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How would you characterize Marguerite de Navarre’s understanding of desire and gender relationships?

In her novel The Heptameron, Marguerite de Navarre tends to opposes what Boccaccio holds as the truth in his book, The Decameron. Boccaccio argues that men have other things to do although they are in love (Ray, 1999). Such things would include attending business affairs, hunting, gambling, and riding. On the other hand, he states that women in love are subject to sitting down in idleness and ready to accept melancholy. This book has therefore, created dissatisfaction by many readers as they find it being more of victimizing women and uplifting male chauvinism. Marguerite defends women stating that it is in their desire to be the best wives to their husbands and would not want to do anything that may be against what their husbands would expect from them (Ray, 1999). For example, using one of the male characters, the muleteer’s wife, she is seen to be loving, devoted and one who would never go out for other men though it was not hard.

She is faithful to her husband and has a noble spirit. This is one woman who deserves all her husband’s love and faithfulness but as it is seen, the husband finds this not an important thing about his husband. He goes ahead to even assault her physically. Even after going through all these hardships, she still finds it necessary to be faithful to her husband and thus gets back on her feet and withstands all the violence (Ray, 1999). The reason as to why this woman chooses to undergo all this is because she feels that there is need to fight for the love that she has with the husband. At the end of it all, she is killed by the same man that she is fighting for and this explains how at times our desires can lead us to the grave since they might not be realistic although we cannot let go.

Marguerite disapproves women who allow men to take the better part of their lives and in a negative way. Using the example above, the muleteer’s wife dies while still in the race of chasing after her desires. It happens that her desires are more of being overambitious to an extent that she could sustain her wounds made by her husband.

Marguerite gives this as a life lesson for all women who are already in marriage or who are yet to be married. It is thus a warning to those who cannot give up on their desires even though they affect them negatively and have already left significant marks in their lives. She also portrays relationships as one part of life that takes away the real person from the inside of many, and inserts another creature that is undesirable in the life of a person (Ray, 1999). This undesirable creature is the one who misleads many and make them end up failing since they cannot give up. The story on this lady is meant to give hope to other women and enable them to amend their ways irrespective of how hard some decisions might be to make.

Another character, Ennasuite, reveals a deep respect to virtues associated with women’s nature. She shows this through a story that exposes the unsuccessful attempts of a handsome gentleman who is well bred to forcibly invade the life of a noble princess and this comes after promising her that he would never disturb her or harm her in any way. Ennasuite here is the princess in this story and has main values being impregnability, purity, external nobility combined with the good looks and to top it up, the intelligence portrayed by women (Ray, 1999).

Ennasuite’s story is meant to inspire the courageous ladies considering that they are young and are ladies of honor. Nomerfide is another character who shows that love is not limited for people who have physical disabilities. She manages to live with her husband by avoiding doing things that might make him feel inferior. She is optimistic about her marriage and believes that this is the best man who was meant for her to spend the rest of her life with. She is focused to attaining a marriage to be admired by many and wants to build the best life for her family. She makes sure that she avoids any circumstances that may lead to conflicts with her husband. She has dedicated her family to the Lord and trusts in him for everything including the security of her marriage (Ray, 1999).

Nomerfide believes in doing good things against the bad deeds done to one and without thinking of how much harm the bad deeds caused one (Ray, 1999). She is spiritual and upholds the Christian virtues without neglecting any of them. Her love for her husband and her commitment to her family does not allow her to cheat on her husband and she takes this as a big mistake that she could do to her husband.

All these stories put women’s characters on a high rank than men’s. Marguerite shows how strong, devoted and committed women are when it comes to their families. They are dedicated to give their best and without going against their husbands as they consider this as a sin before their creator (Ray, 1999). She emphasizes that in most cases, men are the ones who disappoint their wives by doing what they hate even after being devoted to them. All these female characters uphold what they call the true virtue and present themselves as being clean and pure in both bodies and hearts. They are women of class and uphold their virtues.

Marguerite describes relationships as complicated and only those who are in them can understand what they entail.
She disapproves those women who allow men to take advantage of them and end up hurting them in ways that they cannot recover. She views relationships as houses built only by the owners and can therefore be demolished by choice (Ray, 1999). Men are described as those monsters who want to take advantage of their wives without considering how much they give back to them. Many people follow their desires and never turn to focus on the dangers that may be associated by such decisions.

In Heptameron, many women suffer in their marriages in the name of fighting for their love (Ray, 1999). In doing this, the muleteer’s wife lost her life and this teaches everyone that some heart desires are better given up as they might cost one even their lives. Other characters are seen to be cautious in their marriages and therefore end up having a good life as they desire. Marguerite is open and generous in exposing what lies in the life of relationships and especially to the female gender. Women are said to be soft hearted which is not the case. It is only that they want to make their men feel appreciated and build a strong foundation for their families which is the desire hidden inside every woman’s heart (Ray, 1999).


Ray, I. N. (1999). Narrating desire/desiring narrative in Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptameron.

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