The classical story of the Widow of Ephesus tells of a woman who undermines her reputation as a faithful wife by offering the body of her recently buried husband for crucifixion in order to save the life of a guard with whom she has suddenly fallen in love. The story made its way from Petronius Arbiter's Satyricon into Latin and vernacular fable collections, some of which were used as curricular texts in grammar schools, and it also appears on the Jacobean stage as George Chapman's The Widow's Tears. This article analyzes the ways in which writers in three languages across sixteen centuries attempted to impose interpretive closure and unambiguous morality on this notoriously resistant narrative. The article concludes with a consideration of the ways in which Marie de France's version of the fable occludes the possibility of a closed, antifeminist reading.

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