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Theatre / Agilulf The Wise

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Agilulf the Wise is a Period Piece/historical play written by Norwegian author Hans Kinck. The plot is essentially lifted directly from Decameron, the second novel of the third day. This story goes like this:

A clever stable boy decides to fool king Agilulf by posing as him during a night, and seduces the Lombard queen. Agilulf, being aware of this, decides to punish the boy by revealing him by cutting a lock of his hair. The boy is savvy enough to cut locks of all the other stable attendants as well, foiling the king's attempt to reveal him. So far the story of Boccaccio.


Kinck elaborates the plot, naming a number of the characters and adding a lot more. Both Agilulf and the queen are from actual history, but the plot surrounding them is not. The stable boy, called Guido in the Kinck play, is a romantic 19 year old page and minstrel, pining for the queen, who is not much older than he is. She is married to the far older king Agilulf, who seems to be quite barren. When Guido sees his chance to seduce the queen, she is content with it, because she believes him to be the king, finally able to do his marital duties. Agilulf, of course, is furious, and sets a trap for Guido. He foils the king in the hair-cutting scheme, but as the play progresses, he reveals the boy anyway, taking him on a disastrous bear hunt, which eventually leads to Guido's death.

Guido has made a number of songs for the court. The last one he performes is re-telling of the bear hunt, forcing him to gut himself with a spear. From her, things get gradually worse.


The hand-maiden of the queen, 16 year old Fosca, is smitten with Guido, and has learned some of his songs. She is the one to reveal, by re-telling the incident that made him fall om love with queen Teudelinga in the first place. When the queen understands this, she gradually loses it, forcing her wrath on everything and everyone. By the end of the third act, she has gone completely batshit.

The king has decided to have a feast, calling in a number of local noblemen, and some of the clergy, to a feast in his palace. The queen exploits this situation by trying to defile Fosca, forcing her into the arms of the local Bishop, Dirty Old Man par excellence. The king, now understanding the error of his ways, pleads for her innocence to no awail, but the queen has hardened considerably after the death of Guido. Agilulf takes the matter in his own hands, killing the bishop with a spear, and dramatically killing himself. Fosca is saved, and eventually ends up being comforted by another young attendant, Beppo, who has a long back story with several women in Pavia. He too reflects, both on his own actions as The Casanova and on the prospect of life and love. The two end up in each other's arms, comforting each other, while the king is found bleeding to death.



  • Alcohol Hic: Several of the lombard vassals entering the drinking party. Most outstanding is the duke of Ravenna, lampshaded several times.
  • Always Someone Better: Agilulf uses a couple of pages complaining about his nephew Authari, who always had his way with the women, while he himself feels as a "monk" in comparison. It is understandable that he takes a cuckolding pretty hard. Queen Teudelinga has some similar complexes regarding her sister Edelrid, who was destined to be Agilulf´s bride, but died before anything could happen.
    • In the last act, the king laments that even Guido was better than he.
  • Anachronism Stew: When considering the tales of king Authari (or Ottar as he is written here). He is said to have been fighting Saracens in Africa and the middle east, and it is implied he was crusading. When this king died in 591, a "crusade" is vastly out of place, considering that the prophet Mohammad hadn´t had one single vision yet, let alone time to start a new religion.
    • A lute is present, being the chosen instrument of Guido. If the play is set at the end of the sixth century, lutes would only be found in the Arab world (al`oud), and not in Europe. At this point, the Moors had not even conquered Spain and would not do so for another 120 years. The only way to justify a lute would be the campaigns of Authari in North Africa, an area still free from Arab influence. To be fair, the term "Saracen" is derived from the high middle ages, not the early ones.
  • Animal Motifs: The Falcon, the bear, and the horses. The latter is Connected to desire and urging, the Falcon likewise, but also to poetic oversight (Guido´s in particular), and the bear is a symbol of the grumpiness in the old king.
  • Arc Symbol: The old bear living in the hills. He seems to be a symbol of the king. Also the falcon used for hunting. Guido also serves as a falconeer. Teudelinga kills it without mercy in the third act, showing how far she has gone.
    • The bear, Guido, the bishop and the king are all killed by the same spear. Whatever that may imply.
  • Asshole Victim: The bishop.
  • Artistic License – History: The historical king Agilulf never killed himself. His queen never went crazy. Theodelinda/Teudelinga was however 15 years younger than he was, and had been married to the former Lombard king as the play states. In Real Life, Agilulf reigned peacefully for 25 years, and was married to his queen all the way. They had two children, Adaloald who succeeded him, and Gundeberga, a daughter. The play would historically have taken place in the year of his death, 616, but Teudelinga would by then have been 46 years of age, and her son would have been 14 years old. The play has exaggerated the age difference between the king and the queen considerably. The royal children are Adapted Out, not reckoned to be essential to the Boccaccio story.
    • The queen states that she has been married to Agilulf for six months. That would pinpoint the play to take place during the summer of 591, making her not more than 21 years old. Fitting for her behaviour, but the king is presented as way too old for is actual age - 36 years at the time.
  • Then there is the existence of oranges, cultivated in Italy ninehundred years after the actual story took Place.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Much of the plot hinges on an old, bad tempered male bear with a grudge. It got testy when it lost its family, and even more when someone put a dart in its hind leg. Then, it ate a shepherd, and thus the king is going after said bear. Agilulf swears that the servant who cuckolded him is destined to end up in the frontline of that hunt.
  • Betty and Veronica: Guido is the Betty and Beppo the Veronica to Fosca's Archie. Guido is the Veronica and Agilulf is the Betty to Teudelinga's Archie. Teudelinga is the Veronica and Fosca is the Betty to Guido's Archie. Hoo boy.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Beppo and Fosca are alive and find solace with each other. The king, the bishop and Guido all are dead, and the queen is turning batshit insane in her bedchamber.
  • Bond One-Liner: Beppo. "Now the bishop sleeps a sound sleep". Right. Agilulf handed Beppo a spear and asked him to do it. The king does take the blame for it, and immediately kills himself.
  • Broken Bird: Implied with Fosca. During the last part of the play, she is nearly raped, is witness to the rapist getting murdered in a rather gory way, by the man who ends up as her lover, the moment of angst implied in her voice when she sees the king lying dead, nails it.
    • Queen Teudelinga qualifies on the broken scale as well. The two women present in the play get their scars, and one of them is clearly trying to break the other one. Teudelinga has passed well beyond the Broken Bird and into the Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds territory.
  • Butt-Monkey: Guido. The other servants treat him that way from the very beginning, and the nobles harass him even worse later on. When he eventually stabs himself to death, said nobles just shrug it off, going in for another drink. Lampshaded by the king, who actually calls him a "monkey" a number of times.
  • The Casanova: Beppo, the other stable boy. He settles with Fosca in the end.
  • The Dark Ages: Considering Agilulf's actual reign, the play is set in the early Lombard era in Italy. Some clearly feudal traits like falconeering are essential to the play, though.
  • Despair Speech: Agilulf has a long one in the last act, not being able to shake off Guido´s Death. He delivers it while drunk.
  • Dirty Old Man: The bishop of Siena, who is last seen alive dragging Fosca with her.
  • Disaster Dominoes: The plot hinges on this. The first domino seems to be the fact that Teudelinga slipped while getting off her horse during a hunt. Guido, the attendant, quickly stepped up and caught her, and put her down safely - but that incident woke a strong urge inside him, which in time overruled any reasoning - and made him seduce the queen. Agilulf understood this, and when he later uncovered the truth, forced Guido to hunt the bear with him, essentially driving him to suicide. The queen took the point of all this and went into Heroic BSoD mode before she gradually lost it, and the end of the story is complete chaos, three men dead and a possibly fatal situation for the entire kingdom.
  • Driven to Suicide: Guido. Later Agilulf.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Agilulf has tried this at the beginning of the last act.
  • Fanfic: The play is essentially this for the Boccaccio story. It is also a Continuation Fic, because it elaborates on what happened after the actual story, and a ship fic because Kinck actually ships Guido and the queen to some extent.
  • Foil: Several. Guido and the king. Teudelinga and Fosca. Guido and Beppo.
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Teudelinga full stop, after her Sanity Slippage.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Teudelinga really didn´t take it well when she understood the plight of Guido. Fosca, having learned the "ballad" from him, that told the backstory, sang it to her, and this revealed his love for her, setting this trope in motion.
  • Gorn: Nailed in this line:
    Come quickly, the holy father is swimming in his own blood!
    • It is implied that the bishop was taken down in a particularly nasty way. The last line of the play states that the king, likewise, is "dead in his own blood".
  • Grumpy Old Man: Agilulf.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Agilulf, although he seems to be able to think twice about things from the start - or else he would have stabbed Guido on the spot. During the play, he seems more and more like a mood-swinger, rashly deriding Teudelinga for rather petty reasons.
  • Heel Realization: Agilulf in the last act, when he understands he is responsible for alienating his Queen. He lapses into a Thousand-Yard Stare on the spot.
  • Historical Domain Character: Agilulf, being a historical Lombard king in Italy in the early seventh century., dying in 616. Teudelinga, or Theodolinda was his queen in actual history, and the two had a son together. The previous Lombard king, Authari, is also mentioned a number of times - he is almost remembered as a pirate king, romantically seducing Saracen women in Africa.
  • Lady Macbeth: Teudelinga at the end of her Character Development, beginning a trail of death and destruction.
  • Large Ham: You wanna play the titular character? Go on, and prepare youself for a massive scenery chewing. On the female side you have Teudelinga, a good number two.
  • Love Dodecahedron: Guido is in love with the queen, who actually loves her king. Fosca is in love with Guido, and keeps herself away from Beppo, who actually seems to have an interest in bedding her, at least.
  • Love Epiphany: The Queen takes the point in the Third act.
  • Locked into Strangeness: After six days of bear hunting, the king returns, his hair completely white.
  • Love Hurts: The play is built on this trope. Exaggerated to Love kills.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Interpretations vary, but it is there, definitely.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Oh, Guido.
  • Love Makes You Evil: Teudelinga during the last part of the play. She turns Yandere with destructive consequences.
  • Love Redeems: Agilulf redeems himself through saving Fosca from the bishop. Beppo lampshades it by stating that the murder was his redeeming act for her sake.
  • May–December Romance: Agilulf and Teudelinga. He was 15 years older than her in Real Life.
  • Not Really Listening To Me Are You: The Queen tries really hard to get Agilulf to listen, to no avail, until she almost screams "get Your head out of the clouds dammit!" in his face.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Agilulf could have avoided a lot of misunderstandings if he had paid more attention to his wife.
  • The Power of Love: With destructive results.
  • Sanity Slippage: Both Agilulf and Teudelinga come the last act.
  • Shipper on Deck: Agilulf tries to pair up Beppo and Fosca, while the Queen does her absolute best to obstruct it, all in one scene.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Guido. Justified by having to attend the queen and her horse, while pining away.
  • Stepford Smiler: Agilulf - it is actually written into the stage directions. The Queen has her moments as well.
  • Suddenly Sober: Momentarily so. When the Queen stomps the Falcon to Death, the Bishop of Siena sobers up in horror. Agilulf goes through the same thing earlier on.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Guido´s own lack of judgement and loss of self control eventually kills him.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: We know a number of characters are dead at the end of the play, but the queen is absent. Actually, she just closed herself in her chamber after making sure Fosca would comply to the bishop's wishes. Her last line, followed by an Evil Laugh, is something like "the blood of young hearts is spilled in the castle". Ouch.
  • Woman Scorned: The Queen in the last act of the play lampshades herself as the poster girl for this trope, going batshit after being ignored by the King for most of the play. She then turns from a fairly ingenue-like character to a crossover between Lady Macbeth and Medea. The consequences are, of course, disastrous.

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