Tyranny, Tyrannicide and Medieval Political Theories of Kingship (31 October)

Cardiff Medieval and Early Modern Reading Group

dore.jpg

Gustave Doré’s 1857 illustration of Canto XII from Dante’s Inferno, depicting tyrants submerged in a river of boiling blood

The medieval period was obsessed with notions of kingship and tyranny. Writers from across western Europe, in both Latin and vernacular languages, interrogated concepts of legitimate leadership across a great variety of forms and genres. The ‘Mirror for Princes’ genre was one of the most well-known (and most direct) forms of such interrogations. Examples of this genre – emerging from as early at the ninth century – typically offered actual or imaginary leaders advice on the conduct of kings, often through forms of historical, legendary and biblical exempla. The great histories of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries similarly could employ examples of the reigns of former kings as mirrors to their own times, often using the obliqueness of time to both codify and conceal contemporary political commentaries. Those same centuries saw…

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Retelling Tales: The Life of St Thomas Becket (link attached)

At the kind invitation of Eva Hazeltine, we visited Llanishen High School last summer, working with Yr 8 and 9 students on the More Able and Talented scheme. The result of this brief visit is the following ‘lytel book’ of the Life (and death) of St Thomas Becket, featuring 20 vibrant illustrations by the pupils of Llanishen. We had a great time introducing students to some of the weird and wonderful features of medieval manuscript culture – from two-dimensional, episodic art to not a few homicidal rabbits lurking in the margins of the pages. And we have been very impressed by the work on show here:

5163_19525 Retelling Tales 1 final

In assembling a coherent visual narrative of Becket’s life and death, we were only able to use a small selection of the images produced that day. The full range of images and worksheets are available here:

Becket School Images

Thanks again for the invitation, and we look forward to returning soon.

Rob Gossedge

Medieval Ghost Stories: miracula, mirabilia, prodigiosa (August 15, 2018)

Cardiff Medieval and Early Modern Reading Group


Ghost, spectre, wraith, spirit, shade, spook, phantom, apparition, poltergeist, bogey, haint – the profusion of terms, with their different origins and linguistic histories, with sometimes distinct but often overlapping meanings, testifies to a continuing, evolving but seemingly fundamental anxiety concerned with the possibility of an afterlife and, more specifically, the idea of a restless soul or spirit of the deceased. From the vapours of Homer’s Odyssey to Plutarch’s account of the ghost of a murdered man, haunting the baths at Chaeronea, whose groans and shrieks caused terror amongst the people, or from the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father urging vengeance to Sweet William’s Ghost (Child Ballad 77), begging his still-alive fiancée to free him from his promise to marry her, literary ghost stories have taken a plethora of forms and functions.

Medieval ghost stories are both like and unlike earlier and later spectral traditions. Predominantly taking the form of unquiet…

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King Lear’s Endings: What Makes A Tragedy? (18th July)

Cardiff Medieval and Early Modern Reading Group

By Richard Davies

Cordelia deathTextual Provenance and Problematic Versions

‘King Lear presents the most fascinating, important and contentious textual issues of the entire Shakespeare canon. The play exists in two early authoritative texts, the Quarto (Q1) of 1608 and the Folio (F) of 1623. For many years, it was presumed that each text was an imperfect and incomplete version of a lost, longer original. Consequently, King Lear was usually printed in a “conflated” text: that is, in an attempt to give readers and audiences as many as possible of Shakespeare’s words, editors combined the two texts into a version of the play that was longer than either of the early texts’.[1]

These opening lines from the textual introduction to the play in The Norton Shakespeare provides an appropriate overview of the scale of task we are presented with when we consider the textual provenance of King Lear. Why is…

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Arthurian Masques in the Seventeenth Century: Ben Jonson and John Dryden (27th June)

Cardiff Medieval and Early Modern Reading Group

This month we are looking at two Arthurian masques from either end of the seventeenth century. The first is Ben Jonson’s Speeches at Prince Henry’s Barriers (1610) and the second is the masque that ends John Dryden’s Arthurian semi-opera, King Arthur; OR The British Worthy (1691).

Jonson and Dryden were among the preeminent writers of their days, with both writing for their respective kings, James VI of Scotland and I of England and Charles II. Both also wrote dramatic Arthurian texts, though neither was written for the king you might expect. Jonson’s Speecheswas written on the occasion of James’ eldest son, Prince Henry, being invested as the Prince of Wales, while Dryden’s semi-opera was eventually performed for William III, of whom Dryden disapproved, despite the text originally being meant to honour Charles II, and then James II.

Jonson and Dryden had both held ambitions of writing an Arthurian epic…

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The Canterbury Tales: Fifteenth-Century Continuations and Additions (23rd May)

Cardiff Medieval and Early Modern Reading Group

Next Meeting: 23rd May 2018 / Room 2.47 / 3-5pm

By Rebecca Newby

Picture1.pngDetail of a miniature of Lydgate and pilgrims on the road to Canterbury, at the beginning of the prologue to the Siege of Thebes. Attributed to Gerard Horenbout. c. 1516-1523. British Library MS Royal 18 D II f. 148.

Introduction: ‘Hurlewaynes meyné’

When all this fressh feleship were com to Caunterbury, | As ye have herd tofore, with tales glad and mery, | Som of sotill centence, of vertu and of lore, | And som of other myrthes for hem that hold no store | Of wisdom, ne of holynes, ne of chivalry, | Nether of vertuouse matere, but to foly | Leyd wit and lustes all, to such japes | As Hurlewaynes meyné in every hegg that capes | Thurh unstabill mynde, right as the leves grene | Stonden ageyn the weder, right so by hem…

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King Arthur and Glastonbury (18th April)

Cardiff Medieval and Early Modern Reading Group

Next Meeting: 18th April 2018 / Room 3.62 / 3-5pm

Glastonbury is a village situated in a secluded spot in the marshes, though it can be reached both on horseback and on foot. It affords pleasure neither by its situation nor by its beauty.[1]

Located in Somerset, Glastonbury Abbey is a site of popular myth and legend. In the Middle Ages, the Abbey claimed to have been founded by Joseph of Arimathea, and it is also the legendary burial site of King Arthur.

Historiography and Hagiography

Glastonbury Abbey was the subject of several medieval histories, and it was also associated with various saints. In the 1129, the monks at Glastonbury commissioned William of Malmesbury to write the official history of the abbey, as well as the life of Saint Dunstan, who was the first abbot of Glastonbury (and later became the Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London, and Archbishop…

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