to breathe in its fragrance, which the young lady
refers to as u0093the breath of life.u0094 She then tends to the flower lovingly
without wearing a mask or gloves. As evening draws on and Rappaccini and
his daughter exit the scene, Giovanni's fancy suggests to him that the
girl and the garden are u0093fraught with some strange peril.u0094
the morning, however, Giovanni's spirits soar when he looks down upon the
garden as its dewdrops reflect the brilliant sunlight. Gone are his ominous
fantasies of the previous evening. He thinks himself lucky to have a room
that overlooks such floral magnificence.
the university, he presents himself with a letter of introduction to Dr.
Pietro Baglioni, a highly respected professor of medicine. The two of them
dine together and engage in conversation enlivened by the effect of wine
on Baglioni. Wondering whether the professor knows Rappaccini, Giovanni
mentions the latter's name. Baglioni praises Rappaccini for his skills,
saying only one other physician in all of Italy can rival his learning.
(Here, Baglioni is alluding to himself.) But he adds that he has u0093certain
grave objections to [Rappaccini's] professional character.u0094 In particular,
he says, Rappaccini is coldly scientific, regarding his patients as objects
for experiments rather than as human beings. He would even jeopardize his
own life to add a morsel of knowledge to the medical books. Rappaccini,
he says, makes deadly poisons from plants, then extracts from the poisons
cures for afflictions. Baglioni acknowledges that occasionally one of Rappaccini's
to tell you my private mind, Signor Giovanni," Baglioni says, "he should
receive little credit for such instances of successu0097they being probably
the work of chanceu0097but should be held strictly accountable for his failures,
which may justly be considered his own work."
intently, Giovanni is unaware that Baglioni and Rappaccini have long been
rivals in a struggle for dominance in the medical field. So far, Rappaccini
has the upper hand. When Giovanni asks the professor about Rappaccini's
daughter, Baglioni replies that her extraordinary beauty is well known
to all the young men in Padua, although few of them have actually seen
her. But he also says she has learned her father's art so well that she
could become a professor herself.
returning to the mansion, Giovanni buys a bouquet of flowers. After arriving
in his chambers, he goes straight to the window to look again upon the
garden. In a few moments, the young lady appears and goes to the shrub
with purple flowers, opens her arms, and gently embraces it. She then picks
one of its flowers. At that moment, Giovanni notices an orange lizard or
chameleon on the walkway near the flower. From the broken stem of the picked
flower moisture falls on the creature's head. It suffers a spasm and dies.
Beatrice, feeling sorry for the creature, makes a sign of the cross, then
arranges the deadly flower inside the décolletage of her dress.
No harm comes to her. A moment later, a winged insect hovers about her,
then falls and dies. It had not even come in contact with her.
Giovanni makes a slight movement at the window, Beatrice looks up and sees
the handsome young man. Impulsively, he throws her the bouquet of flowers
and asks her to wear them for his sake. She thanks him, picks up the flowers,
and hurries toward the entrance to her house. Before she disappears from
view, Giovanni notices that the flowers are withering. He then doubts his
perception. From the window, how could he possibly distinguish a dying
flower from a fresh one?
pass and Giovanni does not go to the window, for he does not know what
to make of this woman. She is both lovely and dangerous. Yes, she fascinates
him, but her strange powers also horrify him.
day, Professor Baglioni stops him on a street to talk with him. Just as
he is about to speak, a man in black approaches. He is stooped and has
a sickly complexion. But his face exhibits an energy of mind. It is Rappaccini.
As he passes, he and Baglioni nod coldly to each other. Rappaccini also
gazes momentarily at Giovanni before moving on. Baglioni asks Giovanni
whether Rappaccini has ever seen him.
that I know,u0094 Giovanni says.
then asserts that he knows Rappaccini has seen Giovanni.
know that look of his,u0094 Baglioni says.
is the same look that Rappaccini casts upon a mouse or a butterfly that
he is examining after killing it with the poisonous fragrance of a flower.
When Baglioni implies that Rappaccini's daughter is helping her father
study Giovanni, the young man becomes angry and walks on. Baglioni stares
after him and decidesu0097out of his friendship for Giovanni's father and out
of a desire to punish Rappacciniu0097to foil Rappaccini's plans.
Giovanni arrives at his residence, old Lisabetta greets him and whispers
to him that there is a door in the house that opens into Rappacini's garden.
He gives her a gold coin, and she leads him through passages that end at
the door to the garden. Giovanni enters the garden. The doctor and his
daughter are nowhere to be seen. Giovanni then begins scrutinizing the
plants. Although they are beautiful, they seem unnatural; he concludes
that they are experimental crossbreeds. Several plants look plainly artificial,
u0093glowing only with an evil mockery of beauty.u0094
enters the garden. To Giovanni's relief, she does not question him about
his presence there. Instead, she says she understands why he would wish
to take a close look at the garden. Having heard that she is an expert
in horticulture, Giovanni says, he asks her to instruct him in the cultivation
and properties of the plants. But she denies having special knowledge
know no more of them than their hues and perfume,u0094 she says.
smells a fragrance when she speaks. Is it her breath or the odor of the
walk through the garden as Beatrice asks him about life in the city and
about himself, his home, his family, and his friends. The way she frames
her questions reveals an ignorance about the world outside the garden.
It is as if she has never ventured beyond the garden. They stop at the
fountain before the shrub with purple flowers. Giovanni smells a fragrance
like that which moments before had seemed to issue from Beatrice.
makes a move toward the shrub as if to pluck a flower. She grasps his hand
and forces it back, saying, u0093Touch it not! Not for thy life! It is fatal!u0094
runs back to her house, hiding her face. At the entrance to the garden
is Dr. Rappaccini, who has been watching the scene.
Giovanni returns inside, he abandons all his misgivings about Beatrice.
She is gentle, admirable, lovable. He thinks about her through the night
and at dawn lapses into sleep. Not long afterward, a bright rising sun
awakens himu0097to pain! It is his right hand, where Beatrice had gripped it.
On his skin is a purple imprint of her fingers. But Giovanni does not make
the connection between it and Beatrice. Instead, he wonders what thing
injured him and wraps his hand in a handkerchief. Thereafter, he continues
to visit the garden. Beatrice, looking for him, always comes out. At times,
she comes out first and calls for him. But they never kiss, never even
hold hands. Whenever he reaches out to her, she keeps her distanceu0097sadly,
with a look of desolation.
morning, Baglioni visits him. He tells Giovanni a story about an Indian
prince who presented a gift to Alexander the Great: a beautiful woman whose
breath was a rich perfume. She had been nourished since birth on poisons
that rendered her more dangerous than any plant or animal. Giovanni pronounces
the tale nonsense. The professor then says he has noticed a strong fragrance
in the apartment, then adds, u0093Our worshipful friend Rappaccini, as I have
heard, tinctures his medicaments with odors richer than those of Araby.
Doubtless, likewise, the fair and learned Signora Beatrice would minister
to her patients with draughts as sweet as a maiden's breath. But wo [woe]
to him that sips them!"
observation reawakens suspicions in Giovanni, but he suppresses them and
accuses the professor of maligning Beatrice. But Baglioni insists that
the young woman is poisonous, like the Indian princess in his story. Her
father heartlessly uses her in his experiments, Baglioni says, and now
he wants to use Giovanni. However, Baglioni continues, it may not be too
late to save Beatrice. He then places a silver phial on a table, one which
he says contains a liquid with the power to restore her to normalcy.
the professor leaves, Giovanni struggles with himself over what to do.
One part of him denies that Beatrice is anything but normal; he had to
be mistaken about the withering flowers, the lizard, and the insect. Another
part of him worries that she is indeed poisonous. Deciding to conduct a
test, he goes out and buys a bouquet of flowers still fresh with morning
dew. He plans to present them to Beatrice. After returning to his apartment,
he notices that the flowers are beginning to droop. Could it be that he
now has poison in his breath? Seeing a spider near the window, he breathes
on it. It convulses and dies. Giovanni is shocked.
that very moment, Beatrice calls to him from the garden. He now feels vengeful
toward her. When he goes down and sees her, this feeling begins to diminish.
However, he remains sullen, suspicious. Beatrice senses something is wrong.
They walk in the garden. When they stand before the marble fountain, Giovanni
finds himself eagerly breathing in the fragrance of the purple flowers.
He asks Beatrice about it. She tells him her father created it.
the hour when I first drew breath, this plant sprang from the soil, the
offspring of his science. . . .u0094 she says. u0093I grew up and blossomed
with the plant, and was nourished with its breath.u0094
builds in Giovanni when she tells him that she was cut off from people
until she met him. Giovanni can no longer contain his rage.
finding thy solitude wearisome, thou hast severed me, likewise, from all
the warmth of life, and enticed me into thy region of unspeakable horror
. . . Thou hast filled my veins with poison! Thou hast made me as hateful,
as ugly, as loathsome and deadly a creature as thyself! "
deeply hurt, does not understand what he is saying. He then breathes on
garden insects to demonstrate for her the evil power conferred on him.
When the insects begin to fall dead, she shrieks and says she did nothing
to cause the change in him.
my father!u0097he has united us in this fearful sympathy . . . Not for a world
of bliss would I have done it!"
anger subsides. He then wonders whether it is possible to rid himself and
Beatrice of their terrible affliction. Baglioni's phialu0097it could be their
salvation. When he produces it, she says she will drink from it first,
cautioning him to await the result before he drinks. As she sips the liquid,
her father enters the garden. He is happy to see Beatrice and Giovanni
together, believing that they are now united as creatures of his scientific
daughter," Rappaccini says, "thou art no longer lonely in the world! Pluck
one of those precious gems from thy sister shrub, and bid thy bridegroom
wear it in his bosom.u0094
asks her father why he has made her life so miserable. But he says he gave
her a gift, a mighty power. Beatrice replies that she would rather have
been loved, not feared. However, what he has done no longer matters, she
says, for she is now leaving this world. To Giovanni, she says that his
hateful words of a few moments agou0097words that wounded her heartu0097no longer
matter either. She adds, u0093Oh, was there not, from the first, more poison
in thy nature than in mine?"
Beatrice dies, Baglioni, who had reentered Giovanni's apartment, calls
from the window, "Rappaccini! Rappaccini! And is this the upshot of your
Main Theme: Corruption
is the main theme of u0093Rappaccini'su0094 daughter. Among the definitions of
corruption are these: (1) wickedness, evil, malignity; (2) contamination,
pollution, decay. Hawthorne focuses on both kinds of corruption, contrasting
one with the other in order to make clear this truth: that the more heinous
form of corruption is the first kind, which lodges in the human heart and
theme of corruption begins to manifest itself when old Lisabetta refers
to the u0093strange flowersu0094 that grow in the garden and the narrator mentions
plants that u0093crept serpent-like along the ground.u0094 When Rappaccini appears
in the garden to study the plants, the narrator observes that u0093the man's
demeanor was that of one walking among malignant influences, such as savage
beasts, or deadly snakes, or evil spirits, which, should he allow them
one moment of license, would wreak upon him some terrible fatality.u0094
the real evil is not in the garden plants; it is in Rappaccini. He is a
canker that generates corruption. He first corrupts his soul, committing
the father of all sins, pride, by defying God and nature in order to aggrandize
his reputation through experiments that turn his garden into an evil Eden.
His experimentation also corrupts his body, which becomes feeble and sickly,
and transforms his innocent daughter into a poisonous agent whose very
breath can kill.
evildoing extends also to old Lisabetta, whom he apparently uses as his
cat's paw to ensnare Giovanniu0097via Beatrice's charmsu0097for his experiments.
When and how he persuaded or forced Lisabetta to serve him is unknown,
but her complicity in his scheming becomes apparent when she informs Giovanni
of a secret door to the garden. Giovanni reacts with this thought: u0093[T]his
interposition of old Lisabetta might perchance be connected with the intrigue,
whatever were its nature, in which the Professor seemed to suppose that
Doctor Rappaccini was involving him [Giovanni].u0094
spite of his misgivings, Giovanni enters the garden to strike up a relationship
with the lovely Beatrice. Over time, his contact with her and the noxious
perfumes in the garden corrupt his body, turning it into a reservoir of
poison. Outraged, he impugns Beatrice as the corrupting agent.
one!" cried he, with venomous scorn and anger. "And finding thy solitude
wearisome, thou hast severed me, likewise, from all the warmth of life,
and enticed me into thy region of unspeakable horror . . . Thou hast filled
my veins with poison! Thou hast made me as hateful, as ugly, as loathsome
and deadly a creature as thyselfu0097a world's wonder of hideous monstrosity!
Nowu0097if our breath be happily as fatal to ourselves as to all othersu0097let
us join our lips in one kiss of unutterable hatred, and so die!".......His
tirade against the young woman reveals that the real poison that befouls
him lies within his heart.
then assures Giovanni that she never intended to harm him. u0093I dreamed only
to love thee,u0094 she says, u0093and be with thee a little time, and so to let
thee pass away, leaving but thine image in mine heart. . . But my father!u0097he
has united us in this fearful sympathy.u0094
Giovanni reveals Baglioni's phial as an antidote for the contaminants in
their bodies, she says, u0093Give it to me! . . . I will drink but do thou
await the result.u0094 Her response indicates
that she suspects foul play but is willing to test the antidote on herself.
If it turns out to be a fatal poison, only she will die. Giovanni will
live. Whether Giovanni's love for Beatrice is as strong as her love for
himu0097or whether he even experiences love rather than infatuationu0097is unlikely.
After all, he curses her in the belief that she willingly contaminated
him, a development revealing that he lacks faith in her. His outrage suggests
that his is a u0093fair weatheru0094 passion. When things go right, he will love
her. When things go wrong, he will withhold his love. Beatrice apparently
senses that his love is insincere. When she is dying, she tells him,
u0093 Farewell, Giovanni! Thy words of hatred are like lead within my heartu0097but
they, too, will fall away as I ascend. Oh, was there not, from the first,
more poison in thy nature than in mine?"
what of Professor Baglioni? Is he too corrupt? The evidence suggests that
he is. He provides a phial of liquid that he says will restore Beatrice
to normalcy. Instead, it kills her within minutes. One may argue that his
purpose in providing the poison was to protect Giovanni, the son of his
good friend in Naples. But other evidence suggests that his motive was
a mixture of revenge and ambition. Remember, he has been competing with
Rappaccini for recognition as the best physician in Italy, as he implies
when he tells Giovanni, u0093The truth is, our worshipful Doctor Rappaccini
has as much science as any member of the facultyu0097with perhaps one single
exception . . . .u0094 The u0093single exceptionu0094 is of course Baglioniu0097or so Baglioni
appears to think.
Baglioni and Rappaccini are bitter rivals is well known: u0093[T]here was a
professional warfare of long continuance between him and Doctor Rappaccini,u0094
the narrator says, u0093in which the latter was generally thought to have gained
the advantage. If the reader be inclined to judge for himself, we refer
him to certain black-letter tracts on both sides, preserved in the medical
department of the University of Padua.u0094
is clear, then, that Baglioni and Rappaccini despise each other. To get
the better of Rappaccini, Baglioni plans to poison Beatrice. He muses to
himself: u0093This daughter of his! It shall be looked to. Perchance, most
learned Rappaccini, I may foil you where you little dream of it!"
Beatrice dies, Baglioni peers down from the window and, as the narrator
says, u0093called loudly, in a tone of triumph mixed with horror, to the thunder-stricken
man of science: "Rappaccini! Rappaccini! And is this the upshot of your
Exceeding the Bounds of
far exceeds the bounds of morality when he ruins the life of his daughteru0097and
jeopardizes his own lifeu0097for the sake of achieving scientific breakthroughs.
His fictional research foreshadows the experimentation of historical
figures such as the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele. a member of the Institute
for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene, founded in Nazi Germany in 1934.
Mengele performed cruel experiments on live human beings in the Birkenau
concentration camp, where he served as an SS officer beginning in 1943.
Mengele, known as the u0093Angel of Death,u0094 was attempting to further his knowledge
of twins and of fertility techniques. Jewish inmates became virtual guinea
pigs, enduring great pain and suffering. Here in the 21st Century scientists
are experimenting with the possibility of cloning human beings, an activity
which theologians generally condemn as unethical and immoral.
Dr. Rappaccini corrupts the body of Beatrice, her soul remains pristine.
She is a gentle young woman who treats even the highly poisonous plant
in the marble vase with tenderness. After meeting Giovanni, she falls in
love with him. Hers is genuine love that sets no conditions or makes no
demands. When Giovanni reveals Baglioni's phial as an antidote for the
contaminants in their bodies, she says, u0093Give it to me! . . . I will drink
but do thou await the result.u0094 Her response indicates that she suspects
foul play but is willing to test the antidote on herself. If it turns out
to be a fatal poison, only she will die. Giovanni will live. Whether Giovanni's
love for Beatrice is as strong as her love for himu0097or whether he even experiences
love rather than infatuationu0097is open to question. After all, he curses
her in the belief that she willingly contaminated him, a development revealing
that he lacks faith in her. His outrage suggests that his is a u0093fair weatheru0094
passion. When things go right, he will love her. When things go wrong,
he will withhold his love. Beatrice apparently senses that his love is
insincere. When she is dying, she tells him, u0093Farewell, Giovanni! Thy words
of hatred are like lead within my heartu0097but they, too, will fall away as
I ascend. Oh, was there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature
than in mine?"
and Baglioni, rivals in science, despise each other. One of the goals of
Rappaccini's research is to discover medical breakthroughs that will elevate
his reputation above Baglioni's. Baglioni retaliates with the phial of
poison that kills Beatrice.
her father has turned Beatrice into a poisonous agent, she remains isolated
in her house and garden. Her ignorance of the world outside and her lack
of contact with its inhabitants have rendered her a mere child in terms
of cultural and social growth, as the following passage attests:
gay, and appeared to derive a pure delight from her communion with the
[Giovanni], not unlike what the maiden of a lonely island might have felt,
conversing with a voyager from the civilized world. Evidently her experience
of life had been confined within the limits of that garden. She talked
now about matters as simple as the day-light or summer-clouds, and now
asked questions in reference to the city, or Giovanni's distant home, his
friends, his mother, and his sisters; questions indicating such seclusion,
and such lack of familiarity with modes and forms, that Giovanni responded
as if to an infant. Artificiality
all the plants in Rappaccini's garden appear unnatural to Giovanni. And,
he says, u0093Several . . . would have shocked a delicate instinct by an appearance
of artificialness, indicating that there had been such commixture, and,
as it were, adultery of various vegetable species, that the production
was no longer of God's making, but the monstrous offspring of man's depraved
fancy, glowing with only an evil mockery of beauty.u0094 The artificiality
of the flowers reflects the artificiality of Giovanni's affection for Beatrice.
It is insincere. It also reflects the artificiality of Dr. Rappaccini's
motives in seeking breakthrough medical cures. His primary interest is
not in saving lives but in enhancing his reputation and satisfying his
coldly intellectual curiosity.
Rappaccini exploits Beatrice in his medical research. Giovanni exploits
her for her charms; his professed love for her seems insincere. Dr. Baglioni
kills Beatrice to spite Rappaccini.
varying degrees, curiosity drives the actions of Dr. Rappaccini (who seeks
knowledge about the curative powers of poison), Giovanni Guasconti (who
seeks to know more about the strange but lovely young woman in the garden),
and Beatrice (who seeks knowledge of the world outside the garden).
wrote the story in third-person point of view, enabling the narrator to
reveal the thoughts of Giovanni Guasconti.
following quoted sentence foreshadows Giovanni Guasconti's contamination
with the poisonous perfumes: "Night was already closing in; oppressive
exhalations seemed to proceed from the plants, and steal upward past the
open window [of Giovanni's apartment]. . . ."
climax occurs when Baglioni's "antidote" fatally poisons Beatrice.
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Symbols, Allusions, and
alembic: Glass or
metal apparatus used for distilling.
Alexander the Great
(356-323 BC): Macedonian general and king who conquered Egypt and vast
lands in Asia. Along the path of his march, he founded cities and spread
the culture of Greece.
Coat of arms; heraldic emblem.
of purity and goodness. Though her father has corrupted her body with poisons,
Beatrice's soul remains pristine. The narrator compares her soul to the
purity of untainted water: "Her spirit gushed out before him like a fresh
rill, that was just catching its first glimpse of the sunlight, and wondering,
at the reflections of earth and sky which were flung into its bosom." The
name Beatrice is derived from the Latin word beatrix, meaning
who makes people happy. Beatrice was the name of the young woman to
whom Dante Alighieri (see Dante, below) dedicated
many poems. That woman, Beatrice Portinari, died in 1290, when she was
only twenty-four. Dante glorified her in The Divine Comedy.
Borgia: Name of a
powerful and corrupt Italian family of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
The Borgias were of Spanish descent.
(1500-1571): Renowned Italian sculptor and metalsmith.
Dante Alighieri, regarded as Italy's preeminent author. His finest work
is The Divine Comedy, which is divided into three sections: Inferno
(Hell), Purgatorio (Purgatory), and Paradiso (Heaven).
Christi, a dry red wine made from grapes from vines flourishing on the
slopes of Mount Vesuvius, near Naples. The name derives from the Latin
words lacrima (the word for tear) and Christi (the
word for of Christ). Thus, Lacryma Christi means Tear of Christ.
According to an old myth, Lucifer wreaked destruction on the slopes of
Vesuvius after God cast him out of heaven. Saddened by what he saw, Christ
cried. His tears watered the slopes of Vesuvius, resulting in the germination
and growth of vines that produced u0093heavenlyu0094 grapes.
Symbol of physical corruption and purity of soul. In this respect, it is
like Beatrice. Consider the description of the fountain:
[T]here was the
ruin of a marble fountain in the centre, sculptured with rare art, but
so wofully [woefully] shattered that it was impossible to trace the original
design from the chaos of remaining fragments. The water, however, continued
to gush and sparkle into the sunbeams as cheerfully as ever. A little gurgling
sound ascended to the young man's window, and made him feel as if a fountain
were an immortal spirit, that sung its song unceasingly. . . .purple: Possibly a symbol
representing experimentation requiring the mixture of one thing with another.
(Purple is a "hybrid" color that results from blending blue and red.) Purple
may also represent human beings, who are mixtures of good and bad.
Rappaccini's black clothing:
Symbol of evil. Black is a primordial symbol, a term coined by Psychologist
Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) to describe objects, colors, and other external
stimuli that (1) have existed since the beginning of time and (2) are generally
perceived in the same way by all people. Examples of other primordial symbols
are an overcast sky (gloom, depression, despair), the color red (anger,
passion, war, blood), the color green (new life, hope), autumn (old age),
In Roman mythology, the god of seasons and of ripening plants and fruits.
He woos and wins Pomona, a nymph. Before meeting Vertumnus, she had confined
herself to her garden to tend plants and fruits. The statue of Vertumnus
can be interpreted as a symbol of Giovanni, who woos Beatrice.
of the Mansion
old mansion in which Giovanni Guasconti lodges casts a sinister and mysterious
shadow over the story, thereby undergirding the story's mood and tone.
the narrator notes that Guasconti's apartment is in a "high and gloomy
chamber" of the building. Next, he reveals the following thought of Guasconti
about the family that once occupied the mansion: "one of the ancestors
of this family, and perhaps an occupant of this very mansion, had been
pictured by Dante as a partaker of the immortal agonies of his "Inferno."
The Inferno is hell as Dante envisioned it. In his Divine Comedy,
he describes the agonies suffered by souls condemned to nine circles that
make up the Inferno. The narrator in Hawthorne's story does not mention
the name of the ancestor, but it could have been Reginaldo degli Scrovegni.
Scrovegni was a notorious Paduan usurer (a moneylender who profits from
high interest rates). Dante confined him to the Seventh Circle of his Inferno.
The ancestor could also have been Ezzolino da Romano (1194-1259), a tyrannical
ruler of Padua and other cities. After the death of his first wife, he
married a woman named Beatrice. He also is confined to the Seventh Circle.
narrator later reveals, through old Lisabetta, that the mansion has a secret
door leading into Rappaccini's garden. This dooru0097and the corridors leading
to itu0097add an element of Gothic mystery.
Following are examples of
figures of speech in "Rappaccini's Daughter":
Repetition of a consonant
shrub in particular, set in a marble
vase in the midst of the pool . . .
bore a profusion of purple
sun] gilded the dew-drops
that hung upon leaf and blossom, and,
while giving a brighter beauty
to each rare flower, brought everything
within the limits of ordinary experience.
to be worshipped;
capable, surely, on her
part, of the height and heroism
Comparison of unlike things
without using like, as, or than
and dread kept a continual warfare in his breast, alternately vanquishing
one another and starting up afresh to renew the contest. (Comparison of
hope and dread to battlefield combatants)
in the oriental sunshine of her beauty (Comparison of beauty to sunshine)
Comparison of a thing to
Passion will choose
his own time to rush upon the scene, and lingers sluggishly behind, when
an appropriate adjustment of events would seem to summon his appearance.
(Comparison of passion to a male human being)Onomatopoeia
Word that imitates a sound
gurgling sound ascended to the
young man's window. . . .
came the sight and sound of rustling
Comparison of unlike things
using like, as, or than
am I, my father! What would you?" cried a rich and youthful voice from
the window of the opposite house; a voice as rich as a tropical sunset.
. . . (Comparison of the voice to a sunset)
whispered she, still with a smile over the whole breadth of her visage,
so that it looked not unlike a grotesque carving in wood, darkened by centuries.
(Comparison of the face to a wood carving)
fervor glowed in her whole aspect, and beamed upon Giovanni's consciousness
like the light of truth itself. (Comparison of fervor to the "light of
statement that may actually be true
Paragraph 3: And
down he hastened into that Eden of poisonous flowers..
Study Questions and Essay
a short psychological profile of Dr. Rappaccini.
a short psychological profile of Giovanni Guasconti.
Hawthorne's style, write a continuation of the story that reveals the fate
of Giovanni Guasconti.
an essay that tells how modern medical science uses poisons to produce
agents that can cure patients of diseases or immunize them against the
effects of poisons, such as snake venom.
Professor Baglioni guilty of murder?
does Dr. Rappaccini have in common with Victor
science have a right to jeopardize the life of one human being in order
to improve or save the lives of many human beings?