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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

3 - Enter the Bedroom: Managing Space for the Erotic in Middle English Romance

Summary

In the late fifteenth-century Squire of Low Degree, the incompetent protagonist woos a Hungarian princess in a way that seems to subject the romance genre to derivative, almost parodic, excess. This excess, however, offers particular insight into the representation of wooing in Middle English romance more broadly. While many romance heroines assume their suitors will display knightly prowess to win their love, this princess seems so aware of the Squire's shortcomings that she explains to him precisely what he must do, focusing on the rather boy-scout-like logistics of riding ‘Over hylles and dales, and hye mountaines, / In wethers wete, both hayle and raynes’, and lodging ‘under a tre, / Among the beastes wyld and tame’. Reminiscent here of how a Sir Thopas might understand chivalry, the text continues its overzealous attempt to ape romance when the princess exhaustively details the accoutrements that she expects from a suitor (203–30), and it is equally unable to find the right register when she offers to bankroll his required adventures (251–5). The envious steward's attempts to ruin the Squire by exposing his amorous inclinations are predictable enough; the results, however, have been seen as uncharacteristic of romance, since the king does not object to the Squire courting his daughter, but rather instructs the steward:

if the squiere come to-night,

For to speke with that lady bryght,

Let hym say whatsoever he wyll,

[…]

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Sexual Culture in the Literature of Medieval Britain
  • Online ISBN: 9781782043027
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