The Poisoned Chalice

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"The Poisoned Chalice"
Characters - The Borgias Fan Wiki

Episode Title: The Poisoned Chalice
The Borgias Episode #: 1 (season 1 premiere)
The Borgias Season: 1
Original Air Date: 3 April 2011
Writer: Neil Jordan
Director(s): Neil Jordan
Guest Star(s):Peter Sullivan as Cardinal Ascanio Sforza,Bosco Hogan as Cardinal Piccolomini

In the Season 1 premiere,Rodrigo Borgia bullies and bribes his way into an election as the newPope Alexander VI then wastes no time consolidating power by elevating his sons into high office and his daughter into a politically motivated marriage.

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Episode 1.1 - The Poisoned Chalice

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Rodrigo Borgia
Name: Cardinal Borgia
Played by: Jeremy Irons
Plot connections: becomes Pope Alexander IV

Cesare Borgia
Name: Cesare Borgia
Played by: Francois Arnaud
Plot connections: son of Cardinal Borgia, laments his role as a cleric

Juan Borgia played by David Oakes
Name:Juan Borgia
Played by: David Oakes
Plot connections: favorite son of Rodrigo Borgia. Captain-General of the Papal Army
Lucrezia spying
Name: Lucrezia Borgia
Played by: Holliday Grainger
Plot connections: daughter of Rodrigo Borgia, an innocent protected child

Cardinal Della Rovere
Name:Cardinal della Rovere
Played by: Colm Feore
Plot connections: Powerful cardinal, bitter enemy of Cardinal Borgia, proclaims enmity of the Borgia

Cardinal Orsini
Name: Cardinal Orsini
Played by: Derek Jacobi
Plot connections: Powerful cardinal, bitter enemy of Rodrigo Borgia. Publicly accuses him of simony

Cardinal Sforza - Episode 1.1
Name: Cardinal Ascanio Sforza
Played by: Peter Sullivan
Plot connections: For a price he casts the "pope-maker" vote

The Poisoned Chalice - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Vanozza dei Cattanei
Played by: Joanne Whalley
Plot connections: Rodrigo Borgia's mistress and mother of his children

The Poisoned Chalice - THE  BORGIAS   wiki
Name: Joffre Borgia
Played by: Aidan Alexander
Plot connections: youngest son of Rodrigo Borgia
Cardinal Versucci played by Vernon Dobtcheff
Name: Cardinal Julius Versucci
Played by: Vernon Dobtcheff
Plot connections: Cardinal

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Supporting Cast:

  • Cardinal Colonna - Lazlio Konter
  • Young Priest-Donal Gallery
  • Woman in Bed - Elena Argiros
  • Vatican Guard - Gergely Boronyak
  • Vittorio Colonna - Charlies Anson
  • Vatican Cook - Gabor Atlasz
  • Notary - Richard Bremmer
  • ***** 1 - Reke Csaszar
  • ***** 2 - Anna Spergel
  • Della Rovere's Cook - Oliver Toth
  • Deacon Cardinal - Stephen Noonan
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On the eve of the death of Pope Innocent VIII in 1492, a fierce political battle rages inside the Vatican walls over who will become the next pope. The papacy has long been the exclusive domain of a handful of super-powerful and ancient Italian families, so outsider Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia seems like a long shot. But the staid, pious Italians vastly underestimate the ambitions of the wily, rapacious Spaniard. Once ensconced on the throne, Rodrigo uses all of his power and influence to turn the papacy into a dynastic possession for his children, while his rivals plot with all their political might to unseat him.

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Pope Innocent VIII is on his deathbed, and the cardinals are in close attendance on his last words. The Papal Apartment walls and ceiling soar above, lavishly decorated and in a haze of incense. He warns the assembled cardinals that the corruption of the papacy is running rampant. Outside in the sunny courtyard young Lucrezia Borgia spies on a couple making love, watching mischievously from an open window. Our eyes intrude on the handsome eldest son of Rodrigo seeking temporal comforts in the arms of a young lady in his luxurious bedchamber. Cesare tells his conquest he is a cleric by day but whatever he wants by night. Out in the courtyard, siblings Cesare and Lucrezia share an intimate moment speaking of the future, marriage, and their destiny as children of an ambitious Renaissance cardinal. Rodrigo vehemently dictates his plans to win the papal election in view of his rivalries, he drives home that he will not accept failure. Cesare accepts his part to play in securing bribes and making promises using the wings of a messenger dove.

Juan skirmishes with young Roman nobles in the streets outside the Vatican after they taunt him and his Spanish blood, Cesare comes to his rescue and dryly begs their pardon for his brother often speaks before he thinks. In the Borgia courtyard, the beautiful Vanozza, mother of Rodrigo's children plays cards with her youngest son Joffre and Lucrezia, while Cesare and Juan discuss the perks of their father becoming pope. The cardinals Giuliano della Rovere and Rodrigo Borgia air a rivalry that is about to come to a point of no return. Della Rovere warns Borgia that he will oppose him at all costs in his effort to win the papacy.

In the Conclave of 1492 the college of cardinals convene to elect the worthy successor to the throne of St Peter. Neither Giuliano della Rovere nor Ascanio Sforza have the required majority of votes. Cesare is enlisted to assist his father in his brilliant but simonaical plan to purchase the neutral cardinals' votes. Rodrigo Borgia promises the revenue of benefices and gold (and to Sforza the Vice-Chancellorship) to those who choose to support him. He wins by a landslide and Cardinal della Rovere openly accuses him of simony, vowing his enmity before all. The traditional inspection of "testes et pendentes" is done to verify the pope's male genitalia. The white smoke is released and the waiting crowd clamors for joy at the election of a new pope. Rodrigo Borgia salutes the people and gives the papal blessing. Meanwhile at the Borgia household, Juan entertains several young ladies and gentlemen at a orgy to celebrate his father's election. During absolution and confession, Rodrigo explains to a reluctant Cesare his role in the divine plan, he is needed as a prince of the church while Juan prepares to lead as Captain-General of the Papal Army.

Rodrigo and Vanozza speak in the garden about the change in her status as mistress to a cardinal. As pope he must not only be chaste, he must appear to be so. He assures her of his continued love and financial support. This expected end to their carnal relations does not sit well, though Vanozza outwardly accepts the situation.Burchart reviews the list of necessaries for the upcoming coronation.

The procession and coronation of Pope Alexander attracts thousands of Romans, the Borgias are taken to St Peter's in a luxurious carriage befitting their new rank, the ladies dripping with jewels, and the banners of all the cardinals fly in the wind amid the cheering crowd. Rodrigo experiences the silence of God in his vast aloneness as pope. After the ceremony, the full grandeur and weight of the office descends upon him as he nearly falters holding on to Cesare. Della Rovere and the French Ambassador solidify their alliance and call the pope "a Mitered Ape." In Consistory the pope names Ascanio Sforza as his successor to the office of Vice-Chancellor to repay him for securing the election. Cardinal Orsini denounces the pope for simony, though after a warning from della Rovere, he apologizes and pronounces his outburst a hasty reaction. He changes tactics and invites the college of cardinals to a banquet in honor of Sforza’s promotion, where he plans to poison the Borgias with the help of a secret weapon - the assassin's poisoned chalice.

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page logo BEST QUOTES
  • Young Priest: 'Two testicles and a penis.' The physical examination of Rodrigo Borgia.
  • Della Rovere: "And what do you do with a monkey that bites you?"
  • Cesare: "You ring it's neck."
  • Rodrigo: "You would surprise yourself if such destiny ever brushed against you."
  • Rodrigo: "I do tend to win whatever battles I fight."
  • Vanozza: "It's in the hands of god."
  • Cesare: "It's in the hands of the College of Cardinals, Mother, not quite the same thing."
  • Rodrigo: "God will forgive us my son, but I will not forgive failure from you or your brother!"
  • Cesare: "The new Pope will be elected by the College of Cardinals, my love, and only God can predict the outcome."
  • Woman: "You're a cleric?"
  • Cesare: "Didn't you notice?"
  • Woman: "There was nothing ecclesiastical about you last night."
  • Pope Innocent: "You will fight like dogs over this corpse I leave, for this throne of Saint Peter's, but it was pure once."

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Who died?
How did they die?
Pope Innocent VIII Natural causes/old age
Cardinal Orsini Poisoned wine served by Micheletto
Cesare's monkey
Purloined poison from Micheletto's cup

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  • The ceremonial inspection of the pope's male reproductive organs
  • Cesare & Lucrezia's romp in the courtyard
  • The plot twist when Cardinal Orsini is poisoned by Micheletto
  • The notes in the entrees

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  • --

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  • The 3-tiers of the papal tiara signify the roles of the pope: father to kings and emperors, lord of the earth, and vicar of Christ. The three spheres of influence denote the pope's considerable powers in politics, commerce, and religion of all Christendom.
  • The painting above the pope's bed in the Papal Apartments is a masterpiece called "Pala di Santa Maria de' Fossi" c. 1495 by Pinturicchio (Main panel, Altarpiece of Santa Maria de' Fossi, Tempera on wood, Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, Perugia).
  • In one of the papal rooms is also the famous work "Christ Among the Doctors," c. 1500–01. Fresco. Baglioni Chapel, Santa Maria Maggiore, Spello

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How did this episode differ from actual events? Compare the facts with the fiction below!
  • Vanozza is head of Borgia children's household
  • Cardinal Orsini's name is given as "Orsino," and was murdered by poison in 1492
  • Pope Innocent died peacefully surrounded by cardinals
  • Cardinal Julius Versucci is fictional

  • Rodrigo's cousin Adriana de Mila is his confidant and head of the children's household, she does not appear in the series
  • Giovanni Battista Orsini, killed in 1503 and not in 1492, Orsino Orsini was the name ofGiulia Farnese's husband (son of Adriana de Mila)
  • On Pope Innocent's deathbed there was an apparent attempt to revive him with blood transfusions from three young male children (who also died in the process)
  • Cardinal Piccolomini's first name is Francesco, later Pope Pius III

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