A Purple Shrub Set in a Marble Vase

Doctor Rappaccini has a daughter named Beatrice, whose beauty has caused all the young men of Padua to fall in love with her.  Beatrice rarely leaves home, she likes to pass much of her time doing work in her father’s garden tending a beautiful plant.  Rappaccini has a great devotion to science, a greater devotion to science than to people, and he is willing to sacrifice people, including himself, for what he considers the greater good of the advance of knowledge.  All of his plants are a kind of experiment, as he looks for cures for diseases and adds to the body of scientific information.  Beatrice becomes resistant to the poisons, but in the process she herself becomes poisonous to others.  Giovanni a handsome student at the University of Padua, watches Beatrice from his window and soon falls in love with her.

She wore a red dress and embraced the flowers, picking one up and attempts to pin it on her dress, and accidentally lets some of the liquid drip on to a lizard, which immediately contorts and dies.  Giovanni shudders watching this and then he witnesses an insect dying from Beatrice’s breath.  Beatrice spots Giovanni who throws her a bouquet of healthy flowers.  As Beatrice rushes inside, Giovanni thinks he sees the bouquet wither in her hands.  One day, Giovanni finds a secret entrance to Rappaccini’s garden.  He went in and watched Beatrice in the garden moving quickly among the flowers until she reached him.  Giovanni apologized for coming into the garden without an invitation, but Beatrice smiled at him and made him feel welcome.  “I see you love flowers,” she said.  “And so you have come to take a closer look at my father’s rare collection.”  Giovanni becomes aware of an ominous mixture of beauty emanating from purple shrub set in a marble vase.  He is literally burned when Beatrice touches his arm, leaving “a burning and tingling agony in his hand and a purple print line that of her four small fingers”, but he soon forgets the pain while thinking about Beatrice.  “Blessed are all simple emotions, be they dark or bright!  It is the lurid intermixture of the two that produces the illuminating blaze of the infernal regions.”  Hawthorne was arguing that women should not be defined according to a binary of good and evil, or purity and impurity.  People, regardless of their gender, have something of the “infernal” in them, because we naturally experience a mixture of both dark and bright emotions.

Giovanni smells a fragrance like that which moments before had come from Beatrice and he makes a move toward the cynosure shrub as if to pluck a flower.  She grasps his hand and forces it back, saying, “Touch it not!  Not for thy life!  It is fatal!”  Giovanni has Beatrice in his heart and he meets her in the garden every day, skipping out on his classes.  One day he runs into his professor who is worried about him and he warns Giovanni to stay away from Rappaccini and his daughter, because she has poison in her blood and on her breath.  The professor gives Giovanni a little silver bottle which he says can destroy even the most powerful poison.  Giovanni realizes that he has become poisoned and he calls Beatrice a monster.
Beatrice confronts her father saying, “Why did you do this terrible thing to your own child?”  Rappaccini looked surprised and asked, “What do you mean, my daughter?  You have power no other woman has.  You can defeat your strongest enemy with only your breath.  Would you rather be a weak woman?”  Beatrice replied, “I want to be loved, not feared.  But now, it does not matter.  I am leaving you, father.  I am going where the poison you have given me will do no harm.  Good bye to you, Giovanni.”  Beatrice dropped to the ground and died at the feet of her father and Giovanni.  The poison had been too much a part of the young woman.  The medicine that destroyed the poison, destroyed her, as well.
Giovanni should have realized that the time he spent with Beatrice was not meant to be infinite, it was a gift and he would no longer be able to whisper nothings into her ear or sing a lullaby to her.  He could travel back to his place and climb the staircase to the window where he first saw her.  Maybe he could take a trip up to the lake that was surrounded with pines to try and find a sign that would help him forget her, or he could make a quilt from the picture that he had of her in his mind, before she disappeared and became unknown.

Actually the dress was purple, but that did not fit the prompt.

Written for Daily Addictions prompt Week #30 – Infinite, for FOWC with Fandango –Unknown, for July Writing Prompts – She wore a red dress, for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Cynosure, for Ragtag Community – Whisper, for Scotts Daily Prompt – Work, for the Sunday Whirl Wordle 358 prompts – Heart Pass Time Lake Sign Pines Quilt Travel Picture Staircase Trip Gift, for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Sunday Writing Prompt “Nathaniel Hawthorne Quote”, for Swimmers the New Community Pool prompt – Day and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Lullaby.

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