with a necklace of gemstones, Lucifer conceives his crimes by saying that ‘he might be equal to the Lord with his own powers’. Aldhelm proposes that chastity means little if one succumbs to pride and vanity, which he often figures as a fierce, tyrannical queen. 3 Aldhelm’s theory of the fall reveals the narrative’s capacity for reaching a wide audience, even an exclusively female community. And he was not alone. The twelfth-century AncreneWisse – a handbook also intended for women – similarly places emphasis on the inherent dangers of vanity and sight. The author
The early medieval contexts of Aldhelm’s cat riddle
are birds, rather than the mice who were so potentially destructive in monastic settlements and workplaces, injects some moral ambiguity. 47
Indeed, cats would become firmly associated with evil and witchcraft in later medieval and early modern Europe. Douglas Gray maps these associations in British literature from the twelfth-century reference to heretical orgies and cat-/Satan-worship in Walter Map’s De nugis curialium to the thirteenth-century cat of helle in the AncreneWisse and the devil-sinner/cat–mouse comparison in the fourteenth- and fifteenth
The role of Noah’s wife in the Chester play of Noah’s
the wood of Cross, a typological layering of implicit meaning is subtly at work, as the contextually anomalous verb leap evokes the leaping in Song of Songs 2:8: ‘The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.’ The leaping of the beloved in this verse was interpreted typologically de bono and de malo by Ambrose, Gregory the Great, and other exegetes and poets, in numerous Latin commentaries, vernacular sermons, and homiletical, mystical, and devotional texts such as the AncreneWisse and The Wooing of Our
I will demonstrate over the course of this book, this emphasis on female circumspection is shared by medieval texts, which depict honour as something that women must safeguard by cultivating and exhibiting their hypervigilance against the possibility of shame.
This book investigates the practices that underpin medieval understandings of female honour, and literature's role in shaping and articulating those practices in later medieval England. While thirteenth-century texts such as Hali Meiðhad (a treatise on virginity) and AncreneWisse (a
Ye goon to … Hereford? Regional devotion and England’s other St Thomas
(much anticipated) rightful glory: equal to and opposite St Thomas of Canterbury.
In discussing the eminent R.A. Dobson’s attempts to ascertain the provenance of the AncreneWisse [Guide for Anchoresses], an early Middle English text comparable to the Harley Lyrics in its semi-canonical standing and South-West Midlands orientation, Cannon observes that ‘the [specific] place Dobson proposed … matters much less than the degree to which he insisted on the importance of some place’. 89 Dobson’s ‘plumping for geographical precision at all costs’ turns out to have
‘Snail-horn perception’ in Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde
, who discusses both Troilus’s and Criseyde’s first looks in
Gestures and Looks, pp. 127–33.
29 Stanbury, ‘The lover’s gaze’, p. 237.
30 See, for example, the discussion of Dinah, who was blamed for her
own rape because of her looking, in AncreneWisse, ed. Bella Millett,
EETS o.s. 325 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), part two,
31 C. M. Woolgar, The Senses in Late Medieval England (New Haven:
Yale University Press, 2006), p. 148.
32 Stephen Barney, ‘Explanatory notes’, in Chaucer, The Riverside
Chaucer, gen. ed. Benson, p. 1026.
Le Bone Florence of Rome and bourgeois self-making
in Medieval English Prose for Women from the Katherine Group and AncreneWisse, eds Bella Millett and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Oxford, 1990), pp.
2–41. My quotations are from this translation.
36 Ibid., p. 33.
37 Ibid., pp. 20–1.
38 For a brief and polemical account of medieval dualism, see Jacques le
Goff, ‘Body and ideology in the medieval West’, in his The Medieval
Imagination, trans. A. Goldhammer (Chicago and London, 1985), pp. 83–5.
39 See, e.g., Caroline Walker Bynum, ‘“And woman his humanity”: female
imagery in religious writings of the
Women: Selections from the Katherine Group and AncreneWisse , ed. Bella Millett and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), pp. xi–xxxviii (p. xv). R. Howard Bloch surveys the most rigid interpretations of virginity in ‘Chaucer's Maiden's Head: “The Physician's Tale” and the Poetics of Virginity’, Representations 28 (1989), 113–34. Although I am primarily concerned with the implications of female chastity throughout this study, valuable work has also been undertaken in recent years on expectations surrounding, and interpretations of, male chastity and
Library, MS Laud Misc. 381: William L’Isle,
Aelfric, and the AncreneWisse ’, in The Recovery
of Old English , pp. 207–42.
See V. Skretkowicz, ‘Symbolic
Architecture in Sidney’s New Arcadia ’,
Review of English Studies , n.s., xxxiii ( 1982 ), 175