Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
A Nuremberg woman claims to all and sundry that her deceased first husband is still her true love. She dismisses her second husband as being no lover at all and describes him as scrimpy, mean, and sour of disposition. One day, while she is voicing her complaints, the wandering Student comes by, doffs his hat in a polite gesture, and begs for alms. Rightly guessing that boasts about his successes in Paris will impress the woman, he immediately uses the advantage it gives him when the Wife misunderstands him to say that he has come from Paradise.
The Wife’s mind is still lost in dreams of her first husband when she asks the Student if he knows the departed one. The Student allows that he does not, but he thinks that on his return to Paradise the acquaintance can perhaps be effected. The Student goes on to tell her how ill-clothed, ill-fed, and completely destitute her late husband is, whereupon the Wife accepts his offer to take gifts back to her husband.
As the Student prepares to leave, the Wife inquires when he might come again to bring word of her first love. He assures her that the road is long and difficult and that he will not be likely to pass her way again. Without delay and with a minimum of ceremony, the Student takes her gifts and strides off—and none too soon, for the Farmer appears just as the young man is taking his departure.
The Wife continues to sing the love song that she had been singing just before meeting the Student, but now, as her husband notices, she sings happily. Naïvely, she tells him of the visitor who has brought her happiness and of her having sent gifts to her first love. Craftily concealing his anger at her simplicity, the Farmer sarcastically orders her to prepare more gifts that he might take them to the Student as additional presents to the man who, though dead, retains her devotion. Then, laden with the gifts, he goes off...
(The entire section is 776 words.)
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