Casanova’s escape from the Leads (as the prison in the Doge’s Palace in Venice was called) in 1755 is literally the funniest story ever. He used to tell people it over and over again, absolutely revelling in the fact that everyone loved hearing about it (after it happened, the story soon travelled around Europe and made Casanova a legend). He’d even include some of the more unsavoury details, like the fact he filled two chamberpots with urine from anxiety, and when the ladies objected, he’d say “The world is not a lady!” so he wasn’t going to clean up the story for their refined ears.
Hilarious things about the whole escapade:
- He was arrested for suspected atheism and owning pornographic books. Of course.
- He was firstly placed in a really shitty cell, without a trial or anything, but he started to lose his wits after literally an hour. It’s as if he’s never been stuck in a tight place before.
- At one point, he fell asleep and when he woke up his hand touched another cold, lifeless hand. He screamed! OH NO, A DEAD BODY? No, actually, it was just his other hand.
- He manages to convince his influential friend, Count Bragadin, to have some of the restrictions on him lifted. He’s allowed out into the courtyard to wander and is given warmer blankets, better bed and better food. Because of this, he manages to regain some semblance of sanity and collects things that may be useful for an escape from the courtyard. This included a piece of marble and an iron bar. He sharpened the bar with the marble and began to make a hole underneath his bed (he was right above the palace and planned to drop down into during a period of time when he knew it would be empty). Unfortunately, Bragadin had managed to get him moved to a bigger, better cell. Casanova protested but the jailer said he must move. As they moved the bed from one cell to another, they saw the hole he had been making. The jailer said “Did you make this hole?” to which Casanova faked a scandalous tone. Of course he didn’t! And if the jailer said he did, then Casanova would just tell everyone the jailer had given him the tools to do so.
- So, he has to come up with a new plan. He manages to pass notes from his new cell (in the spine of a Bible that they managed to smuggle through under a pile of pasta) to a libertine priest, Father Balbi, who says he will carve a hole in the roof of his cell, pass into Casanova’s cell, pull him up into the roof and they’ll escape together.
- Casanova’s new cell-mate is a spy and not very nice, however. So Casanova has to convince him not to give him away. Lucky for Casanova, the spy is super religious so he convinces the spy that an angel is going to come through the ceiling and rescue him and the spy should not interfere with God’s plan. The spy believes him wholeheartedly.
- The plan actually goes pretty smoothly but climbing through the roof is messy and when the pair finally drop down into the main palace, Casanova makes Father Balbi wait whilst he puts his hair up in a net. Wouldn’t want to ruin his curls, would he? GOD, GUYS, HE JUST HAD TO CLIMB UP ON THE ROOVES. HE HAS TO SORT OUT HIS HAIR AND HIS CLOTHES AND HIS FACE. WHY WOULD YOU BEGRUDGE A MAN THAT RIGHT?
- The pair manage to convince a palace guard that they were accidentally locked in overnight and were attendees at a party. The guard absolutely believes them. And off Casanova goes, to France, to go and flirt with Madame de Pompadour and preen and stuff.
- This was his most famous escape but it wasn’t his last. Very soon after this, he was on the run again and ended up staying in the inn of the wife of the head of police (who was after him). She didn’t know who he was so naturally, he slept with her.