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

By Tony Hunt | Go to book overview

5
Dialogue

Tant parl'on qu'on se contredit.1
[So much talking leads to contradiction]

A FUNDAMENTAL feature of the Testament is its dialogic nature, which is reflected in the animated, apparent spontaneity of the testator who engages in a dialogue or debate with his audience, with imaginary interlocutors, and with inscribed listeners (his secretary, executors etc.) to produce an interactive plurality of views, combining dramatic verve and jocular complicity. In the middle of stanza 4 he recognizes that he has been expressing a hostility to Bishop Thibault which is quite at odds with the ethical teaching of the Church:

Je veul que le Dieu eternel
Luy soit dont semblable a ce compte.
Et l'Eglise nous dit et compte
Que prions pour noz annemys;
Je vous diray, j'ay tort et honte,
Quoy qu'il m'aist fait, a Dieu remys. (27-32)
[My hope is that the eternal God will give him equal treatment. But the Church tells us that we should love our enemies. I'll tell you what--every wrong and humiliation, whatever he's ever done to me, I've referred to God for judgement]

The 'vous' evidently refers to the testator's imagined 'audience' to whom he plays. The teaching of the Church is ironized by the rhyming of 'compte' in line 31 with the 'a ce compte' (by the same reckoning') of the preceding line, which is associated with the God of Judgement who will render like for like (in this case harshness and cruelty): there is thus a tension between the two halves of the stanza (first retribution, and then charity), which are linked by the hinge rhyme on compte. The audience is drawn into the debate as the testator seems to be anticipating their demand for revision of his views. The dislocation of syntax (hyperbaton) by which the grammatical

____________________
1
'Ballade des proverbes', 9.

-82-

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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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