Romance Rewritten: The Evolution of Middle English Romance. A Tribute to Helen Cooper 1843845091, 9781843845096

The essays here reconsider the protean nature of Middle English romance. The contributors examine both the cultural unit

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Table of contents :
Frontcover
Contents
Notes on Contributors
Acknowledgements
Introduction. Middle English Romance: The Motifs and the Critics
I. Romance Disruptions
1. Medieval Romance Mischief
2. Rewriting Chivalric Encounters: Cultural Anxieties and Social
Critique in the Fourteenth Century
3. Malory’s Comedy
II. Romance and Narrative Strategies
4. Beginning with the Ending: Narrative Techniques and their
Significance in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale
5. The Riddle of ‘Apollonius’: ‘A Bok for King Richardes Sake’
6. Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle
7. Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance
III. Romance and Spiritual Priorities
8. Giving Freely in Sir Cleges: The Economy of Salvation and the
Gift of Romance
9. From Magic to Miracle: Reframing Chevalere Assigne
10. Lifting the Veil: Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte
Darthur
IV. Late Romance
11. The Intelligence of The Court of Love
12. The Squire of Low Degree and the Penumbra of Romance
Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century
13. Contested Chivalry: Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte
M. Yonge
Works Cited
Index
Recommend Papers

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Contributors: Elizabeth Archibald, Julia Boffey, Christopher Cannon, Neil Cartlidge, Miriam Edlich-Muth, A. S. G. Edwards, Marcel Elias, Megan Leitch, Andrew Lynch, Jill Mann, Marco Nievergelt, Ad Putter, Corinne Saunders, Barry Windeatt, R. F. Yeager. Front cover: Illuminated border and bas-de-page image of knight, lady and wild man from the Macclesfield Psalter, MS 1-2005, fol. 58r (c.1330). © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Studies in Medieval Romance

Archibald, Leitch and Saunders (eds)

ELIZABETH ARCHIBALD is Professor of English Studies at Durham University. MEGAN G. LEITCH is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University. CORINNE SAUNDERS is Professor of English Studies and Co-Director of the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University.

Romance Rewritten 

T

he essays in this volume reconsider the protean nature of Middle English romance. The contributors examine both the cultural unity of romance and its many variations, reiterations and reimaginings, including its contexts and engagements with other discourses and forms, as romances were “rewritten” during the Middle Ages and beyond. Ranging across popular, anonymous English and courtly romances, and taking in the works of Chaucer and Arthurian romance (rarely treated together), in connection with continental sources and analogues, the chapters probe this fluid and creative genre to ask just how comfortable, and how flexible, are its nature and aims? How were Middle English romances rewritten to accommodate contemporary concerns and generic expectations? What can attention to narrative techniques and conventional gestures reveal about the reassurances romances offer, or the questions they ask? How do romances’ central concerns with secular ideals and conduct intersect with spiritual priorities? And how are romances transformed or received in later periods? The volume is also a tribute to the significance and influence of the work of Professor Helen Cooper on romance.

Romance Rewritten the evolution of middle english romance • a tribute to helen cooper Edited by Elizabeth Archibald, Megan G. Leitch and Corinne Saunders

Romance Rewritten

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Studies in Medieval Romance ISSN 1479–9308

General Editor Corinne Saunders Editorial Board Siobhain Bly Calkin Rhiannon Purdie Robert Allen Rouse This series aims to provide a forum for critical studies of the medieval romance, a genre which plays a crucial role in literary history, clearly reveals medieval secular concerns, and raises complex questions regarding social structures, human relationships, and the psyche. Its scope extends from the early middle ages into the Renaissance period, and although its main focus is on English literature, comparative studies are welcomed. Proposals or queries should be sent in the first instance to one of the addresses given below; all submissions will receive prompt and informed consideration. Professor Corinne Saunders, Department of English, University of Durham, Durham DH1 3AY Boydell & Brewer Limited, PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk IP12 3DF

Previously published volumes in the series are listed at the back of this book

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Romance Rewritten The Evolution of Middle English Romance A Tribute to Helen Cooper

Edited by ELIZABETH ARCHIBALD, MEGAN G. LEITCH and CORINNE SAUNDERS

D. S. BREWER

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© Contributors 2018 All Rights Reserved. Except as permitted under current legislation no part of this work may be photocopied, stored in a retrieval system, published, performed in public, adapted, broadcast, transmitted, recorded or reproduced in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner First published 2018 D. S. Brewer, Cambridge ISBN 978 1 84384 509 6 D. S. Brewer is an imprint of Boydell & Brewer Ltd PO Box 9, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 3DF, UK and of Boydell & Brewer Inc. 668 Mt Hope Ave, Rochester, NY 14620–2731, USA website: www.boydellandbrewer.com A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

The publisher has no responsibility for the continued existence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this book, and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate This publication is printed on acid-free paper

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For Helen Cooper: scholar, teacher, colleague, mentor, friend, in honour of her distinguished contribution to the study of romance.

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Contents Notes on Contributors ix Acknowledgements xii Introduction. Middle English Romance: The Motifs and the Critics   Megan G. Leitch

1

I. Romance Disruptions 25 1. Medieval Romance Mischief Neil Cartlidge 2. Rewriting Chivalric Encounters: Cultural Anxieties and Social Critique in the Fourteenth Century Marcel Elias 3. Malory’s Comedy Christopher Cannon

27 49 67

II. Romance and Narrative Strategies 83 4. Beginning with the Ending: Narrative Techniques and their Significance in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale 85 Jill Mann 5. The Riddle of ‘Apollonius’: ‘A Bok for King Richardes Sake’ 103 R. F. Yeager 6. Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle 115 Elizabeth Archibald 7. Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance 133 Barry Windeatt III. Romance and Spiritual Priorities 153 8. Giving Freely in Sir Cleges: The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance Marco Nievergelt

155

vii

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Contents 9. From Magic to Miracle: Reframing Chevalere Assigne Miriam Edlich-Muth 10. Lifting the Veil: Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur Corinne Saunders

173 189

IV. Late Romance 207 11. The Intelligence of The Court of Love Ad Putter 12. The Squire of Low Degree and the Penumbra of Romance Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards 13. Contested Chivalry: Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge Andrew Lynch

209 229 241

Works Cited 257 Index 285

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Notes on Contributors Elizabeth Archibald is Professor of English Studies at Durham University and Principal of St Cuthbert’s Society. Her main research interests are the classical tradition in the Middle Ages and the Arthurian legend. Her publications include Apollonius of Tyre: Medieval and Renaissance Themes and Variations (1991); Incest and the Medieval Imagination (2001); and the co-edited volumes (with A. S. G. Edwards) A Companion to Malory (1996), and (with Ad Putter) The Cambridge Companion to the Arthurian Legend (2009). She is currently working on bathing in medieval literature and society. Julia Boffey is Professor of Medieval Studies in the Department of English at Queen Mary, University of London. Her interests include Middle English verse, especially lyrics and dream poetry; and the relationships between manuscript and print in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. Christopher Cannon has taught at UCLA, Oxford, Cambridge, NYU and Johns Hopkins University where he is now Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of English and Classics. He has written books on Chaucer’s language, early Middle English, the cultural history of Middle English, and, most recently, elementary education in the fourteenth century. He is now at work on an edition of the complete works of Chaucer and a monograph on dictation. Neil Cartlidge is Professor in the Department of English Studies at the University of Durham. He is the author of Medieval Marriage: Literary Approaches 1100–1300 (1997),  The Owl and the Nightingale: Text and Translation (2001) and The Works of Chardri (2015). He has also edited two collections of essays, Boundaries in Medieval Romance (2008) and Heroes and Anti-Heroes in Medieval Romance (2012). Miriam Edlich-Muth is Chair of Medieval English at the University of Düsseldorf. She has published on Old English poetry and medieval romance. Her most recent publications include two edited essay collections: Medieval Romances across European Borders (2018) and Mobile Continuities: Pan-European Romances in Medieval Compilation Manuscripts (2018). Her current research is focused on using digital techniques to map medieval manuscript dissemination and represent the contents of medieval miscellany manuscripts. ix

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Notes on Contributors A. S. G. Edwards, FSA, FEA, is Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of Kent and University College London. His publications are mainly concerned with late medieval and early modern manuscripts and texts. Marcel Elias is the Jeremy Haworth Research Fellow in English at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge. His research concentrates on the literature and culture of late medieval England and Europe more generally, and he is the author of articles on interfaith relations, crusade literature, the history of emotions, and Middle English romances. His current book project explores attitudes to the crusades in late medieval romance and culture. Megan G. Leitch is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University. She is the author of Romancing Treason: The Literature of the Wars of the Roses (2015), and has published a number of articles in journals including Arthurian Literature, Arthuriana, The Chaucer Review, Medium Ævum, and Parergon. She is currently co-editing (with Cory James Rushton) A New Companion to Malory (2019). Andrew Lynch is Professor in English and Cultural Studies at The University of Western Australia, and Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CE110001011). He co-edits the journal  Emotions: History, Culture, Society (Brill). A recent publication, co-edited with Stephanie Downes and Katrina O’Loughlin, is Writing War in Britain and France, 1370–1854: An Emotional History (2018). Jill Mann is Emeritus Notre Dame Professor of English at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, where she taught from 1999 until her retirement in 2004. Previously she taught in the University of Cambridge, where from 1988 to 1998 she held the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English. She has published extensively on Chaucer, Langland, the Gawain-poet, and other Middle English writers, and on medieval Latin, with a special interest in beast literature. Marco Nievergelt is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies at the University of Warwick. His current work focuses on the development of the European tradition of vernacular narrative allegory in the wake of Le Roman de la Rose, specifically on the philosophical aspects of the tradition and the relation of poetic fiction to scholastic theories of cognition and signification. Ad Putter is Professor of Medieval English at the University of Bristol. He has published widely on medieval English literature. With Myra Stokes, he is the editor of The Works of the Gawain Poet (2014). Corinne Saunders is Professor of English and Co-Director of the Centre for Medical Humanities at the University of Durham. She specialises in medieval x

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Notes on Contributors literature and the history of ideas, and is Co-Investigator on the Hearing the Voice project and Collaborator on the Life of Breath project, both funded by the Wellcome Trust. Her third monograph, Magic and the Supernatural in Medieval English Romance, was published in 2010. Her co-edited books include (with Jane Macnaughton and David Fuller) The Recovery of Beauty: Arts, Culture, Medicine (2015) and (with Carolyne Larrington and Frank Brandsma) Emotions in Medieval Arthurian Literature: Body, Mind, Voice (2015). Barry Windeatt is a Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Along with researching a book on gesture and body language in medieval English writing, he is also completing a cultural history of medieval East Anglia. R. F. Yeager is Professor of English at the University of West Florida. He has published extensively on Gower, Chaucer, Beowulf, and manuscript studies.

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Acknowledgements We have incurred many debts in the preparation of this collection of essays. Our first is to our contributors, whose intellectual insights, scholarship, encouragement, and tolerance have made this such an enjoyable and stimulating project. We are grateful too to colleagues near and far for the many inspiring conversations about medieval romance we have had over many years. We would like to thank our Universities for their support, in particular, the School of English, Communication and Philosophy at Cardiff University, and the Department of English Studies and Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University. The Department of English Studies very generously contributed to production costs and provided research assistance. The research of Corinne Saunders is generously funded by the Wellcome Trust. We are extremely grateful to our two research assistants, Anna Dow, who oversaw the preparation of the typescript, and Hannah Piercy, who played an essential role in checking and collating the proofs. Both have offered invaluable support. We are also grateful to our excellent and sharp-eyed indexer, Douglas Matthews. Particular thanks are due to Caroline Palmer, for her extraordinary work and her long-standing interest in medieval romance, as well as her support of this volume and her patience with dilatory editors. We owe thanks too to Nick Bingham for his forbearance and helpfulness, and to the rest of the production team at Boydell & Brewer. We are also grateful to David Fuller for his careful proof-reading and advice, and to our colleagues, families, and friends for their enduring encouragement and support. Our greatest debt is to Helen Cooper herself, whose wisdom, generosity, wit, and friendship cannot be repaid, and to whom this book is dedicated as a tribute to her magisterial contributions to the study of medieval romance, and her inspiring influence on generations of scholars.

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Introduction Middle English Romance: The Motifs and the Critics MEGA N G. LEITCH

R

omance was a dominant genre in Western Europe from the twelfth century to the early sixteenth; its long-lived popularity depended upon reinvigoration as much as innovation, upon transformation as well as tradition. Middle English romances and their recognisable yet mutable motifs have attracted critical scrutiny since at least the fourteenth century, when Chaucer responded to the genre by writing of Sir Thopas, that ‘flour / Of roial chivalry’ with a face as white as bread, whose main achievement is to ride around and sleep in the woods until the Host interrupts Chaucer’s ‘drasty rymyng’.1 It is customary to view Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas as a parody of romance – and more specifically of popular English romance – that also reveals Chaucer’s debts to his insular forebears.2 As is well known, this ‘brilliant parody of everything that can go wrong’ in Middle English romance creates parodic effects through its vocabulary, jaunty tail-rhyme rhythm, and empty or burlesque redeployment of romance motifs.3 Romance motifs which Sir Thopas reduces to banalities include the quest for a fairy queen (in this case, probably non-existent) in which the knight encounters a monstrous opponent (from whom, in this rewriting, he bravely runs away). Certainly, when ‘His goode steede al he bistrood, / And forth upon his wey he glood’ as ‘a knyght auntrous’, Sir Thopas invokes the familiar expectations of the romance knight setting forth to seek adventure;4 but instead of proving his prowess, modern critics have often read the tale as suggesting the emptiness either of his goal, or of the genre.5 1

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Tale of Sir Thopas, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn (Boston, MA, 1987), 901–02 and 930. 2 See, for instance, Helen Cooper, Oxford Guides to Chaucer: The ‘Canterbury Tales’ (Oxford, 1989), 299–309; and Helen Phillips, An Introduction to the ‘Canterbury Tales’: Reading, Fiction, Context (London, 2000), 173–76. 3 Cooper, The Canterbury Tales, 301. 4 Chaucer, Sir Thopas, 903–04 and 909. The romance knight, ‘without mission or office[,] seeks adventure, that is, perilous encounters by which he can prove his mettle’; Erich Auerbach, ‘The Knight Sets Forth’, in Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ, 1953; repr. 1991), 123–42 (133). 5 See, for instance, John Manly, ‘Sir Thopas: A Satire’, Essays and Studies 13 (1928):

1

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Megan G. Leitch To write of Middle English romances (parodic or otherwise)6 in these terms is to acknowledge not only a long history of value judgements of the genre, but also a long history of the study of conventions and motifs as central to understanding romance, whether in Erich Auerbach’s foundational chapter ‘The Knight Sets Forth’ (1953), or in Helen Cooper’s seminal The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (2004).7 While Auerbach wrote primarily of French courtly romance, half a century later romance criticism had evolved and expanded to include the Middle English popular romances that critics had once dismissed or disparaged as Sir Thopas seems to do. More recently still, it has become common to defend these romances on such grounds as their centrality to medieval culture or their ‘traditional “appetite” for taboo issues’.8 Even the genre’s most distinguished detractor, Derek Pearsall, who once damned the popular romances with such epithets as ‘poor stuff’ and ‘fantastic potpourri’, or spurned them as ‘slight, trivial, tinselly’ and ‘third-rate fumbling’,9 has issued a sort of retraction, revoking his earlier condemnation of the genre in favour of a recognition of its reading pleasures and scholarly interest.10 Popular romance – formerly viewed as a poor relation of courtly romance,

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52–73; Alan T. Gaylord, ‘Chaucer’s Dainty “Dogerel”: The “Elvyssh” Prosody of Sir Thopas’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 1 (1979): 83–104; and ‘The Moment of Sir Thopas: Towards a New Look at Chaucer’s Language’, The Chaucer Review 16 (1981): 311–29; V. J. Scattergood, ‘Chaucer and the French War: Sir Thopas and Melibee’, in Court and Poet: Selected Proceedings, ed. Glyn S. Burgess, ARCA, Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 5 (Liverpool, 1981), 287–96; Derek Pearsall, The Canterbury Tales (London, 1985), 160–65; and Wim Tigges, ‘Romance and Parody’, in Companion to Middle English Romance, ed. Henk Aertsen and Alasdair A. MacDonald (Amsterdam, 1990), 129–51. Late medieval readers seem to have seen Sir Thopas as a romance to be set alongside more serious romances; ‘the binary logic by which a text is deemed generically “straight” or parodic may result from a post-medieval understanding of parody’: J. A. Burrow, ‘Sir Thopas in the Sixteenth Century’, in Middle English Studies, ed. Douglas Gray and E. G. Stanley (Oxford, 1983), 69–91; Glenn Wright, ‘Modern Inconveniences: Rethinking Parody in The Tale of Sir Thopas’, Genre 30 (1997): 167–94 (189–90). Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2004). Raluca L. Radulescu and Cory James Rushton, Introduction, in A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance, ed. Raluca L. Radulescu and Cory James Rushton, Studies in Medieval Romance 10 (Cambridge, 2009), 1–8 (2); see also Cory James Rushton, ‘Modern and Academic Reception of the Popular Romance’, in the same volume, 165–79. Derek Pearsall, ‘The Development of Middle English Romance’, Mediaeval Studies 27 (1965): 91–116; repr. in Studies in Middle English Romances: Some New Approaches, ed. Derek Brewer (Cambridge, 1988), 11–35 (19, 20, 32, 24). Derek Pearsall, ‘The Pleasure of Popular Romance’, in Medieval Romance, Medieval Contexts, ed. Rhiannon Purdie and Michael Cichon, Studies in Medieval Romance 14 (Cambridge, 2011), 9–18.

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Introduction hovering on the margins of academic discourse – has come into its own. In the wake of New Historicist, feminist, and postcolonial readings addressing individual texts and revitalising motif studies, aesthetic value judgements have been replaced by an awareness that popular romances have more to offer than just their (perceived lack of) formal qualities; and that their form itself, once dismissed as unsophisticated, offers insights into what contemporary readers appreciated. Indeed, the fact that medieval audiences did very much appreciate these romances gives us another reason to pay heed to them; their ‘popularity’ encompasses not only their status as the opposite of ‘high-culture’ courtly romances, but also their avid consumption during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries – by aristocratic, gentry, and perhaps middle-class readers.11 This volume, then, in taking the evolution of Middle English romance as its subject, does not seek to offer yet another apologia for the merits of the genre. That has been done, and done well, by numerous recent studies.12 This volume builds on such work by bringing segregated areas of romance studies into fruitful dialogue. If the study of popular romance has come of age, it still tends to flourish on its own. If no longer ghettoised, popular romance often remains in a silo. Such works are still conventionally treated separately from courtly romances, or from Arthurian romances. This volume, by contrast, addresses popular, anonymous English romances alongside the romances of authors such as Chaucer and Malory, and in connection with continental sources and analogues. Reconsidering the protean nature of romance, the essays in this volume address the development, adaptation, and reception of this most durable genre. Some of the essays consider how understudied texts or motifs illuminate, and are animated by, the conventions of the genre; others explore textual resistance to or uncomfortable divergences from the genre’s traditional reassurances. However, in addressing the ways in which romances 11

Nicola McDonald, ‘A Polemical Introduction’, in Pulp Fictions of Medieval England: Essays in Popular Romance, ed. Nicola McDonald (Manchester, 2004), 1–21. 12 In addition to A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance (n.7), Medieval Romance, Medieval Contexts (n.9), and Pulp Fictions of Medieval England (n.10), other recent work ably demonstrating the richness of the genre includes Cooper’s The English Romance in Time; Siobhain Bly Calkin, Saracens and the Making of English Identity: The Auchinleck Manuscript, Studies in Medieval History and Culture (New York, NY, 2005); Geraldine Heng, Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (New York, NY, 2003); and a number of essay collections such as: The Spirit of Medieval English Popular Romance, ed. Ad Putter and Jane Gilbert, Longman Medieval and Renaissance Library (Harlow, 2000); Cultural Encounters in the Romance of Medieval England, ed. Corinne Saunders, Studies in Medieval Romance 2 (Cambridge, 2005); Boundaries in Medieval Romance, ed. Neil Cartlidge, Studies in Medieval Romance 6 (Cambridge, 2008); The Exploitations of Medieval Romance, ed. Laura Ashe, Ivana Djordjevi´c, and Judith Weiss, Studies in Medieval Romance 12 (Cambridge, 2010); and Medieval Romance and Material Culture, ed. Nicholas Perkins, Studies in Medieval Romance 18 (Cambridge, 2015).

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Megan G. Leitch make meaning in part through the motifs they deploy and rewrite, all of the essays engage with Middle English romance as an evolving, flexible tradition, responding to the conception of medieval romance so convincingly articulated in Helen Cooper’s The English Romance in Time. In her monumental study of romance motifs and their changing uses through the notion of a ‘“meme”, an idea that behaves like a gene in its ability to replicate faithfully and abundantly, but also on occasion to adapt, mutate, and therefore survive in different forms and cultures’, Cooper theorises how individual romances relate to the romance tradition, variously fulfilling and/or frustrating its expectations.13 In recognition of her many contributions to this field, another of the aims of this volume is to offer a tribute to Professor Cooper. The contributors to this volume consider both the cultural unity of romance and its many variations, reiterations, and reimaginings, including its contexts and engagements with other discourses and genres, as romances were ‘rewritten’ during the Middle Ages and beyond. Just how comfortable, and how flexible, are the nature and aims of medieval romance? How were Middle English romances rewritten to accommodate contemporary concerns or connections with different genres? What can attention to narrative techniques and conventional gestures show us about the reassurances romances offer, or the questions they ask? How do romances’ central concerns with secular ideals and conduct intersect with spiritual priorities? And how are romances transformed or received in later medieval, or post-medieval, periods? The essays in this volume address questions such as these, and seek to provoke further consideration of them. * Arthurian romances, Charlemagne romances, and Chaucerian romances; chivalric, crusading, hagiographic, penitential, or popular romances: these are just some of the many ways in which we differentiate and categorise romances.14 In bringing these different sub-genres of Middle English romances into conversation with each other, this volume follows the lead of the romances themselves. Certainly, distinguishing between different types of romances is an endeavour rooted in a medieval way of classifying different strands of the genre. For instance, the late twelfth-century French poet Jehan Bodel identified the ‘matters’ of Rome (narratives of classical Thebes or Troy), of France (narratives of Charlemagne and his twelve peers), and of Britain (narratives of Arthur and his knights of the Round Table).15 But medieval romances are often interested in making connections 13 Cooper,

The English Romance in Time, 3–4. For the customary range of sub-generic categories, see J. B. Severs, ed., A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050–1500, vol. 1, Romances (New Haven, CT, 1967). 15 La Chanson des Saxons, ed. Francisque Michel (Paris, 1839), ll. 6–7; for discussion, 14

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Introduction rather than in isolating texts or types, and their rewritings of the same motifs continually invite intertextual readings. Moreover, romances not infrequently refer to each other in ways that further suggest an emphasis on their interrelation. This intertextual naming constitutes a sort of romance convention in itself, and it creates mental networks of narratives in which protagonists are the nodes. Focusing on this type of intertexuality highlights some of the ways in which romances evolve and make meaning by rewriting the shared motifs on which criticism of the genre often focuses. Chaucer’s Sir Thopas again offers a useful touchstone. When Chaucer gives his tongue-in-cheek description of Thopas, he specifies that Thopas is better than other homegrown heroes: Men speken of romances of prys, Of Horn child and of Ypotys, Of Beves and sir Gy, Of sir Lybeux and Plendamour – But sir Thopas, he bereth the flour Of roial chivalry!16

The narrator’s proposition that Sir Thopas trumps ‘Horn child’ and ‘Lybeux’, ‘Beves and sir Gy’ is a playful way of reinforcing Chaucer’s mockery of the shortcomings of both English romance and his own pilgrim persona. However, Chaucer’s comparative catalogue of protagonists also finds a number of sophisticated parallels in other English romances, from the heroic Richard Coer de Lyon (early fourteenth century) and the pious Emaré (late fourteenth century) to the bourgeois or burlesque Squire of Low Degree (late fifteenth century). Even this satirical yet laudatory list in Sir Thopas, then, further demonstrates Chaucer’s indebtedness to the conventions that other Middle English romances deploy. The ways in which romances refer to other romances can illuminate how contemporaries viewed them, or how romances ask that they be viewed – in terms of the value or ‘prys’ of the reading experience, and in terms of conceptual associations between texts. Unlike the courtly romances of Chrétien de Troyes or Chaucer, the Middle English popular romances are often anonymous, and this is significant for the type of intertextuality in which they engage. As Laura Ashe has observed, the beginning of Chrétien de Troyes’ Cligés offers a sense of intertextuality, but this is a different phenomenon, more directly concerned with authorship and authority:17 see Donald B. Sands, Middle English Verse Romances (New York, NY, 1966), 2–5, and W. R. J. Barron, English Medieval Romance, Longman Literature in English Series (London, 1987), 63–88. 16 Chaucer, Sir Thopas, 897–902. 17 Laura Ashe, Introduction, in The Exploitations of Medieval Romance, ed. Ashe, Djordjevi´c, and Weiss, Studies in Medieval Romance 12 (Cambridge, 2010), 1–14 (3).

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Megan G. Leitch Cil qui fist D’Erec et d’Enide, Et Les comandemanz d’Ovide Et L’art d’amors an romans mist, Et Le mors de l’espaule fist, Del roi Marc et d’Ysalt la blonde [...] Un novel conte recomance D’un vaslet qui an Grece fu Del linage le roi Artu.18 (He who wrote Erec and Enide, who translated Ovid’s Commandments and the Art of Love into French, who wrote The Shoulder Bite, and King Mark and Isolde the Blonde, [...] begins now a new tale of a youth who, in Greece, was of King Arthur’s line.)

Here, we have a named author naming his own literary works – specific texts, by a specific author, which are specifically ‘written’ or ‘made’ (fist or mist). Chaucer engages in similar self-referential canon-construction in the Retraction to The Canterbury Tales when he writes of his translacions and enditynges of worldly vanitees, the which I revoke in my retracciouns: as is the book of Troilus; the book also of Fame; the book of the xxv. Ladies; the book of the Duchesse; the book of Seint Valentynes day of the Parlement of Briddes; the tales of Caunterbury, thilke that sownen into synne.19

These intertextual references are about romances (even if Chaucer’s list here does not occur in a romance), but they are courtly, writerly manoeuvres, and they have a different set of implications from the intertextual naming in the Middle English popular romances. As a result of their anonymity, the popular romances are not as shaped or constrained by what Michel Foucault calls ‘the author function’, or (accordingly) by what Harold Bloom terms the anxiety of influence.20 Correspondingly, the popular romances’ intertextual references are to people, or to stories about people, rather than to stories by people. The figures to whom the inept protagonist Thopas is compared – King Horn, Bevis of Hampton, Guy of Warwick, and Libeaus Desconus among them – are chivalric paragons 18

Chrétien de Troyes, Cligés, ed. Stewart Gregory and Claude Luttrell, Arthurian Studies 28 (Cambridge, 1993), 1–10; trans. William W. Kibler, Chrétien de Troyes: Arthurian Romances, Penguin Classics (Harmondsworth, 1991), 123–205 (123). 19 The Riverside Chaucer, 328. For Chaucer’s other lists of his own works within his writings, see the Introduction to the Man of Law’s Tale (II.46–76) and the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women (G 254–66). 20 Michel Foucault, ‘What is an Author?’, in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow (Harmondsworth, 1986), 101–20; Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry (Oxford, 1973).

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Introduction chiefly distinguished for their success in both love and war. Most of them belong to the ‘matter of England’ group of romances (Horn, Bevis, and Guy)21 or to the ‘matter of Britain’ (since Libeaus Desconus is a son of Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew). Thopas himself is described as surpassing all of them in a ridiculous superlative; however, that Thopas is defined in relation to these heroes, rather than, for instance, Charlemagne’s twelve peers or Hector of Troy, shows that he is firmly situated in relation to Chaucer’s insular literary inheritance. Significantly, ‘romances of prys’ – worthy romances, prized or excellent romances – are described here not through the titles of texts as they might be today (or as they might be in Chrétien’s and Chaucer’s personal authorial lists), but rather through the names of the protagonists around whom texts or narratives centre. As Christine Chism argues, ‘Middle English Romances are subject-centered; a romance is about somebody. A medieval reader would probably ask not what a romance was about but rather who.’22 Similarly, Christopher Cannon observes the importance of how ‘these romances are known, not as writing one might read in a “book” (or tell as a “tale” or “gest”), but as the spirits, “Bevis” and “sir Gy”, which cannot be embodied in any text.’23 However, Cannon argues that Sir Thopas is ‘a romance unusual in being elaborated by means of other romances, that the “prys” of “Beves” and “sir Gy” (as projected by all the material versions of Bevis of Hamtoun and Guy of Warwick) will be the substance out of which the “prys” of Thopas is made.’24 By contrast, I would suggest that, when Sir Thopas lists these other romance heroes, it may operate as popular English romances do at their best – rather than, as much of the rest of Sir Thopas arguably does, lampooning them at their worst. A number of other English romances testify to and/or imagine a romance tradition that refers to and reflects on itself, as well as connecting English romance heroes to classical and continental paragons.25 For instance, Richard Coer de Lyon prefaces its narrative of King Richard the Lionheart’s crusading 21

This fourth ‘matter’, the matter of England, is a twentieth-century category; lacking the explicit historicity of the other matters, it is nonetheless a helpful way of understanding romances that deal with heroes associated with medieval England (such as Guy of Warwick, Bevis of Hampton, and Richard the Lionheart) on a nationalistic model similar to that of the matters of Rome, France, and Britain. See Rosalind Field, ‘Waldef and the Matter of/with England’, in Medieval Insular Romance: Translation and Innovation, ed. Judith Weiss, Jennifer Fellows, and Morgan Dickson (Cambridge, 2000), 25–39 (30–31), and Susan Crane, Insular Romance: Politics, Faith, and Culture in Anglo-Norman and Middle English Literature (Berkeley, CA, 1986), 13–14. 22 Christine Chism, ‘Romance’, in The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Literature, 1100–1500, ed. Larry Scanlon, Cambridge Companions to Literature (Cambridge, 2009), 57–69 (59); emphasis original. 23 Christopher Cannon, The Grounds of English Literature (Oxford, 2004), 205. 24 Cannon, Grounds of English Literature, 205; emphasis original. 25 Other examples that cannot be addressed here for want of space include: Emaré,

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Megan G. Leitch conquests with a list of other laudable heroes. The emphasis here is on constructing an insular tradition and on celebrating English heroes alongside Charlemagne and his peers, as well as classical figures such as Hector and Alexander: Of Alisander & Charlmeyn & Ector þe gret werrer & of Danys le fiz Oger, Of Arthour & of Gaweyn. As þis romaunce of Freyns wrouȝt, Þat mani lewed no knowe nouȝt, In gest as-so we seyn; Þis lewed no can Freyns non; [...] Noþeles, wiþ gode chere Fele of hem wald yhere Noble gestes, ich vnderstond, Of douȝti kniȝtes of Inglond. Þerfore now ichil ȝou rede Of a king douhti of dede, King Richard, þe werrour best Þat men findeþ in ani gest.26 This passage justifies the telling of the story that will follow on the basis of demand. The way in which Richard Coer de Lyon emphasises that a tradition of stories or ‘noble gestes’ specifically about ‘douȝti kniȝtes in The Middle English Breton Lays, ed. Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 1995), 121–51; Bevis of Hampton, in Four Romances of England, ed. Ronald B. Herzman, Graham Drake, and Eve Salisbury, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 1999), 2597–608; and Laud Troy Book, 11–30, in W. F. Bryan and Germaine Dempster, Sources and Analogues of Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ (New York, NY, 1941), 559 (see also 556–59 for a fuller list of Middle English romances containing such catalogues of [romance] heroes). On other types of lists in romance, epic, or antifeminist tracts – such as lists of men beguiled by women, or catalogues of the Nine Worthies – see Jane Bliss, Naming and Namelessness in Medieval Romance, Studies in Medieval Romance 7 (Cambridge, 2008), 70. In addition, there are, of course, lists of romance protagonists in Middle English works that are not themselves romances, such as Cursor Mundi, c. 1300 (1–22); John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, late fourteenth century (ed. Russell A. Peck [Toronto, 1980], VIII.2500–49); and John Lydgate, A Complaynte of a Lovers Lyfe, early fifteenth century (in Chaucerian Dream Visions and Complaints, ed. Dana M. Symons, TEAMS [Kalamazoo, MI, 2004], 330–99). These lists do sometimes include British or Arthurian heroes such as Gawain and Tristram, but focus more on classical heroes such as Jason and Alexander. Yin Liu, in ‘Middle English Romance as Prototype Genre’, The Chaucer Review 40/4 (2006): 335–53, discusses the significance of lists of romance heroes, including in texts such as the Laud Troy Book, Richard Coer de Lyon and Cursor Mundi. 26 Richard Coer de Lyon, in Der Mittelenglische Versroman über Richard Löwenherz, ed. Karl Brunner, Wiener Beiträge zur englischen Philologie 42 (Leipzig, 1913), 15–32.

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Introduction of Inglond’ is sought by many who do not know French testifies to the temporal moment of this early fourteenth-century text in relation to the developing English tradition. While romances had been written in French from the twelfth century onward, the earliest extant English romances (King Horn, Floris and Blancheflour, Havelok the Dane) date from the thirteenth century, and, as this preface acknowledges, the English romance tradition is not as well-developed as its continental counterpart.27 Yet here, there is a concern with – and a concern to contribute to – an English romance tradition.28 This preface claims that many enjoy hearing or desire to hear stories that are both in English and about English knights, and it seeks to feed this demand. When Richard Coer de Lyon concludes this list of successful and recognisable chivalric heroes who feature in romances with a mention of King Richard as ‘þe werrour best / Þat men findeþ in ani gest’, it positions Richard as the superlative knight, rather as Chaucer figures Sir Thopas as the ‘flour / Of roial chivalry’, if seriously rather than satirically. Richard Coer de Lyon, then, opens with a mention of its protagonist as a heroic knight whose deeds deserve to be told in a romance, and it also opens with a commentary on other individual heroes and on the wider sense of a romance tradition that it intertextually invokes or inaugurates. These operations are the same as those performed by the intertextual list of respected romance knights in Sir Thopas. As Simon Meecham-Jones has recognised (with reference to John Gower’s Confessio Amantis), a literary ‘catalogue of famous names designates the physical properties of the names themselves – the concrete emblems of labour and prowess – as the currency through 27

There is also a fifteenth-century version of Richard Coeur de Lion, which contains not one, but two lengthy lists of romance protagonists; see Cambridge, Caius College MS 175, lines 8–21 and 6723–40 (transcribed in Sources and Analogues, 557–58). More heroes are mentioned in this version, many of them English or British (such as Bevis, Guy, Arthur, Gawain, and Lancelot); and, in keeping with this version’s much later cultural moment, the emphasis here is not on inaugurating an English tradition, but rather, it seems, on celebrating the fact that its recognisability and currency have grown to match that of continental romance traditions: ‘Ffele romaunses men maken newe, / Off goode kny3tes, stronge and trewe; / Off here dedys men rede romaunce / Boþe in Engeland and in Ffraunce’ (8–11). 28 Cross-referential naming is perhaps not surprising in heroic literature or medieval romance, where stories with partly oral origins evolved with a shared stock of characters and where familiarity with the tradition is an expectation, as implied by, for instance, the long list of the names of Arthur’s knights that occupies five pages of a modern edition in the Welsh ‘How Culhwch Won Olwen’: The Mabinogion, trans. Sioned Davies (Oxford, 2007), 184–89. This type of intertextuality is of course not exclusive to popular or English romance, but the specificity of the referents and functions of such citations within the corpus of Middle English popular romance shows a shared interest in using these citations to define such romances as a corpus.

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Megan G. Leitch which the mediation of the past is achieved’.29 This sense of the power of names also informs the memorialising roll call of all of Arthur’s knights in the Healing of Sir Urry episode at the end of Tale VII of Malory’s Morte Darthur, underlining the final moment of unity before betrayal divides the community of knights. And as Jane Bliss has pointed out, ‘names of/from other texts, in the text before us, either in narration or in characters’ speech, have a significant effect: demanding recognition by an audience, they set a scene, a mood, an expectation’.30 The expectations set by the intertextual naming in Richard and ‘Thopas’ alike have similar horizons, mediating a sense of history and of literary tradition. The list in Sir Thopas is satirical because it points out Thopas’s inability to live up to the heritage it invokes, and/or that literary heritage’s inability to animate another proper hero in Thopas. This way of simultaneously invoking both romance protagonists and a romance tradition similarly features in the later Squire of Low Degree. This burlesque narrative presents a bumbling protagonist who is reminiscent of Thopas, though the work is written perhaps a century later.31 The Squire 29 Simon

Meecham-Jones, ‘Questioning Romance: Amadas and Ydoine in Gower’s Confessio Amantis’, Parergon 17/2 (2000): 35–49 (42). 30 Bliss, Naming and Namelessness, 67. See also Manfred Markus, ‘The Holy War in the Popular “romances of prys”: Intertextuality in Chaucer’s “The Tale of Sir Thopas”’, in Of Remembraunce the Keye: Medieval Literature and its Impact through the Ages, ed. Uwe Böker, Britannia 11 (Frankfurt, 2004), 95–108, and Andrew King, The Faerie Queene and Middle English Romance: The Matter of Just Memory, Oxford English Monographs (Oxford, 2000), 15–18. 31 Some critics have argued that the Squire is a parody of romance or of chivalric values: see K. S. Kiernan, ‘Undo Your Door and the Order of Chivalry’, Studies in Philology 70 (1973): 345–66; and Bryan Rivers, ‘The Focus of Satire in The Squire of Low Degree’, English Studies in Canada 7 (1981), 379–87. Alternatively, however, this late romance may have been intended for a fifteenth-century gentry or more middle-class readership new to the genre and possessing different socio-economic concerns from the traditional audiences of earlier romances. See A. C. Spearing, ‘Secrecy, Listening, and Telling in The Squyr of Lowe Degre’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 20 (1990): 273–92; and Harriet Hudson, ‘Construction of Class, Family, and Gender in Some Middle English Popular Romances’, in Class and Gender in Early English Literature, ed. Britton J. Harwood and Gillian R. Overing (Bloomington, IN, 1994), 76–94. Other critics, moreover, have argued against viewing the Squire as a straightforward parody even if it has humorous elements, recognising – as I do here – that its engagement with romance norms and referents is at least partially positive: see Tigges, ‘Romance and Parody’; and Glenn Wright, ‘“Other Wyse Then Must We Do”: Parody and Popular Narrative in The Squyr of Lowe Degre’, Comitatus 27 (1996): 14–41. See also Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards, ‘The Squire of Low Degree and the Penumbra of Romance Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century’, in this volume. In any case, whether serious, parodic or sentimentally humorous, this text’s considerable engagement with romance conventions such as the intertextual naming as well as descriptions of gardens and of extravagant wealth shows that like Chaucer’s Sir

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Introduction desires the love of a princess, and wishes that he were ‘ryche of golde and fe / […] Or elles come of so gentyll kynne’ so as to be able to aspire to her hand; or, alternatively, that he possessed sufficient martial ability to compensate for his shortcomings in wealth and blood.32 However, he articulates his desire for battle prowess not through skills or abstract virtues, but rather through naming people as models: specifically, the protagonists of other romances. The Squire voices a wish to be so bolde in eche fyght As was Syr Lybius that gentell knyght, Or els so bolde in chyvalry As Syr Gawayne, or Syr Guy, Or els so doughty of my hande As was the gyaunte Syr Colbrande. (77–82)

The heroes – or eponymous romances – of which the Squire speaks are (as in the Sir Thopas list) drawn from the matter of England and the matter of Britain. Indeed, there is considerable overlap between the two lists: both Sir Thopas and the Squire of Low Degree compare their protagonists (or, in the latter case, have the protagonist compare himself) to Gawain’s illegitimate son who features in his own romance, Lybeaus Desconus. The eponymous protagonist of this mid-fourteenth-century English romance bears a name that is French for ‘Fair Unknown’, encapsulating the type of romance hero he is.33 Here in the Squire, Lybius is mentioned alongside his father Gawain as a representative of the matter of Britain; and ‘Syr Guy’, or Guy of Warwick, similarly stands in for the matter of England, in parallel with the reference to him in Sir Thopas.34 By naming these models, the Squire – and its characters – seek to triangulate an identity for its nameless protagonist. Similarly aspirational in intent is the second act of intertextual naming in the Squire, when the Princess instructs the Squire in how he should build a chivalric reputation worthy of her hand. The Princess focuses on how Guy Thopas, it deploys a very self-aware understanding of what romance conventions are, and what they can achieve. 32 The Squire of Low Degree, in Sentimental and Humorous Romances, ed. Erik Kooper, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2006), 127–71 (lines 70–73). The text is presumed to originate in a late fifteenth-century manuscript version, now lost; it survives in two early sixteenth-century fragments of an edition printed by Wynkyn de Worde, and in William Copland’s closely related and still complete 1560 print, which is the base text for the edition cited here. There is also a condensed version in the Percy Folio manuscript (c. 1650). 33 See Lybeaus Desconus, ed. Eve Salisbury and James Weldon, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2013). 34 However, the mention here of Colbrand (the giant Guy defeats) as a model worth emulating is unique to the Squire, and presumably testifies to this text’s sense of humour.

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Megan G. Leitch and especially Libeaus won both battles and the love of their respective ladies through their courage and devotion: ‘Though you be come of symple kynne, Thus my love, syr, may ye wynne, Yf ye have grace of victory, As ever had Syr Lybyus (or Syr Guy).’ (611–14)

Both the Princess and the Squire are readers of romances,35 and they both speak of romance heroes as models whose conduct and virtues an aspiring knight should cultivate. The manifestation of this citational motif in Sir Thopas shares its assertive present tense with Richard just as much as it shares its foregrounding of humorous shortfalls with the Squire: here, we see a range for this trope of explicit intertextuality, in which Chaucer’s Sir Thopas is not an outlier, but is rather – both temporally and thematically – occupying shared ground. According to Julia Kristeva (who coined the term in the late 1960s), ‘intertextuality’ is created not only between texts, but also within them. She writes of intertextuality as ‘a mosaic of quotations’, and ‘the text is therefore productivity, meaning that […] it is a permutation of texts, an intertextuality: in the space of a text, many utterances taken from other texts intersect with one another’.36 For Kristeva, intertextuality modifies understanding not only of the text in which the citation occurs, but also of the texts that are cited.37 The intertextual references in the Squire of Low Degree invite readers both to understand what the Squire wants to be (and what the Princess wants the Squire to be), and to modify or refocus perceptions of the invoked English or British knights who are known for their courage and courtesy, and their upward social mobility. That is, what matters about Guy of Warwick here is presumably not simply that he is good with a sword, but also that he is the relatively lowly son of a steward who (like the Squire) rises to marry his overlord’s daughter. Readers are also invited to get the joke if they know the story of the rustic Libeaus, the ten-year-old knight whom the Squire and the Princess both favour above the other examples, and who is (like the Squire) an ignorant protagonist who has to learn courtesy and how to be a good knight with some help along the way. Similarly, readers of Sir Thopas are invited to see just how good Thopas is proclaimed to be (and, amusingly, is not) when he is compared to the insular heroes, and a particular interpretation 35

Myra Seaman, ‘The Waning of Middle English Chivalric Romance in “The Squyr of Lowe Degre”’, Fifteenth Century Studies 29 (2004): 174–99. 36 Julia Kristeva, ‘Word, Dialogue and Novel’, in The Kristeva Reader, ed. Toril Moi (Oxford, 1986), 34–61 (37); ‘Le Texte clos’, quoted in Mary Orr, Intertextuality: Debates and Contexts (Cambridge, 2003), 27. 37 That is, ‘intertextuality involves the transposition of elements from existent systems into new signifying relations’; Graham Allen, Intertextuality, The New Critical Idiom (London, 2000), 113; see also Orr, Intertextuality: Debates and Contexts, esp. 20–32.

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Introduction of popular romance protagonists is simultaneously produced by this laudatory yet perhaps trivialising grouping. Readers of Richard are invited to understand the new protagonist in relation to other heroic knights, and to modify their understanding of those other stories by adding this one in among them. So this trope of naming other romance protagonists is a form of intertextuality that makes new meaning, or shifts the understanding both of the new text or story in which the naming occurs, and of the previous stories that are named. This is also the case in Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale, in which the youthful narrator begins a series of interlaced narratives that might rival the rest of the Canterbury Tales in length if it were not interrupted or unfinished. In this story that loses the plot in favour of exposition, the narrator nuances his descriptions of romance people and activities by invoking two Arthurian figures. Firstly, he asserts that one of his characters: Saleweth kyng and queene and lordes alle, By ordre, as they seten in the halle, With so heigh reverence and obeisaunce, As wel in speche as in contenaunce, That Gawayn, with his olde curteisye, Though he were comen ayeyn out of Fairye, Ne koude hym nat amende with a word. (Squire’s Tale, 91–97)

Here, the Squire’s newfangled character – the knight who is both ‘strange’ and a ‘stranger’, a messenger bearing wondrous gifts including a flying ‘steede of bras’ (V.115) that implies technological advances as much as magic – is positioned in a dialectic with Gawain as an exemplar of courteous behaviour. Gawain is invoked both to demonstrate the excellence of this new knight (through comparison with the great Gawain), and to be superseded by the new knight. Similarly, a description of splendour and courtly love is both heightened by a connection with Lancelot, and employed to comment upon the antiquity or obsolescence of Lancelot and the Arthurian legend (and form of courtly love) he represents: Who koude telle yow the forme of daunces So unkouthe, and swiche fresshe contenaunces, Swich subtil lookyng and dissymulynges For drede of jalouse mennes aperceyvynges? No man but Launcelot, and he is deed. (Squire’s Tale, 283–87)

In these references to Arthurian figures in the Squire’s Tale, Chaucer explores his indebtedness to, independence toward, and partial superiority over Arthurian literature, as the most recognisably ‘British’ precedent that the romance genre has to offer.38 Chaucer, of course, disparages Arthurian 38

Kristin Boivard-Abbo argues that ‘through his references to both Gawain and Lancelot, the pilgrim Squire situates himself as the living embodiment of Arthurian legend,

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Megan G. Leitch romance at greater length in the Wife of Bath’s Tale, which features an Arthurian knight who is a rapist rather than a chivalric paragon.39 Equally disparaging – if in a different way – is the reference to Lancelot in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, where the narrator declares: Now every wys man, lat him herkne me; This storie is also trewe, I undertake, As is the book of Launcelot de Lake, That wommen holde in ful greet reverence. (Nun’s Priest’s Tale, 3210–13)

This again denigrates Arthurian romance, not quite (as in the ‘Wife of Bath’s Tale’) as literature that normalises the subservience of women, but, instead, as reading material that appeals especially or only to women. The references to Gawain and Lancelot in the Squire’s Tale seem partially derogatory too: they show that literary inheritance – what Chaucer has inherited from, or can re-use from, the matter of Britain – will only go so far. Such precedents, Chaucer suggests, are both illuminating and inadequate. They remain in the past: Gawain’s ‘curteisye’ is ‘olde’, and Lancelot is ‘deed’. This dialectic between past and present also shapes attitudes toward both the new text or characters, and the pre-existing material or figures. In the Squire’s Tale, Gawain and Lancelot are not only spoken of as famous for their courtesy or chivalric comportment,40 but also feature as figures who themselves speak chivalrously or of chivalry: Gawain (even Gawain), we are told, ‘Ne koude hym [the new knight] nat amende with a word’, and Lancelot is invoked as a storyteller, as one who ‘koude telle yow’ about forms and trappings of chivalry. Chaucer gives voice to the Squire, who gives voice to Arthurian paragons, who are themselves rewritten or ‘re-voked’ as the voices of chivalry and romance, and who thereby inflect Chaucer’s or the Squire’s new romance. This intertextuality, then, communicates a revised sense of the romance tradition and its possibilities as well as of its individual protagonists or texts. a position that he views as superior to the world view of the Merchant’: ‘Lancelot Reborn: The Squire’s Warning in the Canterbury Tales’, Enarratio 13 (2006): 104–25 (116). I view these Arthurian references as more ambivalent, and am less interested in the self-positioning of the Squire in relation to his fellow pilgrim-narrators than in what Chaucer is doing here in relation to literary tradition. In this, I follow critics such as Helen Cooper, The Structure of the ‘Canterbury Tales’ (London, 1983), esp. 145, and Oxford Guides to Chaucer, 222, and Helen Phillips, An Introduction to the ‘Canterbury Tales’: Reading, Fiction, Context (London, 2000), 133. 39 For a view of the Wife of Bath’s Tale as an ‘ironic Arthurian romance’, see Esther C. Quinn, ‘Chaucer’s Arthurian Romance’, The Chaucer Review 18/3 (1984): 211–20 (211). 40 On the reputation for courtesy that Gawain, in particular, had in medieval literature more broadly, see The Riverside Chaucer, 892.

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Introduction While I am primarily treating popular romances whose authorship is anonymous, and for which authorial anonymity is in some ways the corollary of this type of intertextual interpellation, Chaucer the named author is of course the exception here. Yet I would argue that in this context, he is very much the exception that proves the rule. That is, in Sir Thopas and the Squire’s Tale, Chaucer engages with the idea of authorial anonymity and with popular romance together, in part through his presentation of the putative pilgrim authors of these tales: both the ‘Chaucer’ persona who ostensibly authors the former and the Squire pilgrim who narrates the latter are presented as unknowns. They do serve as the author-function for the respective texts that are attributed to them within the Canterbury frame, but these attributions are ones that associate the texts with ‘nobodies’ in the world of literary authorship. And in Sir Thopas and the Squire’s Tale, Chaucer refers not to authors but to famous literary characters; the anxiety of influence in these texts is directed towards the romance tradition itself. The name-dropping I have been focusing on, then, illuminates the self-reflexivity of Middle English romance: as a genre that fosters, and comments upon, a sense of itself as a genre. When analysing the characteristics of intertextuality in such texts, it is worth bearing in mind the specificity of late medieval textual culture and its modes of transmission. The way in which medieval literature is frequently anonymous, and often blurs oral and textual frameworks, has led Paul Zumthor to characterise the flexibility of transmission and reproduction that shapes medieval literary culture – and thus its intertextual borrowings – as ‘mouvance’. 41 Given the partial orality (and/or aurality) of late medieval literature, we could also think of this intertextuality as what Zumthor terms ‘intervocality’.42 Bringing in poststructuralist theorists such as Kristeva and Zumthor is not just another type of name-dropping. Poststructuralism is pertinent here because it does not over-emphasise authors as agents in the intentional creation of literary meaning, but rather focuses on the idea of texts or textuality generated by and dependent upon their socio-cultural context for their construction, as mediated by the reader.43 This resonates 41

Paul Zumthor, Essai de poétique médiévale, Collection Poétique (Paris, 1972), and ‘Intertextualité et mouvance’, Littérature 41 (1981): 8–16. 42 Paul Zumthor, La lettre et la voix. De la ‘littérature’ médiévale, Collection Poétique (Paris, 1987), 161; see also Joyce Coleman, Public Reading and the Reading Public in Late Medieval England and France, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 26 (Cambridge, 1996). 43 The appropriateness of applying poststructuralist theory to medieval literature is underscored by the way in which members of the French poststructuralist Tel Quel circle, including Julia Kristeva, Roland Barthes and Pierre Bourdieu, attributed the inspiration for some of their thinking to the Middle Ages or in the work of practising medievalist (and theorist) Georges Bataille: see Bruce Holsinger, The Premodern Condition: Medievalism and the Making of Theory (Chicago, IL, 2005), 2.

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Megan G. Leitch particularly strongly with Middle English popular romances, given their authorial anonymity and shared stock of motifs for reworking. When a popular romance – whether one such as Sir Thopas, or Richard Coer de Lyon, or the Squire of Low Degree – invokes another romance hero, or more so a list of other romance heroes, it invites the reader or listener to engage with it as though it were a sort of hypertext not only in the structuralist (or poststructuralist) sense, but also in a way that parallels some of the traits that have been ascribed to hypertextuality in the age of the world wide web.44 In something of the way that internet webpages offer blocks of text containing hyperlinks to other webpages, so the Middle English popular romances consist of text containing invocations of other romances, which serve as mental hyperlinks. Thus, popular romance is something like the internet for the fourteenth century: operating cognitively rather than electronically, but providing analogous hypertextual links.45 The invocations of shared ground in Middle English romances illuminate the reading experience these texts offer. The point of references to Gawain, Guy, Libeaus or Horn is that these figures are recognisable; their recognisability is both implied by the references, and the precondition for the cultural work these references support. The protagonist in the Squire of Low Degree wants to follow the model of the knights or romance protagonists he can remember (from romances he has heard or read, presumably), and this models or mirrors what (other) readers of romances are supposed to do with the romances they read. To say that the figures are recognisable is to say that they are memorable: the Squire (whether Chaucer’s, or he of Low Degree) remembers model knights (who exist in other romances), and readers are supposed to remember model knights whose romances they hear or read. Memory, then, is what enables the ethical valence of a romance. Indeed, both 44

In electronic form, a hypertext has been defined as ‘a variable structure, composed of blocks of text (or what Roland Barthes terms lexia) and the electronic links that join them’. And as both Kristeva and Zumthor observe, texts make meaning in relation not only to specific earlier texts, but also to a tradition as a whole; in their citations of other romance protagonists, the popular romances have both particular stories and the broader tradition as their referents. Gérard Genette’s response to Kristeva is also helpful here, because of the way in which these romance citations constitute a particular subset of intertextuality: one that is explicit or overt. Genette’s term for such heightened intertextuality is ‘hypertextuality’: the new text – the ‘hypertext’ – gives explicit reference to a pre-existing text (or tradition) – the ‘hypotext’ – in a way that shapes the meaning of both hypertext and hypotext. See Paul Delany and George P. Landow, ‘Hypertext, Hypermedia and Literary Studies: The State of the Art’, in Hypermedia and Literary Studies, ed. Delany and Landow, Technical Communications (Cambridge, MA, 1991), 3–50 (3); see also Allen, Intertextuality, 199–208. 45 For another way of approaching medieval literature (specifically, Arthurian literature) in relation to the internet, see Amy S. Kaufman, ‘Introduction: Touching Arthur’, Arthuriana 25/4 (2015): 3–13.

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Introduction memory and reading were understood as inherently ethical in the Middle Ages: the former an ethical faculty, the latter an ethical activity that activates the former, as Mary Carruthers has observed in her seminal study of the role of memory in medieval society.46 Since memory enabled prudence and moral judgement, medieval people deliberately cultivated memory (as part of their education), and they did so through reading.47 Richard Coer de Lyon precedes its story of King Richard, and its list of romance heroes whom Richard outshines, with a mention that Miri it is to heren his stori and of him to han in memorie þat neuer no was couward! (4–6)

Remembering King Richard and hearing a story about King Richard are linked. Enjoyment, ethics and memory are inextricably bound together, and the medium through which they are linked is this story of a chivalric hero, whose lack of cowardice is worthy of emulation: it is ‘miri’, merry or pleasurable, to hear his story, and to have him in memory. Here, Richard the Lionheart is presented as an exemplary figure from whose conduct others can learn, despite the fact that in this fictionalised account, he is cured of an illness by eating the flesh of a young Saracen and forces enemy messengers to eat the boiled heads of Saracen prisoners of war, and thus does not straightforwardly or comfortably fit the ethical mould this introduction constructs for him. Yet this way in which reading is an ethical act that helps to train and stock the memory and thereby to recognise, and perform, right conduct, offers a reminder that part of the joke of Sir Thopas lies not just in the fact that ‘Chaucer’ tells a substandard story. This is, moreover, putatively the best – and only – story that Chaucer knows, or has in his memory, as his pilgrim persona declares: ‘Hooste’, quod I, ‘ne beth nat yvele apayed, For oother tale certes kan I noon, But of a ryme I lerned longe agoon.’ (Prologue to Sir Thopas, VII.707–09)

The implication here is that Chaucer has a poor memory, and thus, perhaps, a poor sense of right and wrong, or of prudence. When the Host interrupts 46 Mary

Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature (Cambridge, 1990), 9. See also J. Allan Mitchell, Ethics and Exemplary Narrative in Chaucer and Gower, Chaucer Studies 33 (Cambridge, 2004); Melissa Furrow, Expectations of Romance: The Reception of a Genre in Medieval England, Studies in Medieval Romance 11 (Cambridge, 2009); and Jamie McKinstry, Middle English Romance and the Craft of Memory, Studies in Medieval Romance 19 (Cambridge, 2015). 47 Carruthers, The Book of Memory, 156.

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Megan G. Leitch and condemns the Tale of Sir Thopas, Chaucer the pilgrim repeats that this ‘tale’ is ‘the beste rym I kan’ (VII.928), the best tale that he knows; in the (ethical) economy of storytelling, Chaucer mocks himself for not knowing better. If he had ‘known better’, the one romance (or ‘rhyme’, as he calls it) that his pilgrim persona has managed to remember would presumably not have been a story of a coward who runs away from his foe, in direct opposition to what is prized about King Richard (and about having King Richard in one’s memory) when the latter’s romance opens by announcing that he ‘neuer no was couward’. In contrast to the ‘drasty rymyng’ of the story of Thopas, which (at least according to the Host) is ‘nat worth a toord’ (VII.930), Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale is acclaimed as noble and, significantly, worth remembering: Whan that the Knyght had thus his tale ytoold, In al the route nas ther yong ne oold That he ne seyde it was a noble storie And worthy for to drawen to memorie, And namely the gentils everichon. (I.3109–13)

Here, then, the chivalric romance with which Chaucer opens the Canterbury Tales is ascribed the same value as Richard is, when the latter is prefaced as both a ‘noble geste’, and something that it is good ‘to han in memorie’. This perhaps marks Sir Thopas out not so much as a parodic romance, but rather as one that – given that it is about a coward or a chivalric lightweight – is ‘forgettable’. As Glenn Wright contends, a ‘categorical, “either-or” approach to parody’ is not well suited to the medieval literary cultures that preceded formal definitions of parody.48 In other words, then, the parody in Sir Thopas is one that conveys an ethical edge, and that uses the Canterbury Tales frame appropriately to judge its awfulness as a romance, even if this damning judgement does not do justice to ‘the brilliance of its awfulness’ as a response to romance.49 Moreover, the way that the intertextual naming in Sir Thopas calls more memorable romance protagonists to mind, while producing a parodic juxtaposition of content, is also – in the very form or act of making meaning through such intertextual naming – both an element of pastiche and a constructive participation in a romance mode. Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas, when it situates Thopas in relation to a list other romance protagonists, very much makes use of the ways in which romances invite themselves to be read and understood in relation to a network of other romances. As has long been recognised, romances play upon shared conventions and motifs; romances recall, and rework, what readers already know about other (similar) stories 48

Wright, ‘Rethinking Parody in The Tale of Sir Thopas’, 191. Oxford Guides to Chaucer, 305.

49 Cooper,

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Introduction implicitly, as well as – in the type of naming I have been addressing – more explicitly. Middle English popular romance, then, offers a form of textuality that – again like the internet, and like poststructuralist theory – resists the isolation, individuality or authority of a given text, and perhaps Chaucer’s Tale of Sir Thopas inhabits this mode as much as it gently mocks the results. The basis of both medieval parody of romance and modern disparagement of romance (in the genre’s conventionality, or its susceptibility to repetition) is often the very same thing as romance’s vitality and functionality (in the genre’s intertextuality, ethics, and entertainment value). To recognise this is to understand why romance motifs and their rewritings have attracted both such disparagement and also such discerning critical work; or why motifs are to Middle English romance what monsters are to Beowulf.50 * Helen Cooper’s research has helped to inspire twenty-first-century criticism’s renewed attention to the romance genre, and the contributors to this volume comprise a selection of Cooper’s colleagues, friends and former research students, whose work engages with current critical issues central to understanding romance. Attempts to define the romance genre have often focused on shared characteristics such as its customary narrative arc, privileging a comic resolution or happy ending; its temporally and/or geographically distant settings and frequent inclusions of overtly fictional or fantastical vehicles such as monsters or magic; its aristocratic protagonists and thematic concerns with chivalry, love, and ideal behaviour; and its purposefulness as reading material that is not only entertaining, but also aspirational.51 Within the broader genre of romance, criticism tends to approach Middle English romances, and more particularly Middle English popular romances, by opposing them to the earlier French romance tradition from which they are seen to be derived or differentiated. Middle English romances are often perceived as privileging action over interiority, and public ethics over private concerns or erotic encounters;52 popular romances are frequently seen 50

See J. R. R. Tolkien, ‘Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics’, Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture, Proceedings of the British Academy 22 (1937): 245–95. 51 See, for instance, James Simpson, The Oxford English Literary History, vol. 2, 1350–1547, Reform and Cultural Revolution (Oxford, 2002), 276; K. S. Whetter, Understanding Genre and Medieval Romance (Aldershot, 2008); Helen Cooper, ‘Counter-Romance: Civil Strife and Father-Killing in the Prose Romances’, in The Long Fifteenth Century: Essays for Douglas Gray, ed. Helen Cooper and Sally Mapstone (Oxford, 1997), 141–62; Barry Windeatt, ‘“Troilus” and the Disenchantment of Romance’, in Studies in Medieval English Romances: Some New Approaches, ed. Derek Brewer (Cambridge, 1988), 129–47 (129–31). See also the studies cited in notes 8–12 above. 52 Chism, ‘Romance’, 58–59.

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Megan G. Leitch as focusing on plot or narrative drive at the expense of the sophisticated dilemmas and formal qualities that characterise courtly romances such as Chrétien de Troyes’ Le chevalier de la charrette or Chaucer’s ‘Knight’s Tale’.53 In focusing on rewriting and adaptation across the long evolution of Middle English romance, the essays in this volume probe these definitions and assumptions, while upholding the family resemblance theory of genre, according to which any given characteristic of romance (even the customary happy ending) may be absent without obscuring a text’s nature as a romance, as Helen Cooper has observed.54 The first three essays in the volume explore ways in which romances disrupt expectations that their narratives will be contained within reassuring frameworks. Whether through unevenness of tone, critical or ambivalent representations of protagonists, or the rewriting of narrative arcs, some romances unsettle or complicate a straightforward or totalising reading. These expectations of reassurance, as Neil Cartlidge points out, are often shaped by modern critical perceptions of the norms of romances as much as by the romances themselves. Cartlidge differentiates between views of romances as ‘bad’ in the sense of aesthetic judgement, and ‘bad’ as deliberatively provocative, showing how assumptions about the comforting and unsophisticated nature of romance have sometimes shaped both the editing and the interpretation of such texts. Cartlidge suggests the term ‘mischief’ (instead of the more all-encompassing ‘parody’) as a way of understanding romance ‘unruliness’ or wayward textual moments that contribute to an uncomfortable unevenness of tone, and he encourages a greater recognition of subtleties across the spectrum of romance. Marcel Elias likewise considers ways in which romances complicate reassuringly positive views of protagonists and pose unsettling questions. Focusing on fourteenth-century crusading romances, Elias considers the rewriting of motifs to accommodate contemporary criticism and concerns. Motifs of the hostile challenger, the noble Saracen, and the ambivalent hero are reworked in connection with fourteenth-century anxieties about the expansion of the Ottoman empire and the declining purchase of chivalric ideals during the Hundred Years War. Elias thus examines some ways in which Helen Cooper’s macrocosmic model of the transformation of romance motifs can illuminate more specific moments of ideological engagement and anxiety. 53

As discussed in Putter and Gilbert, Introduction, 2–3 and 16–20. The English Romance in Time, 8–9. The concept is first articulated by Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford, 1953), 31–32, and applied to literary genres more generally in Alastair Fowler, Kinds of Literature: An Introduction to the Theory of Genres and Modes (Oxford, 1982), 41. See also Liu, ‘Middle English Romance as Prototype Genre’, for an insightful, methodological encapsulation of this flexible way of categorising of the genre.

54 Cooper,

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Introduction Unevenness of tone is also the subject of Christopher Cannon’s analysis of the ways in which Malory’s Morte Darthur weaves comedy into its tragedy of the downfall of King Arthur and of the conflict of loyalties sparked by Lancelot and Guinevere’s love for each other. Cannon considers comedy both in terms of a happily-resolved narrative arc, and in terms of humour. While the narrative as a whole ends unhappily, with the estrangement and deaths of the central characters, Cannon observes – as Cooper has before him – that the difference between comedy and tragedy is often the result of a choice of when to stop narrating, rather than of elements inherent to a given romance. Malory’s characters ‘make light’ of serious – criminal – events, and do so in ways that foreground trivialisation or absurdity that might invite readers’ laughter. The disruptions of Malorian comedy, argues Cannon, often convey an ideological clear-sightedness that exposes what the text elsewhere takes for granted. The second group of essays centres on narrative techniques and the shaping of new stories from old material, especially in terms of classical or courtly inheritance. Like Cannon, Jill Mann probes the fine line between comedy and tragedy, considering the implications of the point at which a writer chooses to end a narrative, and the perspective from which the outcomes are viewed. Mann considers the implications of the fact that Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale begins with the ending of another narrative – Theseus’s conquest of the Amazons – and of the inclusion of references to or imaginings of other stories not related or actualised within the narrative. She argues that Chaucer rewrites his narrative material to unpick causality and instead focus on arbitrariness and shifts of tone and perspective that ask questions about the relationship of joy to woe, of the heroic and the undignified. R. F. Yeager also addresses endings in his exploration of Gower’s rewriting of the Apollonius of Tyre narrative to conclude the Confessio Amantis. He asks why Gower – who does not include many romances in the Confessio – would choose to conclude with a romance, and one that features incest. Yeager focuses on Gower’s construction of this narrative as an exemplum, drawing attention to how Gower’s version, which generally follows the Historia Apollonii, heightens emphasis on Apollonius’s character and motivation, and on the importance of counsel. For Yeager, Gower’s concluding romance offers good counsel for kings as well as for lovers. Elizabeth Archibald discusses the shaping of new Arthurian romance from old in her reconsideration of Malory’s knowledge of the Post-Vulgate Cycle and what it may reveal about his composition of the Morte Darthur. She argues that if Malory had read the Post-Vulgate cycle in its entirety, his use of it might help to explain distinctive features in Malory’s Morte, such as the frame and focus of the Morte Darthur, in which Lancelot is important, 21

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Megan G. Leitch but Arthur provides the spine; and the depiction of the affair between Lancelot and Guinevere. Influence is, of course, also shown by difference, and Archibald considers how Malory’s famous defence of romantic love may have been a reaction against the Post-Vulgate’s moralising hostility to it. Barry Windeatt’s essay considers the rewritten of broader romance conventions. He examines the use of gesture in a wide range of Middle English verse romances, from Amis and Amiloun and Emaré to the Stanzaic Morte Arthur and the Squire of Low Degree. This study collates and parses instances of different types of body language in a way that will serve as a work of reference and basis for future research as well as offering an insightful analysis of how romances use gestures to communicate. As Windeatt demonstrates, in Middle English romances, body language is stylised in a way that tends to provide generalised communication of a recognisable emotion rather than individualising details or psychological insight. Gestures are narrative techniques or cues, which together form a legible ‘gestural lexicon’ that marks significant moments in romance. The following three essays focus on the role of spiritual or supernatural concerns in the writing or rewriting of romances. Marco Nievergelt analyses what it means to construct a romance according to homiletic or penitential priorities. In Sir Cleges, the focus of his essay, the spendthrift knight’s aristocratic largesse parallels freely-given divine grace. Nievergelt argues for an approach that recognises a category of ‘theological romance’ rather than viewing religious elements as having been tacked on to narratives that might seem to support bourgeois or middle-class ideologies. Questions of generic hybridity are similarly the focus of Miriam EdlichMuth’s examination of the rewriting of the story of the swan children in the late fourteenth-century English Chevalere Assigne. This narrative is extant in twelfth-century Latin prose and in a thirteenth-century Old French crusade cycle. Edlich-Muth focuses on the recognisability and adaptation of memes in the English version, and demonstrates how this shifts the logic of the story away from magic and towards divine providence in ways that invite questions about the flexibility of the romance genre’s balance between secular and spiritual. Corinne Saunders also addresses the relationship between the spiritual and the supernatural in her exploration of voices, vision and destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur. Navigating between prophecy and foreknowledge, providence and misfortune, Saunders considers how visionary experience shapes the central Arthurian narrative as well as the Grail Quest. She explores moments at which the Morte Darthur departs from its sources, illuminating how Malory rewrites, for instance, the voice of Merlin and the visions of Arthur and Lancelot in order to reshape romance through a spiritual lens. 22

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Introduction The final three essays treat late romances, or post-medieval engagements with the concerns of medieval romance. Ad Putter addresses the reworking of courtly romance possibilities in the understudied late fifteenth-century Court of Love. This anonymous, clerkly text perhaps dates from the 1480s and shows its learning in its many borrowings from writers such as Chaucer, Lydgate and Charles d’Orléans. Putter argues for the intelligence of this late allegorical romance and its fresh and self-reflexive rewriting of conventions. It demonstrates a knowing and wry deployment of love allegory’s familiar tropes that, he argues, deserves to be better known. Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards also consider the implications of ‘late’ rewriting of romance conventions, focusing on how the Squire of Low Degree illuminates a shift in the printing choices of Wynkyn de Worde. Taking up the question of the unusual treatment of motifs and plot in the Squire, which for other critics has suggested a parodic or bourgeois interest in the shaping of this romance, Boffey and Edwards show that the text’s emphasis on description and dialogue is also resonant of other genres for which there was a contemporary appetite. This analysis of the Squire alongside other texts printed at the same time illuminates what Boffey and Edwards term the ‘penumbra’ of Middle English romance as it stretches into the early decades of the sixteenth century. In the final essay, Andrew Lynch continues this examination of the late rewriting of romance by turning to ideological representations of war, youth, and the romance genre itself in nineteenth-century medievalist fiction. Offering case studies from the novels of Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge, Lynch explores the ambivalence of Victorian engagements with the ideals of medieval chivalry and with the models of medieval romance. While the valorisations of honour, fidelity, martial prowess, and chaste love that are characteristic of medieval romances found favour with nineteenthcentury medievalist writers, the violent ethos and Catholic contexts of medieval chivalry did not. Like successive generations of medieval romances themselves, these rewritings selectively preserve, prune, augment, and refashion inherited material. In the concluding essays, Boffey, Edwards and Lynch explore how the reworking of motifs and ideals that is a hallmark of the medieval romance genre also continues in post-medieval rewritings of romance. In focusing on how romance is rewritten, both across the medieval period and into the early modern, the contributors to this volume have followed the lead of Helen Cooper, in her influential monograph The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare and in other works such as Shakespeare and the Medieval World. Helen Cooper’s own publications on romance also include numerous articles on Arthurian and other romances, both medieval and Renaissance; an edition of Malory’s Morte Darthur; the introduction to a translation of Sir 23

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Megan G. Leitch Gawain and the Green Knight; and considerations of Chaucerian romance in The Structure of the ‘Canterbury Tales’ and The Oxford Guides to Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales.55 Indeed, then, by including attention to understudied romances such as Sir Tristrem, Chevalere Assigne, and the Court of Love alongside essays on Chaucer and Gower, three very different approaches to Malory, and explorations of topics from crusading to providence, from tragedy to parody, this volume’s reconsideration of the protean nature of romance also recognises and responds to Cooper’s wide-ranging work on the genre. In any new study seeking to further the understanding of a genre in which the same motifs – and names – continually reappear and are reinvented, one name that is always and rightly invoked is that of Professor Helen Cooper.

55

For Helen Cooper’s contributions to these and other fields of scholarship, see ‘A Bibliography of Helen Cooper’s Published Works’, in Medieval Into Renaissance: Essays for Helen Cooper, ed. Andrew King and Matthew Woodcock (Cambridge, 2016), 279–84.

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I ROMANCE DISRUPTIONS

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1 Medieval Romance Mischief * N EIL CA RTLIDGE

T

his chapter is about the discomforts involved in reading medieval romance: the edginess, unpredictability and discord that at least some medieval romance texts seem to cultivate. That might seem like an unpromising line of enquiry. After all, there are many general accounts of romance as a genre that describe it as a cultural product of a deeply reassuring kind, fundamentally patterned and predictable, ideologically conservative, morally normative and unashamedly aimed at the provision of certain kinds of wish-fulfilment fantasy.1 Perhaps the classic version of this view is the one offered by Northrop Frye, in his influential Anatomy of Criticism. His description of literary romance begins with the assertion that: ‘The romance is the nearest of all literary forms to the wishfulfilmentdream.’2 Frye goes on to argue that romance is fundamentally ‘dialectical’, by which he means that as an imaginative mode it typically divides the world into poles of good and evil, with the result that, so far as characterisation goes:

* Versions of this chapter were given as lectures at Dalhousie University, Halifax, and Concordia University, Montreal, in September 2012. I am grateful to both audiences for their comments, and to Melissa Furrow and Ivana Djordjević for organising these events. I am also grateful to the Leverhulme Trust, the DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst) and FRIAS (Freiburg Institute of Advanced Studies), for providing financial support for my research and teaching during the time that I was revising this essay for publication. 1 See W. R. J. Barron, English Medieval Romance, Longman Literature in English Series (London, 1987), 194–95: ‘much of the audience’s pleasure [in medieval romance] may come from the fulfilment of expectations, the ritualistic working out of formulae, with the comforting assurance that this is how the world works’. 2 Northrop Frye, Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Princeton, NJ, 1957; repr. Harmondsworth, 1997), 186. See also Dafydd Evans, ‘Wishfulfilment: the Social Function and Classification of Old French Romances’, in Court and Poet: Selected Proceedings of the Third Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society, ed. Glyn S. Burgess, ARCA, Classical and Medieval Texts, Papers and Monographs 5 (Liverpool, 1981), 129–34.

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Neil Cartlidge subtlety and complexity are not much favored. Characters tend to be either for or against the quest. If they assist it they are idealized as simply gallant or pure; if they obstruct it they are caricatured as simply villainous or cowardly. Hence every typical character in romance tends to have his moral opposite confronting him, like black and white pieces in a chess game.3

These elemental tendencies that Frye perceives in romance suit his larger argument, which is that romance itself is elemental: a primal and persistent mode, a kind of cultural building-block and, in effect, a literary archetype. Indeed, his account of romance is designed to demonstrate the validity of what he calls ‘archetypical’ criticism, and the implication of this distinctly Jungian language is that romance is a structural element in human culture because it is also a structural element in the human mind. Certainly, of all literary genres, romance is perhaps the one most prone to being treated as if were some sort of psychological condition or neurosis: a form of discourse all the more meaningful for expressing all sorts of things that are not entirely under the control of those who write it, or indeed of those who read it. The idea that medieval romance offers a hotline to the subconsciousnesses of its original authors and audiences has long been reinforced by a tendency in criticism to link medieval romance with eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fairy tale or folk tale. For Erich Auerbach – another powerfully influential literary-critical voice – to read romance is necessarily to find oneself in the middle of a ‘Zaubermärchen’ (a magical fairy tale); and the natural medium even of courtly romance, he suggests, is its ‘Märchenluft’ (its fairy-tale atmosphere): Ganz augenscheinlich befinden wir uns mitten im Zaubermärchen. Der rechte Weg durch den dornigen Wald, das wie aus dem Boden gewachsene Schloß, die Art des Empfangens, das schöne Fräulein, das seltsame Schweigen des Burgherrn, der Waldschrat, die Zauberquelle – das alles ist Märchenluft. (Obviously we are now deep in fairy tale and magic. The right road through the forest full of brambles, the castle which seems to have sprung out of the ground, the nature of the hero’s reception, the beautiful maiden, the strange silence of the lord of the castle, the satyr, the magical spring – it is all in the atmosphere of fairy tale.)4 3 Frye,

Anatomy, 195. The stark moral polarisation that Frye describes is generally contradicted by the essays in Heroes and Anti-Heroes in Medieval Romance, ed. Neil Cartlidge, Studies in Medieval Romance 16 (Cambridge, 2012). 4 Erich Auerbach, Mimesis: Dargestellte Wirklichkeit in der abendländischen Literatur (Tübingen, 1946; repr. Tübingen, 2001), 126; Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ, 1953; repr. 1991), 130.

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Medieval Romance Mischief Such approaches would also seem to open romance up to the search for ‘deeper meanings’ and distant origins that tends to characterise folk and fairy tale scholarship. The phrase ‘deeper meanings’ is one that is repeatedly used by Bruno Bettelheim in his classic study of the psychological dimensions of fairy tales. To Bettelheim, ‘Each fairy tale is a magic mirror which reflects some aspects of our inner world, and of the steps required by our evolution from immaturity to maturity’;5 so it is perhaps no coincidence that Bettelheim’s assessment of the moral complexity of fairy tales comes very close to Frye’s description of romances: The figures in fairy tales are not ambivalent – not good and bad at the same time, as we all are in reality. But since polarization dominates the child’s mind, it also dominates fairy tales. A person is either good or bad, nothing in between. One brother is stupid, the other is clever. One sister is virtuous and industrious, the others are vile and lazy. One is beautiful, the others are ugly. One parent is good, the other evil. […] Presenting the polarities of character permits the child to comprehend easily the difference between the two…6

Medieval romances certainly share story matter and story mechanisms with later fairy and folk tales, so it is perhaps all too tempting to make the leap from ‘stories for children’ to the idea that romances themselves are inherently childish. Indeed, most of the positive adjectives that late twentieth-century criticism liked to apply to medieval romance are precisely those that might be applied to well-behaved children: when such texts are ‘good’, they are honest, frank, artless, direct, cheerful, spontaneous. To quote Auerbach again, there is something touchingly naive and childish (‘etwas rührend Naives, Kindliches’) about medieval romances; they have a tangible freshness (‘eine sinnliche Frische’) and child-like courage (‘ein kindlicher Mut’).7 The value structure implied by such terms has become so familiar that it seems almost radical to suggest that romances can be, and indeed often are, badly behaved – or to argue that romances can be ‘bad’ in the sense of being deliberately 5

Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales (London, 1976; repr. Harmondsworth, 1991), 309. 6 Bettelheim, Uses, 9. 7 Auerbach, Mimesis, 129: ‘[Er hat…] zumindest für unser Gefühl, sehr leicht etwas rührend Naives, Kindliches, und in der Tat liegt in der sinnlichen Frische, die ein doch schon so reich differenziertes Leben mit einer noch so jungen, kaum von Theorie belasteten, noch nicht aus der dialektalen Vielfalt losgelösten Literatursprache zu beherrschen sucht, ein kindlicher Mut’ (trans. Trask, 133: ‘[Romance] is apt – at least to our way of feeling – to fall into a certain touching naiveté and childishness. And indeed, there is the courage of a child in the freshness of outlook which undertook – with the sole tool of a literary language so young that it had no ballast of theory, had not yet emerged from the confusion of dialectical forms – to master a life which had, after all, attained a considerable degree of differentiation.’).

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Neil Cartlidge naughty (awkward, disconcerting or indecorous) without necessarily also being ‘bad’ in the other sense as well (i.e. ill-judged, garbled and/or inept).8 One of the more pernicious effects of these emphases on pattern, type and the ‘deeper meanings’ that they imply is that critical readings of medieval romances all too often effectively strip such texts of their surfaces, denying attention to the immediate effects of the particular words used and the particular details chosen. When such texts overlay ‘genuine’ story material with surface effects that seem too distractingly disproportionate, ambivalent or unexpected, or if they threaten to disrupt the underlying cultural and psychological continuities that we have been taught to think are characteristic of romance as a genre, then the suggestion lies ready to hand that their authors have simply failed to understand the rules of the genre, or else that the text has somehow been corrupted in transmission. This is my real quarrel with the kind of approaches that I have just described. It is not that Frye, Auerbach and Bettelheim offer no insights about the nature of romance – far from it: much of what they say is entirely valid, and critically useful. But they have also contributed to the emergence of the critical climate that encourages this stripping of surfaces, this preference for implied or underlying structures, as against immediate and specific textualities, and their analyses often provide no very satisfactory basis for measuring the extent to which medieval romances do sometimes invest in tonal dissonance, contrived incongruity or calculated provocation. Although more recent accounts of medieval romance have started to show some resistance to the idea that the experience of reading such texts is necessarily reassuring, predictable and uncomplex,9 the shadows of earlier scholarship still lie long in this particular field, if only because the 8

On the perceived aesthetic/intellectual weaknesses of romance, see Jane Gilbert’s remarks in the introduction to The Spirit of Medieval English Popular Romance, ed. Ad Putter and Jane Gilbert, Longman Medieval and Renaissance Library (Harlow, 2000), 1–38 (15–31). 9 See, e.g., Melissa Furrow’s emphasis on the sheer range of possible responses invited by romance and her insistence that that ‘expectations were not fixed’ in Melissa Furrow, Expectations of Romance: The Reception of a Genre in Medieval England, Studies in Medieval Romance 11 (Cambridge, 2009), esp. 43–94; or the carefully nuanced description of medieval romance in Nicholas Perkins and Alison Wiggins, The Romance of the Middle Ages (Oxford, 2012), 15 (which conspicuously avoids any suggestion of the ‘Naives, Kindliches’, but is nevertheless still rather ‘psychological’ in its emphasis): ‘Cycles of integration–disintegration–reintegration are at the core of these traditional narratives, or “symbolic stories”, which share many motifs with folktale and ballad. Often they end with marriage, wealth and acclaim, while the disloyal or inconvenient are punished: that is, cultural norms are reinforced and celebrated. But these are rather loose ends, soon unpicked. The imaginative space that romances open can enable dark fantasies of infanticide, incest, betrayal and exile to be explored, and this space feeds the imagination long after the text closes.’ On ‘symbolic stories’, see Derek Brewer, Symbolic Stories: Traditional Narratives of the Family Drama in English Literature (Cambridge, 1980).

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Medieval Romance Mischief assumptions that I have just described are generally written into the very editing of the texts at issue. In the face of those many moments in medieval romance that do seem distinctly disproportionate, ambivalent or unexpected, editors have often preferred to look for some means of rationalising them away, even if that means assuming either scribal corruption or authorial incompetence. A particularly clear instance of such a moment can be found in the Middle English romance Sir Tristrem, which survives only in the mid-fourteenthcentury Auchinleck manuscript.10 In the course of this text Sir Tristrem falls into an altercation with a villainous character called Morgan, who (we have been told) was responsible for the death of the protagonist’s father in a dispute over territory. In the course of this altercation, Morgan manages to add insult to injury by accusing Tristrem of being a bastard, to which he responds by calling a Morgan a liar, and the argument then escalates into violence: ‘Yongling, thou schalt abide. Foles thou wendest to find. Thi fader thi moder gan hide; In horedom he hir band. Hou comestow with pride? Out, traitour, of mi land!’ Tristrem spac that tide: ‘Thou lexst, ich understand And wot.’ Morgan with his hand With a lof Tristrem smot.

cohabit with secretly fornication; had intercourse with By what right lie know palm; struck

On his brest adoun Of his nose ran the blod.11

The TEAMS editor of this text, Alan Lupack, glosses the word ‘lof’ as ‘palm’ (as in the ‘palm’ of a hand), taking this to be an instance of a Scottish or northern English dialect word that appears in both the Oxford English Dictionary and the Middle English Dictionary.12 This passage in Sir Tristrem is in fact the first and earliest of the citations for this word that either dictionary presents. For several reasons this is an interpretation that might seem appealing. Firstly, ‘lof’ in this sense is quite rare in Middle English 10 See

the digital fascimile at or the paper one ed. Derek Pearsall and I. C. Cunningham, The Auchinleck Manuscript: National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ MS. 19.2.1 (London, 1977). 11 Sir Tristrem, lines 859–73, ed. Alan Lupack, in ‘Lancelot of the Laik’ and ‘Sir Tristrem’, TEAMS (Kalamazoo MI, 1994), with glosses and punctuation as Lupack gives them. 12 ‘Lof’ = ‘palm [of the hand]’: OED, ‘loof’, n. (1); MED, ‘love’, n. (3).

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Neil Cartlidge (and so of intrinsic scholarly interest). Secondly, the geographically limited circulation of this word would seem to add weight to the argument that the origins of Sir Tristrem should be placed quite a long way north, perhaps even as far north as Scotland (as Sir Walter Scott suggested in his editio princeps of the poem in 1804).13 And thirdly, it seems to make perfectly good sense in the context. What ‘lof’ might be taken to suggest is that Morgan struck Tristrem specifically with the flat of his hand, in a way that is perhaps meant to be seen as insulting in itself. Yet it seems rather redundant for the narrator to say that Morgan smote Tristrem ‘with his hand’ and then also ‘with a lof’, if the intended meaning of ‘lof’ is ‘palm’. Implicit in this interpretation is the assumption that it would have been impossible for any Middle English reader to confuse this word with a similar noun that was, and still is, much more common: i.e. ‘loaf’ (as in a ‘loaf’ of bread).14 But then why would Morgan hit Tristrem with a piece of bread – which is not obviously the most effective of weapons? In fact, the text tells us quite specifically that Tristrem turns up in Morgan’s court just ‘As Morgan his brede share’ (just as he was cutting his bread): He busked and made him yare His fiftend som of knight: With him yede na mare. To court thai com ful right As Morgan his brede

schare.15



prepared; himself ready a group of fifteen knights just cut his bread

Given that Morgan is specifically said to have bread in his hands when Tristrem invades his hall, it seems somewhat counter-intuitive to prefer a rare dialect word to the plain and simple ‘loaf’ – the loaf that Morgan seemingly happens to have in his hand when Tristrem starts causing trouble. The point is surely that Morgan loses his temper so quickly that he whacks Tristrem with the largest heavy object immediately available. Most pre-modern breads are likely to have been, by our standards, relatively heavy, especially unleavened breads or breads based on fibre-dense grains like rye or bran. They were dense enough for slices of bread to be in general use as trenchers (in effect, as plates), a practice given dramatic treatment in Virgil’s Aeneid, where it is used to make sense of the harpies’ prophecy 13 Sir

Walter Scott, Sir Tristrem: A Metrical Romance of the Thirteenth Century: by Thomas of Ercildoune called The Rhymer (Edinburgh, 1804). See also Angus McIntosh, ‘Is Sir Tristrem an English or a Scottish Poem?’, in In Other Words: Transcultural Studies in Philology, Translation, and Lexicology Presented to Hans Heinrich Meier on the Occasion of his Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. J. Lachlan Mackenzie and Richard Todd (Dordrecht, 1989), 85–95. 14 ‘Lof’ = ‘loaf’: OED, ‘loaf’, n. (1); MED, ‘lof’, n. (2). 15 Sir Tristrem, lines 859–73.

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Medieval Romance Mischief that the Trojans will have to eat their own tables.16 In the Canterbury Tales Chaucer’s Summoner is armed with a ‘cake’ of bread so substantial that he could even make a buckler out of it.17 From this perspective, it seems that Morgan’s loaf may well have been substantial enough to make it worth using it as a weapon. Such a weapon is hardly very appropriate for a knight, of course, and perhaps part of the point here is the very indignity of a fight that begins in such a way. Morgan apparently succeeds in giving Tristrem a bloody nose with the loaf, so it is clearly not entirely ineffective as a weapon, but obviously much less effective than, say, a sword would have been.18 For Tristrem to respond by drawing his own sword, and to use it to cut down both Morgan and many of his followers in the ensuing fracas, certainly looks at least a little unsporting; and, indeed, it seems to me that none of the participants emerge from this scene with any credit. Morgan’s unseemly attack on Tristrem is driven by haste and rage, and it is beneath his dignity as a knight. In taking advantage of this confrontation as he does, Tristrem succeeds in avenging his father, it is true, but not in any socially sanctioned duel or battle. In effect, he invades the house of an (almost) unarmed man, provokes a fight there and then takes advantage of the opportunity to commit murder. The violence and unseemliness of this mêlée put it beyond the accepted decorums of chivalry: they make the feud between the two men seem brutal and uncouth. There is certainly nothing of the fairy-tale atmosphere about any of this (none of Auerbach’s ‘Märchenluft’), let alone anything that could be described as ‘touchingly naive’; and both Morgan and Tristrem come to seem much more ambivalent as a result of it – much less like the chess pieces that Northrop Frye describes. All of this is perhaps particularly problematic for those readers who have wanted to see in Sir Tristrem a (more or less inadequate) Middle English witness to a legend that they assume to be properly and implicitly the tale of a chivalric paragon, as is the case in several of the poems written about Sir Tristan in Old French, especially the now fragmentary Tristan of Thomas.19 Such readers have 16

Aeneid, in P. Vergili Maronis: Opera, ed. R. A. B. Mynors, Oxford Classical Texts (Oxford, 1980), III.255–57, VII.116–17. 17 Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue, I.668 (in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson [Boston, MA, 1987], 34): ‘A bokeleer hadde he maad hym of a cake.’ 18 This possibly begs the question of why Morgan did not think to make use of the knife that he was using to cut the bread, but medieval trencher knives were perhaps better adapted to breaking bread than people’s faces – as is probably true of most modern bread knives. 19 Thomas, Tristan, ed. Stewart Gregory, in Early French Tristan Poems, ed. Norris J. Lacy, 2 vols, Arthurian Archives 1–2 (Cambridge, 1998), II.3–172 (with an edition of the Carlisle Fragment by Ian Short, II.173–83). See also Lupack, 143: ‘The Middle

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Neil Cartlidge perhaps preferred to imagine Morgan hitting Tristrem with his ‘palm’, rather than a loaf, even if this is at the expense of assuming that the poet was too incompetent to avoid the redundancy this creates, since it leaves open the possibility that the Middle English poet was at least trying to provide a suitably decorous account of the hero’s adventures. A better explanation for what is going on here, and one that takes proper account of the sheer indignity of the fight in Morgan’s hall, is surely that its author was simply not in the business of reproducing a conventional story in a conventional way. Like many Middle English romances, Sir Tristrem explicitly imagines itself as a script for recitation to a listening audience, which is here not just an empty cliché, but rather a reminder that this is a text that really was intended to be used as the basis for a performance – and performances, of course, live or die by the responses of audiences. The point of imagining Morgan hitting Tristrem with any object so unchivalric as a loaf of bread is that it makes it much harder not to respond strongly to this scene in one way or another, whether with laughter at the absurdity of it, or horror at the casual savagery it implies. This scene was perhaps designed to create discomfort, precisely because of the complex range of possible responses it provokes. If modern editors of Sir Tristrem here seem to be guilty of trying to look round an obvious problem, of trying to smooth away an awkward snag, then elsewhere they possibly underestimate the poem’s capacity for finely honed and deliberate provocation. A little later on in the text, Tristrem is sailing back from Ireland to King Mark’s court at Caerleon: Now hat he Tristram trewe And fareth over the flod. The schip the cuntré knewe; It thought hem ful gode As thare. Of wrake thai understode For on thai leten him fare.20

is called he journeys the people of the region It seemed to them About revenge Travel

Kölbing’s translation of these last two lines is ‘They suspected vengeance, because they had allowed him to travel alone’ (‘Sie ahnten rache, weil sie ihn allein hatten fahren lassen’),21 which presumably means that they (the people of Cornwall) were concerned about letting their hero Tristrem travel to Ireland, because they feared the Irish would avenge themselves on him for having earlier killed their own champion, the giant Moraunt. This English Sir Tristrem [… has] traditionally been considered a poor adaptation of Thomas’s poem’. 20 Sir Tristrem, ed. Lupack, lines 1303–09. 21 Sir Tristrem: Mit Einleitung, Anmerkungen und Glossar, ed. Eugen Kölbing (Heilbronn, 1882), 147.

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Medieval Romance Mischief interpretation seems to me to strain the sense of ‘understode’ rather too far; and it seems odd that the text suddenly jumps from describing Tristrem’s voyage home to saying something about a previous journey, his outward voyage to Ireland. As it happens, it was not the ‘cuntré’ (Cornwall’s people) who gave Tristrem his ship then (according to what the narrative has already told us), but rather the king, so it is by no means clear why the people would even have thought that they might be particularly responsible for letting Tristrem travel in the first place. However, there is (I think) an alternative reading, and it hinges on the meaning of the word ‘wrake’, which Kölbing and Lupack read, not unreasonably, as a form of a common Middle English word meaning ‘revenge’.22 What I suggest is that ‘wrake’ here is actually a form of ‘wrack’, which the Oxford English Dictionary usefully defines as ‘Remnants of, or goods from, a wrecked vessel, esp. as driven or cast ashore; shipwrecked effects or property, wreckage; also in earlier use, the right to have such.’23 The dictionary’s first citation of the word in this form is from 1428, but it is essentially only a variant form of the word ‘wreck’ (which has the same meaning, but a much longer recorded history of use).24 In this context, where the text is talking about the locals’ ready recognition of a ship, ‘wrake’ as ‘wreck’ surely springs to mind faster than ‘wrake’ as ‘revenge’. But what is it about wrecks that demands any particular understanding – so that ‘Of wrake thai understode’? The answer to this might be taken to lie in the Oxford English Dictionary’s reference, not just to ‘shipwrecked effects or property’ but also ‘the right to have such’, or what in medieval law is actually described as wreccum maris (the legal right to take possession of vessels wrecked on a particular shore, their cargos and, in some cases, their crews). Throughout the Middle Ages this prerogative was claimed, in theory, by the king, but in practice it was often exercised more locally, with or without the king’s consent. Recovering things of value from a wreck is likely to have been a skilful and potentially dangerous business (hence the need to have some ‘understanding’ in it), but it was (and indeed continues to be) an activity that provokes some interesting legal questions. Someone who has understanding ‘of wrake’ is, by definition, a ‘wrecker’, a word that also gets its own entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. Here it is rather provocatively defined as ‘One who causes shipwreck, exp. for purposes of plunder by showing luring lights or false signals; a person who makes a business of watching for and plundering wrecked vessels; also, one who wrongfully seizes or appropriates wreck 22

OED, ‘wrake’, n. (1), 1a = ‘Suffering that comes or is inflicted as a retribution or penalty; retributive punishment, vengeance, revenge’; cf. MED, ‘wrake’, n. = ‘vengeance’. 23 OED, ‘wrack’, n. (2), 1b. Cf. MED, ‘wrak’, n. (1) and OED, ‘wrake’, n. (2). 24 OED, ‘wreck’, n. (1); MED, ‘wrek’, n.

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Neil Cartlidge washed ashore.’25 Taking the last element in this definition first, a ‘wrecker’ can be just a beach-harvester, someone who collects flotsam, jetsam or lagan from where it is washed up along the shore-line, which might seem innocuous enough, but in fact even this was, and still is, against the law in the UK (despite very widespread popular beliefs to the contrary). This has been spotlighted in a number of controversial and widely reported incidents over the last twenty years or so, with several wrecks on British beaches drawing large numbers of opportunistic harvesters (or ‘looters’, depending on one’s point of view). These include the Napoli (wrecked off Devon in 2007), but also the Sinegorsk (wrecked off Kent in 2009), the Ice Prince (wrecked off Sussex in 2008), the Kodima (wrecked off Cornwall in 2002), and the Cita (wrecked off Scilly in 1997). What the events subsequent to these wrecks revealed was a widespread conviction that beach-harvesting in this way is not theft, but a customary right or privilege, to the extent that (to quote the BBC at the time of the Kodima’s loss) ‘The coastguard is … warning people who are salvaging thousands of planks of pine wood washed up from the Kodima that the activity is illegal.’26 Even more notoriously, when the Napoli spilled more than one hundred containers onto the Devon coast in 2007, a number of undamaged BMW motorcycles were removed from one of them. Two of these machines were subsequently recovered by the police, but most of the rest vanished into local lock-ups and garages, despite the best efforts of the authorities (and despite BMW’s insistence that the bikes remained its property).27 25

OED, ‘wrecker’, n. (1), sense 1a; see also OED, ‘wrecker’, n. (2), sense 1 = ‘A person engaged in salving wrecked or endangered vessels or cargo; a salvager, salvor’. 26 ‘In Cornwall “fearsome” weather has been hampering an attempt to refloat a stricken cargo ship. The Kodima ran aground on Saturday after its crew were rescued in heavy seas. Bad weather prevented a salvage team from boarding the ship, which is listing at around 15 degrees in Whitsand Bay, to make safe its 456-tonne cargo of oil. Experts now say they will be unable to launch any salvage effort until Thursday. The coastguard is also warning people who are salvaging thousands of planks of pine wood washed up from the Kodima that the activity is illegal. Hundreds of people have collected the wood and driven away with it in vans, trucks and family cars’ (BBC News, 5th February 2002). 27 ‘Somewhere in the south-west, unridden and hidden from public view, are the most infamous motorbikes in Britain. When the decision was taken to ground the cargo ship MSC Napoli off the coast of Devon a year ago because of rough weather, 103 of the containers she was carrying fell into the sea. Most came ashore at Branscombe, sparking one of the biggest wrecking incidents in recent years. The most valuable items were the 17 new BMW bikes found in one container. Two vanished, two were seized by the police, and the remaining 13 are still with the people who found them, concealed, until legal ownership is finally resolved. … Opinion on the wreckers is still divided – some call them “despicable”, while the beachcombers themselves consider it “the best thing that ever happened to Devon”’ (The Observer, 13th January 2008). A week later (on the 20th) the following apology was printed in The Observer’s ‘For the

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Medieval Romance Mischief In fact, such incidents have a long history which reaches back to the Middle Ages. As Cathryn Pearce puts it in her study of the phenomenon, ‘extant records of litigation from the medieval era are rife with cases of “wrecking by plunder” by common people, tracing back as far as the thirteenth century.’28 One very interesting possible instance of an even earlier wrecking case is the capture of Harold Godwineson (the man who was to become the King Harold killed at Hastings in 1066) in the County of Ponthieu, in 1064 or 1065. This led to Harold’s enforced stay at William of Normandy’s court, and to the fateful oath of allegiance which William extracted from him there, and which Harold allegedly broke by taking the English throne (according to the version of events subsequently promulgated by the Normans).29 It has been suggested that the reason why Harold found himself in Ponthieu in the first place was because he was a victim of wrecking – taken hostage after his ship got into trouble off the coast;30 and that this is perhaps why the Song of the Battle of Hastings puts such strange emphasis on the ‘frequent hospitality to seafarers’ shown by the people of this neighbourhood (the word ‘hospitality’ here being used only with heavy sarcasm).31 The idea of wrecking by use of false lights, to which the Oxford English Dictionary gives rather prominent place, seems to be little more than a myth, but it is a myth of very long standing. There is no evidence that wrecking by use of false lights ever occurred, as Pearce emphatically Record’ column: ‘In the article below we described those who salvaged cargo from the grounded MSC Napoli as “wreckers”. Wreckers lured vessels ashore before murdering their crews and plundering the cargo; clearly not the case here.’) 28 Cathryn J. Pearce, Cornish Wrecking, 1700–1860: Reality and Popular Myth (Woodbridge, 2010), 56. Pearce adds: ‘The king, as well as merchants, and the holders of liberty of wreck all had trouble with country people who believed that they had customary rights over the shipwrecked goods that they found.’ 29 These events are depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry: The Bayeux Tapestry, ed. Lucien Musset, trans. Richard Rex (Woodbridge, 2005), scenes 4–7, pp. 98–104. 30 Pearce, Cornish Wrecking, 44; Musset, 104. 31 The ‘Carmen de Hastingae Proelio’ of Guy Bishop of Amiens, ed. and trans. Frank Barlow, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford, 1999), lines 50–51. See also Chrétien de Troyes, Lancelot: Le Chevalier de la Charrette, lines 6074–75, ed. and trans. Charles Méla, Lettres gothiques 4527 (Paris, 1992): ‘Me fera pis que li jaianz, / Se j’avoie esté perilliez’, where some manuscripts read ‘li lagans’ instead of ‘li jaianz’ (‘He would treat me worse than the law of salvage [li lagans], if I had been shipwrecked’); and Lawrence of Durham, Dialogues, III.187–90, ed. James Raine, Dialogi Laurentii Dunelmensis Monachi ac Prioris, Surtees Society 70 (Durham, 1880), 37: ‘Nec mora; nos in aquis a littore turba natantes / Cernens, adductis navibus inde rapit. / Talibus erepti solidam minus æquore terram / Sensimus, et sævos plus Aquilone viros’ (trans. A. G. Rigg, in ‘Lawrence of Durham: Dialogues and Easter Poem: A Verse Translation’, Journal of Medieval Latin 7 [1997]: 42–126 [78]: ‘A crowd on shore soon saw us as we swam / And brought out boats and pulled us from the sea. / But saved by such, we felt the land less firm /Than sea, the men more cruel than the gale’).

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Neil Cartlidge argues, but it was nevertheless enshrined in national consciousness by its recognition in a parliamentary act of 1753 (which meant, in effect, that even if it was a myth, it was one that was given official credence). However, there is no doubt that ‘wrecking’ more generally has a long history. In particular, there is considerable evidence going back to the Middle Ages of anxiety about the possibility that country-folk were sometimes very careful to make sure that wrecks had no living survivors. This was because ‘dead wrecks’, as they were called, had a different legal status from live ones, which made it much easier for wreckers to claim rights of salvage. It has been suggested that the Statute of Westminster of 1275 inadvertently created an incentive to murder by stating that ‘where a man, a Dog or a Cat escape quick [i.e. alive] out of a ship, that [no] such Ship nor Barge, nor any Thing within them, shall be adjudged wreck’.32 Killing mariners in distress, or deliberately failing to save them, simply in order to make sure that the ship is ‘adjudged wreck’, would certainly be a shamefully callous crime, and from this perspective it is easy to see why England’s coastal communities might object so violently to any association with the term ‘wreckers’, especially in the south-west of England, to which accusations of wrecking have traditionally been closely attached (even though there is good evidence that wrecking activities of one kind or another took place all along the British coast – and in France too, for that matter). One of the reasons why incidents like the thefts from the Napoli have raised temperatures is because the British media gleefully took the opportunity to invoke all the most lurid stories ever told about ‘Cornish wreckers’. As Pearce observes, ‘the topic of wrecking is a sensitive issue, in that the Cornish wrecker stereotype has created strong emotions in the Cornish, who have felt unfairly slandered by their being typecast as evildoers who would rather see a ship wrecked than sailing safely by their shores’.33 So, to return to Sir Tristrem, what I think we might be looking at here is an early example of this particular slander against the Cornish, the people of Mark’s kingdom. What the text is suggesting is that Mark’s people are wreckers, and that, when Tristrem sails to Caerleon (which is actually in South Wales, of course, but in this text the seat of Mark’s court, so culturally Cornish by definition), they left Tristrem’s ship alone only because they happened to recognise him as one of them – sparing it from the ‘wrecking’ (the ‘wrake’), which the poet mischievously suggests the Cornish would be otherwise be only too willing to inflict. The lines in question perhaps need to be repunctuated: Now hat he Tristrem trewe And fareth over the flod. 32

3 Edw. I.c.4, cited and discussed by Pearce, Cornish Wrecking, 45–50. Cornish Wrecking, 3.

33 Pearce,

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Medieval Romance Mischief The schip the cuntré knewe: It thought hem ful gode, As thare Of wrake thai understode – For on thai leten him fare! (Sir Tristrem, lines 1303–09)

They could then be translated: Now he is called Tristram the true [again] and he travels across the sea. The people of the country [of Cornwall) recognised the ship: they were content to see it [i.e. they were not hostile towards it], for there they know all about wrecking – for once, they let the ship pass [unscathed]!

The implication is that, generally speaking, ships did not escape the attentions of the Cornishmen – that, one way or another, Mark’s people managed to make wrecks of many of the ships that passed near their coast. In the context of the narrative of Tristrem’s adventures this seems completely gratuitous, a racist jibe that hardly serves any obvious thematic function or helps progress the story in any way. Even if there were no Cornish people among the audiences that Sir Tristrem addressed (and at this date, when Cornish was still a living language, there were probably not many readers of Middle English romance who would have identified themselves primarily as Cornish), the reference to wrecking seems remarkably disagreeable. It is a jarring detail, and one, I think, that was deliberately intended to jar. As with Morgan’s loaf, it is a moment that forces a response from the reader. It emphasises that the telling of the story is unpredictable, and in this way emphasises the narrator’s control over it, as well as the need for his implied audience to stay awake and alert to whatever startling thing he might say next. It is moments like this that I have in mind when I suggest that the authors of medieval romance sometimes deliberately cause ‘mischief’. I make no claim that all romances are provocative in this way nor that any of them are provocative all the time, but I do think that the emphases of twentieth-century romance scholarship have conditioned us to underestimate the amount of ‘mischief’ that exists within such texts, and to undervalue precisely those texts in which it occurs most. In the case of Sir Tristrem, it would be hard to overstate just how undervalued it has been. By far the most common response to this text is one of more or less horrified disappointment – as represented, for example, by Joseph Bédier who objected to its extreme brevity and its tormented style (‘son extrême brièveté … son style tourmenté’); by Helen Newstead, who saw it as ‘a much coarsened version of its subtle and moving original’; and by W. R. J. Barron, who called it ‘skeletal, uneven and frequently inept’.34 There have been a few 34

Bédier, Rumble and Newstead are cited by Lupack, in ‘Lancelot of the Laik’ and ‘Sir Tristrem’, 145–46; for Barron’s views, see Barron, English Medieval Romance, 154.

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Neil Cartlidge defiant attempts at discovering in it the kind of virtues traditionally thought appropriate to romance, such as Thomas Rumble’s insistence that Sir Tristrem is ‘a fresh retelling of a great story, presented simply and directly’ (in other words, pleasingly naive, just as Auerbach suggested romances ought to be), but these have been exceptional. More recently, it has been argued that Sir Tristrem is indeed a deliberately troublesome text, but only in the rather narrow sense that it should really be seen as a ‘parody’. As the poem’s most recent editor, Alan Lupack, puts it: ‘Sir Tristrem is not merely a poorly constructed abridgement of Thomas’s courtly version or a coarsened version for a less sophisticated English audience but rather a deliberate parody of the received version’.35 There is clearly at least some justification for labelling Sir Tristrem in this way: after all, this is the version of the Tristram story in which a dog licks up the dregs of the love potion consumed by Tristrem and Ysonde, with the result that the animal also falls in love with the lovers. This incident could certainly be read as a reductio ad absurdum of the love potion motif, and perhaps also of the ideal of courtly adultery for which it stands. Yet ‘parody’ as such is generally quite narrow in its purposes and effects: it tends to be concerned, above all, with style, and to be quite specific about its targets. As defined by the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms, parody is ‘a mocking imitation of the style of a literary work or works, ridiculing the stylistic habits of an author or school by exaggerated mimicry’.36 There are plenty of examples in medieval literature of texts that fit this description quite comfortably,37 but Sir Tristrem is much more complex in effect and much more unpredictable in tone than any of them. Even when the romance of Sir Tristrem is at its most startlingly odd – as, for example, in the notorious incident in which the hero accidentally poisons himself by putting a dragon’s tongue ‘In his hose next the hide’ (‘inside his leggings, next to his skin’)38 – even then, it is not at all clear who or what exactly is being mimicked or mocked, and the discomfort the text creates surely goes way beyond matters of ‘style’. See also Jane Gilbert’s remark that ‘according to much modern critical opinion, Sir Tristrem typifies the worst aspects of Middle English romance’, in ‘Gender, Oaths and Ambiguity in Sir Tristrem and Béroul’s Roman de Tristan’, in The Spirit, ed. Gilbert and Putter, 237–57 (237). She herself rejects this assessment of the text, and the general thrust of her argument is similar to mine. 35 Lupack, ‘Lancelot of the Laik’ and ‘Sir Tristrem’, 147–52; see also Michael Swanton, English Poetry before Chaucer, Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies (Exeter, 2002), 222. Gilbert rejects this suggestion out of hand: ‘I disagree with Lupack’s argument’ (‘Gender, Oaths’, 253 n.1). 36 Chris Baldick, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms (Oxford, 1990), 161. 37 The classic study is by Paul Lehmann, Die Parodie im Mittelalter (1922; repr. Stuttgart, 1963); see also, more recently, Martha Bayless, Parody in the Middle Ages: The Latin Tradition, Recentiores: Later Latin Texts and Contexts (Ann Arbor, MI, 1996). 38 Sir Tristrem, ed. Lupack, line 1486.

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Medieval Romance Mischief This reading of Sir Tristrem is still further complicated by the text’s relationship with Chaucer’s Sir Thopas, which is certainly a parody by almost any definition, including that of the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. It is generally assumed that what Sir Thopas was designed to parody was popular medieval romance of the type that is represented in the Auchinleck manuscript, and indeed it has even been argued that Chaucer knew this book and that it was particularly its contents that he had in mind when writing Sir Thopas.39 Joanne Charbonneau’s entry for Sir Thopas in the new Chaucer Sources and Analogues volume in fact makes no mention of Sir Tristrem (even though it is one of the Auchinleck texts), but this, I think, is mainly because Charbonneau concentrates specifically on shared formulae (on the particular phrasings that Sir Thopas seems to share with other texts, that is), rather than generally similar effects.40 John Burrow has pointed out that Sir Thopas seems to resemble Sir Tristrem in some aspects of its metre;41 but it would be difficult in any case not to think of Sir Tristrem when reading Sir Thopas, if only because of the precedent it sets for the fantastic extravagance of the hero’s adventures. For example, Sir Tristrem at one point succeeds in killing no fewer than three giants (with remarkable conciseness) in a single metrical line, while Sir Thopas matches this by fighting the terrifying giant Sir Olifaunt, who (even more concisely) has three heads: Spaine he hath thurchsayn; Geauntes he slough thre.42

searched through Giants; slew

For nedes moste he [Thopas] fighte With a geaunt with hevedes three…43

Sir Thopas’s fight with Sir Olifaunt is certainly ludicrous (the giant throws stones at him and then he runs away), but not a great deal more ludicrous, say, than Sir Tristrem’s fight with the giant Beliagog (which ends with Tristrem cutting off Beliagog’s foot, only for Beliagog to reappear later in the text furnished with a wooden leg). To put it bluntly: if Sir Tristrem really is as ‘bad’ as it was once generally assumed to be (in the sense of being ill-judged, 39 On

Chaucer’s relationship with the Auchinleck MS, see Laura Hibbard Loomis, ‘Chaucer and the Auchinleck Manuscript: Thopas and Guy of Warwick’, in Essays and Studies in Honor of Carleton Brown (New York, NY, 1940), 131–49, and Loomis, ‘Chaucer and the Breton Lays of the Auchinleck Manuscript’, Studies in Philology 38 (1941): 14–33. 40 Joanne A. Charbonneau, Sir Thopas, in Sources and Analogues of the ‘Canterbury Tales’, ed. Robert M. Correale with Mary Hamel, 2 vols, Chaucer Studies 35 (Cambridge, 2003–2005; repr. 2009), II.649–714. 41 J. A. Burrow, in his introductory to the explanatory notes on Sir Thopas in The Riverside Chaucer, 917. 42 Sir Tristrem, lines 2628–29. 43 Sir Thopas, VII.841–42.

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Neil Cartlidge garbled and/or inept), then it must surely be one of the romances that most deserved to be sent up so adroitly by Chaucer in Sir Thopas. However, if Sir Tristrem is itself already a parody, already deliberately ridiculous in certain ways, then how can Sir Thopas be a parody of Sir Tristrem? Is it really possible that Chaucer was so insensitive a reader as to go to the trouble of parodying a text that he failed to recognise was a parody already? The answer to this question perhaps lies in broadening the critical vocabulary that is used in relation to romances of this type. This is why the terms I have used throughout this essay are rather looser and more suggestive than ‘parody’: terms like ‘discomfort’, ‘provocation’ and ‘mischief’. What I am suggesting, in effect, is that Sir Thopas is not so much an anti-Tristrem, as a super-Tristrem. It is not an attempt to undo Sir Tristrem by hostile parody, but rather an attempt to outdo it by sympathetically re-enacting its discomforts and dissonances in an even more concentrated form. This is not to say that Sir Thopas is not a parody at all – it clearly targets the stylistic mannerisms of Middle English romance with a precision that makes that undeniable – but it leaves open the possibility that Chaucer’s understanding of the workings and expectations of ‘popular’ romance went rather deeper than has generally been allowed. The attraction of this theory is that it makes Chaucer much less of a snob: much less the educated man mocking the crude entertainments enjoyed by the masses, and more someone who had experienced the discomforts that romance sometimes cultivates, and who (as a result) recognised the possibilities for comedy inherent within them. Take, for example, Chaucer’s suggestion that Thopas’s complexion was so beautifully pale as to be as white like ‘payndemain’, the very best-quality white bread.44 The comparison is obviously hyperbolic, and to that extent it could certainly be read as a ‘parodic’ commentary on the stylistic extravagance of romance; but it is not just its extravagance that makes this comparison seem so strained. What is particularly striking about it is its sheer inappropriateness: that is, even if it could be taken as read that pale faces are necessarily the prettiest kind, the fact remains that no one would want to have a face that also looks like bread in other ways (such as being crumbly, doughy or spongy). To put it more technically, the vehicle of the simile is distractingly incongruous with its tenor. This is a trick for which there are several precedents in Middle English romance, as for example when Sir Tristrem is fighting the dragon (the one with the poisonous tongue). There we are told that the dragon’s hide was so tough that Tristrem’s spear was not worth a button.45 The haberdashery 44

Sir Thopas, VII.724–26: ‘Sir Thopas wax a doghty swayn / Whit was his face as payndemayn, / His lippes rede as rose.’ On ‘payndemain’ relative to other types of bread, see P. W. Hammond, Food and Feast in Medieval England (Stroud, 1998), 48. 45 Sir Tristrem, lines 1446–50: ‘With a spere feloun / He smot him in the side. / It no vailed o botoun; / Oway it gan to glide, / His dent.’

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Medieval Romance Mischief connotations of the image are certainly incongruous here (especially in relation to a spear), but it is difficult to know quite how deliberate this particular incongruity is, since the phrase occurs several times elsewhere in the Auchinleck manuscript as well – though usually only in relation to the inadequacy of shields or armour, rather than spears.46 To find a parallel that really matches the sheer inventiveness and extravagance of the comparison of Thopas’s face like ‘payndemayn’, we need to look outside the Auchinleck romances, and outside Middle English romance altogether, to a romance in insular French, Fergus of Galloway. Here the protagonist Fergus is at one point said to have a complexion so beautiful that it is like ‘fine crystal’,47 which implies a degree of angularity and translucency that would certainly be rather surprising in a face. However, Fergus’s face is also said to be radiant – so very radiant indeed that, as the poem’s author puts it, ‘you might have expected him to light up the district and the entire country’ (which makes him sound like a kind of one-man Super Trouper).48 Fergus’s beauty does not stop there. Later in the text, we get to overhear the thoughts of a young lady who is in love with Fergus, and she tells us that Fergus is so extremely handsome that La face a tote encoloree Com s’ele fust enluminee Et tant com s’il vausist laver Sa face en iaue u en mer cler, Que s’aucuns aprés se lavoit Que tos enluminés estoit. (His face’s colouring is such that it might have been painted, to the extent that if he chose to wash his face in a river or the clear sea and anyone washed after him, he too [would be] quite coloured.)49

This is a comparison that makes Fergus’s face resemble some kind of industrial accident, leaking pollutant into the local water supply. Both of these comparisons surely rank with Sir Thopas’s bread-like complexion, if only for the loudness of the discords that they create. It will perhaps come as no surprise that critical approaches to the Roman de Fergus have taken much the same trajectory as critical approaches to Sir 46

See also The Romance of Guy of Warwick, ed. Julius Zupitza, EETS e.s. 42, 49, 59 (London, 1883–91; repr. as one vol., 1966), Auchinleck MS, lines 2215–16: ‘Heteliche to him smot Gyoun; / His scheld nas nouȝt worþ a botoun’. 47 Guillaume le Clerc: The Romance of Fergus, ed. Wilson Frescoln (Philadelphia, PA, 1983), lines 1245–46: ‘fu molt bials, / Sa colors sanbloit fins cristals’; trans. D. D. R. Owen, Guillaume le Clerc: Fergus of Galloway: Knight of King Arthur (London, 1991), 21. 48 Romance of Fergus, ed. Frescoln, lines 1247–49: ‘Tant resplendist avis vos fust / Que il enluminer deüst / Tot le païs et la contree’; trans. Owen, Fergus, 21. 49 Romance of Fergus, ed. Frescoln, lines 5691–96, trans. Owen, Fergus, 91–92.

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Neil Cartlidge Tristrem. Until relatively recently, Fergus was seen as derivative and insignificant, even described by one critic as ‘one of the feeblest specimens of its genre’,50 but a concerted attempt at rescuing it was made by its recent translator, D. D. R. Owen, who attempted to rehabilitate it by presenting it as an essentially ‘parodic’ work.51 As it happens, Lupack attempts to justify his reading of Sir Tristrem as a parody by comparing it not just with Sir Thopas, but also with Fergus. This has the disadvantage of trying to confirm a reading of one difficult and controversial text by comparing it with another almost equally difficult and controversial text. Again, though, it is the word ‘parody’ that makes me uneasy in this context. It would be difficult to deny that Fergus contains some elements that certainly do seem parodic. For example, there is a scene in which we overhear a lovesick maiden (the same lovesick maiden mentioned above) delivering a passionately self-questioning soliloquy very much in the high courtly style of Chrétien de Troyes or Thomas of Britain,52 but her reasoning turns out to be ridiculously abstruse, even by the standards of courtly rhetoric: Et que ai je donques a faire Ne de lui ne de s’amistié? Me doit il prendre covoitié, De la grant biauté que il a? Demain quant de ci partira Sa biautés ne remainra mie; Ançois li fera compaignie, Et ce a moi qu’en apertient. Jo li vel tolir, se devient, Sa biauté et son hardiment. Non ferai ja […] (What business, then, do I have with either him or his affections? Should I lust after his great physical beauty? Tomorrow when he leaves here his beauty won’t stay behind, but will keep him company. And what has that to do with me? Perhaps I’d like to rob him of his beauty and courage? That I’ll never do ….)53

Unable to sleep, she tosses and turns in bed – so violently that eventually she overturns the bed on top of herself: 50

James Douglas Bruce, The Evolution of Arthurian Romance, 2 vols (Baltimore, MD, 1923; repr. Geneva, 1974), II.242. 51 Owen, Fergus, i–xiv. 52 See also Le Roman d’Enéas, ed. Aimé Petit, Lettres gothiques (Paris, 1997), lines 8145–388; Thomas, Tristran, ed. Gregory, lines 52–235, 463–641; Chrétien de Troyes, Cligés, line 475–523, ed. W. Foerster, Romanische Bibliothek 1 (Halle, 1921); and for further discussion, Neil Cartlidge, ‘Masters in the Art of Lying? The Literary Relationship between Hugh of Rhuddlan and Walter Map’, Modern Language Review 106 (2011): 1–16 (3–4). 53 Romance of Fergus, ed. Frescoln, lines 1858–68, trans. Owen, Fergus, 31.

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Medieval Romance Mischief Ensi la pucele travaille: Primes senglout et puis baaille; Dejete soi et puis tresaut. A poi que li cuers ne li faut. Une eure dist, l’autre desdit; Une eure pleure, l’autre rit. Puis torne son lit a rebors; Itel sont li cembiel d’amors. (Such is the maiden’s suffering. First she sobs, then she yawns; she tosses and turns, then gives a start and almost loses consciousness. At one moment she says something, at the next denies it, now weeping, now laughing. Then she turns her bed upside down, so violent are the joustings of love.)54

All of this seems obviously and undeniably parodic, a direct send-up of the stylistic mannerisms of high courtly romance, but just like Sir Tristrem, Fergus is only parodic in bursts: its tone is complex, shifting and unpredictable, and it is never so consistently absurd that the narrative itself is overwhelmed. Again what we are looking at, I think, is the tactical use of what is perhaps more safely described as ‘mischief’, rather than outright parody.55 What is perhaps most provocative about Fergus of Galloway, like Sir Tristrem, is the sheer inconsistency of its tone, the way in which the reader is made uncomfortable not so much by the existence of jokes at the expense of romance, as by the uncertainty of not knowing at any given moment whether the poet is joking or not. At the same time, it should perhaps be emphasised that while texts like Sir Tristrem and Fergus of Galloway are obviously much more determinedly mischievous than most medieval romances, they are not wholly isolated erratics, with no implications at all for how we read romances more generally. Indeed, one of the arguments for rethinking some of the more obviously unruly texts in the romance corpus is that doing so helps to sensitise us to what could be described as romance unrulinesses even of a more modest kind. An example of this more modest unruliness is provided by Lybeaus Desconus, one of the romance texts that Chaucer explicitly names in Sir Thopas.56 Here a character called William appears at one point as one of the hero’s assailants, but, as the poet explains, Lybeus anone ryght Deffended him with myght, 54

Romance of Fergus, ed. Frescoln, lines 1871–78, trans. Owen, Fergus, 31. Tony Hunt, ‘The Roman de Fergus: Parody or Pastiche?’, in The Scots and Medieval Arthurian Legend, ed. Rhiannon Purdie and Nicola Royan, Arthurian Studies 61 (Cambridge, 2005), 55–69. Hunt argues that Fergus is ‘first and foremost a literary game, that is, a work of pastiche rather than parody’ (58). 56 Sir Thopas, VII.900. 55 Cf.

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Neil Cartlidge As werreor queynte and slygh; Barbe and crest in syght He made to fle downe ryght Off William’s helme on highe; And with the poynte of the swerde He shove Williams berde And came the flesshe not nyghe.57

In other words, the bearded William has a close shave, quite literally. More subtly, there is surely a joke here on the word ‘barbe’, which is related to the Old French word for ‘beard’, but which also means a piece of cloth used to decorate a hat or a helmet. Having removed William’s ‘barbe’ in one sense of the word, Lybeaus now rather neatly removes it in the other.58 This nice little irony is not something that the EETS editor of the poem points out, even though he otherwise has quite a lot to say about the text’s ‘weakness for loose and flabby writing’, its tendency to use phrasal patterns and narrative devices ‘with a singular disregard for their aptness to context’, and its determination to meet the demands of the rhyme-scheme ‘at whatever cost to stylishness and sense’.59 From a perspective like this, the suggestion that William received a kind of barber treatment is presumably just crude and silly, a misplaced effort at comic-book-style humour in a text that really ought to be taking a much more responsible and deferential attitude to the archetypes from which it derives. William’s close shave might be mildly amusing, but shaving beards (even accidentally) is not very heroic, by definition, and the whole business is to the detriment of Lybeaus’s dignity as much as to William’s. However, it could well have been the case that the Lybeaus-poet was consciously working within what he might have regarded as an established literary tradition that actually allowed and encouraged such indignities. Far from doing anything inappropriate, he was perhaps pointedly demonstrating his understanding of romance’s proprieties, his literacy in the conventions of the genre. What he provides here, in effect, is a Middle English hair-joke to match, say, the one we find in Fergus of Galloway. There the hero also delivers a close shave, but this time cutting away the hair at the back of his opponent’s neck – and then, as is customary in this text, deliberately adding insult to injury: Orendroit resanblés Fortune, Qui ens el front est chavelue, El haterel deriere nue. Jo avoie tos jors apris 57

Lybeaus Desconus, ed. Maldwyn Mills, EETS o.s. 261 (London, 1969), lines 369–77. Middle English, ‘to make someone’s beard’ is to outwit or fool them (see also Chaucer’s Reeve’s Tale, I.4096), and there is perhaps at least a resonance of that idiom here. 59 Mills, ed., Lybeaus, 65. 58 In

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Medieval Romance Mischief Que on fust chaut devers le vis, Et vos l’estes par de deriere. (‘Now you look like Fortune,’ he says, ‘who has hair on the front of her head but is bald at the back. I’d always understood that people were hairless on the face side: but you’re bald behind!’)60

In comparison with Fergus of Galloway, Sir Lybeaus is actually relatively restrained, a joke that is knowing, controlled, and in its way quietly witty – an elegant riff on the possibilities that texts like Fergus open up. By the same token it is not particularly bold or inventive, as Fergus surely is, but that is probably not what the author of Sir Lybeaus was trying to achieve. Yet even to reach a perspective from which a text like Sir Lybeaus looks even momentarily ‘controlled’ or ‘elegant’ is obviously at some considerable remove from the view that it is the epitome of ‘loose and flabby writing’. My point here is not that there is necessarily any close relationship between Fergus of Galloway and Lybeaus Desconus. What I have tried show is that even apparently ‘parodic’ or ‘semi-parodic’ texts like Fergus and Sir Tristrem still inhabit the same broad field of possibilities as other romance texts; and that recognising the expectations created by such texts is one way to deepen our appreciation of vernacular romances generally, and particularly of those aspects of romances that have seemed almost inexplicably odd and indecorous. If anything, it is the term ‘parody’ that is in this context particularly problematic. Indeed, it could even be argued that there are special dangers in using Sir Thopas as a guide to understanding the tonal range of Middle English popular romance, if only in the sense that it would seem to encourage the idea that wit and deliberate dissonance exist in medieval romance only to the extent that Chaucer chose to put them there. The incongruities and extravagances of Sir Thopas could just as well be seen as a particularly flamboyant development of possibilities for provocation that at least some medieval romancers had already pioneered. The particular reinterpretations of Sir Tristrem that I have suggested may or may not convince – but, in either case, I hope I have shown that medieval romances do ask to be read closely, and that, if they are, then we might well discover in them precisely those subtleties of tone and effect that we have long been conditioned not to expect.

60

Romance of Fergus, ed. Frescoln, lines 3042–47, trans. Owen, Fergus, 49. Cf. Hunt, 64.

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2 Rewriting Chivalric Encounters: Cultural Anxieties and Social Critique in the Fourteenth Century M A RCEL ELI AS

O

ne of the many contributions of Helen Cooper’s monumental study of romance motifs across the high and later Middle Ages and the Renaissance resides in its extensive substantiation of the purposeful engagement of individual adaptors or translators with the earlier material they rewrote. By considering such processes of (both same-language and different-language) reworking alongside the sophisticated appropriations of the great Elizabethan writers, The English Romance in Time posits the importance of ascribing active authorial status to the anonymous adaptors of medieval romance. Cooper’s model of synchronic and diachronic differences in the usage and interpretation of motifs within and across time illuminates authorial agendas and cultural change on a broad chronological scale, but can also be applied to more restricted generic and historical developments.1 In this vein, this essay maps the development of three motifs which rose to unprecedented prominence in the composition and adaptation of fourteenth-century Middle English romances: those of the hostile challenger, the noble Saracen, and the ambivalent hero. These reworked motifs, I argue, contributed to the expression of some of the most important topical anxieties of the time: the alarming advance of the Ottoman Turks in Europe, Christendom’s failure to establish hegemony in the East, and the corruption of chivalric ideals. ‘þer com a sarazin ful of rage’ The rise in currency of the hostile challenger motif, while finding ultimate aesthetic fulfilment in the late fourteenth-century Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, is reflected prior to that in the selection of Old French and AngloNorman chansons de geste which the adaptors of Middle English romance 1

Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2004), 22.

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Marcel Elias chose to appropriate.2 Notwithstanding its potential deficiencies, the extant manuscript evidence is compelling: of the nine Charlemagne verse romances in English to have reached us, six revolve around the figures of Saracen warriors – Otuel and his counterpart Ferumbras in the Otinel and Fierabras traditions – who travel to Charlemagne’s court and threaten Christendom with martial annihilation.3 The motif’s cultural and generic purchase is corroborated by the translational procedures operative in its transition from chanson de geste to romance form. For instance, in The Sultan of Babylon, which conflates La Destruction de Rome and Fierabras, the menace posed by the Saracen army accompanying Ferumbras is augmented both numerically (30,000 as opposed to 20,000 in Fierabras) and racially (in terms of its rather fantastical composition of Turks, Phrygians, Indians, Ethiopians, Macedonians, Venetians, etc.).4 Even more striking is Sir Ferumbras, which, building upon the potential of the Vulgate Fierabras, repeatedly heightens the eponymous Saracen’s hostility, wrath, and homicidal intentions, as well as his chivalric ‘los’, fame’, and ‘grete name’.5 Similarly, Otuel and Duke 2

For a reading of Sir Gawain in the Green Knight in light of the resemblances the Green Knight bears to the hostile challengers of the Charlemagne romances, see Phillipa Hardman, ‘Dear Enemies: The Motif of the Converted Saracen and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, Reading Medieval Studies 25 (1999): 59–74. 3 Fierabras and Otinel each gave rise to three independent translations/adaptations: Firumbras; Sir Ferumbras; The Sultan of Babylon; Otuel; Otuel and Roland; and Duke Roland and Sir Otuel of Spain. I will refer to the following editions: ‘Firumbras’ and ‘Otuel and Roland’, ed. Mary Isabelle O’Sullivan, EETS o.s. 198 (London, 1935); Sir Ferumbras, ed. Sidney J. H. Herrtage, EETS e.s. 34 (London, 1879; repr. 1903 and 1966); The Sultan of Babylon, in Three Middle English Charlemagne Romances, ed. Alan Lupack, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 1990); ‘The Sege off Melayne’ and ‘The Romance of Duke Rowland and Sir Otuell of Spayne’, Together with a Fragment of ‘The Song of Roland’, ed. Sidney J. H. Herrtage, EETS e.s. 35 (London, 1880; repr. 1931); ‘The Tale of Rauf Coilyear’ with the Fragments of ‘Roland and Vernagu’ and ‘Otuel’, ed. Sidney J. H. Herrtage, EETS e.s. 39 (London, 1882; repr. 1931 and 1969). 4 The Sultan of Babylon, lines 1035–42; Louis Brandin, ed., ‘La Destruction de Rome et Fierabras, MS Egerton 3028, Musée Britannique’, Romania 64 (1938): 18–100 (55), lines 32–34. The Sultan of Babylon and the Anglo-Norman Egerton La Destruction de Rome and Fierabras are believed to share a common source now lost. See Marianne Ailes, ‘A Comparative Study of the Medieval French and English Verse Texts of the Fierabras Legend’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Reading, 1989), 270–77. 5 For a summary of the relationship between the English and French renderings of Fierabras, see Marianne Ailes, ‘Comprehension Problems and their Resolution in the Middle English Verse Translations of Fierabras’, Forum for Modern Language Studies 35/4 (1999): 396–407 (396–97). Sir Ferumbras is the closest of the three Middle English versions to the original Old French chanson, the ‘Vulgate’, published as Fierabras: chanson de geste du XIIe siècle, ed. Marc Le Person, Classiques français du Moyen Age 142 (Paris, 2003); it also bears affinities with the late fifteenth-century prose version of Bagnyon, with which it shares a common, no longer extant source. See Jehan Bagnyon, L’Histoire de Charlemagne: parfois dite ‘Roman de Fierabras’, ed.

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Rewriting Chivalric Encounters Roland and Sir Otuel of Spain elaborate substantially on their sources to foreground Otuel’s fear-inspiring stance.6 This tendency towards amplification was integral to late medieval western society’s ‘dream of conversion’: when both title characters ultimately relinquish Islam for Christianity, their enhanced aggressiveness and thirst for destruction come to be assimilated and profitably redirected against the Saracen forces.7 Within this translational framework, the romance of Otuel deserves special mention, for it prefaces the eponymous Saracen’s arrival with five stanzas of mostly interpolated material, designed to both intensify the audience’s anticipation and prefigure the narrative’s resolution.8 In this opening passage, Garsile is cast as a lord of unrivalled might – ‘In his time non suych þer nas’ (22) – at the head of a monolithic force of ‘heþene kinges’, committed to the single (and insistently reiterated) goal of ‘Al cristendom … to maken heþennesse’ (41–2).9 By mobilising a rhetoric of global ‘heathenisation’, the adaptor raises the stakes for Otuel’s subsequent challenge, situating it from the outset within the context of a universal conflict ‘bitwene Cristene men & sarrazins kene’ (5–6), while also signalling the urgent necessity of response through an equally aggressive agenda of ‘Christianisation’. Otuel thus enters the scene as both the cause of and potential solution to Christendom’s predicaments, for, as the embodiment of Islam’s expansionist threat, he also represents the means by which it can be neutralised. The widespread identification of Charlemagne and his peers as protocrusaders in contemporary crusade treatises, sermons, and chronicles offers precious insight into the historical context in which the motif would have been interpreted, reworked, and read.10 While both defensive and

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7 8 9 10

Hans-Erich Keller, Textes littéraires français 413 (Geneva, 1992). For instances of the above-mentioned amplifications, see Sir Ferumbras, lines 54–55, 59–62, 81, 94–109, 122–23, 363, 379. On this, see Marcel Elias, ‘Mixed Feelings in the Middle English Charlemagne Romances’, New Medieval Literatures 16 (2016): 172–212 (189–91). The three Middle English Otuel romances are ultimately based on the Anglo-Norman Otinel, found in Cologny-Geneva, Bodmer Library MS 168, which in turn derives from the Old French version, preserved in Vatican City, Vatican Library reginenses latini MS 1616. I am grateful to Diane Speed for sharing her transcription of the Anglo-Norman text, unedited as yet; the Old French chanson was published in Les Anciens poètes de la France, ed. François Guessard and Henri Victor Michelant, 10 vols (Paris, 1858–70), I.1–91. The phrase ‘dream of conversion’ is taken from John V. Tolan, Sons of Ishmael: Muslims through European Eyes in the Middle Ages (Gainesville, FL, 2008), 66–67. Otuel, lines 1–54; Otinel, ed. Guessard and Michelant, lines 1–19. See also lines 31–32: ‘Niȝt & day it was his þout, / To bring cristendom to nout’; and 47–48: ‘& alle þei were togidere sworn, / þat cristendom scholde be lorn’. See, e.g., Keith Walls, John Bromyard on Church and State: The ‘Summa Predicantium’ and Early Fourteenth-century England (Market Weighton, 2007), 242; Roger Stanegrave, Li charboclois d’armes du conquest precious de la Terre Sainte de promission, in Projets de croisade (v. 1290–v. 1330), ed. Jacques Paviot (Paris, 2008),

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Marcel Elias offensive crusading efforts conventionally found justification in a rationale of ‘Christendom in danger’, the threat to Christian Europe itself posed by the advance of the Ottoman Turks during the fourteenth century invested the figure of the hostile Saracen challenger with acute political relevance. Turkish conquests in the Balkans multiplied dramatically between the 1350s and 1390s, culminating in the major crusading defeat of Kosovo (1389), the aftermath of which allegedly saw Sultan Bayezid I asserting his intentions to invade Rome and then France.11 The associated climate of peril is eloquently conveyed by the anonymous author of the Middle English sermon ‘De Sancta Maria’, dated c. 1380: ‘þe lordeshippes of hethen men groweþ vpward and in-creseþ; for seuerly oure Cristen prynces with-in þis xl ȝere and lasse haþ lost more þan þe þirde parte of Cristendom’.12 Christian efforts to muster an international army to halt Turkish progress finally materialised in the Nicopolis Crusade of 1396, which, however, went down in history as one of the movement’s most consequential failures. Bayezid’s crushing victory was itself interpreted in the light of Charlemagne’s endeavours in Spain, finding direct analogy, according to Philippe de Mézières and Jean Froissart, in Marsile’s triumph over the twelve peers at Ronçevaux.13 This association of contemporary crusading preoccupations with Charlemagne’s legendary expeditions contra Saracenos and their extensive literary offspring goes a long way in elucidating the success and generative potential of the Fierabras and Otinel stories, each rendering of which provided adaptors with substantial opportunities for creative rewriting. ‘A noble Saraȝene, men saide he was’ In an article adducing discourses of psychoanalysis and postcolonialism to examine the issue of race in late medieval France and England, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen writes of the Saracens of The Sultan of Babylon: ‘Embodying an alien, racialized physicality, these Saracens are typically described only in terms of their skin color …. Unintelligible in their customs, language, and vice, they worship senseless idols, torture prisoners, ride strange beasts, murder

386; and Philippe de Mézières, Letter to King Richard II: A Plea Made in 1395 for Peace between England and France, trans. G. W. Coopland (Liverpool, 1975), 70. 11 Jonathan Riley-Smith, The Crusades: A Short History (London, 1992), 228–29; J. J. N. Palmer, England, France and Christendom, 1377–99 (London, 1972), 183. 12 Middle English Sermons, ed. Woodburn O. Ross, EETS o.s. 209 (London, 1940), 255. 13 Philippe de Mézières, Une épistre lamentable et consolatoire: adressée en 1397 à Philippe le Hardi, duc de Bourgogne, sur la défaite de Nicopolis (1396), ed. Philippe Contamine and Jacques Paviot, Société de l’histoire de France 535, (Paris, 2008), 113; Jean Froissart, Chroniques de J. Froissart, ed. Siméon Luce, A. Mirot, L. Mirot, and G. Raynaud, 15 vols, Société de l’histoire de France (Paris, 1869–1975), XV.315–16.

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Rewriting Chivalric Encounters innocents.’14 Admittedly, the Saracens of the romance do have different skin colours, include giants, and are ascribed strange customs, namely the eating of serpents and drinking of animals’ blood.15 Yet far more pronounced and pervasive throughout the narrative are the poet’s gestures towards parallelism. The conventional features of transposition of Christian religious and chivalric practices to Saracens, spanning the chanson de geste tradition and documented by the seminal work of Paul Bancourt, find themselves aggregated and significantly supplemented here within a single romance.16 Both Christians and Saracens call upon their deities for help in battle and to inflict ‘myschaunce’ upon their enemy; the insults voiced by the Saracens mirror those of their Christian counterparts, as ‘hethen houndes’ turns into ‘Cristen houndes’, ‘Cristen dogges’, or ‘French dogges’; the authorial interjection ‘God him spede’ becomes ‘Mahounde him spede’; each party expresses the desire to convert members of the other; Christian and Saracen knights are favoured equally with adjectives such as ‘worthy’, ‘myghty’, and ‘doughty’; there is even a passage in which ‘Mahounde’ takes the soul of a fallen Saracen warrior and brings it ‘to his blis’ – which the adaptor explains by the fact that ‘He [Mahounde] loved him wel and al his kyn’.17 The accretion or accentuation of elements of analogy across the religious divide is striking. Yet similar patterns extend across most of the translated romance material featuring Christian–Saracen encounters.18 The Auchinleck Bevis of Hampton, for example, emphasises the courteousness, friendliness, and solicitude of a ‘gentil knight’ of Armenia, who assists the protagonist in finding his beloved, Josiane.19 Though more varied in its assessment of Saracens, Guy of Warwick augments the already noble attributes of the early thirteenth-century Gui de 14 Jeffrey

Jerome Cohen, ‘On Saracen Enjoyment: Some Fantasies of Race in Late Medieval France and England’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31/1 (2001): 113–46 (126). 15 See especially lines 995–1010, 2149, 2135, 2943–44. 16 On the religious parallelisms of chansons de geste, see Paul Bancourt, Les Musulmans dans les chansons de geste du Cycle du roi, 2 vols (Aix-en-Provence, 1982), I.341–417; and on the chivalric ones, see 278–340. 17 In the same order as above, lines: 754, 962, 2169–70, 2458; 164, 237, 935, 956, 1013, 1756; 1051–53, 1737; 1221–22, 1254; 49, 75, 136, 207, 979, 2163; 447–49. The Saracen’s salvation is rendered in the Egerton manuscript, but the quoted line is unique to The Sultan of Babylon. 18 As I have discussed elsewhere, the Middle English Charlemagne romances often heighten these noble attributes through a reconfiguration of the emotional rhetoric of the sources they derive from. See Elias, ‘Romance Adaptation, Emotional Interpolations, and Interfaith Empathy’, in Emotion and Medieval Textual Media, ed. Mary Flannery (Turnhout, forthcoming). 19 Bevis of Hampton, in Four Romances of England, ed. Ronald B. Herzman, Graham Drake, and Eve Salisbury, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 1997), 187–340 (lines 1985–2040); Der Anglonormannische ‘Boeve de Haumtone’, ed. Albert Stimming (Halle, 1899), laisse 117.

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Marcel Elias Warewic’s King Triamour, who thus becomes a lord ‘of gret honour, & man of michel mounde’.20 In the lead-up to their conversion, the eponymous Saracens of Sir Ferumbras and Otuel likewise benefit from interpolated qualifiers of valour and praise, which participate in bolstering their status both as redoubtable opponents and desirable allies.21 The adaptor of Duke Roland and Sir Otuel of Spain even goes as far as introducing altogether new characters into the text, including Sir Galyadose, who ‘was halden a noble knyghte’, and Sir Galias, also a ‘noble Saraȝene’, who fights for ‘þe lufe of his leman fayre of face’.22 What prompted such creative embellishments? While each individual instance merits contextual narrative consideration in its own right, the added prologue and modified opening scene of The Sultan of Babylon illuminate the providential premise for the phenomenon as a whole. The romance’s AngloNorman source frames its narrative using the conventional crusading rhetoric of injury and vengeance, focusing on the wrongs done to Christendom by Laban, ‘li soldan maleuré’; these injurious acts set the tone for what follows, providing solid moral grounds for retributive measures on the part of Charlemagne, ‘li fort coroné’.23 By contrast, The Sultan of Babylon stages the legitimate ‘vengeaunce’ inflicted by the ‘heathen’ sultan Laban on Christian Rome as a consequence of its sins against God: For yyfe man kepte Thy commaundemente In al thinge and loved The welle And hadde [ne] synnede in his entente, 20

The Romance of Guy of Warwick, ed. Julius Zupitza, EETS e.s. 42, 49, and 59 (London, 1883–91; repr. as one vol. 1966), 51.10–13; Gui de Warewic: Roman du XIIIe siècle, ed. Alfred Ewert, 2 vols, Classiques français du Moyen Age 74–75 (Paris, 1932–33), lines 7921–24. The Auchinleck MS (A) is the only complete fourteenth-century Middle English version. When A was adapted, there were two versions of the Anglo-Norman Gui in existence: see Maldwyn Mills, ‘Techniques of Translation in the Middle English Versions of Guy of Warwick’, in The Medieval Translator II, ed. Roger Ellis, Westfield Publications in Medieval Studies 5 (London, 1991), 209–29 (210–11). According to Mills, the first – and earliest – is best represented in the text of Edwardes MS (British Library MS Additional 38662; E, 1225–50); and the second appears in Cambridge Corpus Christi College MS 50 (C, end thirteenth century); and, in a more reworked form, in Wolfenbüttel Herzog August Bibliothek MS Aug. 87.4 (G, late thirteenth–early fourteenth century). While the resemblances (first noted by Mills) between the unpublished text of G and A ‘limit the relevance of many pronouncements on the relationship between the Anglo-Norman and Middle English texts’ (Ivana Djordjevic´, ‘Guy of Warwick as a Translation’, in Guy of Warwick: Icon and Ancestor, ed. Alison Wiggins and Rosalind Field, Studies in Medieval Romance 4 [Cambridge, 2007], 27–43 [42]), I rely on Mills’s assertion that the second half of A (Guy’s post-confessional life) bears far more likeness to E than G (215). 21 See, e.g., Sir Ferumbras, lines 121–23, 437; Otuel, lines 69, 88, 233, 324. 22 Duke Roland and Sir Otuel of Spain, lines 1069–74, 1093–95; Otinel, 40–41. 23 See La Destruction de Rome, in ‘La Destruction de Rome et Fierabras’, lines 12–32.

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Rewriting Chivalric Encounters Than shulde he fully Thy grace fele; But for the offences to God i-doon Many vengeaunces have befalle. Whereof I wole you telle of oon, It were to moch to telle of alle. While that Rome was in excellence Of all realmes in dignite, And howe it felle for his offence, Listinythe a while and ye shall see, Howe it was wonen and brente Of a Sowdon, that heathen was, And for synne how it was shente. (9–23)

Cast as a mirror image of Charlemagne, Laban ‘the kinge of hie degre’, attended by ‘kinges twelfe’ (surrogates of the ‘dozepeers’) and barons of whom ‘worthynesse al may not be told’, receives news of the unprovoked attack and pillage of Saracen ships by Roman troops: ‘The Romaynes robbed us anone; / Of us thai slowgh ful many one. / With sorwe and care we be bygone’ (91–92). As anticipated, the sultan’s response is one of legitimate vengeance. From the inception, the audience’s narrative perspective is thus altogether reversed, heralding an outlook in which space for self-criticism is accommodated alongside the more conventional strands of Christian heroism; and indeed, this reconfigured framework of interpretation is subsequently borne out by the adaptor’s repeated heightening, throughout the romance, of Christian political disunity and strife.24 While striking when it occurs in romances, this type of inversion is best understood in relation to historical accounts of crusading defeats, in which God’s wrath is posited as materialising through the hand of the enemy. Scholars focusing on earlier crusade literature and chronicles have ascribed a position of prominence to the figure of Saladin in the development and popularisation of such depictions.25 As documented by John Tolan, narratives of the capture of Jerusalem in 1187 and the Third Crusade variously cast Saladin as a scourge of the Lord or as a generous, valorous adversary. In time, these two images came to be conflated within single texts, converging in their ability to convey moral critique: Saladin’s victories were invoked by authors 24

See in particular lines 1091–106, in which the adaptor heightens the hostility of a dispute between Charlemagne and Roland, emphasising the dangers and harmful effects of anger; and lines 1727–36, which have Charlemagne, spurning all advice towards caution and restraint, sending all of his peers to Laban, a man who is known to slay the messengers of his foes. For the Anglo-Norman version, see Fierabras, in ‘La Destruction de Rome et Fierabras’, lines 60–85, 649–717. 25 See especially Tolan, Sons of Ishmael, 79–100; Margaret Jubb, ‘The Crusaders’ Perceptions of their Opponents’, in Palgrave Advances in the Crusades, ed. Helen J. Nicholson (Basingstoke, 2005), 225–44 (235–40).

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Marcel Elias to admonish Christian sinfulness and to emphasise the urgency of reform, while his emphatic virtuousness, often upstaging that of his opponents, increasingly served as a foil for Christian moral and chivalric shortcomings.26 In the aftermath of the succession of crusading failures that culminated in the fall of Acre in 1291, and against a backdrop of frustrated recovery efforts and further disappointing expeditions, this motif proliferated in fourteenthcentury treatises, travel accounts, pastoral literature, and chronicles. The underlying providential rationale is further elucidated by John of Bromyard’s Summa praedicantium, an influential guide for preachers, dated c. 1330–50: Saracens hold Muhammed in greater reverence than Christians do Christ, the author contends, thus explaining their victories in combat. Though censuring Islam’s deviations from Christianity, Bromyard bridges the religious divide in his discussion of personal conduct (genere morum) and the law of nature (lege natura): domains in which the Saracens are consistently described as having the upper hand.27 This line of reasoning, premised on the inclusiveness of morality across the religions, appears to have underpinned the increasingly widespread use of wise, virtuous Saracens as mouthpieces for self-criticism. As in The Sultan of Babylon, the presence of such figures often comes hand in hand with an evaluation of Christian sinfulness and political friction. Marino Sanudo’s Liber secretorum fidelium crucis (c. 1307–21) appeals to a discerning Saracen sultan to broach the problem of split leadership and dissension during past crusades; Roger Stanegrave, in a tract presented to Edward III around 1332, recounts a dialogue he claims to have had with a ‘sage’ Saracen, who chastises Christians for warring against each other instead of recovering Christ’s inheritance. The Book of John Mandeville similarly has the Sultan of Babylon accusing Christians of pride, covetousness, and in-fighting during an alleged conversation with the author: ‘And for her owen synnes … hath Cristen men lost al the lond the which that we holdeth, and for youre synnes hath your God gyve these londes to us, and noght thorgh oure streyngthe’.28 Islam’s position as victor in the struggle for religious hegemony was certainly perceived as deplorable, yet Christian belief that military outcomes were swayed by human sinfulness and virtue invested Saracens with a form of moral agency, which authors exploited to enjoin Christians to change their ways. The debacle of Nicopolis, roughly contemporary with The Sultan of Babylon’s estimated date of composition, 26 Tolan,

Sons of Ishmael, 66–67. John Bromyard, 203–13. 28 Marino Sanudo Torsello, The Book of the Secrets of the Faithful Cross: Liber secretorum fidelium crucis, trans. Peter Lock, Crusade Texts in Translation 21 (Farnham, 2011), 434; Roger Stanegrave, Li Charboclois d’armes, 330–33; The Book of John Mandeville, ed. Tamarah Kohanski and C. David Benson, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2007), lines 1300–18. 27 Walls,

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Rewriting Chivalric Encounters offered fecund ground for the motif’s full flowering at the end of the fourteenth century. Michel Pintoin’s account of the crusade presents Bayezid I as an instrument of divine vengeance, but also as a ‘vir providus et discretus’ (a prudent and wise man): qualities which show up the Christians’ indiscipline and much-decried temerity.29 In a similar vein, Honoré Bonet’s dream vision L’ Apparicion Maistre Jehan de Meun meditates on the crusaders’ defeat through the voice of one of Bayezid I’s victorious courtiers, who offers advice and moral enlightenment.30 The proliferation of virtuous Saracens in contemporary sources was thus inherently bound up with their ability to elicit an audience’s critical self-analysis: an authorial agenda that gained influence in proportion with the failed crusading efforts and defeats of the time. ‘was pite to byholde’ This escalation of denunciative attitudes towards the military strata in both England and France was not only fuelled by crusading reverses, but also by those of the Hundred Years War. In the case of England, Nigel Saul has convincingly argued that such criticism was at its highest in the last three decades of the fourteenth century, a period in which ‘the tide of fortune had turned decisively in favour of the French’.31 This tendency is reflected in the progressive formation, starting c. 1320 but crystallising around 1380–1400, of a significant corpus of Middle English romances concerned with questioning the values of chivalry and exploring the boundaries between proper and improper knightly conduct. Four blemishes on the chivalric ethos in particular seem to have captured the ideological interests of authors and adaptors: covetousness, pride, vainglory, and excessive violence or cruelty. The plot of the very popular Sir Isumbras hinges upon the protagonist’s lapse into a form of ‘pryde’ in ‘Worldes welthe’, followed by his ensuing atonement through suffering and divestment from self.32 Pride and covetise are similarly conflated in the admonishments of the ghost of The Awntyrs off Arthur, who identifies the latter specifically as the cause for King Arthur’s downfall.33 The didacticism of penitential romance frames Guy of Warwick’s rejection of the knightly motivation of heterosexual love, inextricably linked to vainglory 29 30 31 32 33

Chronique du religieux de Saint-Denys, ed. M. L. Bellaguet, 6 vols (Paris, 1839), II.488–91, 494–95, 498–99. Honoré Bonet [Bouvet], L’Apparicion Maistre Jehan de Meun, ed. Ivor Arnold (Paris, 1926). Nigel Saul, For Honour and Fame: Chivalry in England, 1066–1500 (London, 2011), 130. Sir Isumbras, in Six Middle English Romances, ed. Maldwyn Mills (London, 1973), lines 51, 58. The Awntyrs off Arthur, in Sir Gawain: Eleven Romances and Tales, ed. Thomas Hahn, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 1995), lines 265–66.

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Marcel Elias (a branch of pride) in numerous late medieval manuals of instruction.34 The Middle English Auchinleck version heightens the early thirteenth-century Gui de Warewic’s critique of the protagonist’s glory-seeking amorous ethics not through a reworking of his worldly career, but by prescriptively strengthening his piety, devotion to God, and rejection of material values in the narration of his post-confessional life.35 The moral perils of vainglory are likewise thrown into relief in The Awntyrs off Arthur, when Gawain questions the value of the idea that knights can ‘Wynnen worshipp in were thorgh wightnesse of hondes’ (264). The genre’s concern with military pride, leading to excessive temerity, is largely the prerogative of the Otuel romances, with Otuel and Roland and Duke Roland and Sir Otuel of Spain deviating from Otinel in rebuking Roland for his ‘pryde’, ‘boste’, and ‘folye’.36 Like Isumbras’s ‘pryde of golde and fee’ and Guy’s vainglory, Gowther’s unrestrained violence against his subjects in Sir Gowther finds rehabilitation through confession and penance.37 Yet if, as in Sir Gowther, the destructiveness of chivalry is on occasion directly raised by characters themselves and/or the narrative’s (penitential) trajectory,38 traces of ambivalence are more frequently encoded in the tone of the narration. In the absence of explicit authorial statements of reproof or assertions of remorse on the part of the depicted wrongdoers, the author’s position is less easily accessible, resulting in at times widely divergent scholarly interpretations of key texts. 34

See, e.g., Honoré Bonet, The Tree of Battles, ed. and trans. G. W. Coopland (Liverpool, 1949), 143–44; Geoffroy de La Tour Landry, The Book of the Knight of the Tower, trans. William Caxton, ed. M. Y. Offord, EETS s.s. 2 (London, 1971), 164; Christine de Pizan, Le livre des trois vertus, ed. Charity Cannon Willard, Bibliothèque du XVe siècle 50 (Paris, 1989), 116. 35 For instances of these elaborations, see Guy of Warwick, lines 22.11, 26.5, 29.9, 37.8–9, 84.8–9, 89.5–9, 197.5–6, 221.5–6, 25.2–3, 26.1–2, 27.11–12, 44.6, 47.10, 107.8. 36 Otuel and Roland, line 1056; Duke Roland and Sir Otuel of Spain, line 1049. For the corresponding passage, see lines 1108–11 of Guessard and Michelant’s edition. 37 Sir Gowther, in Six Middle English Romances, ed. Mills. However, whereas Sir Gowther elaborates extensively on the eponymous character’s sinful actions, Sir Isumbras is mainly concerned with the protagonist’s penitential life. Guy’s vainglory, as I argue elsewhere, is manifested in deeds of arms aiming to instrumentally garner the praise, love, and favours of chivalric peers and more powerful men, which in turn facilitate his social advancement. See Marcel Elias, ‘The Emotional Rhetoric of the Later Crusades: Romance in England after 1291’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Cambridge, 2017). 38 See also Guy of Warwick, lines 24.6–9, in which the protagonist’s worldly motivations provide grounds for a lament against the bloodshed of warfare: ‘þi loue me haþ so y-bounde, / þat neuer seþþen no ded y god, / Bot in wer schadde mannes blode / Wiþ mani a griseli wounde’; and the The Awntyrs off Arthur, lines 261–62, in which Gawain comments upon the devastation for which knights are responsible: ‘“How shal we fare”, quod the freke, “that fonden to fight, / And thus defoulen the folke on fele kinges londes”.’

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Rewriting Chivalric Encounters Modern criticism of the Alliterative Morte Arthure was for a long time divided (and still is, though in a more nuanced way) between understandings of the poem as a celebration of Arthur’s martial successes or, on the contrary, as an anti-war piece.39 The interpolated episodes of the siege of Metz and Arthur’s chevauchées through Lombardy and Tuscany, which elaborate on the devastation, misery, and woe of the victims, were instrumental in prompting scholars to question the hero’s unbridled ferocity and the brutality of his wars. Similarly, The Siege of Jerusalem has elicited contrasting responses, with critics variously decrying the poet’s relish in providing graphic descriptions of Roman violence or commenting on his compassionate portrayals of Jewish suffering.40 Completing the list of late medieval England’s most emphatically violent romances is Richard Coeur de Lion, whose substantial late fourteenthcentury interpolations are commonly viewed as integral to the celebratory, nationalistic, and religiously militant thrust of the narrative as a whole.41 Yet as in the Alliterative Morte Arthure and The Siege of Jerusalem, these interpolations dwell at uncommonly great length, and with distinct sympathy, on the affective distress and agony of Richard’s victims, in ways that strongly challenge their integration within a normative narrative of glorified violence.42 Indeed, one of the strongest signs of the ambivalence of these romances resides in the amount of narrative space they give to the voices of suffering 39

The interpretation of the Alliterative Morte Arthure as a condemnation of Arthur for his brutality and imperialistic warmongering was most fully introduced by William Matthews, The Tragedy of Arthur: A Study of the Alliterative ‘Morte Arthure’ (Berkeley, CA, 1960). All references are to King Arthur’s Death: The Middle English ‘Stanzaic Morte Arthur’ and ‘Alliterative Morte Arthure’, ed. Larry D. Benson and Edward E. Foster, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 1994). 40 Ralph Hanna III, for instance, remarked that ‘the poem is so offensive as to exist on the suppressed margins of critical attention’; see ‘Contextualizing The Siege of Jerusalem’, Yearbook of Langland Studies 6 (1992): 109–21 (109). Most recent scholarship has, however, tended to emphasize the romance’s ethical nuances. See, e.g., Elisa Narin Van Court, ‘The Siege of Jerusalem and Augustinian Historians: Writing about Jews in Fourteenth-Century England’, The Chaucer Review 29 (1995): 227–48; Suzanne M. Yeager, ‘The Siege of Jerusalem and Biblical Exegesis: Writing about Romans in Fourteenth-Century England’, The Chaucer Review 39 (2004): 70–102. All references are to The Siege of Jerusalem, ed. Ralph Hanna and David Lawton, EETS o.s. 320 (Oxford, 2003). 41 See, e.g., Suzanne M. Yeager, Jerusalem in Medieval Narrative, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 72 (Cambridge, 2008), 48–77; Suzanne Conklin Akbari, ‘The Hunger for National Identity in Richard Coeur de Lion’, in Reading Medieval Culture: Essays in Honor of Robert W. Hanning, ed. Robert M. Stein and Sandra Pierson Prior (Notre Dame, IN, 2005), 198–227; Alan S. Ambrisco, ‘Cannibalism and Cultural Encounters in Richard Coeur de Lion’, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 29 (1999): 499–528. 42 On this, see further Marcel Elias, ‘Violence, Excess, and the Composite Emotional Rhetoric of Richard Coeur de Lion’, Studies in Philology 114 (2017): 22–32.

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Marcel Elias enemies: passages which often come punctuated with empathic authorial pronouncements. The Siege of Jerusalem repeatedly interjects statements such as ‘was deil to byholde’ (645), ‘was pite to byholde’ (1247), or ‘were [tore] forto telle’ (1069) when evoking the fate of the Jews, while the Alliterative Morte Arthure describes the ‘pine of the pople’ of Metz as ‘pitee for to here’ (3043). The grievous suffering of the infanticidal Jewish mother Mary is rendered more poignant in The Siege of Jerusalem’s reworking of its sources;43 and the Alliterative Morte Arthure adds an episode (unparalleled in the major chronicle versions of Arthur’s wars) in which the king devastates Tuscany, ‘tourmentes the pople’, and ‘Wrought widowes full wlonk wrotherayle singen, / Oft werye and weep and wringen their handes’ (353–55). A similar positioning of bereaved family members as commentators on unbridled chivalric violence features in the interpolations made to Richard Coeur de Lion. When Richard unchivalrously breaks the established terms of an exchange of blows with Mordred’s son Ardour, killing this ‘trewe man’ (786) on the spot, the dispossessed parents’ prolonged displays and extreme manifestations of ‘sorwe’, ‘care’, and ‘woo’ (802–33) inscribe the king’s actions within a dialectic of calculated brutality and emphatically humanised response.44 An examination of evidence gleaned from an array of war accounts spanning the high and later Middle Ages shows that such emotive discursive strategies were rarely devoid of moral evaluation. Medieval culture’s proverbial scene of compassion-arousing motherly sorrow came from Herod’s tragic massacre of the innocents, as preserved, for instance, in the N-Town Plays.45 Such depictions of course carried with them varying degrees of evaluative bearing. When Orderic Vitalis recounted William I’s Harrowing of the North, lamenting the ‘miserabilis populi meroribus et anxietatibus’ (‘griefs and sufferings of the wretched people’), his censorious sentiments are explicitly voiced: ‘Nusquam tanta crudelitate usus est Guillelmus. Hic turpiter uitio succubuit’ (‘Nowhere else had William shown such cruelty. Shamefully he succumbed to vice’).46 Froissart likewise leaves little space for ambiguity in his depiction of the Black Prince’s culpable slaughter of the grief-stricken inhabitants of the town 43

For Ranulph Higden and Josephus’s accounts, see Josephus: The Jewish War, ed. and trans. Gaalya Cornfeld (Grand Rapids, MI, 1982), VI.3.199, 200, 204, pp. 416–17; and Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Monachi Cestrensis; Together with the English Translation of John Trevisa and of an Unknown Writer of the Fifteenth Century, ed. Joseph Rawson Lumby and C. Babington, Rolls Series 41, 9 vols (London, 1865–86), IX.444–47. 44 All references are to Der Mittelenglische Versroman über Richard Löwenherz, ed. Karl Brunner, Wiener Beiträge zur Englischen Philologie 42 (Vienna, 1913). 45 ‘Play 20, Slaughter of the Innocents; Death of Herod’, in The N-Town Plays, ed. Douglas Sugano, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2007), especially lines 89–104. 46 The Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis, ed. and trans. Marjorie Chibnall, 6 vols, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford, 1969–80), II.4.230–33.

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Rewriting Chivalric Encounters of Limoges in 1370: ‘Là eut grant pitié; car hommes, femmes et enfans se jettoient en genoulz devant le prince et crioient: “Merci, gentilz sires, merci!”’ (‘What took place was pitiful; for men, women and children flung themselves on their knees before the prince, wailing: “Have mercy, gentle lord, have mercy!”’).47 In nuanced contrast, John Page’s eyewitness account of Henry V’s siege of Rouen in 1418–19 invokes a more complex representational aesthetic. Narrating the event in a mode which Joanna Bellis has characterised as a ‘mixture of patriotism and compassion’, Page by no means disputes the war’s justness, but nonetheless poses probing ethical questions about its human implications.48 This tension between the necessities and horrors of warfare stems back to the very origins of just war theory, with Augustine’s De civitate dei: ‘Haec itaque mala tam magna, tam horrenda, tam saeua quisquis cum dolore considerat, miseriam fateatur’ (‘Let everyone, therefore, who reflects with pain upon such great evils, upon such horror and cruelty, acknowledge that this is misery’). Even when wars were just, the horrors and cruelty involved were to be deplored with anguish of soul.49 Thus, we witness in these examples (amongst numerous others available) a variety of stances ranging from outright condemnation to a more moderate evaluation of war’s lamentable human consequences, enabling us more aptly to gauge the tone of romances such as the Alliterative Morte Arthure, The Siege of Jerusalem, and Richard Coeur de Lion. The resulting outlook often transcends concerns over the justness or unjustness of the conflicts or acts of aggression in question, registering more fundamental anxieties about the bloodthirstiness of knights, the harms of unbridled violence, and the inherent cruelty of war. Concerns over the human costs of warfare were not only inscribed in the works of contemporary authors such as Chaucer, Gower, and (at a slightly later date) Hoccleve, but also seeped into the moral consciousness of thoughtful knights, as exemplified by the confessional treatises of John Clanvowe, a Lollard sympathiser, and Henry of Grosmont, duke of Lancaster. Chaucer’s Parson’s Tale affirms the connection between the ‘cursed synne of Ire’ and manslaughter, while his Knight’s Tale features ‘Woodnesse, laughynge in his rage’ as an allegorised proponent of military atrocity.50 Gower’s Confessio Amantis repeatedly condemns human bloodshed – including that of Saracens 47

Chroniques de J. Froissart, VII.250; my translation. John Page, The Siege of Rouen, ed. Joanna Bellis, Middle English Texts 51 (Heidelberg, 2015), xiii. See in particular lines 990–1032; and, on this passage, Bellis, ‘“The Reader myghte lamente”: The Sieges of Calais (1346) and Rouen (1418) in Chronicle, Poem and Play’, in War and Literature, ed. Laura Ashe and Ian Patterson, Essays and Studies 67 (Cambridge, 2014), 84–106 (100–02). 49 Augustine, The City of God against the Pagans, ed. and trans. R. W. Dyson, Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought (Cambridge, 1998), XIX.8.929. 50 The Canterbury Tales, in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston, MA, 1987), X.532–78 and I.1997 and 2011. 48

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Marcel Elias – on the grounds of scriptural prohibitions;51 and Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes opposes the benefits of ‘concord’ and ‘pees’ with the detriments of ‘hate’ and ‘rancour’, bemoaning the ‘sorwe lamentable’ engendered by the Hundred Years War.52 Lollard pacifist sentiments are well attested, documented by the writings and sermons of such figures as John Wyclif and (of lesser influence) Walter Brut.53 The discrepancies between the military careers and apparent beliefs of Lollard knights such as Clanvowe, though typical of the chivalric stratum, may have given rise to individual cases of moral compunction, as has been suggested by Celia Lewis.54 Clanvowe’s The Two Ways (1391) raises the issue of chivalry’s capacity for devastation from the outset, bemoaning society’s tendency to worship the ‘werreyours and fiȝteres … þat destroyen and wynnen manye loondis, and waasten and ȝeuen muche good to hem þat haan ynouȝ’.55 Yet this form of knightly awareness also found expression outside of chivalric circles bearing Lollard affinities. In his Livre de Seyntz Medicines (1354), Grosmont remorsefully confesses to a military career driven by the sinful urge to ‘ferir’ (attack), ‘batre’ (fight), and ‘maheigher’ (maim), in contravention of the Christian doctrine of caritas.56 Moral scrutiny of chivalric covetousness, pride, and vainglory, though building upon a strong cultural legacy, also grew sharper and more pervasive, particularly in the second half of the fourteenth century. Accusations of covetousness and greed feature prominently in reports of the foundering of the Alexandrian Crusade, blamed by many specifically on the English, and in the critical backlash that followed the collapse of Bishop Despenser’s ‘crusade’ to Flanders.57 Crusading defeats had long been imputed to the sin of pride, 51

John Gower, Confessio Amantis, ed. Russell A. Peck, 3 vols, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2000–2004), II.3, lines 2485–94; and II.4, lines 1678–80. 52 Thomas Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes, ed. Charles R. Blyth, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 1999), lines 5195–201 and 5229–30. 53 On this, see Ben Lowe, Imagining Peace: A History of Early English Pacifist Ideas, 1340–1560 (University Park, PA, 1997), 113–23. 54 Celia M. Lewis, ‘History, Mission, and Crusade in the Canterbury Tales’, The Chaucer Review 42 (2008): 353–82 (357–59); see also Christopher Tyerman, England and the Crusades, 1095–1588 (Chicago, IL, 1988), 264–65. 55 The Works of Sir John Clanvowe, ed. V. J. Scattergood (Cambridge, 1975), 69. 56 Le livre de seyntz medicines: The Unpublished Devotional Treatise of Henry of Lancaster, ed. E. J. Arnould, Anglo-Norman Texts 2 (Oxford, 1940), 17.11, 67.23; Le livre de seyntz medicines: The Book of Holy Medicines, trans. Catherine Batt, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 419 (Tempe, AZ, 2014), 87, 136. 57 On the Alexandrian Crusade, see Timothy Guard, Chivalry, Kingship and Crusade: The English Experience in the Fourteenth Century, Warfare in History (Woodbridge, 2013), 46–47, 125–26; Aziz Suryal Atiya, The Crusade in the Later Middle Ages (London, 1938), 368. For an overview of criticism of the Despenser expedition, see Marco Nievergelt, ‘Conquest, Crusade and Pilgrimage: The Alliterative Morte Arthure in its Late Ricardian Crusading Context’, Arthuriana 20/2 (2010): 89–116 (99–103).

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Rewriting Chivalric Encounters yet nowhere were such accusations as rife as in fourteenth-century accounts of the fall of Acre and, especially, the Turkish victory of Nicopolis, the two most impactful crusading failures of the later Middle Ages.58 The military classes likewise bore much of the brunt of public discontent for the English setbacks against France and the political instability of the 1370s and 1380s. Bishop Brinton traced the origin of the perceived loss of God’s favour to the pride and lust of English knights and lords;59 but the most comprehensive moral examination of the knightly estate during these years was given by Gower. In his view, covetousness, pride, vainglory, and lust precluded both victory over the Church’s enemies and the establishment of peace in Europe. The military reverses of his time were unsurprising, given that ‘Moribus arma vigent, aliter fortuna recedit’ (Feats of arms thrive upon good morals; otherwise, good fortune vanishes).60 Crucially, for Gower, dubious motives rendered knights culpable even when their causes and actions were righteous: ‘En juste cause tu porras / Tort faire’ (Even in a just cause you can do wrong), for ‘dieus reguarde ton corage’ (God looks into your heart).61 This key distinction helps to illuminate our understanding of Sir Isumbras and Guy of Warwick: Isumbras’s fall into pride is severely condemned, despite his muchemphasised exemplarity as a lord; similarly, Guy’s love service to Felice, though consisting principally of combats for virtuous causes, is dissatisfying to God because it hinges upon the protagonist’s success in garnering worldly The Westminster chronicle accuses the English captains of accepting bribes from the French; Wyclif’s Cruciata focuses on clerical greed. The defeat of the Teutonic Order at Tannenberg was likewise imputed to the sin of greed. See The St Albans ‘Chronicle: The ‘Chronica Maiora’ of Thomas Walsingham, ed. John Taylor and Wendy R. Childs, trans. Leslie Watkiss, 2 vols, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford, 2002–2011), II.380. 58 On Acre, see, e.g., Excidii Aconis gestorum collectio; Magister Thadeus civis Neapolitanus, Ystoria de desolatione et conculcatione civitatis Acconensis et tocius Terre Sancte, ed. R. B. C. Huygens, Corpus Christianorum, Continuatio mediaevalis 202 (Turnhout, 2004), 2, lines 750–70; Ottokars Österreichische Reimchronik, ed. Joseph Seemüller, Monumenta Germaniae historica, Deutsche Chroniken 5 (Hanover, 1890), lines 48776–80, 48819–27. On Nicopolis, see, e.g., Chronique du religieux de Saint-Denys, II.494–95; Chroniques de J. Froissart, XV.315–16; Oeuvres complètes d’Eustache Deschamps, ed. Marquis de Saint–Hilaire and Gaston Raynaud, 11 vols, Société des anciens textes français 9 (Paris, 1878–1903), VII.77–78. 59 On this, see John Barnie, War in Medieval Society: Social Values and the Hundred Years War, 1337–99 (London, 1974), 117. 60 Gower, Vox Clamantis, in The Complete Works, ed. G. C. Macaulay, 4 vols (Oxford, 1899–1902), IV.3–313 (IV.214–16 [line 513]); The Major Latin Works of John Gower: ‘The Voice of One Crying’, and the ‘Tripartite Chronicle’, trans. Eric W. Stockton (Seattle, WA, 1962), 206–07; see also Mirour de l’Omme: The Mirror of Mankind, trans. William Burton Wilson and Nancy Wilson Van Baak, Medieval Texts and Studies 5 (East Lansing, MI, 1992), 308–16. 61 Gower, Mirour de l’Omme, in The Complete Works, I.1–334 (I.265, lines 24039–41); The Mirror of Mankind, 314.

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Marcel Elias praise, fame, and glory. Gower’s trenchant views again find experiential corroboration in the works of Grosmont and Clanvowe, which warrant final mention: both men lament the lengths to which knights go to secure praise, glory, and material recompense, in dereliction of their duty to serve God.62 Such critiques had long been voiced, but their ubiquitous treatment in political, pastoral, imaginative, and confessional literature attained new levels of sophistication in the fourteenth century, and influenced the production and adaptation of romances. The ambivalent evaluations of romance appear to have evolved, for the most part, according to two converging, yet distinguishable perspectives: a response to the sense of chivalry’s decline through reformative criticism, often involving implicit or explicit prescriptive stipulations (particularly pronounced in penitential romances); and a deeper, more complex consideration of the distressing human implications of unrestrained chivalric bellicosity and war. Both views seem to have flourished in close interdependence with Christendom’s crusading failures and England’s political reversals on the Continent. The power of most romances in this context resides in what Cooper has called their ‘far away and long ago’ quality, enabling them to be appropriated and interpreted in the light of politically topical values and behaviours, yet without more immediate impositions of contemporary identities, events, and places.63 These romances encouraged adaptors and audiences to ponder upon the ethical dilemmas of their day through the lens of the past (whether mythical or not), one of medieval culture’s favoured means of illuminating moral ‘truth’. Conclusion This essay has outlined how some of the most important societal concerns of the fourteenth century influenced the rewriting of earlier romances and the composition of new ones. A detailed study of both smaller and more substantial alterations made to representations of chivalric encounters and values in romances reveals the extent to which contemporary authors or adaptors sought to grapple with, and solicit reflection on, the fundamental epistemological anxieties of their time: man’s relation to God, the workings of divine providence, the role and significance of human agency, 62

The Works of Sir John Clanvowe, 69–70; The Book of Holy Medicines, e.g., 139–42. While most of these complaints are reformative in nature, with the protractedness of the Hundred Years War the sinful motivations of those involved served increasingly to criticize the conflict itself. See, e.g., Philippe de Mézières, Letter to King Richard II, 50–53, 123–27, who enjoins Richard II and Charles VI to make peace by warning them of the spiritual dangers of vainglory, arrogance, presumption, and greed; and Hoccleve, The Regiment of Princes, lines 5342–43 and 5361, who bluntly admonishes the two kings for prolonging the conflict through covetousness. 63 Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 4.

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Rewriting Chivalric Encounters the connection between morality and fortune, and the moral challenges of violence and war. Given their openness to interpretative reworking and their conduciveness to discussion and debate – by virtue of their oral delivery and communal reception – romances were, in many ways, the perfect forum for such considerations.64

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As noted by Cooper, ‘romances could provide a forum analogous to academic debate. Their audiences expected to respond actively to them, and the writers encouraged such a response’; see The English Romance in Time, 13. On the subject of orality, see Karl Reichl, ‘Orality and Performance’, in A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance, ed. Raluca L. Radulescu and Cory James Rushton, Studies in Medieval Romance 10 (Cambridge, 2009), 132–49.

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3 Malory’s Comedy* CH R ISTOPHER CA N NON

W

e do not tend to read Karl Marx for his theory of comedy, but to say, as he did, that ‘all facts and personages of great importance in world history occur, as it were, twice … the first time as tragedy, the second as farce’ is to make the interesting presumption that comedy and tragedy are twinned.1 This is an optimistic vision of historical change of course, and though we do not tend to look to Marx for his optimism either, he could laugh at political disaster because he was sure that even the most troubled times were hurrying the state toward utopia. George Meredith also embraced the theory that comedy is really the converse of tragedy, although, interestingly enough, he reversed the sequence, imagining the end of comedy as ‘the commencement of a tragedy, were the curtain to rise again on the performers’.2 The picture he evokes is of, say, Mr Darcy and Elizabeth on their wedding morning, not simply as they have to convert the sparring that their wooing consisted of into a form of life, but as they must also avoid the wreckage of the bad marriage choices ranged round them in Pride and Prejudice. Mr Bennett’s anxiety over Elizabeth’s choice even after she has made it (‘let me not have the grief of seeing you unable to respect your partner in life’) is the most explicit acknowledgment Jane Austen allows of the tragedy that she has already portrayed in the marriage of Elizabeth’s parents.3 What Elizabeth and Darcy must overcome in order to remain in the genre of romance is what Pride and Prejudice wisely knows but also emphatically refuses to be about. * I am particularly pleased to offer this essay in honour of Helen Cooper since it not only benefits in so many ways from her own scholarship on Malory, but it also had its origins in a series of lectures I wrote and gave in Cambridge where I benefited so much from her generosity as a colleague. 1 Karl Marx, ‘The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte’, in Selected Writings, ed. David McLellan (Oxford, 1977), 300–25 (300). 2 George Meredith, ‘An Essay on Comedy’, in Comedy, ed. Wylie Sypher (Baltimore, MD, 1956), 3–58 (8). Meredith attributes this view to an unnamed but ‘sagacious’ essayist. 3 Jane Austen, ‘Pride and Prejudice’, in The Complete Novels of Jane Austen (Ware, 2007), 233–472 (465).

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Christopher Cannon Nevertheless, theories of comedy might seem to have very little to say about a text so strongly committed to tragic trajectories that both the title and subject of its last book, ‘The Most Piteous Tale of the Morte Arthur Saunz Guerdon’, have long functioned as a synecdoche for the whole. The knights in the tragic course of Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur do manage to laugh now and then, and, as a number of studies have emphasised in recent decades, there are even eruptions of ‘low-comic situational humor’, particularly in the ‘Book of Sir Tristram De Lyones’ and the ‘Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere’.4 But the episodes that insert the bodily and bawdy elements of fabliau into what are otherwise deadly serious narratives have seemed more like signs of ‘failure’ in Malory’s ‘grand narrative’ than defining moments.5 Or we may be laughing out of an anachronistic ‘puzzlement’ that derives not from Malory’s design, but from our embarrassment in the face of an ethics that has become so foreign.6 Malory may employ humour as an affective ‘pressure valve’, a kind of ‘comic relief’ to intermit an otherwise relentless account of battles and deaths, or as a method for ‘humanizing’ some of the narrative’s more violent knights.7 In short, wherever and whenever we find humour, events and episodes in the Morte Darthur have seemed funny to the extent that they are disruptive, an intrusion into the mood and genre of the Morte Darthur rather than central to its meanings.8 What I would like to explore in this essay, however, is how Malory’s comedy is entwined with his tragedy in ways that Marx and Meredith insist are necessary and that Helen Cooper, as it happens, has helped us to see most clearly for the genre of medieval romance. In the important chapter in her comprehensive account of the genre she has shown how the romance that ends unhappily can also be understood as a romance that could have ended happily if narrated for a different span of time.9 In this sense, the difference 4 5 6

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8

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Elizabeth S. Sklar, ‘“Laughyng and Smylyng”: Comic Modalities in Malory’s Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake’, Arthurian Literature 19 (2003): 189–98 (195). Catherine La Farge, ‘Launcelot in Compromising Positions: Fabliau in Malory’s “Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake”’, Arthurian Literature 27 (2011): 181–97 (182). Dorsey Armstrong, ‘Introduction: Laughing at Camelot’, Arthuriana 14/4 (2004): 3–4 (3) (‘puzzlement’). Romance plots often skirt tragedy with an embarrassment that is just shy of humour when their plots turn – as they so often do – on the revelation of hidden desires or traumas, and this sort of awkwardness also generates humour in the Morte. See Sarah Stanbury, ‘The Embarrassments of Romance’, Arthuriana 17/4 (2007): 114–16 (116). Celia M. Lewis, ‘“Lawghyng and Smylyng Amonge Them”: Humor in Malory’s Morte Darthur’, Poetica 51 (1999): 11–29 (12 [‘comic’]; 12 [‘comic relief’], 22 [‘humanizing’], 25 [‘pressure valve’]). ‘Malory takes his characters as seriously as they take themselves; he will not amuse us with their small hypocrisies’ (Mark Lambert, Malory: Style and Vision in Malory’s ‘Le Morte Darthur’ [New Haven, CT, 1975], 117). See Chapter 8 (‘Unhappy Endings: “The Most Accursed, Unhappy, and Evil Fortuned”’)

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Malory’s Comedy between tragedy and comedy is not inherent in a set of events but, rather, in the decision to ‘stop the wheel’ at a particular point.10 This is a formulation Malory applied with particular rigor, I think, in the closing pages of the Morte Darthur, where we may be sufficiently distracted by the strength of the closure provided by its last book to miss the extent that its plot turns on events that were also central to the book that just precedes it. For ‘The Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere’ Malory braided together two episodes from Le Mort Artu (‘The Poisoned Apple’ and ‘The Fair Maid of Astolat’) with two episodes of his own invention (‘The Great Tournament’ and the ‘Healing of Sir Urry’) while displacing the ‘Knight of The Cart’ from the earlier position in the Prose Lancelot so as to interrupt the progression from the Grail quest to Arthur’s Fall, thereby anticipating all of the consequential elements of the plot of the ‘Morte Arthur’ without the disaster this final book insists is inevitable.11 We might say, with Larry Benson, that this lends the Morte’s penultimate book a ‘comic’ tone suitable for a final and positive ‘affirmation of the “worshipful” lives and values’ of the Round Table.12 We might also say, however, that Malory managed to write his romance with both a happy and an unhappy ending, and therefore would have heartily agreed with Marx about the proximity of comedy to tragedy while feeling that it was Meredith who actually got the sequence right. What I would also like to explore in this essay as much as this sequence are the many ways that Malory juxtaposes comedy and tragedy, not only iteratively, but simultaneously, effectively superimposing the one mode on the other. Even where ‘Malory’s comedy’ seems to be the most trivialising of jokes (or a ‘jape’), I will argue, comedy in the Morte Darthur derives from a perspective that renders a remark or situation humorous through the clarity with which it glimpses the terrible outcome that has been narrowly avoided. In purely visual form, in a silent movie such as Steamboat Bill, Jr (1928), for example, we laugh when the side of a house falls on Buster Keaton because he survives by standing exactly where a window ensures that the wall will never touch him. Our laughter derives, in large part, from the relief that comes from knowing just how nearly Keaton came to dying, but such humour approaches very near to horror (it is said that the cameraman filming this scene in Steamboat Bill, Jr. fainted), and it is not always so easy to see as comedy. For this reason too, Malory’s comedy everywhere shadows his in Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2004), 361–408. 10 Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 362. 11 On the episodes Malory rearranges, invents, and combines to make this book see The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, ed. E. Vinaver, rev. P. J. C. Field, 3rd edn, 3 vols (Oxford, 1990), III.1585–94. On the thematic implications of this reshaping see Benson, Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’ (Cambridge, MA, 1978), 224–30. 12 Benson, Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’, 209.

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Christopher Cannon most pessimistic understandings of chivalry, the flip side not just of tragedy but what I have elsewhere called ‘Malory’s crime’, his conviction that the ‘evil’ knight is so easy to absorb to the Round Table because criminality was installed at the heart of its ethics from the start.13 Such comedy analyses rather than mocks and is revelatory in direct proportion to its ability to hold the consequences of hard truths at bay. It is dark, for it is always haunted by the troubles it is skirting, but for this reason too it never really disrupts the tragic mood of the narrative it glosses. Such a comedy is also wise to the extent that it helps us to ask different questions than the ones the tragic outcome of the Morte’s last book seems most to raise: what causes the fall of Arthur? Or, why does Arthur’s vision for the Round Table fail? The most humorous moments in the Morte step back just far enough from the troubles that provoke such questions to lay bare an even harder one: why, given the open divisions that defined it, did the Round Table hold together in the first place? Comedy for Malory could also be defined as knowledge of this active contradiction, what Helen Cooper also very helpfully describes as the ‘yes, but’ quality of the Morte’s narration throughout.14 Taking Crime Lightly An example that illustrates all the principles of such comedy can be found in the section of the Morte’s first book, which Vinaver called the ‘Knight with the Two Swords’, just after Balyn has agreed to take up the challenge that will lead (he has been told) to killing the person he loves most in the world and therefore to his own destruction (by a ‘dolorous stroke’). The Lady of the Lake suddenly enters Arthur’s court and asks for a ‘gyffte’, since Arthur promised to repay her in some way when she gave him his sword Excalibur:   ‘That ys sothe’, seyde Arthure, ‘a gyffte I promised you, but I have forgotyn the name of my swerde that ye gaff me’. ‘The name of hit’, seyde the lady, ‘ys Excalibir, that ys as muche to sey as Kutte Stele’.15

13 Christopher

Cannon, ‘Malory’s Crime: Chivalric Identity and the Evil Will’, in Medieval Literature and Historical Inquiry: Essays in Honour of Derek Pearsall, ed. David Aers (Cambridge, 2000), 159–83. 14 Helen Cooper, ‘Arthur in Transition: Malory’s Morte Darthur’, in Romance and History: Imagining Time from the Medieval to the Early Modern Period, ed. Jon Whitman, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 92 (Cambridge, 2014), 120–33 (133) and 278–79 (notes). 15 Malory: Works, ed. Eugène Vinaver, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1971), II.3, 40. All subsequent quotations from Malory will be from this edition, cited by Caxton’s book and chapter numbers, and page numbers.

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Malory’s Comedy The appearance of the Lady of the Lake is mysterious and abrupt, but stranger still is Arthur’s claim that he has forgotten the name of his own sword. How, we may rightly wonder, can a king charged with all the important matters at issue in this scene – where the tragic is so proximate, and so much work will have to be done to fight it off – worry about something so trivial as a sword’s name? How can he have forgotten that name in the first place? The eruption of something that does not matter into moments when so very much matters is often cleared up in Malory criticism with reference to Malory’s sources. In this case, it is clear that Malory mistranslates the Roman de Balain where Arthur actually says ‘I forgot to ask the name of the sword that you gave me’ (Je vous obliai a demander … li nons de l’espee que vous me dounastes).16 Even in the Roman de Balain this is a trivial detail and its very irrelevance seems to suggest that Arthur completely misunderstands the importance of what is going on around him. But we might also say that what appears to be an error in Malory’s own understanding is, in fact, a deft intensification of the remark’s significance. The line is humorous in the first place and more humorous in the Morte because, at just the moment when the opportunity for tragedy is growing – as the dire stakes for Balin rise ever higher – it introduces a perspective from which everything does not yet seem terrible. This same point can be made more broadly by the events at the wedding feast of Arthur and Guinevere slightly later in the first book of the Morte just after Merlin has urged every knight to ‘sitte style … for ye shall se a straunge and a mervailous adventure’: Ryght so as they sate there com rennynge inne a whyght herte into the hall, and a whyght brachet nexte hym, and thirty couple of blacke rennynge houndis com afftir with a grete cry. And the herte wente aboute the Rounde Table, and as he wente by the syde-bourdis the brachet ever boote hym by the buttocke and pulde outte a pece, where-thorow the herte lope a grete lepe and overthrew a knight that sate at the syde-bourde. And therewith the knight arose and toke up the brachet, and so wente forthe oute of the halle and toke hys horse and rode hys way with the brachett. Ryght so com in the lady on a whyght palferey and cryed alowde unto kynge Arthure and seyd, ‘Sir, suffir me nat to have thys despite, for the brachet ys myne that the knight hath ladde away’. ‘I may nat do therewith’, seyde the kynge. So with thys there com a knight rydyng all armed on a grete horse, and toke the lady away with forse with hym, and ever she cryed and made grete dole. So whan she was gone the kynge was gladde, for she made such a noyse. (III.4, 63) 16

The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, III.1306; Le Roman de Balain: A Prose Romance of the Thirteenth Century, ed. M. Dominica Legge (Manchester, 1942), 10.

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Christopher Cannon Little that happens here is given a cause; nor are the events in the startling sequence related to one another; but, when a knight is knocked down at the sideboard, and another lady enters and asks Arthur to intervene in the chaos, the scene coalesces into something like slapstick in the style of Keaton (a set of potentially serious events rendered ridiculous to the extent that they lead to no harm). Things grow serious again as yet another knight enters and seizes the lady, but Arthur’s reaction is again comic because it is so trivialising: ‘So whan she was gone the kynge was gladde for she made such a noyse’. That Arthur should be ‘glad’ after such a bold invasion and abduction is even more startling than the reason he gives, and yet, as he dismisses the violence and threat he has just witnessed, understanding them instead as a ‘noise’ whose absence is worth celebrating, comedy is again wrung from disaster. Merlin rebukes Arthur for taking all of this so ‘lyghtly’ (III.5, 63) and insists that he pursue the ‘adventure’ these events have begun, but it is Arthur’s immediate decision to yield to Merlin’s sense of the seriousness of the matter (‘“I woll”, seyde the kynge, “that all be done by your advice”’) that most fully acknowledges the extent to which his reactions had made this scene comic by insisting that all of the violence and sorrow he has just witnessed was trivial. Arthur’s attempt to dismiss the problems of the lady and her brachet is, in this sense, a more pointed case of the Round Table’s attempt to dismiss the violence and criminality it so frequently has to acknowledge within its own ranks, although such comedy can be so deeply embedded in political and ethical structures that it may register as a form of seriousness rather than humour. This is particularly true in the scene immediately prior to the wedding of Arthur and Guinevere when Pellinore takes his place at the Round Table, and Sir Gawayne vows to kill him because Pellinore killed his father: And therewith Merlyon toke kynge Pellinor by the hande, and in that one hande nexte the two segis, and the Sege Perelous, he seyde in opyn audiens, ‘Thys is your place, for beste ar ye worthy to sitte thereinne of ony that here ys’. And thereat had sir Gawayne grete envy and tolde Gaherys his brothir, ‘Yonder knight ys putte to grete worship, which grevith me sore, for he slewe our fadir kynge Lott. Therefore I woll sle hym’, seyde Gawayne, ‘with a swerde that was sette me that ys passynge trencheaunte’. ‘Ye shall nat so’, seyde Gaheris, ‘at thys tyme, for as now I am but youre squyre, and whan I am made knyght I woll be avenged on hym; and therefore, brothir, hit ys beste to suffir tyll another tyme, that we may have hym oute of courte, for and we dud so we shall trouble thys hyghe fest’. (III.4, 63)

One might say that, at the very moment of the Round Table’s founding, Gawain is already revealing the predilection for vengeance that is such a central element in its destruction, and, as he successfully recruits Gaheris, ‘his brothir’, to avenge his father’s death, he is already giving his murderous 72

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Malory’s Comedy impulses the shape of the blood feud that will unleash the spiral of violence that finally causes Arthur’s death. And yet Gaheris’s role here is to insist that such violence has no place inside the Table’s fellowship, but, rather, must occur ‘out of courte’ lest it should ‘trouble this high feste’. Nor does Gawain do very well in the adventures that follow this feast, first refusing to show mercy to a knight who asks for it, and doing still more damage when attempting to behead him: ‘Ryght so com hys lady out of a chamber and felle over hym, and so he smote of hir hede by myssefortune’ (III.7, 66). Even though Arthur and Guinevere are said to be ‘gretely displeased with sir Gawayne’ when they hear of this disaster, his punishment consists of becoming exactly the sort of knight he has just proved himself not to be: ‘ever whyle he lyved to be with all ladyes and to fyght for hir quarels. … and never to refuse mercy to hym that askith mercy’ (III.8, 67). The damage Gawain has done to the Round Table is acknowledged by the same sort of trivialisation by which Arthur dismissed an earlier set of disasters as so much ‘noise’, and the inversion (the substitution of something like a celebration of Gawain’s virtues for the punishment he deserves for his sins), however unfunny on the face of it, has the shape of comedy insofar as it takes the truly tragic ‘lightly’. This structure is more explicitly marked out as comic at the end of Torre’s adventure in this book. Like Gawain, Torre refuses to grant mercy to a knight who asks for it, punishing Abellyus for being ‘the grettist murtherer’ by murdering him when he flees in terror (III.11, 70). When he returns to Camelot, however, not only do Arthur and Guinevere rejoice at his return, but they also greet the account he gives of his adventures with ‘great joy’: So sir Torre departed and com to Camelot on the third day by noone. And the kynge and the queen and all the courte was passynge fayne of hys commynge, and made grete joy that he was com agayne. … And than the kynge and the queen by Merlions advice made hym swere to telle of hys adventures, and so he tolde and made prevys of hys dedys as hit ys before reherced, wherefore the kynge and the queen made grete joy. ‘Nay, nay’, seyde Merlion, ‘thys ys but japis that he hath do, for he shall preve a noble knight of proues as few lyvynge, and jantyl and curteyse and of good tacchys, and passyng trew of hys promyse, and never shalle he outerage’. (III.11, 71)

The inversions at work here are condensed in Merlin’s prediction that Torre will grow in promise and achievement by avoiding ‘outrage’ while Abellyus is described as ‘the moste outerageous knyght that lyvith’ (III.11, 70) because he kills without mercy. Just as the punishment for a crime was a repetition of that crime, what passes for a wrong punishable by death outside Arthur’s court is grounds for celebrating a knight’s ‘good tacchys’ within it. It is possible to emphasise the sorts of criminality such hypocrisy instils in the fellowship of 73

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Christopher Cannon the Round Table, but what is most striking here is the extent to which Merlin describes the actions that constitute the contradiction as ‘japes’.17 If virtue in Arthur’s court is often defined by ignoring the relationship between crime and punishment, if chivalry’s ethics are such that a wrong committed by a knight of the Round Table can be celebrated as good, it is only as comedy that the defining and necessary inversion can be acknowledged – it is only as ‘joy’ that the criminality that will, in time, undermine the whole of the Round Table, can be known now, at its inception. Chivalric Contradictions It can be difficult to explain why an event or remark makes us laugh because the analysis of humour seems to work by yet another process of inversion whereby the more carefully we try to say why something is funny the less funny it begins to seem. A helpful diagnosis of this strange effect that also helps to explain why the comic may be far from funny can be found in Freud’s Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious and his account of what is sometimes referred to as ‘kettle logic’: The story of the borrowed kettle which had a hole in it when it was given back is an excellent example of the purely comic effect of giving free play to the unconscious mode of thought. It will be recalled that the borrower, when he was questioned, replied firstly that he had not borrowed a kettle at all, secondly that it had a hole in it already when he borrowed it, and thirdly that he had given it back undamaged and without a hole. This mutual canceling-out of several thoughts, each of which is in itself valid, is precisely what does not occur in the unconscious.18

The story of the borrowed kettle is not quite a joke, but it is easy to imagine a retelling of this ‘strange process’ that produces laughter. That laughter, Freud maintains, derives from exactly the sort of tension I have just described in the ethics of Arthur’s court: to hold that a pot has not been borrowed while having it in hand, to complain about a hole which is also said not to be there, and to insist that something has been returned while denying ever having taken it, is to repeat the structure whereby a wrong can also be understood as virtue and crime a cause for celebration. Freud understands this ‘mutual 17

The term (‘japis’) and the distinction are Malory’s invention, for, as Vinaver notes, in the Suite de Merlin, rather than praise Torre’s character at this juncture, Merlin describes his ‘lignage’ and its ‘fine gentillece’. See Works, ed. Vinaver, III.1332. For the passage (and the phrases I quote) in the Suite see Merlin: Roman en Prose du XIIIe Siècle, ed. Gaston Paris and Jakob Ulrich, 2 vols, Société des anciens textes français (Paris, 1886), II.114. 18 Sigmund Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, trans. James Strachey, ed. Angela Richards (Harmondsworth, 1991; trans. first publ. 1960), 266–67.

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Malory’s Comedy canceling-out of several thoughts’ as one of the ways the unconscious expresses in conscious forms what it cannot reconcile, and this is also why jokes cannot usually survive their explanation since to tease out an animating contradiction is to make the suspension of the several thoughts that give the joke life impossible. This is also one way of saying – as indeed Freud’s study is generally devoted to claiming – that comedy and even the laughter it produces are always animated by contradiction. For Malory, as I have been suggesting, comedy and tragedy are the possibilities everywhere held in mutually cancelling contradiction, but Henri Bergson, another important philosopher of comedy, helps us see how Malory could draw on this tension so often and so meaningfully. We find people funny, Bergson argued, when they seem most mechanical or thoughtless (as he puts this point most precisely, ‘we laugh every time a person gives us the impression of being a thing’).19 From the least generous perspective such a condition might seem to define chivalric ethics insofar as it transformed behaviours that courted death – as if the knight were a thing that could not die – into a mode of enjoyment. But much of Malory’s comedy derives directly from a kettle logic applied to this particular contradiction, in particular, to the way that chivalry often demands that a knight adhere mechanically to a custom or ideal that spells certain doom as if it were the only path to success. Comedy allows Malory to subscribe wholeheartedly to these ethics – and to celebrate them everywhere – but also enables him to denounce the illogic at their heart with unflinching acuity. Because this comedy peers so deeply into animating principles, moreover, it can be drawn through the whole of the Morte and carry out this bracing analysis even in episodes where no-one is killed and lives are not immediately on the line. Although it has been suggested that the Book of Sir Tristram ‘marks the end of comedy in the Morte’ because of the darkness that overtakes it, it is precisely because of such gathering shadows that the analytic strain of comedy I have been describing is particularly common in this book.20 Sir Dinadan is also one of the most important figures in that analysis because his observations and actions always insert a bracing realism next to the other knights’ idealism. A good example of the way Sir Dinadan plays this role comes at the centre of this central book, after Dinadan, Tristram, Bors, and three others have fought thirty hostile knights, killed twenty, and driven off the remaining ten, and Tristram and Dinadan have set off on their own to find lodging. They meet some ‘heredemen’ and ask them if they know of any place they might sleep and they are directed to a castle nearby whose 19 Henri

Bergson, ‘Laughter’, in Comedy, ed. Wylie Sypher (Baltimore, MD, 1956), 61–190 (97). 20 Donald L. Hoffman, ‘Malory and the English Comic Tradition’, Arthurian Literature 19 (2003): 177–88 (186).

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Christopher Cannon ‘custom’ is to demand that any knight who wants lodging must first joust with two knights who, the shepherds predict, will surely defeat them since they appear so exhausted from fighting. Dinadan reacts angrily to this news: ‘There ys shrewde herberow!’, he says to Tristram, ‘Lodge where ye woll, for I woll nat lodge there!’. Tristram is horrified by this response and scolds Dinadan, ‘Fye for shame!’ he says, ‘ar ye nat a knight of the Table Rounde?’ (IX.24, 312). This episode can be found in Malory’s source but he has, as ever, reduced a long argument into a sharp exchange the better to draw out the salient point.21 For Dinadan wants to insist that he is a knight of the Round Table but also cannot abide the expectations that being such a knight entails (the endless fighting, the need to risk one’s life simply to find a place to sleep, the equation of knighthood with willing self-injury). While Tristram thinks that Dinadan cannot ‘with worship’ refuse this challenge, the perspective that Dinadan introduces into the scene is that a ‘worship’ that seeks creature comforts by risking life and limb is not worthy of the name. Malory also takes the events that follow this framing exchange from the Prose Tristan where they continue to draw out this deep and defining contradiction in knightly virtue: Dinadan capitulates; Tristram and Dinadan then fight the two knights of the castle and defeat them to earn their lodging; but since this now makes Dinadan and Tristram the two knights of the castle, when Palomydes and Gaherys turn up looking for their own lodging in the castle it follows that they must fulfil the custom of the castle by fighting them: And whan they were unarmed and thought to be myry and in good reste, there cam in at the yatis sir Palomydes and sir Gaherys, requyryng to have the custum of the castell. ‘What aray ys thys’? seyde sir Dynadan, ‘I wolde fayne have my reste’. ‘That may nat be’, seyde sir Trystram. ‘Now muste we nedis defende the custum of thys castell insomuch as we have the bettir of this lordes of thys castell. And therefore’, seyde sir Trystram, ‘nedis muste ye make you redy’. ‘In the devyls name’, seyde sir Dynadan, ‘cam I into youre company!’ And so they made them redy, and sir Gaherys encountirde with sir Trystram, and sir Gaherys had a falle. And sir Palomydes encountirde with sir Dynadan, and sir Dynadan had a falle: than was hit falle for falle. So than muste they fyght on foote, and that wolde nat sir Dynadan, for he was sore brused of that falle that sir Palomydes gaff hym. Than sir Trystramys laced on sir Dynadans helme and prayde hym to helpe hym. 21

The long exchange about the need for the ‘cevaliers errans’ to embrace the ‘aventure’ that comes his way can be found in Le Roman de Tristan en Prose, ed. Philippe Ménard, 9 vols, Textes littéraires français (Geneva, 1987–97), II.129. See also E. Löseth, Le roman en prose de Tristan: Le roman de Palamede: et La compilation de Rusticien de Pise: Analyse critique d’après les manuscrits de Paris, Bibl. de l’Ecole des Hautes Etudes, fast. 82 (Paris, 1891), 91.

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Malory’s Comedy ‘I woll nat’, seyde sir Dynadan, ‘for I am sore wounded of the thirty knyghtes that we had ado withall. But ye fare’, seyde sir Dynadan, ‘as a man that were oute of hys mynde that wold caste hymselff away. And I may curse the tyme that ever I sye you, for in all the worlde ar nat such two knyghtes that ar so wood as ys sir Launcelot and ye, sir Trystram! For onys I felle in the felyshyp of sir Launcelot as I have done now with you, and he sette me so a worke that a quarter of a yere I kept my bedde. Jesus deffende me’, seyde sir Dynadan, ‘frome such two knyghtys, and specially from youre felyshyp’. (IX.24, 312–13)

Malory again condenses and sharpens the dialogue here so that, where Dinaden in the Prose Tristan simply refuses to fight either knight on the grounds that he has no quarrel with either one (‘Entre nous n’a nule querele!’), in Malory, Dinadan condemns the risk that defines all knightly adventure (a knight’s willingness to ‘caste hymselff away’) as insanity (to be ‘out of’ one’s ‘mynde’) and further directs this condemnation (as Dinadan does not in the Tristan) at two of the knights of ‘most worship’ in all the world, Lancelot and Tristram (in his view, now, the two knights most ‘wood’ in all the world).22 This Bergsonian reading of the knight as inhuman (thing-like in his mechanical adherence to what will destroy him) immediately yields to kettle logic when Dinadan wades into the battle he has just condemned – then (we learn) ‘sir Dyndadan smote at sir Gaherys a stroke or two’ – and the idea that knighthood is equivalent to madness is directly superimposed on the idea that such madness is the only way to be a knight. The illogic now visible to us, if to no one in this unfolding narrative (even Dinadan), is precisely the logic these knights live by. In showing how the ‘custom’ of this castle is so detached from the needs and normal practices of human life while also demonstrating how it constitutes knightly life, such comedy not only exposes knighthood’s contradictions from within without acknowledging them, it critiques knighthood from within without somehow noticing what it has diagnosed. It is no accident that Dinadan of all knights should be critical in this way, for his ‘most significant function’, as Helen Cooper has also helpfully observed, ‘is to serve as a touchstone of good knightliness for Malory’s other characters’.23 He ‘loved all good knghtes’, Malory says, ‘and hated all tho that were destroyers of good knights’, and, conversely, those who hate Dinadan are what Malory will elsewhere call ‘evil’ (‘there was none that hated sir Dynadan but tho that ever were called murtherers’, X.25, 379). It 22

23

Roman de Tristan en Prose, ed. Ménard, II.137. Helen Cooper, ‘The Book of Sir Tristram de Lyones’, in A Companion to Malory, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards, Arthurian Studies 37 (Cambridge, 1996), 183–201 (195). On the usefulness of Dinadan’s realism see also Arthur Wayne Glowka, ‘Malory’s Sense of Humor’, Arthurian Interpretations 1 (1986): 39–46 (39–41).

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Christopher Cannon is therefore usually possible to identify a knight’s goodness by no more than Dinadan’s willingness to accompany him on his adventures. The perspective that Dinadan regularly brings to those adventures is, for this reason, not always as critical of the impractical attributes of chivalry as it is sympathetic, and, since comedy is always the mode through which this perspective is lodged in the Morte, Dinadan is not just a lover of good knights but, as a lover of good knights, he is above all things a joker: ‘“That same is [sir Dynadan]”’, seyde sir Trystram, “for he is the beste bourder and japer that I know, and a noble knyght of his hondis, and the beste felawe that I know, and all good knyghtis lovyth his felyship”’ (X.56, 423). Even joking is, in this sense, a form of ethical judgment, and a kind of goodness in and of itself. Insofar as it enables the close relationships that define the ideal of fellowship on which the Round Table is based, it could even be understood as another name for what Malory will sometimes also call ‘love’.24 A similar point is made in an even lighter mode by a number of other episodes in the Book of Sir Tristram where the humour is so broad that it is not only us, but Malory’s knights, who laugh. Many of these concern Dagonet, Arthur’s court fool, who often jousts in jest, or even in drag, to entertain the court at tournaments or, even, on adventure. He is, accordingly, disguised in the episode below, in effect attacking King Mark with his own worst fears, since Mark has been told that Lancelot has arrived bearing the same shield as Mordred and Dagonet has just donned Mordred’s armour and bears his shield: So all thes knyghtes rode to a woodis syde and abode tyll kynge Marke cam by the way. Than they put forth sir Dagonet, and he cam on all the whyle his horse myght renne upon kynge Marke. And whan he cam nye to kynge Marke he cryed as he were woode, and sayde, ‘Kepe the, knyght of Cornwayle, for I woll sle the!’ And anone as kynge Marke behylde his shylde, he seyde to hymself, ‘Yondyr is sir Launcelot. Alas, now am I destroyed!’ And therewithall he made his horse to ren and fledde as faste as he myght thorow thycke and thorow thynne. And ever sir Dagonet folowed aftir kynge Marke, cryynge and ratynge hym as a woode man, thorow a grete foreste. Whan sir Uwayne and sir Brandules saw sir Dagonet so chace kynge Marke, they lawghed all as they were wylde, and than they toke their horsys and rode aftir to se how sir Dagonet spedde, for theym behoved for no good that sir Dagonet were shente, for kynge Arthure loved hym passynge well 24

Joyce Coleman sees Dinadan’s japing as more dangerous than I do because it is much less perspicuous: on the one hand, she argues, it yields to a ‘tact’ that papers over significant antagonisms, and, on the other hand, it ‘destroys’ the comity it seems to preserve by inverting the very chivalric principles Dinadan ‘most wishes to save’. See Joyce Coleman, ‘Fooling With Language: Sir Dinadan in Malory’s Morte Darthur’, Arthurian Literature 23 (2006): 30–45 (44).

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Malory’s Comedy and made hym knyght hys owne hondys. And at every turnemente he began to make kynge Arthure to lawghe. Than the knyghtes rode here and there cryynge and chasynge aftir kynge Marke, that all the foreyste range of the noyse. (X.12, 360–61)

The inversion that propels this encounter – with the lowest of knights, or the court fool, impersonating the best knight in the world – elicits a direct inversion of knightly behaviour. While Mark is always treacherous and fights by stealth and subterfuge, here, rather than enter the battle Dagonet attempts to join, or yielding and asking for mercy, he runs. Dagonet cries as if mad (‘as he were wood’) but, when Mark flees, Dagonet accuses him of being mad (‘ratynge hym as a woode man’).25 Both of these designations are inversions too, since it is not mad for a knight to attack, nor is it mad to flee certain death, but they are also each not mad from diametrically opposed perspectives. Dagonet risks much to enter a battle as if he might prevail with the prowess of Lancelot, but his risks follow the trajectory of knightly ideals (his madness is what Malory would otherwise call ‘worship’). Mark, on the other hand, is mad because he is realistic enough to reject those ideals (as what Malory would call a ‘recreaunte’ or coward) and flee what he believes to be certain destruction. But it is the doubleness of the inversion that allows Uwayne and Sir Brandules to laugh rather than worry or intervene since Mark’s realism ensures that Dagonet’s idealism does not endanger him, just as the idealism that provokes Dagonet to such heroism is so clearly visible to them as something unreal. The richness of Malory’s comedy here allows the principles of chivalry to be mutually cancelling because they are both reversed, but it is the double reversal that makes laughter appropriate since nothing at all is at stake here (Dagonet could never hurt Mark and his disguise ensures that Mark would never dare try to hurt him). One of the more brilliant moments in Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious occurs near its conclusion when Freud says that he began to investigate humour because people so often found his interpretations of dreams ‘in the nature of a joke’.26 Whether or not this can be said to constitute proof of Freud’s theory of humour, it is a pretty good joke on its own: a way of acknowledging the most dismissive responses to his theory while also absorbing them to that theory as clear proof of its accuracy. It also explains why even the most raucous laughter in Malory may seem so dismissive but reveal so much. Dagonet’s jesting is, in this sense, of a piece with Freud’s own witty self-description for it is not only comic but self-reflexive enough about 25

The broad outlines of this encounter can be found in the Prose Tristan but neither Dagonet nor Mark are described as ‘mad’, nor does Dagonet seem at all in on the joke (Mark, thinking Lancelot is attacking, simply turns tail and flees). See Roman de Tristan en prose, ed. Ménard, III.130. 26 Freud, Jokes and their Relation to the Unconscious, 231.

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Christopher Cannon Malory’s comedy to reveal its workings. For Malory, as for Freud, comedy is entertaining because it is so epistemologically adroit. It has the capacity to reveal the constitutive problems of animating principles but to shield anyone who discerns those problems from the consequences of that discernment so that they may enjoy what should really, profoundly, disappoint. Conclusions As I have already suggested, this epistemology structures the Morte most comprehensively in the penultimate episode of ‘Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere’, which exposes every aspect of Arthur’s court that leads to the concluding tragedy but in the register of comedy, revealing the contradictions that will tear the fellowship of the Round Table apart while holding them in such careful suspension that they can be taken lightly, even in the end. The book begins, accordingly, with ‘grete joy in the courte’ after the quest of the holy grail, even though part of that joy involves Lancelot ‘forgetting’ his promise to be chaste and ‘resorting’ once again ‘unto queen Gwinevere’: ‘[A]nd so they loved togydirs more hotter than they dud toforehonde, and had many such prevy draughtis togydir that many in the courte spake of hit, and in especiall sir Aggravayne, sir Gawaynes brothir, for he was ever opynne-mowthed’ (XVIII.1, 611). The return to the status quo also gestures firmly toward its destruction in the Morte’s last book where it is Aggravayne’s decision to say ‘opynly’ (‘that many knyghtis myght here’) that ‘Launcelot lyeth dayly and nyghtly by the quene’ which finally forces Arthur to acknowledge the betrayal at the very heart of the Round Table (XX.1, 673). The book of ‘Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere’ seems to move smartly in its own tragic direction when Sir Pyonell attempts to kill Gawain because Gawain killed his ‘kinsman’ Lamorak, and the poisoned apple he uses to pursue this blood feud is eaten by Sir Patryse instead. When Patryse dies, everyone suspects Guinevere since she prepared the feast, and, again, just as will happen early in the Morte’s last book, the queen is ‘appeled … of treson’ (XVIII.4, 614) by Patryse’s kinsman Sir Mador de la Porte. Guinevere defends herself by abjuring any intention to do harm (which, indeed, she does not have): ‘“Alas”, seyde the quene, “I made thys dyner for a good entente and never for none evyll, so Allmyghty Jesu helpe me in my ryght, as I was never purposed to do such evyll dedes, and that I reporte me unto God”’ (XVIII.4, 615). Guinevere’s insistence on her innocence in this case must have the inadvertent effect of calling attention to the ‘evyll dedes’ that begin the book. And it is in the nature of the clarity governing this part of the Morte that this problem is exposed only to bring it into firm contact with another danger, for it is also at this point that Arthur asks the queen to summon Lancelot to defend her from Mador de la Porte’s charge, and when Guinevere reveals that they have quarrelled and she has no idea where 80

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Malory’s Comedy Lancelot is, Arthur scolds her for quarrelling with the knight with whom she regularly betrays him: ‘“What aylith you”, seyde the kynge, “that ye can nat kepe sir Launcelot uppon youre syde? For wyte you well”, seyde the kynge, “who that hath sir Launcelot uppon his party hath the moste man of worship in thys worlde uppon hys syde”’ (XVIII.4, 615). Arthur’s accusation is comic (however painfully) because it presents us with the spectacle of a husband annoyed with his wife for failing to commit adultery regularly enough. But Arthur’s characterisation of Lancelot extends this local humour into a comic vision that takes in the whole of Arthur’s court, for the only way Arthur can keep Lancelot ‘uppon hys party’, and therefore serving as the foundation of his own strength as king, is to ignore the adultery that keeps Lancelot by Guinevere’s side. The contradiction is ridiculous on the face of it, but must be both recognised and ignored because it is so politically enabling.27 The breach between Lancelot and Guinevere is healed when he defeats Mador who then discharges his quarrel, and ‘all was forgyffyn’ in the Round Table as a whole, even though the adultery that produces all of this healing is not only still in place but has enabled that healing. Arthur has needed Lancelot to solve a problem that Lancelot is in fact still creating, and Arthur has looked ridiculous in the face of a division in loyalties that remains so firmly in place that it will soon pull the whole of his kingdom apart. The penultimate book of the Morte contains every other element basic to the dissolution of the Round Table besides this adultery. Arthur’s knights are set against one another when Lancelot disguises himself and fights in a tournament on behalf of the ‘Fayre Maydyn of Astolat’, defeating Gawain’s brothers along the way (‘and there he smote downe sir Aggravayne and sir Gaherys, [and] sir Mordred’, XVIII.11, 625), but also receiving a near fatal blow from his own kinsman, Bors: ‘And by myssefortune sir Bors smote sir Launcelot thorow the shylde into the syde, and the speare brake and the hede leffte stylle in the syde’ (XVIII.11, 626). Guinevere is openly accused of adultery by Mellyagaunte who thinks she has slept with the wounded knights in her chamber, when she has in fact spent the night with Lancelot. And, in a final sequence, Lancelot must defend Guinevere having made an oath to protect her from a charge of adultery that he knows to be true. It is at this point that Mellyagaunte describes Lancelot’s false position and the grounds on which Lancelot must inevitably suffer for it: ‘… yet shulde ye be avysed to do batayle in a wronge quarell, for God woll have a stroke in 27

As Elizabeth Edwards puts it so well: ‘adultery is the central or sustaining contradiction of the Arthurian chivalric world, and … the plot of Malory’s last books concerns the exposure of that contradiction whereby allegiance to the king is also adultery with the queen’. See Elizabeth Edwards, ‘The Place of Women in the Morte Darthur’, in A Companion to Malory, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards, Arthurian Studies 37 (Cambridge, 1996), 37–54 (43).

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Christopher Cannon every batayle’ (XIX.7, 659). That stroke does not come here and this episode ends with Arthur and Guinevere cherishing Lancelot ‘more … than ever he was aforehande’ (XIX.10, 663) and the dangerous triangle that holds Arthur’s court together firmly re-established because every danger it poses has been completely contained, for now. The ‘Book of Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere’ provokes little laughter but it is, nevertheless, the acme of Malory’s comedy as I have defined it because it makes the most dire problems visible without allowing them to be problems at all. It could be said, in fact, that what this book shows is the way in which Malory’s comedy may be most simply defined as knowledge of a tragedy that does not have to be experienced. Passions of many kinds govern this extraordinary book and it concludes with Lancelot’s spiritual redemption, weeping ‘as he had bene a chylde that had bene beatyn’ (XIX.12, 668) because his ability to heal Sir Urry seems to indicate his salvation. But the knowledge that governs this penultimate book, like that of all Malory’s comedy, is also genuinely uplifting, a mode of happiness – a capacity for joy – that characterises Arthur’s court and his knights’ adventures fully as much as the darkness and enmity that derive from the criminality installed at its heart. In a structural sense this whole book is ‘comic relief’ in the respite it provides from the trouble that has slowly accumulated in the preceding books and that will soon overshadow all else in the next. Malory’s Morte Darthur is also comic, then, when it has the least right to be – and yet it is also Freud’s point that this is exactly when we are most likely to laugh – when the tensions of the contradictions that are held most dear are fully exposed while it is still possible to feel secure in the knowledge that they can do no harm.

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II ROMANCE AND NARRATIVE STRATEGIES

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4 Beginning with the Ending: Narrative Techniques and their Significance in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale J ILL M A N N

C

It seems to me that the heritage of great literature presents us with numerous highly detailed and profound examinations of what specific beliefs entail as well as remarkably rich descriptions of everyday life. Writers explore what it is to live with a particular conception of time, and what consequences, social, historical, and psychological, a commitment to specific temporalities may produce. By comparison, examples drawn from purely philosophical texts seem thin in their sense of human motivation and moral complexity. In this sense, I do not view literary works as applied or sugar-coated or unrigorous philosophy, but as a specific form of philosophic thought in the broad sense. They philosophize not with a hammer but with a feather. And it has always seemed to me that an important purpose of literary criticism is to help us recover the elusive wisdom of great writers who are also great and delicate thinkers. (Gary Saul Morson)1

haucer’s Knight’s Tale begins with an account of Theseus, duke of Athens, returning home in triumph after his successful conquest of the Amazons and his marriage to their queen Hippolyta: Whilom, as olde stories tellen us, Ther was a duc that highte Theseus. Of Atthenes he was lord and governour, And in his time swich a conqueror That gretter was ther noon under the sonne. Ful many a riche contree hadde he wonne, What with his wisdom and his chivalrye. He conquered al the regne of Femenye, That whilom was ycleped Scythia, And weddede the queene Ypolita, 1

Gary Saul Morson, Narrative and Freedom: The Shadows of Time (New Haven, CT, 1994), 4.

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Jill Mann And broghte hir hoom with him in his contree With muchel glorye and greet solempnitee, And eek hir yonge suster Emelye. And thus with victorye and with melodye Lete I this noble duc to Atthenes ride, And al his hoost in armes him biside. And certes, if it nere to long to heere, I wolde have toold yow fully the manere How wonnen was the regne of Femenye By Theseus and by his chivalrye, And of the grete bataille for the nones Bitwixen Atthenes and Amazones, And how asseged was Ypolita, The faire hardy queene of Scythia, And of the feste that was at hir weddinge And of the tempest at hir hom-cominge; But al that thing I moot as now forbere. (859–85)2

A striking feature of this narrative beginning is that it presents itself as an ending – the ending to a preceding story of a war which concludes with a victory celebration and a marriage feast. Nothing, it seems, remains but for the narrator to assure us that they all lived happily ever after.3 The impression that this is the end of a preceding story is increased by Chaucer’s refusal to relate it; we catch sight of it just as it disappears from view. This beginning-in-the-guise-of-an-ending suggests an explanation for the epigraph that prefaces the tale in many manuscripts, including Hengwrt and Ellesmere: Iamque domos patrias Scithice post aspera gentis prelia laurigero etc.4 (And now [joyous applause and shout of the multitude sent up to the stars and cheerful trumpet announces Theseus returning] in his laurelled chariot to his native city after fierce battles with Scythia’s folk.)

These lines are taken from the Thebaid of Statius (XII.519–20), a well-known work in Chaucer’s day, which recounts the fatal strife between the two sons of 2

Quotations of the Canterbury Tales are taken from the Penguin Classics edition by Jill Mann (London, 2005). 3 The same could be said of the beginning of Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale, which not coincidentally shares other narrative features with the Knight’s Tale (see below, nn. 12, 23); unfortunately I have no room to do more than note them here. 4 Quotations from and translations of the Thebaid are taken from the Loeb Classical Library edition of Statius, ed. and trans. D. R. Shackleton Bailey, 2 vols (London, 2003).   For details of the manuscripts that include this epigraph, see John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, The Text of the ‘Canterbury Tales’, 8 vols (Chicago, IL, 1940), III.484.

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Narrative Techniques in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale Oedipus, Eteocles and Polynices, and the battle of the Seven Against Thebes, who fought on Polynices’ behalf against Eteocles when the latter broke his promise to share power with his brother. In the battle, both brothers and all but one of the Seven were killed; Creon seized power, and refused burial to those who had attacked Thebes as an act of revenge for their own failure to bury his son. The lines used as epigraph to the Knight’s Tale introduce Theseus into this Theban tale: riding home in triumph, he is confronted by the widows of the slain, who beg him to avenge them on Creon and assure their husbands’ burial. The account of Theseus’s successful campaign against Creon occupies the last three hundred lines of Book XII of the Thebaid, and concludes the work. That is, the quotation from Statius reinforces the impression that the beginning of the Knight’s Tale is the ending of another story. Chaucer’s principal source for the Knight’s Tale was, however, not the Thebaid but Boccaccio’s Teseida.5 Boccaccio does what Chaucer refuses to do: that is, he starts further back than Statius and devotes the whole first book of the Teseida to an account of Teseo’s fight against the Amazons. The rest of the Knight’s Tale follows the course of Boccaccio’s narrative, and it may seem self-evident that the Amazonian section has been reduced to the opening few lines as a result of Chaucer’s drastic shortening of his source (over 10,000 lines of the Teseida are reduced to 2,000 in the Knight’s Tale). But if abridgment was Chaucer’s principal aim, he need not have begun with Theseus’s homecoming and the unexpected intervention of the widow ladies; he could simply have begun with Palamon and Arcite: ‘Two young Theban prisoners-of-war, held captive by Theseus, one day looked out of their prison window and saw Theseus’s beautiful sister-in-law Emily…’. Beginning with Theseus’s confrontation with the widows gives Chaucer the opportunity to 5

For a full and detailed comparison of the Teseida and the Knight’s Tale, see Piero Boitani, Chaucer and Boccaccio, Medium Ævum Monographs, New Series 8 (Oxford, 1977). For a discussion of the relations between Statius, Boccaccio, and Chaucer, see David Anderson, Before the ‘Knight’s Tale’: Imitation of Classical Epic in Boccaccio’s ‘Teseida’, Middle Ages (Philadelphia, PA, 1988), 192–224. Anderson argues that ‘Chaucer’s changes in the Teseida are governed by a program of open imitation of the Thebaid’. In particular, he argues that the rivalry between Palamon and Arcite transposes the strife between Polynices and Eteocles into a private rather than a political sphere. Leah Schwebel has recently argued that Chaucer’s reference to Statius is a way of calling attention to his ‘erasure’ of Boccaccio, his immediate source; comparing this strategy with Boccaccio’s naming of Virgil while occluding Statius, she sees it as part of a long tradition of ‘authorial erasure’. See Leah Schwebel, ‘The Legend of Thebes and Literary Patricide in Chaucer, Boccaccio, and Statius’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 36 (2014): 139–68; quoted phrase at 140. This complicated argument in my view demands too much knowledge of literary history from the reader of the Knight’s Tale. It also sees the point of the strategy as a self-reflexive comment on Chaucer’s role as narrator, whereas I shall argue that it links the features of the narrative with the larger questions about life raised by the tale.

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Jill Mann show his (Theseus’s) ‘pitee’ and his responsiveness to female appeals,6 but it also enables him to complicate the question of where, exactly, a story may be said to begin. Significantly, this is precisely the question that Statius poses at the beginning of the Thebaid: Fraternas acies alternaque regna profanis decertata odiis sontesque evolvere Thebas Pierius menti calor incidit. unde iubetis ire, deae? gentisne canam primordia dirae, Sidonios raptus et inexorabile pactum legis Agenoreae scrutantemque aequora Cadmum? longa retro series, trepidum si Martis operti agricolam infandis condentem proelia sulcis expediam penitusque sequar, quo carmine muris iusserit Amphion Tyrios accedere montes, unde graues irae cognata in moenia Baccho, quod saeuae Iunonis opus, cui sumpserit arcus infelix Athamas, cur non expauerit ingens Ionium socio casura Palaemone mater. atque ideo iam nunc gemitus et prospera Cadmi praeteriisse sinam: limes mihi carminis esto Oedipodae confusa domus… (I.1–17) (Pierian fire falls upon my soul: to unfold fraternal warfare, and alternate reigns fought for in unnatural hate, and guilty Thebes. Where do you command me to begin, goddesses? Shall I sing the origins of the dire folk, the rape Sidonian, the inexorable compact of Agenor’s ordinance, and Cadmus searching the seas? Far back goes the tale, were I to recount the affrighted husbandman of covered soldiery in unholy furrows and pursue to the uttermost what followed: with what music Amphion bade mountains draw nigh the Tyrian walls, what caused Bacchus’ fierce wrath against a kindred city, what savage Juno wrought, at whom hapless Athamas took up his bow, wherefore Palaemon’s mother did not fear the vast Ionian when she made to plunge in company with her son. No: already shall I let the sorrows and happy days of Cadmus be bygones. Let the limit of my lay be the troubled house of Oedipus…)

The story runs backwards into the mists of time, and it also runs forward into the future: one day, Statius says, he will relate the campaigns of Domitian and the glory of Rome. Modern criticism has devoted much attention to narrative endings,7 and the way they create a shape that give a story its particular meaning. Beginnings 6

7

See Jill Mann, Feminizing Chaucer, Chaucer Studies 30 (Cambridge, 2002), 134–37. See the classic studies by Frank Kermode, The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction, with a New Epilogue (Oxford, 2000), and Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End (Chicago, IL, 1968). For an illuminating

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Narrative Techniques in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale have attracted less attention,8 but they likewise contribute to the construction of meaning, since they implicitly suggest causes of which the stories are effects. Beginning with an ending, as Chaucer does in the Knight’s Tale, gives a special twist to this meaning: it draws attention to the fact that both beginning and ending (and the consequent meaning of the story) are arbitrary, never final. The end of one story (the Thebaid) is simultaneously the beginning of another (the Knight’s Tale). This simple strategy gives the Knight’s Tale an open-endedness from the start – as befits a story of ‘aventure’.9 Open-endedness – in the sense of doubt about where the story will end – also manifests itself in the story’s constant tendency to ‘stop and start’.10 The first instance of this occurs at the end of Theseus’s war against Creon, when Palamon and Arcite have been taken prisoner and sent to Athens, ‘to dwellen in prisoun / Perpetuelly’ (1023–24). The succeeding lines resemble the opening of the story in that they too read like an ending: And whan this worthy duc hath thus ydoon, He took his hoost and hom he rit anoon, discussion of the range of literary structures in Chaucer’s work, including his ways of beginning and ending, see Barry Windeatt, ‘Literary Structures in Chaucer’, in The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer, ed. Piero Boitani and Jill Mann, 2nd edn, Cambridge Companions to Literature (Cambridge, 2003), 214–32. 8 The title of Edward W. Said’s Beginnings: Intention and Method (New York, NY, 1975) suggests it might be an exception, but it has a wider and more general focus on innovation within cultural traditions; as noted in a review by Alexander Gelley (in Nineteenth-Century Fiction 32 [1977]: 214–19), Said ‘has hardly any interest in formalist (intrinsic) devices; how a work begins (or ends) is not in itself an indication of the impulse or principle that determined that beginning rather than another’. 9 For the role of ‘aventure’ or chance in the Knight’s Tale, see Jill Mann, ‘Chance and Destiny in Troilus and Criseyde and the Knight’s Tale’, repr. in Mann, Life in Words: Essays on Chaucer, the Gawain-Poet, and Malory, with an Introduction by Mark David Rasmussen (Toronto, 2014), 56–58. 10 Rosemarie P. McGerr notes that ‘the Knight employs traditional closure devices from the very start … [He] begins his tale with the marriage and homecoming that usually close romance (I.868–73), again appears to leave Theseus to live happily ever after at the duke’s second homecoming (I.1028–29), and ends the first part of his tale with a question of the sort characterizing the end of a demande d’amour. We soon find out, however, that we must not accept these apparent signs of narrative resolution as true closure … we are encouraged to look for the larger picture, the true end, and to defer judgment’, Chaucer’s Open Books: Resistance to Closure in Medieval Discourse (Gainesville, FL, 1998), 152–53. McGerr is, however, concerned with examples of judgmental inconclusiveness or ambiguity, whose function is to provoke in the reader an awareness of ‘the possible meanings of a given text’ (6, quoting Umberto Eco; see also 78 on the ‘world of discontinuities and unresolvable ambiguities’ created by the House of Fame, which ‘encourage us to question our assumptions about art and life’). In this essay I use ‘open-endedness’ more literally, to describe the possibility that the narrative might end at different points and also might take a different direction leading to a different end.

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Jill Mann With laurer crowned as a conquerour; And ther he liveth in joye and in honour Terme of his lif; what nedeth wordes mo? And in a tour, in angwissh and in wo, Dwellen this Palamon, and eek Arcite, For everemoore; ther may no gold hem quite. This passeth yeer by yeer and day by day… (1025–33)

The story seems to have ground to a halt, but suddenly, out of nowhere, it starts up again: Til it fil ones, in a morwe of May, That Emelye… (1034–35) Seeing Emily, both Palamon and Arcite fall in love (‘by aventure or cas’, 1074), and wrangle fruitlessly over their respective claims, but their dispute remains unresolved; once more the narrative comes to a halt and has to be set going again by a chance happening: Greet was the strif and long bitwixe hem tweye, If that I hadde leiser for to seye. But to th’effect: it happed on a day, To telle it yow as shortly as I may, A worthy duc that highte Perotheus, That felawe was unto duc Theseus Sin thilke day that they were children lite, Was come to Atthenes, his felawe to visite… (1187–94)

Perithous happens to be a friend of Arcite (1202–03) and happens to come to Athens. His arrival is also the arrival of another story – the story of his friendship with Theseus and visit to Hell. This story too Chaucer refuses to tell (1201), but its brief intrusion into the story of Arcite produces the unforeseen consequence of Arcite’s release from prison. Stories haphazardly cross the path of other stories – as has already been apparent in Theseus’s encounter with the widow ladies – and send them off in a new direction. This too is something that Chaucer could have picked up from Statius: Theseus’s Amazonian adventures cross paths with the story of Thebes, in which, at this point in the Thebaid, he has played no part so far. He enters unexpectedly from the wings, as it were, to carry the Theban epic to its conclusion.11 Perithous’s arrival leads to Arcite’s release, but it does not seem to advance the love story at all, since Arcite is perpetually banished from Athens and Palamon remains in prison. Once again, a small movement forwards ends in stasis, and the sense of stasis is reinforced by the long parallel laments uttered by Palamon and Arcite. The philosophical reflections in these speeches – on 11

Schwebel (‘Thebes and Patricide’, 154) comments that Theseus ‘remains peripheral to the main action of [the Thebaid] even as he plays a necessary role in its conclusion’.

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Narrative Techniques in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale the role of ‘purveiaunce’, Fortune, and the ‘cruel goddes’ in human lives – have received much critical attention, and I shall consider later how they are related to the narrative features on which I am focusing. At the moment, however, what needs to be noted is that each of these laments adds to the sense of the narrative’s ‘open-endedness’ by envisaging a possible sequence of events that is never realised. Arcite imagines that Palamon’s proximity to Emily will enable him ‘by som caas’ (1242) to win her love (1238–43). Palamon, for his part, imagines that Arcite will now be able to gather an army, make war on Theseus, and ‘by som aventure, or som tretee’ (1288) win Emily as his bride (1281–94). These unrealised narrative hypotheses are examples of what Gerald Prince calls ‘the disnarrated’12 – referring to ‘all the events that do not happen but, nonetheless, are referred to (in a negative or hypothetical mode) by the narrative text’. Instances of the disnarrated can perform a number of different functions; the relevant one here is that of indicating ‘choices not made, roads not taken, possibilities not actualized, goals not reached’.13 Gary Saul Morson has given these unactualised possibilities the suggestive name of ‘sideshadowing’, and has conducted a full exploration of their philosophical implications.14 In the context of Chaucer’s narrative of ‘aventure’, they again emphasise that the story, like life, has no inevitable shape; at any moment a chance event (such as Perithous’s arrival) may send it down a different track. In this case, however, they remain hypotheses, and (equally misleadingly) it seems as if nothing may happen at all. The stasis of the narrative is once more stressed by Chaucer’s insistence on the passage of time (‘The somer passeth and the nightes longe / Encresen double wise the peines stronge / Bothe of the lovere and the prisoner…’, 1337–39), and on the apparent permanency of the situation: Palamon is ‘Perpetuelly’ condemned to prison, Arcite is exiled ‘For everemo’ and ‘neveremo’ shall he see his lady (1342, 1345–46). The narrative pause is marked by Chaucer’s question as to which of the two lovers is worse off, repeating again that Palamon must remain in prison ‘alway’, and that Arcite shall see his lady ‘neveremo’ (1350, 1352). When the story does eventually move forward, it takes some time to gather pace and direction. After ‘a yeer or two’ (1381), Arcite realises that his love-sickness has made him unrecognisable, so that he can return to Athens and take service with Emily. It might seem that the possibility that he had 12 Gerald

Prince, ‘The Disnarrated’, Style 22 (1988): 1–8. The Franklin’s Tale also includes examples of the disnarrated, such as Dorigen imagining her husband shipwrecked on the ‘grisly rokkes blake’, or the long lament in which she envisages her own suicide, both of which offer narrative alternatives that remain unrealised. 13 ‘The Disnarrated’, 5. Other functions listed by Prince are: functioning as a characterisation device; helping to define a narrator; contributing to the development of a theme; helping to create suspense. 14 Morson, Narrative and Freedom, 117–72.

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Jill Mann envisaged for Palamon (making Emily’s acquaintance and winning her love) would in fact fall to Arcite’s lot, but there is no hint of this, and again nothing happens for an indefinite period (‘A yeer or two’, 1426; ‘Fro yeer to yeer’, 1443). Finally, after seven years in prison, Palamon happens to escape ‘by aventure or destinee’ (1465) and happens to go to the grove where Arcite happens to go also to gather a May garland, and to reveal his identity in a soliloquy that Palamon overhears. They agree to fight on the morrow, when Theseus happens to come upon them and then takes charge of events. In Boccaccio, there is a clear line of connection between these events: Palemone learns that the disguised Arcita is present in Teseo’s court, and deliberately plans an escape (the method of which is explained to us in detail) in order to go to the grove which he knows is a favourite haunt of Arcita and confront him. When they fight, Emilia comes across them, and after watching for some time she goes to fetch Teseo. Chaucer unravels this whole skein of motivated and purposefully connected action and gives us a narrative whose shape is constructed merely by chance.15 The narrative features that I have been describing – the beginnings that are simultaneously endings, the constant stopping and starting in the course of events, the criss-crossing of narratives, the envisaged possibility of other narrative developments that never in fact take place, the role of chance in determining what does in fact occur – all emphasise the arbitrary nature of its events. The narrative lacks the driving forward movement of a plot; the dynamic chain of cause and effect is replaced by a random sequence of ‘aventures’ whose intervention can open up an apparently settled situation and set in train a new line of action. Style and Tone ‘Arbitrary’ is an adjective that can also be applied to the sudden shifts and contrasts to which the style(s) and tone(s) of the Knight’s Tale are subject. The intrusion of the widows in black foreshadows these shifts in the way that it dramatically cuts across the cheerful festive mood of the victory procession with images of death and grief. This opening scene fixes in the reader’s mind what Robert Pratt has called a ‘unifying idea’ in this tale:16 the alternation of joy and woe in human life, which is exemplified by Arcite’s fatal accident in the very moment of his triumph: No man mighte gladen Theseus, Saving his olde fader Egeus, That knew this worldes transmutacioun, 15

See Mann, ‘Chance and Destiny’, 57. A. Pratt, ‘“Joye after Wo” in the Knight’s Tale’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 57 (1958): 416–23 (416).

16 Robert

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Narrative Techniques in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale As he hadde seyn it chaunge, bothe up and doun, Joye after wo, and wo after gladnesse… (2837–41)

If the ‘transmutacioun’ of joy and woe is in one sense a ‘unifying idea’, in another sense it is disruptive, since it unsettles the nature of the narrative. If one stops after the first half of the last line (joy after woe – which is Palamon’s experience), life takes the shape of a comedy. If one stops after the second half (woe after gladness – which is Arcite’s experience), life takes the shape of a tragedy. If the ‘transmutacioun’ is repeated and ceaseless, it is impossible to determine whether comedy or tragedy is the appropriate mode. What is at issue here is not just the juxtaposition of woeful and joyous events, but also, and more importantly, the different ways in which a single event can be described. Tone and mood imply meaning, a particular view of life expressing itself in the way that an event is related, the lens through which it is viewed. The tone in which a single event is related can suddenly change, so that the reader is prompted to see it in a different light. Since Charles Muscatine’s deservedly influential analysis in Chaucer and the French Tradition, the formal, stylised, rhetorical elements that make up the ‘heigh style’ of the Knight’s Tale have been generally recognised as reflections of chivalric order,17 while its darker chaotic elements represent threats to that order. But the tale’s shifting moods and tones cover a wider range than this simple opposition, and the shifts carry their own meaning. One particularly clear example occurs when Chaucer is describing Arcite’s visit to the grove where Palamon is hiding. It begins in a lyrical, romantic style, befitting the springtime excursion of a knight and a lover: The bisy larke, messager of day, Salueth in hir song the morwe gray, And firy Phebus riseth up so brighte That al the orient laugheth of the lighte, And with his stremes dryeth in the greves The silver dropes hanginge on the leves. (1491–96)

Exhilarated by the springtime beauty that harmonises with his love, Arcite rides out into the fields to make himself a garland of the new greenery: And loude he song ayein the sonne shene: ‘May, with alle thy floures and thy grene, 17

Muscatine comments on the ‘symmetry of scene, action, and character grouping, the slow pace of the narrative and the large proportion of static description, the predominantly rhetorical kind of discourse’, which work together to express ‘the nature of the noble life’; ‘order, which characterizes the structure of the poem, is also the heart of its meaning’, Chaucer and the French Tradition (Berkeley, CA, 1957), 180–81. Critics who followed Muscatine’s lead are listed by David Aers, Chaucer, Langland and the Creative Imagination (London, 1980), 228 n. 1.

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Jill Mann Welcome be thow, faire fresshe May, In hope that I som grene gete may.’ (1509–12)

The language here evokes the world of romance and love-lyric, with a nod to Dante in the pretty conceit of the eastern sky ‘laughing’ in the sunlight.18 But this romantic style does not last. As Arcite ends his song, his mood abruptly changes, and the style of the narrative changes with it: Whan that Arcite hadde romed al his fille, And songen al the roundel lustily, Into a studye he fil sodeinly, As doon thise loveres in hir queinte geres – Now in the croppe, now doun in the breres, Now up, now doun, as boket in a welle; Right as the Friday, soothly for to telle: Now it shineth, now it reineth faste. Right so kan gery Venus overcaste The hertes of hir folk; right as hir day Is gerful, right so chaungeth she array. Selde is the Friday al the wike ilike. (1528–39)

Both language and tone have suddenly become everyday, down-to-earth, even chatty, with the homely image of the bucket in the well, the near-bathos of the repeated ‘now up … now doun’, and the folkloric comment on the contrariness of typical Friday weather. One seems to be listening to an old woman gossiping over a garden fence. It is significant that the shift in tone comes with a shift from singular to plural: ‘As doon thise lovers…’ (1531). The perspective suddenly widens, so that the reader moves from close identification with Arcite’s emotions to a more dispassionate attitude in which his mood swings are placed in the context of lovers in general and seen as a typical oddity of behaviour that can be viewed with detached amusement. As Charlie Chaplin reportedly observed, ‘Life is a tragedy in close-up, but a comedy in long shot’. This oscillation of tone is repeated in what follows. The serious tone returns as Chaucer reports Arcite’s lament over his unhappy lot and Palamon’s angry confrontation. Tension and emotional excitement persist as the pair make arrangements for a private combat next day and proceed to put them into effect. The deadly earnest of the battle is conveyed in the simile of the hunter listening to a lion or a bear crashing through the undergrowth and fearfully waiting for it to charge. Palamon is compared to ‘a wood leoun’ (1656) and Arcite to ‘a cruel tigre’ (1657): 18

See Dante, Purgatorio I.19–20: ‘Lo bel pianeta che d’amor conforta [=Venus] / faceva tutto rider l’oriente.’ (‘The beautiful planet which induces love was making the whole east smile.’)

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Narrative Techniques in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale As wilde bores gonnen they to smite, That frothen whit as foom for ire wood; Up to the anclee foghte they in hir blood. (1658–60)

Drama turns into melodrama, however, with the exaggerated picture of the two knights fighting ankle-deep in blood. And suddenly Chaucer abandons this gripping scene and with a disconcertingly jaunty nonchalance pulls back the camera, as it were, to shift the focus elsewhere: And in this wise I lete hem fighting dwelle, And forth I wol of Theseus yow telle. (1661–62)

The seriousness of the situation is deflated by a simple shift in perspective that brings an almost bathetic shift in tone: the narrative point of view shifts to Theseus, who can see the comedy in two knights fighting to the death over a woman who knows nothing of their love and next to nothing of them. The account of Arcite’s death provides a bravura display of these shifts in style and tone. It begins in the bald factual mode of clinical detail: Swelleth the brest of Arcite, and the soore Encreeseth at his herte moore and moore. The clothered blood, for any lechecraft, Corrupteth, and is in his bouk ylaft, That neither veine-blood, ne ventusinge, Ne drinke of herbes, may been his helpinge. The vertu expulsif, or animal, Fro thilke vertu cleped natural Ne may the venim voiden ne expelle. The pipes of his longes gan to swelle, And every lacerte in his brest adoun Is shent with venim and corrupcioun. Him gaineth neither, for to gete his lif, Vomit upward, ne dounward laxatif. Al is to-brosten thilke regioun… (2743–57)

Personality and emotion are conspicuously absent from this quasi-mechanical process of physical malfunctioning, which calls forth only a cynically flippant recognition of the inevitable conclusion: Nature hath now no dominacioun. And certainly, ther Nature wol nat werche, Farewel physik! Go ber the man to cherche! This al and som: that Arcite moot die. (2758–61)

But the sense of an individual consciousness at the centre of this physical process returns, as Arcite makes his dying farewell to Emily and expresses his frustration at the seemingly random oscillations of human existence: 95

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Jill Mann ‘Allas, min hertes queene! Allas, my wif, Min hertes lady, endere of my lif! What is this world? What axeth men to have? Now with his love, now in his colde grave, Allone, withouten any compaignye.’ (2775–79)

Yet the narrative again retreats from pathos to medical fact, as ‘the coold of deeth’ gradually moves up Arcite’s body, extinguishes the ‘vital strengthe’ in his arms, his ‘intellect’, his eyes and his breathing (2799–805). Flippancy also returns as the only appropriate response to the inevitable: His spirit chaunged hous and wente ther, As I cam nevere, I kan nat tellen wher. Therfore I stinte; I nam no divinistre. Of soules finde I nat in this registre, Ne me ne list thilke opinions to telle Of hem, thogh that they writen wher they dwelle. Arcite is coold; ther Mars his soule gye! Now wol I speken forth of Emelye. (2809–16)

The spectators of Arcite’s death now give way to dramatic expressions of grief, but the narrative remains curiously detached from their feelings, so that their exaggerated form shifts the mood to mild amusement: Shrighte Emelye, and howleth Palamon, And Theseus his suster took anon Swowninge, and baar hire fro the corps away. What helpeth it to taryen forth the day, To tellen how she weep bothe eve and morwe? For in swich caas wommen have swich sorwe, Whan that hir housbond is from hem ago, That for the moore part they sorwen so, Or ellis fallen in swich maladye, That at the laste certeinly they die. (2817–26)

As with Arcite’s sudden lapse into a ‘studye’ in the grove, it is the plural that marks the distancing. The individual (Emily) gives way to the general (‘wommen’), and the invocation of multiple instances of ‘swich caas’ brings with it the inevitable knowledge that most women do not ‘certeinly’ die from their grief: given time, they will get over it. The narrative holds two points of time together, juxtaposing the immediate immersion in grief with the later acceptance that issues from the distance brought by time. And finally, the apparent attempt to introduce a little dignity into the proceedings is immediately thwarted by a return to comedy: ‘Why woldestow be deed?’ thise wommen crye, ‘And haddest gold inow, and Emelye?’ (2835–36) 96

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Narrative Techniques in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale In this range of incompatible moods, tones, and reactions, the reader is at a loss to know which is the ‘proper’ reaction, the one that captures the essence of the event. The same is true of questions about causality. Why did Arcite die? There is the medical answer (‘the clothered blood…’), the political answer (because Creon was a tyrant), the romantic answer (because Arcite fell in love with Emily), the astrological answer (because Saturn was dominant in the planetary conjunction), the ironic answer (because the verbal formulation of Arcite’s prayer allowed Saturn to find a loophole). I am not suggesting that the shifts of tone and mood are designed to undermine the solemn, romantic, or heroic elements in human experience; rather they show that it is the co-existence of these elements with the undignified, the cynical, the bathetic, that constitute the problem of meaning. What is this world? What is the meaning of its abrupt transitions from joy to woe and back again, and what attitude should one adopt to them? Should they be viewed with amused cynicism, with horror, with despair, or with admiration for the shreds of idealism or romance that human beings manage to snatch from the wreckage? Is there an ultimate meaning that will determine whether life is a tragedy or a comedy? The Question of Meaning Two answers to this question seem to be on offer, and criticism of the Knight’s Tale has usually opted for one or the other. One is Theseus’s final appeal to the ‘faire cheine of love’ established by the ‘First Mover’, an appeal that culminates in his proposal of a marriage between Palamon and Emily. The other is the cosmic debate that settles Arcite’s fate, which is interpreted as a bleak contradiction of Theseus’s optimism, a demonstration that human beings are merely puppets in the hands of heartless gods. This latter view, as I have argued elsewhere, ignores the fact that the ‘gods’ are not true deities, but planets.19 That is, they are no more autonomous agents than the human beings whose fates they influence, although the narrative fiction invests them with the appearance of independent agency. Their ‘actions’ are determined by their planetary natures, and ultimately, by the First Mover who creates their movements. They are subject not only to each other’s influence, as they combine in the endless series of planetary conjunctions, but also to the actions of human beings. Palamon and Arcite make their respective prayers to Venus and Mars at the appropriate ‘hours of the planets’, the points when the planet concerned is most susceptible to human petitions. The result is that Venus and Mars each accede to the prayers of their knight, causing an astrological conflict that is resolved by Saturn because he too figures in this planetary conjunction, and since his sphere embraces all the others (‘My cours, that hath 19

See Mann, ‘Chance and Destiny’, 58–59.

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Jill Mann so wide for to turne, / Hath moore power than woot any man’, 2454–55) and his influence is malevolent, the solution to the conflict will be malevolent also. What this means is that the actions of Palamon and Arcite do contribute to their respective destinies, but indirectly and in unexpected ways. The wording of their individual prayers turns out to be crucial in a way that they could not have foreseen. Since Palamon is praying to Venus, he asks her to give him Emily, by any means she can devise. Since Arcite is praying to Mars, he asks for victory in the tournament – which he assumes, naturally enough, will win him Emily. It does not require a thorough grounding in speech-act theory to realise that both knights are asking for the same thing, although the verbal form of their requests differs. Saturn, disregarding the ‘illocutionary force’ of the two prayers, exploits their verbal discrepancy, inventing a stratagem by which he can satisfy both requests in letter if not in spirit.20 It would lose the point of this ingeniously constructed interplay of human and planetary influences if one were to try to reduce it to a moral about phrasing one’s requests for supernatural assistance with more care (comparable to making Othello into a warning to take more care of one’s handkerchiefs). The point is larger and wider than that. Introducing a cosmic dimension to the narrative is a way of representing all those forces and circumstances affecting human life that human agency cannot even envisage, let alone control. The good news is that appeals to planetary influence have an effect; the bad news is that planets respond according to their function as planets, not as persons. Their apparently personal sympathy with human affairs is a mere illusion; their response is the inevitable result of an astrological conjunction. Once again, the tale has effected a shift in perspective, from the human level to a supra-human level that nevertheless plays a part in the final shape of the tale. On the narrative level, the fictional representation of the planets as human beings is instructive by virtue of its very fictionality: seeing the planets first as autonomous personalities and then as astrological bodies whose role is determined by the laws of the cosmos, the reader learns the limits of independent agency on both the human and the planetary plane. The cosmic debate, that is, shows us another perspective, but not the final perspective; the planets are not the ultimate controllers of the universe, as is often assumed.21 The effect is somewhat akin to one of those films where a natural disaster threatens: for example, shots of a happy party of skiers setting out in the morning sunshine are intercut with shots of ominous crumbling in a snow wall, heralding an imminent avalanche. The planets have no more 20

Similarly, Emily asks, if she must marry, to be given the knight who loves her best, and is in fact given both, first Arcite and then Palamon. 21 In the Complaint of Mars, Chaucer makes comedy by presenting the planets in a double perspective, as quasi-human agents and as the helpless participants in a pattern of cosmic movement determined by forces beyond their control.

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Narrative Techniques in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale intentionality than the avalanche; they are both simply impersonal forces of nature, impinging on human destinies in accordance with natural laws. Intentionality, on the other hand, is attributed to the First Mover by Theseus: ‘The Firste Moevere of the cause above, Whan he first made the faire cheine of love, Greet was th’effect and heigh was his entente. Wel wiste he why, and what therof he mente…’ (2987–90)

The ‘intent’ of the First Mover, which determines the movement of the planets, would provide us with a final perspective in which the events of the tale would assume a final meaningful shape. But if Theseus asserts the intent of the First Mover, he does not attempt to tell his audience what that intent is. Instead, his perspective is limited to the commonplaces of earthly ‘experience’ (3001), the ceaseless processes of change, growth, and decay that are the staple of existence. Philosophical reasoning may indicate that the part derives from a greater whole, and that perfection and stability reside in some extra-terrestrial realm. But what is visible on earth (‘This maystow understonde and seen at eye’, 3016) is that all earthly things are subject to time. The oak falls, the stone wears away, rivers dry up, towns decline and disappear. And men and women – young or old, rich or poor, of natural or unnatural causes – all, without exception, die. Again the human perspective widens from the individual to the general; death is not so much an individual tragedy as an everyday, even humdrum, occurrence. So far from trying to ignore or obliterate death, therefore, Theseus installs it at the centre of his vision, as universal and inevitable. This being so, the question is simply ‘what next?’ Theseus’s proposal is to continue the process of change, the endless alternation of joy and woe that makes up human life: ‘after wo I rede us to be merye’ (3068). Arcite’s death makes possible Palamon’s – and Emily’s – happiness. The Time Perspective Crucial in the tale’s final transition from woe to joy is the length of time that it takes: By proces, and by lengthe of certein yeris, Al stinted is the moorninge and the teris Of Grekes, by oon general assent. (2967–69; my emphasis)

In Boccaccio’s Teseida it is a few days after Arcita’s death that Palemone is married to Emilia. As noted earlier, Chaucer drastically reduces the length of Boccaccio’s narrative (récit), but paradoxically, he strikingly increases the

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Jill Mann length of time occupied by the events in the story (histoire).22 The temporary halts in the narrative are used to emphasise this length of time. Palamon and Arcite are imprisoned ‘For everemoore’ (1032); ‘This passeth yeer by yeer and day by day…’ (1033). Banished from Athens, Arcite suffers lovesickness for ‘a yeer or two’ (1381), before he returns in disguise and serves Emily for ‘a yeer or two’ (1426). Meanwhile, Palamon remains in prison ‘This seven yeer’ (1452) before he suddenly and almost effortlessly escapes. (In Boccaccio, Palemone’s imprisonment lasts only one year.) One year passes between Theseus coming upon the two knights battling in the grove and the tournament that he imposes on them. Finally, as we have seen, several years pass before the wedding between Palamon and Emily. That is, Chaucer makes no attempt to match the pace of his narrative to the periods of time that it describes. Long periods of time are indicated in brief summary, while shorter ones are treated in vivid detail. These contrasts of chronological perspective match the shifts in narrative point of view that I discussed earlier, and they too represent a change in the level of emotional engagement with the characters and events of the story. The final instance is the most important: the intensity of grief at Arcite’s death is lessened ‘By proces’ (2967),23 by the natural and almost imperceptible operation of change over time. The ceaseless passage of time effects not only the ‘successiouns’ of events in the external world, but also the internal changes that allow different responses to these events to come into play without incurring the charge of inappropriateness or heartlessness. Contrasting the length of narrative events with the brevity of their telling is another way of making the reader aware of the way that the passage of time changes the emotional charge of an event. The End? But shortly to the point than wol I wende, And maken of my longe tale an ende. (2965–66)

Is this ‘ende’ The End? Has the tale finally taken on a meaningful shape that will allow us to decide whether life is a tragedy or a comedy? Theseus’s reference to the ‘O parfit joye, lastinge everemo’ (3072) which will be ensured by the wedding of Palamon and Emily seems to call a halt to the tale’s ‘longe serye’ (3067) of vicissitudes.24 Yet the numerous occasions where we have 22

See the schematised comparison in Boitani, Chaucer and Boccaccio, 127. Dorigen’s grief at her husband’s absence is likewise assuaged ‘by proces’ (Franklin’s Tale, 829), with a consequent change of narrative mood; see Jill Mann, ‘Chaucerian Themes and Style in the Franklin’s Tale’, repr. in Mann, Life in Words, 62–79 (69–70). 24 James Simpson has suggested that this phrase is an echo of Statius’s ‘longa series’ (Thebaid I.7; passage quoted above, 88); see The Oxford English Literary History, vol. 2, 1350–1547, Reform and Cultural Revolution (Oxford, 2002), 309–10. 23

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Narrative Techniques in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale been assured that a situation is established ‘for everemoo’ (or ‘neveremo’), only to see it change, have amply demonstrated that nothing is so permanent. And if we stand back and look at the ‘longe tale’ as a whole, we can see this happy ending as a narrative convention, a choice of a point to satisfy the human hunger for closure, rather than an assurance that the alternating sequence of joy and woe has been brought to an end. The tale began with the summary of a war that ended in a wedding. It goes on to recount another war, which initiates a series of events that end in another wedding. Yet just as the opening impression of a ‘happy ending’ was counteracted by the arrival of the grieving widows, so the concluding mood of ‘happy ever after’ is open to disruption by some new and unexpected ‘aventure’. It is narrative choice, not the nature of things, that gives a story a conclusion. The tale could have halted earlier, with Arcite’s death. The long and detailed description of his funeral might indeed suggest that this is going to be the case. Once again it seems that the tale has ground to a halt, has reached a stopping-point that carries little hope of starting up again. But just as Chaucer explicitly refuses to relate the story of Theseus’s Amazonian war and his marriage to Hippolyta, so he ostentatiously refuses to describe Arcite’s funeral while in fact describing it (2919–64); he refuses, that is, to allow the impression that the narrative climaxes and concludes at this point. Death is the end of an individual life, but the wider process of human life continues. Theseus moves on past the death of Arcite to a new and unexpected development. But in the background of the ‘O parfit joye’ that he brings about is the unavoidable knowledge that death will bring this joy too to an end: ‘Ther helpeth noght – al gooth that ilke weye’ (3033). Conclusion Boccaccio’s Teseida was an attempt to write a vernacular epic, as is indicated by its very title (Teseida modelled on Aeneid, Achilleid and so on).25 Chaucer’s rewriting of Boccaccio’s tale moves it away from epic towards romance, a genre whose form is traditionally episodic, determined by ‘aventure’ rather than a linked chain of cause and effect, and whose narrative is alive to the endless succession of ‘blysse and blunder’26 and to the coexistence of the tragic and the comic in human life. The Knight’s Tale manipulates the narrative features of romance as ways of focusing and dramatising its central question: does human life have a final meaning? Is its fundamental shape 25 See

Boitani, Chaucer and Boccaccio, 31: ‘Boccaccio … wished to write the first “classical” epic in Italian and to compose a love poem at the same time’. 26 The phrase comes from the opening of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, ed. J. R. R. Tolkien and E. V. Gordon, rev. Norman Davis (Oxford, 1968), line 18; its juxtaposition of joy and woe encapsulates the romance ethos.

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Jill Mann comic or tragic? This question receives – can receive – no final answer. If the tale ends with a joyful event, it has also shown that the sequence of woe and joy is without end, and that human agency is powerless to secure happiness in a world where ‘aventure’ is the prime determiner of events. Like Theseus, human beings can only ‘make virtue of necessity’, and trust that the ‘heigh entente’ of the First Mover will eventually become clear – but that will happen only when time and change, and the succession of ‘aventures’ that make up the narrative of human life, have come to a final end.

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5 The Riddle of ‘Apollonius’: ‘A Bok for King Richardes Sake’* R. F. Y EAGER

T

he ‘Tale of Apollonius’ stands out from John Gower’s Confessio Amantis for several reasons. It is the longest of the many illustrative stories offered by the Confessor, Genius, to the hapless lover, Amans, during the latter’s extended confession. As the last tale told, it unavoidably raises expectations that it should function as a summa of the poem’s first seven Books – in which capacity it does not disappoint.1 The ‘Tale of Apollonius’ is also one of Gower’s very few forays into the romance genre. As Corinne Saunders has rightly reminded us, however, applying such terminology requires caution. ‘Texts now classified as “romances” were not necessarily identified as such when written’, she points out, ‘but came to be seen retrospectively as exemplifying a set of genre characteristics that existed before and extended beyond the Middle Ages.’2 It is an important caveat. Whether Gower, if asked, would have named ‘Apollonius’ a romance in any modern sense is beyond our determination. Fortunately it is also somewhat beside the point. Gower’s initial answer, indeed, might have been a denial.3 The (infrequent) references to romances identifiable in his works suggest that, for Gower, a * The germ for this essay originated in a dinner conversation with Helen Cooper – one she may not remember – many years ago in Boulder, Colorado. Among the many topics was the ‘Tale of Apollonius’ and its several puzzling curiosities. What follows is an attempt to account for one of them. 1 I have previously argued this point at length; see my John Gower’s Poetic: The Search for a New Arion, Publications of the John Gower Society 2 (Cambridge, 1990), 214–29. 2 Corinne Saunders, ‘Gower and Romance’, in The Routledge Research Companion to John Gower, ed. Ana Sáez-Hidalgo, Brian Gastle, and R. F. Yeager (London, 2017), 281–95 (281). 3 Elizabeth Archibald points out that ‘Apollonius of Tyre’ is ‘rarely described as a romance; apparently this term (which of course could be used of history as well as fiction) was never applied to it before the fourteenth century’. See Elizabeth Archibald, Apollonius of Tyre: Medieval and Renaissance Themes and Variations (Cambridge, 1991), 92.

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R. F. Yeager ‘romanz’ narrative would have been chivalric.4 His known sources for the ‘Tale of Apollonius’ are histories and exemplum collections: the Historia Apollonii regis Tyri, Secretum Secretorum, Godfrey of Viterbo’s Pantheon, and the Gesta Romanorum. Although the Historia Apollonii has ancient roots and is often discussed alongside the so-called ‘Greek romances’, there is no reason to believe that Gower would not have taken its title at face-value and considered it primarily a historical work.5 Very likely he held Godfrey’s book in a similar light, too. Intended to contain every form of knowledge, the Pantheon was encyclopedic in scope, and a frequent source of information for Gower.6 So were the Secretum and the Gesta Romanorum: from those compendia Gower borrowed some of the Confessio’s most memorable narratives, in the latter case apparently taking the title – ‘Deeds of the Romans’ – more or less literally, and its contents as closer to factual history. Such sources suggest that Gower’s motivation to conclude the instructive portion of Amans’s shrift with the ‘Tale of Apollonius’ may have been more complex than is often thought. Certainly for many, beginning with at least G. C. Macaulay, the unfolding of Confessio Book VIII has raised troublesome questions.7 Why did Gower sidestep the obvious, even by a half-step, to 4

Generic boundaries were nebulous in the Middle Ages – and insufficient attention has been paid to determining Gower’s. Any claim for Gower’s idea of ‘romance’ should in any case be prefaced by a caveat: a thoughtful reading of Helen Cooper’s introduction to her indispensable study, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2004). Nonetheless, Gower’s scattered references to chivalric characters indicate familiarity with a range of these, in English and in French; that he approaches them similarly, and in similar contexts, work after work, supports the view that he recognised them as a type. 5 The Greek affiliations of ‘Apollonius’ are discussed concisely by Elizabeth Archibald; see ‘Ancient Romances’, in A Companion to Romance from Classical to Contemporary, ed. Corinne Saunders, Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture 27 (Oxford, 2007), 10–25 (10–16). Elsewhere (Apollonius of Tyre, 84) she rightly cautions against blithe equation of modern and medieval definitions of ‘history’, quoting John Stevens: ‘“Story” and “history”, which for us have come to denote opposites, for them seem often to have merged into one.’ Gower, in my view, however, was precisely one of those ‘sophisticated minds of the age’ whom Stevens sketches, who ‘wished to be aware of criteria by means of which fact and fiction could be distinguished’. See John Stevens, Medieval Romance: Themes and Approaches, Hutchinson University Library (London, 1973), 231–32. 6 On Gower’s use of the Pantheon, see S. Singer, Apollonius von Tyrus: Untersuchungen über das Fortleben des antiken Romans in späteren Zeiten (Halle, 1895), 177–89; and Elimar Klebs, Die Erzählung von Apollonius von Tyrus: Urform und ihre späteren Bearbeitungen (Berlin, 1899), 462–71. The best study of Gower’s use of the Secretum remains unpublished: see Mahmoud Manzalaoui, ‘The Secreta Secretorum in English Thought and Literature from the Fourteenth to the Seventeenth Century, with a Preliminary Study of the Arabic Origins of the Secreta’ (D.Phil. thesis, Oxford, 1954), 405–69. 7 See, for example, Larry Scanlon, ‘The Riddle of Incest: John Gower and the Problem of Medieval Sexuality’, in Re-Visioning Gower, ed. R. F. Yeager (Asheville, NC, 1998),

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The Riddle of ‘Apollonius’ focus on Incest, a sub-sin, rather than on Luxuria itself, the only cardinal sin of the seven he had left to examine? Why too, if indeed an exploration of Incest were Gower’s purpose, does the ‘Tale of Apollonius’ devote so little attention either to the act itself, or to Antiochus and his unnamed daughter, its perpetrators? What did determine Gower’s choice of ‘Apollonius’, and his decision to narrate it where he did, in such detail, and at such length? Unanswerable as these questions probably are (as Cooper would remind us), the ‘Tale of Apollonius’ is nonetheless too prominent a part of the Confessio Amantis not to press it further for better resolution. A new avenue of approach might begin with the unsettling shift of focus in Book VIII, from Lust – what we expect – to Incest, which we don’t. That Gower had not weighed the surprise this would generate is most unlikely. A question worth raising, then, is what benefit did he hope to gain thereby? One can imagine several possibilities. Ruling out effect for effect’s sake, and observing that Antiochus and his daughter become tangential comparatively quickly amidst the expanding events of Apollonius’s life, one could conclude that incest was not Gower’s only target when he chose ‘Apollonius’. Other purposes could have moved him, even perhaps more powerfully. A more fruitful approach to the problem, then, might be to turn the question around, to ask it in a way that, to my knowledge, it has not been before. Rather than having determined that Book VIII should pay greatest attention to Incest instead of to the more general Lust, and thereupon seeking out an appropriate exemplum with which to conclude it, what if – instead – Gower first decided to tell the tale of ‘Apollonius of Tyre’, and then refocused his final Book from Lust to Incest in order to craft a place for it? At first glance, that sequence of thought seems unorthodox, if not wholly counterintuitive, and flies in the face of Gower’s popular image as a plodder. Yet the logic underlying his placement of several stories in the Confessio confounds many readers – and in point of fact, we have no way of knowing how, or in what order, Gower came to his decisions. Considered from that perspective, the weight of the choice he made would seem to fall on the ‘Apollonius’ narrative itself; in which case, we might ask again (albeit from this different angle), what benefit did Gower expect from telling it? Or put another way, what was it about the ‘Tale of Apollonius’ that was attractive enough to Gower that he would deviate from patterns established over thousands of lines, even re-designate a cardinal sin, to include it as Genius’s summative lesson for Amans? The answer, I suspect, lies within the realm of alternating fact and fiction – ‘somwhat of lust, somwhat of lore’ (CA Prol.19) – that the Confessio 93–127; and María Bullón-Fernández, Fathers and Daughters in Gower’s ‘Confessio Amantis’: Authority, Family, State, and Writing, Publications of the John Gower Society 5 (Cambridge, 2000).

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R. F. Yeager Amantis admits to inhabiting by design.8 Readers have not always responded favourably to this hybridity. The opinion of many early critics, that Book VII was an ill-considered ‘digression’ that marred the poem’s aesthetic and moral symmetries, offers a case in point.9 More recent assessments, however, argue for viewing the Confessio as a work able to move fluidly in and out of imaginary, and actual, contemporary worlds. Gower’s apparent intention, in this view, was not unlike Chaucer’s for the Canterbury Tales. If a (presumably recognisable) ‘Harry Bailey’ hosts an ‘actual’ Tabard Inn in Southwark, and a ‘Geoffrey’ (ostensibly the author) is recording the pilgrimage, so there is equally an Amans – a literary construction – transformed at the end of the Confessio into an elderly ‘John Gower’, who, like ‘Geoffrey’, ostensibly is composing the poem in which he appears.10 Gower and Chaucer notably part company, however, over the appropriate role of the political in what might be called their ‘Real-poetik’. For Gower, the issue was beyond debate. It is not making too strong a claim to suggest that, for all the labour he clearly invested in polishing his trilingual craft, what justified that effort for ‘moral Gower’ was the real-world advice his poems ultimately conveyed. Thus in the Confessio Amantis he fulfilled his early promise to write ‘som newe thing’ (CA Prol.*51) only superficially. At its core, Gower’s Middle English poem is no less socially engaged than are the Mirour de l’Omme and the Vox Clamantis. Far from being a digression, the speculum regis of Book VII, as most now recognise, is thus at the heart of the Confessio’s design. This aesthetic has pronounced implications for any proper reading of the ‘Tale of Apollonius’. Gower’s decision to include the tale as the last in a long poem containing so many, and the question of what he believed could be gained by doing so, cannot be assessed without Real-poetik in mind. On that basis, thoughtful consideration would seem to rule out both Incest and Lust as primary factors driving Gower’s selection of ‘Apollonius’. The crime of Antiochus and his daughter, having set events in motion, plays no further role in what follows. Nor does Lust, an appetite Gower depicts vividly in other tales, but is strangely silent about here, where expansive attention is most 8

All quotations from the Confessio Amantis are taken from G. C. Macaulay, ed., The English Works of John Gower, EETS e.s. 81–82 (Oxford, 1900–01). 9 See my discussion of the objections of Macaulay and others to Book VII, in Yeager, John Gower’s Poetic, 196–208. 10 Both are often mistaken for the poets in propria persona. E. Talbot Donaldson’s now-classic dismissal of this misreading in Chaucer’s case applies equally well to Gower. See E. Talbot Donaldson, ‘Chaucer the Pilgrim’, in Speaking of Chaucer (New York, NY, 1970), 1–12. On Gower, see in particular Kurt Olsson, ‘Amans the Poet’, in John Gower and the Structure of Conversion: A Reading of the ‘Confessio Amantis’, Publications of the John Gower Society 4 (Cambridge, 1992), 38–51. Ironically, this error among moderns underscores the continuing difficulty readers face in separating history from fiction.

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The Riddle of ‘Apollonius’ expected.11 Apollonius, his (nameless) wife and Thaise his daughter are all wholly free of it, as is Athenagoras, who marries Thaise (CA VIII.1759–76) with her father’s permission, ‘alle of on accord’. Even Thaise’s brief internment in the brothel (1410–45) is described almost chastely: only her tears, and the sympathy they engender in her would-be customers, receive any attention. Assuredly there is precedent in the Confessio for ending Books with a positive exemplum. Most, in fact, do so. Genius has a habit of summing up his lesson on each sin with an illustration of its opposing virtue.12 The ‘Tale of Apollonius’ functions in this way, but more complexly. Situated as it is, essentially in final position, its responsibility is recursive, extending beyond Book VIII, to encompass the poem as a whole: all the sins must find their moral opposites embodied there.13 Genius takes full account of this extensive responsibility in his explication of ‘Apollonius’ to Amans. A single admonition not to ‘take lust as doth a beste’ because ‘such lust is noght of loves kinde’ (2025, 2028) is as close as he comes, either to Luxuria or Incest, nominally the focal sins of both the tale and Book VIII. His emphasis instead falls upon the more expansive ‘love agein kinde’ (2017) wherein he clearly equates ‘kinde’ with a ‘love [that] … “wolde acorde” with “reson”’ (2023). Amans as yet hears none of this. Still blind to himself as the ‘olde grisel’ (2407) that Genius has perceived throughout, Amans remains unready to see how this advice applies to him – or, indeed, why he has been putting up with all of this story-telling unless on the other side of it he will be granted possession of his lady. Gower supplies Genius with a response to Amans’s persistent obtuseness that rarely receives the critical appreciation it deserves. The Confessor’s tone shifts palpably, becoming matter-of-fact. He has, he says, up to this point relied upon indirection and narrative examples because Amans could handle nothing stronger: The more that the nede is hyh, The more it nedeth to be slyh To him which hath the nede on honde. (2063–65)

But now he will ‘lete all othre truffles be’ (2062) and deliver the straight truth. The Confessor reminds Amans that in his priestly office he dispenses advice not merely to lovers about love, but also to men about life (2075–83). This is a new voice for Genius, and it announces his own metamorphosis. Though eclipsed for most readers by the greater flourish of Amans’s change into 11

E.g., the ‘Tale of Tereus’, presented as an example of ‘Ravine’, a sub-sin of Avarice in Book V (5551–6047). 12 A good example is the ‘Tale of the Three Questions’ (CA I.3067–425) which illustrates Humility, the opposite of Pride, the sin treated in Book I. On both the tale and the technique in general see my John Gower’s Poetic, 140–44. 13 See my discussion, John Gower’s Poetic, 214–29.

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R. F. Yeager ‘John Gower’, Genius’s transformation is, if anything, the more important to a thorough understanding of the Confessio. In present terms, it is especially pertinent for the light it sheds on the shaping of Book VIII, and the decision to include the ‘Tale of Apollonius’. Genius precedes Amans in becoming John Gower, not as Amans does, in body, but rather in authority. The Confessor’s new voice is a familiar one – it has been heard before in the poem, but not until now within the fictional confession. It is the voice Gower himself uses, writing in propria persona in the Prologue, describing the sorry state of the world and of England; it will return in full force in the Confessio’s final two hundred lines when, having put fiction aside, Gower directly addresses those real-world concerns again. Indeed, Genius’s forthright admonition to Amans to ‘tak love where it mai noght faile’ (VIII.2086) seems intended to anticipate Gower’s re-emergence as author in the Confessio’s latter lines. Love is blind, the Confessor says, and so requires ‘good conseil’ to avoid a fall – but the way he illustrates that point is significant: For conseil passeth alle thing To him which thenkth to ben a king; And every man for his partie A kingdom hath to justifie, That is to sein his oghne dom. If he misreule that kingdom, He lest himself, and that is more Than if he loste Schip and Ore And al the worldes good withal: For what man that in special Hath noght himself, he hath noght elles, Nomor the perles than the schelles; Al is to him of o value: Thogh he hadde at his retenue The wyde world riht as he wolde, Whan he his herte hath noght withholde Toward himself, al is in vein. (2109–25)

The underlying idea, that the microcosm could be reflected in the macrocosm, and vice-versa, is hardly new. Genius’s characterisation of proper emotional self-governance as analogous to good kingship is a medieval commonplace, and one long recognised as the central metaphor binding together the Confessio’s seemingly disparate parts.14 From a structural point of view,

14

See Russell A. Peck, Kingship and Common Profit in John Gower’s ‘Confessio Amantis’ (Carbondale, IL, 1978), esp. 138–59; and also Olsson, Structures of Conversion, 204–13.

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The Riddle of ‘Apollonius’ to find the ‘Tale of Apollonius’ – the summative narrative of the poem – exemplifying this notion is scarcely surprising. But Genius’s presentation here of the value of good counsel for lovers and for kings, in the voice Gower uses when speaking authorially, is an essential key, not only to the nagging questions raised by the eighth Book, but also to the larger purpose of the entire poem. The placement of ‘Apollonius’ in the Confessio as Genius’s primary illustration of Incest, or even Lust – a task it fulfils awkwardly at best, for either – appears persistently haphazard. That incongruity lessens somewhat if, as suggested earlier, the modification of Lust to Incest was effected not before Gower decided to include the tale, as is usually assumed, but after: at least ‘Apollonius’ begins with incest, even as it neglects lust entirely. Plausible as far as it goes, however, this explanation scarcely deters the suspicion that the tale arrived unexpectedly and accommodations had to be made to fit it in. Gower’s emergence from the fiction of his poem, to use of his own voice in Genius’s advocacy of counsel further clarifies why, once found, the tale seemed worth his trouble to jigger in. His ultimate auditor for ‘Apollonius’ and Genius’s moral was not Amans, nor lovers generally, but the king. No critical dispute exists over whether, in its first iteration, the Confessio Amantis was written with Richard II in mind. Gower’s initial intent, notwithstanding changes he made in subsequent versions, was to write a poem that would both please and instruct the young Richard. The king opens the Confessio on his barge in Book I, commissioning the poem, and Gower closes it with prayers for his successful reign. And he was, indeed, a young Richard: although the precise date is not known when Gower began writing the Confessio, or when in the process he was completing Book VIII, the common assumption holds that he started in 1386.15 In that year Richard was nineteen, still three years shy of declaring his majority, and still nominally subject to regents, whose authority he found increasingly onerous.16 His attempts to free himself, to be advised by, and reward, an inner circle of his own choice, and to act autonomously led to bloodshed and his near-deposition by the Appellant lords in 1387–88.17 Until 1389, when he declared himself officially free of tutelage, and for seven years thereafter, Richard outwardly acquiesced to guidance from the lords and commons, while nurturing plans for reversal and revenge. These, apparently, he began to put into practice as early as

15

John Fisher held that Gower began work on the Confessio at about the same time Chaucer was writing the Legend of Good Women, that is, 1385–86. His views have influenced subsequent scholars’ opinions. See John Fisher, John Gower: Moral Philosopher and Friend of Chaucer (London, 1964), 116. 16 For the background, see Nigel Saul, Richard II (New Haven, CT, 1997), 169–71. 17 Saul, Richard II, 172–75.

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R. F. Yeager 1390–91; and it is often held that Gower, made uneasy by Richard’s behavior, several times revised the Confessio Amantis accordingly.18 There is some reason to believe, however, that Gower may have been completing, rather than beginning, the first version of the Confessio in 1386–87, and was already engaged in writing the final Book.19 In that event, in Book VIII the Richard he was attempting to reach – first through the ‘Tale of Apollonius’ and Genius’s summative moral, urging attention to counsel, and then subsequently, in Gower’s authorial address in the final two hundred lines – had in fact received a new conciliar restriction. In November 1386 the so-called ‘Wonderful Parliament’ established ‘a great and continual council’ that in essence had blanket powers to run the government for a year.20 Richard’s objection to this incursion was predictably vigorous, despite documented indications that the parliamentary-appointed council actively sought the king’s cooperation. Because both king and council were resident in Westminster throughout 1386 until February 1387 when Richard went on progress, Gower’s proximity would have kept him aware of the tensions at the heart of government.21 Few times seem more urgent than this to remind the king of the importance of counsel. Clearly, however, when dealing with Richard urgency had to be met with care. By all contemporary accounts, the king responded better to indirect suggestion than to hectoring, or rational argument.22 Gower seems to have understood this early on: the new style he adopted for the Confessio Amantis, so radically different from anything he had attempted earlier in either the Mirour de l’Omme or the Vox Clamantis, should probably be explained as the fruit of a thoughtful assessment of how best to write for Richard.23 The way forward, Gower must have decided, was through stories. What little can be surmised of Richard’s reading from the remnants of his library tentatively corroborates this. Fragmentary accounts suggest a degree of interest in lyrics 18

The basic case is laid out instructively by George B. Stow, ‘Richard II in John Gower’s Confessio Amantis: Some Historical Perspectives’, Mediaevalia 16 (1993 for 1990): 3–31. 19 John of Gaunt unsuccessfully invaded Castile in 1386, leaving behind his daughters Philippa and Katherine as wives to (respectively) Kings João I of Portugal and Enrique III of Castile. The Confessio was translated into Portuguese and Castilian, most probably from a copy brought by one or the other queen. See my ‘Gower’s Lancastrian Affinity: The Iberian Connection’, Viator 35 (2009): 483–515. 20 See Saul, Richard II, 161–62. 21 Saul, Richard II, 171. 22 This seems to be the chroniclers’ consensus. See Saul’s summary, Richard II, 435–38. 23 His decision to write in English as well: it is interesting to compare the revisions Gower made to the Vox Clamantis in 1386 with his soft-pedal approach in the Confessio. In the Vox he harshly criticised Richard for heeding young advisors instead of seasoned heads, and for reckless behaviour, even warning that only an honourable ruler deserved obedience. In the Confessio no hint of such stringency appears.

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The Riddle of ‘Apollonius’ and romances, although most, if not all, of the latter in the royal library he inherited from Edward III, he may or may not have read.24 If, however, Richard did share his grandfather’s taste for adventurous tales – albeit perhaps not necessarily chivalric – it would go some distance toward putting into perspective some of the oddities surrounding the presence of ‘Apollonius of Tyre’ in Confessio Book VIII.25 Gower’s sources, for one, are easier to understand if seen in the context of the crisis of council in 1386–87. The Secretum Secretorum is, of course, a speculum regis standard; in the Confessio and elsewhere in his works Gower draws material from Godfrey and from the Gesta Romanorum that he puts to such use, as well. Although the Historia Apollonii regis Tyri is not in any strict sense an advice-book for good rule, its narrative applicability, both to Richard’s projected tastes and to his predicament, is not hard to fathom. The ‘Tale of Apollonius’, as Gower tells it, is a classic Bildungsroman: propelled by adversity, Apollonius slowly but steadily earns maturity and, along with it, becomes a responsible king. Precisely the medicine, one might think, that the young Richard needed in 1386–87. A selective look at the storyline as reproduced in the Confessio is revealing. Gower’s version is generally faithful to the Historia Apollonii, but it differs nonetheless in several significant ways. The narration of the Historia is very spare – essentially, a straightforward account of events, with little embellishment.26 Apollonius’s abrupt first appearance there is characteristic of the style: no mention is made of him before he stands, suddenly, before King Antiochus, to ask for his daughter’s hand.27 In contrast, Gower’s treatment is 24

On the contents of Richard’s library, see V. J. Scattergood, ‘Literary Culture at the Court of Richard II’, in English Court Culture in the Later Middle Ages, ed. V. J. Scattergood and J. W. Sherborne (London, 1983), 29–43. Richard’s attitude toward the fourteen Arthurian romances and chansons de geste he acquired from Edward III is unclear, however. Richard Firth Green, ‘King Richard’s Books Revisited’, The Library 31 (1976): 235–39, points to evidence that eleven look to have been sold, possibly on Richard’s orders. 25 Indeed, Edward Donald Kennedy has suggested that Gower had a different order of adventure tale in mind when ‘promising Richard II “som newe thing” in the Confessio Amantis’. See ‘Gower, Chaucer, and French Prose Arthurian Romance’, Mediaevalia 16 (1993 for 1990): 55–90 (77). 26 Archibald, Apollonius of Tyre, 12, remarks that the Historia ‘reads like an epitome’. 27 ‘Et cum has crudelitates rex Antiochus exerceret, quidam adulescens locuples valde, genere Tyrius, nominee Apollonius, navigans attingit Antiochiam. Ingresusque ad regem ita eum salutavit: “Ave, domine rex Antioche”, et “quod pater plus es, ad vota tua festinus veni: gener regio genere ortus peto filam tuam in matrimonium”’ (‘While King Antiochus was engaged in these cruel practices, a very rich young man, a Tyrian by birth, named Apollonius, arrived by ship at Antioch. He entered the presence of the king and greeted him: “Hail, my lord King Antiochus” and “As you are a devoted father, I have come in haste to carry out your wishes. As a son-in-law of royal birth,

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R. F. Yeager developmental, proceeding in the manner of Bildungsroman, from the inside out: Appolinus the Prince of Tyr, Which hath to love a gret desir, As he which in his hihe mod Was likende of his hote blod, A yong, a freissh, a lusti knyht, As he lai musende on a nyht He thoghte assaie hou that it ferde. (375–83)

The effect of this glimpse of ‘yong, freissh, lusti’ Apollonius musing in his bed is two-fold. By showing that his motive for embarking on an adventure that will forever change his life is merely to ‘assaie hou that it ferde’ – a decision driven by ‘hihe mod’ and ‘hote blod’ – Gower implies that Apollonius’s journey will be a typical romance quest.28 More importantly here, this motive reveals Apollonius’s naiveté at the outset. It is unexceptional in a young man (and characteristic of a chivalric romance hero), but in the Confessio it also serves a quite specific purpose: providing a baseline against which to measure Apollonius’s subsequent emotional growth. That growth does not truly begin until his shipwreck strands him in Pentapolim, though in Tharse (540–70), where Apollonius lands first, his unconstrained generosity in sharing his grain to relieve the citizens’ famine (again in direct contrast to its presentation in the Historia) establishes a rudimentary empathy, to be developed later on.29 In the court in Pentapolim (704–1019), Apollonius gains not only a wife, but also in the person of King Artestrathes an exemplar of good rulership. Pointedly, Artestrathes presides over a cultured court of refined manners, wherein ball games have replaced martial sports, respect for learning and the arts is universal, and peace is the norm. It is, in many ways, a court similar to what is known of Richard’s own aspirations.30 Artestrathes also reveals a willingness to consult others about I ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage” ’. Trans. Archibald, Apollonius of Tyre, 114–15). 28 Cooper’s chapter, ‘Quest and Pilgrimage’, supplies essential background; Romance in Time, 45–105. 29 CA VIII.550–58: ‘Thurgh strong famine which hem ladde / Was non that eny whete hadde. / Appolinus, whan that he herde / The meschief, hou the cite ferde, / Al freliche of his oghne yifte / His whete, among hem forto schifte, / The which be Schipe he hadde broght, / He yaf, and tok of hem riht noght’. The contrast with the Historia version is notable. There, Apollonius initially tells Stranguillio he will give the city his grain in exchange for hiding him (HA IX.11–13). Next (HA X.3–7) he tells the gathered citizens that he will sell them the grain at much less than they are then paying for it – if they will keep his presence secret. Ultimately, fearful of losing face by looking like a common merchant, he returns the payment to the city, for its benefit. (HA X.9–11). 30 For the refined aesthetic of Richard’s court, see Gervase Mathew, The Court of Richard

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The Riddle of ‘Apollonius’ major decisions: he lets his daughter choose her own husband (866–937), agreeing to her choice only after conferring with his wife – and of course Apollonius as well. Notably prominent in these seventy-one lines is the word ‘conseil’, used four times, each time to mark the next important stage in the process. Inclusive in its decision-making as well as gracious in its pastimes, Pentapolim thus offers a vision to match Gower’s own aspirations for the commonweal – preferences the Confessio seems designed to reinforce in Richard as well.31 The subsequent disasters that befall Apollonius and his family – shipwreck, separation, enforced prostitution, grief-induced near-madness – conform to the pattern of Bildungsroman. A period of profound trial severely tests the protagonist’s character, during which maturity is earned and a core of indestructible goodness is affirmed. Gower invokes this pattern throughout, nowhere more clearly than in the scene of reunion between Apollonius and Thaisa, his daughter. In the lightless hold of his ship, which mirrors the dark depth of his depression, Apollonius ‘his herte upon this maide caste, / That he hire loveth kindely, / And yit he wiste nevere why’ (1706–08). That quality of empathy, first visible in his free gift of grain to the starving Tharsians, magnifed here by ‘sibb of blod’ (1703), reveals itself as Apollonius’s true nature. Crucially, it is Artestrathes who most embodies this virtue in the tale, and it is therefore no surprise to find Apollonius emulating him in subsequent actions. He grants permission for Athenagoras and Thaisa to wed, only after the former has won her consent (1769–72). His first acts on returning to Tyr are inclusive and conciliar: he makes ‘to his poeple riht good chiere; / And aftir sone, as thou schalt hiere, / A parlement he hath summoned’ (1913–15). Again, when he returns to Pentapolim, where he will make his home, ‘He resteth him a day or tuo / And tok his conseil to him tho, / And sette a time of Parlement’ (1987–89). Nor is it insignificant that Apollonius pursues revenge on the treacherous Strangulio and Dionise strictly ‘be the lawe’ (1947). The ‘rihtwisnesse’ of that behaviour is a marvel to the people, who compare it to ‘Goddes pourveance, / Which doth mercy forth with justice’ (1956–57). In 1386–87 Richard’s autocratic leanings would have made these timely warnings. A warning can only be heeded, however, if it is received: Richard would have to read it. If indeed he favoured tales of adventure, then an eventful yarn like ‘Apollonius’ for the Confessio’s summative narrative would be a meritorious choice. Gower himself, however – notwithstanding the romance elements present in some of his finest work – seems on the whole to have been averse II (London, 1968); J. W. Sherbourne, ‘Aspects of English Court Culture in the Later Fourteenth Century’, in English Court Culture, ed. Scattergood and Sherbourne, 1–27; and Saul, Richard II, 449–59. 31 On Gower’s eirenic ideas, see my ‘Pax Poetica: On the Pacifism of Chaucer and Gower’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 9 (1987): 97–121.

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R. F. Yeager to the form, at least (or especially) to the easily available chivalric kind.32 Tales of knightly exploits are absented entirely from his trilingual oeuvre. In the Confessio, it is doubtless intentional that on the sole occasion when we encounter ‘Tristram which was believed / With bele Ysolde, and Lancelot / … with Gunnore, and Galahot / With his ladi’ (VIII.2500–03), they are part of a list of faithless lovers which includes Jason, Hercules, Theseus, Diomede, and …Thelamon, Which from the king Lamenedon At Troie his doghter refte aweie, Eseonen, as for his preie, Which take was whan Jason cam Fro Colchos, and the cite nam In vengance of the ferste hate; That made hem after to debate, Whan Priamus the newe toun Hath mad. (2515–24)

When desire overtakes young men with weapons, the passage unavoidably suggests, the results are socially disastrous, as in the end of Camelot and the Trojan War.33 Apollonius, who in striking contrast establishes three kingdoms, shows his prowess only in peaceful pursuits. In the Historia Apollonii as in the Confessio, it is his skill at ball games, not lance or sword, that catches King Artesthrates’ attention, and his learning and his musicianship that win him a wife.34 Given Richard’s observable preference for arts over arms, the story of the adventures of so eirenic a hero has much to recommend it. Yet it is difficult indeed to find another such in the literature Gower gives evidence of knowing. The search for a tale that suited his own taste no less than the king’s, if in fact Gower intentionally made one, could have led him eventually to scour the relatively extraliterary sources whence he drew ‘Apollonius of Tyre’. And, especially if that discovery came late in the compositional life of the Confessio Amantis, he might well have preferred renaming the sin of his last Book to passing over otherwise so apt a tale.

32

The tales of ‘Rosiphelee’, ‘Florent’, and ‘Constance’ are prime examples. The mixing of chivalric and epic figures here is deliberate, and intended to equate and disparage both. Gower’s treatment of Greece and Troy, especially in the Confessio, is as Winthrop Wetherbee has argued ‘in its implications remarkably bleak’. See his ‘Gower and the Epic Past’, in John Gower in England and Iberia: Manuscripts, Influences, Reception, ed. Ana Saéz-Hidalgo and R. F. Yeager, Publications of the John Gower Society 10 (Cambridge, 2014), 165–79 (165). 34 Archibald has called attention to this, as a feature of the Historia: see Apollonius of Tyre, 22–23. 33

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6 Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle ELI ZA BETH A RCHIBA LD

E

All these episodes are present in his French sources, but Malory’s changes of emphasis amount to an ethical restructuring of the whole history of Arthur. His version is not a clash between earthly and divine focused on the issue of sexual sinfulness, but a study of the personal rivalries that underlie political disintegration. … Even where Malory is working with a source book in front of him, however, he will not merely translate or ‘reduce’, but invent. (Helen Cooper)1

veryone accepts that Malory followed the Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin very closely in the first tale of his Morte Darthur, but it has often been assumed that he did not know the rest of the Post-Vulgate Cycle (also known as the Roman du Graal). Very little seems to have been written about the possibility that he did read it all, perhaps because the importance of this now fragmentary cycle has only relatively recently become clearer as Fanni Bogdanow’s researches have produced more and more witnesses of parts of the French version – as Richard Trachsler puts it, the cycle has now achieved the ontological status of a codicological reality2 – and also because parts of the Queste and Mort were only available in Spanish and Portuguese

1

Helen Cooper, Introduction to her edition of Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford, 1998), xii and xx. 2 Richard Trachsler, Clôtures du cycle Arthurien: études et textes, Publications romanes et françaises 215 (Geneva, 1996), 237: ‘le statut ontologique d’une réalité codicologique’. Bogdanow’s many articles and essays on the cycle are listed in the bibliography of Bogdanow and Trachsler, ‘Rewriting Prose Romance: the Post-Vulgate Roman du Graal and Related Texts’, in The Arthur of the French: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval French and Occitan Literature, ed. Glyn Burgess and Karen Pratt, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages 4 (Cardiff, 2006), 342–92. See also Bogdanow, The Romance of the Grail: A Study of the Structure and Genesis of a Thirteenth-Century Arthurian Prose Romance (Manchester, 1966).

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Elizabeth Archibald until the appearance of a complete translation of the cycle.3 E. D. Kennedy seems to be the only critic who regularly refers to the Post-Vulgate cycle in discussing Malory: he thinks that Malory did know at least part of the Post-Vulgate Graal, though possibly through the Prose Tristan, which in its later redaction includes much of the Post-Vulgate Queste: ‘Although Malory may never have read the Post-Vulgate Mort Artu, what he knew of the earlier parts of the Post-Vulgate Roman influenced his conception of the Arthurian tragedy.’4 A critic who goes rather further is James Wimsatt, who assumes that Malory knew all three of the major French cycles, the Lancelot-Grail, the Prose Tristan, and the Post-Vulgate.5 However, he gives little detail to support this argument in relation to the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and his lead has not been followed. Ralph Norris argues that after the ‘Tale of King Arthur’ the Post-Vulgate is only a minor source.6 I want to argue here, like Wimsatt, that Malory did read the whole of the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and that some of his more puzzling choices and comments, especially in relation to the love affair of Lancelot and Guinevere, may be responses to what he found in the second and third sections of the French narrative. Roger Middleton argues that the French prose cycles were much more widely disseminated than is generally recognised, and he addresses specifically the issue of Malory’s access to French Arthurian texts:7 All the French texts that Malory used could be contained in two or three volumes at most, and there is no need for any of them to have been expensive, particularly in England. As we have already seen, nine of the surviving manuscripts of the Lancelot-Grail known to have been in England in the Middle Ages are relatively small. … There is every reason to believe that the relevant French texts would have been available without 3

4

5

6

7

In vols IV and V of Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, ed. Norris J. Lacy, 5 vols (New York, NY, 1993–96; reissued in 10 vols, Cambridge, 2010), cited hereafter by volume, page, and chapter number as L-G. E. D. Kennedy, ‘Malory’s “Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lak”: the Vulgate Lancelot and the Post-Vulgate Roman du Graal’, in Arthurian and Other Studies presented to Shunichi Noguchi, ed. T. Suzuki and T. Mokai (Cambridge, 1993), 107–29 (115). The chronology and relationship of these texts is a complex one which I do not attempt to address here. I am interested not in which specific manuscript Malory knew, but in which version of events he chose to follow – or to deny. James Wimsatt, ‘The Idea of a Cycle: Malory, the Lancelot-Grail, and the Prose Tristan’, in The Lancelot-Grail Cycle: Text and Transformations, ed. William W. Kibler (Austin, TX, 1994), 206–18 (208). Ralph Norris, Malory’s Library: The Sources of the ‘Morte Darthur’, Arthurian Studies 71 (Cambridge, 2008), 14. See also E. D. Kennedy, ‘Caxton, Malory, Arthurian Chronicles, and French Romances: Intertextual Complexities’, in Essays on Medieval English Presented to Professor Matsuji Tajima on his Sixtieth Birthday (Tokyo, 2002), 217–36. Roger Middleton, ‘The Manuscripts’, in The Arthur of the French, 8–92 (47).

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Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle much difficulty to anyone from the landed gentry, and there is every chance that Sir Thomas Malory (whoever he may have been) could have owned his own copies.

Middleton notes elsewhere that ‘of the forty surviving Lancelot-Grail manuscripts now in England or Wales, nineteen were in England during the Middle Ages, and at least six of them are likely to have been written there’.8 But matters are not quite so simple as this might suggest; Middleton himself draws attention to a major problem a little earlier in his LancelotGrail essay, though not explicitly in relation to Malory. He discusses the considerable variations found in manuscripts broadly classified under the two main headings of Lancelot-Grail and Prose Tristan, and notes that ‘Manuscripts of the [Vulgate] Queste and Mort Artu are less subject to such large variations, but the important question here is how they relate to their so-called Post-Vulgate counterparts.’9 As Middleton stresses, there are many possible variations under the familiar titles. In the introduction to her magisterial edition of the Post-Vulgate Queste and Mort Artu, Fanni Bogdanow describes how she discovered a previously unknown section which Pauphilet, Frappier, and Vinaver had all taken to be from the Vulgate (Bodleian Library, Rawlinson D874).10 Norris notes that it is not clear whether fifteenth-century readers of Arthurian narratives ‘would have been able to distinguish between, say, the Vulgate and the Post-Vulgate as rival cycles’.11 Among the main points made by critics discussing the influence of part or all of the Post-Vulgate Cycle on Malory, one of the most significant concerns the shift of the centre of gravity from Lancelot in the Lancelot-Grail cycle to Arthur in the Post-Vulgate Cycle. Bogdanow defends the Post-Vulgate against earlier critics: In reality, the Post-Vulgate is a creative reinterpretation of the Vulgate, the work not of a ‘barbare maladroit’, as Pauphilet claimed (1907, 606), but of a writer who attempted to produce a more homogenous and closely knit whole, of which Arthur and the history of his kingdom, rather than Lancelot, was the central character…. Our author not only dispensed with 8

Roger Middleton, ‘Manuscripts of the Lancelot-Grail Cycle in England and Wales: Some Books and their Owners’, in A Companion to the ‘Lancelot-Grail Cycle’, ed. Carol Dover, Arthurian Studies 54 (Cambridge, 2003), 219–35 (223). 9 Middleton, ‘The Manuscripts’, 38. 10 Fanni Bogdanow, La Version Post-Vulgate de la ‘Queste del Saint Graal’ et de la ‘Mort Artu’, Troisième partie du ‘Roman du Graal’, 5 vols (Paris, 1991–2001), Introduction, I.2. All references to these sections of the cycle are taken from this edition, cited as P-V by volume, page, and section number. 11 Norris, Malory’s Library, 168.

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Elizabeth Archibald the greater part of the Lancelot proper, but radically revised both the Queste and the Mort Artu sections.12

Much the same could be said of Malory, who went even further than the Post-Vulgate author by inserting large sections from non-Vulgate sources, both French and English, and apparently inventing the tale of Gareth.13 Kennedy has noted that though Malory seems to have known the Vulgate Merlin, he preferred to begin his book with a fairly faithful version of the Post-Vulgate Suite, which includes the incestuous conception of Mordred and the subsequent prophecy of his fatal destiny. According to Kennedy, The Post-Vulgate Roman du Graal, with its portrait of Arthur as a great hero who unwittingly sinned, would have given Malory an example of Arthur as a heroic king that was presented more positively than the often weak and foolish Arthur of the Vulgate Cycle, but who had more complexity than the Arthur of the chronicles where, as Beate Schmolke-Hasselmann has observed, one finds ‘a uniformly glorified picture of the monarch and a very pronounced patriotism’.14

Kennedy does argue that if Malory originally intended to make much of Arthur’s sin of incest, as the Post-Vulgate cycle does, he seems to have changed his mind towards the end, where the emphasis is on Mordred’s treachery rather than Arthur’s immorality. But Kennedy repeats Bogdanow’s point that the incest can be seen as a prime example of the ‘mescheance which haunts Logres’: The word mescheance can suggest punishment for sin. The sin of incest is one that Arthur commits but is unaware of, and in Bogdanow’s words, the act shows that ‘pure accidents unleash catastrophes’. The notion that accidents can unleash catastrophes also occurs in Malory’s version of the Arthurian tragedy, but there the emphasis, while not upon God punishing for sin or even upon Fortune, is upon mistakes, such as the begetting of Mordred, that are disastrous…. What makes Malory’s version different from earlier accounts of the tragedy is his emphasis upon the latter [the mistakes of the good] as causes for the tragedy, upon good but flawed individuals who realize too late their mistakes.15

Viewing Arthur’s incest as a good man’s mistake is perhaps somewhat generous: he should not have slept with a married woman, whether or not she was his half-sister. A less problematic example is Lancelot’s unwitting killing of Gareth. In the Vulgate Mort he is armed and fighting when 12

Bogdanow and Trachsler, ‘Rewriting Prose Romance’, 348. Norris emphasises the remarkable range of English sources used, as well as the major French ones. 14 Kennedy, ‘Malory’s Morte Darthur’, 162. 15 Kennedy, ‘Malory’s Morte Darthur’, 165. 13

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Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle Lancelot kills him; in the Stanzaic Morte Arthur he is unarmed and is killed in the fighting, not specifically by Lancelot. But in Malory he is unarmed and it is Lancelot who kills him, and the poignancy of this is exacerbated by earlier episodes stressing Gareth’s devotion to Lancelot (in the Tale of Sir Gareth, and in the tournament episode before the Knight of the Cart section of the Tale of Lancelot and Guenevere).16 Malory’s Arthuriad may focus less on Lancelot than the Vulgate Cycle does, but he is still very important and very visible, and Arthur is inactive and out of sight for much of the book. Malory could surely have chosen to minimise Lancelot’s role. After all John Hardyng, one of his sources, does just that in his chronicle, where Lancelot is a very minor character, and nothing is said of his affair with Guenevere. He is actually married to Galahad’s mother ‘in clean spousage’; and although he lives as a hermit after Arthur’s death, he is in no way the cause of the final disasters, which are precipitated entirely by Mordred’s treachery.17 Helen Cooper has argued that ‘English interest in Lancelot, and with him the [Vulgate] Cycle version of Arthur’s downfall, is barely traceable in England before 1400’.18 She adds: We need to consider very seriously a late-medieval population of England for the vast majority of whom Arthur was a great king supported by Gawain as his leading knight and overthrown by a usurping nephew; for whom Lancelot, if they had heard of him at all, was merely one of the minor knights; and to whom any ideas of Arthur’s incest and Lancelot’s adultery with Guinevere were either unknown, or else regarded as slanderous French fictions – as indeed they were.

Not all critics agree with her, however. According to Kennedy, ‘Malory was not free to ignore the adultery of Lancelot and Guenevere: the story was too well known, and nothing short of a denial of the love by Malory himself would have repressed it.’19 And James Carley has described the Morte Darthur as ‘a kind of encyclopedia of the Arthurian legend as it circulated 16

La Mort le Roi Artu: roman du XIIIe siècle, ch. 94, ed. Jean Frappier, 3rd edn, Textes littéraires français 58 (Geneva, 1964), 124; Stanzaic Morte Arthur, 1920–65, ed. Larry D. Benson in King Arthur’s Death: The Middle English ‘Stanzaic Morte Arthur’ and ‘Alliterative Morte Arthure’, Exeter Medieval English Texts and Studies (Exeter, 1986); The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, ed. Eugène Vinaver, rev. P. J. C. Field, 3rd edn, 3 vols (Oxford, 1990), XX.8, 1176–78. All further references will be taken from these editions, and cited parenthetically in the text: references to Caxton’s version of Malory, by book and chapter numbers, are followed by the page numbers in Vinaver. 17 This is in the second, shorter, version of the Chronicle, ch. 78, ed. Henry Ellis (London, 1812), 131. 18 Helen Cooper, ‘The Lancelot-Grail Cycle in England: Malory and his Predecessors’, in A Companion to the ‘Lancelot-Grail Cycle’, ed. Carol Dover, Arthurian Studies 54 (Cambridge, 2003), 147–62 (153). 19 Kennedy, ‘Malory’s “Noble Tale”’, 124.

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Elizabeth Archibald in England at the end of the Middle Ages’.20 I have discussed elsewhere the extent of English knowledge of Lancelot as Guenevere’s lover before Malory; I was not able to reach any clear conclusion, but I did argue that for Malory ‘the love affair is a crucial aspect of the Arthurian world: it inspires Lancelot to greater prowess, but it also causes him to fail in the Grail Quest, and it is one of the causes of the civil war and the end of Camelot’.21 I concluded that ‘whether or not English gentlemen were pressing Caxton to produce a book about Arthur, he must have been confident that they would be willing to read about Lancelot too’, and this is of course equally true for Malory, if not more so.22 In my view, Felicity Riddy goes too far when she claims that in contrast to the Geoffrey of Monmouth tradition, ‘Malory’s interests look rather freakish’: unusual for an English writer, certainly, but hardly freakish.23 It seems plausible that the Post-Vulgate Cycle, whether by itself or combined with the Prose Tristan, could have helped Malory to realise that it was possible to keep much of the Vulgate approach to the legend – interlaced adventures of individual knights, tensions between the imperatives of love and chivalry, the Grail Quest, and even Lancelot as Top Knight – while still maintaining a sharp focus on Arthur, and introducing a stricter morality. The focus on Arthur is not entirely positive, as I have already suggested. Numerous critics have noted that the Post-Vulgate Cycle makes more than the Vulgate Cycle of the cause and effect of human sinfulness, especially in relation to sexual sins. There are oblique references to the incestuous conception of Mordred in the Vulgate Cycle, but it is only in the Post-Vulgate Suite that we get a full account.24 It is striking that Malory chose to include the account of this incest and its aftermath, Arthur’s discovery of his true parentage and Merlin’s prophecy of disaster (I.19–20, 41–6). Indeed, he 20

James Carley, ‘Arthur in English History’, in The Arthur of the English: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval English Life and Literature, ed. W. J. R. Barron, Arthurian Literature in the Middle Ages 2 (Cardiff, 1999), 47–57 (55). 21 Archibald, ‘Lancelot as Lover in the English Tradition before Malory’, in Arthurian Studies in Honour of P. J. C. Field, ed. Bonnie Wheeler, Arthurian Studies 57 (Cambridge, 2004), 199–216 (206). 22 Archibald, ‘Lancelot as Lover’, 215. 23 Felicity Riddy, ‘Reading for England: Arthurian Literature and National Consciousness’, Bibliographical Bulletin of the International Arthurian Society 43 (1991): 314–32 (331). 24 Merlin: Roman en prose du XIIIe siècle, ed. Gaston Paris and Jacob Ulrich, 2 vols, Société des anciens textes français (Paris, 1886), I.147–60, 203–12; references are taken from this edition, cited as Suite, unless otherwise stated. Trans. L-G, IV.167–72, 183–12. For discussion see Archibald, ‘Arthur and Mordred: Variations on an Incest Theme’, Arthurian Literature 8 (1996): 1–15, and Incest and the Medieval Imagination (Oxford, 2001), 203–19. It seems surprising that so little is made of this episode and its consequences by medieval writers, even in the stricter moral context of the Post-Vulgate Cycle.

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Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle adds to Arthur’s discredit in the following episode, when all babies born on May Day are sent out to sea; in the Post-Vulgate Suite they survive, but in Malory’s bleaker account they all die, except for Mordred, who has to live to fulfil his destiny (I.27, 55–6). This makes Arthur Herod-like, though there is no explicit reference to the Massacre of the Innocents (and clearly Mordred is not intended to be Christ-like). This emphasis on sin and its consequences, as well as the desire to focus on Arthur, presumably explains the reduction of Lancelot’s part in the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and perhaps in Malory too – at least in comparison with the Vulgate Cycle. But Malory seems to walk a tightrope here: he gives more space and dignity to Arthur, but for him this does not mean diminishing Lancelot’s status. He takes every opportunity to praise Lancelot, for instance in the Fair Maid of Astolat episode, where in contrast to the French and English sources her letter explicitly exonerates Lancelot of all responsibility for her death (XVIII.20, 1096), and in the miraculous Healing of Sir Urry (XIX.10–13, 1145–54), apparently Malory’s own addition. Direct speech is always very important in Malory, and the last piece of direct speech in the Morte Arthur is the eulogy for Lancelot spoken after his holy death by his brother Ector (XXI.13, 259) in which Lancelot is praised as the epitome of chivalry (no speech is made in the sources). Malory’s Arthur does not dwell repeatedly on his sin of incest, as the Arthur of the Post-Vulgate Cycle does. His Lancelot does dwell on his responsibility for the downfall of Arthur and the Round Table as a result of his love for Guenevere; he emphasises his guilt to an unnecessary degree, we may think, and yet is allowed both a saint’s death and a hero’s eulogy. Critics continue to debate Malory’s attitude to Lancelot and Guenevere’s affair, and indeed to the place of romantic love in a chivalric culture. In relation to these issues I want to suggest some ways in which the later sections of the Post-Vulgate Cycle might have influenced Malory, and also the author of the Stanzaic Morte Arthur before him. Bogdanow notes, for example, that the Post-Vulgate Cycle omits almost all the episodes where Lancelot and Guinevere are alone together.25 Indeed he appears relatively late in the cycle, and in what might be considered a rather unfortunate context. Ch. 60 of the Suite du Merlin is very long: it starts with the murder of Lamorat by Gaheriet, moves on to Arthur’s defeat of Claudas and Frollo, and ends with a very sketchy account of Elaine’s arrival at court with Galahad, her deception of Lancelot, and his banishment by Guenevere.26 All the part 25 Bogdanow, 26

La Version Post-Vulgate, Introduction, I.50. This passage appears only in a fragment of the Suite edited by Fanni Bogdanow as La Folie Lancelot: A Hitherto Unidentified Portion of the ‘Suite du Merlin’ contained in MSS BN fr. 112 and 12599, Beihefte zur Zeitschrift für Romanische Philologie 109 (Tübingen, 1965), 1–21; L-G V.52–60.

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Elizabeth Archibald about Lancelot takes only a couple of paragraphs, with no direct speech; evidently it is assumed that the reader knows all about the love affair. Malory introduces Lancelot in his account of the Roman War (which comes early in Arthur’s reign), with a larger role than in the English source, and then gives him a tale to himself, the ‘Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake’. But it is a rather random collection of adventures; and though in the first paragraph Malory stresses that Lancelot was inspired by his love for the queen and she loved him all the more for his prowess (VI.1, 254), he omits the beginning of the affair with Guenevere, and the famous first kiss. There is so little description of their long affair that some Malory scholars have argued that the lovers do not sleep together till quite late in the whole story, when Galahad is conceived.27 Like most critics, I do not accept this view, but one might argue that Malory is writing for an English audience who do not want to know in detail how their great king was cuckolded; more generally, Helen Cooper has noted ‘the deep British disquiet with adultery’ (in relation to the Scottish Lancelot of the Laik).28 Malory might have found the Post-Vulgate Cycle a useful model of how to describe Arthurian chivalry and prowess without dwelling too much on the problematic love affair. But he does make the decision to keep Lancelot fairly well to the fore, and indeed when we come to the final books, he gives a lot of space to the lovers, both quarrelling and making up. It is absolutely crucial here that we believe in Lancelot’s devotion to the queen, and we are encouraged to feel that he has no choice but to defend her, right or wrong. The Post-Vulgate author declares quite explicitly that he has omitted much of the Lancelot story in order to keep his tripartite structure balanced: … cele meisme ystoire qui doit estre departie de mon livre, ne mie pour chou qu’il n’i apartiegne et que elle n’en soit traite, mais pour chou qu’il couvient que les trois parties de mon livre soient ingaus, l’une aussi grant coume l’autre, et se je ajoustaisse cele grant ystoire la moi[ene] partie de mon livre fust au tresble plus grant que les autre deus. Pour chou me couvient il laissier celle grant ystoire qui devise les oevres de Lanscelot et la naissance… (Suite II.57) (… that very history that has to be left out of my book, not because it does not belong there, but because it is fitting that the three parts of my book be equal, one as long as another, and if I added that great history, the middle part of my book would be three times as long as the other two. Therefore, I must leave out this great history that tells of Lancelot’s birth and his deeds. [L-G IV.221, ch. 23]) 27

See the discussions in Arthuriana 7/4 (1997): Beverly Kennedy, ‘Adultery in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur’, 63–91, and Maureen Fries, ‘Commentary: A Response to the Arthuriana Issue on Adultery’, 92–96. 28 Cooper, ‘The Lancelot-Grail Cycle in England’, 155.

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Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle This is very confusing: how important is Lancelot? Is the writer damning him with faint praise here? Is symmetry really the issue, or morality? And as Malory presumably knew this passage in the Suite, did it influence his own omission of so much of Lancelot’s early history? The Vulgate Mort and the Stanzaic Morte begin with Lancelot and Guenevere resuming their affair after the Grail Quest and narrowly escaping discovery, but the Post-Vulgate Mort opens with the trap set by Mordred and Agravain for the lovers, Lancelot’s rescue of the queen and the killing of Gaheriet and Guerrehet. Malory chooses to build up much more slowly to this crisis point through the episodes of the Poisoned Apple and the Fair Maid of Astolat, reducing the interlace of his French and English sources, and then adding the Knight of the Cart episode; as well as edging Lancelot towards fighting in a ‘wrongefull quarell’ (specifically prohibited by the Round Table oath – see III.15, 120), he surely wants us to feel the unbreakable bonds that bind Lancelot and Guenevere. He lets us hear conversations (often rows) between the lovers, adding to his sources: so only in Malory’s version of the death of the Fair Maid of Ascolat does the queen first reproach Lancelot for not being nicer to the Maid, and then apologize to him for having been ‘wrothe with hym causeles’ (XXVIII.20, 1098). Lancelot’s response to her apology conveys weariness, and the bittersweet nature of their relationship: ‘Thys ys nat the firste tyme … that ye have ben displese with me causeles. But, madame, ever I muste suffir you, but what sorow that I endure, ye take no forse’. Malory takes pains to present the lovers as all too aware of each other’s faults, constantly scrapping and making up. This is very different from the downplaying of Lancelot and his love in the Post-Vulgate Cycle, where the Grail section ends with Bors’s distress at the realisation that Lancelot and Guinevere are lovers, and Lionel’s gloomy prophecy that it will bring disaster (P-V, III.384–86; L-G V.288, ch.151). The Post-Vulgate author’s decision to omit most of the Vulgate’s Lancelot material, but to retain the trapping of the lovers in the queen’s chamber which leads to the civil war and the final Götterdämmerung, puts a lot of responsibility on Lancelot, without allowing him the space to show himself to best advantage. It also continues the criticism of illicit love which begins with the Questing Beast story and Arthur’s incest. The Post-Vulgate moves straight from the end of the Grail Quest to Agravain’s plot, without any opportunity for Lancelot to champion the queen, or to endure unjustified criticism from her. Their disastrous tryst therefore seems particularly selfish and lustful. When the plotters beat on the door, the queen in the Vulgate Mort says unselfishly that she is more distressed for Lancelot’s sake than for her own (MA ch. 90, ed. Frappier, 116; L-G V.121, ch. 11); but in the Post-Vulgate she is both more selfish, and more aware of their sin. When Lancelot asks if she happens to have any armour lying around, she replies: 123

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Elizabeth Archibald ‘Certas, diss’ela, nom, ca praz Deus que moyramos anbos. Pero se prouguesse a Deus que escapassedes daqui saão, nom á y tal que me ousasse matar, sabendo que vos erades vivo. Mas eu cuydo que nosso pecado nos confunde.’ (P-V III.400,) (‘No indeed … for God wishes us both to die. However, if it pleased God to let you escape from here in one piece, there is no one who would dare kill me, knowing that you were alive, but I think our sin will be our ruin.’ [L-G V.295, ch. 153])

Lancelot makes no answer, and Guenevere seems more optimistic when he offers to take her with him: ‘Esto nom quero eu, dis’ela, ca logo asy seeria nossa fazenda mais conoçuda. Mais melhor o gysara Deus’ (P-V III.402, §633; L-G V.295, ch. 153: ‘I don’t want that … for thus would our deed at once become more widely known. God will arrange it better’). She is wrong: the consequences include the unintentional killing of Gaheriet and Guerrehet, which triggers the war between Arthur and Lancelot, and opens the way for Mordred’s usurpation. As Trachsler notes, the Post-Vulgate places less responsibility for the final catastrophe on the queen’s adultery than the Vulgate does.29 Malory’s Lancelot and Guenevere make no apologies and do not blame themselves (in this scene, though they do later when both have turned to the religious life); this passage in the chamber (XX.3, 1165–67) is another example of dialogue which demonstrates the strength and stability of their love, and which is considerably expanded from the sources.30 Guenevere’s comment quoted above is a clear example of the increased emphasis on sin in the Post-Vulgate Cycle, and in this version the queen is indeed punished in her death through a device reminiscent of some versions of the Tristan story, though less romantic. When she enters the nunnery, her health is soon weakened by the rigours of convent life. We are told twice that she takes refuge in the convent because she is frightened of Mordred’s sons; there is no reference to any sense of contrition. A jealous nun previously spurned by Lancelot tells the queen that he and his entourage have been lost at sea; Guenevere goes into a decline, and by the time the news of his landing in England arrives, she is too weak to recover (P-V III.482–87; L-G V.307–08, ch. 159). This is very reminiscent of the death of Tristan, but there is a further twist: the queen asks her maiden to take her heart to Lancelot – but the maiden cannot find him. We are told that Lancelot is devastated by the news of the queen’s death, but no more is said of her. When Lancelot dies, his body is interred in Galehaut’s tomb at Joyous Guard (P-V III.500; L-G, V.310, ch. 159). This is a surprisingly detailed episode, considering how little space 29 Trachsler, 30

Clôtures, 245. For further analysis of this episode, see Archibald, ‘Malory’s Lancelot and Guinevere’, in A Companion to Arthurian Literature, ed. Helen Fulton, Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture 58 (Oxford, 2009), 312–25 (319–20).

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Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle has been given to Lancelot earlier, and it is also unexpected that Lancelot’s death still comes after Arthur’s. The archbishop sees flights of angels taking his soul to heaven, as in the Vulgate Mort; Bors arrives just in time for the burial, and joins the hermits. When Meraugis of Portlegues arrives too, the archbishop explains that he is now a hermit because of the evil day of the battle of Salisbury where Logres was destroyed. Meraugis decides to join the hermits; almost as an aside he asks for news of Lancelot, and is told all they know. We do not hear what they say to him; the context is entirely religious, and there is no final celebration of Lancelot the warrior hero, as in Ector’s eulogy in Malory. The sidelining of Lancelot as a heroic figure in the Post-Vulgate is compounded by the final episode in which King Mark ravages Logres, demolishes all Arthur’s churches, and destroys Lancelot’s tomb, burning his body (still uncorrupted) in vengeance for former wrongs (P-V III.506–28; L-G V.311–12, ch. 160). He tries to destroy the hermits who were once Arthur’s knights, but when he kills the archbishop, a knight of Ban’s lineage intervenes to kill King Mark. This is a very non-heroic ending which regresses from the pious and calm religious sphere of the hermits to the pride and anger and violence of the secular knighthood. It marginalises romantic/adulterous love, which is shown to be doubly destructive: not only do Lancelot and Guenevere contribute to the fall of Camelot, but Mark’s final invasion is motivated by fury that Arthur gave refuge to Tristan and Isolde. If Malory knew the Post-Vulgate Mort, one can imagine not only why he might have chosen to follow the Vulgate and the Stanzaic Morte in making Lancelot’s holy death the finale, but also why he added Ector’s eulogy of Lancelot as ‘the curtest knyght that ever bare shelde’, the ‘truest frende to thy lovar that ever bestrade hors, and the trewest lover, of a synful man, that ever loved woman … and the kyndest man that ever strake wyth swerde’ (XXI.13, 259). This is a much more up-beat ending which validates chivalric heroism and romantic love as an inspiration, and acclaims Lancelot not as the cuckolder of Arthur, but rather as the nonpareil of knighthood. His contrition and holy death do not cancel out the fact that he was both a warrior and a lover. Trachsler has noted that in the Post-Vulgate Mort (as in the Vulgate), Lancelot dies among men and Guinevere among women; there is no linking of the lovers after death.31 Malory insists on linking them, explicitly when Lancelot grovels on Guinevere and Arthur’s tomb (thereby physically enacting the triangle in which he is the Other Man), and implicitly in Ector’s eulogy. It would not have been proper for Guinevere to be named here as Lancelot’s lover, but in enthroning Lancelot in Arthur’s place as the paramount hero, and in praising him so highly as ‘the truest frende to thy lover, of a synful man, that ever 31 Trachsler,

Clôtures, 252–53.

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Elizabeth Archibald loved woman’ (XXI.13, 1259), Ector implicitly acknowledges and approves of Lancelot’s love for the woman who inspired his prowess. The final interview of Lancelot and Guenevere, one of the most poignant and powerful scenes in Malory (XXI.9–10, 1251–53), is closely derived from the Stanzaic Morte (3622–737). The Vulgate, which described the growth of their love, does not include a final meeting, apart from one variant manuscript of the Mort which offers a very saccharine scene of weeping and nostalgic talking.32 Vinaver speculates that Malory may have known a Vulgate Mort which did include a similar scene (Works, 1658, note to 1251): but that does not seem likely, or indeed necessary, since Malory follows the Stanzaic version so closely. The Vulgate makes so much of the love affair that it would seem quite a departure to include this scene of penitence and repentance, of which there is no hint in the more moralising Post-Vulgate Mort. Another possibility is that the Stanzaic Morte author could have known the Post-Vulgate cycle and been influenced by the stronger emphasis there on sin and on cause and effect, particularly in a scene in the Queste where Lancelot has a terrifying vision of Guenevere in torment in hell, and is harangued by his parents about how to save his soul by giving up his love (P-V II.273–79; L-G V.171–72, ch. 99). First he sees Morgan surrounded by devils who take him to a dark, stinking pit of fire: E el catava na cova e viia hũa gram cadeyra de fogo asi acessa como se hi ardse todo o ffogo do mundo, e em meo daquelle fogo hũa cadeyra em que siia a rrainha Genevra toda nua. Et tenoit ses mains contre son pis, et estoit toute eschevelee et avoit la lengue traite horse de la bouche merveilleusement et ardoit et luisoit la lengue mesmes si cler com si ce feust ung cierge ardant. Et elle avoit une coronne en sa teste d’espines qui ardoit si cler que c’estoit merveilles a veoir. Et elle gitoit toutes voies ung plaing, car elle mesmes ardoit de toutes par la ou elle se seoit et gictoit ung douloreux cris que cil qui l’oït cuidast bien que elle fust oӱe par tout le monde. Et quant elle voit Lancelot, elle ne se puet tenir qu’elle ne ly deist la mesmes ou elle estoit en celle grant douleur: ‘Ha! Lancelot, tant mal vous vy! Tieulx sont lez guerdons de vostre amour! Vous m’avés mise en ceste grant douleur ou vous me veés, et je vous mectray en aussy grant ou greigneur. Ce me poise moult, car pour ce, se je suis dampnee pour vous et mise en la douleur d’enfer, ne voulsisse je pas autretel de vous, ains voulsisse, s’il pleust a Nostre Seigneur, que vous ja ne sceussiez la grant douleur que je par vous endure.’ (P-V II.275–76) (He looked into the pit and saw a great chair of fire, alight as if all the fire in the world burned there. In the middle of that fire stood the chair, in which Queen Guenevere was sitting naked, her hands before her breast; she sat there disheveled, with her tongue hanging out of her mouth, and she was 32

This passage is printed as an appendix by Frappier, 264–66, and is conveniently translated in a footnote in L-G IV.158.

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Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle burning as if she were a fat candle. She had on her head a crown of thorns, which burned marvelously, and she herself was burning all over, sitting there. She was making such a great lamentation and uttering such sorrowful cries that it would certainly seem to anyone who heard her that she was heard throughout the whole world. Sitting there in such great torment, when she saw Lancelot, she could not refrain from saying to him, ‘Oh, Lancelot! How evil was the day on which I first knew you! Such are the rewards of your love! You’ve brought me to this great torment in which you see me. I’ll bring you to as great, or greater, and that grieves me, for although I’m lost and cast into the torments of hell, I don’t want the same to happen to you. Please God, I’d have it happen only to me [lit: I don’t want you to know the great torment that I suffer for you].’ [L-G V.171, ch. 99])

In chronicles and romances Guenevere always retreats to a nunnery, either out of fear of Arthur or Mordred, whichever wins, or because she has heard that Arthur and Mordred and all their knights are dead; but there is no known precedent in earlier texts for the vehement speeches about salvation that she makes to Lancelot in the Stanzaic Morte and in Malory.33 In the Post-Vulgate version, she talks about the torment she is in, whereas in the Stanzaic Morte and Malory, she expresses her hope of redemption and being on the right side of God at Doomsday. And in the Post-Vulgate she is concerned for Lancelot’s soul, saying that she does not want him to suffer similarly, whereas in the Stanzaic Morte and Malory, her first command to Lancelot is that he should go home and find a wife. Rejecting the idea of marriage to anyone else, he declares that he too will enter religious life (XXI.9–10, 1253). But the intensity of the focus on the afterlife is startling in the Middle English texts; could it derive in part from the Post-Vulgate vision of torment in hell, turned in a more positive direction? Perhaps the full Post-Vulgate Cycle was available to the Stanzaic author as well as Malory. A striking link between Lancelot’s terrifying vision in the Post-Vulgate Queste and the lovers’ final interview in Malory is offered by the allusions in both to the Grail Quest. In the Post-Vulgate vision, which takes place during the Quest, Lancelot also encounters his parents. King Ban warns his son that his place will be in hell with his royal lover, who has brought him to ‘eternal death’, and ends: ‘Et pour neant t’es mis en la queste du Saint Graal, que tu n’y trouveras si honte non, qui te surviendra si tu ne laisses cellui pechié’ (P-V II.278; L-G V.172: ‘In vain have you entered into the quest for the Holy Grail, and you’ll find there only shame unless you free yourself of this 33

In the early fifteenth-century Middle English Awntyrs off Arthure (ed. Ralph Hanna III, Old and Middle English Texts [Manchester, 1974]), Guenevere’s mother appears to the queen as a spirit in torment, warns her daughter against pride, and urges her to be charitable, but there is no reference to lust or to Lancelot.

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Elizabeth Archibald sin’). No mention of the Grail Quest is made in the Stanzaic version of the final interview, but in Malory, when the queen tells Lancelot that she cannot believe his promise to follow her into religious life, he is stung into a rather ungentlemanly retort: ‘And God deffende but that I shulde forsake the worlde as ye have done! For in the queste of the Sankgreall I had that tyme forsakyn the vanytees of the worlde, had nat youre love bene. And if I had done so at that tyme with my harte, wylle, and thought, I had passed all the knyghtes that ever were in the Sankgreall excepte syr Galahad, my sone.’ (XXI.9, 1253)

Was Malory remembering here the Post-Vulgate Queste, where salvation, love and the Grail Quest are all linked not only by the hermit but by his father’s ghost? It is tempting to read some other passages in Malory as if they were responses to his reading of the complete Post-Vulgate Cycle, such as the famous digression about ‘vertuouse love’. Not only does Malory insert a version of the ‘Knight of the Cart’ episode just before Agravain’s plot to trap the lovers – presumably to remind us of the strength of their love as well as its dangers – but just before this episode he adds a digression for which no direct source is known, uncharacteristic both in its elaborate rhetoric and its impassioned defence of romantic love (XXVIII.25, 1119–20): …for there was never worshypfull man nor worshypfull woman but they loved one bettir than another; and worshyp in armys may never be foyled. But firste reserve the honoure to God, and secundely thy quarell must com of thy lady. And such love I calle vertuouse love.

He goes on to say that nowadays love is too hasty, ‘sone hote sone colde …. But the old love was nat so. For men and women coude love togydirs seven yerys, and no lycoures lustis was betwyxte them, and than was love trouthe and faythefulnes. And so in lyke wyse was used such love in kynge Arthures dayes’. The emphasis here is on stability and loyalty. This manifesto in praise of love is a further boost for Lancelot, and in that sense not entirely uncharacteristic of Malory’s approach, even though in other parts of the Morte Darthur he seems to value homosocial bonding above romantic love. But could this passage also be a defensive response to more censorious versions of the story, such as the Post-Vulgate? If the Post-Vulgate plays down the love affair, Malory might be asserting here that ‘truth and faythefulnes’ do in fact count for a lot, even in an illicit affair, and that love is a part of the natural world created by God (a point made very strongly in the speech of the dying Fair Maid of Astolat, another defence of love without a known source [XVIII.19, 1093]). The end of this digression includes an unexpected compliment for Guenevere, whom Malory has presented as neurotic, capricious, mean to Lancelot, and not particularly loveable: 128

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Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle And therefore all ye that be lovers, calle unto youre remembraunce the monethe of May, lyke as ded quene Gwenyver, for whom I make here a lytyll mencion, that whyle she lyved she was a trew lover, and therfore she had a good ende. (XXVIII.25, 1120)

When she dies in the Vulgate version, it is simply reported to Lancelot that ‘mes onque haute dame plus ele fin n’ot ne plus bele repentance, ne plus doucement criast merci a Nostre Seigneur qu’ele fist’ (ed. Frappier, 254; L-G IV.157, ch. 25: Never had a lady made a finer death or repented more nobly, nor had any lady more fittingly asked the Lord’s mercy, than she had). But in the Post-Vulgate Mort her end could not be said to be good, caused by distress at the false news of Lancelot’s death, and her plan to have her heart sent to Lancelot fails. Nothing is said in this version about her piety; she enters the nunnery for fear of Mordred’s sons, and the account of her time there is entirely concerned with her feelings for Lancelot. Could this have been another factor that prompted the Stanzaic author, or his source, to compose the chilling final interview of the lovers, where the repentant queen makes it very clear that she regards Lancelot as an obstacle to her salvation? Or could it have persuaded Malory to use the Stanzaic’s final interview? In the poem Guenevere refuses Lancelot a final kiss and sends him away, telling him not to contact her again (3712–21); we hear no more of her until her death is reported at the very end, after Lancelot’s (3954–61). In Malory too she refuses to kiss him, but she predeceases him, as in the French texts. The pious if unromantic nature of her wish to avoid seeing Lancelot is emphasised by the fact that it appears in the account of her death given to Lancelot by the nuns when he arrives half an hour too late to see her (XXI.11, 1255); her prayer is granted. This is a ‘good ende’ in various senses. She dies a holy death in the nunnery, having banished the lover with whom she felt she had caused so much havoc in Arthur’s kingdom; but her lasting love for him is strongly suggested by her fervent wish not to see him again, a hint that she might not be able to restrain her feelings. She knows he is coming to bury her, which suggests a strong link of love and loyalty between them still; but he is to bury her beside her husband Arthur, and Lancelot will grovel guiltily on their grave. I think Guenevere wins on all counts here, and this permits Malory some flexibility in the interpretation of a ‘good ende’: she manages to be a good Christian and a ‘trew lover’, and achieves stability in both spheres. Vinaver commented that Malory’s only sources for this tale were probably the Stanzaic Morte and the Vulgate (note to 1659). Was Malory also motivated by the unsatisfactorily melodramatic death scene in the Post-Vulgate, which gives a sense of failure both in piety and in love? It seems plausible that Malory would want the woman who inspired Lancelot’s great deeds to die as well as he does. Versions which end with the death first of Guenevere and then of Lancelot, as in the Vulgate and Post-Vulgate (or the other way round, as in the Stanzaic 129

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Elizabeth Archibald Morte) seem to marginalise the death of Arthur, which might have been expected to be the final act in an Arthur-centred cycle. The final scene I offer as possible evidence of the influence of the Post-Vulgate is Arthur’s death. In Geoffrey of Monmouth he is mortally wounded and taken to Avalon to be healed; in the chronicle tradition he tends to be buried at Glastonbury.34 The Vulgate Mort combines these traditions: the mortally wounded Arthur is taken away by a boatful of ladies, but on the third day Girflet finds a tomb in the Black Chapel inscribed with his name, and the resident hermit confirms that Arthur’s body really is in the tomb (ed. Frappier, 250–52; L-G IV.156, ch. 24). In the Alliterative Morte there is no question of healing, but the Stanzaic Morte is very similar to the Vulgate: Bedivere finds the chapel and the tomb the day after Arthur’s departure in the boat, and though the hermit professes not to know who is in the tomb, the fact that the body was brought by ladies at midnight convinces Bedivere that it is indeed Arthur (3526–57). Malory follows the Vulgate and Stanzaic compromise account – but then muddies the waters by adding his own disclaimer: Now more of the deth of kynge Arthur coude I never fynde, but that thes ladyes brought hym to hys grave, and such one was entyred there whych the ermyte bare wytnes that sometyme was Bysshop of Caunterbyry. But yet the ermyte knew nat in sertayne that he was veryly the body of kynge Arthur. For thys tale sir Bedwere, a knyght of the Table Rounde, made hit to be wrytten; yet some men say in many partys of Inglonde that kynge Arthure ys nat dede, but had by the wyll of Oure Lord Jesu into another place; and men say that he shall com agayne, and he shall wynne the Holy Crosse. Yet I woll nat say that hit shall be so, but rather I wolde sey: here in thys worlde he chaunged hys lyff. (XXI.6–7, 1242)

As an English writer, Malory would be well aware of the tradition of Arthur’s survival and return, and might have wanted to subscribe to it for patriotic reasons. Elizabeth Edwards calls this ‘a departure from and in some senses a disavowal of the Mort Artu, a departure from the written word and an invocation of orality’, claiming that there is no hint of doubt about Arthur’s death in the sources.35 The Post-Vulgate Mort does in fact provide such a hint: is Malory responding to its ambivalence? As in the Vulgate and the other versions, the Post-Vulgate Girflet sees a tomb with Arthur’s name, and is told that ladies had brought Arthur’s body there. Not satisfied by this information, he opens the tomb: 34

See Fanni Bogdanow, ‘The Changing Vision of Arthur’s Death’, in Dies Illa: Death in the Middle Ages, ed. Jane H. M. Taylor, Vinaver Studies in French 1 (Liverpool, 1984), 107–23. 35 Elizabeth Edwards, The Genesis of Narrative in Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’, Arthurian Studies 43 (Cambridge, 2001), 175.

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Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle Lors vient Girflet a la tombe devant le proudomme et tant fait qu’il lieve la lame a fine force et regarde dedans. Mais il n’y voit riens fors seulement le heaume du roy Artus, celuy mesme qu’il avoit en son chief le jour que la bataille doloreuse vit. (P-V III.474) (Then Girflet went to the tomb, with the good man standing nearby. He raised the stone, and when he looked inside he saw nothing except King Arthur’s helmet, the very one he had worn in the dolorous battle. [L-G V.307, ch. 158])

He calls the good man to witness that the tomb is now empty, though the man swears that a body was put there and that the ladies said it was Arthur. Girflet accepts the mystery, commenting that Arthur himself prophesied it, and becomes a hermit. Malory may have had his own reasons for emphasising the mystery of Arthur’s death, which had been part of the legend long before Geoffrey of Monmouth;36 but if he knew the Post-Vulgate Mort, it could well have influenced him to counter the apparent certainty of the Vulgate and Stanzaic accounts.37 The more I read of Bogdanow’s essays on the disiecta membra of the Post-Vulgate Cycle, the more I am struck by the similarities between the methods of the French author(s) and those of Malory. Both offer new variations on the interlace theme. Both cherry-pick from earlier prose texts, adapting their material to suit the new modifications (or leaving inconsistencies). If the Post-Vulgate Cycle is ‘a creative reinterpretation of the Vulgate’, as Bogdanow puts it, Malory offers a creative reinterpretation of all the sources he draws on; Edwards writes of his ‘dialogue with the source’.38 I agree with Kennedy’s view that Malory was influenced by the overall Post-Vulgate approach, though this influence sometimes seems to take the form of reaction against the moralising Post-Vulgate line rather than 36

See Bogdanow, ‘The Changing Vision of Arthur’s Death’. Arthur’s body disappears mysteriously from the bier outside his sealed tomb in the Vera historia de morte Arthuri, an early fourteenth-century (?) account of his death inserted into various chronicles. See Richard Barber, ‘The Vera Historia de Morte Arthuri’, Arthurian Literature 1 (1981): 62–77, repr. in Glastonbury Abbey and the Arthurian Tradition, ed. James P. Carley, Arthurian Studies 45 (Cambridge, 2001), 101–13; Michael Lapidge, ‘The Vera Historia de Morte Arthuri: A New Edition’, in Glastonbury Abbey, ed. Carley, 115–41; and Richard Barber, ‘Addendum on the De Vera Historia de Morte Arthuri’, in Glastonbury Abbey, ed. Carley, 143–44. 38 Bogdanow, ‘Rewriting Prose Romance’, 348. Edwards, Genesis of Narrative, 167. See also Cooper’s comment quoted at the beginning of this essay. Terence McCarthy makes a slightly different point in ‘Malory and his Sources’, in A Companion to Malory, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and A. S. G. Edwards, Arthurian Studies 37 (Cambridge, 1996), 75–95 (78–79): ‘Malory is much more completely a traditional writer, one for whom invention, as such, is not the prime concern. Instead, he borrows and assembles in order to recreate, to give new form to old stories in a way that does full justice to what he sees as their true significance.’ 37

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Elizabeth Archibald simple borrowing or imitation. He seems to have been unwilling to accept its assessment of Lancelot and its hostility to romantic love, and indeed he goes to considerable lengths to defend both Lancelot and the queen, in life and in death. Some of the supposed inconsistencies in the Morte Darthur seem to me resolvable if Malory is responding to a text which devalues both his hero Lancelot and the illicit love that inspires him to win so much ‘worship’ as Arthur’s Top Knight.

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7 Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance BA R RY W I N DEATT What happens when an emotion is unreadable … when a bodily sign of emotion carries neither a familiar meaning nor an explanation within the text?1

The focus of this essay forms part of a broader ongoing enquiry into body language in medieval English culture and in romances as part of that. It develops from the premise that examining patterns of body language over a representative selection of romances can build towards a gestural lexicon of both familiar and implicit meanings of body language, as well as furnishing explanations for instances unexplained within the text. This is not to imply that all romances are somehow the same, and that they will display monolithic uses of body language. The more exceptional incidences of body language which can be identified through a comparative survey serve both to confirm the broader idiom and define many fascinating variations. Such a gestural lexicon in a fuller form will have the potential to inform enquiries into medieval understanding of bodiliness and the history of the emotions. Body language is usually interpreted to be all physical aspects, positions or motions of the body which have a meaning but do not serve a practical purpose.2 Any reader of medieval English romances notices patterns in the body language referenced. Some is persistently mentioned, while other types of body language may be rarely explored. Some is to be read within the expectations of social decorums (doffing headgear: Em 992; SPG 403) and

1

Helen Cooper, ‘Afterword: Malory’s Enigmatic Smiles’, in Emotions in Medieval Arthurian Literature: Body, Mind, Voice, ed. Frank Brandsma, Carolyne Larrington, and Corinne Saunders, Arthurian Studies 83 (Cambridge, 2015), 181. 2 On the study of gesture, see Jean-Claude Schmitt, La Raison des gestes dans l’Occident médiéval, Bibliothèque des histoires (Paris, 1990); Moshe Barasch, Giotto and the Language of Gesture, Cambridge Studies in the History of Art (Cambridge, 1990); Alan L. Boegehold, When A Gesture Was Expected (Princeton, NJ, 1999).

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Barry Windeatt ceremonious observance (bowing: Em 981; FB 702; SI 281, 335).3 Some has deliberate performative functions (as in various hand gestures which bestow and confer). Much other body language as described in romances might appear to embody outwardly the characters’ emotional life, but is it always to be read as expressive of an individual feeling and emotion? It is possible to misread references to gesture within medieval romance, because modern readers are accustomed instinctively to visualise what they read in the mind’s eye, and to interpret what is visualised in terms of emotional and psychological implication. Yet much recording of body language in medieval writing suggests that characters are reported to swoon, weep, or whatever, more as a token of the type of scene or situation than as something particularly revealing of an individual’s unique experience. Indeed, gestureas-token may have more implication than gesture as idiosyncratic individual expression. This is where the range, recurrence, and overlap of instances in a gestural lexicon can help accumulate a broader set of definitions which may illuminate instances ‘without explanation within the text’. The following sections explore the materials for assembling – on the model of a dictionary – the entries, definitions, and sub-headings for a projected gestural lexicon of the Middle English romances, focusing on defining each range of representative instances of body language. The tables record recurrences of the principal types of body language found in romances. The text following each table establishes the instances from which the main entries and sub-headings – the main definitions and sub-definitions – would be assembled in a gestural lexicon. A lexicon would usually list entries in alphabetical order but, for the purposes of this essay, types and patterns of gesture are sequenced more thematically, beginning with the body language of the face and head (facial expression, looks, and gazes), the postures of the whole body (such as standing and kneeling), and the body language of the hands and arms, including embracing (which inevitably is associated with kissing). Discussion then moves on to various aspects of the body language of unhappiness – sighing, weeping, and swooning – but ends with the laughter that figures in many romances. Facial Expressions, Pallor, Blushing Amis and Amiloun Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Erle of Tolous 3

404, 2446 579 771, 1009 498, 644

For a list of abbreviations, and the editions of romances to which they refer, see Appendix below, 150–51.

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance Floris and Blancheflour 805, 925 364, 1679, 3374, 4040, 4852–58, 5117, 5248, 6298, Ipomadon 7610, 7901 50 Octavian 588–89 Sir Degaré 59, 974 Sir Gowther 921 Sir Launfal 906, 924, 1032, 1097 Sir Tryamowre 475, 1507, 2998, 3140 Stanzaic Morte Arthur

Most romances’ rather sparse attention to facial expression is itself a significant absence, and a pointer to their stylisation of emotion. Facial expression is sometimes controlled for reasons of secrecy or deception (FB 995; SMA 1729), but accounts of changes in facial expression, blushing, or growing pale with distress, shock, or fear are never routine in the emotional texture of most romances. In Sir Degaré the queen flushes when she realises that the denouement through the fitting glove is approaching (588–89) and she changes colour when she recognises Degaré’s father (974). In Octavian the empress turns pale when she notices her husband weeping over their childlessness (50), just as in Sir Gowther the duchess grows wan with sorrow at her inability to conceive (59). Floris changes colour when reunited with Blancheflour in the harem (FB 805), while in Emaré the king turns pale when he reads the forged letter (771), and the emperor grows pale when informed that Emaré is still alive (1009). As in other instances, body language is not necessarily any outward token of virtue: one of the two treacherous knights in the Erle of Tolous notices the other growing pale and wan for lovesickness, and this pallor is cited when the illicit passion is declared to the queen (ET 498, 644). A further sub-category of facial reactions is angry and louring expressions (AA 404; FB 925; KH 270), as well as frowns and ‘fowle chere’ (ST 1032, 1097); in Octavian the sultan bites his lips and shakes his beard (1070), while Horn ‘wrong his lippe’ (KH 1064). Gazes and Looks Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Erle of Tolous

695–98, 1165, 1913–15, 2029, 2119, 2260 599, 1305 537, 1766 402, 871 110 135

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Barry Windeatt Floris and Blancheflour Ipomadon King Horn Sir Degaré Sir Gowther Sir Percyvell of Gales Sir Tryamowre Stanzaic Morte Arthur

809, 859 242, 380–82, 415, 815, 898, 993, 999, 1080, 1092, 3731, 4039, 4116, 4557, 5113, 7114 403 711, 809 72, 351 1309 813 113, 178, 989, 1008–09, 1349, 2199, 3265

Gazes figure at key points in very different types of romances, whether exchanged or in one direction, and there are other deliberate and consciously significant looks.4 After the duchess in Sir Gowther has been raped in a forest by a furry fiend, her attacker ‘start up son, / And stode and hur beheld’ (71–72) and proceeds to foretell that she will bear a child as a consequence. This scene would feel rather different without the fiend’s studied stare at his victim. The intent gaze of the love-struck is recurrent, as when the king notices Emaré (Em 397–402), the Maid of Astolat gazes at Lancelot (SMA 178), or a maiden ‘On Sir Amis, that gentil knight, / An hundred time sche cast hir sight’ (AA 694–95). Beholding and considering is often the prelude to pronouncing a judgement or opinion, but sometimes a look may express a fullness of meaning beyond expression, as in Arthur’s gaze at the supremely chivalrous Lancelot, who has put Arthur back on his horse (SMA 2199). Moments of discovery and recognition may be represented by special looks of perception (as in AA 2029, 2119), or when Gawain discovers the Maid of Astolat’s body (SMA 1008–09). There are also some secret and concealed looks (AA 2260), and when a thief ‘twynkylde wyth hys eye’ (BFR 1748) he is clearly up to no good. Movements of the head are carefully reported, betokening upward and downward looks (BFR 767, 1306). Looks betraying anger and rage occur, but not perhaps as frequently as the frustrations endured by romance characters might otherwise imply. It is quite common for romance characters to ‘stand and behold’, associating a steady and considering look with motionlessness in bodily posture more largely. Posture, Standing, Sitting, Stillness Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton

4

589, 637, 1273 343, 655

See J. A. Burrow, Gestures and Looks in Medieval Narrative, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 48 (Cambridge, 2002).

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance Bone Florence of Rome Erle of Tolous Floris and Blancheflour King Horn Octavian Sir Degaré Sir Launfal Sir Tryamowre Stanzaic Morte Arthure

264, 908, 1766 110, 337, 757, 1082 1060 399 122, 270 415, 563 985, 987 74, 1650 760, 1348, 1429, 1437, 1546, 1660, 2922, 3264, 3432, 3439

Stillness, whether sitting or standing, can itself be meaningful in body language (ST 74, 1650), just as the mad are associated with a desperate running (AA 806, 2066–68), while quaking and trembling are much reported (BFR 94, 844, 1976; FB 904; Ipom 5114–15, 5284, 6727, 6871). Romances ring many changes on postures of standing and variations from standing. In terms of decorum and ceremony, to stand up is always a courtesy in greeting (KH 399), and Floris is asked to stand to be invested with knighthood (FB 1060). Standing motionless is often taken to indicate cogitation. Characters recurrently stand still and think (AA 589, 637, 1273; Oct 122; SD 415, 563), stand or sit ‘in study’ (Ipom 749, 5323, 6129, 8237, 8489), or stand and look. They stand in order to look in a considered way (ET 110), and may stand up with resolve (ET 1082). When Launfal’s fairy mistress arrives, Guinevere and her ladies stand to gaze at her stately bearing (SL 985–87). Departure from an upright stance can carry intense gestural significance. Romance characters may variously fall or lie on their beds for a number of causes, whether anger, distress, or sorrow, sometimes writhing or tossing and turning (Ipom 7124–25). After Launfal boasts of his mistress, Guinevere stalks off in a temper, ‘And anon sche ley doun yn hur bedde’ (SL 703). Various heroines fall on their beds in their anguish, as do Rymenhild (KH 1197), La Fere (Ipom 903–04), the Fair Maid of Astolat and Queen Guinevere (SMA 187, 650). There are also instances where at some crisis a character collapses to the ground for distress but with no mention of fainting (BH 649, 2458; SD 595). Characters may fall to the ground to show deference for superiors (KH 334, 455; SMA 2649), and there is some falling at the feet of others (FB 703, 1064), and then kissing those feet (FB 1071), but these are variations from a more customary demonstration of respect by kneeling.

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Barry Windeatt Kneeling Bevis of Hampton Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Erle of Tolous Ipomadon King Horn Lai le Fresne Octavian Sir Amadace Sir Degaré Sir Gowther Sir Isumbras Sir Percyvell of Gales Squire of Low Degree Stanzaic Morte Arthur

128, 259, 1387, 2859, 3491, 4297, 4473 951, 1903 87, 854, 893 255, 385, 533, 1066, 1153 391, 1643, 3489, 3715, 4059, 4746, 5130, 5213, 5237, 6557, 7851, 8071, 8241, 8639 383, 505, 780–81 47, 165 52, 245, 253, 751, 1047, 1228, 1712 802 430 289 56, 315, 428, 533, 672, 771 388, 1274 115, 279, 315, 467, 628, 697 67, 446, 520, 674, 1085, 1330, 1342, 1358, 1374, 1477, 1659, 2648, 3765, 3938

Kneeling is an instance of body language recurrently reported across the romances, an inseparable part of the way in which romances represent religious observance and courtly decorum. Kneeling is repeatedly an expression of respect for social superiors (including lovers to their ladies), or for religious dignitaries, or it is the body language proper to acts of prayer and of thanksgiving to God. Instances of kneeling are only rarely other than functional in these ways, prescribed by piety or by social decorum. Kneeling is only infrequently expressive of some more personal deference, and such instances are all the more striking. Near the start of Octavian, when the empress notices the emperor weeping, she kneels while asking him to reveal the cause of his sorrows (52). Kneeling in this personal and domestic context, even if the husband is of exalted rank, makes a conventional and habitual gesture into something emotionally pressing and urgent. Similarly, in the episode of the Poisoned Apple in the Stanzaic Morte, Guinevere’s successive kneeling to Bors, Gawain, and Lionel, begging them to fight to clear her name (1342, 1358, 1374), conveys the Queen’s humiliation by reversing the expected direction in which the gesture would usually be made between queen and knights. Eventually, after Guinevere’s innocence is proven, her accuser Sir Mador comes and kneels before her 138

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance in a gesture which wordlessly bespeaks remorse at his mistaken accusation (1659). Hand Gestures Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Erle of Tolous Floris and Blancheflour King Horn Octavian Sir Degaré Sir Isumbras Sir Percyvell of Gales Sir Tryamowre Squire of Low Degree Stanzaic Morte Arthur

156, 845, 1198, 1340, 1507, 2091 1400, 4557 238, 1900, 2110 855, 905, 917, 920 28, 632, 874, 1081, 1100, 1164, 1205 706, 976–77 60, 306, 400, 427, 794, 1501 246 539 57, 308, 349 579, 1625 162, 1141 353, 869, 908 2251, 2362, 2464, 2492, 2637, 2886, 3390, 3490–93

One of the most memorable of gestures in all medieval literature involves an isolated hand, which rises from the water to seize Arthur’s sword once it has been hurled into the sea, brandishes it in the air, then ‘as glem, away it glent’ (SMA 3490–93). Most references to hands are more functional, made significant through the convention and ceremony in which hands are performative or are representative of agency. There are various instances of clasping hands or holding up hands to pledge fidelity, or to mark the making of oaths (AA 156; ET 632, 1164; KH 306; SI 57; SLD 869; SPG 1625), and the role of the hand may be mentioned in the performance of homage (FB 706), or bestowing knighthood (SPG 579). Hands are described as held up in gestures of prayer (Oct 246), or in blessing and absolving (ET 1081).5 For one character to take another by the hand has the capacity to represent some very different consequences. It may represent a taking into custody or arrest (AA 1198), or a taking into possession (KH 60, 1501), or it may represent a challenge (AA 1340), or an undertaking to fight (SLD 353–54). Similarly, to present a glove may be a token of an intent to challenge the 5

On gestures of prayer, see Richard C. Trexler, The Christian at Prayer: An Illustrated Prayer Manual Attributed to Peter the Chanter, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 44 (Binghamton, NY, 1987).

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Barry Windeatt recipient (AA 845; ET 1100; ST 1472), although presentation of a glove can also serve as a lover’s token (KH 794). To take another by the hand may be – unremarkably – a courteous form of greeting (SA 542) or a lover’s gambit (KH 400). But to take by the hand is also a gestural indicator accompanying various acts of bestowal – whether of lands or of daughters in marriage (as in AA 1507; SA 614; SD 539) – and the king takes the Squire of Low Degree by the hand when accepting him as his daughter’s suitor (SLD 908). It is also by the touch of her hand that Florence bestows a restoration of their health on her various oppressors (BFR 2110). Noticing how actions and bestowals are performed by the hand is a way of emphasising agency (SI 308, 349; SMA 2251, 2492), and of indicating the dispossession and repossession which is part of the plot (ET 28, 1205). Taking by the hand and arm is also part of a culture of courteous conducting and escorting of ladies (SMA 2637). It is in the context of such conventions about the significance of the hand that more unusual instances can develop, such as Emaré’s instructing her son to take by the hand the father who does not yet know him, an instruction twice repeated and then twice enacted in leading to a discovery (Em 855, 905, 917, 920). Overall, expansive hand gestures are infrequent in romances. There are some incidents where characters are described throwing up their arms aloft and flinging them wide, apparently in a gesture of despair, before swooning (ET 874; KH 427) – and Lancelot flings his arms wide before falling at the feet of the hermit (SMA 3778) – but such gestural expansiveness with the hands and arms is relatively uncommon. When Tryamowre’s mother is challenged to reveal the identity of his father, she first fidgets with her fingers before speaking (‘Hys modur togedur hur fyngers can folde,’ ST 1597), but this is unusually closely observed body language reminiscent of the age-old gesture of wringing the hands and fingers. Wringing Hands Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Ipomadon King Horn Sir Degaré Sir Launfal Stanzaic Morte Arthur

859, 1570, 1669, 2160 298 836–38, 1682 639 1815, 4672, 8154 112, 982 76, 142 822 1173, 3505, 3726, 3746, 3916, 3931 140

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance Wringing the hands is a potent expressive gesture of distress reserved for extremities: one of the ladies wrings her hands on the boat that comes to fetch the dying Arthur (SMA 3505). Amis’s wife wrings her hands after swooning to discover that Amiloun is a leper (AA 2160), Rymenhild wrings her fingers in a tight spot (KH 982), the lady in Sir Degaré wrings her hands when lost in the forest and soon to be raped, and then again when pregnant (76, 142). But male characters also wring their hands (AA 1570, 1669; SL 822). There is a mutual wringing of hands by Lancelot and Guinevere when they must part forever (SMA 3726), and there is also a striking scene of the mass wringing of hands by onlookers when Emaré is to be set adrift (Em 639), and by massed dukes and earls (BFR 838). As for other gestures of rending, the tearing of hair (Ipom 8183; Oct 1776) is quite rarely mentioned. Tearing of clothes in distress or fury is rare but does occur (BH 1310; Ipom 4686; SPG 2156). Embracing Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Floris and Blancheflour King Horn Octavian Sir Degaré Sir Isumbras Sir Tryamowre Squire of Low Degree Stanzaic Morte Arthur

764, 1462, 2116, 2140 425, 3942, 4604 113, 1849 212, 934, 939, 1019–20 808 301–02, 404, 430, 737, 1210 61, 443, 1451, 1745 600, 879 326, 707–08 1578 1050, 1067 197, 1429, 1547, 1801, 3771, 3927, 3934

The romances record such numerous instances of embracing that such body language constitutes a significant part of their gestural texture. The gesture tends to be reported without further descriptive elaboration. One exception is when Florence of Rome is the victim of attempted (but unsuccessful) rape by a sailor, and the romance tries to convey the impact of his oppressive embrace: In hys armes he can hur folde, Hur rybbes crakyd as they breke wolde, In struglynge can they stryve… (BFR 1849–51) 141

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Barry Windeatt In a travesty of embraces of amity, reconciliation, and union, its physical dimension is unusually realised. By contrast, in most cases, there is no more attempt to evoke the physical experience of embracing or being embraced than there is to describe the physical experience of kneeling. Both are presented as functional gestures, as if they are equally observances. Some of the ‘wooing women’ of romance initiate embraces with their intended lovers (KH 404; SMA 197), although without further eroticising detail. The prevailing purpose of recording embracings in the romances is to betoken moments of rediscovery and reunion: when Amis clasps the leprous Amiloun once he recognises him (AA 2116, 2140), this is an embrace of reunion which, in defying infection, makes willed physical proximity into a statement of love and friendship. But more generally in romances joyful reunions are sealed by fairly tersely and undescriptively reported embraces (Em 934, 1019–20; FB 808; SD 600; SI 707–08). It is as if the emotional and social significance of an embrace as body language is so universally recognised that its bodily nature and experience no longer call for description. It is only exceptional circumstances that accord the gesture special demonstrativeness, such as the kind of embrace in which Bors graciously raises Guinevere who has fallen swooning before him (SMA 1429) or when Arthur embraces Bors in gratitude when he undertakes to defend the Queen (1547). Overall, the romances report embracing and kissing as the public body language of the same occasions. Kissing Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Erle of Tolous Floris and Blancheflour King Horn Lai le Fresne Octavian Sir Amadace Sir Degaré Sir Gowther Sir Isumbras Sir Launfal

326, 669, 765, 1065, 1462, 2135, 2162 709, 1989, 3057, 3171, 3943, 4573 1803 212, 979–80, 993–95, 1020 401, 415, 1059, 1187, 1201 496, 808 405, 431, 583, 738–39, 1191, 1210–11 399 443, 601, 612, 821, 1018, 1050, 1229, 1451, 1486, 1724, 1745 764 118, 293, 602, 880 666 326, 341, 652 309, 549 142

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance Sir Percyvell of Gales Sir Tryamowre Squire of Low Degree Stanzaic Morte Arthur

473, 1357, 1523–25, 1938 160, 1151, 1192, 1252, 1283, 1682–85 281, 433, 573, 699, 927, 1068 711, 726, 1622, 1631, 1662, 1801, 3713, 3927

Indeed, instances of kissing are recorded with striking frequency across the romances. Kissing very much forms part of their emotional texture, yet this type of body language, which for modern readers is often a token of affection and intimacy, remains noticeably undescribed and functional, almost as if a mode of observance. A kiss is just a kiss, almost always without further description, and only very rarely detailed to be on the face, lips, or mouth. There is more sense of physicality in the comically misplaced kiss which Perceval’s horse implants on Arthur’s forehead, and which the king pushes away with his hand (SPG 493–500), than in most of the kisses between human beings in the romances. Animals that raise foundling children are seen to kiss them (e.g. Oct 443), so that the meaning of human body language is transferred from humans but with the same significance. Otherwise, kisses serve to express the mutuality in moments of meeting and greeting, parting, and fond reunion between lovers, family, and friends. Kissing naturally recurs between lovers, but sometimes marking an understanding or the plighting of troth, although almost entirely without erotic detail. Male friends will kiss each other, sometimes repeatedly (SPG 1523–25). A lady may withhold a kiss from a lover until a task is performed. For a lady to kiss a male leper (AA 2162) is laudably noble-hearted in disregarding decorum. What the romances ignore in not particularising the physical activity of kissing, they sometimes make up for by emphasising how kisses recur in time on the same occasion, with references to ‘thrice’ (SLD 281), ‘many times’ (SA 764; SD 602), and occasionally up to or beyond one hundred times (SD 880; SLD 1068). A gestural lexicon for medieval English romances has so far revealed a distinctive aesthetic – broadly shared, with variations – whereby gestures we might interpret as demonstrative of emotion are used recurrently yet briskly, with scant enlargement on their emotional significance. The same holds true of the body language of sorrow which the romances so repeatedly record, such as weeping, sighing, and swooning. Weeping Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton Bone Florence of Rome

326, 480, 859, 1603, 1626, 1670, 1687, 1702, 1716, 2136–38, 2159, 2280–81, 2320, 2410 298, 376, 448, 1312, 1339, 1445, 2101, 3565, 3718 578, 870, 1095, 1601, 1653–54, 1686, 2082 143

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Barry Windeatt 290, 294–302, 549, 556, 611, 639, 646, 772, 778, 812, 881 833–34 Erle of Tolous Floris and Blancheflour 15–17, 83, 238, 256, 270, 297, 648, 735, 817, 859, 957, 982 1397, 1679, 1815, 4671, 5784, 6518, 6555, 6601, Ipomadon 7603, 7608, 8182, 8260, 8294, 8627 69, 654, 675–76, 755, 891–92, 962, 1038, 1051, King Horn 1106, 1408 47, 240, 254, 267–69, 301, 420, 456, 569, 909, Octavian 1031, 1155, 1238 206, 362 Sir Amadace 76, 100, 120–21, 142–43, 605, 896 Sir Degaré 57, 225, 231 Sir Gowther 97, 115, 143, 148, 165, 183, 190, 297, 314, 347, Sir Isumbras 354, 522, 534, 573, 630 537 Sir Percyvell of Gales 1152 Sir Tryamowre 183, 384, 555, 662, 726, 739, 750, 1085, 1340, Stanzaic Morte Arthur 1356, 1390, 1507, 1511, 1544, 1636, 2083, 2203, 2379, 2419, 2437, 2457–58, 3032, 3192, 3222, 3445, 3505, 3523, 3571, 3623, 3746, 3864, 3914, 3935 Emaré

Weeping is among the most frequently recorded of all body language in the romances. Sheer numbers of incidences confirm just how often romance characters are near to a tearful response. To see others weep prompts weeping (Em 298–302). Little clear sense emerges of gender differentiation: men weep copiously, openly, and without embarrassment. Although weeping might appear to modern readers a highly emotive and demonstrative symptom of feeling, the romances are sparing with detailed particularity. Characters often weep ‘sore’ or ‘sorely’, and sometimes tears trickle, but it is rare to hear how a character weeps: whether silently, noisily, or interrupted by sobs. Mass weeping by groups and crowds is recurrent (BFR 870; SI 148). To record characters as weeping seems sufficient for the romances to signify all that weeping betokens, and more idiosyncratic individual performance of weeping is not usually explored.6

6

See also Barry Windeatt, ‘Chaucer’s Tears’, Critical Survey 30 (2018), 69–88.

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance Sighing Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Erle of Tolous Floris and Blancheflour Ipomadon King Horn Lai le Fresne Octavian Sir Degaré Sir Gowther Sir Isumbras Sir Launfal Sir Percyvell of Gales Sir Tryamowre Squire of Low Degree Stanzaic Morte Arthur

257, 1200, 1671 1312 919, 1094, 1424, 1701 328, 604, 676, 809, 878 135, 160, 376, 620, 1012 113, 256, 270, 423, 648, 721 713, 793, 1181, 1249, 1408, 1516, 1525, 1633, 3622, 4717, 5319, 5785, 6131, 6512, 7126, 7628, 7853, 8110, 8154, 8167, 8189, 8301, 8474, 8664 426 125, 388 51 140 58 55, 143, 181, 357, 633, 685, 735 249 1064 30, 1677 22, 857 359, 631, 802, 1324, 1340, 2082, 2124, 2204, 2418, 3756

Like weeping, sighing is among the most frequently recurring body language in the romances, paired with weeping on numerous occasions. Characters often sigh ‘sore’ or ‘wonder sore’, and sighs are sometimes accompanied by cries of ‘alas!’ Further vocal body language of distress recorded in the romances includes groans (SL 600; SMA 2912) and shrill cries (SMA 1360, 1376, 3188). Repeated sighing or sighing thrice is also recurrent (BFR 1094). Overall, sighing becomes one of the romances’ staple gestural tokens, through which to signal pensive melancholy, sometimes distinctly understated for the circumstances (SI 181), but all that can be done (‘Inowgh he sykes, but noght he lernes’, FB 113). Swooning Amis and Amiloun Bevis of Hampton

258, 2122, 2158 446, 1309, 1563, 2399, 3717, 4457 145

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Barry Windeatt Bone Florence of Rome Emaré Erle of Tolous Floris and Blancheflour Ipomadon King Horn Lai le Fresne Octavian Sir Amadace Sir Degaré Sir Isumbras Sir Launfal Sir Tryamowre Squire of Low Degree Stanzaic Morte Arthur

824, 1093 284, 551, 608, 645, 780, 935 875 246, 252, 267, 645 1407, 1628, 3814, 4254, 4301, 4357, 4706, 5836, 5906, 6917, 8107, 8163, 8264 428, 740, 858, 1481 372, 387 266, 336–40, 900, 983–86, 1727, 1775, 1781 761 595, 805–06, 982 342, 650, 704 755 254, 375, 612, 952 90, 700, 856, 928, 968, 1048, 1066 383, 774, 804, 903, 1425, 1437, 1634, 1970, 2005, 2914, 3399, 3435, 3549, 3626, 3728

Along with weeping and sighing, swooning is intrinsic to the characteristic body language of the romances.7 A swoon can represent the shock of recognition or discovery. Launfal swoons when he realises his indiscretion has forfeited his fairy mistress (SL 755). First Amis and then his wife swoon upon realising that the leper is actually Amiloun (AA 2122, 2158). Degaré’s mother swoons to be reunited with his father, who raped her many years before (SD 982), as she swooned in describing the giant who earlier oppressed her (805–06). In The Erle of Tolous the emperor, a devoted husband, swoons when treacherously misinformed of his wife’s adultery (875). Floris swoons when misinformed of Blancheflour’s death (FB 246). Le Fresne’s mother faints when addressing the long-lost daughter she abandoned years previously (LF 387). There is also the variant of the almost-swoon: Le Fresne’s mother nearly faints when she recognises the mantle spread on the bed (LF 372; also AA 258). Recurrent swoonings form part of some romances’ distinctive emotional texture. In Emaré the remorseful emperor swoons as he watches the boat 7

See Judith Weiss, ‘Medieval and Modern Views on Swooning: The Literary and Medical Contexts of Fainting in Romance’, in Medieval Romance, Medieval Contexts, ed. Rhiannon Purdie and Michael Cichon, Studies in Medieval Romance 14 (Cambridge, 2011), 121–34; and Barry Windeatt, ‘The Art of Swooning in Middle English’, in Medieval Latin and Middle English Literature: Essays in Honour of Jill Mann, ed. Christopher Cannon and Maura Nolan (Cambridge, 2011), 211–30.

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance disappear over the horizon in which he has set his daughter adrift (283–84). Later, Emaré’s husband swoons as he reads the forged letter misinforming him of Emaré’s supposedly monstrous baby (551), and the steward duly faints while reading the king’s purported letter instructing him to set Emaré and her child adrift on the sea (608). At various crises Rymenhild swoons in King Horn, and there are recurrent swoonings in Octavian, while it can seem almost the default response of the heroine of The Squire of Low Degree to swoon in most episodes in which she appears, although the squire is the first to swoon (90). In Sir Tryamowre the falsely-accused queen swoons as she is sent into exile (254) and when her escorting knight is killed in an ambush (375), while her husband swoons to discover too late how he has been deceived (612). Other permutations of recurrent swooning are far removed from modern notions of fainting, and include: repeated multiple swoons by one individual within the same episode; mutual simultaneous swoonings by a couple; and massed simultaneous swoonings by a group. It is quite common in English romances for individuals to swoon not once but three times for preference (‘thre’ and ‘thrice’ sometimes providing useful rhymes). In Sir Isumbras the lady ‘swonedde tymes thre’ (342) when about to be set adrift and ‘swonedde thryes’ (704) at the joyful reunion. Floris swoons three times on being shown Blancheflour’s supposed tomb (FB 267), and on hearing of Blancheflour’s being in the Emir’s harem (645). In the Stanzaic Morte Lancelot swoons three times with pain when his wounds reopen (383); Guinevere swoons three times when Lancelot leaves after she reproaches him concerning the Fair Maid of Astolat (774); Arthur swoons three times when fatally wounded by Mordred (3399); and Guinevere swoons three times when Lancelot visits her in the nunnery (3626). Arthur swoons ‘oft’ upon hearing that Lancelot has rescued the queen from being burned (1970), and in Octavian the emperor swoons seven times on rediscovering his wife (1727). Both Lancelot and Guinevere fall down in a simultaneous swoon when they come to part forever (SMA 3728). In Emaré both king and steward swoon together when they realise how a forged letter has caused Emaré to be set adrift (780), and later husband and wife ‘they sowened, both to’ (935) to rediscover each other. Simultaneous group swoonings by a large cast of characters are also a striking feature of the romances’ gestural lexicon: a whole hall-full of people ‘Doune on squonyng ther con they falle’ (SA 761) when Amadace discovers he must divide both his wife and child in two in fulfilment of a pledge. In Octavian ‘Ladys felle in swownyng there’ (266), and in Emaré ‘Men sowened on the sonde’ (645) when the heroine is to be set adrift. Falling into a swoon in battle – as unspecified numbers of knights do in King Horn (858) – might seem a different kind of unconsciousness through blows and pain, yet it appears to be regarded as part of the same culture of swooning. Fainting is not only the body language of the virtuous and deserving: in Sir Tryamowre an emperor swoons over the corpse of his unknightly son, 147

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Barry Windeatt who has fought treacherously against Tryamowre (952). Hearing of her death sentence at the end of Octavian the emperor’s wicked mother ‘Swownyng yn hur chamber she felle’ (1775). The narrator’s rhetorical question ‘What wondur was thowe ther were no swoghe?’(1781) among the bystanders implies just how much swooning was part of the expected conventions of body language by which climactic events were registered. When this wicked empress slits her throat, ‘Therat all the kyngys loghe’ (1780), but what larger role is played by the body language of laughter in a romance genre that conventionally moves towards happy resolutions? Laughing Bevis of Hampton

599, 1305, 1357, 1991, 2135, 2167, 3116

Bone Florence of Rome

1767, 2019

Erle of Tolous

718

Floris and Blancheflour 1057

King Horn

121, 259, 437, 459, 651, 2205, 2249, 2311, 3460, 3557, 3569, 3579, 3582, 3602, 4009, 4049, 4092, 4130, 4146, 4158, 4538, 4735, 4843, 4872, 4957, 5154, 5174, 5212, 5218, 5230, 6842 1482

Octavian

555, 897, 929, 1165, 1198, 1780

Sir Degaré

843

Sir Isumbras

613

Sir Launfal

115, 540, 577

Sir Tryamowre

1353, 1558

Stanzaic Morte Arthur

496, 528, 1536, 1636, 3868

Ipomadon

Much of the customary subject matter of romance is no laughing matter, and when it is remarked in King Horn that ‘Ne was ther non that loughe’ (1482) this might seem to speak for the romances in general. But there are exceptions, some being somewhat formulaic, such as exultant laughing in scorn at the discomfiture of opponents in battles and tournaments. When Tryamowre chops his opponent off at the knees during a duel – crying out gaily ‘A lytull lower, syr’ (ST 1555) – Tryamowre’s watching lady certainly sees the funny side (‘A lowde laghtur that lady logh’, 1558). Degaré jumps up again and laughs after a momentary reverse in a fight (SD 843). There is a succession of laughs in Octavian when characters not of knightly station attempt knightly deeds (897, 929, 1165), such as pulling a sword from a scabbard and promptly falling over (889–900). There is much laughter in Ipomadon, alongside much 148

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance weeping, sighing, and swooning. In the Stanzaic Morte Lancelot laughs off a wound (496), Guinevere laughs in exultation to discover Lancelot is still alive (528), and a bishop laughs in his sleep for joy at a vision of Lancelot’s soul being carried by angels to bliss (3868). These are laughters of confidence and conviction, and by the close of her story Florence of Rome can laugh cheerfully at the sight of her four oppressors (BFR 2019). There are also occasions when laughter signals insight: discovering that when poor he is no longer welcome as before, ‘Launfal turned hymself and lowgh’ (SL 115), and that turn to a private laughter signifies a wry recognition. There is a disturbing perversion of courtly game and laughter in the Erle of Tolous, where the villains plotting to implicate the virtuous empress in a compromising situation persuade a naive young knight to hide naked in her bedchamber as a jape (‘Thou schalt make hur to lagh soo!’, 718). There is also some sneering laughter by malign characters (BFR 1767), along with some guileful smiling (1788). From such an outline of possible entries in a gestural lexicon, patterns emerge about how body language communicates in the romances. For many romance authors and readers, simply to record that familiar body language was enacted had its own sufficient emphasis and completeness of meaning. There is evidently little felt need to elaborate with details that might particularise the activity. Instances of the same body language can be reported with insistent frequency but without further detail. In resorting to body language many romance writers seek to communicate coded significance about their characters by aligning them with an acknowledged typicality of observance and experience in bodily activity. One indicator that medieval audiences might tend to decode gestures more as tokens than as individually expressive is the usually scant attention to how any gesture functions within narrative time, particularly the noticeable lack of response by bystanders to recorded instances of body language. Characters may tumble over in a swoon, but usually the action – and often the swooning characters themselves – continue in the next line without missing a beat. Much the same may be said of accounts of weeping, or of the bouts of melancholy reflection signalled by sighings. Another indicator is the instances – where romances survive in more than one manuscript – of scribes varying from each other in the body language they record for the same episode of a romance. This emerges from comparison of manuscript accounts of Sir Orfeo. Where – in the Auchinleck Manuscript and Harley MS 3810 – Herodis ‘froted hir honden and hir fet’ (79) in her disturbed dream, Ashmole MS 61 rewrites this singular gesture into something powerful but more predictable (‘And wrong hyr hondys wyth drery mode’, 67).8 Herodis’s unnervingly persistent and monotonous 8

Sir Orfeo, ed. A. J. Bliss, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1966).

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Barry Windeatt cry in the Auchinleck version (95) is rewritten into something more ordinary (Ashmole: ‘And euer sche began to cryȝe’, 83), just as Orfeo’s pitying gaze (Auchinleck, 101) is turned into weeping (Ashmole, 87). When Herodis is abducted ‘with fairi’, Orfeo in one account goes into his chamber and ‘oft swoned opon the stone’ (Auchinleck, 197), but in other manuscripts ‘fel adown’ (Harley, 193) or simply ‘oft he knelyd’ (Ashmole, 199). When Herodis weeps to see Orfeo in such a reduced state, Orfeo in one version (Harley, 314) weeps in return. The various scribes also diverge over incidences of kneeling by characters, over whether it is the steward who gazes wonderingly at the returning Orfeo (Auchinleck, 530) or Orfeo who gazes at the steward in recognising his fidelity (Ashmole, 546), and whether there is weeping for joy at the king’s return (in Auchinleck, 591, but not in Ashmole). Such variability in gestural texture can be replicated from manuscripts of other romances extant in more than one version. The implication is that writers and readers did not remember scenes exclusively in terms of particular gestures, but drew from a spectrum of comparable body language. So alert to so much body language, which communicates so insistently yet so unelaboratedly, the English romances develop a language of gesture which is important for the study of the emotions, but where any individual instance is most illuminating in the context of the romances’ distinctive gestural idiom more largely. Appendix: Abbreviations and Editions Cited Romances have been selected to represent a cross-section of various strands of romance tradition. Amis and Amiloun, in Of Love and Chivalry: An Anthology of Middle English Romance, ed. Jennifer Fellows (London, 1993), 73–145. BFR Le Bone Florence of Rome, ed. Carol Falvo Heffernan, Old and Middle English Texts (Manchester, 1976). BH Bevis of Hampton, in Four Romances of England, ed. Ronald B. Herzman, Graham Drake, and Eve Salisbury (Kalamazoo, MI, 1999), 187–340. Em Emaré, in Six Middle English Romances, ed. Maldwyn Mills (London, 1973), 46–74. ET The Erle of Tolous, in The Breton Lays in Middle English, ed. Thomas C. Rumble (Detroit, MI, 1965), 135–77. FB Floris and Blancheflour, in Of Love and Chivalry: An Anthology of Middle English Romance, ed. Jennifer Fellows (London, 1993), 42–72. Ipom Ipomadon, ed. Rhiannon Purdie, EETS o.s. 316 (Oxford, 2001). AA

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Towards a Gestural Lexicon of Medieval English Romance KH LF Oct SA SD SG SI SL SLD SMA SO SPG ST

King Horn, in Of Love and Chivalry: An Anthology of Middle English Romance, ed. Jennifer Fellows (London, 1993), 1–41. Lai le Freine, in The Breton Lays in Middle English, ed. Thomas C. Rumble (Detroit, MI, 1965), 80–94. Octavian, in Six Middle English Romances, ed. Maldwyn Mills (London, 1973), 75–124. Sir Amadace, in Six Middle English Romances, ed. Maldwyn Mills (London, 1973), 169–92. Sir Degaré, in The Breton Lays in Middle English, ed. Thomas C. Rumble (Detroit, MI, 1965), 44–78. Sir Gowther, in Six Middle English Romances, ed. Maldwyn Mills (London, 1973), 148–68. Sir Isumbras, in Six Middle English Romances, ed. Maldwyn Mills (London, 1973), 125–47. Sir Launfal, in The Breton Lays in Middle English, ed. Thomas C. Rumble (Detroit, MI, 1965), 3–43. The Squire of Low Degree, in Middle English Verse Romances, ed. Donald B. Sands (New York, NY, 1966), 249–78. Stanzaic Morte Arthur, in King Arthur’s Death, ed. Larry D. Benson, Exeter Medieval English Texts and Studies (Exeter, 1986). Sir Orfeo, ed. A. J. Bliss, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1966). Sir Percyvell of Gales, in Ywain and Gawain, Sir Percyvell of Gales, The Anturs of Arther, ed. Maldwyn Mills (London, 1992), 103–60. Sir Tryamowre, in Of Love and Chivalry: An Anthology of Middle English Romance, ed. Jennifer Fellows (London, 1993), 147–98.

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III ROMANCE AND SPIRITUAL PRIORITIES

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8 Giving Freely in Sir Cleges: The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance* M A RCO N IEV ERGELT

Sir Cleges displays at least two major defining features of insular romance: it is a pious, moral tale, but is also marked by a concern with pragmatic matters, more specifically economic ones. Together with Sir Amadace and Sir Launfal, it belongs to a loosely defined group of romances that develop the motif of the ‘spendthrift knight’. The peculiar combination of piety and economics found in both Cleges and Amadace has proven rather baffling, and critics have frequently complained about the rather awkward yoking together of money and religion in these romances. Speaking of Amadace, for instance, Robert Foster points to the ‘ambiguous relation between idealism and materialism’, in a poem where ‘the situation is framed in such wholly economic terms that it is difficult to focus on the spiritual dimension that the poem’s didactic intentions seem to call for’.1 It remains tempting to perform the usual secularising gesture, and argue that in such literature ‘there is a peculiar reduction of ideals to wealth’.2 In what follows I suggest that no such opposition or reduction of ‘ideals’ to ‘wealth’ is in fact discernible within such romances, where economics and salvation are articulated in far more complex, dynamic and meaningful ways that we have only begun to uncover.3 * This article was written during the tenure of an EURIAS Junior fellowship at the Institut d’Etudes Avancées de Paris (France), with the support of the European Union’s 7th Framework Programme for research, and with funding from the French State managed by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche, programme ‘Investissements d’avenir’ (ANR-11-LABX-0027-01 Labex RFIEA+). 1 Edward E. Foster, ‘Simplicity, Complexity, and Morality in Four Medieval Romances’, The Chaucer Review 31/4 (1997), 401–19 (407–08). 2 Foster, ‘Simplicity, Complexity, and Morality’, 408. 3 In doing so I draw inspiration from two recent trends in romance scholarship: an increasingly nuanced and diversified reconsideration of the role of religion in romance on the one hand, and a theoretically sophisticated discussion of the complexities and paradoxes of late medieval romance economics on the other. For representative examples see respectively Rosalind Field, Phillipa Hardman, and Michelle Sweeney, eds, Christianity and Romance in Medieval England, Christianity and Culture: Issues

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Marco Nievergelt An important step in this direction has already been taken by Ad Putter, with a brilliant reading of Sir Amadace, where he urges us to take the religious elements of such ‘bourgeois’ poems far more seriously, as integral components of the ideology they construct.4 Putter proposes something much more dynamic and more enabling than a didactic reading, and illustrates how in Amadace the notion of aristocratic largesse acquires a ‘religious remit’ and even a truly ‘metaphysical dimension’.5 This metaphysics of largesse develops around the central thematic and symbolic place of God in the narrative, presented as a dispenser of freely given divine grace and thus as the initiator of the economy of charitable gift-exchange celebrated in the poem. Often dismissed as a poem in which there is ‘little that is artful’,6 Sir Cleges constructs a similarly complex, subtle yet imaginatively powerful metaphysics of largesse. The poet pursues this objective in an unobtrusive, rhetorically economical yet remarkably self-conscious fashion. In what follows, then, I shall be arguing that the poem’s symbolic, rhetorical, and material economies are interconnected in profound and complex ways, and produce a carefully and deliberately orchestrated ‘theological romance’. There is of course an element of provocation in my argument, as an overreaction against crudely secularising readings of romance as a vehicle for ‘bourgeois’ or ‘middle class’ ideology, yet the argument is also a serious one: romance, I suggest, does not merely accommodate religious elements that are in Teaching/Research 3 (Cambridge, 2010); Vance D. Smith, Arts of Possession: The Middle English Household Imaginary, Medieval Cultures 33 (Minneapolis, MN, 2003). 4 Ad Putter, ‘Gifts and Commodities in Sir Amadace’, The Review of English Studies 51/203 (2000): 371–94 (378–79; 376 and 386 in following sentence). More broadly on the important functions of seemingly conventional religious tags and apparent ‘fillers’ in Middle English Romance, see Roger Dalrymple, ‘The Literary Use of Religious Formulae in Certain Middle English Romances’, Medium Aevum 64 (1995): 250–63. 5 Although the epithet ‘bourgeois’ is not entirely inappropriate to define such literature, Michael Johnston has recently established that many such romances were in fact produced and circulated amongst the gentry, whose socio-economic preoccupations they reflect; see Romance and the Gentry in Late Medieval England (Oxford, 2014). While such literature manifests eminently provincial, domestic, and pragmatic concerns, it is often driven by a distinctly aristocratic ideology, and not by the preoccupations of the ‘middle class’. See also Foster, for whom such poems are driven by a form of materialism that is so crude as to be ‘not even bourgeois’, expressing ‘the perspective of the underclasses who might mistake the bourgeois for the noble’ (‘Simplicity, Complexity, and Morality’, 406). For a more recent and more careful reconsideration of the usefulness of the epithet ‘bourgeois’ in describing such romances, including Sir Cleges, see Rory Critten, ‘Bourgeois Ethics Again: The Conduct Texts and the Romances in Oxford, Bodleian Library Ashmole 61’, The Chaucer Review 50/1–2 (2015): 108–33. 6 Ad Putter, ‘Arthurian Romance in English Popular Tradition: Sir Percyvell of Gales, Sir Cleges, and Sir Launfal’, in A Companion to Arthurian Literature, ed. Helen Fulton, Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture 58 (Oxford, 2012), 235–51 (242).

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The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance extraneous to it, but as a narrative genre or mode also holds out metaphysical and theological possibilities of its own. As is suggested by the case of Sir Cleges, paradoxically such possibilities may find their fullest and most sophisticated expression in the most humble forms of romance. In this sense the stylistic and formal features of Cleges are perfectly adapted to express the paradox and mystery of the incarnational theology that lies at the heart of the poem, where the Nativity becomes the paradigm of all further human acts of charity, humility, courtesy, and largesse.7 It is a measure of the poem’s success that the scribe of one of its two manuscripts, MS Ashmole 61, appears to have registered such metaphysical moves within the poem, and responded to them in appropriate ways.8 At first sight, Sir Cleges is nothing if not a conventional poem, relying on a large number of traditional literary and folkloric motifs, borrowed from biblical apocrypha, saints’ lives, folktales, pious narratives and other romances.9 Yet the poet manages to synthesise these elements in remarkably successful and unique ways that point to a larger unifying vision and a more complex, deliberate design. This makes Sir Cleges a ‘conventional’ poem in a rather different, non-pejorative sense, a narrative characterised by its ability to synthesise disparate narrative elements.10 More importantly, the poem also strives to federate social energies and bring people together, and does so with reference to the social and religious context within which the poem would have been read or performed, as part of Christmas festivities. This seasonal context is explicitly foregrounded in the poem from the beginning: Cleges is a knight living in the time of Uther Pendragon, and is known for his liberality, which reaches its peak during the annual Christmas celebrations. Yet his generosity is such that after years of celebrations, suddenly ‘All hys gode was spendyd away’ (68), and his family is reduced to poverty. At Christmastime, Cleges now finds himself alone with his wife and children, 7

See also the remarks on the fluid, inclusive, and spiritually inflected notion of ‘courtesy’ that runs through a number of texts in Ashmole 61, in George Shuffelton, ed., Codex Ashmole 61: A Compilation of Popular Middle English Verse, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2008), Introduction, 1–17. 8 Unless otherwise stated I quote from the edition based on MS Ashmole 61, as edited in The Middle English Breton Lays, ed. Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 1995). The second manuscript is Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates 19.1.11. For a parallel edition of the two MSS see A. Treichel, ‘Sir Cleges: Eine mittelenglische Romanze’, Englische Studien 22 (1896): 345–89. 9 See variously John R. Reinhard, ‘Strokes Shared’, Journal of American Folklore 36 (1928): 380–400; C. Grant Loomis, ‘Sir Cleges and Unseasonable Growth in Hagiology’, Modern Language Notes 53/8 (1938): 591–94; Sherwyn T. Carr, ‘The Middle English Nativity Cherry Tree: The Dissemination of a Popular Motif’, Modern Language Quarterly 36/2 (1975): 133–47. 10 I echo Helen Cooper’s observations in The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2004), 14–15.

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Marco Nievergelt bitterly reminded of his former prosperity, but thanks to the encouragement of his wife Clarys he remains confident. Upon returning from midnight mass,11 Cleges goes into the garden to thank God for the gifts formerly received. As he lifts himself to his feet, he finds a tree covered in green leaves and loaded with cherries, and his wife Clarys urges him to present the unseasonable fruit to King Uther Pendragon. On foot and in poor clothing, Cleges arrives at court, where the porter initially refuses to grant him access. After seeing the cherries, however, the porter anticipates that Cleges will be handsomely rewarded, and demands from Cleges one third of the King’s reward. Similar deals are then negotiated with two further officials, an usher and a steward, before Cleges finally reaches King Uther Pendragon. Pleased with the gift of the cherries, King Uther allows Cleges to choose a boon: the hero asks for twelve strokes, which he promptly divides into three equal parts and deals out to the porter, usher, and steward. Cleges is nevertheless rewarded and restored to prosperity, and finally reveals his true identity as Uther’s former retainer. It will be obvious from the preceding summary that the story is at odds with ‘middle class’ economic values in very basic ways: Sir Cleges seems far more interested in exploring ideals of aristocratic largesse than in teaching strategies of efficient wealth management and in instilling sound commercial principles in its readers.12 Like other spendthrift knight romances, Cleges explores the consequences of the aristocratic imperative to ‘spend’ property (Cleges 68), but cannot be said to do so in moralising terms that imply any criticism of prodigality, let alone a direct critique of the ethos of largesse.13 Instead, like Sir Launfal, Cleges manifests an ‘indifference to the Aristotelian pieties of economic moderation publicised in such treatises as the Secreta Secretorum’.14 As with Sir Amadace, the purpose of the poem is ‘not so much to warn [the hero] about the consequences of reckless spending as to make further spending mandatory’.15 Here our modern and automatic disapproval of profligacy seems eminently out of place, and indeed Ad Putter has proposed a reading of Sir Amadace that mobilises different systems of value to account for the ideal of largesse. Putter reads the poem as staging a clash between a monetary economics of ‘commodity exchange’ on the one 11

On the misleading temporal references in the poem, and on the symbolic importance of midnight, see Ad Putter, ‘In Search of Lost Time: Missing Days in Sir Cleges and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, in Time in the Medieval World, ed. Chris Humphrey and M. W. Ormrod (York, 2001), 119–36 (126–30). 12 For a succinct discussion of the divergences of mercantile ideology and aristocratic notions of largesse, see Aron J. Gurevich, ‘The Merchant’, in Medieval Callings, ed. Jacques Le Goff, trans. Lydia Cochrane (Chicago, IL, 1990), 243–84. 13 See especially Johnston, Romance and the Gentry, 77–82. 14 Smith, Arts of Possession, 161. 15 Putter, ‘Gifts and Commodities’, 376.

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The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance hand, and a rather different, relational economy of ‘gift exchange’ on the other – a conflict clearly resolved in favour of the latter model.16 In a gift economy, emphasis is placed not on the quantifiable exchange value of the objects, but on the ability of the transaction to establish social bonds between people. Such relations are perceived to exceed the strict temporal frame of the transaction, and to trade in a value that is not defined in quantitative, monetary terms, but in qualitative and relational ones. Other recent studies of late fourteenth-century aristocratic gift economies concur in emphasising the indefinitely extensible nature of such relations created by gift-giving, as well as the ability of gifts themselves to acquire additional symbolic value with each further transaction.17 Putter identifies God’s spontaneous, gratuitous gift of grace as the paradigmatic moment that initiates the gift economy in Sir Amadace. Such a notion may seem out of place in a distinctively secular context of a popular romance, but as Putter demonstrates it fits remarkably well with the definition of largesse found in Geoffroi de Charni’s Livre de Chevalerie – a treatise marked by eminently practical, secular, and aristocratic bias, but which also attributes a central role to charity and grace as conceptual underpinnings of largesse. According to such fluid imaginative associations, in aristocratic gift culture ‘the redemption can in fact be used as a dramatic illustration of the logic that distinguishes gift-exchange from commodity exchange’.18 While Cleges lacks merchants, and accordingly does not stage a conflict between mercantile and aristocratic ideologies in explicit terms, it proposes a model of gift economy that is largely analogous to the one we find in Amadace. The poem as a whole, then, strives to produce a more careful and dynamic articulation of aristocratic wealth with Christian notions of grace and charity. This establishes a direct, functional continuity between secular, time-bound material goods and timeless, spiritual ones. Like Sir Amadace, Sir Cleges clearly does not belong to the category of penitential romances,19 since here the hero’s destitution cannot be explained in terms of a divinely ordained punishment.20 Cleges has emphatically not 16

I echo the terms used by Putter, ‘Gifts and Commodities’, developing the arguments of C. A. Gregory, Gifts and Commodities (Cambridge, 1982). See also Arnoud-Jan A. Bijisterveld, ‘The Medieval Gift as Agent of Social and Political Power: A Comparative Approach’, in Medieval Transformations: Texts, Power, and Gifts in Context, ed. Esther Cohen and Mayke B. de Jong, Cultures, Beliefs and Traditions 11 (Leiden, 2001), 123–56. 17 Elizabeth Harper, ‘Pearl in the Context of Fourteenth-Century Gift-Economies’, The Chaucer Review 44/4 (2010): 421–39. 18 Putter, ‘Gifts and Commodities’, 380. 19 On which see especially Andrea Hopkins, Sinful Knights: A Study of Middle English Penitential Romance (Oxford, 1990). 20 The narrator’s comment that ‘fallyd was hys pride’ (96) has been interpreted as

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Marco Nievergelt lost sight of the ideology that should underpin his liberality. On the contrary, the narrator seizes every available opportunity to highlight that Cleges’ generosity is invariably performed as a deliberate, self-consciously charitable act: Cleges gives indiscriminately, ‘Whether thei wer ryche ore pore’ (35), and his lavish Christmas festivities do not serve the purpose of self-glorification, but are celebrated specifically to honour Christ, ‘In worschype of Hym, that all weld / And fore us dyghed upon the Rode (56–57). Even when he himself no longer has any goods left to distribute, Cleges is moved to thank God for his former wealth now spent, in a Christmas prayer prompted by the carolling, dancing, and minstrelsy he overhears while walking ‘uppe and done’ in the street (97–115): ‘A, Jhesu, Heven Kyng, Off nought Thou madyst all thyng; I thanke The of Thy sonde. The myrth, that I was won to make In this tyme fore Thi sake, I fede both fre and bond, And all, that ever com in Thi name…’ (109–15)

Cleges here thanks God specifically for his ‘sonde’ – a term variously denoting a gift or an object sent, a divine ordinance or dispensation, or God’s grace. This invites us to explore the overlap of two different semantic fields, those of spiritual and material goods or ‘gifts’. More importantly, the passage also establishes a direct link between God’s act of creation and his ulterior gift of grace through the incarnation, celebrated at the feast of the Nativity during which Cleges himself ‘myrth, … was won to make’ (112). Cleges’ material prosperity is thus shown to be dependent on God’s role as a dispenser of wealth, both spiritual and material, itself a function of God’s role as creator of the physical world made ‘of noght’. Cleges is far from unique in exploring such analogies: late-antique Christianity had already developed similar fantasies of a ‘miraculous economy’ fed by the inexhaustible ‘capital’ of divine grace.21 Ultimately such an integration of spiritual grace and material prosperity may be hard-wired into the discourse of Christian soteriology

suggesting such moral criticism, Hanspeter Schelp, Exemplarische Romanzen im Mittelenglischen, Palaestra 246 (Göttingen, 1967), 93–97. The tone of the poem as a whole does not seem to me to warrant such a reading, and it seems more appropriate – and perfectly defensible in philological terms – to interpret the line as morally neutral, best translated as ‘gone was all his magnificence’; see also MED ‘pride’, 2. At line 79 ‘pride’ again carries this same, morally neutral meaning. 21 Daniel Caner, ‘Towards a Miraculous Economy: Christian Gifts and Material “Blessings” in Late Antiquity’, Journal of Early Christian Studies 14/3 (2006): 329–77 (329–40).

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The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance itself, as is suggested by its New Testament elaborations, specifically St Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians: Each one should give as much as he has decided on his own initiative, not reluctantly nor under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. God is perfectly able to enrich you with every grace, so that you always have enough for every conceivable need, and your resources overflow in all kinds of good work. As scripture says, ‘To the needy he gave without stint, his uprightness stands firm forever.’ (2 Cor 9.7–9; Ps. 112.9)22

This tendency to represent all natural, material goods in the created world as springing from a divine, transcendent and thus truly inexhaustible source, pervades the action of the poem as a whole: after finding the unseasonable cherries in his garden, Cleges presents them not as a gift of his own, but a gift of Christ: ‘The Kyng I have a present browght / Fro Hym, that made all thinge of nought’ (274–75). God’s role as a creator of all earthly goods is thus again evoked in conjunction with the theme of gift-giving, framed within the seasonal context of Nativity celebrations. This has the effect of establishing a direct analogy between the three central moments of Christian history: the act of creation, Christ’s incarnation, and the historical present of the individual believer. The miraculous gift of the cherries to Cleges at Christmastime is thus presented as an event replaying and repeating the actions of a bounteous God as both creator and redeemer. Cleges’ own gift of the cherries to King Uther, as an act of charity and liberality, contributes to the growth of a gift economy inaugurated by God’s selfless creation of the natural world and revitalised by Christ’s free gift of grace through the Incarnation. Like Amadace, then, Cleges assigns a central role to divine grace as the fundamental paradigm for a liberal gift economy. But while Amadace explores the centrality of grace by staging a clash between two rival economic models, the poet of Cleges chooses to pursue a rather different approach, exploring and reiterating the historical origins and theological underpinnings of charitable largesse. The poem in fact consists of an extended narrative meditation organised around Christ’s Nativity, the one central moment in Christian history that opens up the possibility for such a uniquely liberal gift economy. As has been suggested by several critics, Christmas festivities undoubtedly provided the occasion for the performance or public reading of the story of Cleges.23 But the mystery of the Nativity also shapes the romance’s deeper logic, its narrative 22

New Jerusalem Bible. The miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fishes similarly embodies grace in material form, see also Mt 14.13–21 and Mk 6.30–44, Lk 9.10–17, Jn 6.1–13. 23 Lynne S. Blanchfield, ‘The Romances in Ashmole 61: An Idiosyncratic Scribe’, in Romance in Medieval England, ed. Maldwyn Mills, Jennifer Fellows, and Carol Meale (Cambridge, 1991), 65–89 (76); Putter, ‘In Search of Lost Time’, 122–24; Codex Ashmole 61, ed. Shuffelton, Introduction.

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Marco Nievergelt and symbolic economies: the Incarnation furnishes a historical paradigm and theological point of reference for the work of social and spiritual integration that the poem as a whole pursues. Instead of providing a frontal, explicitly didactic exposition of doctrinal ideas, the poet thus proceeds more subtly, establishing a number of delicate symbolic resonances between romance action and Christian history and doctrine. The poem is thus sustained by an implicit, latent but potent incarnational theology, and such religious undertones would have risen to the surface rather naturally in the context of a seasonal performance, or a public collective reading as part of Christmas celebrations. The poet consistently develops a range of related themes that radiate outwards from the poem’s central mystery, the initial gift and subsequent circulation of the miraculous, unseasonable red cherries. Suitably for a miraculous occurrence, the cherries initially pose a hermeneutic and semiotic problem, as Cleges ponders the mysterious significance of this ‘tokenyng’ (220, 223). Significantly it is Clarys who provides the correct interpretation of the cherries as a sign of ‘mour godness, that is comyng, … mour plenté’ (224–25) – a formulation that again plays with the overlapping semantic fields of economics and soteriology. It is again Clarys who urges Cleges to bring the cherries to King Uther, and thus enables the continued, extended circulation of the gift of the cherries. Clarys’s role as a specifically female figure who intercedes at this crucial moment in the narrative fits well within the romance’s marked interest in the nuclear family as a source of comfort and mutual support, as with this touching, rare glimpse of family intimacy: ‘With myrth thei drofe the dey awey, / The best wey that they myght. / With ther chylder pley thei dyde (158–60).24 But this distinctively affective interest in the nuclear family acquires additional, theological resonance in the context of the poem’s focus on the Nativity, centring on the Holy Family and more specifically Mary’s role as the mediator between the human and the divine.25 Such a Marian focus also appears to sustain the poem’s rather insistent use of the term ‘fruit’ to designate the cherries themselves. The term occurs twice, and always in passages that elaborate on the miracle of the incarnation. Again, significantly, it is Clarys who introduces this notion: ‘Late us fyll a payner Off the frute, that God hath sente’. (230–31)

The idea is reiterated later by Cleges: ‘For I have a presante brought Fro Hym, that made all thyng of nowght And dyed upon the Rode. Thys nyght this fruyt grew’. (304–07) 24 25

See also Introduction, Sir Cleges, ed. Laskaya and Salisbury. See also Blanchfield, ‘The Romances in Ashmole 61’, 74–75.

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The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance In both passages, then, the growth of the literal fruit of the cherries denotes, commemorates, and reiterates the growth of the metaphorical ‘fruit’ of Mary’s virgin womb – ‘De fructu ventris of Mary bright’26 – as a gift of a bounteous God to a fallen, destitute and helpless humanity. Interestingly this subtle but potent play on the incarnational resonances of the ‘fruit’ only occurs in the Ashmole version, whose scribe also took particular care to preserve or highlight such religious echoes in the other romances included in the manuscript.27 Such Marian echoes would have been particularly evident for an audience attending a Christmas performance of Cleges, especially since the figure of Mary also played a central role in medieval Christmas celebrations and carols, and in many of the traditional iconographical sources and analogues of the detail of the cherries.28 There has been some debate concerning the actual iconographical significance of the cherries, and the popularity of the motif.29 Although it is far from ubiquitous, the motif of the cherries was originally associated with Christ’s sacrifice and crucifixion, but by the fourteenth century frequently appeared in conjunction with the Nativity and the Virgin – in poetry, drama, and the visual arts. The most important early source appears to have been the narrative in the ‘Pseudo-Matthew Gospel’, where during the flight into Egypt Mary expresses the desire for the fruit of a palm tree. Since the tree is out of Joseph’s reach, the infant Jesus commands the tree to bend its branches downwards and offer its fruit as refreshment for the Virgin. There are vernacular versions of the story throughout Europe, including multiple Middle English versions, but in England a cherry tree appears gradually to have replaced the rather more exotic palm-tree. The exact trajectory and chronology of the transformation is probably impossible to reconstruct, but 26

The expression is lifted, fittingly, from an early Christmas carol. See Early English Carols, ed. Richard Leighton Greene, 2nd edn (Oxford, 1977), no. 29, stanza 2. 27 See Treichel’s parallel edition for an easy comparison. As Lynne Blanchfield perceptively notes, Rate – the scribe, architect, and probable owner of Ashmole 61 – ‘does not try to impose a religious framework on the Romances to any great degree; some moral slanting is achieved by minor local reworking’, ‘The Romances in Ashmole 61’, 77. 28 For a selection of Christmas Carols focusing on Mary see e.g. Early English Carols, ed. Greene, nos 21, 23, 24, 26, 33, 37, 44 etc., and carols of the Annunciation, nos 234–57; see also Early English Lyrics Amorous, Divine, Moral and Trivial, ed. E. K. Chambers and F. Sidgwick (London, 1926), e.g. nos 51, 59, 61, 62, 64, 69, 72–77. For the Marian emphasis of the sources and analogues of Cleges, see Carr, ‘The Middle English Nativity Cherry Tree’. 29 For an argument in favour of the widespread familiarity of the motif and its incarnational associations, which I follow in this paragraph, see Eugene B. Cantelupe and Richard Griffith, ‘The Gifts of the Shepherds in the Wakefield Secunda Pastorum: An Iconographical Interpretation’, Mediaeval Studies 28 (1966): 328–35. For a more sceptical argument see Carr, ‘The Middle English Nativity Cherry Tree’, who proposes an unnecessarily convoluted theory of purely textual influence, and an implausibly late date for Cleges.

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Marco Nievergelt by the fifteenth century we find a number of closely interrelated versions of the story featuring the cherry tree.30 The Corpus Christi Plays or Ludus Coventriae repeats the episode from the pseudo-Matthew gospel, but places it immediately before Christ’s Nativity rather than during the flight from Egypt. A similar narrative configuration also recurs in the ‘Cherry-Tree Carol/ Ballad’, where it is Christ himself operating from his mother’s womb who commands the tree to bend down and offer its fruit to the Virgin. Other associations between the cherries and the Nativity are more incidental but no less revealing, as in the Wakefield Second Shepherd’s Play, where cherries are one of the gifts brought by the three shepherds, prefiguring the arrival of the three Wise Kings.31 The motif reappears in fifteenth-century painting, particularly in a series of arresting and highly distinctive representations of the Holy Family by Joos Van Cleeve.32 As Cantelupe and Griffith have persuasively argued, the use of cherries in this wide range of works suggests that there was a widespread awareness of a complex set of symbolic resonances, from the seasonal to the theological. In the Second Shepherd’s Play, for instance, they ‘allude … to Christ’s sacrifice, to His coming in winter as a promise of new life, and to His sweet flesh as the boon His birth brings to all mankind – a level of meaning at least implied by Coll’s [the first shepherd’s] phrase “my swetyng”’.33 The skilful handling of the motif in Sir Cleges confirms that the theological resonances of the Nativity cherries were indeed available to a late fourteenth-century poet, and easily accessible to a fifteenth-century audience. This latent undertone of Marian symbolism is deliberately reactivated at crucial moments in the narrative: King Uther’s porter, usher, and steward all three swear upon Mary when they see the cherries (265, 313, and 340), providing the reader/audience with an oblique, ironic but highly apposite reminder of the miraculous nature of the events of the Nativity. Indeed the choice of such curiously (in)appropriate exclamations points to the inability of the three attendants to understand the significance of the mystery they invoke: this utterly conventional, debased, and finally blasphemous naming of Mary works to underscore their exclusion from the gift economy that the poem constructs, and conversely heightens the sense of mystery surrounding the Nativity itself, in which the audience is made to participate through the heroes of the romance. The cherries themselves in the poem are explicitly associated with the salvific possibilities opened up by Christ’s nativity, in turn directly linked with the Crucifixion and its redemptive effects. This close 30

For a flawed attempt to reconstruct the chronology, see Carr, ‘The Middle English Nativity Cherry Tree’, 31 Cantelupe and Griffith, ‘The Gifts of the Shepherds’. 32 See Manfred Papst, ‘Der Engel bringt Kirschen’, Neue Zürcher Zeitung am Sonntag (2012), 57–58, and Cantelupe and Griffith, ‘The Gifts of the Shepherds’. 33 Cantelupe and Griffith, ‘The Gifts of the Shepherds’, 333.

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The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance relation between the Nativity and the Crucifixion is introduced at the very beginning of the poem, during the description of Cleges’ lavish Christmas feasts: Ten yere our twelve sych festes thei held In worschype of Hym, that all weld And fore us dyghed upon the Rode. (55–57)

But by returning to this idea later, as Cleges brings the gift to court (304–07, quoted above), the poem stresses the role of the miraculous cherries in reiterating the original, foundational ‘gift’ of grace occurring with the Nativity. God’s gift of the cherries to Cleges, then, does not only commemorate the joyful event of the Nativity, but to some extent re-enacts it, lavishing further ‘sonde’ (108), ‘mour godness’ (224), ‘mour plenté’ (225) upon the poem’s destitute hero. The idea of such a seasonal renewal and ritual regeneration of course pervades the symbolism of Christmas festivities more broadly, an idea to which late Middle English poetry appears to have been particularly sensitive, as is suggested by the roughly contemporary Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as well as numerous other romances. The broad thematic and iconographic parallels between Cleges and Sir Gawain are particularly striking, in ways that suggest a sensitive handling of widely shared traditions and their deeper, religious and symbolic echoes rather than any sort of literary influence linking the two poems: both poems feature extended meditations on gift-giving; mysterious otherworldly occurrences in a Christmas setting, with particular emphasis on the symbolism of darkness and light; the idea of seasonal renewal presented in terms of vegetative symbolism; a challenge involving traded strokes; and an epilogue where the hero is restored to his original station and place in society. The idea of renewal is particularly prominent in both poems, not only as a general theme but as a recurrent term available for wordplay, and for setting up more extended symbolic associations that reverberate in subtle ways with the theology of the incarnation. In Sir Gawain the description of Christmastime festivities is tightly interwoven with a broader meditation on renewal and regeneration brought about by the ‘Nw 3er’ (SGGK 60), when ‘Nowel nayted onewe’ (65; see also 1054, 1062, 1075, 1998).34 Here too we are invited to explore the theological undertones of such ideas of renewal, as is suggested by two unobtrusive, easily overlooked but potent allusions to the miracle of the incarnation (SGGK 751–52; 995–97).35 34

The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript, ed. Malcolm Andrew and Ronald Waldron, 5th edn, Exeter Medieval English Texts and Studies (Exeter, 2007; first publ. Berkeley, CA, 1978). 35 For a reading of SGGK as a Christmas poem that assigns a central, conceptually

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Marco Nievergelt In Cleges such ideas of renewal are similarly related to a larger incarnational logic, and are specifically unpacked in terms of seasonal regeneration and rebirth associated with the cherries. Upon first seeing the fruit, Cleges observes that such an occurrence is deeply unnatural, preposterous and unseasonable: ‘I have not se this tyme of yere, / That treys any fruyt schuld bere’ (205–06). When describing the cherries to his wife Clarys, he speaks of them as a mysterious ‘nowylté’ (217) – another complex term, rich in multivalent associations that range from simple novelty to wonder, exoticism, the ‘nywe werk’ of the Incarnation,36 and echoes of the ‘good news’ of the gospel, and the ‘tydinges gode’ of ‘Nowell’ or the New Year celebrated in many Christmas carols.37 Again, the term is deliberately and carefully chosen for its multiple resonances, and significantly the cherries preserve this characteristic as they are passed on to the king later in the poem. King Uther thus recognises their regenerative, life-giving qualities: The Kyng saw the cherys fressch and new, And seyd: ‘I thanke the, swete Jhesu, Here is a feyre newyng.’ (379–81)

In the light of the later narrative developments in the poem, it is this ‘novelty’, this preposterous and unnatural experience of renewal, that finally restores Cleges to economic prosperity. The Nativity marks the point of origin for the kind of social bonding enabled by a gift economy, triggering all the ulterior narrative and economic transactions in the poem: the cherries renew and reiterate this initial gift of grace, but also allow Cleges to renew his own practice of liberality. Within the poem’s fantasy of an economy sustained by an inexhaustible, annually renewed plenitude, Christmas festivities and the seasonal miracle of the cherries thus guarantee the continued flow of social and symbolic energy, countering the inevitable slackening of wealth caused by a prolonged, unrestrained but ultimately laudable practice of largesse. Here the Advocates MS preserves an interesting reading that renders explicit the causal connection between the slackening of worldly goods and the collapse of the social network through which gifts, goods, and social energy can circulate: after years of generous capacious role to its incarnational doctrine, see Elizabeth D. Kirk’s beautiful essay, ‘“Wel Bycommes Such Craft Upon Cristmasse”: The Festive and the Hermeneutic in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, Arthuriana 4/2 (1994): 93–137. 36 Early English Carols, ed. Greene, no. 73, stanza 1. 37 Examples of carols emphasising such ‘tydings’ or ‘news’ in ways that are particularly resonant with ideas of renewal in Sir Cleges can be found in Early English Carols, ed. Greene, nos 6, 7, 10, 43, 57, 117, 133, 239 and more broadly carols of the New Year, 117–21, some of which place particular emphasis on largesse (121.1 and 121.2), and carols of the Annunciation, 234–57; see also Early English Lyrics, ed. Chambers and Sidgwick, nos 62, 71.

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The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance giving, Cleges is forced to observe that ‘his good began to slake’ (58), but also ‘His men, that wern mekyll of pride / Gan slake away on euery syde’ (79–80; my emphases).38 Spiritual and material economies are very closely articulated in this poem, yet they are never simply equated. Indeed the poem makes a pointed effort to demonstrate how such a complex symbolic economy of gift-exchange connects multiple, related but distinct ontological levels, and insists that such different levels cannot be reduced to one another. So while the poem encourages its audience to view economic exchange in terms of Christian paradigms of divine grace and human charity, it also seeks to pre-empt any kind of materialistic commodification of grace, insisting instead on its utterly mysterious, preposterous, inexplicable, strictly ‘gratuitous’ nature. The poem here proposes an apparently simple, but deeply resonant reflection on the notion of ‘value’, and here again the King’s three attendants (porter, usher, steward) play an important role, providing the means to address theological matters in oblique fashion. Cleges finally highlights how commercially minded characters like the king’s attendants are conspicuously excluded from the economic and symbolic network of gift-exchange that is being established, and by implication those same characters are also excluded from the larger gift of grace, commemorated and re-enacted at the feast of the Nativity. Each of the three attendants invariably reacts to the miraculous gift of the cherries by seeking to quantify it, by seeking to translate the gift into an equivalent monetary value that can then be divided into three numerically equal parts, and then proceeding to claim ‘[t]he thyrd parte’ for himself (286, 317, 346). Their misunderstanding of the mysterious ‘value’ of the cherries works a negativo to validate another fundamental doctrinal truth: two of the three attendants accompany their demands for material retribution with exclamations ‘[b]e Hym that me dere bought’ (283 and 345; my emphasis). While this reintroduces the fertile semantic overlap of the discourses of commercial exchange and soteriology to which the poem constantly returns, this exclamation now invites us to discriminate between two fundamentally different kinds of transaction, and their different associated notions of ‘value’ and ‘redemption’. Like Sir Amadace, then, Cleges proposes a clash between a monetary economy based on the principle of a measurable, quantifiable value, and a gift economy postulated on the notion that value is defined as a surplus that invariably transcends human attempts to measure and define it. The oblique reminder of the purchase of salvation enabled by the Incarnation highlights that the attendants are finally unable to understand the principle of the Christian economy of salvation: they reduce it to a strictly commercial 38

See Treichel’s parallel edition of the two MSS for easy reference. In Ashmole 61, line 80 reads ‘Weste (or ‘Wente’) awey onne every syde’, cf. Laskaya and Treichel respectively.

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Marco Nievergelt transaction implying numerical equivalence, an exchange of commodities with a quantifiable monetary value.39 Fittingly, then, the three attendants are repaid in kind, and become the recipients of the same kind of ‘retributive’, uncharitable, Old Testament economics they invoke: as Cleges seeks out the steward to ‘pay hym his rewerd’ (449), it appears perfectly consistent that ‘[t]he dyntes schuld be payd’ (444), since ‘[c]ovenant made we so’ (480). The choice of the number three for the King’s attendants may have additional relevance beyond its traditional, folkloric roots, echoing another fundamental Christian mystery that is closely related to the Incarnation – the doctrine of the Trinity. In making the three attendants ask for the value of the cherries to be divided into three numerically equal thirds, the poet also hints that they may be unable to contemplate the triune nature of the Godhead, both single and threefold. This appears as an inevitable consequence of their failure to understand the miracle of the Incarnation, the event that connects the three persons of the Trinity in operative fashion and thus provided the initial impetus for the development of Trinitarian thinking in Christian theology as a whole.40 Popular Christmas traditions often developed such Trinitarian echoes, for instance in the reflections on the Trinity contained in many seasonal carols sung during the twelve days of Christmas,41 or in the tradition of the rustic gifts brought by three shepherds to echo the gifts of the Magi as well as the Trinity, as in the Second Shepherd’s Play from the Wakefield cycle.42 It is clear that such echoes are being deliberately created in the poem, and indeed the audience has already been prepared to hear such doctrinal resonances: upon first finding the cherries, Cleges intuitively realises their numinous, divine, rationally incomprehensible nature, and aptly expresses his wonder in Trinitarian terms:43 Dere God in Trinyté, What maner beryes may this be, That grow this tyme of yere? (202–04) 39

A similar problem is confronted by the dreamer in the Middle English Pearl, elaborated at length with reference to the parable of the Vineyard from Matthew 30.1–16. See especially Harper, ‘Pearl in the Context of Fourteenth-Century Gift-Economies’, 433–36. For the gradual emergence of the notion of quantifiable equality in parallel with the development of an increasingly monetised forms of economic thought – itself deeply influenced by the evolution of quantitative methods in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century science, philosophy, and theology – see especially Joel Kaye, Economy and Nature in the Fourteenth Century: Money, Market Exchange, and the Emergence of Scientific Thought, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Life and Thought 35 (Cambridge, 1998). 40 See Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God: A Historical Study of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Theological Resources (London, 1972), 10–61. 41 See e.g. Early English Carols, ed. Greene, nos 19, 21, 53, 96, 122. 42 See Cantelupe and Griffith, ‘The Gifts of the Shepherds’. 43 See also Putter, ‘Arthurian Romance in English Popular Tradition’, 243.

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The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance The poem’s elaboration of a specifically vegetative symbolism of the cherries is also part of its reflection on a complex kind of material and spiritual ‘value’ that transcends quantification and accumulation: the emphasis on the growth of such unseasonable fruit (see also 231, 307) finally invites a new, dynamic definition of value, emphasising the possibilities for endless growth, development, regeneration, and multiplication rather than the notion of value as a static possession, defined in terms of quantifiable, limited and ultimately inert monetary value. As Cleges observes when he finally presents the cherries to the King, ‘Jhesu, ouer Savyoure, / Sente you this fruyt with grete honour / Thys dey onne erth growyng’ (376–78), and the presentation of the fruit to the King prolongs this process of growth by initiating, or rather reviving, an irreducibly plentiful gift economy that is constantly and miraculously regenerated from the inside. Crucially, then, Cleges’ presentation of the cherries to the King enlarges the beneficial effects of that initial, foundational gift to the wider community: ‘The cherys wer served throughe the hall’ (391), until ‘all men wer merye and glad’ (397). The mirth spreading through the hall thus acquires a deep theological valence, as an indicator of the spiritual rejoicing brought about by the renewal of God’s gift of grace through the incarnation. Edward Foster rightly observes that the poem’s central mystery of the unseasonable cherries is ‘curiously unrationalised’.44 Rather than being a shortcoming, however, this refusal to rationalise is a deliberate and effective strategy to convey a whole series of theological ideas. For the poem to work, the cherries must remain unrationalised, by analogy with the mysterious nature of the Incarnation, the Trinity, and the workings of divine grace, freely distributed in ways that are both uncountable and unaccountable. Neither is it accidental that such fruit should finally be eaten in the poem: as Cleges finds the cherries, One of them he put in hys mouthe; Spare wold he noght. (209–10).

This description resonates with echoes of a sapiential ‘tasting’ (sapor) of spiritual truths, an experience impervious to rational analysis, but accessible through ingestion for bodily, experiential knowledge in material, protoEucharistic form thanks to the incarnation.45 The stress on the sapiential and mysterious nature of the cherries also underscores their paradoxical status: superabundant, freely given, and accessible to all – yet dangerously elusive and fragile. The punishment of the three attendants not only reveals their failure to grasp a whole range of theological mysteries intellectually, but 44

45

Foster, ‘Simplicity, Complexity, and Morality’, 410. For recent discussion see Mary Carruthers, The Experience of Beauty in the Middle Ages, Oxford–Warburg Studies (Oxford, 2013), passim on 80–134, e.g. 94–95, 98–99, 133–34, and index entries for ‘sapio / sapere’.

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Marco Nievergelt reveals how the otherwise free, gratuitous, and inexhaustible gift of grace can become foreclosed to those who insist on rationalising its operation in terms of commodity exchange, quantification, and accumulation. As the counterexample of the three calculating attendants suggests, the ideal pursued by the poem is a delicate balancing act, a form of preposterous economics that momentarily suspends any idea of retribution – much like the theological virtue of charity itself: the possibility of a just, retributive ‘reward’ of divine grace enabling individual salvation is postulated on the paradox that acts of charitable largesse must be performed freely, graciously and gratuitously, emphatically without a view to an expected retribution. Cleges’ acts of selfless charity become imitations and repetitions of Christ’s free gift of grace, and in this sense the hero’s poverty itself acquires positive valence, as a condition that best approximates the humble self-abasement of Christ, who ‘to make vs rych pore was he than, / with mekenes and humylytie’ according to a sixteenth-century Nativity Carol.46 Only this selfless disregard for the reciprocity of commodity exchange can enable the inexhaustible surplus of divine grace to operate as a gift. Crucially in Cleges this paradox is never grounds for anxiety, but rather a source of comfort, merriment, and even comic amusement, as a reminder that the very possibility of grace and salvation necessarily exceeds human imagination,47 and thus calls for festive rejoicing and thanksgiving – especially at the feast of the Nativity. It may seem hazardous to suggest that what is, after all, a romance of preposterous, unrationalised wonders was deliberately conceived to transmit such profound paradoxes of Christian doctrine. Yet I would suggest that it is precisely because this is a romance, and a humble one at that, that it can serve as an ideal vehicle for theological, and hence profoundly il-logical truths – truths whose illogical nature is ultimately a function of the absolute alterity of God in relation to man. Indeed, the affinities between romance as a genre and Christian salvation history extend to fundamental structuring principles of these two types of narrative. As a genre, romance is defined by the unpredictable, profoundly arbitrary, irrational, and unrationalised nature of its plot developments, and is structured by a cyclical pattern of fall and rise or restoration: the hero or heroine is plunged into affliction and deprivation, yet all subsequent adventures are invariably geared towards a comic, happy resolution, often brought about by the intervention of external, seemingly 46

47

Early English Carols, ed. Green, no. 64, stanza 3. This emphasis on the overwhelming and fundamentally mysterious nature of grace interestingly resonates with one of the central debates among fourteenth-century theologians, concerning the operation of divine grace and its relation to human merit in enabling salvation of individual souls. For a convenient retrospective overview from a late fourteenth-century perspective, see Christopher Levy, ‘Grace and Freedom in the Soteriology of John Wyclif’, Traditio 60 (2005): 279–337.

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The Economy of Salvation and the Gift of Romance fortuitous but finally providential forces, agents, or events.48 Romance thus shares its basic structuring principles, its redemptive narrative orientation, and its reliance on unrealistic and unexpected plot developments with Christian salvation history itself, where an unpredictably happy conclusion is brought about by a series of baffling, improbable, gratuitous events and developments initiated by the Incarnation. Cleges here exploits and embraces the endlessly transformative possibilities inherent in romance form, where ‘marvel slides without friction into miracle and Christian heroics’:49 boundless narrative potentiality itself is here turned into actualised theological reality. In doing this Cleges hints that the irreducible, inexhaustible narrative potentiality of the romance mode is a perfect manifestation of the ‘gratuitousness’ and superabundance of divine grace, acquiring always new, endlessly surprising and unpredictable forms – even the unlikely form of a story about red cherries in midwinter, restoring an impoverished family to prosperity. Through the circulation of the gift of the cherries, but also by circulating the story about these events in the form of romance, the poem builds up a carefully articulated system that forges symbolic bonds – between the aristocratic ideal of largesse and the theological virtue of charity; between the social and the metaphysical; between fictional characters in the romance and the real people witnessing its performance; between the simple past of the Incarnation, the present-perfect of the romance of Cleges, the presentcontinuous of its seasonal performance, and the indefinitely extensible future of annually repeated Christmas celebrations. Cleges essentially strives to define, revitalise, but also perform and instantiate a complex economics of gift-giving, radiating outwards from the central moment of the Incarnation, and leading to a larger reflection on the nature of different but closely articulated forms of ‘value’. In telling this particular story, then, the romance also proposes a reflection on the value of storytelling itself, on its ability to enact, instantiate, or embody, in almost incarnational fashion, the kind of economy it describes. Accordingly, as Ad Putter observes, in Cleges ‘minstrels are the great merchants of symbolic capital who show how the system works: if 48

For such definitions of the basic ingredients of romance narrative, see Medieval English Romances, ed. A. V. C. Schmidt and Nicolas Jacobs, 2 vols, London Medieval and Renaissance Series (London, 1980), I.1; and Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 7–15. These characteristics are particularly marked in the romances chosen by Rate for Ashmole 61, see Lynne S. Blanchfield, ‘Rate Revisited: The Compilation of the Narrative Works in MS Ashmole 61’, in Romance Reading on the Book: Essays on Medieval Narrative Presented to Maldwyn Mills, ed. Jennifer Fellows, Rosalind Field, Gillian Rogers, and Judith Weiss (Cardiff, 1996), 208–20 (211); and ‘The Romances in Ashmole 61’, 66–68. 49 Helen Cooper, Introduction, in Christianity and Romance in Medieval England, ed. Rosalind Field, Phillipa Hardman, and Michelle Sweeney (Cambridge, 2010), xiii–xxi (xviii).

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Marco Nievergelt you give handsomely to minstrels, they will spread your good name, and the symbolic capital (honour, reputation) will in the end win you real capital (e.g. lucrative promotion to steward)’.50 But the emphasis in Sir Cleges is placed not so much on the reward of a minstrel, as on the value of the story itself.51 Here romance itself acquires a complex, qualitative, non-quantifiable surplus value that is perpetually renewed, annually and periodically reiterated, freely and generously distributed to all who care to decipher such ‘tokenyng’ (220, 223) and listen to such ‘feyre newying’ (381): ‘Lystyns, lordynges, and ye schall here’ (1). The performance or public reading of romance thus plays a central role in transmitting the ideals that underpin such a system of exchange, annually reiterating and ‘spelling out’ the significance of the ‘nowylté’ and ‘feyre newyng’ symbolised by the cherries. The poem also engages in a complex act of remembrance. On the one hand, in typical romance fashion, it rehearses the feats of the ‘ansystoures’ or ‘eldyres’, ‘herdy and wyght’ (2–3); on the other, however, this rather conventional trope is doubled by a more profound kind of re-membering, where the telling of romance serves to preserve and reactivate the venerable truth of the incarnation, ensuring its perpetual and reiterated ‘novelty’, its continued freshness, availability, and inexhaustibility in the present and future. Here romance itself, as a genre, acquires a value that far transcends that of an occasional seasonal entertainment, and becomes itself a gift, a means for drawing its listeners into a gracious, charitable, and incarnational economy. Whether we decide that the system works, or merely engages in a delusional fantasy of plenty in the face of real-world economic pressures, is a different matter. But maybe at Christmas such wonders should be allowed to work – and as a Christmas story Sir Cleges certainly works wonders.

50

Putter, ‘Arthurian Romance in English Popular Tradition’, 242. See also Putter, ‘In Search of Lost Time’, 122–24. 51 On the complex and fascinating question of minstrelsy, with specific reference to Ashmole 61, see especially Andrew Taylor, ‘The Myth of the Minstrel Manuscript’, Speculum 66 (1991): 43–73; George Shuffelton, ‘Is There a Minstrel in the House? Domestic Entertainment in Late Medieval England’, Philological Quarterly 87/1–2 (2008): 51–76; Karl Reichl, ‘Orality and Performance’, in A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance, ed. Raluca L. Radulescu and Cory James Rushton, Studies in Medieval Romance 10 (Cambridge, 2009), 132–49; Ad Putter, ‘Middle English Romances and the Oral Tradition’, in Medieval Oral Literature, ed. Karl Reichl, De Gruyter Lexikon (Berlin, 2012), 335–52.

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9 From Magic to Miracle: Reframing Chevalere Assigne MIR I A M EDLICH-M UTH

R

ewriting romance does not always go to plan. One example of how adapting popular romance tales can produce complex and ambiguous results can be found on fols 125v–129v of the fifteenth-century compilation manuscript British Library Cotton Caligula A.ii.1 These folios contain the only copy extant of Chevalere Assigne, a remarkably short adaptation of the medieval swan children story.2 The closest cognate of this 370-line alliterative version of the narrative is the Beatrix version of La Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne, the first part of the Old French Crusade cycle, which runs to 3,196 lines and provides a prequel to the more famous tale of the Swan Knight.3 The plot is a compelling one, incorporating themes of transformation and retribution that bridge the generic boundaries of folktale and romance. However, the English version of the story is no straightforward retelling of a familiar tale. Rather, the late fourteenth-century Chevalere Assigne represents an intriguing endpoint to a process of adapting, shortening, and reframing a distinctive storyline. The fact that the central images of this heavily abridged verse adaptation have remained recognisable from when they are first known to have been recorded in the twelfth-century Latin prose Dolopathos neatly illustrates the persistence of romance ‘memes’. Such persistence is a capacity that Helen Cooper ascribes to the ability of these literary motifs to ‘replicate faithfully and abundantly, but also on occasion to adapt, mutate and therefore survive in different forms and cultures’.4 Many of the romance memes Cooper discusses can be found in this poem: the supernatural, the protagonists of mysterious birth, and the clash of good against evil are all central 1

London, British Library, MS Cotton Caligula A.ii, fols. 125v–129v. See Diane Speed’s introduction to ‘Chevalere Assigne’ in Medieval English Romances, ed. Diane Speed, 2nd edn, 2 vols (Sydney, 1987), I.151–70 (154). 3 Speed, Medieval English Romances, I.152–53. 4 Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2004), 3. 2

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Miriam Edlich-Muth to the tale.5 Moreover, the scheming of the evil mother-in-law who has the swan children abducted, their mother’s role as a falsely accused heroine, and the fortuitousness with which the abandoned children come to be raised by a hermit are recognisable building blocks of an archetypal romance narrative. These combine with the dramatic final scenes, in which God leads the young hero to victory in battle, to create that sense of familiarity that Cooper asserts can turn a good story into ‘the most mind-engaging form that there is’.6 Nonetheless, while it remains difficult to gauge the popularity of medieval texts in their own time, there is little evidence to suggest that Chevalere Assigne captured the popular imagination. Although the manuscript in which it is contained appears well-used, there are no further surviving copies of the romance, nor do other contemporary texts make reference to it.7 In this case it seems that it was not enough for a romance to be filled, like the enduringly popular Bevis of Hampton, with a fast-paced succession of supernatural wonders and striking scenes of battle interlaced with familiar romance motifs.8 Rather, the success with which evolving romance memes can continue to form the basis of mind-engaging stories also depends on how such motifs are set in relation to each other and to key themes of the tale and how they are embedded into the overarching plotline. Even as Chevalere Assigne illustrates the adaptability of memes such as that of the transforming swan children, it also reveals some of the pitfalls of re-contextualising romance memes: the text that has resulted out of two hundred years of adaptation across different European regions and languages is in part characterised by an intriguing generic dissonance. In the following, I will consider the differences between successive surviving versions of the swan children story and discuss how the underlying meme of the transforming swan children interacts with the reinforced framework of Christian providence and divine intervention that characterises Chevalere Assigne to complicate the meaning of the tale. The Latin Dolopathos Version of the Swan Children Story: ‘Cygni’ While the tale of the swan children was never as popular as that of the Swan Knight, it was adapted across Europe throughout the Middle Ages and there is strong evidence of the story circulating as oral folklore in Germanic regions prior to the thirteenth century.9 The earliest surviving version is ‘Cygni’, 5 Cooper,

The English Romance in Time, 8. The English Romance in Time, 4. 7 See Gisela Guddat-Figge, Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Middle English Romances, Münchener Universitäts-Schriften Philosophische Fakultät 4 (Munich, 1976), 171. 8 See Cooper’s description of the adventures packed into Bevis of Hampton in The English Romance in Time, 3. 9 Speed, Medieval English Romances, I.151. The Latin version of the swan children 6 Cooper,

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Reframing Chevalere Assigne contained in the late twelfth-century Latin prose Dolopathos, which was translated into an early thirteenth-century French version, which appears, in turn, to have given rise indirectly to a rather different strand of the tale, represented by the later French version Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix.10 This is not the source, but the closest surviving cognate of the abbreviated version of the tale we encounter in Chevalere Assigne.11 Johannes de Alta Silva’s Latin prose Dolopathos, sive de Rege et Septem Sapientibus, dated to around 1190, combines elements from the eastern and western branches of the Seven Sages tradition and is preserved in eleven manuscripts.12 The cycle is structured by a frame narrative in which a young man – son of the eponymous Dolopathos – is subject to a false rape accusation by his stepmother. Seven wise men tell stories in his defence, of which ‘Cygni’, the tale of the swan children, is the seventh. Here, a nobleman falls in love with a nymph whom he sees bathing while he is out hunting. He marries her and she conceives seven magical children, six sons and a daughter, who are all born with chains around their necks. The nobleman’s jealous mother steals the babies and substitutes them with seven dogs, prompting her son to have his wife buried up to her breasts as punishment. The mother-in-law charges her servant with killing the babies, but he chooses instead to abandon them in the forest, where they are raised by a hermit. At the age of seven, the children, who can shift between swan and human form at will, are discovered by chance and the mother-in-law has their necklaces stolen. As a result, they become stuck in the form of swans, with only the sister retaining her necklace and her human form. A goldsmith is ordered to melt down the necklaces, but only succeeds in damaging one of them. Soon afterward, the nobleman comes across the girl feeding the swans and finds out what has occurred, his mother is then caught in the act of attempting to have the girl killed and is punished. The swans have their necklaces returned story bears obvious parallels to fairy tale type AT 451, examples of which include ‘The Seven Doves’, ‘The Seven Ravens’, ‘The Twelve Brothers’, and Hans Anderson’s ‘The Wild Swans’. The distinguishing feature of these tales is the role of the sister in saving her six or more brothers who have been transformed into birds; see Bethany Joy Bear, ‘Struggling Sisters and Failing Spells: Re-engendering Failed Heroism in Peg Kerr’s “The Wild Swans”’, in Fairy Tales Reimagined: Essays on New Retellings, ed. Susan Redington Bobby (Jefferson, NC, 2009), 44–57 (45–46). Names of characters are standardised according to the usual form in the text discussed. 10 Speed, Medieval English Romances, I.150–53. 11 W. R. J. Barron, ‘Chevalere Assigne and the Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne’, Medium Ævum 36 (1967): 25–37. 12 The most up-to-date list of manuscripts is provided by Kerstin Losert in her study Überschreitung der Geschlechtergrenzen? Zum Motiv der Frau in Männerkleidern im ‘Dolopathos’ des Johannes de Alta Silva und anderen literarischen Texten des Mittelalters, Lateinische Sprache und Literatur des Mittelalters 43 (Bern, 2008), 105–26.

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Miriam Edlich-Muth to them, allowing them to resume their human form, with the exception of one brother, who must forever remain a swan because his necklace has been damaged. Two Old French Versions of the Swan Children Story: Le Roman de Dolopathos and Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix Johannes’s Dolopathos was translated into Old French verse in 1220 by a certain Herbert, who augmented the tale with more detailed descriptive passages.13 Apart from these additions, Herbert remains faithful to the original, explicitly presenting his work as a translation.14 By contrast, the thirteenthcentury Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix differs decidedly from Johannes’s tale.15 While this later text is neither a direct adaptation of the Latin ‘Cygni’ story, nor a direct predecessor of Chevalere Assigne, it represents an intermediate stage between the two very different renderings of the tale and throws some light on how the meme was developing in the mid-thirteenth-century. In this ‘chivalric’ version of the tale, the birth of the swan children is presented as the enfance of the Swan Knight, who is in turn cast as the ancestor of Godfrey of Bouillon, furnishing the opening section of the Old French Crusade cycle.16 The initial protagonists are now King Orient and his infertile queen, Beatrix. Beatrix makes an unkind remark about a mother of twins and receives the divine punishment of herself giving birth to seven children with chain necklaces around their necks. The newborns are banished to the forest by the king’s mother, Matabrune, and raised by a hermit. Meanwhile, Matabrune substitutes the babies with seven puppies 13 See

Jean-Luc Leclanche’s introduction to his edition of Herbert’s Le Roman de Dolopathos, Classiques français du Moyen Age 126 (Paris, 1997), 7–16; 66–76. For an overview of the manuscripts extant see Losert, Geschlechtergrenzen, 127–39. 14 Penny Simons gives a helpful description of Herbert’s translation practices in ‘Reading and the Book: Frame and Story in the Old French Dolopathos’, in The Book and the Magic of Reading in the Middle Ages, ed. Albrecht Classen, Garland Medieval Bibliographies 24, Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 2118 (New York, NY, 1998), 36. 15 The manuscripts of the Old French Crusade Cycle contain three very different versions of the swan children story, the so-called Beatrix and Elioxe versions, named after the differing names given to the children’s mother, and a composite version of the two. In the following, I will be discussing the Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix version as the closest surviving cognate text, see Barron, ‘Chevalere Assigne’, 25–37. 16 Simon John offers a convincing account of how the connection between Godfrey of Bouillon and the swan knight story helped establish Godfrey’s reputation in the early decades of the thirteenth century in his chapter on ‘Godfrey of Bouillon and the Swan Knight’, in Crusading and Warfare in the Middle Ages: Realities and Representations, Essays in Honour of John France, ed. Simon John and Nicholas Morton, Crusades – Subsidia 7 (Farnham, 2014), 129–42.

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Reframing Chevalere Assigne and persuades the hesitant king to punish his wife for adultery. Fifteen years later, the children are discovered and their chains are stolen, leaving five of them stuck in the form of swans. A short time later, Beatrix is finally about to be burnt, when the remaining, sixth child, a boy called Elias, is called upon by an angel to fight in her name against the champion of the king’s mother. Following an expedited education in the art of combat and courtly manners, the young hero defeats his opponent, at which point the plotting of Matabrune is revealed and she is punished, while the five other swan children are transformed back into human form, after having their necklaces returned to them. This leaves only one remaining swan, whose chain has been irrevocably damaged by attempts to melt it down. The Chevalere Assigne If we consider the Middle English romance with these earlier versions of the tale in mind, it soon becomes clear that the English tale offers a drastically shortened and recalibrated re-working of the plotline found in Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix and also differs from the Dolopathos versions of the story in significant ways. The most obvious change is that the Middle English romance has been condensed and detached from both the frame story that contextualises the Dolopathos versions of the tale, and the pseudo-history of Godfrey of Bouillon. As a result, the English tale reads as a short, independent romance text. A second significant point in which it differs from the Latin ‘Cygni’ is in the character of the children’s mother, who is not a nymph but an infertile queen, as in Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix. While ‘Cygni’ describes how the nobleman comes across ‘fontem … nimphamque in eo uirginem cathenam auream tenentem manu nudaqua menbra lauantum’ (‘a fountain in which a naked nymph was bathing. In one hand she held a gold necklace’),17 the Middle English romance introduces her simply as ‘qwene Bewtrys, þat bryȝt was and shene’, mentioning only that she has been unable to bear a child, leaving her husband Oriens ‘all in langour’.18 The shift in characterisation is directly linked to other changes in the causal structure of the narrative. The birth of the seven swan-human babies is presented in ‘Cygni’ as part of a fateful sequence of events stemming from the nymph’s supernatural heritage, for which no explicit explanation is offered. 17

Johannes de Alta Silva, Historia septem sapientum. II. Johannis de Alta Silva Dolopathos, sive De rege et septem sapientibus, ed. Alfons Hilka (Heidelberg, 1913), 81; Johannes de Alta Silva, Dolopathos or the King and the Seven Wise Men, trans. Brady B. Gilleland, Center for Medieval & Early Renaissance Studies 2 (Binghamton, NY, 1981), 71. 18 Speed, Medieval English Romances, Chevalere Assigne, lines 8 and 14. All subsequent references to Chevalere Assigne are from this edition, cited by line number.

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Miriam Edlich-Muth Thus their birth is announced directly after the nymph and the nobleman have consummated their marriage: ‘nimpha iam uirginitates priuata nomine stellarum cursum considerans sex filios cum filia se concepisse cognouit’ (‘the nymph, whose virginity was gone, consulted the stars and learned that she would give birth to six sons and a daughter’).19 By contrast, both the French chivalric and the Middle English version present the birth as following directly after a scene in which Beatrice is reprimanded by her husband for having accused a mother of twins of adultery, implying that the two events are related. The link between the remark and God’s punishment in having her give birth to seven children is made explicit later, when an angel appears to the hermit to reveal the background of the children whom he has fostered, explaining that ‘She [Beatrice] bare hem at ones / For a worde on þe walle that she wronge seyde / And ȝonder in þe river swymmen þey swannes’ (CA 196–98). Tellingly, the sentence is repeated at the end of the tale, when the boy hero, here named Eneas, concludes his triumphant return to court by revealing his and his siblings’ identity, informing the assembled crowd that Beatrice ‘bare hem [him and his siblings] at ones / For a worde on þe walle that she wronge seyde / And ȝonder in þe river swymmen þey swannes’ (CA 348–50). Emphasising Beatrice’s guilt at two turning points in the plot reinforces the moral message of the tale by implying that the entire sequence of events following the birth of the children is part of Beatrice’s punishment. This sense of didactic import ties in with the Chevalere Assigne poet’s increased emphasis on divine intervention by a Christian God. As Diane Speed points out, the role of providence is so central to the thematic order of Chevalere Assigne that it is possible to read the text as one designed ‘not so much to uphold the ideal of Christian chivalry as to recognize God’s work in the world and give him the glory’.20 The most notable examples of providence being foregrounded in the poem include the opening lines of the tale, in which the narrator praises the power of providence,21 and the divine intervention by which the children are saved by a hermit and Eneas is later summoned by an angel to defend their mother.22 The providential scheme then appears to be confirmed in the final battle scenes, in which Eneas’s victory is facilitated by a miraculous fire that blinds his opponent. 19 Johannes,

Dolopathos, 81; trans. Gilleland, 71. Medieval English Romances, I.156 and ‘The Pattern of Providence in Chevalere Assigne’, in Romance Reading on the Book: Essays on Medieval Narrative Presented to Maldwyn Mills, ed. Jennifer Fellows, Rosalind Field, Gillian Rogers, and Judith Weiss (Cardiff, 1996), 143–54, passim. 21 See Chevalere 1–3. 22 As Helen Cooper has pointed out, the hermit in Chevalere Assigne, like many other romance hermits, plays a key part in fulfilling the providential scheme by rescuing the abandoned infants; Helen Cooper, ‘Romance Hermits and their Afterlives’, Medieval Romance Conference paper (Cambridge, 2016). 20 Speed,

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Reframing Chevalere Assigne Further points of difference between the Middle English text and its predecessor versions have attracted critical attention because they do not correspond to the apparent broader strategy of abbreviating earlier source texts and therefore may be thought to address themes that were of personal interest to the adaptor. The most notable of these is the relative amplification of scenes depicting Eneas’s education in the customs of courtly chivalry after he has been summoned to fight in his mother’s name. Despite the tale overall having been shortened to a third of the length of its earlier French analogue, Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix, the education scenes have been retained more completely and details have been added in.23 This suggests that the author had a particular interest in themes of courtly education that tie in with the didactic emphasis shaping the rest of the adaptation. Thus, while the differences between Chevalere Assigne and earlier versions of the tale affect different parts of the plot and characterisation in varying ways, several of these differences correspond to a growing interest in the didactic potential of the narrative. As I will go on to show, however, the increased didactic emphasis of the Middle English tale is fundamentally at odds with the implications of the motif of the transforming swan children as it has been preserved from earlier incarnations of the story. In these earlier versions, most notably in the Latin ‘Cygni’, the chain of supernatural events leading to the birth and recovery of the swan children is underpinned by a consistent ‘magical logic’ that combines with occasional references to providence and a multi-faceted characterisation of the protagonists to create a sense of mystery. The result is a thought-provoking and morally ambiguous folktale, in which good behaviour is rewarded, but neither good nor evil can be seen to triumph fully at the end. In Chevalere Assigne that magical logic underlying events is lost. Magical Logic in ‘Cygni’ In ‘Cygni’, the conception of the children takes place in the opening scene of the tale, in which the nobleman falls in love with a nymph, bringing to mind the social and sexual taboo by which mortals should not marry fairies.24 This 23

Tony Davenport provides a comprehensive overview of the points at which themes of education are emphasised in the text in his essay ‘Abbreviation and the Education of the Hero in Chevalere Assigne’, in The Matter of Identity in Medieval Romance, ed. Phillipa Hardman (Cambridge, 2002), 9–20. 24 See Regina Buccola’s introduction to her book Fairies, Fractious Women and the Old Faith: Fairy Lore in Early Modern British Drama and Culture, The Apple-Zimmerman Series in Early Modern Culture 2 (Selinsgrove, PA, 2006). See also Jacques Le Goff’s discussion of the folktale taboo surrounding mortal men marrying nymphs or fairies in Time, Work and Culture in the Middle Ages, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Chicago, IL, 1980), 210, and James Wade’s chapter on ‘Fairy Mistresses: Gifts and Taboos’ in

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Miriam Edlich-Muth taboo is central to many romances, but the bathing nymph in this scene is perhaps most reminiscent of the transforming fairy Melusine, who inspires love at first sight when a nobleman sees her bathing in a fountain in the forest.25 While Melusine is explicitly identified as magical by the fact that she is bathing in a ‘fontayne of fayerye’, the forest fountain in which the nymph of ‘Cygni’ is found bathing is sufficiently similar to this and other examples of bathing fairies to make her easily identifiable to medieval readers as the kind of supernatural being mortal men should beware of. Disregarding the risks and the demands of his jealous mother, who ‘odiumque inter eos seminare studebat’ (‘tried in many ways to sow hatred between them’),26 the nobleman stands by his love for the nymph. As the tale unfolds, he is then confronted with the somewhat predictable consequence of having magical children. Here, the birth of the seven swan children is a natural consequence of their nymph mother and the negative consequences for the family illustrate the dangers of intermarrying mortal and magical races. The reader is again reminded of the risk the nobleman has taken when his mother shows him the puppies she is presenting as his children, ‘increpans quod … uerba matris … minime audisset’ (‘complaining that he had listened very little to the words of his mother’).27 Even though his mother’s words are undercut by her own destructive scheming, there remains an impression that the nobleman is in part the architect of his own fate, creating a shared responsibility for the events that unfold. Moreover, while the nobleman’s mother is castigated for disposing of the children, her antipathy towards her daughter-in-law is given a logical source in the form of the taboo the marriage is breaking. Given the otherworldly events leading to the conception of the children, it also seems understandable that the nobleman believes his nymph may have given birth to seven puppies. The magical logic of this chain of events and the nuances of plot and character associated with it set the tone of both the Latin version and Herbert’s French translation. These features are lost in Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix, where the logic of the broken taboo and its consequences is missing entirely, as is the Dolopathos frame story of the rape accusation. Once the figure of the nymph has been replaced by Queen Beatrix, the children’s mother can no longer function as the source of the supernatural events that follow. One of the defining features of Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix and Chevalere Assigne is that magical logic is replaced with his monograph Fairies in Medieval Romance, The New Middle Ages (New York, NY, 2011), 109–45. 25 Le Goff, Time, 205–24; Mélusine, ed. Alexander K. Donald, EETS e.s. 68 (London, 1895), 27. 26 Johannes, Dolopathos, 81, trans. Gilleland, 71. 27 Johannes, Dolopathos, 82, translation mine.

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Reframing Chevalere Assigne a Christian didactic logic, according to which the Queen’s unfair remarks about a mother of twins call for divine punishment, in the apt form of her becoming a mother of multiples herself. This initial explanation is, however, only partially suited to the plot that follows in Chevalere Assigne, in that it is only through the machinations of her evil mother-in-law, Matabryne, that the mother loses her children and is punished by her husband, casting Matabryne as an executor of God’s will and complicating the final battle of good against evil in which Eneas defeats Matabryne. This sense of contradiction already arises early on in the tale, when Matabryne has arranged for the children to be cast out and the narrator emphasises that it is through God’s will that they are found and raised by a hermit.28 This reference to providence is one of the few in the text that already occurs in ‘Cygni’, where it is pointed out that God did not forget that the children were his creation. This casts the tale as one in which magic and divine intervention are ‘interlocked’, functioning together to influence the outcome of events.29 However, in Chevalere Assigne providence gains more weight as divine intervention repeatedly influences turning points in the plot; first when the angel informs the hermit of the swan children’s heritage and, most dramatically, when God intervenes directly on Eneas’s behalf in battle by sending blinding fire and a snake to attack his opponent. In the heightened context of this moral battle, it is detrimental to the providential message of the text as a whole that Matabryne, the malevolent figure backing Eneas’s opponent, should have been an instrument in God’s punishment of Beatrice. These conflicting messages are exacerbated by the extent to which the characterisation of key figures has been reconfigured to present characters with more binary moral qualities. The Binary Moral Universe of Chevalere Assigne Chevalere Assigne introduces Matabryne as a woman who ‘made moche sorwe, / For she sette her affye in Sathanas of helle’ (CA 9–10), thereby creating an explicit contest between providence, praised in the opening lines of the poem, and the machinations of the devil. Throughout the Middle English poem, Matabryne is the most vocal figure, exercising her malign power through strident speeches that influence events at every turn. Tellingly, her first direct speech arises when she instructs her servant Markus to ‘lete … forth slyppe’ the kidnapped children into the first ‘grymme water þat þou to comeste’, adding ominously that ‘þou shalt lyke full wele, yf þou may 28 See

Chevalere 102. Dolopathos, 82. See Cooper’s discussion of the blurred distinction between providence and magic in medieval saints’ lives, Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 121.

29 Johannes,

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Miriam Edlich-Muth lyfe aftur’ (CA 52, 51 and 54 respectively). The atmospheric detail of the ‘grymme’ water adds to the horror of the fate she is devising for the children, just as the ambivalent reference to Markus’ continued life carries a threat that is clearly reflected in the servant’s fear. He is later described as deciding to save the children ‘thowgh my deth be nyȝe!’ (CA 100). The power of Matabryne’s words remains decisive in the rest of the poem too, arising in direct speech as she convinces her son that his wife has given birth to puppies and urges him to ‘brenne her anone, for þat is þe beste!’ (CA 68). When he refuses, his mother is scornful: ‘A, kowarde of kynde,’ quod she, ‘and combred wrecche! / Wolt þou werne wrake to hem þat hit deserveth?’ (CA 71–72). The demonic aspect of the old Queen, announced in the opening lines, is revealed to all in the final scenes of the tale, when she leaps upon Eneas, pulls out bushels of his hair and nominates Malkadras to ‘marre’ the boy (CA 254–55; 261). In contrast, ‘Cygni’ presents a more neutral and less vocal version of the mother-in-law, who speaks directly on only two occasions. Like the other protagonists of the tale, she remains unnamed throughout and is instead described as the nobleman’s mother or ‘the old woman’. Her initial opposition to her son’s taboo marriage is partly presented as a human impulse occasioned by jealousy. The narrator explains that she feared for her influence and honour and her spirit ‘inuidia torquebatur’ (‘was twisted with envy’).30 When the children are later discovered in the forest, we also hear that ‘Illa uero conscia mali’ (‘her guilty conscience was aroused’), suggesting a more humanised figure than the satanic Matabryne of Chevalere Assigne.31 In keeping with its presentation of Matabryne as the source of all evil, Chevalere Assigne casts King Oriens as a more forgiving figure than his Latin predecessor; he honours Queen Beatrice as his ‘wedded wife, full trewe as I wene’ (CA 69), and does not wish to punish her. However, he is too passive to assert himself, so when his mother reproaches him he simply gives in, permitting her to ‘take here þyselfe and sette her wher þe lyketh, / So þat I se hit noȝte; what may I seye elles?’ (CA 73–74). The same dynamic unfolds later in the tale, when Matabryne exerts social pressure on her son to show that justice has been done, claiming that people ‘wondreth on þe allone, / That thy qwene is unbrente so mervelows longe / That hath served þe deth, if þou here dome wyste’ (CA 184–86). Again, the old Queen prevails against her son’s wishes and ‘he here graunted þat with a grymme herte’ (CA 189). On both occasions, Matabryne personally contrives to hurt Beatrice, while Oriens is presented as a reluctant accomplice.32 In ‘Cygni’, there is no mention of why the Queen’s execution takes place 30 Johannes,

Dolopathos, 81, translation mine. Dolopathos, 73, trans. Gilleland, 83. 32 At this point, Oriens is reminiscent of the passive King Arthur in the later stages of his 31 Johannes,

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Reframing Chevalere Assigne with such delay; and the decision to punish the mother of the septuplets is taken by the enraged nobleman: ‘Credulus … illi matri horruit uxorem, cuius amore primo intantum flagrabat, conuersusque totus in odium’ (‘He believed his mother and was horrified at his wife. The burning love which he had formerly felt was turned to hatred’).33 He devises a particularly humiliating punishment, burying his wife up to her breasts in the courtyard, to be fed only scraps intended for dogs, while the courtiers are invited to wash their hands above her and dry them in her hair. Here, the connection with the food of dogs creates an associative link between the crime and the punishment, as it recalls the presumed bestiality that appears to have resulted in her bearing dogs as children.34 At the same time, the tale dwells on the damage exposure does to her beauty as ‘conuersusque est candor ille niueus in nigredinem, fuscata facies, defossi oculi, rugata frons, nigrati capilli consumptisque carnibus’ (‘her snow white colouring turned black, her face grew leathery, her eyes sank, her forehead wrinkled, her hair blackened and her flesh was eaten away’).35 This emphasis eventually allows for a moment of redemption by human hands when the courtiers restore her beauty through the use of ointments in the conclusion of the tale: ‘educitur iterum nimpha de cauea balneisque, unguentis ac uariis fomentis in solitem speciem reperatur’ (‘The nymph was taken from her grave and her [usual] beauty restored with baths and ointments and various poultices’).36 The use of the word ‘cavea’ (‘grave’) to describe where the nymph was buried, combined with the reversal of the aging processes that have stolen her beauty, implies that she has not only been saved from the fire, but has been resurrected from a living death. Interestingly, despite the potentially titillating appeal of the punishment and the near-miraculous process by which the effects of that punishment are later reversed, this part of the story is not included in the French chivalric and Middle English versions of the tale. Accordingly, the moment in which the husband’s unfair punishment is redeemed by the ministrations of his courtiers is also lost, making way for divine redemption to take on a more central role. In the Latin text, the nobleman’s cruel punishment of his wife makes him partially responsible for the family estrangement that follows, just as his decision to marry a nymph makes him partially responsible for the magical birth of the children. Moreover, he emerges as an active participant in the plot realm, who is slow to respond and assert himself. Like King Arthur, Oriens delays the burning of his wife and appears hopeful that she may escape punishment. 33 Johannes, Dolopathos, 82, trans. Gilleland, 72. 34 See the Renaissance physician Paolo Zacchia’s discussion of late medieval Italian stories of women bearing animals as divine punishment for bestiality, in F. P. de Ceglia, ‘The woman who gave birth to a dog: Monstrosity and Bestiality in Quaestiones medico-legales by Paolo Zacchia’, Medicina nei secoli 26/1 (2014): 117–44. 35 Johannes, Dolopathos, 82–83, translation mine. 36 Johannes, Dolopathos, 87, trans. Gilleland, 76, insertion mine.

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Miriam Edlich-Muth rather than a victim of his mother’s manipulations. Thus he not only defies his mother in marrying the nymph, but also he later devises the punishment for his wife and goes on to torture his mother in order to find out how she has tricked him. The nobleman of ‘Cygni’ is clearly a darker and less passive figure than King Oriens in Chevalere Assigne, who is consistently presented as a benign ruler and the antithesis of his evil mother. These binary oppositions in Chevalere Assigne stand in conspicuous contrast to the Latin and early French versions of the tale, which instead present a more finely tuned and ambivalent moral universe. Thus the plot of ‘Cygni’ is embedded in two contradictory frame-stories, whose conflicting moral import draws out the nuances in the plot, creating morally ambivalent protagonists. As we have seen, the immediate frame story, in which the nobleman breaks a taboo by marrying the nymph, implies that he is to some degree responsible for the birth of the enchanted children and the social upheaval that follows. At the same time, however, the all-encompassing frame story of the false rape-accusation that Dolopathos’ wife makes against his son emphasises the role of treacherous mother figures. In this context, the fatal interference of the nobleman’s mother mirrors the machinations of the stepmother in the wider frame story. Fittingly, both women are eventually burnt on the pyre originally intended for the young relative they had falsely accused. Such techniques of multi-faceted framing and characterisation allow ‘Cygni’ to present a more differentiated discussion of guilt and responsibility, which is interwoven with the inherent magical logic of the broken taboo. Such moral nuances anticipate the ambivalent conclusion of the tale, in which magical forces prevent the full resolution of the conflict. Thus the final scene of the tale, in which one of the brothers is doomed to remain a swan, casts a poignant shadow over the celebratory redemption of those siblings who are returned to human form. This ending is in keeping with the ambiguous moral characteristics of the protagonists. More importantly, it also fulfils the threat of the broken taboo, which, as in the tales of Melusine and other magical nymphs, can never be fully redeemed. Accordingly, the magical logic of the tale remains intact, even while the moral qualities of the swans’ sister are rewarded by a fairytale ending for most of her siblings. Six of the children have their humanity and social status restored to them, allowing familial order to be re-established and leaving no trace of the complete estrangement of the preceding years as ‘Recognouit ergo recepitque pater filios, receperunt filii patrem’ (‘The father recognised and welcomed his children, and they their father’).37 The sense of a newly secured social order is reinforced by the fact that this version of the tale includes Eneas as a central male protagonist, who 37 Johannes,

Dolopathos, 86, trans. Gilleland, 76.

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Reframing Chevalere Assigne can fulfil a meme central to a romance happy ending by implicitly taking on the role of the restored heir to Oriens’s kingdom.38 While the chivalric versions of the tale change many of the details of the ending, the core motif of all but one of the swan children being returned to human form remains intact. However, the bittersweet ending jars with the simplified characters and binary moral universe presented by these later adaptations. This becomes most apparent in the final scenes of Chevalere Assigne. Here, the brother who must remain a swan mourns, pecking at his own chest until he draws blood, in a pitiful scene: Hit was doole forto se þe sorowe þat he made: He bote hymself with his byll, þat all his breste bledde, And all his feyre federes fomede upon blode, And all formerknes þe watur þat þe swanne swymmeth.

(CA 359–62)

The description of the grieving swan is, arguably, one of the most striking images in the romance. In comparison to earlier versions of the tale, the scene has been amplified by adding in descriptions of the bystanders, who cannot bear to watch the swan, thereby providing a memorable, if tragic, ending to the tale: There was ryche ne pore þat myȝte for rewthe Lengere loke on hym, but to courte wenden. (CA 363–64)

However, given the moral and didactic parameters set up by the preceding plotline, the moral implications of this scene stand in contradiction to the overarching narrative. It occurs just before the tale has reached its full conclusion: evil has been defeated by the hand of God and the transformed swan children are about to be fully redeemed through a celebratory baptism ceremony, adding a spiritual dimension to Eneas’s victory in battle. As Cooper notes, there are numerous examples of romances that do not culminate in the happy ending frequently associated with the genre.39 Many of these are late medieval romances in which ‘God does not necessarily support the good, and an arbitrary or maleficent fate can appear to have at least as much control over what happens’.40 While Chevalere Assigne is indeed a late medieval romance with a partially tragic ending, the preceding atmosphere of the tale is one in which God is presented as intervening dramatically on behalf of the good, through miraculous angelic visitations and active assistance in battle. The degree of his intervention is, indeed, what sets the 38

In the Latin version, this meme is less fully expressed in that the central protagonist is a girl and there is no primary male figure among the swan brothers to take on the role of heir presumptive. 39 Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 363. 40 Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 363.

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Miriam Edlich-Muth Middle English tale apart from its Latin predecessor by initially creating a romance world that appears to be grounded in the justice of a providential scheme. In a poem that presents such an active and interventionist God, the sense of loss shaping the conclusion cannot function as a nuanced reflection on the operation of divine providence, as has been suggested by Speed.41 Rather, as Davenport points out, alongside the celebratory happy ending more typical of romance, ‘the image of the doomed swan ripples the surface strangely’, making it ‘barely possible to read this ending as demonstrating the protective power of God’.42 Despite this ambivalence, Davenport casts the abbreviation of a presumed French source text as a successful literary move by the Chevalere Assigne poet.43 He claims that the loss of the ‘masses of French material extraneous to the tale of magic transformation’ effects a ‘greater emphasis on the miraculous workings of providence and a lessening of narrative seriousness by a lack of concern for circumstantial history and consequently an increased response to symbol and stereotype’ in Chevalere Assigne.44 And yet, if we take into account the earlier Latin versions of the tale, the role of magic transformation appears to have decreased rather than increased over the centuries, as the nymph is removed and the providential message Davenport identifies is given a more prominent role in both Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne: Beatrix and, correspondingly, in Chevalere Assigne. In this context, the contradictory elements of Chevalere Assigne can be read in part as the result of the adaptation the tale underwent in thirteenth-century France. However, far from counteracting that shift in emphasis, the radically shortened Middle English version of the tale draws particular attention to the competing value systems now shaping the plotline. Once the ‘masses’ of ‘extraneous’ French material embedding the revised tale in ‘circumstantial history’ are stripped away, the story is condensed to the two somewhat contradictory elements at its core: the original meme of the transforming swan children and the providential message incorporated into the tale by later adaptors. This, in turn, suggests that the more extensive historical contextualisation of its French predecessor texts was not an extraneous mass drowning out the magical elements of the tale, but part of the glue by which disparate parts of the tale were bound together under the easily recognisable umbrella of the epic genre, epitomised by the Old French Crusade Cycle into which the Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne was incorporated.

41 Speed,

Medieval English Romance, I.152–53. Davenport, ‘Abbreviation’, 20. 43 Davenport, ‘Abbreviation’, 10–11. 44 Davenport, ‘Abbreviation’, 10 and 11 respectively. 42

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Reframing Chevalere Assigne Conclusions It appears, then, that while the combination of different genre features at play in Chevalere Assigne is not problematic in itself, it is symptomatic of the incompatible values underlying the tale as a whole. In this respect, the adaptive process the tale has undergone illustrates the ways in which particular memes within a romance can require a specific framework to unfold their meaning. The transforming swan children meme is clearly an adaptable one that can accommodate fundamental changes, including the shift from a child heroine to an adolescent hero, as well as the shift from rural household to royal court and changes in the characterisation of key figures. However, it appears to be a meme that requires the retention of an ethical framework in which magic and providence combine to shape events, allowing for the hand of providence to be ‘unbalanced’ by the mysterious supernatural power that engenders the birth of the swan children. These are the antithetical forces that allow for both the happy end enjoyed by six of the swan siblings and the tragedy suffered by the seventh, and thus succeed in incorporating the magical logic of a folktale into a broadly Christian framework. As we have seen, the risk of replacing this delicate balance with a more unified providential message, in which the birth of the swan children is cast as God’s punishment for Queen Beatrice’s unkind remark, is that both the logical progression of the tale and its overarching moral framework are put out of joint by presenting the narrative as a battle of good against evil. This binary moral universe is reinforced by redrawing the nobleman and his mother as black and white characters, whose characterisation owes more to the overt didacticism of the exemplum than to the ambiguity of the magical folktale. The effect of this polarisation is exacerbated by the loss of the two frame stories that contextualise the Dolopathos version of the tale and add nuance to different aspects of the unfolding plot. Once the frame stories have been removed, the conflicting impulses of the final scenes appear not as moral nuances, but as disruptive elements that undermine readerly expectations of a happy end. At the same time, shortening the tale and detaching it from the pseudo-historical context in which it is embedded in the Old French Crusade Cycle has further exposed the mixed messages of the plot. As a result, Chevalere Assigne’s combination of romance, folktale, epic, and exemplum genre features is an uneasy one, whose conflicting moral inferences highlight the pitfalls of recontextualising romance memes. It should therefore not surprise us if this version of the story was less widespread than its deployment of popular motifs might lead modern scholars to expect. Rather, the discordant moments in the tale illustrate that the success with which the central meme of the transforming swan children can be adapted 187

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Miriam Edlich-Muth into new narrative contexts is dependent on retaining key elements of the moral logic in which the motif is implicated. This, in turn, highlights the degree to which memes such as this one are intertwined with the broader generic framework of the works in which they are incorporated.

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10 Lifting the Veil: Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur COR I N N E SAU N DERS

A

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13.12)

lways rewriting and always rewritten, romance also opens onto new ways of seeing. Romance retains its power in part because, in its engagement with thinking, feeling, and being in the world, it continues to allow readers to re-vision themselves. Medieval depictions of the continuum of mind and body, the role of affect in cognition, and the physical effects of love, loss, and trauma can have powerful resonances for modern readers. Recent work in ‘critical medical humanities’ emphasises the importance of a long cultural perspective, and the potential of the pre-Cartesian thought world to illuminate understandings of mind, body, and affect. Thus the Hearing the Voice project (based at Durham University and funded by the Wellcome Trust) puts past and present into conversation, bringing together researchers in humanities, social science, and science, clinicians and ‘experts by experience’ to explore the phenomenon of hearing voices without external stimuli, or ‘auditory verbal hallucinations’.1 Often assumed to be a symptom of psychosis, voice-hearing is also experienced by a significant proportion of the ‘healthy’ population. It may not correspond with or be satisfactorily addressed by medical diagnosis, and while often distressing, it may also be benign. Literary texts offer insights into the mental and affective processes that underpin such experiences and the ways in which individuals, communities, and cultures have made sense of them over time. The medieval thought world is one in which voice-hearing – and unusual revelatory experiences more generally – are authorised, and divine, demonic, and otherworldly forces assumed. Whereas 1

My research for this essay has been generously funded by Wellcome Trust Strategic Awards WT086049 and WT098455MA, and grows out of my collaborative work on the Hearing the Voice (https://hearingthevoice.org/) and Life of Breath (https:// lifeofbreath.org/) projects in Durham.

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Corinne Saunders voice-hearing has come to be privileged in the modern imagination, medieval understandings of vision were multi-sensory and voices were often only one element of visionary experience. It is in the imaginative literature of the medieval period that the intersection of internal and external forces, the intervention of the supernatural in the human world, the possibilities of hearing voices and seeing visions, and the interpretative scope of such experiences, are most fully played out. In its interweaving of sacred and secular and its creative rewriting of romance tradition, Malory’s Morte Darthur exemplifies the rich potential of visionary experience to illuminate self and world, and the complex relationship between agency, providence, and destiny. In its grand reshaping of medieval romance, the Morte also poses some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. Inner Eyes and Ears The medieval thought world assumed a multi-faceted supernatural, which included not only God and the devil, but a spirit world just beyond human reach, of angels, demons, and ghosts, which might manifest itself in visitations, visions, and miracles, or in demonic intervention and temptation.2 Medieval thought inherited too the classical concept of daimons, ambiguous spirits who might be benign or malign, which lingered on in conceptions of the faery. The idea of powerful forces that might intervene is critical to medieval depictions of individual experience, while at the same time, the late Middle Ages saw a new interest in the interior processes of thought and feeling and how these might intersect with exterior influences. The senses, each with its own organ, were understood to be put together by the inner senses, situated in the ventricles of the brain. Thoughts were made up of ‘forms’, sense impressions involving perception and response, which, according to Avicenna’s model in De anima (translated into Latin in the twelfth century), passed from the front cells of the brain (the inner senses and temporary memory) to the middle (the cells of imagination and cognition) to be stored at the back in the memory.3 Such models of the brain allowed for the existence of an inner eye and ear, and offered explanatory paradigms for visionary experience and hearing inner voices. They also allowed for the combination of supernatural 2

See Corinne Saunders, Magic and the Supernatural in Medieval English Romance, Studies in Medieval Romance 13 (Cambridge, 2010), in particular chapters 1–3. 3 See Jacqueline Tasioulas’s lucid summary in ‘“Dying of Imagination” in the First Fragment of the Canterbury Tales’, Medium Ævum 82 (2013): 212–35 (216–17), and Michelle Karnes, Imagination, Meditation and Cognition in the Middle Ages (Chicago, IL, 2011), in particular 41–45. For Avicenna, see Liber de anima seu Sextus de naturalibus, ed. Simone van Riet, 2 vols (Leiden, 1968–72), and the detailed discussion in Ruth Harvey, The Inward Wits: Psychological Theory in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Warburg Institute Surveys 6 (London, 1975), 43–64.

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Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur and physiological explanations: thought-images might result directly from sensory perception or be retrieved from memory, but might also occur, as with dreams, through the imprint of the divine or the demonic on the eversusceptible imagination.4 These ideas resonate with Augustine’s notions of different levels of vision – bodily, intellective, and spiritual. Sensible and intellectual seeing are the norm, although the Christian sees also with ‘the eye of the heart’ (‘oculum cordis’), ‘through a glass dimly’ (‘per speculum in aenigmate’). Yet the ‘spiritual eyes’ (‘spiritalia … lumina’) may afford the power ‘to see incorporeal things as well’ (‘ut videant et incorporalia’), which, Augustine argues, all will have in the future life.5 In the temporal realm, the inner eye and ear can open onto such vision, which in the celestial realm will be experienced bodily. These notions of supernatural influence, spiritual vision, and the inner eye and ear are prominent in mystical writing, but they are also influential in romance. The works of Chrétien de Troyes, Chaucer and Gower reflect an evidently sophisticated knowledge of physiological theory and are deeply engaged with the mental, physical, and affective processes that shape individual experience. Malory’s Morte Darthur is typically seen as less psychological and intellectual, more focused on action than interiority, with ideas of character created not through the exploration of the inner psyche but by the gradual accruing of action. Yet Malory is powerfully engaged with the ways that external and internal forces shape being in the world – with the articulation of providence and destiny, with voices of and beyond the mind, and with visionary experience that in different ways pervades thought, body, and feeling.6 Such experience plays essential roles in shaping 4

Stuart Clark argues that ‘supernatural’ is an inappropriate term in relation to the medieval period, because the spirit world, including demons, is part of God’s natural order, and that ‘preternatural’ is preferable. While recognising that there are philosophical complexities, I use ‘supernatural’ in the conventional sense to refer to forces beyond the earthly or material world, ‘Belonging to a realm or system that transcends nature, as that of divine, magical, or ghostly beings; attributed to or thought to reveal some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature; occult, paranormal’ (OED, adj. 1a). OED’s first recorded use of the word in this sense is 1425, commenting on souls ‘arayed wiþ þe deuelis armour’: ‘Þei haue not þanne þe supernaturel lyȝt ne þe lyȝt of kunnynge, bycause þei vndirstoden it not’ (The Orcherd of Syon, ed. Phyllis Hodgson and Gabriel M. Liegey, EETS o.s. 258 [Oxford, 1966], 310, lines 23–24). 5 St Augustine, The City of God Against the Pagans, ed. and trans. G. E. McCracken et al., 7 vols, Loeb Classical Library (London, 1957–72), VII.xxii.29. See Margaret Miles, ‘Vision: The Eye of the Body and the Eye of the Mind in Saint Augustine’s “De trinitate” and “Confessions”’, The Journal of Religion 63 (1983): 125–42. 6 See also my discussion of Malory’s serious treatment of magic and the supernatural in Magic and the Supernatural, 234–60 and my essay ‘Religion and Magic’, in The Cambridge Companion to Arthurian Legend, ed. Elizabeth Archibald and Ad Putter, Cambridge Companions to Topics (Cambridge, 2009), 201–17.

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Corinne Saunders individual identity, and hence in the making of the work’s imaginative world. By rendering the Grail Quest an intrinsic part of his Arthurian history, Malory also takes up many of the traditions of affective piety familiar from devotional practice and writing. Visionary experience in the Morte needs to be placed not only in relation to Malory’s ‘French book’, but also as part of a world view deeply rooted in Christian tradition and biblical history, in which prophecy and vision play central roles.7 In its widest sense, such experience – often multi-faceted and multi-sensory – engages mind, body, and affect, lifts the veil between human and supernatural worlds, and shapes and intervenes in destinies. Malory takes up these possibilities most extensively in his ‘Book of the Sankgreall’, but they are present across the book as a unifying force, connecting disparate parts through prophecy, guiding but also disrupting the progress of Malory’s protagonists. The Morte is also an unsettling work, which leaves many unanswered questions concerning agency, and the relationship between providence and destiny. By endorsing affective visionary experience, Malory places his book on a continuum with some of the greatest devotional writing of his age. Caxton’s project of publishing edifying books did not oppose romance and religious writing, but rather found in works such as the Morte Darthur a means to illuminate the concept of grace that played so crucial a role in his notions of worthiness, chivalry, and ‘gentle’ behaviour. For Caxton, ‘the noble hystorye of the Saynt Greal’ is inextricably linked with that of Arthur, and is an integral aspect of what makes Arthur ‘fyrst and chyef of the thre best Crysten’ among the Nine Worthies.8 The Morte complements works such as Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, with its emphasis on affective engagement with the Passion and on individual visionary 7

Scholars have moved away from the notion that Malory had ‘an unknown and enormous single French work that gathered all of his French sources within one set of covers’, to argue ‘that what Malory calls his “Frenche boke” is more likely to be the French source he is using, or claiming to use, for the passage in question’; see Ralph Norris, Malory’s Library: The Sources of the ‘Morte Darthur’, Arthurian Studies 71 (Cambridge, 2008), 8. Norris argues persuasively that alongside his major sources of parts of the Old French Vulgate or Lancelot-Grail Cycle, the Prose Tristan Cycle, the Post-Vulgate Cycle (also known as The Romance of the Grail), the Perlesvaus, and the English Alliterative and Stanzaic Morte Arthure poems, Malory also used a range of minor sources, including John Hardyng’s Chronicle, the romances of Chrétien de Troyes, some of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and a number of Middle English romances. For a summary, see Norris, 164. See also Helen Cooper, ‘The Lancelot-Grail Cycle in England: Malory and his Predecessors’, in A Companion to the ‘LancelotGrail Cycle’, ed. Carol Dover, Arthurian Studies 54 (Cambridge, 2003), 147–62. 8 Sir Thomas Malory, The Works of Sir Thomas Malory, ed. Eugène Vinaver, rev. P. J. C. Field, 3rd edn, 3 vols (Oxford, 1990), Caxton’s Preface, cxliii. Subsequent references to Malory’s Morte Darthur are to this edition, cited by Caxton’s book and chapter numbers, and page numbers.

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Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur experience. Caxton’s prints included not only Love’s Mirror but also a wide range of devotional texts, from lives of the Virgin and saints, to treatises such as Cordyale or the Four Last Things and The Chastising of God’s Children, to religious histories such as Godeffroy of Boloyne, with all of which the Morte resonates.9 Just as Caxton’s Preface ends by looking towards heavenly bliss from ‘thys shorte and transytorye lyf’, so the Morte offers the ‘doctryne’ and the vision that will open the eyes and ears to the heavenly (cxlvi).10 The book moves from hearing the voice of God through Merlin to a search for a more fully embodied experience of the divine, but its spiritual arc is also shadowed by more ominous voices of destiny. Making God Speak The first books of the Morte are distinguished by the intimate connection that Malory makes between vision and Merlin, even while Merlin himself can seem to see only ‘through a glass darkly’. Though Malory draws extensively for this part of the work on the Prose Merlin and Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin, he omits any account of the history of the Grail or of Merlin, perhaps suggesting unease about his magical arts, which are less prominent in the Morte.11 Yet Merlin’s foreknowledge is crucial, placing him as maker of 9

On Caxton’s prints, see N. F. Blake, William Caxton and English Literary Culture (London, 1991) and William Caxton: A Bibliographical Guide, Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 524 (New York, NY, 1985), and Lotte Hellinga, William Caxton and Early Printing in England (London, 2010). On resonances with saints’ lives, see Alfred Robert Kraemer, Malory’s Grail Seekers and Fifteenth-Century Hagiography, Studies in the Humanities 44 (New York, NY, 1999). 10 For a range of perspectives on Malory and religion, see D. Thomas Hanks, Jr and Janet Jesmok, ed., Malory and Christianity: Essays on Sir Thomas Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’, Studies in Medieval Culture 51 (Kalamazoo, MI, 2013), in particular Fiona Tolhurst, ‘Slouching towards Bethlehem: Secularized Salvation in Le Morte Darthur’, 127–56. 11 The Post-Vulgate Cycle was first identified through the Huth manuscript (British Museum Add. 38117), which contains versions of the Vulgate Estoire del Saint Graal and Merlin, and a much-reworked Suite du Merlin (which begins with Arthur’s coronation). Sections missing from the Huth manuscript are found in Cambridge Add. 7071, which contains the same works. The research of Fanni Bogdanow has identified further continuations of the Post-Vulgate Suite: see Bogdanow, The Romance of the Grail: A Study of the Structure and Genesis of a Thirteenth-Century Arthurian Prose Romance (Manchester, 1966), and Elizabeth Archibald’s essay ‘Malory and the Post-Vulgate Cycle’ in this volume. A complete translation of the whole is found in Norris J. Lacy, ed., The Lancelot-Grail: The Old French Arthurian Vulgate and Post-Vulgate in Translation, 10 vols, vols VIII and IX, The Post-Vulgate Merlin Continuation, trans. Martha Asher (Cambridge, 2010, originally publ. New York, 1992–96); the editors assume this would have been preceded by versions of the Estoire del Saint Graal and Merlin comparable to those in the Vulgate (vols I and II of this translation). The translation of the Suite is keyed to the edition by Gaston Paris

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Corinne Saunders destinies, with the power to fulfil Uther’s ‘entente and desyre’ (I.1, 8). Malory repeatedly connects Merlin’s will with that of providence. He reshapes Merlin’s response to the barons who consult him about Uther’s death to emphasise God’s intention, ‘There nys none other remedye … but God wil have his wille’, and in a still more striking rewriting, Merlin and God act in concert, ‘God and I shalle make hym to speke’ (I.3–5, 11).12 Merlin requests the Archbishop to summon all the lords of the realm at Christmas because Jesus will ‘shewe somme myracle who shold be rightwys kynge’ (I.3–5, 12), and the appearance of the sword in the stone is directly connected with ‘clene’ prayer (I.5, 12). Merlin’s practical counsel of Arthur is combined with this emphasis on prescience and providence. He dramatically ends Arthur’s battle against the eleven kings by voicing divine command, ‘Therefore hit ys tyme to sey “Who!” for God ys wroth with the for thou wolt never have done’ (I.1, 36; Merlin’s reference to God’s anger is Malory’s addition).13 A similar moral tone is evident in Merlin’s instruction to Pellinor that he must suffer ‘that penaunce God hath ordayned’, a summary of a more extended prophecy in the French, which is not constructed as ‘penaunce’ and is addressed to Arthur rather than directly to Pellinor (III.15, 120; see L-G VIII.157). Most startling is Pellinor’s response, ‘God may well fordo desteny’ (III.15, 120; not in the French).14 The relation between God and destiny, however, remains obscure, and while Merlin repeatedly speaks for God, he also articulates destinies that can seem far from providential. The reader is repeatedly placed in Pellinor’s position, wishing that God might ‘fordo desteny’, an effect in which much of the suspense of the Morte is rooted. and Jacob Ulrich, Merlin: roman en prose du XIIIe siècle, Société des anciens textes français, 2 vols (Paris, 1886) of the Huth manuscript, which includes the prose Merlin; references to the French are therefore from this edition (cited as Merlin, by volume and page number), supplemented by the more recent edition of the Suite proper by Gilles Roussineau, La Suite du roman de Merlin, 2 vols, Textes littéraires français 472 (Geneva, 1996), which draws on other manuscript evidence, and by Vinaver’s notes; translations are from Lacy, ed., Lancelot-Grail VIII and IX (cited as L-G, by volume and page number). 12 The emphasis of the French is notably different. Merlin emphasises to the barons that Uther is not yet dead, and when they state that Uther has not spoken for three days, replies: ‘Si fera, se Dieu plaist. Ore en venés, si le vous ferai parler’ (Merlin, I.130; ‘Merlin said he would indeed, if it was God’s will. “Come with me now and I will soon have him talking to you”’, L-G II: The Story of Merlin, trans. Rupert T. Pickens, 88). 13 The account of Arthur’s battles is missing from the Huth manuscript, but found in MS Cambridge Add. 7071: for the relevant passage, see Vinaver 1294, note to 36 (Roussineau argues the battles did not originally form part of the Suite, and bases his edition on the Huth manuscript). 14 This seems to engage with Arthur’s wish to prevent Pellinor’s death, and Merlin’s response in the French, ‘Vous nel porriés plus destorner’ (Merlin, II.139; ‘You cannot prevent it’, L-G VIII.157)

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Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur Malory’s treatment of Merlin suggests something of the unease in this period concerning prescience and prophecy. On the whole, Merlin’s associations with witchcraft or the devil are considerably reduced, and they are used selectively. Whereas in the French Uther jokes about Merlin’s demonic quality, Malory limits such associations to negative contexts, as when the knight who plans Arthur’s murder is warned, ‘Beware … of Merlion, for he knowith all thynges by the devylles craffte’ (III.14, 118), a detail not found in the French.15 After Arthur’s battle against the kings of Britain, some of the kings laugh ‘and mo other called hym a wytche’ (I.8, 18; not in the French), while King Lot dismisses Merlin’s powers as those of a ‘faytoure’ (impostor, II.10, 76): ‘Be we wel avysed to be aferd of a dreme-reder?’ (I.9, 18).16 The episode ends, however, with Lot’s death, confirming Merlin’s power. In presenting Merlin’s knowledge as divinely approved, the narrative responds to cultural anxiety about witchcraft. Nor is ‘dream-reading’ exclusively the prerogative of Merlin, as is exemplified by Arthur’s dream, adapted from the Alliterative Morte Arthure, of a great dragon that defeats a bear, signifying his battle with the Emperor Lucius. The episode demonstrates the possibility that all have access to a world beyond the temporal in sleep, in which futures and fates may be foretold – but also emphasises the need for learned interpretation. Arthur calls not on Merlin but on ‘a philozopher … to telle what sygnyfyed his dreme’ (V.4, 197). In the Alliterative Morte, two ‘sage philosophers’, ‘In the seven science the sutelest founden, / The cunningest of clergy under Crist knowen’, confidently connect the dream and providence: ‘And thou shall have the victory, through help of Our Lord, / As thou in thy vision was openly shewed’.17 Malory leaves the origin of the dream unstated: though associated with vision, dreams in the Morte remain mysterious, in keeping with Malory’s more ambivalent treatment of forces beyond the temporal. Seeing the future is crucially differentiated from being able to alter it. Merlin indicates his own magical powers when Arthur saves him from three churls who intend to kill him (‘I cowde a saved myselffe and I had wolde’, I.23, 49), but his subsequent prediction turns eerily to endings: ‘But thou arte more nere thy deth than I am, for thou goste to thy dethe warde and God be nat thy frende’ (I.23, 49). Though in Arthur’s ensuing battle with Pellinor God does prove his friend, Merlin’s words make clear the distinction between prophesying and changing the future. The tone differs markedly from that of the French, where Uther smiles at Merlin’s prediction of the churls’ deaths, 15

One knight simply warns the other to take care: see Merlin II.122; L-G VIII.148. See Vinaver 1288, notes to 18.11–14 for discussion of the corresponding passage in Cambridge Add. 7071. 17 Alliterative Morte Arthure, in King Arthur’s Death: The Middle English ‘Stanzaic Morte Arthur’ and ‘Alliterative Morte Arthure’, ed. Larry D. Benson, Exeter Medieval English Texts and Studies (Exeter, 1986), 113–238, lines 814, 808–09, 827–28. 16

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Corinne Saunders placing his knowledge as ‘mie de par Dieu, mais de par le mal esprit’ (‘not from God but from the evil spirit’) and receives the answer ‘Or ne parlés plus … de mon savoir; je cuic qu’il vous vaurra encore mieus que tout vostre poesté’ (‘Speak no more of my knowledge … I think it will be worth more to you than all your power’).18 Malory emphasises Merlin’s role as seer, changing his account to the Lady of the Lake of the theft of Excalibur into a prophecy to Arthur, warning of ‘many thyngis that scholde befalle’ (IV.1, 125; L-G VIII.165). His foreknowledge, however, does not bring control of destiny: Merlin can delay but not end Arthur’s battle against Lot though he knows one of them will die (II.10, 75–76); and ultimately, he cannot prevent the fall of the kingdom: ‘ye have gotyn a childe that shall destroy you and all the knyghtes of youre realme’ (I.20, 44). Merlin’s dialogue with Arthur concerning his own ‘shamefull’ death (I.20, 44) is revealing: So on a tyme he tolde to kynge Arthure that he scholde nat endure longe, but for all his craftes he scholde be putte into the erthe quyk. … Also he tolde kyng Arthure that he scholde mysse hym:   ‘And yett had ye levir than all youre londis have me agayne.’  ‘A,’ sayde the kyng, ‘syn ye knowe of youre evil adventure, purvey for hit, and putt hit away by youre crauftes, that mysseadventure.’   ‘Nay,’ seyde Merlion, ‘hit woll not be.’ (IV.1, 125)

This rewriting of what is in the French a lengthy exchange between Merlin and the Lady of the Lake is a striking innovation, heightening the opposition between Merlin as seer and as victim of an ineluctable fate.19 Merlin’s voice making ‘grete dole’ is later heard by Bagdemagus, but the stone under which he is imprisoned by Nenyve cannot be removed, and Merlin reiterates his lack of agency: ‘all was in vayne: for he myght never be holpyn but by her that put hym there’ (IV.5, 132). Merlin may ‘make God speak’, yet his knowledge of destiny is also a knowledge of endings he would not choose, and his understanding ultimately remains partial. The sound of his voice ‘in the erthe quyk’ shadows the Morte, a haunting reminder of the impossibility of resisting the 18

Merlin I.188; L-G VIII.27. seems to draw on the following, but removes the emphasis on salvation: ‘“Encore”, fait il, “en sai jou grant partie de celles qui n’apartienent a ma vie ne a ma mort. Mais des moies choses sui je si contrebatus par enchantemens que je n’i sai metre conseil, car les enchantemens qui sont fait ne puis je desfaire se je ne voel m’arme perdre; mais certes mieus vaurroie je que mes cors fust tornés a honte par auchune traison que l’ame de noi fus perdue”’ (Merlin II.152; ‘“I still know a great deal of what does not pertain to my life or death”, he said. “But in my own concerns, I am so opposed by spells that I don’t know how to help myself, for I cannot unmake the enchantments that are made unless I want to lose my soul, but certainly, I would rather my body were given over to death through treason than that my soul were lost”’, L-G VIII.165).

19 Malory

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Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur mysterious forces of destiny, their inexplicable relationship to providence, and the limits of earthly vision. Unhappy Voices These limits are most fully explored in the tale of Balin and Balan. In the Post-Vulgate Suite, the tale plays a crucial part in the history of the Grail: its connections with destiny are inbuilt and made explicit through prophetic voices. Malory, however, largely dissociates his tale from that history: the emphasis on providence is removed, to be replaced by voices that signal misfortune. Merlin’s prophecies in Malory’s telling repeatedly refer to Balin’s doom, rather than to the Grail: ‘hit shall be the grettist dole of hym that ever y knew of knyght; for he shall nat longe endure’ (II.9, 75). The warning voices that in the French cry out to Balin when he enters the Grail chamber are reduced, including the terrifying voice that prophesies ‘les aventurez e lez mervaillez du roialme aventurus’ (‘the adventures and marvels of the Kingdom of Adventure’, L-G VIII.93).20 Like these spirit voices, Merlin’s voice is silenced, his prominent role in the Suite of watching and commenting almost completely removed by Malory. In this tale, there is no seeing; no move towards vision. The emphasis is placed instead on incomprehensible and tragic destiny and misfortune. Though the explicitly moral voices of the Grail chamber are removed, at each turn of the narrative, unexplained warning voices speak powerful messages of ill omen. Thus as Balin journeys on, he reads written on a cross, ‘it is not for no knyght alone to ryde toward this castel’ and is warned by name by an ‘old hore gentylman’ to ‘torne ageyne’ (II.17, 88; cf. Merlin II.44; L-G VIII.104). The prophetic message of the cross, ‘toute neuve’ (‘brand new’) in the French, is heightened in Malory’s narrative by its letters of gold, similar to prophecies written on tombs, and whereas the status of the old man in the French is entirely natural – he is an old vavasour – Malory creates an eerie figure who ‘vanysshed awey anone’ (II.17, 88). The seemingly supernatural warnings colour Balin’s interpretation of the horn he hears as signalling his death (the French Balin laughs at the notion he might be captured, Merlin II.44; L-G VIII.104). Yet Malory’s ‘therfor torne ageyne and it will availle the’ also leaves open the possibility of agency and choice, by contrast to the old man’s words in the French, ‘il n’i a mais riens del retorner’ (‘there’s nothing for you but to go back’).21 The pattern of warning is once more repeated by a second damsel, who in the French explains Balin’s ‘mesqueance’ (‘misfortune’) as vengeance for the dolorous stroke; 20

This is a lacuna in Huth, and is quoted from Roussineau, ed. Suite, I.161; see also Bogdanow, The Romance of the Grail, 246. 21 Vinaver notes, ‘Whereas F leaves Balin no escape and no choice, M suggests that he

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Corinne Saunders she identifies herself as sent by Merlin, inspiring fear in Balin (Merlin II.47; L-G VIII.105).22 Malory omits both these details, characteristically leaving the damsel’s warning obscure and her identity unexplained. The enigmatic warnings occasion not fear, as in the French, but a recognition of the conflict between destiny and knighthood: ‘Me repenteth … that ever I cam within this countrey; but I maye not torne now ageyne for shame’ (II.17, 89). Malory makes a further crucial change to his narrative, taking up the import of the prophecy that the sword of the Lady of the Lake will cause Balin’s death (Merlin I.224; L-G VIII.46). In the French this prophecy is not fulfilled, whereas in the Morte Balin’s two swords become the central image of the tale, and Malory states that Balin is slain with ‘that unhappy swerd’ (II.18, 89; in the French ‘l’espee trenchant’, ‘[the] sharp sword’, Merlin II.50; L-G VIII.107). As Helen Cooper notes, ‘unhappy is a strong word in Malory, meaning “doomed” or “doom-bearing”, almost “accursed”’.23 The doom spoken by Merlin at the start of the tale is also its leitmotif. Whereas in the French one of Balin’s swords becomes that of Lancelot, and another sword is set in the stone by Merlin for Galahad, in Malory’s account Balin’s sword is taken by Merlin to preserve for Galahad, to be inherited by Lancelot, who with it will mortally wound Sir Gawain, ‘the man in the worlde that he lovith beste’ (II.19, 91; cf. Merlin II.58–59; L-G VIII.112–13). The sword’s use by the two ‘beste knyght[s] in the world’ affirms Balin’s excellence even while the sword retains its ‘unhappy’ role. In this tale voices suggest dark forces of destiny that it is difficult to align with providence, reminding the reader of a conflict that arches over the entire narrative.24 That conflict is also, as Cooper puts it, a ‘tension between romance treatment and inevitable catastrophe’.25 As in the opening books, vision is restricted: first to Merlin as seer and speaker of destinies; then to mysterious voices that hint at but never elaborate misfortune.

could have saved himself by turning back and that at that moment his fate was still in his hands’, Works, III.1319, note to 88.3. 22 See further Vinaver on Balin’s ‘meschaunce’, 1320–21, notes to 89.1–4. 23 Sir Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript, ed. Helen Cooper, Oxford World’s Classics (Oxford, 1998), 535, n.47. 24 See Muriel Whitaker’s discussion of the ‘tragic and inexplicable setting’ of the tale in Arthur’s Kingdom of Adventure: The World of Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’, Arthurian Studies 9 (Cambridge, 1984), 56–57. 25 Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2004), 400. See also K. S. Whetter’s exploration of the Morte as tragic-romance in Understanding Genre and Medieval Romance (Aldershot, 2008), 99–149, and in ‘On Misunderstanding Malory’s Balyn’, in Re-Viewing ‘Le Morte Darthur’: Texts and Contexts, Characters and Themes, ed. K. S. Whetter and Raluca L. Radulescu, Arthurian Studies 60 (Cambridge, 2005), 149–62.

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Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur Seeing Openly In the central books of the Morte, the emphasis on prophecy and destiny recedes. The consequences of the adulterous affairs that shape these books are set aside; so too is the emphasis on the ‘unhappy’, replaced by an often celebratory focus on play and adventure. Experience that opens onto a sphere beyond the temporal is rare; apparent windows onto the divine or the demonic prove mere illusions. It is only late on that the themes of prophecy, vision, and destiny again come to the fore, as the narrative begins to look towards the Quest of the Sankgreal. In the Quest Malory takes up the possibility of lifting the veil and seeing beyond. The episode in which Lancelot sees the Grail at the castle of King Pelles marks a shift from hearing prophetic voices to multisensory visionary experience, the provenance of which is often explicitly connected to the divine.26 Lancelot’s numinous experience presages his role as begetter of the Grail Knight, Galahad. The sequence of events is on the cusp, balanced between romance and revelation: in Lancelot’s deception by the enchantress Dame Brusen, they look back to Lancelot’s encounters with enchantresses in Book VI, while they also look forward to the achievement of the Grail, signalling a shift from secular magic to spiritual vision. When Lancelot is deceived a second time, literally made blind by Brusen to Elaine’s identity, his response is the inverse of vision: madness. The Grail restores him to intellective vision and to the capacity for spiritual seeing that will govern the course of his subsequent actions. While the hermit who cares for Lancelot can heal his physical affliction, only the embodied, spiritual encounter with the Grail can heal his mind, setting the soul in order. The coincidence of material and spiritual in the Grail is underlined in its healing of the dying Perceval and Ector, while the episode also demonstrates two levels of seeing beyond the literal, the intellective and the spiritual. Ector knows that he has been healed by the vessel of the Holy Blood, but that it can only be seen by a pure virgin, whereas Perceval has ‘a glemerynge of the vessell and of the mayden that bare hit’ (XI.14, 816), a perception not included in the French.27 When the Grail appears at the start of the Quest, the other knights share in the Grail’s engagement with all the 26

This and the subsequent episodes discussed draw on a section of the Prose Tristan borrowed from the Prose Lancelot: references are to the edition of Philippe Ménard, Le Roman de Tristan en prose, 9 vols, Textes littéraires français (Geneva, 1987–97), cited as Tristan, by page number; and from Lancelot-Grail 5: Lancelot Parts V and VI, trans. William W. Kibler and Carleton W. Carroll, Part VI; for this episode see Tristan VI.119, and L-G V.101. 27 See also Tristan VI.182–83; L-G V.417. The explanation given by Ector of the Grail as ‘an holy vessell that is borne by a mayden, and therein ys a parte of the bloode of Oure Lorde Jesu Criste’ (XI.14, 817) also differs from the French, in which Ector identifies the Grail as ‘li vaissiaus u Nostres Sires menga l’aingnel le jou de Pasques avoeuques

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Corinne Saunders senses: thunder, lightning, ‘good odoures’, and the marvellous provision of food and drink (XIII.6, 865; cf. Queste, 16; L-G VI.12).28 Its material power is reiterated by the other physical signs that occur at Pentecost. It is this embodied experience of the Grail, even while, as for Bors, it remains covered, that urges the knights on to see it openly. They move away from earthly chivalry with its combination of prowess and virtue grounded in faith, to seek spiritual rather than intellective vision – to move from faith to fully embodied seeing.29 Whereas vision has been the preserve of Merlin and limited to seeing the temporal future, now it is available to those who seek and are worthy and it opens onto the celestial. The quest for embodied seeing also becomes an exploration of the nature and limits of ‘avision’ (XVI.1, 942), a term that is used repeatedly.30 Such visions are integral to the Queste, characterised by Malory as ‘mervaylous adventures’, as with that of Gawain and Ector that occurs ‘on slepe’ (XVI.1, 942). Gawain’s vision of only three white among a hundred and fifty black bulls signifies the difficulty of achieving such ‘adventure’, and in a waking vision of a hand holding a candle, a voice forbids Ector and Gawain the adventures of the Grail (XVI.2, 943). Yet even this limiting visual and auditory experience signals a spiritual world within reach and palpable. Particularly revealing is Malory’s treatment of Lancelot’s encounter with warring black and white knights. The scene is interpreted for him by a recluse, whose ‘wyndow, that she myght se up to the awter’ (XV.5, 932) suggests the

ses desciples’ (Tristan VI.183); ‘the vessel in which Our Lord ate the lamb with his disciples, on Easter Day’ (L-G V.417); see further Norris, Malory’s Library, 111. 28 Malory’s ‘Tale of the Sankgreal’ closely follows the Vulgate Queste del Saint Graal, but abbreviates the detail, in particular, the allegorical explanations, while heightening sympathy for Lancelot: for Vinaver, Malory secularises the Grail, emphasising ‘virtuous living’ rather than ‘chevaillierie celestiale’, 1535–36. References are to the edition of Albert Pauphilet, La Queste del Saint Graal: roman du XIIIe siècle, Classiques français du Moyen Age 33 (Paris, 1965), cited as Queste, by page number; to which L-G 6: The Quest for the Holy Grail, trans. E. Jane Burns, is keyed. See also the more recent edition of Fanni Bogdanow, with a modern French translation by Anne Berrie, La Quête du Saint-Graal: roman en prose du XIIIe siècle, Lettres gothiques 4571 (Paris, 2006). 29 See also Molly Martin, Vision and Gender in Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’, Arthurian Studies 75 (Cambridge, 2010). Martin argues that, despite the spiritual ideal, vision remains primarily earthly in Malory’s ‘Tale of the Sankgreal’, by contrast to the French Queste, 118–47; this is also the argument of Sandra Ness Ihle, Malory’s Grail Quest: Invention and Adaptation in Medieval Prose Romance (Madison, WI, 1983). 30 On the ‘Tale of the Sankgreal’ ‘as paradigmatic of a tendency to interrogate and revise categories of knowledge and access, to the divine as to the narrative’s logic, even as those accesses are put into play’, see Catherine Batt, Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’: Remaking Arthurian Tradition, The New Middle Ages (Basingstoke, 2002), 131–58 (135).

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Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur ‘squint’ through which recluses in cells adjoining churches saw the Mass.31 Lancelot’s encounter with her offers a compelling touch of realism: conversations such as those of Margery Kempe with Julian of Norwich would have taken place through just such a window.32 Like the many hermits encountered in the course of the quest, the recluse has access to divine knowledge, and she emphasises the reality of vision: the knights ‘were erthely knyghtes’: ‘natforethan there was none enchauntemente’ (XV.6, 933), a clause added to the French, denying the practice of suspect magical arts. The conversation engages with the concerns of mystical writers about embodied visionary experience; the possibility that the devil may mislead by playing on the senses. In the warring white and black knights, spiritual battle takes material form. This merging of levels of reality is immediately and eerily affirmed when a mysterious knight, ‘horse and man all black as a bere’, strikes dead Lancelot’s horse and disappears (XV.6, 934–35). Demons as well as the divine are always near, as when a priest with Lancelot conjures ‘A fyende in an hydeous fygure’ (XV.1–2, 925). This is a landscape of living allegories and symbols, such as the pelican seen by Bors, which pierces itself with its beak, Christ-like, in order to feed its starving young with its blood (XVI.6, 956). The Grail world makes visible the different kinds of understanding articulated by Augustine – sensible, intellectual, and spiritual. Demonic and divine presences, voices and visions, govern the course of the Quest. Unlike that of Balan, its moral universe is stable; its endpoint clear, but it too is mysteriously shaped through supernatural forces, and the limits of agency and achievement continue to be probed, though within an explicitly Christian landscape. The emphasis on providential direction is particularly evident in relation to Galahad, whose place as elect is repeatedly endorsed by divine voices and by miraculous occurrences. In Galahad, destiny is fulfilled, and his actions enact prophecies made long before – as by the ‘voyce’ four hundred years earlier, which foretells his healing of King Evelake (XIV.4, 908). The quests of the other knights too are mysteriously directed, so that they are drawn into the ancient conflict between good and evil. Perceval’s adventures exemplify the different kinds of visionary experience characteristic of the Quest, moving from dream to allegorical event to demonic manifestation to divine explanation; the pattern is repeated in Bors’s sequence of adventures. The unseen supernatural forces that govern the progress of the knights are manifest in the mysterious, unmanned ships that carry them. The Grail Ship is intimately connected with visionary experience: appearing in the middle of the sea, it is identified as Faith by ‘two fayre lettirs wrytten, which seyde a 31

See also Queste 142; L-G VI.88; in the manuscript which Vinaver identifies as closest to Malory’s source, the recluse looks not through ‘une petite voiete’ but ‘une petite porte’: Malory perhaps aims for more realism, 1560, notes to 932.32–33. 32 See The Book of Margery Kempe, ed. Barry Windeatt (Cambridge, 2004), ch. 18.

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Corinne Saunders dredefull worde and a mervaylous’ (XVII.2, 984; in the French an inscription in Chaldean, the ancient language of magic, Queste 201; L-G VI.124–25), and Perceval’s sister recounts the history of the ship, made by Solomon in response to divine vision and voice. As the knights journey onwards, their visionary experiences become more deeply embodied, marking them out as those who will see the Grail openly. Thus the white hart and four lions which lead them become Christ and the four Evangelists; a voice speaks telling of the Incarnation, and a hermit promises they will be shown ‘grete secretis’ (XVII.9, 999). Repeatedly, the veil is fully drawn back, and spiritual ‘seeing’ is embodied and material, reaching its height at the Castle of Corbenic. Four angels bear Joseph of Arimathea from heaven to celebrate Mass; angels carry candles, a cloth, and the bleeding spear; at the consecration the knights see ‘a vigoure in lyknesse of a chylde’ and the bread ‘fourmed of a fleyshely man’; Christ emanates from the Grail with his wounds bleeding, promising revelation ‘of my secretes and of my hydde thynges’ (XVII.20, 1029–30). Divine voices govern ensuing events: Bors, Perceval and Galahad are sent to Sarras, urged on by ‘a voyce amonge them’, ‘a voyce’ promises that Galahad may request his own death, and ‘a voice’ speaks his kingship (XVII.21, 1031–32). The boundary between earthly and celestial worlds is removed when the son of Joseph of Arimathea appears to celebrate Mass, promising Galahad he will ‘se that thou hast much desired to se’ (XVII.22, 1034). The ‘dedly fleysh’ cannot ultimately be sustained, however, when ‘the spirituall thynges’ are seen openly: even Galahad begins ‘to tremble ryght harde’; in response to his prayer for death his soul is carried by angels into heaven, along with the Grail and spear (XVII.22, 1034). Only Lancelot’s vision is restricted: he ‘sees’, but often on thresholds, at or behind doors, and through the veils of dream. Thus at the start of his adventures he encounters a chapel with a beautiful altar and candles, but can find no way of entering. ‘Half wakyng and half slepynge’, he sees the Grail but has no power to move (XIII.18, 894–95).33 Later, he hears Joseph of Arimathea declare his sinfulness (XV.3, 928–29). Yet for Lancelot, unlike Gawain, vision also goes beyond the articulation of his limits. His experience on finding the Grail Ship is multi-sensory: a voice, described as a dream-vision, instructs him to enter; he sees a bright light on waking, and on board his overwhelming joy is characterised as taste (XVII.13, 1011). A series of voices, now heard in waking, leads Lancelot on until he hears angelic singing and sees a bright light, but at the door of the Grail Chamber he is held back by a voice warning 33

The French leaves this more uncertain, ‘ou parce qu’il ert trop pesanz dou travail que il avoit eu, ou par pechié dont il ert sorpris’ (Queste 59); ‘whether because he was so overcome with fatigue or because he was weighed down by the sins he had committed’ (L-G VI.38), emphasising that Lancelot was much shamed for this; Malory qualifies this, ‘but he toke repentaunce aftir that’ (XIII.18, 895).

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Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur ‘flee and entir not’. His vision is fully embodied: he sees angels and watches a priest bear up the figure of a young man, but the Grail remains covered. On trying to enter, he is struck to the ground by a fiery breath (XVII.16, 1015–16). The affective extremes of visionary experience that cause violent trembling in Galahad induce in Lancelot a swoon: the vital spirits are so overcome that they withdraw into the heart, removing breath and consciousness. Whereas in the Queste Lancelot is aware of people moving his body, here his swoon is absolute: he lies ‘stylle as a dede man’ for twenty-four nights. Yet this swoon is also a transitional space, in which ‘grete mervayles that no tunge may telle, and more than ony herte can thynke’ are seen ‘opynly’ (XVII.16, 1016–17). By contrast to the French, which stresses the defilement of his sight by sin, the words of Malory’s Lancelot characterise the swoon as a space of revelation, ‘there where no synner may be’ (cf. Queste 258; L-G VI.157). Though he is once more sustained by the Grail, Lancelot’s waking signals the loss of seeing openly and his return to Logres, to narrate both the marvels he has seen and their limits. Yet Malory’s reduction of the French emphasis on the corruption of sight caused by sin aligns his Lancelot with the visionary: his experience of the ineffable resonates closely with the experiences recounted by mystical writers. Changing This Life In the last books of the Morte, vision is largely left behind, replaced by the playing out of a tragedy repeatedly rooted in failures of seeing. Yet Malory chooses at the start of the denouement to reiterate the possibility of spiritual sight in his account of Lancelot’s healing of Sir Urry. The episode, which has no known source, strikingly reshapes the emphasis of the French. Lancelot’s connection with divine vision is sustained through his ‘saiynge secretely’ a prayer for healing power through grace (XIX.12, 1152). His tears and prayers align him with the holy men and women whose lives would have been familiar to Malory – a remarkable defence at a moment just before the tragic sequence of events triggered by the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere begins. This final section of the book is most of all opaque, an opacity effected in part by Malory’s move away from the moralistic emphasis of the Vulgate Mort Artu to draw on the English Stanzaic Morte Arthur.34 It is as if the 34

References to the Mort Artu are from the edition of Jean Frappier, La Mort le Roi Artu, 3rd edn, Textes littéraires français 58 (Geneva, 1964), cited by page number; which is keyed to L-G 7: The Death of Arthur, trans. Norris J. Lacy. References to the Stanzaic Morte Arthur are from Benson, ed., King Arthur’s Death, 1–111, cited by line number. Malory also draws on the Alliterative Morte Arthure and probably on Hardyng’s Chronicle. On Malory’s reworking, see Vinaver, Works, vol. 3, 1615–26,

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Corinne Saunders characters remain caught within the confusion experienced by Lancelot when worldly logic leads him to fight on the side of the sinful black knights, in a landscape where vision seems strangely partial, even unreliable. The relationship of providence to chance and destiny is unclear, and the limits of human agency pointed up. Even dreams seem unstable, suggestive of an opposition between malevolent fortune and beneficent providence that looks back to the early books of the Morte. Arthur’s sequence of dreams on Trinity Sunday offers contrasting visions of the future. He dreams first of the wheel of Fortune from which he falls suddenly into deep black water, to be seized by ‘serpentis and wormes and wylde bestis fowle and orryble’ (XXI.3, 1233–34), seemingly a dramatic depiction of the ensuing tragedy and fall of the kingdom, though without the explicit moralisation of the Mort Artu.35 Yet this is followed by his dream ‘nat slepynge nor thorowly waykynge’ (a phrase signalling vision in the Grail Quest) of Gawain and his company of ladies, who warn Arthur not to fight but to await Lancelot’s arrival (XXI.3), suggesting a very different outcome.36 Malory presents the dream as sent by God’s ‘speciall grace’: it responds to the ladies’ prayers and to God’s ‘grete pyté’ for Arthur and ‘many mo other good men’, a seeming attempt to ‘fordo desteny’ of the kind Pellinor much earlier has suggested. Yet the attempt is thwarted: this ‘grete grace and goodnes that Allmyghty Jesu hath unto [Arthur]’ (XXI.3, 1234) is not sustained, replaced by ‘unhappy’ chance when a knight draws his sword to kill an adder and the battle begins. As Helen Cooper emphasises, we are not told whose side the knight is on and ‘no metaphysical explanation is offered’: ‘This may be the Day of Destiny, in Malory’s phrase, but it is not a divinely-controlled Day of Judgement.’37 The episode raises one of the great theological problems: how can temporal events, with their combination of good, evil, chance, and error, be reconciled with the notion of beneficent providence? Perhaps the reader is intended to and for a variety of perspectives, Christopher Baswell and William Sharpe, ed., The Passing of Arthur: New Essays in Arthurian Tradition, Garland Reference Library of the Humanities 781 (New York, NY, 1988). 35 In the Mort Artu, Fortune places the fall as the result of ‘orgueil terrien’ (227); ‘earthly pride’ (L-G VII.117). See also the extended dream of the Nine Worthies in the Alliterative Morte Arthure, in which Fortune whirls Arthur under the wheel, dashing him to pieces, ‘Thou has lived in delite and lordshippes ynow!’ (3387). In the Stanzaic Morte Arthur is dashed to the ground by the wheel but Fortune is not personified. 36 In the Stanzaic Morte, the dream is more briefly related (3196–220): Gawain waits by a deep river with what seems an angelic host, both lords and ladies for whom he has fought and who have asked leave to accompany him, to warn Arthur to take a month’s truce, ‘Or elles, certes, ye shall be slain’ (3221). In the French, Arthur’s dream of Gawain precedes his vision of the wheel of Fortune, and Arthur resists Gawain’s plea that he send for Lancelot, his enemy; despite a series of warnings, he refuses to turn back from the battle, Mort Artu 225–29; L-G VII.116–18. 37 Cooper, The English Romance in Time, 402.

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Voices, Visions, and Destiny in Malory’s Morte Darthur supply a Boethian answer, in which God is omniscient, seeing beyond time a pattern invisible to man. Yet because the book has so vividly depicted God’s intervention through prophecy, vision, and miracle, the emphasis seems most of all on God’s distancing and the withdrawal of vision on ‘this unhappy day’, a phrase Malory repeats (XXI.4, 1235, 1236). In part, the book returns to an emphasis on the enigmatic supernatural, with the image of the ‘arme and an honde above the watir’ that takes back Excalibur, and the mysterious barge with its black-hooded queens who bear Arthur away to Avalon (XXI.5, 1240). Yet while the narrative creates a haunting sense of ineluctability, of the forces of destiny that shape and await Arthur’s fall, the poignancy of the tragedy is deeply rooted in Malory’s refusal to present a perspective that negates free will and individual responsibility. Paradoxically, this also allows for a final return to Christian vision and hope for salvation. Malory refuses to endorse the prophecy of Arthur’s return, placing it as popular belief, ‘som men say in many partys of Inglonde that kynge Arthure ys nat dede’, but offers instead an active statement that affirms a shift towards celestial seeing: ‘rather I wolde sey: here in thys worlde he chaunged hys lyff’ (XXI.7, 1242). This shift of vision is maintained in the final pages of the Morte through some of Malory’s most striking changes to his sources. The Stanzaic Morte Darthur concludes with a brief description of Guinevere’s corpse ‘With rodes fair and red as cherry’ (3956) and her burial; in the Mort Artu her death is reported to Lancelot before his battle with Mordred, and her penitence mentioned (Mort Artu 254; L-G VII.131). Malory, by contrast, recounts a ‘vysyon’ ‘upon a nyght’, a voice that instructs Lancelot to go to Amesbury where he will find the queen dead (XXI.10, 1255). That the vision occurs two days before her death corresponds with her own premonition and prayer that she will die before Lancelot arrives – features that align her death with those of holy men and women. Lancelot’s end is even more markedly that of a saint: directly foreseeing his death (‘I have warnyng more than now I wyl say’), he spends his last hours in prayer, and his death is marked by the Bishop’s ‘grete laughter’ in sleep as he sees angels carrying Lancelot into heaven (XXI.12, 1257–58). Malory enhances features adapted from both his French and English sources to render vision embodied and multi-sensory: Lancelot lies smiling with ‘the swettest savour about hym that ever they felte’ (cf. ‘red and fair of flesh and blood’, Stanzaic Morte 3888). The veil is finally drawn back for Lancelot as ‘the yates of heven opened ayeynst hym’ (XXI.12, 1258). The last miracles counter the devastating sense of loss with the promise of redemption and a sense that the Grail may yet be seen uncovered. With Lancelot’s death, Malory turns from the ascetic life of withdrawal from the world to invent for his knights a more contemporary, active spirituality: Sir Bors, Sir Ector, Sir Blamour, and Sir Bleoberis depart for the Holy Land, to fight against the Turks and eventually to die ‘upon a Good Fryday 205

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Corinne Saunders for Goddes sake’ (XXI.13, 1260). Their actions recall the conclusion of the Grail Quest, with Galahad’s rule over the city of Sarras, and gesture towards the combination of physical and spiritual chivalry required to establish the Church on earth. But the shift to the present also signals for Malory’s readers the possibility within the here and now of embodied, spiritual seeing, of drawing back the veil and entering into the divine presence. The romance rewritings of Le Morte Darthur are many and multi-faceted. The narrative offers a grand retrospective on Arthurian romance, writing into a ‘hoole book’ the multifarious history of Arthur and his knights – and in doing so, emphasising its status as history. In the overarching role of destiny, in the writing of the seeds of destruction into the narrative from the start, and most of all in the ways that individual actions and choices play out across the book to shape a disastrous ending, the work also moves into the genre of tragedy. The sense of inevitability is held in tension with the longing for what might have been. But Malory also rewrites romance through the lens of spirituality, in ways that resonate with mystical writing and with the practices of affective piety. In his treatment of providence, his probing of its uncertain relationship with destiny and chance, his exploration of the ways that interior and exterior influences and affects interweave, and his dramatisation of the search for embodied vision, the book engages with the possibility of celestial vision within an uncertain world. We see only darkly, yet we retain the promise of seeing face to face. The numinosity of the book’s multivalent visions lingers on even as its enigmatic articulations of destiny and the limits of seeing continue to haunt us.

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IV LATE ROMANCE

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11 The Intelligence of The Court of Love A D PUTTER

M

any readers may know The Court of Love only by reputation.1 I first came across it in C. S. Lewis’s Allegory of Love, where it appears in the chapter ‘Allegory as the Dominant Form’, which concerns itself with poems that came late in the tradition of medieval love allegory. The general problem with the latecomer, C. S. Lewis notes, is its tendency to trot out the tired conventions of the genre: ‘its characteristics are formalized. A stereotyped monotony, unnoticed by contemporaries but cruelly apparent to posterity, begins to pervade it.’2 Many critics think that The Court of Love exemplifies these vices,3 but whether Lewis himself did so is not altogether clear. He certainly thought it was a very late composition. The poet, he says, ‘had read widely in the literature of courtly love, with the detachment of one studying a mode that has almost passed away’, but he also says the poem is ‘a lively piece, full of movement and gaiety’. 4 How this fits in with his view of the poet as a detached latecomer we shall never know, because on this note the discussion of The Court of Love ends.5 My purpose in this essay is to develop C. S. Lewis’s words of praise for The Court of Love, and to make the case that it is an exuberantly witty poem and a genuine tour de force of allegorical writing – and this not in spite of its lateness but by virtue of it. Coming late in a tradition also makes things possible: it puts at the disposal of writers the resources of a rich poetic legacy 1

Citations from the poem, with minor differences in punctuation, will be taken from the edition by Kathleen Forni, The Chaucerian Apocrypha: A Selection, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2005), 7-57. Side-glosses in citations are used in places where my interpretation of the Middle English differs from Forni’s. Square brackets signal my emendations. 2 C. S. Lewis, The Allegory of Love (Oxford, 1936), 232. 3 Alice Miskimin, The Renaissance Chaucer (New Haven, CT, 1975), 231. 4 Lewis, Allegory of Love, 257. 5 Lewis returned even more briefly to the work in English Literature in the Sixteenth Century, Oxford Paperbacks (Oxford, 1954), again to present us with a puzzle: The Court of Love is both of its age (‘neo-medieval’) but ‘towers above most Drab Age verse by its sheer accomplishment’ (240).

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Ad Putter and it gives them scope to pay tribute to literary predecessors by means of self-conscious imitation of their qualities. In the sections that follow I would like to take readers through the main episodes of The Court of Love, with the aim of showing both the closeness of the poet’s engagement with his sources and his independence from them. Because The Court of Love is not very well known, however, I want to begin with two basic questions about the poem: when was it written and by whom? Walter Skeat, who provided the first proper edition of the poem,6 had a wild theory (which he doggedly pursued in his notes) that the poem was a Renaissance product, and this ‘fact’ has often been repeated since.7 I cannot examine Skeat’s arguments here,8 but it should be pointed out that the manuscript evidence refutes his theory. The Court of Love is extant in Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.3.19, fols 217r–234r, a miscellany from the later fifteenth century, with some later, sixteenth-century additions.9 The Court of Love is not, however, a sixteenth-century addition. The booklet that contains it was copied by one of the main scribes (scribe C), who was active in the 1480s: his hand has been identified by Linne Mooney in another manuscript, Oxford, St John’s College, MS 266, datable to c. 1485.10 Since the copy of The Court of Love is garbled in places and has a chain of scribal transmission behind it, a pre-sixteenth-century date of composition is plainly indicated. About the poet we know only a little. C. S. Lewis, who obviously thought Skeat’s dating was convincing, speculated that he may have been a Protestant with a ‘dislike of celibacy’,11 because he populates the ‘Court of Love’ with monks, nuns, friars, and hermits, all of whom complain they are not free to enjoy erotic love (see lines 1093–134). However, this whole episode (and much else, as we shall see) is a homage to Lydgate’s Temple of Glas (see lines 196–206), and I cannot imagine a Protestant poet being as fond of the 6 In

Chaucerian and Other Pieces, ed. Walter W. Skeat (Oxford, 1897), 409–47. See, e.g., Barry Windeatt, ‘Chaucer Traditions’, in Chaucer Traditions: Studies in Honour of Derek Brewer, ed. Ruth Morse and Barry Windeatt (Cambridge, 1990), 1–20 (11). 8 I discuss Skeat’s notes on the language and the metre of the poem in ‘An East Anglian Poem in a London Manuscript? The Date and Dialect of The Court of Love’, in Historical Dialectology in the Digital Age, ed. Rhona Alcorn, Bettelou Los, Joanna Kopaczyk, and Benjamin Molineaux (Edinburgh, forthcoming). 9 There is a facsimile of the manuscript edited by Bradford Y. Fletcher, Manuscript Trinity R.3.19: A Facsimile, Facsimile Series of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer 5 (Norman, OK, 1987); the manuscript is also accessible digitally at . 10 Linne R. Mooney, ‘The Scribes and Booklets of Trinity College, Cambridge, Manuscripts R.3.19 and R.3.21’, in Middle English Poetry: Texts and Traditions, ed. Alastair. J. Minnis, York Manuscripts Conferences 5 (York, 2001), 241–66. 11 Lewis, Allegory of Love, 257. 7

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love ‘Monk of Bury’ as our poet evidently was. Only marginally more convincing is Lewis’s argument about the poet’s anonymity: ‘We are accustomed to anonymity in medieval poetry but few poems are so deeply anonymous as the Court of Love. Its style and metre are not those of any known period in our literature; and it is difficult to guess who this author was when he wrote a poem which scans perfectly provided you make every final -e mute and also sound the -e in every plural and genitive in -es.’12 In fact, the poet’s anonymity is not especially deep, nor would one expect this given the genre he chose to write in. By convention, the narrating ‘I’ in visions represented the poet himself,13 and any self-disclosures made by this ‘I’ had the frisson of hinting at autobiographical truths. When in The Court of Love the lady asks ‘Of whens, and where, of whate condicion / That ye ben’, the poet does not disappoint: ‘My name, allas, my hart, why make it straunge? Philogenet I cald am, fer and nere, Of Cambrige clerke…’ (911–13)

While it is true that by adopting the pseudonym Philogenet (‘Born to love’?) the poet has done exactly what he said he would not do (‘why make it straunge?’), there is no reason to doubt he was indeed a ‘Cambridge clerk’. As I have argued elsewhere,14 the dialect of the poet is East Anglian; his reading (see 11, 798, 821–24, and the editorial notes to these lines) included Latin school authors, and in other parts of the poem, too, he consistently features as a literatus. Philogenet says he writes songs ‘in honour of the Kyng / and Quene of Love’ (898–99), and so outs himself as an author with previous experience, and because he is ‘lettred’ (302) he is personally asked to read from the book of the Statutes of Love. When his lady initially rebuffs him she taunts him with his clerical status: ‘A woman schulde beware eke whom she took. Ye beth a clarke – go serche ynne my book Yf any women ben so light to wynne.’ (949–51)

These playful allusions to the poet’s clerical status would scarcely have worked for the poet’s original audience unless he was known to them as the person he claims to be. It is time now to examine the poem our fifteenth-century ‘Cambridge clerk’ wrote. To give a sense of its shape, I have broken it down into seven

12 Lewis,

Allegory of Love, 256. For further discussion see Ad Putter and Myra Stokes, eds, The Works of the Gawain Poet, Penguin Classics (Harmondsworth, 2014), xv–xvi. 14 See Putter, ‘An East Anglian Poem’. 13

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Ad Putter sections. Brief summaries of each section are followed in parentheses by the main sources and analogues:15 1. Preface (lines 1–43). The poet apologises for the crudeness of his verse (see also Lydgate, Temple of Glas, 1384–40316 and Benedict Burgh, ‘Verses on Lydgate’);17 2. Arrival at Court (lines 43–217, 218–94, 1093–176).18 Philogenet is summoned to appear at the Court of Love, where he meets an old acquaintance, Philobone, who advises and escorts him, and presents him to the King and Queen of Love, Cupid and Venus. Representations of famous lovers and different groups of people at Love’s court are described, including those in religious orders who bewail their misfortune (see also Chaucer, Prologue to Legend of Good Women; Charles d’Orléans, La Retenue d’Amour, 1–200;19 Lydgate, Temple of Glas, 42–246); 3. The Statutes of Love (lines 295–553). Philogenet is made to swear obedience to the laws of Love (see also Romaunt of the Rose, 2130–44, 2175–720; Charles d’Orléans, La Retenue d’Amour, 315–90; Lydgate, Temple of Glas, 1145–213); 4. The Visionary Lady and Pity’s Sepulchre (lines 554–765). Philogenet tells Philobone that, although he has never yet had a lover, he has met the fairest lady in his dreams. Philobone promises to introduce him to the lady of his dreams. En route they encounter the sepulchre of Pity, who has died (see also Chaucer’s Complaint Unto Pity and the romance motif of the lady seen in dreams before she is met in reality); 5. The Lovers’ Meeting (lines 767–1022). On seeing his lady, named Rosiall, Philogenet beseeches her to love him, but she dismisses his pleas as nonsensical conceits, and pledges her love to him only when he swoons

15

These and other sources and analogues are discussed in William A. Neilson’s wideranging book The Origins and Sources of ‘The Court of Love’, Harvard Studies and Notes in Philology and Literature 6 (Boston, MA, 1899). 16 I have used the edition by John Norton-Smith, in John Lydgate: Poems, Clarendon Medieval and Tudor Series (Oxford, 1966), 67–112. 17 Ed. R. Steele, in Lydgate’s and Burgh’s Secrees of Old Philisoffres, EETS e.s. 66 (London, 1894), xxxi–xxxii. 18 Lines 1093–176 seem to have become dislodged from their original place in the poem, and also interrupt the encounter with allegorical vices and virtues (1023–92 and 1176–316). Neilson (Origins and Sources, 6–7) argues they should be inserted after line 266 but this would point up some pointless repetition – cf. 253–56 with 1094–99. This repetition and the faulty rhyme at 254 show that the textual problem is more intractable than Neilson thinks. 19 References are to the dual-language edition by John Fox and Mary-Jo Arn, Poetry of Charles d’Orléans and His Circle, Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies 383, Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance 34 (Tempe, AZ, 2010).

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love (Troilus and Criseyde, III.1072–134; Lydgate, Temple of Glas, 970–1074; La Belle Dame Sans Mercy, 221–332);20 6. Allegorical Court Officers (lines 1023–92, 1176–316). Rosiall and Philogenet take another look around the Court of Love, and encounter various allegorical vices and virtues of love (Romaunt of the Rose, passim); 7. The Birds Sing Mass (lines 1317–442). The poem ends with birds singing a Mass to Venus, larded with Latin phrases taken from the Hours of the Virgin (there are numerous analogues; the repeated use of liturgical Latin is paralleled in Jean de Condé’s Messe des oiseaus,21 while the use of a bird chorus to finish the poem is reminiscent of Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls). There are many more literary allusions, but tabulating them is not going to persuade anyone that the poem is interesting and original. To do that, we need to look at the surprising directions in which the poet took his inherited materials. I shall do so by examining all seven sections in turn. The Poet’s Apology The poet begins by claiming he is ‘of cunning naked, bare of eloquence’, and elaborates this claim by showing off his erudition: The blosmes fresshe of Tullius garden soote Present thaim not my matere forto borne. Present thaim not: Do not present themselves Poemys of Virgile taken here no rote, Ne craft of Galfride may not here sojorne. Why nam I cunning? O well may I morne, For lak of science, that I can not write, Unto the princes of my life aright. (8–16)

As Kathleen Forni notes, the ‘modesty topos – the writer’s claim of poetic ineptitude – […] is usually belied, as in this case, by his knowledge of the chief authorities on the “flowers” of rhetoric’.22 But while there are plenty of precedents for the contradiction whereby the claim to ‘lak of science’ is dismantled even as it is being mounted, this poet’s apology is more blatantly two-faced than others, for a number of reasons. Firstly, there is something 20

Ed. Dana Symons, in Chaucerian Dream Visions and Complaint, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2004), 201–73. 21 References are to the edition by Jacques Ribard, Jean le Condé: ‘La Messe des oiseaus’ et ‘Le Dit des Jacobins et des Fremeneurs’, Textes littéraires français 170 (Geneva, 1970). 22 Forni, ed., Chaucerian Apocrypha, 46.

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Ad Putter very knowing and gratuitous about the poet’s use of the very sources he claims not to know. A fine example is the description of Rosiall: Hir nose, directed streight and even as a lyne With fourme and shap therto convenient, In which the goddess mylke white path doth shyne… Hir mouth is shorte and shitte in litill space, Flamyng somdele, not over rede, I mene, With pregnaunte lippes, and thik to kisse, percas! For lippes thynne, not fatte, but ever lene, They serve of naught, they be not worth a bene. For yf the basse ben full, there is delite, Maximyan truly thus doth [h]e write. (785–99)

basse: kisses

As noted by Forni, Rosiall’s ‘milk-white’ nose is taken straight from the ‘craft o Galfride’ (Geoffrey of Vinsauf’s Poetria Nova) of which the poet has earlier feigned ignorance.23 When describing a lady’s face, Geoffrey writes, a poet should ‘let a milk-white path divide those twin arches (i.e. eyebrows).24 The advice has clearly stuck.25 The ‘flaming lips’, on the other hand, come from Maximian’s First Elegy: ‘flammea dilexi modicumque tumentia labra, / quae gustata mihi basia plena darent (I loved flaming and somewhat swollen lips, which gave me full kisses when tasted, 97–98).26 In the source text, a poem about the erotic memories of an ageing lecher, these seedy reflections are quite at home, but it is startling to see them replicated in the context of fin amor. The poet’s learning is lavishly displayed, but so is a comic disregard for courtly decorum. With the same disregard for courtly decorum, the poet follows his apology for his ‘lak of science’ with a gesture of deference to the reader that turns into a sly dig at anyone who thinks too much about matters of style: Accepte in gree this littil short tretesse That is entitled thus The Courte of Love. And ye that bene metriciens me excuse, I yow beseche for Venus sake above: For what I mene in this ye need not muse. (28–32)

This begins unremarkably, with words adapted from Lydgate: ‘This simple tretis … take in gre’ (Temple of Glas, 1397). But the allegory of a Court ruled by a Goddess of Love with its own statutes and code of behaviour requires a 23

Forni, ed., Chaucerian Apocrypha, 50. of Vinsauf, Poetria Nova, trans. J. J. Murphy, Three Rhetorical Arts (Berkeley, CA, 1971), 54. 25 Lines 821–24 of the ensuing description are also taken from Geoffrey de Vinsauf. See Forni’s notes in Chaucerian Apocrypha, 51. 26 Richard Webster, ed., Elegies of Maximianus (Princeton, NJ, 1900), 28. 24 Geoffrey

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love re-orientation of our normal ethical compass. We must subscribe to Venus’s priorities and leave our normal ones behind. By adjuring his readers ‘for Venus sake above’, the poet shows that he has made this mental adjustment, and with that any respect for ‘metriciens’ goes out the window. Anyone reading his ‘tretesse’ with metre in mind has not got Venus’s interests at heart; and since ‘metriciens’ are of all people the least likely to know anything about the art of love, they need not waste their time wondering what this poem means: ‘what I mene in this ye need not muse’. Arrival at Court The allegorical story proper begins when the poet, a young man, ‘lusty and light, desirous of plesaunce’ (44), is summoned to make his first appearance at the Court of Love. The main inspiration for this opening gambit was Charles d’Orléans’s La Retenue d’Amour, which the poet may have been able to read in the English translation by Charles himself, though this is now no longer extant. Charles similarly starts his allegory by recounting how, having passed from Childhood to Youth, he presented himself at the Court of Love and offered his service there. There are, however, some noticeable differences between the situations of Charles and Philogenet, and much of the comedy in this section is based on the poet’s awareness of these differences. When Charles first goes to Love’s court, he is fifteen, the conventional age when boys move from ‘Enfance’ to ‘Youth’ and start taking an interest in girls.27 Philogenet, on the other hand, is ‘yong, at eighteen yere of age’, and is summoned to court on pain of death by Mercury, ‘the winged messengere’ (see also Knight’s Tale, I.1385).28 These are minor details, and Philogenet thinks nothing of them, but the comedy of this section depends on taking them very seriously and exaggerating their consequences. Philobone, the poet’s friend at court, tells him she is very worried about what the King of Love will think of someone arriving at his court so late in life. The fact that Philogenet has had to be summoned rather than coming of his own accord is likely to make matters even worse: ‘But were ye not assomaned to apere By Mercur[y]? For that is all my drede.’ ‘Yis, gentill feire’, quod I, ‘now am I here.[’] 27

In the words of the Roman de Fauvel, ‘Le sanc veint demander sa rente / D’entour xv ans’ (‘Blood begins to ask its due around the age of fifteen’, 3031–32), cited by J. A. Burrow, The Ages of Man: A Study in Medieval Writing and Thought (Oxford, 1986), 26. 28 All quotations of Chaucer are from The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, 3rd edn (Boston, MA, 1987). References to The Canterbury Tales are to fragment number, followed by line number.

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Ad Putter ‘Ye, yit what thow, though that be true, my dere? Of youre fre wille ye shuld have come unsent; For ye did not I deme ye wille be shent.’ (170–75)

When service to Love is imagined as a quasi-religious obligation, anyone capable of service but found shirking is guilty of negligence or sloth (see also Gower’s Confessio Amantis IV.887–1466), and Philogenet therefore stands accused of the vices of sloth (177) and ‘wilfull necgligence’ (183). In the world of the allegory, Philogenet has committed a grave offence, but the very fact that he has to be informed of this by a friend shows the absurdity of these charges. Not every boy begins courting when he is fifteen: some boys cannot wait that long, and others need to be pushed. To arrive at Love’s court after being ‘summoned’ is the allegorical equivalent of going out looking for a lover because relatives keep nagging ‘Isn’t it time you had a girlfriend?’ The contrast between Philogenet, the innocent adolescent, and Philobone, expert guide and woman of the world, is sharply drawn to show how people, and more particularly men and women, can differ in this regard. While Philogenet is the fresher in need of induction, Philobone already occupies a senior position at court as ‘chamberer’ (158) to the Queen of Love. She has evidently matured much more quickly than he has (she ‘loved all her life’, 160). Indeed, it seems she once had her eye on Philogenet. Her words of warning to Philogenet end with a subtle hint: ‘No force, iwis, I stired you long agoone To drawe to courte’, quod litell Philobon. (195–96)

She tried to ‘stir’ him to ‘drawe to courte’, but to no avail. The implication seems to be that she was interested, but he was not. This is all said under the discreet veil of allegory, but there is an emotional acknowledgement of the childhood heartbreak in the touching epithet the poet now uses for his guide, who suddenly becomes ‘litell Philobon’. Philobone’s prediction that the King of Love will not be impressed by laggards is borne out by what follows. With Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women in mind, the poet stages the meeting between the King of Love and his lowly subject as a cringingly humiliating encounter. Below is the scene in which Chaucer comes face to face with the God of Love: The God of Love on me his eye caste And seyde: ‘Who restith there… …What dost thow her In my presence, and that so boldely? For it were better worthi, trewely, A worm to comen in my sight than thow.’ (G 237–44)

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love And here is the corresponding scene in The Court of Love: And at the laste the kyng hath me behold, With sterne visage, and seid, ‘What doth this old, Thus ferre i-stope in yeres, come so late Unto the courte?’ (279–82)

The poet is in fact only three years older than Charles d’Orléans was at the same stage but, as far as the King of Love is concerned, that makes him decrepit, ‘ferre i-stope in yeres’, like Chaucer’s old biddy in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, ‘somdeel stape in age’ (VII.2821). While Chaucer is made to feel insignificant as a ‘worm’, Philogenet is rudely dismissed as ‘this old’. Discrimination on grounds of age is clearly institutionalised at the Court of Love. The Statutes of Love We come now to the Statutes of Love. Lewis summarised this section as ‘pedantic enumeration’,29 but it is nothing of the sort.30 The old trope of the lover having to obey a codified set of ‘rules’ or ‘laws’ of love is certainly highly unoriginal, but none of the sources and analogues for this trope can prepare us for the comic surprises the poet has in store. The statutes, which Philogenet is asked to read from a big book, begin conventionally enough, and when the poet expounds the ‘law’ that male lovers should disregard any slanderous rumours about their ladies, we may think we have heard it all before. ‘And for no tales thin herte not remue’ (1182), Venus commands the lover in Lydgate’s Temple of Glas; he must uphold the cause of women against ‘alle tho that to hem haue envie’ (1165). The poet of The Court of Love puts a very different spin on this rule, however: It longeth eke, this statute forto hold: To deme thy lady evermore thy frende, And think thyself in nowise a cocold. In everything she doth but as she sh[o]ld; Construe the beste, beleve no tales newe, For many a lie is told that semyth full trewe. But thinke that she, so bounteous and fayre, Cowde not be fals; imagine this algate. And thinke that tonges wykked wold her appaier, Sklaunderyng her name and worshipfull estate, 29 Lewis, 30

Allegory of Love, 256. For a reading of this section that does justice to the poet’s humour see Bonita Friedman, ‘In Love’s Thrall: The Court of Love and Its Captives’, in New Readings of Late Medieval Love Poems, ed. David Chamberlain (Lanham, MD, 1993), 173–90 (179–81).

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Ad Putter And lovers true to setten at debate; And though thow seest a fawte right at thyne ye, Excuse it blive and glose it pretily. (408–20)

The lover’s statutory duty is not to protect the lady from false accusations, but rather to maintain, against all evidence to the contrary, the illusion that she is pure and innocent. Even when her guilt is glaringly obvious, and you can see it ‘right at thyn ye’, you should make excuses for it and ‘glose it pretily’. Chaucer’s January, who sees his wife fornicating in a pear tree but is content to be told it was a medical intervention to cure him of his blindness, shows male lovers the way forward. More surprising still is the sixteenth statute, which takes the familiar rule that lovers should be diligent to unexpected extremes: The sixteenth statute kepe it yf thow may! Seven sith at nyght thy lady forto please, And seven at mydnyght, seven at moroweday; And drynke a cawdell erly for thyne ease. Do this, and kepe thyn hede from all dyssease, And wynne the garland here of lovers alle, That ever come in courte, or ever shalle. (435–41)

Once again images of January before his wedding night flash before us – ‘He drynketh ypocras, clarree, and vernage / Of spices hoote t’encreesssen his corage’ (IV.1807–8) – as the poet urges any would-be lovers to fortify themselves with spiced wine (‘cawdell’). Given the magnitude of the challenge before them, they are going to need all the help they can get. In Charles d’Orléans’s La Retenue d’Amour, where signing up to the ‘code of love’ is a similarly bookish affair, the officer who presents the written copy of Charles’s ‘contract of employment’ is Bonne Foi (‘Good Faith’), Love’s ‘chief secretary’ (387). In The Court of Love, this ‘officer of high auctorité’ (505) is ‘Rigour’, who oversees the formal proceedings and makes lovers swear obedience to the statutes. Forni’s explanation of the name as ‘Hardness of heart’ misses the allegorical point: if obedience to Love’s commandments implies ‘good faith’ in Charles, the statutes in The Court of Love (and number 16 in particular) are severe impositions. ‘Rigour’ simply means ‘harsh discipline, strictness’. Rigour’s name correctly predicts his response when he catches the poet reading highly classified material written in the same book. In the literary tradition of the ‘laws of love’, the statutes are clearly gendered: they codify behaviour expected of men. The poet of The Court of Love, however, also invents a set of statutes for women, and Philogenet’s grave offence is to have discovered them in the same codex: I turned leaves, lokyng on this boke, Where other statutes were of women shene: And right forthwith, Rigour on me gan loke 218

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love Full angrily, and seid unto the quene I traitour was and charged me let bene. ‘Ther may no man’, quod he, ‘the statute[s] know That long to woman, hie degree ne low. ‘In secrete wise thay kepten ben full close, They sowne echone to Libertie, my frend; Plesaunt they be, and to their owen purpose. There wot no wight of thaim but God and fend, Ne naught shall witte, unto the worldes ende. The queen hath gove me charge, in payne to dye, Never to rede ne sen thaim with myne ye.’ (519–32)

Women, in other words, are a law onto themselves, and while men must submit to rigorous discipline in Love’s service, the statutes governing women’s behaviour are ‘plesaunt’ and license them, in the name of ‘Libertie’, to do just as they please. Exactly what they get up to under cover of these statutes only God – and the devil – know. It is no wonder that Venus has instructed Rigour to make sure these statutes remain a state secret. If men found out they would never enter Venus’s service. The Visionary Lady and Pity’s Sepulchre It will by now be apparent that the poet develops the familiar narrative tropes of love allegory with a wry and sometimes cynical knowingness. The allegorical motif that gives narrative shape to the poet’s acts of deconstruction is the ‘discovery of a secret’. We get another fine example of this device when Philogenet on his way to Rosiall, the lady of his dreams, stumbles across Pity’s shrine. When he asks Philobone to whom the shrine belongs, she answers: ‘Forsoth’, quod she, ‘a tender creature ‘Ys shryned there, and Pité is her name. She saw an egle wreke hym on a flye, And pluk his wynge, and ete hym in his game; And tender harte of that hath made her dye. Eke she wolde wepe and more right piteously, To sene a lover suffre grete destresse. In all the courte nas none that, as I gesse, ‘That coude a lover ha[l]ve so well availe, Ne of his woo, the torment or the rage Aslake, for he was sure, withouten faile, That of his gryfe she could the hete aswage. Instead of Pité spedeth hote Corage The maters all of courte, now she is dede. I me reporte in this to womanh[e]de.

spedeth: furthers

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Ad Putter ‘For weile and wepe, and crye, and speke and pray— Women wold not have pité on thi playnt, Ne by that meane to ease thyn hart convey, Nor will they in that way bring your But thee receyven for theire owen talent, heart to rest And sey that Pité causith th[aim], in consent Of rewth, to take thy service and and thy payne, in consent of: in accordance with In that thow maist, to please thy souverayn. ‘But this is councell, kepe it secretly’, Quod she, ‘I nold for all the world abowte The Quene of Love it wist. And witte ye why? For yf by me this mater[s] spryngen oute, In courte no lenger shuld I, owte of dowte, Dwellen, but shame in all my life endry. Nowe kepe it close’, quod she, ‘this hardely.’ (700–28)

The allegorical presentation of Pity as ‘dead’ and ‘buried’ comes from Chaucer’s Complaint unto Pity, but the poet develops it, with a further nod to Chaucer’s General Prologue, in ways that are most unflattering to women. Their pity is as vacuous as the ‘tendre herte’ (I.150) of Chaucer’s Prioress, who is ‘so pitous / she wolde wepe, if that she saugh a mous / Kaught in a trappe’ (143–45). Pity’s cause of death is heartbreak over the harm done to another little creature: a pretty butterfly. Although Pity once prompted women to take pity on love-sick men, this virtue is now dead, as Philobone and all other women know: ‘I me reporte in this to wommanhede’. In Chaucer’s Complaint unto Pity, the lover’s discovery that Pity has died spells the end of all his hopes, but the implications for Philogenet are not so bad. Certainly, weeping and wailing will not move ladies to acts of compassion, but it may very well suit them to take a lover to satisfy their own desire (‘for their owen talent’), even while alleging that it was Pity that moved them to accept the lover’s service. No sooner has this scandalous secret been revealed than the cover-up begins. The official line is that Pity continues to exist and, since whistle-blowers are banished from the Court of Love, Philogenet is immediately sworn to silence. Writing a courtly love narrative, or indeed any genre, involves absorbing some forms of knowledge and filtering others out. The ‘secrets’ we discover in the course of the allegory give us access to the ‘heretical beliefs’ that courtly love poetry usually seeks to exclude. Most of these are antifeminist in nature, but to think that the poet’s motivations are merely misogynistic is to underestimate the full extent of his heterodoxy. The most scandalous secret the poem exposes actually concerns the poet himself. As we have already seen, his persona is that of a late starter, who arrives at Love’s Court only when ordered by Mercury. This impression of innocence is developed by 220

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love Philogenet’s endearing admission that he has no object of desire – except for a lady he saw in a dream: ‘Trowbled I was with slomber, slepe, and slouth This other nyght, and in a vision I se a woman romen up and downe— ‘Of mene stature, and semly to behold… And she gan stir min harte alite to daunce But sodenly, she vanyssh gan right there. Thus may I sey I love and wot not where!’ (649–58)

This has been called absurd,31 but it is surely the stuff of romance: the protagonist (usually but not always male) dreams of a lover and then sets off to find the person of his (or her) dreams. Chaucer parodied the motif in Sir Thopas (‘Me dremed al this nyght, pardee / An elf-quene shal my lemman be’, VII.787–88), but this itself indicates that earlier poets took it seriously (as later did Spenser),32 and for good reason. People looking for love often have a mental image of their ideal partner, and the literary motif of the lover who dreams of his lady before seeing her in the flesh merely literalises the romantic notion of ‘finding the woman of one’s dreams’. The problem, then, is not with the motif per se, but rather with Philogenet’s persona, which comes unstuck when Philobone suddenly remembers an incident from his past: ‘Yit wote ye whate? As my remembraunce Me [y]evith33 now, ye fayne where that ye sey That ye with love never had acqueyntaunce, Sauf in your dreme right late this other day. Why, yis, pardé! – my life that durst I lay— That ye were caught opon a heth, when I Saw you complain and sigh full piteously.

lay: wager

‘Withynne an erber and a garden faier… There were your self full hote and amerous: Iwis, ye ben to nyse and daungerouce. A! Wold ye now repent, and love some newe?’ ‘Nay, by my trouth,’ I seid, ‘I never knewe ‘The godely wight, whoes I shall be for aye, Guyde me the lord that love hath made and me.’ But furth we went intill a chamber gay: There was was Rosiall, womanly to se… (750–67) 31

Forni, ed., Chaucerian Apocrypha, 8. On this motif see Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time (Oxford, 2004), 174, 233. 33 Forni frequently confuses the scribe’s [y] with [g] and transcribes the manuscript (fol. 225v) as ‘gevith’. 32

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Ad Putter The moment is unpredictable in the way human memories often are: wait a moment, says Philobone, didn’t I once catch you unawares, ‘hote and amorous’, on a heath? With that startling revelation, the romantic fiction of an innocent eighteen-year-old dreaming of his lady-to-be unravels, and the ingredients we are left with (an amorous clerk ‘caught upon a heth’) suddenly look more like those of a pastourelle than those of a courtly romance. Having already survived several other scandals, however, the poet deals with this crisis, too, by carrying on regardless: ‘But furth we went intill a chamber gay’. The ‘chamber gay’ puts us safely back in the world of courtly romance, with only the adversative ‘But’ to remind us we have had to overcome an obstacle to get there. The Lovers’ Meeting The unnerving sense we get from the poem is that of two scripts unfolding simultaneously, one that remains dignified and idealised and another that is comically frank about sexual desire. The dignified version of what happens when a lover meets his lady can be found in Lydgate’s Temple of Glas. First the lover earnestly pleads for pity, for he will die without it – ‘the fine of my request: / Othir with merci your servaunt forto save / Or merciles that I may be grave’ (1037–39) – and then the lady, overcome by the strength of his feeling, takes pity: And when this benynge, of hir entent trwe, Conceuyed hath the compleint of this man, Right as the fresshe rodi rose new Of hir colour to wexin she bigan … Til at the last, of routhe she did abraide… (1040–54)

The Court of Love at times follows the same script. The lover claims he will die without his lady’s mercy – ‘I you require / That merciles ye cause me not to sterve’ (853–54) – and, as in Lydgate, there is a pretty blush to indicate her emotional engagement: And softly thanne her coloure gan appeire As rose so red throughoute her visage all. Wherfore me think it is accordyng here That she of right be cleped Rosyall. Thus have I wonne, with wordes grete and small, Some godely worde of hir that I love best, And trust she shall yit sette myn harte in rest. (1016–22)

But, as will be clear even from this stanza, alongside Lydgate’s script runs a very different one. First, there is a mock-serious analysis of the lady’s name, Rosyall. Since the blush makes her ‘as rose so red throughoute her 222

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love visage all’, her name makes unexpected sense: rosy + all = Rosyall. Second, Rosyall’s blush is prompted, not as in Lydgate, by high feminine sentiment (‘of femynynite’, in Lydgate’s words), but by something embarrassing that has passed between the lovers. Rosiall has just asked Philogenet to keep Love’s commandments, and that has brought to mind the sixteenth statute, which requires the lover to have sex with his lady twenty-one times a night: ‘But this I charge – that ye the statutes kepe— And breke thaym not for slouth nor ignoraunce.’ With that she gan to smyle and laughen depe. ‘Iwis’, quod I, ‘I wille do your plesaunce: The sixteenth statute doth me grete grevaunce, But ye most that relesse or modifie!’ But ye most: Unless you were able to ‘I graunte’, quod she, ‘and so I wile, truly.’ (1009–15)

As her knowing smile shows, Rosiall has understood Philogenet’s dilemma before anyone else. But Philogenet, too, has his wits about him. What he diplomatically implies by asking her to ‘relesse or modifie’ the sixteenth statute is that, rather than scrapping it altogether, she might like to keep a modified version of it on the books. Not a single indelicate word has been uttered, but, as Rosiall’s blushes show, Philogenet has certainly given her something to think about. There are other reasons, too, why, despite her best efforts, Rosiall does not fully convince as the conventional courtly lady. Courtly ladies accept lovers because they feel pity for them. Rosiall knows the script, and vows that it was her lover’s swoon (performed by Philogenet in clear imitation of Troilus) that moved her to compassion: ‘…I no drope of favour hight, Ne never hade unto your desire obeide, Tille soddenly, me thought me was affrayed To sene you wax so dede of countenance, And Pité bade me done you some plesaunce.’ (1319–23)

The problem is, of course, that we have seen Pity dead in her shrine. The conclusion that Rosiall is lying through her teeth seems inevitable, but the cleverness of women is never to be underestimated, and Rosiall has her story ready: ‘Out of her shrine she [i.e. Pity] rose from deth to live, And in myn ere full prively she spake: “Doth not youre servaunte hens a way to drive, Rosiall,” quod she…’ (1324–26)

Do we believe this? Do we think the poet believes it? Of course not. But Philogenet, too, knows the official script, and so ends this section with joyous 223

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Ad Putter thanksgiving to his lady and to Pity, who ‘dide rise / From deth to live for me’ (1333–34). The fifteenth statute, ‘Construe the beste’, has been put into operation. Allegorical Court Officers United in love, Philogenet and Rosiall now embark on a further tour of the Court of Love, to meet the ‘rowte / Of Officers’ that live there (1026–27). The ‘officers’ are personifications of the virtues and vices associated with love. The episode has reminded readers of the Roman de la Rose and may look at first like a digressive set piece featuring the ‘usual personified suspects’.34 I want to argue, however, that by some fascinating detours, this excursion leads us straight to the poem’s imaginative core. The relations between this section and the poem as a whole become visible if we notice the ways in which the poet has adapted his personifications to the fictional world he has created around them. The personification of the ‘Boaster’ (‘Avaunter’) is a good starting point. Everyone familiar with medieval love literature knows that Mr Braggart is one of Love’s greatest enemies: the indiscreet spoiler of ladies’ honourable reputations. ‘Avaunter’ is in that sense a walking commonplace, but his boasts make sense only in the context of this poem: ‘Lo, here goith one of myne, and wotte ye whate? Yonne fresh attired have I leyde full lowe, And suche one yonder eke right well I knowe— I kepte the statute whan we lay i-fere, And yet yon same hath made me right goode chere.’ (1235–39)

As Avaunter brags about his conquests and sexual prowess, the notorious sixteenth statute comes back to haunt the poem. By reducing love to copulation, Avaunter and the sixteenth statute assist the poet in his larger enterprise of maintaining two conflicting perspectives on love: the courtly one in which it is an ennobling passion, and the fabliau perspective in which it is all about sex. The conflict between these two perspectives, which animates the allegory throughout, finds allegorical form in an argument overheard by Philogenet between ‘Delite’ and ‘Lust’ (here in the sense of bodily appetite). While Delight – earlier personified in The Romaunt of the Rose (4979) and Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls (‘By himself … saw I / Delyt that stod with Gentilesse’, 223–24) – extols love as a force for good (‘love is a vertue clere, / And from the soule his progresse holdeth he’, 1066–67), Lust dismisses it as carnal desire. Everything the speakers say – including the form of their words – flows beautifully from the concepts 34

Forni, ed., Chaucerian Apocrypha, 8.

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love the speakers personify. Delight is eloquent and lyrical, while Lust is ‘of wonder might and strength’ (1061): though no philosopher, he is as strong as our bodily instincts. The single line of direct speech he is given captures his essence: ‘Now stynte’, quod Lust, ‘thow spekest not worth a pynne’ (1078). He is constitutionally incapable of listening to reason, and just bosses people about. Apocope of -e in final inflections is unusual, as C. S. Lewis noted (see above, 211), but Lust aptly speaks in monosyllables and says ‘spek’st’. The choice of gender for personifications offered the poet another means of integrating the officers of Love thematically. In the Roman de la Rose (and its Middle English translation) and French allegory more generally, the gender of personifications is determined by grammar. Since, however, English grammatical gender had all but disappeared in later Middle English, poets were able to choose gender on others grounds. In Piers Plowman, as Helen Cooper has suggested, the choice of male gender sometimes seems to be triggered, not by the noun’s original grammatical gender, but by Langland’s self-identification with the concept personified: for instance, ‘Reason’ is male in Langland because it represents what he was reasoning.35 The choice of gender sends similar signals in The Court of Love. Since the poet is the centre of consciousness, most personified affects are male (Hope is the poet’s hope, Despair his despair, etc.).36 Since these abstractions are all figured as ‘officers’, the male gender also works for the allegorical fiction. However, one and only one ‘officer’ is female: Ek Shamefastnesse was there, as I toke hede That blasshed rede and darst not ben a-knowe She lover was, for therof had she drede. She stode and hyng her visage downe alowe. But such a sight it was to sene, I trowe, As of thise roses rody on theire stalke. (1198–203)

What explains the female gender is that ‘Shamefastness’ is an aspect of the modesty of ladies in general and of one lady in particular, whom we have earlier seen blushing ‘as rose so red’. What is being allegorised in this ‘excursion’, then, is really the poem itself. This point brings us to the most intriguing of all personifications in the poem, ‘Prevye Thought’. Skeat was the first to suggest that this (male) character goes back to Douce Pensée in the Roman de la Rose. Douce Pensée personifies the lover’s mental preoccupation with his lady, and there may well be a trace of her in Privy Thought’s statement that thinking of his lady in her 35

Helen Cooper, ‘Gender and Personification in Piers Plowman’, Yearbook of Langland Studies 5 (1991): 31–48. 36 An interesting contrast is the Assembly of Ladies, a vision seen from the perspective of a woman (and I think composed by a woman), in which the personified ‘officers’ at Love’s court are all women.

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Ad Putter absence brings him comfort (1290). However, Privy Thought has a much broader meaning in The Court of Love. Its semantic allusiveness is expressed by the mysteriousness of the ‘man’ himself. He seems otherworldly (‘His sotill image is so corious’, 1271); and none of the usual methods of personification allegory – characterisation by physical description or dress – have any purchase on him: ‘How is’, quod I, ‘that he is shaded thus / With yonder cloth, I note of whate coloure?’ / And nere I went, and gan to lere and pore’ (1272–74). The adjective ‘privy’ does not pin him down either. The word certainly could be used in the context of love affairs, but is not here confined to this sense. When Privy Thought teases us with the riddle of what he is – ‘And what I think, or where to be, no man / In all this erth can tell, iwis, but I’ (1296–97) – the answer is not ‘douce pensée’, but thought itself. After all, what Thought says of himself is true of everyone’s thoughts: they are known uniquely to ourselves. Thoughts, that is, are intrinsically private (‘prevey’) – which is why the poet also refers to ‘Prevy Thoght’ simply as ‘Thoght’. Thought’s self-description develops into a meditation on the powers of the mind. ‘He’ knows no physical bounds: ‘For I canne ben, and that right soddenly, in Heven, in Helle, in Paradise, and here’ (1300–01). No-one can speak sense without him, for he conceives what words express before they are spoken: ‘For firste the thing is thought withynne the harte, / Er any word oute from the mouth astarte’ (1308–09). In this capacious sense, ‘thoght’ includes, last but not least, the poet’s own imagination, his ability to dream up imaginary universes and mindboggling passages like the one we are dealing with now. This explains why ‘Thought’ in this poem (as in Langland’s Piers Plowman) is gendered male, and why, when he is first described, just minding his own company, ‘rejoysing of hymself’ like ‘some sp[i]rite or some elf’ (1268–70), he bears an uncanny likeness to Chaucer as he presents himself in the Prologue to Sir Thopas: ‘He semeth elvyssh by his countenaunce / For unto no wight dooth he daliaunce’ (VII.703–04). The person of ‘Thought’, the last of the personified ‘officers’ we meet, thus takes us into the very heart of the poem: as the manifestation of thought, pure and simple, he exteriorises the mental process that generated both the poem and our own ability to make sense of it. The Birds Sing Mass The final convention the poet transforms is that of the choir of birds, which dedicates a sung service to Venus. That birds sing ‘in their Latin’ was a dead metaphor for birds chattering in their own ‘language’. In the Mass that concludes The Court of Love the birds really do sing in Latin, intermixed with English. The added irony is that these Latin phrases, taken from the liturgical hours dedicated to one holy lady, the Virgin Mary, are here repurposed to glorify another lady, the Goddess Venus. There are many precedents for Masses sung by birds, including macaronic 226

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The Intelligence of The Court of Love ones that parody the liturgy but, as we have come to expect from the poet, this traditional conceit too is given an interesting twist. While each of the birds shows reverence to Venus, the cuckoo brings the service to a rapid conclusion: And furth the cokkowe gan procede anon With ‘Benedictus’, thankyng god in hast, That in this May wolde visite thaim echon, And gladden thaym all while the feste shall l[a]st And therewithal a loughter oute he braste, ‘I thank it god that I schuld end the song, And all the service which hath ben so long.’ (1422–28)

This bird, for one, has been itching to leave Venus’s temple.37 Having paid lip-service to the God of Love ‘in hast’, he can contain himself no longer and bursts out laughing. Why? The poet never says because he knows we can guess for ourselves. This is the cuckoo, the bird that has no romantic illusions and gives his name to ‘cuckolds’ and sings in mockery of wedded love: ‘The cuckoo then, on every tree, / Mocks married men; for this says he: / “Cuckoo; Cuckoo”. O word of fear, / Unpleasing to a married ear!’ (Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost V.ii.5–8). I cannot think that critics who have called the bird chorus ‘charming, if not entirely original’ have read it through to its irreverent end.38 Conclusions What, in conclusion, makes The Court of Love such an entertaining read? One obvious quality to mention is the poet’s subversive streak. Critics who have expressed admiration for The Court of Love have tried to get at this by calling the poem a ‘parody’ of courtly love traditions,39 but the most likeable thing about the poet is that his subversiveness is directed, not at literary predecessors, but at the postulates of his own narrative. He unmasks himself as a lover with a previous history; he discovers that Pity is dead and that women have their own set of statutes; and in the midst of the choir of 37

The detail was probably inspired by Jean de Condé’s Messe des oiseaus, where the cuckoo, to spite all lovers, flies in from the forest to disturb Venus’s service and is then chased away by a sparrow hawk (301–13), but the bird’s comic impatience also owes something to Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, where the cuckoo runs out of patience with the tercels, and hastily (‘blyve’) calls the proceedings to a halt (603–09). 38 The citation, from A. W. Ward, The Cambridge History of English Literature, vol. 2, The End of the Middle Ages (Cambridge, 1933), 222, is representative of all the discussions of this section that I have seen. 39 Friedman, ‘In Love’s Thrall’, and Frances McNeely Leonard, Laughter in the Courts of Love: Comedy in Allegory, from Chaucer to Spenser (Norman, OK, 1981), 97–103.

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Ad Putter birds worshipping Venus he plants an under-cover miscreant: the cuckoo. But subversiveness is not the poet’s prime asset. His exquisite and inventive allegorical writing in fact serves a very different purpose: it celebrates the ingenuity of poets and readers who can very well remain loyal to a good old-fashioned love story despite knowing that its premises are dubious. When Pity is dead, she can be brought back to life; when inconvenient facts are revealed, we can hurry on with the poet to the ‘chamber gay’. All this, and much more, is what ‘Thought’ makes possible. ‘The test of a first-rate intelligence’, said F. Scott Fitzgerald, ‘is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function’.40 The poet of The Court of Love set himself the ‘test of a first-rate intelligence’ by devoting himself simultaneously to his courtly love vision and to sabotaging its premises; and that he keeps his allegorical story on track regardless of his double vision means he passes with flying colours.

40

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Crack-Up, ed. Edmund Wilson (New York, NY, 1945), 69.

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12 The Squire of Low Degree and the Penumbra of Romance Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century J U LI A BOFFEY A N D A. S. G. EDWA R DS

I

n about 1520 Wynkyn de Worde published Undo Youre Dore (STC 23111.5),1 elsewhere titled The Squire of Low Degree, a verse narrative in couplets, with no known source, and no surviving early manuscript witnesses.2 Usually classified as a romance, the poem gestures in various ways to the conventional features of romance narrative, and de Worde’s decision to print it may reflect his sense that the market for romances, one for which he had catered for some decades, remained a strong one. Yet in some respects de Worde’s printing of The Squire of Low Degree seems to mark a pivotal point in the history of his engagement with this form, and to indicate a recognition on his part that the previous commercial appeal of the genre might be extended in different directions. Some of these new directions are thrown into relief when The Squire of Low Degree is compared with other printed romances and with other forms of verse narrative printed by de Worde during the 1520s. As we will suggest, de Worde’s sense of the continuing appeal of this genre seems untypical of the general level of interest among printers in the second quarter of the sixteenth century, a point when their engagement with romance seems to have been flagging.

1

The de Worde edition survives in unique, incomplete form; the later Copland edition, called on the title-page The Squyr of lowe degre (1560?, STC 23112), contains the first complete text, which we cite here from the edition by Erik Kooper in his Sentimental and Humorous Romances, TEAMS (Kalamazoo, MI, 2006), 127–71; this is based on Copland’s edition, with variants supplied from the fragments of de Worde’s; it comprises 1131 lines; we also follow its title. See also W. E. Mead, ed., The Squyr of Lowe Degre, The Albion Series of Anglo-Saxon and Middle-English Poetry 1 (Boston, MA, 1904), who prints all versions of the text. 2 See Helen Cooper, The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford, 2004), 426–27, and J. B. Severs, ed., A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050–1500 (New Haven, CT, 1967), vol. 1, Romances, 157.

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Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards The plot of The Squire of Low Degree can be summarised as follows. The squire of the work’s title falls in love with the King of Hungary’s daughter, whom he serves with silent devotion. Although the princess discovers his love at an early stage and reciprocates it, an unscrupulous steward, who himself wishes to marry the princess, reveals their love to the king. The squire seeks permission from the king for a period of exile ‘to be proved a venterous knight’ (478). Before departing he returns to his lady’s chamber to bid her farewell. But the steward has been charged by the king to be ready for such a contingency with ‘men of armes’ (416). They attack the squire, and a melée ensues in which the squire kills the steward but is himself seized by the king, who sends him into exile for seven years, in which he does ‘great chyvalry’ (886). For the whole of this time the princess believes the squire to be dead, having been given a mutilated corpse (in fact the steward’s) as evidence of this. She mummifies the body, places it in a ‘maser [i.e. maple] tre’ (689) with a marble stone, and worships this memorial daily. When the squire returns alive, he is reunited with the princess; they marry and become the rulers of the kingdom. As this summary suggests, the narrative is not wholly coherent. The squire’s request to the princess to ‘undo youre dore’ when he is under attack by the steward and his men is met with hostility, as if she suspects an intruder (‘Go away, thou wicked wyght…’, 549), even though she seems to know that the request has been made by the squire (‘Wende forthe, squyer…’, 563). And she quickly lets him in when he explains his situation. Above all, it is not clear why the king enforces an inordinate period of suffering on his daughter by pretending to her that the squire is dead, or what the reader is meant to conclude about her worship of a dead body which is not the squire’s.3 The lack of clarity about aspects of the action can be seen in relation to the difficulties in generic categorisation that the poem poses. It has been generally designated as a romance,4 and it makes reference to other romances in ways that suggest some determination to insist on this particular generic affiliation. At a couple of points specific romances are explicitly and lengthily invoked. Early in the poem, for example, the squire laments: 3

Some of these oddities are noted in the introduction to Kooper’s edition. They are also discussed in several studies which explore the work’s possibly parodic aspects: see for example Glenn Wright, ‘“Other Wyse Then Must We Do”: Parody and Popular Narrative in The Squyr of Lowe Degre’, Comitatus 27 (1996): 14–41; Bryan Rivers, ‘The Focus of Satire in The Squire of Low Degree’, English Studies in Canada 7 (1981): 379–87; Wim Tigges, ‘Romance and Parody’, in Companion to Middle English Romance, ed. H. Aertsen and A. A. MacDonald (Amsterdam, 1990), 129–51 (143). A. C. Spearing, The Medieval Poet as Voyeur: Looking and Listening in Medieval Love Narratives (Cambridge, 1993), 177–93, does not read the work as parody or satire but does note its ‘generic self-consciousness’ (275). 4 See Severs, Romances.

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The Penumbra of Romance Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century Wolde God that I were a kynges sonne That ladyes love that I myght wonne! Or els so bold in eche fyght As was Syr Lybius that gentell knyght, Or els so bolde in chyvalry As Syr Gawayne, or Syr Guy; Or els so doughty of my hande As was the gyaunte Syr Colbrande. (75–82)

And just before his fight with the steward the princess tells him: ‘Though you be come of symple kynne, Thus my love, syr, may ye wynne, Yf ye have grace of victory, As ever had Syr Lybyus (or Sir Guy) – Whan the dwarfe and mayde Ely Came to Arthoure kyng so fre As a kyng of great renowne – That wan the lady of Synadowne. Lybius was graunted the batayle tho; Therfore the dwarfe was full wo, And sayd: ‘Arthur, thou arte to blame. To bydde this chylde go sucke his dame Better him semeth, so mote I thryve, Than for to do these batayles fyve At the chapell of Salebraunce.’ (611–25)

These somewhat overdeveloped allusions seem designed to alert readers of The Squire of Low Degree to a body of cognate romance material, some of which was by this time in print. The references to ‘Sir Gawayne, or Syr Guy’ (80) seem to be to separate romances. Sir Gawain features in a number of Gawain romances, some extant in printed form.5 ‘Sir Guy’ could be the hero of Guy of Warwick, which both de Worde and Pynson had printed in incunabular editions (1497?, STC 12541, and 1500?, STC 12540 respectively); or, since it is loosely attached to a mention of ‘the gyaunte Syr Colbrande’ (82), the allusion could be to the seemingly unprinted romance Guy and Colbronde. The ‘Sir Lybius’ who dominates the second passage here may be the eponymous hero of Libeaus Desconus, a romance which, like Guy and Colbronde, does not exist in early printed form. It is possible that both Guy and Colbronde and Libeaus Desconus circulated in early printed editions that have not survived. Versions of both appear in the seventeenth-century

5

See the editions of The Jest of Sir Gawaine printed by John Butler (an associate of de Worde’s) in 1528? (STC 11691a.3), and c. 1530 (STC 11691a.5); there is a later one by T. Petyt (c. 1540?, STC 11691a.7).

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Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards Percy Folio (London, British Library, MS Add. 27879), a collection whose dependence on early printed editions has been demonstrated.6 But the pointers to other romances in The Squire of Low Degree also, perhaps unintentionally, have the effect of emphasising features that are not representative of the overall effect of this narrative. While it includes various motifs, such as secret love and an unfaithful steward, that are linked to the rather amorphous genre of romance, it pays strangely little attention to a central element in most romances, the validation of its squire-hero by knightly prowess. There is throughout a general lack of interest in representing the physical achievements of the hero. Instead, there is a recurrent stress on dialogue, particularly in lengthy exchanges, including those between squire and lady (106–278, 534–636), steward and king (347–456), and the king and his daughter (708–854). These passages alone take up more than half the poem. In addition, narrative weight is given to a number of elaborate descriptive passages that are rich in concrete detail: thirty-six lines are devoted early in the poem to the appurtenances of the garden in which the squire-hero first speaks of his love for the king’s daughter (27–62); twenty-five lines to the specifics of the armour he must wear while fulfilling the seven years of knightly service she imposes on him (205–30). Such emphasis on description rather overwhelms the dialogue at times; over a hundred lines are devoted to the courtly delights promised by the king to his daughter after the squire’s disappearance (739–852). One particular effect of the descriptions is to intensify the poem’s concern with material aspects of social and economic mobility that are not often treated with such specificity in romances. They give particular force to the squire’s opening complaint that he lacks the ‘golde and fe … golde good or some treasure’ (69–71) which would enable him to win a king’s daughter, and they flesh out the pleasures to be enjoyed in attaining higher ‘degree’. The phrase ‘golde and fe’ recurs frequently (it appears as well in lines 19, 481, 527, 599, 607, 995);7 as do references to the period of ‘seven yere’ (6, 17, 117, 186, 275, 277, 451, 559, 668, 858, 891, 930, 1000, 1030). Other narrative elements are also emphasised by repetition, particularly the identity of the princess as ‘that lady fre’ (16, 70, 84, 99, 127, 280, 296, 420, 433, 499, 919) and as ‘the kynges doughter of Hungre’ (2, 14, 86, 500, 579). Such laboured emphases reflect central narrative concerns, signalling the material and the temporal constraints placed upon the protagonist as he seeks to achieve the identity and relationship 6

See, for example, Joseph Donatelli, ‘The Percy Folio Manuscript: A SeventeenthCentury Context for Medieval Poetry’, English Manuscript Studies 4 (1993): 114–33. Fittingly, the Percy Folio also includes a copy of The Squire of Low Degree, neatly contextualised in surroundings which reflect its own affiliations to other romance narratives; a text is supplied by both Mead and Kooper. 7 There are a number of additional references to ‘gold and silver’ (274, 344, 601) as well to ‘gold’ alone (71, 170, 204, 223, 717, 721, 732, 742, 745, 787, 836, 840, 941, 978, 1036, 1038) and also to ‘lande and fee’ (343, 883).

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The Penumbra of Romance Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century to which he aspires. In spite of its uneasy relationship to the romance genre this is a story with a clear message: that virtue and committed service win out in the end, and that upward mobility is achievable by a number of routes even if one is not nobly born. As the king notes, ‘I have sene that many a page / Have become men by mariage’ (373–74) as well as by ‘fortune’ (379) and by ‘purchace’ (380). The message is an attractive and socially optimistic one that runs to some degree counter to the general romance insistence that lineage ultimately serves to provide the basis for conduct.8 The somewhat blurred generic affiliations of the narrative are also suggested by the associations of its two different titles. The phrase that supplies the title in de Worde’s edition, ‘Undo Youre Dore’, is another recurrent one; it is repeated in the importunings made by the Squire to the princess immediately before his ambush by the wicked steward (534, 535, 539, 541, 545), and recalled again (1005) as the king reminds his daughter of the squire’s nocturnal visit. Although the phrase thus serves to mark the poem’s central and most dramatic scene, it is an untypical title for a romance. The other medieval English verse contexts in which it survives suggest associations that have nothing to do with romance narratives. The phrase occurs embedded in religious lyrics. ‘Vndo þi dore my spuse dere’, for example, is part of the first line of a lyric deriving from the Song of Songs (V.2, Aperi mihi, soror mea, amica mea),9 and elsewhere as part of a dialogue between Christ and sinful man.10 In both versions, as Rosemary Woolf has noted, the context is that of ‘Christ’s return to his beloved’s door after the battle of the Crucifixion’.11 Some memory of lyrics on this subject 8

It is not easy to detect the element of parody in an aspirational message that is identified by K. S. Kiernan, ‘Undo Your Door and the Order of Chivalry’, Studies in Philology 70 (1973): 345–66. As Helen Cooper has noted, ‘ideas about high birth, inner virtue, and social mobility came to be differently inflected as the centuries passed’ (The English Romance in Time, 339). On late Middle English romance as ‘fantasies of social ascent’, with an increasing focus on the material aspects of social aspiration, see most recently Michael Johnston, Romance and the Gentry in Late Medieval England (Oxford, 2014), especially Chapter 2. 9 NIMEV 3825 occurring uniquely in John of Grimestone’s preaching book, Edinburgh, National Library of Scotland, Advocates’ MS 18. 7. 21, fol. 121v; printed in Carleton Brown, ed., Religious Lyrics of the XIVth Century, 2nd edn, revised G. V. Smithers (Oxford, 1952), 86. 10 NIMEV 143; see Douglas Gray, ed., A Selection of Religious Lyrics, Clarendon Medieval and Tudor Series (Oxford, 1975), 39. 11 Rosemary Woolf, The English Religious Lyric in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1968), 50–52. The narrative occasionally employs other phrases common in religious lyrics, such as ‘bote of baill’ (112): see also the opening couplet of NIMEV 420, in Brown, Religious Lyrics, 229, and for other instances the citations in OED for boot n. 7a and bale n. 6. The collocation is proverbial; see B. J. and Helen W. Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings Mainly before 1500 (Cambridge, MA, 1968), B22.

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Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards may well have infiltrated the compositional processes or the transmission of The Squire of Low Degree, contributing further to the impression that its characteristics are not entirely those of romance. Furthermore, the echo seems connected to a tissue of further references which give some incipiently allegorical overtones to aspects of the narrative.12 Such allusions stand in a rather oblique relationship to the main movement of the narrative. They are not coherently developed, but they do provide an indication of the blurring of the poem’s relationship to the romance form. The title in Copland’s edition, The Squyr of lowe degre, has its own rather different set of possible associations. This phrase appears in The Ballad of the Nutbrown Maid, a dialogue between a squire and the virtuous woman from whom he is about to be exiled. Protesting her loyalty, the woman asserts: And thowgh that I of avncetrye A barons dowghter be, Yet haue ye proved how I ye loued, A squyre of lowe degre. (128–31)13

The Nutbrown Maid appears to have had a reasonably wide and lengthy circulation over the period spanned by the two editions of The Squire of Low Degree. The earliest surviving text appears among the contents of Arnold’s Chronicle (sometimes known as The Customs of London), an anthology of variously useful and diverting material printed by Adriaen van Berghen in Antwerp, presumably for the English market, c. 1503 (STC 782).14 An improved text appeared in the later edition of this work printed in Southwark by Peter Treveris c. 1525 (STC 783). Yet another version was copied by the Londoner Richard Hill into a manuscript compilation which survives as Oxford, Balliol College MS 354, and an abbreviated version was included in the Percy Folio. The poem’s popularity is attested by records of sales and later editions, and it was sufficiently well known to have been the subject of a religious parody printed c. 1535.15 Its concerns seem related to The Squire of Low Degree in a number of particularities: both works deal with exile, amorous service, and loyalty; both are interested to exploit the potentialities 12

For example, the squire will ‘fight three Good Frydayes’ (200); his service is defined as ‘seking Christ’ (138, 198, 236, 894); his shield is decorated ‘in token of the Trynyte’ (220); he will make offerings ‘in tokening of the Trynyte’ (246); the princess ‘make[s] her prayer to the Trynite’ (698) over what she believes to be her lover’s corpse, and makes offerings after his death ‘in tokeninge of the Trynyte’ (966). 13 William A. Ringler, Jr, ‘The Nutbrown Maid (A Reconstructed Text)’, English Literary Renaissance 1 (1971): 27–51. 14 See F. Douce, ed., The Customs of London; Otherwise Called, Arnold’s Chronicle (London, 1811). 15 STC 14553.7; Emily Ransom, ‘The New Notborune Mayd Vpon the Passion of Cryste: The Nutbrown Maid Converted [with text]’, English Literary Renaissance 45 (2015): 3–31.

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The Penumbra of Romance Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century of dialogue (in Richard Hill’s copy of The Nutbrown Maid the stanzas are apportioned to speakers designated ‘Squyre’ and ‘Puella’). Whether or not the curious mix of elements suggested by these associations constituted part of its appeal, The Squire of Low Degree appears to have been a popular narrative, and had a long life in the years following de Worde’s edition. It is listed among the works sold by an Oxford bookseller c. 1520, and it also features in the famous library of books attributed by Robert Langham in 1575 to Captain Cox.16 De Worde’s printing survives only in fragmentary form, suggesting it was read to destruction; and the later edition printed by William Copland in [1560?] survives only in a single copy. There is evidence of at least one other later edition,17 and there may have been others: the work is referred to in the later sixteenth century by Nashe and Spenser as well as by Shakespeare among others.18 In material terms it was probably attractive to both producers and purchasers as a short book, cheaply priced, whose content was enhanced by one or more prefatory woodcut images. To a commercial publisher it was the kind of work that could be easily fitted into a schedule around bigger undertakings to generate reliable sales. By the time The Squire of Low Degree was published, c. 1520, the printing of romance was well established in England. But if the evidence of surviving editions is a reliable indicator, there were already shifting levels of interest in the form among printers. Some, like de Worde’s contemporary, Richard Pynson, evidently stopped printing romances altogether fairly early in the sixteenth century.19 Other printers at work in London from the 1520s onwards seem to have engaged with romances in a limited and somewhat sporadic way.20 Richard Faques, for example, in a rare foray into the form, printed King Alexander (1525?, STC 321), not extant in any earlier printed editions. John Butler, an associate of de Worde’s, produced editions of The Jest of Sir Gawain in 1528? (STC 11691a.3) and c. 1530 (STC 11691a.5). Other printers reprinted shorter verse romances: John Rastell an edition of Sir Eglamour of 16 F.

17

18 19 20

C. Madan, ‘The Day-Book of John Dorne, Bookseller in Oxford, A. D. 1520’, Oxford Historical Society, Collectanea I (1885): 73–177 (100); R. J. P. Kuin, ed., Robert Langham: A Letter, Medieval and Renaissance Texts 2 (Leiden, 1983), 53, 132. The Nutbrown Maid also appears in Dorne’s register and among the works listed by Captain Cox; see Ringler, ‘The Nutbrown Maid.’ See Donald Robertson, ‘A Packet of Books for Scotland’, The Bibliothek 6 (1971–73): 52–53, who prints the inventory of a ship’s cargo sailing from London to Scotland in October 1586 seized by pirates; it includes: ‘50 Squire of low degree. Eng. 4o’. Henry V, Act V, scene i: ‘You called me yesterday mountain-squire, but I will make you today a squire of low degree’. For other allusions see Mead’s edition, xiii. Pynson seems to have abandoned the printing of verse romance after about 1510 when he printed Robert the Devil (STC 21071.5). For information on all these printers and the relationships between them, see Peter W. M. Blayney, The Stationers’ Company and the Printers of London, 1501–1557, 2 vols (Cambridge, 2013), I.121–285.

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Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards Artois in 1528? (STC 7542.5); John Skot (who also had links with de Worde), and Peter Treveris editions of Sir Isumbras, both c. 1530 (STC 14280.5 and 14280.7 respectively); and John Mychell an edition of Sir Lamwell (1530–32?, STC 15187).21 The patterns of survival suggest that the printing of Middle English romance, especially verse romance, tailed off after the mid-1530s until its resuscitation by William Copland in the 1550s and 1560s.22 Unlike most London printers, however, de Worde continued to print some romances throughout his later career. The years following 1520 saw new editions of some long prose romances (Helyas, The knyght of the swanne, c. 1522, STC 7571.5) and The dystruccyon of Iherusalem (1528, STC 14519), and a small number of reprints of earlier editions of substantial and apparently successful long verse romances like Bevis of Hampton (1533?, STC 1988.6), Kynge Rycharde cuer du lyon (1528, STC 21008) and Capistranus (1527?, STC 14649.5; 1530?, STC 14650), as well as editions of other verse romances he does not seem to have previously published: The life of Ipomydon (c. 1522, STC 5732.5),23 Sir Tryamour (c. 1530, STC 24302). The byrth & prophecye of Marlyn (1529, STC 17841.3) had been previously published in 1510 (STC 17841). As we have noted, The Squire of Low Degree differs in features of both construction and content from romance as represented by those texts in earlier printed circulation; and it also differs from them in not having an antecedent manuscript tradition. The rather limp gestures that the poem makes towards romance conventions, and its emphasis on descriptive and dialogic elements, suggest that it may have been conceived with features of other appealing contemporary narrative forms in mind: the kinds of generically mixed work in which tropes of love, chivalry, questing, and testing familiar in romance might mingle with dream, debate, sometimes satire, and comedy. Finding works of this sort to put into print may have involved a certain amount of market research into titles which sold well in continental editions, and some searching out (even some commissioning from contemporary authors) of appropriate English remaniements or translations. It seems likely too that any such search for new printable narratives would have been undertaken with an eye to the length of the books that might be generated. One notable feature of the new style of English verse narrative that appears round about the 1520s is compassable length: the works in question tend to constitute small-format, short books or pamphlets rather than 21

The date revised from ‘[1548]’ in STC, 3.123; see further Carol Meale, ‘Caxton, de Worde, and the Publication of Romance in Late Medieval England’, The Library, 6th series 14 (1992): 283–98, especially 288–89. 22 On this revival in romance printing see A. S. G. Edwards, ‘William Copland and the Identity of Printed Middle English Romance’, in The Matter of Identity in Medieval Romance, ed. Phillipa Hardman (Cambridge, 2002), 139–47. 23 Meale, ‘Caxton, de Worde, and the Publication of Romance’, 288.

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The Penumbra of Romance Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century sizeable folios, and to accommodate fairly rough and ready paratextual material, in the form of unspecific or factotum woodcut illustrations. The features of these books are well represented by de Worde’s editions of three works by William Walter: ye hystory of Tytus & Gesyppus (c. 1525, STC 3184.5); the amerous hystory of Guystarde and Sygysmonde (1532, STC 3183.5), and The spectacle of louers, a lytell contrauers dyalogue bytwene loue and councell (1533?, STC 25008). The first two, English translations deriving from versions of separate tales from Boccaccio’s Decameron, are narratives about love, virtue, loyalty, and family relationships which have certain points in common with the romance world of The Squire of Low Degree, even if their Italian settings (Rome and Salerno), and their more complicated verse forms (rhyme royal stanzas, rather than the couplets of the Squire), lend a more sophisticated gloss. Tytus & Gesyppus concerns the fall-out from an act of self-abnegation by which Titus makes his new wife available to his friend Gesyppus, who inconveniently decides that he loves her more than Titus does. No-one is pleased when the deception comes to light, but all works out for the best in the end, with friends and family members reconciled and Titus acquiring a wife of his own. Guystarde and Sygysmonde, a more macabre story, tells of the passion conceived by the high-born widow Sygysmonde for lowly Guystarde, servant to her father Tancred. Inadvertently finding himself in the role of spectator during one of their nightly liaisons, Tancred is so outraged that he has Guyscarde murdered and sends his heart to Sygysmonde in a golden cup. Protesting undying love, she takes her own life by drinking poisoned herbs, and Tancred, remorsefully persuaded of the truth of her feelings, has the lovers buried together. As will be evident, these are stories which, not unlike The Squire of Low Degree, give space to matters concerning love, death, and morality. Both Titus and Gesyppus and The Squire of Low Degree involve elements of confusion about right identity and proper relationship. Both Guystarde and Sygysmonde and The Squire of Low Degree are concerned with the question of what constitutes truth and fidelity in love, for example. The widely-debated issue of what defines true nobility surfaces in both of Walter’s translations, and is particularly prominent in Guystarde and Sygysmonde, hence providing another link with The Squire of Low Degree. Yet while both translations are instructive and improving, they offer occasional frissons of a rather different kind: a wife tricked into sleeping with another man (Tytus and Gesyppus); a low-born lover’s heart excised and potted (Guystarde and Sygysmonde). These are narratives whose foci have parallels to those in The Squire of Low Degree.24 Making available attractive English translations of works such as these, 24

On the similarities between The Squire of Low Degree and Guystarde and Sygysmonde see B. L. Jefferson, ‘A Note on the Squyr of Lowe Degre’, Modern Language Notes 28

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Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards with an appeal attested by their continental longevity, presumably made good commercial sense to an English printer. At least one of the stories, that of Guystard and Sigismonde, was evidently known to English readers in the fifteenth century. Robert Sherborn (c. 1453–1536), fellow of New College, Oxford, and later Bishop of Chichester, owned a manuscript which included Bruni’s Guiscardo et Sigismunda as well as Aeneas Silvius’s De duobus amantibus and Latin translations of other works by Boccaccio and Petrarch.25 Henry VII was the recipient of a vellum copy of a ‘Traicte tres plaisant et recreatif de lamour parfaicte de guisgardus et sigismunde’, translated from Bruni’s Latin by Jean Fleury, published by Antoine Vérard, and enhanced with a hand-painted miniature and border.26 By the late fifteenth century the story existed in two English translations. The verse translation made by Gilbert Banester (d. 1487), surviving in two manuscript copies, is in one instance (BL Add. MS 12524) accompanied by part of Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women, and in the other (Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson C. 86) by an assortment of Middle English verse and prose which comprehends parts of The Canterbury Tales, some works of Lydgate, and two romances: Sir Landevalle and The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell.27 The other translation, apparently made by someone who knew Banester’s version, survives in another compendious anthology (Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R. 3. 19) likely to have originated in a London circle known to de Worde.28 The story of Titus and Gesippus does not seem to have exerted quite the same appeal, but it is worth noting its use in Thomas Elyot’s Book Named the Governor.29

25

26

27

28

29

(1913): 102–03 (103); and on the kinds of frisson offered by these narratives, Nicola McDonald, ‘Desire Out of Order and Undo Your Door’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 34 (2012): 247–75. Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Lat. misc. d. 34; see Nicolas Mann, Petrarch Manuscripts in the British Isles, Censimento dei Codici Petrarcheschi 6 (Padua, 1975); and A. B. Emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to AD 1500, 3 vols (Oxford 1957–59), III.1685–87. London, British Library IB.41136a: GW 5647, ISTC ib01239600. On Banester, see H. G. Wright, ed., Early English Versions of the Tales of Guiscardo and Ghismonda and Titus and Gisippus from the Decameron, EETS o.s. 205 (London, 1937), xvii–xxiv; Jonathan Hall, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; Richard Firth Green, ‘The Date of Gilbert Banester’s Translation of the Tale of Guiscardo and Ghismonda’, Notes & Queries 223 (1978): 299–300; Elisabeth Salter, Six Renaissance Men and Women: Innovation, Biography and Cultural Creativity in Tudor England, c. 1450–1560 (London, 2007), 30–61. For a facsimile of the manuscript, see B. Y. Fletcher, intro., Manuscript Trinity R. 3. 19, Facsimile Series of the Works of Geoffrey Chaucer 5 (Norman, OK, 1987). Fletcher notes that the manuscript may have been commissioned or owned by Roger Thorney, a prominent London mercer. Thorney also underwrote the printing of some of de Worde’s earliest titles. It has been argued that Walter’s translation, partly dependent on Elyot’s version, may

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The Penumbra of Romance Narrative in the Early Sixteenth Century Walter’s oeuvre, such as it is, usefully illustrates the productive relationship between printers and translators which seems an important aspect of the English literary landscape in the early decades of the sixteenth century. Whether or not he had a direct association with de Worde, he seems to have followed the lead set by Robert Copland, and by other writers like Henry Watson, Andrew Chertsey, and Christopher Goodwyn, who supplied material to de Worde and to other printers.30 Although no source has yet been identified for the last of Walter’s works to be printed, The spectacle of louers … a lytell contrauers dyalogue bytwene loue and councell (1533?, STC 25008), it seems not unlikely that one might have existed. Generically this is another curiously mixed work. After a prologue decrying ‘slouthe & ydelnesse’ it begins in chanson d’aventure vein, with a narrator recounting his springtime recreation. Then he encounters a lover, making a piteous ‘mone’, and proceeds to debate the worth of love, women and marriage. Although there seems here some promising scope for anti-feminist diatribe, the discussion remains balanced, set out as a formal debate between Consultor (the narrator) and Amator (the lover he overhears), and it fulfils the titlepage’s promise to provide ‘many goodly arguments of good women and bad, very compendyous to all estates’. Although de Worde seems to have procured content-specific woodcuts for the title-pages of Walter’s two novelle, The spectacle of louers uses some of the factotum figures who appear regularly in his short verse narratives (see, for example, Goodwyn’s Chaunce of the dolorous lover, c. 1520, STC 12046).31 The publication of The Squire of Low Degree c. 1520, a work which defines itself as romance yet which in its presentation seems less generically stable, may mark something of a watershed in the evolution of de Worde’s printing of verse in English. The surviving evidence indicates that he printed overall 108 separate editions of works in English verse, out of a total surviving output of about 850 printings. Of these 108 some 38 survive from the period after c. 1520, little more than a third of the total number, since de Worde began printing on his own back in 1492. Most of the verse works he printed in the last phase of his publishing career have features in common. Few of these works are of great length. In addition to the romance works enumerated above, they have been printed rather later than has been supposed: see Mike Pincombe, ‘Thomas Elyot’s “Wonderful History of Titus and Gisippus” (1531) as a Source for William Walter’s Titus and Gisippus (1525)?’, Notes & Queries n. s. 59 (2012): 490–94. 30 See Julia Boffey, ‘Banking on Translation: English Printers and Continental Texts’, in The Medieval Translator: Traduire au Moyen Age. In principio fuit interpres, ed. Alessandra Petrina, with the assistance of Monica Santini, Medieval Translator Series 15 (Turnhout, 2013), 317–29. 31 On these figures, not listed in E. Hodnett, English Woodcuts, revised edn (Oxford, 1973), see Martha Driver, The Image in Print: Book Illustration in Late Medieval England and its Sources (London, 2004), especially chapters 1 and 2.

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Julia Boffey and A. S. G. Edwards include poems by contemporaries of de Worde like Stephen Hawes, William Neville, and Thomas More (for instance The Example of vertu, STC 12947, The castell of pleasure, STC 18475, Lyfe of Johan Picus erle of Myrandula, STC 19898).32 They also include shorter verse works by other living authors like William Walter, Thomas Feylde (A contrauersye bytwene a louer and a iaye, STC 10839), John Skelton (The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng, STC 22611.5); and a range of anonymous interludes, satires, and other diverting narratives (the worlde and the chylde, STC 25982; An enterlude of temperaunce, 14109.5; The example of euyll tongues, STC 10608; The payne and sorowe of euyll maryage, STC 19119; A complaynt of them that be to soone maryed, STC 5729; The fantasy of the passyon of the fox, STC 10685). Some of these works experiment with different verse forms and a number employ forms of dialogue and debate which recall both The Squire of Low Degree and Walter’s translated novelle (some are also demonstrably or possibly translations of French works which had a successful continental printed existence). This activity, particularly its turn to contemporary verse writing, stands as a distinct strand in de Worde’s later career, and has the appearance of a series of attempts to develop new markets for verse texts. The printing of The Squire of Low Degree c. 1520 seems usefully to mark a shift in literary interests. It is a form of romance that suggests a capacity to encompass other modes, particularly the dialogic and the amatory, pointing towards new directions in de Worde’s later verse publications.

32 See

A. S. G. Edwards, ‘Wynkyn de Worde and Contemporary Poetry’, Gutenberg Jahrbuch (1991): 143–48.

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13 Contested Chivalry: Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge A N DR EW LY NCH

T

he chivalric revival of the nineteenth century made it possible to see medieval and new medievalist romances as upholding ideals for youth to emulate: courage, loyalty and honour, respect for women, even religious piety.1 Nevertheless, the Middle Ages were often seen as a violent and barbarous historical period, when most of the people were, in Charles Dickens’s words, ‘the mere slaves of the lords of the land’ and all of them were in ‘slavery to the priests’.2 Chivalric romance faced critique from a historiographical tradition that constructed the medieval past as violently uncivil, no good example for youth. David Hume’s influential History (1778) had communicated a largely negative consciousness of medieval chivalry to its successors; he speaks with some apparent approval of ‘the martial pride’ and ‘sense of personal honour and fidelity’ bred by ‘feudal institutions’, but calls chivalric customs ‘affectations’ and ‘fantastic notions’,3 and repeatedly emphasises medieval ‘violence’ and ‘animosities, inseparable from the feudal aristocracy’.4 The value of medieval chivalric literature as a moral example for youth was also threatened by its association with Catholicism.5 1

See Mark Girouard, The Return to Camelot: Chivalry and the English Gentleman (New Haven, CT, 1981); Debra N. Mancoff, Introduction, in The Arthurian Revival. Essays on Form, Tradition, and Transformation, ed. Debra N. Mancoff, Routledge Library Editions: Arthurian Literature 9 (London, 1992); Andrew Lynch, ‘Le Morte Darthur for Children: Malory’s Third Tradition’, in Adapting the Arthurian Legends for Children: Essays on Arthurian Juvenilia, ed. Barbara Tepa Lupack, Studies in Arthurian and Courtly Cultures (New York, NY, 2005), 1–50; Michael Alexander, Medievalism: The Middle Ages in Modern England (New Haven, CT, 2007). 2 Charles Dickens, A Child’s History of England (London, 1907; first publ. 1851–53), 162, 239. 3 David Hume, The History of England, intro. William B. Todd, 6 vols (Indianapolis, IN, 1983; edn first publ. 1778), I.486. 4 Hume, History, II.58. 5 See Hume, History, II.14: ‘[T]he religion of that age can merit no better name than that of superstition’.

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Andrew Lynch Chivalry was liable to be seen merely as an echo of what Hume called ‘the ruling passions of the age, superstition and jealousy of military honour’.6 Nineteenth-century medievalist fictions of youth at war were written in the knowledge of such hostility, and often shared aspects of it themselves. Awareness of common objections to chivalry, and to the perceived violence of the medieval past in general, helped shape writers’ narrative and ideological strategies, and led them to discriminate carefully between what was to be considered truly valuable and what was excessive and dangerous in chivalry. Informed by the often negative outlook of contemporary histories of the Middle Ages, they presented some elements of chivalry in a positive light – magnanimity, honour, fidelity, chaste love – but willingly conceded the faults of others. They adopted narrative strategies of selection and thematic re-emphasis that contested the received image of medieval chivalry in order to define it along new lines. In effect, they created new chivalric romances of youth at war that were nested within broader historical accounts of the Middle Ages and responded sensitively to them. In what follows I analyse these features of nineteenth-century medievalist fiction in work by two highly popular writers of the century, Walter Scott (1771–1832) and a later author whom he strongly influenced, Charlotte M. Yonge (1823–1901).7 Walter Scott As novelist, poet, historian and critic, Walter Scott was a chief interpreter of the medieval past for a mass readership throughout the nineteenth century. In his view, chivalry was ‘the vivifying soul’ of ‘the feudal system’. Like Hume, he believed that chivalry was a literal value system for medieval knights, and that medieval romance was a true guide to its ways: We may here observe, once for all, that we have no hesitation in quoting the romances of Chivalry as good evidence of the laws and customs of knighthood. The authors, like the painters of the period, invented nothing, but copying the manners of the age in which they lived, transferred them, without doubt or scruple, to the period and personages of whom they treat.8

At the same time, Scott never disregarded pragmatic and materialist explanations of medieval military behaviour or ceased to note its excesses and 6 Hume,

History, I.366. See L. A. de Gruchy, ‘C. M. Yonge’s Historical Novels – The Influence of Scott’, 1837–1901: Journal of the Loughborough Victorian Studies Group 5 (1980): 30–49. 8 Walter Scott, ‘Essay on Chivalry’, in Essays on Chivalry, Romance and the Drama, The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott, Bart, 28 vols (Edinburgh, 1834–36), VI.1–126 (8 n.1). See also 85: ‘We shall err greatly if we suppose that the adventures told in romance, are as fictitious as its magic, its dragons and its fairies … the turn of incidents resembled in substance those which passed almost daily under the eye of the narrator.’ 7

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Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge abuses. To him, medieval chivalry carried the seeds of its own destruction. It had always been liable to corruption, and as a feature of political organisation had been unable to survive the end of feudalism in the fifteenth century, as he calculated;9 it seems no accident that the least chivalric of Scott’s youthful medieval heroes, the nineteen-year-old Quentin Durward, is placed in a narrative dominated by a study of Louis XI’s fifteenth-century Realpolitik. In Scott’s medievalist novels, the ‘spirit of Chivalry, derived from love, devotion and valour’10 is especially exemplified by young protagonists. Wilfred of Ivanhoe is ‘a young knight’ and ‘good youth’.11 Halbert Glendinning in The Monastery (1820) is about sixteen.12 Damian de Lacy in The Betrothed is ‘youthful’, and with a ‘countenance … so juvenile, that only the down on the upper lip announced decisively the approach to manhood’.13 Sir Kenneth in The Talisman (1825) is fully grown, but still several years less than thirty.14 The heavy presence in all these narratives of an older generation – Cedric and Richard in Ivanhoe, Father Eustace and Henry Warden in The Monastery, Hugo de Lacy and Wilkin Flammock in The Betrothed, Saladin and Richard in The Talisman – makes their junior associates seem all the younger. Scott eloquently describes how Froissart in his fourteenth-century Chronicles ‘dwells with enthusiasm on the leading circumstances of war’, ‘the mingled scene of tumult, strife, and death’.15 It is often assumed that Scott does much the same, but in fact he manages his narratives so as to keep his young heroes out of such scenes. We learn that Wilfred of Ivanhoe has a distinguished military past on crusade with King Richard, but no details are given of that, apart from one joust. During the assault on the Castle of Torquilstone, Ivanhoe lies bed-ridden with wounds while Rebecca describes the fighting to him. When he later defends Rebecca’s cause against Brian de Bois-Guilbert in trial by combat, the Frenchman dies mysteriously, ‘[u]nscathed by the lance of his enemy … a victim to the violence of his own contending passions’.16 Hume had described the Norman introduction of trial by combat as ‘a new absurdity’, one of the ‘fantastic notions’ of chivalry that had ‘infected the writings, conversation, and behaviour of men, during some ages’.17 Scott’s at least partial agreement with him can be seen in 9

Walter Scott, Introduction, in Quentin Durward (Boston, MA, 1831; first publ. 1823), 8–11. 10 Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 49. 11 Walter Scott, Ivanhoe, ed. Graham Tulloch (Harmondsworth, 2000; first publ. 1819), 51, 59. 12 Walter Scott, The Monastery (London, 1905; first publ. 1820), 85. 13 Walter Scott, The Betrothed (London, 1905; first publ. 1825), 115. 14 Walter Scott, The Talisman (London, 1905; first publ. 1825), 18. 15 Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 79. 16 Scott, Ivanhoe, 392. 17 Hume, History, I.486.

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Andrew Lynch Rebecca’s rebuke of ‘the fantastic chivalry of the Nazarenes’.18 Scott clearly requires Ivanhoe to be a brave and effective knight, but is canny about how he shows that in action, not trusting scenes of battle or even single combat to display best the qualities he most admires in him. Similarly, Kenneth in The Talisman, although he ‘unites great strength with endurance’, and has ‘the power of violent exertion’ and ‘a fiery and enthusiastic love of glory’,19 is shown in no major battles – there is none in the book – but he undertakes a private pas d’armes with Saladin, in which both parties are disguised. Although Kenneth later fights and wins a trial by combat, even then he does not kill his opponent outright. In the case of civil war, Scott is even more reluctant to involve his young men directly in fighting. In The Monastery (1820), set in the Borders of Scotland in the mid-sixteenth century, Halbert Glendinning is never seen in a pitched combat. Off stage, he somehow gives his new lord proofs ‘of his courage and presence of mind’20 but his troop arrives too late to intervene in the battle of the Halidome. He is in time, all the same, to see the ‘melancholy spectacle’ of its aftermath: The battle had been stoutly contested, as was almost always the case with these Border skirmishes, where ancient hatred, and mutual injuries, made men stubborn in maintaining the cause of their conflict. Towards the middle of the plain, there lay the bodies of several men who had fallen in the very act of grappling with the enemy; and there were seen countenances which still bore the stern expression of unextinguishable hate and defiance, hands which clasped the hilt of the broken falchion, or strove in vain to pluck the deadly arrow from the wound.21

As Scott describes it, the battle is a moral disaster, dominated by ‘ancient’, ‘unextinguishable’ malevolent historical forces from which youth must be carefully preserved if there is to be any hope of a better future. The one generically ‘young’ major figure in Scott’s medievalist novels who is shown in detail participating in a major pitched conflict – Conachar (otherwise Hector MacIan, a Highland chief) in The Fair Maid of Perth (1828) – runs from the field in fear, then kills himself for shame. Conachar, ‘a tall handsome young man’,22 has some requirements of a Scott hero but not settled physical courage. Lacking that, he lacks all, and Catherine Glover, the woman he has loved, chooses to wed the tough blacksmith, Henry Wynd, reflecting in Aristotelian mode ‘that a headlong and exuberant courage … was, in the iron days in which they lived, preferable to the deficiency which had led to 18 Scott,

Ivanhoe, 250. The Talisman, 4–5. 20 Scott, The Monastery, 497–98. 21 Scott, The Monastery, 505. 22 Walter Scott, The Fair Maid of Perth (Edinburgh, 1874; first publ. 1828), 22. 19 Scott,

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Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge Conachar’s catastrophe’ (Chapter 36).23 Henry, who has managed to take part in the Battle of the North Inch both for pure sport and to confront his rival in love, Conachar, then ‘resolve[s] … to hang up my broadsword, never to be drawn more unless against the enemies of Scotland’.24 Through this domestic arrangement, Scott vouches for the absolute necessity of manly courage, but justifies it as a necessary quality in the national citizenry, not a mere personal proclivity to violence. Because Conachar flees from the North Inch, the novel avoids the serious moral problem that would have arisen from showing Henry as his killer. Beyond that, Henry’s impromptu and apolitical participation in the battle is an assurance that he lacks a divisive or dangerous motivation; his fighting is unrelated either to self-destructive Highland clan feuding, or to the cynical policy of the Scottish court, happy to see the Highlanders kill each other. In a narrative whose intrigue has shown that ‘Scotland’ has very little real existence as a political entity, the marriage of Catherine with Henry stands for the possibility of better times to come, much as the productive burgesses of Perth, symbolically situated on the border of Highlands and Lowlands, offer an image of future Scottish prosperity. In a manner typical of Scott, the private romance ending that rewards courage and fidelity with happiness in love must fill in for the lack of order and cohesion seen in the broader political narrative. A further and related romance feature of Scott’s narratives, across all historical periods, is that the young hero typically undergoes a period of disgrace, disinheritance, or exile. Ivanhoe, a cultural Anglo-Norman at odds with his obsessively ‘Saxon’ father, is ‘Il Desdichado’ (The Disinherited); Halbert Glendinning flees home believing he has killed his opponent in a duel; Sir Kenneth is disgraced after he is tricked into leaving his post, and Ralph de Wilton in Marmion (1805) is falsely accused of treason. Despite their fluctuating fortunes, all these young men are conservative figures who support their country’s monarchy (or future monarchy) and institutions. Their time on the outside follows a familiar romance pattern of displacement and return,25 proving their innate worth, and their final reinstatement gives a limited assurance that the established power of the land does depend on and recognise personal merit. Yet the experience of exile and disgrace also prevents them from becoming too closely associated with high policy. Rather, their isolation allows them to be seen as malleable figures whose potential for change can both permit and represent better long-term historical outcomes. Halbert Glendinning is a case in point. His flight under a cloud from his 23 Scott,

The Fair Maid of Perth, 379. The Fair Maid of Perth, 380. 25 See Northrop Frye, The Secular Scripture: A Study of the Structure of Romance, The Charles Eliot Norton lectures (Cambridge, MA, 1976), 54: ‘What happens in between are adventures, or collisions with external circumstances, and the return to identity is a release from the tyranny of these circumstances.’ 24 Scott,

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Andrew Lynch Catholic home brings him into the company of Henry Warden, a Protestant evangelist, and then leads him to become a squire in the service of the Earl of Murray, who tells him ‘In our days, each man is the son of his own deeds. … It is a stirring world, where all may advance themselves who have stout hearts and strong arms’.26 Scott is ambivalent about the opportunistic, Englishoriented Reformation milieu in which Halbert prospers, but still suggests that it is with the brave young like him that a more benign future will lie, beyond the turmoil of the present wars. In describing combats and wars of any kind, Scott’s strong preference is for private, unpolitically motivated outcomes in which men on opposing sides display magnanimity as an aspect of soldierly courage, and assert private virtues even in a public context of hostility. Like many of Scott’s favourite themes, this one features in his novels set in any historical period. It is in line with his view, like Hume’s, that ‘the habits derived from the days of chivalry still retain a striking effect on our manners’.27 Nevertheless, it is misleading to suggest that ‘Scott sought to legitimate the valor of the officer and the honor of war by means of metrical romances and historical fiction that interpreted contemporary war in terms of a heroic, chivalric past.’28 That syndrome is hardly visible in Marmion, for instance, where the ‘despotic king’29 Henry VIII’s ruthless policy towards Scotland wins out over the disastrous chivalric posturing of James IV. In Scott’s medievalist tales, beginning with Ivanhoe (1819), we actually see repetitions of plot situations and scenes taken from earlier novels set in a more recent Scotland; the direction of historical influence is from present to past. Scott’s picture of the Middle Ages reflects his contemporary preoccupations, not providing medieval models of behaviour for moderns to imitate but representing the actions of his better medieval characters as gentlemanly and magnanimous on the Burkean model of ‘chivalry’ in his own times: ‘a notion of personal honour which is originally derived from martial prowess and still entails leadership’.30 The modest achievements and reserved manners of his young protagonists show him careful to avoid the ‘hyperbole and extravagances’ that he deplored in medieval chivalry and which he believed had been further ‘magnified and exaggerated by the writers and reciters of [medieval] Romance’.31 26 Scott,

The Monastery, 497. Essay on Chivalry, 49. See also Hume, History, I.487. 28 Gillian Russell, ‘The Eighteenth Century and the Romantics on War’, in The Cambridge Companion to War Writing, ed. Kate McLoughlin, Cambridge Companions to Literature (Cambridge, 2009), 112–25 (121). 29 Walter Scott, Marmion, in The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott, 12 vols (Edinburgh, 1861), VII.2, 31, 577. 30 Marilyn Butler, Romantics, Rebels and Reactionaries: English Literature and its Background 1760–1830 (Oxford, 1981), 110. 31 Walter Scott, ‘Essay on Romance’, in Essays on Chivalry, Romance and the Drama, 27 Scott,

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Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge Waverley (1814), Scott’s first novel, set around 1745, established the subsequent ‘chivalric’ pattern. The young hero’s conduct in battle is ‘praised by every living mortal to the skies’,32 but we scarcely see him strike a blow in action. Rather, he is used as an observer of the conflict, and as a moderator of violence, not an agent. As soon as the clan with whom he fights is ordered to charge at Prestonpans, the narration slips into summary mode: ‘The rest is well known’.33 Then, in the chaotic aftermath of the English rout, Waverley intervenes to save Colonel Talbot’s life and receives his surrender. Talbot turns out to be deeply indebted to Waverley’s family, and after the failure of the Jacobite rising he obtains pardons for Waverley and his friend Tully-Veolan. Much more narrative space is given to Waverley’s honourable dealings with the colonel than to the battle. As the novel continues, their display of private virtues becomes at least as important a narrative outcome as the progress of the war and the fate of the Jacobites with whom Waverley has joined cause. Scott actually based this chain of incidents on a story of 1746 which delighted him with the prospect of ‘two honourable men, though of different political principles’, keeping up their friendship ‘as if all had been at peace around them’.34 On a wider public scale, a related effect is seen in the conclusion of The Antiquary (1816), when the whole town and environs of Fairport, high and low, Protestant and Catholic, turn out as one to repel an expected French invasion. That it is a false alarm and there is no need for fighting matters much less than that the unifying response is made ‘in great force of numbers and high confidence and spirits’,35 and that through this gathering the apparently ‘pacific’ hero is revealed as an army officer and the true heir of the local lord.36 A replay of such events occurs in The Talisman when ‘The Knight of the Couchant Leopard’ and an ‘Emir’ (Kenneth and Saladin) conclude an impromptu fight without bloodshed and then share conversation over a meal in an ‘oasis’ that symbolises a moment of peace. Scott, seemingly conscious of Hume’s emphasis on private and personal ‘animosities’,37 comments that medieval warriors unless … provoked by the recollection of private and individual wrongs, cheerfully enjoyed in each other’s society the brief intervals of pacific intercourse which a warlike life admitted. The distinction of religions, nay, the fanatical zeal which animated the followers of the Cross and of the Crescent against each other, was much

The Miscellaneous Prose Works of Sir Walter Scott, VI.171. Walter Scott, Waverley (London, 1923; first publ. 1814), 450. 33 Scott, Waverley, 431. 34 Scott, Introduction to Waverley, civ. 35 Walter Scott, The Antiquary (London, 1905; first publ. 1816), 588. 36 Scott, The Antiquary, 590. 37 Hume, History, I.284, 397, 485. 32

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Andrew Lynch softened by a feeling so natural to generous combatants, and especially cherished by the spirit of chivalry.38

When Kenneth is later the victim of a plot, Saladin, still disguised, intervenes to save him from execution by Richard, whom he has already cured of illness with his ‘Talisman’. He is present again to witness the young man’s rehabilitation in honour and his revelation as a Scottish prince, and to unmask the treachery in the crusaders’ camp. Saladin’s marvellous ‘Talisman’ works metaphorically as a healing of the apparently incurable divisions between races and religions through an appeal to a shared code of honour. The same chivalric spirit that has prompted Saladin and Kenneth to their otherwise unmotivated original combat also sponsors mutual respect, and even, it is hinted, cultural and religious tolerance, despite the Crusades context: Saladin reminds Richard that ‘Jerusalem … is to us, as to you, a Holy City’.39 Features of the plot, notably a prophecy that Edith Plantagenet will wed a ‘Christian prince’, as Kenneth really is, suggest that Scott has later Scottish/ English and Catholic/Protestant relations in mind. Again in line with his view of chivalric romance, but in a way that also repeats plot situations in his earlier novels of modern times like Guy Mannering (1815) and The Antiquary, Scott’s young medieval heroes are all chastely devoted to one woman with whom they seek marriage: ‘a moral union precede[s] … the mere intercourse of the sexes’.40 The restraint of love is as vital to the hero’s chivalry as a commitment to love itself. The young lover, whether in the twelfth or the late eighteenth century, waits with ‘a passion … as timid and pure as engrossing and powerful’41 until the rehabilitation of his character and revelation of his true identity permit the betrothal that ends the story. Nevertheless, scenes of honourable bonding between men usually provide the necessary conditions for the social realisation of the love of a man for a woman, and generally receive more narrative emphasis: Scott characteristically retreats from climactic scenes of courtship. In Ivanhoe, The Talisman, and The Abbot, the concluding betrothals cross cultural, national, or religious boundaries. Scott’s liking for these outcomes reveals the political desire for peaceful unity bound up in his adherence to romance convention – the reward of true service in love as well as in arms – but also its frustration. These unions symbolise a potential for the friendly coexistence of different nations and peoples, but their status as romance fictions amongst figures and events known from history still limits that potential to the private sphere. The loving pairs, unknown to history, retire quietly into their unrecorded futures, weakening the sense Scott has tried to create that a shared higher form of 38 Scott,

The Talisman, 111. The Talisman, 457. 40 Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 22–23. 41 Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 23. 39 Scott,

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Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge chivalry could really be a widespread factor in medieval (or modern) military and political life. The historian in Scott, writing late in life for his young grandson, admitted as much: … those engaged in war have much occasion for the mercy of the Deity, since they are, in the exercise of their profession, led to become guilty of so much violence towards their fellow-creatures.42

Charlotte M. Yonge Charlotte M. Yonge was a very popular and prolific novelist from the 1850s to the end of the century, well informed in medieval literature and history, and a life-long proponent of ‘Christian chivalry’.43 The Heir of Redclyffe (1853), perhaps her best known fiction, is set in contemporary England, but is significantly related to Malory’s story of Galahad. The young hero, Guy Morville, is an orphan with a troubled family background. Through a religious application of his enthusiasm for Le Morte Darthur and its chivalric ideals, Guy learns to overcome his hereditary tendencies to anger and violence. He is falsely accused of wrongdoing but eventually cleared, marries his beloved, and then, after forgiving his enemy and heroically nursing him through illness, dies a perfect death, achieving the quest for salvation. Guy Morville’s chivalry, unlike his namesake Guy of Warwick’s, is in symbolic mode, and the battles he fights are moral. The real enemy is within: his family has been notorious for duelling. Yonge’s portrait of Guy’s passionate nature recalls the volatile Templar Brian de Bois-Guilbert in Ivanhoe: High features, naturally strong and powerfully expressive … might, in their ordinary state, be said to slumber after the storm of passion had passed away; but the projection of the veins of the forehead, the readiness with which the upper lip and its thick black moustaches quivered upon the slightest emotion, plainly intimated that the tempest might be again and easily awakened.44 …the force of passion rather increased than diminished; it was like the low distant sweep of the tempest as it whirls away, preparing to return with yet more tremendous might. His colour, too, had faded to paleness, but the veins were still swollen, purple, and throbbing, and there was a stillness about him that made his wrath more than fierce, intense, almost appalling.45

42

Walter Scott, Tales of a Grandfather (Edinburgh, 1865; first publ. 1828–31), 446. The reference is to military atrocities in the aftermath of Culloden, 1746. 43 Charlotte M. Yonge, The Long Vacation, 2 vols (London, 1895), I.206. 44 Scott, Ivanhoe, 24. 45 Charlotte M. Yonge, The Heir of Redclyffe (London, 1853), 266.

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Andrew Lynch Rather than die ‘a victim to his own contending passions’ in a combat, like Bois-Guilbert, Guy wins the internal struggle against his worse nature: ‘it was to him as if he saw the hereditary demon of the Morvilles watching by his side, to take full possession of him as a rightful prey, unless the battle was fought and won’.46 As the human site of psychomachia, Guy resembles Bois-Guilbert much more than he does the stolid Ivanhoe.47 The more complex characterisation emerges mainly because Yonge’s dominant idea of modern chivalric virtue – Christian ‘duty’ – can scarcely be shown through participation in literal combat. Accordingly, although Yonge clearly believes that Christian virtue may be inspired by reading of chivalry, in her novels attachment to the mere external glamour of medieval knighthood is shallow, a distraction from the real lesson medieval romance teaches: ‘Those were days worth living for [says the immature Lord St. Erme in Yonge’s Heartsease (1854)]. Then the knight’s devoir was poetry in real life.’ ‘Devoir is always poetry in real life,’ said Theodora. ‘What is it but the work ready to hand? Shrinking from it is shrinking from the battle.’48

Equally, in the Anglican Yonge’s works, a shallow external attachment to medievalism in religion leads to dangerous fancies, such as the revival of monasticism, and even conversion to Roman Catholicism. Like Scott’s, her enthusiasm for the Middle Ages is of a discriminating and critical kind. In The Clever Woman of the Family (1865), Fanny, a widowed mother, and Rachel, a young woman of strong views, debate the value of teaching children about medieval chivalry: ‘The boys have gone to their favourite cove under the plantation. They have a fort there, and Hubert told me he was to be a hero, and Miss Williams a she-ro … they learn so much now that they act all the battles they read about.’ ‘That is what I object to,’ said Rachel; ‘it is accustoming them to confound heroism with pugnacity; … you are cultivating the dangerous instinct, although for a moment giving it a better direction. … I think war the great purifier and ennobler of nations, when it is for a good and great cause; but I think education ought to protest against confounding mere love of combat with heroism.’49 46 Yonge,

The Heir of Redclyffe, 269. For a study of Guy’s anger, see Catherine Wells-Cole, ‘Angry Young Men: Anger and Masculinity in the Novels of Charlotte M. Yonge’, in Masculinity and Spirituality in Victorian Culture, ed. Andrew Bradstock, Sean Gill, Anne Hogan, and Sue Morgan (Basingstoke, 2000), 71–84. 48 Charlotte M. Yonge, Heartsease, or; The Brother’s Wife (London, 1891; first publ. 1854), Part II, Chapter 19, 276. 49 Charlotte M. Yonge, The Clever Woman of the Family, 4th edn (London, 1875; first publ. 1865), Chapter 6, 96. 47

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Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge Rachel’s view here is presented as wrong. Playful emulation of knighthood will put young people in the way of a more mature version of the battle of life later on, and also teach them some history. They must be both intellectually informed and brave, or neither quality will turn out well. Rachel is also wrong about war as purifier and ennobler, in Yonge’s view, because she confuses the ‘cause’ in war with the personal conduct of the combatants. Yonge’s account of medieval warfare in The Lances of Lynwood (1855), published two years after The Heir of Redclyffe, distinguishes sharply between the right conduct of her young English hero and the bad political ‘cause’ in which he is involved. The Lances of Lynwood is set around 1367, at the time of the Black Prince’s campaigns in southern France in league with Pedro I (‘the Cruel’) of Castile and Leon. The Black Prince is ill and guided by bad counsellors. An English lord ‘marvel[s] … that Edward should draw his sword in the cause of such a monster of cruelty’ (Chapter 2).50 The honour of England in this war has to be sustained by the conduct of its knights and men-atarms, within the faction-ridden and corrupting atmosphere of a demoralised military camp, prone to gossip, drunkenness, and gambling. There are traitors in the prince’s court. Even amongst the elite warriors, some are simply predatory, such as Oliver de Clisson, who becomes one of the story’s villains, a type of brute strength rather than true knighthood, yet who is first seen allied with Froissart’s hero Bertrand du Guesclin, whom Yonge treats with adulation. She severely complicates the story’s chivalric agenda by emphasising these unpleasant features of its historical setting. In such an environment, the moral character of the hero, young Eustace Lynwood, is as crucial to this story as Guy Morville’s is to The Heir of Redclyffe. The hero, Eustace, named for an early Christian soldier-saint martyr, is the younger son of an impoverished noble family in Somerset. In early youth he seems unpromising as a soldier: a puny, ailing child … preferring the seat at his mother’s feet, the fairy tale of the old nurse, the song of the minstrel, or the book of the Priest, to horse and hound, or even to the sight of the martial sports of the tilt-yard.51

Nevertheless, he changes in adolescence: ‘a diligent perusal of the romances of chivalry filled him with emulation, and he had applied himself ardently to all knightly exercises’.52 Eustace is naive, but Yonge makes the point that moral, imaginative, and intellectual education, including tales of chivalry in a religious context, will nourish and regulate military ambition, discipline, and leadership. 50

Charlotte M. Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood (London, 1855), 17. The Lances of Lynwood, 15. 52 Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood, 15. 51 Yonge,

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Andrew Lynch Bearing out Yonge’s ethnic views on the Conquest,53 and also echoing Scott’s vision of Saxon and Norman ‘happily blended together’,54 Eustace mixes traditional English discipline and loyalty – ‘the good old strict rule’55 – with Gallic flair, thanks to training by two tutors, the trusty but old-fashioned Ralph Penrose, and the reformed brigand, Gaston d’Aubricour, later Eustace’s squire and friend. Nevertheless, despite the hero’s success story, familiar Yonge tropes of physical ‘slightness’, feminine characteristics of ‘delicacy’, bookishness, and accusations of slackness and unreliability, show that she anticipates resistance to her image of a good soldier, which a contemporary reviewer described as ‘glorifying the gentler virtues that redeem, rather than the passions that govern, epochs of violence and scenes of carnage’.56 Although Yonge so much privileges refinement of mind and taste, to be acceptable in a medievalist romance her hero must be seen to fight well and bravely. In this context, the lack of consistent political motivation in the war helps her project, because it sets up battle more as a theatrical venue for personal chivalric exchanges than as a goal-oriented military struggle. Very much in the manner of Scott, Yonge avoids describing her hero in direct battle action by referring the reader to already existing accounts: ‘But it would be presumptuous to attempt to embellish a tale after Froissart has once touched it’.57 (Scott’s influence is visible here: he had cited exactly the same passage of Froissart in the Essay on Chivalry.)58 Yonge represents pitched battle as a chivalric pas d’armes: ‘It might have seemed some mighty tournament that was there arrayed, as the two armies stood confronting each other, rather than a stern battle for the possession of a kingdom.’59 In effect, a tournament encounter is what is narrated. The battle itself is elided, but in its aftermath Eustace finds himself in an isolated fight with Du Guesclin, able only to defend himself – we never see him strike an aggressive blow – but bravely maintaining the pennon he holds until English help arrives, crying ‘St George’. Then, in a replay of Waverley’s scene with Colonel Talbot,60 53

See Charlotte, M. Yonge, Young Folks’ History of England (Boston, MA, 1879), 48: ‘They [the Normans] really were much cleverer and more sensible, for they had learnt a great deal in France, while the English had forgotten much of what Alfred and his sons had taught them, and all through the long, sad reign of Ethelred had been getting more dull, and clumsy and rude. Moreover, they had learnt of the Danes to be sad drunkards.’ 54 Scott, Ivanhoe, 17. 55 Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood, 17. 56 Julia C. R. Dorr, ‘The Lances of Lynwood’, The North American Review 82/171 (1856): 578–79. 57 Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood, 41. 58 Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 96. 59 Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood, 41. 60 See Scott, Waverley, 432: ‘the battle-axe of Dugald Mahony was in the act of descending upon the officer’s head. Waverley intercepted and prevented the blow, and

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Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge [a] sword was lifted over the enemy’s head from behind, and would the next moment have descended, but that Eustace sprang up, dashed it aside, cried ‘Shame!’ and grasping the arm of the threatened Knight, exclaimed, ‘Yield, yield! it is your only hope!’61

Scott had argued, with reference to Froissart, that ‘[chivalry’s] most brilliant period was during the wars between France and England’, where knights practised ‘the habit of constant and honourable opposition, unembittered by rancour or personal hatred’.62 Yonge allows Eustace alone of the young English soldiers to participate in that scene. He mixes with the elite group praised by Froissart – the Black Prince, Sir John Chandos, the Captal de Buch, and Sir Hugh Calverley, who have fought both with and against each other with varying success over many years, but are shown here as friends and companions. In Eustace’s other major conflict, the defence of a castle, Yonge takes the action elsewhere with Gaston while an assault happens that wounds Eustace and disables his sword-arm. We see him wounded but not wounding others. Then, bed-ridden like Ivanhoe, but, unlike him, alone, he hears the tumult of the battle and can take no part. His struggle to do his duty as a soldier alternates with a Passion-like preparation for death: Sometimes his whole being seemed in the fight; he clenched his teeth, he shouted his war-cry, tried to raise himself and lift his powerless arm; then returned again to the consciousness of his condition, clasped either the rosary or the crucifix, and turned his soul to fervent prayer.63

The Lances of Lynwood is in this respect The Heir of Redclyffe over again, in a medieval military setting, where the soldier’s mission is not conquest but a symbolic defence, bravely bearing both literal and moral assaults – a Eustace who is as much Christian martyr as combatant, and who dies a symbolic death before his rescue: ‘One embrace, Sir Eustace, [says Gaston] and we meet no more’— ‘In this world.’ Eustace concluded the sentence, as Gaston hung over him, and his tears dropped on his face. ‘…Think not on me – think on thy duty – and good angels will be around us both.’64

The rosary and the crucifix, both notionally ‘superstitious’ externals of medieval religion, are accepted by Yonge on account of Eustace’s proof of

the officer, perceiving further resistance unavailing, and struck with Edward’s generous anxiety for his safety, resigned the fragment of his sword’. 61 Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood, 43. 62 Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 107. 63 Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood, 176. 64 Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood, 180.

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Andrew Lynch internal trust in God, and for the sake of his Christ-likeness. ‘[T]he shaping of her fiction by typological significance’ has been noted.65 Had Yonge’s project been simply to put medieval chivalry in a positive light, it would have been much easier for her to set the story some decades earlier, framed around the universally praised victories of Poitiers and Crécy. Rather, she chooses contested ground. Dickens had recently written scathingly about the campaign to restore Pedro as king, and its aftermath at Limoges where the Black Prince ‘burnt, and plundered, and killed in the old sickening way’.66 Yonge, apparently, seeks to reinsert her new version of ‘proof of perfect knighthood’67 romance into a credible medieval historical framework, so that the critique of medieval chivalry in her own times can be admitted in order to be strategically countered. Scott had described how medieval romance was originally derived from history, but had ‘received so many tributes from the Imagination, that at length the very name came to be used of works of pure fiction’.68 An obvious danger for Yonge was that Eustace would seem as improbable as anything in medieval romance. Wilkie Collins wrote of The Heir of Redclyffe that ‘[t]he characters by whose aid the story is worked out, are simply impossible.’69 Another way of approaching the function of Eustace’s character in the novel might be to treat it in part as what Scott called a ‘Spiritual Romance’, usually a martyr story, which he saw as very like the ‘Temporal Romance’ in structure and style, though different ‘in scope and tendency’:70 The conclusion of the Romance, which usually assigns to the champion a fair realm, an abundant succession and a train of happy years, consigns to the martyr his fame and altar upon earth, and in heaven his seat amongst saints and angels, and his share in a blessed eternity.71

I am not suggesting that Yonge simply replaces problematical ‘temporal’ chivalry with a martyr story, but that she participates in some aspects of the contemporary critique of chivalry by including a ‘spiritual’ counter-romance in her book that systematically gives medieval knightly values and practices new emphases and new outcomes. Narrative examples of these corrective

65

Gavin Budge, Charlotte M. Yonge: Religion, Feminism and Realism in the Victorian Novel (Bern, 2007), 23–62. 66 Dickens, Child’s History, 160. 67 See Larry D. Benson, Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’ (Cambridge, MA, 1978), 114–28. 68 Scott, Essay on Romance, 154. 69 Wilkie Collins, quoted in Nicholas Rance, Wilkie Collins and Other Sensation Novelists (Basingstoke, 1991), 46. 70 Scott, Essay on Romance, 141. 71 Scott, Essay on Romance, 142–43.

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Youth at War in Walter Scott and Charlotte M. Yonge tendencies abound. Yonge celebrates the superficially ‘glorious’ scene of the allies’ camp at Najéra: …the green plain covered in every direction with white tents, surmounted with the banners or pennons of their masters, the broad red Cross of St. George waving proudly in the midst, and beside it the royal Lions and Castles of the two Spanish monarchies.72

But she contrasts it with a later scene of less glamour but more honour, focalised through Sir John Chandos as he discovers the wounded Eustace in the castle he has defended: …the dungeon-like apartment, still more rugged in the morning light than in the evening gloom – the bare rough walls, an arrow sticking between the stones immediately above the Knight’s head.73

Eustace’s suffering redeems English pride from its troubling political association with the Castilian civil war. Yonge also indirectly critiques an accepted modern survival of chivalry, as Hume and Scott had seen it, in the masculine culture of personal honour and shame:74 Eustace saves his treacherous cousin Fulk from death after his ceremonial public degradation. Like Scott, who may have drawn her attention to this chivalric custom,75 Yonge relishes the pageantry of the scene, but makes Eustace transform its meaning into Christian forgiveness. Similarly, Eustace’s notable selflessness – he subsequently cedes his estate to the reformed Fulk – may be included to offset the book’s hint that several of its renowned chivalric figures are in fact mercenary soldiers, if generous ones. On the other hand, Eustace himself can be used to demonstrate medieval superstition, as when he believes he has been cursed by a ‘witch’, in fact a poor old Castilian woman; his loyal English troops burn down her house. In Yonge’s conclusion to The Lances of Lynwood, Eustace outdoes any retiring Scott hero by giving up his baronage and castle, and moving with his wife to ‘a small manor’.76 The move immediately follows a visit to court, where he finds ‘only the Young King Richard II and his mother, the Princess Joanna, … sadly aged by time and sorrow’. She complains that ‘Lord Henry of Lancaster, now Earl of Bolingbroke, too often love[s] … to oppose her and

72 Yonge,

The Lances of Lynwood, 27. The Lances of Lynwood, 197. 74 See Hume, History, I.487: ‘they left modern gallantry and the point of honour, which still maintain their influence, and are the genuine offspring of those ancient affectations’; Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 125: ‘none can infringe on … [a man’s] personal honour … without subjecting himself to personal responsibility’. 75 See Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 105. 76 Yonge, The Lances of Lynwood, 223. 73 Yonge,

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Andrew Lynch her son.’77 The remark looks forward to Bolingbroke’s deposition of Richard, and the end of the great chivalric period, as Scott saw it, in the civil wars of the fifteenth century, ‘utterly inconsistent with the courtesy, fair play, and gentleness, proper to chivalry’.78 Yonge emphasises the historical terminus of medieval chivalry, and its impossibility as a literal model for modern behaviour. For all that concession to history, The Lances of Lynwood is still a romance strategically designed to show the ways in which chivalry might find a legitimate modern continuance. Yonge’s deployment of Eustace’s story systematically includes, in order to question, contest and, where possible, assert under new forms, all the factors that made up medieval ‘chivalry’ in the view of her time: knightly spectacle; personal honour; proven masculinity; prowess in battle; triumph over enemies; material gain; class promotion; religious piety; courtesy to women; and, though a muted presence in this story, romantic love. Like Scott, by conceding and countering the ‘hyperbole and extravagances’79 in medieval chivalry and its romance representations, she managed to indulge them in a different guise.

77

The Lances of Lynwood, 223. Yonge apologises in her Preface for making Henry of Lancaster ‘a year or two older than history warrants’ (iv). The move seems partly designed to make reference to his early opposition to Richard more credible. 78 Scott, Essay on Chivalry, 111. 79 Scott, Essay on Romance, 171.

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Works Cited Whetter and Raluca L. Radulescu, Arthurian Studies 60 (Cambridge, 2005), 149–62 —, Understanding Genre and Medieval Romance (Aldershot, 2008) Whitaker, Muriel, Arthur’s Kingdom of Adventure: The World of Malory’s ‘Morte Darthur’, Arthurian Studies 9 (Cambridge, 1984) Whiting, B. J., and Helen W. Whiting, Proverbs, Sentences and Proverbial Phrases from English Writings Mainly before 1500 (Cambridge, MA, 1968) Wimsatt, James, ‘The Idea of a Cycle: Malory, the Lancelot-Grail, and the Prose Tristan’, in The Lancelot-Grail Cycle: Text and Transformations, ed. William W. Kibler (Austin, TX, 1994), 206–18 Windeatt, Barry, ‘The Art of Swooning in Middle English’, in Medieval Latin and Middle English Literature: Essays in Honour of Jill Mann, ed. Christopher Cannon and Maura Nolan (Cambridge, 2011), 211–30 —, ‘Chaucer’s Tears’, Critical Survey 30 (2018), 69–88 —, ‘Chaucer Traditions’, in Chaucer Traditions: Studies in Honour of Derek Brewer, ed. Ruth Morse and Barry Windeatt (Cambridge, 1990), 1–20 —, ‘Literary Structures in Chaucer’, in The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer, ed. Piero Boitani and Jill Mann, 2nd edn, Cambridge Companions to Literature (Cambridge, 2003), 214–32 —, ‘“Troilus” and the Disenchantment of Romance’, in Studies in Medieval English Romances: Some New Approaches, ed. Derek Brewer (Cambridge, 1988), 129–47 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G. E. M. Anscombe (Oxford, 1953) Woolf, Rosemary, The English Religious Lyric in the Middle Ages (Oxford, 1968) Wright, Glenn, ‘Modern Inconveniences: Rethinking Parody in The Tale of Sir Thopas’, Genre 30 (1997): 167–94 —, ‘“Other Wyse Then Must We Do”: Parody and Popular Narrative in The Squyr of Lowe Degre’, Comitatus 27 (1996): 14–41 Yeager, R. F., ‘Gower’s Lancastrian Affinity: The Iberian Connection’, Viator 35 (2009): 483–515 —, John Gower’s Poetic: The Search for a New Arion, Publications of the John Gower Society 2 (Cambridge, 1990) —, ‘Pax Poetica: On the Pacifism of Chaucer and Gower’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 9 (1987): 97–121 Yeager, Suzanne M., Jerusalem in Medieval Narrative, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature 72 (Cambridge, 2008), 48–77 —, ‘The Siege of Jerusalem and Biblical Exegesis: Writing about Romans in Fourteenth-Century England’, The Chaucer Review 39 (2004): 70–102 Zumthor, Paul, Essai de poétique médiévale, Collection Poétique (Paris, 1972) 282

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Works Cited —, ‘Intertextualité et mouvance’, Littérature 41 (1981): 8–16 —, La lettre et la voix. De la “littérature” médiévale, Collection Poétique (Paris, 1987)

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Index Abellyus (romance figure), 73 Acre: falls to Turks, 63 adultery, 81 see also Lancelot Advocates MS, 166 Aeneas Silvius, see Piccolomini, Aeneas Silvius Aggravayne (Agravain), Sir (romance figure), 80–1, 123 Alexander the Great, 8 Alexandrian Crusade, 62 Amans (romance figure), 103, 105, 107 Amazons, 21, 85, 87, 101 Amis and Amiloun: gesture and body language in, 22, 136, 139, 141–2, 146 Antiochus (romance figure), 105 Apollonius of Tyre (fictional character), 21, 103–5, 109, 111–14 Archibald, Elizabeth, 21, 103n3 Ardour (romance figure), 60 Arnold’s Chronicle (The Customs of London), 234 Arthur, King borne away to Avalon, 205 brutality and warmongering, 59n39 comic behaviour, 71–2 death and burial, 59n39, 130 dreams, 204 final tragedy and downfall, 21, 57, 60, 80–1, 121, 205 forgets name of sword, 70–1 and Gawain’s behaviour, 73 gives refuge to Tristan and Isolde, 125 and Grail Quest, 192 and Guenevere’s retreat to nunnery, 127 incest, 118–21, 123 Lancelot grovels on tomb, 125, 129

and Lancelot’s adultery with Guinevere, 80–1 learns of true parentage, 120 in Malory, 194–5 prominence in Post-Vulgate Cycle, 120–1 sends out babies to sea, 121 as subject of romance, 4, 59–60 tradition of survival and return, 130–1, 205 wedding feast, 71–2 Ashe, Laura, 5 Ashmole MS 61, 149–50, 157 Assembly of Ladies, 225n36 astrology: in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale, 97–9 Auchinleck manuscript, 31, 41, 43, 53, 58, 149–50 Auerbach, Erich on romance as fairy-tale, 28–9, 33, 40 ‘The Knight Sets Forth’, 2 Augustine of Hippo, St on different levels of vision, 191, 201 De civitate dei, 61 Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice, 67–8 Avalon, 130, 205 Avicenna: De anima, 190 Awntyrs off Arthur, The, 57–8, 127n33 Balan (romance figure), 197, 201 Balin (Balyn; romance figure), 70–1, 197–8 Ballad of the Nutbrown Maid, The, 234–5 Ban, King (romance figure), 127 Bancourt, Paul, 53 Banester, Gilbert, 238 Barron, W. R. J., 39 Barthes, Roland, 15n43, 16n44 Bataille, Georges, 15n43

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Index Bayezid I, Ottoman Sultan, 52, 57 Beatrice (Beatrix), Queen of King Oriens (romance figure), 176–8, 180, 187 Bédier, Joseph, 39 Bedivere, Sir (romance figure), 130 Belle Dame Sans Merci, La, 213 Bellis, Joanna, 61 Benson, Larry, 69 Beowulf, 19 Berghen, Adriaen van, 233 Bergson, Henri, 75, 77 Bertrand du Guesclin, 251–2 Bettelheim, Bruno, 29 Bevis of Hamtoun, 7, 53, 174, 236 Blamour, Sir (romance figure), 205 Bleoberis, Sir (romance figure), 205 Bliss, Jane, 10 Bloom, Harold, 6 blushing, 134–5 Boccaccio, Giovanni Decameron, 237 Teseida, 87, 92, 99, 101 Bodel, Jehan: classifies romances, 4 body language defined, 133 in medieval writing, 134 see also Amis and Amiloun; Bone Florence of Rome; Emaré; Erle of Toulouse; Floris and Blancheflour; Ipomadon; King Horn; Morte Arthur: Stanzaic; Sir Launfal; Squire of Low Degree Boffey, Julia, 23 Bogdanow, Fanni, 115, 117–18, 121, 131 Bone Florence of Rome: body language in, 136–7, 140–1, 144–6, 149 Bonet [Bouvet], Honoré: L’Apparicion Maistre Jehan de Meun, 57 Book of John Mandeville, The, 56 Bors, Sir (romance figure), 75, 81, 123, 200–2, 205 Bourdieu, Pierre, 15n43 Brandules, Sir (romance figure), 78–9 Brinton, Thomas, Bishop of Rochester, 63 Britain: ‘matter’ of, 7, 11

British Library Cotton Caligula A.ii (MS), 173 Bromyard, John of: Summa praedicantium, 56 Bruni, Leonardo: Guiscardo et Sigismunda, 238 Brusen, Dame (romance figure), 199 Brut, Walter, 62 Burgh, Benedict: ‘Verses on Lydgate’, 212 Butler, John, 235 Byrth and prophecye of Marlyn, 236 Camelot: end of, 114, 120, 125, 204 Cannon, Christopher, 7, 21 Capistranus, 236 Carley, James, 119 carols, 163nn26,28, 166, 170 Carruthers, Mary: The Book of Memory, 17 Cartlidge, Neil, 10 Castell of pleasure, The, 240 Caxton, William, 120, 192–3 chance, 89n9 chansons de geste, 49, 53 Chaplin, Charlie, 94 Charbonneau, Joanne A., 41 charity, 157 Charlemagne, Emperor as protocrusader, 51–2 as subject, 4, 8, 50 Charles VI, King of France, 64n62 Charles d’Orléans Court of Love borrows from, 23 La Retenue d’Amour, 212, 215, 217–18 Charni, Geoffrey de: Livre de Chevalerie, 159 Chastising of God’s Children, The, 193 Chaucer, Geoffrey character of January, 218 on cost of warfare, 61 Court of Love borrows from, 23 on human experience, 191 romances, 3 self-referencing and intertextuality, 6, 15 The Canterbury Tales literary construction, 106

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Index Retraction, 5 Complaint Unto Pity, 212, 220 The Franklin’s Tale, 86n3, 91n12 General Prologue, 220 The Knight’s Tale astrological content, 97–9 ending, 100–2 formal qualities, 20 and meaning of life, 97–100 narrative techniques, 85–92, 101–2 refers to other narratives, 21 style and tone, 92–7 time perspective, 99–100 warfare in, 61 Legend of Good Women, 212, 216, 238 The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, 14, 217 The Parliament of Fowls, 213, 224 The Parson’s Tale, 61 The Squire’s Tale, 13, 15 The Tale of Sir Thopas, 1–2, 5–7, 10, 12, 15–19, 41–3, 47, 221 Troilus and Criseyde, 213 The Wife of Bath’s Tale, 14 cherries and cherry tree legend, 158, 163–9, 172 ‘Cherry-Tree Carol/Ballad’, 164 Chertsey, Andrew, 239 Chevalere Assigne magical logic in, 179 moral universe, 181–7 motifs, 22, 24, 173–4 and swan children, 173–4, 176, 178, 184–5, 187 Chism, Christine, 7 chivalry attributed to Saracens, 49, 53–4 in Charlotte M. Yonge’s novels, 249–56 and comedy, 74–5 ideals, 20 values questioned, 57–8 and Victorian fiction, 23, 241–2 Walter Scott on, 242–9, 252–3, 255 see also knights Chrétien de Troyes courtly romances, 5, 44 on human experience, 191

Le chevalier de la charette, 20 Cligés, 5 Christianity and generosity, 160–3 and Saracen threat, 49–52, 55–6 and Sir Cleges romance, 170–1 Christmas: festivities, 165–6, 168, 172 Clanvowe, John, 61–2, 64 The Two Ways, 62 Clarys (wife of Sir Cleges; romance figure), 158, 162, 166 class (social), 156 & n5 Claudas (romance figure), 121 Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, 52 Colbrand (romance giant), 11 Coleman, Joyce, 78n Collins, Wilkie, 254 comedy Chaplin on, 94 in Malory’s Morte Darthur, 68–75, 78–82 nature of, 67–9, 74–5 Complaynt of them that be to soone maryed, A, 240 Cooper, Helen on British disquiet with adultery, 122 on English lack of interest in Lancelot, 119 on gender in Piers Plowman, 225 on happiness and unhappiness in romance, 68–9, 198 on hermit in Chevalere Assigne, 178n22 on Malory’s Morte Darthur, 70, 115 researches and writing, 19, 21, 23–4 on reworked motifs, 49, 64, 173 on romance endings, 185 The English Romance in Time, 2, 4, 23, 49 Shakespeare and the Medieval World, 23 Copland, Robert, 234, 239 Copland, William, 235–6 Corbenic, Castle of, 202 Cordyale or the Four Last Things, 193 Corpus Christi Plays, 164 Court of Love allegory in, 215–16, 219–20, 224–6

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Index Court of Love (cont.) anonymity, 211 birds sing Mass in, 226–7 C. S. Lewis on, 209 origins, 210 pity and innocence in, 219–23, 227–8 poet’s apology, 213–15 qualities, 209 Statutes of Love in, 217–19, 223 summarised, 212–13 understudied, 23–4 courtesy, 14, 157 Cox, Captain (of Coventry), 235 Cruelty, see violence and cruelty Crusades, 52, 55–6, 62–4 cuckoo, 227 Customs of London, The, see Arnold’s Chronicle Dagonet (court fool), 78–9 daimons, 190 Dante Alighieri, 94 Davenport, Tony, 186 ‘De Sancta Maria’ (anon. sermon), 52 demons, 201 Despenser, Henry, Bishop of Norwich, 62 destiny: God and, 194 Destruction de Rome, La, 50 Dickens, Charles, 241 Dinadan, Sir (romance figure), 75–8 divine intervention, 204–5 Dolopathos, see Johannes de Alta Silva: Dolopathos Douce Pensée: as personification, 225 Duke Roland and Sir Otuel of Spain, 50–1, 54, 58 Dystruccyon of Iherusalem, The, 236 economics: in romances, 155–6, 158–9 Ector (Hector; romance figure) eulogy on Lancelot, 125–6 healing, 199 as subject, 8 vision, 200 Edlich-Muth, Miriam, 22 Edward the Black Prince, 60

Edwards, A.S.G., 23 Edwards, Elizabeth, 81n27, 131 Elaine (of Astolat), see Fair Maid of Astolat Elaine (of Corbenic, romance figure), 121, 199 Elias, Marcel, 20 Elias (swan child), see Eneas Ellesmere manuscript (Chaucer), 86 Elyot, Thomas: Book Named the Governor, 238 Emaré and Chaucer’s characters, 5 gesture and body language in, 22, 135–6, 140–2, 144, 146–7 embracing: as gesture, 141–2 emotion: and gesture, 133, 143 Eneas (Elias; swan child), 177–9, 181–2, 184–5 England: ‘matter’ of, 7n21, 8–9 Enterlude of temperaunce, An, 240 Erle of Tolouse: body language in, 135, 137, 139–40, 146, 149 Evelake, King (romance figure), 201 Example of euyll tongues, The, 240 Example of vertu, The, 240 Excalibur, 205 facial expressions, 134–5 fainting, see swooning Fair Maid of Astolat (Elaine, romance figure), 121, 123, 128 fairy tales: romances as, 28–9 Fantasy of the passyon of the fox, 240 Faques, Richard, 235 Felice (romance figure), 63 Fergus of Galloway (Roman de Fergus), 43–7 Ferumbras (Saracen warrior figure), 50 Feylde, Thomas: A contrauersye bytwene a louer and a iaye, 240 Fierabras, 50, 52 Fitzgerald, F. Scott, 228 Fleury, Jean, 238 Floris and Blancheflour body language in, 135, 137, 142, 146–7 as English text, 9

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Index Forni, Kathleen, 213–14 Foster, Edward E., 155, 169 Foucault, Michel, 6 France: as ‘matter’ of romance, 4 Frappier, Jean, 117 French prose cycles (Arthurian), 116–17 Freud, Sigmund: Jokes and Their Relation to the Unconscious, 74, 79, 82 Froissart, Jean, 52, 60, 243, 251–3 Frollo (romance figure), 121 Frye, Northrop: Anatomy of Criticism, 27, 33 Gaheris (Gaherys, Gaheriet; romance figure), 72, 76–7, 121, 123–4 Galahad, Sir conception, 122, 199 death and transport to heaven, 202 and Elaine, 121 as elect, 201 rule over Sarras, 206 and sword in the stone, 198 Galias, Sir (romance figure), 54 Galyadose, Sir (romance figure), 54 Gareth (romance figure), 118–19 Gawain and the Green Knight, see Sir Gawain and the Green Knight Gawain (romance figure) as Arthur’s leading knight, 119 as father of Libaeus Desconus, 7, 11 killed by Lancelot, 198 knightly excellence, 13 Sir Pyonell attempts to kill, 81 in The Squire’s Tale, 13–14, 16 and The Squire of Low Degree, 231 and vengeance, 72–3 vision, 200, 202–3 gazes and looks (expressions), 135–6 generosity, see largesse Genette, Gérard, 16n44 Genius (romance figure), 103, 105, 107–9 Geoffrey of Monmouth, 120, 130–1 Geoffrey of Vinsauf: Poetria Nova, 214 Gesta Romanorum, 104, 111 gesture, 22 see also body language

gift exchange, 159, 165, 167, 169 Girflet (romance figure), 130–1 Glastonbury, 130 Godeffroy of Boloyne, 193 Godfrey of Bouillon, 176 Godfrey of Viterbo: Pantheon, 104, 111 Goodwyn, Christopher, 239 Chaunce of the dolorous lover, 239 Gower, John authorial voice, 108–9 on cost of warfare, 61 on human experience, 191 on knightly estate, 63 Confessio Amantis, 9, 21, 61, 105–6, 114, 216 Mirour de l’Omme, 106, 110 Tale of Apollonius (Historia Apollonii regis Tyri) as Bildungsroman, 111–13 as genre, 103 incest in, 105–9 plot, 111–12 and Richard II, 109–11 skill at ball games, 114 sources, 104, 111 Vox Clamantis, 106, 110 Gowther, Sir (romance figure), 58 grace, 170 & n47, 192 Grail, Holy: powers, 199–200 Grail Quest and Balin/Balan story, 197 conclusion, 206 Lancelot fails in, 120 in Malory, 192, 199 moral universe, 201 in Stanzaic version, 128 and visionary experience, 22 Grosmont, Henry of, see Lancaster, Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Guerrehet (romance figure), 123–4 Gui de Warewic, 53, 58 Guinevere, Queen (romance figure) death and burial, 124, 129, 205 and Galahad, 73 love affair with Lancelot, 21–2, 80–1, 119–28, 132, 203

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Index inner senses, 190–1 intertextuality, 12 & n37, 15 Ipomadon: body language in, 137, 141, 148

retreat to nunnery and hope of redemption, 127–9 wedding feast, 71–2 Guy and Colbronde, 231 Guy of Warwick, 7, 11–12, 16, 53, 57, 63, 231 Guystard and Sigismonde story, 238 hands: gestures, 139–41 Hardyng, John, 119 Harley MS 3810, 149 Harold Godwinson, King, 37 Havelok the Dane, 9 Hawes, Stephen, 240 Hearing the Voice project (Durham University), 189 Hector, see Ector hell: visions of, 126–7 Helyas, The knyght of the swanne, 236 Hengwrt manuscript, 86 Henry of Grosmont, see Lancaster, Henry of Grosmont, Duke of Henry IV (Bolingbroke, Duke of Lancaster), King of England, 255–6 Henry V, King of England, 61 Herbert (Old French translator), 176 hermits, 201 Herod the Great, ruler of Palestine, 60, 149 Higden, Ranulph, 60n43 Hill, Richard, 234–5 Hippolyta, Queen of Amazons (character), 85, 101 Historia Apollonii regis Tyri, see Gower, John: Tale of Apollonius Hoccleve, Thomas, 61 Regiment of Princes, 62 Hume, David: History of England, 241–3, 246, 255 humility, 157 humour, see comedy Hundred Years War, 57, 62 hypertextuality, 16 & n44 incest Arthur’s, 118–21, 123 in Gower’s ‘Apollonius’, 105–7, 109

japes, 74, 78 Jean de Condé: Messe des oiseaus, 213, 227n37 Jest of Sir Gawaine, The, 231n5, 235 Jesus Christ and cherry tree story, 163–5 emanates from Grail, 202 Jews: fate, 60 Johannes de Alta Silva: Dolopathos, sive de Rege et Septem Sapientibus, 174–7, 180 John of Gaunt, 110n19 John, Simon, 176n16 Johnston, Michael, 156n5 Jokes, see comedy Joseph of Arimathea, 202 Josephus, 60n Julian of Norwich, 201 Keaton, Buster, 69, 72 Kempe, Margery, 201 Kennedy, E. D., 116, 118–19, 131 King Alexander, 235 King Horn as English text, 9, 16 gesture and body language in, 135, 137, 139–42, 147–8 kissing: as body language, 142–3 kneeling: as body language, 137, 138–50 Knight of the Cart episode, 123, 128 knights behaviour and customs, 75–9 spendthrift, 155 see also chivalry Kölbing, Eugen, 34–5 Kristeva, Julia, 12, 15, 16n44 Kynge Rycharde cuer de lyon, 236 Laban, Sultan (romance figure), 54–5 Lady of the Lake (romance figure), 70–1, 196, 198 Lai le Fresne, 146

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Index Lamorak (Lamorat; romance figure), 80, 121 Lancaster, Henry of Grosmont, Duke of, 61 Livre de Seynts Medicines, 62, 64 Lancelot (romance figure) as Arthurian hero, 13–14 death and burial, 124–5, 129, 205 Dagonet impersonates, 78–9 encounter with warring black and white knights, 200 encounters with enchantresses, 199 eulogised by Ector, 125–6 foresees own death, 205 heals Sir Urry, 203 kills Gareth, 118–19 kills Gawain, 198 largely omitted from Post-Vulgate version, 122–3, 125 learns of death of Guinevere, 124, 129, 205 and love of Guinevere, 21–2, 80–1, 119–26, 128, 132, 203 madness, 199 in Malory, 21–2, 121–2, 132 refuses monastic life, 128 sees Grail at castle of King Pelles, 199 vision of Guinevere in hell, 126–7 vision restricted and enhanced, 202–4 wounded in tournament, 81 Lancelot: French Vulgate prose version, 69 Lancelot of the Lake (Scotland), 122 Lancelot-Grail (cycle), 116–17 see also Post-Vulgate Cycle Langham, Robert, 235 Langland, William: Piers Plowman, 225–6 largesse, 156, 158–60 laughing: as body language, 148–50 Lewis, Celia, 62 Lewis, C. S.: Allegory of Love, 209–11, 217 Libeaus Desconus (romance figure), 7, 11–12, 16, 231 see also Lybaeus Desconus Life of Ipomydon, The, 236 Life of Johan Picus erle of Myrandula, 240

Limoges: massacre (1370), 60–1 Lionel, Sir (romance figure), 123 lof (word), 31–2 Logres, 125, 203 Lollards, 61–2 Lot, King (romance figure), 195–6 Love, Nicholas: Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ, 192–3 Lucius, Emperor, 195 Ludus Coventriae, 164 Lupack, Alan, 31, 35, 40, 44 Lust: in Gower’s Confessio Amantis, 105–7, 109 Luxuria, 105, 107 Lybeaus Desconus, 11, 45–7 see also Libaeus Desconus Lydgate, John Court of Love borrows from, 23 works printed with translation of Guiscardo et Sigismunda, 238 Temple of Glas, 210, 212–14, 217, 222 Lynch, Andrew, 23 McGerr, Rosemarie P., 89n10 Mador de la Porte, Sir (romance figure), 81 Malory, Thomas changes emphasis in sources, 115 comedy in, 68–75, 78–82 knightly behaviour in, 75–7 and Post-Vulgate Cycle, 21–2, 115–16, 118, 125, 131–2 romances, 3 sources, 192n7, 193 spiritual and supernatural in, 22 ‘Book of the Sankgreal’, 192 Morte Darthur comedy and tragedy in, 68–72, 75 as ‘encyclopedia’ of Arthurian legend, 119–20 prophecy and destiny in, 197–9 roll call of knights, 10 voices and visions in, 189–92, 199–206 ‘Noble Tale of Sir Launcelot du Lake’, 122

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Index Malory, Thomas (cont.) ‘Tale of King Arthur’, 116 Tale of Lancelot and Guenevere, 119 Mann, Jill, 21 Mark, King, 78, 125 Markus (Matabrune’s servant; romance figure), 181 Marsile, 52 Marx, Karl: on comedy and tragedy, 67–9 Mary, Virgin, 163–4 Matabrune (Matabryne; King Oriens’s mother; romance figure), 176–7, 181–2 ‘matters’, 4, 7 Maximian, 214 Meecham-Jones, Simon, 9 Mellyagaunte (romance figure), 81 Melusine (fairy), 180 memory: as ethical faculty, 17 Meraugis of Portlegues (romance figure), 125 Meredith, George, 67–8 Merlin in Malory, 22, 71–3, 193–6 prophecies and foreknowledge, 193, 195–7 Merlin (prose version), 193–4 Metz, siege of, 59–60 Mézières, Philippe de, 52 Middleton, Roger, 116–17 minstrels, minstrelsy, 11–12, 172 mischief: as term, 20 Mooney, Linne, 212 Moraunt (romance giant), 34 Mordred, Sir (romance figure), 81, 118–20, 123, 127 More, Thomas, 240 Morgan (romance figure), 31–4, 126 Morson, Gary Saul, 85, 90 Mort Artu, Le, 69, 116–17, 123, 125, 130–1, 203, 205 Morte Arthure Alliterative, 58–61, 68, 195 Stanzaic body language in, 22, 136–42, 145, 147, 149

and death of Arthur, 130 and death of Gareth, 119 Grail Quest unmentioned, 128 and Guinevere’s hopes of redemption, 127 influenced by Post-Vulgate Cycle, 121, 126 and Lancelot-Guinevere affair, 123, 126, 129 and Lancelot’s holy death, 125 Malory draws on, 203, 205 Muscatine, Charles: Chaucer and the French Tradition, 93 Mychell, John, 236 N-Town Plays, 60 Naissance du Chevalier au Cygne, La, 173, 175–7, 179–80, 186 Nashe, Thomas, 235 Newstead, Helen, 39 Nicopolis, 63 Nievergelt, Marco, 22 Norris, Ralph, 116–17 Nutbrown Maid, The, see Ballad of the Nutbrown Maid, The nymphs: as forbidden lovers for mortals, 179–80, 183–4 Octavian, 135, 137, 143, 147–8 Olifaunt, Sir (romance giant), 41 Oriens (Orient), King (romance figure), 176, 182, 184 Otinel, 50, 52, 58 Ottoman Turkey: advance in Europe, 49, 52 Otuel (Saracen warrior figure), 50–1 Otuel, 50–1, 54, 58 Otuel and Roland, 58 Owen, D. D. R., 44 Page, John, 61 pallor (growing pale), 134–5 parody in Fergus of Galloway, 45 ‘Sir Thopas’ as, 1–2, 5–7, 41–2, 47–8 and Sir Tristrem, 41–2

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Index and social aspiration, 233n8 Patryse, Sir (romance figure), 80 Paul, St Corinthians I, 189 Corinthians II, 161 Payne and sorowe of euyll maryage, The, 240 Pearce, Cathryn, 37–8 Pearl, 168n39 Pearsall, Derek, 2 Pelles, King (romance figure), 99 Pellinor (romance figure), 194–5, 204 Perceval (romance figure), 199, 201–2 Percy Folio (British Library), 231, 234 Piccolomini, Aeneas Silvius (later Pope Pius II): De duobus amantibus, 238 Pintoine, Michel, 57 Poisoned Apple episode (in Malory), 123 Post-Vulgate Cycle (Roman du Graal), 21, 115–18, 120–5, 197 poststructuralism, 15n43 posture, 136 Pratt, Robert, 92 prayer: as gesture, 139n5 Prince, Gerald, 91 printing: of romances, 229–40 Privy Thought, 225–6 prophecy: in Malory’s Morte Darthur, 197, 199 Pseudo-Matthew Gospel, 163–4 Putter, Ad, 23, 156, 158–9, 171 Pynson, Richard, 231, 235 Pyonell, Sir (romance figure), 80 Queste (Post-Vulgate version), 116–17, 126, 128, 203 Queste del Saint Graal: Vulgate version, 200n28 Questing Beast episode (in Malory), 123 Rastell, John, 236 religion: and largesse as motif, 155–6 Richard Coer de Lyon, 5, 7–9, 13, 16–17, 59–61 Richard I (Lionheart), King of England, 18, 59, 64n62

Richard II, King of England, 109–11, 112n, 113, 255–6 Riddy, Felicity, 120 Roman de Balain, 71 Roman du Graal, see Post-Vulgate Cycle romances categorised, 4–5, 103–4 characteristics, 20 critical interpretations of, 27–30 as dominant genre, 1 inter-textual naming, 5, 9n28, 10–12 ‘of prys’, 7 popular, 3, 6, 19 printed, 235–6 protagonists, 8n25, 9n27 reworked, 49, 64–5, 189 revisionist studies of, 3–4 subject-centred, 7 theological, 22 romantic love: Malory defends, 22, 121 Romaunt of the Rose (Roman de la Rose), 213, 224 Rome: as ‘matter’ of romance, 4 Roncevaux, 52 Rouen: siege of (1418–19), 61 Round Table dissolution, 81, 121 as subject of romance, 4, 70, 72–3, 80 Rumble, Thomas, 40 Said, Edward W., 89n8 Saladin, 55, 243–4, 247–8 Sanudo, Marino: Liber secretorum fidelium crucis, 56 Saracens chivalric practices, 49, 53–4, 57 and conversion to Christianity, 51 piety, 56 representation in romances, 52–3 warriors and challengers, 49–51 Saul, Nigel, 57 Saunders, Corinne, 22, 103 Schmolke-Hasselmann, Beate, 118 Scott, Sir Walter medievalist fiction, 23, 32, 242–9, 252 The Abbot, 248

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Index Scott, Sir Walter (cont.) The Antiquary, 247–8 The Betrothed, 243 Essay on Chivalry, 252, 254 The Fair Maid of Perth, 244–5 Guy Mannering, 248 Ivanhoe, 243–4, 246, 248–9 Marmion, 245–6 The Monastery, 243–4 Quentin Durward, 243 The Talisman, 243–4, 247–8 Waverley, 247, 253 Second Shepherd’s Play (Wakefield), 164, 168 Secretum Secretorum, 104, 111, 158 Seven Against Thebes, 87 Seven Sages, 175 Shakespeare, William, 235 Love’s Labour’s Lost, 227 Sherborn, Robert, Bishop of Chichester, 238 shipwrecks, 36 Siege of Jerusalem, The, 59–61 sighing: as body language, 145 Sir Amadace, 155–6, 158–60, 167 Sir Cleges: piety and largesse in, 22, 155–6, 158–9, 164–7, 171–2 Sir Degaré, 135, 137, 141–2, 146, 148 Sir Eglamour of Artois, 236 Sir Ferumbras, 50, 54 Sir Gareth, 119 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 24, 49, 165 Sir Gowther, 58, 135–6 Sir Isumbras, 57–8, 63, 139–40, 142, 144, 147, 236 Sir Lamwell, 236 Sir Landevalle, 238 Sir Launfal body language in, 137, 145–6, 149 as spendthrift, 158 Sir Lybeaus, see Lybeaus Desconus Sir Orfeo, 149 Sir Percyvell of Gales, 139, 143 Sir Tristrem, 4–5, 24, 31–5, 38–42, 78 Sir Tryamoure, 137, 140, 147–8, 236

Skeat, Walter, 210, 225 Skelton, John: The Tunnyng of Elynour Rummyng, 240 Skot, John, 236 Solomon, King of Israel, 202 Song of the Battle of Hastings, 37 Song of Songs, 233 Speed, Diane, 178, 186 Spenser, Edmund, 221, 235 spirits: in medieval thought, 190–3 Squire of Low Degree body language in, 22, 139–40, 142, 147 Copland’s edition (The Squyr of lowe degre), 234 dialogue in, 232 motifs and plot, 23, 237 and The Nutbrown Maid, 234–5 plot, 230–1 printed by Wynkyn de Worde (as Undo Youre Dore), 23, 229, 233, 235, 239–40 protagonists, 5, 10–11, 16 references to other romances, 231–2 romance characteristics, 232–4, 236–7 on social and economic mobility, 232 text, 229n1 stance: as body language, 137 Stanegrave, Roger, 56 Stanzaic Morte Arthure, see Morte Arthure Statius: Thebaid, 86–8, 90 Statutes of Love, 217–19 Steamboat Bill (film), 70 Stevens, John, 104n5 Suite du Merlin, 115, 118, 120–1, 123, 193 Sultan of Babylon, The, 50, 52, 54–5 Summoner (Chaucer character), 33 supernatural in Malory, 205 in medieval thought, 190–1 swan children, 173–80, 184–5, 187 Swan Knight, 174–6 swooning: as body language, 145–9 swords, 198 Thebes: legend of, 87, 90

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Index Theseus (legendary figure), 21, 85–8, 90, 92, 95, 97, 99, 101–2 Thomas of Britain, 33, 40, 44 thought world (medieval), 189–90 Tolan, John, 55 Torre (romance figure), 73 Trachsler, Richard, 115, 124–5 Treveris, Peter, 234, 236 Triamour, King (romance figure), 59 Trinity, 168 Tristan (prose version), 76–7, 116–17, 120 Tristram, Sir (romance figure), 75–6, 124 Trojan War: ends, 114 Turkey, see Ottoman Turkey Undo Youre Dore, see Squire of Low Degree, The unhappy: word meaning, 198–9 Urry, Sir (romance figure), 82, 121, 203 Uther Pendragon, King, 157–8, 162, 164, 166, 195 Uwayne, Sir (romance figure), 78–9 Van Cleeve, Joos, 164 vengeance: in Malory’s Morte Darthur, 72–3 Vérard, Antoine, 238 Victorian fiction: and medieval revival, 23, 241–2 Vinaver, Eugène, 70, 117, 126, 129 violence and cruelty, 58–62 Virgil: Aeneid, 32 vision: in Malory, 193, 200–6 voice-hearing, 189–90 Vulgate Cycle, 119–20 Walter, William short verse works and novelle, 240

The amerous hystory of Guystarde and Sygysmonde, 237 ye hystory of Tyus & Gesyppus, 237 The spectacle of louers, 237, 239 Watson, Henry, 239 Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell, The, 238 weeping: as body language, 144–5, 149–50 William (romance figure), 45–6 William I of Normandy, King of England (‘the Conqueror’), 37, 60 Wimsatt, James, 116 Windeatt, Barry, 22 women and allegorical personification, 225 and pity, 220 and Statutes of Love, 217–19, 227 Woolf, Rosemary, 233 Worde, Wynkyn de continues to print romances, 236–7, 239 prints Guy of Warwick, 231 prints The Squire of Low Degree, 23, 229, 233, 235, 239–40 Worlde and the chylde, The, 240 wrake (word), 35–6, 39 wreckers, wrecking, 35–9 Wright, Glenn, 18 Wyclif, John, 62 Yeager, R. F., 21 Yonge, Charlotte M. medievalist fiction, 23, 249–56 The Clever Woman of the Family, 250 Heartsease, 250 The Heir of Redclyffe, 249, 251, 253–4 The Lances of Lynwood, 251–6 Zumthor, Paul, 15, 16n44

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Volumes Already Published I:

The Orient in Chaucer and Medieval Romance, Carol F. Heffernan, 2003 II: Cultural Encounters in the Romance of Medieval England, edited by Corinne Saunders, 2005 III: The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England in Middle English Romance, Robert Allen Rouse, 2005 IV: Guy of Warwick: Icon and Ancestor, edited by Alison Wiggins and Rosalind Field, 2007 V: The Sea and Medieval English Literature, Sebastian I. Sobecki, 2008 VI: Boundaries in Medieval Romance, edited by Neil Cartlidge, 2008 VII: Naming and Namelessness in Medieval Romance, Jane Bliss, 2008 VIII: Sir Bevis of Hampton in Literary Tradition, edited by Jennifer Fellows and Ivana Djordjević, 2008 IX: Anglicising Romance: Tail-Rhyme and Genre in Medieval English Literature, Rhiannon Purdie, 2008 X: A Companion to Medieval Popular Romance, edited by Raluca L. Radulescu and Cory James Rushton, 2009 XI: Expectations of Romance: The Reception of a Genre in Medieval England, Melissa Furrow, 2009 XII: The Exploitations of Medieval Romance, edited by Laura Ashe, Ivana Djordjević, and Judith Weiss, 2010 XIII: Magic and the Supernatural in Medieval English Romance, Corinne Saunders, 2010 XIV: Medieval Romance, Medieval Contexts, edited by Rhiannon Purdie and Michael Cichon, 2011 XV: Women’s Power in Late Medieval Romance, Amy N. Vines, 2011 XVI: Heroes and Anti-Heroes in Medieval Romance, edited by Neil Cartlidge, 2012 XVII: Performance and the Middle English Romance, Linda Marie Zaerr, 2012 XVIII: Medieval Romance and Material Culture, edited by Nicholas Perkins, 2015 XIX: Middle English Romance and the Craft of Memory, Jamie McKinstry, 2015 XX: Medieval Narratives of Alexander the Great: Transnational Texts in England and France, Venetia Bridges, 2018 XXI: The Transmission of Medieval Romance: Metres, Manuscripts and Early Prints, edited by Ad Putter and Judith A. Jefferson, 2018

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Contributors: Elizabeth Archibald, Julia Boffey, Christopher Cannon, Neil Cartlidge, Miriam Edlich-Muth, A. S. G. Edwards, Marcel Elias, Megan Leitch, Andrew Lynch, Jill Mann, Marco Nievergelt, Ad Putter, Corinne Saunders, Barry Windeatt, R. F. Yeager. Front cover: Illuminated border and bas-de-page image of knight, lady and wild man from the Macclesfield Psalter, MS 1-2005, fol. 58r (c.1330). © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

Studies in Medieval Romance

Archibald, Leitch and Saunders (eds)

ELIZABETH ARCHIBALD is Professor of English Studies at Durham University. MEGAN G. LEITCH is Senior Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University. CORINNE SAUNDERS is Professor of English Studies and Co-Director of the Institute for Medical Humanities at Durham University.

Romance Rewritten 

T

he essays in this volume reconsider the protean nature of Middle English romance. The contributors examine both the cultural unity of romance and its many variations, reiterations and reimaginings, including its contexts and engagements with other discourses and forms, as romances were “rewritten” during the Middle Ages and beyond. Ranging across popular, anonymous English and courtly romances, and taking in the works of Chaucer and Arthurian romance (rarely treated together), in connection with continental sources and analogues, the chapters probe this fluid and creative genre to ask just how comfortable, and how flexible, are its nature and aims? How were Middle English romances rewritten to accommodate contemporary concerns and generic expectations? What can attention to narrative techniques and conventional gestures reveal about the reassurances romances offer, or the questions they ask? How do romances’ central concerns with secular ideals and conduct intersect with spiritual priorities? And how are romances transformed or received in later periods? The volume is also a tribute to the significance and influence of the work of Professor Helen Cooper on romance.

Romance Rewritten the evolution of middle english romance • a tribute to helen cooper Edited by Elizabeth Archibald, Megan G. Leitch and Corinne Saunders