Welcome Lords and Ladies, Kings and Queens. We have gathered to this meeting to express the tales to be told in the world. My name is Mary and I will be your guide through this round table discussion in God’s Kingdom.
[Enter the Characters]
Mother Jesus enters carrying the Rood through the archway. King Arthur and Queen Guinevere by his side following is Sir Gawain and Sir Launcelot. They all take their seats at the table. Next to enter to Beowulf, who walks in with a cocky stride as Grendal and his mother follow closely behind him. Everyman enters with his nose embedded in the Holy Bible. I, Mary, stand alone in the corner with a scroll in my hand listening, watching and awaiting for all this discussion about to take place. They are all seated, mead is being slowly passed around to each and the discussion begins.
The Rood gets the conversation started with a joke and the first question is asked. We start with a discussion about gender inequality in medieval times. Gender inequality changes in different readings, for example in courtly love narratives. Women are viewed as negative beings, but they still need to obey the male figures in their lives. However in Beowulf, they are celebrated and free. Until we get to a character like Guinevere. She has no children. Even though she was married to King Arthur and had all these affairs, there is no textual evidence of her having any children. She is perceived as n innocent woman because of this fact, however, in Mallory’s The Death of Arthur, when she dies, she is not “saint-like” so how is he innocent?
Women definitely play an interesting role in these texts. For instance, Guinevere and The Wife of Bath seem to have power, whereas Morgan le Fay from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tries to fix the Arthurian court. She tries to prove that knights don’t live up their respective tile of a “ladies man.” More specifically women are considered to be deceivers of men. This is where Morgan le Fay can be seen as a manipulator. On the reverse side of this, you have Chaucer. He noticed that women are not as powerful, so he tries to give them power in his stories. There is also an openness of sexuality. Also Chaucer really tries to give women a voice, however, there is still seen as sexual beings. For instance, the Wife of Bath has five different husbands throughout her tale. The men included, old men who had money or young men who turned out to be bastards. So women are becoming empowered in these tales. Let’s take Marie De France. Yes she can be seen as bias in her story, but she is still trying to give women a voice.
Back to the Wife of Bath, she sort of give a negative light towards their empowerment. She can be seen as independent, but at the same time worse than men. She tries to find the perfect man, which is why she has different relationships. However, God gives them this ability to deceive men. It could be something that’s inborn, which helps them gave the empowerment they need to take over men.
Now it is hard to accomplish gender equality during this period of literature. Knights, for example, have a different perspective than women. They don’t look at them as something good. Women are considered to the good wife and that’s their noble work whereas the knights are noble to the king. The discussion is being brought back to the Wife of Bath, where she feels that men are allowing themselves to be stupid, and that gives them the power to deceive. This brought up an interesting point that women could only gain power through the men. They can deceive and create situations where they control them men. Chaucer appears to be making fun of the Wife of Bath; because of the features he has given her. He made her appear like a very ugly women with buckteeth, however, Chaucer could have been getting back at the horrible backlash from his rape case. So instead of empowering women, he was dragging them down. It also has been said that women don’t want power. They just want to be wives.
These texts do not embody women’s literature, however it could be a way they are gaining power over the men. A constant example being brought up is The Wife of Bath, for instance, she is a progressive woman, but at the end she is still the submissive wife. This is the fate of many of the women, regardless of rank, in the hands of their husbands. The main conclusion from this topic is that men put women in a box, and they are not progressive. This is when a heated debate broke out between two characters. Could the Wife of Bath’s tale be considered submissive or progressive? It is a toss between the two. It can be considered submissive, because she is a typical housewife. However it can be progressive, because she is embodying a sense of female empowerment. According to the debate, you have to separate the tale from the prologue, which makes sense. There is a sense of feeling limited when writing about women in medieval literature.
This sparked the topic of this lack of Women authors. Now it should take us back to the idea of what a medieval author is. It is actually a scribe. Margery Kempe, for example, she did not read or write. She had a scribe write down all her stories, which could have been written by women. This leads to a limit of respect for women in the field of literature. The males had the majority of authorship, so this creates a solid unbalance in the writing. Were men illiterate? They were not, and the same goes for women. Some women could read and write. This brought on a debate if women were illiterate. Let’s take a great author like Mallory, who references the French book numerous times throughout this works. This creates a sort of disconnect with the text. It is also the easiest way to take away the ownership of the text and themselves. It is almost like these authors are trying to say controversial stuff, but stating that someone else said it. They are trying to keep the church in mind. IF you said it, it would look very bad to the church. But if a French writer said it, suddenly it’s okay. This is a tool used to distance the authors from their work. It is a stylistic choice.
A great example that came up was Esope’s Fables. They are revisions of a classic text. It has many references from other authors and valued texts. It appears more authentic when learning or reading it. These fables were also used a teaching tools in schools to teach them about editing and revising texts. It is a socially economic thing to have many textual references, because you’d appear smarter. When you use the French language and texts, which is the language of Lords and wealth, it is like the ultimate sense of smarts.
Another topic that came up was Julian of Norwich. This text cannot be read with a pronoun or gender. The author relationship looking at these texts is about interpretation. Henryson suggests using he or she pronouns. He is always interchanging them between his characters. For instance, in the lion and the mouse tale, the mouse is referred to as a she. The pronouns’ are all misplaced in the text. Mother Jesus is another example. They are trying to highlight the “motherly nature” of Jesus. He is a giver of life and he nourished mankind. This creates a sort of confusion, because in medieval motherhood is so important to women. Even though Mother Jesus is a man, he is not a mother. This was argued against.
A Mother can be seen as a “soft sheep.” She is a nurturer. However, Jesus has done that for his followers, it is an interchanging mother. He and people should not tell the difference between the two. It cannot be measured concretely. Jesus is a man, but he is a mother. He gives life, he takes away life and he forgives. He embodies all of the aspects of a mother.
The writing is in an authentic nature. It’s the way they liked it, so they kept it. What has changed? Do you believe this literature has changed? There have been so many stories told over time. Copy write laws did not exist at this time, which is why there were so many versions of King Arthur. Now is this how it’s intended? Were these works released with the intention of being copy written? It is important to say that these are the only surviving transcripts unlike the original texts, which could have been destroyed. These changes were made and it changed the idea of the text. This caused many of the parts of the texts to be left out and the stories have been changed. This creates an overlap between readership and authorship. The edits have been recreated or revised in order for the stories to make sense. It becomes a process of thinking and doing a closer reading.
— Pause for Intermission —
What a lively discussion so far!! There were so many things discussed and so many debates. Gender inequality, personally I feel was the most heated debate. I think it is awful that us women did no get much of a voice in these texts. We should have been heard more and expressed. Also we women verbally spoke these texts, but all those thieving penholders were men. They stole our ideas and passed them off as their own. Bastards. My apologizes. Son, please forgive your mother. Mother Jesus, is a mother. He gave all of you life. He gave me life and created a new path for myself as well as Margery Kempe. One finally thing before we resume this discussion, stop changing the old texts. Be sure to keep the originals saved on those hard drives. Wait this is the middle ages. Scratch that. Keep a book.
Now back to the discussion…
Goblets had been refilled with mead as all of these lovely characters are taking their seats back at the round table.
One the topic now is muscular Christianity. Has it been seen in other texts? Well first what is muscular Christianity. It is an oppressive, aggressively motivated way of converting someone to the Christian faith. For instances, the Siege of Jerusalem destroyed the idea of Christianity. There were also critical texts of the church. Let’s take Chaucer, for example, used the concept of pilgrims on a pilgrimage. They all seemed to have a glib voice about religion, in particular, that wife of bath. She ruined the sanctity of marriage by marrying many times. Another example is Launcelot and Guinevere in the Death of Arthur. This is like the pseudo military of Christian men; which is the denying of good deeds. Knights are a major example of Christian rules. They are very pro-Christianity. This could be apart of the metaphorical view of faith. Let’s take Morgan le Fay and Sir Gaiwain. These are the pagan rules of faith.
This begins to get into the shivery of Knights, particularly in King Arthur. Is shivery outdated? It can be, but it also has a different meaning. Take the affair with Launcelot and Guinevere. Being intimate with your Queen was common practice. Shivery is not a brief expression. The women part of it is small. Knights have more of a shivery towards each other. In Sir Gaiwain and the Green Knight, shivery is seen very differently. The way you treat men and the way you treat women can create a conflict. You don’t want to offend your king, but you also don’t want to be rude to the Queen. This was the conflict Sir Gaiwain faced with Guinevere. He couldn’t be rude to her when she crawled into his bed, however, he can’t be dishonest to the king. It’s a true conflict on interests. Like in Beowulf, there was a major faith in the king and he was looked at like a God. It also is also stated that the King must give to the people and vice versa. It is interesting looking at through the religion. Why is that though? It is because religion played a major role in creating these tales.
This was hard writing about the characters, especially if they did not have much of role in the text. I realized a lot of the others had the same problem as I. It was hard coming up with information and having to read the texts ahead was a challenge. For characters like Mother Jesus, it was hard, because Jesus is essentially everywhere. Also John Kempe and myself were characters we had short roles in our texts, so it was hard learning those parts. Most of them were written in the perspective of someone else. How can you tell what’s real or what’s false? Another challenging thing was the posting, which happened around the board. Adapting these characters and posting before our initial blogs were due was hard.
[After reading their parts, the characters all stand up and exit the room…]
Thank you all for reading and being patient with me as I regale this tale of a round table discussion. We had a great time informing and entertaining you, as I hoped you had a great time reading this.
May God bless and keep you!!