Innamoramento and Getting Past the Exterior

Francesca Paolo

Photo: Wikimedia.org

We all try to present ourselves in the most positive light when first falling in love. We primp a little, shine our shoes, fuss with our hair, make sure our make up and outfits are just right.  All of this preparation as a good thing; certainly it shows we care  enough about our prospective partner to do what it takes to make a good impression, and let’s face it, we are all visual creatures. Yet most of us are not supermodels and often get bypassed for someone who is more handsome, prettier, thinner, younger–the list goes on. The downside is that pre-judging based on appearance may cause you to lose an opportunity with someone who could have ended up being the love of your life.

A good example is the tragically beautiful love story recounted by Dante in la Divina Comedia. Based on the real life story of two of Dante’s contemporaries, Francesca was fooled into marrying Gianciotto Malatesta, who was said to be “ugly and deformed”. She was promised to him as a peace concession between her father and the father of Gianciotto, after they had ended the war between them. The fathers knew that if Francesca saw Gianciotto before they were betrothed that she might refuse, as he was so physically unattractive. Thus, in his place, they sent Gianciotto’s handsome brother Paolo to sign the marriage contract before the ceremony. The two immediately fell in love (based on looks), but come the time of the ceremony, Francesca saw that the man she was about to marry was Gianciotto, and not Paolo!  By that time, she had already fallen in love with Paolo, and the two decided to continue their affair even after the marriage to his brother.

One day, Gianciotto caught wind of their affair and barged into Francesca’s bedroom just as Paolo was trying (unsuccessfully) to escape. In an attempt to kill Paolo with his sword, Francesca put her body between the two men and the sword plunged through her heart and killed her. Gianciotto was horrified, as he really did love her more than life itself. He could not save her and so ended up killing both lovers, who were buried together in one tomb.

When Dante meets Francesca in Inferno (after all she had officially committed “adultery”), she tells him that Love led the two of them to one death, and that there is “no greater sorrow than thinking back upon a happy time  [when one is] in misery”.  Dante was so moved by her story that he fainted.

One can only wonder what would have happened to Francesca if the powers that be at the time, hadn’t tried to deceive her? Did they not trust she would have been able to see past Gianciotto’s exterior to recognize a heart that tenderly loved her? Research shows that a person’s personality can  often make them seem more physically attractive (or unattractive in the case of negative qualities) than they are.

The bottom line is that love takes time. For your own sake it is important to get past the outside and allow yourself the time it takes to get to know someone on the inside.

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