November 23, 2020
Oisille tells us yet another story of mistaken identity during sex in the dark night and of a woman who prefers to die once she is dishonored. Unlike the mule-driver’s wife in the first tale Oisille tells (story 2), this woman dies by her own hand, then inadvertently kills her infant son and sets off a misunderstanding that leads her brother to kill her husband (or her husband to kill her brother, in some manuscripts). The fact that it was a Franciscan, the confessor of the woman and her husband, who dishonored the woman and caused this triple tragedy prompts Oisille to include in her narration a denunciation of Christians who place their confidence in good works like “austerity of life, fasting and chastisement” rather than in “the grace given by our good God through the merit of His Son” and “the life given to sinners through His goodness and mercy”—one of many signs of Marguerite de Navarre’s strong interest in evangelical reform.
According to Renja Salminen, this story is likely the first one that Marguerite de Navarre wrote and could not have been written before 1545, so it is an important clue in dating the composition of the collection.
Here’s the start of this story in one of the manuscript versions of the Heptameron (BN fr. 1511) from the mid-sixteenth century at the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.