Spinning Stories

Washing and gossip in the Heptameron by ebutterworth
July 30, 2009, 5:28 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Story 61 in the Heptaméron makes a nice link between laundry, gossip and correcting bad behaviour. Saffredent, a fairly bitter misogynist, tells this story about a woman who leaves her husband for a canon of the church, much to the scandal of the town. After 15 years of cohabitation, during which she becomes more ostentatious in her life with the canon, her story comes to the attention of the duchess of Alençon (Marguerite) through a young girl who has been brought in to help wash the queen’s linen, and being asked the ‘news of the town’, tells how all the honourable women are troubled by the behaviour of this woman. The duchess goes straight to her mother the queen, and together, ‘without any form of law’, send for the woman and demand to know what’s going on. Threatened with prison, and rejected by the canon, she finally agrees to go back to her husband.

So this story that the laundress tells helps to correct what the town perceives as the immoral behaviour of the woman in question. The town’s gossip also acts as a kind of tribunal, that judges the woman immoral in the absence of a trial, and presents the evidence to the authorities.


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