Maddalena Ham

Alt Title

Nouvella and the quest for truth

Publication Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures


Marguerite; --Queen; consort of Henry II; King of Navarre; --1492-1549--Criticism and interpretation; Boccaccio; Giovanni; --1313-1375--Criticism and interpretation; Marguerite; --Queen; consort of Henry II; King of Navarre; --1492-1549.--Heptameron; Boccaccio; Giovanni; --1313-1375.--Decamerone; French fiction--16th century--History and criticism; Novelle--History and criticism; Truth in literature


Marguerite de Navarre wrote her collection of stories, L'Heptameron, following the model of Boccaccio's Decameron. The format is therefore the same in the two works: a group of storytellers recount tales within the context of a frame narrative. The themes are typical of the genre: the relationship between men and women, the tricks that husbands and wives play on each other, and the corruption and hypocrisy of the clerics. What distinguishes the work of Marguerite de Navarre from that of the Italian author, is that she includes long dialogues among her storytellers at the end of each novella. These dialogues reflect her desire to analyze, in more depth, the many topics treated in the stories and thus push her work beyond the simple telling of a story to entertain the readers. One consequence of this desire is a quest for tru th in the many varied circumstances of life. For Marguerite, this also in part autobiographical, since she draws from her personal experience of sincerity in marriage and a religious belief that goes beyond appearances. My thesis follows Marguerite's quest through the conversations among her ?devisants? or storytellers, at the end of each novella. Her choice of the novella, a genre which is traditionally linked to realism, shows Marguerite?s preference for a truth that grows out of everyday situations. In fact, she emphasizes this by insisting her storytellers recount only those stories that are true and verifiable. Through her characters, the author reflects, then, on an important problem of her time: the need for personal sincerity and religious faith during a period of intellectual and spiritual crisis. This first is important in a world where arranged marriages and double standards were ingrained in the very structure of society. The second is important because the Church was under attack for the hypocrisy of those who, instead of honestly serving it, were driven by sexual passions and wordily desires. What Marguerite advocates in both instances is honesty and being true to oneself, rather than an outward show.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [109]-111)


111 pages




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