Story 14

November 14, 2020

Story 14

Simontaut identifies the Seigneur de Bonnivet by name in this story, telling how, spurned by “one of the proudest and most beautiful ladies of Milan,” he insinuates himself into the good graces of the Italian gentleman she actually loves, helps to devise a plan whereby the Italian gentleman can sleep with her, and proceeds to take his place in her bed (first trimming his beard and hair to match her beloved’s and keeping quiet throughout their lovemaking). Simontaut then tells how the lady, initially furious when she learns the truth, ultimately falls in love with Bonnivet—whose love for her lasts only as long “as flowers of the field in their beauty endure!”

This story gets all ten of our storytellers talking, as they argue about whether men pursuing women ever care about anything but their own pleasure, whether a woman receiving a confession of love should always be suspicious, and whether it is better to conceal or reveal one’s feelings. They reach no consensus, and it falls to Longarine to tell the next tale.

Guillaume Gouffier, Seigneur de Bonnivet, was a childhood friend of François I (brother of Marguerite de Navarre). He is reputed to be the gentleman who tries unsuccessfully to rape the Flemish princess in story 4 and the protagonist of story 16 (coming up!) but is not named in either of these tales. Here he is in a sketch by Jean Clouet.

One thought on “Story 14

  • A ménage à trois, taking place outside an existing marriage…It sounds and reads like a parody of the traditional courtly love pair. In this scenario of trickery and deceit that fosters only more trickery and deceit, one can perceive an avant-goût of aristocratic libertinage. In the ensuing discussion, the usual lines of disagreement reappear behind the partisans of trickery and those of virtue or the one who claims silence is the path of least destruction. Simontault’s reference to Longarine who “recorde quelque bon rolle” is interestingly juxtaposed to “et si n’a point accoustumé de celer la verité”. Longarine, accepting to take her turn, responds using equally intriguing words: “m’estimez si veritable…je vous racompteray une histoire…Si mon compte…”. In other words, everything in the Heptameron is about pretending to tell the truth all the time when in fact, whether in the tales or the telling, dissimulation is the constant key word because we can’t but hover between truth and fiction, oral spontaneity and crafted written language (Nicole Cazauran), and not only that, but the dissimulation is also self-inflicted: how does one know what the lover means? Language itself is treacherous, and people act upon their own understanding, but there is no objective meaning that is clear, transparent, or definite.

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