November 30, 2020
Once again, darkness allows a man—here, a teenage boy—to climb into bed with a woman he believes is someone else. In this case, it is his widowed mother, who has taken the place of a girl in her service in an attempt to test her son, but whose pent-up passion, once aroused, leads her to have sex with him. It becomes a tale of double incest as, intending to cover up this sin and prevent similar sins in the future, the woman sends her son off to the wars in Italy and gives birth secretly to a daughter she has raised elsewhere, whom the son later marries. The two have a happy marriage based on deep love, “For she was his daughter, his sister, his wife. And he was her father, brother, and husband.” According to Salminen, theirs is the only happy marriage in the Heptameron. The mother spends the rest of her days in penitence.
Our storytellers attribute the misfortunes in this story to the widow’s pride in believing that the situation, and not her own human weakness, led her to sin, and in thinking that she could protect herself and her son from sin in the future. “The first step man takes in trusting in himself alone is a step away from trust in God,” says Parlamente. Ennasuite blames Franciscans for having given the widow the impression that she could prevent her own sin, remarking that “some of them would persuade us to believe that through our own efforts we can actually be [incapable of sin], though this is an extreme error.”
In her introduction to the third day of storytelling, Mary McKinley comments on the importance of this story, which she notes is one of only two tales of incest in the Heptameron.