The people rise up against the tyrants in the courtly world: John of Salisbury's policraticus, the fables by Marie de France, and the anonymous Mai und Beaflor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Whereas historical research has often pointed toward severe criticism of medieval kings and other rulers, the present paper unearths a number of vernacular texts where the poets express explicit opposition to an absolutist ruler and rise against his abuse of power. Whereas John of Salisbury provided the broad theoretical framework for this public discourse, Marie de France in her Fables and the anonymous author of the Middle High German verse romance Mai und Beaflor (late 13th c.) formulated surprisingly harsh and unmitigated comments on tyrannical rulers and condemned those in power who utilize their economic and military influence for personal goals to the disadvantage of the lower classes. In Mai und Beaflor we even observe a popular uprising against Duke Mai because the people falsely assume that he had ordered the murder of his wife and his child. This paper hence suggests that the political discourse in the Middle Ages was considerably more diversified and not at all muted by supreme rulers, or tyrants.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-29
Number of pages13
JournalNeohelicon
Volume35
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 2008
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

popular uprising
France
high German
lower class
discourse
middle ages
homicide
wife
opposition
criticism
writer
Military
economics
Fable
Tyrant
Ruler
Marie De France
John of Salisbury
abuse of power
Medieval Period

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law

Cite this

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abstract = "Whereas historical research has often pointed toward severe criticism of medieval kings and other rulers, the present paper unearths a number of vernacular texts where the poets express explicit opposition to an absolutist ruler and rise against his abuse of power. Whereas John of Salisbury provided the broad theoretical framework for this public discourse, Marie de France in her Fables and the anonymous author of the Middle High German verse romance Mai und Beaflor (late 13th c.) formulated surprisingly harsh and unmitigated comments on tyrannical rulers and condemned those in power who utilize their economic and military influence for personal goals to the disadvantage of the lower classes. In Mai und Beaflor we even observe a popular uprising against Duke Mai because the people falsely assume that he had ordered the murder of his wife and his child. This paper hence suggests that the political discourse in the Middle Ages was considerably more diversified and not at all muted by supreme rulers, or tyrants.",
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