Dom. William Marrays: Stories and Readers

  • Jeremy Goldberg
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


Thus far we have considered deponents and their testimonies in ways that seek to explore the social, spatial, gender, or familial ties that link one person with another. As a consequence, the emphasis has been as much on the person of the witness as on the events they describe. This present chapter seeks to shift the focus from personalities to events and one event in particular. In so doing the evidence will not be treated solely in terms of what use modern scholars can make of it, but questions will also be asked about the reception of the testimony by contemporaries.


Sexual Initiation Modern Reader Public Voice Present Chapter Pubescent Girl 
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  1. 1.
    See, Fama: the Politics of Talk and Reputation in Medieval Europe, ed. Thelma Fenster and Daniel Lord Smail (Ithica, NY: Cornell University Press, 2003), pp. 1–11 for a discussion of the related concept of “fama.”; Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Adrian Wilson, “The Ceremony of Childbirth and its Interpretation,” in Women as Mothers in Pre-Industrial England, ed. Valerie Fildes (London: Routledge, 1990), pp. 68–107.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Such observations become much less common by the fifteenth century and may be related to the dissemination of the use of bed curtains and the increasing provision of separate chambers: PJ.P. Goldberg, “John Skathelok’s Dick: Voyeurism and ‘Pornography’ in Late Medieval England,” in Medieval Obscenities, ed. Nicola McDonald (Woodbridge: York Medieval Press, 2006), pp. 105–23.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Account written in 1504 published in Plumpton Correspondence, ed. Thomas Stapleton, Camden Society o.s. 4 (1839), p. lxiv.Google Scholar
  5. 7.
    This was true ofwell-to-do Florentine marriages by the fifteenth century: Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Women, Family, and Ritual in Renaissance Italy, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1985), p. 191.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    For a discussion of this point see Charles J. Reid Jr., Power over the Body, Equality in the Family: Rights and Domestic Relations in Medieval Canon Law (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004), pp. 113–14.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Thomas was some thirteen years older than his bride. Karl P. Wentersdorf, “The Clandestine Marriage of the Fair Maid of Kent,” Journal of Medieval History 5 (1979): 204–5, 220.Google Scholar
  8. 12.
    Kathryn Gravdal, Ravishing Maidens: Writing Rape in French Literature and Law (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1991), pp. 135–40.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    P.H. Cullum, “Clergy, Masculinity and Transgression in Late Medieval England,” in Masculinity in Medieval Europe, ed. Dawn Hadley (London, 1999), pp. 178–96.Google Scholar
  10. 16.
    Here I follow Roger Thompson’s usages, namely, “pornographic, writing or representation intended to arouse lust, create sexual fantasies or feed auto-erotic desires” and “obscene, intended to shock or disgust, or render the subject of the writing shocking or disgusting”: Roger Thompson, Unfit for Modest Ears: A Study of Pornographic, Obscene and Bawdy Works Written or Published in England in the Second Half of the Seventeenth Century (London: Macmillan, 1979), p. ix.Google Scholar
  11. 17.
    The use of drapes and of onlookers, who stand as proxy for the observer’s own voyeurism, is a motif to be found in late medieval art. This is true, for example, of the Boethius Master’s representation of coitus in a manuscript of Bartholomeus Anglicus, Hans Memling’s representation of Bathsheba, or various of the erotic drawings of Giulio Romano. For the Boethius Master see Michael Camille, “Manuscript Illumination and the Art of Copulation,” Constructing Medieval Sexuality, ed. Karma Lochrie, Peggy McCracken, and James A. Schulz, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), pp. 78–80.Google Scholar
  12. 19.
    It should be noted that clerics and the educated represent likely audiences for the consumption of pornographic discourses. Talvacchia has argued that the earliest patrons of the erotic drawings of Giulio Romano and of his notorious “I modi” engravings were “the elite of Rome’s papal curia”: Bette Talvacchia, Taking Positions: On the Erotic in Renaissance Culture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), p. 72. Michael Camille has also discussed images of copulation found in medieval learned and clerical texts: Camille, “Manuscript Illumination and the Art of Copulation,” pp. 58–90. A parallel observation has been made about the educated and Puritan backgrounds of consumers of pornographic writings, primarily composed in Latin, French or Italian, during the later seventeenth century: Thompson, Unfit for Modest Ears, pp. 198–207.Google Scholar
  13. 20.
    X 4.15.7; Jacqueline Murray, “On the Origins and Role of ‘Wise Women’ in Causes for Annulment on the Grounds of Male Impotence,” Journal of Medieval History 16 (1990): 235–49; Goldberg, Women, Work ande Life Cycle, p. 151.Google Scholar
  14. 27.
    Charles Donahue, Jr., “Proof by Witnesses in the Church Courts of Medieval England: An Imperfect Reception of the Learned Law,” in On the Laws and Customs of England, ed. Morris S. Arnold, Thomas A. Green, Sally Scully, and Stephen D. White (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981), pp. 149–51.Google Scholar

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© Jeremy Goldberg 2008

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  • Jeremy Goldberg

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