Story 12

November 12, 2020

Today, Dagoucin tells us about a gentleman who murders the duke he serves after the duke asks him to persuade his virtuous sister to sleep with him. The story includes vivid portraits of the lustful duke. When the gentleman initially refuses his request, the duke “[bites] his nails in his wrath,” and when the gentleman later pretends that his sister has agreed, the duke puts on “his most sweetly scented shirts and headgear” for the occasion (much like the gentleman in story four!) When the two men are grappling on the floor just before the murder takes place, the duke “[sinks] his teeth into the gentleman’s thumb.”

The big question in this story is whether the gentleman’s crime is justifiable, since the duke wishes to lead the man and his sister to a vice “so monstrous that it would bring infamy on [the gentleman] and his whole family for the rest of time.” Dagoucin calls the duke “a tyrant” and says that with the duke’s death, the gentleman hopes not only to save his family’s honor but also “to set the state free.” In the end (after having the bites he received from the duke treated in Venice!), he escapes to Turkey. The family loses its wealth, but the man’s two sisters retain their virtue and marry rich and honorable men.

This question, Marguerite observes, “engendered diverse opinions” among the storytellers, as the women praise the gentleman for saving his sister and eliminating a tyrant, while the men condemn him for disloyalty to the duke.

The gentleman in this story has been identified as Lorenzino de’Medici, also called Lorenzaccio, who murdered his cousin Alessandro, Duke of Florence, in 1537. Here is a nineteenth-century lithograph by Alphonse Mucha of Sarah Bernhardt in the role of Lorenzaccio in the play by Alfred de Musset.

2 thoughts on “Story 12

  • I realize that I am latevwith this, but — does anyone know how common it was for the Bishop to control a town’s gates and post-horses?

  • Because scholars do not seem to dwell on this particular question, I would presume that it was not surprising to hear about bishops managing towns’ gates and post-horses in the early modern period. High-ranking clergymen often came from wealthy and connected backgrounds, so their families had long-lasting ties to influential laymen who governed cities and towns, not to mention financial operations. As the Church expanded its influence into secular institutions over time, the clergy sought and obtained more responsibilities and decision power in many administrative and municipal functions, even as tensions existed between the two spheres. In addition, when events such as wars or epidemics decimated the population, the clergy was often called upon to fill in vacant but vital positions to help with continuity. As Nicole Cazauran states (Note 27 p. 869 of her 2001 critical edition of the Heptameron) in regard to this particular passage, previous commentators mentioned that Lorenzo was trusted by the bishop because of his seemingly loyal bond to the duke, implying that the bishop himself was in that circle of trust and loyalty, and hence was himself at the service of the duke whose interest was to make sure that something as important as who was passing through those gates (possibly an enemy in flight at night) was monitored by someone who served him. I hope this will be of help, but I did not encounter anything else as I read about town gates and bishops of the period…

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