Mary C. Flannery
Search for other papers by Mary C. Flannery in
Current site
Google Scholar
Death or dishonour
The problem of exemplary shame
Abstract only
Log-in for full text

This chapter takes up the problematic relationship between female shamefastness and the model of hardy masculinity and considers its disturbing implications for female exemplarity founded on shamefastness. As Chaucer’s adaptations of the narratives of Virginia and Lucretia demonstrate, women’s shamefast chastity is not only under threat from masculine hardiness, but can even provoke that threat, either by stimulating masculine desire or by inviting men to prove their manhood. The chapter begins by exploring how Chaucer represents the irreconcilability of shamefast femininity and forceful masculinity elsewhere in his work. It then continues to the stories of Virginia and Lucretia, and shows that Chaucer and his contemporary, John Gower (c. 1330–1408), approach the theme of ‘manly force’ from very different angles. Whereas Gower invites readers to consider what might have happened in a Rome that was justly governed by chaste rulers, Chaucer engages readers in a deeply uncomfortable experiment in counterfactual thinking about female honour, an experiment that threatens to reopen the question of whether the binary of death or dishonour need exist in the first place.

  • Collapse
  • Expand

All of MUP's digital content including Open Access books and journals is now available on manchesterhive.


Practising shame

Female honour in later medieval England


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 318 178 22
Full Text Views 25 21 0
PDF Downloads 36 23 0