Adultery on Trial: Martin Guerre and his Wife, from Judge’s Tale to the Screen

  • Elizabeth Guild


The case of Martin Guerre fascinated sixteenth-century French audiences high and low, with its questions of identity, transgression, recognition, and revelation. What happened? No-one really knows. Martin Guerre, who had abandoned his wife and son, returned after some five years away at war, a changed man, a good husband and worker. Four years later he was accused of imposture; his case went to trial, and he was condemned; he appealed and was about to be acquitted, given the judges’ overwhelming doubt in the face of a mass of conflicting evidence as to his identity, when, as the original record has it, there was a ‘miracle’: the ‘real’ Martin Guerre arrived. Although he seemed much less convincingly ‘himself’ than did the accused, judgement finally went against the accused who was sentenced to be hanged and his body then burned, to destroy all trace of his person and crime.


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  1. 5.
    S. Heath, ‘Narrative space’, in Questions of Cinema (London: Macmillan, 1981), 19–75 (41).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

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  • Elizabeth Guild

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