Loosely based on the real-life historical figure Martin Guerre and the 1982 film The Return of Martin Guerre he inspired, the story is set in early modern France in the anti-Protestant town of Artigat, where young Martin Guerre is forced into an arranged marriage with Bertrande de Rols in order to produce a Catholic heir. Martin is unsatisfied with the marriage, complicated by the fact that a childhood friend, Guillaume, is secretly in love with Bertrande. Beaten by the priests due to his failure to consummate the union, Martin abandons his home and Bertrande to fight the Protestant Huguenots, and it is during the skirmishes that he befriends Arnaud du Thil with whom he shares his history, beginning the story at this point, seven years later, in medias res. When Martin appears to die in battle, Arnaud goes to his village to inform Bertrande of her husband's death but, mistaken for the deceased soldier by the residents, he decides to play along with their error and becomes involved with Bertrande. Aware of Arnaud's deception, Bertrande decides to keep his secret and the two discover a mutual romantic attraction while Arnaud takes the name "Martin Guerre" for himself. Guillaume, who had until now hoped for a chance with Bertrande romantically, becomes envious of the supposedly returned soldier. As Bertrande, secretly converted to Protestantism, also turns Arnaud to her faith, Guillaume uncovers their beliefs and so they are assaulted by a roused mob. Before Arnaud is killed, however, Benoit, the knowing village idiot, reveals that he is not truly Martin Guerre, but rather, an imposter. The authorities arrest Arnaud—still claiming that he is Martin—under charges of deception and at the end of the trial, Martin Guerre himself, having apparently survived the war, appears as the last witness. In prison, Arnaud, however, is freed by Martin who forgives him for stealing his identity, noting the legitimacy of Arnaud and Bertrande's love for each other. The mob, though, sets the town ablaze and Guillaume stabs Arnaud before he can escape. As Arnaud dies in Bertrande's arms, Martin and Bertrande sing mournfully about love and the two part for good. The town contemplates their own xenophobic actions remorsefully.
Publisher: Music Sales Ltd