A Musical Murderer

Carlo Gesualdo, Prince of Venosa, was an Italian lutenist and composer. He was born in 1561 and died in 1613. He was famous for his sacred vocal works and madrigals, which, according to the Wikipedia, “use a chromatic language not heard again until the 19th century.” Carlo was a very talented man, and was way ahead of his time in several ways.

He was also a daring fellow, and proved it by murdering his wife and her lover in his own home. Stabbing them multiple times and shooting his wife’s lover in the head for good measure after forcing him to don his wife’s blood spattered gown, Gesualdo never denied the dirty deed. He could not be punished for the crime, because he was a nobleman. Let’s check the definition of noble. According to dictionary.com, one definition is “of an exalted moral or mental character or excellence.” I think we can throw that one out. How about “admirable in dignity of conception, manner of expression, execution, or composition”? I can buy the execution part. Old Carlo was a pretty good executioner. But I think that definition really doesn’t apply here. No, I think “noble” in regard to nobleman merely means that the owner of the title holds a place in society based upon inheritance or heredity, not upon some admirable character trait.

So, since Gesualdo was a nobleman, and since noble people in those days did pretty much anything they could to keep the noble tag (including incest), perhaps he was plagued with the old “keep it in the family” disease. He was probably just freakin’ nuts. But the guy did make some nice music.

By the way, are you wondering what a “lutenist” is? Click here to find out.

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