Vernon Lee's “A Wedding Chest” is an interesting and bloody tale of revenge. Throughout the unweildy blocks of text we come to meet Piero's daughter, Monna Maddalena. Well, when I say meet, she's described more like we're being sold an heirloom at an auction house. She never talks or acts independently, and she's always described in detail when she's on display. Additionally, all of the women are either virtuous possessions or serving wenchs, Moors, or slave types who have the devil in their heart and help cause problems. In this case, the wench passes on messages to Monna and her damsels to refresh themselves, after which the evil Troilo spirits her away like Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Monna is spoiled after she is (assumedly) repeatedly assaulted until she begat a child. Once that happened, her use as Troilo's plaything is ruined and she is murdered with her child. 

To add insult to injury, Troilo's men return the body in a chest filled not with a dowry but red cloth such as used for mules and the body of Maddalena. This showed Troila felt her worth was little more than cattle.

Her betrothed, Desiderio, when presented the coffer and the key, falls to the floor and of course has a meltdown. He decides to get absolution and to take out Troilo. Now Troilo is described in a woman's terms, as "the first down had not come to his cheeks, and his skin was astonishingly white and fair like a woman's". Perhaps this is to set up the fight at the end to make us believe he's going to be a pushover.

It turns out not really, but the surprising attack by Desiderio prevents Troilo from winning. But even then, as he lay dying, he spits on Maddalena's memory by describing her as "a cursed difficult slut" before giving up the ghost. Again, this treats her more as a thing instead of a murdered human being.

Iron Noder 2017

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