Told as a story within a story, "Ferdinando Eboli" is set in Naples, Italy. The unnamed narrator describes himself as living in a peaceful era void of all thrilling wars such as the Napoleonic wars. The narrator has a much romanticized outlook on war and fears that the people of his era will soon forget the iconic names of Europe’s great conquerors. Of these many tales, the narrator chooses to recite the story of "Ferdinando Eboli" which occurred during Murat’s reign.
Murat, who is also known as Gioacchino, was the king of Naples from (1808-15). Ferdinando’s father, Count Eboli was an honorable soldier of Murat’s regime and was exiled along with his king. After Count Eboli’s death, his son Ferdinando Eboli gets sent from Sicily to Naples to live with Marchese Spina who was another highly ranked officer in Murat’s army and Count Eboli’s close friend.
Ferdinando rises to become an honorable officer in Murat’s army, gets engaged to Adalinda, and inherits a villa from his future-father-in-law. After saying goodbye to Marchese and Adalinda, Ferdinando ventures onward with his army. Later that night, Adalinda is visited in her apartment by a man whom she believes is her fiancé. The man displays much emotional and physical love towards her as they share a moment. He cuts off a lock of her hair with his dagger and wounds his left hand in the process.
Meanwhile on Ferdinando’s horseback journey, he hears the voice of his German enemies and quickly redirects his path. Nearing a river, someone mysteriously grabs, bounds, gags, and blinds Ferdinando throwing him onto a small boat. He was then placed inside a shepherd’s cottage and stripped of all his clothing and jewelry. Ferdinando laid there starving and unable to move for over a day. A peasant girl and child came to his aid and unbound Ferdinando providing him with food, water, and a tattered dress.
Ferdinando rushes back to his army to explain his catastrophic mission. Upon arrival, Ferdinando learns that someone with his identity had arrived three hours prior to himself successfully completing their mission and he is unduly arrested as a spy. King Murat examines the two Ferdinandos with one possessing “matted hair, blood-shot eyes, haggard looks, and a torn, mean dress” while the other displayed “chestnut hair, sweet animated hazel eyes”, and noble composure (27). Ferdinando proposes to challenge the fake in a dual to determine who the real one was. After more interrogation by the king, Ferdinando is falsely banished.
Ferdinando decides to travel back to Naples and relate his story to Marchese even though he is bankrupt and has on raggedy clothing. Upon arrival, Ferdinando learns that the false Ferdinando has already arrived before him. The impostor is nobly dressed and shows Adalinda her lock of hair and the scar on his left hand. Adalinda tells her father that false Ferdinando is the real one and Marchese exiles Ferdinando from the Villa.
Enraged, Ferdinando breaks into his own home to recover his father’s jewels and take a bath. His situation goes from bad to worse when he is caught in the act by police, “tried by the tribunal, condemned as guilty, and sentenced to the galleys for life” (33). On the day Ferdinando was to slave away on the roads of Calabria, false Ferdinando visits him in his dungeon offering him freedom in return for a signed confession of his crimes, but Ferdinando refuses ripping the letter and throwing it by the impostor’s feet. Consequently, Ferdinando does hard labor on the roads in Calabria.
The impostor tries to marry Adalinda, but their wedding is postponed due to Marchese’s death. The impostor replaces all of Adalinda’s servants with his own and she is basically kept as a prisoner in her own home. Adalinda recognizes that she is with the false Ferdinando and plans to escape. The impostor reveals his true identity in which he is Ferdinando’s elder half-brother. His mother was raped by Ferdinando’s dad. He tells Adalinda that as soon as she marries him, he will release Ferdinando to which Adalinda replied, “she would rather share the chains of the innocent, and misery, than link herself with imposture and crime” (37).
Adalinda escapes her home through a private passage from her home to the castle chapel while disguising herself in the clothing of her mother’s recently deceased servant. She makes her way into a mountain passageway and finds a table adorned with plenty of wine and food. Ferdinando and his outlaw friends who made their escape from Calabria were hiding out in that cave. Once reunited, Ferdinando and Adalinda plan to return to Naples, but before they do they’re presented with the impostor who is brought in by the gang as a prisoner. The kind hearts of Ferdinando and Adalinda permit the impostor whose name is Ludovico to join the army. Ludovico becomes an honorable soldier and later becomes a benefactor to Ferdinando on their missions together in Russia. Ludovico even saves Ferdinando’s life on one occasion. Ferdinando is taken prisoner by enemy forces at the same time Ludovico dies. Napoleon later comes to liberate Ferdinando.
Cross-Dressing: Mary Shelley likes to blur the lines and sabotage gender roles in "Ferdinando Eboli" as with her other short stories "The Sisters of Albano" and "A Tale of the Passions". Adalinda has to wear her mother's male servant's clothes in order to escape her confinement and rescue her fiance.
Disguises in Regards to Class: Disguises are used to camoflauge [[[your]]] identity in exchange for a new one. Mary [[[Shelley implies that you can swap your identity simply by swapping your outfit and that the clothes we wear determine who we are.]]] In "Ferdinando Eboli", Ludovico impersonates Ferdinando simply by putting on clothes of which a nobleman would wear. While everyone believes Ludovico to be Ferdinando, Ferdinando has a difficult time trying to convince everyone that he is the real Ferdinando only because he is badly dressed. As a result, Ferdinando is isolated from the rest of society. Ludovico disguises himself as Ferdinando in order to steal his fiance and improve his social class.
Ruff, Al Von. "Bibliography: Ferdinando Eboli." Bibliography: Ferdinando Eboli. N.p., 24 Apr. 2006. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. "Fernando Eboli." 1828. Tales and Stories: With a New Introduction by Joanna Russ. Boston: Gregg, 1975. 20-41. Print.
Pappas, Dale. "Joachim Murat and the Kingdom of Naples: 1808 – 1815." Joachim Murat and the Kingdom of Naples: 1808 – 1815. The Napoleon Series, July 2008. Web. 16 Nov. 2013.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. "A Tale of the Passions" 1823. Tales and Stories: With a New Introduction by Joanna Russ. Boston: Gregg, 1975. 112-48. Print.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. "The Sisters of Albano" 1828. Tales and Stories: With a New Introduction by Joanna Russ. Boston: Gregg, 1975. 1-20. Print.
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft. "Transformation" 1830. Tales and Stories: With a New Introduction by Joanna Russ. Boston: Gregg, 1975. 165-86. Print.