The Return of Martin Guerre

Arnaud grew up in a village about a day’s ride to the north of Artigat. His childhood was in some ways nearly the opposite of the man he would eventually impersonate, Martin Guerre. Martin had only sisters, Arnaud had only brothers; Martin loved sword-fighting, Arnaud didn’t like sports. Arnaud’s talents lay elsewhere, in his powerful eloquence and extremely good memory. Indeed, Davis writes that he was so clever that people suspected him of being a magician. As he grew up, he had a reputation for getting into unsavory entanglements with drinking, gambling, and prostitutes. His large appetites garnered the nickname of “Pansette”—the belly. At some point, he evidently discovered that Martin had abandoned his family and inheritance and decided to impersonate Martin. This impersonation was an extraordinarily impressive feat: he informed himself as much as possible about Martin’s life, essentially “rehearsing” for the role he would perform for nearly three years. Davis argues that Arnaud and Martin’s wife Bertrande fell in love, and that although she was not convinced by his impersonation she colluded in his deception so that they could live together as a married couple. This makes his eventual trial and execution for impersonating Martin all the more poignant. Arnaud argued persuasively, almost convincing the court that he was indeed Martin—until the real Martin himself showed up. At Arnaud’s execution, he maintained that Bertrande was an honorable woman and he had deceived her, an attempt to protect Bertrande’s reputation that Davis takes as an indication of his continuing emotional attachment to her. Davis’s depiction of Arnaud is admiring and sympathetic. He was clearly very intelligent and gifted, and he led an extraordinary life. One might even argue, Davis suggests, that the real tragedy was not in the impersonation but in Arnaud’s punishment and death.

Arnaud du Tilh Quotes in The Return of Martin Guerre

The The Return of Martin Guerre quotes below are all either spoken by Arnaud du Tilh or refer to Arnaud du Tilh. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity and Property Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harvard University Press edition of The Return of Martin Guerre published in 1983.
Preface and Introduction Quotes

But we still know rather little about the peasants’ hopes and feelings; the ways in which they experienced the relation between husband and wife, parent and child; the ways in which they experienced the constraints and possibilities of their lives. We often think of peasants as not having had much in the way of choices, but is this in fact true? Did individual villagers ever try to fashion their lives in unusual and unexpected ways?

Page Number: 1
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[H]ow, in a time without photographs, with few portraits, without tape recorders, without fingerprinting, without identity cards, without birth certificates, with parish records still irregular if kept at all—how did one establish a person’s identity beyond doubt?

Related Characters: Martin Guerre, Arnaud du Tilh
Page Number: 63
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Chapter 4 Quotes

Was it so unusual for a man in sixteenth-century villages and burgs to change his name and fashion a new identity? Some of this went on all the time. The Daguerres left Hendaye, became the Guerres, and changed their ways. Every peasant who migrated any distance might be expected to do the same…At carnival time and at other feastdays, a young peasant might dress as an animal or a person of another estate or sex and speak through that disguise.

Related Characters: Arnaud du Tilh
Related Symbols: The Carnival Mask
Page Number: 40
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Chapter 5 Quotes

I think we can account for the initial acceptance by family and neighbors without having recourse to the necromancy of which Arnaud was later accused and which he always denied. First of all, he was wanted in Artigat—wanted with ambivalence perhaps, for returning persons always dash some hopes and disturb power relations, but wanted more than not. The heir and householder Martin Guerre was back in his place.

Related Characters: Martin Guerre, Arnaud du Tilh
Page Number: 43
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What hope might the Protestant message have offered to the new Martin and Bertrande during the years they were living together as “true married people”? That they could tell their story to God alone and need not communicate it to any human intermediary. That the life they had willfully fabricated was part of God’s providence.

Related Characters: Bertrande de Rols, Arnaud du Tilh
Page Number: 50
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Chapter 6 Quotes

To put it another way, if the real Martin Guerre had never come back, could Arnaud du Tilh have gotten away with it? Some of my pragmatic fellow historians have suggested that, if the impostor had not asked for the accounts and had followed more closely the uncle’s expectations in regard to the family property, he could have played Martin Guerre for years and no one would have mind. On the other hand, recently when I talked about Bertrande and Artaud with people in Artigat who were still familiar with the old story, they smiled, shrugged their shoulders, and said, “That’s all very well—but that pretty rascal, he lied.”

Related Characters: Arnaud du Tilh
Page Number: 59
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Chapter 7 Quotes

Forty-five people or more said that the prisoner was Arnaud du Tilh alias Pansette, or at least not Martin Guerre, since they had eaten and drunk with one or the other of them since childhood…About thirty to forty people said that the defendant was surely Martin Guerre; they had known him since the cradle.

Related Characters: Martin Guerre, Arnaud du Tilh
Page Number: 67
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Chapter 8 Quotes

If [Bertrande] had wanted to betray [Arnaud] at this point, all she had to do was tell a story he could not repeat; instead she adhered to the text they had agreed upon months before.

Related Characters: Bertrande de Rols, Arnaud du Tilh
Page Number: 76
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Chapter 9 Quotes

Even on the ladder up to the gibbet he was talking, preaching to the man who would take his place not to be harsh with Bertrande. She was a woman of honor, virtue, and constancy, he could attest to it. As soon as she suspected him, she had driven him away.

Related Characters: Bertrande de Rols, Arnaud du Tilh
Page Number: 81
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Chapter 10 Quotes

Lawyers, royal officers, and would-be courtiers knew all about self-fashioning—to use Stephen Greenblatt’s term—about the molding of speech, manners, gesture, and conversation that helped them to advance, as did any newcomer to high position in the sixteenth century. Where does self-fashioning stop and lying begin?

Related Characters: Arnaud du Tilh, Jean de Coras
Related Symbols: The Carnival Mask
Page Number: 103
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Chapter 11 Quotes

The originality of Coras’s vision of this peasant story should be stressed. The French tragicomedy ended happily and used aristocratic figures for its leading personages. […] That Coras could conceive of “a play of tragedy between persons of low estate” depended on his being able to identify himself somewhat with the rustic who had remade himself.

Related Characters: Arnaud du Tilh, Jean de Coras
Page Number: 112
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In Coras’s “comitragic” version…one can approve the cuckolding of the once impotent and now faraway husband. Here Arnaud du Tilh becomes a kind of hero, a more real Martin Guerre than the hard-hearted man with the wooden leg. The tragedy is more in his unmasking than in his imposture.

Page Number: 113
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Chapter 12 Quotes

Montaigne insists how difficult it is to know the truth about things and how uncertain an instrument is human reason. “Truth and falsehood have both alike countenances…Wee beholde them with one same eye.”

Page Number: 119
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Epilogue Quotes

The story of Martin Guerre is told and retold because it reminds us that astonishing things are possible. Even for the historian who has deciphered it, it retains a stubborn vitality. I think I have uncovered the true face of the past—or has Pansette done it once again?

Related Characters: Martin Guerre, Arnaud du Tilh
Related Symbols: The Carnival Mask
Page Number: 125
Explanation and Analysis:
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Arnaud du Tilh Character Timeline in The Return of Martin Guerre

The timeline below shows where the character Arnaud du Tilh appears in The Return of Martin Guerre. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Identity and Property Theme Icon
In 1556, a man called Arnaud du Tilh arrived in Artigat, claiming to be Martin. Arnaud was born in the village... (full context)
Identity and Property Theme Icon
Arnaud was very clever, with a talent for speaking and an excellent memory. But he was... (full context)
Identity and Property Theme Icon
Bertrande later suggested that Martin and Arnaud might have met in the army, which was how Arnaud knew about Martin’s abandoned property... (full context)
Identity and Property Theme Icon
...frequently dressed up as someone else. Healthy beggars pretended to be disabled or blind. But Arnaud’s deception was more elaborate, since he practiced and memorized for several years in order to... (full context)
Chapter 5
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
Arnaud first arrived at a hotel near Artigat, where word spread that “Martin” had returned. At... (full context)
Women, Honor, and Power Theme Icon
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
Davis suggests that Arnaud’s ability to successfully impersonate Martin is more plausible than it may seem: after all, the... (full context)
Women, Honor, and Power Theme Icon
Davis argues that the evidence suggests that Bertrande and Arnaud fell in love, and that Bertrande became his accomplice in the deception. There are many... (full context)
Women, Honor, and Power Theme Icon
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
Bertrande and Arnaud never confessed their sin to a local Catholic priest. Davis suggests that they may have... (full context)
Chapter 6
Identity and Property Theme Icon
After three years of marriage with Bertrande, Arnaud was thriving: he developed the Guerre holdings and became a “rural merchant,” trading in goods... (full context)
Identity and Property Theme Icon
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
...was an impostor. In retaliation for the lawsuit, he began telling family and neighbors that Arnaud could not be Martin, since he had forgotten many Basque phrases, looked very different, and... (full context)
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
However, Bertrande continued to maintain that Arnaud was indeed the true Martin. Arnaud claimed that Pierre had made up the story. The... (full context)
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
In 1559, there were two more blows to Arnaud. A solider from Rochefort came through the village and told people that the real Martin... (full context)
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
Davis wonders whether Arnaud’s imposture would have been exposed if he hadn’t challenged Pierre in this way—that is, by... (full context)
Chapter 7
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
Arnaud’s trial was held at the king’s court at Rieux, since defrauding someone’s identity was a... (full context)
Women, Honor, and Power Theme Icon
...been a difficult time for her, as her honor became a matter of public inquiry. Arnaud said that she was an honorable woman who was being forced to testify against him.... (full context)
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
Arnaud, meanwhile, made a brilliant legal defense without the benefit of an attorney, accusing Pierre of... (full context)
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
Arnaud didn’t look like his sisters or his son, the younger Sanxi. On the other hand,... (full context)
Chapter 8
Women, Honor, and Power Theme Icon
While the trial went on, Pierre and Bertrande were both imprisoned along with Arnaud. When the court called Bertrande to the stand, she claimed that she had been deceived... (full context)
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
...had known Martin since childhood. But even those witnesses were unable to agree on whether Arnaud really was Martin. People claimed that Martin had particular warts or bodily features, but no... (full context)
Women, Honor, and Power Theme Icon
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
...the defendant. Bertrande had a reputation as an honorable woman, and she had lived with Arnaud for three years. Martin’s four sisters seemed to be “respectable and honorable women,” and that... (full context)
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
...was better to leave unpunished a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one.” Acquitting Arnaud would give Bertrande a husband and Sanxi a father. But just as the court was... (full context)
Chapter 9
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
Martin and Arnaud were each questioned separately. At first, things seemed to go well for Arnaud: he remembered... (full context)
Women, Honor, and Power Theme Icon
...and asked his pardon for her mistake, claiming she had been deceived and seduced by Arnaud. Martin, however, responded sternly, telling her that a wife ought to know her husband. (full context)
Identity and Property Theme Icon
...used for debtors and people awaiting trial. The choice was to be made between fining Arnaud, subjecting him to various forms of physical punishment, and execution. Previous convictions of this kind... (full context)
Identity and Property Theme Icon
Arnaud was in some ways treated with lenience, perhaps demonstrating the court’s respect for his extraordinary... (full context)
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
Women, Honor, and Power Theme Icon
Arnaud, Martin, and Bertrande were summoned before the court for the last time. The famous essayist... (full context)
Chapter 10
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
...opinion outside the university. All this meant that Coras had reason to be sympathetic with Arnaud. (full context)
Identity and Property Theme Icon
Although Coras was initially sympathetic to Arnaud, he eventually realized his mistake. Even so, he remained fascinated by the case, because Arnaud’s... (full context)
Chapter 11
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
Coras’s Arrest Memorable mounts arguments for and against the accused. For example, he calls Arnaud the “defendant” in the text and “this prodigious offender” in the annotation. He also makes... (full context)
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
In the 1565 edition, Coras adds a description of Arnaud’s confession at Artigat. His annotation describes the story as “a tragedy for this fine peasant”... (full context)
Chapter 12
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
...comets, and other miraculous incidents. Almost all of these other accounts of the case emphasized Arnaud as the protagonist and downplayed Bertrande’s agency, depicting her as the deceived and manipulated wife.... (full context)
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
...the case “far-exceeded…our knowledge,” and he suggested that the judge was not empowered to condemn Arnaud and sentence him to death under such poor evidence. He uses a popular proverb (“He... (full context)
Epilogue
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
...case would not be so easily forgotten. Surely Bertrande did not forget her time with Arnaud, and the villagers would retell the story for many generations to come. They almost certainly... (full context)
Narrative and Authority Theme Icon
The Nature of Evidence Theme Icon
...the story is representative of the truth, or if it is simply another one of Arnaud’s masks. (full context)