The Return of Martin Guerre

This paper examines issues of marriage rights, abandonment, and religion in the context of 16th century France as illustrated by Natalie Zemon Davis’s book, The Return of Martin Guerre.

This paper investigates how women’s choices were severely limited in Catholic France of the 16th century, using as a source “The Return of Martin Guerre”. Even though the main character had been abandoned by her husband for many years, according to law she could not seek a divorce. This examination shows how the growing influence of Protestantism and its more liberal views of marriage influenced the choices of the characters in the book, as well as those of everyone in Reformation Europe.
“Marriages of the time, even among peasants, were often arranged more for economic reasons than for any idea of romantic love. There is no evidence presented in the book that Bertrande or Martin knew each other very well before getting married, much less that they were in love. The marriage was most likely arranged by their parents to maximize the economic resources of both families.”