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From The Novellino (Italian. c. 1280)

A RICH MAN AND HIS WIFE

 

There was once a wealthy man and he had a very beautiful woman as his wife. And this man loved her with all his heart and was very jealous of her. Now it happened, as God ordained it, that this man contracted a malady in his eyes, from which he became blind so that he did not see the light of day. Now it came to pass that this man would not be separated from his wife; he kept her so that he did not allow her to leave him for fear that she would deceive him.

Now it happened that a man in the neighborhood fell in love with this woman and did not see how he could speak to her since her husband was always with her. And this man expressed through gestures that he was dying for love of her. And the woman, seeing him so much in love with her, took pity on him and said by signs, " You see what position I am in since this man never leaves me."

The good man did not know what to do or what to say and showed by his signs that he wanted to die. For he knew no way to come together with the woman. And the woman, seeing the gestures of this gentleman, took pity on him and determined to be at his disposal. Now she ordered that a long tube of reed be made and placed in the ear of this gentleman and talked to him in this way (since she did not want her husband to hear it) and said to this gentleman, "I take pity on you and have determined to be at your disposal. Go out into our garden and climb up into a pear tree, in which there are many beautiful pears, and wait for me up there and I will come up to you." The good man eagerly went out into the garden and went up into the pear tree and waited for the woman. th her to the foot of the pear tree and the woman went up into the pear tree. And the husband embraced the bottom of the pear tree so that no one would follow her up into it. Now it happened that the woman was up in the pear tree with her friend who was waiting for her, and they had great enjoyment; and the whole pear tree shook so that the pears fell down on the husband's back. For which reason the husband said, "What are you doing, woman, that you don't come down? You are making so many pears fall down."

And the woman replied to him, "I wanted to get some pears from one branch and I couldn't get them any other way."

Now I wish you to know that our Lord and Saint Peter having seen what had happened, Saint Peter said to our Lord, "Don't you see the trick that this woman is playing on her husband? Lord, make the husband see the light so that he can see what the woman is doing."

And the Lord said, "I tell you, Saint Peter, that as soon as he sees the light the woman will have found a reason, that is an excuse, and therefore I wish him to see the light and you will see what she says."

Now the husband saw the light and looked up and saw what the woman was doing. Then he said to the woman, "What are you doing with this man? It is neither honorable for you nor for me and it is not in accordance with a woman's fidelity."

And the woman replied immediately and without hesitation and said, "If I had not done thus with him, you would never have seen the light." When the husband heard this, he was satisfied. And thus you see how faithful women are and how quickly they can find an excuse.

From Larry D. Benson and Theodore M. Andersson, The Literary Context of Chaucers Fabliaux. Indianapolis, 1971.
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Last modified: May, 12, 2000
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Gold Texts on this page prepared and maintained by L. D. Benson (ldb@wjh.harvard.edu)