fantasy stone dead.
The idea that a romance hero might be chaast is another
element in the parody, though probably for rather different
reasons for modern and medieval audiences: heroism now is more
often associated with being highly sexed, especially now that
chastity is often misunderstood as meaning celibacy or virginity. At the very least, chastity is not a masculine attribute that
any modern writer is likely to pick out for celebration. Even for
MiddleEnglish writers, who as a group are much more likely to
note their heroes’ sexual restraint, there is some cross
opportunities have been laid open for
literary and cultural studies to address the multiple roles of the
Glenn D. Burger and Rory G. Critten
household and its social implication. MiddleEnglish romance
has proved a particularly rich site for investigating what D. Vance
Smith has so suggestively termed ‘the MiddleEnglish household
imaginary’.11 Smith’s work on the deeply rooted concern with assets
management that characterises this genre draws on developments
in romance studies, which have for some time been engaged in
exploring the productive intersections of class
Early Scots.10 The poet of
the Scottish Legendary, however, refers to his language as ‘ynglis
townge’ (XVIII, 1471), as was general practice in the later Middle
Ages.11 What today is called Early and Middle Scots was in medieval times little different from the northern varieties of MiddleEnglish as regards both grammar and vocabulary, although it
would be an oversimplification to maintain that that there were
no differences at all. Despite the political boundary the linguistic
boundaries were clearly overarching. The identification of the dialect
Guy’s rejection of rich clothing in favour of his poor pilgrim’s
weeds, armour and sustenance is a sign of his distance from courtly
priorities; even though his acts of piety and atonement take place
at royal courts, the romance is careful to keep Guy disentangled
from the vain ambitions of the courtier. Unencumbered by courtly
vanity, the pilgrim knight is called on to save the court from itself.
The Stanzaic Guy of Warwick is one of many MiddleEnglish
romances in which the knightly protagonist takes to the pilgrimage
road. Collectively, these pilgrim romances
-century Old French (OF) narrative poetry
in couplets, in the twelfth-century Middle High German (MHG)
romances of Gottfried von Strassburg and Hartmann von Aue,
and in Pfaffe Lamprecht’s Early MHG Alexander-romance, the
Alexanderlied (c.1130).2 The practice is likewise found in MiddleEnglish romances in couplets, such as Richard Coeur de Lion
(c.1300), in Anglo-French narrative poetry and chronicles, such
as Geoffrei Gaimar’s Estoire des Engleis (c.1136–50) and Robert
Wace’s Roman de Brut (1155), in Middle Dutch chansons de geste,
and, less frequently, in medieval
1 Jonathan Wilcox, ‘“Tell Me What I Am”: The Old English Riddles’, in Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and MiddleEnglish Literature , ed. David Johnson and Elaine Treharne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), pp. 46–59, at p. 58.
discussion of medieval popular literature, Rosemary Woolf justly described this as ‘a crude piece of work compared
with the French and German analogues’.5 Much the same could be
(and has been) said for other MiddleEnglish romances based on French
originals (King Horn, Sir Tristrem, for example), for comparisons tend
Sir Percyvell of Gales
to show that the French romances are subtler and more sophisticated.
Fortunately, it is not always conscious artistry that attracts us in
literature, and the most obvious way of
The twin demons of aristocratic
society in Sir Gowther
Sir Gowther is a 700-line narrative probably originating (in its MiddleEnglish form) about 1400 in the North Midlands. It is extant in two
mildly divergent manuscript texts, which will here be referred to as the
‘Advocates’ and ‘Royal’ versions.1 Sir Gowther is conspicuous for that
surface crankiness and drastic speed which are often found in medieval
English verse romances and which readily provoke a modern reader’s
suspicion that no very challenging contact with medieval society is
1 That tradition persisted in MiddleEnglish literature. Examples are inventoried by James Morey, Book and Verse: A Guide to MiddleEnglish Biblical Literature (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2000), see “Angel(s), fall of”, p. 396.
2 Carmen de uirginitate , pp. 316–17; trans. Lapidge and Rosier, Aldhelm: The Poetic Works , p. 163.
3 Ibid., p. 457; trans. Lapidge and Rosier, p. 67.
4 Ancrene Wisse: A Corrected Edition of the Text in
fourteenth century, MiddleEnglish usage. 28 In formal terms, an alien was understood as someone who owed no direct allegiance to the sovereign power, the king, and was thus separated off from his direct subjects. It is important to note, however, that ‘alien’ was just as applicable to visitors as it was to permanent settlers: in general, the law of alienage that emerged from the thirteenth century made no formal distinction between such sub-categories. 29 Consequently, while all immigrants were aliens, not all aliens were immigrants.