Story 15

November 15, 2020

Today, Longarine tells us about a beautiful young woman who, after several years of neglect by her husband, falls in love, first, with “a handsome prince” who is ordered away from her by the king and, then, with a “good-looking young man” with whom she spends time in secret. When her husband finds out and threatens to kill them both, she manages to calm his fury with a clever speech in which she points out that although the “law of man” judges men’s and women’s honor differently, there is no such double standard in the eyes of God, and that her husband’s wrongs are far worse than hers. Like story 13, this one features gifts of a ring (soon pawned by the young man who “was not so well endowed with riches as he was with good looks”!) and of a diamond (the woman’s pledge of goodwill to her young lover, although she eventually turns her affections to another man). Our storytellers all agree that this woman was not virtuous, but some express sympathy for her. Ennasuite points out “how heart-rending it is to love without having your love returned.” Longarine then asks Geburon to tell a story of a virtuous woman.

This story is set in the court of François I, brother of Marguerite de Navarre. As Nicolas Russell points out in his introduction to the second day of storytelling, many of these stories have close ties to our author’s family. We’ll see more of François I on Tuesday, in story 17.

One thought on “Story 15

  • The key phrase here is indeed that God’s law is not a double standard, but applies equally to men and women. The young wife’s husband cheated on her all the time and for years, to her grief, and the same situation goes on and on in numerous stories. It was culturally acceptable, even expected, for men of influence and power to carry on this unofficial polygamy life style, and permitted for them to kill their wives if they ventured outside the virtuous path. One story that comes to mind is novella 32, to be revisited… Of course, the young woman makes mistakes in her choice of lovers, uneducated and inexperienced as she is in such matters…and she will end up turning as fickle as her husband. But it was rather courageous of her to confront her husband as he proclaimed his intent to kill her, and to have this completely open conversation with him about marriage, faith or lack thereof, and double standard. A sort of Princesse de Clèves moment again…Then later, about the pawned ring which the husband wants to recuperate to save his honor, the gentleman is given a diamond in exchange, which he mistakes as an earnest token of love by the lady. But after her husband dies, she has already replaced him with another lover. The fact that the gentleman waits for her and wants to marry her as a widow is another Princesse de Clèves moment. The pawning of the ring and its buying back by the husband is the basis for Louise de Vilmorin’s novella Madame de…’s intrigue, only multiplied four times.

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