Rappaccini’s Daughter

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Giovanni Guasconti Character Analysis

Giovanni, the story’s protagonist, is a young man who has recently moved to Padua to pursue his medical studies. He is exceedingly handsome, and he considers himself to be a man of reason. However, as soon as he lays eyes on Rappaccini’s garden of poisonous plants and—more to the point—Rappaccini’s daughter, Beatrice, Giovanni develops an intense, all-consuming focus on this young woman. From his apartment window, Giovanni sees Beatrice kill organisms with her touch and breath. Instead of setting aside this strange encounter, he fantasizes about the beautiful yet deadly woman day and night. Upon meeting Beatrice face-to-face, he discovers she has a simple, virtuous personality. Giovanni becomes desperate to determine whether she is good, which her demeanor suggests, or evil, as her poisonous effect on others implies. Unfortunately, this handsome man is too preoccupied with his incorrect inference that she is evil (based on her effect on plants and animals) to accurately discern his lover’s true nature, which is good and pure. When Giovanni develops symptoms of becoming poisonous himself, he cruelly (and falsely) accuses Beatrice of transferring her poison to him. Giovanni gives her a potion that his mentor, Baglioni, said would cure her, but it winds up killing her instead. As Beatrice dies, she asks whether Giovanni did not have more poison in his nature than she. Giovanni’s betrayal demonstrates how mankind’s preoccupation with reason and science can cause people to miss what is true.

Giovanni Guasconti Quotes in Rappaccini’s Daughter

The Rappaccini’s Daughter quotes below are all either spoken by Giovanni Guasconti or refer to Giovanni Guasconti. 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

It was strangely frightful to the young man’s imagination to see this air of insecurity in a person cultivating a garden, that most simple and innocent of human toils, and which had been alike the joy and labor of the unfallen parents of the race. Was this garden, then, the Eden of the present world? And this man, with such a perception of harm in what his own hands caused to grow,—was he the Adam?

Related Characters: Giovanni Guasconti, Giacomo Rappaccini
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 209
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:

For some purpose or other, this man of science is making a study of you. I know that look of his! It is the same that coldly illuminates his face as he bends over a bird, a mouse, or a butterfly, which, in pursuance of some experiment, he has killed by the perfume of a flower; a look as deep as Nature itself, but without Nature’s warmth of love. Signor Giovanni, I will stake my life upon it, you are the subject of one of Rappaccini’s experiments!

Related Characters: Pietro Baglioni (speaker), Giovanni Guasconti, Giacomo Rappaccini
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 217
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:
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Giovanni Guasconti Character Timeline in Rappaccini’s Daughter

The timeline below shows where the character Giovanni Guasconti 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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Long ago in Padua, young Giovanni Guasconti comes to study medicine at the local university. Because he doesn’t have much money,... (full context)
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Dame Lisabetta is an elderly resident of Giovanni’s new home. Noticing that he finds the chamber gloomy, she encourages Giovanni to look out... (full context)
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Gazing down into the garden, Giovanni notes that the property appears to have been the “pleasure-place of an opulent family” long... (full context)
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As Giovanni gazes down, a “tall, emaciated, sallow, and sickly-looking man” emerges. This is Giacomo Rappaccini. He... (full context)
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Giovanni continues to ruminate on the striking resemblance between Beatrice and the purple flowers, and that... (full context)
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That day, Giovanni visits Professor Pietro Baglioni, “an ancient friend” of Giovanni’s father. The professor is “an elderly... (full context)
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...and Rappaccini 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.... (full context)
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Walking home from dinner tipsy, Giovanni buys a bouquet. At home, glancing down at the garden, Giovanni again sees Beatrice, who... (full context)
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...Beatrice “crosse[s] herself, sadly, but without surprise” and tucks the flower into her neckline. While Giovanni sits doubting what he just saw, an insect is attracted to Beatrice. As she looks... (full context)
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In the following days, Giovanni avoids looking at the garden as though “something ugly and monstrous would have blasted his... (full context)
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On a walk to clear his mind, Giovanni stumbles upon Baglioni. Giovanni is not eager to talk, afraid Baglioni will guess his secret,... (full context)
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Upon Giovanni’s return home, old Lisabetta tries to attract his attention, smiling wildly but failing to catch... (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... (full context)
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Beatrice emerges. Before Giovanni can make an excuse for why he is there, her smile puts him at ease.... (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... (full context)
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That night, Giovanni’s fantasies of a poisonous woman fade away, replaced with thoughts of the virginal beauty whom... (full context)
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...of hands, nor any 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... (full context)
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Days later, Baglioni pays Giovanni a visit at his home, which irks Giovanni because he wishes to “tolerate no companions... (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... (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... (full context)
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Giovanni asks where the purple shrub originated, and Beatrice says her father made it. “It was... (full context)
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Beatrice protests that her father, not she, must have done this to Giovanni. With this, Giovanni’s wrath subsides and he considers that perhaps since they are estranged from... (full context)
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...this point, 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... (full context)
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Beatrice vows to leave “the flowers of Eden,” says goodbye to Giovanni, and asks him, “Oh, was there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature... (full context)