Escena: Todos son italianos menos Chirimía, Enrique de Avalos y Julio.


D. Alfonso de Aragón

rey de Nápoles


dama ¿italiana?


escudero (de Porcia), italiano


noble italiano


lacayo, criado de Enrique, gracioso


condesa, dama-criada (de la Reina), italiana, cásase con Ludovico

Enrique de Avalos

Marqués del Basto y Pescara, ministro, canciller, almirante, privado

Fabio Rufo (Isabela)

coronel italiano, pretendiente  

Isabel (Isabela)  criada (de Elena), italiana




conde, preso, italiano, traidor


condesa italiana, dama-criada (de la Reina), prima de Elena, cásase con Enrique

Salerno, Príncipe de

príncipe italiano, traidor

Taranto, Príncipe de

príncipe italiano, traidor

P. anón.: dos pretendientes (hablan 504a; R II, 924b); (un criado, habla 506c; 930b; otro habla 515c; 953a?); el capitán de la guardia, (habla 516b; 954b); pretendientes (517c, acot. 2; 958b, acot. 1; no hablan).


Enrique and his two servants, Julio and Chirimía, are preparing to go courting. Enrique speaks of his two friends, César and Ludovico. Julio believes that Ludovico is a more sincere friend than César, while Chirimía says that Ludovico flatters Enrique too much and that César is a truer friend. Soon César and Ludovico come, and Enrique tells them that he's in love with both Porcia and Elena. In an aside César says that he also loves Porcia but would give her up for Enrique.

Enrique, accompanied by César and Ludovico, goes to talk to Elena at her window. Ludovico insists that Elena loves Enrique, but César disagrees. When Enrique calls her "Porcia" by mistake, she becomes furious, which Ludovico attributes to jealousy. He becomes even more insistent that she loves Enrique. César, on the other hand, thinks that she doesn't really love Enrique or she would not have gotten furious with him so easily. The three men then leave Elena, and Enrique talks to Porcia at her window. He mistakes her name on purpose, calling her Casandra, in order to see her reaction. She is not upset at all, but says she loves him and has faith that he loves her. In an aside, however, she confesses that she is dying of jealousy. After they leave her Ludovico is convinced that Porcia doesn't love Enrique, whereas César is equally convinced that she does.

The King of Naples receives a letter saying that three princes are conspiring against him. He doesn't believe the letter because it is anonymous and because he has always tried to be a fair and just king. Enrique, who is one of the King's favorites, advises him that the writer has remained anonymous out of fear and further states that in spite of the King's being just he is still a Spaniard and there are many who want a Neapolitan king. Then, in a cunning plot (the first cautela), the King and Enrique plan that the King will pretend to be angry with Enrique in the hope that Enrique will then be contacted by the traitors or in some way be able to find out who they are. In addition, Enrique will know who his true friends are, because he realizes that a favorite always has many false friends.

Following the plan, the King informs Ludovico, César, the Prince of Taranto and the Prince of Salerno that he is angry with Enrique and he divides Enrique's titles among the four, all of whom accept gratefully, except César, who declares that if Enrique is a traitor he wants to pay for having befriended him, and if he isn't he (César) does not want his (Enrique's) title. The King, in an aside, tells Enrique that he is lucky to have such a friend.           


Enrique is finding out who his true friends are. Chirimía remains with him, but Julio, whom he has favored greatly, goes to Ludovico. Ludovico brings Enrique a note from the King in which the King writes that the bearer of this message is not a true friend of Enrique and that César has interceded with him (the King) on Enrique's behalf. Enrique sends a sealed reply to the King with Ludovico, telling the King that a servant has brought him a message from the two Princes (of Taranto and Salerno) that they want to talk secretly to Enrique. César then comes to Enrique to confirm his friendship and offer to share his wealth with Enrique so that they can go to Spain. At this moment Chirimía brings a message for Enrique that has arrived from the Condesa, saying that she wants to see him. Both Elena and Porcia are condesas, but Enrique assumes the message to be from Elena since Porcia is too poor to consider him now that he is so poor, and he also remembers how jealous Elena was at the window that night (which he interpreted to be a sign of her love for him.)

However, in the meantime, Elena tells her servant, Isabel, that she only liked Enrique because he was so rich and powerful. Isabel recommends Ludovico as having these merits now. Porcia then comes to ask Elena for a jewel so that she can help her lover. Elena gives it to her and also writes a note to Porcia's lover for her, because upon hearing some bad news, Porcia recently fell and cut her hand. Next comes Ludovico and speaks to her of love, but she thinks he's speaking on behalf of Enrique and she, trying to win him for herself, answers him with phrases that have two interpretations, and he incorrectly assumes that she loves Enrique. At this point Enrique arrives and Ludovico, having been told by Elena that he should inform Enrique about whom she really loves, tells Enrique that Elena still loves him.

Shortly after this a servant brings the jewel and the note that Elena wrote for Porcia to Enrique's home, saying that they have come from the Condesa. When Enrique recognizes that the unsigned note is in Elena's handwriting his belief that she still loves him is confirmed.

That night the King comes to Enrique's house to spy on Enrique's meeting with Ludovico and the two Princes. As the King listens Enrique promises to help them to conspire against the King and to make Carlos of France the new King of Naples. César arrives as the Princes and Ludovico are leaving and on seeing them he is angered because he thinks Enrique is planning to betray the King. When César reprimands Enrique for plotting against the King, the King comes out of hiding and César realizes that it is a case of cautela contra cautela (wit against wit, or clever scheme against clever scheme).


César still does not understand completely what is going on, but he accepts the situation. Enrique gives him one of two papers that he has, and, telling him that it is a note for Elena, asks him to deliver it to her. Meanwhile, the two Princes and Ludovico are very obsequious to the King. After the Princes leave, Enrique enters to talk to the King while Ludovico is reading some papers in the same room but behind a partition. Knowing that Ludovico can hear them, the King has to pretend to be furious with Enrique and to prevent Enrique from saying anything that would give away their ruse, thus leaving Enrique quite confused. The King then calls Ludovico out and sends him on an errand and Enrique understands what has happened. The King explains to Enrique that he should not be upset when he feigns anger, because if he were really angry he would arrest Enrique. Ludovico, however, returns just in time to see Enrique kissing the King's feet and, realizing that they have plotted together, slips away.

César delivers Enrique's paper to Elena, and it turns out just to have a signature -- Carlos, rey de Francia -- on it. Enrique, of course, gave him the wrong paper to take to Elena, this one having been given to him by the Princes at their meeting. Not being aware of the exchange of the messages, however, Elena and César are both confused and upset.

Ludovico and the two Princes tell the King that they know that Enrique's fall from favor was part of a plot, but that Enrique is pretending with the King and in reality is conspiring against him. The King finds this hard to believe, but yet he does not see how they could have known Enrique's loss of favor was trick unless he had told them. The King learns from Elena about the paper with the signature of Carlos of France that Enrique sent her. Both she and César admit to the King that they are suspicious of Enrique. The King summons Enrique, who, thinking someone else is listening, confesses that he has been a conspirator against the King. When the King calls the captain of the Guard to arrest him, however, he denies the treachery, explaining that he thought they were being overhead by someone else. Now Porcia comes to intercede for Enrique. To help prove his innocence Enrique pulls out the paper he received from the Prince of Taranto, which only had the signature of Carlos of France on it, but when he looks at it he realizes that he exchanged it with the note he sent to Elena. He explains what happened; they call César, who corroborates Enrique's story; and the King is satisfied of Enrique's loyalty. He accedes to Enrique's request to marry Elena and for Porcia to marry César.

The king now formulates a plan to get rid of the Princes. He tells each Prince individually to go immediately with his men to a certain fountain where he will meet Enrique, disguised. Enrique will be waiting and will take out a handkerchief and wave it to identify himself, whereupon the Prince is to kill him. Thus the two go to the same place and kill each other, each believing the other to be Enrique.

Elena tells Porcia that she is foolish to love Enrique because he is poor and furthermore is in love with her (Elena). The King announces that Elena is to marry the person whom she wishes to marry (whom she assumes to be Ludovico) and Porcia is to marry his friend. Ludovico now comes to ask the King's permission to marry Elena, but before he can reply Chirimía interrupts to ask that the King send him and Enrique back to Spain because Enrique has gone mad and is taking memorials from pretendientes just as he did when he was a favorite of the King. The King then announces to the group, that has been joined by Enrique, that Elena is to be wed, not to Enrique but to Ludovico. Enrique is now confused as to why sent him the jewels and the note swearing her love if she is in love with Ludovico, but she explains that the note and jewels were from Porcia. César counsels Enrique to marry Porcia, and thus their marriage is arranged. The King then has Ludovico seized as a traitor, and Elena cries out that she has been deceived, to which the King replies that she should not be so ambitious and full of self-interest, Chirimía realized that Enrique did not really fall from favor and he is vindicated while Julio loses for having followed Ludovico. Thus one clever trick was used to defeat another.


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