GIOVANNI AND LUSANNA: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence by Gene Brucker

GIOVANNI AND LUSANNA: Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A true tale of class-crossed lovers in Renaissance Florence, discovered by scholar Brucker in a notary's transcript. Giovanni, scion of a prominent merchant family, was smitten by and seduced Lusanna, a beauty from a petit-bourgeois background. The affair continued for 12 years, until Giovanni announced his marriage to an aristocratic girl. A classic case of love 'em and leave 'em, except Lusanna sued to annul Giovanni's match, claiming he was already married--to her. The action was a highly unusual one. ""By insisting on the legitimacy of her marriage to Giovanni,"" Brucker writes, ""Lusanna was challenging a basic tenet of the social order."" This doctrine translated roughly as ""stick to your own kind""; in an era when wedlock was more a matter of economics than emotions, most people married their social equals. Indeed, the cornerstone of Giovanni's defense rested on the concept that no Florentine male would wed a lower-born, dowerless woman. Brucker, author of Renaissance Florence, turns what might have been a dusty piece of scholar's trivia into a top-notch courtroom drama, complete with contradictory testimony and recanting witnesses. Character defamations fly, lawyers delay, suspense over the verdict mounts. And as with any good trial thriller, there's even a final twist, when the original decision in Lusanna's favor is overturned by a higher court. Brucker's narrative, along with his sources, peters out at this point. Lacking further transcripts, he's forced to speculate as to the grounds of the reversal and, even more frustratingly, can only guess what happened to Lusanna--she disappears from subsequent records. Giovanni, meanwhile, kept his aristocratic wife but lost (one notes with satisfaction) much of his fortune. As the author admits, the story of Giovanni and Lusanna is a historical footnote at best. But it's a fascinating one, which gives that clichÉ phrase ""a class-conscious society"" a refreshingly human dimension.

Pub Date: March 31st, 1986
ISBN: 0520244958
Publisher: Univ. of California Press