November 16, 2020
Geburon, asked to tell the story of a virtuous woman, relates a Frenchman’s pursuit of a beautiful Milanese widow who resists him for three years but finally—after testing his valor by having her chambermaids rattle swords at the door to her room—falls in love with him. Just like story 14, also set in Milan during the governorship (1507-1510) of Charles d’Amboise, Seigneur de Chaumont, this one ends with an assertion of love’s fleeting nature. “They solemnly swore,” Geburon says, “as if the will of man were immutable, an oath that they could never keep. Perpetual love was what they promised one another, perpetual love that can neither have birth in the hearts of men, nor have its abode therein.”
Have we seen any lasting love yet in the Heptameron??
Here’s a photo of Milan’s Duomo, consecrated in 1418 but still under construction when our stories take place.
One thought on “Story 16”
The question of whether lasting love exists or not enables us to confront true feelings with games of seduction. Almost always, these rather idle aristocrats, men or women, choose between being genuine and accept to suffer or preferring not to suffer. Most of them don’t want to suffer and hold on to the notion of honor to justify playing games of deceit and revenge. Men are the ones more equipped by patriarchal values to play that game to their advantage most of the time. Novella 9 seems to be an exception to this state of affairs.
In these stories, when the game is specifically geared toward obtaining sexual favors, one of the two lovers will often end up suffering and falling into melancholy. But when the stories are about defusing the seduction game without falling for idealistic notions, as in novellas 5, 8 and 13, women stand a chance at remaining in charge of their lives.
I still believe Marguerite was having a great deal of fun telling seduction stories based on real life people but staging them for maximum dramatic effect, very comical most of the time. She also exposed tragic stories of violence that she felt needed to be told publicly.