To the victims of three wars political necessity is a shabby excuse for totalitarian ruthlessness, and the courtesan Argia has suffered enough from brutal masters to despise them all, aristocrats and proletarians (who are now in power and hunting for the Queen). Ironically they think the courtesan's the Queen, mistaking her poise and open disdain for inborn royalty. They're doubly deluded as the real Queen is a pitiful, whimpering thing whom Argia compassionately helped escape. Confronted by her interrogators, Argia finds their false assumptions first ridiculous and then enjoyable. When the Queen is brought back dying of poison, Argia has no means of proving her identity but she no longer wants to. Her life has been sordid, but here death can be royal.