Bertrande de Rols, by choosing to accuse Arnaud of being an impostor, is accountable for her tragic outcome. Nevertheless, her grief is beyond her control. Arnaud and Martin, the two husbands she once loved, are to blame for her sorrow. Bertrande certainly contributes for her own tragedy due to her moral view, honesty and determination. Even though Arnaud deceives her, she still feels sinned because of her love for him, “it is in this love that he has wronged me most, that he has damned my soul”. Bertrande’s unfaithfulness to her husband, both physically and emotionally, destroys her inner peace because of her traditional moral view.
Together with this ethical view, her honesty does not allow her to accept the impostor as her husband. Bertrande is also extremely strong-willed to continuously verify the identity of her husband, in spite of the objection of almost the whole family and the persuasion of the priest, Martin’s little sister and the old housekeeper. In the feudal society, individual feelings and needs are of less importance than that of the family. In this case, however, Bertrande puts the truth and her feelings above the happiness of the family. Her choices lead to her misery, yet they are ethical and therefore, not to be blamed.
However, Bertrande alone would not cause her own suffering. In fact, the impostor Arnaud du Tilh plays a substantial role in her misery. His initial intention to get some money from the Guerre is nothing but typical of a rogue. His arrival destroys the peace that Bertrande only achieves after years of worrying for her husband. By staying and impersonating Martin, Arnaud indisputably steals the wife, the son and the whole family of Martin.
His kindness wins the heart of Bertrande, yet the love for her fake husband only brings her utter worry and guilt. Arnaud’s kindheartedness has “treacherously drawn to his party all those who most owed her loyalty and trust”. His benevolence, although a good quality, isolates Bertrande and makes her way to the truth more challenging. She not only fights for the truth against the impostor but also against her community that is still in his deception. However kind Arnaud is, his crime against her is obvious.
Bertrande’s fraudulent husband surely plays an important role in her tragedy, however, it is her actual husband who should be blamed for. Martin’s leaving initially puts his wife in a guilty feeling because she shares a part of his running away plan. Bertrande also feels wounded and hurt because she is abandoned by her beloved husband, despite her mature beauty and her passion for him. The young wife has to live in the cycle of extreme emotions: hope for his safe return and despair. Most importantly, that Martin is absent from home without any contact for eight years creates the perfect opportunity for Arnaud to impersonate him and deceive the Guerre.
While Martin’s departure is the start of Bertrande’s misfortune, his return brings his wife only heartbreak. He has not fulfilled his duty as the head of the Guerre and the husband of Bertrande. Martin also does not appreciate her tremendous effort to get rid of Arnaud for his family and for himself. The returned Martin is “selfish in the extreme” when he accuses Bertrande “you, and you only, Madam, are answerable for the dishonour which has befallen me”. In return for her pleading for his forgiveness, his cold and inconsiderate accusation only escalates Bertrande’s grief. He left her in the height of her passion and he exhausts all her emotion when he returns. Martin is utterly answerable for the misfortune which has befallen his wife.
The idea of men’s absolute power in this patriarchal society is harsh and unfair to women. Martin, the product of that society, demands absolute fidelity from his wife and exercises his power in the extremely selfish way. The voice of Bertrande at the two courts are not properly regarded reflects the inferior positions of women in the society. This inequality is also the root of Bertrande’s unhappiness.
Bertrande sacrifices the happiness of the family and her love for the impostor for the truth. However, as she knows the truth about her two husbands, nothing is left for her. She is, without doubt, partly responsible for her tragic outcome, but what she has done is morally correct. Bertrande deserves our respect for her honesty, sacrifice, determination and her ability to do what she believes in despite its consequences.