IL PASTOR FIDO PLOT SYNOPSIS
Each year the Arcadians sacrificed to Diana their patron goddess a young woman of the country, so as to expiate the ancient transgression of Lucrinia and to avert even greater perils. Of late, the Oracle has been consulted as to the manner of ending so much grief, and it has responded in this wise:
No end is there to that which you offends
Till two of heaven's issue Love unite;
And for the ancient fault of that false wight
A Faithful Shepherd's pity makes amends.i
Stirred by the prophesy, Montano, priest of the selfsame goddess, and who traces his origins to Hercules, arranges that his only son Silvio should be betrothed in marriage to Amarilli, a most noble maiden and herself the only daughter of Titiro, descendant of Pan; and indeed the betrothal is solemnly celebrated. Nonetheless, however much their fathers might insist, the arrangement does not culminate in the desired object, for the reason that the youth Silvio is exceedingly remote from thoughts of love, taking delight in naught save the hunt.
Moreover, the betrothed Amarilli is fiercely yearned after by a shepherd named Mirtillo, son (as he believes) of Carino, a shepherd born in Arcadia, but who had long dwelled in the land of Elis. Amarilli loves Mirtillo in turn, but dares not reveal her love to him out of fear for the law, which in its severity considers feminine infidelity a capital offense.
This situation presents Corisca with a most convenient opportunity to cause harm to the maiden Amarilli, whom she hates on account of her love for Mirtillo - for she [Corisca] has capriciously taken a liking to him. Through the death of her rival, Corisca hopes to overcome more easily the most unwavering faith of that shepherd lad; therefore, using her stratagems and wiles, Corisca procures that the wretched lovers should find themselves alone together in a grotto. Betrayed by a Satyr, the two are discovered; and Amarilli, not being able to justify her innocence, is condemned to death.
Mirtillo, while not doubting that the sentence is merited, and knowing that he would be absolved since the law holds only the woman culpable, nonetheless expresses the wish to die in her place, a circumstance which indeed the same law permits. While Mirtillo is being prepared for his execution by Montano - to whom, as priest, this task is entrusted - Carino happens upon the dismal scene. Carino, who loves Mirtillo no less than if he had indeed been his own son, seeks to save him from death by demonstrating that Mirtillo is an outsider, and therefore unable to substitute as a victim for another. In so doing, he unwittingly reveals that Mirtillo is in fact the son of Montano. Montano, as the true father, is distraught at the prospect of administering the sentence of the law to his own flesh and blood.
At this juncture, Tirenio, a blind soothsayer, reveals through his interpretation of the Oracle that not only would it be repugnant to the gods that such sacrifice be offered, but also that the end to the woes of Arcadia is at hand, as had been predicted by the divine revelation. Whereupon it is concluded that Amarilli cannot, and should not, be espoused to anyone other than Mirtillo.
Not long before, moreover, Silvio, intending to shoot a wild beast, has wounded Dorinda, who in her miserable passion has been following him in the chase. As a result of this accident, his customary hard-heartedness is transformed into loving-kindness; and the maiden, thought to be mortally wounded, is restored to health. As Amarilli is espoused to Mirtillo, so, in like wise, is Dorinda espoused to the now loving Silvio. The couples celebrate these most felicitous circumstances, which so exceed all expectations. A chastened Corisca, having received pardon from the lovers, resolves to change her ways.
-- translated and adapted from the Argomento of the 1602 edition