Rappaccini’s Daughter

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Beatrice Rappaccini Character Analysis

Beatrice is Giovanni’s love interest, Doctor Rappaccini’s daughter, and the source of the story’s controversy. By raising her in his garden of poisonous flowers, Rappaccini has raised Beatrice to be poisonous to any living thing—yet despite her toxic body, Beatrice is the epitome of moral virtue. Her name is an allusion to Dante’s Divine Comedy, in which Dante’s deceased love interest (also named Beatrice) acts as his guide through Heaven. Likewise, Hawthorne’s Beatrice is pious, crossing herself even when seemingly inconsequential creatures like the lizard and fly pass away. She is overflowing with love for every living thing she encounters, including the poisonous flowers in her father’s garden. When she meets Giovanni, the two quickly fall in love. She asks him endless questions about the outside world, which she is forbidden to visit. Her childlike wonder, coupled with her trust in Giovanni, reveal that goodness and innocence can exist even in a body that is outwardly corrupt. Giovanni does not realize this possibility, so as soon as his own body begins to demonstrate symptoms of poison, he jumps to the conclusion that Beatrice intended to harm him. When Giovanni confronts her, she is heartbroken at his mistrust, revealing that she never meant him ill. In a show of selfless love, she drinks the potion that Baglioni says is an antidote before she will let Giovanni try some. That way, his body cannot come to harm if it is in fact poison. In her last moments, Beatrice tells her father that she would rather have been loved by mankind than protected from it by her poisonous body. These parting words serve as a warning against trying to improve upon nature.

Beatrice Rappaccini Quotes in Rappaccini’s Daughter

The Rappaccini’s Daughter quotes below are all either spoken by Beatrice Rappaccini or refer to Beatrice Rappaccini. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Rappaccini’s Daughter published in 2011.
Rappaccini’s Daughter Quotes

Yes, my sister, my splendor, it shall be Beatrice’s task to nurse and serve thee; and thou shalt reward her with thy kisses and perfumed breath, which to her is as the breath of life.

Related Characters: Beatrice Rappaccini (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

Giovanni knew not what to dread; still less did he know what to hope; yet hope and dread kept a continual warfare in his breast, alternately vanquishing one another and starting up afresh to renew the contest. 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.

Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:

“I do so bid you, signor,” she replied. “Forget whatever you may have fancied in regard to me. If true to the outward senses, still it may be false in its essence; but the words of Beatrice Rappaccini’s lips are true from the depths of the heart outward. Those you may believe.”

Related Characters: Beatrice Rappaccini (speaker), Giovanni Guasconti
Page Number: 221
Explanation and Analysis:

At such times he was startled at the horrible suspicions that rose, monster-like, out of the caverns of his heart and stared him in the face; his love grew thin and faint as the morning mist, his doubts alone had substance. But, when Beatrice’s face brightened again after the momentary shadow, she was transformed at once from the mysterious, questionable being whom he had watched with so much awe and horror; she was now the beautiful and unsophisticated girl whom he felt that his spirit knew with a certainty beyond all other knowledge.

Page Number: 224
Explanation and Analysis:

“I have been reading an old classic author lately,” said he, “and met with a story that strangely interested me. Possibly you may remember it. It is of an Indian prince, who sent a beautiful woman as a present to Alexander the Great. She was as lovely as the dawn and gorgeous as the sunset; but what especially distinguished her was a certain rich perfume in her breath—richer than a garden of Persian roses. Alexander, as was natural to a youthful conqueror, fell in love at first sight with this magnificent stranger; but a certain sage physician, happening to be present, discovered a terrible secret in regard to her.”

Related Characters: Pietro Baglioni (speaker), Giovanni Guasconti, Beatrice Rappaccini
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

It is not yet too late for the rescue. Possibly we may even succeed in bringing back this miserable child within the limits of ordinary nature, from which her father’s madness has estranged her.

Page Number: 227
Explanation and Analysis:

It was now the customary hour of his daily interview with Beatrice. Before descending into the garden, Giovanni failed not to look at his figure in the mirror,—a vanity to be expected in a beautiful young man, yet, as displaying itself at that troubled and feverish moment, the token of a certain shallowness of feeling and insincerity of character. He did gaze, however, and said to himself that his features had never before possessed so rich a grace, nor his eyes such vivacity, nor his cheeks so warm a hue of superabundant life.

Page Number: 228
Explanation and Analysis:

Incapable as he was of such high faith, still her presence had not utterly lost its magic. Giovanni’s rage was quelled into an aspect of sullen insensibility. Beatrice, with a quick spiritual sense, immediately felt that there was a gulf of blackness between them which neither he nor she could pass.

Page Number: 229-230
Explanation and Analysis:

“Yes, poisonous thing!” repeated Giovanni, beside himself with passion. “Thou hast done it! Thou hast blasted me! Thou hast filled my veins with poison! Thou hast made me as hateful, as ugly, as loathsome and deadly a creature as thyself—a world’s wonder of hideous monstrosity! Now, if our breath be happily as fatal to ourselves as to all others, let us join our lips in one kiss of unutterable hatred, and so die!”

Related Characters: Giovanni Guasconti (speaker), Beatrice Rappaccini
Page Number: 231
Explanation and Analysis:

Ought not, then the desert of humanity around them to press this insulated pair closer together? If they should be cruel to one another, who was there to be kind to them? Besides, thought Giovanni, might there not still be a hope of his returning within the limits of ordinary nature, and leading Beatrice, the redeemed Beatrice, by the hand? O, weak, and selfish, and unworthy spirit, that could dream of an earthly union and earthy happiness as possible, after such deep love had been so bitterly wronged as was Beatrice’s love by Giovanni’s blighting words! No, no; there could be no such hope. She must pass heavily, with that broken heart, across the borders of Time—she must bathe her hurts in some fount of paradise, and forget her grief in the light of immortality, and there be well.

Page Number: 232
Explanation and Analysis:

As he drew near, the pale man of sciences seemed to gaze with a triumphant expression at the beautiful youth and maiden, as might an artist who should spend his life in achieving a picture or a group of statuary and finally be satisfied with his success. He paused; his bent form grew erect with conscious power; he spread out his hands over them in the attitude of a father imploring a blessing upon his children; but those were the same hands that had thrown poison into the stream of their lives. Giovanni trembled. Beatrice shuddered nervously, and pressed her hand upon her heart.

Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

“I would fain have been loved, not feared,” murmured Beatrice, sinking down upon the ground. “But now it matters not. I am going, father, where the evil which thou hast striven to mingle with my being will pass away like a dream—like the fragrance of these poisonous flowers, which will no longer taint my breath among the flowers of Eden. Farewell, Giovanni! Thy words of hatred are like lead within my heart; but they, too, will fall away as I ascend. Oh, was there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature than in mine?”

Related Characters: Beatrice Rappaccini (speaker), Giacomo Rappaccini
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:

Just at that moment Professor Pietro Baglioni looked forth from the window, and called loudly, in a tone of triumph mixed with horror, to the thunder-stricken man of science,—“Rappaccini! Rappaccini! and is this the upshot of your experiment!”

Related Characters: Pietro Baglioni (speaker), Beatrice Rappaccini, Giacomo Rappaccini
Page Number: 234
Explanation and Analysis:
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Rappaccini’s Daughter PDF

Beatrice Rappaccini Character Timeline in Rappaccini’s Daughter

The timeline below shows where the character Beatrice Rappaccini appears in Rappaccini’s Daughter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Rappaccini’s Daughter
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...doctor who blends plants to create “medicines as potent as a charm.” She adds that Rappaccini’s daughter can sometimes be seen tending the “strange flowers.” (full context)
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...puts on a mask. However, he still hesitates to move closer and he calls for Beatrice, his daughter. To Giovanni, she seems as if she could be “the human sister of... (full context)
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Giovanni continues to ruminate on the striking resemblance between Beatrice and the purple flowers, and that night, he dreams of the two being the same... (full context)
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...are professional rivals, and that Rappaccini is widely considered the superior party. When Giovanni mentions Beatrice, Baglioni teases that this must be why Giovanni was asking about the family. He says... (full context)
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...tipsy, Giovanni buys a bouquet. At home, glancing down at the garden, Giovanni again sees Beatrice, who looks so radiant that shadows brighten around her. For the first time, he notices... (full context)
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Just then, a lizard or chameleon crawls by Beatrice’s feet as liquid drops from the flower’s stem. The creature “contort[s] itself violently” then dies.... (full context)
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...either leave Padua immediately or “rigidly and systematically” accustom himself to the ordinary sight of Beatrice. Instead, he is leaving room for his “imagination to run “riot” and creates “a wild... (full context)
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After entering the garden, Giovanni resolves that seeing Beatrice is a matter of necessity—“It mattered not whether she were angel or demon; he was... (full context)
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Beatrice emerges. Before Giovanni can make an excuse for why he is there, her smile puts... (full context)
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As they continue talking, Giovanni intuits from her naivety that Beatrice has never left the garden. They talk and walk through the garden together until they... (full context)
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...the virginal beauty whom he has just met. His wrist throbs and shows marks where Beatrice touched it, but soon he forgets the pain. The two begin to meet daily at... (full context)
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...slightest caress such as love claims and hallows.” On occasions when Giovanni tries to touch Beatrice, she pulls away and becomes somber. In response, his feelings for her would “grow thin... (full context)
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...companions except upon condition of their perfect sympathy with his present state of feeling” about Beatrice. Baglioni tells a story about Alexander the Great, who received a beautiful Indian woman from... (full context)
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Baglioni’s visit revives Giovanni’s doubts about Beatrice. Giovanni buys a bouquet, reasoning that if the flowers wilt in her hands, then she... (full context)
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Despairing at his accursed state, Giovanni goes to meet Beatrice, “the only being whom my breath may not slay! Would that it might!” However, when... (full context)
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Giovanni asks where the purple shrub originated, and Beatrice says her father made it. “It was my sister, and I loved it with a... (full context)
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Beatrice protests that her father, not she, must have done this to Giovanni. With this, Giovanni’s... (full context)
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...Rappaccini emerges and “seemed to gaze with a triumphant expression at the beautiful youth and maiden, as might an artist who should spend his life in achieving a picture or a... (full context)
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Beatrice vows to leave “the flowers of Eden,” says goodbye to Giovanni, and asks him, “Oh,... (full context)