November 9, 2020
Dagoucin tells the story of a man whose devotion is so perfect that he persists in loving even though he knows he has no chance with the girl he loves, who will marry another. Only when his true and constant love brings him to the brink of death is he able to embrace his beloved, thanks to her compassionate mother’s intervention, but by then it is too late. Even though, after kissing “his cold pale lips,” the girl decides that she loves him, he dies. She must then be “pulled from the corpse’s embrace.”
This tale prompts Hircan and Saffredent to express some of the most misogynist views in the Heptameron, as Hircan calls the devoted lover a fool for not having forced himself upon the girl, declaring that “women are made solely for [men’s] benefit” and men are “very stupid to be afraid of women, when it’s women who should be afraid of them!” Saffredent agrees wholeheartedly, explaining “you’ve only got to attack your fortress in the right way, and you can’t fail to take it in the end!”
This discussion serves especially to set up the next novella, the longest one in the Heptameron (put on a pot of coffee, dear readers!). It will be the first time we hear from Parlamente, the storyteller identified most often with Marguerite de Navarre herself. In preparation, enjoy this portrait of Marguerite de Navarre, attributed to François Clouet, which hangs in the Musée Condé at the Château de Chantilly.
4 thoughts on “Story Nine”
This tale does tug at one’s heartstrings! Perhaps Hircan and Saffredent cast forth their heartless comments in an effort to conceal what they perceive to be within themselves an unmanly sympathetic response to the lover’s plight? Perhaps just injudicious bluster on their part?
The litany of misogynistic arguments in the discussion concludes with Saffredent exclaiming that his “sole authority” is a quote from the Roman de la Rose. Marguerite’s direct reference to the text that sparked the Querelle de la Rose and ultimately the Querelle des femmes is noteworthy.
Although Saffredent exemplifies the lasting influence of this medieval text on Renaissance social attitudes, Parlamente suggests that the tenth tale will force him to consider other possibilities. The Heptaméron’s reference to Jean de Meun’s work can thus be interpreted as Marguerite inserting her voice and text into ongoing debates about women.
It is no coincidence that the female character’s name is Pauline. Her speech is rich in reference to Paul’s epistles. She draws on Paul, Ephesians 4:22-24; I Cor 15:22: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive;” and Romans 13:14: “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to satisfy its desires;” and Colossians 3:9-11. Like Augustine, whom Romans 13:14 incited to convert (Confessions, VIII, 11-12), she describes the transition from carnal to spiritual as taking off one set of clothes and putting on a new one, a religious habit.
As Leanna states, the reference to the Roman de la Rose is important because it sparked the Querelle des femmes and within it the Querelle des Amyes. In this story, the young man is almost a mirror image of Antoine Héroët’s Parfaite Amye, in that his constancy matches hers, but he does not quite reach her ideal optimism. Marguerite draws our attention to the difficult struggle between desire and spiritual love. As for the young woman, her own sinking into melancholy is due to the fact that she embraced him as a dying man and as a cadaver, knowing she was the cause of his death…What could ever cure her guilt? Both of them also endured obstacles such as family strife, fear of the judgment of others, and social status difference, all signs of a patriarchal economy. And then, to have such cruelly misogynistic comments from Hircan and Saffredent really does make the story “tug at one’s heartstrings”, as Linda said eloquently. But Marguerite and Parlemente will not leave things at that…