Comment on the Goodman's Translation

The Goodman of Paris (c. 1393)

Comment on the Goodman's Translation
of Petrarch's Tale of Griselda


Dear sister, this story was translated by master Francis Petrarch, crowned poet at Rome, in no wise only to move good ladies to be patient in the tribulations that they suffer from their husbands for the love of those same husbands alone, but 'twas translated to show that since God and the church and reason will that they be obedient and since their husbands will that they have much to suffer, and since to escape worse things it behoves them of need to submit them in all things to the will of their husbands and to suffer patiently all that those husbands will; and since again and natheless these good ladies ought to hide and be silent concerning them and notwithstanding appease them and recall them and ever with good cheer bring themselves nigh again to the grace and love of those husbands that be mortal, by how much the greater reason behoveth it for men and women to suffer patiently the tribulations which God, who is immortal, eternal and everlasting, sendeth unto them.

And notwithstanding the death of friends, the loss of goods and children and lineage, discomfiture by enemies, captures, slayings, losses, fire, tempest, storms of weather, floods of water, or other sudden tribulations, ever ought we to suffer patiently and return, join and recall ourselves lovingly and beseechingly to the love of the immortal ruler, eternal and everlasting God, by the ensample of this poor woman, born in poverty, of lowly folk without honour or learning, who so much suffered for her mortal friend.

And I, that have set the tale here merely to lesson you, have not set it here to apply it to you, nor because I would have such obedience from you, for I am not worthy thereof, and also I am no marquis nor have I taken in you a shepherdess, and I am not so foolish, so overweening nor of so small sense that I know not well that 'tis not for me to assault nor to assay you thus, nor in like manner. God keep me from trying you in this way or in others, under colour of false simulations! Nor otherwise in any manner would I assay you, for sufficeth unto me the proof I have already made by the good fame of your predecessors and yourself, together with what I feel and see with mine eyes and know by true experience.

And excuse me if the story telleth of cruelty too great (to my mind) and above reason. And wot you that it never befel so, but thus the tale runs, and I may neither correct it nor make another, for a wiser than I compiled and told it. And I would that since others have seen it, you also should see and know how to talk about all things, like to the others.

  [The Goodman then tells his wife an exemplum of a couple who tried to control a marriage by legal contract.]


From The Goodman of Paris (Le Mèmagier de Paris), tr. Eileen Power. London, 1928 [Widener 38912 89.5] Reprinted in Richard M. Golden and Thomas Kuhn, eds., Western Societies: Primary Sources in Social History (NY, 1993) [they report the text is out of copyright; p. 330].