When Martin Guerre was only a youth, his wealthy uncle, Pierre Guerre forced him into an arranged marriage with local girl, Bertrande de Rols, to ensure a new Catholic heir in the village. Although the community rejoiced over the union, Martin was not happy in the marriage and it remained unconsummated. After being beaten and humiliated by the local priests for his personal failure, Martin abandons his young wife and leaves to fight the Protestant Huguenots. This is the tale he tells to his comrade, Arnaud du Thil. However, when they are attacked in a sudden skirmish, Martin is left for dead and Arnaud vows to tell Bertrande of her husband’s demise. But when he arrives in the village, he is hailed as Martin, the villager’s prodigal son, and is taken to see Bertrande before he cannot reveal his true identity.
Left alone, Bertrande realizes that Arnaud is not Martin, and he reveals the truth to her. However, the villagers force the couple together and, slowly, they begin to fall in love. Bertrande confesses that she has converted to Protestantism and introduces Arnaud to the secret worship going on in the village. However, Martin’s old friend, Guillaume, spies on them uncovers their heretical beliefs. Jealous with love for Bertrande, he decides to alert the village and the couple are attacked by an angry mob. When Benoit, a simple villager, reveals that he knows Arnaud is not really Martin, Arnaud is arrested and sent for trial on charges of deception. The final witness at the trial is…..Martin Guerre, who survived his wounds on the battlefield. As hate between the local Catholics and Protestants intensifies, Martin forgives Arnaud and gives Arnaud and Bertrande his blessing. When the village is set on fire, Guillaume stabs Arnaud in a jealous rage and he dies in Bertrande’s arms.
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