A retelling of the 16th century tragedy of the Cencis reconstructs and re-examines the patricide and its murderous web shadowed by corruption. The young Beatrice, imprisoned and taunted with her stepmother, Lucrezia, by the cruelly capricious Francesco, sees her plans to murder her father by bandits and by poison come to nothing and is at last successful when the seneschal, Olimpio, and the tinker combine to kill Francesco and dispose of his body in a way that will resemble an accident. The proliferation of evil spreads through a ""world full of serpents""; the tinker and others are questioned, hunted, tortured; Olimpio is banished by the Cencis leaving Beatrice to bear his child; Beatrice, Lucrezia and her brothers deny everything, but Judge Moscato keeps on the trail of his quarry, eventually proves the connivance of the whole family and they are sentenced to death. Some not so noble Romans here against their century and its flair for the tortuous are given a darkling color and a familiar look of desperation. Sultry.