All narratives are in some way driven by conflict and its resolution. Such conflict may not always be between individuals. It could be the inner struggle of a single person or between people and natural forces. An essential ingredient of that conflict, however, is suffering, in some form, both actual and potential. Suffering stimulates the audience’s empathy for those who are the casualties of suffering or may become casualties. Even the villains, if they suffer in ways that are disproportionate to their crimes, will receive sympathy. It is part of the stakes. It adds meaning to the struggle, facilitating dignity and glory. It is, in fact, at the core of our mortality. The Ancient Greeks believed that the gods could never truly experience glory because their immortality meant that they were never at risk of paying the ultimate price. Much of the power of Christ’s story is derived from his suffering.
Unsurprisingly, then, many of the characters in The Shadows of the King – part 1 experience suffering. For all his faults, Casanova obtains sympathy because we are aware of both his physical suffering (in prison) and his psychological unhappiness, and he experiences even more physical and psychological pain as the story unfolds. Marie suffered the loss of her parents as a child, Giuseppe has been separated from his family and Stefano is very unhappy with who he is. Guillaime has been coerced into betraying Gabrielle, who herself is deeply resentful about the role she is expected to play in society because of her sex. For Paris Duverney, the work of a lifetime is being destroyed before his eyes. Even Bechard, the villain of the piece, is plagued by religious anxiety and fears of the punishments that might be awaiting him in the afterlife.
‘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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