I am trying to understand this line, which is from Questa o Quella, an aria from Verdi's Rigoletto. If you are unaware, this is quite an old text.

sol chi vuole si serbe fidele

I am struggling specifically with the role that the word 'si' plays here.

I have a couple of ideas, but I am afraid my level of Italian is quite low.

I am not sure if it means 'only those who wish should remain faithful to each other', 'only they who themselves wish to should remain faithful', or whether there is an archaic meaning of si that I am unaware of.

So could somebody please explain the role of si in this sentence.

Thank you in advance

1 Answer 1


First of all, the correct text is si serbi fedele, not ... serbe ....

Next, the meaning of the sentence is just (paraphrasing the OP's version): “only those who wish should remain faithful”. Si serbi is the subjunctive mood of serbarsi, which is the reflexive form of the verb serbare and means “remain” or “keep being”. So, in the whole aria the Duke describes his devotion to a kind of free love: he doesn't commit to any single woman and doesn't keep faithfulness in any esteem.

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