November 24, 2020
In today’s story, the Queen of Castile tests the love of a man, Elisor, who is devoted to her by sending him away for seven years—a plan which backfires as, during this time, he becomes a hermit, comes to despise human love, and turns his heart, instead, to the love of God, the “One True Love,” that “perfect love [. . .] which shall never die.”
This story features several elements present in multiple tales of the Heptameron—a mirror, claims of lovesickness, and, like story 13, the gift of a ring and a poem. The mirror here is a reflective “cuirass,” a piece of armor consisting of a breastplate and backplate.
Here’s the front part of a cuirass at the Musée national de la Renaissance in Écouen. Shined up a bit, it could be a pretty good mirror!
One thought on “Story 24”
The cuirass as mirror is used originally here, anticipating the radical divide in the emotional understanding between Elisor and the Queen, later reinforced by other objects meant to be a rapprochement in the courtly love tradition: the ring cut in half used to mean mutual recognition, but here means more disparity; and the poem, traditionally meant as a love poem for the lady, clarifies here the definite stand on love Elisor chose after 7 years of painful exile. Marguerite doesn’t seem to uphold the courtly tradition in high esteem because it fails to provide lasting and transcendental value. Instead she probably thinks about it as something of the past for nobles in a feudal economy, in which the relationship to God was more abstract and less personal. She seems to prefer love based on open Christian partnership. The discussion bringing in Jean de Meung’ s model of preying on women highlights contradictory aspects of courtly love, because here, the queen has an ambiguous attitude, and the devisants are perplexed by it, unable to pinpoint the cause of her aloofness, because it is not usual for a high ranking woman to act in such a puzzling way . So, in the end, the question arises: was the queen merely cruel, or is there a wider implicit criticism of an outdated tradition that did not bring men or women any worthy gains?