Rigoletto is a court jester. Hunchbacked, ugly, a deformed body. He is a widow, after many years still mourning the loss of his cherished wife, irreplaceable. And when his daughter Gilda, the only beloved one, questions him about his origin, family or old friends, he remains silent, probably ashamed or resentful. His life is sad, he despises himself. Thus is described the character in the Verdi opera, Rigoletto.
To compensate his own dejection, the man has developped sarcasm as an art, he is cynical. He uses his talents to please the duke of Mantua, his Lord, a depraved man who only thinks of seducing women and having fun, without any scruples nor limits. When the Duke openly tries to seduce the Countess Ceprano in front of her husband, Rigoletto taunts the cuckhold, ridiculing his impotence. And when the Duke is angry because Ceprano hangs around and prevents his intrigue with his wife, Rigoletto suggests abducting the lady and eliminating the count. He overdoes the mocking, so much that even the Duke advises him to be less impertinent, and the courtiers promise Ceprano to avenge him. But Rigoletto brags that no one would ever dare laying hands on his person. Protected by his armor of cynism, he feels above everyone. Laughing protects him from his own misery, it makes him feel powerful, he can make others suffer, especially those in a state of weakness.
Shortly after this incident, an old man burst into the hall, angry with the duke who seduced his daughter, publicly denouncing him. Rigoletto of course jeers, the man is arrested, and he responds by cursing the Duke and the jester for mocking his righteous anger. The curse terrifies Rigoletto, who believes the popular superstition that an old man’s curse has real power. From then on starts the tragedy for the mean buffoon, the malediction, forcefully underlined by the music. The drama unfolds with a series of events leading to the Duke seducing Gilda and Rigoletto murdering by mistake his own daughter. Proud and blinded, he ended up forgetting the weight of reality, and the moral implications of it. “Live by the sword, die by the sword”, says the proverb. Laughter is liquor than can easily turn bitter.