chapter  6
14 Pages

The Lover Praised by the Husband: A Courtly Tale between Exemplum and Novella

Manuscript C43 (former 160) of the Biblioteca Augusta in Perugia is an interesting collection of early Italian poetry and rhymed tales that has not attracted much critical attention, probably because of the heavy dialectal patina that the scribe imposed on the texts he was transcribing. Although it was copied in the mid-fifteenth century, it preserves some examples of archaic material. I On folios 113r-117v, the manuscript contains a "story," or tale, in sestine (stanzas of six hendecasyllables) that represents one more version of a tale that had limited circulation between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.2 The story goes as follows: A knight has been in love with a married woman for a long time, but she has always rejected his advances. One day, after her husband had extolled the virtues of that knight with high praises in her presence, the woman is moved to grant him her favors. She summons him and he gladly comes to her, but while they prepare to consummate their love the woman reveals to him that her sudden change of heart is due to her husband's favorable comments concerning him. The knight then suddenly withdraws from their embrace, declaring that he will never be discourteous toward a man who has such great affection for him. He leaves the woman in spite of her protests and puts an end to his wooing.