Introduction: Toward a Poetics of Exemplarity

  • Elizabeth Allen
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Let me begin with an example. In the section on sacrilege in his early fourteenth-century penitential manual Handlyng Synne, Robert Mannyng tells the story of a rich man, aptly named Rychere, who takes sanctuary from his enemies in an abbey, where he and his family are given quarters. When he has sex with his wife there, God is unhappy because it is too near the church. They get stuck together like dogs, and cry out until they are found, whereupon their situation becomes known and they become ashamed. The man begs the monks to pray for them, promising generous gifts in return, and when the monks pray, man and wife are uncoupled. The monks write the event“yn boke,…/ For to shewe hyt euer more, /That outher myght beware thar-fore” (8969–72). The narrator concludes that this “chaunce” occurred not for the couple alone, but so that everyone should be warned away from sex in holy places.1


Practical Wisdom Moral Truth Moral Choice Holy Place Medieval Literature 
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© Elizabeth Allen 2005

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  • Elizabeth Allen

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