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The story is set in Padua in a distant, but unspecified past. From his quarters, Giovanni, a young student of letters, observes Beatrice, the beautiful daughter of Dr. Rappaccini, a scientist working in isolation. Beatrice is confined to the lush and locked gardens filled with poisonous plants by her father. Having fallen in love, Giovanni enters the garden and meets with Beatrice a number of times regardless of the warning of his mentor, Professor Baglioni, that Rappaccini is up to no good and he and his work should be avoided.