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See Hernani for other meanings of the word.

The audience fights during the representation.
The "battle of Hernani".

Hernani (Full title: Hernani, ou l'Honneur Castillan) is a drama by the French romantic author Victor Hugo.

The play opened in Paris on February 25, 1830. Today, the drama is more remembered for the demonstrations which accompanied the premiere, and for being the inspiration of Verdi's opera Ernani, than it is for its own merits.



Set in a fictitious version of the Spanish court of 1519, it is based on courtly romance and intrigues.


Act I

  • In the first scenes Hugo introduces Doña Sol, a young noblewoman of the court of the fictional Don Carlos, King of Spain (not to be confused with the real Don Carlos, Prince of Asturias). The King has come to her room to seduce her.
  • They are interrupted by the arrival of Doña Sol's true love, the bandit Hernani, and the two argue over her and are about to duel.
  • Her uncle (and fiancé) Don Ruy Gomez de Silva enters, and demands to know why both men are in Doña Sol's private chambers.
    • Don Carlos asserts that he had come hoping to meet Ruy Gomez to discuss affairs of state, and Hernani does not reveal the King's true intent.
  • In return for the bandit's discretion, Don Carlos claims to Don Ruy that Hernani is a member of his entourage. Thus, each has given the other an honorable excuse for their presence in the quarters of Doña Sol.

Thus, three men- two noblemen and a mysterious bandit, are in love with the same woman. What follows in the ensuing chaos of action prompted the biographer of Hugo, J.P. Houston, to write "... and a résumé [plot synopsis] will necessarily fail, as in the case of Notre-Dame de Paris, to suggest anything like the involution of its details" (Houston 1974:53).

Act II

  • In Act II, Don Carlos learns of a midnight rendezvous between Doña Sol and Hernani. He decides to interrupt it in the hope of abducting her.
    • Hernani becomes aware of the plot and has his men surround the King's guards.

For the first time, the King becomes aware of Hernani's true identity as a bandit, rather than a nobleman, and refuses a duel. Hernani, although he could charge the King with a crime, allows him to go free.


  • The action in Act III takes place at the wedding of Doña Sol to Ruy Gomez.
    • Hernani arrives in disguise, and confronts her for agreeing, however reluctantly, to marry.
    • He admits his criminal past to Ruy Gomez, and the fact that he is being pursued by the King.
  • On the King's arrival, Ruy Gomez hides Hernani and refuses to surrender him, citing laws of hospitality, which, he asserts, protect his guests, even from the King.
  • While Ruy Gomez and Don Carlos argue, Doña Sol, alone with Hernani, reveals that she plans to commit suicide before her marriage can be consummated.
  • The King, frustrated by Ruy Gomez' resistance, drops the pursuit of Hernani, and instead abducts Doña Sol.

Acts 4-5

In the end, the king pardons Hernani and gives him Doña Sol. The two are married, but as they enjoy their wedding feast, Hernani hears the call of the horn blown by Silva, and kills himself by drinking poison to retain his honour. Doña Sol drinks her poison as well and they die together. Silva then kills himself.


Referenced in Edgar Allan Poe's short story, "The Masque of the Red Death". It is used to describe the magnitude/ elegance of Prince Prospero's masquerade.

Gillenormand in Les Miserables criticizes Hernani.


  • Easton, Malcolm. Artists and Writers in Paris: The Bohemian Idea, 1803-1867. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1964
  • Houston, John Porter. Victor Hugo. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1974
  • Houston, John Porter (1974). Victor Hugo, Revised Edition. New York: Twayne Publishers. 1988
  • Miller, Richard. Bohemia; the Protoculture Then and Now. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1977.
  • Porter, Laurence M.. Victor Hugo. Ed. David O'Connell. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1999.

External links


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