A nightmare plagues Rodrigo’s mind. He dreams of a lifeless Lucrezia drowning under water in the Vatican. Remorseful he pulls his daughter out of the clear water and repeats: “What have I done?” begging his daughter for forgiveness. Cold a shallow-eyed pale Lucrezia ascends from the water taking her leave of the Pope without pardoning his sins: “God may forgive you, father. But I never will.” Her image takes its place at the centre of the depiction of angels in the Vatican Dome. Inconsolable Rodrigo wakes up from his dream calling for his daughter but finds himself back in his bedchamber.
Pesaro – It is the morning after Lucrezia’s rape by her husband and she has not slept the entire night, weeping at the discovery of the animosity of her new husband. Giovanni lies awake next to her calm and satisfied. With condescending words he insults her and the Borgia family: “And blood, thank God. A virgin. You must be… unique in your family.” With an indifferent air he admits that her dowry was indeed impressing and informs her that with her lack of interest in hunting, his preference of sport, they need hardly interact and can keep the marriage businesslike with the exception of “marital duties”, which he promises to keep brief. It is clear that Giovanni holds neither emotions nor respect for his wife and will only use her for his pleasure disregarding the abuse he causes his new wife.
Back in the Pope’s chamber, doctors are rejected by an irritated Rodrigo. The Pope confides in Cardinal Ascanio Sforza about his nightmares. Borgia subconsciously suspects his daughter suffers at the hands of her new husband, Cardinal’s cousin and he feels guilt seeking reassurance: “I need your assurance, of the welfare of my daughter. And the castle of your cousin Giovanni Sforza.” The cardinal comments soothing a remark, claiming that Giovanni “inherited the Sforza name, the Sforza wealth. But none of its vigour.” Rodrigo reassumes the talk of politics warning the Vice-Chancellor Ascanio against intrigue on his relatives’ behalf and mentions another Sforza cousin, the Duke of Milan.
Elsewhere, Ursula Bonadeo seeks confession with Cardinal Cesare Borgia in order to get him alone. Pleasantly surprised to see his latest infatuation the two exchange lovers’ sentiments. Ursula warns Cesare against perusing his vengeance for the insult of his mother. She tells the Cardinal of her husband’s brutal skills in battle, yet Cesare openly admits that he will avenge his mother nonetheless.
Borgia palazzo – It is late in the evening when Cesare confides his feelings for Ursula to his mother asking her whether she still care for his father despite the pain Rodrigo’s caused her. “Can it [love] be cures?” Vanozza admits that she may still love Rodrigo: “No, it can be endured, embraced and suffered.” Despite her support Cesare is reluctant to further his feelings for Ursula as they have no future. Vanozza suggests that her son may leave the church and go against his father’s wishes, unless he dares. Clearly still displeased with his lot in profession Cesare replies: “I fear nothing, mother.”
Inspired by Vanozza, Cesare finds his baroness the following morning in the woods, giving alms to a local monastery. Urusla is curious as to his methods but is not surprised when revealed to that the Cardinal has spies. She admits that she takes comfort in his “priestly collar” makes her hope her heart is safe. Cesare swears he would never harm it. At Pesaro Lucrezia has survived yet another night of terror with her husband with her new maid Francesca.
Back in Rome Cesare is furious at yet another failure by Micheletto, who revealed to his master that their monk-assassin was stabbed in the eye by Cardinal della Rovere and now their target has fled to the Duchy of Milan. Sharing this information with his father and brother, Cesare cleverly guesses della Rovere’s entire plot of invading Italy aided by the French army, which “is hardened by a hundred years of battle with England”, something Rome cannot match. The Borgia trio agree that the Sforza duke of Milan cannot be trusted despite Lucrezia’s marriage to the dukes relative and only threats can secure his political standing to their advantage. Meanwhile Cesare is sent to Florence to propose a deal to the Medici: an excommunication and public burning of a disturbing preacher in Florence in the Medici support the Borgia’s “just cause”.
Cardinal della Rovere has arrived to Milan, welcomed to a feast held by the beastly duke Sforza, who holds the rightful heir to the duchy under lock and key in a dungeon below, treating the boy like a dirty animal. Duke Ludovico agrees to consider supporting the Cardinal’s request of “safe passage of the French arms”.
Cesare, now in Florence, meets the famous Medici ambassador Niccolo Machiavelli and proposes a sort of inquisition between just the two, without the involvement of Machiavelli’s Medici master. Machiavelli admits that a Cardinal has visited them. He informs that this Cardinal asked Florence to do nothing “in the event of something” (the French invasion) and that Florence has promised nothing to the “nothing” proposed.
While Lucrezia acquaintances herself with her new home in Pesaro and the stable boy Paolo, the Pope seeks for a new marriage alliance for his son Juan, who wants nothing but the best and not “second grade royalty”. Juan suggests that his father marries off the youngest son Joffre Borgia to the King of Naples’ illegitimate daughter Sancia, a proposal Rodrigo takes into serious consideration.
Rodrigo sends his Vice-Chancellor Sforza, to the Duchy of Milan so that the cardinal talks sense into his cousin Ludovico Sforza. Later that night Rodrigo discusses with Giulia the idea of a union between Sancia and Joffre affirming her fears that he will never stop plotting and will ensnare the whole Europe in his scheme.
Pesaro – Giovanni forces his usual brutal intercourse on an already beaten Lucrezia. This time she takes the advice of her maid Francesca and counts sheep infuriating her husband even more. Meanwhile Francesca and Paolo stand outside the bedchamber and listen with horror to their mistress’ screams of pain unable to do anything.
Milan – Cardinal Ascanio Sforza visits duke Ludovico and tries to persuade him to take the Pope’s side against della Rovere’s rebelling schemes. The brutish duke demands the cardinal to release his imprisoned cousin and then allows him to eat. The food that the boy is served is poisoned and before the cardinal can stop it he dies with blood pouring out of his mouth.
In town Cesare continues his pursuit of baroness Ursula. He sees a mark on her cheekbone and tells her that she should not tolerate her husband’s abuse. His assurances lead her to set a meeting on the morrow’s night with her husband away. Cesare calls upon Micheletto to practice with swords in preparation for a fight with Ursula’s husband, unbeknown to her.
In the woods near Pesaro, Lucrezia spends more time with Paolo continuing the yet unconsummated affair. The stable boy is surprised to find out that the Pope does not know of the abuse of his daughter. Instead Paolo suggests a scheme that would lead to Giovanni’s handicap. Knowing much about horses and the gear, Paolo wants to “adjust” Giovanni’s saddle so that he would fall, thus being no longer physically capable of harming his wife.
Cesare finds out about his father’s plans of marrying Joffre to Sancia, not surprised at all.
Meanwhile Lucrezia is “counting sheep” with her husband “thrusting” in the bedchamber. It is night and hidden in the darkness inside the stables, Paolo sabotages lord Sforza’s riding saddle in time for his daily hunting trip on the morrow.
Lucrezia is not the only wife to suffer from her husband’s tyranny. The Baron commands that no visitors should be allowed to see his wife Ursula during his absence. Cesare is standing in waiting for a duel, rejecting Micheletto’s offer of aid as the cardinal wishes to avenge his mother’s honour himself, even if it will get blood on his hands.
Francesca comes into the ducal bedroom and informs Lucrezia that her husband has been injured during the hunt. The abused wife smiles smugly.
In a dark alley of the street of Rome Cesare intercepts the baron and the two start a combat. After struggling in the rain and dirt Cesare stabs the baron with Micheletto watching. This turns out to be Cesare’s first kill and the cardinal “felt the life go out of him” as he read a final prayer over the dead man’s body with the sword still in the baron’s throat. The cardinal and the assassin get rid of the body by dumping it into the flood created by the pouring rain.
In Pesaro Giovanni is handled by a doctor while Lucrezia watches with pleasure how her husband suffers, blood spilling out of his broken bones. “One, two… three!”