Scene i. The Duke’s palace
For three months the Duke of Mantua has been lusting after a lovely girl. He has found out where she lives, and that a mysterious man visits her every night, but he has no idea who she is. One woman is as good as another for the Duke, and when the Countess Ceprano catches his eye he sweeps her away before her husband’s eyes.
Rigoletto cruelly taunts Ceprano about the Duke seducing his wife. Marullo rushes in with a diverting bit of gossip: Rigoletto has a lover! Ceprano enlists his friends in a plot to wreak revenge on Rigoletto. They have all felt the lash of the hunchback’s tongue, and they are delighted at the chance to pay him back.
Monterone storms in, accusing the Duke of seducing his daughter. Rigoletto mocks the old man savagely, but Monterone will not be silenced. The furious Duke has him arrested, and as he is led away he curses both the Duke and Rigoletto.