| We open on a scene of Paolo riding a mule in the countryside. He asks a herder for directions to Rome because he has a child there. The herder asks if he cannot smell it and points him down the road. At the same time in the Vatican, the Pope’s attendant is gathering items strewn about the Pope’s bedroom as Vittoria awakes and sheepishly makes her way out of bed. Pope Alexander awakens Giulia Farnese explaining that he had a dream of their threesome as a “holy trinity upon this bed” and asks whose idea it was. Giulia takes full credit for the incident and is satisfied that the Pope states she will be bound and whipped and ravaged for her offense – often. At the convent of St. Cecilia, Cesare is seen with a lute in hand and Pintrucchio above him working on a fresco he has commissioned. Sister Martha is brought to see him. He tells her that fresco is lacking a model for the likeness of St. Cecilia and that is why he had her summoned. Cesare moves towards her and she recoils from him as Pintrucchio looks on. He manhandles her and removes her head covering to reveal her shorn locks and laments that God has “snatched” them from him. As Sister Martha continues to cower from Cesare’s touch he removes himself from her, mockingly stating that he knows that he blasphemes but it is for a higher purpose. |
In a dungeon in Naples, the outstretched body of Prince Alfonso hangs on rack being attended to by a doctor and another man. They discuss the circumstances the prince found himself in and the unknown man asks if he was revived often during his torturous demise. The doctor states he revived him seven times during the night. The unknown man makes an incision below the jaw of Prince Alfonso of Naples and begins his gruesome work.
In Umbria, we find Cardinal della Rovere weak but recovering from his encounter with Cesare and canterella. A nun tries to spoon feed him some mush but he will not take it. Another nun comes into the scene also trying to convince the cardinal to eat something, insisting that he cannot subsist only on rainwater. Della Rovere states he can only trust the rain. As the nuns implore him to let them find a way to feed him, he makes a request. He requests a monkey, specifically a capuchin monkey.
Back in Rome, Paolo is making his way through the busy streets when a prostitute approaches him asking if he is looking for a lady. Paolo continues walking with purpose as the woman keeps pace with him continuing to ask who he is looking for. He states that he is looking for Lucrezia, a noble lady. The woman teases Paolo as to whether he is implying that she is not noble and he says he would never be so bold. Heartened, she agrees to help Paolo find his Lucrezia. Pope Alexander enters his exhibition hall of Roman artifacts to see Vittorio working on a relief. The Pope asks where Vittorio sleeps and he states on a straw bed in the master’s studio, except for last night of course. The Pope is intrigued that Vittorio is a commoner and would know the streets of Rome and its inhabitants. Vittorio asks if the Pope does not know his own flock. Pope Alexander laments that he is in a gilded cage meeting with “princes and potentates and prelates”, very few common people. However, he states, he may need Vittorio’s help in that regard. This tête-à-tête is interrupted by Cardinal Sforza wanting to discuss finances with His Holiness. Beatrice has brought Paolo to speak with her girlfriends and find out if any of them know a Lucrezia. They begin to call out that they can be Lucrezia for him, even though one is called out as really being Magdalena. When they ask for a second name and Paolo states Borgia, they giggle and laugh that he would be asking after the Pope’s daughter. Pope Alexander and Cardinal Sforza walk through a hallway discussing how the Vatican finances are basically gone, bald as a fellow Cardinal Piccolomini’s head. Cardinal Sforza is upset that the Pope’s celebrations have reduced their coffers and the Pope insists that it is not his business but the Vice-Chancellor’s. The Pope wants to restore Rome and affect the lives of the common people. Cardinal Sforza derisively asks what the Pope knows of the common people and the Pope states that he was born among them. However, Cardinal Sforza points out that was in Spain and when the Pope arrived in Rome he was already a successful prelate. Pope Alexander challenges Cardinal Sforza to walk him among the common people then and the Cardinal scoffs at the idea stating that would be impossible and that they cannot afford Pope Alexander’s renewal project. In Umbria, the nuns are having a grand time laughing openly at Cardinal della Rovere’s new dining companion – a monkey dubbed Julius Caesar.
Beatrice implores Paolo to forgive her and her friends’ mocking; she mistook him for a client. He asks why she would debase herself and she gives the age old reason: if she did not lift her skirts, she would starve, she does what she must. When Paolo asks why the common people would be starving when there is such wealth in evidence in Rome, she simply states again that there is wealth but the people starve. She figures while they are starving in the streets, Lucrezia Borgia dines from silver plates with a solid gold fork. Paolo has never heard of a fork, though they are the very latest thing. The next scene opens on Lucrezia taking a morsel of food from a plate with – a gold fork. She congratulates His Holiness on the success of his celebrations for the people, while Juan mocks them as a ‘mob’ needing ‘bread and circuses’. When Rodrigo asks if the mob is not made up of people, Juan wonders if this is a riddle of some sort. Rodrigo continues that Juan would be one of them if his titles and trappings of wealth were taken away. Juan does not hide his disgust at the idea of being equated with commoners and states that there is a natural order of separation between what is considered noble and what is considered common. Rodrigo asks if any of his family would accompany him if he decided to go out walking amongst them; Cesare states protection would be needed but Juan firmly states he could not go out among them as the Savior did, because he was not the Pope. The next scene finds that Giulia Farnese has taken up the task, along with Vittorio, to finally grant the Pope his wish to walk the streets of Rome and glimpse his flock. They don their disguises and head out. Pope Alexander is immediately appalled at how the people are sleeping in the streets and Vittorio states they have no choice. Giulia is accosted for her shoes at one turn and at the next they are set upon by a woman begging for alms to her feed her child, only for Rodrigo to discover the child in her arms is dead. The woman then switches her story to alms to bury the child in a pauper’s grave. As they continue on, Giulia states that even though the Roman emperors had their faults, they provided for their people with aqueducts and sanitation but now the people live in filth. Pope Alexander is especially put out by all the pigeons! Vittorio guides them to a bathhouse that was once dedicated to the goddess Minerva but now orphans sleep in the ruins. When Giulia asks if Rome did not once provide for them, Rodrigo states that there is an entire branch of the curia that is supposed to be dedicated to charitable works. Vittorio states that the bounty never reaches them and Rodrigo insists that something will be done. As they make their way out, they pass the sleeping body of Paolo.
Over a gambling table in a tavern, Rodrigo assigns the task of auditing the alms accounts to Giulia Farnese, with his full authority. He gives himself the task of ridding the city of the pigeon infestation. They set it up as a wager between them to see who will come out the better. The next day, the nuns are sending Cardinal della Rovere on his way to a monastery in Perugia and instructions are given to his accompanying nun to make sure he eats but feed Julius first so that he will. Pope Alexander confronts Cardinal Versucci about his role with the Office of Public Works comparing the destitution of the orphans of Rome with the Cardinal’s 3 palaces. The Pope tells him that Giulia Farnese will be examining the curatorial accounts, much to the Cardinal’s offense. The Pope puts his foot down and the Cardinal acquiesces. For his part, Pope Alexander meets with a falconer for a demonstration of their ability to hunt pigeons and he is immediately impressed, ordering a ‘battalion’ of them. On a road passing through a vineyard, Cardinal della Rovere and his escort are set upon by workers who think they see an opportunity for highway robbery. While one robber accosts the sister, the other approaches the covered wagon and is met with a whittled stake to the throat. At seeing this action, the other robber approaches the wagon only to receive a knife to the heart. The cardinal apologizes to the shocked nun stating, “Sometimes goodness needs the help of a little badness”. Beatrice and Paolo are waiting on the Vatican steps when he glimpses Lucrezia coming towards him escorted by her brother Juan. They are on their way to St. Agatha’s fountain to say a wish on the saint’s celebratory day and we hear them conversing as Paolo tails them at a distance. Juan continues to espouse his disdain for the common people and advises her to stay close to him. They arrive at the fountain; Lucrezia tosses in her coin and closes her eyes over the water to make her wish. When she opens them, Paolo is at her side and she gasps, “Narcissus?” No sooner has Paolo uttered her name than Juan is upon them, threatening Paolo with his dagger for daring to converse with the Pope’s daughter. He asks her if she knows the peasant and she cries in distress that she does not but that Juan should spare his life. Paolo apologizes and asks if there is anything he can do to erase his offense and Lucrezia cleverly tells him to say a prayer at the fountain at midnight. Paolo keenly picks up on this and repeats the time to her as Juan pulls her away and angrily stalks through the gathered crowd. Paolo finds Beatrice finishing up a transaction with a cleric and he relates his happy news. The Pope and Cesare discuss keeping themselves apprised of King Charles movements if and when he decides to Naples. At the appointed hour, Lucrezia instructs the nurse to keep an eye on her son and she makes her way onto the streets, under the seething eye of her brother Juan. Paolo and Lucrezia rendezvous at the fountain, unaware of all the eyes upon them. Beatrice and Magdelena watch with fascination at the affection passing between Lucrezia and Paolo. Magdelena discovers Juan also observing and is hired by him to follow Paolo and report his movements. When Lucrezia arrives back at her room to check on her son she discovers Cesare has relieved the nurse. She confesses to Cesare that Paolo is in Rome and she has arranged to meet him. Cesare, moved by her confession that she may yet love him, offers to help her spend one night with Paolo at their mother’s villa. She gives Cesare a kiss of gratitude. The next night Paolo is met by Micheletto instead of Lucrezia and taken to Vanozza’s home. Micheletto, intrigued by the idea of their love, questions Paolo as they walk. Lucrezia arrives at the Vanozza’s home and Vanozza assures her that her tryst will be kept secret. Paolo arrives, is given the once over by Cesare and runs to hold his son and lover.
In a dining room at the Vatican Pope Alexander discusses possible brides with Juan from the House of Castille, confirming that he wishes to marry to a powerful ally in Spain. Juan asks of Lucrezia’s marriage possibilities and irritates Pope Alexander with his inquiry of whether it will be to a nobleman or a commoner. He takes up a wineskin and when he sees that Lucrezia’s room at the Vatican is empty, heads into the night straight to his mother’s door. Micheletto dispatches with Magdelena as Juan begins banging on the door alerting everyone to his drunken presence. He states to Cesare he would have words with Lucrezia regarding the peasant from Pesaro but Cesare manages to get him back out the door, telling him to wait until morning. Micheletto drags Magdelena’s body from the scene. In the morning, Paolo and Lucrezia say tearful goodbyes and Vanozza watches as Paolo makes his way from her home, breathing a sigh of relief that they have avoided a scandal. But as Paolo is walking he is realizes he is being followed and tries to escape only to be confronted by Juan and his men, with a noose at the ready. Micheletto has come to a riverbank and deposits Magdelena’s body. And our last glimpse of Paolo is at the end of a noose.