User:Jahsonic/AHE/A 'ring' as chastity belt
From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The story of the ring of Carvel is extremely old, but was first put to paper in squeaky clean Latin by the 14th-century Florentine humanist Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459), a papal secretary. He belongs to that new caste of literate copyists to which Boccaccio and Chaucer also belong, but what Poggio sets aside, is his inordinate love of humour and the grotesque.
In his capacity as papal secretary, he travels throughout Europe, during which he has the opportunity to satisfy his bibliophile appetite. He collects the humorous and indecent manuscripts he finds under the name Facetiae, and a book by that title sees the light for the first time in 1451. Facetiae is a literary therm derived from the Latin word facetus. The word became common in the Renaissance in the form of facetia, and at that time it meant jest or joke. In its plural form it became associated with collections of witty tales, the best known of which were the Facetiae by said Poggio. Ultimately the term facetus derives from facis, Latin for torch, so there is also a tinge of 'glow' or 'fire' in the word.
The history of Hans Carvel is the 133rd story in Poggio's anthology. The version of the French Renaissance humanist François Rabelais in the cycle of novels Gargantua and Pantagruel (written between 1532 and 1552) is probably the best known, but the tale has inspired sundry authors over the centuries. We find the story in the 15th century collection Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles, in the oeuvre of the Italian Renaissance writer Ludovico Ariosto (1474-1533) and in a treatment by the French fabulist Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695).
- HANS CARVEL took, when weak and late in life;
- A girl, with youth and beauteous charms to wife;
- And with her, num'rous troubles, cares and fears;
- For, scarcely one without the rest appears.
- Bab (such her name, and daughter of a knight)
- Was airy, buxom: formed for am'rous fight.
- tr. London Privately printed for members of the Aldus Society, 1903
Hans Carvel's - once again - a jealous old doctor with - yes - a much younger wife, called Bab. One evening, while they are sleeping, he dreams that the devil gives him a ring. As long as he wears the ring, so assures him the devil, his wife will not be unfaithful to him. When he wakes up he finds that his finger is stuck in Bab's cunt. The devil was right of course. As long as his finger is stuck there, his wife will not be unfaithful.
- Hans dreamed, as near his wife he snoring lay,
- The devil came his compliments to pay,
- And having on his finger put a ring,
- Said he, friend Hans, I know thou feel'st a sting;
- Thy trouble 's great: I pity much thy case;
- Let but this ring, howe'er, thy finger grace,
- And while 'tis there I'll answer with my head,
- THAT ne'er shall happen which is now thy dread:
- Hans, quite delighted, forced his finger through;
- You drunken beast, cried Bab, what would you do?
- To love's devoirs quite lost, you take no care,
- And now have thrust your finger God knows where!
As in innumerable other medieval tales, the protagonist here is again the adulterous woman, la femme infidèle. What makes her so popular is beyond the scope of this book. Perhaps it has to do with the Freudian theory of the madonna-whore-complex, which suggests that men divide their relationship into two categories: chaste women to marry and to raise their children, and desirable women to play around with. The two categories are presented as incompatible. The fact remains that the stereotype of the adulterous wife returns ever so often, although at that time the punishment for an adulterous woman was very hard and the adultery of the husband often went unpunished. The Gallo-Romans allowed a cuckolded husband who caught his wife and her lover in flagrante delicto, to kill the lovers on the spot and the Franks had the woman strangled or burned alive. If not her fault cannot be proven, she must take the most severe form of 'trial by drowning': a stone is tied around her neck and she is thrown into the river. When she sinks, she is found guilty. (History of Private Life)
Is this peculiar fascination for the adulterous woman related to the fact that most men will find their wives attractive once more, when another man has possessed her? Or to the fact that illegitimate children are detrimental to the husband? In any case, the men in these tales are generally portrayed as a losers. One may as well ask, since all of the above stories were written by men, if we are therefore dealing with bouts of male self-torment, bordering on masochism.