Two years prior to the opening scene, the nobleman Florestan has exposed or attempted to expose certain crimes of the nobleman Pizarro. In revenge, Pizarro has secretly imprisoned Florestan in the prison over which Pizarro is governor. The jailer of the prison, Rocco, has a daughter, Marzelline, and a servant (or assistant), Jaquino. Florestan’s wife, Leonore, came to Rocco’s door dressed as a boy seeking employment, and Rocco hired her. On orders, Rocco has been giving Florestan diminishing rations until he is nearly starved to death. Place: A Spanish state prison, a few miles from Seville; Time: Late 18th century.