10.10 : All’s well that ends well, but is it really?
Fortune smiles upon Gualtieri and he becomes Marquis of Saluzzo. Gualtieri was quite content to spend his days hunting and saw no need for the fuss of a wife and family. However, with his new rank comes the responsibility of providing an heir, and his people nag him until he agrees to find himself a wife. He does so with the condition that he makes his own choice and everyone must accept her, no matter what. This is agreed.
Gualtieri takes a liking to a lovely young peasant woman, Griselda, but he doesn’t reveal this at once. Instead he announces to everyone’s great relief he has chosen a bride, and will introduce her at the proper time, that is, at the wedding. As the excited populace see the festivities take place, Gualtieri visits the home of Griselda to let her and her family know she is the chosen one. Gualtieri exacts from Griselda’s father a promise that Griselda will be utterly obedient, to which Griselda also agrees, because what else can she do?
This promise made, Gualtieri takes her to the plaza, strips her naked in front of the crowd to replace her peasant rags with clothes and jewels befitting a Marquessa. Griselda accepts the humiliation without complaint and the two exchange vows.
All is well…for a while. Griselda is lovely, kind and most of all submissive to Gualtieri’s wishes and desires. She is beloved by all, despite her low birth. But this is not enough for Gualtieri, who decides to test her goodness. He treats her with increasing brutality, which she bears without reproach.
Unable to get her to react, he goes further. They have a young child, a girl. Gualtieri tells Griselda, falsely, that people resent the low status of the mother and are against the child. So he takes the baby from her, and tells her, again falsely, that the child is to be murdered. Instead, he does no such thing. The baby is sent to be raised by relatives in Bologna.
Griselda still says nothing and obeys his every whim. To test her further, Gualtieri does the same with their next child, a boy. Still Griselda accepts his actions. Her only response is you will do as you must. Everyone believes that the two children are dead, and Gualtieri is hated as much as Griselda is loved. But nothing can be done.
Some years pass, and Gualtieri tests Griselda once again. He tells her he is setting her aside for a new wife. He presents sham papers of permission from the Pope himself, granting permission for the divorce. He announces this to her in front of all the people in his retinue. She accepts, asking only that when he turns her out, he leave her a slip to cover her nakedness. Gualtieri sends her back to her father, where she resumes her work on the farm.
Gualtieri, still not satisfied, and wondering what it will take to get a word of reproach from Griselda, puts out word that he has chosen a wife. He orders Griselda to make all the preparations as he can order her about as a servant. She does so, once again, without bothering to complain, for what good what it do? Gualtieri swears his Bolognese kin to secrecy and brings back his two children, a 12 year old girl and a 6 year old boy, declaring to everyone that the girl is to be his new wife (gross)
There is a feast prior to the wedding at which Griselda is a servant. Gualtieri asks her what she thinks of it all. “ It doesn’t matter what I think, but my hope is that you treat this high born wife a little better than you treated your first, lowborn as she was. “
And THAT is when Gualtieri decides to reveal all. He claims his deceptions and brutality were all to keep peace in the house and to be certain of Griselda’s worth. He reinstates Griselda, reunites her with her children and they feast for days. The children are restored, Griselda’s father made wealthy, and from then on, Griselda lives happily with Gualtieri who is deemed by all to be a peach of a fella.