Advertisement

Take All My Wealth and Let My Body Go

Chapter
  • 125 Downloads
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)

Abstract

Money is the great signifier of exchange. In the narratives, “The Franklin’s Tale,” “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue,” and The Book of Margery Kempe, money is exchangeable with permissible rape, with the right to recalculate the marriage debt, with the right to qualify the terms of soveraynetee, the right to redemption of status; it is exchangeable with moral superiority, with despair, with enjoyable sex, with circulation of the self, and in “Franklin’s Tale,” it is literally exchangeable with franchise1 and with trouthe. Even for a man—in this case the chicken-hearted knight in the “Wife of Bath’s Tale” who pleads with the loathly hag, “Taak al my good [wealth] and lat my body go”—money is viewed by him as interchangeable with his (aristocratically privileged) sexuality.2

Keywords

Symbolic Capital Public Identity Merchant Guild Deceased Husband Medieval Society 
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.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 1.
    Franchise (fraunchise) refers to the social status of a free person, but in this tale, more specifically to “nobility of character, generosity of spirit.” The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry D. Benson, third edition (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), glossary. All references to “The Franklin’s Tale” and “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue” are from this edition.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Symbolic capital refers to any ability or asset considered as being valuable by a given group of people. The primary forms of symbolic capital are labor and landed property, which may be converted “to gain advantages in the form of additional wealth, power, allies and marriage partners.” Rebecca Bliege Bird and Eric Alden Smith, “Signaling Theory, Strategic Interaction, and Symbolic Capital,” Current Anthropology 46:2 (April 2005): 221–48, quote on p. 223. Because symbolic capital implies differences between status and identities, its value lies in the cost of the investment in terms of time, energy, or wealth.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Pierre Bourdieu, The Logic of Practice (Cambridge, MA: Polity Press, 1990), pp. 112–13.Google Scholar
  4. 9.
    The Riverside Chaucer, p. 900, notes that although “Chaucer follows Jerome closely, he places his examples in a different order.” The same endnote adds that Donald C. Baker, “A Crux in Chaucer’s Franklin’s Tale: Dorigen’s Complaint,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 60 (1960): 56–64, “argues that the exempla are organized into women who commit suicide to avoid rape (1367–1404), women who commit suicide after being raped (1405–38), and notably faithful wives (1439–56).”Google Scholar
  5. 10.
    Jane Tibbetts Schulenberg is instructive on this issue in her “The Heroics of Virginity: Brides of Christ and Sacrificial Mutilation,” in Women in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, ed. Mary Beth Rose (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1986), pp. 29–72.Google Scholar
  6. 11.
    A list of scholars’ charges against Dorigen’s speech is found in James Sledd, “Dorigen’s Complaint,” Modern Philology 45:1 (1947): 36–45, esp. pp. 36–40. Sledd’s argument is itself forward looking, with a postmodern touch to it: he sees a certain performing self-consciousness in Dorigen’s complaint, calling it “a deliberate bit of rhetorical extravagance, intended actually as an assurance that all shall yet go well” (p. 42). On the other hand, he disallows an intelligent seriousness to Dorigen’s meditation, remarking that “when Dorigen indulges in her exempla, no audience can take them altogether earnestly” (p. 45).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 13.
    Jochen Hörisch, Heads or Tails: The Poetics of Money, trans. Amy Horning Marschall (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2000), p. 15.Google Scholar
  8. 16.
    Joel T. Rosenthal, “Fifteenth-Century Widows and Widowhood,” in Wife and Widow in Medieval England, ed. Sue Sheridan Walker (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1993), pp. 33–58, esp. p. 34.Google Scholar
  9. 18.
    Tim Stretton, Women Waging Law in Elizabethan England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 19.
    James Brundage, “The Merry Widow’s Serious Sister: Remarriage in Classical Canon Law,” Matrons and Marginal Women in Medieval Society, ed. Robert R. Edwards and Vickie Ziegler (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 1995), pp. 33–48, esp. p. 34.Google Scholar
  11. 27.
    Juan Luis Vives, The Education of a Christian Woman: A Sixteenth-Century Manual, ed. and trans. Charles Fantazzi (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), Book Three: Chapter Seven, p. 323.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 29.
    James Brundage comments on the moral and social dilemmas widows faced: they could remarry but canon law disallowed priests to bless their marriage. Widows of modest means were “advised not only to remarry but also to do so speedily. But at the same time, civil authorities threatened to punish them if they did so within a year, while Church officials promised to nullify the civil penalties.” “Widows and Remarriage: Moral Conflicts and Their Resolution in Classical Canon Law,” in Walker, Wife and Widow in Medieval England, pp.17–31. See also Barbara J. Todd, “The Remarrying Widow: A Stereotype Reconsidered,” in Women in English Society 1500–1800, ed. Mary Prior (London: Methuen, 1985), pp. 54–92, esp. p. 54.Google Scholar
  13. 37.
    Mary Carruthers, “The Wife of Bath and the Painting of Lions,” Proceedings of the Modem Language Association 94:2 (1979): 209–22, esp. p. 213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 38.
    Mark Amsler, “The Wife of Bath and Women’s Power,” Assays 4 (1987): 67–83, esp. p. 69. Amsler cites Theodor Adorno’s and Michael Riffaterre’s work on the textual function of the cliché—namely, its resistance to being intended as entirely (in this case) negative (note 6).Google Scholar
  15. 39.
    Brian Castle, “Chaucer’s ‘Shaply’ Guildsmen and Mercantile Pretensions,” Neuphilologische Mitteilungen 99:2 (1998): 211–16. All citations are from paws.wcu.edu/bgastle/SHAPLY.HTML. Castle writes, “Wealth, social status, and membership in a reputable guild was a pre-requisite for holding a position of power such as alderman. Thrupp notes that, of over 260 London aldermen elected in the fourteenth century, ‘only 9 were citizens of lesser companies,’ and those nine had clear merchant ties and were likely moving into merchant activities of the greater guilds themselves. In the following century, not one sheriff or alderman was elected in London who was not one of the greater merchant guilds.”Google Scholar
  16. 40.
    David Hinton, “‘Closing’ and the Later Middle Ages,” Medieval Archaeology 43 (1999): 172–82, esp. p. 176.Google Scholar
  17. 41.
    Sylvia I. Thrupp, The Merchant Class of Medieval London 1300–1500 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1989),Google Scholar
  18. cited in Brian Castle, “Breaking the Stained Glass Ceiling: Mercantile Authority, Margaret Paston, and Margery Kempe,” Studies in the Literary Imagination 36:1 (Spring 2003): 123–47, esp. p. 128–29.Google Scholar
  19. 55.
    Joel Fredell, “Margery Kempe: Spectacle and Spiritual Governance,” Philological Quarterly 75:2 (Spring 1996): 137–66, quote on p. 140.Google Scholar
  20. 56.
    All but one of the essays in their volume address early modern England. Michael J. Braddick and John Walter, Negotiating Power in Early Modern Society: Order, Hierarchy and Subordination in Britain and Ireland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 1–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 57.
    Sheila Delany, “Sexual Economics, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath and The Book of Margery Kempe” in Feminist Readings in Middle English Literature: The Wife of Bath and All Her Sect, ed. Ruth Evans and Lesley Johnson (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 71–87, quote on p. 76.Google Scholar
  22. 58.
    The Book of Margery Kempe, trans. B. A. Windeatt (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1994), p. 43. All references will be from Windeatt’s edition.Google Scholar
  23. 65.
    Corinthians 7:3–5 cited in Lillian Bisson, Chaucer and the Late Medieval World (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), p. 224.Google Scholar
  24. 66.
    Terence N. Bowers, “Margery Kempe as Traveler,” Studies in Philology 97:1 (2000): 1–28, quote on p. 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 67.
    Judith Adler, “Travel as Performed Art,” American Journal of Sociology 94:6 (1989): 1366–91. Adler adds, “Performed as an art, [and Kempe’s pilgrimage was both self-conscious imitation and liturgically driven] travel becomes one means of ‘worldmaking’ (Goodman 1978) and of self-fashioning,” p. 1368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Theresa Earenfight 2010

Authors and Affiliations

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations