Griselda (fl. 11th c.)

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Griselda (fl. 11th c.)

Marquise of Saluzzo. Name variations: Griseldis; Griselidis, marquise de Saluses; Grissel. Flourished in the 11th century; married Walter, marquis of Saluces or Saluzzo; children: a son and a daughter.

Griselda is said to have been the wife of Walter, marquis of Saluzzo, in the 11th century, and her misfortunes were considered to belong to history when they were handled by Boccaccio and Petrarch, although the probability is that Boccaccio borrowed his narrative from a Provençal fabliau. He included it in the recitations of the tenth day (Decameron) and must have written it about 1350. Petrarch related the story in a Latin letter in 1373, and his translation formed the basis of much of the literature to come. The letter, printed by Ulrich Zel about 1470 and many times thereafter, was translated into French as La Patience de Griselidis and printed at Bréhan-Loudéac in 1484. The story was dramatized in 1395, and a Mystére de Griselidis, marquise de Saluses par personnaiges was printed by Jehan Bonfons. Chaucer followed Petrarch's version, assigning it to the Clerk of Oxenforde in his Canterbury Tales. Not surprisingly, the narrative of Griselda continued to attract many male writers. Ralph Radcliffe, who flourished under Henry VIII, is said to have written a play on the subject, and the story was dramatized by Thomas Dekker, Henry Chettle and W. Haughton in 1603.

Griselda was noted for the patience with which she submitted to the most cruel ordeals as a wife and mother. In the Decameron, she is the poor Griselda who married Gualtieri, eldest son of the marquess of Saluzzo. Prodded into marriage by his subjects, Gualtieri had Griselda promise that she would be obedient, never angry, and always try to please him. When she agreed, he had her exchange her rags for finery. In an instant, she appeared to be a true noble-woman and all were pleased.

Griselda had two children: a son and a daughter. To test her devotion, Gualtieri said he intended to have them put to death. Even so, Griselda sent them off with him, since that was what he wished. The children did not return. Years later, Gualtieri set out to test his wife once more: he sent her home, clad only in a ragged dress, informing her that he intended to remarry. Even so, Griselda remained calm. Soon after, Gualtieri had her return to his house, ordering her to prepare it for his wedding. No one, he said, could arrange the house quite so well. Griselda prepared the wedding feast, welcomed the guests, and cheerfully tended to the wishes of the new bride who was accompanied by a young boy. Deciding that Griselda had passed all his trials, Gualtieri introduced the supposed bride as Griselda's daughter. The young boy was Griselda's son. Then, Gualtieri had Griselda don her best clothes, resume her station as his wife, and all rejoiced.

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