November 4, 2020
So much to talk about in today’s story! It may be the most famous story in the Heptameron, a tale of a Flemish princess who wards off an attempted rape by a handsome and well-bred gentleman by biting and scratching his face—she literally fights him off with tooth and nail!
Much like the man in story two, who sneaks into a woman’s bedroom through a hole in the wall, this gentleman climbs into his lady’s room through a trap door in the floor. Wearing a perfumed nightshirt and a fancy nightcap, and handsome as he is, he’s sure she won’t be able to resist him. When he returns to his own room, his face covered with bites and scratches and his nightshirt streaked with blood, he groans, “So much for good looks!”
We may have here the first appearance in literature of what Kate Manne, in Down Girl, calls himpathy, “the excessive sympathy shown toward male perpetrators of sexual violence.” The princess’s lady-in-waiting convinces her to keep the assault a secret, telling her the bold act took courage on the gentleman’s part, and that he must already be feeling mortified. What’s more, she says, if the story gets out, people will assume he had his way with the princess, and, anyway, she had encouraged him by allowing him to enjoy the pleasure of her company in public.
Many have identified the Flemish princess in this story as a stand-in for our author herself. In Rape and Writing in the Heptameron, Patricia Cholakian argues that the whole of the Heptameron is Marguerite de Navarre’s attempt to make public an incident she concealed for many years, and to problematize sexual assault and women’s silence. #MeToo #BalanceTonPorc à la Renaissance??
Comment here and/or on the Facebook group for the 72 Days of Heptameron!