Monteverdi & the Highwaymen


The highwayman leveling his firearm at a kneeling traveler was thinking only of the moment. He had no idea that the man trembling before him would be revered centuries later as a great composer.

The madrigalist Claudio Monteverdi had been traveling from Cremona to Venice when three bandits waylaid him and his companions. In a letter of October 12th, 1613 he described the trauma.

“One of the scoundrels, dark-haired with a sparse beard and of medium height, carrying a long musket with the trigger cocked suddenly came forward and another approached and threatened me with his musket, while the third grasped the bridle of my horse, which continued on obliviously as he led it into a field. I was quickly dismounted and forced to go down on my knees while one of the two armed men demanded my purse and the other moved in on the courier and demanded his bag, which he handed out of the carriage

“They opened it and one of them packed up everything he could lay his hands on.
As for me, I remained on my knees the whole time, pinned down by the one with the firearm. Then both of them grabbed up as much as they could while the third kept a lookout along the road. When they had completely ransacked all of our possessions the man who had searched the courier came over to me and commanded me to undress so that he could see if I had any more money. I vowed that I had none, so he went over to my maidservant and demanded the same of her, but she resisted with such prayers, pleading and tears that he left her alone.

“Finally they crammed everything into a huge bundle, hoisted it onto their backs and took off with it. Then we packed up what was left and went to the inn.”

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