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The Tyrant: A Review

by Jesse F. Knight

Very little remains of Sabatini's playwriting career, despite the fact that he wrote a number of stage productions. The only evidence of his work in the field is The Tyrant, published in 1925.

The Tyrant was adapted from Sabatini's long story, "The Lust of Conquest", which appeared in the collection The Justice of the Duke. Like Sabatini's other work on Cesare Borgia this is a defense of the man who would serve as Macchiavelli's model for The Prince.

The Tyrant is very evidently the work of a writer more familiar with the printed page than the stage. The play is filled with very elaborate descriptions of costumes, characters and scenes.

The gist of the play is that Cesare Borgia is threatening to capture the Castle of Solignola. Panthasilea Speranzoni, the daughter of the overlord, hatches a plot. Her idea is to seduce Borgia, then have him captured. They will then force Borgia to relinquish his lust of conquest of Solignola.

The play is characteristically Sabatini in that there are plenty of turns and twists to the plot, and Borgia, being insightful and clever, is the just the kind of character Sabatini loved to write about. This is not a swashbuckling play but a drama of deviousness.

I'm not going to suggest that The Tyrant ranks with the greatest of Shakespeare's plays. Nonetheless, there are some genuinely moving passages in this swiftly entertaining drama. And it is fascinating to watch Sabatini's mind at work as he revised drastically the story to the play, creating an entirely different ending for each.

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Last updated 29 March 2008. Copyright 2000 by Jesse F. Knight Illustration Cesare Borgia from a painting by Giovan Francesco Bembo. Any concerns or problems about this site, please contact Rimfire.