Returning back to the characters presented in the second book, book three begins with Pantagruel, who is in the process of relocating some of his own people from Utopia into the country of Dipsody, which he had recently conquered. There is an allusion to other conquerors that have made similar choices about colonizing newly conquered lands. In essence, the idea is to create loyalists out of the newly conquered people by putting already loyal subjects in their midst. Beyond putting some of the people of Utopia into this newly conquered country, Pantagruel also puts his dear friend, Panurge, in charge as the Lord of the land. Unfortunately, with Panurge’s preference for decadent living and his inability to save money, Panurge quickly spends all the money that came with his newly acquired position. Worse than that, not only does he waste all the money, but he borrows against the money he will earn over the next several years.
After seeing how Panurge has spent all his wealth within a short amount of time, Pantagruel steps in and politely attempts to start a conversation to encourage Panurge to modify his spending habits. This action starts a long debate between Panurge and Pantagruel concerning the pros and cons of debt and debtors.
Panurge discusses his love for debtors and borrowers. He claims he would never want to be a man who is out of debt, for when he is deep in debt, all of his debtors treat him kindly with much attention, for they wish to be repaid, and therefore must stay around. Panurge argues that without his debtors, he would be a lonely man, and that no one would care about him when he died. Panurge then addresses the idea of debtors and borrowers from a philosophical approach. Instead of discussing the capitalistic transaction of money borrowing, Panurge examines multiple systems, including the human body, nature, and so forth. He explains that all of the elements within these systems borrow from other elements within the system, and therefore all the elements are forever in debt to each other. As an example, the lungs borrow air so that they may lend that air to the heart, and the heart borrows that air from the lungs to lend that air to the blood. Throughout Panurge’s lengthy discussion, he argues that everyone borrows from one another and is therefore always in each other’s debt, at least through a socialist perspective. His argument is in favor of debtors and borrowers, but he provides more of an argument in favor of reciprocity rather than an argument in support of money borrowing.
Pantagruel disagrees with Panurge and explains as such. As the good and noble character in the story, Pantagruel argues in favor of what the scriptures say against borrowing and lending. He also explains to Panurge that his dislike of debtors and borrowers is an opinion that cannot be changed, and that Panurge’s arguments will not change him. Pantagruel views the acts of borrowing and accruing debts as akin to letting the devil slowly entice a person into sinful behavior. Pantagruel does provide a story that explains when it is acceptable to borrow from others, but his story implies that it is only acceptable after one has worked diligently to support oneself. Even then, the example Pantagruel provides only promotes borrowing the bare necessities for survival.
Since Pantagruel accepts that he and his friend do not see eye-to-eye, Pantagruel states that they should agree to disagree and close the topic for the time being. They then move on to a new topic concerning military service laws in relation to marriage. According to the laws of the land, a newly married soldier cannot be called into service for the first year of his marriage. Panurge asks Pantagruel why this law is in practice. Pantagruel explains that not only does it promote the creation of progeny, so that the father may pass on his name and his heritage to his children, but it also protects the woman, so that if she is made a widow at a young age, she is still young enough to attract a second husband who will support her and the children of her first husband. Panurge argues against the idea of marrying a widow, implying that it is better to marry a virgin then to forbear a woman of such experience as a widow. Again, Pantagruel and Panurge have differing opinions, but it does not affect their friendship.
After all of these discussions, some amount of time has elapsed, and suddenly Panurge finds himself completely debt-free. As a result, he develops a sudden desire to become married, so that he will not be alone. As he goes to pursue a wife, he dresses strangely. Pantagruel asks him to explain his manner of dress, for it is not normally what people wear when they wish to court ladies. Panurge explains that his manner of dress is necessary, since it makes him look like a frugal man, which is who he must become, since now he is debt-free and does not wish to go back into debt, if he is to marry and have children. Panurge explains that he would be happy to find a wife, for he would no longer have to wear his ornate codpiece. Panurge then goes off on a rant about codpieces, stating that all plants and animals in nature have been given protection over their sexual organs. Humans, however, were not given this luxury. Fortunately, after the Fall, when Adam and Eve were thrown out of Paradise, Adam was given a fig leaf, which was the first codpiece. Ever since, the protection of one’s member has been ever apparent and necessary for the continuation of human life. Therefore, the codpiece is amongst the most important part of a warrior’s armor, according to Panurge. Although Panurge praises the codpiece, his desire to become married and no longer wear his codpiece creates a strange dissonance between his thoughts and his intentions.
As Panurge considers getting married, he asks Pantagruel for advice on whether or not he should get married. The two proceed in a drawn-out discussion where Panurge provides a reason he should not get married, to which Pantagruel tells him that if this is how he feels, he should not get married. Panurge then states a reason as to why he should get married, and then Pantagruel replies that if this is how he feels, then he should get married. The two go back and forth in this manner for some time, proving that Panurge really has no idea about whether he wants to get married. Pantagruel suggests that if they really want to get some sage advice on the matter, they should do a Virgilian lottery, which is a process in which a person faces a difficult decision and goes to the Iliad to help them find sage advice. The troubled person opens the Iliad and randomly chooses a line, and that line will supposedly provide guidance. Pantagruel explains how this is a practice that has helped many great people over the centuries. Panurge argues that perhaps they should just use dice or dice games, since they are just as random; but Pantagruel explains the evils of dice games, how his father outlawed them, and says such methods of chance are inappropriate. Nevertheless, he’s not against using the dice to determine which line of the Iliad to review. Thus agreed, Pantagruel and Panurge roll the dice to determine that line 16 on any random page will be the line to provide advice. They open the Iliad three times and read three different passages. After reading and interpreting the three different passages, Pantagruel tells Panurge that if he gets married, he “will be a cuckold, [he] will be beaten, and [he] will be robbed.” (Chapter 12, par 9). Panurge, on the other hand, interprets the passages in quite the opposite way, so, once again, Pantagruel and Panurge cannot agree on an answer.
Since the Virgilian lottery method did not work, Pantagruel suggests resorting to dream interpretation. Panurge likes the idea, and the two discuss how Panurge should prepare for the dream. The men discuss the difference between eating and fasting before dreams. Both Pantagruel and Panurge completely disagree with some common beliefs about fasting before dreams, because hunger pains will turn dreams into nightmares. However, both men know that if you eat too much, or if you eat the wrong things, it will affect your dreams in different ways. Therefore, they decide upon a moderate amount of food to eat that will stave off hunger but not cause upset stomachs. Panurge takes the advice, follows it, and goes to sleep in hopes of having a prophetic dream.
The next day, Panurge goes to Pantagruel and finds Pantagruel in the company of their regular friends as well as Pantagruel’s father’s best friends, namely Friar John of the Funnels, Ponocrates, and Eudemon. Panurge explains his dream to everyone so that they may interpret it. Once again, Pantagruel interprets Panurge’s dream to mean he will be cuckolded, beaten, and robbed. Just like before, Panurge is certain that this interpretation is false, for he could interpret his dream in a very different way. So, once more, Pantagruel and Panurge find themselves on opposite ends of the argument and are thus unable to come to a conclusion.
Pantagruel then suggests that Panurge visit the Sibyl of Panzoust, for she is known as a witch with the power of prophecy. Panurge agrees that this woman may have insight concerning whether marriage will make him a cuckold. Pantagruel suggests that Panurge take Epistemon on his journey to the Sibyl. Upon arriving at the Sibyl’s hut, Panurge and Epistemon find the woman huddled in a corner of her fireplace. As payment, they offer her precious items, which she accepts. She then conducts her peculiar ritual, pulls off the bark from an old sycamore tree, and scribbles verses onto the bark to provide Panurge his answer. The woman then retreats back to her corner of the fireplace. Panurge and Epistemon retrieved the pieces of bark and bring them back to Pantagruel. Pantagruel reads over the verses written by the Sibyl, and once again he comes to the same conclusion that if Panurge chooses to marry, he will be a cuckold, be beaten, and then he will be robbed. Just as before, Panurge does not accept Pantagruel’s interpretation and believes that the verses must mean something else.
Next, Pantagruel suggests that deaf people are often known for providing sagely advice. Pantagruel directs Panurge to invite a local deaf person by the name of Goatsnose to come and visit them and provide answers. Goatsnose arrives, and Panurge gives him tribute in hopes that Goatsnose will be able to provide him with answers. Since Goatsnose cannot hear, Panurge and Pantagruel must use hand gestures to explain the situation, and Goatsnose provides hand gestures in response. Unfortunately, Panurge and Goatsnose do not seem to communicate well, or at least Panurge finds it difficult to understand Goatsnose’s gestures. Pantagruel, fortunately, understands the gestures quite well, and explains that Goatsnose’s gestures have implied that Panurge will get married, he will be made into a cuckold, he will no doubt be beaten, and then he will be robbed. Panurge agrees with the fact that he will be married, but once again, Panurge denies the other allegations.
Pantagruel then suggests that Panurge may find answers to his questions by speaking with a man who is close to death, and therefore able to see beyond the veil. Panurge likes this suggestion and agrees to go and speak with a dying man. Pantagruel suggests that Panurge take Friar John with him, which Panurge agrees to do. Panurge and Friar John make their way to visit the poet Raminagrobis, who is reportedly close to death. They provide him with payment, and ask Raminagrobis to provide them with advice on whether Panurge will be a cuckold upon marriage. Raminagrobis seems upset that they would waste his time with such a question, but he nonetheless writes down some verses to provide them with an answer. Unlike the previous answers, Raminagrobis’s answers amounts to an ambivalent reply of either get married or don’t get married, she will either make you happy or you will wish she is dead.
Throughout the course of their visit with Raminagrobis, the dying man makes many heretical statements, so after receiving the answer, Panurge and Friar John leave immediately. As they consider the answer and think back about their visit, both Panurge and Friar John believe Raminagrobis to be plagued by devils. Panurge than considers whether they should go back to Raminagrobis’s house to provide him some absolution and prevent his soul from being damned. Although he claims he wants to save this man, Panurge cannot bear the thought of going back to Raminagrobis’s house, for the devils that plague Raminagrobis may latch onto innocent souls who walk into the house. Panurge instructs Friar John that he must go and save this man, but that he cannot go alone and without protection. Panurge refuses to go, but he gives Friar John a bag of coins, since the coins have crosses carved on them that may repel devils. Panurge worries that the coins will not scare away the devils, but that they may enrage the devils all the more. Panurge then goes on to say that only a man out of debt should try to attack devils, for the devils will see a debtor as weak and vulnerable. Thus, Panurge thinks Friar John should not go alone, but at the same time he tells Friar John that he will never willingly go with him back to that place.
Panurge then asks Epistemon directly whether he should get married. Although a well-learned man, Epistemon does not feel he has the skills adequate enough to answer the question. He exclaims there are too many factors to consider, and he does not wish to offer bad advice. Epistemon comments that he wishes that they could go to all the oracles mentioned in antiquity, but since the Christian religion and Jesus came, apparently all the oracles no longer work. Desperate for an answer, Panurge begs that they should travel to some far-off land where there are still oracles, and try to find the answers there. Epistemon, as a man of logic and a man of religion, cannot abide seeking out more soothsayers who are false prophets, and he refuses to go on any such quests.
Epistemon will not go looking for soothsayers in some strange part of the world, but he will take Panurge to a local man noted for his skills with astrology and similar divination arts. Panurge points out that the supposed fortuneteller, Herr Trippa, cannot possess much skill, since he brags about having a virtuous and loyal wife, even though everyone knows that his wife regularly sleeps around with other men. Nevertheless, Panurge agrees to talk with Herr Trippa. At Herr Trippa’s home, Panurge and Epistemon learn about the many kinds of divination arts and how they can be used to find answers. However, as Herr Trippa explains each type of divination art, either Panurge or Epistemon mocks the methodologies and points out the obvious flaws of the processes. In the end, they gain no clearer answers.
After speaking with Epistemon and Herr Trippa, Panurge decides to seek counsel with Friar John. During this conversation, Friar John points out that Panurge is no longer a young man, and that he has much grey hair. Panurge argues that his grey hair symbolizes his virility. Friar John goes on to say that Panurge should consider marriage, for it is a holy act that will guarantee him and his wife a spot in paradise. While Panurge agrees with the religious part of the argument concerning marriage, it’s clear that Friar John does not understand what Panurge is really asking. Panurge quite bluntly asks if his marriage will lead to him becoming a cuckold. Friar John believes that becoming a cuckold is beside the point, since it either will or won’t happen. The important part, according to Friar John and the church, is that Panurge be married in the eyes of God. Panurge seems unsatisfied with this answer, so Friar John decides to provide Panurge with some comfort through an interesting, albeit crass anecdote about how to ensure a man does not become a cuckold.
According to Friar John, there once was a man by the name of Hans Carvel, and Hans was also afraid that his wife would cheat on him. One night, Hans had a dream, and in his dream the devil came to him. The devil explained that he could ease Hans’s worries about becoming a cuckold by giving him a magic ring. In the dream, the devil promised that as long as Hans wore the ring that his wife would never be unfaithful. When Hans woke up from the dream, his finger was inserted inside of his wife’s vaginal opening. Thus, Friar John implies that there is no true guarantee to prevent against cuckoldry, except for rather extreme measures.
Panurge has spoken with many people, and still he finds himself no closer to an answer about whether he will be cuckolded in marriage. Pantagruel explains that perhaps it is time to speak with more respected authorities. Panurge agrees to listen to anyone at this point, for surely someone must have an answer to this problem. Pantagruel recommends that they speak with a religious scholar, a physician, a lawyer, and a philosopher. Pantagruel knows of four such individuals, and sends out invitations to them to assemble at a dinner party. All except the lawyer are able to attend the dinner. The lawyer, however, is currently being placed on trial, due to questionable verdicts he gave while in the position of being a judge. Although Pantagruel is worried about his lawyer friend, he decides to go ahead with the dinner party with these three guests in hopes that they will provide Panurge with some answers.
All of the men arrive at the dinner party and are greeted by Pantagruel and Panurge. Pantagruel explains that they have been asked to dinner to help Panurge solve his problem. Panurge then asks the first man, the religious scholar, Father Hippothadee, about whether he will become a cuckold if he gets married. Much like Friar John, Father Hippothadee promotes getting married, because it is a holy act. He explains to Panurge that if he wishes to avoid being cuckolded that he should choose a worthy woman who is dedicated to God. Panurge claims to have never seen or met such a woman. He thanks Father Hippothadee for his advice, but Panurge’s words of thanks are said in a bout of frustration rather than appreciation.
Panurge then directs his attention to Rondibilis, the physician. Panurge explains that he wants to get married, because he has urges that only a wife could subdue. Rondibilis explains that there are five ways to handle excessive sexual desires, including drinking, using medicinal drugs or herbs, physically exerting oneself, dedicating oneself to scholarly work, or masturbation. Panurge then questions Rondibilis about if getting married will result in becoming a cuckold. Rondibilis replies that marriage always results in the possibility of cuckoldry, for he views women as incapable of resisting temptation. Rondibilis advises Panurge that the only way to avoid being cuckolded is to monitor one’s wife at all times. To do so, however, would require that a man give up all of his pursuits and obligations, which is not practical. Therefore, men must accept the likelihood of becoming a cuckold as part of marriage. Rondibilis also points out that if you try and forbid a woman from doing something, she will surely do what has been forbidden, which is a clear reference to Eve’s responsibility for the Fall. Panurge thanks Rondibilis for his advice, although he once again offers his thanks in a rude but polite fashion.
Finally, Panurge questions the philosopher, Trouillogan, concerning whether he should marry. Like a true philosopher, Trouillogan never provides a direct answer, and instead argues that people should and should not get married at the same time. Although Trouillogan’s philosophical filibustering temporarily amuses Pantagruel, and the other guests, as well as Pantagruel’s father, Gargantua, who randomly walks into the meal, Panurge remains unsatisfied, for Trouillogan refuses to provide a definite answer, and instead only wishes to quibble philosophically.
After talking to soothsayers, a dying man, a deaf man, and learned men, Panurge is no closer to making a decision. Pantagruel suggests that perhaps Panurge would benefit from speaking with a fool, since fools are known for their mad-but-straightforward perspectives. Panurge agrees to speak with a fool, and so he and Pantagruel plan to seek out the fool known as Triboulet. Before they can speak with the fool, however, Pantagruel must visit his lawyer friend, Judge Bridlegoose, who is currently on trial.
Pantagruel sits in at Bridlegoose’s trial. Bridlegoose is an elderly man who has been a lawyer and a judge for many decades. He is on trial because some of his recent verdicts have proven very questionable. During the trial, Bridlegoose reveals that it is difficult for him to read through the materials these days, due to his eyes. Therefore, he uses dice to decide the verdict of court trials. As Bridlegoose explains his methodology, he makes the implication that all judges use dice to determine guilt or innocence. The panel of judges questioning him during this trial seems rather shocked at Bridlegoose’s methodology. As the panel of judges starts to deliberate, they excuse Bridlegoose from the chambers, but they invite Pantagruel to offer his opinion on the matter. Basically, Pantagruel acknowledges that Bridlegoose’s methods are questionable, but he would ask that the matter be excused, because of Bridlegoose’s advanced age and simple nature. Pantagruel also asks that, out of the panel’s debt to Pantagruel and his family, that they clear Bridlegoose of all charges. Pantagruel acknowledges that those parties who Bridlegoose unjustly sentenced will need to be compensated in accordance with the law, and Pantagruel offers to provide that compensation. As to what the court should do with Bridlegoose, Pantagruel suggests that they may assign Bridlegoose a younger legal counselor to supervise his future decisions. If the panel does not choose to maintain Bridlegoose as a judge, Pantagruel offers to provide Bridlegoose a position in his own lands.
Pantagruel and his colleagues leave the courtroom and discuss Bridlegoose’s case. They then defend Bridlegoose’s actions, and they reason that, since so many court cases are convoluted and ambiguous, that sometimes there is truly no fair or just verdict possible. Furthermore, by leaving it up to chance, it is akin to giving God divine control over the situation. Lastly, Pantagruel and his companions feel that Bridlegoose’s decision to use the dice was justified, since they believe that most of the legal workers are corrupt, especially those working within the province in which Bridlegoose has presided in for over forty years. Therefore, by allowing some of the cases to be decided by chance, Pantagruel and his companions argue that Bridlegoose, either knowingly or unknowingly, has diminished the power of those corrupt legal workers.
After supporting Bridlegoose at his trial, Pantagruel returns home so that he and Panurge may question the fool, Triboulet. Upon meeting with Triboulet, Panurge provides him a payment of wine, food, and other trinkets. Triboulet accepts the payment and starts to get excessively drunk. In his drunken haze, he speaks gibberish, which Pantagruel and the others interpret as a potential answer to Panurge’s question about whether he will be cuckolded after marriage. Similar to before, Pantagruel interprets the gibberish to mean that Panurge will indeed be cuckolded. Panurge, on the other hand, interprets the gibberish quite differently, and therefore the two friends once again cannot settle on an answer. After disagreeing so many times, Pantagruel and Panurge finally decide that they need a definitive answer, and that they must agree upon a method to find and interpret that answer. They decide to seek out the legendary Oracle of the Holy Bottle, which is located in a faraway land known as Lantern Land, which is also referred to as Lanternatory or Lantern-land. Pantagruel explains that he will journey with Panurge to the mythical oracle, provided he can gain his father’s blessing on the matter.
Pantagruel goes off to speak with his father about Panurge’s quest for answers. Gargantua respects Pantagruel for being such a good friend, and gives him leave to go on this adventure with Panurge and his other companions. Gargantua also advises that Pantagruel take Friar John and a few others, along with as many ships and supplies as are required for the journey.
As Pantagruel and his father are vaguely on the topic of marriage, Gargantua begins to explain the importance of parents protecting their children from rogues, especially in regards to marriage. Although the conversation focuses more on fathers protecting their daughters from being raped or tricked into marriage with ruffians, there is still information applicable to Pantagruel, in that Gargantua wishes to protect him from choosing to marry the wrong person. Gargantua advises that children should never choose a spouse without the guidance of their parents. Pantagruel replies that he is in no hurry to choose a wife, nor does he have anyone in mind for his future wife. Nevertheless, he explains that if his father wishes him to be married, then his father need only choose his future wife, for Pantagruel will marry whomever his father selects. Gargantua seems satisfied with his son’s answer, and implies that he will make plans to set up a royal wedding upon Pantagruel’s return from his adventure to the oracle in Lantern Land.
Pantagruel, Panurge, and the other companions prepare for their sea voyage to Lantern Land. Panurge suggests that they employ the services of a well-traveled man by the name of Xenomanes. Likewise, Carpalin suggests that they also bring Lord Debitis at Calais, for he is skilled with a lantern and is noted as a good fellow to have around. Pantagruel and the others agree to these two new additions to their company.
As Pantagruel’s servants prepare the ships, the narrator discusses how the ships are carefully packed with a healthy stock of Pantagruelion, which is an herb or a plant very similar to marijuana. The narrator discusses the many uses of Pantagruelion, and some of these descriptions talk about how the plant can be used for making the modern equivalent of hemp fabric. The narrator also discusses the pleasant and euphoric effects of Pantagruelion in herbal form. Supposedly the juice or the sap of the plant can be used medicinally within the ear to kill parasites and other ear-related pests. If Pantagruelion is put into water, it causes the water to curdle, which makes a good remedy for horses suffering from colic. Boiled Pantagruelion roots can be made into a medicine used for treating muscle pain, joint pain, cramps, gout, and it also proves effective for calming the nerves. Raw Pantagruelion supposedly also heals and treats burns. The narrator also comments about how the herb helps everyone to be more productive, because it puts people in a joyful, open state of mind, which supposedly allows them to perceive more ideas. Finally, the narrator comments on Pantagruelion’s asbestos-like qualities. He claims that if a dead body is wrapped in Pantagruelion and then set ablaze, the body will cremate inside the plant fibers, but the actual fibers will remain unharmed, keeping the cremated ashes safely inside. After this discussion of the amazing properties of the Pantagruelion plant, the narrator finishes this third book with a discussion about herbalism lore and myths about types of wood that do not burn easily.
After reading the first two books, the format, style, and direction of book three takes a drastic left turn. As Arthur Augustus Tilley points out, the end of book two left readers with the promise of what exciting events were to come in the following adventures. Practically all of those promises remain unfulfilled within book three. Tilley comments, “the whole tone of the book becomes more philosophical; there is less action and more discussion; there is less fun and more learning, more heaping up, sometimes to the point of tediousness, of citations from classical and other learned authorities” (181). Furthermore, the character focus has changed significantly. Instead of the book’s namesake, Pantagruel, being treated as the main character, the story focuses predominantly on Panurge and his problems.
Although the focus may have moved slightly to Panurge, Pantagruel still shares the stage, but aspects of Pantagruel’s character seem considerably different from how he was portrayed in the previous book. His manner of discourse with Panurge, for instance, has completely changed. In the second book, it felt as if Pantagruel was always in agreement with his good friend, and that he never suspected Panurge of wrongdoing. In this third installment of the story, however, Pantagruel possesses an overtly serious tone, as if he never laughs anymore. Furthermore, as E. Bruce Hayes argues, Pantagruel in the third book uses his words not necessarily to help his friend, but to torment him. Instead of offering Panurge useful advice, or, at the very least, telling Panurge what he wants to hear, Pantagruel chooses to tell Panurge exactly what he fears most. Hayes comments that “Pantagruel tortures his companion with interpretations that heighten Panurge’s alarm,” and, as a result, Hayes explains that readers should interpret such “tongue-in-cheek” comments as Pantagruel’s method for making Panurge “understand the futility of his quest” (154). To put it more simply, Pantagruel has grown tired of Panurge’s indecisive behavior, so therefore he chooses to punish Panurge into action. Unfortunately, though Pantagruel successfully torments his friend, Panurge remains annoyingly undecided.
One cannot discuss the change in the third book’s format without discussing factors that possibly motivated Rabelais to address such a philosophical argument. Throughout the early part of the 1500s, various writers published treatises about marriage in relationship to religion and social class. They were also writing documents about women, some of which praised women, whereas others portrayed women as childish, irrational, thoughtless beings. Tilley comments that Rabelais no doubt read these documents, which may have influenced his decision to treat this topic through a fictitious story. In addition, Tilley argues that much of the inspiration for this conversation about marriage came from Rabelais’s involvement with the work of one of his friends, André Tiraqueau, who wrote a 600-page treatise entitled On the Laws of Marriage. By the time Rabelais got involved with Tiraqueau’s work, Tiraqueau was producing the third edition of his book, which was released in 1524, per Tilley. A large portion of the conversations between Panurge, the physician, and the religious scholar are reminiscent of Tiraqueau’s work. In fact, Tiraqueau’s entire argument is built upon the axiom “that woman is by nature inferior to man, and that it is her part to obey his part to command,” and that viewpoint toward women is expressed almost verbatim through the characters of the physician and the religious scholar (Tilley, 196). Tilley does argue, however, that although Tiraqueau’s text certainly places women in the subordinate position, his treatise argues that men must remain faithful as well, and that their status as male does not give them permission to act sinfully toward their wives.
Another major distinction between the style of the first two books and the style of this third book includes the treatment of Christian and pagan ideologies. In the previous books, although giants existed, it is implied that the Christian God created them. The narrator even provides a lineage line similar to the lineage line presented in the Old Testament. Although there are some mythical beasts in the first two books, it is noted that those beasts come from Africa, a land identified as a place full of secrets. For the most part, however, the first two books function under the religious structure of Christianity. In this third book, while Christianity still remains in the more powerful position, pagan beliefs and symbolism abound. As Panurge seeks answers to his questions, instead of seeking help directly from the church, he questions a fortune-telling witch and a man who specializes in astrology and other forms of non-Christian sanctioned divination. By the end of the story, Panurge even plans to go on an Odysseus-like adventure to seek out an oracle dedicated to the Greek God Bacchus. Granted, there are moments when Panurge seems to favor Christianity. For example, when he believes that Raminagrobis is tormented by demons, he begs Friar John to save the man’s soul from damnation. Although this chapter portrays Panurge as piously dedicated to the Christian faith, the very next chapter shows him begging Epistemon to go with him on a journey to some mythical pagan oracle. Panurge’s trust in Christianity wavers, because the religion and the authorities within it do not provide him with the answers or comfort he wants. Panurge is not the only character that wavers, though. Half of the time, both Epistemon and Pantagruel insist that Panurge adhere to Christian law, but in almost the next breath, both of these characters immediately suggest that Panurge seek out answers from people practicing pagan arts. By the end of the third book, they even agree to voyage with Panurge halfway around the world to some pagan oracle. One could argue, though, that this repeating theme of wavering between pagan and Christian ideologies underscores a satirical treatment that mocks non-Christian beliefs, but this same treatment makes fun of and chastises less devout Christians at the same time.
Perhaps the strange juxtaposition of the two faiths is meant to emphasize the problems with divine and spiritual interpretation. Prophetic messages, be them Christian, pagan, or anything else, almost always appear open-ended, and thus open to multiple types of interpretation. These interpretations and the methodologies involved therein take center stage in the story. Therefore, the main argument in this third book is not necessarily whether marriage leads to cuckoldry, but rather the main conflict is about who is the better interpreter, Pantagruel or Panurge? Pantagruel uses a fairly analytical and straightforward approach to his interpretation of the signs and messages. His methodology reflects his serious scholar nature, as portrayed in this book. Panurge’s approaches to interpreting the signs, however, do not always appear sound. In fact, his interpretations seem to misconstrue the messages to result in only positive messages for him. Thus it becomes an Aristotelian argument between logos (Pantagruel) and pathos (Panurge). Although Pantagruel presents the same results to Panurge time and time again, namely that Panurge will be cuckolded, beaten, and robbed, Panurge refuses to see logic, because his emotions outweigh his senses. Throughout the entire third book, his main emotional state is fear, including fear of being alone and fear of being cuckolded. Thus, the only element truly stopping him from making a decision is his overwhelming sense of fear. By refusing to accept Pantagruel’s logical interpretations, Panurge further avoids facing his fears. Panurge’s decision to go on the long voyage to the Oracle of the Holy Bottle represents yet another strategy for either avoiding his fears or seeking out only the interpretations that will subdue his fears.