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Alfonso (de) Gonzaga

conde de Castellón y Castelgofredo, capitán, preso, Duque de Mantua después, privado, padrino


caballero-criado (sirve al Emperador)


noble, vicario del sacro Imperio, gobernador, Conde de Valencia del Po después



D. Lope de Haro

caballero, nombre fingido de Alfonso


dama, cásase con Ascanio

D. Lucrecio



mosquetero (antes), criado de Alfonso, mozo de cámara, gracioso

Serafina Gonzaga

Condesa del Casal, presa, Duquesa de Mantua después, prima de Alfonso, cásase con Alfonso


categoría desconocida

Todos son italianos menos Portillo, "D. Lope de Haro."


Alfonso challenges Ascanio to fight because he believes that Ascanio has wronged him. When asked by Ascanio to explain why he is so angry, Alfonso relates the history of how he and his cousin Serafina grew up together and how much he loves her. In fact he once grew so ill from love that she relented to him. However, she then got sick, for she did not really love him. When she informed him of this fact, he left and went to fight for the Emperor against the Germans, using the name of a Spaniard, Don Lope de Haro. After Alfonso's departure, word got around Milan that he was dead, and his mother subsequently died of grief, leaving Serafina to inherit his title. As a favorite of the Emperor, Alfonso was able to intercede with him on Serafina's behalf when other ambitious people tried to get the inheritance away from her. Things went so well that the Emperor planned to marry Alfonso, as Don Lope, and Serafina, but when she met "Don Lope" and saw that he was really Alfonso, she would have no part of such an arrangement. She now loves Ascanio, and it is for this reason that Alfonso has challenged him to a duel. Ascanio, however, loves Lucrecia, who is in love with Alfonso, so has no interest in fighting over Serafina.

The Emperor urges Serafina to marry Alfonso, but she still refuses. He angrily orders her to give the titles and estate back to Alfonso, which she agrees to do. The Emperor also informs Ascanio that anyone who gets involved with Serafina will be his (the Emperor's) enemy, so Ascanio is worried about a possible duel with Alfonso over Serafina. Next the Emperor tells Alfonso that since Serafina will not marry him he should marry Lucrecia, an idea that Lucrecia accepts with great enthusiasm. Alfonso, however, cannot bring himself to agree to this marriage. Ascanio, meanwhile, encourages Serafina to marry Alfonso, but she will hear nothing of this and vows that she will win Ascanio yet, with her dowry. The more he resists, the more she loves him. Ascanio says he will never love her unless Alfonso is his go-between.

Alfonso tells Serafina that he will go to Spain to fight with Fernando against the Moors and that they can then spread the word that he has been killed in a duel so that she can keep his inheritance. Knowing that she is happy, he, too, will be happy. Fearing that if Alfonso leaves on her account the Emperor will be even more angry with her, Serafina suggests another plan: that Alfonso court Lucrecia to make Serafina jealous, to see if jealousy will change her feelings toward him. Alfonso is also to offer power and favors to Ascanio to try to get him to pay attention to Serafina, in the hope that if she wins him she will no longer want him. In this way their problem will be solved. Serafina says to Alfonso "del enemigo, Alfonso, el primer consejo" ("the first bit of advice from the enemy, Alfonso"). Although he sees pitfalls in this plan and has doubts about whether it will work, Alfonso decides to go along with it. 


Alfonso tells Ascanio that the Emperor is appointing him (Ascanio) governor of Milan and indicates to him that he must pretend to love what he hates and hate what he loves, just as Alfonso will do. Although they are interrupted before Alfonso can finish his explanation, Ascanio understands fully the situation to which Alfonso refers. In a conversation with Lucrecia, Serafina professes to be glad that Alfonso is to marry Lucrecia, but nevertheless they end up arguing, with Serafina saying that Alfonso still loves her. Alfonso's servant, Portillo, lets it be known to Serafina that Alfonso loves Lucrecia, information that serves to increase her jealousy even more. The Emperor, meanwhile, informs Alfonso that Serafina is to marry Ascanio; he also tells Alfonso that he doubts that he (Alfonso) really loves Lucrecia and then startles Alfonso by saying that he (the Emperor) loves Serafina too and asks Alfonso to disdain her so that he will not be jealous and worried about Serafina and Alfonso. To put Alfonso to the test, the Emperor is to hide and watch while Alfonso talks to Serafina and Lucrecia, scorning the former and praising the latter.

Before Alfonso's encounter with the two women, however, he receives a note from Serafina in which she asks him to show particular favor to her so that she can prove to Lucrecia that he still loves her. Alfonso now finds himself in the difficult position of trying to please (both) the Emperor and Serafina at the same time. In the meantime, Serafina, angry, tells Ascanio that she believes that he only loves her because the Emperor bribed him to. Finally Alfonso, Serafina and Lucrecia meet, while the Emperor, hidden, looks on. Alfonso tries to scorn Serafina but, unable to do so, manages to escape the awkward situation by blurting out the truth and then running away. The Emperor sends Arnesto after him and orders that Serafina be locked up.


In a long conversation with the Emperor, Ascanio says that Alfonso, who is now the Emperor's prisoner, is very unhappy about what has happened, realizing that he should not have disobeyed the Emperor's orders. Nevertheless, as punishment for Alfonso, the Emperor wants to give his lands and titles to Ascanio. The latter refuses to accept them, however, saying that his is too good a friend of Alfonso to take his property. Upon hearing this, the Emperor admits that he was testing Ascanio's friendship and loyalty and now he enlists Ascanio's aid in testing Alfonso.

Alfonso, sad and regretful at not having obeyed the Emperor, hears from Portillo that people are saying bad things about him. Shortly thereafter, Ascanio comes to tell him that Serafina has given letters to the Emperor naming Alfonso as a traitor. Ascanio and Lucrecia are trying to help Alfonso, though, and Ascanio brings a letter and a key from Lucrecia, so that Alfonso can escape. Alfonso, however, does not want to flee, but rather asserts that he will die honorably in order to prove his innocence. Ascanio then goes to Serafina and tells her that rumors are spreading that she is a traitor to the Emperor, but that if she marries Alfonso, who is now back in the Emperor's good graces, she will be cleared. He also says that the Emperor only pretended to be in love with her as, in fact, the Emperor himself had admitted to her earlier. She refuses, saying that she is an honorable person and must be accepted as such without marrying Alfonso to prove it. Now Alfonso tells Serafina that he will die an honorable death in spite of her accusations that he is a traitor. She, confused, tells him that she is being accused of being disloyal. Arnesto arrives, telling Serafina privately that the Emperor orders her either to marry Alfonso or to be exiled. He is soon followed by Lucrecia, who claims that the Emperor has sent her to persuade Alfonso to marry her and thereby save his life. Confronted with this situation, Alfonso announces that he cannot marry Lucrecia because he loves Serafina, at which point Ascanio warns him that he must then die the next day. Serafina is able to set things straight, however, with her announcement that Arnesto has brought her the news that the Emperor wants her to marry Alfonso. The Emperor's arrival shortly thereafter confirms what Serafina has said: Alfonso and Serafina are to marry, as are Ascanio and Lucrecia. Portillo will be the head of Alfonso's household, and all ends well.


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