The Return of Martin Guerre

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The film The Return of Martin Guerre is based on a true story about a young man, Martin Guerre, during the mid-16th century. It takes place in a small peasant town, Artigat, located in southwestern France. Martin is married off at a young age but is unhappy with his life. He decides to abandon his family and join the army. After several years gone, he finally returns to the village. The village is ecstatic of his return, especially his wife Bertrande. However after a disagreement with his uncle over land, the village begins to question whether his is truly Martin Guerre. Their skepticism proves to be accurate when finally the real Martin Guerre returns. The fake Martin, known as “Pansette” is then executed for his crime. This film illustrates the concerns and lives of the people in 16th century France, through the interplay of social, religious and political institutions.

In the film, we see marriage being treated as a social matter, rather than a religious matter. During the 16th century, marriage began to be treated as secular, instead of a sacrament. Because of this parents’ control over whom their children married began to increase (Western Civilizations, 357). At a young age, Martin’s family married him off to Bertrande de Rols. Bertrande belonged to a well-off peasant family. Bertrande was chosen by Martin’s family based on what her family could offer to Martin. Her dowry included a bed, linen sheets, wool and a vineyard, among other items of value. Because marriage involved the inheritance of property, most believed it was too important of a matter to be left in the hands of the children (357). Once Martin’s father passed, Martin would inherit his family’s land.

During the 16th century was the father’s role to instruct and discipline his household, while the woman was to tend to and show obedience to her husband, and also to bear children (Western Civilizations, 357). After the marriage, Bertrande moved in with Martin and his family. Martin worked...
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