December 20, 2020
Today’s story is about a man whose melancholy over spurned love becomes so severe that the doctors believe he has a diseased liver and give him a bloodletting (a common medical treatment in Europe through the nineteenth century). Hearing of his suffering, his beloved—who loves him after all—invites him to her bed, and he joyfully accepts, viewing her as both the object of his affection and the source of his healing. Unfortunately, after the man and woman satisfy their passion, the bandages on the man’s arm covering the wound from the bloodletting procedure fall off, and he bleeds to death. His beloved, with her chambermaid’s help, drags his body into the street to avoid dishonor and then stabs herself with his sword so that the two can die together.
The tale leads our storytellers to weigh the necessity of emotional versus physical nourishment. Saffredent asserts that “when love is truly great, a lover knows no other bread, knows no other meat, than a glance, a word from his beloved,” to which Oisille responds, “You would soon change your mind […] if anyone ever left you without anything to eat but that kind of food!”
Here’s an engraving of a bloodletting (La Saignée), made by Abraham Bosse in 1632 (BnF IFN-8403217).