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

By Tony Hunt | Go to book overview

7
The Indeterminate Author

Riens ne m'est seur que la chose incertaine.1 [I hold to nothing except the uncertainty of things]

As we have seen, the testator of the Testament acts out a variety of roles, as well as maintaining the more general dialogism of his will through evoking a wide range of authorities and dramatis personae, the bequests themselves seeming to offer a spectrum of fifteenthcentury Paris society. The voice heard in the 'Ballade de conclusion' even impersonates the arch impersonator himself by reviving the image of the 'amant martyr' in a style indistinguishable from that of the testator. Through a range of (dis)guises the creator of the Testament has dramatized a set of interactive roles which form an essential element of the dialogism of the work and through linguistic virtuosity has produced a fascinating indeterminacy which encourages the audience to engage with the polyphony of voices and accede to the subversion of authority. In this process the thematization of Fate has an important part to play in that it contributes to the most radical indeterminacy of all--that of the writer's identity. There are two poems outside the Testament which shed light on the production of authorial indeterminacy and which help us to appreciate the ironic force of the refrain of the 'Ballade des menus propos' 'Je congnois tout fors que moy mesmes'. At the same time they foreground the notion of instability as part of the more general enterprise of dissolving fixed meaning and fragmenting authority which we have seen to be the most distinctive feature of the Testament and the result of its rhetoric and irony.

The first of these poems is the 'Ballade de Fortune' comprising three douzains of decasyllables rhyming ABABBCCDDEDE and an envoi of half that length which reproduces the rhyme scheme of the last five lines, DDEDE (the rhymes in lines 30-1 are imperfect). It is worth looking at this poem for what it can tell us about the

____________________
1
'Ballade des contradictions', 11.

-125-

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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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