Study Guide

The Leopard Chapter 1

By Giuseppe di Lampedusa

Chapter 1

  • A royal family (The House of Salina) finishes reciting their daily rosary, ending with the final line of the Hail Mary prayer, which is "Now and at the hour of our death." So yeah, things stat out pretty gloomy. The Prince's daughters aren't allowed outside because there have been riots in the area.
  • The book gives us a description of the Prince Fabrizio , a huge man who you really don't want to annoy. Despite his size and strength, though, the guy also has a lot of brains. He's even an amateur mathematician and astronomer. Nerd alert! (Disclaimer: We at Shmoop love to nerd out. Nerd pride!)
  • The Prince walks down into his garden while he's waiting for dinner to be served and takes a moment to smell all the flowers. While sniffing, he thinks about how his family will soon die off and lose everything. We're not really clear why yet. Prince Fabby Fab also remembers when he found a young Sicilian soldier dead in this same garden and wonders if there was any point to the young man's death.
  • Across the garden, The Prince's giant Great Dane named Bendicò digs up a flowerbed (he's kind of like a Sicilian Marmaduke) For some reason, this makes the Prince reminisce about the many times he's gone to visit Ferdinand II, King of The Kingdom of Two Sicilies. Now that country might not sound familiar, and that's because it doesn't exist anymore. It's actually part of Italy today, and this book is all about how that came to be. So stay tuned…
  • Back to the story, where Prince Fabrizio remembers going to see Ferdinand II. If you want a visual, here's what Ferdinand II looked like.
  • The two make some small talk about how Fabrizio's family is doing. They're all spoiled and rich. But the King warns Fabrizio to talk some sense into his nephew, Tancredi. Tancredi is apparently working with the armies that are trying to take over the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
  • When they're done talking, Fabrizio leaves and wonders what'll happen when the Kingdom of Two Sicilies collapses and he loses his status as a royal Prince.
  • Now we shoot back into the present, where the Prince pets his dog Bendicò for doing such a good job of digging up his flowerbed. He hears the dinner bell and heads inside.
  • When dinner gets served, the Prince's whole family can tell that the he's in a foul mood. The Princess touches the Prince's hand as a sign of support, but he's a proud dude who can't stand being pitied. He decides that the only way to get his revenge for this pity is to visit one of his mistresses in town. As you can imagine, his wife doesn't take the news so well.
  • Driving into town, Fabrizio thinks about his nephew Tancredi, whose family home is in ruins near his own. Tancredi hangs with a bunch of "low" people, who includes gamblers and revolutionaries, and Prince Fabrizio worries about his safety.
  • From the other side of the carriage, Father Pirrone talks about the dark times that are coming for Sicily. He's afraid of the country joining Italy because he knows that the more democracy takes hold, the less power his church will have. He points to the nearby mountains where a bunch of people are having bonfires. These fires belong to the rebels who are planning on taking over the country and uniting it with the kingdom from the north. (If only Pirrone could find a way to cut off their hotdog and marshmallow supplies, their rebel bonfires would be ruined).
  • The carriage gets stopped by a patrol that's on the lookout for rebels. They quickly recognize their mistake and send the Prince on his way.
  • The Prince and Father Pirrone get into town, where Pirrone goes to visit some of his priest friends while Fabrizio goes to meet with his mistress, Mariannina. He talks himself into doing it by saying that he's actually protecting himself from greater sin by taking care of his sexual urges. In other words, he thinks he needs an outlet or he'll explode.
  • Two hours later, the Prince hops back into his carriage with Father Pirrone and heads back to his mansion. Now he feels guilty for cheating on his wife. For some reason, he decides that the best way to deal with this guilt is to have sex with his wife when he gets home.
  • The next morning, Fabrizio comes downstairs and finds that his nephew Tancredi is visiting. The young man has heard about the Fabrizio's trip to Palermo to see a mistress and decides to tease him about it.
  • Fabrizio sees that Tancredi is dressed for shooting and learns that Tancredi is off to fight in some battle between the rebels (Tancredi's side) and the local troops. Fabrizio worries for him, but Tancredi tells him that if they want things to stay good, they'll have to adapt to the changing world.
  • The Prince realizes that he cares about Tancredi more than his own son and gives the young man some gold coins before he leaves. As of this moment, Prince Fabrizio has given funding to the same revolution that's going to throw him out of power.
  • Hoping to take his mind off things, the Prince goes into his office and reads a number of the latest astronomy journals.
  • The Prince's accountant barges in and starts talking money. The Prince realizes that this is the kind of guy who's eventually going to replace him on the social ladder, the kind of guy who thinks about nothing but money all day and does whatever it takes to get more of it.
  • Another one of the Prince's men enters and assures the Prince that once the rebels reach the town, they won't do any harm to the Prince or his family. The Prince sends his men away and asks them to make sure that if fighting happens, it doesn't come anywhere near his daughters.
  • The Prince heads up to his astronomy lab and finds Father Pirrone hanging out there. The priest asks him whether he'd like to confess any sins (like committing adultery the night before). But the Prince says nah.
  • Pirrone again brings up the question of what will happen to the church's power once the new Kingdom of Italy gets formed. The Prince couldn't really care less, but says that the church will be just fine. It's aristocrats like himself who will take the biggest hit.
  • The Prince and Father Pirrone work on some stuff that they plan on sending away for publication at another observatory. Prince and priest by day, rogue astronomers by night—they're quite the dangerous duo
  • When the lunch bell rings, Prince Fab and Father Pirrone head downstairs and dive into some rum jelly, which puts the Prince in a good mood.
  • After lunch, a couple of local farmers show up with some meat and crops to supply the house. The Prince has to scold them, though, for dragging dead, bloody animals through his house for his young daughters to see.
  • When he goes back upstairs to his office, the Prince finds his son Paolo waiting for him. Paolo criticizes his cousin Tancredi for joining the rebels and insists that the family stop being nice to him. The Prince tells his son to buzz off and takes a nap once he's gone.
  • When he wakes up, the Prince gets a letter from his brother-in-law saying that the Italian armies from the north have landed in Sicily and are making short work of the local troops. The brother-in-law plans on leaving the country in a British boat and advises Fabrizio to do the same. Fabrizio thinks he's overreacting, though, so he joins his family to say their afternoon prayers and doesn't say a word about the invading armies.