Part 1, Chapter 14 Summary
The Unfortunate Shepherd’s Verses and Other Unexpected Matters
Vivaldo reads Chrysostom’s poem; it recounts Marcella’s great beauty but laments her cruelty before he asks the Greek gods to greet him warmly in the afterlife. It does mention his jealousies and fears regarding the shepherdess, but when Vivaldo asks about those things, Ambrose explains them away as a fault of his friend, not Marcella. Vivaldi is convinced and is prepared to read a second poem, but suddenly Marcella appears near the rock where the grave is being dug.
Those who have never seen her “gaze on her in wonder and delight,” and those who have seen her before are equally enraptured by her presence. As soon as Ambrose sees her, he cries out in anger and indignation, wondering she is here to see if her presence can make the dead man’s wounds bleed again or to revel in the “final effects of her native unhumanity.”
Marcella tells Ambrose she is here to clear her name among those who blame her for Chrysostom’s death. People say that heaven made her beautiful and men are then compelled to fall in love with her despite their efforts not to do so; because of that, men tell her she must love them in return. She does not believe that “what is loved for being handsome should be bound to love that by which it is loved, merely because it is loved.” If two people are handsome, it does not follow that they must love one another; if a characteristic of love is that it must be voluntary and unforced, people do not have to love simply because they are loved by another.
If she had been born ugly, she could not complain that no one loved her. She cannot be blamed for the gifts with which heaven endowed her, and those she has attracted by sight she has “undeceived with her words.” Marcella has never given encouragement to any suitor, including Chrysostom; it was his own stubbornness, not her cruelty, which shortened his life. She told him she intended to die a single woman, but he persisted; now she asks those gathered for the funeral if they still think she is to blame for Chrysostom’s death. If any other young man dies proclaiming his love for her, she cannot be blamed for that, either.
(The entire section is 576 words.)