The Leopard

infobox Book |
name = The Leopard
title_orig = Il Gattopardo
translator =

image_caption = Signet paperback edition
author = Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = Italy
language = Italian
series =
genre = Novel
publisher = Casa editrice Feltrinelli
release_date = 1958
media_type = Print (Hardcover, Paperback)
pages = 330 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-679-73121-0 (Pantheon edition)
oclc = 312310
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Leopard" ( _it. Il Gattopardo) is a novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa that chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the "Risorgimento". Published posthumously in 1958, it became the top-selling novel in Italian history and is considered one of the most important novels in modern literature.

The novel was also made into an award-winning 1963 film of the same name, directed by Luchino Visconti and starring Burt Lancaster, Claudia Cardinale and Alain Delon.

The author

Tomasi was the last in a line of minor princes in Sicily, and he had long contemplated writing a historical novel based on his grandfather, another Prince of Lampedusa. After the Lampedusa palace was bombed and pillaged by Allied forces in World War II, Tomasi sank into a lengthy depression, and began to write "Il Gattopardo" as a way to combat it.

The title

Despite being universally known in English as "The Leopard", the original title "Il Gattopardo" actually refers to a serval. Although uncommon north of the Sahara Desert, one of the serval's few North African ranges is quite near Lampedusa. This animal is in the coat of arms of Tomasi's family. [ [ of arms of the Tomasi family] , on]

Plot summary

Most of the novel is set during the time of the "Risorgimento", specifically during the period when Giuseppe Garibaldi, the hero of Italian unification, swept through Sicily with his forces, known as The Thousand.

Part I

The story focuses upon the aristocratic Salina family, which is headed by the stoic Prince Fabrizio, a consummate womanizer who rules his family with an iron fist. As the novel opens in 1860, Garibaldi's Redshirts have landed on the Sicilian coast and are pressing inland to overthrow the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Meanwhile, the Prince finds the decomposed corpse of a Bourbon soldier lying in his lemon orchard, and begins to awaken to the coming disintigration of his world. Although he continues to view Francis II of the Two Sicilies as his lawful king, Prince Fabrizio is unwilling and unable to lift a finger in his defense. Instead he allows events to take their course, preferring to focus on astronomy with his friend and confessor, Father Pirrone.

Tancredi Falconeri, the son of Prince Fabrizio's sister, could not be more different from his uncle. Tancredi is handsome, charismatic, and a supporter of Garibaldi. Tancredi vainly tries to persuade the Prince to support King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, expressing fear that he if the nobility refuses to ally with him, Garibaldi will declare a Republic. Although the Prince disagrees with his nephew's politics, he views Tancredi's decision to join the Redshirts in the mountains as the Salina family's only opportunity to preserve their tottering influence. As a result, he silences all criticism of his nephew.

Part II

Several months later, Sicily is completely under Garibaldi's control. During his service with the Redshirts, Tancredi has lost an eye and become an intimate friend of Sicily's new leaders. Only his influence has been able to obtain the permits for to the Salinas to travel to their summer palace at Donnafugata. Upon arrival, Prince Fabrizio learns, much to his dismay, that Don Calogero Sedàra, the mayor, has manipulated the chaos spawned by the Redshirts and cheaply bought up vast tracts of valuable land. Although the Prince regards Don Calogero as a crass and money grubbing upstart, the mayor is now every bit as wealthy as the Salinas.

Later, Father Pirrone speaks to the Prince on an errand for Signorina Concetta. Imminently expecting a marriage proposal from her cousin Tancredi, Concetta is requesting her father's permission to accept him. Suddenly feeling much older, Prince Fabrizio delays giving his answer.

At the ball that evening, Don Calogero arrives in an evening suit which barely fits his massive girth. As a result, the Prince is scandalized by the uncultured boorishness of Sicily's new elite. Tancredi encounters Angelica Sedàra, Don Calogero's seventeen year old daughter, who has just returned to Sicily after four years at a Florentine finishing school. Attracted both to Angelica's beauty and to her father's money, Tancredi begins a flirtation rife with sexual innuendo. Both scandalized and heartbroken, Concetta sharply criticizes her cousin's behavior and turns her back to him.

The next morning, as the Salinas pay a formal visit the village convent, Tancredi asks to accompany them inside. However, this request is rejected with blistering coldness by Concetta, and Tancredi is left inside the coach with Father Pirrone. Enraged, he walks back to the village alone. That evening, Prince Fabrizio watches from the palace balcony as Tancredi, flanked by a footman carrying flowers and decked out in his "seduction color" of Prussian blue, calls at the Serdàra's door

Parts III

Several months later, Tancredi has followed the Redshirts into Naples. Angelica has taken to visiting the Salina palace daily to enquire for news about her lover. The Prince describes the content of Tancredi's letters to her, while carefully concealing his nephew's affair with a Neapolitan dancer. Eventually, a letter arrives in which Tancredi asks his uncle to negotiate a marriage with Angelica. Enraged that Tancredi will not be marrying their Concetta, Princess Stella indignantly declares that Tancredi has betrayed both his King and his family. Prince Fabrizio, however, argues that Tancredi, "goes through money like a sieve," and therefore needs the Serdàra fortune. As for Tancredi's politics, the Prince argues that his nephew is merely, "following the times." He expresses dismay, however, at having to humble himself before Don Calogero.

Parts IV-VI

As the novel progresses, Prince Fabrizio finds himself in an existential crisis which no one else can understand. The Prince's authority over his family and tenants was once his reason for living. With the nobility becoming increasingly impoverished and powerless, Prince Fabrizio feels bereft of purpose. Tancredi's marriage to Angelica serves as a symbol of the transfer of power from the world of inherited privilege to that of Sicily's "nouveau riche". Although the text is littered with hints that Tancredi and Angelica's marriage is not a happy one, it proves productive for both their ambitions.

Part VII

As the novel winds to a close, we see Prince Fabrizio in his death throes, contemplating not his own future but that of his family.


In an epilogue, the novel ends in 1910 as the Salina line approaches extinction. Princess Concetta Salina, a spinster in her seventies, converses with the widowed Angelica Falconeri. Ultimately, she decides to discard the heirlooms which are reminders of her family's distinguished past, long since rendered irrelevant by history. In the finale, a Catholic prelate arrives from Palermo to remove the relics from the palace chapel, wherein the novel first began.

Characters in "The Leopard"

The central character in the novel is Don Fabrizio Corbera, the charismatic Prince of Salina, who dabbles in astronomy and mathematics. Fabrizio recognizes the tremendous changes coming to Italian society and what that means for himself, his family, and the aristocracy in general.

Don Fabrizio's nephew, Tancredi Falconeri, plays a supporting role as a new form of aristocrat, one who parlays the declining value of his family name into political power through his interpersonal skills and via marriage to the wealthy and beautiful but untitled Angelica Sedàra, daughter of the crude Don Calogero Sedàra, who has made his money by capitalizing on the chaos sown by the Redshirts.

Other characters include Father Pirrone, the Corbera family priest; Concetta Corbera, Don Fabrizio's daughter, who appears destined to marry her cousin Tancredi but who is spurned by him when Angelica arrives; Maria Stella, Don Fabrizio's wife; and Bendicò, Don Fabrizio's faithful dog, who serves a symbolic purpose throughout the book, even after his death.


The novel was assailed from all sides upon its publication. Conservative elements criticized its unflattering portrayal of the Roman Catholic clergy as corrupt and concerned with earthly ideals. Liberal elements attacked the novel for its implicit opposition to Italian unification and the disinitgration of the nobility.

However, the novel was later to gain great critical acclaim, notably from English novelist E.M. Forster. In 1959, it won Italy's highest award for fiction, the Strega Prize. ["The Leopard" won Italy's highest award for fiction, the Strega Prize, and became a huge best seller." - [ Dying World of the Last Leopard] , "New York Times", 1991-08-11.]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

The novel served as the basis for a movie directed by Luchino Visconti. The film, starring Burt Lancaster, has been described as a fresco of Sicilian life because of its opulent recreation of life. The saturated colours, cinematography, and Visconti's renowned attention to detail all helped make it the winner of the "Palme d'Or" at the Cannes Film Festival.

20th Century Fox cut the film dramatically for its original 1963 release, but in the1980's Visconti's vision was re-released with English subtitles and the famous ballroom scene restored to its full 45 minute running time.


"If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change." (spoken by Tancredi) [Colquhoun translation, Pantheon edition, p.40. According to [ Il romanzo e il film] , the Italian original of this is "Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga com'è bisogna che tutto cambi."]

"We were the Leopards, the Lions, those who'll take our place will be little jackals, hyenas; and the whole lot of us, Leopards, jackals, and sheep, we'll all go on thinking ourselves the salt of the earth." (spoken by Don Fabrizio) [Colquhoun translation, Pantheon edition, p.214. According to [ a page on the Figurella site] , the Italian original is "Noi fummo i Gattopardi, i Leoni; quelli che ci sostituiranno saranno gli sciacalletti, le iene. E tutti quanti, Gattopardi, sciacalli e pecore, continueremo a crederci il sale della terra."]

Current editions

*An edition of "Il gattopardo" following the manuscript of 1957 is published by
*Milano : Feltrinelli Editore, Universale Economica ISBN 88-07-81028-X

*Archibald Colquhoun’s English translation, "The Leopard", originally published in 1960 by Collins (in the UK) and Pantheon Books (in the US) is available from
**London : The Harvill Press, Panther ISBN 1-86046-145-X
**London : David Campbell, Everyman's Library ISBN 1-85715-023-6
**New York: Pantheon Books ISBN 0-679-73121-0

Notes and references

* [ Il romanzo e il film: somiglianze e differenze] "The Novel and the Film: resemblances and differences". In Italian. Accessed 15 October 2006.
* [ "The Role of Leadership in the Novel THE LEOPARD" (1958, Lampedusa)] (After clicking on link, scroll down page)

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