The Royal Vernacular: Poet and Patron in Christine de Pizan’s Charles V and the Sept psaumes allégorisés
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Christine de Pizan’s Sept psaumes allegorises of 1409 (henceforth SPA) is a work whose intellectual import and verbal artistry have up to now gone unnoticed.1 Her commentary on the seven penitential psalms proves to be a carefully executed and commanding ventriloquist performance that was calculated to elicit a powerful moral response in a medieval audience. Christine in effect has the Old Testament patriarch David, the purported author of the psalms, speak French to teach a lesson to her patron, Charles the Noble, and to the entire country. In the SPA, Christine “allegorizes” the seven penitential psalms in conformity with the “translation” campaign launched by King Charles V. As she explains in her Livre des faits et bonnes meurs du sage roi Charles V oî 1404 (henceforth Charles V), 2 Charles V had designated works that he deemed important to the proper function of the monarchy to be “translated” into the Middle French vernacular. Works like Augustine’s City of God and Aristotle’s Ethics and Physics were adapted, and in most cases substantially rewritten, by an impressive team of writers who included Raoul de Presles and Nicole Oresme.3 One way to adapt a work in the vernacular was to “allegorize” it, which to Christine meant using each psalm as the basis for extended moral commentary on the speaker’s vices and virtues (tropology). In “allegorizing” the psalms, Christine applies a lesson drawn from Scripture to her patron Charles the Noble.
KeywordsFemale Voice Public Reading Charles Versus Latin Verse Medieval Theory
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