As the novel picks up speed the audience and Casanova know that Gabrielle is in mortal danger. In the pages above, we use a number of devices to play out this situation. The setting is one of darkness, shadows and silence, the typical environment of ne’er do wells and evil deeds. The first page also highlights Gabrielle’s centrality to the unfolding events. A sleeping Gabrielle, vulnerable and unsuspecting, is placed in the central panel between two crucifixes, emphasising that she is in a place of sanctuary. A contrast between darkness and innocence is thus established. Tension is heightened by withholding information. We have previously been shown Casanova reacting to events, suggesting, therefore, that he is behind in time, rushing to catch up with the would-be assassin. Only in the final panel, indicated by Casanova’s swordstick, do we realise that the order of events is not what we had anticipated. Casanova had, in fact, overtaken the plot and is now ahead in time.
On the second page the assassin is revealed to be Guillaime. This horrendous betrayal of not only his lover but his unborn child inevitably switches the audience’s sympathy against him, which is mirrored by the anger of Casanova. The difficulty, however, is that Guillaime has himself been portrayed as fundamentally a decent man. The subsiding of Casanova’s anger, indicated by him retracting the swordstick and pointing out that Guillaime himself has been a victim, manipulated and coerced by Bechard, acknowledges this. It also prepares the audience to accept Casanova’s later judgement that Guillaime would, in fact, never have gone ahead with the killing, further restoring some of the audience’s sympathy for Guillaime. The interrogation parallels that of Damiens early in the novel, two failed assassins, but in this case it leads to the undoing of Bechard.
‘Casanova in Paris: The Shadows of the King’ is freely available here.
27 long form articles on Casanova’s life and times are freely available here.
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