The Downfall of Inheritance

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The Downfall of Inheritance

Summary of History of the Nun

In the novel History of the Nun written by Aphra Behn, discusses a young woman, Isabella, who was exposed to the life as a nun since she was a very young age. At the age of thirteen, she had to make a decision that would forever guide her life. Isabella had to choose whether to become a nun and hand off her inheritance to her aunt or go on to marry a noble man and receive her inheritance (Behn 10). At the age of thirteen, she had to make this decision and she had chosen to be a nun. She then realizes she made the wrong decision when she meets a young man name Henault changes her mind. She falls in love with him, breaks her vows, and leaves with the young man. Henault’s father disowned him after realizing what wrong he has done and how he lead to a woman breaking her very own vows to God (Behn 63). After Henault lost his fortune, he and Isabella moved on and settled down for a while but then times got hard and Henault did not believe that he could provide for he and Isabella any longer.

Henault reached out to his father whom said in order to receive his inheritance, he must go off to war (Behn 95). Henault agreed and went off to war in which he ran into Villenoys (Behn 100). Villenoys was a man who had fallen in love with Isabella but she had not ran off with him but decided to give her life to God instead. Once Isabella took orders, ” he fell at last into a Feaver; and ’twas the whole Discourse of the Town, That Villenoys was dying for the Fair Isabella” (Behn 23).

Henault, Villenoy, and many others had went to battle and Henault did not return. Everyone assumed Henault was killed and Villenoy decided to be the one to give  “her an Account of the Death of her Husband, and how Gloriously he fell fighting for the Holy Cross” (Behn 104).

58 and how much Honour he had won. After realizing this, Isabella mourned for five years, all in which Villenoys pleaded to be with her. After five years of mourning, she finally said yes to marrying Villenoys for her own reasons. “She liv’d in this Tranquillity, belov’d by all, for the space of five Years, and Time (and perpetual Obligations from Villenoys, who was the most indulgent and indearing Man in the World) had almost worn out of her Heart the Thoughts of Henault, or if she remember’d him” (Behn 115).

Some time after marrying Villenoys, Isabella receieves a message from her maid. The maid tells Isabella that there is a man at the gate requesting for her and he told me to give you this ring and you will know who he is. The ring was a wedding ring from her supposedly dead husband Henault “with Isabella’s Name and Hair in it” (Behn 118). She asked the maid to escort the young man through the gates and it was Henault himself. He was difficult to recognize him for he was covered in filth and had grown much hair.

Henault explains that he was not dead after all and that he was captured by the enemy.  He said, “kept me a Slave, setting a great Ransom on me, such as I was not able to pay. I writ several times, to give you, and my Father, an account of my Misery, but receiv’d no Answer, and endur’d seven Years of dreadful Slavery” (Behn 125). Isabella was in shock when she heard this and they reminisced about the past times that they have spent together. She tells the maid to escort Henault to the guest chambers. Isabella became filled with fear because at this time, she is an adultress considering Henault is alive and she recently married Villenoy. She had such fear of being scrutinized by the public that “she resolves to Strangle him, or Smother him with a Pillow” (Behn 128).

Once Villenoys finds out what happened, he decides to rid the body for Isabella so that they can live happily ever after and no one would know of her wrong doings. Isabella then stages the death of Villenoys when she takes “the Pack-needle with the Thread, sew’d the Sack, with several strong Stitches, to the Coller of Villenoys’s Coat, without his perceiving it, and bid him go now; and when you come to the Bridge, (said she) and that you are throwing him over the Rail, (which is not above Breast high) be sure you give him a good swing, lest the Sack should hang on anything at the side of the Bridge, and not fall into the Stream, (Behn 136). Villenoys, doing what his wife asked of him, not only threw Henault over the bridge, but himself as well.

Isabella was found guilty of her crimes when a friend of Henault was able to identify his body. “As soon as she was accus’d, she confess’d the whole Matter of Fact, and, without any Disorder, deliver’d her self in the Hands of Justice, as the Murderess of two Husbands (both belov’d) in one Night” (Behn 146). The authorities were able to put the pieces together and arrested Isabella. Isabella was then sentenced to death for her crimes but her beauty in the eyes of the public was not at all diminished. The day of her execution, people clapped and praised her as she came out. Isabella felt so welcomed that “she made a Speech of half an Hour long, so Eloquent, so admirable a Warning to the Vow-Breakers, that it was as amazing to hear her, as it was to behold her” (Behn 148). During this speech, the audience mourned and cried for her.

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