December 17, 2020
Dagoucin’s story for today is a condemnation of jealousy, as a perfect friendship between two men who have been friends since childhood and hold all property in common falls apart when one friend marries and comes to suspect the other of desiring his wife. Learning of his friend’s suspicions, the unmarried man condemns dishonesty even more than jealousy, telling him that jealousy is forgivable, since it is a passion as impossible to control as love itself, and that the real treachery lies in hiding this “sickness” from his friend. “I urge you,” he says, “to tell me if you have the slightest suspicion, so that I may set the matter right and so that we do not permit our friendship to be destroyed for the sake of a woman.” The married man promises to be honest with him from then forth, but he fails. Concealed, his jealousy continues to grow, becoming a festering “disease” that turns into hatred and destroys the men’s friendship. The two divide their hearts and their belongings, and, out of anger, the unmarried man ends up sleeping with his former friend’s wife, fulfilling his ill-founded suspicions.
Many of the tales in the Heptameron take place in western and southwestern France, regions that Marguerite de Navarre knew well. The former county of Perche, near which this story is set, is about a hundred miles west of Paris, on the modern-day border of Normandy. It was incorporated into the French kingdom at the death of the Duke of Alençon (Marguerite’s first husband) in 1525. Consisting largely of farmland and forests, it has given its name to the draft horses known as percherons.