Bad romance
The widow as venerean preacher
in The narrative grotesque in medieval Scottish poetry
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In the final chapter on The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo, the widow’s response is shown to be the culminating speech in the text. Her discourse is delivered in the form of a medieval sermon. As a preacher, the widow is shown not to parody the genre nor use it ironically; rather, she engages the form as a suitable apparatus for delivering her exposition of a ‘venerean’ morality. This morality plays off of anti-feminist discourses and conduct literature. But, the widow’s sermon complicates any reading of the text as simply an embodiment of anti-feminist discourse; William Dunbar integrates various allusions to allegorical representations of Venus, especially as found in other Scottish poems, such as Dunbar’s The Goldyn Targe and Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid, in order to invest her discourse with a deep and pervasive ambivalence. The narrative grotesque shows the ways in which these influences and discourses are ligatured together in order to question modes of authority, rhetoric, and generic boundaries.

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