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‘he nas but seven yeer olde’: Emotions in Boy Martyr Legends of Later Medieval England

  • Andrew Lynch
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in the History of Childhood book series (PSHC)

Abstract

This chapter analyses the emotional significance of boy martyrdom in various medieval English sources, including Thomas of Monmouth’s Life of William of Norwich, the South English Legendary, Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale, and the mystery plays. Boys were generally considered emotionally unstable and undisciplined in medieval culture, but these works give their emotions a status that empowers them as arbiters of right behaviour and as figures for adults to emulate. Medieval boy martyr stories explored parents’ hopes and fears for male children in a difficult environment, and encouraged readers to think about boyhood in relation to later life and death. They also reflected on human/divine relations through the inevitable links between any boy martyr narrative and the childhood of Christ.

Keywords

Bodleian Library Canterbury Tale Narrative Genre Popular Narrative Pageant Cycle 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.EnglishUniversity of Western AustraliaPerthAustralia

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