Villon's Last Will: Language and Authority in the Testament

By Tony Hunt | Go to book overview

1
Writing and the Fragmentation of Authority

Ce que j'ay escript est escript.1
[What I have written is written]

THE testator places some emphasis on the writing of the Testament, that is, on its status as a written record--'Escript l'ay l'an soixante et ung' (81). There is never the slightest doubt that he is a highly literate man addressing an educated audience. Biographers will point out that in 1452 François Villon gained the Master of Arts degree of the University of Paris, but without departing from the text we are bound to take with a pinch of salt such self-deprecating descriptions by the testator as 'povre de sens et de savoir' (178) and references to 'mon plain sens ∣ Sy peu que Dieu m'en a presté' (75), for learned allusions abound in his lively account of his experiences. The 'povre Villon' of the will plays down both the extent and value of his education,

Mais quoy! je fuyoie l'escolle
Comme fait le mauvaiz enffant. (205-6)

[So what did I do? I played truant from school like a naughty child]

but this provocative (and preposterous) claim is ironically undercut by the testator's own reference to writing,

En escripvant ceste parolle
A peu que le cueur ne me fent. (207-8)

[As I write these words, my heart is almost breaking]

and by the hollowness of his simulated regrets as he reveals the true nature of his remorse:

Bien sçay, se j'eusse estudïé
Ou temps de ma jeunesse folle,
Et a bonnes meurs dedïé,
J'eusse maison et couche molle. (201-4)

[I know! If only I'd studied in my misspent youth and tried to behave properly, I'd now have a plush place of my own]

____________________
1
Testament, 264.

-13-

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Villon's Last Will: Language and Authority in the Testament
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1- Writing and the Fragmentation of Authority 13
  • 2- Praise and Blame 34
  • 3- Love's Martyrs 50
  • 4- The Voice of Morality 72
  • 5- Dialogue 82
  • 6- Rhetoric and Irony 97
  • 7- The Indeterminate Author 125
  • Appendix 1 Villon and the Mendicants 143
  • Appendix 2 Glossary of Rhetorical Terms 146
  • Appendix 3 The Use of Anadiplosis in The Introduction to the Testament 149
  • Appendix 4 Binomial Expressions in the Testament 151
  • Bibliography 154
  • Index of Rhetorical Terms (see Also Appendix 2) 157
  • Index of Persons 158
  • Index of Lines Cited 160
  • Index of Subjects 165
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